Coop Cleanup

The Raising Chickens for Dummies book told me that coops of free-range chickens need to be cleaned out every six months to a year, and since I couldn’t remember the last time anyone cleaned it, I decided now is the time.

Much less glass is in among those rocks now.

Besides, the massacre appears to be over, egg production up, and I was thinking about enlarging the flock.

My original plan was to replace all the nest box material, but we couldn’t get any straw yesterday. So, instead I cleaned off all the roosting areas and obviously soiled bedding.

Mandi and I are probably the only people who think this is a beautiful sight. Nice smooth dirt.

Then I spent an hour raking up sticks and shards of glass in the chicken run. Y’all, there is a serious glass issue in there. Also pieces of crockery. Sara says that they’d gotten rid of all of it when they lived in the cabin next to the chickens. I’m pretty sure the next renters did, too.

A sample of the variety of debris I picked up.

As it rains and the chickens peck, more glass comes to the surface. The chickens don’t eat it, but it looks bad.

As I raked and stuffed the mess into two huge feed bags, I pondered why people of the past would just throw bottles out like that.

This is how you know I’m not from around here. It suddenly dawned on me that Elaine Laywell, who used to own this ranch when it was much bigger, told me they’d used the cabin as a hunting cabin.

Well, heck! The hunters probably sat around and lined up bottles and crocks for target practice! There’s probably hundreds more shattered bottles in there.

Thank you for your efforts! Now where’s my new cousin?

So, we’re setting a bucket outside the chicken yard, and all of us chicken caregivers will pick up a few pieces every day.

We got bedding in Rockdale today, so we will replace the old stuff tomorrow. Egg-ward and upward!

Next: New chickens!

Chickens and Dogs, Oh My

First of all, I’d like to sincerely thank all of you who have said such kind and supportive things to Mandi after yesterday’s post about Sweetie. I know she feels the love from all of you. And I mean ALL of you. Her post and the one about Brody getting hurt are the two most-read posts since I started this blog. Close behind came dead chickens. Hmm. I sense a theme.

I feel lots better when sitting on Daddy. Harvey is being good, though.

So, here you go, something on both injured dogs AND dead chickens. Something for everybody, huh?

I guess you can tell from my tone that this isn’t all that horrible. Like Mandi said yesterday, when you live out in the country, you see life and death every day. I think it gets you a better perspective; we all are going to go sometime, for some reason, so let’s appreciate what we have now. Platitudes, maybe, but true.

Chickens can be funny

We did have another chicken loss this week. It was really hot, then really cold, and I guess if a chicken had to die of natural causes, the cold time is probably better. Poor little Ameracauna was just sitting on her nest. Sara thinks she was eggbound or had some other issue. At least nothing ate her, and it was peaceful. Poor dear.

For only having nine hens now, we are still getting lots of colors. And the pinkish one in the middle is HUGE.

I mentioned that the egg production had ramped up, but it had settled to four a day, which isn’t many for the number of chickens we had. As we were dealing with the dead chicken, Tyler, who lives in the cabin by the coop, came out. I said feel free to take a few eggs now, since we have enough for at least our community. He said, “Oh, I’ve been finding them in a weird place lately…oh my gosh!” He had turned to the shelves outside his door and found SEVEN eggs from a brown hen on the top shelf. Someone found a nice, warm roost. So, yesterday, everybody got some eggs!

Continue reading “Chickens and Dogs, Oh My”

Guest Post: More Dog Sadness

by Mandi Shuffield

Country life is a special and different kind of life. It is even more important out in the country to form bonds with neighbors and their animals, in case an emergency ever happens. Country life does have some rules that are sometimes very heartbreaking for the families that have to abide by them. My family is one of those families.

Sleepy Maggie

I am, by all accounts, an animal lover. All of them. Even skunks. I believe they all have their own beauty to share. The most special animals in my life are my dogs. We operate by pack law, and it serves us well. We have a big collie named Sarge, a “hefty” husky/collie named Wink, a little furry Pomeranian/Yorkie named Sully, and a tiny piebald dachshund/Chihuahua named Maggie. We adopted a beautiful new dog that was a dalmatian mix named Sweetie. 

Fuzzy Sully

The four other dogs get along rather harmoniously. They don’t fight or get physical with each other. They will growl over who gets to sleep on which blanket, but they are called off easily. Sarge and Wink are a protective team. They have been taught to work together to neutralize a threat by command, or by recognition. Sully was bottle raised from 3 days old by me after his mother became sick and passed unexpectedly. Maggie came to me from a cousin of mine. They are not trained like Sarge and Wink. 

King Sarge

We brought 2 year old Sweetie into the pack, and I had very high hopes of her joining in the ranks of Wink and Sarge (who are 7 and 8 respectively). Sweetie seemed like a great fit, and then things turned south. But I want to include pictures of what she was like before that happened to really capture who she truly was before the trauma surfaced and took over her mind.

We have no idea what her life was like for the two years before we had her. She was named very well with her personality. She was an astounding cuddler, and loved the kids. She often slept with my two younger kids, as a matter of fact. She got along very well with the other dogs, the cat, and loved her big yard. 

Wink, with Patsy Catsy

One day she started getting out of the yard and chasing cows, sheep, and anything else she could find. We worked on making the fence more secure, but it just never seemed to work.

Then that escalated. She attacked Maggie unprovoked. It didn’t leave serious injuries, so I let that slide as a bad day. Then it happened again.

The third time was really bad. Maggie came out of it with no permanent damage, but Sweetie threatened the kids (the same ones you see her cuddling in the pictures) that time as well. Sarge and Wink did their jobs and protected Maggie and the boys. Sweetie had to be locked up in the house and isolated to assure that she wouldn’t hurt anyone. That’s no life at all. 

Sweetie with her sleeping buddy

At some point in her life, she suffered trauma that caused her to just snap. She was then unpredictable and dangerous. We only had one choice. To take her to see the vet. February 7th, 2019 I laid on the warm, green grass with Sweetie (who had to be muzzled for behavior there) and held her, and cried so hard that I thought for sure I would vomit. Her trusting eyes had looked to me to be protected, and trusted me fully. I felt like I was plotting her murder behind her back. 

Happy days

The night before she had meat lover’s pizza and chicken wings. I felt like I was the worst person on the face of the planet for not being able to fix this with her. My heart is broken. I took every bit of strength I could muster to tell the vet what had happened, ask about alternatives, then make the final call that I knew had to be made for her own peace. So many people I talked to who are professionals with dogs reassured me that this was the right thing, the only real choice, and most humane thing for her.

Peekaboo

The alternatives of her being hit by a car, or a neighbor shooting her and missing so she suffers, another animal injuring her, Wink and Sarge having to gang up on her 2-1 to protect us, were something that I couldn’t allow her the chance of having to go through. She died next to someone that loved her, who held her, who cried for her, who apologized for whatever had happened to her, and who wished beyond wishes that we were anywhere but there at that moment.

We loved her.

I’m so heartbroken, and so angry that someone hurt her in such a way that made an innocent life have to be cut so short. All sorts of mean things against whoever did that have run through my head. But the main thing I have thought was, “There. I cleaned up your mess for you. I broke my own heart to bring peace to hers that you had broken so badly.” 

I wanted to scream “STOP!” when her heart rate and breathing rapidly declined. She was very heavily sedated before the bad shot came. I just kept saying, “I’m sorry.” over and over again until the vet told me it was over. 

This isn’t a nice, warm, fuzzy, funny post that we usually try to make. This is a real life post of what happens when someone is an irresponsible pet owner. Sweetie’s mother and father were allowed to have a litter of puppies that were unwanted. Those puppies were given away, and at least one of them was abused, then tossed on the street to starve. This is the reality of allowing puppies to be born that you do not want. There is someone like me whose heart is breaking over making the choice to have a dog put to sleep because someone else made a bad choice and was not responsible. 

Sweetie stole my heart, and she deserved to grow old with me. She deserved to watch the boys grow up and meet grandkids to play with one day. She deserved a full, healthy, happy life with us. She is now at peace under the tree with Ricci (my old mare who passed in ’17) and my mom’s little dog (also a rescue who lived to be 18 years old). She belongs under that tree. No matter what man made faults she had, she was my good girl.

Egg Production UP!

Hooray! I can’t wait until tomorrow to share this! The winter slump is over, and the ten or eleven remaining hens are starting to lay again. Mandi and Seth (the weekday gatherers) report that every day this week there are more.

Buckbeak is very proud of his remaining ladies.

Today’s 7 is pretty darned good! The owl deterrent measures seem to have helped, and we think it went to other hunting grounds.

We’re the big mamas. Ready to make you some eggs! Thanks for feeding us all winter!

Now maybe we can get a few more. We’re still going to do more coop work. But I’m so glad they’re out of the winter doldrums.

Here’s Why You Dispose of Plastics Properly

Today’s bonus post is about how recycling and properly disposing of waste really, really matters. This is not more of my New Age jargon. It’s real, man.

Here’s a picture from this date in 2015 of Sara and me out riding. She is on Apache, who is now my horse, and I am on her previous horse, Aladdin. This was the first time I rode a horse other than the ancient plodding sweetheart, Pardner.

Yesterday, as often happens on weekends, Sara and I were out riding our horses. It was a really beautiful day, and the horses (Spice and Apache) were informing us that they’d rather do things other than what we were asking, so we needed to keep them out there to remind them we are the leaders and they are the followers.

So we wandered all over the property where it wasn’t too wet to wander. There were still a lot of good-sized puddles that are turning into small ponds, so I practiced convincing Apache it would be fun to walk through them, while Sara convinced Spice she really DID want to trot in giant circles.

Speaking of not being bored, Apache is learning the new skill of riding with a bit and bridle! We usually just use his halter and reins. Next, I have to learn to use the new tools.

That got boring, so we went into a pasture we’d not ridden in much before, over where our precious cattle are. There are some cool low spots I want to investigate on foot over there.

What was cute, though, was “checking on” the cattle. Basically that meant we walked up to each of them and calmly said “hey, cow/calf.” The littlest calf, who’s chocolate brown and very dainty (her mom was the youngest mother of the group) hid behind the larger bull calf at first, but then she peeked out and came right up to us.

All the mother cows have known these horses for years, so they were fine.

And what about plastic?

I’m getting there. We took two different routes to return the horses to their pasture, do to gate rearrangement needs (a common ranch thing, moving gates around). I was walking toward Sara as she was bringing Spice to where I was, and I noticed she was carrying something funny looking.

What in the world is she carrying?

I asked her if she’d found a plastic bag on the ground (we have recently found mylar balloons, which I think I’ve mentioned).

She said yes, but look at the decorations. Oh, ick, the bag was covered in nuggets of horse poop. One of our equine friends had eaten it and excreted it (and we all looked at Apache).

This image, seared into your brain, should convince you to not randomly throw away plastic bags.

Friends, that could have messed up his innards big time. Obstructions kill horses. They aren’t great for cattle either.

Fiona says she’s grossed out, too.

So please, please don’t let loose of mylar balloons and don’t let your plastic grocery bags fly off. Not only do most of them end up way up in trees, which looks awful, but if they end up on the ground, very valuable livestock could ingest them. That would be sad.

PS: Sara reminded me that they lost a calf (valued at thousands of dollars) once because it ate a mylar balloon. Expensive balloons!

I Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

And what made me feel this way?

My dogs!

I was a bad dog. Now my foot hurts. Pays me back for hurting Brody last week.

On a rainy day in which I suffered from dizziness and headaches and general ickiness, I was glad to have my canine buddies to warm and cheer me.

We’re totally innocent of course. But Brody has his thupper out to thup unsuspecting passers by.

(Although Harvey tried to eat Big Alfred’s breakfast and now has an owie.)

Action shot.

To occupy themselves during the rain, Alfred and Carlton played at least a half hour. It looks fierce but was actually very gentle. They kept sticking their heads in each other’s mouths and gnawing at legs.

We short-haired dogs have to keep each other warm.

Much of the day both Carlton and Vlassic sat in my lap. Carlton is incredibly gentle when he jumps up. I often don’t even notice. The other dogs are like flying mallets.

Sun, water, and stuff to sniff! Heaven.

I did go outside to take some plant photos, accompanied by the guys. Then sun had broken through the clouds and everything was clean and shiny. The arroyo was flowing, which makes for happy dogs and even made me feel a bit better.

I won’t stay white long.

Dog is love.

Sunday of Amazement

Wow, yesterday was just one amazing discovery after another around the ranch! The wind finally died down, which made it much easier to be outside, so I engaged in a lot of running around with dogs and exploring things, once the cattle moved off and the cattle torture ended.

This is the “springy” area of the woods. It’s on a slope, and the water drains down to the Hermits Stream.

Our neighbor Mike came over earlier than usual in the afternoon, so that we could go check out a few things in the woods. Of course, the dogs went, too, which gave them more opportunities to irritate the cattle. Sigh. But the good news is that we found an old food storage container that had slipped out of Lee’s hands and disappeared into the woods during the summer, when you can’t see a thing in there.

There is a lot of moss, algae, and other moisture-loving foliage here. I wonder what the area would look like if cattle weren’t stomping all over it.

But, WAY more important was that I confirmed my suspicions that the last remnant of the big drought that was going on when we first came to this area is going away. It’s quite clear that our springs are back!

I’d been seeing a wet area from our side of the fence, but we wanted to see it up close. Sure enough, water is seeping out of the ground and heading toward the stream. I’d heard that there were springs in there before, but other than getting a little muddier than the rest of the area, it hadn’t showed any signs of flowing.

Carlton investigates the babbling brook. The tree bridge is getting less and less sturdy as time goes by.

We also noted that the little brook/stream that flows into Walker’s Creek is flowing pretty briskly. Two things could cause that. Either the pond is still getting water from runoff and flowing through the arroyo, OR the other spring is working. Mike and I confirmed that the culvert is barely dripping, so that brisk flow of water must mean that the big, deep spring is flowing on its own again. Hooray! There’s water under the ground again!

Heron or egret footprints in the mud.

Now that the flooding has died down, we can see lots of tracks in the mud that the flooding deposited. One thing is for sure, those herons are BIG birds.

And the chickens?

I am very happy to report that the longer days, increased food, and/or less owl stress have combined to ramp up egg production. We were afraid that the one who was still laying had been the last owl victim, but, hooray, we had three eggs today, and since two of them were white, there are at least two laying now! Of course, we are down to a dozen chickens, so we won’t have what we did before, but it’s an improvement.

THREE eggs! And the beautiful cutting board the neighbors gave us for Christmas.

And, by the way, Mandi is ordering some netting to help foil the predators.

And more mooning

A picture-perfect end to the day.

We got back home and sat on the porch (it was cool, but not too cold) to enjoy blackberry wine and yet another lovely sunset, which I managed to frame in the porch, like a painting on a wall.

Here comes the moon!

Then we turned around to see the super moon rising in the east. Wow, that thing was big. My phone doesn’t do very good eclipse photos, but the red moon was very cool. I wish that happened more often. You know that sight must have been confusing to ancient people who didn’t know how the sun. moon, and earth coordiate!