Goodbye to a Bird Friend, Hello to Others

Well, there was apparently an actual cock fight last night, and Peeper lost. I was not surprised, but sad. Bruce was just being a rooster. I tried. Sniff. Poultry are sure hard to keep.

Starlings and dewberries across the road.

In good bird news, I’ve heard my first red-winged blackbird of the year. And in better news, the scissor-tail flycatchers are swooping and soaring again. That’s good, because the barn swallows need help with all the flying ants and other swarming creatures.

Mr Robotto, the pool cleaner, was filled with tiny wings yesterday. Yuck.

But all is not bad. Look at the giant mushroom that’s just sitting in front of the house. It looks like an ostrich egg or a softball!

Drew is holding his own. I spent a lot of time with him today. I groomed him a long time and groomed filthy Apache even longer. That horse is still shedding like crazy. Drew is too, but not so badly. And in Drew news you didn’t probably want to hear, he pooped today, which means he’s functioning normally.

No photos of Drew, but right next to him is a newly organized shipping container.

We are about to get to where the tack room will be built out, which sure makes me happy. Then we will be on to our next ranch improvement project, which involves a little building down the road.

Isn’t it cute?

And on one last note, it’s also gnat season. It’s always something here. Enjoy some flowers and an insect.

PS: a hummingbird moth just landed on my phone as I was labeling the flowers. Nature is full of surprises.

Things to Smile About

I’m thinking hard about hard things all day, so indulge me in dwelling on some good things that are going on around here.

I have a shiny rooster

The chickens are cheering me up. For one, Peeper is proving to be spectacularly gorgeous. Today he was so shiny it didn’t look real. Bruce hasn’t killed him, so I guess they are ok.

Should I attack this shadow Peeper?

The hens are doing great, too. I got 7 eggs yesterday, which is a record for my weird chicken collection. Even the older hens kicked in! And they’re happy with me for letting them out to run around the last few days.

We’re a-comin’!

For the past three evenings, I’ve walked into the coop and they’ve all waddled in to join me. I haven’t had to chase them or anything. Now that’s how chickens should be!

Hey, look!

Other goodness: I found my Navajo dragonfly ring that had been missing for a long time. It was in a jewelry drawer from the Austin house, in a bag full of La Leche League stuff. Yep, I last saw this ring before COVID when I was in New Orleans. Happy times!

Trailer on blocks

And finally, Tillie the Trailer is getting new tires tomorrow and her bearings refreshed. The tires were in good shape, but older. And we were asked to re-do the bearings so Sara can ride with me. Now Tillie will be even better. So grateful to have help for things like this.

My office coworkers help by snoring, farting, and growling. Who needs humans?

I’m doing my best to concentrate on the things I can influence, so all this good stuff makes things easier. I’m doing well at not doing the stressful parts of my volunteer work, while keeping what’s fun. That’s so hard, but I’m managing.

Now I just need some sleep. It will let me send energy to those around me and around the world who need it.

Confessions: I Hate Unpacking and Worry about Drew

I’ll get this out of the way then share today’s events in our little ranch world. Yes. I hate unpacking. I especially hate it right now when every box is a surprise that I’m not prepared for. That’s what I get for not doing the packing on my previous abode.

Yesterday’s box

Lee is very kind and has been bringing one or two boxes a day. Yesterday I found my collection of purple glass, which once lived in my periwinkle bathroom. I no longer have a periwinkle bathroom. So it’s in my terra-cotta bathroom window. I do have a purple guest bath, so maybe it can go there one day, when it isn’t actively in use.

This interlude is brought to you by melting ice.

I’ve had to figure out where many things go that I don’t have places for, since the big furniture items aren’t over here yet, most of which are storage items. Yay. I really need a linen closet, too, and maybe when the laundry room cabinets no longer hold stereo equipment, I can use that. Until then, bags and boxes sit around and bother me.

Carlton says stop whining.

In good news of our tiny world, it looks like Buttercup, Peeper’s mom, has started laying again. That made me happy, until the egg slipped out of my hand and cracked. Egg. It’s for dinner.

Yay, a dark egg again!

In bad news, Drew is a bit of a mess. He had an injury on his leg when he was at Tarrin’s. We were not concerned. I accidentally hit it when grooming a couple of weeks ago, and it spurted blood, which I mentioned, I’m pretty sure. I was glad there was so much first aid stuff in the new trailer.

Well, today when I fed him, his little leg was all red. He must have gotten kicked or something. The water is all turned off because of the cold, so I could not work on it. I think the weather is getting better, so tomorrow or Sunday he can get a bath. He does have fancy new shampoo, though, to make him shiny and whiter.

What I wish Drew and I were doing. Photo by @jesslowcher via Twenty20.

Also, though, the other horses are hard on him, and he has all these missing hunks of hair. The older four horses who are here are always going after each other, so I guess he is getting it. I’m sure it’s normal, but Apache and Spice were never that nippy, so it’s new to me.

Fighting for dominance is everywhere, I guess, even our little world. Don’t get me started with chickens and the pecking order.

Sunny Sunday

You know it was a good day when the most stressful thing was trying to fix my Facebook avatar to look less like a hatchet. I think she’s a little better.

Most of the day was spent cleaning and organizing things. There was much heavy lifting, according to my back. I had help from my son some of the time. I’m teaching him ranch stuff.

Are you sure he wants to learn?

He washed a bunch of really grungy horse brushes, which I appreciated, and helped groom Apache. He lucked out and missed grooming Drew. He was encrusted with mud. I also hit a scab, which caused blood to spurt like crazy. Luckily I’d spotted bandages in the new trailer. He’s all fixed up.

My kid got a ground lesson on horse riding while I worked with Apache. I did darned well, if I say so, myself.

Then Sara came by and we looked at all the new stuff. She also says she thinks Peeper is a rooster. Damn. I didn’t see spurs…but that means I get more hens soon!

The only other news is this guy.

I found two of these poor young channel catfish in the middle of the pasture. They must have washed out of the pond at Sara’s. Poor guy or gal!

Let’s hope next week is better for all the residents here, fish, fowl, or fauna!

Ice Can Be Nice

It’s a glorious day today, with bright sun that cuts through the cool air and makes it a real joy to be outdoors just messing around. All the remaining ice is melting. That’s fun for all.

The chicken coop’s north side had been a sheet of ice. I’m glad I got to see some of the ice sculptures and the chickens are glad the ice melted so they can eat the scratch that got buried under it. Also, Peeper is cute, so here are more photos of her.

The horses are glad for the sunshine. They feel warm to the touch now. They are also glad their water troughs are thawing.

That’s a big ice cube.

It was sweet when they went to drink out of the trough. Apache figured out that if he nosed the ice, water would come up and he could drink. That was fun, apparently.

Just missed his big ole tongue here

Poor Fiona bopped her end of the trough, but it was thicker and she’s just a wee donkey. She was sad.

Boop, boop, damn.

Apache had her covered, though. He hit the ice extra hard and nudged some water over to Fiona. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it! Those two are such good friends.

He’s nudging here.

Drew wanted to come play with me, so we did some walking exercises (too damp to go fast) and then he got to graze while I went through the stuff in the new trailer. He got a bit annoyed as I kept trying things in him, but was ok until I put a soft, thick rope halter on. He removed it!

Yes this pad is short enough. Now take it off.

Sadly, much of the tack we got was for giant horses. In the photo above, Drew is wearing a cute green rope halter that had well over a foot of extra rope, which I’ll hate to cut off, because it has a decorative end.

I even now have raincoats for saddles. And a LOT of green saddle pads and blankets. Someone must like green as much as me!

I’ll spare you endless photos of bridles, since only three or four of my friends would care and two live within walking distance. I plan to clean a bunch of stuff up this weekend and see if it can work. I sure hope this halter works. It’s so pretty.

You Are What You Eat

If you ever doubted this old adage, you need to own chickens. Just looking at egg yolks makes it clear how their diet affects them. Check this out.

Look at that yolk.

I was enjoying my breakfast of hard-boiled eggs yesterday, I thought the yolk looked funny. There was a lovely orange border around the yellow center.

After briefly worrying about poison, I thought back on what the chickens had been eating a couple of weeks ago.

Shrimp. Kathleen said chickens love the shells, so I gave them a big pile, which did quickly disappear. I guess after they went in, they dyed the yolk, just like how flamingos turn pink!

Chickens love them. Chickens love everything. Photo by @Xana via Twenty20

How about that? I do notice that yolks are more pale when I have no fancy chicken feed available. And they are very golden when they get lots of veggies or can free range.

I hope your brain feels smarter now.

Who’s a Pretty Chicken?

I’ll tell you what, Peeper, the one we hatched from a chick, has blossomed into a great beauty. She’s almost full grown, and could start laying in February.

Watch me shine.

She inherited a lot of shiny feathers from her dad, Bruce. Some of the ones on her wings are bluish, while the rest glow green. She also got a really pretty double comb from her dad. And I guess she got his height.

I’m a tall one.

She also got her dad’s ear tufts. They are so cute. With her white feathers at the base of her tail, she is spectacular

Check me out.

From Buttercup, her mom, Peeper got the beautiful patterned brown feathers on her head and body. She should also lay dark eggs, and I’m hoping Bruce will have made them green. In any case, I’m happy with her robustness and tenacity. She handles the cold well.

Click those images to see her glory. By the way, photographing chickens is hard. They are busy animals.

Spiders are a little easier. This is a dark fishing spider who was living in the chicken food box. I emptied the bag, but put it back so she could go home.

I just wanted to share the happiness raising just one hen from an egg. Thanks to Star for setting on her.

Have You Ever Had to Apologize to a Chicken?

Well, I had to tell our beautiful Easter Egger hen, Betsy, that I was sorry I’d been putting her down for so long. I was telling everyone what a useless hen she was, because she hadn’t laid an egg yet, and I’d had her a long time. I mean, even little Billie Idyl was finally laying.

How dare you doubt me? And look, I have pale ears, which means pale eggs!

But today when I went to look for eggs, she was in the box, sitting like she was going to lay! And she kept making those noises hens make when they’re working on an egg. I was all excited that finally I’d get a beautiful green egg. Nearly all of these hybrid chickens lay eggs of some interesting color or another.

I also have a fluffy butt.

An hour or two later, I checked back in and found a gorgeous blue egg…which I knew was from Blanca, the Whiting True Blue hen. And there beside it, was this little darling.

It’s darker than ivory, but lighter than tan.

That is a light brown egg. In fact, I’d gotten a light brown egg every day for the past three days, thinking it was one of Billie Idyll’s that was just a little darker than usual. Betsy HAD finally started to produce, along with the rest of the newer chickens, who think it’s now spring.

The new ones are on the right.

I’m sorry, Betsy. Now all four of last year’s hens have laid eggs, and good ole Star is also laying. They are going to be all surprised when it gets cold this weekend. But I’m happy to be getting enough eggs again that I can share them with Lee’s brother, who loves eggs almost as much as I do.

In other news, we still have interesting bugs, not only a wheel bug (I love those), but also one of these guys, a painted hickory borer (or a mesquite borer, but it matches the hickory one better on iNaturalist).

And in just a bit of horse news, Sara and I are feeling good about our horses. She and Aragorn came over today, and he was so calm and centered! He has made a lot of progress in his ability to come here to visit. He even trotted calmly and collected. What a guy. And Apache did extremely well today in the round pen. Sara was impressed and just smiled so much at me. I felt good. He’s still not good outside the pen, but he was doing his stopping and backing so well. I just wanted to acknowledge that improvement.

No horse photos today, but here’s where I wish I could ride.

Our animals are such a source of joy, and we really need it right now. Everyone seems to be getting sick, no matter how hard they try to stay safe. Traveling friends are faring the worst, and it makes me so concerned. The flu is also going around here now. Great. But all my family and friends who are struggling are finding support from their communities. I’ve had some good reminders of that lately and am very grateful.

Goldie has a head as big as at least SOME horses.

Mostly Cheerful Chicken News

The chickens have informed me that I haven’t shared much about them in a while. So, since they are acting extra cute these days, I’ll update you on their ups and downs.

I feel pretty

The best news is that one of the chicks we hatched, Peeper, seems to have made it through to a happy adolescence. She was three months old on December 7 and is quite large for her age.

You can see my green tail feathers and how my comb is already coming in.

It is hard to get good pictures of her, because she’s so dark. She has her dad’s green tail feathers and cute little ear tufts, while she has most of her mom’s brown coloring. I can’t wait until spring to see what color her eggs are. I’m guessing dark olive green, since Buttercup lays dark brown eggs and Bruce is an Easter Egger rooster.

I may be mottled, but I was FREE!

The sad news is that we have lost two hens this week, in unrelated incidents. Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, had lost most of her feathers in the molting season, but was starting to get them back when the freeze hit. I think she may have gotten too cold, given that she was the lowest on the pecking order and may not have been able to huddle up with the rest. Darn. She laid nice eggs.

To distract you, here’s another picture of Peeper.

Babette, the fancy French hen, had been having trouble for months, because Bruce kept pecking at her head when he mounted her. I had her separated for a month or so with Peeper and company, and she seemed all right, but she got let out when I was out of town, and I think she must have gotten pecked too hard. While she never laid more than a couple of eggs, she sure was pretty. I hope I can get another of her breed, the Faverolle.

At least something is productive. The dandelions are out and have little friends.

On to better things! At long last more of the “new” hens from last spring have started to lay. Blondie, who is a HUGE yellow chicken, has been faithfully churning out eggs all season. They are small with little white dots. For a few weeks, hers were the only eggs we got.

I can’t help it if I lay small eggs. I’m a good layer!

But, a few days ago, Blanca, the one who lays the beautiful sky-blue eggs, started back up again. That made me really happy. I guess she just took a short winter break.

Blanca says she had to keep up with Billie.

And lo and behold, Billie Idyll kicked in, and is laying white eggs every other day or so. She also finally few in some tail feathers. Now we are getting around three eggs a day, which is fine for the winter.

I was just waiting to lay eggs until my tail feathers showed up.

The older hens and Bruce went through a particularly unattractive period in the early autumn, when they molted. There were feathers everywhere. But, now they are looking more like themselves, especially Star. She was looking pretty bedraggled after hatching out Peeper and the other chick, but she now looks like her old self, except all her feathers are gray (she’s the one who had some gold neck feathers).

Bruce is showing you his magnificent tail. Note his ear tufts and Peeper’s matching ones!

Bertie Lee, Buttercup, and Henley are all looking better, too. Henley has more white spots than she used to, which is something her breed does. They are taking their winter break, as is their right. I’m sure they’ll pick up again when the days start getting longer.

We appreciate the opportunity to check out horse poop and take dust baths in the pens.

The only one of the “new” hens who hasn’t laid an egg yet is the extremely beautiful Easter Egger hen, Betsy. I have no idea what her problem is. We got them in the summer, so she should have laid something by now. At least I’ll know when she does, as they will be an interesting color, I hope.

I just can’t be bothered with laying eggs. Can’t you see I’m beautiful?

I’ve been letting them out a little a few days a week. I’m now worried, since I saw a hawk earlier, but they sure do enjoy wandering around. I’ll just be sure to lock them back in if they begin to not come home again. No more garage chickens. They now have a warm place to stay when it gets cold!

We promise we won’t go sleep in the garage, say Bertie Lee, Star, Bruce, Henley, and Buttercup. Looks like Bruce is trying to get Star broody again.

Even though chickens can be a pain to take care of sometimes (like when burrowing somethings get in and eat their food), I enjoy their happy little sounds and their antics.

Thanks, Blondie, Billie, and

Ranchin’ Time

I had fun today getting reacquainted with the ranch and its inhabitants. I sure was glad to see that Peeper, the only chick we ever got past babyhood, is still peeping and growing. She has her comb coming in, and she looks like a darker version of her mom.

The dogs were glad to see me, ranging from black and white to copper and gold!

And of course, I was so glad to see the horses and Fiona. Apache is as furry as a teddy bear, but sound and happy.

I’m not out of condition; I’m fuzzy.

We went for a ride with Kathleen and Mabel. We had a good time until suddenly Kathleen disappeared.

Where did they go?

I looked and saw them zipping away. Mabel was dancing around. Finally Kathleen got off, and we went to check things out. She was waving and Mabel was kicking at her belly.

Kathleen yelled, “bees!” and I saw a bee around Mabel’s legs. It appeared to be a ground bee. They hadn’t bothered Apache, but Mabel must have stepped on their nest! Finally, the bee that chased them stopped on Mabel’s belly and Kathleen killed it with her shoe. Poor horsie!

After that we tried to ride again, but neither horse was remotely interested. They wanted their saddles off and some petting. As did Fiona and Remington, who were out with us.

Enough drama for one day.

Everyone was apparently starving by dinner time, because Fiona kept grunting at the dogs, and when she was done, she tried to drag poor Remington’s food away from him.

Remington is not pleased. Note strongly braced donkey legs

We guess she was tired from her own antics, which included getting into the swimming pool when I was riding. Sigh. And we were worried about the dogs! luckily, the new fencing that should keep donkeys out of the area around the house is being worked on now.

More to come tomorrow! But now it’s time to get some rest, because tomorrow starts another work week. Once again, Anita and I will share an office, except when I have to talk. I’ll show you why she can’t work in her own house in the next post.

Sunset, dog, and ranch stuff.
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