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.

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.

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.

Pretty White Things

While I’m pretty tired from the amount of meetings and learning I’m going through, I’m grateful to be surrounded by kind people and fun friends, including the non human ones.

Ready for his closeup

Lee took this beautiful picture of Carlton today. I need to frame it! Between him and Gracie, there’s a lot of white dog beauty around here.

Gracie taking over the big bed.

One more white thing is very new! Billie Idyll has finally laid an egg, and it’s a big one for such a small chicken. And it’s a lovely, creamy white. I wish Henley hadn’t stopped laying, so you could compare it to her extremely white eggs.

Compared to a Buff Orpington egg from Blondie.

Good ole Billie did good! Yay funny-looking hen!

You think I look funny, you should see Babette’s head! No wonder she’s sticking her chicken butt out.

I think this means just Betsy, the Americauna is still not laying, though since Babette got bopped on the head, she quit. I have quite the collection of merely decorative hens at the moment.

Betsy is upper left. She’s big enough to lay!

But they all bring peace and joy to the ranch, and that’s what counts. I’m glad for all the white, tan, red, brown, black, and spotted creatures around here.

My eggs may be small, but they’re the bluest.

We are still checking Star every day for chicks. They have food and water in case they hatch when I’m in Austin.

Bonus pic, because I love them.

Talk about Comfortable

Today, Trixie was supposed to come and look at Apache’s feet, but Drew stole the show. I had gotten both of the horses, in preparation for her arrival, and Apache was quietly waiting for us in his pen. As we walked up, we couldn’t see Drew. Where was he?

having his spa day

Yep, he’d decided to just take a nice nap on the warm sand. That’s a sign that a horse is comfortable with the people he’s around. The best part is that he didn’t jump to his feet when we approached, like most horses would. As prey animals, they are always alert.

Zzzz

The fisr thing Trixie did was check out the big paint’s head, because it seemed sore. Drew got up and watched that intently, standing close so I could rub him. Trixie remarked that Drew really seems to be a people horse.

Apache’s feet are looking great, by the way, and he’s looking more and more normal. He even shrunk a horseshoe size. As he was being a model farrier client, I realize that I had lost Drew.

It’s more cozy over here.

He shifted again and really fell asleep, with fluttering eyelids, and deep, deep breathing. That was one comfortable animal.

I feel safe here. It’s where my food lives.

We could not stop laughing as he kept snoozing away even when Apache was finished and left. His little lips were quivering like he was having a nice dream. Damn, it was cute.

Melts our hearts.

Once we finally got him up, he got some spa treatment, as Trixie massaged his gums like she had done for Apache. We think he liked it.

It tickled!

He then let his front hooves get trimmed, but still was no good on the back, so Trixie is gonna come tomorrow and work on his issues again. He still walks a little. Funny, and we want him all ready and happy for training.

I guess I’m in love with both these equine wonders. My heart swells with love when I see how much progress we are making together.

Chickens and Snakes

I heard a loud noise last night from the chicken coop, and this morning I discovered something had gone after Babette. Her head is a mess, but she seems okay. In case Bruce did it, I separated her from the others, except Star, who is still setting on her eggs.

Good news

But it is not all bad! Blanca, the True Blue hen, finally started laying yesterday! What beautiful eggs she lays. Sky blue! Now we’re just waiting on Betty the Easter Egger to give us some green eggs, and Billie Idyl.

When I was out fetching the horses, I spotted this snakeskin, most likely a rat snake. It has these cool ribbon-like segments, I guess from its belly. I’m glad Trixie liked it as much as I did.

Well, this was fun. My new laptop is also a giant tablet. I typed this from my chair, with the computer flat. I am fancy now.

Chicken Newsflash

I haven’t written much about the chickens in a while. They have been blessedly normal and fine for quite some time! The only thing that has been bugging me is how long it has taken for the new bunch of hens to start laying. All I can figure is the few weeks of really hot weather may have delayed them. The older chickens, on the other hand, have been moulting, so there sure are a lot of feathers all over the place.

Pretty little egg

On July 27, there was one egg laid with an unfamiliar pattern on it, but nothing since then. Today, however, there was another pullet egg, on the ground, with some interesting spots on it. So, someone has started up.

The makings of a feather bed

I’ve been getting four eggs a day lately, and I have a suspicion that Blondie, the Buff Orpington, may already be laying normal-size brown eggs and I just don’t realize it’s her. She has very red comb coloration now, and has for a while (that is a sign they are ready to lay). There should be some colored eggs at some point, since I have an Easter Egger and another breed that lays colored eggs, but those two haven’t started.

I’m a grown lady. By the way, Henley, who is behind her, hasn’t laid an egg in months.
No idea why.

The other chicken news is rather predictable. Once again, Star, the world’s most persistent chicken mother wannabee, is broody. I thought about it today, and went ahead and stuck one of Butternut’s eggs and one from either Bertie Lee or Springsteen under her. We’ll not miss those three eggs, and if these hatch, well, Star is already setting in the cage where she can raise the chicks. We’ll see!

Leave me alone. I’m in my box.

In pool news, the guys seem to have finished the rebar today. The highlight is the shape for the fire feature. I will be interested to see what is next.

Ready for flames and lights.

Right now, I’m busy holding onto rocks for grounding, trying to look my best, and exuding positive vibes. It’s always a good thing!

This little rock has an S in crystals in it. Suna power!

New Chicks Are Laying, I Hope in the Right Place

There’s good chicken news all around. First, Star’s three days of solitary confinement seem to have worked, and she is now running around and acting like a normal hen again. That’s just in time, because this morning I found a new egg, on the ground, over by where the new hens hang out.

Big for a first egg

It’s a different shade of brown from any of the others, so I know it’s a new one. Plus, it’s really not much smaller than the eggs the older hens lay, so good job, whichever one of you laid that! However, the middle of the ground is not a great place to lay. I thought I’d better get some fake eggs to put in the boxes, since I keep taking up every egg I find (to thwart the snakes).

So, off I went to the local feed store. Of course, they didn’t have any, so I sat in my car and pondered other places where I could get some fake eggs. It dawned on me that I have some about ten feet from where I am sitting at my desk right now.

Yes, the bird themed bathroom has fake eggs in it (and non-bird items).

That was quite a duh moment, when I realized I hadn’t had to make that trip into town (though it was good to get gas). I went home and gathered up the fake eggs, as well as some sturdy cardboard boxes. The reason I did that is that the new chickens still seem more comfortable over in the west end of the chicken run, where they were when they first got here. So, I made a few nest boxes and stuck them in various potentially enticing spots. Since it probably won’t rain again for quite a while, cardboard will be fine, and when I figure out where they like to lay, I can get a wooden one made, or buy one.

Blondie is already checking one box out, and Betsy had been looking until I bothered her.

I also took some of the endless supply of grass clippings and fluffed up our other nest boxes, to try to get them interested in laying where the other hens do. I’ve seen them going in there and looking around, so maybe someone else is going to start laying soon!

Enticement

And if my fake yellow eggs disappear then, more’s the better. I’d like to see a snake digest one of them!

We’ll see, as Lee’s dad always said.

The Latest Case of Missing Eggs: Solved

I may have mentioned that the family reported no eggs the entire time I was in Austin last week. I found a few over the weekend, but not the usual amount.

Don’t blame me; I’m not laying yet.

In case the fact that Star had gone broody was making laying hard on the other hens, I set up two cardboard boxes with bedding in them, to make more compartments in the old roosting area. No one used them, far as I could tell.

High-quality nesting boxes

Then on Saturday, when I went to check for additional eggs under Star, I realized that the eggs I’d marked with a star were no longer there. Three different eggs were there. THAT is when I decided eggs were being laid, but consumed. Grr.

I can’t make the grass around the coop die and the big mower can’t reach it. I thought putting the food container in that space would be useful, but…ants came.

I knew it had to be a snake, because nothing else, other than a human, can get in. Then I was worried for Star, since she is setting so dedicatedly on her nest! I must have checked for a snake a dozen times this weekend, and other people were checking, too.

These blurry but happy chickens are eating all the food I had to throw out due to ants. They also eat ants.

So, today, when I FINALLY had a chance to move my butt off my office chair, I went to check the chickens. There were two eggs under Star. Good. Then, I went back, because I was thinking that perhaps if I set the new nesting boxes I put in sideways, the hens might like them better. I moved the one on the left, and heard the weirdest sound. I carefully peeked in the other box, and there, under the chicken bedding, was a very content rat snake. I KNEW it had to be lying around somewhere nearby, and it was just hiding! I’d probably missed it earlier.

The culprit

I asked the nephew to please eliminate the snake, which he did quite efficiently. As always, I hate doing this, but I know it would come right back if I just moved it off to the woods (previous experience). Besides, I am pretty confident we have a LOT of rat snakes here, so I’m not leading to their extinction. Ranch life is hard. To cheer you up, though, here’s one of our herons in the tank behind the house.

If you put goldfish in the troughs, expect a visit from me, the fish killer.

And…it’s raining again. I’d hoped to go visit Aragorn the beautiful dream horse at Sara’s later today, so I hope there’s a break!

Baby Watch (Chick)

First, I want to thank everyone, especially blog reader Julia, for your helpful comments on yesterday’s essay on not being responsible for the happiness of another person. I hope it’s clear that I will always be available to support and help people I care about; I just don’t have a functioning magic wand to turn that frown upside down.

I’m still brooding over here. Get out of my face, says the fluffy Star.

I read that eggs take 21 days to hatch, so today may be the day Star’s three eggs hatch. I haven’t “candled” them (no tools) to see if there’s a developing baby in there, so I have no idea if any of the eggs are actually viable. If they all hatch, we will have mothers who produce white, tan, and brown eggs, all fathered by Bruce, who carries the gene for blue eggs.

My feathers are all ruffled at the thought of being a daddy, declares Bruce.

If any chicks turn out to be hens (oh please!) they should lay olive eggs. Won’t that be fun?

Yesterday I brilliantly realized I hadn’t gotten chick feed. Oops. I got the medicated kind, because I can’t give a chicken a shot, even though I got a demo once. While I was at the local farm store/boutique/dry cleaners, I got a small feeder and waterer that will fit in the nest box area.

I got all worried last night that newborn chicks would fall out of the nesting area. So, I put a rectangular, wood sign up across the entrance that should block the chicks but let Star climb over and get out to eat adult chicken food.

I have to keep up my strength for protecting these chicks, if they hatch, says Star.

I hope to get some help with a better system soon, but I did my best! Now I just have to stay patient. I drank a lot of liquid patience (that’s what my new coffee mug from the Bling Box says) this morning, to reinforce it.

Obviously, I’ve been using this mug as hard as I can!

I’m really glad there are these positive and interesting things going on at the ranch right now, because my anxiety levels are absolutely through the roof. I just keep going outside, looking at the life all around me, and breathing. I’m trying to work on the things I can affect and let the things that are out of my range of influence just drop. That’s what Lee said a Stoic would do.

The distraction today was how many different pollinators were buzzing around the false dandelions over by the chicken run. I saw at least four different kinds, ranging from tiny hoverflies to a long-horned bee about the size of a honeybee.

It’s a big bee.

We have also had very, very large ground bees or something like that flying around. They are different from bumblebees in that they hover and dart around very fast. On iNaturalist, they identified one of my photos as a bumblebee and one as a carpenter bee, but judging from the behavior, I think it’s the latter.

I do know what my last photo is, because I managed to look it up. It’s Carolina bristlemallow with seeds. They look so interesting, don’t they?

I’m sincerely hoping you have something interesting and maybe even fun to distract you from whatever challenges you’re facing today. We’re all in it together, and I’m busy trying to make my own happiness over here. Sure I am.

Summertime Is Coming and the Chickens Are Laying

I hear y’all like my ranchy stories, so here’s what excitement greeted me when I got back to the ranch today. Since no one had picked up eggs, the first thing I did was check the top of the garage fridge. There were at least three eggs per hen, but 5 white ones. Little Henley had gone into overdrive! I’m guessing she laid two in one day. Wow. One was tiny compared to her usual eggs.

One of these eggs is teeny!

Then I went to find Bertie Lee’s eggs. But there were NONE where I found the last bunch. So I looked under everything. Voila! There were 7 eggs, one broken, in the original corner where she first started hiding her eggs, on an old mop. Let’s hope she keeps this location up.

All 19 eggs I found.

That just left Big Red. The little darling had laid two while I was in Austin. Oddly, they were two different colors. That led me and Sara to wonder if she’s really two hens, but they never appear in public together. That’s plausible, right?

So many shades of brown!

Now I am about ready to sell or give away some of the eggs. We have lots now!

There are other signs summer’s coming around here! I’ve seen scissor tail flycatchers already. Another summer of watching their beauty has commenced! And the intensely fuchsia wine cups on our property showed up. I’m relieved.

My favorite jewel of a flower. Look at all the pollen!

I’ve saved the best for last, though. My favorite violent murderer bird is back! I really missed the loggerhead shrike when it left last year. I haven’t seen it. But it’s handiwork is easy to see.

Loggerhead shrikes impale insects and save them for later. This is a female grasshopper, because you can see her wings.

I was never so happy to see two dead bugs in my life!

Beautiful scarab on barbed wire.

Yeah, it’s hot already. But I’ve got my two red buddies, Apache and Big Red, to entertain me. After my long week, I just sat and watched them this afternoon while Sara worked with Ace. As always, being with them helped. It’s yet another way I can maintain my equilibrium.

My buddies in peace.

Hope you have a peaceful or fun weekend. I have a Zoom wedding to look forward to.

sara annon

seeking the middle path

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