Mar 22

Seasons by the Birds?

Does anyone else tell the season by the birds?

Even before the official date of Spring, the birds that are year round residents start singing their Spring songs. I always love hearing them signaling not to give up hope, Spring will surely come.

The Spring flowering bulbs begin their growth in fits and starts with every tease of warm weather we get in late winter. But many times they are rewarded with frigid cold temperatures and even ice or snow.

Growing up in rural NJ, we always said the first Robin was a sure sign of Spring. My mother- in- law, who grew up in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, always said the red winged blackbird were the first sign of Spring. Now living in upstate NY, it is not really Spring until our cute little round Juncos leave for Canada. The other day I thought, hmm I haven’t seen any Juncos lately. A few hours later I saw one and another a little later, and now the warmer than usual weather is gone and the cold temps are back.

Jan 22

Fresh Snow – Different Perspectives

I enjoy the beauty and renewal of a fresh snowfall, even though I have to shovel a bit, mostly because I choose to have animals out in the barn to feed. Dean’s job however, he doesn’t actually enjoy. He takes on snow blowing our 800′ long driveway, on our 20+ year old tractor. It doesn’t sound too bad except he usually gets all the snow blown back on him. It can take him hours depending on how much it has snowed. He ends up looking like a tall thin frosty the snowman and he probably feels that cold too.

Now the grandkids come from a whole different perspective. What is not to love about snow when you’re a kid? Do you remember? Our daughter is homeschooling so they don’t actually get a snow day from schoolwork. But they still manage to get up here to relish the newly fallen snow. They know when the snow is great for sledding or making snowmen or snow forts. They love our longer north facing hill, we love it too since we get to watch them from our window. We watch and pray they don’t get hurt. Anyway, if there is no snow for a while the hill gets icy and fast, really fast. The kids were not happy when Papa told them it was too dangerous to sled today. But being the smart kids that they are, they found they could sled on the lawn and had a blast. And then it is always time for hot chocolate.

Oct 21

Unexpected Blessings

Dean had 2 surgeries over the summer to replace his shoulders that have been bothering him for decades, yes he should have done it years ago ( I think that’s a guy thing ). Anyway he is recovering nicely but not yet fully recovered. He didn’t think he should be cutting firewood so he ordered firewood for the winter, but was not looking forward to the work of stacking it. The wood comes in a dump truck and is dumped in a big pile by the back door.

Our daughter, Nell had planned to come help me wrap soap but we weren’t sure how we would occupy the kids while we were working in the soap shop. The wood was delivered the same day Nell planned to help me. The kids all happily volunteered to help Papa stack firewood, while mom and I worked. Miss Number Eight helped with the soap wrapping until she thought hers sibs were having all this fun with Papa without her. So then she took turns between helping us to wrap soap and helping with the firewood.

Dean was amazed and thrilled that the job was finished so quickly. All the kids helped with great attitudes, did a good job and even had fun.

Oct 21

The Fox Strikes Again

I knew we would be working outside all day so I thought it was safe to let the chickens have a little free range time. While Dean was working outside, I was working in the soap shop. I heard a commotion outside and went to check on the chickens and realized the we had lost our rooster to the fox. Our new livestock guardian dog was still not quite 5 months old and would not really deter predators until she was much older. For some reason, I didn’t think the fox would be back that day. Boy was I wrong, the next time I heard a ruckus I realized 2 more birds were gone. This time I herded all the remaining girls into the safety of the coop. I feel horrible that I let my chickens down, especially the rooster. He wasn’t friendly but he never bothered anyone, which is what I want in a rooster.

I soon started looking to replace our rooster and my daughter in law found one that needed rehoming from a family in the suburbs. We are still working on integrating him into the flock. We hope he will fit in even though he is twice the size of our chickens.

Aug 21

Saving Peep

I had been saving a few eggs from the guineas to hatch. I had a broody chicken and thought about putting them under her. I had saved about 8 eggs when the fox snatched another guinea. I realized it was the last hen since we didn’t get any more guinea eggs. By this time our broody hen had already been sitting for 3 weeks and I didn’t want her to sit another 3 or 4 to hatch the keets. Our nice neighbor ( not that our other neighbors aren’t nice too) lent us his incubator and four more guinea eggs he had too. So we were all set to try to hatch more guineas to replace all the ones we had lost to the fox.

After a week, we knew something was wrong as it smelled as if something had died in the incubator. With the help of our daughter we fashioned a flashlight to candle ( see inside) the eggs. We could see some eggs had small dark reddish spots that confirmed they were fertile, some were looking more clear and one was totally dark inside and it smelled yucky.

We disposed of that one and separated the ones that looked viable and the ones that didn’t. A week later we candled them again. We identified 4 that were growing keets inside and we disposed of the others. Finally the time came for them to hatch. One keet peeped (broke the initial hole in the shell) but gave up and died. The next one peeped but never fully hatched that day, so I carefully helped it out of its shell the next morning. It is always risky to help them out but I knew it wouldn’t make it on it’s own at this point.

I wasn’t sure it would survive, but I kept it warm and in a few days it seemed strong and healthy. I waited several more days to see if the other eggs would hatch. I listened to the eggs and couldn’t hear any peeping, which they do when they are ready to hatch. I carefully opened the two eggs that were left and found fully developed keets that for some reason died before trying to hatch. So here we are with a single surviving keet.

I was telling the grand kids I didn’t know how I am going to be able to integrate it into the flock when it is old enough not to need supplemental heat. Miss Number Two suggested making it a house pet. I suggested at her house. She had it all figured out how to keep it in their basement. What she didn’t have it figured out was how to convince her dad of her plan. So what am I going to do with this lone bird? I have no idea!