Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Berry picking

 A week or so ago we went wild blueberry picking and then strawberry picking at a local berry farm, and then I made jam. 

This was just the first two batches that came out of the water bath.  I think I wound up with 16 jars of jam, total.  Maybe 20. ... It was a lot and it's all delicious. I have to keep my son from eating the blueberry jam by the spoonful.

Last night we decided to go check out the blueberry patch.  We weren't really expecting to find much. We were convinced the wild life had found the berries and there wouldn't be anything left, but we wanted to see how the patch was faring and make mental notes for next year.

Wow!  There was a TON of blueberries. The picture above is berries from 10 seconds of picking on one plant. To bad we didn't bring buckets.  We will know better for next time.

This was after a picking on another plant for a few seconds.  We found the patch early and picked early, never dreaming that the patch would pretty much be left alone. You could tell that a bear had been in the area but it had gone after an anthill instead of eating the berries.

The boy did NOT want to leave the patch.  He was really enjoying eating all the berries off the plants. 

Then we headed down the road and came to a little clearing. The original reason for stopping is that my dh thought that there would be a view of the main river in our area. 

No such luck, but it was still a nice view.

DH meandered around and found a raspberry patch.  Yum!  I had no idea the raspberries were ready.

The patch went on for quite a ways.  The berries were quite sweet.

Now we just got to keep our eyes open for the blackberries.  I'm really excited for those.  We have several blackberry patches on the property.  Just got to get them before the wildlife does.  I'm eager to try my hand at some blackberry jam.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Update on the chickens

As promised, here is pictures of the new babies. This blog post is going to be a bit picture heavy. The babies are crosses and because of that a bunch of them have feathers on their feet and some have fun hair-dos.  In a couple weeks they will probably be 3 months old.  They do seem smaller than our first chickens at that age.

This one's name is "Blackie"

This is Spot, our new roo.  We are pretty sure he's just a straight Barred Rock. Not sure if he's attracted by the sparkle of my rings or if he's already getting used to protecting "his girls"but he will ocasionally peck at my fingers when I'm filling their feed dishes.

I think my son named this one "White cheeks"

Even though this is a girl, we have named her "Elvis." I mean, look at that pompador.  My husband is a bit worried that she could be a he.  Time will tell.

I loved the expression in this photo.  She's also a very good flyer already.

This is a Silver Laced Wyndotte cross.  Her name is "Iggy"

This is the wee-est one of the group.  Her name is "Junior," And in Spot, Jr. She's a Barred Rock cross. She's got a little bit of a mohawk action going on.  I do believe she is my son's favorite.  She's a bit fiesty.  I do worry about her because she is the smallest.  The first night in the coop one of the other chicken's pecked her pretty hard.  While the babies were in the house the first week, my son would pull her out of the box and she would sit on his belly and just chill.

Hanging out in the coop. I noticed that Elvis kind of looks like Chewbacca in this photo.

Taking advantage of all the room in the coop and chasing each other.

They are a happy little group and stick pretty close to each other.  At night they now sleep in one of the nesting boxes all together.  It really is cute to see them snuggle under the rooster. 

We originally got six hens and one roo. ... Well, last week one of the hens started not doing so well and on Saturday we decided to put her down.  She was not going to get any better and one of my friends said just the thing that I needed to hear that helped me cope with putting that poor chick down.

While she was with us we called her "Little Red." She was an absolute sweetheart.   Very docile.  Though we realize now that it was probably because that was all she could do.  Her last day she wanted to be in the pen with her family and was happy to just be among them. Her having to be put down was probably the hardest thing to have to experience after we had to put one of our cats down in 2004.  But it was the best thing to do.

As for the Guineas ...

After we lost the majority of the flock we realize just how mean and bullyish the guineas were acting towards the chickens.  It got pretty bad.  The chickens were perpetually scared and afraid to eat. On a Thursday, three of the guineas ganged up on one of the Wynadottes in the pen and drew blood (made it's beak bleed)  DH decided enough was enough and we ended up butchering two of the guineas that night. The next night we butchered two more. The butchering process wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, my DH did the majority of the dirty work but I handled myself a lot better than I thought I would.  I guess it helps to not have any real attachment to them.  For those who are wondering, yes I did eat one of them this past weekend.  DH smoked two of them on the smoker. We ate one and gave the second one to the neighbors across the road.  They loved it!

Anywho, once we had two left and they became the minority they simmered down a bit.  They started roosting on the bottom roost.  That part was quite interesting.  They still snipped at the chickens but it was nowhere what it used to be. 

Yesterday and today while we were at work we had to keep the guineas separate from the chickens, and the chickens away from the babies.  So the two guineas got to free range, the chickens stayed in the pen and the babies stayed in the coop.  We were worried about either the guineas or the bigger chickens killing the babies.

I admit, we were a bit surprised to come home yesterday and the guineas were still alive.  Though this morning when we let them out we noticed that they wanted to wander ... We tried to drive them back to the pen area and the back yard.   No avail ... 

Guineas are very stupid animals.  They wanted to wander away from the safety of the house and this is what we came home to in the field just off to the side of the house. 

Two piles of guinea feathers. ... 

I don't have much fondness for these critters after all that has happened but I'm still disappointed that they were caught by the fox. Yes, that is one sly fox. He's not coming anywhere near the house now.  He waited until they wandered quite a ways from the house.  

Oh well, no use in dwelling on it. 

In the meantime, the remaining chickens seem to have adjusted from not having the huge flock that used to be.

She is turning into quite the little lady. She is also the first one to find her "big girl" voice. 

I'm sure they will be much happier now that there are no guineas to bully them.

This morning one of the Wynadottes found her big girl voice too.  Except it sounded a bit like she had a whiskey and cigarette problem.  I'm sure she will get it sorted out soon.

Look how fluffy this girl is. Too bad it can't all be meat, right? My son told me that this girl's name is "Eagle Face"

One of their favorite places to be, next to the deck and sometimes using that ladder as a roost. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Some people just don't get it

It's been a rough week when I reflect on it. Particularly Monday through Wednesday.

I had told a few people about what had happened to the chickens this weekend and I would get "sympathies" with immediate comparisons that were apple to oranges, basically, or the allegation that their demise was somehow my fault because I didn't have them locked up.

Um, excuse me?  Apparently they forgot that happy chickens are chickens that are not locked up.   If I had wanted eggs from chickens that were not allowed to roam and were instead locked up I would have forgone the chickens and continued to buy eggs from the store.

Would they have said the same thing about "nature" if it had been a dog that killed my chickens?  I'm guessing not. It's funny (not in a ha ha way) how people react, given what kind of animal it was (you know, small and cute) and the steps I was taking to ensure the safety of my remaining flock. I think some people have seen a whole new side of me.  Some couldn't believe what my plan was.  I wanted to tell them "Hello! 14 chickens lost their lives and I'm supposed to just roll over?"   The fox came onto *my* territory.  That can't keep happening.

However, when I shared with a circle of online friends what had happened, they shared the sorrow and grieved with me.  They *got* it. They understood what I was going through and sympathized with me.  What they didn't do was somehow turn it around to make me feel like it was somehow my fault.  My friends had been there, done that and grieved.  They may not have always had chickens, but they had lost animals and let me know that they understood.  For that, I'm so grateful to them and the few people that I told, in person, that did the same thing.

Thank you. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

A rough weekend

This weekend did not go as I had anticipated it would.

This past week DH and I were discussing that we've had Mr. Turtle for almost a year and just how much he has thrived and grown in our care.  When we first rescued him he was maybe 3.5 inches across his shell.  In our care he had grown to over 7 inches across his shell.  I could barely stretch my hand to touch him on both sides and now needed both hands to pick him up. We both knew that we couldn't keep him forever and that the best place for him was back in the wild.

I made a few inquiries as to the best way to return him to the wild and got some nice advice from a local rehab place.  Saturday morning we fed him extra, placed him into a box and headed back to "home."

We got to where we originally found him and pulled him out of the box and placed him on the ground.  He made a direct beeline to one side of the road and headed off.  We waited a little bit and saw that Mr. Turtle disappeared into the tall grass.  Presumably to meet another turtle at some point and make another generation of snappers.

Farewell Mr. Turtle.  It was nice knowing you. Sorry we couldn't send you off with a bag of shrimp. 

Then we went off and did our errands and headed back home.

Came home to five of the guineas in the front yard in distress.  I went out to the back to check on the rest of our chickens.

Yes, here is where it gets sad. ...

In the course of four hours a fox had come and decimated our chicken flock.  When I mean decimated, I mean decimated.  Our flock had originally started with six guinea fowl and 20 chickens. We lost two Wynadottes on July 4 so we were down to 18 chickens: One Barred Rock, Three Rhode Island Reds, Two Buff Orpingtons and 12 Silver Laced winged Wynadottes.

What I found was five guineas in the front yard, one guinea in the back, calling for the flock and one Wynadotte wondering where everyone was and piles of feathers strewn about the yard.

This was devastating to me, to say the least.

We have a camera set up and facing the coop and pen so we grabbed the SD card and looked at the images.  Sure enough, a fox. Several images of the fox running around the coop, chasing the chickens.

We went back outside and called for the chickens. One of our Buff Orpingtons showed up.   She looked extremely wary and freaked out.

I was doing all right until I looked around and found a pile of Barred Rock feathers.  Spot, the favorite of the group is gone. She was our queen bee of the group.  Definitely at the top of the pecking order.

This was from the weekend of June 29/30, 2013. She knew she was a queen.

My son didn't want to give up the search and kept doing the call that we did when it was time to bring the girls into the pen and coop for the night.  "Tut-tut!"  He also kept an eye on the guineas while DH and I combed the woods all along the edge of the yard because we thought that there was no way a fox could take 14 chickens in four hours.

I know we aren't the first people that this happened too, but it hurts. It hurts A lot.  We raised those babies from when they were a week old.  Their personalities had just started really coming out, I was seeing the pecking order form and they had just discovered the front yard and all the delights of hanging out in front of the garage.

My last memory of them was from Saturday morning.  My DH had let them out and they were following him back to the deck, to check out the ground below the suet feeder, hoping that the Blue Jays had dropped some suet crumbs for them.

Guineas and one of the chickens that made it
I admit, I went into the house and cried for a good five minutes.  I felt and still do, like I failed them. I know you can't be there 100 percent of them time and can't protect them from everything, but I still feel like I failed. 

There is some good news, however.  That night about 9 p.m., my DH was in the kitchen and happened to be looking outside the window and saw a chicken outside walking to the pen and said his first thought was that our lone Wynadotte had gotten out of the coop somehow.  Then he realized that there were TWO Wynadottes outside the pen.

Two of the chickens had stayed hidden all day and came home to roost when it was time to go to bed.

I felt like it was a miracle!

I had hoped to see some more Sunday morning, but no luck.  But still - four chickens survived.

As for our guineas, by looking at pictures we can see that they stood their ground against the fox and it's true -- once guineas get to be a certain size, ain't much that can kill them.

Out of our original flock we have one Buff and three Wynadottes.

Sunday we looked on Craigs List and found an ad from someone who was selling baby chicks and was nearby.  We went to check them out and came home with six chicks and one rooster (we hope just one rooster).   These new babies are currently in the house getting acclimated to being around people and such. It was a bit hard to go and get new chicks but we are being realistic for what our original goal was with having chickens. These new baby chicks are mostly crosses.  "Barnyard mix" and "Americana" is what the gal called them.  We got a Barred Rock cross that looks like Spot but with a bit of a attitude thanks to the puff of feathers on her head.  The Roo is a Barred Rock as well.  It was very bittersweet with him.  DH pulled the Roo out of the box and the Roo jumped up on DH's shoulder, just like Spot used to do.

Me and Spot in May 2013

  Pictures of the new babies will be posted in a later entry. The gal that sold them to us said that they were two months old, but we think that they are younger than that. They are probably one-third the size of what our remaining chickens are.