Monday, September 18, 2017

Fermented Grain and A Swimming Pool

This post could also have been titled, the experiment that didn't quite work.
But let's start at the beginning.

Friend, Kris, texted to say a brand new local brewery was disposing of spent grain that could be used for chicken feed and for pigs and goats.  What a find!  Free donkey and chicken food.

I did do a bit of checking online to see if the stuff was safe and found some farm folks have fermented their grain intentionally as they believe it's more nutritious.  OK, we're good to go.

So Rick scooted over and we received a 25-lb barrel of fermented grain.


He immediately scooped a generous portion for the donks.  They walked away.  And would not return to the bowls.  Nope.  It was icky.

So then we tried the birds.


And they agreed it wasn't bad, but they didn't consume enough to make a dent.
Soooo, a quick text to the neighbor to see if she wanted 25 lbs of grain for her cows and we were able to pass it along.

It was such a good idea...

On another topic --

I find there's always a bit of jockeying around to make the donkey and chicken environments as pleasant and healthy as is possible.  To that end, the wading pool that had been in the chicken run for their amusement (but was also a failed experiment) was shifted to the donkey yard to allow for easy feeding without the consumption of dirt -- NOT a beneficial extra ingredient.


Yes, standing in the pool is always helpful.

And the girls got the two tires that the donkeys have ignored, and, a branch.  I'm not sure the tires are a hit (just something to climb on) but the branch is getting a little more attention.


I wish I could hit on a toy for the donks that tickled their fancy but so far everything has been a flop.  Fancy Jolly Ball - no.  Beach ball to toss around - no.  Tires to nose around - no.  If anyone has a suggestion, I'm all ears, as are the donks. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Chicken Sitz Bath

I first got into chicken keeping in the spring of 2015.  Two hens remain from those original four.  Sweet Pea and Ruby Dee.  Are those two more important to me?  Perhaps not, but they do hold some sort of special place.  

And little Ruby gave me a scare a few days ago.



I'm just hoping we're out of the woods.

I'll go into a bit of detail in case any of you are chicken savvy -- Melba?  Perhaps you can help diagnosis.

I noticed Ruby's rear-end feathers looked "dirty" and thought she needed a little sponge bath.  I didn't get to it immediately and soon after saw she was lethargic.  A little panic (and guilt) set in.  If you recall, Emmy Lou, who was also an Isa Brown, just died in June and I did not intend to repeat that episode.

A little  sleuthing on the internet led me to think she might have a bound egg.  The advice was a sitz bath and abdominal massage.


Rick stayed nearby, a good thing, since the girl almost escaped during the 15 minutes of warm soaking.  Then the massaging.  Rick felt no tell-tale sign of a lodged egg.  BUT, we did see a little egg string in the sitz bath water.  Of course I returned to the internet to see what the signs of an internally broken egg are.  That led us to inserting, via eyedropper, a small amount of oil into her vent.  I'm truly not sure what we accomplished, but she seems to be displaying normal behavior now.

By the way, she did not object too strongly to being dried off from her bath with my hairdryer.
Who woulda thought...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Relaxing

For the past four years or so I have tried to reserve Sundays as chore-free days.  Days of relaxation and recharging.  And simple enjoyment.  Think Barney and Aunt Bee sitting on the porch listening to Andy play the guitar.

So, today I invite you to join the scenes of "ahhhhh".

Years ago friend Mary introduced me to Sky chairs.  This summer I splurged and bought one for reading.





Mug and book are within an arm's reach.




















From the chair vantage point, this was the view.
Peaceful.
Wonderfully peaceful.















Gunner joined me for some quiet time.

And then there's the cat.
What a goof.
Snoozed most of the afternoon on top of the hot tub.

Of course throughout the day there were donkey and chicken chores, but somehow those don't count.  Mid-afternoon I was able to storm the kitchen to make an Asian Quinoa Salad (new recipe).  And then wandered out to the donks to just sit in their company.  I don't do that often.  I happened to take out some treats and, of course, got mobbed.

  Well worth the trip out to hang with the little devils.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Flower Power

I am not a gardener.  Which among my friends is abnormal.  Ah well...
I would much rather muck out a stall or clean out the chicken coop than weed.  And my flower beds back me up.

But...

There are some that are fail-safe.
They are past their zenith, now, but, boy they were lovely a couple of weeks ago.










Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Eeuuww Factor

Most creatures don't spook me and send me scurrying.  Well, maybe wasps.  Not spiders, not snakes, not most insects.

But then there are slugs.

Gross, gross, gross.

The buggers show up on the sides of the donkey water trough.  OK, I need to fill the darn thing and they're in the way.  So, it's a matter of picking each suctiony slimy beast off and sending him/her on his/her way in the weeds.


This is a pretty good photo of the little slimer, you can see his little horny things by his head.

I can't tell you how slimy my fingers get after this ordeal.  Yuck, yuck, yuck.
At times there have been up to eight in the trough at one time.
Let's throw in an extra yuck for good measure.

It occurred to me to take a quick look-up of slugs to appear somewhat knowledgeable.
No, don't wanna.

Thank goodness I'm not finding them everyday, as I was about a month ago.  Don't know why.  Don't care.

Yuck.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Chicken Moochers

It seems we are surrounded by food moochers.

Dudley (big dog on the right) believes it is his inherent duty and right to clean out Gunner's food bowl after Gunner has concluded the meal.

Same rules seem to apply to the donks, except the rules change as to who has the god-given right. When donks are given their teeny portions of grain or supplement, those bowls are cleaned to the n'th degree.  Hard working tongues.

Well, now the chickens feel compelled to tackle the donkey bowls following beet pulp days.  As part of the regime to bulk up Luigi and Gabariella (we've talked about this before, please take notes) they receive a modest portion of beet pulp on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  For those horse owners out there, YES, I soak thoroughly in hot water for an hour.

Chickens are drawn to the remaining micro-specks.

  



Jo (always immerged in the bowl), Sweet Pea and Buffy investigate.























The bowl the pulp was soaked in is always of interest too.












And speaking of Jo, and her penchant for sitting in bowls (if you recall, she likes to sit in the treat bowl in the coop), she joins the ranks of manure queens.



I've only observed one other of my flock do this, and for the life of me can't remember if it was Golda or Emmy Lou (both sadly gone).

I must tell you one other story which, unfortunately, does not have accompanying photos or video.
A few days ago, I was just inside the barn, tending to some chore, when around the corner comes Sweet Pea running full tilt and slides to a stop right in front of me.  Just like your favorite baseball player sliding into home base.  No, there was no threat, no predator lurking.  She thought she was missing out on a treat.  It was probably the funniest thing I've seen one of the girls do and laughed at her outright.

What a bunch of ding dongs.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Irritability All Around

When I mentally review what is new and of possible interest to blog readers, hmmm, I come up empty handed.  Two issues which I've previously mentioned continue to prevail:  battling flies and trying to appease the insatiable donkey duo.

Add to those issues my current knee situation... and you hear a heavy sigh.
The dadblasted thing went bonkers Saturday evening for no apparent reason and mobility has been an issue since.  Thankfully I see daily improvement, but in microscopic increments.  So, my patience has been short, extremely short.  (thank goodness I have a little Honda scooter to zoom out to donks and clucks as the bike is out of the question right now)

That depleted patience views donkey insistence that they're starving 24/7 with a short fuse.

Because Luigi and Gabariella came out of the winter underweight, for the past two to three months they've been receiving double their normal rations plus some extra supplements which they regard as treats.  But I am greeted continually with their ear-shattering communication that it's not enough.

And their increasingly daring attacks upon the grain can stopped being amusing quite a while ago.  I can be inches away and they are at their tricks.

  



You can observe the sequence, while I'm standing right in front of Luigi.
These are intelligent beings, but bloody hell I don't know how to train them to stay away.
Verbal persuasion doesn't work, physical threats don't work.

It's very inconvenient to close the door behind me while getting hay then turn around with an armful to unlatch the door.

What to do!!

So, I'm irritated with the donks, the donks are irritated with me, and the flies.  Who knows with whom the flies are irritated.




Monday, July 17, 2017

Fly Spray Concoction

Unless you are a donkey owner, you would never guess how persistent and overwhelming flies can be to donkey legs.  I never had the numbers of flies attach themselves to horse legs with the three horses I have owned.  Donkey legs are another matter entirely, especially Luigi legs.

Because it's a daily battle and I spray those legs every single day, I prefer to use plant based formulas. However, the flies have been so tenacious the past 10 days or so, I have been playing with some alternate methods (more on that in the next post).  Nothing is doing the job as I'd like.

As I was wandering the the internet searching for more possibilities, I found a DIY fly repellent using essential oils.  As I perused the list, I realized I had most in my EO stash and decided to give it a whirl.

  
The recipe is as follows:

Refreshing Fly Blend by Nan Martin

§  5-10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
§  5-10 drops Tea Tree or Melaleuca Alternifolia Essential Oil
§  5-10 drops Idaho Tansy Essential Oil
§  5-10 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
§  5-10 drops Lemongrass Essential Oil
§  5-10 drops Lavender Essential Oil

Drop each of the oils into a 32 oz spray bottle and mix with water.
Source: Equimed


I had everything I needed except the Idaho Tansy and had to substitute Lemon Myrtle for the Lemongrass.  But then I got thinking (uh oh).  Would the oils mix with plain ole' water?  I again looked online, found suggestions for emulsifiers and then asked husband Rick, the biologist/chemist in the family.  His suggestion of vigorous shaking just before applying said concoction served my purpose.  

I've only been experimenting for a couple of days but thus far, I'm pleased.  I'll have Luigi report back after a longer test period.  


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Donkey Pastures, Mowing, and Les Fleurs

A few days ago, the donkey pasture was calling to be mowed.  Naturally, I obliged.
I try to look my best for all occasions and I did not want to disappoint for this event.


My favorite straw hat, oversized t-shirt, University of Michigan shorts, and barn sneakers completed the ensemble.

It's no secret, I have been approached by Vogue for a cover shoot.









A sense of sadness prevails as all the wild daisies are cut down.















Although the wild daisies perished, some of the cultivated flora are flourishing.

clematis

 lovely marigolds by the swing 
(positioned to view the braying hyenas and clucks)


As the Rose of Sharon and Hibiscus bloom, I just know you'll be wanting to peek at their magical beauty too. 
And if you're very good, I'll share some more magical beauty of two mischief-making miniature monster donkeys.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Fan Addendum, or, The Case of the Silly Kitty

You've all met Moose (Dusty) previously.  My (our) indoor/outdoor 18 year old cat.


One of his favorite places to hang out in the morning is the back of the recliner.  Or next to me on the couch with the dog.

Unless it's hot out.  The hotter the better as far as he's concerned.  And then he's insistent that he lounge on the deck... for hours.






If I get concerned about the length of time he's been roasting in the heat and ask him to come in, he gets coquettish and rolls around making cute cat-like conversation.  

But refuses to come in.

On days like today when it's a lovely 70 degrees, he stays in the house.












He's just a crazy kitty.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fans for You, and You, and You, and Me

It's just not summer unless you hear the hum of a fan or two in the background.  And feel the circulating air dry the perspiration after mowing the lawn (or pasture).  

I guess it's because when I grew up, there was no air conditioning in the house for years. Dad would put the box fan in the bedroom window at night to help cool things down.  When we did leap into the world of cool air, we depended on window units, the noisy buggers.

Anyway, fans serve many purposes around here.

Cooling off donkeys and helping to keep the nasty nasty biting flies at bay is pretty important.

For that purpose we use an old metal box fan.  

For the record, I am oh so partial to metal fans.

I try to aim the air right at the hay rack so as they eat, they feel the benefits.

Because Rick insulated the chicken coop, and it has cross ventilation, the heat does not build up too badly for the girls.

 insulation on 3 walls 

But, because I like to feel fan air blowing on me, I assume the chickens feel the same way, right?

So they have their own fan too.












And at night I've started putting it in the coop window.  Like father, like daughter.

Sadly the chicken fan is plastic and the small one sitting in the dining room, primarily for the dogs is plastic.
I can't show you my favorite fan.  A brushed copper tall floor fan that sits in the doorway of the sunroom, directed into the living room.  If I took a picture of that fan, you'd see the mess behind it, and that just won't do.

Sometimes I have a fan or two going in the house even when the AC is on.  I just need my fans.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Gang Hits Sleepy Town

I have run into a gang of hooligans.  Moderately malicious but not terribly violent.  Troublemakers to the core.

It's a gang of two.  Their escapades develop in broad daylight.  Yes, they are bold.

I have observed that the ringleader changes...with the wind.

And here you have it.
The "do-anything-to-get-the lid-off-the-garbage-can-holding-the-grain-and-tip-it-over" gang.

I was able to sneak up on their most recent malicious adventure and record the beginnings of mayhem.

You can see the nonchalance with which they approach the targeted can.  They are wily devils.  This is in broad daylight remember.  Thank goodness there were no weapons involved.

And, bingo, contact has been made.
At this point I was unsure whether to call the authorities, but refrained for fear of retribution from the gang members afterward.

But I now have the evidence, in safekeeping.

The moral of the story:  please, please safeguard your grain-filled garbage cans.  These marauders can get desperate.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fragility

I'm realizing how the loss of Alice, Francesca, Emmy Lou and Dottie in a short period of time has caused me to be aware of the fragility of life on a daily basis.  Every day when letting the chickens out for their free-range time, I tell them to be careful and I anxiously count heads when I call for their return to the coop.  I need four to return.

So, let's tell the girls how special they are.





My confession is this.  I would be heartbroken if something happened to Sweet Pea.

She is my #1 helper during morning chores, following around the donkey yard.  And chatting the whole time.  Actually it's the only way I can tell the difference between her and Buffy.  Sweet Pea is full of talk, talk, talk.  The few times she's been in the coop in a nesting box during morning chores, the silence has been deafening.











  




This little girl is actually quite full of personality, but instead of "helper" I'd term Jo "the snack queen".  In the mornings, as soon as I open the big door to the coop, out they all rush to do some early exploring.  But sure as shootin', Jo will rush back to see if any snacks have been distributed.  Often she's so anxiouson,  she'll sit in the snack bowl.  I have to lift her out and explain that doesn't really expedite the process.









Ruby Dee is one of the two remaining original girls (the other is Sweet Pea).  Ruby used to be my helper but apparently relinquished the position for reasons unknown to me.  And she does tend to whine.

On a recent morning instead of throwing them banana, they got nice juicy blueberries.  Ruby checked one out and just looked at me.  Clearly that blue thing wasn't a banana.

Her other idiosyncracy.  Pecking feet.  Sandaled feet.  Although (knock on wood) it hasn't happened recently.  when it does I tend to first yelp and secondly yell out "Ruby Dee, knock it off!!"  From the look on her face, I know she knows.









This is Buffy.  I dare you to differentiate between Buff and Sweet Pea.

Buffy is the loner and, although has been with my crew for two years, is still somewhat skittish.  Jo, on the other hand, has been here for two months and feels right at home.





OK, readers.  On the count of three, remind everyone 
Stay Safe, Please!!