Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Spring Babies

If you drove up to our home, you might look askance at the "beauty" of a Christmas wreath still hanging.  Your left eyebrow might raise in a quizzical look as you turned to say "Why?"

It used to be a beauty, but it's luster has faded.
And yet it remains, because...

Two robins selected that innovative location to build their spring nest.  A few weeks ago we would have disrupted the eggs if the wreath had been disturbed and now, we would disrupt the babes.

Look carefully, and you'll see a beak and a head.  We think there is at least one more young 'un in there, but Rick was perched on a ladder trying to get a peek so we're not entirely sure about the full brood.

So, it will stay Christmas at our house for a bit longer.  And that's fine with us.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Goodbye to Emmy Lou

If I were to be totally honest about what's going on at our little farm, I would have bad news yet again.  Seems like it's been a steady stream of bad news on the blog.

Emmy Lou has been going steadily downhill the past few days.  After some chicken health sleuthing, I had hopes of bringing her around, but it's not to be.  Today I've been determining the most humane means of euthanasia.

Just went out to check on her and I can't believe she'll last the night.

I'm not sure I'll ever get used to this death business.

 Emmy Lou on the right

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When A Donkey Has A Darn Scratch

Carpenter extraordinaire in this house performed his magic again.
And voila, a scratching post for two donkeys.

I will assure you, Luigi and Gabby find it a most useful addition to the donkey yard.

The bare naked version (without donkeys)

Now when I roll the manure wheelbarrow in for the morning clean-up, Luigi does not attack it with a passion and rub and rub and rub.  
He has the real deal.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Faces at SASHA Farm Sanctuary

Last month friend Bev and I returned to our regularly scheduled trips to SASHA Farm Sanctuary as volunteers, feeding and watering and doing whatever other chores might be needed.  Some days I just don't take the time to capture photos of sweet faces, but this last visit seemed the right time for a few snaps.

Let me introduce you.

Little June is the newest addition to the big pigs, also the smallest and definitely my favorite.  Her personality is strong -- she's pushy for food but absolutely fun-loving.  She wants to play and will immediately come running as you walk into the pig area.  All in all a cutie.

Herman the boar is not as social but oh so distinctive.  

Don't quote me, but I think this is Daniel.  He was very attentive as I walked back and forth attending the pigs.  No other cows were nearby except this sweet boy.  He accepted a few head rubs and I was sorry I had no treats at that moment for him.

Norman, in the foreground, is definitely high on my list of cuties.  When I have carrots to dispense, I always seek out this boy.  I believe he's a donkey but could be a mix.

Sweet Fearless is infirm and gets a special bed in the kitchen.  He's a glutton for loving but you need to keep an eye on him as his hearing, sight and mobility are all an issue.

  And then there are the goats.  What goofs.

Great yoga poses...

 These emus are in with the chickens.  When I dumped the small wading pool in their area to clean and refill, they adored the pool of water left behind and settled down for a good soak.

SASHA is a great place to get your critter fix. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Donkey Scoundrels

Its a regular dance the donkeys and I perform.  Daily.  Sometimes multiple times a day.
I walk into the hay aisle and usually Gabariella walks in right behind me.  I turn around with hay in hand to walk out and throw in the donkey yard, and yes, there's a donkey in my way.

On the occasion of the photo above, Luigi determined it was an oh most opportune time to bang around the metal garbage can holding donkey grain.  He has become quite clever at removing the bungee-corded lid.

  He knocked it down and was working on the lid, all within a matter of a minute or two.
This necessitated a quick push past Gabby (not an easy task -- she's a donkey after all--  who can easily choose to firmly plant four feet), quickly enough to stop the lid from coming off, the grain spilling to the ground and Luigi and Gabby gorging themselves and potentially becoming quite ill.

Yes, these are good times on our little farm.  Scoundrels is the polite word for the two equine devils.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pasture Envy

Two little donkeys are beside themselves with lust for their pasture.
But they must wait.  And wait.
At least until mid-May.

You're heard me say it before; those little lips and teeth can decimate a not-fully-developed pasture faster than you can say "phooey".  And they have.  So we wait.

Now that the weather has turned toward the side of spring, Gabby has let me know in her inimitable way that she WILL either get to go in the pasture or out into the "compound" (fenced in area surrounding the house) and nibble whatever is available.    Rick has chastised me for allowing them free range in the compound since they ate all of the ivy he had cultivated by the house.   But, of course, the donkeys turn a deaf ear, particularly Gabs.

Here she was marching between the donkey yard gate and the pasture gate, with a very clear message for me.

Yet those darn chickens get to go into the pasture, she says.

And something is not right about that situation.

So, two donkeys decided to take matters into their control and sashayed into the chicken run.

The hens were not alarmed by this turn of events, but were slightly confused.

And so, as I explained the pasture situation yet again to Gabby, the ears were taking it all in.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Donkey Toy

My little donkey beasts are not allowed into the pasture until the new spring grass is healthy and a few inches high.  They can decimate the lushness down to the roots in nothing flat. That means they are sequestered in the donkey yard until late May.

Finding amusing play toys to ward off boredom is no easy feat for my two (keep wanting to say my three, sigh...).  The jolly ball has been part of their toy box for years and it usually sits abandoned.

The milk jug with marbles rattling inside hanging from the tree branch is equally ignored.

  And so a couple of months ago I purchased a Nose It.

By jiminy I was going to find something that appealed to their playful side.
Here's the scoop -- you put carrot pieces, or grain, in the hole which has a lip on the inside of the "ball" preventing the treat from immediately falling out.  Some low-key work is involved.

Luigi has been the only participant to date.  Take a look at him in action.


Of course, I found a much less expensive version mentioned in a FB donkey group after the fact. Another sigh...  Now I'm off to the kitchen to cut up carrots!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

No More Wednesdays

Wednesday does not seem to be our lucky day.  This past Wednesday one of our new hens, Dottie, was killed by a fox.  The previous Wednesday Francesca died.  I have informed all critters and humans at our home, no more dying.

I knew something was amiss when I went out about 6:00 p.m. to bring the girls in from the donkey pasture.  They had been allowed their usual two hours of freedom within the confines of donkey fencing.  Usually when they see me arrive at the gate they all come running at a little chicken gallop.  Not that day.  They were all clustered together, with even the neighbor guinea hen across the fence from them.  At that point I wasn't terribly concerned, just thought it odd.  Then I called the girls in my chicken tone of voice.  Nothing.  Now was the time to say, "Oh crap, something is really wrong."

Finally after continued calling, five girls came in from the pasture and they got tucked in for the night.  Reluctantly I walked to that spot in the pasture and there was Dottie.  Mauled by a predator.

Even in the short time we had had her, Dottie was clearly turning into an adventurer (as had been Golda, who also died at the hands of a fox last summer).  Always the last to come into the coop; there were too many interesting things to explore in the dirt, as well as rummage around in donkey manure.

The other girls were very subdued for roughly two days.  No one wanted to leave the coop, no one wanted to go into the protected chicken run.

So don't tell me chickens are dumb.  They knew something was wrong and they needed to hunker down to stay safe.
Now, however, things are back to normal and they want to slip through any gate available.

Thank you for adding to the beauty of our little world, if only briefly, Dottie.  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Missing Francesca

Over the past week while under the weather, I was mentally planning the new installment for the blog.  I was either going to regale you with a video of Luigi playing with the newest donkey toy, or tell you about the subtle changes in the herd since Alice died.

Part of the second topic involved Franny's enjoyment of her re-found title of "She Who Get's Mom's Immediate Attention" when entering the donkey yard.  If I was able to read the nuances of donkey body language, I'd say she was rightfully back as mom's favorite and loving it.

And now Francesca is gone.  I am heartbroken and the tears come as I write this.

Three days ago, because I was not feeling well, Rick took breakfast feed while I stayed in bed.  Fran was down.  When the vet arrived her body temp had plummeted and heart rate was high.  The vet said she was in shock.  Most probably colic.  And there wasn't much to be done.

Please, not Fran.

Not Fran who'd come to me for hugs before eating.  I'd stand right in front of her head and rub the sides and her neck until she decided that was enough lovin'.  And then she'd get a kiss on the nose.

Please, not Fran.

My little intact family, who'd been together with me for seven years and three years prior to that, is no longer intact.  My three amigos who wooed me across the fence before becoming part of our family are three no longer.

Seeing just two donkeys in the yard feels like something is broken.

Please, not Fran.

There is a huge hole where Fran's presence should be.   Francesca, Franny, Fran Banan.  You were my special girl with whom I shared a bond, deeper than with any other donkey.  Luigi and Gabariella (her daughter) feel your absence too.

You were  only 14, far too young.

As the Buddhist Metta prayer says:
May you be happy, May you be well, May you be peaceful, May you be free.
Goodbye Fran.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Two New Girls Join Our Little Farm

A week ago Monday two new girls joined the little farm flock.  And what beauties they are.

We used the same method as when Buffy joined the hens; putting the newbies in the dog kennel inside the coop allowed everyone to look and smell and talk without any altercations.
Ruby Dee politely inquires, "What the heck?"

Introducing the new girls -- Jo on the left (a Jersey Giant) and Dottie on the right (a Wyandotte), both a year old.  A family not too far from us were rehoming nine hens because of a move.  A perfect situation.  My former egg lady took seven and two came to live with us.

Sweet Pea takes a good long look at the interlopers.

It only took a day and a half before the two new girls had tipped over the water in their enclosure about every 10 minutes and the kennel turned into a lake, so out they came.

Yes, there was a bit of posturing (there still is), but the transition was reasonably smooth.

Dottie discovers there are treats in the doorway 

and Jo tries to figure out how those chickens got on top of the straw and hay.

Aha! Jo clambered up onto the mountain.
What an accomplishment.

Dottie explores a nesting box

And during all this drama, the donkeys are oblivious to anything but their vittles. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Donkeys Relish February Thaw

This week's temperatures are a complete aberration for southeastern Michigan weather.  And we are luxuriating in it!
(we'll be in the 50's and 60's for the next few days as opposed to the normal snowy 20's and 30's)

Yesterday there was no need to double layer clothes (over p.j.'s) in the morning to feed.

Those sweats and heavy socks stayed hanging up in the bathroom.
It's been about three months since I got away with that.  Ohh-la-la.

And the donkawonks and clucks are enjoying the sunny days while they can.  Unfortunately the donkey yard is a mud fest and it's way way too early to let the beasts out on the pasture.  So it's a catch-22 for them -- lovely weather but terrifically sloppy.

The clucks are in heaven as well.  Those prissy little girls WILL NOT travel more than a handful of steps on the snow.  With all the snow melted, it's a heavenly delight for four hens.  (Although mealworms is still my very effective weapon for corralling them from their walkabout back into their run.)

Have you ever seen a happier face?  No, I thought not.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Inside Critters

You've met two of the inside critters from time to time and they begged me to let them hog -- oops, share the limelight again.  I graciously agreed.

So here you have it.  Those three hooligans who share our home and our hearts.  And our pocketbook. And our patience.

Dusty, aka, Moose 

...has been with us since 2004 and will be 18 this year.  

Yes, clearly he's slowing down but still gets around well.  Biggest fault -- is a voracious 
cuddle bunny.

Dudley, aka Dudes
Dudes has been with us since 2006 and will be 11 this year.

He is too good looking and smart for his own good.  Or at least I tell him that all the time.
Biggest fault -- being part lab and a total chow hound.  Capital letters.  And exclamation points.  Underlined.

Gunnar, aka Buns

I am not recalling the year Gunnar came to us.  He's probably 9 or 10 years old.  
All of our inside critters are rescues but Gunnar had the hardest backstory. 
Biggest fault -- needs lovin' and lovin' and lovin'.  Oh, and add lovin' to that list.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Chicken Treat List

A quick note of thanks to all kind readers for your words of support about Alice.  I still expect to hear that unique voice and see her head peeking out from the barn.  But, it is not to be...

So, let us turn to those crazy clucks to get our minds on another subject.

Let's talk about chicken treats.  Yummm.

I know it's typical for hens to like all manner of vegetable leftovers.  Not my girls.  I've tried greens. No.  I've tried various fruits.  Except for blueberries and bananas - no.  So I've honed it down to five treat groups for my four picky eaters.

From least to most desirable:
1.  Smashed eggshells.  You might consider it cheating to include shells in with "treats", but they do eat them.  It's a beneficial way to put more calcium in those hard working bodies.

I used to put the dried shells from the eggs we use into my coffee grinder and then found a simple potato masher worked just as well.  It's faster and doesn't gum up my grinder.

The shells go into a glass jar that stays in the coop.
2.  Bird seed.  We feed the birds during the winter months so it's handy and the chickens find it tasty.

 I do add rolled oats to the mix.  Originally I purchased a big bag of oats for Alice, as a means to put weight on the girl.  I later read that the clucks can use extra protein during the winter and oats was a option listed, so voila..

3.  Harvest Delight  A pre-fab blend of dried fruits and veggies and the girls really dig it!
Here Buffy leaves the nesting box for a quick treat of Harvest Delight.

Manna Pro makes another chicken treat that the girls are not as fond of.

Yes, that's a pie plate resting on top of the chicken feeder.  This keeps out dust, shavings,  poop and offers a perfect place to put the treats.  I also scatter them on the small coop door when there's snow on the ground and the girls don't want to venture outside.

4.  We're nearing the top of the list with Happy Hen Treats.  Yup, dried mealworms.  The girls will grab the bag out of my hand to get them.  Or at least try.  I save these morsels as the end of the day treat or simply rattle the bag to get the girls to return to the coop.  They love them that much.

 5.  BUT, the best treat of all, yes, the very best is... a banana.  They have gotten a sliced banana every morning for the past year and a half.  And look askance at me when I try to substitute another morning taste-treat.  Blueberries will suffice, but they clamor for banana.