Monday, December 19, 2011

Feathered losses

Sadly, we lost 3 members of our flock in recent days.  Among the dead are:
  1. Patricia, she was the loveliest of buff-laced polish hens.  Anybody who came to visit us inevitably had a turn holding her.  She was was a lousy layer, but she was sweet, quiet and very patient with children.  She was the only hen who let the children pick her up.  And she was a good flock member too.  When Barncat (her sister hen) broke her leg and had to be confined to a small pen, Patricia was her gentle companion.  
  2. Patrick, my friend the buff-laced polish rooster.  He was selected and named by his namesake.  Several times he required first aid as he seemed to be an accident prone rooster,  I'll never forget the time he got his legs tangled tightly in string and I had to untangle and cut it away.  Most roosters would have panicked.  He also let me keep his spurs trimmed.  He has always desired to be a free-ranger.  He must have been a very attractive rooster, as many hens desire to be a part of his free-ranging flock.  He never quite fit in with the other roosters, but the ladies loved him.  He spent his days roaming all over my yards and orchards and his nights he slept on a shelf in the barn.
  3. A young Patrick the rooster.
  4. Miss Piggy (formerly known as Whitey) was a white Ameraucana hen.  She was meant to be Campbell's hen.  She acquired her new name because every morning when I opened the food bucket, she would fly into it and start madly eating.  For the past 2 years, she had a pattern, she would sleep in the barn with Patrick, then she would go into the coop with me to eat, she would lay a big beautiful blue egg and then she would return to Patrick until the next morning.  Patrick waited for her and appeared stressed out when she was in the coop without him.  They really did have a bond.  
Miss Piggy, laying her daily egg.

Patrick (top left), Miss Piggy (right, second from top) and Patricia (bottom right),
also Hawkeye's rear view on left and Miss T (center).
Patricia and Barncat, they were great pets.

Miss Piggy and a friend.

Foraging, what Miss Piggy did best.

Here's how it happened:

One morning, Damon, Campbell and a friend woke up early and went outside to play in the yard.  As they walked towards the barn, they saw what they thought was a chicken sitting on the chicken fence.  Then they saw the "chicken" hop off the fence and into the chicken yard.  That was when they noticed Patricia, lying dead in the middle of the chicken yard with neck injuries, and the "chicken" was really a red-tailed hawk.  The hawk flew away, but kept circling over the barn.  They alerted us.  After disposing of Patricia's body, we waited and watched as the hawk went into the chicken yard again, looking for Patricia's remains.  He looked puzzled as he sifted through the pile of feathers with his beak finding no carcass.  Then the boys chased him off with their friend's AirSoft gun and he flew a few hundred feet away and watched.  They continued chasing him until he flew away.  This incident brings new light to the disappearance of the neighbour's hen and duck.  The boys were flying high with the excitement.  Now I have added "Staple netting to the top of the chicken yard" to my to-do list.

This was our first loss due to predators.  My heart sunk.  I thought my heart had hardened to the loss of animals, as farmer's hearts must do to protect themselves, but Patricia was very special to us.  I even got teary.  I immediately typed off an email to the breeder telling him what had happened and asking him to reserve more Polish chicks for me this spring.  

This morning, my heart sunk a little when I took the dogs out and saw a pile of white feathers in front of barn.  Then I saw the body of Patrick lying about 20 feet away, not far from my bedroom window.  In the barn (which was left unlocked last night by one of the boys) is a trail of feathers that leads to the shelf the slept on, and on top of the straw is one of Patrick's wings.  Hawkeye (a grey Ameraucana) and Miss T (Patrick and Miss Piggy's orphaned lovechild) were still running around.  I'm not sure what happened, it could have been a fox or a coyote.  But I imagine a scene involving Patrick being attacked in his sleep and Miss Piggy awaking and risking her life in a valiant but futile attempt to save her love.  Or something like that.

I am curious about whether the loss of Patrick will change the flock dynamic and convince the other two hens that the coop is the place to be.

On a positive note, today, 3 of the chicks that hatched in September, namely Moneyboy, Spiderman and Vulture (formerly known as Sweet Baby Jesus) have been fully integrated into the main flock. O.J. and Baby Gigi are still living with their surrogate mama, Jill.  Out of 5 chicks, we managed to get 4 hens and 1 Ameraucana rooster.

Monday, December 12, 2011

November Birthdays Recap

On November 9th, our dainty princess celebrated her 5th birthday. She woke up on that wet November morning and chose to wear a long white flower girl dress, ballet tights and slippers and a tiara.

She had asked for pierced ears for her birthday. Damon had a hockey game that night, so we left early and stopped at the mall and had her ears done before the game. We met Grandpa there and he took her clothes shopping and she bought 2 dresses (one of them quite fancy). Then she went to the hockey game in her gown and tiara, danced around the stands and showed off her beautiful ears to everybody who would look.

The next night we had a proper birthday dinner. She was allowed to pick any restaurant she wanted or any home cooked meal. Last year she chose a very exciting homebaked macaroni and cheese with a rainbow heart cake. This year she chose chicken nuggets, home fries, and a salad of spinach, pomegranate, cucumber and a raspberry vinaigrette, with a chocolate heart cake. She opened a few presents including a candy pizza from Grandpa.

Just 8 days later, we celebrated a big milestone with Patrick as he turned 16! He is a very sensible boy, so it was a very subdued affair. After I picked him up at rugby practice he opted for dinner at home (stuffed chicken breasts and stuffed potatoes from M&M Meats).  It was a very low key affair.

Big smoke.
After a substitute teacher failed to hand out her invitations in the message bags two days in a row, Hanna's party had to be rescheduled. My mistake, I should have followed ALL of Virginia's Birthday Party Etiquette Rules.Virginia's Birthday Party Etiquette 101 rules .  Finally on December 10th, she had her Sugar Plum Fairy-themed birthday party.  The theme was the only mathematical option, Princess+Ballerina+Christmas decorations=Sugar Plum Fairy.  Obviously.

Gathering party supplies.
Table set and ready.

Princess Loot boxes with a bit of candy, cookie and candy-shaped hair decorations, stickers, a notebook, a ring.
Hanna's menu, tea sandwiches, a fruit tray and chocolate milk or pink lemonade.

5 party guests and 2 big sisters had a blast. 

4 friends in a very tiny bathroom.

Blowing out her candles.  I take no credit for the cake, I think Dr. Seuss decorated it.

 I had planned themed activities that involved glitter glue, snowflakes that wouldn't stay on the sticks and ribbon that wouldn't stay curled, but discovered that they all had the most fun when we went out to play in the barnyard.  They took turns holding hens.  They were all impressed when they had a turn holding a "baby rooster".  And for me, the highlight was watching them work in pairs to "walk the goats".
I am so glad that Hanna enjoyed her party!
  Predictably, the goats walked them.

Next year, I'm going to skip the glitter glue and go with the obvious Farm-themed party.
The AFTER table.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday stuffing recipe

This is my favourite recipe for stuffing for Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys.  It has never failed to produce moist delicious stuffing as long as I've cooked it in the bird.  I once had a relative who was fussy about where his stuffing was cooked and he always ended up with dried out stuffing.  Perhaps we should have read more into that than we did.  Anyway, here is my recipe:

"Moist Bread Stuffing"

1 cup butter\
2 cups diced celery
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups of sliced mushrooms (OPTIONAL)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (or substitute with about 1/8 cup dried)
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
15 cups bread, cubed (I purchase brown bread for this, but I will also use up any bread that I have in the kitchen)
3-4 eggs, slightly beaten

Begin about 1/2 hour before the turkey is due to go into the oven. 

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter.  Add celery and onions and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add mushrooms if desired, cook for about 2 more minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add parsley, salt, poultry seasoning and pepper; stir well until thoroughly mixed.  Stir in bread cubes and eggs; mix together well until all bread cubes are moistened.

Stuff it into the cavities of the bird.  If you are not stuffing the bird, you can bake it in a covered, greased casserole dish for the last 30 to 45 minutes of roasting time.

Ew, This is a really unappetizing photo of the stuffing next to the cranberries. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy Dead Rats

Since Wicket was killed in August, the rats have moved back into the barn. Boy do I miss that cat. At the end of August, Matt put out poison bait stations which started working last week. I found one dead rat outside the chicken coop on Monday and on Saturday there was another one in the chicken yard. There is one job I don't do. I don't do dead animals, I change poopy diapers, clean up animal poop, vomit, you name it, but I leave dead animals to Matt and Damon. I feel like I did my time when I worked for 4 years as a veterinary assistant through high school. Damon threw the dead ones into the ditch. Today I found what appears to be a dead baby rat inside the chicken coop. Little Griffin (almost 3) says very clearly, "S'okay Mommy, Damon can trow it in da ditch wit it's mommy and daddy. Den dey can be a happy dead rat family." Awwww, so sweet.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Farewell Penny

(photos by Lucky Mutt Photography)

We lost our dear friend Penny.

One morning she could not get up. We stood her up and she would just collapse again. She was weak, and finally one morning she could not even lift her head and breathed her last breath.

Daisy and Lily cried for a few hours.

A photo taken by us on the day Penny arrived here.

She was such a shy and gentle goat. And she was even wise. We weren't sure of her age when we got her in 2009, but based on the educated guesses of others, we thought she was about 10.  It was obvious by her demeanor that she had seen rough treatment and had not experienced a lot of attention before, so as she slowly learned to trust me I repeatedly promised her that I would always protect her and keep her safe. We bought her hoping that she would produce a doeling, and she gave us 2 beautiful healthy doelings.  She was a wonderful mother, which was good because I was an incredibly nervous first-time goat owner.  Even though she was shy with strangers, she encouraged her daughters to be social and would peek her head out of the barn door just to make sure they were being treated kindly. 

(photos by Lucky Mutt Photography)
In her last days, I offered Penny food and water by hand, rolled her daily to prevent sores and she seemed very grateful for my efforts.  I just hope that I did all I could to fulfill my promise to her.  Rest in peace dear friend.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Phantom Bird

I heard a thud, I ran outside to see if there was a stunned bird lying underneath the big front window. Nothing was there. But when I went back inside, I saw this on the window. Don't look at the trees, look at the white imprint that was left on the window.

Upon closer inspection, I can see individual feathers and feet. It is hard to see with this camera, and taking photos of anything on a window is difficult as I keep getting reflection from inside the house.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Out and about

Maybe I should watch more TV, but I get my kicks watching these things roam around my property! Hilarious.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I'm trying to do barnchores while the kids ride their bikes, but it isn't so easy.

Griffin: Me going to climb that tree.
Me: Griffin, why don't you ride your bike instead, Mommy can't catch you if you start to fall right now.
Griffin: No, me going to climb that tree.
(tries to climb tree, but can't reach bottom branch)
Griffin: Help me Mommy.
Me: Sorry Griffin, if the tree is too tall, then it is too tall for you to climb.
Griffin: Me going to climb that tree.
(moves his bike to the bottom of the tree and uses it to climb up, Hanna flies up the tree and joins him)

Me: You be careful there Griffin.
Griffin: Ha ha, me climb that tree.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Goodbye hatchlings!

I recently watched our hen Ginger act as a surrogate and hatch eggs for our friends. They wanted a few new chickens for their small flock, but didn't have any broody hens, and with fall coming on fast, they wanted to avoid the use of a heat lamp after the chicks hatched. So we lent them Ginger. She did an excellent job, hatching 6 of 8 eggs (she threw one egg out halfway through, and another one began to hatch a few days too early and died before fully hatching).

Old Penny is very maternal, and was very interested in the cheeping babies in the next stall. If she could have, she probably would have brooded them.

Ginger is very protective of the babies, and moving her and the chicks to their new home was a bit stressful, but they are settling in nicely.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baby photos

The chicks are starting to grow in wing and tail feathers already. That's Griffin's "Spiderman" in the stripes.

This is Hanna with "Gigi".

Kira with her chick lovingly named "Vulture".

Campbell's "Moneyman" is huge compared to his "siblings".

And "O.J." is still endearing him/herself to everybody.

It is so funny the way they all move together as a family unit.