Sunday, November 3, 2013

Out on the (Funny) Farm

Grab something to drink, sit back and relax a bit. This is going to take a while.

I know I should write about events as they happen here on the farm, but I don't always have the luxury. It has been a full spring and summer, and among the many things that kept me moving during that time was tending to the bed and breakfast, mowing grass, planting and watering flowers, working on the caboose and building the deck, operating the thrift shop along with two big sales, refining the Lavender Tea Room space and helping Sandra with a number of teas, getting the pond ready for the liner, unloading the railroad ties and contemplating the location and size of the raised flower bed, working on the outbuildings, and last but not least, tending to the resident critters who inhabit and create an interesting, pleasant world. There have been changes to the animal population here on the farm, some good, some bad. But overall, if everyone is happy, life is good.

Horse of Course! Glory Be!

Among the long-standing residents Glory, the Arabian mare, is always a joy. Her pleasant personality and easy keeping is wonderful in spite of the fact she hates to have her rear hooves trimmed. On my to-do list is working with her so she feels comfortable having her feet handled.

Peanut and Popeye

The Angora goat males, Peanut (buck) and Popeye (wether), have been in the west pasture with Glory all summer. They both had their fleeces clipped earlier this year on the goat stand I built, but their fall shearing has been cancelled due to lack of planning on my part and the onset of cold weather. Or maybe it's because I don't have the energy to chase them around the goat yard trying to get a rope around their necks. (Although... I can foresee being able to catch them this winter to trim some of their fleece when they become weighed down with snow and ice).


I had a beast of a time getting Peanut's horns through the head
stock on the stand in the spring, and I know they have grown over the summer. Different measures will need to be taken when I shear him next year. In pre-goat-stand-days I have wrestled him to the ground and positioned my leg over his neck to trim his fleece with scissors. Now, I have sheep shears that I brought from Florida this year and I'm hoping the job will go faster than the hour and a half per goat. Hey, I'm learning! It does help to have the right equipment, and any poor soul willing to help.

Peanut is happier now that I put him and Popeye in with the girl goats. Planned pregnancies. I aim to be more prepared next year when the kids start popping.

Sadie and Sarah

Sadie (female goat) is doing well, and she was still nursing ten-month-old Sarah in July when I sold Sarah to a woman from Indian River, Michigan. I don't think it affected Sadie all that much when Sarah left, but it was a sad day for me. She was the first goat birth for six-year-old Sadie, and my first experience of goat labor and birthing; a difficult one too. And Sarah was a joy to watch as she grew to be taller than her mom Sadie.

Removing Sarah's first fleece in the spring was an interesting experience for I found that when I started out trimming with the scissors all I really had to do was pull her fleece off; a sheet of curls with a felted bottom. The result of mixing an Angora goat with a hair goat.

With Sarah gone I had to learn how to milk Sadie. Let me tell you that was fun! I think I'd rather like to learn how to bungee jump from the Mackinaw Bridge. But, after both Sadie and I got the hang of the whole process it wasn't really bad at all. She settled right in to the routine, and I was able to squeeze out milk at a good clip.

Pepper and Patty

Pepper (female goat) is like the middle child. She is there, but doesn't really get noticed all that much because she stays in the background. Well, with the surprise birth of Patty this year I watch her a little more closely.

Little Patty was totally independent when it came to my attention. She wanted none of it. Born without my help she figured she was good to go. And that she did. I sold her in September when she was six months old to a woman from around the Cadillac, Michigan area. It wasn't so bad for me, but I think Pepper missed her for a few days.

Now, when it came to milking Pepper after Patty was gone: it was a miserable process til the end. I would have to hold a rear leg with one
hand while milking with the other. I think we were both glad when milking wasn't required any longer.

Rooster, the Ladies and Herbie

2013 pullets
Since I've been raising my own flock of chickens over the last eleven years this is the first year I have had more than one hen set on eggs. Six hens to be exact. They helped hatch out fourteen chicks. Key word here is "helped". The hens totally reared thirteen chicks on their own: set, hatched and raised. I was able to put six young roosters and the year-and-a-half-old white Columbian Wyandotte rooster in the freezer. Makes for some yummy Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.

Now as for the fourteenth chick, that is a whole 'nother story. The hen that was setting on it before it hatched started out with seven eggs. But with other hens wanting to lay eggs in the same nest box as she was setting resulted in six of the eggs getting broken, ending with only one egg in the nest. It came down to the last day for hatching. I go out in the morning to find the one egg warm in the nest and no hen. Well, I figured she was getting food, water, a little fresh air. I go back out in the afternoon to gather eggs. And I find the one egg now cold in the nest. No hen. How much fresh air does she thinks she needs anyway?! Great! Twenty-one days wasted and no chicks. "This egg will get tossed".

If there is one thing that still works good for me is my hearing. My eyesight is less than desired, but I can hear a pin drop a mile away as long as my ears aren't ringing too loudly. On this particular day (9/24/13) after I gathered all the eggs I kept hearing a tiny peep. Didn't know where it was coming from until I realized it was coming from the twenty-one-day-old cold egg I was holding in my hand. In my mind I'm picturing the doctor who put Frankenstein together exclaiming, "It's alive!".

As I'm quickly walking to the house with this cold egg I'm talking to it like it needs my encouragement to stay alive long enough to hatch. (At times it really is a good thing I live by myself, and no guests). In the house I turn on the oven light, grab a large pan, add a towel, the egg and thermometer and place it all in the oven, all the while making a mental note that the use of the oven is off-limits for a couple of days. Again, in my mind I'm picturing a new dish titled "Baked Egg Surprise". Not a good thought.

Before I go to bed that night I talk to the egg in the oven. Now, by this time I have named what is inside the egg "Herbie". I'm actually hoping for a male chick that would grow to someday replace Rooster when he is no longer around. In the course of my conversation with the peeping egg I explain there is nothing I can do on my end except keep it warm. I want so badly to open a hole in the shell to help him along, but that can end badly.

The next day I check on Herbie and he's peeping louder than the day
before. This is really a good sign. He's alive for one thing, and there's hope he will hatch. Let's just make it quick. I wanna use my oven. All morning long I talk to the egg and it peeps in response. Before I head outside in the afternoon I give it a good pep talk. "Come on, it's up to you Herbie. I can't do it for you. Let's get with the program". It must have worked. I came in early evening and there he was all hatched out and wobbly, still attached to the shell.

So, Herbie spent the first week of his life in a tote in the kitchen with a light. But, with the onset of cold weather Herbie will have to stay in the basement (no electricity in the outbuildings), and he won't go out with the other chickens until spring. But that's not the kicker. Herbie is a pullet.


My friend Mary will send me e-mails whenever she receives any that concern animals that people are no longer able to keep. One of the e-mails she sent to me involved a Lionhead rabbit. His name is Moose. After several e-mails with the girl who had Moose, my friends Melissa and Mary stopped by to pick him up in Ann Arbor, Michigan before they headed up to my place for the day on 7/16/13.

Moose is a cute, stocky dude with white and black fur. The fibers gleaned when I brush Moose can be spun and plied to make a soft yarn.

Herbie and Moose facing off
Moose is an indoor rabbit, neutered, trained to use a litter box and lives in the basement with my cat Purdy, and now Herbie. Purdy plays with Moose by tackling him, and Herbie has a blast chasing him around occasionally.

Gizmo and Fuzz

Gizmo, the Angora rabbit, is still going strong. I know he's a couple of years old because that's about how long I've had him. But other than that he could be a hundred years old. He lives in the rabbitry where he has the chickens for company. But since 10/10/13 he has company by the name of Fuzz, a small black Lionhead rabbit, given to me by the father of a son who would no longer take charge of his care.
Fuzz is adorable, and tiny compared to some of the rabbits I've had. I haven't investigated whether Fuzz is male or female. It doesn't matter at this point because I don't intend to use Fuzz for breeding.

Ducky and Dizzy

Ducky as a duckling
I believe I have mentioned Ducky and Dizzy before. Maybe not. My memory is right down there with my eyesight. Anyway, I received Ducky (my guess is Peking Duck mix), when she was just a few weeks old, from Mom back in March of this year. I had the duckling for about a month when I decided it needed a friend. I found a woman in Bentley, Michigan who raises Indian Runner ducks. She had one that was just a week old, and blind. She gave me the duckling and I brought it home.

When the weather turned warm enough in
the spring I put the two ducks outside in their own pen. I still hadn't come up with a name for the blind duck until one day as I was watching him walk in circles wherever he went. The name Dizzy just seemed to fit.

Dizzy and Ducky
Being blind, he was easy to catch when he was younger. But now, he has developed acute hearing and he can hear me walking. As he has gotten older though, I've noticed that he can distinguish color and shape out of his right eye, but he is totally blind in his left eye. If I need to catch him, all I have to do is sneak up on his left side reeeeeally quiet.

Back in August of this year I had gone to Canada for a week with John fishing for Walleye and Pike. When I returned one of the things I found new with the animals is that there was a pile of wood shavings in the inside corner of the duck house. In the top of this pile were duck eggs.  At that time I hadn't known if the ducks were male and female. But now I knew one of them was a female, but didn't know which one since I couldn't catch one or the other on the nest. After researching on the internet, I realized Dizzy was a male Indian Runner. That left Ducky as the one laying the eggs.

Ducky finally began sitting on the eggs. She must have figured she had enough.
Ducky's nest
The only time Ducky would leave the nest was to make a mad dash to get water and food, and back she would go again. When the day neared for the eggs to hatch I kept my eye on Ducky to see what would happen. The day came (I had figured 10/15/13) and went. Add a few more days, and I guess Ducky decided nothing was going to happen so she stopped setting. Thanks, Ducky! Leaving me to do away with a pile of rotten eggs.

What's a person to do? Grab a bucket and begin counting duck eggs. Twenty-three to be exact. And as I'm doing my job, I begin pondering the whole situation about these eggs. First of all, I thought it was kind of late in the season for a duck to lay eggs, let alone set on them for close to a month. Second, I never saw Ducky and Dizzy get reeeeally friendly. The only time I saw Dizzy on top of Ducky was when he would trip over her because he couldn't see where he was going. Don't they need to be in water to mate? I guess I need to research the mating habits of ducks. And then at least I would know if there was any hanky-panky going on.


In the month of June my friend Sandra was moving and couldn't take all her peafowl so I acquired three of them, a India Blue peacock and two India Blue peahens. Did you know peafowl are related to the turkey and pheasant? It has been fascinating watching and learning their habits over the summer.
Barred Rock hen and peachick

Prior to receiving my three peafowl Sandra had been getting eggs from her flock of peafowl so she brought over a few to put under my chickens that were setting on eggs at the time. Three of the peafowl eggs hatched on June 23 and 24. Of the three one white peachick lived, and is now 19 weeks old and doing well. I have no idea whether its male or female. Time will tell. In the meantime, it thinks it's a chicken.

Peacock, peahens and peachick
The peafowl must have felt comfortable in their new home, because by the end of July the two peahens were setting on a shallow nest of four eggs. When I returned from the trip to Canada one of the other new things I discovered was a new peachick running around. Once this youngster had hatched the peahens stopped setting on the other three eggs. The new peachick is now over eight weeks old and growing well. Again, time will tell whether it is male or female.


When I received Fuzz, the little black Lionhead rabbit, at that time I also inherited from the same people a female, white and black pygmy goat by the name of Billie. She is about the size of Pepper. She has a very nice temperament and has settled into her new home. In talking with the previous owner I discovered Billie is about nine years old and never been bred. Well, since she is now in with the other does who are accompanied by Peanut, her non-pregnancy life may have changed. We'll see what happens in five months with all three does.

Pond Fish

Last year I began catching the bright-colored or uniquely marked ornamental fish from my small pond. I put them in a large 81 gallon fish tank and it sits right inside the side door entrance of the house. I figured it would be a good spot that could hold 850 pounds of tank, water, gravel and fish. Under the wood flooring is cement.

There are two doors from the house going into this room where the aquarium sits, and last winter most of the time the inside doors were closed and I kept blankets over the tank to help keep it warm (the fish do not need to be fed once the water temp goes below about 54 degrees). Well, I learned that this year at least one door must remain open to allow heat into the room.

One evening last winter as I was checking doors I stopped in my tracks by the fish tank. For some reason I wasn't hearing the gentle sound of the filter or water. I gently lifted the corner of the blanket and to my horror the top half of the water had turned to ice. I immediately set up the heater in the room, and after about three days the ice was gone. The fish was fine, much to my relief. But the result of that ice, I'm assuming, did not show itself until months later in July.

Red Shubunkin
It was July 14, 2013 early in the morning when I ventured to the kitchen in my pjs to get a cup of coffee. However, again I stopped in my tracks because I was hearing something that didn't sound right. I open the kitchen door to find water all over the floor from a leak that was spewing out from the fish tank about a third of the way down. My first reaction was to naturally put my finger over the leak to keep any more water from evacuating the aquarium. Ok, now what do I do? I'm standing there in my nighty with a finger on the fish tank unsuccessfully stopping the flow of water. There was a way to go before the water level was down to where the hole in the tank was located. And I wasn't going to let all that water end up on the floor. Or was I? Oh, what the hell! I ran outside to find a hose to siphon the water from the aquarium. What a mess! It took me a few hours to clean up all the water, transfer the fish to the outside bath tub and finish siphoning off the remaining water in the tank.

By August 13 I had repaired the aquarium by removing the old sealant, adding new and letting it cure, filling the tank, adding gravel, set up the filter and add the fish a few days later. So far, so good.

I still have fish in the bath tub because I caught the rest of the fish from the pond, and I will need to move them to the basement for the winter. I'm in the process of getting the pond ready for a liner, and then it will need to be filled and allowed to condition itself for a few months. By spring I figured I can put the fish from the basement back out in the pond.

I look forward to marking one more thing off my list as done...