The hen flock was a baker’s dozen. Not planned that way, but the way it was. This morning when I let the pups out for their morning chores, I saw a big pile of yellowish white feathers on the front porch, no blood and gore, just a pile of feathers. I swept them off the porch, watered the porch plants, and went over to let the hens out for the day. Curious, I stayed in the run and counted heads as they came out, 1, 2, 3,…9, then from outside the pen came two wet scraggly Buff Orpingtons. One with all of her tail feathers missing. But no more. So 11 in all, missing is a Marans and a Buff Orpington. After our walk yesterday, we were home all afternoon from about 2 p.m. on except for a brief sojourn down to the village store for a quick ice cream bar, only gone about 20-30 minutes at dusk. I never heard a commotion, but when we got home last evening, I went out to harvest some herbs to dry for a new batch of herb salve and the neighbor’s two hound dogs were by the back garden. This morning, our old Mastiff was very curious about various spots in the yard, going much farther afield than his weary old body usually takes him, so something happened, probably while we were out. It frightened the two Buffs enough that they hid and never cooped up last night.
If I had realized all of this before letting them out today, I would have left them penned up for a few days to discourage a repeat performance by whatever got the two. I guess I need to walk the areas they frequent and see if I can find evidence the the melee or remains that need to be more properly disposed.
Last week, before I left for my weekend fiber retreat, the bees were tended. Three of the hives had little to no brood, no eggs, no queen cells. Two had low population, one with good stores, the other without. The third with moderate population and decent stores, so Son 2, the official beekeeper suggested I combine the two weakest hives and try to get local queens. I did the combine and arranged to pick up two mated, marked queens yesterday morning. Their cages have been installed in the two hives with hopes that in the next 7 or 8 weeks until our first expected frost, they can rebuild the hives enough for them to survive the winter. I will make syrup and take it down to those two hives today. The last hive is thriving. So now instead of 4 hives, there are 3, all with marked mated queens, if the two new ones are accepted and freed from their cages by the workers. This has definitely been a learning curve for me, but one I am enjoying.
The retreat was a wonderful respite, even with the couple hundred men and their sons also at the conference center. We have a large room with tables and chairs to convene into each day. Snacks provided by the group, meals in the conference center, and assorted vendors of fibery goodness to play with. I didn’t take my wheel, just spindles and knitting needles, and spun about 28 grams of wool, started a pair of fingerless mitts, and won a door prize of 4 ounces of roving. My Yankee Swap gift is three small skeins of hemp yarn for making spa cloths. Two great gifts. I limited my purchases to 4 ounces of wool from my friend, Debbie, at Hearts of the Meadow Farm, some yarn from another friend, Louise, at Only the Finest Yarns and Fiber to make two pair of fingerless mitts requested by family members for the winter, and a metal insulated mug for my tea and coffee there as I feared breaking my pottery one.
It was tough to say goodbye to my friends, old and new, but it is nice to be home.