Tag Archives: predators

I Didn’t Think I Would Get Here

With all of the awayness last month, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated that I was so far behind that I couldn’t catch up. The grass was tall, the stick weed invading the hay fields, the apples, Asian Pears, and tomatoes ripe. Applications were due. My chickens were disappearing daily to a red tail hawk.  Usually, I can take one step at a time, but this time, I just couldn’t see an end in sight.

Jim stepped in and hopped on the tractor, mowing more than half of the fields in need of attention.  I like riding the tractor, like mowing, so I did get on it a few times, mowing the areas around the house and around the trees.  I mowed the smallest west field, the one with the rock bar.

After a couple of days at home where I awoke disoriented, wondering which bed I was in that night, I finally got a good sound night sleep and the rest allowed me to start tackling the problems at hand.  I came up with a solution to keep the hawk out of my chicken runs, harvested a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes and got them canned along with the ones in the freezer as diced tomatoes and pasta sauce; harvested apples and made applesauce.  The weekly supply of peaches was made into sweet chili sauce.  The quart of ground hot chilies, mostly habeñeros, was made into hot pepper sauce and all of the applesauce, sweet chili sauce, and hot pepper sauce canned, labelled and making their way to the root cellar shelves.  Another harvest of tomatoes await preparation into sauce.  The Asian Pears still need to be harvested and made into Ginger Pear Conserve and pear sauce, but I now look forward to working on them in days to come.

saucy  Filling shelves applesauce Drygoods

Now that the applications for fall shows are in, I need to make a few batches of soap, but that too is something I look forward to doing.

Another task that was on my plate, was making a gift that I had started twice, undid twice, and finally decided that I would not even unpack my spinning wheel until it was done.  Daily work on it has rewarded me with a gift that will be finished within a few more days.

The shelves are filling for a winter of good food.  The fields are mowed, and it has been dry for about a week, so the grass is not growing fast enough for me to watch.  I am feeling good about our efforts.

 

The Buffet Is Closed

A good night’s sleep and clearer minds prevailed this morning.  A run to Home Depot for a 100′ roll of 15′ wide bird net, 3 long poles, and a roll of velcro plant tie up tape, total expenditure only $40 and my birds should be safe.  The hawk, if it dives into that net will require me to call my neighbor’s son, a licensed raptor handler.

My solution involved attaching a length of polycord to the top of the coop, half hitching it around the top of two of the tall poles, then anchoring it to a T post deeper in the run.  A length of 6′ tall plastic deer fencing that I already had was used to shorten the length of the run to just beyond the gate that the chickens use to get into the garden when they are allowed.  A thin flexible fiberglass pole that I also already had on hand was arched between the two sides of the run just above the new back fence line.  Using the polycord like a clothes line, I worked the bird netting over the top, draping it over the side fencing and anchoring it in place with strips of the velcro tape.  At the coop end, the netting was carried over the roof.  The only open space left was above the gate and that was closed in by draping another piece of netting to the top net and dangling it down a few inches lower than the top of the gate.  That piece not being anchored at the sides or bottom can be pushed out of our way when we open the gate and the net cage is about 7+ feet high down the center, so as long as I don’t have my hair up with clips or sticks to catch in the net, I can move about within the run.

netcage

I effectively created a cage that has wire sides and a net top that is tall enough to walk in.  Hopefully, it will protect the chickens if they ever get brave enough to go out again.  I removed their food and water from inside the coop and ran them out.  Each explored a bit, then went right back inside the coop instead of under it like they usually do during the day.  I guess when they get hungry or thirsty, they will venture out and eventually learn that they can again be outside.

After that run was finished, I began on a shorter version for the cull birds, however, it started raining a little, then a lot, so I quit for the time.

I did get the first harvest of tomatillos brought in and see many pounds of tomatoes that must be picked and processed pronto.  I will venture back out in a little while now that the afternoon storm seems to be passing and pick a bucket full.  There are many split ones, lots of overgrown, over ripe cucumbers to toss to the chickens, maybe that will entice them out.

A follow up on the old Opossum that visited while at my son’s house.

Opossum

He came back last Thursday, the day I left, cuddled up against their lawnmower under the porch and died.  Wildlife experts say they only live about 2 years in the wild, but he looked like a little shriveled old man.  Daughter in law took him away from the house and buried him.

The Chicken Palace Restaurant

Around 1 a.m. when Mountaingdad came to bed, he awoke me and said, “I think one of your chickens is out, I just heard it right below our room.”  Mind you that the nearest coop is a football field away from our room and on the east end of the house, our window on the south.  Being awakened, my response was “Oh well, I can’t do anything about it in the middle of the night.”

By then I was awake and in light of our recent predator attacks and losses, I put on some pants and a t shirt, grabbed a flashlight, added muck boots in the garage and ventured out into the night to assess the situation.  The coop with Broody Hen 5, Momma Hen 2 and her 3 babies, Momma Hen 1 and her two almost 6 week old chicks, the laying hens and Romeo were all snug and tight inside, the egg door latched, the pop door latched and the human door secure.  That only left the new cull coop, AKA, the Chicken Palace which is at the other end of the garden and only marginally secured with chicken wire and hardware cloth until we can finish hanging the leftover metal roofing material to the ground.  The chicken wire is stapled with long staples to the nailers, the corner posts and to provide more security, folded out about a foot and stapled to old cedar fence posts to hold it to the ground.  Upon shining my light back there, I saw a hen on the ground right by the door, not a good sign as they were perched on the highest rung of one of the ladders when I went to bed.  Midnight, the randy Americauna cockrell was on a lower rung on the other ladder by himself at bedtime.

The Chicken Palace check showed both hens alive and well, but on the ground and Midnight missing and this hole in the corner of the coop.

IMG_0146[1]

I figured that a coyote or fox had made a meal of Midnight or carried him off to be a meal for kits or pups.  I grabbed the two hens and returned them to the secure coop for the night and headed back into the house.

By now, sleep is lost.  I had had a 3 hour nap before being awakened, so I relocated to the loft with my book and finished reading it, ending it around quarter to 5.  I returned to bed with little hope of sleep, but dozed off in time to hear SIL’s alarm go off and then go off again later, then him quietly preparing his lunch in the kitchen.  After he left, I did go back to sleep for a couple of hours.  When I got up to deal with animal chores and feed granddaughter her breakfast, I discovered a wet bedraggled Midnight outside the chicken run fence.  I don’t want him back in with the hens, but I don’t know what I can do to secure the Chicken Palace in the rain today to put him back in there.  At least whatever came for a meal last night, left hungry and we aren’t out yet another chick or chicken, the restaurant is closed.

Tough Spring

I have had 5 hens brood this spring. Hen 1 hatched 6 of 10 eggs. I moved her to the chicken tractor with her Little’s and all was well until week 3. An Opossum got in under the end of the tractor and killed 4.  I moved mom and her 2 remaining chicks to the coop and they have been fine. Hen 2 hatched 7 of 10 eggs one day before Hen 3 was due and 2 days before Hen 4 was due. Hen 3 and Hen 4 each hatched 1 or two of 10 and abandoned their nests to try to steal Hen 2’s chicks. Most of their other eggs had developed chicks in them but didn’t hatch out due to the hens abandonment. All three hens were put in a tightened chicken tractor and they tried to occupy one nest, killed two chicks, injured two that I moved to a heat lamp in the garage. I finally removed the two older hens and left the 7 remaining chicks with the younger hen and she did great with them. Last night, a predator (unknown) moved several multi pound size rocks from perimeter of the tractor, dug under the end past a barrier board and took 4 of the chicks.

Out of 40 eggs, I have only 7 total chicks this spring. I have divided the coop for the broody hen and the hen and her 3 remaining chicks to secure them for tonight. Broody hen is sitting 10 eggs now and I have to figure how to make them more secure when they hatch. I’m distraught over the loss.

Perhaps I will move all of the hens except the two Momma Hens, the Americaunas, the chicks and Romeo to the cull coop until the babies get some size on them.  I can’t trust the Chicken Tractor until Son #1 comes on the 10th to finish the cull coop and secure the tractor as a brooder.

On a positive note, the two chicks that were moved to the garage brooder are healing nicely and have regained strength and energy.  I toyed with moving Momma Hen and her 3 chicks in with those two babies and let her raise them in the brooder for a couple of weeks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunday musings August 17, 2014

This is the first Sunday in 6 weeks that I could be lazy.  The first Sunday where I didn’t have to arise by 7 a.m. prepare breakfast for Grandson #1 and supervise a math worksheet and a writing assignment then encourage him to practice his guitar and his Kung Fu forms.

I was tired last night.  I drove for 5 hours and once home alone as Hubby was out on his BBH riding, I turned on the Solar Charger that I installed just before leaving to charge the electric fence.  Reluctantly I touched the fence at the farthest point from the charger and nothing.  It is a 12V impulse charger, so I should have felt a zing every few seconds, nothing.  Again I read the manual.  I had attached everything correctly, but I had tried to run the wire in two directions from the charger to give me a better place to put the gate without having to bury the wire in PVC pipe below the gate.  Assuming that to be my problem, I disconnected everything and determined that the gate was just going to have to be where the charger is mounted on a wooden post and rewired the fence in a continuous two strand loop from charger to gate opening.  When I turned the charger back on, still no zing.  In walking around the perimeter, I realized that the wire was touching the welded wire fence of the auxiliary chicken pen and must be grounding itself.  That corrected and the charger on, I did indeed get shocked on both sides of the gate opening.  Now I need a third gate and a second non conductive post to hang the gate for our convenience.  The garden and chicken pens are within an electric force field.  It won’t keep the bunnies out, but it should keep the neighborhood dogs and coyotes out of the chickens and the deer out of the garden.

Once that was complete, a walk around just to enjoy the beautiful afternoon, I discovered …

IMG_0133

The apple and Asian Pear trees are only three years old, so I stripped most of the flowers from them this spring to give them another year to establish.  I left a few flowers on one apple tree and the larger Asian Pear tree and was delighted to find 4 apples (one was badly pecked so I gave it to the chickens) and 8 Asian Pears.  I ate one pear standing right at the unsprayed tree, Tossed the two tiny malformed ones to the chickens.  Our first tree fruit.  The peaches produced small hard peaches that all oozed sap.  I assume they were attacked by something.  I will have to do some research as I won’t use pesticide spray on my fruit, near my vegetable garden and the chickens.

Once I was finally moving this morning, after dog and chicken chores, and enjoying a bowl of homemade granola with coconut milk and a cup of coffee, I hauled the lawn mower out to cut the area inside the electric fence that is not vegetable garden, compost bins or chicken pen and also the grass inside the auxiliary chicken pen as there are no chickens in it right now and the grass was getting quite tall.

Later we must make a Tractor Supply run for dog and chick feed and perhaps to purchase the gate.  I can get our neighbor to help me hang it this week.  As I was mowing the area above my garden, I realized how much slope the yard has between the area that Son #1 and wife had established as the upper garden and where my vegetable garden is with the compost bins in between.  As we are going to remove the compost bins and just leave me a compost pile, I think we will have to terrace that area making a 4 tiered garden as we expand the garden and berry patch back up the slope.  It has been nice having the space this year for the pumpkins, winter squash and sweet potatoes.  It will be nice to have more space for summer squash and cucumbers to spread out, a place to again plant potatoes which we haven’t done in a couple of years and more room to spread out the tomatoes and peppers so they aren’t quite so crowded.  Since I have started using the heavy spoiled hay mulch system this year, there has been much less weeding to do.

Planning continues as our little mountain farm evolves.  Life is an adventure!

 

Pens, Dogs, and Chooks

Yesterday the sky grayed and the wind picked up, cooling the afternoon enough to tackle the outdoor chores.  We had purchased a 50 foot roll of welded wire fencing on our way home from errands.  One of our only town businesses is a hardware store.  When we moved here, it was really aimed at farmers and was more a farm store.  The owner sold it to return to farming and the new owner changed the focus to a more traditional hardware store, I guess to compete with Lowes and Home Depot two towns over in Genericia (our eldest son’s name for it).  Unfortunately, he couldn’t complete and as he no longer drew the farmers, they went to Tractor Supply or Southern States two smaller towns over the opposite direction, he is going out of business.  We got the fencing for a discount.

Once the day cooled, I pounded in the remainder of the T posts, strung the welded wire fence, securing the meat/cull chick pen.  The chicken tractor still needs repair.  I started installing the T post insulators to string the electric fence, but realized that the welded wire fencing wasn’t tight enough and the 2″ insulators were not long enough to hold the electric wire away from the welded wire fence.  This morning, we bought a bag of 5″ insulators but as soon as we got home, the rains  started so the installation will have to wait for another day.  The rain was very necessary, so I can’t complain.  We have had a high percentage chance of rain for weeks, but have gotten almost no rain.

Hopefully these measures will make the chooks secure from the 4 legged predator that got the 3 birds last week.  With the freezer camp event on Friday, our egg production is way down, getting only one or two eggs a day until the new girls start laying.

wpid-20140709_195008.jpg

A pen beside a pen and real gates.  “Got treats?”

Sunday Thankfulness and Fun

After two days of hard work with eldest son, as a family we decided that today was going to be a fun day before they caught a 3 p.m. bus back to Vienna, VA, leaving their son, our eldest grandson, now 9 years old to spend most of the summer with us.  Summer care for him was both expensive and hard to come by but also difficult to fit with their schedule as our daughter in law leaves for her Art Camp teaching gig at 6:50 a.m. and returns to the house at about 5 p.m., our son leaves on his bicycle to ride to campus at 7 a.m. so that he can make the 45 minute bike commute and get a shower at the Aquatic Center to be at his desk by 8:30 and he doesn’t get off until 5 p.m. and has to make the 45 minute bike commute home.  We adore having grand-kids with us and love that we are trusted to keep him until mid August when the Art Camps are over and he and his mom will travel to Virginia Beach to spend a week or so with the other grandparents prior to school resuming for everyone.

For our fun day, we decided to hike to the Cascade Falls, a 2 mile uphill hike to a beautiful view followed by the return 2 mile hike back down to the car.  The hike included a swim in the icy water by son and grandson and an extensive trash pick up by all of us that we carried back down in my bag.  There were about 45 incoming freshmen from a local university that had hiked up and they seemed to be mostly responsibly for the trash.  I gently confronted the group about what we had collected and was met with denial that it wasn’t them, but when they got up and left, they failed to pick up several GatorAde bottles, a gallon water bottle and 25 zip lock bags along with granola bar wrappers, candy wrappers and other debris.  We collected all of that also and hauled it back down the trail to the trash cans at the parking lot, collecting additional wrappers on the way down.  It baffles me that they could be so inconsiderate and wonder where they thought their plastic, cellophane, and mylar was going to go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rhododendron season, these are traditional pink, but most of the ones we saw today were white.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pile of debris we hauled down from that beautiful falls and stream.

While hiking down, I got a call from our neighbor asking if we saw his big brown dog, the chicken killer down here again.  Fortunately, I was a bad chicken keeper today and had left them cooped up when we left for our hike.  He apparently walked down looking for the dog and couldn’t find him.  Later he texted that the dog was in the house and we let the chickens out.

This afternoon, we put our son and his wife on a bus home and we brought our grandson home with us.  He helped me extend the 4 foot fence up to 6 feet by putting a lighter weight garden fence secured with fiberglass poles to the top.  This will prevent the youngs from flying out and hopefully will discourage Brown Dog from getting in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tough week for the chooks

This has been a tough couple of days for my flock.  Yesterday morning, a neighbor’s dog who is generally chained up slipped his chain and caused enough damage to the chicken tractor where the culls were for them to escape after which he caught and killed two of them.  This necessitated a change of day’s plan and eldest son and I went to work to make the coop pen more secure, start the work to make a more secure cull/meat bird pen with the chicken tractor inside of it, and to start planting posts to run the electric fence not just around the garden, but also around the two chicken pens.

Today was the day we had planned to kill and clean the cull birds, now down from 8 to the 6 we did get in the freezer.  They were the original chickens I bought last year before I settled on the Buff Orpingtons and I called them my U.N. flock as there were 6 different breeds represented.  We put 18.75 lbs of chicken away today.

After clean up and dinner, we decided to go into town for ice cream and while we were gone, the same dog again got loose and got one of my young Buff Orpingtons.  This is now a problem as the dog has discovered he likes chicken and they are easy to catch.  I don’t see any damage to the pen, so he can either jump a 4 foot fence or one of the young buffs got out and he caught it on the outside.  We hadn’t finished setting the posts for the electric fence yet, so that barrier wasn’t there to deter the dog.  The dog’s young owner is upset that his dog has killed 3 chickens in 2 day and I am perturbed about it but only to the extent that the dog isn’t secured well enough to not wander down the country road to our farm and get the chickens.  I had thought about some free range time, but can’t do that with the dog in the area.

I don’t know what to do now.  Son and I will see if we can figure out whether the dog can get in the pen and I guess I will have to cover more of the top with netting to try to keep the young buffs from flying over the top until they get too heavy to escape.

In our freezer camp event today, we also killed my rooster as he had gotten too aggressive with us and with the hens.  This also presents a dilemma as I wanted a self sustaining flock and though the hens lay eggs without a rooster, they obviously won’t hatch, so I will either have to buy another rooster and hope that he is less aggressive or buy fertilized eggs when a hen gets broody to let her sit to hatch.  I don’t want to have to keep buying chicks every few years and raise them in the brooder.  We already have to deal with the brooder for the meat birds once or twice a year.

We currently have only two mature birds to provide us with eggs.  Hopefully the 17 and 19 week old pullets will start laying soon, assuming I can keep Brown Dog out of their territory.

Independence Day

Today the USA will celebrate with cookouts and fireworks. Today would be my Mom’s 90th birthday, though she died 27 years ago. She celebrated on that date and always said that was her birth date, but she wasn’t really sure. She was adopted as an infant after the death of her parents in a time where records weren’t kept as a they are now. She knew she was born in Pennsylvania and knew her birth name, but when she went to get a birth certificate for a
Passport, there were no records. Her baptismal certificate said July 4, so that is when she celebrated.

One of our neighbors was a Greek immigrant who had become fairly successful upon coming to America and he too celebrated his birthday on July 4th as he had no idea when his real birthdate was and he wanted to celebrate with the country that took him in and made him a successful businessman.  His sons held a huge neighborhood cookout with a spitted lamb, burgers, hotdogs, pot luck side dishes.  They had a pool and we spent the day swimming and eating then shooting fireworks over the river.

Last night, I brought eldest son and his family home with me for the weekend and eldest grandson will be spending most of the summer with us.  We had some fencing to do, 2 gates to hang, a small wall to construct around the top of the culvert and tomorrow to put 8 chickens in freezer camp.

Plans changed some this morning when a neighbor’s dog got in the cull pen and killed 2 of the hens. We spent a good portion of today reconfiguring pens, hanging two gates and setting poles for more electric fencing around the chickens and the garden. Tomorrow we will have 2 less hens to kill.

Tonight we feasted on steak, corn and peas and came into town to watch fireworks.

image

Happy birthday Mom, Papu, & USA.

The Good, The Bad and I’ll spare you the Ugly

THE BAD

Last night we went on a date night, that should be good, right?  The dinner was fine.  The movie we went to see had started 40 minutes earlier than the time we had noted, which must have been from the previous day and it had been playing for 20 minutes when we got there, so we picked a different movie that started at 8 p.m.  We have only walked out of two movies in our 36 years of marriage, one because it was longer than we thought and we had to pick eldest son up at a concert when he was too young to drive himself there and the second one was last night.  Think “Animal House” with more vulgarity and no humor.  We made it only half way through the movie and got up and walked out.

It was late and I was a bad chicken keeper and I didn’t go over to close the pop door to the coop or the door to the chicken tractor and my gamble was an epic fail.  An O’possum got in the coop, killed one 12 week old pullet and seriously injured another.  I found a pile of feathers at the coop entrance, another at the run gate, and what was left of the pullets in the cull pen.  I feel like a heel.  I brought the injured pullet in, cleaned her wounds and put her in a large dog crate in the garage with food and water to watch her and see if she is going to heal or if we are going to have to euthanize her.  I know predators happen, but this was preventable.

20140531_125516

She is eating a little and drinking water, and she moves around a bit in the crate, but she is so pitiful.

THE GOOD

This morning, after dealing with the mayhem, we drove into town for breakfast at our favorite local diner, then on to The Farmers’ Market.  Today was customer appreciation day, so some vendors had give away goodies for their regular customers.  For the past couple of years, Jim has given me a Flower CSA from our favorite local organic farmers, Stonecrop Farm.  We have had to miss a couple of bouquets each summer due to travel, so this year, we decided to just buy a weekly bouquet on the weeks we are home and flowers are available from them.  We purchased a bouquet, a few veggies that I’m not growing and got a bonus baggie of micro greens as a gift.

20140531_153012

Yellow poppies, pink peonies (mine won’t bloom) and two different dianthus colors with mint and wheat stalks.  Quite a stunning bouquet to put on the dining table.

After our return, we took turns wearing ourselves out trying to start the big commercial Stihl weedeater for the first time this season, always a challenge.  I finally gave up and went back to weeding and spreading the mulch we bought a few days ago,  when with sweat and swearing, Jim finally succeeded.  When we were both were hot and worn, we took a break and made a Lowe’s trip.  I was short 4 bags of mulch.

A decade or so ago, my Dad made me a little wooden decorative wheelbarrow.  It has lived at a couple of houses now and is usually filled with flowers in the summer and pumpkins and gourds in the fall with a mum.  It had fallen into disrepair, so before we left for Lowes, I repaired it and decided that a couple of flower baskets needed to be purchased to fill it as well.  At the Farmers’ Market, I added a few more herbs to my collection and they needed pretty pots for the deck as that is where the bulk of my herbs live.

20140531_15270520140531_163113

The front of the house, the perennial bed in the breezeway alcove are weeded and mulched, the herb collection is potted up except for the fennel and one lavender that will go in the garden tomorrow when I have the energy to move again.  Jim has weed wacked the culverts, the well head, around the house and around the trees and shrubs on the driveway hill.  I pushed the gas powered mower and cut the front and back yards.  When I thought I was done, I decided that the last flower bed, a small one that started out as a nursery bed by the side of the deck also got weeded.  We are spent.

Dinner is “Mustgo,”  ever had it?  It is the leftovers in the fridge that must go.  Tonight’s Mustgo is left over pot roast, pork tenderloin and a huge new salad with micro greens and green onions.

The house and gardens look great.  Now we rest.

20140531_163528