Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cat Update

Back in early April, 2011, I mentioned that a Little Cat was visiting the farm.  Well, that Little Cat never left, and now he is a member of the farm family.  We took a few weeks to name him, as we wanted a name that fit his personality.  And so, I'd like to introduce Bobby.  Bobby actually chose his own name.  I called him an array of names, but Bobby was the one that he seemed to answer to.  And it fits his sweet personality.  Bobby. Bob.  Bob Cat.  He has a bobbed ear.  He loves his name. 

Bobby and Randy

We still need to take Bob to the vet.  We've been working on getting him friendly.  He's already more friendly than Shadow, and we've had Shadow for 2 years now!  We put worm pills in Bob's food and he scarfed them down.  He's not picky about food, even if it tastes funny like medicine.  I attempted to put flea and tick drops on Bob's neck.  As soon as a dropped touched his neck fur, he started bucking and bouncing all over the back yard, looking back at me in horror.  It was as if it was acid or something!  It took 2 days for him to trust me again after that episode.  Now he sees the little bottle of drops and he bolts.  I put some flea and tick drops on me and confirmed it's not really acid.  I think Bobby is sensitive to smells, although it doesn't really smell bad.  And on a good note, I am flea and tick free!  Bobby loves his home, despite the weird things we do to him.  He'll probably really hate us after his first vet visit.

Jerry on left, Bobby on right, eating breakfast
Shadow and Jack

The week before Easter I mentioned how we had to rush Shadow to the vet for an emergency visit because she couldn't walk on her right back leg.  She had a slight fracture to her leg, which eventually healed up without a cast or anything, and she is doing fine.

Almost a week after the vet visit, Shadow seemed to have "gone feral" again, and became very scared of humans.  She hid from us continually, wouldn't let us even see her.  And she's an indoor-only cat.  She was just as feral as she was two years ago when we took her in, only then we locked her in a small room for a few weeks.  She couldn't hide, and she got used to us.  It took a long time to really get her used to humans.  We had gotten it so that she loved to be pet and we were working on holding her.  She greeted us at the door every day, she was very friendly.  She learned how to shake hands, she brought her toys to us to play with her, she was a sweetie. 

And then she's feral again!  So we locked her into the kitchen with us whenever we were in the kitchen to force her to be around us, trying to make her remember that we aren't monsters.  We have no idea why she suddenly became so afraid of us.  Her leg appeared to be fine during this time.  After two days of terrible fear she just as suddenly became friendly to us again.  Now we can pet her again, and she's back to being her snuggly, loving, playful self.  Strange.  Hopefully she will not have nightmares about being feral or setbacks like this for the rest of her life!

Shadow with the black leather nose

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Guineas and Their Eggs

Spring is in the air, and our guineas have the spring fever.  We have eight guineas, four males and four females, which is perfect.  Everyone has a mate.  

Guinea Boy and Guinea Girl

Guinea Boy, who is pearl gray in color, has paired with Guinea Girl, his mate from last year.  She is royal purple in color.  They are the last of our two original guinea keets.

The white male guinea has paired with one  of the coral blue hens.  A coral blue male has paired with the lavender female.  And the last couple are both coral blue.  

The male guineas spend much of their time chasing each other around the yard with their wings up in display.  The females sit in a nest every morning.  Often the males will assist in nest preparation before the females enter the nest.  While the females lay their daily egg, the male will often stand guard nearby.

We decided to let the guineas hatch some eggs and we stopped collecting their eggs about a week ago.  After a clutch of 20 or so of eggs is laid in a nest, the female guinea may sit on them to hatch them.  Until they get that many eggs, the guineas don't sit overnight on the nest, but instead roost in the trees like normal.

We never got near having that many eggs in a nest.  All the guineas lay in different nests.  We only knew where one nest was located, the rest were hidden from us.  They move nests when they realize we know where their nest is located - they're sneaky like that!  

Tuesday night we had three eggs in the nest, and then on Wednesday afternoon all the eggs were cracked open and destroyed.  A coon or a opossum or some other critter got to them!  The guinea eggs just don't stand a chance with all the wild animals living in the woods.  Who doesn't just love scrambled eggs?

And so tonight we collected the one guinea egg from the nest, and we will continue to collect guinea eggs.  When we have a clutch of eggs we will try to incubate them.  If we have a broody hen we will give them to her to hatch.  Tonight the chicken hen named Bella appeared to be starting to go broody.  She's the first possibly broody hen of the year.  Last year Bella raised all our guinea keets for us.  We got them when they were one-day old keets.

We'll see how we do raising our first clutch of our own keets from eggs!  
Any recommendations are welcome!

Egg  #1 from today ~ each egg will be dated

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Roosters and Springtime

Today is a nice warm day with a temperature of about 80 degrees F and a calming warm breeze.  Absolutely perfect.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing, spring is in the air, life is good.  I celebrated spring by putting on a pair of shorts and decided to take some of the hens out of the enclosed chicken pen.  On nice days when I am going to be outside with the birds, I take some hens out and let them free-range.  I can't have them free-ranging all the time because of the fox and hawks, they get picked off one-by-one.

And so, I took out Lucy, who loves earthworms.  She was digging up earthworms by the dozen and was having a great time.  I brought out Lucy's grown daughter, Lilly, and she joined her mama in the earthworm-fest.  I went to get another bird.  Ethel came to me first and squatted down, being submissive.  Most of my hens are very tame and enjoy being around me.  I reached down and picked up Ethel with my right hand and turned to walk out of the chicken pen.  As I walked out of the fence, before I could close the gate...

I was attacked from behind on my legs!  
I didn't even realize what happened!  I stumbled forward, still holding Ethel with my right hand (I am right- handed).
Wham! Wham! Wham from behind!  My legs were scratched and sore.  What the heck???

I turned and faced lead rooster Muffin.   He is so fast, there is no pause between his attacks.  His neck feathers were all up, making it look like a feather bowl around his head.  He attacks with his feet, his spurs and his toenails.  Luckily for me, just recently we de-spurred both roosters!  Smart decision!!!  But his nails are long and need a Dremel tool taken to them to make them shorter.  And he attacks with the force of a speeding bullet.  I don't know how a rooster is so strong.  It must be the good Amish chicken feed we give the birds...

I clung to poor Ethel, who I'm sure was scared.  I don't know why I just didn't drop her and free up my right hand.  

Muffin jumps waist-high - Wham! 

I blocked him with my left hand.  Wham! Wham! Wham!  Muffin is now outside the chicken pen, outside the gate.  I stumbled to my knees with the first attack, just like a girl in the movies always stumbles when being attacked.  I'm trying to keep Muffin away from my face and head.  He has hurt my left wrist, and boy, does it hurt like the dickens.

All the other birds are gathered at the fence watching the fight.  Just like a school yard fight.  I think I hear one of the hens yelling "Fight! Fight! Fight!" and everyone is clucking their excitement. 

I get one foot up, and block the attacks with the bottom of my sneaker.  Luckily I wasn't wearing sandles!  Finally I grab the old straw broom, which was sitting right there the whole time, and Muffin runs from the broom. Muffin and the broom are arch enemies, and he knows the broom is dominant to him.  As soon as he re-enters the chicken pen, Muffin and Leggy, the second rooster, start a huge cock fight.  Muffin wins, and Leggy runs away in shame.

This happens every spring.  The roosters are feeling their oats.  I should have been expecting it, Muffin and Leggy both have been on the attack recently, that's why I had the broom handy.  And I was taking one of Muffin's hens, and she was being submissive to me.  Muffin was defending his flock.  I wont let my guard down again, that's for sure!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

Made some Easter cupcakes on Friday.  These also are cherry flavor with buttercreme icing, same as the last batch I made this week.  I cut up too many cherries for the last batch and needed to use them, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to make some more cupcakes!

Can't you just smell the buttercreme icing in these photos?  I can!  I'm gaining weight just looking at them!

May everyone have a happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day, I thought we could take a hike in the woods together.  Come along with Randy and Lynn and enjoy nature.  We are going to go down by a small stream in the woods, and we will follow it to a larger creek.  There's lots to see and hear along the way, so let's get started!

Dogwood tree in bloom
Sun shining through the trees
Apple tree in bloom
Maybe it's a home for some small animal?
Randy walking beside the small stream
A really big tire sits way out in the deep woods.  I know there's a story behind it...
Lynn crossing the creek on a fallen tree
Ferns sprouting.  They know Spring is here!
Here's a short video of the stream.  Listen for the frogs!

Have a nice Earth Day and Good Friday, too.
Happy Easter on Sunday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Friend

I made some of my friend's favorite cherry cupcakes for her birthday today!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Green Wine Bottles...

I'm still picking those green wine bottles out of the trash dump on the property.  
I took this video last week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Emergency Vet Visit

Last weekend started out normal, but ended up with this:

Jack, excited to go to the vet! "Hurry up!  Let's go!!"
Shadow, not feeling well, holding up her right back foot

Saturday started out normal ~ the 2 cats played in the morning, chasing each other around the house like kittens, as they always do.  Up the stairs, through the house, sliding on the wood floors, gaining speed on the carpets.  Jack always squeaks to his heart's delight, as he cannot meow.  Shadow just loves to play.  When Jack squeaks it always calls her to play, even if she was previously sleeping.  During this play session, I heard a quick loud growl that ended with a hiss coming from near the front door, and I ran to see what was going on.  Both cats high-tailed it up the stairs and I didn't think anything about it.  They were playing. 

Daily chores and errands took over, and by afternoon we were being hit by bad thunderstorms, lightening, and thunder, complete with tornado warnings.  It was then that I realized Shadow spent most of the day under the bed.  Shadow doesn't like thunder and sometimes hides when it happens.  But by evening, after the storms passed, Shadow was still under the bed.  She wouldn't come out to eat, either.  I fed her a nibble of sliced turkey under the bed, but she wouldn't eat much.  That is not like Shadow.  She wouldn't drink, either.  Something was up.

Sunday morning Shadow was limping badly on her right back leg.  She couldn't put pressure or stand on her right back leg at all.  Her breathing was fast and shallow. She was super hot to the touch (compared to Jack).  She growled and hissed at us if we tried to touch her leg.  She never growled or hissed at us ever before.  I found an online first aid webpage and discovered her respirations and pulse were both twice as fast as normal for cats.  After reviewing both cats' vet records we realized they both were due for all their shots, and so a vet appointment was quickly made for them both Sunday afternoon.  Jack's presence always calms Shadow, and Jack is always happy-go-lucky, even when heading out to the vet.  He is the most relaxed, easy-going cat there is.  I actually think he may be a dog.

We brought out the cat carriers.  Jack was so excited to see them.  He's a strange cat.  We put them on the floor and he jumped right in and sat down.  That's when I took the picture of him.  At that time Shadow was laying in the kitchen by the windows crying loudly in pain and holding her foot up.  I took the picture of her then.  I think she had tears in her eyes.  I admit I was scared about what the vet would say about her.  Shadow is a tough, previous feral cat and never shows pain.  Jack, on the other hand, is the little sissy, comedian cat.  I should make a cartoon about Jack, he's such a goofball.

The vet admitted Shadow was in obvious severe pain and gave her a shot of buprenorphine, which is is a potent narcotic!!  She got her yearly shots, and Little Jack got his yearly shots, too.  The vet examined Shadow's back and leg, and said she must have a hairline fracture.  He said she should be better in a few days.  She didn't have to get a cast or anything.  He gave us some extra buprenorphine for Shadow to help with her pain.  Shadow's been sleeping a lot these days.  She slept all night Sunday and all day Monday.  She did start eating again on Monday morning, which was good.  I'm not too keen on giving her much more buprenorphine, I really don't want my cat addicted to narcotics.  By Monday night she got up off the bed and was limping around a little, so she must have been feeling better.  This morning she was still limping, but walking around and acting much better.  Hopefully by Wednesday her leg is showing serious signs of improvement or she'll be heading back to the vet.

Who ever knew a cat could break it's leg by running around the house?  This is a first for us.
Every year it seems there's always an emergency vet visit.  Let's hope ours is done and over with this year!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Black Vultures

I believe a black vulture family has moved into my old fallen down barn.  I don't mind black vultures, as they don't kill, but only eat dead things.  They seem to be very alert, constantly watching over the property.  And I've never seen a black vulture and an owl hanging out together.  I don't think they are friends.  So I'll take the vultures over the owls, for my guineas' sake.

Black vulture on the fireplace of the little house beside the old barn

Doesn't the property look like a jungle?  There's a lot of wild grape vines.  And it's barely springtime.  In the summer it gets more jungle-like.

When we first moved here, we explored the small, white, vacated house on the property.  One of the upstairs windows was open, and black vultures must have moved in.  We didn't know what it was, we only knew that when we attempted to go upstairs in the house, we were greeted by loud hissing.  We thought it was a wild cat of some sort!  Only, it was obvious from the loudness of the hiss that it wasn't from any ordinary house cat!  We were excited to think that a wild cat lived in this area, only to find out later that it was just a black vulture!  Lacking a syrinx - the vocal organ of birds - the black vulture's only vocalizations are grunts or hisses.

Little white house ~ photo taken in 2010

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fire Ants!

The other day I was out in the woods and I heard a rustling in the leaves.  I went to investigate, thinking a small animal was walking on the crisp leaves making the crunching sound.  But I found nothing, just a crunching sound.  Then, to my horror, I realized fire ants were climbing up my legs! I was standing near a fire ant mound!!!  I had never seen fire ants before and didn't actually know what type of ants they were at this time.

I quickly left the area and brushed all the ants off my legs and feet with sticks.  They were not biting me, just walking on me.  Luckily I was wearing long pants.  I went home and returned later after doing some online ant research with backup - Randy came with me to see the fire ants.  And this time I brought my camera.

The ants were all over some leaves in the woods and they were walking on an old piece of metal.  This is in an area where several pieces of metal were dumped many years ago.  Randy is going to pull all this metal up out of the ground and take it to a metal facility where he will get paid for it.

The ants were everywhere, and they all were working.  They were all carrying sticks and leaves and things, and they all were heading underneath this piece of metal.  I assumed at this time that the crunching sound was caused by so many hundreds of thousands of ants walking on crisp leaves.  Randy, being the man that he is, just had to pull up the metal to see what was underneath. 

And it was a horrible sight.  There were millions of fire ants.  The crunching sound was super loud now.  Maybe the crunching was caused by the irritated ants moving their horrible pinchers?  All the red/brown color in the below photos is ants.  It is not dirt.  The ants went crazy when Randy moved the metal covering their home.  They started swarming, and we quickly had to run away, as they started climbing up our legs and were biting and stinging our shoes and pants in a frenzy.

Here's some information from Wikipedia on fire ants:

A typical fire ant colony produces large mounds in open areas, and feeds mostly on young plants, seeds, and crickets. Fire ants often attack small animals and can kill them. Unlike many other ants, which bite and then spray acid on the wound, fire ants bite only to get a grip and then sting (from the abdomen) and inject a toxic alkaloid venom called solenopsin, a compound from the class of piperidines. For humans, this is a painful sting, a sensation similar to what one feels when burned by fire -hence the name fire ant - and the after effects of the sting can be deadly to sensitive individuals. The venom is both insecticidal and antibiotic.
Fire ants nest in the soil.  Usually the nest will not be visible as it will be built under objects such as timber, logs, rocks, pavers, bricks, etc. If there is no cover for nesting, dome-shaped mounds will be constructed, but this is usually only found in open spaces such as fields, parks and lawns. These mounds can reach heights of 40 cm (15.7 in). The mounds that the fire ants live in can also be as deep as five feet.

Colonies are founded by small groups of queens or single queens. Even if only one queen survives, within a month or so the colony can expand to thousands of individuals. Some colonies may have multiple queens per nest.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Honey and other bees

Carpenter Bee
One thing we noticed since moving out into the middle of the woods a few years ago is that we don't have many honey bees.  We have lots of other bees, mostly carpenter bees and mud dauber wasps, and definitely swarms of those wicked little yellow jackets that make homes in holes in the ground. but honey bees are few and far between.  That's one of the reasons I've been wanting to get some honey bee hives.

Mud dauber organ pipe nest
Randy's not too sure about my desire for bees, as he knows about my deadly fear of bees.  I think honey bees are good bees, and possibly I will get over my fear of them.  I mean, I used to be afraid of chickens. I thought they would peck me.  I got over that fear.  So, we'll see...

Yellow jacket

This week something has changed.  I've noticed many honey bees outside hanging around my house.  I've also noticed the pain-in-the neck carpenter bees making holes in the house right by the front door. They're so big and clumsy, they bump into humans who happen to walk nearby.  And if a big loud carpenter bee bumps into me, I run away screaming.  But the sweet little honey bees were just buzzing around, not being obnoxious at all.  And we've caught and released THREE honey bees from inside our house.  What's up with the honey bees getting inside our house?

Here's a photo of a honey bee which was inside our house. All the honey bees I've seen this week are very calm, they almost act sleepy.  I especially liked to look at his little feet. I thought it was odd that he didn't have any yellow on him.  This is a honey bee, isn't it?  Randy joked with me and told me that maybe a colony of honey bees moved into the walls of our house over the winter and now they are waking up.  Horrific images of a swarm of bees inside my house fill my head, but I attempted to get over my fear and told him we better have our honey bee homes built and ready to go then!

One of our honey bees

Monday, April 11, 2011

Change of Plans

A few weeks ago I said I wanted to start running outside on my property.  It's a great concept, but it's just not working out for me.  I just don't run, it turns into a hike almost every time.  Which isn't bad, I guess, but I was planning on running, not hiking. 

Take tonight, for instance.  I started on the standard run, which goes around in a big loop and ends with a steep hill.  I decided to go in a counterclockwise direction to mix it up a bit, mostly to make that hill be downhill in the beginning instead of uphill in the end of the run.  I went past the trash dump area, then stopped when I passed a large piece of metal.  I inspected it and made a mental note to bring it to Randy's attention to take to the metal recycler.  I look up and see a red fox about 15 feet away from me.  He's looking at me, and he's moving his mouth, licking his chops or something odd.  I think to myself, oh, how cute, a fox.  Then in the background I realize I can hear the guineas up by the house, and the thought in my mind turns to "guinea-killer".  No longer is he a cute and cuddly little friend.  I look around to see if maybe he's licking his mouth because he just ate dinner, but I don't see any guinea dinner.  I walk closer to him, and closer still, until I'm like 5 feet away.  He's not really afraid, but finally he jogs a few feet, and I follow.  He stops and looks at me, daring me to follow, and I do.  The fox bolts, and I chase him, I don't know why. Within seconds he's lost me.

I find myself on a small deer path, which leads me to behind an old empty house on the property.  I notice behind the house is a field in which I have never been before, so I walk into the field and check it out.  Beautiful.  I notice a heavily-used deer path leading out of the field, and I walk on it, following it to a large stream.  I've never been to this exact area before and I inspect everything. I see a large tree that fell over that was once a pilated woodpecker's nest.  I climb down close to the stream water and taste it.  It's cold.  I look at all the deer hoof marks in the mud around me.  They took a drink, too.  I think about going back the way I came, but a path calls me, a path on which I have never walked.  Another deer path.

I follow this new path through the deep woods.  Way up ahead I see sunlight, so I assume there's a field or something, and I decide to go there.  I find another path crossing my path, making a fork in the road.  Hmmm, which way...  I go left because I hear footsteps in the leaves to the left, although the clearing was ahead to the right.  I am just too curious about the footsteps.  After walking quietly down the path for a while, I find myself following a flock of wild turkeys. They don't run, but they aren't really happy that I'm there, and they walk away.  The tom is large and impressive.  His females follow him. I let them go on without me.  Turkeys are friends.

I climb through thick branches in the woods, wondering how many ticks I have on me, and eventually I find another deer path. I love paths, thank you to the deer for making paths.  No thank you to the deer for leaving their ticks behind, though.  I decide maybe I should jog a bit, as I was supposed to be running, after all. I jog a while, wondering where I am.  I wish I brought a cell phone.  It's getting late, the sun is setting by now. I continue jogging and come to a huge field.  It's the ravine area.  I know where I am, and I know it's not too close to the house.  I've gotten way off track.  I stand in the field in a culvert surrounded by hills, thinking I'm going to have to climb my way out of here to get home.  As I climb up a hill I startle up a herd of deer, they run into the trees noisily, irritated at me for interrupting them.  They were laying down in the culvert.  Sorry, guys.

Up and down the hills I climb.  At least there's no trees here, but there's lots of high grasses which I have to wade through.  In the distance, after I climb one last hill, I can see the main road.  I go towards it, and I pass another path.  The path calls me, but I ignore it.  It's late, it'll wait till another day.  I turn left when I get to my well, cut up through the woods to the house, climbing up more hills.  Randy just happens to be standing at the front door wondering where I am as I break out of the woods.   It's almost 8pm.  Time flies in the woods.

And then I go back to my normal life.  So much for all the chores that were on the schedule for the evening. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Arrival

About 2 weeks ago we noticed a little black shadow sneaking up and eating what dry cat food Jerry left behind in his food bowl.  The little cat would gobble and run.  If he saw us watching him, he would run without eating.  
Jerry would chase him away.  Jerry hates new things, especially little annoying ones who may steal his food and attention.  Not that Jerry wants much attention, he mostly wants food and a chair on which to nap on the back porch when he desires.  Jerry is the ultimate outdoor cat.  He will NEVER let us touch him, he comes and goes as he pleases, he NEVER wants to come inside.  And he's absolutely happy with the way things are.

Jerry, the outside cat

We have no idea where the little black cat came from.  He was very wild and scared. We couldn't help but notice his left ear was "tipped", which means he was a feral cat that was trapped and fixed.  Odd.  We have no feral cat communities near here.  How did he end up in our woods?  He's young, not adult cat size yet.  I'd say he's a teenager.  Funny, too, is the fact that he looks just like our indoor cat, Shadow, which used to be a very wild outdoor cat.  They both have a little bit of white fur on their chest and belly.  Could they be related?

The indoor cats, Jack on left, Shadow on right
Once Little Cat realized we would feed him, he never left.  All we have to do is step out the back door and call him and he magically appears from the woods.  Little Cat has adjusted to Jerry's routine, he learned that Jerry does NOT like to cuddle and certainly does not want any cat love gestures, such as a head bump.  And so Jerry is tolerating Little Cat.

Jerry on left, Little Cat on right, eating breakfast
 And as the weeks passed, Little Cat became more and more friendly.  One afternoon I sat on the back steps and called him, and he did his magic appearance from the woods and he ran to me.  At first he was cautious, but then finally he left me pet his head.  All it took was one touch and now he's the biggest love-bug.  He loves to be pet and scratched.  He was all skin and bones, I was afraid I was going to break something when I touched him.  But in these 2 weeks he's put on weight and his fur is feeling much thicker.

And so it seems we have a new friend at Razzberry Corner. We certainly didn't expect to have another cat.

Shy Cat

Notice his left ear tipped in this photo

His panther look


Shadow is VERY INTERESTED in the new cat