Friday, December 16, 2011

Santa's Choice!

The holiday baking has begun here at Razzberry Corner! 
I know it's the holidays when the cookies start appearing!
I want Santa to know that this is the place where the cookies are! 
Right here, Santa, your choice - whatever you want...

White chocolate macadamia nut cookies, double chocolate chip cookes, Rice Krispie Treats, Peppermint sugar cookies, lemon bon-bons with lemon icing

Gingersnaps up front

Lemon and Orange cupcakes with buttercreme icing

All ready to go for the reindeer and the elves!

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

That Rainy Night!

One day this past week it rained here for 12 hours straight.  Pouring rain.  Luckily it was actually warm that day.  Warm as in, not freezing, but not warm as in, comfortable.  Warm in the 50 degrees F range in the afternoon and 40's at night.  After dark the weathermen predicted the rain to turn to snow, and I assumed all the water to turn to ice.

It really flooded that day.  The ground was saturated and could take no more water.  Streams overflowed, roads had standing water and parking lots flooded.  It just so happens that I work during the day in a building directly on the bank of the Potomac River near Washington, DC.  And of course, the massive river overflowed into the building's parking lot.  I left the building around 6pm that night, had to swim through water higher than my knees, in my work clothes, just to get to my car.  Luckily I keep a gym bag in my car, complete with a clean towel, gym clothes and sneakers.  I dried off and changed in my car - it was dark anyway, no one could see.

And when I made the slow drive home, the winds picked up.  Boy, did it get windy.  When I pulled up to the farm, I found one of the guinea fowl down on the ground in the pitch darkness.  It gets really dark here at nighttime.  The guineas roost in the trees at night.  But they don't sit on a solid branch when they roost - they sit on a tiny twiggy branch in the trees, which is right beside a strong branch.  And then they fall when the wind blows the branches around.  And they are so very blind after dark.  And stupid.  They just freeze up, and don't move.

Guineas in trees

So I ran up to the front door and literally bumped into a opossum on the front porch because I wasn't paying attention.  It was the Little O.  He had torn open a bag of aluminum cans which was ready for recycling and cans were all over the porch.  He was waiting for food beside the cat, Bobby's, foodbowl, which was empty.  Bobby was nowhere to be seen.  I pushed the critter away with my foot.  Damn opossum.  He's almost as tame as Bobby. 

I went inside, put on an old farm coat which I would never wear out in public in a million years, got a big spotlight flashlight, and went out to help the guineas roost.  An umbrella wasn't possible, it would have scared the birds and with all the wind and branches, it just wasn't feasible.  So I knew I was going to get soaked to the bone.  I picked up the guinea on the ground, it was a grey male guinea, and tossed him up to the branches.  He screamed and flapped his wings in my face (they have strong wings), but he would not grab onto a branch, he just came back down to the ground.  I tossed him a bunch of times, but he flapped back down each time.  All the other guineas were screaming at this time, and the chickens, who were safe and warm in their coop, could hear all the loud guineas noises, and I could hear all this noise coming from their coop.  The roosters were crowing in there.  I had guinea feathers in my mouth, that must have happened with the wings flapping in my face.  My hair was all plastered wet to my head.  Cold rain was running down my back under my coat.

More guineas in tees

I shone the flashlight up in the tree for a while and a few of the other guineas who didn't have good footing were smart enough to move to stronger branches -they could see a little with my spotlight.  But this one boy guinea just wouldn't roost in the tree.  Sitting on the ground is not an option for a guinea at night.  He will be killed by fox, opossum, owl, or coons.  Finally I decided he'd sleep with the chickens that night.  My guineas have been known to be mean to the chickens these days, so I normally wouldn't want a guinea in with my beloved hens, but there was no other place for this bird. 

I wrapped my arms around the soaking wet guinea (they are very strong) so he wouldn't get loose from me, and we marched into the chicken coop.  We swung the door open and entered.  The chickens were having a party. The heat lamp was on, and they can see with any kind of light, even though it's a red bulb and isn't supposed to produce light.  And when they have a light on, the chickens like to party.  Five or six were eating at the feeder (there's a feeder and waterer inside the coop).  A couple were drinking.  One rooster was crowing.  The other was having sex with Zoner in the corner.  A few hens were sitting in nestboxes.  What was going on?!  Everyone was excited to see me and came running and gathered around my feet when I walked in.  They all wanted hugs and pets and treats.  The guinea in my arms was terrified.

I chastised everyone for partying after bedtime, told them it was too late for hugs and pets and treats, and turned out the party light.  The party's over!  Everyone moaned little chicken moans and started rushing around bumping into each other trying to find their roost spots.   I put the guinea on a roost beside Freckles (a hen).  I got my tiny flashlight I keep in the coop and put everyone up on their roost spots, making sure to turn out the light quickly so they wouldn't jump down.  I promised hugs and pets and treats another day, sung a quick lullaby to them (they love to be sung to, it calms them), and closed them up for the night.  Freckles chatted briefly with the guinea - Freckles used to hate guineas, and when she was a young hen herself, she killed a guinea to protect her chicks at the time.  But Freckles has gotten more understanding with age and she let the guinea sleep beside her that night.  The guinea was terrified without his fellow guineas nearby and he was quiet and good all night.

Freckles chatting with Boy Guinea

Leggy, with Freckles and Boy Guinea chatting
I love Leggy

And such was the beginning of my night.  I had to clean up the cans, called Bobby many times, but he never showed up for dinner, and this was back when Danni the hen was still alive, so I had to feed her and deal with the human's dinner and other household chores afterwards.  I was concerned about Bobby, he was missing for a couple days.  On a good note, the rain never turned to snow and ice that night, and it stopped raining by the next day.  The Boy Guinea was released back to the guinea flock the next morning and he told his brothers and sisters about the horrible night he was forced to spend locked up in "The Coop" beside a convicted murderer and a monster-sized albino man. 

By the next night the flooding in the parking lot at work was all gone and that rainy night was just a bad memory.

Friday, December 9, 2011

RIP Danni Hen

This is how she carried her broken right leg

Yesterday Danni the Hen was put to death.  She had previously broken her leg, but it appeared to be healing well.  Then yesterday when I came home and ran into the infirmary coop to check on her, I found her sprauled oddly on the floor, cold to he touch, even though she was under a heat light, and moaning terribly in pain.  She must have fallen on the leg and re-broken it.  I think she was in shock. It was time.

I had been working with the chicken, bringing her in the house, feeding her treats every day.  She'd have other friendly hens visit her inside her coop - Jade spent a lot of time with her.  (But she had no visitors when she somehow re-hurt herself yesterday).  She was able to get around by hopping.  She wasn't in any obvious pain.  She enjoyed tasting various foods.  She taught me that chickens have a sense of taste.  She'd taste every new food by licking it with her tounge, if she liked it she'd eat, if not, there was no way I could get it into her beak.  She liked cooked spinach, surprisingly enough.  She liked her grains - bread, cereal, oatmeal.  She liked green beans and of course corn and brocolli.  She didn't like tomatoes.  She was moody - in certain moods her tastes varied.  When she was happy she'd sing little soft songs.  She wasn't a loud bird, she was a very gentle, quiet bird.     

Danni loved to be rubbed under her wattle and she really loved a good back-of-the-neck massage.  The stepstool was put beside her to help her balance.  She learned to lean on the stepstool.  The napkin is under her butt because she never pooped when she was sitting beside her stool eating or hanging with me.  She's always jump up and run off to go poop.  I quickly learned to put a napkin under her butt.

Danni had a hard life, with her broken toe, broken neck, then broken leg.  She must have had weak bones.  I think we may have a daughter of Danni's - we hatched our own eggs last year.  Jade, Genny, Nutty or Cinnamon could be daughters of Danni.  But none of them are as sweet as Danni.  None of them have her exact personality.  None of them ever broke any bones, either.  Poor Danni Hen.

Rest in Peace, Danni Hen.
Oct 13, 2009 - Dec 8, 2011 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Let the Guinea Games Begin!

Girl guineas hanging together

Boy guinea on chicken pen roof

Our guinea flock has been feeling their oats lately.  We used to have 4 Rhode Island Red roosters, which are large birds.  We had to separate them from the chickens due to too many mating injuries with the bantam hens, and the only caged area when the boys could range didn't have a full roof or ceiling.  The roosters couldn't fly out, but the free-ranging guineas could fly in.  And those guineas didn't like those roosters one tiny bit. 

Every day the guineas would be in the rooster pen fighting.  The guineas always won, despite the fact that the roosters were larger.  Even the guinea HENS would fight the roosters and win!  Once I found all 4 roosters in the corner of the pen, tails up, heads down, huddled down hiding their faces, while the guineas attacked them and ripped out their tail feathers!  I didn't know guineas were so mean.  They seem to be territorial - if there's anyone new in the area, they want to chase him away.  The guineas rule this farmyard!

Yesterday I heard alot of mad guinea screaming in the back yard and found the flock attacking a small buck.  The buck didn't like the guineas one bit.  He took off running while I tried to take photos of the guinea vs deer action.  The guineas won the fight, the deer took off and the birds actually chased him away!  I didn't get many good shots, but got a few that weren't too clear. 

Earlier yesterday I watched the guineas chase a woodchuck out of the backyard. 
Woodchucks should be sleeping underground anyway, it's cold out there!
Let the games begin...

Guineas 3
Everyone Else 0

The guinea games will continue every day around Razzberry Corner.

Flying guinea

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Visitor In the Chicken Pen

The other day Randy went out after dark (it gets dark here so early these days!) to check on Danni, the hen with the broken leg, who's in her own coop.  It was cold so he decided to put up a board blocking her viewing window outside to the chicken pen, to keep the cold wind out of the infirmary coop.  There's a heat lamp in the coop, but when the wind blows it still gets very cold in there.

And so he went out into the very secure chicken pen to put a board up across the outside of the window into Danni's coop.  Now, remember how secure and safe this huge chicken pen is - it was built years ago and is impervious to all outside intruders.  It has a wire roof, it has concrete and also rebar buried down even deeper underground around the fenceline so nothing can dig under.  No way no how.  And it's huge.  We can walk around in there.  The chickens can fly in there.  There's hills and trees inside the chicken pen.

And as he walks by the chicken feeder in the pen, he notices something odd.  He walks on by, there's no way THAT could be inside the chicken pen.  Then he stops, turns around and goes back to the feeder.  There, eating from the feeder, is our resident teenage farm opossum.

We have acquired this young farm opossum.  He was raised in his mama's pouch and then on his mama's back last summer.  Mama used to eat from the outside cat bowls.  And now the baby is always eating from Bobby cat's food bowls.  Bobby and him are BFFs.  We chase him away every night from the food bowls.  Chase meaning, we walk up and tap him on the back with our foot, and he ambles away.  I don't like opossums, I think they're mean and ugly animals, but this one is sorta cute, if a opossum can be cute.  I haven't seen his mama in a very long time.  The photo here is not of our opossum, I found it online.  But it's cute like our Little Opossum.

Randy picked the varmint in the chicken pen up by his tail and carried him way deep into the woods before tossing him down.  I was surprised Randy didn't "take care of him", but we usually don't kill animals that pose no threat to the farm.  This opossum had a choice to enter into the coop where all the chickens were sleeping in the dark and have chicken dinner, or eat the chicken food outside.  He chose the grain.

Now, how did that guy get into the chicken pen???  There's no holes in or under the fence.  All we can figure is that he squeezed through a very small area around the gate, because he's a very small opossum.  He would have had to work at the squeeze part.  But if he can squeeze in, then skunks, small fox, weasels, little owls, young raccoons, who knows what else can all be partying in the chicken pen.  And in the 3 years that we've had chickens nothing else ever was found in the chicken pen.   If Little Opossum went into the pen during daylight, I think Muffin, the lead rooster, would win the inevitable varmint-rooster battle.  Muffin can kick some butt if he wants.  I know from being on the losing end of that battle.  We always leave the chicken door open so the chickens can put themselves to bed in the eve in their coop and they can go outside in the pen at will in the morning.  If any critters make their way into the pen, they can walk right into the coop when all the chickens are sleeping and are easy targets.

So, the last few nights, we've been closing the little chicken door and opening it in the mornings.  Little Opossum was caught eating Bobby's food again last night, but he hasn't been seen in the chicken pen again.  However, this little guy will have to be relocated soon.  We just don't have time to open and close the chicken door every eve/morning.  If he got in there once, I can't trust that he won't do his magic act again, and maybe that night he will not be full of Bobby food already and will decide on chicken dinner. Sorry, Little O, you will be losing your farm privileges.  You're lucky to not have lost your life.