…And Look Who Else Moved In

The chickens, geese, and guineas love their new quarters. They go up as soon as it gets dark, find their favorite roosting spot, and tuck in for the night. Then everyone barrels out when I open the door at first light, and spends the afternoon chasing bugs, exploring interesting bits of grass, and running around on urgent errands. And while all this is going on… horseflies are invading the coop.

They must have just discovered it, because I check on the coop a lot. Two days ago, it was particularly hot, so I went to top off the waterers – and was perplexed to hear a strange low buzzing noise. Not being one to get distracted easily, or for that matter to notice that the screen hung over the doorway appeared to be moving, I pushed my way through it… and entered the 7th ring of hell. So. Much. Buzzing. Then I looked back over my shoulder and realized I walked through a literal curtain of flies, and that I would have to do it again to get out. I can’t even. It was beyond.

Good thing I always wear my hoody, even when it’s almost 90. Yes, the bugs are that bad, and yes, purchasing a summer weight hoody is on my to-do list. I took a deep breath, gathered the hood shut around my face, and ran out. When dousing the entire inside of the coop with non-toxic fly spray only succeeded in creating clouds of drunkenly wafting flies, I told Gene he needed to break out the big gun – AKA our industrial sized shop vac.

Lord of the Flies, indeed. Between the two of us, we sucked up hundreds. Possibly thousands. Enough that the shop vac is never allowed back in the house, and I’m definitely not going to be the one that empties it. I may just buy a new one. It was that many flies. I’m surprised the shop vac isn’t angrily buzzing, to be honest. We had to repeat the process again tonight, but there were way less of them. I’m putting a mark in the “W” column for Battle Horsefly.

Besides – we’ve got another, bigger, shaggier problem on our hands. In the form of a bear. Last night Gene heard the goats screeching, which isn’t unusual, being that they’re goats, but they usually don’t sound off at 3 am.

He thought maybe a coyote had gotten into the pen, so he grabbed a gun and went to check it out. As he was walking back toward the house, our motion light went on and illuminated the back deck. And the bear that was lumbering around on it.

Now don’t get be me wrong, I’m not a bear hater. But A) it was like 350 pounds B) it was less than 10 feet from where I was sleeping on the other side of a sliding glass door and C) does anyone ever really want to realize they just walked past a bear, in the dark, and didn’t know it? Since he couldn’t shoot it (know your backdrop, first rule of range safety, especially when it’s your lovely sleeping wife), he shot into the ground and scared it back into the woods.

This morning I realized the bear had emptied all the hummingbird feeders it could reach, destroyed my finch feeder, ate all the sunflower seeds, and bent all the petals on the beautiful flower feeder Bess Bess bought me for my birthday.

I was especially vexed about that, I mean even a bear should be able to figure out how to open the little flap that allows access to the seeds. He didn’t need to stomp Tokyo. Churlish and rude. At least I was able to mostly fix my flower feeder.

But bears aren’t the only forces of destruction around here. The squirrels managed to chew off the entire window of my other favorite feeder, the one that hangs by the living room window and gives Chupi a reason to bark all day. They also dragged it off, so somewhere out there is a squirrel nest with a plastic window that lets plenty of light into the nest. But since I couldn’t fill it with seeds any more, I asked Gene to fix it – which he did, with his usual trademark sense of humor. Too bad the squirrels can’t read…

And don’t even get me started on the geese and their ability to absolutely wreck a pool. Despite it being 85 today (probably 112, if you factor in the hoody), I spent 10 minutes bailing out the water with a bucket, then refilling it with clear, tasty water. They hopped right in… and within 5 minutes, no exaggeration, it was back to looking like a brackish swamp. Let’s just say geese must have an impressively efficient digestive system, because dang.

The Mansion Is Complete!

I’m happy to announce the chickens are now happily in their new, much more spacious, natural-light-filled living quarters. It’s going to be perfect come winter – there’s enough space for them all to roam, plus have room for a treat station, dust bathing area, and activity corner! Gene even hauled a poplar trunk with branches in there, so they have a natural roosting option. Plus, since it was the old homestead, it’s wired for electricity which will make installing heated panels in the winter super easy, and it’s got a phone jack. King Midas is already grumbling about wanting faster wi-fi.

new coop

Of course, getting them used to it was a bit of a trick, and getting them in there the first night was a total goat rodeo. We decided to do the Big Migration when they were roosted up for the night in the other coop, and almost had to draw straws to see who got the “honor” of plucking King Midas from his perch. He’s turned into a bit of a monster – Gene said one more spurs-first bounce off the back of his legs and we’re having chicken dumplings on the menu. At any rate, I was able to swoop down and nab him while he was sound asleep, although he made his displeasure known loudly and longly.

We decided that as long as everyone was getting used to the new living situation, we may as well introduce the guineas, geese, and adolescent chickens at the same time. Surprisingly, it went off without a hitch. The guineas tend to pick a hen and follow her around all day, and although the geese aren’t quite used to their new bedroom, they only put up a minimum of fuss.

I still can’t get over how fast geese grow. They’re in that that half-gosling/half-adolescent stage where their down is mixed with feathers, and their cheeps are randomly interrupted with honks that seem to startle them. I’ve also put “get bigger pool” on Gene’s to-do list. They’re still really sweet, though. Every time I go outside I bellow “Where my geesies at????” and they come running. In a good way.

Higgins

In other news, we’ve got all the gardens planted, and everyone gave me flowers for my birthday so I went nuts with the pots on the deck. It’s hummingbird central, and super cheerful to look at. We also keep the bird feeders well stocked, so there are quite a few nests around the yard. My favorite is the robin who nested for the second year underneath the car port. She’s got three fledgings, one of whom is a beast. I don’t know how the other two even fit in the nest beside him. There must be more square footage in there than it looks like from the outside.

They Grow Up So Fast…

Hard to believe it’s the last day of May… and Gene’s to-do list is still so long. (Monarch Sanctuary, wherefore art tho? Certainly not in my front yard.) We seemed to have skipped spring, and jumped straight into summer. Complete with 90 degree temps and clouds of mosquitoes. On the plus side, lightening bugs and thunderstorms!

The geese, (fingers crossed) appear to be two girls and a boy, so I’ve named them Higgins, Priscilla, and Claire. They are old enough now to spend the entire day outside, where they roam the yard eating dandelions and napping in the sun. We put them back in the secure pen at night, but they’ll move into a section of the new coop as soon as it’s ready.

We’re turning the old homestead in the front yard into their new quarters. Gene boarded up the side door so it’s warmer in the winter, and redid the ceiling and insulation where water had gotten in. We also had to climb up on the roof and repair the cracks in the chimney with some bucket of stretchy stuff that bore a disturbing resemblance to a melting Tootsie roll. Gene of course made applying it look super easy – he just stuck a trowel thing in the bucket, then spread it evenly onto the shingles and didn’t get a speck on him. I, on the other hand, promptly stuck the trowel to my hand, ruined my favorite t-shirt, stepped in melting Tootsie roll, and made the chimney look like someone went crazy with the chocolate frosting. But hey – it’s waterproof!

It seems like the more I help, the more I hinder. For instance this afternoon we were painting the interior with Killz to fix the mold situation, and Gene saw me eyeballing the roller that he’d had the brilliant idea of screwing onto the broom handle so we could paint the ceiling without a ladder. He let me paint with it while he went in to grab a cold beer, and came back not two minutes later to find me sadly holding a roller and a broken broomstick. Apparently you can’t press that hard – I blame the pythons.

Ceri decided she wanted to help as well. Her contribution was stepping on the paint can lid and tracking prints all over the floor, then rushing up behind me and knocking into the wet paint brush as we were walking back to the house. I guess it runs in the family.

We’re still doing the mail route once a week, which I still absolutely love. Gene, not so much. Getting him out the door at the crack of dawn is like herding an extremely large, grumpy badger. But we get to see so many cool things on the route!

Normally I remember to grab my good camera, although today I forgot. So of course today we saw a beautiful young fox whose coat was just starting to turn red, a huge crane, and a porcupine. The porcupine was awesome – they look like spiky koalas, and they can climb up trees with a quickness. I would have gotten even closer with my camera phone, but I totally fell for it when one of the locals said they could launch their spines at you. Sigh.

How Have I Gone 42 Years Without Geese In My Life?

Geese are amazing. If you don’t have some, you need some. Now. They’re adorable! The 3 goslings outgrew the office tank in a matter of days (and the Guinea chicks moved in!), so now they’re in a spacious heated box in the garage. But don’t worry – they still get tons of socialization time.

I take them out in the yard for a few hours every day, and they follow me around. If something startles them, they pile in my lap. If I pat the ground, they run over to me. I have Purpose. I’m like a gigantic mama goose now.

I even convinced Gene that they needed a wading pool! He found one that had been lingering in the backroom of the local hardware store for years, so it was a screaming deal. He even built a swim ramp for it! Never have you seen happier geese.

So now when I should be parked at my computer stressing out about deadlines, I’m parked in the sunshine watching happy goslings eat grass, chase bugs, and take naps cuddled up against me. Life is good.

In non-geese related news, the weather has finally warmed up to where I can transplant all my seedlings into larger pots, and start things like sunflowers and squash. I was slightly panicked about where to put all the new pots, since the portable greenhouse in the living room isn’t all that big. Gene added shelves to the screened in porch out front, so naturally I filled it to capacity. I was also left wondering why I took the time to meticulously create seating charts for all my planting trays, planted *at least* 7 different kinds of peppers and tomatoes, then labelled everything… “peppers” and “tomatoes”. Guess I’ll figure it out once they start to grow fruits.

Never Say Never…

After 10 years of pestering, brochures, long sighs and longer lists of benefits left in strategic places, Gene finally said yes to getting geese! And for all my readers with extraordinarily good memories, yes – he officially lifted the “divorce decree”. Bringing home adorable goslings would no longer result in the end of our marriage.

In fact, Gene’s the one that went and picked them up when the feed store called this morning to say they’d arrived! (That probably had less to do with excitement on his part, and more to do with the fact that I kept texting him “GEEEEEESSSSSSSEEEEE” over and over until he picked up the car keys.

He also apparently told the people at the store that he only changed his mind because he couldn’t wait for the day they got ornery and started chasing me around the yard. Or Chupi. As long as someone’s getting chased, he’ll be happy.

Of course, thanks to my detailed plans for socialization, that day won’t come. It won’t be like King Midas, who for some reason went from happily clucking over treats to share with his ladies to bouncing off the back of my ankles in a sneak attack that was only thwarted because I was wearing knee high rubber boots. (Which now apparently I’ll be wearing all year round).

It definitely won’t be like baby Mocha, who doesn’t even bother to lure me in by looking cute and cuddly anymore. She just charges.

These geese are going to love me. Right now they’re comfortably installed in the office tank, which Gene reluctantly brought back in after moving the older chicks to a heated brooding space in the pole barn. He wanted to partition off the huge stock tank so the geese had their own area, but I sagely pointed out that they’d never get used to my presence if they were outside when I spend all my time inside working hard on my computer to pay the bills and such. This way I can pick them up and cuddle them whenever I need a break, which is roughly every 10 minutes or so, or whenever something interesting happens outside the window.

Today, for instance, deadlines took a back seat to spa time. I figured since the goslings had been in their tiny little feedstore enclosure for the last week, they would love the chance to play in some warm water. I filled up the sink, being careful to add an underwater platform they could stand on if they needed a break.

Never have you seen happier goslings, or more water splashed around the kitchen. Let’s just say I’m glad I hadn’t prepped the coffee maker yet, because that carafe could use a little decon. Totally worth it though.

He’s baaaaaaaack

skunkI’ve been on a mission since last year’s Mr. Waddles incident. A photo mission. While they may undoubtedly stink, they’re still awfully cute. Fat little noses, fluffy black tails, trendy white stripes. The problem is, every time I’ve managed to spot one was a few seconds after the dogs spotted it. And we all know what happened next – not exactly the best time to grab my camera.

But today the dogs were safely inside, and Gene let me know Mr. Waddles was currently be-bopping down the driveway. I got as close as I dared and stood there until he got used to me. There was one tense moment when he tucked his body into an upside down “U” shape and showed me his Southern end, but thank goodness he didn’t find me any more threatening than that. (I’m rather insulted, actually. I consider myself a force to be reckoned with.)

I also got April’s first swan photos! It was just after dawn last Thursday, and we were driving into Orr to start our postal route. Gene, who was already grumbly about having to get up at the literal crack of dawn, was not amused when I suddenly bellowed “LOOK!!!” and demanded he pull over. (I really do try to remember there’s a rule about no shrieking in the car unless it’s an emergency, but I just get so excited. By so many things.)

But perhaps the most exciting news of all – we got some spring chickens! The feed store in Virginia had two Sicilian Buttercup chicks left, and of course you can’t get just two because they’ll get cold on the long trip home.

So I got six Wyandottes too, as it was a medical necessity. We are going to relocate the chicken coop to the big outbuilding in the front yard, which will just take a little sprucing up. It’s a lot more insulated than where the chickens are now, since people used to live in it. Plus, it’s big enough that I can decorate. I’m already looking at paint chips and window boxes.

Spring Stinks!

march snowFirst, let me start with saying we should not be getting a literal foot of snow in almost April. It’s just plain wrong. And it’s even more wrong to be shoveling it off the deck while wearing only a t-shirt, and feeling perfectly comfortable.

Although I must say, when Gene turned all the Christmas lights back on, it looked quite festive. And before you get all judgy, we’re not the only people who still have their wreaths up. Not by a long shot. (But we are probably the only ones with lights blazing #trendsetters).

It was enough snow that I had to go shovel a snacking path for the deer too. I figure the vast majority of them are pregnant by now, and rely on us to provide vital supplementation to their meager diets. At least that’s what they want me to believe – you wouldn’t believe how big their puppy dog eyes get when they’re lined up staring at the window, silently asking why they don’t have any corn yet.

Even the buck gets in on it, and he manages to look both starving and judgemental.

Despite the snow, the warm temperatures apparently coaxed Mr. Waddles out from underneath the chicken coop. I’m sure he was lured in by tasty tidbits of over-looked corn, because he was exploring the front yard when Gene let the puppies loose for their bedtime potty excursion.

Let’s just say Mr. Waddles did not wake up on the right side of the bed. I daresay he woke up hangry, although as Bess Bess sagely pointed out, you don’t have to be hangry to be hating on tiny yapper dogs with a Napoleon complex. But one things for sure – he did not appreciate being chased under the truck by Chupi. Thankfully, Ceri couldn’t fit under there and Gene was able to haul her back into the house, then go back to retrieve our incredibly stinky yet mightily ferocious skunk hunter.

On the plus side, an 8-pound Papillon can’t wreck the bathroom to the same extent a 100-pound German Shepherd can and will.

On the down side, I don’t know why I stored my Skunk Kit (complete with enough Dawn, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda to deal with the aftermath of a skunk the size of Godzilla) under a pile of winter coats, boots, and other household detritus.

Note To Self: if it has a handwritten note that says “open in case of emergency”, don’t bury it in the closet.

At least I didn’t break the shower this time!