The busy season has officially arrived!

Sorry for the long gap between postings… the busy season has arrived here on the farm. That being said, you’d think since I’m here full time now that I would have more time to post. But the more I’m outside, the more I notice that treats need to be dispensed and cuddles need to be handed out, and before I know it the entire morning has passed. All the critters are doing well, particularly the three pigs. They’ve just about outgrown their Igloo, and when I feed them in the morning they all try to barrel out the entrance at once, and the whole enclosure rocks from side to side. Charlotte, the biggest, usually wins that battle and squeezes out first. I’ve changed their feeding station to a large plastic tub with a 50-lb feed bag dumped into it; otherwise I have to feed them like six times a day. They love the new arrangement, and have started sleeping in the tub to maximize their midnight snacking potential.
The baby bunnies similarily love their new living situation; I went to feed them yesterday and saw they had pulled a Houdini and somehow opened their door. Frolicking bunnies greeted me when I stepped inside, and they were joyful. Harvey is a trooper, and he actually started grooming them and playing with them. At least I assume he’s grooming them, and not doing a taste test. He seems to enjoy the company though, and lets the little ones climb all over him. Gene’s next project (in an unending list of next projects) is to install a gate and pen that allows access to the overgrown area behind the Bunny Ranch. They constantly strive to munch on the long grass growing behind it, so they would love the extra room. And what Harvey wants, Harvey gets, so I’ve put in the work order for Gene.
The chickens absolutely love their new space, now that they’re used to it. At sunset, I like to sit on the porch and watch them prepare to roost for the evening. It’s quite the process; first they stand and stare up at the roosting poles, deciding where they’d like to sleep for the night. Evidently it’s quite the decision, because they’ll stare for up to ten minutes. Once they’ve picked a prime location, the roosting dance begins. They sway back and forth, then start shifting their weight from one foot to another. Then the flapping begins, and several false starts later, they’ll jump up one bar at a time until they’re at their chosen destination. Too bad for any chickens that happen to already be there – they’ll knock them off. Turning around to face out the door is a whole other process, since chickens don’t pivot around on one foot very gracefully. I’m kind of like a Nascar fan secretly hoping for a crash – it’s pretty funny when they fall off the bar mid-pivot. 
In other chicken news, the baby chicks are growing fast. The Blue Cochins have sprouted feathers on their feet, so it looks like they’re clomping around in moon boots. I think one of them is a rooster, because whenever I go check on them, he jumps up onto the highest brach of the roosting bar, squares his feet, and stares at me like he’s asking me to come in there and start something. It just seems like such a boy attitude that I’m assuming the crowing will start any day now.

The reno is complete!

After several weeks of suffering through my design changes, material choices, and ever-changing layouts, Gene finished the new and improved Chicken Mansion! The chickens particularly love all the new roosting options, including one that hangs about seven feet up in the air. Chickens seem to abhor change as much as their mama does, so at first they wouldn’t have anything to do with the new coop, and protested mightily when we denied access to the old coop by locking the door. After chasing 34 chickens around for a half an hour, I decided the best thing to do was let them in the old coop, wait for them to settle down, then pounce on them one by one and forcibly relocate them.
My plan went off without a hitch, except for the seven-inch scratch on my forearm which serves as a reminder that Sean Paul dislikes being pounced upon. Abigail was able to act as the door bouncer, opening the new coop door each time I ran over with a grumpy chicken. We had to repeat the pounce and run process the next night, this time with my sister Bess Bess as the door guard; the chickens seem to respect Abigail more than they do either of us, since for every one chicken I deposited three escaped. Perhaps not having one’s authoritay respected runs in the family. I finally solved the problem by hanging a light in it, so now they go in there on their own.

The 18 young chickens have adapted happily to life in a mansion, and for Mother’s Day Gene got me three new chicks! He decided that an empty brooding box is a sad brooding box, so he surprised me with Blue Cochins. They are considered a fancy breed, which is good because ever since poor Puff Daddy made the transition to the Great Farm in the Sky, fancy chickens are under-represented in the flock.

The ducks were pretty jealous of the chickens’ new quarters, so I opened the gate that allows them access into the fenced pasture area. (And by “gate”, I mean I moved the bucket that blocks the hole we cut in the fence.) They spend their entire day napping in the grass and chasing bugs. Happier ducks would be impossible to find.

I can’t say the same for the pigs- they seem to think I don’t feed them enough. Every time I go in their pen, they mill around my legs; even worse, Charlotte has started trying to taste my jeans. Gene says I have to discourage that by yelling “No” at them, which I do, but instead of using my authoritative, I’m-in-charge-here voice, I usually squeak “Oh god please don’t eat me”, which doesn’t have the same effect. Pretty soon I’m just going to chuck bundles of food over the fence, Escape From New York style, and let them sort it out. They’re getting so large that their Igloo is starting to resemble a clown car, packed full of piggies. Building a suitable Swine Estate ranks high on Gene’s list (I keep track of the list for him, it just seems easier that way).

The baby bunnies have outgrown the bunny box and are now whooping it up in Harvey’s bachelor pad. Harvey seems to really enjoy the company; I think he got pretty lonely without Claire, even though I gave him pets and cuddles and treats all the time. I’m still religiously checking Craig’s List for a new girlfriend for him, but haven’t found any worthy candidates yet. The baby bunnies love being outside, especially when I feed them long grass cuttings. They are completely weaned off the bottle now, and growing quickly. It won’t take long for them to catch up to Harvey, so I need to find buyers soon. Email me if you’re interested! 
In actual garden news, I was all set to plant out my indoor greenhouse seedlings, so of course the weather gods decided to make it hail. At least this week the early morning temperatures are above freezing. I hate this state in May. Eighty degrees during the day, near freezing at night. It’s a wonder anything grows at all. Gene is almost done with the expanded garden bed, so between the raised beds, the greenhouses, the designated growing areas, and the garden itself, we have a half acre of sheer growing space. Now that I’m a full-time farmer, I’m really looking forward to taking care of it all! The best part is that now I’ll have more time to post, so check back often! My goal is every other day, at least.

This has been my first week as a dedicated farm girl, which was weird and great at the same time.  Bess Bess came out for a visit, so the transition was a little easier, since it seemed more like vacation time. During the week she spent here, I took her clam digging for the first time. It was my first time too, but that didn’t stop me from pretending like I knew how to do it. I laughed uproariously when she got stuck in the mud, something I found hilarious until it happened to me. I took home a beautiful bucket of live clams, soaking in ocean water to clear out the grit. The next day around dinner time, I brought the bucket in to prepare them for cooking. Several of them had their siphons extended, happily filtering away with no idea of what was coming next in their contented little mollusk lives. The more I looked at them, the wussier I got, and in the end I just couldn’t bring myself to boil them. In my defense, for those that don’t know it I was actually a hard-core vegan for over ten years so falling off the meat-wagon when faced with cooking live critters is a common occurrence for me.

Gene’s daughter came with me, and together we drove back to the ocean, walked out onto the beach, and freed the shellfish. We carefully excavated a new home for every clam, then covered them up so the sea gulls wouldn’t get them. I kept looking toward the parking lot, fearing this was the one time that a deputy or a fish and wildlife officer would do a beach check; I would rather say I was out here smoking weed than admit that I’m relocating previously doomed clams. The best part was when I paused too long in one place while watching the tide coming in (the beach fills up astonishingly fast!) and got stuck. Again. Much, much funnier when it happened to Bess Bess. Decidedly less so when it happens to me after dark when the tide’s coming in and the long arm of the law could drop by at any point and accuse me of poaching. In reverse.
And with that, I leave you with your moment of zen – which I hope to make a daily occurrence on the blog. One thing I’ve learned after eight years of having an incredibly stressful job is that you can brighten a terrible, horrible day just by looking at something peaceful. So hopefully I can give you a peaceful photo to look at every day: