This one’s a girl!

Princess Buttercup, not to be outdone by Princess Ariel, had her kid last night! BC has always been something of a party night goat, so she waited until almost midnight to give birth to Princess Leia, which forced Abigail and I to check her out by flashlight. At least this time I was somewhat prepared; I spent the previous afternoon laboriously crafting a door to the goat’s bedroom, so that Buttercup would have her own separate nursery area. Gene was at work, so what would have taken him approximately five minutes to do took me almost two hours. Part of the problem is I can’t really hold power tools effectively any more, but the bigger problem was I didn’t feel like finding a tape measure so I eyeballed how big the door should be to cover the hole in the shed wall. Shockingly, I had to recut it four times, on the big scary table saw no less. You think I would have learned my lesson and measured where to hang the hinges, but you’d be wrong. Another half an hour and multiple screw holes later, I pronounced it good enough. Gene can fix it on his day off, but for now at least it keeps curious goats and sheep out of the nursery area.

Wesley and Leia get along well, but the same can’t be said of the two new mamas. The very first thing they did when I let them out this morning was check out each other’s nursery area, presumably to make sure the other one wasn’t situated in more posh quarters. When the two found themselves in the same nursery, another headbutting competition ensued. Sometimes it seems like I’m running a daycare, rather than a farm. It doesn’t matter that each goat mama gets her very own water bucket, her very own scoop of grain, and her very own pile of hay. The other goat’s provisions always seem fresher and tastier somehow. I’ll be glad when the wee ones are big enough to go back into the pasture with Woolimina and Fiona, because between the two nurseries in the front and Broody Mama’s nest in the back, we’re running out of room in the old coop to store the feed and tools.

I’m really excited to see how many of the eggs in Broody Mama’s latest clutch hatch. This time I was careful to only give her eggs laid on the same day, so the odds are pretty good that most of them should be viable. Gene said I could only let her sit on five, so of course she’s sitting on a pile of ten; I figured what he meant was he wanted five chicks, so I figured ten eggs would help achieve that goal. Between Broody Mama’s clutch and the 24 eggs in the new incubator, Gene wanted to know just what I planned to do with all those chicks. I told him that was really more his problem, since he’s the construction half of this enterprise. To take our farm to the next level, obviously he needs to build another brooding box area. I’m glad he asked, though – that means he’s trying to plan ahead.

I would put them all in the garage brooding box, but that’s currently full of 20 two-week-old baby chicks. Eight of them are ours, and the other twelve we’re fostering for Abigail. This time we opted to put little pink bracelet bands around her twelve, since last time I fostered her chicks I cried when it was time to give them back. For some reason, Abigail is convinced that accessorizing them will make it easier to hand them over when the time comes. She can give them pedicures, necklaces, and tiny little tiaras – I’m still gonna cry when they go to their new home.

Hopefully having potentially 34 newly hatched chicks will help mitigate that loss. Plus, I put two Pekin eggs in with the chick eggs in the incubator, and there’s nothing more cheerful than fluffy yellow ducklings. All the survivors of the Minkacolypse are doing pretty well, considering the amount of chewing they took. Two of them, Topsy and One Eyed Willy, still have a fair amount of recuperating to do. I went through the Duck Mansion area and added all sorts of accessibility upgrades, including a big pile of swim rocks in the pond to make it easier to get out. I’m still helping Topsy with her physical therapy, and putting her in the pond daily for guided swims. She seems to be walking a little better now, but she still tires easily. I’ve added a covered patio area to Gene’s ever expanding to-do list, because I want her to have a dry place to nap come the rainy season. He also needs to figure out some way to heat the pond, because last year got pretty cold. Now that we’re in the therapy duck business, we have a certain standard to uphold. 


It’s a boy!

The last two weeks here on the farm have been filled with beautiful, magical moments, and equally heartbreaking ones.  First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I’m a grandma! Ariel finally definitively answered the is-she-or-isn’t-she pregnancy question by presenting us with a perfect kid, whom I immediately named Wesley upon seeing his cute little face. Ariel didn’t exhibit any signs of impending birth, so when we got back from the butcher facility (more on that to follow), I was startled to see her standing next to her baby. I think I missed witnessing the birth by just a few moments. Wesley already loves to cuddle, and has fallen asleep on my lap several times. Ariel lets me and Gene do whatever we want with him, but if anyone else comes near Wesley, she lets loose with an appallingly loud squall.

I spent hours yesterday sitting out in the pasture area watching Wesley learn how to walk. Considering he was born around noon, I think he was doing a pretty amazing job of getting around. Fiona, Buttercup, and Woolimina left the new family alone for the most part, except at feeding time. Fiona got jealous when I gave Ariel her very own scoop of grain, and her very own pile of hay, so I had to move them outside the gate for a bit. Buttercup got annoyed that Ariel was outside the gate and she wasn’t, so she started headbutting her through the gate. Good thing Gene builds things to last, because the two kept that up for about 15 minutes before I finally put Ariel and Wesley to bed in the old chicken coop. I figured the last thing Ariel needed after giving birth not even 6 hours ago was trying to win a headbutt competition.


RIP, piggies. May the Great Trough in the Sky always be filled with treats.

I was exceedingly happy that Ariel picked yesterday of all days to have her baby, because prior to that momentous occasion I was pretty sad. In addition to Wesley’s birthday, yesterday was also Bacon Day. My intention was to say goodbye to the pigs in the morning, liberally dispense their parting treats so they didn’t enter the next life hungry, and then hide in the house until they were gone. Instead, after the pig hauler showed up with the horse trailer, I got to participate in the pig rodeo. Abigail and Keith had come down when the hauler arrived, since the plan was for them and Gene to go to the butchers with the hauler to decide what cuts of meat they wanted. And because everything on this farm seems to happen at once, the installers from Viking Fence got there at the same time to fence off the front of our property. One of the installers, a self-professed “city kid”, took one look at the five of us chasing snorting pigs around the mud-filled pen and decided he wanted in on that action. For many, many reasons, the pigs did not want to go in to the horse trailer, and Abigail had the bright idea of putting a fat kid step in front of the trailer so the pigs could climb up inside, rather than having to hop up. Apparently the only time the pigs like to hop is when they’re trying to bite me, but more on that later. Once they were safely loaded, I gave them some treats to munch on for the road trip, and we all set off for the butchers, with the exception of the fence installer. Once we’d picked out the different cuts of meat, Gene, Abigail, and Keith decided they wanted to go see what went on behind the scenes. I opted to stay behind, and found a sunny spot to sit by a picnic table which conveniently had a cute Boston Terrier named Gator tethered to it. Gator was a great distraction, and I’m happy to say I only cried once throughout the entire process. I have to admit I got pretty choked up this morning, though, when I got up at dawn to do the morning chores. Out of sheer habit I started to grab the hose to fill up the pigs water bucket, and the site of the empty, lonely pen made me sad. Luckily I’m easily distracted from my emotions, and letting Wesley out of his bedroom cheered me right up.

I figure I got off pretty easy during the five months or so we had the pigs, seeing as I only got bit once. Of course, Princess picked the worst possible day to take her chomp out of my leg. And I didn’t even do anything to provoke it, except for perhaps not dump the bucket of grain fast enough for her liking. That morning, about a week and a half ago, I had gotten up to let the ducks out. I knew something was wrong immediately upon stepping outside, because I’m usually greeted with impatient quacking as soon as the ducks hear the sliding door to the deck open. I ran over to the Duck Mansion, and five of them staggered out, all bloody and ruffled. When I opened the box, I found four poor dead ducks, including our three new ones. I was absolutely heart broken. I woke Gene up, and his daughter happened to be there that day as well. We did what country folk all over the world do when presented with that situation – we all grabbed guns and sat out there until the killer came back. Gene gets credit for the kill shot, of course. But in my defense, I was shooting one handed, non-dominant, and I’m pretty sure my bullet scared it into Gene’s line of fire.Turns out it was a mink, and it had gotten in through the roof of the Duck Mansion. Normally I abhor killing of any type, be it pigs or minks, but in this case I didn’t even feel a guilty twinge. Not only did it kill four of my beloved ducks and injure five others, the mink had also killed most of Abigail’s chickens several days prior. I was all for beheading the mink and sticking its skull on a pole in front of the Duck Mansion to serve as a warning to others, but Gene brought it down to Abigail’s instead, since she wants to have it taxidermied. (Did I just make up a word?)

The five wounded ducks were immediately checked into the hospital in the guest bathroom (again, visitors, best to bring your own towels to our house. I’m just saying.) and Abigail and I cleaned up their wounds. Actually, Abigail mostly did the cleaning, and I did my best not to throw up. I’m not a very qualified surgical assistant. Gene and his daughter put hardware cloth over the inside of the roof, so nothing is getting through it ever again. Three of the ducks got checked out of the hospital a few days ago, and I’m going to put the other two outside today. I think the poor Rescue Duck will always have a limp, and the boy Indian Runner will probably lose vision in one eye, but since they were eating and drinking and fairly content, given the circumstances, I couldn’t bear to have Gene put them down.

Although I’ve been a hobby farmer now for a couple years, the novelty has yet to wear off. I still get excited by the sight of a particularly beautiful flower bloom or tiny vegetable just beginning to form, and I still fall in love with my critters to an extent that I never thought would be possible. I know I can’t prevent every tragedy, and I can’t protect every one all the time, but the heartbreaking moments pale in comparison to the sheer joy of seeing a baby chick hatch, or a baby goat taking his first wobbly steps. I wouldn’t give up those moments for anything.

You can never have too many ducks…

Lots of exciting changes here on the farm this week! Gene finally got tired of listening to my incessant whining about how lonely the empty brooding box looked, how depressing it was to walk by when it’s dark and desolate, and so forth, and he finally agreed to let me get more chicks! He set the limit at eight, and I’m proud to say for the first time, in like, ever, I stuck to it! I got three different kinds of chicks; light brahmas, dark cornish, and partridge rock. Then the very next day, I found someone selling an incubator on craigslist for a great price, so now I can hatch our own, 24 at a time! I’m so excited… we’re going to be up to 500 chickens in no time.


But more chickens aren’t the only new additions. One of my followers (thank you Liz!) found someone who needed to rehome three ducks, and for some reason mine was the first name she thought of when she read the ad. Apparently this person had found a wild, orphaned duckling wandering around, and took her home. Not wanting her to be lonely, she got two Pekin ducklings to keep her company. Long story short, duck keeping isn’t for everybody (for a variety of mostly stank-related reasons), and now the trio is here!


The two pekins look exactly like Jack and Daniels, and the wild duckling is so cute and tiny. Gene brought them home early this morning, and when I filled their pool up for the first time, it was like Christmas and Fourth of July all rolled into one. They swam around happily in circles, then splashed almost all the water out. They’re going to fit in well.


Since the heat hasn’t broken yet, during the afternoons I refill everyone’s water, and give the hogs a bath. Thanks to Gene belting out, “working at the hogwash, yeah”, the first time we hosed off the pigs, that stupid song gets stuck in my head for hours every time I give them a shower. The chickens spend most of their day in the shade underneath the deck, and when they do venture outside (usually for treats), they hold their wings out from their bodies to get more air circulation under their feathers. They look pretty miserable in the 85+ degree weather, and look like they’re going to throw a punch at the next person who comments, “Hey, how about that heat?”


Harvey, on the other hand, seems to enjoy it. He loves being let out every morning, and spends most of his time underneath the deck by the steps. He’s also laid claim to a hiding spot behind two pieces of wood leaning against the wood pile, which causes the chickens lots of consternation. They are used to him ambling around now, but when he hides there, I think they forget that they know him, and treat him like some furry monster lurking in its lair.


Still no baby goats yet, but Ariel is looking bigger every day. Mama goats will start to have a secretion from their nether regions 24-48 hours before giving birth, so I’ve spent way too much time staring at goat hoo-hoos in the last week. I guess I just want advance notice so I can prepare to panic.

Perhaps I made the garden too big?

Since the temperatures hit 90 degrees plus for several days here on the farm, I spent a lot of time outside, making sure everyone had access to fresh, clean water, and, of course, crisp, delicious watermelon treats. Today I let Harvey and Melman out around six am for a hop around the yard, knowing it’s much cooler outside in the grass than it is in the Bunny Ranch. Later in the afternoon, I saw both of them relaxing underneath the tall Jerusalem artichokes in the garden. Leave it to Harvey to find the one weak spot in the deer fencing that’s just big enough to burrow under. Since they looked so relaxed and happy, and because they were sleeping rather than eating, I decided to let them be, thinking, “How much damage can two bunnies do?” Turns out, when you’re talking about fifty pounds of bunny, the answer is quite a lot. The biggest challenge, though, was getting the bunnies out of the garden. Since the main garden is about 1/4 acre big, I’m sure they thought they found Heaven, Nirvana, and Old Country Buffet, all rolled into one convenient location, and they sure as hell weren’t leaving it. I chased Harvey up and down the rows for about fifteen minutes, with me never coming close enough to grab him despite the fact that he would turn his head on the fly and rip off huge mouthfuls of whatever delicious garden plant we happened to be running by like some kind of bulimic brontosaurus. And even if I could catch up to him, he’s over the weight limit I’m supposed to pick up with either of my poor broken arms, the right one of which just got the stitches out this morning. Lucky for me, he got sick of being chased and ran back to the Bunny Ranch.

Melman presented a much bigger challenge. Forty-five minutes into the rabbit rodeo, I found myself yelling things like, “I can do this alllll night, mama’s retired now!” I finally caught him with the help of the same deer fencing that had started this whole escapade. I got close enough to startle him up into the air, and he bounced off the fencing and literally landed in my arms. Which was both a good thing and a bad thing, since he exceeds the safe weight limit as well. I wasn’t about to put him down, though, since by now I had stomped through all my beautiful plants like a garden Godzilla, with bean tendrils hanging off one leg and a section of chicken wire caught in my shirt. I got a bunch of scratches up and down my arm, but it was worth it when Melman joined Harvey in the Bunny Ranch. I mean, if you’re a deep sea fisherman, you’re not going to cut the line on the swordfish just because it gets a little stabby, right? Gene’s just gonna have to get up early tomorrow and fix the fence.

I never thought I would say this, but I think the pigs were actually my favorite part of dealing with the extreme heat this weekend. I figured they would like to cool off a little bit, so I started spraying them with the hose. They had the cutest reactions ever – the biggest pig, Satan, would spin around in a happy little circle while grunting, then race around the pen, only to return to frolicing in the spray. Princess would just stand there and let the spray hit her face, then amble off to rub up against the tree. They were so cute it almost made me want to keep them. Almost. For any of you locals out there, August 22nd is Bacon Day, so get your visits in now!

Battles, battles, everywhere

So far this growing season we’ve waged war on rats and flies. Thanks to tacky strips and owls, I’m happy to declare Andie’s Farm the victor in both. The owls are so used to me being outside, chasing the chickens and ducks into their respective bedrooms, that the mated pair is completely unperturbed by my presence. They’ll fly over my head, and sit on a pole three feet away from me and just stare. I love to watch them, especially at dusk when I can actually see them, but their jet black eyes make them look pretty intimidating. If I stare at them long enough, I start to worry they’re about to launch straight at my face. I was able to get some amazing pictures of them since they aren’t scared of me at all.


I refuse to take a picture of a weasel.

But despite our yard being an active hunting ground, I interrupted a weasel attack just after dawn yesterday morning. I went to let the ducks out of their box, and to my horror I found three of them snacking away on a freshly deceased rescue duck. Somehow they managed to open the door to the duck’s box and pull one out. It absolutely broke my heart. I ran back inside to get the small .22 cal pistol Gene just bought me because I can’t shoot the rifle with my arm in cast again, but the stupid weasels were smart enough to get in the pool with the floating duck. I didn’t want to put a bunch of holes in our pond liner, so I opted for my second weapon of choice, a shovel. I actually had to take a swing at the feasting weasels before they finally bothered to be scared of me and run under the duck’s box. They kept peeping out from under the box, one at a time, and hissing at me while I tried to clumsily fish the poor duck out of the pond one handed. Happily, Gene was able to shoot one of them later on in the afternoon, and he also reinforced the living quarters to make it weasel proof. I haven’t seen the other two since.


In way more pleasant news, I was able to sell all four of the female rabbits after listing them on craigslist. Now it’s just Harvey and his son, Melman. Since I only have two rabbits to keep track of, and the yard is now fenced in, I let both of them out this afternoon to enjoy the sunshine. Every time poor Melman found a nice shaded spot in which to recline, a curious chicken would discover him and take a peck. The gold-laced Wynadotte chickens actually chased him around the yard for a bit, which was hysterical considering Melman outweighs them by a good 20 pounds. I was sad to part with the does, but I’m confident they went to good homes. I almost changed my mind when Tank gave Gene a good-bye nuzzle while he was handing her over to the new owner, but I think we did the right thing. The does went in pairs, so I was really happy about that.


Now that I no longer have to worry about having enough space to house six Flemish Giant rabbits, my focus can shift to figuring out where we’re going to put the impending goat nursery, since we’ve decided with 100% certainty that Ariel is pregnant. I’m 60% positive that Buttercup is too, and 40% positive that Fiona is incubating one as well. I’m pretty much basing my assumptions on the fact that all their udders appear to be filling up with milk. At this rate, it wouldn’t surprise me if Woolimina popped out a half goat, half sheep baby just to fit in.