How can one little fuzzball be so LOUD?

IMG_6543Apparently incubating eggs takes more skill than I currently possess, because we had another early hatcher a few days ago. Since she was born with strange, featherless stripes of skin on her back, I was hesitant to put her in with Broody Mama and her three chicks. Norma, named thusly due to Gene’s observation that she wasn’t quite normal, had bright red skin in between the strips of fuzz, which in the chicken world is the equivalent of chumming the waters since they instinctually peck at the color red. For the first few hours, Norma was happy in the master bathroom shower tote, but then the loneliness set in. Every time she would unhappily shriek, I went in and picked her up. She spent most of her first day on earth riding around on my shoulder, happily munching the grain I scattered on my shirt. She was served water out of my finest shot glass (featuring an alligator on it, AND it glows in the dark); with every need catered to she was the happiest of chicks. Until it broody mama 2was tote-time. Then came the shrieking. I have to admit, I resorted to the electronic babysitter – she sat on my shoulder for an hour, nestled into my hair, cheeping contentedly while she watched Top Chef with me. When the two am cheeping started, we decided that since her fuzz had started to fluff up and cover all the redness, she would be okay joining Broody Mama’s family. Gene checked on her every hour until we were sure she would fit in, and when I checked on her the next morning she was cuddled up underneath her new mama’s wing, surrounded by her new sisters.

I wouldn’t have minded Norma being an indoorIMG_6571bw chicken for a bit longer, but it’s hard enough keeping track of Raphael without adding a flying critter to the mix. He gets progressively fatter and happier with each passing day. Pretty soon we’re going to have to trade in his favorite dryer vent toy for a wider model. I can’t wait to ask the guy at McClendon’s if the vents come in husky size. Rampaging through the vent is Raphael’s favorite game, with “got your toes” coming in second. If any of you come to visit, make sure to keep your shoes and socks on. Apparently toes are a ferret’s favorite snack.

Did I really just get take-out for a spider?

IMG_6522Since becoming a hobby farmer four years ago, I’ve done a number of things that make friends and family shake their heads in disbelief.  Four AM bunny bottle feedings. Pre-chewing apple treats into turkey-sized morsels for Christmas. Finding dry dirt during a monsoon so that the chickens could have a dust bath. But today was the first time I actually started shaking my own head, right after catching myself thinking, “Boy, I wish the pet store delivered crickets.” Of course, that didn’t stop me from then driving to the pet store and bringing home three juicy crickets for Gertrude. I figured with the weather as cold as it is outside, she’s not going to find any bugs no matter how balmy and warm it is inside the greenhouse. She’s been in there for about a week, and I couldn’t stand the thought of her slowing starving to death. Thus, the drive to the pet store. At first, the employee thought I meant three dozen crickets, because apparently no one asks for just three at a time. Feeling the need to clarify (lest she think I was some sort of crazy cricket lady), I explained why I needed them. After failing to suppress her visible shuddering, the employee simply said, “Oh. Huh.” She didn’t even charge me for them!Crickets in hand, I happily drove home and flung them one at a time onto her web. It took her less than 30 minutes to wrap them up and start munching away. I feel good about doing my part to make the world a better place for one hungry spider.

It’s spring in my greenhouse!

IMG_6521I’m happy to report that thanks to Abigail, we now have two shower options in our house again. I was explaining how I had spent the afternoon playing musical chairs with the broody hens, their hatched chicks, and their clutches of eggs. (We’re up to four broodies now.) When I got to the part about putting the two incubator-hatched chicks in the master bathroom shower (long story, but trust me, a necessary move), she had the brilliant idea of shoving the chicks underneath the garage broody. It totally worked, since the chicks were just one day old, and the garage broody’s eggs were hatching. Gene lifted broody mama up, and while he was avoiding her angry screeching beak, I stuck the two little chicks under her and she adopted them right away.

IMG_6513Now that all the broodies are comfortably situated, I can turn my attention to January’s most important endeavor – this year’s seed order. I’m totally in the spring, seed-planting state of mind, especially since it might be 25 degrees outside, but my greenhouse is warm and downright tropical. I even have oranges!


Gertrude, readers. Readers, Gertrude.

And perhaps even more impressive than citrus fruits in January, I have a resident greenhouse spider. In my typical highly observant, nothing-gets-by-me way, I discovered Gertrude only after Gene asked me if I realized my head was two inches away from her. When I was done screaming, he asked me if I wanted him to send her to the big web in the sky, but I decided she could stay where she was. Not even my spider aversion can make me cruel enough to throw her outside in this weather, plus you have to admire her ability to find this kind of primo real estate during the frigid weather. Now I just have to figure out how to find her juicy bugs when it’s all frozen outside. Maybe I’ll borrow a few of the crickets that Abigail feeds to her pet frogs.

But back to my seeds. I got one of my favorite nursery catalogs in the mail yesterday, and I spent most of the afternoon prowling through it. I’ve decided my theme this year is “exotic”. I ordered a baby papaya tree, a citrus tree that has oranges, lemons, limes AND tangerines, all on the same tree (Frankenfruits!!!), and some Luffa sponge seeds. I’m particularly excited about the Luffa plant – when the fruit is ripe, you can remove the outer rind, and the inside turns into a sponge! According to the catalog, the sponge is acceptable for use on dishes, in the shower, and on your car. Probably not the same sponge for all three things, though. I ordered two packets, telling Gene if the apocalypse ever comes, we’ll be properly exfoliated and have shiny cars.

radish copy

check out their catalog!

As excited as I am about the prospect of growing my own sponges, I’m even more excited about the Giant Sakurajima radish seeds I found. The catalog states, and I quote, “If you want a radish the size of a watermelon, plant this one.” Who wouldn’t want a watermelon sized radish???? Sigh. Gene, apparently. He was less than thrilled when I woke him up to describe my 15-pound radish find in detail. He wanted to know why I would plant a freakishly huge variety of vegetable that 99% of the population hates. Bess Bess, at least, was excited about it. She said I would have to throw a party for the express purpose of serving it. I mentioned that to Gene, but he remains firmly in the “15-pound waste of space” camp. In an effort to prove him wrong, I present to you my list of 10 Things You Can Do With a 15-Pound Radish:

  1. Hollow it out, fill it with ranch dressing, and serve it with veggies on a specially reinforced relish tray at a garden party.
  2. When the above garden party is finished, rinse it out and use it for an edible house for little Cinnabun.
  3. Carve it into a rad’o’lantern.
  4. Eat it every day for lunch on a salad, for like a year.
  5. Cut it into wedges and pass it off as watermelon.
  6. Carve it into little shot glasses and serve gazpacho in it (they totally did that on Top Chef, just using one radish per glass)
  7. Carry it around the produce section of Safeway, snobbily asking people why they would buy insignificant, puny radishes when you can grow monsters for free (or, at least, for $2.50 a seed packet).
  8. Make it into a trendy, biodegradable flower pot. (No stealing that idea, Martha Stewart. I know you read this and I thought of it first).
  9. Join a garden club, with the sole intent of bragging about your huge radishes. Make them look at all the pictures you carry in your wallet.
  10. Grow a bunch, sell them at a Farmer’s Market, and casually mention to all the customers that you live near the Hanford reactor. (For added credibility, also sell the Serpent Armenian Cucumbers that were featured on the same page – “They grow 4 feet long and coil into realistic snake-like shapes”. I love that catalog.)

I’m sure Gene will now agree that I should plant all of the two packets I ordered. I also need to remember to tell him he’s got to find a new place to park the truck, because I also ordered seeds for pumpkins that grow to weigh a ton!

Why limit ourselves to farming outside?

IMG_6468We don’t tend to get a lot of visitors out here on the farm, so I like to have a little fun with anyone willing to venture this far out by completely failing to describe the inside of our house to them. Ferret in the breakfast nook? Check, unless he’s sleeping in the guest bedroom. Chickens in the shower stall? Double check (there’s two). Ducks in the guest bathroom? Double check again (although that was only temporary — you can’t expect them to rehabilitate outside, that would be crazy).

Even though everything I’ve read says hens usually only go broody in the spring, I’ve IMG_6470got three of them actively sitting on clutches of eggs. Since Broody Mama is still raising her two chicks in the brooding box in the garage, and the weather is too wet and cold to put them outside yet, I found myself completely out of suitable residential space when two eggs hatched a week early in the incubator. Since chicken eggs aren’t really capable of hatching prematurely, apparently I brought the wrong set of eggs inside when the second broody mama’s clutch got too large. The IMG_6473sound of furious cheeping from the incubator was a complete surprise this morning. Not being known for my ability to plan ahead, I had to scramble to come up with some housing options. At first, I set up a brooding cubby inside the brooding box in the garage, but upon hearing the baby chicks, Broody Mama wigged out. With her feathers bristling, she went from zero to kill mode in like 15 seconds. Since the old shed is occupied by two other broodies sitting on eggs, I had to go with Plan C, which involves the master bathroom shower stall. At this point, I’m actually glad I had to retire from law enforcement, because keeping the house clean enough to avoid calls from the producers of Animal Hoarders is a full-time job in and of itself.

The icy season is upon us…..

IMG_6444One of the things I detest most about January (and that particular list is LONG) is spending an hour every morning chipping ice out of all the waterers. Even worse is realizing that my hose has become an ice snake because I forgot to unhook and cover the hose spigot with the little insulated spigot snuggie. Tonight I had to refill the duck ponds bucket by bucket. Lovely. The critters don’t seem to mind the weather overly much; they complain a lot less than their mama does. Ursula, who resembles a furry barrel, doesn’t seem to like the cold either. Much to the annoyance of the other goats, she seems to have claimed the master bedroom as her own. She only comes out if the sun is shining or there’s a snack to be had.

Harvey, on the other hand, loves to frolic andIMG_6430 romp across the frozen grass. On the plus side, the freezing weather cuts back on the length of Harvey’s benders; he’s always home by dark now. He’s a particularly content bunny right now, because he and Cinnabun got a Costco sized box of Wheat Thins for Christmas.

Raphael also made out like a bandit this Christmas; he got a bag of ferret treats and a brand new cozy tunnel to sleep in. He didn’t seem to like the plain old boring raphaelhammock that came with his ferret condo, so naturally I felt the need to replace it with furniture more to his liking. For his playroom, Gene bought him two lengths of collapsible vinyl dryer duct. He loves rampaging through the new tunnels, chasing his brightly colored ping-pong balls. I don’t think he misses his life on the streets one bit.

Hello 2013…..and Ursula!

IMG_6404The first day of 2013 dawned like most of my days…. morning chores, followed by a nap, followed by a brief prowl through Craigslist to see what was on offer (I haven’t given up on my tortoise dream, much to Gene’s annoyance.) I found something almost as cool as a giant reptile, though – a goat in need of a new home! Her story is a sad one – she is six years old, and her mama (age 10), died last night. Since she’s never been alone, her owner said she’d been crying in her stall all day. Not even Gene could say no to that one, so fifteen minutes after talking to her owner on the phone we were on our way to Port Orchard with a kennel in the back.

saying hiSince she didn’t have a name yet, and because she’s on the north side of tubby, we deemed her Ursula – the first name that popped into my head when I pondered the perfect name for a fat goat. She rode the whole way home without complaint, and had a grand time exploring her new digs. The other critters, particularly Shy Shy, were absolutely fascinated by her, and followed her everywhere as she toured the facilities. She spent the most time checking out the cabana and the breakfast nook, and opted to nap in the little cabin overlooking the duck pond. She only briefly glanced at the gym equipment. I will post some better pictures of her tomorrow; we barely got home before dark, and I didn’t want to chase her around with my camera. She’ll get used to that soon enough.

Goodbye 2012!

As a general rule, I’m not known for being overly introspective, particularly at the end of the year. My resolutions tend to fall along the lines of doing a better job of communicating to other drivers exactly how much they’re annoying me, and things of that nature. Gene finally said I’m not allowed to make resolutions anymore, because they don’t make the world a better place. That being said, every New Year’s Eve, it’s become my tradition to put aside my drink (for the moment), and reflect back on what I’ve learned that year as a Hobby Farmer. (Note the use of caps, because now that it’s my full-time job I felt I needed a title).

Charlie10) There is no such thing as species-specific toys.

9) No matter how tall your muck boots are, water, mud and worse can always find a way inside.

8) Just because they rave about it on Top Chef doesn’t mean it tastes good. Jerusalem Artichokes, I’m looking at you.

7) If I dream it up, Gene can build it.

Chupi 2IMG_6402

6) Naps. There’s always a good reason to take one.

5) If you grow it, you can can it.

4) Training a bunny to come when you call is easy if you’re holding a Wheat Thin.

3) There’s always room for more chickens, and to squeeze in a rescue ferret.

2) You can never order too many seeds.

1) Every wood stove installation should automatically include a fat cat to bask in the heat.