Two days and counting!

IMG_6950In addition to planting time, harvesting time, and canning time, March is my favorite time of the year because that’s when all the feed stores start getting in their chicks. Most of them already have their brooders set up and ready to go, just waiting to be populated by cheeping balls of fuzz. On March 1st I can pick up my first of four batches of chicks! In preparation for the new wave, I evicted garage broody mama and relocated greenhouse broody mama to the garage brooding box. Garage broody mama is happily teaching her chicks to hunt bugs and other tasty treats in the grass, while the new garage broody mama is supremely annoyed to find herself outside of her tropical environment. I had to move her, though, because she and her chick were jumping up in to the pots and scratching up all the avocado tree roots. She only has to put up with the garage for another day though, because come March, she’s going to theIMG_6975 shed with the other broody mama. I figured the shed is the best bet, because there’s a door to separate the two mamas. The coop already has four broodies in residence, one in each of the nesting boxes that Gene built. I’ve taken to calling it the Broody Cube, since it’s basically a box of broodies now. Since more chicks is the last thing we need right now, I went and bought fake eggs at Wilco. It seems kind of mean, but it keeps the broodies occupied and happy, even though they’re incubating a piece of wood. With my luck, they’ll figure out a way to make it hatch.

IMG_6954Speaking of hatching, Daisy Mae looks like she’s ready to pop. Since her previous owner couldn’t remember exactly when in September she’d gotten her “play date”, we figure she’s due any day now. I think it will be sooner rather than later, because she just started walking with a pregnant waddle. Thanks to Buttercup and Ariel, I know exactly what to look for, and once I see the telltale signs we will confine her to the alpaca cabana so she has a nice clean and dry nursery for her little one. I really hope it’s a girl, since boy goats are stinky and eventually go live the happy bachelor life at Abigail’s.

Not only will spring bring a baby goat, but it will also mark the time when Harvey and Cinnabun will be allowed to snuggle all they want. Harvey can’t wait, because he gets grumpy on the rainy days when I have to lock him inharvey his area in order to let Cinnabun get a chance to roam. At four months, she’s almost as big as he is at two years, so she’s going to be a bunny of significant size. She can mow through a bag of salad, a whole carrot, and half an apple at an impressive rate, and that’s not even counting her growing addiction to Wheat Thins. They spend each night cuddled up together, with a thin wall of chicken wire separating them. I’ve noticed that Harvey no longer goes on his all-night benders; he comes hopping happily home at dusk as I’m dispensing the evening meal. He takes great delight in rampaging right through the flock of chickens gathered in front of the coop for their evening ration of scratch, sending them flapping and squawking in all directions.

IMG_6979In garden news, once again I got screwed by the weather – the very morning after I put the shallots into the ground, I woke up to see frost on the ground and ice in the waterers. I planted the carrot and radish seeds outdoors according to my Farmer’s Almanac schedule, but nothing has sprouted yet. My indoor and greenhouse seeds are faring much better – my 15 pound radish seeds are now thriving seedlings, and my tomato and pepper plants are quite happy. This week I’m also starting my cucumber, melon, and pumpkin seeds, so Gene is running out of time to figure out where our one-ton monster pumpkin is going to live.

You should pay me, cuz I got your back

IMG_6855Today started out as most days do; I got up with the sun to feed hungry critters and unleash the chickens and ducks upon the backyard. As I was filling feeders and dispensing morning pets, my chores were disturbed by a loud racket coming from the vicinity of the heat pump. (I had to ask Gene what it’s called, since I usually refer to it as the big ugly box with the fan that runs the AC). Since we’d paid it off mere months ago, I figured now was the time it would decide to break down in some spectacular and expensive fashion, so I called out a service tech. Of course, the noise stopped once the tech got here, and no matter what he did he couldn’t convince the machine to make the noise again. He kept asking all sorts of pesky questions, like “What exactly did it sound like?” to which I would reply, “It sounded like the exact opposite of how it sounds right now.” It was really difficult to concentrate on what he was saying, because out of the corner of my eye I could see Sean Paul repeatedly trying to ambush him. I ended up having to stand out there for two hours, lest the poor tech be on the receiving end of some rooster beat down. I didn’t want to alarm the guy by warning him about the attack rooster, since he would either decide to leave before fixing the problem or start to draft his chicken-injury lawsuit in his head. I just hovered in the background while he worked, discretely tossing oats and other delicious snacks in Sean Paul’s general direction to keep him distracted. I’m pretty sure the service tech made a note in my file that I’m nuts.

Sean Paul has been an absolute beast lately. He, King Julian, and Rutger are still IMG_6860having their battle for alpha status, and to make matters worse, the chick with the back injury has also grown into a rooster. Sinbad found his crow two days ago, and it is the worst crow ever. It sounds like what would emit from a backed up garbage disposal. The first time I heard him do it, I ran over to him because I thought he was about to hack up a furball. Anyway, with so much rooster testosterone dousing the backyard, Sean Paul has been a bit on the grumpy side. I was quite proud of myself yesterday when I bent over to scoop out the last of the cracked grain for their morning snack, and he launched himself at my face. I calmly lifted the garbage can lin I was holding and wielded it gladiator style, knocking him right out of the air. I was proud of myself right up to the point when I started dancing around him to celebrate my dominance and he attached himself to my leg.

Spring crazies for all

eatingAll the brief sunshine breaks we’ve been having this week are more than enough to make the goats go absolutely nuts with the spring crazies. When I came home today, I saw them romping all over the tire toys, chasing each other and jumping straight up in the air. Then I noticed they’d also managed to knock over a water bucket and their hay feeder. Daisy has made friends with everyone, particularly Shy, and the two of them spend most evenings cuddling and watching the rain fall from underneath their porch. Daisy has also proven herself to be an enormous treat hog; she can ram her herd buddies away from the trough like you wouldn’t believe. It looks she’s bowling for goats and celebrating her strikes. She can even send Ursula flying, who’s built like a fierce little bulldog. I let her get away with a lot since she’s pregnant and needs treats for two, but after having the baby she’s going to need to learn some manners.

Speaking of manners and not having any, my continuing power strugsean pau;gle with Sean Paul has amped up. Unfortunately, so far he’s proving he wears the pants in our relationship. Maybe he feels the need to assert himself in front of his son, Rutger, now that Rutger has started trying to amass a harem of his own. Whatever the reason, I find myself having to actively hide behind King Julian. That’s the only time Sean Paul won’t try to climb up my legs the instant my back is turned. He’s sneaky, too. He’ll try to slink up behind me with his best, “I’m not doing anything suspicious, nope, not at all” look, and I’ll whip around in time to find him crouched down preparing to launch. I’ve completely gotten over the embarrassment of finding myself engaged in long conversations with him, because he cocks his head to the side like he’s actually listening to me. Or calculating his trajectory, one of the two. Usually I tell him that I’m going to start playing my favorite game called Boot Da Rooster. Most of our chats end with me walking backwards at a frantic pace, trying to spot where King Julian is so that he can partake in his favorite game of Knock Sean Paul Outta the Air.

broody mamaI’m hoping that we get all hens out of our latest crop of chicks. I don’t think I can deal with any more roosters. So far all the Broody Mamas are doing great raising chicks in their respective lairs, although I think the greenhouse Broody Mama has it best. Parking her cubby in the greenhouse was the best I could do on short notice, since the garage broody and the coop broody are really aggressive. The hen in the greenhouse is pretty passive, and I didn’t want any of the other chickens to kill her chick, thus the tropical environment she currently finds herself in. I’m going to have to serve the garage broody with her eviction papers at the end of the month, since she’s been in there for a long time. And because I found out you can reserve chicks the last time I went to Wilco. Naturally my name pops up all over their inventory lists now. I’m particularly excited because they’re getting in Frizzles! I’ve been looking for frizzled chickens for about three years, so I can’t wait. The name refers to the fact that their feathers are corkscrewed instead of straight, so it basically looks like they pecked at a power outlet. It’s not a breed, it’s a genetic mutation, so any type of chicken can be frizzled. Think of the photo ops!

Now I need some cookies to go with my milk…

daisyA few scant days ago, I was watching a cooking show and wishing I had my own fresh cheese to use. Now, thanks to Abigail’s craigslist addiction, we have a milking goat! Gene didn’t even bat an eye when I told him we needed to add a milker to our collection, he just sighed and asked when and where. We trekked out to Bainbridge Island yesterday, and came home with Daisy! Her owner said she was bred in late September, so if she’s pregnant she should kid at the end of the month, and then I can start my cheese project!

Daisy 2Daisy fit right in with a minimum of fuss; Shy was the first to officially greet her with a nose bump, then she toured the facilities. She particularly likes climbing on the deadfall in the back of the pasture. Oddly enough, the only one to start a headbutting war with her was Ursula. I think that’s because Daisy tried to nap in Ursula’s favorite stall corner, though.

Daisy wasn’t the only introducing herself this week, though. After walking outside and seeing Harvey cavorting by the rose garden, I figured it was a good time to clean out little Cinnabun’s room in the Bunny Ranch. Actually, I shouldn’t call her little any more – she’s catching up with Harvey remarkably quickly. I distracted her with an apple treat, then mucked out her area. I turned my back for less than a minute to grab the pine shavings, and I heard an harvey flockobnoxious cry of “Heeeeeey, baby!” I turned around just in time to see Harvey, who had appeared out of thin air, jump up into her room and introduce himself in a most socially unacceptable way. Granted I’m not the most observant tool in the shed (in fact, when I tell most people I used to be a detective, they think I’m telling a joke) but I can’t believe a 40-pound bunny snuck up on me like that. I also can’t believe he can heave his bulk three feet straight up in the air. Apparently all those Wheat Thins gave him super powers. He was mightily disgruntled when I interrupted his fun, but he’s got to wait another two months at least before Cinnabun’s old enough to date. And he’s got to buy her dinner first.

Screw the weather, I’m starting early

IMG_6605Beginning in January, I check our PO box religiously, every morning, hoping to find my mail order seed packets. Today I totally scored – my one-ton pumpkin and 15-lb radish seeds came! I won’t be able to start the pumpkin seeds until closer to May, since they love heat, but I’m going to throw a couple radish seeds in the greenhouse and see what happens. I’m secretly hoping it will get so big I’ll have to ask Gene to take the greenhouse doors off just to get it outside. I also started my first round of seedlings two days ago, so now at night it looks like we have a grow op in our driveway. I love this time of year.

I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect of growing car-sized pumpkins this year. The seed packet (containing a scant five seeds, because what could a mere mortal do with 5,000 pounds of pumpkin?) came with – no exaggeration – a full two pages worth of growing instructions. The flyer was packed full of practical advice, including the admonishment to not grow your pumpkin within sight of the street, for fear somebody might steal it from you. To quote the company, “Unless you are prepared to sit and guard your pumpkin all night, it might be advisable to not have your plant visible from the street.” They also suggested growing the pumpkin in a location that’s accessible by pickup truck, so you can move it later. How cool is that? Between the pumpkin, the huge radishes, and the grow-your-own-sponges, this is shaping up to be the best year ever.

I was a little bit nervous going into the greenhouse to put the seed tray underneath the IMG_5233grow light, because I haven’t seen Gertrude for a few days. Abigail’s theory is she’s lurking in the corner somewhere, sitting on a gigantic, pulsating egg sac. I’m hoping she’s just taking advantage of the nice weather and hunting outside. It’s also possible that my resident greenhouse frog ate her for dinner. It seems like she left in a hurry, since there’s a wrapped up cricket still stuck in her web. Now I’m wondering if I should be worried about finding other spiders to bring into the greenhouse so that the frog doesn’t starve. I think I’ve created a never-ending loop of catered snacks.