When I get late night calls from Gene at work, it means one of two things – he’s stuck on a bad call and will be home late, or he’s found something really cool to bring home to me. Last time it was Raphael, the rescued ferret. This time, Gene called to tell me he’d found an abandoned fledgling robin while patrolling a parking garage. After waiting a few hours to make sure the parents weren’t around (unlikely since the baby was way in the back of the garage), and noticing that it seemed to be in quite the state of distress, he fixed it up a nice comfy box, gave it some water, and brought it home to mama, so to speak. He initially tried setting it outside and waiting to see what would happen, but the baby completely freaked out and basically rang the dinner bell for all the feral cats and rats (the two being roughly the same size in that lovely city), so he decided it needed intervention.
I greeted little Lobato this morning at 4:30, since I figured the wee critter needed some breakfast. I considered my options, and decided to go with raspberries, both for the high water content, and because I’m forever chasing robins out of our raspberry patch. She yummed them right up, then I tucked her back in her box. Then I outfitted the small brooding box with shavings and a heat lamp, plus I arranged some big pieces of bark and ferns so she would have a little area to hide. Next on the list was figuring out what else to feed her, in addition to the berries. Since I’m far to refined to regurgitate food, no matter what the circumstances, I considered calling my sister Bess Bess to come for an emergency visit. If anyone can make dinner taste like yak, it’s her. But then I decided to hunt worms instead. Finding one small enough was actually fairly difficult, especially considering the torrential rain we got this morning. I was turning over pots, rocks, tarps, and every other disgusting place I could think of until I finally found the perfect squirmer. It took a while, and lots of shuddering on my part, but she finally ate the whole thing! The worst part by far was when she took a chomp and I was left trying to hold on to half a warm, but I persevered. Luckily, she’s pretty close to being able to get out on her own, so once her strength comes back we’ll let her free.
For the last several months, I’ve been puzzling over what could be wrong with my shallots. I planted two beds worth in the fall, which I’ve done for several years. Last spring’s crop was stunning – dark green tops standing straight up, with a profusion of golden bulbs popping out of the dirt. This year, not so much. They look flattened, and somewhat miserable. I did everything I could think of – I mulched, I un-mulched, I altered the amount of water they were getting, I took a look at the soil, but nothing worked – the more I worried, the flatter they got. Today, while I was pruning tomatoes, I finally figured it out. Shallots and 86-pounds of napping German Shepherd don’t go well together.
Ceri wasn’t the only beast out crushing plants in her free time – Cinnabun decided she needed a break from the kids. I found her relaxing in my mint bed, atop no less than three different types of mints I dry and use for tea. Apparently she got fed up after being locked in with her eight little ones for so long, so she put her thunderous paws up against the door and shoved with all the might a cooped-up new mama can summon. After spotting her in the garden, I went in the Bunny Ranch, and sure enough, her cage doors were blown wide open. At least the little ones stayed inside. By the time I got back to her, she’d moved over to lounge in Harvey’s favorite sunny spot, right next to Harvey. I’m fairly certain we’re going to have more bunnies in about 28 days. Sigh.
In drama-free news, the 8 Pekin ducks made the transition from the garage brooding facility to the Duck Mansion. They are loving their new freedom, as they have full range of the pasture and yard, but they adore the deep pond even more. I know ducks love water, but these ducks LOVE water. Six hours they spent zooming around the pond, splashing and hooting and hollering. I was amazed to see them finally exploring the grass and daisy patches this afternoon. I was worried they’d forgotten how to walk.
Granted, I’m the last person on the planet who should get on anyone else about eating too much, but seriously. Every time I take a look around the backyard, something is disappearing into something’s face. I’ve been bemoaning the depletion of my beautiful rose and bulb garden all year, placing all the blame squarely on poor Woolimina. Mostly because the sheep shearer pointed out there was a whole lot more sheep to shear this year, so I figure she’s stuffed full of gladiolas and Mexican day lilies. Today I learned I’ve been blaming the wrong fat critter – it was Harvey who put the beat down on the only spot of decorative landscaping I have. And now it’s hard to tell where the lilies even were. Sigh.
Harvey’s not the only hungry bunny on the farm, though, the babies are giving him a run for his money. They can make an entire head of lettuce disappear in under five minutes. They come stampeding out of the corners when they realize it’s me, and hop up and down until I put whatever succulent morsel I’ve brought them down. No wonder they’re getting so big so quick.
Despite the beautiful weather and lovely temperatures, perfect for foraging, chasing bugs, and hitting the pool, Dimsworth has officially let himself go. Instead of working to impress the ladies like Hawthorne, he sits in his favorite spot, remote in one hand, beer in the other, and demands to know when his recliner will be delivered. I get that molting in such a spectacularly atrocious fashion is hard on his self esteem, but still. He’s such a pretty turkey on the inside, and he has a good sense of humor.
The ducklings are the exact opposite of Dimsworth. They’re so happy and excited to be alive they act like little wind up toys, running around their play area, doing laps in the pool, and chasing butterflies and bees. Every once in awhile they fall over and take a power nap, usually in a big fluffy pile. Since pools were on sale at the hardware store, I bought one that’s big enough for all of them. As Gene pointed out, there’s room for them and both of us, it’s that big. He was worried it was too big for the ducklings to get in and out of, so I swapped the new one for one of the old, smaller ones that’s in the pasture. The ducklings are ecstatic, and spent hours swimming happily.
I’m not sure if it’s because it’s spring, or if I just have exceptionally broody chickens, but I have four of them actively trying to set on nests right now. I don’t mind one or two broody mamas, especially the ones I know are good ones (not every hen was meant to raise chicks!) but I certainly don’t need four at once. There’s nothing sadder in this world than a broody mama with no eggs, and I ran out of fake ones to placate them with. Since I’ve never witnessed Jimmy and Luigi having any quality time, I figured I’d just stuff guinea eggs underneath them. Since the shells are so tough, I wasn’t worried about the egg exploding if it sat there too long. Plus, they have a distinctive shape, so I don’t have to worry about mixing up a bad egg with all the fresh ones. As I was harvesting eggs yesterday, I was startled to find an actual hatched guinea chick!!! Since they’re tiny and fragile, I put that broody mama in the garage facility with her baby, and booted out all the 2 month old chicks. Everybody is happy, especially the teenage chicks. They love being outside in the fresh air with bugs and worms to chase.
They aren’t the only ones loving the outdoor life – the 8 Pekin ducks now protest mightily when I bring them in at night. I’ve had to increase the shuttle service from the brooding box to the outdoor spa area to 16 trips a day, since the ducklings are now so big I can only hold one at a time. They don’t mind the morning trip, but they fuss and huff when it’s bedtime. It’s hard not to laugh at their protests, since the sounds they make are now halfway between a baby cheep and a full-on complaining quack. In the mornings, they spread their wings like they’re flying as I carry them football-style to the pool. Occasionally, if the shuttle service isn’t fast enough to suit them, they’ll follow me into the garage.
Today was a little tumultuous here at the farm; I decided it was high time to rehome some roosters. My decision to cut their numbers coincided nicely with finding someone willing to buy them. Actually, Abigail found him, and I cashed in. She was also nice enough to come down and help me with the rooster rodeo, because no one was particularly happy about being stuffed into a crate. As hard as it is to part with my beautiful roosters, the hens needed a break. Now we’re down to six, and of those three are tiny. There were at least three more that I wanted to try and catch, but Abigail, much like the hens, had had enough. I pointed out that if $30 was blowing around out in the pasture, she’d be all about chasing that, but she was tuckered. At least now we have something to look forward to tomorrow!
True to his word, Gene built a custom pool for the ducklings on his first day off. Although it looked spacious at the time, they’ve almost outgrown it already! But a fine pool it is – the black liner holds in the sun’s heat, and when I fill it to the brim it looks like one of those fancy infinity pools. Even better, it’s deep enough for them to swim under water in it! On Gene’s next days off, I think I’ll request a second pool, perhaps with a bridge between the two, or a water slide!
Watching them frolic in the water has to be one of the cutest things in the world. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you see ducklings paddling to and fro, occasionally diving under then submarining an unsuspecting sibling. When it’s warm out, they will spend hours playing in the water. They’ve started to get used to the whole shuttle bus routine – when it warms up outside I take them, two by two, to the play area and drop them off. They peep and cry frantically until all eight of them are together again, then fun time commences. As it starts to cool in the evening, I bring them back to the brooding box where they warm themselves under the heat lamp. At first they panicked when I picked them up, and I had to make sure I kept track of which end was pointed where, lest my pants be decorated. They may be relatively small, but they’re capable of holding in A LOT. Now they’re old shuttle bus pros, and seem to like the journey.
If I thought Cinnabun wouldn’t pitch a fit, I would shuttle the baby bunnies out to the playground as well. She lets me pet them, but goes ballistic if I pick one up. They are starting to hop around the Bunny Ranch now, and I’ve bribed them into friendship with Wheat Thins. They also love lettuce, carrots, and pretty much anything else I feed them. I’ve had to increase Cinnabun’s treat rations, since she’s nursing eight wee ones, but now I think I’ll have double it again since they’re tiny but voracious. I really wish I had remembered to plant lettuce.
With the weather finally warming up, at least in the afternoon, the ducklings decided they needed a play pen in the backyard since it was getting so hot and stuffy in their garage brooding box. I ran some plastic mesh deer fencing between our existing fence and made a nice, sizable grassy area for them to play and lounge. I also added a feeding nook (since they eat a metric ton per duckling, per day, I swear) and a pool. When I texted the picture to Gene, who was at work, he immediately called and said that no ducklings of his were going to swim around in a litter box. Well, that’s not exactly what he said, but the upshot of the conversation was that he’s going to build me a custom pool! We have tons of scrap two by fours laying around, and an old pond liner, so he’ll be able to come up with something amazing. The ducklings whole-heartedly approve, because even though they can all fit in the litter box, there’s no room for them to actually swim.
I wish I could post an amazingly cute picture of the baby bunnies, but they still spend the bulk of their time in the nesting box. Occasionally they’ll come bounding out and grab a lettuce or a Wheat Thin snack, but they’re so fast I can’t get an in focus shot! Plus, Cinnabun has a habit of getting between the camera and her babies. She clearly doesn’t approve of my paparazzi ways. They’re about the size of a hot dog bun cut in half, and so far I’ve counted eight. One of these days I’ll get a stunning shot and share it with the world. But for now, here’s a quick picture.