Friday, January 27, 2017

The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night...

It is finally looking like winter around here.  We had sleet and then snow last night - less than an inch, but shoveling it was quite a workout this morning.  I did half of it before taking the girls to school this morning, and finished up on my return.

When I went into the chicken house after shoveling, all the chickens were still inside, which is a bit unusual.  I discovered the reason when I went out into the yard.  There was a carcass of one of my hens, tangled in the electric netting.  This one was destroyed much more violently and thoroughly than the ones killed by hawks in the past.  My dad came over as I was cleaning up, and asked if all the chickens were ok, as my mom saw a fox leaving our place this morning.

As we stood there talking, a hen came out from under Old Bessie, where she apparently spent the night.  I counted, and we seem to be missing one more, but I couldn't find any more remains.

After walking the fence to look for holes or low spots, we realized that it was not electrified.  After much trial and error, we narrowed the issue down to the box supplying the electricity.  I made a trip into town to the Tractor Supply Company to purchase a new one.

I chose one with a few more joules of power than the last one, whatever that means.  It had a pictorial guide on the back regarding which animals it is appropriate to use for: 

It looks like I'm good with chickens, rabbits, dogs, goats, pigs, cows and horses, but I'm out of luck with bulls, elk, and...what is that?  A fox?  I'm not sure.


We plan to get the fence up and running again before dusk, and will close the chickens up for the night.  Hopefully we won't lose any more of our hens!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It Happened Again

I had another birthday over the weekend.  I can't seem to refrain from having one annually!  This time, one of my favorite presents was the fact that my good friend from college drove up from VA to visit!  We had a lot of fun and stayed up way too late...just like in the good old days.

L baked me a carrot cake, and made cream cheese icing pretty much on her own.  She did a great job - it was delicious!

It was lovely and Spring like again today (we get a day like this here and there between the rain showers, apparently we are not going to have much of a winter this year.)  I spent several hours shoveling out the chicken house, putting more leaves on the garden beds, and shoveling out the culverts on our driveway before the next round of rain storms.

Tonight, my back and elbow are feeling the effects of being middle aged and spending several hours shoveling things.


After checking all of the roosting hens with a flashlight this evening, and getting pecked & pooped on, it appears that I have marked all of them with color coded leg bands.  We will probably have a butchering/canning day here soon.  Survival of the fittest, baby.

I'm off to find some Advil and a heating pad.  Nighty night!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Just a Trim, Please

It was so nice outside this morning, that despite all the things I SHOULD do, I went outside and puttered a bit in my flower beds.  There were a few plants that I neglected to dead head, as they were hiding past my weeping cherry tree.  And speaking of the weeping cherries, JP has been after me to trim them rather aggressively.  I have been dragging my feet because I like the way they look with their long, graceful branches trailing on the ground.  Nevertheless, I wielded the loppers and gave them quite a trim this morning.  In the process, I discovered 4 Praying Mantis cocoons on one of the trees.

I find these things quite marvelous, and I usually find a couple when I am clearing for the winter.  I actually found one on the asparagus that I cut down, and tucked it into the oregano for the winter...hope it's ok!

I'll try to remember to watch for hatching mantis-lets in the Spring and keep you posted!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Good News & Bad News

I am sitting in front of the computer with a ginormous mug of tea.  This is, in fact, part of the good news - it has been a very busy day so far, including a meeting with the Administration of the Hospital before work.  I have a few minutes now that I have collected J from the bus stop & fixed her a mango lassi before I need to fetch L from Basketball practice.

On arrival home from work, I noted 3 men standing around our cistern manhole.  It seems that since the Well Driller has been unable to drill, he has temporarily replaced the pump in our current well (that has always recovered and produced adequately during the winter), so we are once again on line with Poplar Ridge water!  (And just in time was my turn to haul water this week!)

The first thing that I did when I came inside was flush the toilets.  Although we will lighten the water rationing, I don't think we will abandon our conservation altogether.  In fact, when I told JP and J the news, JP said that he wants to continue collecting the shower water (we run it into a bucket until it is warm enough to stand under, and then use that water to flush toilets), and J said that she will probably never take a "regular" shower again.  (And then she burst into song, singing "You've made a Mennonite out of me!"  to a "Mulan" tune.)

Unfortunately, when I took Stella outside after all of the well water excitement, I noted a dead hen in the chicken yard.  Over the past 3 months, I have been systematically checking the hens as we have some very poor layers right now.  I have put one hen at a time into solitary confinement (it's actually quite cozy, with nest boxes, roosts and her own food & water - just no outside access for a couple of days) in the other side of the chicken house for up to 4 days.  If she lays 3 or more eggs in that time, I band her right leg with a white band, 2 or less gets a black band, and 2 and/or soft/ugly eggs gets a blue band.  This one had a black band, which means that she would be one of the half dozen that we planned to butcher and eat yet this winter.  I've actually noticed a hen acting strangely - sitting in unusual places - for the past couple of days, so I'm assuming this was the same one, and I'd rather not eat her if she was sick anyway!  We will be getting new peeps in the Spring, and the rest of our old hens will "retire" to our freezer by next Fall regardless.  It may seem cruel, but it's our way of being self sufficient, and these ladies (although I find them delightful to watch) are by no means pets.

My neck wound is healing up very nicely.  I have gotten tired of wearing scarves when I am out in public, and both my patients and the general public have been kind enough not to comment on my uncovered neck.  I am still unable to sing, which is a bit frustrating.  I sound like an old hound dog if I try to sing along to Pandora or the radio, so what used to be fun is now kinda embarrassing.  I think it will improve with time, but I'm not known for my abundant patience.

I don't know if I mentioned that our cooktop died right before Christmas?  This one was just a month older than 2 years.  JP ordered a new one right away, and that arrived just a couple of days later.  Dad helped us figure out that the last 2 cooktops were wired wrong.  That may partially explain why we've already gone through 2 in 9 years!  Our past induction cooktops have been fabulous and one thing we really liked about them was the rapid heating.  This one however, is taking close to 8 minutes to boil a quart of water, when we were used to 2 1/2 minutes in the past.  I'm not sure what the issue is, but it's a little disappointing - maybe not bad news, just "meh."

We still have no gas in the house.  Luckily we are able to do without for the time being.  We are not using the furnace, as the outdoor wood burner is supplying all the heat we need.  There are 2 gas burners in the kitchen for "emergencies", but we haven't had any lack of electricity emergencies lately (knock on wood!)  The water heater is also fueled by gas, but we have a back up system that is electric.  It seems that the gas people will be out in the near future to replace the regulator, so this should also soon be a problem of the past.

And the final bad news is that I have effectively squandered my "free time", and I must close and head out after L.  Here's wishing you a January that is not bleak, and filled mostly with good news!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Playing With Fire

Yesterday I finally had time to clean the house.  When I tried to fill a bucket with hot water to mop the floors, there was none to be had.  I narrowed down the issue to lack of gas getting into the house through the regulator outside.   We have discovered in the past that it is located too close to the downspout at the corner of the house, so if we have lots of rain, where the gutters run over or the downspout splashes up  (which happened Wednesday) and then cold (down to the teens Thursday night) it freezes and blocks the incoming gas.  Sigh.

I heated water on the stove and poured it over the regulator, and checked that it was unfrozen by testing the gas burners in the kitchen (we use them just for emergencies, or the pressure canner - which doesn't work on the induction range).  Things looked hunky-dory, so I turned off the gas to the water heater, waited the requisite 10 minutes, then lit the pilot light.  After a couple of minutes, I smelled hot/melted plastic, and all of the smoke alarms in the house went off at once.

This completely freaked me out, so I turned off the gas again and had a small-ish meltdown.

I had another slightly larger one once I determined that my house was not on fire and the smoke alarms finally went off.  This issue, which will likely require us to hire someone to replace the regulator, and possibly the water heater, is just another one of the things like the drilling rig sitting in my yard for weeks on end that is slowly killing my soul.

I'm no longer sure that I love living here, or that I never want to leave.  I often feel isolated and overwhelmed, neither of which are warm fuzzies.  Not to mention that January has arrived, with its dark, cold, gray days.  Maybe when the sun shines, and the green returns I'll feel differently?

There are good things going on too, or I would be in a permanent fetal position in the back of a closet somewhere.  Things like my youngest falling in love with Basketball.  She had her first game bright and early this AM, and although her team lost, JP said she was hustling up and down the court.  And just look at her jump!

Lawn Ornaments

Some people put plastic flamingos in their yards...