chickens

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Blooming out, Rocking out and Figuring out.

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

We've had quite a weekend.  Monumental in many ways, and totally ordinary in others.  First of all, everything is just about in full bloom right  now.  The apple trees are lighting up one by one with pale pinkish-white blossoms, and are all abuzz with bees.  The pear tree is at it's pinnacle of absolute blooming beauty.  Right now.  In a day, or perhaps even today, the steady fall of petals will begin and fruit will start to appear.  She should really live it up while she's still got it.

And then there are the not fully bloomed but equally spectacular apple trees getting ready to burst into glory.

The rhubarb snuck up on on us before we expected it.  This early bird of a fruit makes a damn tasty beverage too.  It's rhubarb-onade if you haven't heard about it.  Recipe to come, after we make it!

Speaking of recipes, this here is Dandelion Soup, made by Asa and Axel.  Ingredients are: stagnant rain water, sticks, plum seeds from last season, grass, dandelions and a big rubber blue ball.

Asa the Chicken Catcher

My main man Andy had a  rock show reunion this weekend.  Humpy played on Saturday night with other Missoula vintage faves Sasshole and Spanker.  What a line up!  I haven't seen Andy rock out since the late 90's.  They did not disappoint either.  Some highlights were the oh-so-nostalgic mosh pit that formed a few songs into their set, the fact that smoking is now prohibited so you don't go home smelling like a giant cigarette butt, and drinking PBR.  I was home by 12:30, and felt great the next day.  As a thirty something mother of two, you couldn't ask for a more perfect rock show.

In Agnes related news:

She now has three eggs in her nest, and she diligently sits atop them all day.  We don't even use the front door anymore, so as not to scare her.  Though a few times by accident one of us has flung open the door only to be met with an angry Agnes.  She flies over to the fence post, looks you straight in the eye with her head cocked a bit, and unabashedly chirps you out.  Then, when you've given her sufficient space, she'll fly back to her nest, fluff her feathers and settle down onto her eggs, looking quite smug I might add.

Agnes is pretty much always on her nest, except this morning.  I noticed another, smaller, more red-breasted robin was perched on the side of her nest.  I found it curious, so watched for a minute.  I'm pretty sure this new robin is a male, because of his more red breast, so I'll call him Tom.  After a few minutes, Tom flew off, and immediately Agnes flew back into her nest and settled on top of her eggs.

I haven't done my research yet, I aim to tonight, but could it be that the male mate helps protect the nest?  I've noticed Tom hanging around in the front yard near the nest prior to this.  But this was the first time I've seen him actually baby sitting the eggs while Agnes was off shopping or whatever.  In light of this new information, I now have a total bird crush on Tom.

Do any of you have some robin nesting habit knowledge you'd like to share?

 

The Fantastic little Fox…

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Exciting day and evening here on the Homestead.  While Andy was presenting his James Welch light box to the public library folks who commissioned it. I was at home having a standoff with a fox.

I was casually heading out the door to retrieve my purse from the car and looked up into the front pasture, not more than fifty feet stood a fox and at least two if not three kits.  I was stunned.  She was stunned.  I'm assuming it was the mama (vixen), however, I just read that sometimes a fox (male) will hunt for the vixen and kits as well.  Anyway, the fox ran away a few yards and turned around to look at me.  I almost ran inside to tell the boys so they could see this little family of foxes too, but I knew they would yell and scream and scare them off.  And, honestly and maybe selfishly, I wanted this moment to myself.

Ever since my honeymoon, when Andy and I were driving to Bowman Lake (near Polebridge) on a little foresty road, and two kits tumbled out of the bushes into plain view on the side of the road, I have had a fascination with foxes.  They are mysterious, smart, fast, and always just out of reach.

Anyway, so there I was, waiting for her to make a move.  I talked to her, told her it was okay, I wasn't going to mess with her babes.  But, I warned, out loud: "You need to relocate, I won't let you hurt my chickens." She yelped/barked a few more times, as if trying to reply: "Yeah, but I need to feed my babes. You understand, right?"

And, the thing is, I would probably be willing to sacrifice one chicken on her behalf, for her kits.  But I know that if she got one, she'd take out our entire flock.

I ran inside to get my camera because the kits were starting to wrestle and I just couldn't handle it!  This is all I got, a very distant shot of one of the babes.  The mama was clearly a red fox, but the kits are this gray/black combo until they get older.

I know, it's so hard to see.  But, isn't that so right?  I think part of why I am so enamored by these little critters, is that it is nearly impossible to get a good look at them.  They have insanely good hearing, and are so fast!  Apparently they mate in January or February, and give birth end of  March/early April. Which would make this kit just a few weeks old.  The vixen usually starts to leave the den to hunt after the kits are about three weeks old.  I'm guessing this kit is somewhere around four weeks old.

So while I was trying to take a picture of these amazing little creatures, the big fox took off like lightning towards some of our chickens.  I thought she had one in her mouth, so I yelled loudly and forcefully. She stopped, looked at me, and retreated. The kits must have ducked  back down into the den pretty quickly too; I didn't see them the rest of the evening.  I did see the big fox a few times far up on the ridge, but eventually she completely disappeared.

I stayed outside and kept watch for the next hour and a half, waiting for dusk, when the chickens start waddling their way back to the coop.  The boys and I chased the last three hens into the coop at about 8:30, and I battened down all the hatches to make sure they were all as safe as can be.  As we strolled back up to the house I took some pictures of the beautiful light.

 

I felt good about saving our girls.  But, I know we are going to have to scare the fox and her kits off, if they decide to hang around.  And for that, I'm a little sad.  I wish there were some way to coexist peacefully.  Apparently foxes typically have several dens in an area, so hopefully this vixen and her kits are relocating somewhere else now.  They will have to survive on field mice and rabbits.  We will have a close watch on our chickens for the coming weeks.  Even though they aren't as cute and mysterious as the fox and her kits, they do provide us with over a dozen eggs a day.  They definitely earn their keep.

Happy Monday.

In the Ditch…

Friday, February 25th, 2011

This has been the testiest of winters EVER, for me.  We have a lovely pile-up of feathery soft snow on the Homestead.  It's beautiful.  The kind of snow  you see on an International Coffees commercial.  Perfect little flakes drifting down from the sky.  Skiers and snowboarders are PSYCHED!

I'm ready to pack my bags and head south.  If it weren't for the store, I'd probably be gone.  Not kidding.

This morning, the boys and I packed ourselves into the "new" Subaru ('94 Legacy), heading off to the store to work.  Not fifty yards from the house, the car gets stuck.  I put 'er in reverse, hoping to back up and go forwards again with more momentum.  Instead, my car just slides sideways into the ditch near the skunk culvert (site of Andy's bloody triumph over one of the smelly critters last spring).  I get stuck, really freakin' stuck.

I'm worn out on winter.  It got the best of me today. Already with the spring fantasies.  Pining away: Rick Bass in Winter says that's the worst thing you can do.  He says you can't give up on winter: If you do, you are resigning yourself to unhappiness for months.  He says if you start wishing for Spring in February, you are setting yourself up, because winter isn't going anywhere for a long time. Not around here. Not this year, anyway.

Keep trying to remind myself:  I signed up for this.  I knew it would be hard.  Buck up and be a happy person. So it goes.  I'm trying to unclench my clenched-up heart as we speak.  I love my life, dammit.

Yesterday Axel woke up wheezing away through phlegm-hindered breathing, and I held him on the couch pretty much all day, except for a few small breaks.  One of the small breaks we took was to bring compost down the garden.  Here is what we saw on the way.

Mostly chickens it turns out.  They're not giving up on winter! They have routines to give structure to their freezing days, like ambling up to the cabin at breakfast to beg for scraps. They were very entertaining this morning.  I couldn't believe that they followed us down to the garden through such deep snow!  It's funny to watch chickens waddle through deep snow.

Subarctic temperatures now.  So we made pie.  And I got the car stuck again.  Oh well.  Just another day.