Archive for the ‘critters’ Category

As you can probably guess from the picture above, I lost another hen… a friend, really. I really do get far too attached to these animals, but how can I not? They greet me every morning with a cluck (hens) or a nose bump (bunnies). They are happy to see me… or maybe it’s the food I have in my hand ;0}

Vandana was such a wonderful hen. She was always by my side when I was working in the garden, patiently waiting for a worm. She’d come to the back door and beg for sunflower seeds… I usually gave in. That’s how I knew something was wrong… she wasn’t eating the seeds. In fact, she wasn’t even leaving the coop. She was hunkered down, as if she were laying an egg. That is where she was when I left for work… and where she still was when I returned. I hoped she had gotten out into the yard while I was gone, but I had a sinking feeling that this was not the case.

The following morning she came out of the coop and followed the posse. I was relieved… but noticed she was walking a little slow and kept an unusual distance. Later in the day she was off by herself, soaking up the warmth of the sun in her dust bath. By sundown they were all huddled up in the coop. I was hopeful it was over.

The next morning she came out of the coop slowly. All three girls came to the door for sunflower seeds. They usually body-block each other to get the most seeds, but not this morning. Vandana just looked up at me, with her feathers all fluffed up. My other two hens, Loshka and Suki, were eating up all the seeds, and Vandana just sat there… dozing. THAT was not like her at all.

I had to go to work… but couldn’t stop thinking about my little Vandana… I found myself using my 15 minute break to look up her symptoms. What I found, frightened me. Everything pointed to being egg bound… which, if left untreated, can be fatal. At the very least, I needed to get her warm, so she could relax. I rushed home on my lunch break, cranked up the heat in our small bathroom and ran the shower to get it humid, and made a soft spot for Vandana. She quietly sat there and just looked at me. She had never been inside the house before… let alone in the bathroom with a shower running.  I hoped all would be okay by the time I returned from work.

When I got back from work, I could see that she had not moved… she was still all fluffed and very drowsy. Decided to try the next thing on my list… a soak in a warm bath.  I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle being in a tub full of water, let alone getting her to stay there for at least 20 minutes. Plus,  I had to get the water high enough to cover her rear… luckily I read somewhere that I could apply pressure on her tail and help her settle down into the water. She did settle right down… and then she hardly moved. She did take a couple sips of the water. I dried her and kept her in the bathroom the rest of the night. She didn’t move much.

The next morning I tried to be hopeful. I had the day off so I could keep an eye on her. It was going to be a warm day, so I decided put her back outside. She did not MOVE. And now her tail was down… she looked more like a penguin, than a chicken. She acted like she was no longer capable of walking. I picked up my poor hen and brought her back inside. This time I placed a heating pad under a towel inside a cat carrier. I wanted a dark, warm place for her. I detached the top so I could place her down into the carrier and not squeeze her through the little door. Didn’t want to cause her any more undue stress. She seemed a little off-balance… actually tried to walk out of the carrier, but ended up using her wings almost like crutches. I placed her back inside, there she settled in where she leaned into the side of the carrier and rested her head… I found a vet’s office that saw chickens. They had an opening at 3:30pm.

Getting her to the vet’s office was uneventful. When we got there, I filled out paperwork and then we waited. All I could do was watch her.  I’d stroke her head, and she would just look at me… then she would close her eyes. I kept telling her it would be over soon… and apologizing for taking so long to get her help.

The tech and then the vet came into the room. We decided to go with an x-ray… the least invasive way to see what was going on. I must confess part of me was stressing over the money (I had my own medical bills I was struggling to pay). The x-ray was going to cost me $79… and that was just the x-ray.

The x-ray showed no egg… but my little Vandana was clearly in distress. The vet thought maybe there was an infection and that she was showing signs of dehydration. The plan was to give her fluids under the skin, and send us home with antibiotics and electrolytes… with further instructions to keep her separated from the others until she was back to her normal self. While they had her in the back, giving her fluids, the dollar signs were running through my head, trying to figure out what costs I could cut elsewhere. You see, when I bring an animal into my home/heart, I promise to do all I can to keep them happy, safe, and healthy… at all costs. I chose to join their lives to mine… they are my responsibility.

So my head was already whirling when the vet walked back into the room. My first thought was that she was just updating me… but then she stepped past the table and came close to me. I remember that her hands were folded… I could see she was talking, but it took a moment to realize what she was saying… as they were treating Vandana she became extremely stressed. The vet said she threw her head back and then she was gone – just like that. I just sat there. I had no idea what to do next. She asked if I wanted to take her home to bury her, or if they should add her in with one of the other animals for cremation. I told her I could not bury another animal. I just couldn’t do it… not so soon after losing Goldie. But then the dollar signs started running through my head again… and then guilt for even worrying about such a thing when Vandana had just passed. The vet came closer and put her hand on the back of my shoulder… that seemed to set off my tears. Her touch made it real… and then, as if reading my mind, she said that there would be no charge for any of the services, seeing as she had passed while under their care.

The tech brought in the empty pet carrier… and told me she was holding Vandana when she passed… it was comforting to know that she was in a warm lap when she passed and not on a cold metal table. I carried the empty pet carrier to the car. I tossed it in the back and then just sat in my car and sobbed. Sad that I couldn’t save Vandana… that her last days with me were so miserable… and relieved that I had no vet bill, and then miserable for even thinking about money at a time like this.

It is strange to look out into my garden and only see two chickens wandering around…


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bunny update

They love taking a hold of it and flipping it in the air, hence the hay on their backs.

They are chewing on the same piece of carrot… even though there were a couple more in their bowl.


Mini Mae

They have since sexually matured… and needed to be separated. They were each trying to show dominance over the other by pulling fur and mounting each other. Had to separate them before it escalated to a full-blown fight. Still need to build them a hutch!!

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My heart goes pitter-patter whenever I see beneficials crawl and fly in my garden. It means I am doing something right. It means the soil is healthy. It means unwanted critters are being kept in check, without the use of nasty chemicals.

I want to make sure that they have a place in my garden. So I built them a bug hotel last month.

I had put building a bug hotel on my homestead bucket list. It was an idea I saw in Gardener’s World Magazine (British Edition) years ago. I’ve been adding to the ideas ever since, from NW Flower and Garden Show and Pinterest Boards… and boy, are there ideas out there. Some are clearly more decorative, rather than functional ;0}

I was hoping mine would be functional… today I saw proof that it is!

The mason bees have been busy filling in the bamboo tubes, spiders have been spinning their webs, and beetles have been staking their claim in the wood pile underneath. I will have to wait and see about the lacewings, bumblebees, and butterflies.

water for one and all

upturned clay pot with moss and straw tucked inside for bumblebees – decaying leaves, sticks and twigs for beetles – straw, bricks, rocks, clay shards for more beetles and ladybugs

rolled cardboard for lacewings – twigs for butterflies – bamboo tubes for mason bees

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I got bunnies for my birthday!!!

They were in cramped quarters for a few days… I had asked for bunnies, but didn’t really think anyone would get them for me, so didn’t have housing ready…

This is Mini Mae! She is a Chinchilla.

This is Marilla! She is a New Zealand.

This is Mini Mae and Marilla, in their new digs. They were SO happy to be in an enclosure a few times bigger than the cage. They were doing laps around the box in the center… with happy little sidekicks, here and there!

Now I need to decide on a bunny hutch, and set up a permanent home!

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As you may remember, I unexpectedly lost a hen last week. That left the remaining hen all alone… which isn’t good for a flock creature. She wasn’t alone long. A friend knew of  a hen, being “pecked” on, that needed a new home… she came with a friend ;0}

Maggie (formerly known as Natasha) is the pecked on one, at least she was. She is a black Wyandotte with grey legs. Loshka (formerly known as China) is a light Brahma with some feathers on her feet. They arrived Sunday afternoon, in a cat carrier.

At first, we kept them in the cat carrier, inside the coop, to allow them to see each other. They talked for a bit, so we thought, we would let them out and see what happens. Those of you who are familiar with chickens, know what happened next. Yep, the pecking began. My Vandana was making it clear that this was her home. My friend was able to pick up Loshka and I picked up Vandana. I put her outside the coop and let her free range. Loshka and Maggie remained inside.

I came inside and checked in with some of my Facebook page followers. It had been a few years, since I had introduced new hens, to an existing flock. Granted, my flock existed of a sole member, but the flock mentality would still be present. I was seeking advice on the best way to do it. The responses were fast and confirmed that the method I had used in the past, was the method of choice.

I temporarily put Maggie and Loshka back in the cat carrier, and waited for Vandana to come in and get settled for the night. Once she was on her roost, and the sun was set, I placed Maggie and Loshka inside to roost. It is said, that whoever they wake with, they accept as existing flock members.

It has been proven true, again. They are not the best of friends, but they wander the backyard as a scattered flock. Vandana will, every once in a while, still peck at them. I should clarify, she fakes them out, as if she is going to peck them, and they get out of her way. There is definitely a divide between Vandana and the new additions, but it is only day three. I hope it will lessen over time. I’m just glad she has other hens to cluck with… and boy, have they been clucking =0}

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I am so glad this week is over! I knew it was going to be one for the record books… but I didn’t think it would be anything like it ended up being!

We are not used to snow around here. It rarely happens, and it certainly doesn’t last more than a day or two. Most of us were braced for the coming storm. We were warned, that we could break a 30 year record, of 14″ of snow, in a 24-hour period (missed it by an inch or so).

The snow came, as promised. It was beautiful… as it always is, when it first falls. And then it began…

Car Damage

I still don’t know where the car came from. I am a cautious driver (learned to drive in Michigan snow). I make sure to give plenty of room to the cars around me, knowing that they may slip/slide in the snow. So, when I was hit from behind, it was an utter surprise… as it seems to have been for the other driver… as will the $10K estimate for damages. Am I ever grateful that he is insured!

The next morning, I walked the 2 miles to work. It had been my plan, before the accident. The banged up car just made it easier to stick to the plan ;0} I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take me. The sidewalks were not cleared (few of us actually own a snow shovel), so every two steps forward, I slid one step back. I arrived exhausted, but ready to spend the day selling warm coats, snow boots, hats and gloves.

I was anxious to get back home. I had the next two days off… so I knew I would be able to spend time in the garden, with my camera…

there’s a garden under there somewhere


things iced over quickly

Tree Damage

While I was taking pictures, I could hear the branches, thick with ice, snap and shatter. Each time, my heart stood still… bracing myself for a branch to fall on my head…

There was good reason to be concerned! Luckily, all the damage happened to my ornamental trees (a lilac and a sumac) and not any of my fruit-bearing trees.

Chicken Damage

My girls weren’t thrilled with all the snow or noise. I shoveled them a path, so they could get to their favorite place… a spot under the eaves, along the house. They rewarded me with two eggs – haven’t had eggs since the end of November.

By morning, the path was covered again. Goldie took one look and turned back around, choosing to spend the day in the coop. It is in the coop, where her lifeless body was found, Friday night. I could find no signs of trauma. No cause for the death. I am hoping she was simply startled by a loud snap of a branch and her little heart just simply stopped.

Vandana (my black hen) is alone, surrounded by snow. She quietly clucks, waiting for a response…

In a few weeks, it will be as if the storm was never here… well almost. The car will be, as good as, new; the trees will be scarred, a fence board replaced and the cold frame repaired; and there will be two new hens, Natasha and China, in the place that was once Goldie’s.

It is a storm I wish to forget, but I don’t believe I will be able to… at least not anytime soon.

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As I watched War Horse, the movie, this weekend, I found myself paying attention to the farms and homes. There were baskets hanging from the beams. Bottles, jars and jugs to be seen everywhere. Some were stacked, waiting to be filled, and others were filled with herbs, and others with jams. There were herbs hanging from hooks. I was in heaven, checking out all the details…

I was perplexed by the lack of chickens, goats, and cows. There was a goose, with quite a personality. Was it a choice in telling the story, or did they really not raise any kind of meat or have a source of dairy? The farm seemed so quiet without the chickens clucking in the background. Even my garden has chickens clucking ;0}. It got me to thinking about a picture I knew I had, of my Grandma Ruth working in the garden, as a child.

Pulsipher Farm in Cache Valley, Utah

As I searched for this one, I came across several others. It warmed my heart, to realize, that homesteading is in my blood – isn’t it in most of ours ;0} Now if only I could ask them how they lived their day-to-day life. I would love to be in the garden with them, working side by side, picking their brains, asking when and what to grow, and how much. Then step into the kitchen and learn to can and prepare a meal on a wood-stove… oh the list goes on… as does the list of skills I want to acquire this coming year. I’m excited for this source of inspiration!! Here are the other images I came across:

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