Sunday, June 22, 2008

Strange Roommates

Because the chickens pick on Babyface I moved her into Cleo's stall. The emu and the turkey seem to get along fine.

After one of the hens hatched some chicks the others began to pick on her and the chicks so I moved them in with Cleo and Babyface. They're an odd little group but they all get along, or at least they all tolerate each other.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hoover gets a pacemaker

Talk about crazy. On Thursday Hoover seemed to be having seizures. I first witnessed it about 3:00 in the afternoon he seemed to lose control of his legs and fell to his side on the ground within seconds he was trying to get up then standing and staggering the bolting off like something startled him. Now keep in mind that Hoover is not quite a year and a half old, very active, prone to weirdness, adorable, and sweeter than sugar. So I call the vet I love who wasn't in and then thinking this could be serious I called my backup vet and got him in for the last appointment of the day.

The vet drew some blood to run some tests, took a chest x-ray, and did an ekg (which had to be sent via phone to a cardiologist who couldn't get to it that day). While listening to his heart the vet said "something is not right". Apparently Hoover heart was beating way too slow. Like 42 beats per minute. Normal is 70-120. While this seemed odd the vet said she needed to get blood work back and get the results from the ekg.

So I take Hoover home and he seems OK but a little tired. He goes about his business and while we watch him more closely than usual we aren't really worried.

Friday morning the vet calls to say Hoover needs a pacemaker. WHAT!? I'm thinking do they even do that for dogs? Now Hoover is acting really out sorts, breathing funny and just lying around. I'm trying to stay calm and be logical. My first thought is if this were a human member of the family I'd be getting a second opinion. So I call the vet I love and tell her I'm freaking out and she gives me the number of a canine cardiologist. I call. He's on vacation until June 9th. Well that's no good. They give me the number of a cardiologist in NJ. I call and he's out of the office for the day. I call my friend back and she gives me another number. I make contact and they tell me that they wouldn't recommend a pacemaker with out other tests but if he does need a pacemaker they don't to that procedure and they refer me to the two places I've already called. I tell them no dice at those places and they say bring him in, let's get things rolling and see if we're really looking at a pacemaker case.

Print out map

Get Hoover together

Get Hoover in the car (with Hubby help)

Drive like a semi-controlled maniac to a vet hospital an hour away

We get there and they take Hoover immediately. I am now weeping semi-uncontrollably. They are so nice (Katonah Bedford Hills Veterinary Center I highly, highly recommend them). When I tell them Hoover is terrified of large dogs they take him to a private room for his tests and them to a private carpeted room (very amazing if you know what a sick dog can do on carpet) so he is in a quiet place where nothing will scare him. His heart is now beating 24 times a minute and things are getting critical.

They start making phone calls to find a cardiologist who can see Hoover NOW. They find one in the city (NYC) tell them I'm coming. They print me off a map with directions and warn me that I should stay call so Hoover stays calm because he could go into heart failure. Driving into Manhattan while staying calm, I might be able to do that if it is the Upper West Side of Manhattan on a slow day with no pressure. So, of course the Animal Medical Center is on the Upper EAST Side and I'm feeling MUCH pressure. Have I mentioned that I have been weeping uncontrollably on and off since about ten in the morning and my contact lenses are getting fuzzy.

So we get in the car and I start off directions in hand chanting to myself that I am calm and everything is going to be fine. But inside I'm freaking out and on the verge of total panic and on top of that my heart is breaking. How can this dog that is still just a puppy and was running around like a wild thing be on the verge of death?

Just a little over an hour later and amazingly still outwardly under control I arrive at the Animal Medical Center. Now I must tackle the problem of parking and I'm prepared to abandon my car in an illegal spot to get Hoover quickly inside. I'm thrilled to find that they have parking with a valet! I literally jump out of my car, give the keys to a man walking toward me, grab Hoover out of the back seat (calmly) and run into the building. I get to the registration desk and tell them I have Hoover and they should be expecting him. One girl turns back and calls out "Does anyone know about a Hoover coming into emergency?" From the back I hear "Oh, Yeah. That's the dog that could drop dead at any minute." I burst into tears.

Two interns come out and take Hoover and I'm given forms to fill out. I call my sister who lives in the city to tell her where I am and what's going on hoping she could come before I have a complete melt down. By this time my contact lenses were so cloudy I didn't know how I'd get home and I'm thinking of course I'm going to be taking Hoover home because this is all too crazy to be true.

After what seems like forever I'm taken to a room where the doctor is going to talk to me but really it is so I'm not freaking out everyone in the waiting room with my non stop sobbing. My sister arrives! Thank you! She is the voice of reason and logical thinking in stressful situations. The intern comes in and starts to explain that Hoover does indeed need a pacemaker and that he needs it quickly. Getting the pacemaker will give him a chance to have a normal long life. Then the cardiologist comes in (Dr. Bond, Betsy Bond) and she says that in 30 years of practicing she has only once seen a dog Hoover's age with this condition. Basically there is a block preventing the signal from one part of his heart to the other part that tells the heart to beat. (That's my scientific understanding of the situation.) The pacemaker will tell his heart when and how many times to beat bypassing the block. I didn't know it but while she is talking to us the rest of her team is starting to prep Hoover because once I say yes (and of course I'm gonna say yes!) they are starting the operation. The other thing is that this is going to cost a LOT of money but there is a angel who loves Hoover who is going to take care of that.

We ask to see Hoover before they start and the wheel him in on a table. He already has shaved spots on his paws and his eyes are weird like he's not really there and for some reason his head is pointy. I again burst into tears as if my only working function is the ability to leak water from my eyes. I pet him and kiss him on the nose and they wheel him off.

No point in hanging around they say. Go home and we will call you when it is finished to tell you the results. Through all of this I never think Hoover will die. It isn't a possibility in my mind. So we go to see if my car can stay there (where miraculously they did actually have valet parking and I hadn't given my keys to a random person walking toward me.) But my car cannot stay there and I can't see well enough to walk through New York City let alone attempt to drive so my sister drives us to her apartment on the other side of the city.

We are thinking of where to park and my sister says let's just see if there is a place by the apartment. Well, the parking fairies are smiling on us because there is a place right n front of her building where the doorman can help but keep an eye on it. And since we have to ask him to fit it into the spot he will have to remember who's car it is.

Later I get the call from the Vet that everything went great and Hoover can probably go home the next day. And I burst into tears. I then go to bed and sleep like the dead.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hooked on hatching

I have become obsessed with hatching eggs. I recently bought the new incubator pictured above. I'm very excited about this incubator. It has a much larger viewing window and has been preset to hold the temperature at 99.5 degrees. My first thought was that I would stop using the old incubator but then I decided to hatch guinea hens and chickens so I use the old one for the guinea eggs.

Here is the new incubator loaded with Maran eggs that I ordered through the mail from a breeder in Texas. The eggs are gently rotated back and forth like the mother hen would do while she sits on them. With my old incubator I rolled the eggs at least 3 times a day by hand.

I want to raise chickens that lay very dark brown eggs and from everything I've read it seems like Marans are a good breed.

There are also some Araucana eggs in their from my own hens. I still want to have some blue and green eggs too.

It takes chicken eggs 21 days to hatch. Guinea eggs hatch in 28 days. I check on the eggs several times everyday. Even after hatching 6 different batches of eggs I still get a thrill out of seeing the first signs of a chick starting to break out of the egg. I love being able to see the moment when the chick finally breaks the egg open. They lay there wet and exhausted, looking nothing like the adorable fluffy chicks you think of. Chicken chicks seem to take much longer to break out of their eggs. Guinea chicks burst out of their eggs not too long after you see the first "pip" in the shell. I have had chickens the took more than 24 hours to break out of their eggs.

Blogging frustrations

I'm still trying to figure out how everything works here on Blogger. I've learned how to tinker with the html so that I could make things the size I wanted, like pictures and having the blog fill the whole page.

One thing I can't seem to fix is if I start a thought one day and finish it up a day, or a week, or a month later it posts as if I did it all on the day I started and it is put back in the order. That can really get me crazy. For instance the post about hatching eggs in the incubator was started on the day one of incubation. But I finished writing it the day before they hatched. (I plan on posting all about the hatch soonish but I need to upload the pictures first.)

I have some great (in my opinion) movies of cute things but for the life of me I can't seem to get them to play on my blog. I have spent many hours trying different ways to get them on but nothing has worked so far. I haven't given up. I hope to have some entertaining things up soon.

If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions on how to fix things let me know. I'd love to get comments on what you think of the blog even if you don't know how to fix my problems.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


There is a veterinarian that lives just down the road from us. Actually she and her husband are both vets. In case you haven't noticed I like animals. Veterinarians facinate me. For most of my childhood I wanted to be a vet and I don't know when or why I veered from that but I didn't veer too far really.

Anyway about the puppies. Once I happened to pop in at the vet's when she was doing a neuter on a dog and I said I'd love to watch. After she instructed me what to do if I started to pass out she proceeded and I was facinated. So when she called me to say she had an unexpected Cesarian section coming in and no assistant available and would I want to help out I jumped at the chance.

I hopped in the car and I was there in minutes, so excited I was almost bouncing off the walls. I got there before the pregnant Boxer patient. So again with the instruction of what to do if I felt faint (She must have had a bad experience with someone). The patient arrived and the woman who brought her was a very experienced breeder who had been through a few Cesarians.

Lucy, the Boxer, didn't even look pregnant. She was sedated and put on the table, hooked up to anesethia and the operation began. There was surprisingly little blood. As the puppies were pulled from the uterus, I was shocked at how big they were. They came out in a sac that was much stronger than it looked. The sac was slippery, slimey and hard to break open. I found I was being to careful and the pups were not as delicate as I wanted to treat them. I'm a quick learner and it was a situation where instructions were being shouted (kindly) in rapid succession. There was nothing I wanted more than to get these puppies off to a good start so I did what I was told as best and quickly as I could. At the end there were five incredibly large pups and one small runt. Five girls and one boy all breathing (very important) and nursing.

It was such an amazing thing to witness. I was on a high for the rest of the day. The vet said it was fun to see someone who was so excited about the experience. I guess after performing so many you get jaded. My hope is I preformed well enough that if she ever finds herself in a jam again she'll call me up.

Sorry no pictures of this one. I was so excited that I flew out the door without even thinking of it. Anyway I was all covered in amniotic fluid and my hands were icky. The images are forever in my mind.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Dove's nest

The other day I noticed a tiny egg in the herb bed. My first thought was to look around and see if there was a nest nearby that the egg had fallen out of. Well, considering the herb bed is right in front of the sun room window there really wasn't a lot of places for a bird to make a nest other than the roof and the gutter. So no nest in sight and I'm thinking would a bird have made a nest right on the ground, right by the house, right by the driveway? No. But, yes it turns out that a dove did think this was a good place to lay some eggs. Now there are two eggs there and I see her sitting on them whenever I walk or drive by.

Momma dove is very alert. Even when I thought I was being sneaky and peaking through the sun room window to take pictures of her, she was totally on to me and never took her eyes off me. I did manage to get these pictures.

So I'm hoping she can manage to survive, hatch, and raise these babies. I would love to watch the whole process play out. But I know she has Hoover, four cats and the elements to battle. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Big Changes for Kirby

Kirby loves being outside. Up to now her "outside" area has been a somewhat small fenced in area off of the back porch. This has allowed us to constantly keep an eye on her and cater to her every whim, like constantly throwing some bird seed into her rooting box. But pigs root and so our back yard is all torn up and when it rains it is a muddy mess. The rooting is fine and what she needs to do to be a happy pig. We knew this going in and were prepared for this.

She's a big girl now. So big that when I went to put her harness on I discovered that my baby has out grown her size medium harness. This is not quite as sad as when she grew out of her small harness which she did in a matter of a few months. Anyway I squished her into the harness and walked her out of to a new area we had fenced off for her in the pasture. It a great area for her but it is away from the house a bit so we can't just look out and see her. It is probably harder for me than for her. She is in a larger area and having a ball. We will be able to move the fence around give her new areas to root around.

I very much want to get her closer to the barnyard critters. Because the goats can be rough with head-butting she won't be in the same area with them but we will get her just on the other side of their fence. It will be so interesting to see what they all think of each other.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tiny blue egg

From left to right: turkey egg, brown chicken egg, blue chicken egg, banty chicken egg, tiny blue egg.

I love finding surprises in the nesting boxes. Recently I found a tiny blue egg. We have some bantam hens so small eggs aren't anything new. But this was a teeny tiny blue egg. One of the Araucanas must have had an off day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Incubating eggs

It is time to add some new chickens to our flock. I have started researching different kinds of chickens and decided that I wanted to add chickens that lay very dark brown and blue and green eggs. There are actually groups dedicated to chickens that lay colorful eggs.

I started searching for varieties of Maren chickens first. These are chickens that lay dark brown eggs. Some people call them chocolate eggers. I intended to buy day old chicks but couldn't find the chicks I wanted so I bought eggs to hatch myself.

We had an incubator with an automatic egg turner from a few years ago when we hatched our own eggs, but that was just to see if we had any "working" roosters. Now I'm trying to actually accomplish something.
Here's the incubator set up. I had to run it for a week to make sure it would keep the right temperature and that the egg turner was working.

So then the eggs arrived and i loaded them into the incubator and all seemed to be going well.

Here's a view through the window.

Now it would just have been too easy to load the eggs in and have everything run smoothly. On day 3 I noticed the turner wasn't working. So I unloaded it and started turning the eggs by hand. No biggie. Then the temperature started getting wacky. One day it spiked up 4 degrees higher than it should have been. I can only hope it didn't fry the little buggers.

We'll soon find out. Today is day 20 and they should hatch tomorrow.

Beaker surprises me

Beaker is a very smart bird. Sometimes, when she uses the right words at the right time, I think she is the smartest bird in the world. She was having a very good day, smart wise. We had a visitor in the house who asked if we knew who Barney Fife was. I said, "Sure, he was on the Andy Griffith Show." Right after I said that Beaker started whistling the theme song from the show. Now I taught her that song but I don't ever remember saying to her that it was "The Andy Griffith" song. It was just too funny. Then after I got back from the barn, it was getting pretty dark, and Beaker called out from her room, "How 'bout some light?" Every day she makes me laugh but some days harder then others.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gremlins in the greenhouse

It is Spring and I have started vegetable seeds in the greenhouse. In previous year I have had trouble with mice and chipmunks digging up bigger seeds like, pumpkins and squash. Sometimes they eat the seed and sometimes they move them. I think they move them with the thought that they're storing them for later. Then I find I've got pumpkins and squash plants coming up in the pots with the fig trees and the lettuce beds. Sometimes I move the seedlings and they do alright. Other times they can't take the shock of being uprooted.

This year I strongly suspect the peacocks have found out they can get into the greenhouse through the side vent. I do not have solid evidence but I was both Apollo and Artemis running around the greenhouse all agitated and there was nothing bothering them (like Hoover). The destruction was not the typical small critter havoc. The lettuce (a peacock favorite) was all torn up and nice pothos plant I had nursed back to vigorous life was basically destroyed.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I need to touch fur

I've started something of a tradition where every winter I drive my parents from Ohio to Florida at the end of January then drive them back at the beginning of April. My parents are great people and really much more fun than a lot of people I know. The driving is the only really hard part of the trip unless my father, who is on blood thinners, manages to cut himself. So far I think he has managed to cut himself every time I've seen him for the last several years. Also he has a bit of a short temper but he's had that my whole life.

The truly worst part of the trip is being away from the zoo. I find my self craving fur covered creatures like an alcoholic craves their next drink. I find myself approaching strangers asking in a pleading voice if I can pet their dog. I only do this to people who are actually walking dogs.

I get some strange looks as I basically mug the animals petting them all over letting them lick me and rubbing my face into their fur. Hey, petting a stinky dog is better then petting no dog at all. I will ask the people any questions I can think of to prolong my fix. Eventually even the nicest people will get tired of standing there and pry their pet from my arms. Worse is when the dog tires of my attentions and tries to get away from me.

Animals are like oxygen to me. I need contact with them to survive. OK maybe not to survive but I do need contact with them to be happy.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gathering Eggs

I don't know what it is about gathering the eggs everyday, but I love it. Every evening I look forward to going to the barn. I love spending time with all the animals but it is the gathering of the eggs that I get a kick out of. We don't eat that many eggs (actually we give away far more than we eat) but I almost obsess about how many eggs we get.

When the chicks first came I couldn't wait to get that first egg. Hens start laying eggs when they are 5-6 months old. There is a lot of care that goes into raising a chick to egg laying age. When I found that first egg I was so excited. It might sound crazy but I still have that first egg. (It is in a very safe place) Everyday after finding that first egg was like an adventure. Would there be any eggs? How many? I was always hoping to get just one more egg than the day before until the day came where every hen had laid an egg. So we were getting 4-6 eggs a day in the beginning.

Every year we add to the flock and we add breeds of chickens that we don't have always picking ones that are interesting and lay anything but white eggs. Right from the beginning we had the Araucanas that lay very pretty eggs in shades from green to blue, for which they are best known, to pinks and peach colors. Last year we got our first Marans, Cuckoo Marans, which lay very dark brown eggs.

Now I'm hooked on getting even darker egg layers. I couldn't find any of the kind I wanted as day old chicks so I'm doing something new for me. I've ordered eggs for hatching in an incubator. I've incubated eggs before and I've let a broody hen hatch eggs for me and both times I ended up with twice as many roosters as hens. Not at all what I want. But it will be interesting to see what I end up with.

Right now we are averaging 10 eggs a day. The most we ever had was 17 in one day. That was in the summer when the days are longer. In the winter when there are less daylight hours the egg number go way down. In some of the commercial hatcheries the hens are subjected to 24 hours of light to get the most eggs out of them. I like knowing that my eggs come from chickens living in a natural environment free to roam around and eat bugs and grass.

Kirby and the Yummy Ball

In nature a pig would have to root around covering a good bit of area to dig up food. We wanted Kirby to work for her meals so I found a ball that was meant for dogs. It is called a tricky treat ball. It has compartments inside so when you fill it with food it has to be rolled around to get the food out.

Every morning and every evening I tell Kirby "go to your room", and she runs into her pen. I have found that trying to fill her ball while she is out is too much of a challenge and toes tend to be bruised. So I fill up the ball and drop it into her pen where she pushes it around until it is empty. She knows when it is empty and the only time that she pushes an empty ball around is when she is trying to get us to give her food.

On rainy or super cold days when Kirby can't spend time outside I will put low calorie treats (Kirby's favorite are Gerber fruit puffs) and raisins and she pushes it around the house. This is a great way to get pent up energy out and bring on a nap.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hoover just doesn't get the whole "fetch" thing

Hoover has a lot of energy. I thought that playing fetch would be a great way to both spend time with him and help him burn off some energy.

My sister has a dog, Gryff, who has played fetch from puppy hood. Gryff is a little obsessed with balls and playing fetch. He will chase a ball and bring it back to you and let you throw it until he is exhausted. He will rest for a bit and then start right up again.

I didn't know if Hoover would "get" the concept of fetch right away. He's seen Gryff play fetch so I didn't think it would take much for him pick up the game. Hoover loves toys so I bought him a ball and he liked it. I gave it to him and then called him and took it from him and threw it. He ran off after it and I called him back and took it from him and threw it again. He looked at me like I was crazy. He walked to get the ball, looking back at me the whole way. He got the ball and I told him to come. He did, but there was no way he was giving me the ball again. He ran off and hid the ball.

He basically doesn't trust me with his toys now. I brought home a new stuffed toy (stuffed toys are his favorites) he took it from me and ran up the stairs with it then came back down without it. He gave me a look that said "Hey, crazy human, no more throwing my toys." I think I may have really offended him.

I have tried to play fetch with him a few more times but after the first throw he won't bring any toy back to me. So in his own way he does "get" the fetch thing but he doesn't "believe" in fetch.

Animals as Antidepressants

I know that homes for the elderly and even children's wards in hospitals will bring in animals to brighten patients days. In an airport I recently met a woman who had a small dog that was traveling with her as a companion animal for a medical condition. This dog, by a doctors prescription, was to ride with the woman on her lap as a calming device. I think this is brilliant.

I know when I'm stressed, if I can pet or even just watch some of the animals I start to relax. There are times when I'm petting Hoover or Kirby that I can reach a meditative kind of state. It would be interesting to see what contact like that can do for blood pressure.

Can you imagine if instead of prescribing drugs doctors tell people to go get a pet? Bad day at work? Go home and rub your cats ears for 15 minutes. Have a fight with your mom? Half an hour of puppy snuggling should take care of that.

No chemicals, no dependency, no adverse side effects. Instead of being bombarded by commercials for Zoloft, and Prozac there will be reminders from The Humane Society and the ASPCA that having a pet is good for your over all health and well being.

I'm not saying that all medical conditions can be cured by having animals but wouldn't it be nice if a lot of them could?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Morning conversations with Poppy

In the morning we get both the birds out for breakfast. They each have their own stand and every morning (unless there is some good reason not to) Popppy and Beaker get on their stands for a yummy breakfast of special things that they never get in their cages. Their favorite thing is hard boiled egg yolk. They have no interest in the egg white, just the yolk. Another favorite is sugar snap peas. They don't eat the pods, just the peas, but not the outer shell of the individual pea. They are somewhat picky eaters. They love grapes, but not the skins. The skins they throw on the floor where Kirby takes care of them.

Beaker almost never speaks when she is outside of her cage. Poppy is a little chatterbox. Poppy basic vocabulary consists of: Poppy, Beaker, bird and kiss. She makes kissing noises and tons of chirps and sounds, like the microwave and telephone. She likes to make the first half of the wolf whistle and then I make the second half. That is probably her favorite thing and she will do it over and over until I stop. She likes me to repeat what she says and if I don't she will get louder until I do.

Poppy will say "kiss, kiss" and I make kissing noises then I say "kiss, kiss" and she makes kissing noises. She makes what I call R2D2 sounds and I try to imitate them. She has one of my ringtones down so perfect it makes me reach for my phone.

Friday, March 14, 2008

So sad to see the snow melt

I know that most people don't like winter. Winter is my favorite season. I love the snow and the cold. Winter is not the best time for the animals. For the goats snow means no fresh grass to eat. For the chickens, guineas, ducks and turkeys there are no bugs and worms to eat.

We adjust the food quantities to make up for what they can't find on their own in the winter and we have heated water bowls so they always have water to drink. The stalls need cleaned out more often because they spend more time inside in the winter.

Even if the animals are more work in the winter I don't mind it a bit. They get their winter coats which make them look so fluffy. With Spring approaching I know the animals are anticipating longer, warmer days but I want Winter to stick around longer.

Cat prints in the

Emu prints in the snow

I almost forgot the ducks

I don't know how I could have forgotten them because they should have been in with all the other fowl. We have two ducks. They're not your typical quacking sort of ducks. They're Muscovy ducks and they make a hissing noise which is much quieter than a quack. Not that quacking is bad. I like ducks that quack and can totally see adding some quackers in the future

Muscovy ducks are large solid ducks that don't necessarily need a body of water. We have two large, low, water troughs for them to bathe in when they feel the need. They are supposed to be a better eating duck (not that we'll ever test that). They have webbed feet with strong claws that they can use to perch in trees.

Our ducks are named Cosmo and Peony. Peony was supposed to be a girl, but, surprise, they're both boys which means that sometimes there is some scuffling between them. They are comical and entertaining to watch.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hoover is a puppy with spots

I found Hoover on After Mishca died the house was sooooo quiet it was depressing. Not being greeting by a happy wagging furry tail and sloppy wet kisses was just sad. I hated opening the door to nothing. So while I was getting the Kirby deal going I was also looking for a puppy. I do not recommend getting a piglet and a puppy at the same time. Luckily for me we had Kirby for eight days before Hoover arrived.

Really folks don't try this at home. A true test of sanity is house breaking one animal. Trying to teach two animals of completely different species not to potty in the house at the same time is a total nightmare. Well it could be but Kirby was basically trained and by some amazing force of nature Hoover was instantly house broken. He only had a few accidents and then (wave a magic wand) he was trained. When I think of how bad things could have been I kiss them both. But really I don't recommend getting two young pets at the same time.

Now about Hoover, his mother was found on the street. She is probably a lab mixed with some terrier if one were to guess. Hoover's daddy is a total mystery. I'm guessing dad was a Dalmation.

The first picture of Hoover I saw he was a white puppy with one black ear, I couldn't see his tail in the picture, but it turned out his tail came out of a black patch on his bum and then had a white tip. The rest of him was white. Over time black spots broke out all over him. He is cute, cute, cute, cute, cute. The cute saves him when he is rotten. He has more personality then most humans I know. He is tied with Kirby as the best thing that ever came into my world. I absolutely love him.

Hoover is the kind of dog that little kids can climb on and hug and tug and he just loves it. He likes to chase squirrels and chipmunks. He likes to sit where he has a good view of things and just watch. He keeps the deer out of the orchard. He is just and all around good dog. Some one once said to me that if they could be gaurenteed a dog would turn out like Hoover they would get a dog. He has that effect on people.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Kirby is a pot bellied pig

Pigs have always fascinated me and the more I learned about them the more I wanted one. Let me make very clear that before getting Kirby I did a lot of research. I spoke with breeders for hours wanting to be sure that not only was a pig right for us but that we would be right for a pig. I feel very strongly that once a pet is part of the family it is here forever.

We had lots of time to prepare the house for Kirby. We built a small pen in one corner of the family room with nonslip floor and a potty box. The first few weeks after Kirby arrived we spent a lot of time in that little pen letting her climb all over us getting to know us and trust us. She was so tiny and so smart. She used her potty box right from the start and there were only a few accidents and those were really my fault.

We would never have added a pig to the family while Mishca was alive. Mishca was a special dog who had a very low tolerance for other animals. It wouldn't have been fair to throw a pig into her life. She barely tolerate Mallomar when he lived in the house for a winter. She loved the parrots because they constantly dropped food (still do but now Kirby cleans up after them).

Kirby is now ten times the size she was when she arrived. The growth rate is a bit shocking. She is just more pig to love. Pigs grow for the first three years and Kirby will be one one March 17th. We're looking into stronger furniture.

Every night after Kirby has her dinner it is cuddle on the couch time. It used to be that Kirby could fit all on my lap bot now it is just the front legs and head and those front legs are about all I can take. But I wouldn't give up cuddle time even if she just lays next to me it is my favorite time.

We don't want Kirby to get overweight, not because we want her to be small but because overweight pigs can develop many health issues. It would be so easy to let Kirby over eat. She thinks she is hungry all the time 24/7. She gets a special pot bellied pig food morning and evening. We put her food in a ball that she has to roll around to get the food out. If she were wild she would have to forage for food and root around so we make her work for it too. If there isn't grass (winter) she gets a salad, lettuce, carrots, celery and other veggies if we have them. She also cleans up food that the parrots throw which is basically a few grapes and snap peas. Then Kirby has a rooting box with rocks in it that we will sprinkle bird seed for her to root around and eat. From the look of her poo all the seeds just pass right through and it keeps her busy for hours.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Our four cats

When rodents started digging up the floor of the barn drastic measures were called for. When you have a barn full of goats and fowl you can't use poisons and traps weren't making a dent. So we turned to natural rodent control.

First we found Tiger Lily. A female cat that had been abandoned and needed a home. She is a beautiful grey and black tiger cat who started to work right away. She is good at her job but it was clear that the job was too big for just one cat. Luckily for us word had gotten around that we were looking for more cats. In no time four kittens moved into the barn. Tiger Lily wasn't happy at first but gradually all became a happy family. Sadly we lost the only boy of the group but Scooter was loved while he was here.

Now along with Tiger Lily we have, Ebony, Little Tiger (LT), and Tractor Supply (Tracty). All were abandoned and needed a new home right when we needed more barn cats and it has all worked out well. We love them all and look forward to the time that we spend with them every day. We look at the heads and tails that are left behind as gifts and proof that the cars are earning their keep.

Haven't you always wanted an Emu?

So a friend calls me up and asks "Would you like an emu?" Well I have basically no emu experience so, sure, I want an emu. Emus are large flightless birds and that is about all I knew about them before Cleo came to live here. Now I know that Emus; come from Australia, are the second largest bird after the Ostrich, can run at speeds of 40-50 mph, have toenails that can slice through fabric and flesh.

Cleo has never tried to harm us and is actually very tame. She arrived in a horse trailer with a sock over her head and thus the fun began. The second day she was here an extra large group of "hunters" came on the property and scared the daylights out of poor Cleo. She jumped the almost five foot fence and took off at what I can only estimate was way more than 50 mph. I quickly called the previous owner to see what one does when their emu escapes. Trying to find her was step #1. Luckily someone spotted her and called to report the sighting of a large somewhat prehistoric looking bird. Guessing we had the only runaway emu in the county we converged to a farm about 7 miles away and found Cleo. Luckily running far and fast had exhausted her and she was easy to catch. By catch I mean get a hold of. Holding onto an emu and getting said emu to walk nicely to a waiting trailer are two totally different things. Several hours later Cleo was safely back in the barn resting and at least six people were exhausted.

Thankfully that is the only time that Cleo has flown the coop. I think she was unfamiliar with her new home and the sight of a pack of dogs running down the driveway freaked her out causing her to flee.

Cleo is now the barnyard guard and I think she would choose to fight and protect her home before she would run off. She bosses the goat around and walks the fence making a drumming noise that lets the world know that you have to get past her to get to the barn. We love her and every time I pet her I feel like a very privileged person .

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guinea Hens

The Guinea hens are the hardest working creatures on the farm. They roam the pastures eating ticks and other bugs. Keeping the tick population under control is a major job and they are good at what they do. They are weird clownish looking birds, white faced with splotches of color and a "helmet" growing out of the top of their heads. They move in a flock pecking along the ground making strange noises. They are the most stand-offish of all the birds. There's no petting or even getting them to eat out of your hand. They are more wild. But still at night they are back in the barn waiting to be closed in for the night.

Baby guinea hens are adorable fluff balls. Every summer since they were old enough they gone off and made nests in the brush and inn July or August they'd head back to the barn with a string of babies following them. We keep as many as we can and find good homes for the extras. Around here anyone with land needs help keeping ticks under control.

A pair of peacocks

Apollo and Artemis are our peacocks. Like the turkeys someone gave us the peacocks. They were a few months old when we got them and we built a pen for them to keep them for the first six months. This way they came to know the barnyard as "home". When we let them loose I was afraid they would fly off and I'd never see them again. That first evening when we went to close up the barn for the night the two peacocks were in with the chickens waiting for dinner right at "home".

This coming summer (2008) they will be two years old and they could make a nest. Apollo is getting his first "eye" feathers and oh how he likes to show them off. I feel sorry for him sometimes because none of the girls not even his girl Artemis pay any attention to him when he is shaking his stuff.

I love all the birds but I must say that I find watching the peacocks facinating. They have different sounds and calls that I can't copy. There is an elegance about them that the chickens don't possess.


All of the turkeys were given to us. The turkeys have more personality than most of the chickens. Sweet Pea and Peanut are two bronze turkeys and while Sweet Pea dissappeared one day Peanut is still here and she is a very friendly girl who lays eggs in the spring. Cassanova was a Champion at the county fair. He was a classic white "Butterball" turkey bred to have a huge breast. He passed away last year. He was much loved and had a huge personality. We got Babyface at the same time as Cassanova. She was also a winner at the fair. She is a very sweet girl who will come up and cuddle and let us pet her. She was also bred to have a huge breast and it is much harder for her to move around than Peanut.


For many years we've had chickens. We order them from McMurray Hatchery and they arrive at the post office just a box full of little balls of fluff peeping away. The first batch was very much a learning experience and I'm proud to say we only lost one. We held them every day so they would be used to us and we named everyone of them. The chicken name theme was board games. So we had Scrabble, Boggle, Othello, Mad Gab, Domino, Catch Phrase and a few others who names will come to me as soon as I post this. Now we still have chickens but only the ones with a lot of personality get names we have a very sweet hen named Clementine. We have three roosters, The General (a little bantam), Chaos (a barred rock), and Pandamonium (a Amerucana). When you order from McMurray you get a free "rare and unusual" chick and for us it has always been a rooster.

I remember the excitement of finding the first egg. I still actually get excited collecting eggs. There is something special about caring for the chickens and they give us eggs in return. We have let a broody hen hatch eggs. Out of five eggs we hatched four were roosters. Because our hens get to roam free and eat bugs and grass and because the eggs are so fresh the yolks are a bright orange-yellow. It took some getting used to after pale yellow store eggs. Now I never want to eat store eggs again.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Meet the goats

For some unknown reason my nieces were promised a goat each for xmas. There's two of them so that's two goats right? Not exactly. We went to the goat breeder and well let's just say that baby goats (kids) are just about the cutest things ever. Of all the goats for sale there were two that I was leery of, one was wearing a sweater and the other clearly had a case of diarrhea. There were 5 others including a mother, son duo who were a package deal. We all fell in love with a different goat and there was no way we could just take two.

When it was all over we picked six goats. So we took all the available goats except for the one with the runs. I was against taking the one wearing the sweater but when we took off the sweater his markings were too cute and he was the tiniest of them all and he needed to be bottle fed. Really what other reasons do you need to want a goat.

We now had two female goats and four neutered males (wethers). They decided on a theme of cookies for names. The boys are Mallomar, Oreo, Nutter Butter and Snickerdoodle. The girls are Biscotti and Amoretti.

Mallomar was the tiny one in the sweater who needed to be bottle fed. He ended up living in my house for four months because he developed an infection and the antibiotics made his winter fur fall out. It was a bitter cold winter and the vet said he wouldn't survive in the barn. It was a very interesting winter and while I wouldn't want to do it again Mally is the sweetest, friendliest goat.

Mallomar was the same size as Mishca.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Poppy the Jardine's Parrot

So what do you do when you get the parrot of your dreams and it doesn't want anything to do with you? Well luckily Beaker and my husband had a mutual affection thing for each other but that left me birdless. So enter Poppy. Poppy is a Jardine's parrot. She is a little beauty. She can't say a fraction of the things Beaker says but she is a love and doesn't need to talk. She fulfills my need for love from a feathered being.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Beaker the Congo African Grey Parrot

Oh how I wanted an African Grey Parrot for so many years. Finally I was in the right place to get one. I found a breeder and bought a just weened baby Grey. She made these adorable little beeping noises that reminded me of the muppet Beaker on The Muppet Show. Thus the name.

Oh how I loved this bird. For reasons I'll never understand she decided she only loved my husband and wanted nothing to do with me. Well she was raised by a man who had facial hair and really never had contact with women before she came to my house so that probably had a lot to do with it. I still love her. She speaks in my voice and mimics me so that must be some form of love.

Beaker says so many things, far too many to list here. She sings and whistles Jingle Bells. She also whistles Deck the Halls, Sweet Georgia Brown, The Andy Griffiths theme, that song from Bridge Over the River Kwi and she is just learning When the Saints go Marching in.

She can mimic all sorts of sounds. The microwave, the alarm (not an alarm clock but the "someone done broke into your house" alarm), every phone ring she's ever heard. She calls out the names of all the other animals.

Now if you were to go to Beaker's cage you would never hear her make a squeak. She won't talk in front of strangers. If you are out of her sight and she can't hear you she might start to say some things. So she is not a performance bird.

There hasn't been a day where she hasn't made me laugh.