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.