Friday, August 31, 2007

We said some goodbyes in August

Last weekend, we (finally) finished processing our first batch of broilers. We have sold many of them, eaten a few ourselves, and still have about 17 to sell. That means, in the morning when we go out to move the sheep and feed the chickens - there are no ornery white ones there, no more morning rooster crowing as the sun comes up. The reds are there, and the funny turkeys are there, but we have said goodbye to all our white chickens.
And last night, Margaret said goodbye to 4 of her miniature horses. Kirsten and I were there to assist - we brushed them all, we put their halters on and we talked about them and petted them until their new owner came with her trailer. We helped load them up, gave them some hay and some treats and we said goodbye. We all cried, but these were Margaret's babies. It was really hard for her to say goodbye. Picasso didn't seem phased, or maybe just stunned. Wiley went nuts wondering where his little friends were going. So last night we said goodbye to Angel, Starlight, Donny and Lazarus. They are going to a really good home, and the new owner is even going to breed Angel and Starlight. They will be missed.

Hobbes with Lazarus and Starlight

Angel, Picasso, Donny and Wiley's legs

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The dog I (almost) left behind.

I am posting this essay in light of all the dealings going on with Micheal Vick, and his dog fighting ring. I, of course, do not support animal abuse in any way. Being an animal lover, myself, of course I wouldn't. I used to volunteer at the Michigan Humane Society. In my time there, I fostered over 20 sick and injured animals, I spent my weekends walking dogs at the shelter. This is a story of one dog I met at the shelter, that I almost didn't walk one day.

It was an early Sunday morning at the Detroit Michigan Humane Society Shelter. I liked to go on Sundays to walk the dogs. The Detroit shelter had a nice fenced in park, as well as a decent block to walk around - with a big church next door and several houses on the block. I always started with the adoptable dogs, to get them a good walk before the shelter opened to the public. I would try to give every dog a walk before I left for the day. After the adoptable dogs, there were some dogs that were sick and injured. The ones that were capable of a walk would get a nice slow walk with me, or just a few minutes to sit in the park. Then there were the dogs that weren't available just yet - some were on the waiting period for their owner to possibly claim them, some were awaiting evaluation. They all got walked too. Then there was the last room. The room with the dogs that were never going to be adopted. Recognize that I support kill shelters like MHS that make the best decision for the dog. A highly aggressive dog may hurt a child, or end up dying in a fighting ring. A dog that is too sick or injured to ever lead a healthy life is better off having their suffering ended in a painless way. And then there were some whose lives had to end because of fighting rings. American Pit Bulls are never adopted out from the Michigan Humane Society, as a rule, not because the breed is vicious, but because these dogs usually end up coming to a brutal end in a fight ring. MHS puts them down through lethal injection, instead of taking the risk of a dog ending up in a fight ring. And honestly, most of the Pits that end up at the shelter were rescued FROM fighting pits. And I have seen fight pits. They are not pretty.

So on this Sunday, as I walked each dog in and out of the building, I walked past this room. It's the closest to the back door. The room where the tags on the gates were white (as opposed to blue or pink for the adoptable pets) Some of the tags had numbers written in bright red. That was the time that day a dog was going to the euthanasia room across the hall. The room where, when the light was red outside the door, I always averted my eyes. As I pulled each dog out for a walk, I didn't realize that I kept walking past one cage. I grabbed my keys and was about to leave, when I realized I had left one behind. He wasn't aggressive, he wasn't even barking. He watched me numerous times walk past, and just looked at me with big brown eyes. I went back to his cage and looked at him. I told him I was sorry I didn't walk him, and that I kept walking by. I told him that society told me to fear him. He was an American Pit Bull Terrier. He was covered from head to toe in scars and scrapes, and was missing part of an ear. The big red numbers on his cage said "2:00." It was noon.

I went back and picked up a leash. I slowly opened his cage, and gently slipped the lead around his neck. He smiled, I swear, and he walked right next to me, slowly, out to the fenced yard. When we got outside, I took off his lead so he could run and play - one last time. I sat on a bench and tried to throw him a ball or a stick. He just looked at me. He walked over, and hopped up on the bench and sat down next to me, leaning against my legs. I found a little spot on the back of his neck that had no scars or scabs, and I scritched him there. He put his head down on my knee. And we sat there, probably for a good 30 minutes just smelling the air, and enjoying each other's company. This dog that had been put to fight - that was covered in scars and fresh wounds - he trusted me. This dog? He could sit next to me and just be content? One that didn't seem to have known anything but survival and brutality. He just sat there with me. I hated to take him back. He may have made a great pet, but I knew the policy at the shelter. After a while, I gently slipped the lead back around his battered neck and we walked back to the shelter. He didn't resist going back in the cage, like so many other dogs do. He just went in and sat down. I told him goodbye, and I knew I would never see him again. But I also knew that in a life of torment, that dog had 30 minutes of peace and love before the end. 30 minutes where he could trust without question, and just be loved and love back.

Monday, August 20, 2007

We have SHEEP

Meet our sheep!

These are our sheep! This is Laverne and Shirley. Laverne is in the front, looking rearward. Shirley is staring right at us! These girls are 50% Dorper, 50% Katahdin mixes. These are a special kind of sheep called HAIR sheep. That means, they grow hair, instead of wool, sort of. But instead of needing to be sheared, these gals drop their coats, kind of like a dog that sheds. We know all about shedding dogs! Anyhow, you can see Laverne still has a patch of scraggle on her back she hasn't dropped yet. These gals will be our breeding ewes, and they may very well be pregnant, and have lambs this winter. We'll just have to wait and see. Since they aren't so keen on us, I have a feeling an ultrasound is out of the question. They do let me pet them, and have a strong respect for the dogs - no matter what dog, they want nothing to do with them. Thankfully, when scared, they head straight for the barn, so bringing them in at night is a breeze. They are really pretty, and I hope they warm up to us a bit. I really like them, and am glad they are part of our ever growing menagerie.

Oh wait... we are shrinking in numbers. We are down to about 20 broilers that need to be processed. We just did a marathon run tonight trying to get through some more. Thank goodness for my colleagues at work that like to eat chicken! We are actually selling the birds... all the more room for those red hens to stretch their legs, and hopefully - start thinking about where they want to lay their eggs!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mid August Update


One small cucumber


Green Beens - they surprised me!


My carrots finally sprouted!

One Big Zucchini

And I have critters!
They turkeys are looking more turkey-like and starting to strut and fluff their feathers. At least the Toms are doing it, like this macho guy

Going on a pasture walk, Hobbes behaves around the horses

Goliath chews Larry's pant legs while walking.

And what do we see? A smile from Atlas? Good boy! You like the garden!
Now we can't forget our actual pets... it's not all about the farm. OK, well, it is, but these guys are still here too... helping us by keeping us company... Tonight, everyone found something to chew on. You are what you eat, right? So what does that make these guys?

Ditka finds a chunk of horse hoof to chew on

Grish chooses to eat a log. Not a stick. a LOG.

Athena has her favorite blue ball

Hobbes chews on a piece of particle board.

Schroed says "this farm makes me tired. Rub my belly"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fulfilling their destiny

Luke's destiny was to bring Balance to the Force. Neo's destiny was to be the ONE. They had big shoes to fill, grand foes to battle, and a population to save from opression and war. I don't have any idea what my destiny is, but I doubt it is anything grand. And I doubt I have fulfilled it. This weekend, 13 brave and honored chickens fulfilled THEIR destinies. There was no great showdown between good and evil. They just got to go to sleep.

The Wingless Wonder, Tweety, and the RoosterKing met a dignified end on Sunday under Larry's knife blade, along with 10 of their friends. It was chicken processing day. I tried to pet them all good bye, and treated them each with dignity and care. It was hard to do so many at once without getting upset. I only have 2 hands, and can only hold 2 at a time. I did get weepy at one point when Larry killed 4 at once, and I couldn't hold each of them. But surprisingly enough, I did OK the rest of the day. I plucked all 13 by hand, as we don't have our equipment yet. I was very careful with each of them. Larry did all the "processing". Once we get the plucker and scalder I'll have to do that too. It was a lot easier than I thought. But still...I will miss them when all of the whites are gone. They taste pretty good, but I will still miss them. But this was their destiny. This is why we took such good care of them. This was what they were here for. Now they get to be dinner.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

August Animal Update

We're Coming! We're Coming! Don't forget about us!!
Larry moving the chicken pen in the morning.

The chicken laying down in the middle-ish is our favorite Tweety!

ATTENTION! Chicken Inspection! Wake up Ladies, your guard dogs are here!

What? Are you kidding? I'm not coming ANY CLOSER to the fence that bites. I know what that fence is capable of, and I'm staying over here, thankyouverymuch.

I am the Rooster King. Fear my comb. Fear my Cock-a-doodle-do. (We know he's the Rooster King. He still has all his tail feathers. That means no one else has attacked him to pull them out! Notice the bear behind to the left)

The turkeys are starting to look like turkeys. This Tom is starting to get his waddle, or as KB calls it, his turkey gobble.

Good morning Goliath! Have a great day guarding the chickens. I have to go to work, so keep those birds in line!
Oh, baby Atlas... if you could just smile for me for once! Cheer up, little man, we'll go for a pasture walk just as soon as I get home tonight.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Snake in the Grass (and other creepy things)

Hobbes and I were just out to pasture with the pups feeding the chickens. On our walk back to the barn, something slithered between Hobbes paws, and he didn't even notice. It was a VERY small snake! Distinctly black and yellow, I just finished googling it... and it turns out it was just a Common Garter Snake. A very small one too, but here's a picture of a more full grown one:

The one I saw was no more than 8 inches long, and maybe half an inch in diameter. It sure wriggled quickly through the grass. STATUS: HARMLESS Sure, they may eat small birds, but they couldn't possibly handle on of our chickens. They are fodder for hawks, so they will either keep the hawks preoccupied, or encourage them to hang around our field, which IS dangerous to the chickens!

Since we are talking about creepy crawly things... we do have a creepy spider hanging about the house. There is one with a big web on our front porch that I am trying not to walk through. Of course, yesterday I walked through a web of one at our garage door, and last week, one built a web between the tree and the car - and not only did I walk through it, but I tossed the spider INSIDE the car, and you know what fun THAT was for me. This is a Banded Garden Spider.
They build very Charlotte's Web type webs - symmetrical and very perfect looking. Of course, if the one on the front porch starts spelling "SOME CHICKEN" in her web, I'll be quite disturbed! Anyhow, try as I may, I am still creeped out by spiders. But since we have a horrid house fly problem, I'm going to let them do their thing. Unless they land ON ME, I'm going to try to leave them alone. STATUS: HARMLESS. OK, they spin pretty webs and eat other bugs that I don't want around. JUST STAY OUT OF MY BEDROOM and we'll get along. I guess.

Seven Treasure Chicken

Or was it 8? I don't remember! This was a recipe Larry found, and cooked for our first Thanksgiving together as a married couple. Instead of cooking an entire turkey for the two of us, we cooked up a whole chicken. The "treasures" are the ingredients used in the stuffing. Unlike typical American Thanksgiving turkey, this isn't a bread based stuffing. It has rice, carrots, peas, mushrooms, water chestnuts and other stuff. It's really good.

The point is, we ate this last night. It was wonderful. And it was a rooster that we raised from a day old chick until Monday night, when I told it goodbye, and gave it one last pet on his nice feathers. Our chickens are ready for slaughter, and this one had to go. It had already been crippled by its own weight and couldn't walk anymore. To leave it would mean it would slowly starve to death. So we did it and ourselves a favor. And we had it for dinner.

I'm writing this not just to tell you that we killed a chicken and ate it. I am writing because SOOOOO many of my friends are surprised by my ability to handle this. This was our third chicken dinner from our own chickens. I've watched all 3 slaughters, and mostly was there for the complete feather picking, gut emptying, feeding the dogs the liver experience. And no, I haven't cried yet. I may have to turn my head when it's Tweety's turn. But so far, this hasn't upset me as much as I thought it would, nor as much as my friends assumed it would.

I attribute part of it, honestly, to the whole "running around like a chicken with its head cut off" thing. Seriously, they do. They move a LOT. And just when you think the twitching is over, they'll give you one more go - with or without a head. it's really weird. I watch the birds. I want to make sure they are not suffering, and that it is just passing into sleep for them, despite their twitching nervous system. And the moment you just can't see - what they make dramatic flare out of in movies - is that precise moment when their life leaves them. Sure, you see their eyes close and their heads drop and think "bye, sweetie!" Just for them to pick their heads up again, open their eyes and flap their wings some more. Even when the eyes have closed for presumably the last time, there is still movement. Twitching feet, flapping wings. You really can't tell. There isn't a big SIGH. There isn't one final flop. You just can't tell. They go to sleep, slowly, and twitch while they are at it. It isn't gruesome. It isn't cruel. And that's why I don't cry. Granted, I never stick my hand up their bums to pull out their organs, either! So don't think I've become some hardened farm girl over night. I'm still me. I'm still deathly afraid of spiders (and we have some doozies out here!) But now I get to eat the freshest chickens that are never fed chemicals, never confined to a small cage, never left to trample all over their dead brother or sister. I know, because I see every day that these guys get to hang out outside, eating feed and bugs, with fresh water. They get sunshine and fresh air. They get to keep their beaks, their feet, and are not genetically mutated in any way. And in the end - they taste pretty good too. It's the circle of life. And it really isn't sad at all.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Yes, we heard it this morning. There's been a rooster who's been trying to crow for several weeks now. He usually sounds more like Bobby Brady going through puberty than anything. This morning it was legit - not as boisterous as a full grown rooster sounds like, but he finally got it right. Too bad their end is coming soon - like this weekend. Our rooster will be silenced. But I'm thinking the neighbors really won't mind! This guy was up before the dawn - just like me. Still didn't manage to get Larry up, though. Maybe I should spare him this weekend, just for his alarm clock skills?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Rain Rain DON'T GO AWAY!

I wish I NEVER EVER sang that song when I was a kid! But blessing of all blessings, someone removed the large glass dome over Berthoud and allowed the rain to flow. And I thought it was going to go south of us once again.

Unlike the days of my childhood, teen years and 20s spent in the Midwest, where it can rain for days on end, and the storms are entire states wide... You can stand in your backyard and watch a rain storm develop in the foot hills, and blow north of you, south of you... and never hit you. You might even be standing in the sun while watching another town get blasted with rain.

Tonight, I took a walk around the pasture, as we try to do every night with the dogs. Goliath even joined us and made it the whole trip! Atlas chose to stay and keep vigil with the chickens. Anyhow, as we walked, there was lightning, dark skies, black clouds over head. I didn't even flinch. It never rains in Berthoud. By the time I got back to the barn, I stood and looked at the houses one street over, on the opposite side of the ditch... and listened to the rain pattering on their rooftops. Jealous, I took the pups into the barn for a brush down. And then, to my surprise, I saw drops in the arena... and then I heard them on the barn roof! I ran outside and danced in glory in the fabulous wetness! My garden is grateful, and for that, so am I.

Zucchini Blooms - can't wait for the fruit!
Cantaloupes also have small blooms forming. Yummy yummy!
My favorite cucumbers are also blooming! I know they will appreciate the rain.
My vertically challenged corn are really really trying to grow up! Come on! you can do it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Chickens are BIG, puppies are fun, and the ARK

Goliath says "Come on! It's time to feed the chickens! Aren't you coming?"

Puppies are checking out the field to make sure everything is OK for this chickens this morning.

The chickens are getting big, and the turkeys are getting even bigger. These big fat white chickens have NO idea what is in store for them soon, very soon. The scalder, dunker, plucker and scale have been ordered, and Larry has set the market price... Anyone want fresh chicken for dinner?

This is the "Ark". It's not finished, as we still need to build and install the nesting boxes, so the egg layers have a place to perch and lay eggs. They aren't laying yet, and we still have time. Anyhow, when we pushed this out to the pasture, a little song popped in my head. Maybe if I installed some ears, it would look a bit like this?

Arthur: (to Bedevere) What happens now?
Bedevere: Well, now, uh, Launcelot, Galahad and I, uh, wait until nightfall,
and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French, uh, by suprise.
Not only by suprise, but totally unarmed!
Arthur: *Who* leaps out?
Bedevere: (pointing to each knight as he names him) Uh... Launcelot, Galahad, and I.... uh, leap out of the rabbit, uh, and, uh....
Launcelot: (groans)
Bedevere: (pause) Oh... um, look, if we built this large wooden Badger....