Sunday, August 28, 2011

Holes In My Jeans: Skunks and donkey milk

Holes In My Jeans: Skunks and donkey milk

Skunks and donkey milk

They don't go together but they both played a part in my week - one good, one bad.

James returned from a run and told me there was a skunk headed in the direction of one of our chicken coops.  In less than a minute we heard squawking and we knew he was in their pen.  James ran to the coop and I think he said something to the effect that he wished he had a gun.  I may be wrong about that.  He watched as the chickens frightened the puny, yellowish skunk away.  He wasn't so yellow-bellied though because just a few hours later he returned to our goat and other chicken's fence.  The donkeys and goats were all turned his way watching him stroll through the pasture.  I ran to the hose, at my friend Susan's suggestion, and sprayed him in the face.  He put up with it for awhile, which was strange, but then headed toward the road.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  A few years back my friend Colleen's goats were attacked by a rabid skunk and some had to be put down.  Colleen and her husband had to go through a series of shots too.

I called animal control and spoke to the game warden.  He wasn't very helpful.  All I wanted to know is how to tell if an animal is rabid and how I should trap it.  I learned very little I didn't already know.  I hope the skunk doesn't return but I'm not holding my breath.  I wonder if it's the same skunk that sprayed Rosie a week or two ago.  I don't know if it's the power of suggestion but I think I smell a skunk now. 

On a much happier note, today I made a huge step with my donkey, Chy.  For a year now, since I got her, we've been working on trust.  Today she let me know she trusts me.  How do I know that?   She let me milk her.  Yeah, I'm just a little excited.  Okay, a lot excited.  I guess it was a year ago I blogged about donkey milk and the health benefits of it.  I had almost given up on being able to milk her until recently.  Halter training her and walking her on a lead has been a big help in earning her trust.  Since I had no experience with equines it probably took me longer than a horse person to begin real training.  I was a little afraid of her. If you saw my blog with her and the farrier for the first time you may understand my fear.  Here's a reminder.  I still laugh when I watch those videos and I appreciate my farrier even more.  Wilson is still nursing but I have no idea how much milk Chy has left.  Still, I want to milk her some more before she dries up.  I may have to breed her again so I can continue to milk her.  After seeing the videos with Wilson being so tiny, that doesn't seem like a bad idea.  I could train a whole team to plow our gardens eventually. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shocks and aftershocks

Electricity scares me.  I'll do a small electrical job every now and then but it's usually pretty basic stuff, like rewiring a light fixture or hanging new ones.  Yesterday I went to move my washing machine because it had walked away.  I guess the feet on it weren't level.  When I put my hand around the back to move it a bit I got a strong shock.  I thought I had touched an exposed wire or something so I got on the other side of the washer to push it back into place.  This time all I was touching was the body of the washer and I got another shock.  I was a bit shaken up.  I called our trusty electrician.  He said to shut it off using a block of wood or something.  "Don't touch it".  Of course I wouldn't have dreamed of touching it after 2 shocks.  He came to check it out but didn't have time to fix it so left me some wire and something to fish the wire through our ceiling so he could run a new circuit today when he had more time. 

Keri (our puppy) likes to go with me to check on the pigs.  To get to them we have to cross a road.  I've been working with her to sit and stay till I can be sure no cars are coming.  This morning I thought it would be a good time to teach her to walk on a leash, that way we could cross the road and I wouldn't have to worry about her getting hit.  I clipped the leash on and whoa boy, she freaked out.  She jumped and pulled and then froze like I had beaten her.  She wouldn't move, not even for a treat, not even a step.  I gave up bribing her after about 20 minutes.  I decided to fish the wire in the basement until she trusted me again.  I was using a very skinny rod to fish the wire above the drop ceiling and I accidentally dropped one of the rods on Keri.  This was not good.  Talk about a shock.  I'm sure she was scared to death of me by now.  Somehow she found her way upstairs and was hiding under James' legs in his office.  We coaxed her back outside but she was very timid. 

James helped me fish the wire through after I attached it to the rod.  When I was untaping the wire from the pole I got another shock which didn't make sense because it wasn't hooked up to anything.  It must've been touching another wire up in the ceiling that was hot.  Again, not good.  Fred came out shortly after and hopefully made everything safe.  He and I were talking and I thought I felt the room shake but he continued to talk like nothing was happening so I figured I was having some kind of spell.  I didn't say a word about it.  About 10 minutes later we heard there was an earthquake.  It was about 130 miles from here and a 5.9 on the richter scale.  This was my first earthquake experience.  I was more shaken up by my washer than the tremor. 

By the way, Keri seems to like me again tonight.  I wonder if I should try the leash again tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Moving the rototillers

Today we moved Velma and Roxie again. They've matured enough to go to their 3rd home on our property.  Here they were in their 2nd home.  Note the green in the picture.

Here's what that same space looks like after just over a month.

Our plan is to plant some grain in this pen to feed the goats, chickens and donkeys next summer. 

Two years ago we had two Appalachian Trail thru hikers stay here.  We don't live far from the AT so it's a convenient place for a hiker to get a real shower, eat some home cooked food, check emails and sleep in a real bed.  This weekend one of those hikers returned for a visit.  He's from Mississippi but is doing an internship at a farm just an hour from here so we were happy to see him again.   He's learned a lot this summer and shared some of what he learned about rotating livestock, growing grass and tomatoes and all kinds of things with us.  He helped us corral and move the pigs.  It's was kind of exciting.  James got so excited that he turned the camera off while he was recording them loading into the crate.
Here they are in their new home.
They seemed pretty happy to have grass to eat again and when we checked on them later in the day it looked like they were enjoying their nap in the house too.  I can't wait to see how long it takes them to rototill this grassy garden in our field into a beautiful bed of soil ,ready to be planted.

It was fun sharing ideas with a 25 year old who has some of the same interests.  Dustin will be a successful  farmer one day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Donkey videos

I'm really enjoying training my donkeys to lead.  They're really smart, have so much personality and say so much with their eyes and ears.  Wilson seems to love the attention and wants to please (I think).  He's a little ornery and pushes, nips or gooses me.  We need to work on that.  I think he'd be great to train to pull a cart or plow. 

Today I typed "donkey" into Youtube to see what came up.  Well, I got hooked and spent LOTS of time watching and laughing at videos.  Okay, some of them I won't post on here but they were funny and a bit obscene.  I'll only post the ones I really liked.  I think my donkey-owning-friends will love them.

This one is called Trumpet and Donkey 

This one is called Donkey Balls 

This one is just cute 

And then, because I have an African Grey Parrot, I just loved this one. 

Ok, I'll stop now. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Maybe I should stay out of the kitchen

I used to think I was a decent cook.  After today I'm rethinking that.  Here's a picture of my second batch of  bagels.  They turned out even worse than yesterday's.  I used to be able to make bagels.  I don't know what happened.  Out of practice, that's for sure.
To the right of the pancake bagel is a cushaw squash James grew.  That was going to be dinner tonight.  Was.  It was the most bitter squash I've ever tasted.  Hopefully the ones still on the vines will be better and this one just wasn't ripe enough.  It had fallen off it's vine so I thought I'd give it a try.

Earlier a friend dropped by and we did a cheese tasting.  I think we tried 6 cheeses and I really only liked 2 of them.  I hate spending all that time making cheese and wasting milk just to make something to feed chickens and pigs.   The pigs go nuts over it.  No one can say I don't feed my animals well. 

Here's someone who showed up a little late for dinner and was pretty persistent about wanting to be invited in. 

This is the same chicken who hung out with us on the front steps last night while it was raining.  It seems he doesn't want to sleep with his hatchlings and either wants to sleep in our house or on the front step.  We moved him over with our older chickens tonight to see if he likes it better with them.  He'll wake up with strangers tomorrow morning.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bagels, skunks and rain

Today I had a craving for bagels so I thought I'd make some.  I haven't made bagels in years.  As you can see from the picture they were pretty sorry looking bagels but it didn't stop my family from eating them.  They rose too much and turned out flat.  Oh well, I'm trying a different recipe.  This one takes 2 days to make and the dough is in the refrigerator now. 
Before our dinner of bagels we took the dogs down to the river.  We were there no more than 5 minutes when I heard a squeak and Rosie came running out of the tall grass with foam coming from her mouth.  A strong smell met me before Rosie even got close.  Lex also had a foaming mouth but I didn't smell skunk on him.  Maybe the smell of Rosie made him drool.  Keri, the puppy, was untouched but kept jumping to bite on their mouths.  They'll all be spending the night outdoors which is making them very unhappy. 

We got some rain this evening which was really nice.  We've been so dry here and we're thankful for every drop.  James said we got 2 1/2 inches.  We were sitting on the front porch when the rain came.  A stray chicken joined us.  Chickens don't normally get too upset by rain but I think the lightning and thunder scared her.  It was getting dark too.  I picked her up and she squawked but then relaxed as I stroked her feathers.  I put her down and she kept returning for more attention.  "She" might possibly be a "he".
The donkeys hadn't made it back to their barn before the rain hit either so they huddled nearby under a cedar tree.  They didn't look very comfortable.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Car washing supervisors

The animals thought Adam needed some assistance, I guess.  There's a puppy nearby the car also but I can't see her in this shot.  Adam sprayed Cooper (the goat) with the hose for quite a while but he didn't seem to mind.  Goats usually hate water. Maybe even he thought he stunk.  He does - Bad!  He probably should have shampooed him too.  Keri could also use a bath though I doubt even soapy water would remove the pine sap she laid in.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Poor Cooper

Cooper has been struggling with a physical ailment but I don't know exactly what it is or what to do with him.  For months he has grazed while down on his knees.  I thought this was just his quirky way.  As time went on it looked liked he was limping and walking very stiff legged.  In the past week or 2 he's gotten very lame and lies around a lot.  It looks like he's in pain when he tries to get up or down.  He's been dewormed, had his hooves trimmed, eats well, poops normally and has been looked at by the vet and still we can't figure out what's causing this.  She said he has some atrophy in his rearend and legs from not getting exercise.  She's running some blood work to be sure it's not Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis, CAE, but we're pretty certain it's not that because he still has very good range of motion in his joints.  Also, his mom and sister tested negative for this so that makes it harder to believe it could be that.  CAE is passed onto kids through their mother's milk.  He hasn't wanted to go out into the pasture to graze on what little grass we have so I've let him out of his fence to wander around the yard, hoping he'd be tempted by the crabapples in the driveway and get some exercise.  Goats are herd animals so of course Jimmy is right by Cooper's side and won't go anywhere unless Cooper does.  I'm sitting on the front porch and this is what they're doing.
I did see him run today because I opened the front door and scared the daylights out of him so that was a good sign.  I've decided to give him some grapefruit seed extract mixed with water and apple cider vinegar to see if it makes any difference.  Hey, it's worth a try and it worked for Darla.  Yesterday I mixed up a batch of salve with grapefruit seed extract and oregano oil for the vet to try on some of her alpacas who are having some issues.  I told her to email me if she got good results.  I thought it was funny she wanted to try this. 

You may recall a few years ago I tried drawing blood from my goats to do some testing and I didn't have very good results.  I ended up with blood on my clothes and never got enough to send off to the lab.  Yesterday when the vet was drawing blood I asked her if I could do one while she held her.  I'm very please to say I was successful and think I can now do this to all my goats myself so I won't have to pay a vet to do it.  I guess after all the needles I had to stick in Darla it gave me the confidence to stick a needle in the neck of a goat and know I could do it.

If anyone has any ideas about what's ailing Cooper please chime in.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Training animals - training myself

I've never been very good at training animals.  I usually do the basic stuff like "sit" and "come" and other stuff that makes my life easier, then I let them get away with the stuff that takes too much work.  My donkeys have been a challenge for me because I was kind of afraid of their size and being kicked.  I've come a long way with them though.  Wilson (aka Shiloh) will now let me put a halter on him and can be bribed by treats to walk on a lead for me.  Chy is getting better about the halter but still seems very nervous about being led.  I'm hoping to have them both walking beside me on a lead by next week.  I feel so much more confident training them now that I know regular work with them pays off.  I'm pretty excited about my accomplishments with them.  I need to keep it up.

Our boxers, Rosie and Lex, come when called and are pretty well behaved dogs now but it hasn't always been that way.  There are too many stories to tell so I'll just say they've improved with age.   They're 10 now and I have no plans to try and change them.  Keri, on the other hand, is a clean slate.  At less than 4 months old I feel like I can shape and mold her into the dog I think she should be.  Of course, I know there are some things I'll have to live with because of her breed and instincts.  She's a Great Pyrenees and their job is to protect their home so they bark when they think there's a reason to warn us.  I won't be able to change that even though I'm not fond of barky dogs.

She's quite nippy and that's annoying but in so many other ways I'm very pleased with how fast she learns things.  She knows she's not allowed inside (except for the basement) so she doesn't try to follow us into the house.  She's learned not to catch chickens.  She likes the goats, donkeys and pigs and doesn't pester them and they seem to have accepted her too.  She doesn't try to follow our car when we leave the driveway.  We can leave her outside while we go to town for hours at a time and she just hangs out by the house - at least we think she does.  She's always there when we get home anyway.  Also, she's house broken.

I don't usually teach dogs tricks but Keri learns so fast it's been kind of fun trying new things.  James videoed us today but I left out a few tricks like begging (which is a silly trick to teach, in my opinion).  She can do it though.  She's also figuring out "roll over", another useless trick, but fun to teach.  Here's today's session.

I realize that success in training has more to do with a disciplined trainer than how smart the animal is.  I need to train myself to be more disciplined in my training, that's for sure.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I traded James in for this guy

I asked James if I could shave his hair off and he said yes.  Wow, that was easy.  What else should I ask for?  My sister-in-law, Helen, told him he looks cute no matter how his hair was cut and that she thought he looked like Bruce Willis.  He's heard this before when his head was shaved and  I know he likes it.  In this heat I wish I could shave my head and still look cute.  Maybe if I looked like Demi Moore in GI Jane, but then, Bruce and Demi are no longer married.  Still.................. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This rooster is a keeper

A few months ago a friend called to ask if I was interested in adopting 5 hens and a rooster.  Her friend's family had just acquired a bird dog and couldn't keep chickens anymore.  She told me the rooster was really special.  How special can a rooster be?  I picked the chickens up and they seemed nice enough.   It took awhile to integrate the few chickens I had left with the new ones and none of them laid eggs for a few weeks.  Slowly they all adjusted to each other and we began getting eggs.  The rooster came with a name, Foggy, as in, Foghorn Leghorn, since he's a Leghorn chicken. 

Every night a few of the chickens, including Foggy, perch in the goat barn and I have to carry them to their coop.  I don't know why they don't put themselves to bed but I don't really mind carrying them to their resting place, especially Foggy.  When I lift him into my arms he often puts his head against my shoulder as if to cuddle.  He doesn't flap and flail like some of the hens do.  I think he even likes being held.  It doesn't matter how long I hold him, he rests gently in my arms like he trusts me.  He must have been held a lot as a young chick. 
See how his legs just dangle?  He doesn't scratch or fight me or the hens.  He will never end up in a stew pot.  Yeah, he's a pretty special rooster.

A born milker

My niece is visiting this week.  She's 10.  I asked if she wanted to milk the goats.  She was hesitant.  I could tell she wanted to but was afraid she couldn't do it.  With a little coaxing her mother and I talked her into it. 

As you can see, she was a pro.