Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Hunted

I took this picture at about 9:30 tonight. Can you spot the hunter?  Our chickens are in the pasture, just in front of that round bale you can see in the right hand corner.  From having tried it out myself, I can tell you that the top of the grain bin is a fantastic vantage point, but you would never know that it's July 14 for the weather out there tonight.  Or last night either, when I was in charge of bringing more, heavier clothes to the chilled hunter.  We've never had to worry about our third batch of day old chicks getting a chill since they arrive in July, but we replaced the window in the brooder house tonight because the south wind is a bitter one. 
Anyway, back to the fox.  Mark spent most of last night (late and then again early) in his perch and fired twice, at what he is convinced was two different foxes (within 20 mins of each other).  He swears he 'must have taken the fur off one of them', but they both managed to run away, so we have been foiled once again.  We know however, that the chickens are in the foxs' sights and they know they're on the the wanted list.  I hear Mark coming in now, probably too damn cold.  Let me just confirm for you that too much sleep is not a problem around this house lately.  

In non-farm related news, because I know you haven't heard enough about Will and Kate, here's a couple shots from Lucy and I on our royal watching adventure.
Turns out, you have to be willing to spend a whole lot of your day waiting around if you want to get anywhere close.  Evidently, Lucy and I had better things to do, but we still got wrapped up in the excitement of the crowd. I'm glad we went.  Sadly, this is probably the best shot of them.  If you look hard, you can see Kate reaching into the crowd and Will in his dapper blue shirt. I tell ya, I wasn't convinced he was the hearthrob he was being made out to be until I saw the pictures of him in his cowboy gear at the Stampede.  Whew, hello cowboy.  Yes Mark, Kate looks that good in everything she wears. I know, and I agree. 
Anyway, the biggest excitement for Lucy was being there when their helicopter arrived at Summerside wharf and we were watching from the boardwalk and it "made rain all over! Even on my glasses!"  It did certainly kick up some water and it was funny to watch people trying to shelter giant zoom lenses on expensive cameras from salt water spray while trying to get a shot.  Hats and flags flying all over the place.
OH! I almost forgot the mention, my brush with some other less-royal royalty that was with Will and Kate. You can see here how close I was to one of my dearest enemies, Peter McKay.    I couldn't believe that of all the hangers on that accompanied the couple, THIS is the DeadSharkEyes robot I had to get a perfect picture of.  Barf.
In better news, we got a good chunk of hay in.  Yes, it got washed a couple times and yes, it's perhaps not the highest quality hay in the world, but it actually turned out pretty good, given how bad it could have been.  I am worried that it may be heating and molding, but time will tell on that front.  We still have some hay to make to fill Rosie's barn, but the loft in the sheep barn is all but full.  What a relief to have some done at least.  This is a shot of my little reporters, letting me know if the hay is dry or not.  Lucy has Jimmy, her favorite doll in hand and she concluded that it's still green, but smells good. 

Given the less-than stellar weather we've been having, some 'projects' that would otherwise be left on the list this time of year are getting some surprise attention.  The rotten barn that has been slowly decaying in our backyard finally met its final resting place this week when the wonderful new lawn tractor earned her keep and hauled it back to the woods.  So now, I not only have a much better breeze in my backyard, I have a larger viewing window to see foxes passing through the field on their way to Barnyard Organics KFC outlet.  
I'll finish off with a shot of a bright looking day lily, which is proof that we are in the midst of summer, despite all evidence to the contrary.  Hang in there Maritime readers, this weekend is promised to be a dandy. 

 I should be in bed, since I think I actually slept with one eye open last night.  When we were growing up, when people in my family party hard/stay up too late the night before, they are made to work extra hard the next day, as penance, as a reminder that life goes on and force you to reconsider the wisdom of those extra beverages next time.  Having kids is kind of like that.  It's almost as if they can tell when you're extra tired.  Anyway, thanks to my upbringing, I can handle it.  No, chasing three kids is not the equivalent of forking out a well packed sheep barn by hand, but in some ways, on some days, it's very similar.  :)


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fox on the Run

Yes, the fox is still on the run.  The chickens are still in the barn, and the third and final batch arrives this week, so the first batch has GOT to get back out on pasture within the next couple days.  Their pen has been fixed and reinforced and the electric fence has been perked up and adjusted.  Mark and I are yawning a bit more than usual these days as we find ourselves standing at the edge of the field at all hours of the night surrounded by biting insects and complete silence, panning a weak flashlight for any sign of reflective eyes shining back, gun cocked at the ready. 
The dog will bark and we'll tiredly roll out of bed, half-knowing that there won't be anything to shoot at by the time we get out there.  Then, once we're there, adrenaline holding our eyes open, it's just a perfectly nice night/morning to be out and about. 
SO, we're not sure our next move, since we know that no matter how reinforced the fence and pen are, the fox is capable of digging underneath as well.  As I said, "That first night after we put the birds back out will be a rather sleepless one."  Mark has left the cattle trailer in the field for the week for the fox to get used to it, with the intention of using it as a blind, but she's a wily little thing.  Here's hoping her appetite is stronger than her sense of smell and she'll walk right by the blind with the man inside.  Now if only the aim on the rifle.....

As I sit here writing this I can hear two distinct sounds.  The first is steadily falling rain. It's making for some beautiful green grass and happy crops.  We haven't had much rain lately and it will be welcome by anyone who doesn't have hay laying on the ground. Unfortunately we're not one of those people and our forecast which looked clear through to Tuesday, two days ago, is now rather gray looking.  It's also sounding like more than the 1mm they were calling for, so we'll see how much rain hay can withstand.  It's a really beautiful crop of hay too, so will be a shame if we lose it.
The other sound I hear is of a man finally admitting defeat to nature, after worrying over the hay for too long as the forecast slowly changed over from good to bad to worse.  He's finally dug his car out from storage and is testing the loudness, I think.  I don't much about the car except that it's noisy and fairly useless.  But apparently a lot of fun,  So between that and rain, it's another Saturday on the farm.

Any tips for dealing with foxes would be appreciated.  Also, any experience with rained-on hay would also be appreciated. 

My sister, April, plays a big role in keeping the kids knee deep in great books and a recent favorite is a book called simply, "Farm" by Elisha Cooper, who HAD to have grown up on a farm, if not still live on one as it has all sorts of insights that could only come from farm progeny.  Anyway, there's a little section that rings especially true these days. 
"At the edge of the fields, butterflies bounce.  In the garden, bees zoom from bud to bud. 
The girl steps on a bee.  The boy gets bit by mosquitos.  The cats swallow grasshoppers and hack them up. 
At night, everyone itches."

Hope this finds you being able to enjoy the bright side of the rain?


Friday, July 1, 2011

Thornton Burgess warned me there'd be days this this...

Well, it finally happened.  After...four?five? successful years of raising chickens on pasture, this morning we were faced with the realities of nature versus man (and chicken).  There is a fox and her family with very sore bellies this morning as they enjoyed a feast of more than 60 four week old chickens last night. 
Just yesterday, I was out and took this picture of the birds enjoying their outdoor pens, since they were only moved out at the beginning of this week, but I could use this for a Missing poster now.  One pen is completely empty, without a sign of anything anywhere and the other pen has a hole in it with a few birds missing, but we couldn't tell how many.  I figured this meant that the fox wasn't done and would be back for the rest this morning.
As Mark, Lucy and Wilson and I headed out on the four-wheeler this morning, gun tucked away in Thayne usual spot(not loaded, don't stress), I spotted the little critter on the other side of the field, heading back for more.  We gave chase and found a well worn trail heading across the road to our neighbour's place.  Come to find out, the fox and four pups have been living in the barn behind her house for a while now (ugh) and she's worried about her little dog, but doesn't have a gun.  Mark blows the snow for her driveway and now he's going to very gladly blow the fox from her barn. 
At least, that's the plan.  He found the entrance to the den at the side of the barn (a little ring of chicken feathers around the entrance), but the big fox was still hiding out in the field somewhere and he's going to wait till tonight when they come out to 'play', which apparently they do every night. Unless we spot the fox coming back to the pen today, which I maintain she will.  I predict she will not rest until BOTH pens are totally empty.

Speaking of weapons, here's the latest tool Mark has rounded up to use on the farm.  With so much couch grass coming off using the finger weeder, it could lead to a lot of broken soybean plants, so Mark borrowed this rotary hoe from an organic neighbour.  

In other exciting news, the compost turner FINALLY made her maiden voyage!  It turned a lot faster than I expected, but otherwise, ran as intended.  Wendell just made a small pile of a smelly cocktail of items (dairy and hog manure and mussel shells) to run through, as our current piles are two wide for it, but it made short work of that. 
Here's the smelly result.  I had four kids on the four wheeler with me for the exciting moment and as we stopped to take a picture of the final result, cousin Molly said, "Hey look at those flies!  It's just like the time Hank (her brother)  pooped in a cardboard box and all the flies came!  It smells a lot worse though." 

 And here's some proof that things are indeed growing (especially after this week of SUN!!!)  Our winter wheat is flowering! It looks so good this time of year with the plump kernels and vivid greens/blues.  A nice distraction from any weeds/problems that might be happening in the spring crops, although for the most part, those are looking pretty good too.
In a final note, we FINALLY made it to the beach!!  Here's a shot of Thayne enjoying a 'SANDwich'.  hehehe.

Hope this finds you celebrating the Red and White somewhere, somehow today.  As I said on our Facebook page, Barnyard Organics will be enjoying our own private fireworks show tonight at the fox den.  Mmwahaha.


ps. In a final death toll count, after we moved the remaining survivors inside, the fox managed to partake in 81 birds.  And he wasn't picky, that includes meat birds, but also half of our layer flock as well.    Ah well, once again, "if you're gonna have livestock, you're gonna have deadstock."