Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Week in Pictures

Actually its more like the last couple days in pictures.....

We've had some sunny days - finally - and so I've been working outside and soaking up the last of the sunshine. The pigz are looking great!

We'll have one cold nite this weekend and maybe even a frost!  So I'll be taking up the tomatoes that are just about ripe and covering up the ones that will be happy for the warmer days next week.

And you can bet I'll be working on a lot of pears....

But at least for now the last of the dahlias will wink at the afternoon sun. 

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Worth repeating... and everyone needs a catalog!

I had this as a note on yesterday's post but its worth repeating, has everyone seen The Gardener of Eden's post about the historic Landreth Seed Company?  

Who doesn't need more garden porn?

I ordered a catalog and some seeds yesterday. The catalog is $5 and shipping is about $5 so might as well check out their amazing old timey seed collection and get a jump on next year's seed stash. Click here to see the news story then run right over and spend a couple dollars. 

You can also check out their Facebook page here and then read a detailed article here about how this all happened. I was really encouraged to see that they are increasing their sales, despite all this legal gobbledygook.

In this economy you have to hand it to a gal who took on the challenge of trying to resurrect the oldest seed  business in the country and who had the gumption to make a profit. I can't speak for all this hubbub but who doesn't need a beautiful catalog? Need more of a reason? Its printed here in the States. Your order will keep a few more people working.  And if you tell your friends, and they tell their friends - she might just pull this off. There's only a couple days left and if the only thing you get is a catalog and a package of seeds. Still worth a shot, right?

Now get out there, start cleaning up your garden and start planning where you're going to plant a few seeds from Landreth next year.

Happy Wednesday everyone! And THANKS to Robin at The Gardener of Eden who posted about this yesterday!  And special thanks to my pal L in AZ who already let me know that he placed his order!

And... to Mr. H who placed his order
And Kristen who placed her order - WOW have you seen her blog?!?
And Vicki - yay!
And Sonja - great work!
And Mary Ann who has beautiful pix on her blog - and thanks for reminding me about the Japanese Rednect - that gal is great!
And Little Rooster Croft! And you should check out her rant from today...

Great work everyone!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Gray Shades

My assassins, The Gray Shades, have been about their work. Lately these Bringers of Death have unleashed their terrible power on slow moving field mice who have dared to enter their realm.

Don't let this lazy demeanor fool you - Nicholas is death on four paws.

You can sure tell that fall is falling fast - the mice are beating a path directly for the house. Luckily for us, our house and barn cats are on the job. Two days ago Shine's fury was unleashed on a furry little monster attempting to infiltrate the home base.

Can you believe a mouse was sitting around on the front porch? He was eyeballin' me so I called Shine. Who, of course, ignored me. So I stomped downstairs and demanded that The Big Man "do something." He lumbered upstairs, called Shine exactly once, and 30 seconds later Shine stalked off with the mouse hanging out of his mouth. Good boy, Shine!

 Come on, mouse, make my day.

Then yesterday Nicholas had staked out a far back corner in the kitchen. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. And then light gray lightening he struck and had the terrible beast in his mouth. I tell you the truth, I didn't win me any friends when I ran shrieking into the bedroom demanding that The Big Man get up RIGHT NOW and "do something."

There were a few moments of chaos but you gotta hand it to that mouse. He survived not two but three pounces by an 18 pound cat, a good stomping by Kai, and then lept to his death off the upper deck. And then ran away. Clearly that was one of the Special Forces type mice that were sent to scout the location for the rest of the troops. I hope the chickens get him.

I'm hoping all the rodent activity isn't foretelling an early or especially hard winter. But if the mice escape Shine's Reign of Death outside....and make their way inside they will be met by Paws of Fury for sure.

What about you - are you seeing more mice than usual? Are your house and barncats on the job?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Has everyone seen The Gardener of Eden's post today about the historic Landreth Seed Company?  I ordered a catalog and some seeds. Click here to see the news story then run right over and spend a couple dollars.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chickens: The Bumblefoot Surgery

Since my post on chicken fat failed to provide the much anticipated shrieking and horror I was expecting, I figure you are all farm enough for the next layer of grossness. Ready? But first a picture of one fine looking young rooster......

OK we should be low enough on the page to really talk turkey. Actually we are talking chickens today - more specifically, what to do when you hen has the bumblefoot. But first the disclaimers:

Look away tender victuals! We're going to talk about super-gross things! Your very eyes may melt by just reading whats coming up! Don't read this if you are eating breakfast - especially if its scrambled eggs. No really! I'm even ooked out by this and I like gutting chickens! And most importantly, I am not a vet. I don't play a vet on TV. I never wanted to be a vet. I am not diagnosing your chicken now or ever. If you chicken is sick, call your vet. Got it? OK let's move on. 

 Anybody still with me?

A week or so ago I noticed one of the unnamed rabble - a nice plump mostly black hen - had a weird bump on her foot. I could even see it without bending down or picking her up. It was a bulge between her toes on the top of her foot. Drat. It looked like she had the bumblefoot on her.

What's bumblefoot - besides being one of the funnest words ever?  Its a kind of infection that poultry get in their feet. Usually because they get a little splinter or a thorn or something stuck in their foot, and it festers, and then it gets out of hand. More than likely if your hen has a big black spot on the fleshy part of the bottom of her foot - thats what it is - bumblefoot. There's probably a fancy name for this kind of staph infection but I don't know what is it.

This hen had it on the top of her foot. The only reason I could identify it was because we had another hen a couple years ago with the same problem - but also she had then tell tale black dot on the bottom of her foot. We had to treat both spots - so I knew what this hen had immediately.

What do you do? A couple options:

1. Nothing. Your hen may get over it. But probably not and she'll spread the infection to the others and maybe to you .....and then your hen might get really sick and flop over dead. Not a great choice.

2. Take your chicken to the vet and hand over all your folding money to someone who may or may not just wonder why in the sam hell you wouldn't just send that chicken to the pot. They'll probably charge you about a million dollars and drive off in their new sports car laughing. If that's your choice that's just fine with me. No judgments here. But I knew someone who spent $1200 to get a laying hen a surgery that was basically a hysterectomy. I'm not even lying. You can bet I judged her to be a fool. But everyone is different.

3. Go find yourself a big round pair of you-know-whats and do it yourself.

I have to tell you friends, you know I'm pretty stout. But it takes me about 3 days of beating my chest, dancing around a fire to summon the courage of my ancestors, and repeating to myself "IcandoallthingsthroughChristwhostrengthensme" about a thousand times before I can march out there, scoop up that hen and get down to business.

I don't have pictures of the actual event, mostly because a bunch of shots of me puking probably aren't that helpful, so hands down the best reference I have for treating bumblefoot is right here.  Generally I'm not a fan of BYC but there's some good eggs there and this gal is one of them.

We set up the bathroom as a surgical center and laid out all of our supplies. Then we marched out there, scooped up the hen, and got down to business. The most important thing you can do is wrap your hen in a towel so her head is covered up. The Big Man held her in his arms with her bad foot sticking out of the towel while I worked on her.

The next most important thing is to wear gloves. For heavens sakes don't take a chance and get the infection yourself. And disinfect everything when you are done - use lots of bleach to really get everything clean. And make sure you have separate medical implements for your vet care. We never know what is going to happen around here so we have a pretty good surgical/first aid kit. We also always have rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and tons of and vet wrap and bandages of all kinds. And lots and lots of Neosporin.
This is what you're going for - the infected mass that needs to be removed. Gross. The only reason I'm showing this pic is so you know what it looks like.  Sometimes you can get the whole thing to come out in one piece but I couldn't this time. See that there is some blood but much less than you'd expect.

When the deed was done and her foot was firmly packed with Neosporin, gauze, and wrapping we took her out of the towel and there she was - none the worse for wear. Did it hurt her? Nope. How do I know? Because she didn't squawk or flap or scream or try to get away. If I did this to you I imagine you'd do all of those things - and take a swing at me. In two days you won't even be able to tell anything happened to that little hen. Until then she is in solitary in a cage and covered to keep her calm.  Chickens really are amazing creatures.

Altho gross this is not a cruel procedure and is much better than the alternatives of her dying from the infection or ending up on the block and then in a shallow grave. The hen we fixed up before has lived a good long 3 years (so far) and has never missed a beat. We're sure this plump little black hen will make a full recovery and get back to business soon.

I'm guessing all y'all will be out there looking at your hens feet today, wontcha? Well, what are you waiting for - run right out there and inspect the poulty's feet.

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall Sunflowers, last of the green maters, and pears

Is everyone loving fall? Can you even believe that September is almost over?

These late planted sunflowers are really showing off their autumn colors.....

and I have a few tomatoes that are trying to ripen....

and we're just waiting for the pears to be ready.

We are taking a break from the canning today to work on some clearing. The pigz have done such a great job in their original yard we are going to take down some of the scrub trees. And also take some time to cut up some of the downed trees from last year. We're starting to get our wood pile for winter built up. I can't even believe it. Today is going to be beautiful tho, so we're going to be soaking up all the sunshine. 

Have a great day, everyone! Now get out there and enjoy the fall sunshine!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The New Kid

Under the category of "What's one more...."  Meet the new kid, this is Scruff!

Isn't she a pip? And yep, she's really that small. Just 7 pounds fully grown. The Good Vet thinks she's 8 months to a year old. And she's already had a litter of kittens. At this point I'd like to make a happy story about how we got her.

But the hard truth is that we got her because someone threw her away. In a dumpster.

We're pretty sure she was living in there - near where my husband works for about a month. He fished her out of the dumpster and brought her home about a week ago. Some folks said they saw some kids with her - trying to give her away. I guess they just left her there.

I'm not sure what kind of person - a parent no less - would send their kids out to "give that cat away." But I'm pretty sure its the same kind of people who threw a declawed, toothless, older cat out on a cold nite. That's how we got Teddi Gumpkins. Based on how starved she was we think Teddi was out on her own for at least a month.

I gotta tell you, there are some hard things in this world and there is a lot of cruelty. But we just don't understand how people can actually throw away their companion animals. Someone asked me, not in so many words, why we have all these cats. The reason is simple - because some threw them away.

We only ever went out and got 3 cats on purpose...but those were throw aways too.  My two old ladies were adopted from animal control...and we intentionally got Pepper. But she was from a throw away momma and was lucky enough to end up at our Vet's office. Aside from that - all of these cats found us. One from a parking lot, one from a corn field, and one was abandoned by her momma when mean dogs chased her off her nest...it goes on and on.  All of them have hard luck stories which ended  with "...and they lived happily ever after" because they came to be with us.

We never could find Scruff's kittens but we're pretty sure the people kept the kittens and threw her away. The day after she came home we took her to a local vet and had her tested for all the communicable cat diseases. She passed with flying colors - got her shots, and showed her thanks by pooping all me on the way home. Our Good Vet fixed her 4 days later and said all in all, she looked pretty good.

We're working on integrating her with The Insane Cat Posse - its slow going tho, she's really shy and I'm not sure she's been around cats before. But she's got a huge crush on The Big Man and is a good snuggler. My friend SD wrote a beautiful tribute about how guardian cat angels put Scruff somewhere that my husband could find her - someone was looking out for her, for sure.

And because we just can't get normal cats to show up around here.... here's a fun fact about little Scruff. She has an extra set of nipples. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Of course, with our sense of humor we almost named her after her most interesting physical characteristic. - but we couldn't get over that one day I'd have to call the vet and tell them that they "really need to see our Nipples." You can't take us anywhere.

That's the word here. If you are brave enough - and have enough farm in you - go ahead and check out the late nite post from yesterday. But only look if you dare....there's chicken guts and everything.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holy Chicken Fat! All from one big meat!

Wow what a day we had yesterday! I'm intentionally posting at night. I have some hard core farmy stuff to talk about - and at the stroke of midnite I'll post an adorable kitten picture so folks who read in the morning don't puke on their keyboards. Or drop their phones at the horror of it all.

But first a cute picture of our Nicholas - look at those paws!  Last nite he brought me a mouse from under the sink. Thanks Nicholas!

OK by now you should be reading 'below the fold on your computer screen. Now is your opportunity to opt out and tune in later for an adorable kitten picture. Last chance.. tender victuals don't read any further! We're gonna talk about chicken guts! And show pictures! You know I only tell you the truth about farming! Who's with me!?!? Come on Farm Pirates! Who dares to look?

So. What a day yesterday! The rain held off (thank heaven) so we ran right out and whacked the last 2 remaining creepy meats. You'll note its TWO, not three, left over meat chickens from the batch we had earlier in the summer Just two - the third one flopped over dead the other nite. And I mean flopped.

The dog and I heard a terrible flapping in the hen house so we ran right over thinking that marauding wombats or what not got in there... nope.. that 3rd meat went down. Hard. It was horrible. We saw the whole thing. Me and the dog stood there clutching each other and screaming. Then it was over and that huge meat lay there in a heap, belly up. Dead of a heart attack. How awful is that? It just got too big.

Normally at this point I would go and get my husband and tell him to 'get the gloves.'  But I have evening chores alone these days. I could have sent the dog in but I'm pretty sure he'd just help himself to the dead meat. So I had to do it. I'm not even kidding - I could barely lift the thing.

What a waste! We were supposed to dress the last of the meats a couple weeks ago but you know how that goes. So we didn't get around to it. Drat!

So anyway. Then there were two.

But what a haul! Not only is there a ton of meat from them - but we got so much fat from the biggest of the two creepy meats you cant even believe it. I was slack jawed and buggy eyed - actually I was in chicken fat heaven. I'll probably get several CUPS of rendered fat - from just those two meats!

What do I do with the fat? Are you kidding? What don't I do... right now I love using it to fry stuff up. Recoiling from the idea because of all you've heard about fat? Ha - throw everything you've learned about nutrition directly in the trash. Head over to the Weston A Price foundation for a tutorial, or check out Cheeseslave, or go and read Nourishing Traditions. Not your thing? That's fine too.

Each side of those livers were as big as my palm - and just look at all that fat from ONE chicken!!

The biggest meat chicken is as large as a small dressed turkey - its just amazing.  That bird was so big it was.. it was... a... guargantu-HEN! And the livers! The livers were as big as my palm. Honestly I was amazed.

But here's what I really want to show you. We normally don't dress mature hens - our layers are too valuable to just send to the pot... and the creepy meats aren't usually mature when we send them to glory. So imagine my surprise when I found these:

They are EGGS! That's right developing eggs - and some of them were pretty big! As far as I could tell she was not laying yet - but she might have. Can you believe it? I'd heard of this - and some of the old timers say to cook these unlaid eggs with noodles. But I was so amazed that I had to share. I think its a good thing to be aware of, especially if you are new to the home butchering game. I'm telling you, I learn something new every day.

Last nite I made a chicken liver and rosemary tomato pasta sauce - and one liver from the smallest of the two was too much for me to eat in one sitting. Those meats are creepy for sure but wow you get a lot of bang for your buck. Provided they don't flop over dead.

If you've read this far you deserve a tall cold one. Or maybe you should just go directly to shots of vodka. That's OK too.

Tune in soon and we'll have a picture of an adorable kitten to take your mind of the chicken guts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Salsa Day

Yesterday was Salsa Day! Wow what a day! Actually it was an epic canning day all around. My kitchen looks like the Ball Canning Book puked all over it.

Saturday I was thrilled when the FedX guy showed up with my new canner! Actually its my second canner... I got tired of all that senseless waiting around for my current pressure canner to cool.  Especially if I had just a few more jars to process. And while small batches were an easy way to go - might as well get double for your trouble, right?

I ordered another 23 quart Presto from Amazon. The shipping was FREE (2nd day!!!) so I had no trouble paying the $85. Our pal VPak is a fan of the Mirro canner - and I really considered moving from a dial to a "jiggler"... but I figured that I was already watching one dial anyway. I'm keeping my eye out for a used Mirro tho... just in case.

Since my stupid peppers didn't fruit thanks to a late start and some 100* days... I ran right over to a Upick place. Its a long drive from us but I was headed in that direction anyway. My 3/4 bushel of assorted peppers cost about $22. I was a little irritated at having to buy produce... but on Sunday one of the old timers at our little church gave us about a half a bushel of tomatoes - just for the picking!

I turned out to be the perfect amount that we needed. We are waiting for the next wave of maters to ripen so this was a blessing indeed! So our total cost for all these jars of salsa is less than $1/each! Its a great deal especially if you consider that I might be allergic to something in commercially prepared salsa. And knowing that you are buying local, using extra so it won't go to waste , and making it yourself is priceless.

Last nite for supper, while all the pots were boiling, I poured some of the fresh hot salsa over our goat cheese for a quick supper/snack... it was amazing!  Yesterday was a lot of time standing on my feet but wow the results were worth it.

Is everyone getting the last of the produce in? Some of my pals in other parts of the country are reporting their first frosts... we have another couple weeks yet.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Now what are you waiting for? Run right out and get a second canner! Or a first one - if you get the Mirro let me know who you love it.
UPDATE:  Our pal Sherry let me know that you can get one of those "jigglers" (a weight) for the Presto dial style canner! What a great idea - I think I'm gonna give it a whirl. She said to check it out here on amazon.com. THANKS Sherry!

Monday, September 19, 2011


I don't have a lot of time for ornamental flowers around here - but I just love dahlias.... 

The dinner plate varieties are my favorites....

and who doesn't love a soft peach blossom?

And then there is OUR Dahlia... or Dolly as we call her. She's as big as her momma, Debbie, and we think that she's headed for a big date with a little buck soon.

How about you? Do you have your breeding plans squared away? We think we have our plan all worked out... but more on that later.

Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Fighting Uruk-hai

Editor's Note - Ohiofarmgirl's Farm is pleased to provide you with this special presentation. We'll return to our regularly scheduled programing momentarily.

We can hardly believe that our little Kai is a year old. Her birthday was last week and of course I'm a little sad that I can no longer call her a "puppy" - she'll always be our little girl. All 90 or 100 lbs of her....My friend SD says Kai still has a puppy brain - and we see it in Kai's bright eyes. Just the other day we were ooohing and aaaahing over how regal she looked...and then she started chasing her curly tail. Puppy brain.

Kai's name comes from two sources.... in front of decent folks I say, rightly, that "Kai" is the Hawaiian word for "sea" or "ocean" and if you say "OK, Kai" it kinda sounds like you're saying "from the sea" (o ke kai).

Then there's the rest of you (you know who you are) and since you already know what a sci-fi nerd I am....so chances are you already know that I named her after part of a quote fromThe Lord of the Rings... and we say she's My Fighting Uruk-hai who fights under the white hand of the momma. Such. A. Nerd.

But we love Kai because she's such a happy girl. When she wags her curly tail she kinda does this little hippy hop, booty bounce so we started singing that Ricky Martin song about shakin' her bon-bon, shake your bon-bon..and she and I do a funny little dance together. While she hasn't entirely come into her "hell yeah"...and she won't for probably another year... she's got a stout heart and will one day be a brave hunter. Until then she's kinda girly and a little bit of a princess.

In honor of her birthday we present the greatest Kai tale every told. I blame my pal FJ for this entirely...and also SS who egged me on. We arrived at this epic story because of a bad case of green bean bugs. I innocently asked how I should handle an infestation of those stupid little fuzzy yellow bugs who were eating my Hill O' Beans. 

FJ suggested I ride to battle with a flame thrower....and then it all just got a little silly. So go ahead and identify all your favorite sci-fi scenes...and those of you who are true ancient battle history nerds may see a few references as well. Thanks, FJ, here's your story in it entirety - and the best battle 'tail' yet of My Fighting Uruk-hai.

Part One: The Capture of Lucky

The scene - on the battlefield in the upper garden, smoke rises in the distance, helo's piloted by the guineas fly low over head, the geese lay down suppressing cover from their turrets as the goats belly crawl their way into the line of fire.

The battle against the enemy had been raging and the weary troops prayed for a victory over the incessant scourge that would not leave their land. Initially they had been told that the solution was to burn the enemy to the ground, but the first wave of flame throwers attacks were rebuffed. Now the land and all its inhabitants were in an all out war. The ground was savaged, the army was fatigued, supplies were running low, and the commander had an altogether different problem on her hands...... 

In the middle of the action, OFG and Kai were squaring off, nose to nose. OFG raging mad, Kai just as defiant - the pup's battle gear in a pile in front of her, a sparkly tiara on her head.

OFG was shouting, "Soldier! Get your gear on and get back into the fight!"

"NO! And I'm not a soldier! I'm a princess!" Kai's resolve held fast. "And I want a tea party!"

OFG, was now growling, "YOU. ARE. NOT. A. PRINCESS!"

But the pup would not budge and answered back,  "I am! I am a princess!"

Kai's commander had reached her limit, a vein bulged out of OFG's forehead, and she could be heard above the battle noise, "Your name is My Fighting Uruk-hai PoodleKiller and you are soldier in this man's army - now get in there and get to work!"

Now in tears, Kai wailed, "No I'm not and my name is Princess JellyBean!"

"Princess WHAT? Oh you just wait until your father gets home...." OFG had just about enough of this insolence...

But Kai would not relent and thru her tears, accused, "He's not my father - you're not even my real parents... you... you... (gasps) BOUGHT ME!"

Shocked, OFG started to retort, "Wha...." But her attention was ripped away from the angry pup by an urgent call over her comm and she turned her face toward the battle.

In the background she watched as her second in command, a dog warrior named Lucky, blasted his way into the thick of the fight with a gat, was knocked off balance by a mortar round, and was swarmed by a horde of the destructo-bugs. As he was knocked to the ground, he yelled into his comm, "Request retrieval!!

OFG,  now with an even bigger problem to solve, was still raging at the defiant pup in a tiara who wanted of all things, a tea party. This would have to wait. She turned and shouted, "Colonel Ti!"

The big dog, in full battle regalia, strode forward, "Sir yes sir!"

"Show this recruit how we do business around here!" She commanded as she pulled on her helmet, "We've got a man down and I'm goin' in. This place crawls."

OFG fired up the flame thrower as she shouted commands to rally the hens into their battle line, and pushed her way through the fight to Lucky.  They could see the dog soldier had been bound and gagged and was being dragged off by the bugs.

Alone now on the hillside, Titan glowered at Kai and knocked the tiara off her head, the enormous dog leaned in close to the frighted, yet still defiant pup,  "These are the rules. Everybody fights, nobody quits. If you don't do your job I'll bite you myself."

* The scene faded to black with a long shot of the battle field, just as OFG and the hens reached where Lucky was last seen......*

Part Two: The Press Conference

The scene: Oval Office Press Briefing Room, a flunky introduced the Administration's spokesperson. A carefully coiffed and smartly attired representative stepped forward to address the cadre of reporters...

"Thank you for coming. We'd like to address the rumors that there has been some kind of military action in the upper garden. The fact is this just is not true. We have it on good authority that a weather balloon may have crashed in that vicinity. Reports of some kind of bug uprising have been greatly exaggerated and I can assure you that there is no "destructo-bug" within our borders. The widely circulated youtube videos showing a soldier known as Lucky being held hostage by some kind of insurgent insect regime is a hoax and not credible."

"We are not taking questions at this time. Thank you for coming and help yourself to some green beans on the way out."
The press instantly jumped to its feet, flashbulbs pop, questions are hurled at the representative, microphones are everywhere......the scene erupted into chaos and immediately the pundits started spinning the story in all ridiculous angles

Part Three: Duck Team Six

The scene: Somewhere in a bunker in the upper garden, the command center is taking direct hits.  Pieces of rubble and dirt fell on the map spread out in front of OFG.  Her comm officer - a white duck hen named Daisy - was desperately trying to relay a message and was shouting over the din of the raging battle outside 

"Sir! We have located Lucky - he's being held by the insurgents under the grape arbor!" Reported Daisy.
Titan immediately turned to his attache, one of the younger hens, "Tell my men to be ready to move in 5...."

"Belay that order, Colonel!" Bellowed OFG from her position at the map table. She had not looked up.

"But sir," questioned the Colonel,  "We need to get an extraction team to the location. We need to rescue Lucky. If those bugs...."

"Yes, yes of course, Colonel," She answered heavily, "We'll send in a team. But not you. I need you to mount an offensive with the heavily armored mounts - a direct attack. You need to buy us some time."

"You mean...." Started Ti.

"Yes, bring out my hog riders!" Commanded OFG.

Ti, saluted and hurried off, barking his orders, "Unleash the pigz! Mount up, boys its time to hunt bugs." 

The old veteran knew his duty...and he knew that his commander of all those long years had something more in store for the evil menace that was destroying their world. Those bugs would pay. Until then he and his men would unleash hell.

Back in the Command Center, Daisy asked, "But, Commander, who will rescue Lucky? They have him held deep in the grape thicket!"

For the first time OFG looked up from her map, she answered "We have no choice but to bring out..... Duck Team Six."

A collective gasp from the command center brought everything to a silent stand still. Daisy, breathlessly dared to ask,  "You cant mean... "
"Yes, Daisy, you heard me." OFG answered, her jaw set firm and with hard eyes.

Young and inexperienced, Daisy pressed her commanding officer,  "But sir, them boys aint right!"

A little too sharply, OFG retorted, "I'm aware of the risks. Issue the order - bring out... the runner ducks!"

Rebuked and a little frightened, Daisy hurried away relaying instructions and looking worried. 

OFG looked out at the raging battle..... "Hold on, Lucky, momma is coming for you... just hold on a little while longer...."

In the distance Col Ti could be seen leading the charge on foot as the barn cats, Shine and Bobbi, rode the pigz on a direct collision course to the Insurgent Insect stronghold.....

Part Four - The Battle Rages

Daisy, the Comm Officer, received a sudden transmission and alerted her commander,  "Sir! we have the satellite feed from the Duck Team Six operation."

OFG spun around in her big chair to better view the central monitor, and ordered, "On screen!"

The monitor sprung to life. Fuzzy at first then it clearly showed the scene up on the battlefield. A huge black cage was being pulled into position by the younger ganders.

OD the lead gander, a patch over one eye, marched beside the wheeled cage and mercilessly whipped the younger ganders as he snarled,  "Put your backs into it maggots!"

At last the mighty cage came to a full stop. With great effort, and to the sound of iron on iron, the door ground open loudly. The door keepers panicked and ran for their lives as the runner ducks burst out of the giant cage like crazed berserkers. Each a shrieking, screaming, whirling demon. And the peeping! The horrible unholy peeping! The enemy was momentarily transfixed and seemed to take a collective step backward in sheer terror....

Initially the dozen demon ducks scattered in all directions... then suddenly came together to form a battle phlanx and rushed toward the enemy.  Then as they gradually picked up speed they morphed into a giant wedge headed directly into the fray.  Just as they were about to smash thru the faintly failing enemy lines..... a contingent of potato bugs appeared from the nearby garden. The potato bugs roiled down the hillside, surrounded..... and overwhelmed Duck Team Six.

OFG leaped from her command chair, aghast. The entire Command Center held its breath, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

A red shirted ensign, previously unseen, stood next to Daisy and awkwardly broke the silence,  "Sir. They've been destroyed!"

Almost silently OFG, croaked thru her shock,   "Insect b*astards. You've killed my ducks." And then she slumped back into her chair, lost in her own horror. 

Col Ti burst into the room and made his grim report, "Sir, the battle is turned, we will be taken."

OFG, eyes distant, spoke her thoughts out loud,  "So much death. What can farmers do against such reckless hate?"

A heavy silence filled the air. No one moved. They'd never seen their commander at a loss.

"Ride out with me, Sir." It was Colonel Ti stepping forward.

Rage started to build within OFG, her shock giving way to a bottomless anger and desire for revenge, "For death and glory?"

"For the farm, for Lucky!" Answered Colonel Ti.

OFG was gathering strength, the others could feel it, "Yes....yes....bring my mount, fetch my sword! Fell deeds awake - now for wrath... now for ruin.... and the red dawn!"

In one smooth motion OFG leapt on the back of her trusty mount, TurkZilla, and with a mighty gobble they thundered out of the bunker, Col Ti at her side and a mighty company of war hens following, drawing swords and fighting for all their worth.....

The red shirted ensign was immediately slain. 

The battle raged and the sun rose over a field of death as the army fought with wild abandon now that they had nothing to loose.

Part Five - Somewhere on a high hill

Somewhere, alone on a high hill and completely unaware of the battle taking place, Kai hopped and popped along in her tippy-toe, little pup run-walk.  She wiggled her bottom and shook her pom-pom tail and sang her theme song.  From time to time she jumped up to bite the head off the tall grass that lazily swayed in the afternoon sun.  She saw a butterfly alight, lifted her gaze, and turned to follow it...then suddenly her laser-sharp nose zeroed in on something familiar.  She whipped her massive head around toward the scent.

Instinct took over and she got low in the grass, snuffing the ground and prowling the ancient stealth of her forebearers.  Like a ghost she glided thru the tall grass, her eyes seeing everything... the grass parted to reveal as open glen. Suddenly she brightened, and then bounced and danced toward a lone figure leaning against a tree...

"Lucky! Whatcha doing here?" She nearly squealed with excitement.

But she couldn't hear his reply which sounded like, "Mwfff  tthuuu eeeez!"

"What? I dont have to pee."

Lucky tried again, "WWfff  tthuuu EEEEEZ!!!!!"

"What? Sail the seven seas? What are you talking about Lucky?"

Frustrated the pup suddenly reached up and ripped the duct tape off the older dog's mouth. 

"AAAUHGHGHGH! " Cried Lucky.

"Ooops!" She laughed and then Kai saw that Lucky was bound to the old pine tree with heavy chains.

"Quick!" Urged Lucky, "Get the keys! Right over there - get me out of here!"

Pausing and with an impish glint in her eye, Kai, tilted her head playfully and answered "Humm..... well. Maybe. Only if.........."

In the great distance they could see smoke but barely heard what was happening.

The Unexpected Hero


The air filled with the thunder of a hundred paws and claws tearing the ground as the great company raced across the field. The army of hen warriors led by OFG was hard charging its way to the final holdout of the Insect Insurgents.

OFG called to her front ranks, her most trusted personal guard, urging them on,  "Hold the line! Stay with me! Hold the line!"

Her confidence and hard, battle worn face belied her worry. It had been days since they saw Lucky dragged away by the cursed bugs. Her army had crossed the the length and breadth of her empire. They couldn’t find her second in command anywhere.  She had sent out her best scouts. None had returned. Her hunters could track a falcon on a cloudy day but they could not find Lucky. 

A look of concern crossed OFG's face and she fought to control her emotions when she caught Col Ti's cold stare. He was right, she thought, this was no time for weakness.

OFG's shoulder groaned under the weight of the constant battle. A scar crawled down her leg and a bandage covered another wound on her fighting hand. Fell deeds had been awakened, her wrath had been unending. Ruin would be her legacy for these...these... "farm enders"... these demon bugs. They were an army unlike any other, crusading across the county in search of the promised land... a garden of fresh, young unpicked green beans. When they destroyed one garden the moved onto the next.

The hen warriors spread out in a mighty fan, the battle line would hold. It had to - the farm depended on it. Each warrior was carefully chosen for their steadfastness in battle, each trained and tested, each fearsome, bold. Each readying themselves to see what grotesque spectacle they would find over that hill.... what horrible demons had been coughed up from the darkest reaches of the insect empire. They neared the top of the hill.

Col Ti's eyes were wild with battle lust, his war cry was loud and long as he raced to stay by OFG's right side. On her left, her standard bearer, an old war wizened veteran hen, Franhilde, was mounted on Nibbles and proudly held aloft the battle flag - an image of a fox and an axe on a blood red background.

OFG's voice carried over the mighty sound of the charge as she cried to her men, "To victory! To farm victory!! If you find yourself alone grazing in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled, for you are in Valhalla and you're already dead! Brothers! What we do in life echos in eternity!

The air was filled with ruckus laughter and a great "huzzah!"  The warriors leaned further forward, pressing on to the fight. They would fight for her. They would die for her, for their captain, for their king - for the farm and for victory.

Just as they crested the hill OFG pulled her mount up short and bellowed, "FULL STOP!"

TurkZilla danced and flapped trying to keep from spilling his liege, but OFG skillfully lept free and tossed the reins to a waiting page. The back ranks were still crying "Forward! On! On!" .....and so the hens crashed into the ducks, who fell forward into the geese, who bonked into the turkeys...who weren’t about to fall beak first into the goats.

Col Ti barked orders to form up the ranks as he shouldered his way forward, "Sir? What...." 

He followed OFG's gaze and then he took up the same opened mouth, head cocked to the side look...trying to make sense of what they were seeing. He blinked and shook his head, was he mad? "Sir?"

OFG shook off her war cloak and shield and took a hesitant step forward.

There in front of them was an elegantly set table.  It was half the size as normal furniture, in fact it was child sized. The linens were crisp, the setting sterling, and the teapot a handsome blue willow pattern.  At the table sat Kai and Lucky, sipping tea and quietly chatting.

Col Ti, angrily strode forward, "What the... Lucky! Attn-hut!"

Instinctively Lucky jumped to his feet, spilling the tea in his lap. Unfortunately for him, the chair was a bit small and it was stuck on his bottom.  He tried to free himself, turned quickly - and knocked into the table spilling the tea cakes. Some of the younger hens rushed forward and began pulling on the chair. At last it gave way but the sudden release sent the hens and the chair falling backward in a tumble...and Lucky sprawling forward, right at OFG's feet.

"On your feet, son." Commanded OFG.

Lucky scrambled to his feet, desperately snapping a salute.

"Sir yes, Sir!" Replied the young dog trying to pull himself together.

"What's that on your head, Lieutenant?" Asked OFG staring in disbelief.

"Well, Sir, its..a....its some kind of princess hat, I believe." He offered.

Both OFG and Col Ti looked at him quizzically.

Kai, was still at the table trying to mop up the spilled tea with a frilly napkin, she said loudly with irritation - and a cheeky coyness that got under OFG's skin, "Its a ti-ar-a."

Both OFG and Col Ti looked at her quizzically.

Col Ti leaned in close to Lucky said in an angry voice, "You're not in uniform, soldier, now take that thing off your head and fall in line!"

OFG started forward toward the pup - who was nervously fidgeting at the table. "Kai, whats going on here?" She gently asked.

From behind her, Lucky called, "She wouldn’t get me free unless I promised to have a tea party with her!"

OFG turned a cold look toward Lucky - which instantly silenced him.  Then she leaned down to be at eye level with a very-ashamed-of-herself-pup. All of a sudden Kai spilled out her confession, "Well you wouldn't let me be a princess and so I ran away!  Then I found Lucky. And now we are having a tea party."

"A tea party?" OFG could not believe that this young pup, who refused to take part in battle, found her missing Lieutenant. Alone. In this hostile land. This one young pup did what her entire army could not.

"And you found Lucky yourself?" Asked OFG.

"Uh-huh.... I followed my nose." Answered little Kai.

"I see," Said, OFG nodding, "You have a good nose, honey. No one else could find him. But...but... where are the bugs?"

"Them bugs flew away! The eagles came." Said Kai excitedly and looking up.

OFG looked up also and asked, "What eagles honey? There's no eagles."

Kai pointed toward the horizon, "There - those eagles."

"Oh no, honey - those are barn swallows." 

Kai laughed and said, "Well, they sure swallowed those bugs! Then the rest of them bugs went over to the bad neighbors - over there."

Still a little perplexed, OFG asked, "To the bad neighbors?"

"Yep! He's always firing off his gun and he scares the eagles... I mean, them barn swallows so all the bugs went over there."

"I see." OFG turned her head slightly back towards the troops, but her eyes were still fixed on Kai. She ordered, "Colonel Ti - move these men out. We're going back to base - it looks like this Insect Insurgence has been neutralized."

In the background Colonel Ti issued orders, dressed the lines, and signaled the rear guard to begin the marching cadence. The troops moved slowly back toward the barnyard.

OFG took Kai by the paw and started to lead her back home.

"Momma?" Asked the young pup.

"Yes, honey?"
"Can I....can I be a princess now?"  Kai asked tentatively, looking up with her hopeful eyes.

"Yes sweetheart," Said OFG gently, "You can be a princess now."  They walked a while in silence and then, "I'm glad you found Lucky, honey."

"Me too!" Replied the happy pup as she dreamed of a new tiara

Kai skipped and hopped alongside OFG, shaking her pom-pom tail and dancing along in her tippy-toe little pup run-walk into the sunset.

And that's what happened. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Honeys...and more

Hey! Who turned off the summer!? This morning it was 39* glorious, sunny degrees.... now THAT'S a cool down. I'm enjoying it today..... but any minute now I'll be complaining about the cold and saying "Remember when it was summer and everyone was happy?"

Check it out......

A bottle of this year's and last year's honey. See the difference? This year's honey is darker - its on the left. We aren't sure what the beez were eating to make it darker.. but I sure tasted more "clover" than anything.  As you can see, whats blooming really affects the taste and color of honey.

In other news.......My friend "S" shared this with some of us yesterday. Its a great little short film and a wonderful reminder that a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Don't be afraid to share a little love if you have the chance, friends, sometimes the smallest gesture means the world to the person receiving it.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dunking a Hot Hen or Breaking a Broody Biddie

Thanks to everyone who asked about all this "dunking a hen" that I mentioned yesterday . Here's the short version of the going's on....
The scene of the crime

We have 3 or 4 hens who are trying to brood. That is - they are trying to get one last clutch hatched before the weather turns too cold. Normally we'd just let the hens try and set a nest thru September but we have tons of chicks! Since we really don't need another clutch. So we are trying to "break" our broody hens of their desire to set a nest.

In truth we try to encourage broodiness. It seems a little ridiculous that hens are bred to get rid of their natural mothering ability. But a broody hen will set a nest for 21 days, then raise her chicks, probably molt, and end up not laying for several months. We aren't that big on production so we really don't care. But commercial operations or smaller flocks need to have all hens firing eggs at top speed. But we are a little more easy going. And we love it when hens raise their own babies - its easier on us and a lot less work. So we like a broody biddie.

The victim.. I mean.. volunteer.. I mean... broody gal

If you need a hen to knock off all the settin' around you have a couple choices. First you can just hope she gets bored and stops on her own - this may or may not work. Second, as "steak and eggs" said yesterday - you can put your hen in a wire cage, up off the ground, with no bedding or straw (with food and water) and let her cool her jets for a 3 or 4 days.... or you can believe that old wives tale, and give her a good dunking.

If you are an old wife, you know that you are generally right and sometimes there is some science in the old ways. There is probably a boring scientific explanation out there but I just tend to believe old wives. In short, to break a broody hen you literally need to cool her down. Her body temperature is running warm and if you cool her down, the instinct and the broody mechanism will be "reset" and she'll go about her normal chicken business.
The witnesses

For the past couple days I've noticed a couple hennies reluctant to leave the nest boxes when I went out to take up the eggs. And these gals also pulled the feathers out of their breasts. And they screamed like enraged badgers when I removed the eggs. One bit me. Those are the sure signs of a broody hen.

So I called the dog and had him stand guard while I snatched up one of the screaming hens. I took her over to one of the big tubs we had full of cold water... and plunged her into it.

A note: be sure that you are holding onto her wings! Or there will be a lot of splashing. All over you. And the dog. Don't ask me how I know this.

I held my favorite french hen so that the water covered her body- but NOT over her head - for a couple minutes. Then put her on the ground. She ran off shaking and muttering how mean I was.

Is it mean? I think its meanner to let a hen starve herself to death on a nest that will never hatch.  So all things being considered, nope, I don't think its mean. And if you've ever seen your hens out in the rain you'll wonder why they say "mad as a wet hen." She ain't mad cuz she's wet - she's mad because you took her off her nest.

After all the complaining Raspberry noticed she was wet and so she decided to preen herself and forgot about going back to her nest....this is probably one of the real reason why it works.

Today Raspberry was not trying to hatch a nest.. but two of the other gals got another dunking. Hopefully tomorrow I won't have to do this again.

As for my gal, Inky, look how happy she is with her babies. That's a fine clutch of chicks, Inky - great work!

So now you know why that wet hen is really mad... and why old wives are generally right. So get yourself a wire cage and cool that gal down... or just give her a dunking for the quick version. Keep an eye on her tho - setting a real or imaginary nest is hard on these gals. They need to get back to top condition with plenty of fresh air and good eats.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hey Baby!

It goes without saying that I can't count. Which is why I'm glad for my innate laziness. Last week I was supposed to take up Inky's second failed nest. Its a good thing I didn't because look who I found......

Hey baby! Where'd you come from?

So far her "failed nest" has produced four adorable chicks. Two like this guy who are probably Light Brahma mixes, a red chick, and an all black little puff ball.

Look at the beautiful coloring!

I blame my lack of math skills on the "new math" they introduced to my generation in grade school. It didn't work at all, apparently. I can't even count to 21 - which is the number of days a hen has to set her nest to have a hatch.

To be fair, we thought that the eggs had died when they all rolled down the hay pile where Inky had her nest and had cooled. One morning we found Inky on the top of the pile where her nest WAS...and most of the eggs at the bottom. We tried to reform the nest for her but she ended up moving them and then refused to move. I dont think she got up but 2 or 3 times for her whole incubation time.

But all's well that ends well because this little guy is just as cute as can be. And this morning a buncha cute little faces looked up at me from under one very proud momma. Great work, Inky!

We are getting pretty late in the season for any more chicks - but these little ones should be OK under their momma. Yesterday I had to dunk a couple broody hens who really want to have one more hatch. I can tell you that there is nothing madder than a wet hen. BlackJack, our fine Australorp roo, came over to see what the screaming was about. He was just about to start stomping and flogging me when the dog came over to see what that rooster wanted. Good dog.

Anybody else have a late hatch?

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall sunflowers and harvest moon

Don't you just love this time of year?

We are really enjoying the cooler mornings.....

and the lighting is spectacular.....

The weather guy says that we may have our first frost in about 3 weeks....so the second week of October sounds about right.

Some of us were talking and we think this crazy moon has really brought out the predators.

Keep the clucks locked up tight folks! And be sure to check your hen houses for any signs that something is trying to chew its way inside. One of my buddy's lost his whole flock in one night.

We are letting the dogs be outside on patrol for longer and longer in the evenings and in the early mornings. Kai thinks its the best thing that has every happened to her in her whole life. She comes back to the house wet from the grass and covered in seeds. Completing the fencing on all sides is probably the best project we've ever done. I'll be happy when I go out and find my first varmint in the yard and Kai standing over it victoriously.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Are you tired of this moon also? Anybody acting funny?

HOUSEKEEPING: I think I enabled the mobile devices template... if you view this on your phone... will you let me know if it looks better? Did it work? My phone is from the Dollar Store as been missing for days (I think the chickens have it)... so I can't check this feature. But I hope it works and makes it easier to view. Thanks!

Monday, September 12, 2011

That'll do, Pig

Its time for a pork update... behold the bacon:

Are these some monster hogs or what!? And can you see the long and low belly on these guys? That's bacon friends.

We've moved them into the "new" goat yard due to complaints by the union of mistreatment and the constant screaming by Nibbles. More on this later but the porkers are doing a great job of hogging down their new space. And we don't have to put out as much feed. They are happier than pigz in... well... mud and lots of free eats.

Would you just LOOK at the loins on these guys? Wow oh wow are we gonna have amazing chops.

All we need is a couple of cold nights and all our pork dreams will come true.

Hope everyone is having a great day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

When the world stopped turning

I'm guessing we are all thinking about the Day That Everything Changed. Where were you when the world stopped turning? I'll tell you about my day and I hope that you'll share your day too on your blog, or here, or somewhere. Its hard to believe it was 10 years ago. Or that there is a whole generation of kids who don't know what it was like Before.

I feel like an old timer telling kids that there was a time when we didn't have a multi-billion-dollar a month war, or when most folks didn't know exactly where some of those Middle East countries are on the map, or there weren't big gaping holes in New York City...or that going to the airport just wasn't all that complicated and there was still a lot of joy in air travel.

In fact, one of my best memories was at an airport - when I came home from my out-of-state school the first year of college. There were so many people crowded around the door marked B-6 when we all got off the airplane that I couldn't find who I was looking for...but then out of the crowd stepped The Big Man.

I was so surprised that I screamed as I jumped into his arms and he twirled me around and then he carried me off. The entire crowd cheered for us...I guess you could say, I've actually had two Hollywood moments.  But now you get off an airplane anticlimactically, no one there rushing forward to greet you, all the non-passengers kept away until you make that long walk alone, past all the TSA folks and security, to the public areas. But that's just one minor way Everything Is Different.

On this day, back then 10 years ago, I was living my big life in my nice house in a city on the West Coast. I happened to be off work at the time and had slept in that Tuesday.  Later in the day I was supposed to go with some folks to the nearest county fair. I hadn't bothered to turn on the TV and I was surprised when the phone rang. It was a friend, her voice shaking, saying she had gotten home safe. "Safe? Safe from what? And why aren't you at work?"

"Don't you know?" She stammered, unable to find words..."The..the..World Trade Center..has been.. its... its no more."

I hung up without saying goodbye, turned on the TV, and stood transfixed - unable to believe what I was seeing.

Later, one of the people going with us that day merely shrugged at the news and asked when we were leaving? "We aren't going anywhere," I said, "We've been attacked, we're at war."

It took a while for it to sink in and to realize what happened to us, to our country, to the world. The next few days were a maze of disbelief, shock, and a little panic. Some of my friends were traveling for business and were flung far and wide, unable to get home because all of the air traffic was grounded. Gradually they trickled in. We were all accounted for but the unease hung heavily around us.

The news coverage was constant, the images all burned into our memories.  From time to time, I stood outside of my house looking at my city and realized the halted air traffic made everything silent. In a city known for its aircraft, it was almost incomprehensible.

I casually knew one of the people killed when the Towers came down. He was a fine young man, working his first real job at one of the brokerage firms. He was on the phone to the gal who would have been his wife when suddenly his phone went dead. That's the last anyone heard from him. He was just a guy going to work, excited about his new job. He was younger than me.

I don't forget what happened. Having lived Before, and now, After I know the full weight of how Everything Changed. I get a little frothy when some folks try to gloss over what happened or think that debts need not be paid.  Or worse, when folks pour on the politically correct speak and think we should go soft on the offenders.

I was criticized recently when I didn't particularly feel too bad when Seal Team Six took the shot and brought down our worst enemy. Wasn't I saddened that a life was ended? Didn't I feel bad for Osama's family? Nope. I tend to get a little bit redneck and a whole lot Old Testament when it comes to justice. I think of the words of the poet laureate, the great W. Nelson, when he once said, "Send 'em all to their maker and he'll settle 'em down."

There's going to be a lot of talk about loss today, about the cost, and what we can't get back. No doubt we will all get a lump in our throats or shed a tear when we see the pictures and hear the stories from that day. We can't imagine the grief of the family of the fallen.

But let's not forget the heroes that day. The first responders, the ordinary people who helped get others out of the buildings, and especially the folks on Flight 93 who fought back against the hijackers. That's America, friends, real people doing amazing things.

The last thing Todd Beamer, just a regular guy who happened to be on that plane that day, said - that anyone on the ground heard was,  "Are you guys ready? Okay. Let's roll!"  Then Todd and the other passengers stormed the cockpit and prevented that plane from becoming another weapon.  I've never had such pride for my fellow citizens as I did when I first heard that story.

So let's all take a somber moment today and remember the lives lost, our world changed, and the troops that are still on the front lines. But then lets celebrate the heroes, the ones you'd expect as well as the ordinary people who were just trying to do the right thing that day.

If I could get my barnyard crew together, I'm guessing our celebration for those heroes would go a little something like this.......

OFG hurried toward the barnyard, American flag draped over her shoulders, waving a big "We're #1" foam finger, face painted in red white and blue, leading Debbie the goat who was also painted in the flag colors...hens can be heard in the background chanting, "USA! USA! USA!"

Titan was just finishing his set on the main stage... he was singing "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" (he sounds JUST like Toby Keith!). Just as he was slayin' it and screamin' into the mic "...you'll get a boot in the a$$ its the American way"... the guineas did a fly over.  Cannons roared and the crowd yelled, hu-rah!

Some of the younger hens were on stage as the Big Dog's background dancers and they all shimmied and shook their tailfeathers into a formation of the special Black Hawk helo's used in the raid to take out Bin Laden. Suddenly, Lucky burst onto the stage, representing the K9 troop's participation in the mission. The crowd cheered as he suddenly leapt from the stage, doggles and all.

The entire barnyard spontaneously burst into a chorus of "My Country Tis of Thee" as the geese lined up for their bagpipe and drum cadence.  They honked and squeaked as they circled round the barnyard twice. Meanwhile, the ducks used special rigging to hoist our big tom,TurkZilla, painted as an eagle, high above the crowd and into the pine tree. With fireworks in the background he dramatically sailed over the crowd, clutching an olive branch in one talon and a bundle of 13 arrows in the other.

Unfortunately this had the unintended effect of scaring the daylights out of The Mob, the very young chicks, who thought he was a real eagle coming to kill them. The Mob were supposed to hold up the letters spelling E Pluribus Unum but instead broke formation and ran back into the hen house spelling instead, "pine burs lumuu."

Aside from that, there was only one other hiccup in the program. Nibbles was supposed to dress up like a SEAL and perform a dramatic reading of how the team overtook Bin Laden's compound...but she showed up in a seal lion outfit instead. Nibbles was pulled off stage when the crowd started laughing hysterically. As she stomped off angrily she was heard muttering something about "Seal, sea lion, whats the difference! I just can't work with these people!"

The runner ducks hastily took the stage and performed an ill-rehearsed, yet enthusiastic, re-enactment of the passengers of Flight 93 storming the cockpit. Everyone cheered when Fran Drescher, the noisiest runner duck, perfectly delivered her line, "OK. Let's roll!" The crowd went wild - cheering, giving each other high fives and whooping their pride.

There was bit of a disturbance when some protesters, rats from the turkey house, tried to break up the celebration. They were complaining about how we shouldn't be celebrating a victory over an enemy. OFG pushed her way thru the crowd to face down the rats. She whipped out her axe and drew it across her palm, and showed the malcontents that she bleeds red white and blue. The rats withered under her glare.

Without breaking her steely gaze she made a sound under the breath, something like, "hooah", and out of behind her Kai appeared snarling and growling. The rats dropped their "Give Peas A Chanz" signs and ran off, with Kai hot on their heels.

"Nothing to see here, folks!  Nothing but American pride welcome in this barnyard." Said OFG as she led the crowd back to the merry making.

Then Shine King of Barncats took his position to ring the dinner bell as OD the gander, solemnly prepared to read the names of the victims of 9/11 in his deep baritone voice. 

As the barnyard paused and heard each name read, then a gong, then a name, then a gong... each remember that behind each name was a story. A person. A family. A grief. Some in the crowd wept. Some prayed. All came together to remember.

As the sun set the party began to wind down. The last of the apple pie was eaten, the fireworks had all been lit, and the crowd started to fade off. OFG stood alone in the barnyard watching as the ducks took down the banners and the turkey hens tried to get TurkZilla out of the rigging from his earlier dramatic swoop.  It turned out that buying used high flying equipment from the Broadway Spiderman show probably wasn't the best idea. They decided that next time, someone who could actually fly would be the eagle.

Little Kai came up and sat at OFG's feet.

"It was a nice celebration, Momma. Do you think the people who died that day would have liked it?" Asked Kai, wagging her curly tail.

"I hope so, sweetheart. Its important that we remember them and their families. Come on now, its time to go inside." OFG turned to walk toward the house.

"OK. Let's roll!" Kai exclaimed as she hopped and skipped to walk by OFG's side.

OFG smiled as she absently reached down and patted Kai's head.  "That's right, Kai, let's roll."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Again with the rain and goodbye to an old friend

I don't know about you but I've had enough of TS Lee...

Decidedly unsunny flowers

Even the sunflowers can't help but sulk the drizzle. We went from 100* last week to October in just a few days. The little ducks continue to revel in their happiest days ever.

We'll be saying goodbye to an old friend today. One of our original hens, Pebbles, will be shuffling off her mortal coil. She's probably 8 or 9 years old and has been one of the best hens we've ever had - one of our original hens and the reason we love the bared rock breed so much.

She's been poorly for the last couple days and we think she is finally just winding down. She shows no sign of injury or disease - just a bad case of being old. What do you do in this case? Our position is to do nothing. Unless she is suffering we believe to let things just take their course. For a younger hen we'd see if there were any steps we could take. But she's a good old gal and is just done. If she was diseased or in obvious distress we would end things quickly with one swing of the axe. But we believe in The Way of Things.

We found her on the floor of the hen house this morning, in the corner. So I gently picked her up, wrapped her in a clean towel, and laid her on a bed of fresh straw in a coop by herself. When I checked her later a group of the older gals had gathered around her as if to hold vigil.

Pebbles was a good old gal and had a good long life for sure. I have a funny story about her somewhere that I need to dig up. She sure had her moments. She had a quiet dignity about her. Unlike the younger hens who flap all around or come shooting out of the hen house like they were fired from a cannon... Pebbles just moseyed around doing her chicken do..clucking and scratching at this or that.

She knew to run to me when I came out of the house - probably because I had snacks. Or if I was digging around somewhere in the yard she knew to come and "help" because surely their would be worms. And she knew that she could strut right up to me - even if the dogs were around because she knew I was her shepherd. My rod and my staff comforted her....and kept the those dogs off of her.

When I picked her up this morning she peeped open an eye to see me. I hope she knew it was me, her keeper, coming to lay her down on a soft bed and give her a safe place so she could go on to her just reward. Take care, Pebbles, and fare ye well to the land of nothing but sunshine, soft grass, and slow moving worms.

Happy Thursday everyone. If you have a good old gal in your flock, give her some special love today.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nice day for ducks

Raining here...

but its a nice day for ducks!

These little ones think this is the best day in their whole lives. I'm hoping to catch a break in the rain... but looks like I'll be working on inside chores.

Happy Wednesday! Is everyone keeping dry?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

This year's honey

Oh honey! Yep we got our honey harvested this year. Its spectacular!

We think its darker and richer than last year. Its a little hard to tell here - we're getting the weather from TS Lee and we are rainy and drizzly - and so the light isn't the best for a happy snap. But the honey is delicious and we are thrilled.

Unfortunately we didn't get as much as we hoped, only about 20 lbs. But at least all the hives survived and, aside from the swarm that just flew away, we didn't have any losses. We hoped we'd have some to sell but looks like we'll be keeping it all for ourselves. We are also thinking we might have to feed the beez this fall because of the small harvest. Is anyone else doing this?

In other news, we said goodbye to Sunny and took her back to her home herd for the winter. We were so glad to have her this summer and have a fridge full of cheese to prove it. Her herdmaster was thrilled to get her back and was very pleased with her condition. We were glad we met his approval. She'll be bred soon and hopefully will produce another Grand Champ, like she did last year. So now we are one goat short but I have to say I am a little glad to see the milking season winding down.

We started milking really early this year so it seems like we've been at it forever. But don't get me wrong, we love the "free" milk and wow we use every drop. However, I'm starting to look forward to the shorter, less work, fall-evening chores. Right now I'm only milking Nibbles in the morning as her milk production is starting to taper off. I get at least a pint if not more from her daily. I get about a gallon for Debbie as long as I keep Dahlia separated down in the new yard. But, like today with the rain, we'll keep the goaties all together in the main goat/henyard then I really don't have to milk Debbie tonight.

Our tentative plan is to keep milking Nibs and Deb until late October or November and then breed them. This way we'll have milk until November at least - and then start again in April. The ladies are already starting to be in heat and are just nuts so we might not be able to wait that long. Gosh can you believe its fall already?

Happy Tuesday everyone! Hope you had a great holiday weekend - oh yes, we had ribs and they were spectacular.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Help Wanted

Did anyone else find it ironic that this holiday weekend - Labor Day - was kicked off yesterday with what has become universally known as The Disappointing Jobs Report? ZERO growth? Recovery? What recovery? Them boys who fancy themselves Economists seem to be a little out of touch with the rest of us...but then, I guess they still have jobs. 

I don't see how its possible that we could enter a double dip of this recession when to the regular Joe, things feel just as bad as they did when this whole mess started.  I don't know about you but this kind of "even Steven" zero growth is just disheartening, even for the most optomisic of us.

Things are tough out there for sure. Have you seen some of the lines for job fairs?  Heard some of the stories? And have you taken the time to look at this site? Just heartbreaking. Help is wanted alright - for these folks who are unemployed.

Friend, I'm here to tell you that if you have a good job, or if you know for certain that you can pay your bills so that you can read this, you need to immediately fall to your knees and thank God that the Hand of Provision is on you.

We live in a part of the country that was hit hard by unemployment. We know someone with a small cleaning business who was hard pressed to find anyone willing to work odd hours for just about minimum wage not too long ago. Recently he put an ad in the local paper to hire another worker and no less than 160 people applied. That's one hundred and sixty real people with real stories who have a real need for a job. Somewhere out there 160 families are wondering when they are going to get evicted or are wondering if they have enough spare change to go to The Dollar Store to try and find a meal for that day. More than likely 160 people cried themselves to sleep out of sheer frustration at their situation ...and that crappy job may just change their lives. 

I gotta tell you, I've about had it with my friends in "The Bubble" who aren't affected by this economic crisis. All them folks driving to work, talking to their friends on fancy phones, and listening to cruel people on the radio talking about all the lazy no-goodnicks who are sittin' around eating cheetos and scamming unemployment, courtesy of their tax money. 

The Bureau of Labor Stats will tell you that we only have about 9.1% unemployment and some folks on the news tries to spin it like its no big deal because there have been jobs added. Until of course they go back and revise those numbers. You know all that 'growth' they've been talking about this summer? Well guess what - most of its just a sham.  Turns out that in June and July there were not as many jobs added as they originally advertised. The real numbers are about 58,000 jobs LESS than reported.

And don't get me started on the long term unemployed. Those are the folks who have been off work for more than 6 months. And no one wants to hire them. These are the folks who need jobs the most and there are companies who actually put in their jobs listings "Unemployed need not apply."

Are you kidding? Who does that and how can they live with themselves? It defies all logic and frankly its just cruel. Honestly, who do you think would be more likely to run into work everyday, get there early and stay late - someone who's house/car/life you saved by giving them a break? Or someone who's leaving a good job because they didn't get the best parking spot, or someone they work with farted wrong, or whatever ridiculous excuse that special little snowflake is using that day? It just doens't make sense.

The lack of compassion that I see in these situations is just gutting. I hear that these "we don't want you" companies are afraid that the long term unemployed have "lost their edge" and their skills are gone. Oh no no no, Friend. That just ain't right thinking at all. I think it has more to do with the person hiring being uncomfortable with the person they are interviewing. They don't want to see someone that might look "desperate."  Well guess what? They ARE desparate and they need help.

And if you think for a second that those people "deserve" it or there must be something wrong with them? Think on this - if this double dip is coming, look around your cube farm - which one of your colleagues is gonna get that packet from HR? Who do you know that is the only source of income for their family.... and they are the one to get escorted out of the building by security?

What if its you? It won't be so funny when you reach out to your contacts - and no one will call you back. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and then YOU are that long term unemployed person. Bet you wish that someone would give you a break.

One of the things I'm most proud of from back in my corporate days was that I got a lot of people jobs. Life changing jobs. All someone had to do was send me an email or call me and I'd do whatever I could to help them out - I didn't even particularly have to like them but I did it anyway. I don't believe in karma, but I do believe in doing Good Works. Is there an unemployed person out there who is trying to contact you? Are you avoiding them so you don't have to be uncomfortable around them? Now is the time for you to take action.

While you are grilling up big steaks and patting yourself on the back for all your hard work on this Labor Day, take a second to put yourself in the unemployed shoes. Think about these people who just need a chance. Then first thing on Tuesday call that person up - and then invite them to lunch.  And for heavens sakes tell you the meal is on you so they don't have to decline because they don't have the money. Work up a little compassion for your fellow man and don't fall for the lie that the long term unemployed or under-employed need not apply.  And then pray that you are never on the other side of the table.

Friend, things are tough. That's why we all have to be in this together.

Happy Labor Day? I dunno about that one but I'm hoping for brighter days ahead.
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