This Year’s Menage*

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*Ménage: simply put, a household

And heavens to Betsy, why doesn’t WordPress allow for cool little characters (like the é above) in blog titles? How can I use “ménage” without the é? (Might wanna consider an addition here, WordPress gurus, just sayin’ . . . )

I think we’ve exceeded the number of critters that Critter-to-Folks-Ratio-Analysts say folks ought to keep all at one time if they want to maintain a slim hold onto their sanity (not to mention ever catch up on the laundry), and yet . . . *giggling* . . . I am not crazy yet, gentle readers! Do please ignore the eye twitch, the disquieting habit I’ve developed of falling asleep whenever I sit down, and also the sudden maniacal laughter that occasionally and involuntarily bursts out of me, at inopportune times. Fie, anyhow, on those critter-analysis-ratio folks!

I think you delightful gentle readers haven’t met all of this year’s menagerie, and they are–in large part!–the direct reason that I’m writing far less blog posts this summer. There are only so many hours in a day, after all, as you know. So I do believe you ought to know what you are up against: a whole bunch of hungry critters, that’s what!

So . . here we go . . . !

Butterscotch and the Icie twin chicks

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Butterscotch, our little bantam, goes broody every spring and stays that way for months. Nothing on our place pulls at my heartstrings more than a broody hen. I totally get the broodiness (I’ve got six kids, need I say more?) and I love babies of all types. Earlier this summer, I was trying to move a couple of our Icelandic hens (who were also broody) into the nursery, on top of a couple of nests full of Icelandic eggs. They resisted being moved–quite loudly and vociferously they resisted, chewing my blessed head off!–as most broodies will.

Once they get bit by the broodiness bug, they want to sit on eggs where they want to sit on eggs, doggonit! As I tussled with these two hens, trying to coax them to just move their fluffy bottoms onto these lovely eggs, Butterscotch–the smart little broody–moved in quietly and fluffed out her feathers and stayed put. So I left her.

I didn’t know what to expect, since Butterscotch has never hatched out any chicks before, though she has tried several times. But. She hatched out these two beautiful Icelandic chicks. These are the first Icelandics I’ve had that are pure white. And they are the first Icelandic chicks hatched out on our place. Their mama is not the sharpest pencil in the pencil bag (no offense to B.Scotch, some has got more brains than others, ya know) and the nature of the chicks is so different from their pleasant mama. They slip out of the coop early, before I am even outside to let the other chickens out, and they are comfortable exploring and hanging out with the meat chicks, and going their own way, though they are so tiny! Once I let the other chickens out (including their worried mama) they happily reunite with their mama, and hang out with her the rest of the day (more or less!).

They are independent little dickenses (as my Grandpa Young would say) at just a few weeks old, so I do wonder what they’ll be like when they are teenager chickens (wince).

Meat chickens this year

They wouldn't win any beauty contests, it's true. But I like to raise them. Lucy watches over them when she can.

They wouldn’t win any beauty contests, it’s true. But I like to raise them. Lucy watches over them when she can.

I’m so happy that I learned how well meat chickens get along at free-ranging and foraging last year. No more close, uncomfortable confinement for my meat chickens. I still keep them in the chicken tractor at night for safety, but first thing in the morning I let open their door and they shoot out, eating bugs and clipping off weeds and seeking shade for their morning naps.

There are people who will tell you that meat chickens don’t free range or forage. Those people are wrong.

Bit of unsolicited advice: if you ever raise meat chickens, you will enjoy raising them far more if you allow them plenty of space to roam and free-range. They are heavy and they look silly when they run (probably kinda like middle-aged women who haven’t run in a couple of years *cough*) and they have odd, twisted toes and huge feet . . .  but they are interesting creatures who deserve to be treated well.

And. I learned something valuable this year. Because I offered to raise a couple of pullets for some friends of mine, and because I have a soft spot in my heart for Ameraucana chickens, their docile, friendly natures and their beautiful bluish green eggs, I bought 7 Ameraucana chicks at the same time that I bought the meat chicks. I’ve been raising them together in our chicken tractor, which works just great. And here’s the really super thing I’ve learned: those Ameraucana chicks are quite a bit more adventurous than the meat chicks, of course. But when they charge off through the weeds after grasshoppers . . . the meat chicks follow. I watched in astonishment this morning, as two of the pullets and three meat chicks charged off through the long grass after grasshoppers.

If you have ever raised these heavy-bodied, big-footed chickens, you’d know why this is so surprising. They don’t move much, and they don’t move quickly. But they move quicker and more often when there are other chicks to inspire them. Fun discovery, huh? From here on out–when I buy meat chickens to raise, I’ll always try to also buy a few of other breeds to raise with them. It’s a good pairing.

New batch of Icelandics

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In my goal to eventually breed Icelandic chickens, I bought another batch of chicks this summer, to increase the genetic diversity of my Icelandic flock. They are beautiful, fiesty, independent, and chafing in their little nursery area. Once they are just a bit bigger, I’ll crack the door open and give them more freedom. Several of them (roos, most likely) are already slipping out through the coop, and causing Mack and me to catch our breath regularly: What was that in the long grass? Was that an Icelandic chick? Oh no! There’s an Icelandic chick out, Mom!

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be out at bedtime, thrashing around in my summer pajamas, trying to catch these tiny, quicksilver beauties who move faster than I, and that I can catch with just one hand. Just a few of them, every night, but they are precious to me, so I don’t want them to be cat- or coon-snacks during the night.

Beacon and Chinwigchinpig

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I love learning about raising pigs. I can have totally new conversations with people now, about the feeding and care of pigs, the meat-to-fat-ratio in pork, the relative benefits or feeding corn vs wheat to pigs, and so on. My hopes to be a Real Farmer some day are being realized!

Plus this: every evening (as I’m going out to keep my Icie-catching routine) I carry snacks out for the piggies. “Piggies!” I yell, and these two (who are watching for me) get excited. Really excited. Beacon squeals and begins to tear around like crazy, and Chinwig follows suit, though her personality is more sedate, so she only grunts. They loooove evening snacktime.

Jean-Louise (aka Scout)

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Oh, this puppy. What a dolly. What a balm. What a precious pain she is.

We lost two old dogs this spring, and gained one new puppy. I watched Mack lurk around with a broken heart (over the loss of his old pal, Ollie) for a couple of months. It was painful on all accounts to watch this little boy grieve for his friend. We started looking for a puppy soon after Ollie disappeared. I’ve found that nothing heals the pain of a lost pet, like a new one. Scout is just what the proverbial doctor ordered, for little Mack in particular.

She’s fluffy, and busy, and funny, and ornery. She is a pain and needs training not to bark at everybody who comes in the door. Not to pull on Mama’s pants. Not to forage through the trash with her beautiful long nose. She is delightful and doesn’t sleep very well at night.

We. Love. Her.

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The cats aren’t so sure about what to think about her.

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I have dozens of photos like this one: Scout with Sammie. Scout with Pippin. Scout with Merry. Scout with Goldberry.

I have dozens of photos like this one: Scout with Sammie. Scout with Pippin. Scout with Merry. Scout with Goldberry.

Pippin, Merry, Sammie, Goldberry (aka GoldenBelly), Smokey, Tristan

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Some days are made for this. And this alone.

If you come visit me at our place, you’ll probably see GoldenBelly and Pippin, you may even see Tristan, but you probably won’t see the other three. They all have distinct personalities and quirks. Poor Merry recently suffered from an unexplained (she won’t explain) eye injury, and is also a hopeless addict to an egg for breakfast every single day. So she sits on the back stoop, waiting for me to stumble out to make coffee, first thing (usually before the sun is up). I have Scout with me, who is biting at my pajama pants, wanting attention and playtime. Merry is sitting at the glass door, looking in with that pathetic damaged eye. Poor thing. I will give her anything, and all she wants is a fresh egg. So that is what she gets.

Pippin is the old warrior, and is looking his age, which is probably around 15 (like Merry). He has a crumpled ear and is very thin. Sammie is a tortoiseshell who disappeared for a month after we brought Scout home; I don’t know where she went. She came back home this week, and I’m so happy that she did. Smokey is reclusive, fat, sedate old uncle who will poop on the roof rather than mix on the ground with the other cats. He lives under the porch–24/7, 365 days a year. I reckon it gets awfully boring under there, but certainly he keeps the mice at bay. He comes out for breakfast every day.

Lucy, Calpurnia, and Rufert

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It is fun to keep waterfowl, even if you have too many predators to encourage them to hie on down to the pond, where they’d love it. We keep three–the auntie goose Lucy, and the ducks Calpurnia and Rufert. They are amusing and really appreciate fresh water. We’ve had painfully hot and humid days lately, and I’ve been running a sprinkler for them.

They show their appreciation by looking at me with gentle expressions and enjoying the spray. What more can one ask for?

That’s it—my quick exposé of all our critters we’re keeping this summer. It’s a lot. I always think: as long as there are no problems, these critters take only minutes a day to care for, and they give us so much pleasure and amusement. Of course when there are problems, then the time requirements go up, but isn’t that life, in a nutshell?

Gotta go feed the critters now . . .

*hugs!*

 

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10 thoughts on “This Year’s Menage*

  1. Charlotte

    I love the picture of your goose! She looks like a serious patriarch (no offense to her) who is surveying his territory, contemplating the harvest (Will it be enough to carry us through the Winter?) and disapproving of the young folk.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Charlotte, we love our Lucy. She watches over all the flock, and is always the last one into the coop at night. If there are young ones out, she’ll wait patiently until they go up the ramp into the coop. I love that about her. And she LOVES fresh water, especially during a hot day. I set that sprinkler out to keep the meat chickens cool, but she savored it, too. 🙂

  2. rita

    I’ve had a tri-colour and a blue-merle, but I always wanted a sable. Scout is SO cute! I’m looking forward to reading and seeing more about this pup. Collies are the best farm dog, except for the seeds that’ll stick in that coat. They stay and keep everyone organized. I love their sense of order. We lost our border collie last year. He was 14 and developed an auto-immune disease of some sort. The cortisone that helped the disease wasn’t appreciated by his kidneys. sigh. We’ve adopted a 9 year old black lab who needed a home. He’s such a sweet dog! We always adopt older dogs b/c someone must. They always come with foibles of some sort but this one has no problems at all, except he’s not friendly with other dogs. I hope to give him one friend, my daughter’s black lab, who’s a bit of a crazy still (he’s young). Who knows if that may open the door to more trust towards other dogs.

    I love all your other animals too. Thank you so much for taking your precious time to show us all. You’re letting us live there for a little while (without contributing to chores which is sad for you). I would love to come help if I were close by.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Rita,
      Thank you for taking your precious time to write such a lovely comment. It means the world to me. You know, we’ve only had Scout for a few weeks but we love her like crazy. We had a collie mix, years ago, whose life was cut short (we always said that she only had one fault: she couldn’t resist chasing cars–and one day on a walk, she got away from us and chased a car and was struck by it). Her name was Meisha (“little girl” in Dutch) and we’ve always fondly remembered her as the perfect (almost) dog. Scout reminds me of Meisha, in her laid-back and sweet personality. She has so many cute little quirks–for example, she naps on the air conditioning vent. She is very interested in all the other critters on our farm, but she doesn’t bully them the way Bea used to (being an Australian Shepherd, Bea was a herding dog, too). She is a great companion dog already, inside and outside. We love her!

  3. Linda Conover

    Love to read your blog!
    Please update us about your kitchen. I have been waiting and waiting.
    Thank you.
    Linda in Custer County Ne.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Linda, THANK YOU for that reminder. There is a lot to share about the kitchen. I have been reticent to bring it up because we’ve passed the One Year Anniversary of starting this project. *sigh* But I’ll do my best to take some pictures and get you up to date on that. We are really passing into an exciting phase! THANKS for your sweet words and for reading this silliness.

  4. Sharon H

    Amy, you are living my dreams! If I could, I would have all those animals and probably more. If we ever get to move back out to our 10 acre farm *cough*….I hope to have at least SOME of them.
    Big dog(s), cats, and of course chickens….I miss my chickens, pain in the neck that they sometimes were….as all critters can be at times. And I’d love to have some ducks and geese, but I dread the mess they can make…even so, big sigh…”I want”.
    I adore reading about all the adventures and escapades in your daily life…makes me wistful and determined to get back out there.
    We used to have a Red Limousine Bull, named Wart, and he became a pet. For a bull he was quite gentle natured. Then again with no heifers around….but I’d love to raise a couple calves and pigs for butchering….not sure I’d wanna name them though, knowing I’d be eating them in the future.
    Speaking of names….I absolutely love the names you give them! So creative.
    Thank you for sharing, look forward to more

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Katrina,
      Actually, I use whatever I can get my hands on. I think last year I just stuck little plastic grocery bags in my pocket, and picked into them. Then I’d carry them home (or to the car) in a backpack (carefully!).

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