Monday, May 24, 2010

Pullet Predator

So during this morning's chores, I found that some critter last night made a snack out of a Rhode Island Red chicken pullet. The birds were in their moveable pen, but a predator got one of the birds. A wing here, a tuft of feathers there...then the final dining spot on one of my raised bed rows next to a tomato transplant.
Predator control is yet one more thing that can sink a free range business, and I feel like we've come a long way down in the pasture. Two years ago, we lost 8 birds in a day. This year, no predation losses. This despite sightings of bobcats and howling coyote packs. The pullets under siege were up near the house, and that's more than a little disconcerting.

So step 1 is to figure out what the problem critter is. I'm thinking that it's a group of coons, possibly a large possum due to the nature of the attack. I'm ruling out a coyote, fox, or bobcat as these guys would have left only feather "blasts" (just a pile of feathers) and the culprit from last night left a wing and rather large tufts. Plus, there was a splotches of feathers here and there, so I don't think the predator was very large, as the pullets are rather small.

So I made sure the hens were up on roosts tonight and put a live trap out with baited with a can of cat food. If it's a possum or coon, there's a good chance that'll get 'em. We'll see.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hognose snake

So we've learned that when Harley barks, there's a good reason. Snake's especially seem to get her riled up. Summer's on the way, so it seems like everyday she's finding something that she feels we need to be alerted of. Yesterday it was a hognosed-snake out in front of the house.
This species is a pretty unique reptile. When disturbed, they hiss really loud and flare out like a cobra. They're by no means poisonous, but still, it's pretty intimidating, and only knuckleheads like me mess with them.

So I used to "catch" snakes, even the posionous ones when I found them. Yeah, I was THAT kid, and I'm still that guy. Pinning a snake's head down and grabbing the tail is pretty traumatic for the snake. Snakes are good to have around, as they eat rodents hanging around the farm. So for this guy/gal (I didn't check), I just backed Harley off and let the snake take a minute to make its escape.
Run away snake, run away!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Training Goats

Well, the goats are here to stay.
There was a time when I wondered if that statement would be true - the staying part. As a reminder, two severe thunderstorms right before the goats got here last week had knocked out the electric fence, allowing the goats to walk through the not so shocking fence.

Carla and I got the goat pen fenced with some welded wire, in yet another thunderstorm and the pouring rain in the early morning Friday. I then carried the girl goats and semi-rode the buck back into the original goat pen, now fortified with both the welded wire and the electric fencing. The goats figured out really quick that electric fencing is worth avoiding, and that lesson learned, attacked the brush, trees, and grass stems in their pens with gusto. Elm, oak, privett, poison ivy, ox-eyed daisies, and fescue seed heads are a hit. Wild strawberries are not .
The 4 goats have been a little shy, which is understandable given their unexpectedly traumatic first day. I've got the buck eating a little sweet mix/alfalfa out of my hand. The girls are slowly coming around - darting in for a nibble then running off to munch their treats and glare at me. I can't turn them free until I know for sure that they're not scared of me, and actually look forward to seeing me and getting treats. Our pasture is rugged and overgrown, so if the goats are scared of me, I may never see them again. Before I turn the herd out, I need them to at least be interested enough to pop their heads out of whatever rose thicket or cedar grove their in for check-ups. Hopefully, I'll get to turn them out next week sometime.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Goats! You've Got to be Kidding Me

Well, we've got goats, sort of. The guy we bought the goats from delivered them late this afternoon. We wormed them, and put them in the electrified goat pen that I'd just finished. Unfortunately, just an hour earlier, a thunderstorm that had a tornado warning clipped our holler (the second severe storm of the day). This thunderstorm also broke an insulator that shorted out the fence down to a mere 4 Kv. So even though I'd checked beforehand, So the goats just walked out of the pen, and after a whole lot of chasing, diving through brush, briars, and poison ivy and the occasional diving tackle, we've just about got them all penned up in a holding pen we had set up for the pasture pups. I managed to wipe out and roll down enough of a distance across enough rocks to warrant a trip to the doctor tommorrow to check for a broken wrist and a badly banged up knee that is still numb several hours later.

So very early in the morning, Carla and I are going to head down to the pasture and put up some welded wire fencing around the goat pen. This will give a physical barrier until they figure out that the hot wire is, well, hot. I fixed the broken insulator so the fence is now back in the 8 KV range again. Arghhh.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


So we burned a large pile of brush the other night. It's been dry lately, so the wood was just begging to ignite. As it's spring, the lush grass made it just about possible for the fire to spread, so even with a moderate breeze, we were able to burn with near impunity.

I've always loved fires, especially bonfires. I still do. Sometimes however, I catch myself staring into the flames, and I'm reminded of fires that burned over 3,000 miles away.

In the summer of 2004, I was a Specialist in a unit that spent most days escorting other units and civillians all over Iraq. Here's a pic of me back then. I was about 20 lbs heavier (all muscle my wife will lament!) and a whole lot dumber than now. I was a machine gunner/automatic rifle man, that's my M249, Annette - SN 54166, in the pic below. We spent most of our time rolling down supply routes or getting lost when we strayed off of them. I spent most of my time in a gun hatch on top of a armored Humvee. Heading north of Baghdad one summer day, something huge blew up in front of us and took out a civilian dump truck. It was an almost ridiculously huge mass of flames. Talking with some EOD guys a little later, they said it was probably a napalm roadside bomb. The insurgents had been working on getting the napalm thing down in the area, and, well, judging from the huge wall of fire that just about made me soil myself, they had got it down.

In the pic below is my buddy Myers in the lead gun truck. He's aiming at a black car that peeled out immediately after the explosion. He said it was trigger man, and he had good instincts, so it probably was - but instincts aren't enough to justify taking a life, so he never pulled the trigger. As we drove by, I saw one of the guys that somewhat escaped the fires above, some other Iraqis had him pulled out behind the group of cars above. He was melted alive like a candle. The flames were meant for us, and these innocent guys were burned alive because the triggerman was a little too jumpy. I think of the wonderful life and family that I now have, and I wonder if the men that died had wives, children, and parents that never saw their loved ones return from work.

I'm very thankful for what I have. I let myself think about these things when they come. There's perspective for me in fire.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Locust Perfume

So it's mid spring, and the locust trees in the holler have exploded with blossoms. Locust trees are a leguminous pioneering species around here. They're especially thick on the fenceline of the top bench of the pasture. Locusts are one of my favorite trees around here.
The tree's blooms are really large - bigger than my hand, and smell like honey. This pic was taken right after a rain, and the moisture in the air held the flowery perfume near the ground. It was really heady stuff, but man was it wonderful.