Thursday, December 30, 2010

At 5:10 last night

I could still see my hands in front of my face!!

Hallelujah!  The days are getting longer!!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

First Snow

 We've had our first snow.  Not our first as a family, but our first as a farm.

I need snowpants!!!  Dunno why I thought I'd get away without them.

It was a doozy, too.  A few trees fell, one cracked as we watched.

Pretty much spent the morning hours digging out the animals and bringing food and water.  It was very cold, and the wind took our breaths away.

Some of us dealt with the snow by refusing to deal with it at all.

No, they did not come out all day.  Yes, I did cater to them in their too small house.  It just proved to me that they definitely need bigger digs this spring.

Others of us waited for the path to be cleared and then ran right to the puddle, yelling all the way.  They ate al fresco, puddle-side.


One would have thought it would be too cold for puddle-lingering, but it wasn't.  Though two of the four were visibly shivering, they did not come out.  However, they did "wise up" and spend a bit of time warming their feet in the snow...

...and quite a few hours under the deck, where they were more than happy to allow me to crawl in and bring them a bucket of nice warm water, and some warm oatmeal/corn mash.

I was thankful today that I had trained them on oatmeal through the fall, because it came in handy today.   They had a nice oatmeal/corn mix in the afternoon, and for dinner, everyone (including the snow-bound girls) had an oatmeal-cabbage-cooked potato-feed dinner served with a side dish of warm water.  Mmmmm!!!    The meal should keep their "generators" lit all night.

Just one more trip outside now to button everyone up and find the food and water dishes so they don't get covered in snow, and we're all in for the night.  It was a good day overall.  Definitely a different experience than just worrying about getting our car free and our driveway clear (though we had to do that, too), but totally worth it.  I look forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

But Sometimes It Is

Yes, I do have to say I spend a lot of time with the animals.  They are peaceful and give me peace, and I enjoy their company.  But that hasn't changed the fact that I'm still the same domestic girl I've always been.  Give me a multi-step, many-hour, multi-ingredient recipe, and I relish the challenge.  Hence the reason why Christmas cookies are not just one or two cookies, but six or seven.  More interesting that way.

This year, we went with six types and a candy.  I had help.  We had a good time:

And of course, there were aprons for all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It Ain't ALL Pretty

Warning:  Graphic picture ahead.  If you have a sensitive stomach (Sarah-dear) don't read this.

Life on a farm ain't all pretty.  Sometimes nature is not so nice.  You know Ginger was attacked by a dog a while back, and though she's gotten much better, she still won't pick up that wing.  I found her the other day, laying on her back in the goose "pond" (read: puddle).  She'd been there for some time and was soaking wet.  I took her in to dry her off, since she's not that waterproof since the injury, and discovered that I could see the injury on her wing.  Basically, it was covered in necrotic tissue.   Yes, I was queasy, I will admit that, but I did remove the tissue and discovered how bad the injury really was and why it was not healing.  This is why:

Basically, the dog tore her wing open on the top, and caused a nice hole further down.  Nasty.  This photo is of after I cleaned it, so you're seeing the iodine stain and a bunch of cleaning stuff in there and so on. 

To make matters worse, I found that because she had not been holding the wing up properly, she has a fair amount of frostbite on the part that holds her primary flights in place (basically her hand), because of all the dragging on the ground through the snow.  It was pink and swollen and the base of the feathers were bleeding.

A major cleaning and rebandaging was in order. 

(Am I being good?)

She was very patient.  I am hoping that, since I can now see what's going on and can actually touch it and treat it, she might heal.  I've taken better steps to insure she doesn't have frostbite as well.  She's completely bandaged with a gauze pad and Vetwrap and then covered in the warmest thing I have: batting.  Add a fashionable sling, and any girl is ready for a day in the puddle.

Attempt number 1.  The sling was too low.  Yes, she is hiding in my vest.

Attempt number 2 kept the wing up and tight to her body.  Much better!

If I get this to heal on my own, it will be a triumph, and I'll be having a drink to celebrate, I can tell you that.  I only hope I am on the right track with it now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Love is in the Air!

 We've had some racy-er-interesting goings-on here lately.  I believe that Arthur may be getting a bit amorous.  All four are acting weird, and there's a little more "play biting" than usual.  Something was going on in their house last night , but no one's talking today.

Methinks that there might be some lovey-doveyness coming on soon.
Ah nature....
So, viola!  A nest box.  Just in case.

'Cause you just never know.

It is exactly what it says it is.  A box devoted solely to nesting.  I put it in now, so everyone can get used to it. 

Geese do not love change.  The last thing I want is for someone to want to lay an egg and then do it somewhere that I can't find it--or them.  This way, they can think about the idea of the box for a while, before they may need to use it. 

And will they need it?  I dunno.  If Ferdi and Ginger make the attempt this year, I will be surprised--they are pretty young.  But Margaret and Arthur are of that age, so you know, anything is possible. 

We all may be getting some interesting lessons about geese pretty soon.

And, no I did not WALLPAPER the inside of the box.  I'm not that crazy.  Here at Chicken Scratch we are poor thrifty and earth-friendly.  I re-used materials.  Some of it are sheets from mom's potting shed, some are pieces from the playhouse we took down, and the lovely patterned piece was the tabletop in my old sewing room, all put to good use again.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

Now a Musical Interlude...

Sometimes I get my little boy back again.  This was one of those times.

(yes, that is my lady-like snort there).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Goose in the Bathroom

Well, Ginger is doing eh, which is not a word, but the best way I can think to describe how she is doing.  She has been eating and drinking and talking, all good signs, but she is still keeping herself apart from the others and her wing is very swollen.  I think it's time for antibiotics, so I have ordered some, and will have to administer them when they come.  Fun fun.  I guess I'll be drawing on whatever I'd learned LONG ago at the vet's office.  In the meantime, I have been trying to take care of her wing externally, which can be difficult with Frick and Frack always in the way.  Yesterday I wanted to let her have a bath in their pool, but one thing and another came up, and it never happened.  Still wanting her to bathe, I brought her inside.

So there was a goose in the bathroom for a while.

The good news was that since she was away from the others, she attempted to groom.  She has not been doing that, which is why I brought her in.  Every goose needs to groom.  It's in their blood.  She's seem defeated since she's been injured, mostly because (I think) she hasn't been able to flap like a nut or groom or sleep with her head under her wing.  I was trying to help her feel better--like a little goose pick-me-up.  I had given her the bathtub to sit in, all by herself, and I think she appreciated it. 

Before you go ick, you should know that geese are the cleanest farm animal there is.  They don't carry mites or fleas like chickens can, unless they are kept in the dirtiest conditions and can't avoid it (our geese are kept very clean, as geese go).  They are fastidious about themselves.  They also don't carry disease or sickness.  Their biggest cause of illness?  Attack by other animals.  Geese are kept as indoor pets by many people for this reason--diapered, of course--and are loved by many people for how wonderful they are.  So it's not a big deal for her to be in the house. 

However, I did thoroughly clean the bathtub and floor afterwards. 

After her grooming session, Ginger decided to do what she now normally likes to do, now that her wing is out of service to tuck her head under.  She tucked it into another warm place--my shirt. 

I took pictures, so you can see that I don't make these things up.

She's a good girl and very affectionate.

This is not abnormal behavior for her anymore.  She loves hiding in my shirt.  Or sweatshirt hood.  Whatever she can get her beak into.  It's warm, and she goes right to sleep.

We sat like this for quite a while, me and my goose necktie.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And then there were four

Well, here's a bit more to that story about Ginger.  Or, I should say, the other side of the story.

The neighbors were so upset about what their dog had done, they went and bought us a goose.  Not what I had expected, since I hadn't expected anything at all.  They had apologized, and I know that this is a part of life (not that I have to like it, mind you), and since the dog had broken it's chain, it was really an accident.  A very, very unfortunate accident, but what's done is done.  But while I was food shopping Sunday, Jeff called and told me that the neighbors had brought over an African brown, but he didn't know if he should take it.  I don't know how to turn a gesture like that down, so I didn't.  Plus, I have a very soft spot for geese, just like I told you.  I asked him to accept the goose, keep it separate, and I would be home in a while to see what it looked like.   

When I got home and there was no missing this guy--he was "singing" at the top of his lungs.  He's not an African (people get them confused a lot), he's a brown Chinese.  He has a black bill and a black knob on his head and he looks sort of like and sounds a lot like a dinosaur.  He has a condition called slipped wing, so his "wrists" don't sit flush on his back, like they should, and his wing tips stick out a bit.  I went over to meet him and say hello.  As soon as I did, he stopped yelling.  Never underestimate a goose, truly.  They understand a lot more than people will give them credit for.  They are VERY smart, and though they act on instinct much of the time, I have learned that they have the ability to reason and problem-solve in a limited scope.  They also have the ability to learn and have fantastic memories.  He was yelling because no one would talk to him.  Once someone did, he stopped.  We had a nice chat, he and I.  I explained I was AlphaGoose, and I stroked him and looked him over a bit.  He's in pretty good shape, despite the crazy wings.  A bit dirty, and he looks like he hasn't been fed the best diet he could be, but there's nothing that can't be mended.  As to the wings, if it's a dietary problem, it'll get straitened out a bit. If it's a bone issue, I'll just keep tucking them under.  He was very good natured and let me and the kids touch him without flinching.  He was eager to talk to the kids and he did not like to be by himself.  The kids named him Arthur, which is a good name.  I could tell he was looking for someone, though, so I let him out into the yard to see if Ferdi and Ginger might keep him company.

He seemed slightly comforted by Ferdi and Ginger, but he was still searching for someone.  He would cry out and seem to listen to hear if anyone would answer.  It was obvious that he had a mate, and I didn't have her.  Did you know that geese are monogamous and mate for life?  Not many people do.  Chickens are not monogamous.  Ducks are monogamous only for a season, but geese are forever.  And, if one mate were to die, the other will mourn for a long period of time and may never take another mate again.  Ferdi and Ginger are mates (another reason for me wanting so badly for Ginger to pull through), and are together all the time.  Arthur wanted his mate, too.

I asked the neighbors where they had gotten him, and they didn't know, but they had the directions to the farm.  Good enough. Yesterday, when I saw that he was still searching for her, and was still lonely (despite Ferdi and Ginger's company), I decided that I couldn't let him suffer.  I'd have to find her.  I made a bunch of phone calls, and found the farm he came from.  In the afternoon, the farmer called me back and said, yes, he was the one the neighbors got the goose from, and yes, he had one other just like it.  I had to be Arthur's mate.  A little trip and $20 later, she was in the back of the car and Reid had named her Margaret.

She had been silent the whole trip.  However, on pulling into the driveway, she heard Arthur's sad cry, and she went crazy.  She started to honk back, and he would honk back to her honk.  It was a goosey love story, it was just so touching.  Honk, honk!  Back and forth, back and forth.  What a racket!  Finally, though she was in a tizzy, I got her out of the carrier and she headed straight for him.  Then it was typical goose love.  No rushing toward each other, no flapping of wings, no bonking of heads.  Geese are way too dignified for that crap.  Nope, she walked near him, they honked at each other until they calmed down enough to see each other, and they both started to eat grass.  That's love for you. 

They fell into such a familiar rhythm of each other and so immediately, there's no doubt in my mind that they are mates.  She follows him, they talk to each other while they eat.  I am used to goose love now, having had Ferdi and Ginger all these months.  Ferdi and Ginger speak the same language. They talk to each other, constantly, usually while eating.  It seems Arthur spoke another language, and that's why he was lonely--no one could talk to him.  Margaret speaks the same language, and it is clear to see the pairs while all four stand on the lawn (despite the physical differences, I mean).

So, now there are four.  They are delightful to watch together.  The Chinese are so different-looking than the Buffs, and yet they all look so nice together.  This morning, because Ginger was feeling better, the four of them went on a walking tour of the yard.  I looked out the front window, and there they were, in a line, Ferdi at the lead like a tour guide, walking clear around the house, like he was showing them around.  It was hilarious.  You just can't make this stuff up.

I have hopes that we will all live happily ever after.  Ginger is looking better today (thankfully!), and Margaret and Arthur are as inseparable as Ferdi and Ginger.  If you're wondering how the new geese are getting on with the "old", don't worry.  Geese are fairly easy going about that sort of thing.  They did have a bit of a nipping contest that first day, and yes, every once in a while, they will nip out at one another, but it seems Arthur is the top of the flock, and Ferdi and Ginger have learned to take the back seat.  They are quick learners, and already, they are starting to move together as one flock.  Quite an interesting flock, at that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feathered Family

Early Sunday morning, Ginger was attacked.

The dog who lives across the street got free of his chain and came to kill our animals.  I'm told he has a history of this, it's what he does.  Being unable to get to the chickens, the dog got into the geese's pen and went after them.  Ferdi got free.  Ginger was not so lucky.  He had her by the throat and was biting to kill.  Ferdi screamed and screamed to alert someone.  I ran out of the house at the sound--I have never heard anything like it before.  It was horrible.  I tripped and fell hard onto the pavement, scraping my knee and tearing my hand open.  I got up and ran like hell to the pen.  I don't know how the dog got off her.  I don't know if I grabbed him, or if he left of his own accord.  But he was off, and Ginger lay there, limp.  Her neck was turned to the side, and she lay on her back with her legs flopping in the air.  I thought she was dead.

I picked her up easily-she didn't move.  I looked at her.  I saw blood, but most of it was my own from my hand.  I didn't see any from Ginger, but geese (especially these two) are SO well covered in down and feathers, that I don't always see the wound underneath.  I looked at her face.  Her eyes were open and she blinked at me.  She was still limp as a doll, so I brought her over to a chair and held onto her.  I thought that he had broken her neck and she was going to die right there, but I felt her neck, and it felt sound to me.  I felt her breastbone and legs and wings and didn't feel anything wrong.  She was still in shock, and I wasn't really sure if there was something internal.  I just sat with her in my lap and honestly, cried.

In the meantime, Jeff had run out of the house in his PJs and bare feet and had caught the dog.  The dog didn't run away.  It didn't threaten anyone.  He looked like he had done a good thing and was pleased and waiting for Jeff to be pleased with him.  Jeff grabbed him by the collar and dragged him back across the street.

I sat with Ginger.  My hand bled like a stuck pig, and my socks were drenched from the puddle I must have stood in.  It was cold and my hand hurt, but I wasn't going to move.  After quite a while, Ginger turned herself over and I looked her over again and again.  I still didn't see anything.  I realized that the dog must have done what dogs do--he went for the base of her throat, and that may have been the saving grace.  Geese have about 4 inches of feathers and down at the base of their necks.  It seems he didn't get a good grip on her flesh--all he got were feathers.  I didn't feel any punctures.  It seemed she might have been spared.

Ginger sat with me for a long, long time.  Many of her wing feathers were torn out and there was a little blood from the quills.  I stroked her and held her, and she put her head on my shoulder to sleep, seeming to need the comfort.  In the meantime, Ferdi paced and circled and paced.  He was beside himself with worry.  He watched her and would graze, and then would watch her and come close to me to look at her (unusual for him if you know Ferdi--he's not a "get close to you" kind of guy anymore).  He was so concerned, that Reid, who is Public Goose Enemy #1, was seen as even more of a threat.  Instead of just attacking Reid's shoes, as he normally would do, Ferdi attacked his pants again and again and would not let go.  There was no way to stop him--he was hell bent on protecting Ginger from the "threat".  We had to send Reid inside so he wouldn't get hurt.

The day went on, but I did spend a lot of time with Ginger, just sitting with her and holding her close.  She slept in my lap with her head next to mine, and at one point, Ferdi came an stood on me and took a nap--unheard of at this point in his life, really.  He wanted to be near to his mate, even if it meant being close to me.  I think it was quite the sight, I wish I had a picture.  Ginger, with her head tucked into my chin, sleeping, and Ferdi, standing on one of my legs, on one leg, with his head tucked behind his wing.  Hours later, blood did seep from the one wound she seems to have gotten--a puncture under her wing.  I went to Agway right away and got some Vetwrap and some medication.  I treated her puncture and put her hanging wing in a sling.

On Sunday, Ginger really did not eat or drink or move very much.  Yesterday was mostly the same.  She stood apart from everyone else, and Ferdi was the only one following me around the yard.  However, at the end of the day, I did notice she seemed more "Ginger-like".  She had her sparkle back in her eye and she seemed a bit more alert.  She still didn't eat, but I did see her drink.  When I checked on her puncture wound, she was calm and the wound didn't smell--a good sign.  Today, she seems even more like herself.  She is much less patient with me, and didn't want me to sling her wing, even though I know she appreciates it.  She did eat a little.  I have got my fingers crossed that she's going to be ok.

I have always known how important Ginger and Ferdi are to me.  I feel very differently about them than I do the chickens.  I really do like the chickens, but if I were to lose one or two, I would be looking at not only a loss of the animal, but more the time it took to raise the animal, the cost, and then the number of eggs that wouldn't be produced.  I guess that's like looking at it in hard facts.  The geese, I don't know, they are so like companions, and I see them very differently.  I'm in the yard, they are in the yard.  I go here, they go here.  I talk to them, they talk to me.  (I plant garlic, they pull the garlic back out again.)  They have rich, full personalities, like them or not, and they are smart as whips and stubborn as mules.  It's hard not to respect them or feel like they are friends.  So I have been very worried for my little friend, and I am hoping with all my might she will be ok.  If you have a minute, send a little hope our way, ok?  I think we can use it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Planting Garlic

Ah, garlic.  The one thing you plant when you really can't plant anything else. 

Use the right tools....

On a clear, cold day...

 Hire some help....

Help that's not so helpful....  (note the newly planted garlic clove in Ferdi's beak.  Ginger's reaching in for one, too)

 Fire that help and get more help, this time the kind that moves fast and doesn't want garlic.

Reward the help with yummy treats....

Dig the holes 3" down and 6" apart.

 And soon you'll be rewarded with a beautiful sleeping bed of good things to come.

Then, when you're just about frozen, go inside and have a glass of water and enjoy the smell of drying pomanders.  Nothing beats it. 

A job well done.
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