Tuesday, December 25, 2012

 Merry Christmas 2012 
from all of your friends at 
Busy Solitude Farm. 

I'm still not feeling very Christmas-y, between the loss of both of my parents and the lack of snow.  But life goes on and so I will collect the eggs and make eggnog for my family.  We will eat a big meal, we will remember our parents and the other loved ones who are no longer with us, and we will wish each other good health and happiness in the coming year.

And I wish you the same.  Here's hoping that you are spending time with loved ones, whether you celebrate Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or you just have a few days off of work.  And may you have a very happy, and very healthy, 2013.


Friday, November 30, 2012

What I Learned

I learned a something profound about my parents and love and life yesterday.  I've written about it on my other blog, and I invite you to read it here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


 Two of the young hens that joined my flock this year are Speckled Sussex.  They're hefty girls, very curious and not particularly spooky.  The flashy "speckles" they sport are white and black bands on the feathers.  One of the hens has so many her head is more white than brown!

I've enjoyed photographing them lately and want to share some photos with you.

 I've been uploading photos to Instagram -- you can find them under johanna17312. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In memory

My mother, Patricia, died two days after Ulani visited.  If you would like to read what I read at her memorial service, you will find it here.

Busy Solitude Farm has been a source of peace and solace these last few weeks.  Soon I will share more stories with you, but in the meantime, thank you for your kind thoughts and understanding.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ulani Goes on a Visit

A few weeks ago I shared that my mother had broken her leg, and my father contracted a bad bacterial infection while visiting her at the hospital.  Unfortunately things went downhill, as one often hears happens at hospitals.  Now my mother is in hospice care and my father at a nursing home from which he will never go home.  All of this took place in the period of six weeks.

So today I decided that Ulani and I would go visiting together.  We drove the 80 minutes or so to the suburb where my parents are.  My mother's hospice room is in a hospital, and to bring a dog in to visit you enter through the emergency room!  Imagine the excitement!  The doorway has an "anteroom" between two big doors.  The floor there is ridged, apparently to provide traction and drainage on wet days.  We went easily through the first door, but Ulani put on the brakes when confronted with the ridged floor.  I calmly encouraged her forward.  She practically jumped over all of the slats to get to the second door and we were inside.

The man at the desk asked "can I help you?" and I explained we were going upstairs for a visit.  He chuckled "they'll all enjoy that!"

Next challenge was the very bright, shiny, slippery tile floor.  My girl slipped a couple of times before adjusting to my pace to walk down the hallway.  One right turn and we arrived at the elevator.

This hospital is not new.  While it is clean and gradually being updated, some parts are still older. Like the elevators.  We enter and push "6".  Then the floor jiggles a bit as the elevator began to rise.  This quite startled Ulani, and she seemed to grab the carpeted floor with all four of her feet, then slipped behind me into the corner for more stability!  I think she was really glad when the door opened and we exited.

Right away we were greeted by one of the certified nursing assistants who cooed over how beautiful Ulani is, and how much everyone would enjoy meeting her.  We moved on, discovered that Mom was sleeping so went to meet the rest of the staff.  Sister Amy, the chaplain, was delighted to have a dog on board and encouraged us to stay as long as we wanted.  The secretary told stories of her dog, and another aid chimed in with her own stories.  Ulani adored the attention from everyone.

Eventually we made it back into my mother's room and stayed with her about 20 minutes.  She patted Ulani, admired her big, cold nose, and enjoyed watching her explore the room.  After a while I saw Mom getting tired so we said our goodbyes.

At Dad's nursing home we once again met all kinds of warm greetings.  Ulani and I joined Dad in his room for lunch.  She sat on the bed for a while (he was in his wheelchair!) and had a good drink of water.  After lunch Dad wanted to rest, so we began to leave.

I say began because everywhere we went there were staff and residents who wanted to see the pretty dog, ask what kind she was, and give her a pat.  I even had her do tricks for a nice group of ladies.

Everyone asked us to come back again.  I think we will.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Guest poster: The Great Ulani, Huntress of Busy Solitude

Ed. note:  Ulani's cousin Suzette, who is a princess and girly-girl, seems to have caught a rather large, black bird yesterday evening.  While some might be horrified, Ulani expressed a different sentiment.

Ulani here.  I want to share my congratulations to Suzette on her great capture last night.

I've been a hunter for a long time, as you know.  Here is a photo of me with the Great Striped Tiger I caught back in '06.  I stalked it all over the living room before I took it down.

I prefer hunting outdoors, though.  In the deep, tall grass I can flush a chicken, or a bunny.  Then my heart really gets to racing!

Some of my best chases have been in the snow -- my, it is bracing to race in deep snow!  Nothing is safe from me, The Great Ulani, Huntress of Busy Solitude!

And then I bring the prize to Johanna.  But she never keeps it like I want her to, to enjoy as it develops "the stink" (as our butcher Patrick calls it).  Instead, I have to say goodbye to my prize and have a dry biscuit instead.

So I say congratulations to Suzette for the Big Black Bird.  Did Linda honor this great success by taking a photograph?  If so, I would enjoy seeing a picture.  I promise not to drool on the computer.

Respectfully submitted,
Ulani, TGHBS

Sunday, September 16, 2012


It's been nearly a month since I've posted.  Two days after I posted that Isadora Ducken had been killed, my mother fell in some road construction in front of my parents' house and broke her leg.  She's been in the hospital ever since.  First they had to decide what to do.  Then they surgically plated the bone back together.  Physical therapy followed.  As yet she is not allowed to put any weight on that leg, but they plan to release her on Wednesday.

In the meantime, my father contracted a bad infection known as "C. diff", probably at the hospital while visiting Mom.  He is also hospitalized with a plan to be transferred to a skilled nursing facility until he's 100% better.  They don't want him to infect Mom.

I live about 80 minutes away from my parents.  Luckily my three siblings all live closer, but the stress has been great.

Now that you have the background, I come to the story that goes with the photo.  A couple of days ago I brushed Ulani outside.  When I do that, I usually just leave the hair in the grass.  Maybe a bird will line her nest with it, or it will discourage pesky raccoons from visiting.

This morning when I went out to the barn, I saw something that startled me.  Along with all of the gray hair, there were a couple of clumps of tawny.  Ulani does not have tawny hair.  That was Oskar's color.

I think he's letting me know he's looking out for me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Don't Name Them

One of the ducks was killed today out in their fenced yard.  I think it was Isadora, which would leave me with a gang of two lonely male ducks.

I'm sorry we went to the effort to name them.  It just makes it more sad to lose them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Isadora Ducken and Ducken Hines!
(and Mr. Duck, always eager to get in the picture!) 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vote Now!

It's down to two choices!  Please vote (above).  Poll will be open until 11:59 pm Michigan time on Wednesday, August 1.  May the best duck names win!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Duck Naming Contest is Open!

The ducks need names.  While they are only three months old, they are full grown.  This boy and girl hang together all day long -- if one disappears for a moment, the other goes into full alarm mode.  The young hens seem to view the ducks as their leaders, and the flock moves with the ducks.  In the past week or so they've begun going outside, but I have not yet seen them swimming.

My last pair of ducks were named Ari Duckass (after my former colleague, Ari Ducas) and Dick-the-Duck (because I liked the sound).  You may recall that I have also had chickens named Dixie Chick, Chicka Khan, Eartha Chick, Maria and Jesus (hay-soos!), Spot, Miss Peep, Chesley Spring Chicken (after my friend Chesley Spring), and many other amusing names.

So I am looking for a couple of great duck names.  Could be a matched pair, could be individual names.  You have one week.  Contest closes end of business July 31.  Winner will be announced on August 1.  I choose the winner(s) and my decision is final.  After all, I have to live with it, you'll be moving on to another contest.

To enter, you must put your suggestion in the comments of this blog post.  E-mailing me does not count.  Adding your suggestion to a Facebook post does not count.  I want everyone who enters to be able to see what everyone else is suggesting, and that's the best way to do it.

What do you get for entering the winning name(s)?  Bragging rights.  I'll name you in a blog post.  And if you ever get out to Busy Solitude Farm (while the ducks are still alive, so don't dilly dally!) you can meet your namesakes in person.

Start now!  Will the names be historical or hysterical?  Alliterative?  Synonymic?  Perhaps they'll follow a theme...flowers?  Music?  Vegetables?  I am eager to see what you come up with, so let's go!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Enough already!

How many eggs are cooking away under this hen, anyway?  I'm sure it's over a dozen -- you're just seeing the front of the pile here.

With two hens setting for the past month, lots of my eggs to sell have gone to waste.  The other hens continue to lay their eggs in the boxes with the setters.  Each of the hens had a pile like this.  Something had to be done!

So I did it!!!

I moved the other hen, Maria, into the isolation pen, along with the ten whole eggs that were under her. An eleventh that had cracked was left behind.  The yellow hen ate it.

Maria is not pleased.  You see her up on the foundation rim, kind of above the waterer in this photo.  The eggs are in the crate. 

No one is keeping them warm.  That's a feather stuck to the one on the right.  If Maria doesn't get in there soon, these eggs will be lost causes.

Mama Maria has been preening since she moved.  I'm afraid she's planning to start dating again!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My new bed!

After weeks of brutal heat that prevented my getting into the garden, yesterday (a work day) and today brought mid-80s and clear skies.  Time to build another new bed in the vegetable garden!  You can see it framed out in the distance above.  On the right are the three beds I did already this year.  No surprise that the crucifers in the closest bed are really ailing -- cabbage and broccoli do not care for heat!  But the peppers in the middle bed are flourishing, and my tomatoes plants are covered with green fruit, keeping me very hopeful.

But back to the new bed.  This is part of my "raise the raised beds" project.  A few years ago I put in 2x6 frames, but they proved to be inadequate when the spring rains came, allowing the beds to wick up ground water and stay saturated, rather than draining.  This year I'm adding a second level of 2x6 frame to bring the soil up higher.

I'm so glad I thought to cover the huge pile of dirt on my driveway.  Despite the two inch rainfall we got a few days ago, the dirt pile stayed dry and therefore MUCH less heavy!

It takes about three dump carts full of dirt to fill the bed.  The first cart is easy to load and empty.  The last one, not so much.

Once it was filled and smoothed, it was time to decide what to plant.  I have absolutely no planting plan for this season, since I had no idea how long it would take to redo the beds.

In clearing the weeds out of the frame before I raised it, I discovered a single strawberry plant that somehow survived to this point.  I set it aside as my "inspiration piece."  And sure enough, what did I find at the garden center?

Strawberries!  These are everbearing, meaning they make a crop in June and continue to have scattered berries through the rest of the season.  It didn't take very long to go from this

 to this!

I put in 15 plants, plus I buried some of the babies on the runners.  Technically you're supposed to cut those off so the mama plants can get established, but these seemed so healthy and I hate to discard healthy plants!

The trick will be keeping them watered for the rest of the summer, but next June the reward will be sweet and juicy!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Coop, Continued

About a month ago I noted here that the yellow hen had gone broody ten days earlier.  Since then, the stripey hens took over the boxes and have been pretty much stuck to them.

I know that some of the eggs they're on are rotten.  Every once in a while I go into the barn and can smell that one broke.  When that happens, I think the hen eats it all.  Blech.

Recently I've been able to collect a couple of eggs almost every day from the third (empty) nest box.  Apparently at least some of the other hens have stopped laying with the stripeys.  Is that because they sense that something is developing and their egg will go to waste with the setters?  Or maybe they just find the stink of the rotten eggs as unpleasant as I do!

A few days ago I happened to go into the barn just when one hen was off her nest.
A full dozen!  That's crazy!  Interesting, too, that it's only the green eggs under her.  Do the brown layers know something?

I seriously hope that all of these mysteries will be revealed sometime VERY soon!  And when they are, I will report back to you!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Still a full house in the nest boxes.  While the two stripey girls look on, I found the yellow mama hen trying to squish her way into the first box.  If you look closely, you'll see why there's not room for Faith and Mama Hen...

It's because Rooster was in there!  What is a rooster doing in a nest box?  He scratched around in the straw for a minute, pushed the girls right out of the way.

Then when he realized I was looking he popped right out, proud as he could be.

I had a little talk with him.  I said "Rooster, we're low on box space at the moment.  Would you mind leaving the first room open for the girls who actually produce something?"

He made no commitments.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Coop coup update

This is so curious to me.  The striped hens changed boxes!  That's Maria on the left now, and the old Cuckoo Marans girl on the right.

Have they no pride?  No attachment to their own nests?  Are they actually going to hatch any eggs, or just take them all out of sales circulation this summer???  I've lost trust in the status of the eggs I find -- has a chick begun to develop in that shell?  I'm certainly not going to sell eggs I'm unsure of -- it's bad enough when I find a rogue chick fetus, imagine my egg customers!!!

So we're all taking a few weeks off.  I just wish these girls would finish up their job soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why Does Ulani Sing in the Night?

Why does Ulani sing in the night?

Could it be the whirling scent
of a raccoon, tippy-toeing across the grass
Nearer and nearer the barn?  Its toes
dig into the dry sod, its whiskers quiver.

Perhaps the bunny is again making the trip
from the prairie mound to the brush --
racing over the crunchy, brown grass,
leaving behind bunny bites for eager dogs
to eat come morning.

Do the dogs across the acres call her?
Are they crying out, "I'm bored I'm bored,"
or maybe they're harwoofing "I'm the best!
You are the rest!"  Appalling, must be answered.

Or maybe it's the sun itself
that brings out her song.  The nightly descent
calls Ulani to the west-facing window.  Her song
calls me to her side, to hug her tightly and
bury my face in her coat.  Until her song is silent.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Coop Coup!

There's a twist to the broody hen story.  Just a few days ago, I posted that I had to get the babies used to the big coop, because I was going to need the isolation pen for the yellow hen and her pending chicks.  She'd taken up residence over five eggs and was not budging.  I expected babies this coming weekend (June 23 or 24).

There's been a coup in the coop!

Since yesterday, two striped hens have moved in to the nest boxes, pushing the yellow broody hen out.  She's mad as an old wet...well, she's upset.

She tried pacing in front of the boxes, hoping one of the hens would shift just so, and yellow broody could slip in.  No good.

She tried stomping on the roof -- maybe that would drive one out!  But it wasn't happening.

Now I am very curious what will happen when those eggs in the center box hatch?  I assume the babies will imprint on the striped hen, leaving the uber-hormonal yellow broody out in the cold.  Will she move right back into the box when the little peeps and their striped mom relocate?

Any chance she'll cool down and return to normal chicken behavior?

I think that's a "no!"

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Baby update

Today I let the babies come out into the general population of the coop for the day.  After some initial interaction with a couple of pecky hens, everyone settled down with the babies in one corner and the adults elsewhere.  The adults really enjoy the first day of "babies out," because that gives the adults access to the super rich baby food.  It was nearly empty by the end of the day.

Now that their feathers are coming in, I can tell the chicks apart.  The two blonds on either side of this photo are the Lakenvelders -- my first white egg layers ever!  The chick on the right with some white feathering is a Speckled Sussex.  And the grayer blond to the duck's left is an Ameraucana.  She'll lay green eggs.  I also have Welsummers, but I don't think they showed up in these photos.

When I went to round the babies back up into their pen this evening, I caught Mr. Duck harassing the female baby.  She's only six weeks old!  I chased him outside to give her a rest.

I do feel bad for him that he's without a mate.  He's a handsome guy, but a bit awkward with the girls.  He doesn't know when to back off.

As the feather on his bill demonstrates.  Honestly!

It was important to get the babies out for some exercise, since they're growing so fast that they now stretch the limits of the isolation pen.  But there's another reason that I need to get them incorporated with the rest of the flock.

This hen has been broody for about ten days.  I forgot to write down the actual date she stuck to the nest.  And now that I look at the calendar, it may be two full weeks already.  In any event, she has five eggs under her and she is stuck like glue.  So in a week or so she will need the isolation pen with her new babies.  Which I hope will not all be roosters!