Monday, December 2, 2013

Passages: Miss Peep

Miss Peep died overnight.  She had been ailing for a few weeks.  Something attacked her -- other chickens?  Predator?  I found the coop full of black and white feathers, and Miss Peep roosting away from all the others.  After a few days it became necessary to put her in an isolation pen to make sure that Rooster didn't mount her.  I think she may have had internal injuries.  Yesterday I picked her up to nuzzle her and it was clear that something gave her pain.  Then overnight she died.

Miss Peep was the first chick ever to hatch at Busy Solitude Farm.  In fact, her arrival inspired me to begin this blog.  You will remember that first post, in September of 2007.  I was fascinated by the hen and chick relationship, so close, so instinctual.  And as I did not yet know whether she was a girl or a boy, I called her Chick Chuck!

Then the worst possible thing happened.  On October 30, just a few weeks after her chick hatched, Mama Hen was murdered.  Miss Peep was left on her own to find her way.  The first days were difficult.  The rest of the flock decided she was an outsider, and tried to oust her.  I sometimes felt I was the only being she truly trusted.

Gradually her self confidence built.  The others came to accept her.  In time, Miss Peep was at the top of the pecking order, respected by all.  But she never challenged me.  She was the tamest hen I ever had, leaning in when I scratched her ears, allowing me to stroke her feathers and nuzzle her with no hesitation.

She lived six years at Busy Solitude Farm.  I think she was happy.  We'll miss her.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

No room at the inn!

Things have gotten a little crowded in the barn.  Mama Hen has moved to the "penthouse suite" of the nest boxes.  
The "chicks" now create a huge downy pillow for Mama to sleep on.
I hope they don't think they're hiding, because they're not fooling anyone!
Seriously, this doesn't even look warm!  Only two weeks ago everyone still fit in the nest, but those days are long gone.

 And the funny thing?  Maria hasn't offered to help!

Monday, November 4, 2013

In Memorium: Luke

The boss is gone.

Today was Luke's last day.  At 16, he had been showing many signs of aging.  He was occasionally disoriented.  Aching bones made getting up and down more difficult.  And most worrisome, he had been losing weight with no clear cause.

But over the weekend he became incontinent, and he had fits of crying.  So today I took him to our vet to have his life gently ended.

I found Luke, along with his brothers Abe and Bodhi, on Good Friday of 1998.  My cat Camille had died the week before, and I wanted two cats who were siblings in hopes that they would not fight the way that Camille and Coriander occasionally had.

Luke extended his arm through the shelter cage to pull me over to look at them.  He was always in charge.  But three?  As fate would have it, the pairs of cats available that day were all long-haired cats, and I wasn't having any of that!  So I told the adoption counselor I'd take them.  She told me there was a two cat limit and I should choose.  Ridiculous, I told her.  They came in together, I would take them home together.  After a thorough vetting the shelter agreed.  That is how Abe, Luke and Bodhi became part of my family.

Luke quickly got Buster in line, and later that year when Buster died and puppy Oskar joined us, Luke again proved to be the boss.  Over the years he's been my steady Freddy, my right hand man.

When we moved to Busy Solitude Farm, the cats got the opportunity to go outside.  Luke basked in the sun, caught mice and voles, relaxed with me on a lawn chair.  Ulani might chase Abe or Bodhi outside, or more recently Barnard, but Luke did not play that game.  He held his ground.  Living up to his make love, not war philosophy, Luke would even snuggle up to Ulani outside.

Despite the quick decline in his health this weekend, Luke stepped outside to sit in the sun for a few minutes, seeming to enjoy hearing the birds and smelling the air.  We sat on the steps, Luke in my lap, and just took in the scene for a while.  

But recovery was not in the cards, and now he's gone.  Luke, the boss, was a great cat.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two mommies!

A happy family getting a morning drink, right?  Wrong!

Have you seen the studies that claim sheep can distinguish between each other?  So it is with a farmer and her chickens.  As soon as I saw this gathering this morning, I knew that was not Mama Hen, but Maria.

Of course, I've had the advantage of observing this relationship develop over the past few weeks.  Maria seems to feel like the dear auntie of the chicks.  She's even taken up residence next door, just in case Mama Hen needs help overnight!

The peeps easily accept her interest.  Anything that means more attention on babies is fine with them!  They are quite comfortable with most of the flock, and give a wide berth to those couple of hens who are not fond of babies.

What does this mean for Mama Hen?  For the most part, she seems to enjoy a little me-time for preening and scratching, knowing that Maria will keep an eye out for the wee ones.

But she never goes far!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A New Room for Ducks

These are vicious terrorists. 

"What?" you say. "Ducken Hines and The Wacky Quaker?"

Yes, indeed. They obsess over the hens. Given access, they are thugs and rapists. 

And so a while back I separated them. But given the layout of the barn, the divider gave the ducks control of the door to the outside. The hens had technical access, but were forced to run the gauntlet of ducks to get out. 

Finally today I fitted out a temporary pen so the ducks could relocate. They were less than thrilled. The chickens, however, were delighted to regain control of the access ramp. Soon I hope to catch photos of the babies outside in the sunshine!



Saturday, October 12, 2013

A little blip


I've had one of those little blips in life that necessitate charting a new course. Please be patient while I recalculate and I'll be back soon. 


Monday, September 9, 2013

A Little Bundle of Joy

The first pictures of the latest Busy Solitude chick!  It was pipping last night when I turned off the barn light, so it was not a total surprise. 

A new chick is always a joy!

Watch for photos and video on the Busy Solitude Farm Facebook page

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful!

Pollen hangs thick on the goldenrod this time of year. But don't fear--this heavy pollen sticks to insect legs to be carried to the next plant. It's not in the air to cause allergies. 

Instead, it's the ragweed, seen in the foreground of this photo, which sends its pollen out in the air in search of other ragweed plants to pollinate, and in the process causes misery in people!

The gorgeous gold of the goldenrod celebrates the change of seasons. I welcome the beginning of autumn.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Could it be five?

Back on July 19 (a full four weeks ago) I wrote that the Cuckoo Marans hen had taken to the nest. At one point she had ten eggs under her, but she's gradually eaten up the ones that weren't developing. 

This afternoon when she hopped out there were six, but I rolled them around and one was too light to have anything worthwhile in it. I threw it in the garbage can in the barn. Unfortunately I forgot that I'd emptied the can earlier thus week. When the egg hit the bottom it broke, emitting the gaggy smell of rotten egg. Eck!

So now there are five. I long ago stopped marking them. I don't know if she's been on those specific eggs for weeks, or if they were freshly laid in the past few days. 

But I can tell you that I dreamed last night that she hatched five eggs!  Foreshadowing?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What's underneath?

 The striped hen on the right has been nesting for a couple of weeks now.   Yesterday she happened to hop off while I was in the barn, so I got a peek at what she's sitting on. 

They'd better be girls!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunflower Community

Red Winged Blackbird, Laughing

Perched hummingbird

House finch perched on the left, hummingbird perched on the right

Female Diana fritillary, top side

Bumblebee and Diana fritillary

Female Diana fritillary, underside

Ruby throated hummingbird

Male and female hummingbirds

A little "in-flight video". Sorry about the dust on the lens!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hummingbird Haven

This year I let the birdseed grow itself under the feeders.  It's created a lovely bed of sunflowers.  Birds hop around under cover of the stalks at ground level.  To be honest, Barnard enjoys crouching down on the perimeter and stalking the birds, but she's never caught one or even pounced, as far as I can tell.

 The hummingbirds can often be found perching on the sturdy stems of the sunflower leaves!

Hummingbird activity is up in the past week or so.  All day long at least two of them swoop and dive around the feeder.  Sometimes one hides in the flowers, waiting until the other comes to drink, then explodes up out of the cover to scare the other off.  There is nothing peaceful about hummingbirds!  If you look really, really closely at the photo above, right along the left edge, you'll see a hummer flying into view.

I'll help:

Aren't they terrific?!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Amazing light this morning. 


A moment on the lips...

You know the saying -- a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips?

Is there a similar saying for when you don't get the weeding done and all the evil ones start to make fruit and set seed?

Because I should be reciting it right about now. As you can see. 


Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's the Garlic Harvest!

Today we celebrate the garlic harvest!

This year I planted four varieties.  Chesnok Red is a purple stripe, hardneck.  Inchelium Red, an artichoke softneck.   Loiacono Italian, another artichoke softneck. Nootka Rose is an heirloom silverskin softneck.  I thought I knew which was which, but I did not mark the bed well and now I'm not certain I can tell!

I do know that I selected varieties in part because of their color.  If you've only ever bought garlic at the grocery store, it might surprise you to see how colorful the bulbs can be.  From pinks and reds through purples and even mahogany, garlic comes in a really wide range of colors.  And the flavors are stunningly varied -- mild garlics you'd be happy to eat raw, through exceptionally hot, spicy garlics that linger on your tongue for an hour after you eat them.

Now that the bulbs are out of the ground, they need to dry up a bit for a week or two.  Unlike some other vegetables that "cure", garlic stays out of the sun in the barn where there's good air circulation for this period.  Makes the barn smell amazing, by the way!

Then in early August I can cut the stalks and bundle up the bulbs by variety in paper bags.  Some I'll share as gifts to friends, setting the bulbs in clear egg cartons with variety descriptions.  This year I may try freezing some, as described by Margaret Roach on her A Way to Garden blog.

But most will be eaten!  I love garlic, and rarely cook without it!  And if you grow your own, you will, too!

Friday, July 19, 2013


A week ago I noted that Goldie had taken to the nest.  That would be the nest on the right, but who's there now?!

The Cuckoo Marans mama hen!  She's the second-best mama in the flock. Apparently a few days of ten-minute egg sitting while Goldie took her constitutional switched on some hormones. Now they're both setting. 

No eggs for breakfast for me for a while!  Stay tuned!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Screen test

I am trying to learn how to manually adjust my camera.  The automatic settings work fine for quick snapshots, but for super close-ups or interesting framing, it seems useful to know what aperture and shutter speed will do.  So I went out this morning and did some screen tests.  The monarda seemed to enjoy posing!

This one was actually taken with automatic exposure and super zoom.  So pretty flitting around!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Goldie finally listened to her hormones and sat on a nest a week ago.  She's been holding tight ever since.  But even a broody hen needs a drink of water and a bite to eat every once in a while.  This morning she hopped off the nest while I was visiting, so I got a few photos.

She was moving fast, so I'm not quite in focus!  I love the way her feathers stay fluffed up as she moves around.  Fluffed up feathers hold more warmth and if there's something that incubating eggs need, it's warmth!  (Note that Rooster and the ducks gave her a wide berth.  Don't mess with a hormonal hen!)

 She had a few deep drinks of water.

Then a quick bite with Rooster to bring her energy back up.

After about four minutes, she was ready to hop back up on the railing and return to her eggs.

While she was out of the nest, Maria stepped in to keep the eggs warm.  Unfortunately one of the five incubating eggs broke -- not sure if it was Goldie or Maria who broke it.  That made Maria hop back out of the nest.  It didn't appear that the broken egg had a chick growing.  I cleaned up the nest and put in fresh straw so that Goldie could return to a fresh bed.

Stay tuned.  I figure another two weeks or so.  By the end of July we should have the pitter patter of little chicks!