Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Thanksgiving day brought a blizzard to Busy Solitude Farm!
The snow fell so wet and fast, after a while the dogs did not want to stay outside. They gather rock-hard snowballs on their feet. Yowch!

I started out for my sister's house for our family meal, but the 11 year old car started making an odd noise on the interstate entrance ramp and I decided that it was the safest choice to turn around and go home. It disappointed me not to see my family, but the idea of being stranded on the highway at night in a blizzard convinced me otherwise.

So, rather than having a real Thanksgiving, here is my fantasy Thanksgiving dinner menu. Begin with a glass of champagne and some mushroom caps stuffed with bread stuffing and cheese. After all the fabulous guests arrive, move to the table. Pour a nice pinot noir and pass the following dishes to delight the tastebuds.

Simple mashed potatoes (made with cream and butter)
Wild mushroom gravy (full of onions and pepper)
Sweet potato souffle (so sweet it could be dessert!)
Brussels sprouts with a light mustard sauce
Cranberry sauce with cinnamon and cloves
Green bean casserole (c'mon, it's Thanksgiving!)

For dessert I like the classics, straight and narrow. Simple pumpkin pie with lightly whipped cream and deep dish apple pie ala mode. Have a hot cup of coffee with it and get ready for a nap!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007


Just look at those eyebrow feathers! This is Egglebert, my Cuckoo Marans rooster. He is almost 18 months old now and rules the roost for the 16 hens (plus his daughter, Chick-Chuck). I just love the sculptural beauty of his comb and wattles, offsetting the delicate feathers in his eyebrows and down his body. "Cuckoo" refers to the broken black and white bars in their coloring (look at a Barred Plymouth Rock for the alternative coloring).

This is Belle (Vraiment Belle de Guerande). She is Oskar's niece and Ulani's half-sister. I think she has the very most gorgeous "eyebrows", which in Briards are referred to as the "fall" of hair over the eyes. Because her ears are cropped, she also has a more sculptural quality to her head, not unlike Egglebert.

Eyebrows are on my mind. I had noticed over the past year or so that the outer half of my eyebrows seemed to be disappearing. It was not a total surprise, my father just has the tufts in the middle left! But I don't feel nearly old enough to have "old man eyebrows"! Then I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. One of the symptoms is losing eyebrows. After five weeks of medication I swear that my eyebrows are coming back. Will they stand up like Egglebert's, or form a luscious fall like Belle's? Not likely. I'm just glad to have them back.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Duh! Fence Fixed

A quick follow-up. I admit it. The hot wire and the ground wire were reversed on the power source. Switched them up and all is well. Oh, well!

Monday, November 5, 2007

#@$%ing Fence

Everyone I asked said it would be simple. "Just don't turn it on until you're done, ha ha ha!" "Don't ever try to climb over it, that'll gitcha! Ha ha ha!" "Don't test it with your tongue! Ha ha ha!"

Oh, c'mon. I'm a somewhat handy woman. Surely I can run a couple of lines of electric wire around the chicken pen to keep the murderers away. Right?

Apparently not.

Every step of the way today there were issues. First off, I forgot how overgrown the grass and weeds were at the bottom of the existing fence. Not good for electric. So I had to trim all of that back, then I decided to pull the t-posts and mow it all short before I got started. Most of them needed to be turned around for the insulators to fit correctly anyway. After I reset the t-posts and rehung the wire, I realized I did not have the correct nails for the insulators that would go into wood. I also recognized that I didn't know how the ground wire clamp works. Off to the hardware store.

It's a perfect example of not understanding the language. Dennis said to me quite clearly "you tighten the outside screws around the pole, then put the wire in the little hole and tighten the screw." I bet almost any guy who grew up doing handy things would understand those instructions. Or pretend to. But I did not. "Do you mean tighten the screw through the insulation on the wire, or do I strip the wire and then tighten the screw on the metal part?" He seemed a little startled at the question, in a "didn't I just tell you?" way. "Strip the insulation, otherwise the electricity won't travel." Oh, sure, I get it.

Next I worked on attaching the ground and fence wires to the power source. Stripping the wire was a struggle with an old pair of pliers. Then I drilled holes through the barn siding to send the wires outside, lost track of ground and hot for a while, sorted it back out, and successfully attached the ground wire to the pole. At least, I think I did, but the fence isn't working and from what I read a bad ground is the most likely cause.

Running the fence wire -- how difficult could that be? I've strung lots of beads, threaded needles without reading glasses. No big dif'. Running the fence wire made blatant the floppy nature of my existing wire fencing. Oh, heck, this will never do. I had to fix up some supports to keep the wire fencing from contacting the soon-to-be-hot wire. Another hour gone.

When at last all the wire was strung, all the fences pulled back, I thought I was done. In the barn I plugged the power in and saw the happy flashing green light that pulses with each surge of electricity. Just like a pro, I carried the fence tester outside and stuck the ground into the dirt. Cautiously, I hung the other end on the bottom wire. No lights. On the top wire. No lights. Inside, the tester showed power coming from the supply. Outside, no juice. I diddled with it for a while but in the end I could not figure it out.

Go ahead. Climb over it. #@$%ing fence.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Chick-Chuck Update

Chick-Chuck is doing OK. It's not been easy, however.

After Tuesday's terrors, I thought that the flock was accepting Chick-Chuck as it did while Mama Hen was around. Wednesday afternoon I discovered that they were attempting to eliminate her from the coop, pecking at her and chasing her until she found a hiding place under an ancient manger.

We are lucky in that the chicken pen is L shaped with a division between the legs. I herded the hens into the larger of the two sides, and left Chick-Chuck with one calm Black Australorp hen in the smaller side. Finally peace returned to the hen house.

My plan is to gradually introduce other hens, one at a time, until a good percentage have accepted Chick-Chuck's presence. This evening I added a yellow hen (seen above). I am afraid that CC's first thought was "Mama!" because she ran right over, then looked the hen in the eye and took a step back. Still they were able to scratch next to each other without fireworks.

Hen-keeping is not for the faint of heart.