Saturday, April 28, 2012

Second hit

Friday morning before seven, I sat at my desk reading e-mail.  The sky was just beginning to lighten, Ulani roamed in the yard.  News on the radio filled the background.

Then I heard a commotion in the barn. 

I wasn't entirely certain that was what I heard at first.  I turned off the radio and confirmed what I was hearing was live, not recorded.  And I had a moment of thinking "a hen just layed an egg, that's all it is."  I disregarded the fact that just ten days ago, last summer's terrorist returned.

Luckily, I rarely listen to myself.

While racing to get my shoes tied, the noise grew louder.  More panicked.  I skipped my coat.

I ran into the barn and saw feathers inside the front door.  Not good.  Rounding the corner I saw all of the chickens huddled as high up on the roosts as they could get.  The duck, who cannot roost (duck feet can't hold the bar), was up on a ledge.  Everyone was screaming.

Once the lights were all on and I'd spoken quietly for a few minutes, things settled down.  I observed the scene.  Feathers in the coop space.  Feathers in the hallway up to the door.  No feathers outside the door.  Hawk?

You might remember that there has been a hawk in the barn before

Seemed likely.  But as I thought about it back in the house, something didn't work.  So I returned to the barn to search out more clues.  And on opening the barn door, I saw a flash I did not want to see.

Wedged in the corner where the door and the wall meet was Lacey's body.  I can't make the "read more" break work, so I won't post the photo.  "Partially eaten" is sufficient description.  Lacey was a kind, peaceful bird with beautiful feathers.  You might remember that her quiet nature brought her bad luck before.  She was the "lowest rung" bird -- roosting on the lowest rung of their ladder -- making her vulnerable to attack.

Now I am pissed off.  You may know that I am a vegetarian.  I eat no meat.  But I am not entirely against eating meat for other people.  I believe that animals should be quickly and kindly dispatched, and that the meat should be used up to benefit the eater. 

This terrorist leaves leftovers.

So I had to go out and clean up.  And make a plan.

Last night I locked up tight.  Wrapped fencing across the coop doors.  Left a light on.  And a radio.  Set the motion detector camera.  Closed the Dutch door.

On awakening this morning I dressed and went straight out.  At 6 am it was still dark out.  But as I neared the barn, I noted that the lawn chair I leave there was knocked over.  To the other side of the door, an old bicycle was knocked over.   Something attempted to crawl up and over the Dutch door, but was thwarted.

Inside was peaceful.  Once I assured myself that all was well, I turned off the light and returned to the house.

This is the first day of the rest of our lives.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On the occasion of Ulani's 9th birthday

Today is Ulani's ninth birthday!  She's still pretty active, although as you see here, it's on her own terms.

Ulani has always been a special character, from the day she first came to live with us from Montreal.  She flew alone, as cargo, and I drove to the cargo station at O'Hare airport to pick her up.  After waiting about half an hour, the customer service person finally took her golf cart over to the terminal to pick up the crate and returned to pass Ulani over to me.  I snapped on her leash and we stepped outside onto a huge parking lot with huge airplanes taxiing around and flying overhead.  She showed no fear as we walked over to a patch of grass, where she modestly relieved herself an then bounced back to me as if to say "where to now?"

When Ulani came to live with us, she was nine pounds and Oskar was ninety.  I was concerned that even if they became best friends, he might hurt her.  I set up a puppy room in my dining room.  For the first couple of days I successfully monitored their interactions.  Then one day I popped out to the store for just a few minutes, and when I returned I was greeted at the back door by Oskar, looking a bit puzzled, and Ulani right next to him, beaming with pride.

From that point on I didn't worry.

Ulani was in charge!

We've had some fun over the years.  Remember the Tale of the Sweet Tart Cake?  Many of Ulani's posts seem to center on food.  She's always been very food motivated.  And come to think of it, you've seen her with the flying squirrel before!

But she's not always sweetness and light.  Sometimes she gets downright grumpy!  It never lasts for too long, though and she'll be back to her happy self.  Just now she's resting on the couch, enjoying knowing that the whole blog is hers today.  Her day.

Happy ninth birthday, Princess!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Terrorist Returns

Yesterday we had very high winds all day long.  At work, our hanging sign whipped back and forth on its hardware, threatening to fall in the window and impale my colleague.  Garbage cans fell over.  Branches shook loose.

After supper I thought I would do a small bit of mowing, in the far off corner of the dog yard.  But the mower wouldn't start, despite two trips to Dr. Ron, it chose to backfire.  The whipping wind made any weeding seem like torture.  So even though it was still light out, I decided to close up the chickens and go in for the evening.  I was not careful about counting the hens.  So what happened next is my fault.

I spent the evening paying bills, reading online, watching television.  All was well when I retired to my bed.

This morning I returned to the barn to feed the chickens.  Something seemed off -- not the hens, they were behaving normally enough.  But the balance was wrong.  Not enough yellow.  Now, you should know that one of the three yellow hens died last week.  It appeared to be a natural death, which happens among chickens.  But now I only saw one yellow girl.  And I realized why.  I must have left a hen outside when I closed up last night.

I opened the hatch door and looked out, hoping she'd hop up on the ramp and scold me for leaving her alone.  Instead I saw nothing.  Then I saw a few feathers.

The best vantage point across the back field is at the side of the barn.  At first I just saw a pretty morning field (photo above).  Dandelions ready to sprinkle their seeds throughout my grass.  The soft western light of sunrise.

Then I looked closer.

There in the distance, between the two small evergreens, what I had interpreted as dandelion fluff was actually feathers.  A pile of feathers, where some terrorist took my hen and devoured her.

Possibly this happened during the day and I did not notice.  But much more likely this hen was taken by a night stalker.  And while that is bad news for the hen, it is worse news for the survivors.  Because now the stalker knows where they live.  I have to ask, was the yellow hen's loss last week actually a natural death, or something much grimmer?

After last June's serial murders I locked the barn up pretty tight.  It looks like the birds will go on lock-down now, in April.  I hope that they are safe during the day.  But one more loss and they are stuck inside the barn until the terrorist moves on.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Morning has Broken, 15

I looked out the window just now and saw a beautiful sight.  Barnard was curled up on the lawn chair, and Luke was in the grass next to the chair.  They were co-existing happily, enjoying all the morning birdsong, the whoosh whoosh of the barn swallows across the yard, and the warm breeze.  They seemed to be saying "later it will storm, but for the moment all is calm."

Grabbing my camera, I approached the door to capture the moment.

That's when Luke hissed at Barnard and chased her across the yard to the barn.  The moment was broken.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Easter Bunny Story

On Friday morning I was walking around the place, photographing the widespread frost.  It's pretty while it's frozen.  The danger comes when the frost melts.  Have the cells burst, will the tissue turn to mush as it warms?

This part of my property is wide open to the weather.  I wondered how the front garden, enclosed in a privacy fence, had fared.  I called Ulani and we went through the house to the other side.

The front is where the Oskar memorial tree is planted, as well as a huge old maple tree, and related shade garden.  I suppose due to the tall fence, no frost covered the grass there.  The birds sang loudly and I decided to sit down with my coffee for a few peaceful minutes.

As I sat back, Ulani made the rounds, investigating each tulip, Lenten rose and blade of grass.  Then suddenly I sensed her tense up.  I looked over to see her at the base of the maple tree sniffing heavily, then she began digging.  And then I saw them scatter.


Two of them raced out of the nest into the grass and froze.  The third was not so lucky.  Ulani caught it.

Now I must digress a moment.  Rabbits are a scourge here.  They devastate leafy greens in the garden.  And they are not bright.  We rarely see a squirrel, but this time of year the rabbits make their shallow grass nests everywhere, and that old expression that I won't put here in case of young readers must be true!  Every year some stupid bunny makes its nest inside the dog fence, sacrificing its young to the Great Huntress Ulani.  Every year!  You might remember my birthday a couple of years ago.  So Ulani has a strong history of reinforcement in catching rabbits.

So back to Friday morning.  I jumped from my peaceful chair yelling "drop it!  Drop it!"  Predictably, she did not.  I raced over to her, and with only a moment's pause I grabbed her snout, squeezing her cheeks and saying "Drop It!"  She did.  (Squeezing the cheeks kind of forces the jaws open.  I don't think this was compliant behavior.)  Then I grabbed Ulani's collar and pulled her into the house.

Now what to do about the bunnies?  I decided to scoop them up and return them to the nest area.  But I had no gloves or boxes nearby, so I just used my hands.
The poor buns used their only defense.  They stayed perfectly still.  Basically useless once you see them.

I gathered them up, placed them at the base of the tree, then took the unlucky one out to a final resting place under a bush, near a tulip, where The Great Huntress does not go.

So on this Easter morning, say a little prayer that your Easter Bunny goes to your house first.  Because he'll never get away from Busy Solitude Farm.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1 Garden Bounty - No Fooling!

It was May 10 of 2011 when I asked the question "Where's the Smell-o-Vision?" in celebration of the lilac bloom.

Such a different season this year!  Fully six weeks earlier, we have lush lilacs.  What will remain in May?!
This is just one of six lilacs around here that are currently covered.

In other blooming news,

I've always loved bleeding hearts.

I didn't get the clematis pruned back before it began growing -- already reaching above the mower shed.

The new apple trees are covered with buds, promising flowers and then I'll need to pinch almost all of them off -- they're too young to carry a bounty of fruit.

The potted Japanese maple is out of the barn and leafing out, enjoying its annual rebirth.

And the maple trees are covered with their lovely multi-hued seedpods, already well past their bloom.

Finally, under Oskar's memorial dogwood, Lenten roses are blooming exuberantly despite having been transplanted, in bloom, just a couple of weeks ago!

I love their down-facing flowers in such delicate cream and pink.  You must lie down in the grass to best appreciate them.

Next year when April 1 comes along and there is still snow on the ground, or the yard is flooded from rains, I'll look back at this post in continued astonishment at what a marvelous spring 2012 has brought.

Better indulge in it now -- who knows what comes next?!