Friday, July 27, 2012

Of Poults and Pullets

I've been so caught up with the shenanigans of the sheep this summer, that I've been remiss in reporting on the turkeys and the Black Austrolorps.
Let's just fix that, shall we?
Here's a photo of the Lorps in the pen they share with the turkeys.  They're definitely a Gang of Six - they travel as a group, and rarely stray more than a few feet away from each other.

(I just wish I could get closer to them to get better pictures - they're not particularly friendly...)
I'm especially intrigued with their legs, which are black, instead of the almost-yellow of all our other chickens.

As for the turkeys, we thought we had one tom and two hens.  But late last week, one of the 'hens' suddenly started looking more and more male.  We don't know if this is normal or if he's just a late bloomer.  So, we've got one tom, one hen, and one puzzle.

Here's the tom:

He's in full-tilt Proud to Be a Turkey mode.  Tail feathers fanned, wing feathers also fanned and wings held down and slightly out to the side, all his feathers fluffed up until he looks twice his actual size, chin tucked and face colors blazing.

The funny thing is that he's been doing this since he was a week old - even before he had feathers to fluff.  He would assume the position and strut the strut.  "Oh, yeah, dude.  I'm a turkey.  Watch me now."
As for the other guy - here he is with the hen.  Up until last week, he looked just like her.  Then suddenly his neck started getting redder, that funny droopy nose-thing started growing, and he started doing the tom-turkey-fluff thing.  It was a surprise to us...

And I can cheerfully report that turkeys are just as dumb as we'd heard.  Maybe even dumber.
(You're starting to sense that I'm getting ready to tell one of my animal stories, aren't you?  Yep, you're right.  Grab a beer or a cup of tea and settle in, cuz here we go.)
This whole turkey-raising thing is new to us, if you'll remember.  It's this year's experiment, and it's been interesting.  On the whole, we like turkeys - they're not as flighty as chickens.  More placid, yet more curious.  They like to check things out, though they don't seem to come to any conclusions.
So, the other day, I was on morning chores.  Now evening chores can be done in a relaxed manner, since there are no time constraints.  For this reason, disaster rarely strikes for evening chores.
Mornings, however, are another story.  Since we have to get to work in a timely fashion, we tend to be in a bit more of a hurry, even when we've allowed an extra margin of time in case of delays.  (We have a theory that morning chores take 20 minutes if everything goes smoothly.  However, this is just a theory, since everything has never gone smoothly...)
So, like I said, it was my morning for chores.  There had already been a few delays, and the extra time had been pretty well chewed up, when I looked toward the gate to the turkey and lorp pen and saw a turkey standing just outside the (closed) gate.
It was the hen.  I don't know how she got out.  My theory is that she'd flown up to the top of the gate and then fell off.  Not great flyers, turkeys. 
I started grumbling to myself.  "Aw, crap.  I don't have time for this.  Damn turkey.  grumble grumble
I approached her cautiously, trying not to spook her.  It was the first time a turkey had been out of the pen, and I had no way of knowing how she'd react.  The very last thing I wanted to be doing was racing around chasing a terrified turkey.
She continued to stand there quietly as I edged closer.  I realized I could almost hear her singing to herself:  "I'm so dumb.  Dumb-de-dumb-de-dumb."
I got closer.
 "I'm so dumb.  Dumb-de-dumb-de-dumb."
And closer.
 "I'm so dumb.  Dumb-de-dumb-de-dumb."
I finally got close enough to lay hands on her.  She still didn't move.
 "I'm so dumb.  Dumb-de-dumb-de-dumb."
I reached behind her, unlatched and opened the gate, then, with both hands gently turned her around.  She obliged by alternately lifting each foot as I spun her, rocking in time to her song.
 "I'm so dumb.  Dumb-de-dumb-de-dumb."
I gave her a little push, and she walked back into the pen, still singing.  "I'm so dumb.  Dumb-de-dumb-de-dumb."

Turkeys.  Raising them again next year?  Oh, yeah.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Welcome to Stalag 13. Colonel Hogan will escort you to the escape tunnels as soon as he's done goofing on Colonel Klink.

This is getting ridiculous.
This week my days off were Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday I'd planned to spend weeding the garden, but as usual, rain kept me indoors.  (It always rains on my day off.  I don't know why.)
So I was puttering around indoors when I heard a really loud noise from the neighbor's house up the hill.  Apparently the house has sold again, and the new people were working on some project that involved a lot of banging on metal.  I looked out the kitchen window to try to see what was going on, and saw Merlin and Orion in their pen, raptly looking up the hill as well.
Unfortunately, Goldie and Smoke were standing nearby, also staring just as raptly.
They are supposed to be in their pen on the other side of the house.
Just as the first bad word was coming out of my mouth, Onyx appeared with the Terrible Trio in tow.
Bad words started gushing out of my mouth...
I ran out the door, trying desperately to come up with a plan.  Madman was at work, miles away, and totally unavailable for sheep-chasing.

Okay, then.

Step 1:  Check the pen to see how they got out.
Step 2:  Fix the problem.  There's no sense in putting them back in the pen if they're just going to get out again.
Step 3:  Catch sheep and put them in pen.

So, the fencing that was (allegedly) holding the ewes and lambs forms a big pen that is divided down the middle by fence and a gate, forming 2 paddocks  (We alternate them between the two, giving the grass time to recover in between.  They started in paddock 1, then were switched to paddock 2 a couple of weeks later.)  The problem - the corner post of paddock 2 had collapsed, taking down one end of the pen.  The sheep had just walked right out over the fence.
Step 1, done.
As far as step 2 - there was nothing I could do to fix the corner post.  I'd have to wait till Madman got home.  So, I decided to put them back into paddock 1, which we were planning to do this weekend anyway.
I opened the gate to paddock 1, threw some grain into a food dish and left it inside, then grabbed the other food dish, filled it with more grain, and headed out to attempt step 3..
Luckily, they were easily lured by the grain.  Though still apprehensive about the clanging noises from up the hill, they followed me all the way back and into the pen.  (I just had to stay ahead of Onyx, who was trying to climb into the food dish.)
I closed  the gate, breathed a sigh of relief, and went back into the house.  The rest of the day was much less exciting, with only thunderstorms for entertainment.

Wednesday dawned clear and bright, so I finally got to head up into the garden.  I spent several happy hours weeding, occasionally chucking some grass over the fence to Merlin and Orion since they were amused by grass falling from the sky.
Then Orion started blatting.
Now, Orion is usually a pretty quiet sheep.  (And when he does speak, he sounds like he's battling laryngitis.)  It's totally unlike him to blatt more than a couple of times.
He blatted a lot more than a couple of times.
I looked up from my weeding just in time to see a little black hairy butt flash through the garden.
"Hey!"  I yelled at the lamb.  "What are you doing out?!?"
Just then Onyx peeked around the end of the greenhouse, with a "Who, me?" look on her face.  And another lamb leaped over the lettuce and beelined for the broccoli.
I headed down for the grain again.  Goldie and Smoke were still down by the galvanized trash can that we keep their grain in, trying to figure out how to get it open.  (Damn that lack of opposable thumbs...)  I lured them inside with grain, then set off to get Onyx and her crew.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
This time they'd scaled the fence between the paddocks (and just why is it that we have the only sheep in the history of the world who climb fences?), pushing it down, then had gone out through the end of paddock 2 that was still down from yesterday's escape.
I did some fence magic with posts, props, and cussing, and went back to my gardening.
Madman was equal parts amused and exasperated when I told him about the latest escape.  "Damn sheep," he muttered, shaking his head.
I thought the sheep were settled for the day, but I should have worried when Madman ran into town to pick up a couple of things at the store.  After all, they always wait till he's not around...
Let's do this one more time for luck.
This time, they'd figured out that if they pushed at the lower corner of the gate between the paddocks, they could juuuuust squeeze through..  And since that damn corner post was still down, they could walk right out again.
So, as Madman drove up the driveway, he saw me with my frowny face on, holding up the corner post to keep the damn sheep in any pen at all, while trying to find anything to wedge the post up with.  At that point I had Goldie in paddock 1, and everybody else in paddock 2.
Between us, we got the post up, and after a lot of confusion, all the sheep back into paddock 1.  (As we were getting Onyx and all the lambs from #2 to #1, Goldie crossed from #1 to #2.  And got too upset to go back.  Because she's Goldie.)

No wonder Colonel Klink was always so grumpy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

And then, to make the day just perfect, the tailpipe fell off my car

It was one of those "Perfect Storm" type deals.

You know.  Just my normal life.

The letter notifying me that I'd been chosen for jury duty had been hiding for a couple of weeks before I found it.  (And my first reaction was "Hey!  You can't do that!  I'm immune for 2 years!"  But it turned out that I'd served in 2009, which meant my 2 years was up.  Crap.)  Luckily, there was now an option to respond online, which I did, with apologies for the lateness of the response.
This left me with very little notice that I had to show up on Wednesday, the 11th, for the first Jury Draw, but when I consulted with the Ops at work, she checked my schedule for that week (which had been done ahead of time, since the manager was about to go on vacation) and it showed that I was off that day anyway, so "whew!"  Bullet dodged.
But what she neglected to tell me was that I was scheduled for overnights on Monday and Tuesday.  (It was a fluke - Home Office decided that the seasonal reset that the stores needed would be done as overnights.  An experiment.  If I was paranoid, I'd be sure that it was all about me...)
That meant that I would get out of work Wednesday morning at 7am, after working a 10 hour shift, and have to go directly to the courthouse in the next town in order to be there for 8am.  And then try to stay awake through 8 hours of sitting in a courtroom.


There was one point about mid-afternoon, where I woke up when the bailiff bellowed "All rise!!" when the judge swept back in the room.  I don't know how long I'd been asleep.  I can only hope I didn't snore.

And I was very glad they didn't call my name to question me for a particular case.
Attorney for the defendant:  "So tell me, do you have any particular aversions to someone who... eats kittens?"
 Me:  "Um....  No?"

And yeah, my tailpipe really did fall off on my way to the courthouse.  I had to go back and pick it up.  Then walk along the highway, carrying a 6-ft tailpipe at 7 o'clock in the morning.

Just perfect.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Where did everybody go?"

The boys are a little lonesome.  This morning was the appointed time for moving the girls and the lambs to the new pasture.  (This would be the area formerly known as our front yard.  Both of us would rather have sheep than lawn...)
The lambs are old enough to be weaned, and once they are, their mothers can go into season again.  Shetlands are capable of having lambs twice a year, but we don't want to do that.  First of all, it's hard on the mothers, and second, we don't want lambs born in the middle of winter.  We'll put the flock back together this fall, so that the lambs are timed for March or April.

Goldie was the first, as Goldie always has to be first in anything smacking of Not Routine.  She's hard enough to catch when she isn't already suspicious.  An apprehensive Goldie is a faster-than-a-photon Goldie.
Madman managed to grab her and get a halter on her while I caught and picked up Smoke.  (And then had to climb over a fence while carrying a large struggling lamb.  Too bad we didn't have an extra person to take photos.  On the other hand, if we'd had an extra person, I would have handed over the struggling lamb and done the photography myself.)  (On the other other hand, Madman had to get Goldie over the fence, so I really had the easy part of the deal...)
I lead the way, carrying Smoke, and trying to call Goldie's attention to the fact that she probably wanted to follow us.  "Look, Goldie!  I've got your lamb!  Goldie - look look!"  Goldie, meanwhile, was simultaneously trying to dart in three directions at once, while dragging her feet to keep from going in the direction Madman was trying to lead her.  And just to keep things real, she threw in a double backflip that startled the hell out of Madman.  (We think it startled her, too, since she landed on her side.  She might not have known she could do that.)
Once we got them through the gate and they realized there was FOOD in this new place, they settled right down to cropping and chewing. 

Two down, four to go.

The rest were easier.  I carried down two of Onyx's lambs while Madman was catching their mama, then carried the third one while he dragged Onyx.  Though he'd had a better idea by this time, and carried a scoop of grain to hold in front of her - the old carrot and the stick trick.  Much better.

Orion and Merlin spent the morning being upset.  Merlin cried and cried, and Orion kept whacking him.  I'm not sure if it was because he wanted Merlin to shut up with the blubbering or if he figured it must somehow be Merlin's fault that the girls were gone. 
Madman was a little surprised at how upset Merlin was, until I pointed out that it's the first time in his life he's been separated from Onyx.  They grew up as lambs together, and even Goldie has been around ever since he could remember.
Poor little guy.

After everyone got settled, I tried to get some photos, but mostly I got shots of sheep with their heads buried in the grass.

Here's a couple of pictures of Smoke.  I still think he's the prettiest thing.

And here's how the spotty ewe is looking these days.  (Madman has taken to calling her Abigail, but the name doesn't really resonate for me.  I still usually refer to her as 'the spotty one.')

And here's the ewe I've been calling Tiny, since she was the smallest of the lambs, even though she has now caught up with her sister.  And yes, she does have her head through the fence so she can eat the grass growing on the outside.

Cuz, you know, the grass is always greener...

Monday, July 2, 2012

I love my sheep I love my sheep I love my sheep...

Hobbling, at the moment. 
I'd gone into the sheep pen to give them their nightly grain ration, since what with all the extra security we've had to install fencing-wise, I can no longer reach through from the outside to fill the 4 separate food dishes that are necessary to spread the sheep out enough to prevent mayhem.  Of course, since I was walking through with a full scoop of grain, you can imagine all the excitement.  Sheep were milling around me, dancing with joy.  The usual.
Until our lovely ram, Orion, who was swinging his head around in sheer joie de vivre,  ("Woohoo!  There's going to be grain!!") caught me a mighty crack with his horn right on the side of my knee.
I dropped like a stone.
Holding a scoop of grain.
In the middle of a crowd of eight sheep.
Eight sheep who live for the eating of grain.
Eight sheep who will cheerfully butt their own mothers or their own children out of the way in order to get more grain.
There I was, surrounded by eight sheep of various sizes, on my butt in a mixture of equal parts dirt and sheep poop,  holding a scoop of grain over my head, trying not to cry since my knee hurt so bad, and cursing a blue streak.  (I actually saw the blue streak.  It was the most amazing shade of cobalt with little flecks of electric blue dazzling through it...)
I literally couldn't get back to my feet.  a) It hurt really bad, and b) there were too many sheep focusing on the grain in my clutches to give me room to move. 
Luckily my cell phone was in my pocket.  And Madman is on speed-dial.  He sounded a little puzzled when he answered his phone - like, why would I possibly be calling when he was right there in the house and I was only out in the yard doing chores - but he came bustling out quick when I'd explained the "I've fallen and I can't get up (with sheep)" situation.
A little ice, and I expect I'll be good as new.  But, damn, that hurt.

Next time we discuss getting animals, I'm voting for guinea pigs.  At least they can't knock me down.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Another fail...

I had big plans for today.  I was going to take pictures of lambs and write a lovely post describing their latest shenanigans.  (At least they're finally confined to their pen, and our garden is starting to grow.  We actually got enough lettuce for a salad the other night, without having to share it with sheep.  (They're actually not very good about sharing...))
Unfortunately, today was chicken butchering day, and doesn't the time just fly when you're having fun?

By the time we'd finished with the chickens, and with the people who came to pick up their chickens, and done the thousand other things that need doing on the rare occasion we actually get a day off together, I was too pooped to pic.

So, for lack of anything else to show and tell - here's a picture I took at NH S&W that I forgot to share.

 Yes, she's converted her exercise bike to power her spinning wheel.  (I can only think of the times I've gotten all excited about seeing a spinning class advertised in the paper, only to discover that it's actually just a class for riding exercise bikes.  Like that needs to be a class...)