Saturday, May 2, 2015

Happy May

Yay our snow is gone and the maple trees are blooming.  A very few special forsythias and daffodial clumps are in bloom where we headed inland today.

The mink story had an interesting twist.  It took me about two months to mink proof my chicken coop.  I had to tear out built in rabbit hutches to get to the windows that were stuck in rough openings and needed to be framed out.  One day I cried the whole project was so depressing and overwhelming in the beginning.

In the meantime, I had two hens and a guinea cock in separate cages IN MY HOUSE, and at night brought the two ganders in and put them in a big pet crate loaded with shavings and hay and changed every other was a living nightmare of extra work, but it was nice to know when the hen laid an egg and pick up a nice warm egg and give her a bit of soft bread as a reward=I have never seen two hens lay at such a steady rate- with that sort of positive reinforcement, no wonder!

And given the fact that we offically had 10 or more feet snow this winter, it might be easier to understand how difficult it was to do any sort of outside work when you have 8 foot snowbanks everywhere you turn. And lucky to have a day above freezing,  Then when it is above freezing you are tramping in 6 inches of snow and mud.

I just roughly estimated in my head that the FIrebird and I must have moved 30,000 cubic feet of snow this winter with snow scoops- that's a lot of scooping.

I digress.  I FINALLY got the chicken house to my point of approval.  I put the chickens and guinea in around midday and worried the guinea might be aggressive towards the hens.  Then the hens got into a full blown cock fight.

I had to break them up THREE times.  Finally I picked up one of the pet carriers that I used to put them in to clean their cages and took it in the coop and shook it at them and said, "Would you rather go back in here or live in this chicken palace?!"

And I didn't hear another peep out of the two hens.

The guinea seems to believe the hens magicicked this awesome place.  He has always had the crap end of housing, and this freshly rebuilt house with three windows and strategically placed perches and shelves....He is funny.  We started calling him Fred (flintstone)

Then that night I put the geese in and jumped at every little peep wondering if they would survive the night out there...and if the mink was still around?

The next morning I was relieved to find them alive.  I headed out with the Willow who needed her 3 foot tall paper mache redwood tree delivered to school.  I pulled out of the driveway and noticed a truck parked over the culvert, and a guy walking to it from our side of the stream. 

I pulled over and asked, "what's up?"

and realized he was wearing a game warden uniform.

"I was just releasing a mink."

I kid you not-he actually did

Well, I lost my cookies.  I went up that guy and down the other, and he kept saying, "sorry" while we watched the little mink scamper up the bank directly towards my chicken coop 200 feet away, and my neighbor/'s coop 200 feet in the other direction...

He did deny releasing any mink there previously...yea right ugh was I mad!!!

I took his number threatening to call him.  That night I was feeling bad about yelling at him.  The next afternoon I watched the mink run along the edge of the lawn behind the coop, about 40 feet away.

The Willow and I found sign along the stream and it appeared the mink had hung around with tracks and dens in the snow, but still the poultry was ok.

I had to resurrect the outdoor pen for the geese during the day, with electric all around.

I fixed my whole goat pasture electricline and we had a blow that night and the next day I had a big windfall on the back line with a birch and a white pine across the whole fence...

I am in the middle of taking down goat fence I put up years ago for someone else who is cutting back.


The last time I saw my mechanic, he told me he was awaiting test results  and had a catheter in.

I had the blazer in there this past week, and asked how he was faring, and he said, "I'm alive."

I didn't want to ask him about the test.  My last words to him had been, "I hope you have good news about your test."

So he stops everything, as usual, and gets me in and gets his guy to start on the blazer, and this other guy comes in and wants to talk to R,. so they go in the office and I can overhear the conversation, and the guy is talking about getting the deed straight, and I wondered if R was selling, and then the guy started talking about estate type of stuff like who gets the truck, and I decided it was time to go out the back door far from earshot of that conversation and have a smoke.

So I know the answer to my question without asking it.


About a month ago I ran into an old friend of mine.  The last time I saw him was over a year ago, and he looked like shit.  He was all happy about quitting drinking and told me the whole deal, about he got pretty bad and his wife finally gave him an ultimatum and he quit.  Well I was pretty impressed , but he still looked like shit.

We fell out of contact for a bit, and about 6 months ago or more I actually searched his name because I wondered if he had died,.

I finally chased him down,   and he looked much better.  He was on chemo round 10 of twelve for colon cancer.  He had a large enough section of colon removed that he will now wear a "shit bag" (his words) the rest of his life.  And he pats it on his stomach for emphasis, permeating the room with the odor of really bad diarreha.

The smell clings to me long after I make my goodbyes.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Is it summer yet?

Finally we have had a few days above freezing.  But, in places where the snow drifted in it is still two feet deep!  So we have aways to go.

The bloodthirsty mink is still around-I found this track a few days ago and even managed to get a few decent plaster casts of the tracks-not easy with old plaster and snow.

I put my keys next to the track to give an idea of the size of the track.  Not a cat track-too large, and the toes would be rounded. Notice the slight pointed/curved tips in the toes, and the indication of the fifth toe.

I can smell the mink in the air when it comes on rounds.
Tree 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day

Finally, we have had a few days above freezing.  I rushed out last week and tapped the sugar maples, but they are not really running yet.  Not sure what is happening, if there is too much snowpack, or the temps need to get more above freezing.

I gave up trying to trap the mink and started trying to mink proof the coop.  We had about 6 feet of snow on the ground and zero deree temps, so that took awhile to get that project underway.

I had to disassemble the rabbit hutches I put in many years ago to get to the windows.  That was a very depressing job.

Finally today I enlisted the aid of the Firebird to help close up all the little places, and just getting some positive cooperative energy into the space helped a great deal.  After the negative energy of the slaughter and devastation and having to rebuild something I made years ago I needed some fresh energy.

One of the major things left is to dig out the winter's bedding, which was pretty frozen.  Part of the floor will need to be replaced, and I need to re hang and reframe the door and put up some more 1/2 mesh over a window and a chicken door.

Quite a bit of snow has melted.  So much that I barely made it up the drive in 4WD on Wednesday, because I had about 6inches of slush in the ruts.  Luckily that refroze so  I could get out the next morning, and I think it is still gradually melting since a bit more dirt is showing on one of the shoulders.

Of course we are under a winter storm watch tonight, lots of wet snow, hopefully 4-8 inches , which will still require clearing if we are to get out the drive next week.

Our dirt road is coming unglued in the usual places, and I am starting my annual rant about what the road commissioner does to earn nearly 100K a year.  Can't even put a load of crushed rock in the rutty places, and of course we are the last town to have posted our dirt road to heavy loads, a rite of spring in these parts.

My arm is gradually healing; every time I spend a little bit of time working around here I have a set back.  Looking for part time work, or something independent, with the usual no luck.

I could potentially go back eventually with the beekeeper, but my bud working with him down in Georgia got stung 100 times last week moving hives.  Doesn't sound like much fun.  I figure I had about 50 stings all told, but mistakes happen and once the bees find a way in your suit you can get in a pickle pretty fast.

Our snow here is settling-the tromped paths started to thaw, and that was pretty dangerous because all of a sudden a foot would break through up to over your knee...then it re froze and we have these foot sized pitfalls along the pathways.  If you fall when it is soft you find yourself over your shoulders trying to push yourself upright...

I should lay a bet now when all the snow will be gone off the lawn....May 30?

Happy spring!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Snowiest winter, coldest February

Well we passed the snowiest winter awhile back.  I am not even sure how much snow we have had.  The last week we had three storms that went over two feet together. The running average temp for Febrauary was about 12 F highs and lows....the last record was 14 F.

I made a prediction a couple of years ago that climate change would cause more moisture to be put in the atmosphere, by melting ice in the arctic in the summer, causing a cooling and more precipitation in the upper mid latitudes.

Gawd sometimes I hate to be right.

The projected prediction then left the upper mid lats in a dry tundra and the moisture cooling to travel southwards..

Once that point is passed we are really screwed. Basically the water locked in the poles will be re-distributed, gradually meeting at the equatorial zone.

Beyond that point I am not so clear, perhaps warm moisture will cause intense storms in the mid lats, drought in northern lats...earthquakes from weight distribution, perhaps my life does not span that time, and the reason I cannot foresee what will happen at the time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mink update

Well, I decided the only recourse for my remaining poultry was to get them out of here for the time being.

I made arrangements with Boss to board them at the farm 10 miles away until things get squared away.

I just could not keep them in my kitchen forever, and didn't even dare let the geese out during the day, and the two of them were crammed in a large dog crate by the bathroom for a night and half a day.

We packed up the two ganders, the one remaining guinea, and the two hens and set them up in a back stall at the goat farm.  The injured rooster is still in a cage in the house, and pecked at some food today, but I have not a lot of hope for him.  He was just too much of a mess to take to the farm, and I didn't want Boss to have to deal with a hurt rooster in addition to the others.

I warned my neighbor I had borrowed the live trap from, told her I got mine out of here and she might be next, and she called me early evening to tell me the mink had gone across the brook and hit her chicken house and killed five.  She got some of them in cages into HER kitchen.  One of the roosters flew out in the dark and commotion and she found him beheaded in the snow this morning.

I went over to check in with her this morning and they were trying to secure their coop for tonight.  I was a bit not too encouraging, because their coop is older than mine with its own security issues.  I had read if you can stick a hot dog in an opening a mink can get in.

I checked in with her via phone this afternoon, and she had gone to the local has everything store and bought fox urine to sprinkle about hoping to deter the mink.  I told her I had read that there was no deterrent to mink, and that she should check the coop because it was about the time of day the mink first strikes.

She called me tonight and had gone out right after I called and found five more dead and has two left, again in her kitchen. 

I promised her I would go over in the morning and we would make a plan for tomorrow night to try and take care of this thing once and for all.  I lost 9 and she lost ten in 4 nights work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

St Valentine's Massacre, or Trouble comes In Spades

UGH.  Can I just say that again? UGH!

While Valentine's Day is traditionally the day that birds choose their mates, we had devastation in our poultry yard.

Yesterday afternoon, the Firebird met me as I was going out the back door and he was finishing up the poultry chores...
"We've got a problem...a guinea has been decapitated."

The four guineas are kept down the ridge in the old outhouse.  I went down and found not one but two dead guineas with heads pulled throught the gap under the door.

I cast around for tracks..."MINK!"  I exclaimed.

After some debate, I decided to secure the old rabbit hutch for the two remaining guineas.  It had served as last year's winter quarters, but once I knew I was dealing with a mink, I knew I had to secure every last gap.

Finally fixed to my satisfaction, I moved the two guineas to the hutch and we finished night chores.

About 10 pm the Willow called down, "don't you guys hear that?"

Some commotion from the guineas mere feet from the kitchen window had awoke her, and I heard a feeble vocalization and dashed out with the Firebird to investigate.

We saw both guineas prone inside.  I realized one was still alive and grabbed it and brought it in.  WIllow suggested the cat carrier and provided a towel and I gently placed the guinea in the carrier, after noting two puncture wounds on the neck....mink

The Firebird assured me the other bird was dead, and then I wondered what to do about the geese, on the ground in the very unsecure chicken coop.  The Firebird had raised looey from a hatchling.

I crawled under the house and retrieved a large animal kennel I acquired-free!- last summer, made some room in the toolbox area by the bathroom, and the Firebird and I each grabbed a gander and stowed them in there for the night.

Pluto wasn't very happy, we acquired him several years ago from a neighbor who acquired him from a livestock auction, so carriers meant doom to the poor old guy.  Still, we knew they were safe for the night.

The Firebird had seen the mink at one point, and noted that it had made a tunnel in the snow, so after we secured the geese I went out and stabbed the snow shovel and he with the firepoker.  I believe in live and let live with the wildlife, but we were on the verge of a serious problem.

Today I borrowed a live trap from the neighbor...not as easy as it sounds, they are elderly and it was in one of two outbuildings that had over four feet of snow between us and them.  I took my snow shovel (with my golfer's tennis elbow if you have been following me) and dug a knee deep path and we finally found a trap, her husband who suffers many health issuse pulled himself out of his recliner and got down on his knees and showed me how to set it.

The Firebird was away for the day , so the Willow an I baited it with a smelt an rubbed some canned chub mackerel on it, and set it in the rabbit hutch, the last known location of the mink.

I had let the geese out for the day, and although I usually block them off the back deck bcause they sit there and poop all day, I made allowances today.  Louey spent the day snugged up to the back door, and several times they honked and I burst out the door expecting to see the mink at their throats, and they ran off the deck because I usually yell at them to get off the deck....

Around 3 I heard a commotion in the chicken coop and ran down to find our only rooster on the floor covered in blood, and a mink in the coop.  It jumped out a gap in the chicken run door. and I waited.  It jumped back in and I held still.  I grabbed a rather long stick, the only thing nearby, and waited.

The mink looked at me, looked at the bloody rooster, and started for the rooster,.

Well, I am old and mink are fast, and twice I tried to smack it and twice it jumped out and then back in, and finally I gave up and grabbed the bloody rooster and ran to the house and stuck him in the other cat carrier.

Then the Willow ran out with the dog and the firepoker but the mink had left.  So we had some discussion and finally decided to take the live trap and stick it over the run door.  Then I blocked either side and disguised the pedal with some hay and feathers...yeah, feathers everywhere... and apologized to the hens on their roosts and said a prayer the mink would go in through the trap and be caught.

Pluto honked alarm from this point I had grabbed the ganders and put them back in the big vari kennel in the house.  So I went out and checked the trap from outside and it wasn't tripped and the chickens were quiet so I went back in and waited.

Around 9 tonight I had to go pick up the Firebird, and when we got home I had the light from the blazer on the coop and I thought I would just check things out....and opened the door to see a pile of dead hens.  I could see movement so I knew at least one hen was still alive, so I parked and we reconnoitered and I armed myself with the gravel rake and headlamp and ran down to the coop.

I opened the coop up and there was the mink on top of one of the cages.  The coop is a small building and I used to house rabbits in there, so I have several suspended cages with plywood tops.  The chickens usually roost up there. 

So there was the mink, and I started trying to get it with the gravel rake.  I don't like to harm animals, but this thing had blood lust and was just killing every single bird and drinking the blood and grabbing the next one.

I had called my grain store earlier in the afternoon to ask for advice, and one thing she told me was if I was going to go after it to make sure I hit it hard and got it by the second try or it would come after me.

Well, that's what happened.  I missed a couple times, and that thing launched off the top of the hutch straight for my face.  I gave a yell and jumped out of the way, and it fell at my feet and dashed around the coop in a flash.

So then we had to see what was left.  I found one barred rock hen, and grabbed her, screaming bloody murder, and ran her up to the house and stuck her in a box.  Thenn I went back and counted the dead.  I was missing one white hen...I turned around and she was perched on top of the door frame, still alive!  I had an old canary flight cage and yanked that out of the snowbank and made that cozy and put her in there, and then put her sister the barred rock in with her..  Yes, they were the last of the chickadoos that I had hatched in a homemade incubator and raised myself.  I had put them in with the main flock this summer, and they never quite fit in, which probably saved their lives tonight.

White wing the crippled guinea had been in one of the separate rabbit cages, and I had thought him, the mink had found a way in there and white wing was lost as well.  5 dead hens and white wing.

I put them in a bag and the smell of blood and dead was soooo strong....I was out of bags and in a panic decided to do what all the locals do and go find a place to dump them along with the three dead guineas from yesterday....

I couldn't risk every predator in five miles being drawn to the scent here.The goats are rather unprotected with the electric fence shorted out, and the snow deep enough to walk over the four foot fence in places.

We have coyote and bobcat in the area, and with this deep snow and bitter cold everything is looking for its next meal.  We have had mink around for years and years and I never had any trouble.

So I loaded up the carcasses and drove around...finally thinking I found a good spot and chucked the bags over the snowbank.  And there they sat on top of the snow bank.  Over four feet of snow and thirty pounds of chicken and it stays on the snow in plain view. I drove down the road and found a better spot, so I went back for the bags I had left, over shot them, had to turn around again, thinking if anyone was one awake at that hour I was being very suspicious.

I waded through the snowbanks &reloaded the bags, and headed back down the road.  Then I overshot my dump point.

So I went along and picked another spot far from houses and got out and slung the bag as far as I could, and then the three small bags with the guineas along into the woods.  I searched the ground figuring with my luck I would have accidentally dragged my wallet out of the car and dumped it on the road.

I finally made it home.  I have a:  probably-going-to-die rooster, a bit guinea that might recover, two hens, and two ganders remaining....all in my kitchen...and a psycho mink running around outside the house.

I KNEW I was dreading this winter for a reason.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

We are forecast to receive 18-26 inches of snow between now and Monday, with 40mph+ gusts and windchills -20F.

I have completed 35 bee pallets and been diagnosed with tennis elbow..and also have golfer's elbow which the young lad who examined me missed. IOW the tendons in my right elbow are shot.

I drilled and screwed 40 pounds of screws and shovelled upteen pounds of snow in the last few weeks.  :(

Boss came back from GA with several bees in his bonnet. I tried to walk before lunch Thursday but he stopped me, so I managed to finish the day,. After frying my elbow on his behalf I will happily be looking for other employment, although I have to admit, I will miss the bees. 

Bees are little angels compared to this Boss.

Found out you have to have 1500 a month outside income to become a permanent resident of Mexico.  Dang.