Friday, September 21, 2012

Snake Attack!

 A couple weeks ago we got these cute little puff balls.  20 red stars, 5 Americanas, and 1 specialty bird (that's probably a rooster we'll have to slaughter).  We got the red stars to replace our layers who just aren't doing too well anymore.  The Americanas were thrown in because 25 was the minimum order.  And McMurray's threw in the special little guy.  They arrived all healthy and doing great.  Not a single death or even one so much as go weak in the bunch.  Very impressive, McMurray!
 Meet the yellow rat snake.  I'd seen him around before.  Here he is in a tree branch over the rabbits early one morning.  It was shortly after a crop of babies were born and I knew that thing had been prowling around trying to get into the rabbit hutch.  Thankfully, it couldn't. 
Then one afternoon I followed the family outside and noticed a dead chick 3 days after they arrived.  Usually I see them go weak before they suddenly die so I was really surprised.  I was looking at that chick trying to figure out what happened when I saw ANOTHER dead chick.  Then I got concerned about mold in the feed or something toxic that would run through all of them.  It wasn't for another minute or so that I actually saw the culprit... that snake was sitting coiled up, half buried in paper shreddings, too fat to slither out the hole it came in.  Husbandman grabbed the snake with a pair of garden clompers and dealt with it savagely while I grabbed chicks for a head count.  It was determined and confirmed that this snake ate 3 chicks and killed 2 more.  And if those 2 had not been laying there dead I may have never looked carefully enough to even see the snake!  We did our best to patch the small hole in the hardware cloth that it came through, but the very next day when I saw a black snake lurking around, I got nervous.  Angel has been spending her days sleeping in the porch lately. I gave her the boot which made her sleep in the garage.  I'm not sure something as silent as a snake would actually rouse her enough to do anything about it, but it was something.  And that black snake has not been around.  It probably is also helpful that I mowed the garden closest to the house.  The one Dulci kept eating so absolutely nothing was growing... yep, had weeds knee high.  It's mowed and covered in clear plastic to kill nematodes and weed seeds so is much less inviting for slithery friends.

Of the birds that were lost, it was 4 red stars and 1 Americana.  Certainly not the ones I would have chosen to dispense with, but I don't supposed I would have made any deal with Mr. Rat Snake if he had asked for a bargain.  What it has done is made us aware of every little hole in that pen.  And the kids are on self-appointed snake duty, running out whenever they get the whim to check for snakes.  I can't blame them.  I'm jumpy too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Any Given Day

There's a reason my house is really never wonderfully kept.  Its called PROJECTS.  My best friend and my worst enemy.  Truth is I love projects.  The newer the better.  I do finish some too, but usually not before I start 3 or 4 more.

So here's a picture of my ironing board.  The ironing got done on Tuesday so it was free to gather a few other projects that got shifted from place to place.

Any given day you can see at least a dozen projects in process.  Today, they happen to be:

1. The fabric is laid out with pattern pieces for the kids' Christmas pajamas waiting for enough time with a big area to spread it out and cut the pieces out.

2. The piano board I just finished drawing yesterday to use for the elementary music class I'm teaching to local homeschool kids.

3.  The bag holds pictures and mementos to be made into a scrapbook for the newest temporary addition.

4. There's a pack of guitar strings waiting to be put on the guitar that has gotten pulled out and dusted off for this music class I'm teaching.  (I should also note that I was only supposed to be the assistant teacher, but the actual teacher stepped down a week before classes started so I'm kinda scrambling to get plans and ideas together!)

5. The papers are blank lesson plan sheets I printed out for our next unit in Tapestry of Grace.  I hope to plan a little of next unit before its suddenly Sunday night the day before unit 2 is to roll out.

(now lets think about what isn't in the picture)

6. I have 2 tubs of flowers drying to decorate a grapevine wreath.

7.  I just finished rendering about 30 pounds of beef tallow in the crock pot which ran day and night for 6 days.  I'd scoop off what had melted and filter it through a cheesecloth and into jars.  The gloppy mess is still on the porch, as well as the smell, waiting for it to cool enough to clean it... but I still probably won't do it until tomorrow.

8. My knitting bag has a Christmas stocking started for that same newest addition.

9. I have no less than 8 cubic feet of mending to do.

10. Soap recipes are pulled out and perused to decide what to make next.  Newly arrived molds, scents and natural dyes are also sitting on the counter itching to be used!

11.  Boxes of bee equipment are waiting for Husbandman to construct frames and fill some of those frames with foundation.  I don't do too much of that so I usually just knit and keep him company while he works on it.

(now for the outside!)

12. The small garden is being solarized and the wire fence is torn down but not yet cut up or evaluated to be salvaged or thrown away.

13.  The big garden has a pile of stones outside of it for constructing part of a garden wall.

14.  Huge pieces of wood and metal roofing as well as long beams and poles are waiting for our milking shelter to be constructed.

15. We built big T's for our new grape arbor.  And the vines are planted.  Now we just need to attach wires from the top beams, diagonally down to the vertical beam for the vines to climb.

16.  Around each vine are cinder blocks, some filled with dirt and holding plants.  I'd like a plant, pretty or herbal, to fill each cell.  About 75% are still empty.

17.  Plans for a treehouse are sitting in the filing cabinet.  We thought we'd have time to build it for Christmas.  Not likely.

18.  A pile of concrete pavers were acquired from friends who moved.  Once the milking shelter is built, we'll lay these pavers underneath.

19.  The new shed which is our new feed storage area needs a gigantic window cut into it and redone out toward the pasture fence where the feed trough will be.

20.  A piece of 3' diameter pipe is cut in half for said feed trough.

21.  An enormous gate was again acquired from those moving friends.  Its waiting for us to do a complete overhaul of the pasture common area and move the gate from where it is now to further down the fence row.

22.  Dulci is pregnant and waiting in Copper's bachelor pad for us to overhaul the fencing all along the back of the pasture where she's able to easily escape multiple times a day.  And for that I'm waiting for cooler weather.

(and on the list but not yet started)

23. A 3rd and final attempt at mushroom logs.

24. Building raised beds around the entire perimeter of each garden.

25. Repair and reinforce chicken pens.

26. Few more things to can and preserve.

27. Begin working with the farm girl on rabbit showmanship.

So there.  If I didn't feel busy before, I do now!   Just understand, I never apologize for the mess, inside or out.  If it were actually a rare occurance I might do such a thing.  But its always like this, and unless a zebra can change its stripes, it always will be.  Just different projects, different stages, different places.  Maybe a good goal would be to have a touch fewer, but if someone would just invent more Saturdays we'd have no problems with that.  Right?