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Posts by joni
It was too difficult to write about the loss of our Ellie when it happened, but she did leave us on 12/4/2012. She was struggling the last year with mobility problems but we were very glad that she still seemed happy and ate well.
Eliie died at home late one night. I think her heart just gave out. Our dog, Bob, woke us because he knew something was wrong as Ellie was having trouble breathing and making some strange sounds. It was only a matter of minutes, as we were saying goodbye to her, that she slipped away.
She was such a sweet and gentle dog – and we miss her very much. I like to think that now she is happily running and chasing her tennis ball, free from disease, and my Mom and her are taking care of each other.
The 5 little ones are doing very well – no signs of any illness or pasty butts. I didn’t really plan on having more chicks in the house – it gets to be too messy as they grow and send a lot of dust flying around. We’ve never had a hen that didn’t want to care of her chicks before. The good thing is these chicks will grow up to be very friendly as they get a lot of attention being in the house. They are just so darn cute it’s hard to resist playing with them! It is just amazing to watch how quickly they grow and develop. Here they are just a week after hatching – already getting big and strong and with good sized wings!
I love this time of year when the mornings and evenings are wonderfully cool but you still have a warm summer’s day in between. The morning dew does magic things to delicate works of nature’s art such as spider webs. It’s especially beautiful to see a giant orb weaver web glistening with dew. We have several of these yellow and black garden spiders (Agriope aurantia) around the farm at this time of year and also a few barn spiders (Araneus cavaticus). The barn spiders are especially fascinating. They weave a huge web every night and sometimes in locations where they can be 3-4 feet across. To conserve silk, the spider consumes the web each morning and then rebuilds an entirely new web each night. I know spiders have a bad reputation and many people are terrified of them but I really appreciate them. It is amazing to watch an orb weaver create that spectacular web. I say let those harmless spiders hang around and eat all the flies, mosquitoes, and stink bugs they want!
Hens that are broody or incubating eggs usually do not want any other hens near them. They especially do not want any other chickens around after new babies hatch. They are VERY protective and puff up and chase away anyone who dares to come near the little ones. Gertie and Violet have an understanding and are raising 3 little chicks cooperatively. Gertie is one of our original hens and has gone broody each year but we have never allowed her to hatch babies. This year she was not taking “no” for an answer and moved in on Violet as she was setting on a nest of 8 eggs. Violet did not object and the two of them shared nesting duties for most of the 3 weeks it takes for chicks to develop. We were very curious to see how things would go once babies actually arrived and thought there might be some trouble.
Three of the eggs hatched on Saturday 7/14/12. The momma hens continued to cooperate and care for the babies together! One would continue to incubate the remaining eggs while the other would attend to the babies. The other eggs were either infertile or just did not develop properly for some reason and were abandoned after a few days. All that work sitting on those eggs constantly for 3 weeks and 5 did not hatch – what a shame. Gertie and Violet seem very happy with their new chicks, though and it is so cute watching both of them teach the babies all the secrets of being a good chicken.
I picked some green beans, okra and tomatoes from the garden last night. The grape tomatoes are really coming on right now and this is the first of the larger ones. The Romas look like they will take a while longer but we did plant a lot of those this year and we are going to be very busy making salsa, pasta sauce and canning in a few weeks!
The green beans are just about finished in this crop but there is another half row that should be ready to pick soon and I plan to plant some more of a pole variety this weekend as soon as I get the spent pea plants pulled and that section of the garden cleaned up.
The Annie Oakley okra is so yummy and I will work on getting more of that in the freezer. It is really good to add into soups through the winter. The other variety of okra has produced taller plants that are now blooming so there will be even more to eat/freeze very soon.
We had been thinking of adding some type of covered area to the deck for some time and we both liked this gazebo that we found at Lowe’s We get some pretty strong winds out here and we liked the more open design of this one that allows the winds to blow through more. We didn’t want a more solid wall structure that the wind might just blow over or lift up and destroy. This one has a light canvas top that is easily removed in a few minutes time if it looks like we are in for a really nasty storm. We have been eating more meals outside and it gives us great protection from the mid-day sun. It’s also nice and cozy to sit out there at night with a few lighted candles.
After dealing with the growth on Ellie’s face for 5-6 weeks, we decided to risk surgery and have it removed. It just became too difficult for us to manage as the growth would bleed profusely at the slightest bump and easily became infected. Poor Ellie was just miserable, between wearing the e-collar all the time and us trying to keep the growth cleaned, it felt like we were torturing her. We took her into the clinic early the day of her surgery in order to complete some testing first. We had decided that if her blood work looked good, we were going to go for the surgery. We understood the risks associated with anesthesia were higher in her case as she has a heart murmur and some arrythmia had been noted. We felt that if she did not survive the surgery, at least she would not be awake and wouldn’t suffer any pain. She was starting to get so upset each time we had to work on cleaning her up and her heart rate increased to the point that I was afraid she might suffer a heart attack and then she would suffer a painful death. Her blood work came back in all normal ranges so the surgery was a go.
Dr. Bramson performed the surgery and Dr. Keane also came in to help monitor the anesthesia. Nancy and I were both in surgery to assist the doctors, so Ellie had a lot of people working to make sure she came through in good shape. She was just lightly under anesthesia and for as short as time as possible. She was pretty out of things for the rest of the day and through the night, which was to be expected. By the second day she felt like eating a bit and was on the road to recovery.
She developed a lot of edema below the surgical site and her poor face was so swollen for several days but now she is looking really good and it is such a relief for her as well as us to be rid of that growth. Oh, and May 18 was Ellie’s birthday – 14 years old! I’m so glad she could celebrate the day without the e- collar! Happy Birthday, sweet girl!
It’s so exciting to get the first veggies from our garden! The radishes are growing well in the raised bed and some that we planted in one of the large gardens are looking great for harvesting in another week or so. These are the variety Cherry Belle, a smaller radish with a mild flavor. Funny we never buy radishes at the grocery, but I always look forward to the clean, fresh taste of these right out of the garden.
We have lettuce, spinach, onions, peas, broccoli and Brussels sprouts all doing nicely in the garden right now. We seem to have a lot of rabbits in our area this spring so we are putting up fencing around the 2 large garden plots. The fence is really to keep the chickens out, too. They love to scratch around in the nice loose soil and I’m sure they would eat all the tender greens sprouting up if given the chance. They have not been getting their free range time for the last few weeks so we need to get that fence up ASAP.
The first spring we were here, we put up 2 bluebird nest boxes and we had bluebirds nesting in both. Apparently there was a shortage of good nesting sites in the area! We did have a problem with rat snakes getting into 1 of the boxes that first spring. We had been watching the parent birds take good care of the babies and it was getting close to the time that they should be leaving the nest. One morning, I heard the adults making such a fuss that I knew something was wrong. I looked out the window to see a rat snake hanging out of the nest box so I got out there as fast as I could to try to save the babies. I grabbed the snake hanging out of the box but he was able to slip through my hands and completely into the nest box. I opened the box to find not one, but two snakes inside! I got the snakes out and into a bag so I could transport them a few miles away and not have to worry about them coming back. I had gotten there just in time because one of the baby bluebirds had a very wet head – I am sure it had been in the mouth of one of the snakes that I startled! So I closed up the nest box and drove the snakes to a wooded area a few miles from the farm and released them. When I got home there was another snake hanging out of the same nest box! Once again I ran out and bagged the snake and saved the baby birds. Another drive to release the snake. When I got home this time – yet another snake! I had never expected that so many snakes would be after the same little nest of birds. What was worse, one snake got away as I was bagging one that was in the nest box. Sadly, one of the baby birds was missing this time so one of the snakes did get a meal. I found some grease to coat the nest box pole in an effort to keep snakes from climbing it and kept watch the rest of the day. When Todd got home, we constructed “snake guards” out of hardware cloth to mount under both nest boxes and have had no snake problems since. The 4 remaining babies in that nest fledged successfully.
Every year since that first spring, we have had bluebirds nesting in one box and violet tree swallows nesting in the other. Both species are beautiful and fun to observe. The tree swallows construct a very pretty nest that is lined with fluffy white feathers. The bluebird nest had these 4 perfect little blue eggs in it yesterday. I haven’t checked today yet, but there will either be another egg or the mama bird will start sitting. She doesn’t start incubating the eggs until she is done laying eggs (1 each day). That way all the eggs should hatch at about the same time.
Ellie will be 14 in May and our poor girl is having some struggles. She has degenerative myelopathy – a condition that can affect many large breeds and frequently found in German Shepherds. Degenerative myelopathy is a condition in which there is a steady degeneration of the spinal cord causing the affected dog to slowly lose control of its rear legs and lose sensation. It isn’t a painful disease, but it is very difficult watching our once healthy and happy girl decline in such a way. She still enjoys her walks around the farm a few times a day but she is much slower and needs some help and then a long nap.
On top of this, we are now dealing with a growth on the side of her face that keeps opening and bleeding. She is wearing a cone now so she can’t get to it and scratch at it or rub it open when we are not with her. Poor girl looks so miserable. I had Dr. B at the clinic look at it as I would just like to have it removed, but he said he is concerned that her heart is not strong enough to withstand anesthesia. We will give it some time to see if it will heal up enough so she can be released from the cone. If not, maybe the docs can work out a safer way to remove the growth without putting her at too much risk. Ellie is such a sweet girl and puts up with all these things we are trying to do to help her.