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Friday, February 19, 2010

Goats, horses, and fences.

The weather is wonderful today.  Though the forecast calls for a 20% chance of snow, the temperature will be close to 40--a heat wave!  There's so much to do before spring thaw!  Last week my son helped me build a partition in the chicken coop to separate the geese from the chickens, so they have a place to nest without being disturbed.  Okay, I helped him. He did most of the work and I was the go-fer.  Today I will put the door on and that job will be done.

Then comes the fun stuff:  finding the shorts in the electric wire.  It's always been a source of amazement to me that I can get a good charge at the source, and have nothing 5 feet down the way, and all the searching in the world won't show me a break in the wire or a place it's going to ground.  Does electric wire have a consciousness, one that snickers and snorts when someone comes out to make it goat proof?  I've taken to going out in the dark to see if I can find a spark every 2 seconds emanating somewhere along the fence line. I've tried to hone my hearing so I can hear the subtle snap, snap of a shorted wire.  The goats watch expectantly, especially Emily, who wants to escape into the wide world of the forbidden.

Someone should explain to me one day, in a way I can understand, why goats and horses can have 30 acres of pasture with excellent grass and browse, but what is beyond the fence--that is, the lawn and the rose bushes, look so much more inviting.  If there's a hole in the fence, Emily will find it.  If the gate is left unlocked for 5 minutes--unlocked, mind you, not open--Magic will suddenly come up from the pasture and push it open, then, kicking and bucking, gallop across the lawn, tail up, ears forward, celebrating her new-found freedom.  If the electric fence goes to ground, either Emily will slip through, or Magic will reach over to eat whatever is on the other side, regardless of how much feed is on her side.

I think 30 aces should be enough for any horse or goat. Obviously I'm missing something, so today I'll tackle the small orchard and give the goats something beyond the paddock area where they're now confined, pending better fencing.  It's a good day to do it, a good day to be outside enjoying the January thaw that showed up in February, a good day to imagine that spring is just around the corner.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Reminder of Spring

Today warmed up to about 35 °.  I let all the chickens out, and as they happily scratched and roamed, I tackled one of my least favorite, but oh-so-necessary jobs--cleaning the coops.  I had both shavings and hay down and the chickens had scratched them to a pulverized rendition of their former appearance.  

The barn is old, built in the late 1700's, and though one enters on the ground level, the hill it's built on quickly falls away and the first floor is supported on 6 inch posts.  The middle coop, divided for chickens on one side and geese on the other, has two windows overlooking the pasture.  One of those windows is just big enough to dump a muck bucket out of, into the compost heap below; so much easier than carrying each bucketful one by one.   It also afforded a wonderful view of the geese playing in the tiny rivulets of water formed as the ice melted.  They were content, honking softly, and stayed far enough from the window to merely glance occasionally as another bucketful fell into the pile below.

I raked and I forked the bedding, lifting various pieces of flat board that cover holes and cracks between the floor boards, inspecting the floor to make sure it's still sound, and of course, it is.  Still, it's good to have those extra piece of board to keep down drafts.   Then came the sweeping.  It's amazing how dusty chicken detritus can be, and just how much fine dirt and dust is left after picking up the larger stuff.  You'd think, wouldn't you, that the chickens would be especially happy to be outside on such a beautiful day, but there's nothing like moving hay and bedding around to rouse interest.  Who knows what goodies could be uncovered at the flick of a stable fork or a broom?

Finally I was done with the cleaning, grabbed two bales of mulch hay, and covered the floor deeply.  Ah, then the interest began in earnest.  It wasn't exactly a stampede, but hens just seemed to appear, and even the rooster took up his spot and called to his girls to come see what great things awaited them in this new, fresh hay.

Now it's time to clean all the dust and hay off.  I feel like it's an inch thick on my skin.  A long, hot shower will be a perfect way to end the cleaning chore, and I can hear the water calling my name.

Truly, this is what life is supposed to be.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A walk through the snow

It's been a few days since it snowed,  but I finally remembered that I had taken some photos.  Snow looks so lovely from a distance, both temporally and spatially.
Picture Perfect Snow

                   Plenty of Snow to shovel!

The animals seem to do very well in the snow.  Well...maybe he geese had their second thoughts.

Magic watches over the fence.  Hey!  Where's my treat?

How a goat gets a dirty nose in the snow is a mystery to me, but goats are interesting beings, with talents only suspected by the likes of us humans.

And after the day is over, the twilight comes, the snow starts gently falling once again, and peace lies over the land.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chickens and eggs

For weeks now, each day we find one egg broken and eaten. Clearly, this will not do.  There are 22 chickens, including one rooster, in the flock, various breeds, and I started separating them 2 at a time to see if I could discover the culprit, essentially dividing the flock into two areas.  Rather a pain, since now I have to have two feeders and two heated waterers.

Now, the odds are that I will not have to go through the entire flock to find the guilty party, right?  But that's exactly what happened.  Each day I'd remove two hens and the next day there'd be a broken egg in the original coop.  Each night I'd band the two I'd removed the day before so I could identify them if they were out together.  Finally I was down to two hens, having already ruled out the rooster.  I removed one and the one that was left laid and ate her egg the next day.  Hallelujuah!  I'd found the culprit.  I removed her, asked my brother, who is not at all squeamish, to take care of the problem, and put the rest together.  He never came, and the next thing i knew, that %*!@# hen was back in with the rest of them.  AAARRRGGH!

No problem, I thought.  I've banded all except the one.  I just have to find the one without the leg band.  Sneaky chickens that they are, two others had shed their bands. Okay, three is better than 22.  I removed one of the three.  Not guilty.  Two to go.  This morning, I walked into the coop and caught the egg-eating hen red handed--or yolk-beaked, if you will, egg dripping from her beak as she pecked away at her egg.  I was infuriated!  I grabbed her, and wrung her neck on the spot.  I heard the bones crunch.  Then I stomped to the house, tossed her on the ground, and to my amazement, she slowly got up, shook herself, and sat there looking around.  An hour later she was pecking at this and that in the yard, and a while after that, she was in the barn again.

Now I've heard of cats having nine lives, but chickens?  For now, I'm going to let her have the run of the barn.  Who knows?  Maybe her head is screwed on straight, now.

2010 Census

It's a new decade, and the U.S. Census Bureau is gearing up to send agents around collecting information.  Now, since I'm a genealogist of sorts, I'm happy to find information on family from past censi (or censuses).  However, the Constitution authorizes and enumeration for the purpose of calculating how many representative each state gets in Congress.  Anything more than that is simply information gathering.

A few years ago, the U.S. Census Bureau started sending around the American Community Survey, which is "conducted under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193", according to the ACS FAQ.  A more intrustive "survey" you'll never lay eyes on, and the "law" threatens you with substantial fines if you don't answer.

However, there is a way to answer both the ACS and the Census truthfully, completely, and still maintain your privacy.  Any questions that pertain to the First Amendment, that is, religion or anything pertaining thereto, can be answered, simply, "First Amendment".  Anything else besides your name and address and number of people in the household can be referred to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees (not grants, because this right is given by God and not government) your right to privacy.  The actual wording of the Fourth Amendment can be found here.

Rights that are not claimed are not rights at all.  To remain a free people, it's imperative that we "remind" our government that the U.S. Constitution is the fundamental law of the land and that Congress cannot change it merely by passing a law.