Thursday, October 30, 2014

Amelia Flies Again

Thank you to everyone for your comments on my post yesterday. Most of you advised that I clip Amelia's wings and my thought response was "yeah, if I can catch her." Mary Ann answered that question with her excellent suggestion of buying a big fishing net on a long pole. I think we will invest in one of those for the times that we do need to catch a chicken. Some are docile and easy, even willing, to be caught. Others, like Amelia and Earhart, not so much.

I don't think we will clip her feathers, though. I don't mind that she flies out, as long as she finds her way back into the hen house at night. If Sedona were still alive, it would be a different story. Sedona killed more than one chicken in her day. Kersey, on the other hand, can't be bothered with chickens. She doesn't chase the cat, the chickens or the goats. The only thing she chases is squirrels; it must be hard-wired into the genes of dogs. I think they all chase squirrels.

This morning was gorgeous. There is another storm coming into our area and the clouds started arriving this morning. I actually stopped the car on the road and took a picture of the sunrise.

I've been seeing a lot of wild turkeys and deer on the road as well. We drive slowly on our lane but not everyone does. Every couple of weeks there is a dead deer on the side of the road; a victim of someone driving far too fast and not paying attention (probably after having too much wine at the wineries up on top of the hill).

Amelia did fly out of the hen pen this morning, as soon as Brett opened the door to the hen house. She spent the day happily scratching under the fruit trees in my garden. At dusk, she flew back in and went into the hen house with the rest of the flock. Brett wasn't positive she was in there and was afraid to open the door in case they all made a mad dash to get out. When I got home, there was just a bit of light left so when I opened the door they just turned their heads and blinked their bright eyes at me. Amelia and Earhart were sitting next to each other, roosting on the edge of a nesting box, and cocked their combs in my direction with an inquisitive look. I nodded to them and shut the door.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chasing Chickens

Last weekend, during the downpour, one of the chickens flew over the chicken pen fence into my garden. I managed to herd her back into the pen but it took four or five laps through the garden, around the pen, around the hen house, and back into the garden. She finally darted in the open gate (the rest of the chickens were inside the hen house where it was dry). She was very wet and upset. I understand now where the phrase "mad as a wet hen" comes from.

Yesterday morning as I sat at my desk at work, sipping on my coffee, and scanning my inbox, my cell phone chirped. It was Brett, asking me to call home. The chicken had flown over the fence into the garden almost as soon as he opened the hen house. We decided to leave her in the garden for the day and Brett would herd her back in at dusk, when the rest of the flock retired for the night into the hen house.

Mid-day Brett sent a status report: She's still clucking away. Looking for a way in. If Sedona were here she'd be dead.

Then, at dusk: Tried for ten minutes to get the chicken in. Couldn't get her to go in. Done trying. Going to take a shower.

Followed by: There's no wine open. Need some.

When I got home at 7pm, it was very dark. I changed into my jeans, a sweatshirt, a jacket, gloves and grabbed a flashlight. I walked all through the garden, shining the light into all my fruit trees but didn't see her anywhere. I walked down by the stream bed and out to the dressage court. Two feathers by the garden gate, nothing more.

Laying in bed, I tried to sleep but instead kept thinking about the chicken. What got her? A hawk? Skunk? Raccoon? Why weren't there more feathers? I tried not to care but wasn't too successful.

In the morning as I dressed for work, Brett went out to start the morning chores. Lo and behold, there was the chicken. She ran into the pen and greeted her flock-mates. And she stayed inside today.

Meanwhile, I did a little research. Her breed, the Lakenvelder, is rare -- which is why I bought her. They are small, average layers with little meat on their bones. They are also flighty, active birds. They fly better than average and like to forage far and wide. They are distrustful of people (read hard to catch). They are also more savvy than most chickens about hawks. No wonder they are rare! If you want eggs or meat or a pet they aren't a good choice. If you want a pretty chicken running around your ranch, then they fit the bill. I guess that works for us.

We have two. I've named one of them Amelia and the other Earhart.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A New Well House

One of the many things Brett and I had to learn when we moved up here to Oak Creek Ranch was how to manage a well. We came from Aspen Meadows, our ranchette in a small rural community in Southern California (yes, there are a few of them). The wells in that community had stopped producing enough water for the residents before we moved up. There was a water bond assessed to each property that gave us access to city water.

At Oak Creek Ranch, we are on a well. It isn't the world's highest producing well, but it has been a consistent producer for thirty years. We have enough water for a family of four in the house and enough to keep the water troughs full. There isn't enough water to irrigate the pastures which is okay. We feed hay in the dry months. Previous owners had to be careful not to run the dishwasher, the clothes washer or the shower at the same time. Fortunately for us, the guy who flipped the house before we bought installed a 2500 gallon water tank so we can shower and do the dishes without worrying. We are still careful, though. We have neighbors who have wells that have run dry. And, while we love wine, we don't love the amount of water taken from the water table by the local wineries. It's a love/hate relationship.

Last December we had a hard freeze in the first week of the month; coupled with heavy snow fall. Despite Brett wrapping all the pipes in the barn and down by the well, the valve on top of the well broke. We were without water for almost two weeks. It was not a good time -- buying gallon jugs of water and dumping them in the toilet tank so we could go to the bathroom; hiking through the snow up the road to our neighbors to take a shower; and watching the water trough levels drop every day. There was a well house over some, but not all of, the well pipes.  It was a flimsy affair with thin walls and offered little protection.

The first order of the day was to get electricity down to the well house, in the proper voltage, so we could plug in a heat lamp or light bulb on cold nights. This past summer an electrician dug a trench from the barn, into the mare's pasture, all the way across the pasture, under the fence, and down the driveway to the well house.

Brett thought long and hard about the best way to build the well house, getting advise from friends, neighbors and well workers. In the end, he decided on a shed-like structure that covered the well pipes and was well insulated.

First, a cement pad was poured and the old well house removed.

The new well-house has a cement floor,

and thick wood sides with super thick insulation.

There is an outlet inside where we can plug in a lamp.

Brett painted it to match the house.

Fingers crossed for an uneventful winter with the well.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Three Sweatshirt Day

This morning as Brett and I did chores, we noted dark, cloud filled, skies to the west and sunny skies to the east.  We headed out to the farmers market at 8:00 and I planned to ride Lucy upon our return home.  Halfway to Placerville, we hit scattered raindrops.  By the time we parked, fifteen minutes later, it was pouring.  We grabbed our basket and hit the "must have" vendors.  First, the pasta guy where we bought some pear and arugula ravioli.  Next, the bread gal who, Brett noted, was not wearing shorts as usual but was bundled up in jeans and a jacket.  We bought some breadsticks to go with our dinner tonight (stew), Brett's favorite apple cinnamon bread, an almond croissant for me and a cinnamon roll for Brett.  We were already wet.  Next, I headed for my favorite vegetable vendor while Brett stood under the nearest pop-up.  I loaded up with purple carrots for our stew, romaine and chard.  Last, we picked up apples and pears and then hightailed it back to the car.  The hood of my sweatshirt was soaked.  When we got home, I changed into sweatshirt number two.  Of course, it was pouring at home by then.  The mares were in their run-in, the goats were in, the chickens were in (except for one very wet hen that had gotten outside the fence and couldn't get back in), and Jackson was already in the barn with his trail boots on.  Everyone was dry, including Flash and Mufasa who were standing under the trees in their pasture.

The rain fell all morning, steady and hard.  By noon, we had over half an inch.  We fed the mares in their run in and Brett got hay set up in the barn stalls for Flash and Mufasa.  When Mufasa saw me coming with my rain jacket hood up and pulled tight around my face, his head flew up and he backed away.  Brett handed me Flash's lead -- Flash didn't even notice my hood.

Despite wearing a rain jacket and rain pants, the rain soaked through to my sweatshirt.  I hung the wet sweatshirt with the other one, in front of the wood stove, and put on number three.

Mid-afternoon the rain took a break.  Lucy came out, rolled in the mud and trotted over to the fence to see me.  Then she noticed Flash who had heard her trotting and was standing with his head over the run-out fence, his ears pricked towards her.  They looked at each other for awhile and then Flash went back inside the barn to finish his lunch.

In the early evening, just before starting chores, Brett looked outside and noticed that Whiskey and Cowboy were out again.  I rounded them up, bribing them with Cheerios.  Lucy had her head over the fence expecting to share the treats.

Brett staked the bottom of the fence down, it was loose by the water trough -- just enough to let the little black goats slip through.  He reinforced another small gap while the goats, Pistol and Lucy watched.

Lucy expected attention.  Lucy always expects attention.

We finished up the chores and headed back to the warmth of the house.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kersey's Busy Day

Kersey had an appointment at the vet this morning.  She's been scooting around on her butt in the most unladylike manner for a few months.  We had her checked for worms but that came back negative.  Brett's sister told us that Kersey's glands probably needed to be expressed -- a stinky process but better done at the vet or groomers than by Kersey in the house -- it apparently is quite the stinky mess.

Kersey watched Brett put her crate in the bed of the truck and started dancing around.  When Brett went into the barn and grabbed her leash, Kersey could hardly stand it, standing on her hind legs and trying to launch her chubby body into the truck.  I'm sure she thought that they were going to the lake.

First stop was the vet.  I asked Brett if he took a picture of her "procedure" and Brett informed me that Kersey is not a porn star, she's a proper ranch lab.

Next step was Ace Hardware where Brett bought some starters for the wood stove. They weren't the type we usually use but the guy swore that he can't keep them on the shelf.  

Brett wanted to make sure he had the kind of starters that I like so he drove over to the True Value store.

They had the kind we normally use so he picked up a box.  Then they headed back home.

Back home, Brett decided to take Kersey for a walk up the road behind our property.  Kersey was SO sure that she was going on a walk that it only seemed fair to take her.  They walked as far as the base of the big hill and then came back.  Brett was pleased to report that Kersey got tired before he did.
Looking into the property from the road; the dressage court is behind the trees.

The back of our property starts at the fence and includes that cool oak tree.

Looking from the back fence towards the house.  You can see the red hen house and garage.
Brett asked the vet tech to weigh Kersey while they were there.  She's lost six pounds.  Yes!  I think five more and she'll be in perfect weight.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Brett's Day

I leave for work in the pre-dawn dark and return at dusk.  During the week, Brett does all the chores solo in addition to his projects.

Today he groomed the dressage court so the sand would be fluffy when I ride this weekend.

And did some mowing and weeding (tumbleweed removal).

He kept an eye on the horses, and they kept an eye on him.

and Flash.

He groomed the small arena as well.

Lucy wanted attention as usual.

and Pistol asked for treats.

It was a beautiful day and would have been perfect if the goats hadn't slipped out again, the diesel fuel hadn't spilled all over Brett's jeans, and turning the harrow over to get the arenas perfectly groomed hadn't messed up his back.

Nobody ever said this life would be easy; and it isn't.  But we wouldn't trade it for anything (on most days).

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Great Goat Caper

The goats love to lie around the big pasture with the horses.  They tend to lie in the corner closest to the house, resting against the fence as they chew their cud.  Sunday afternoon the fence came loose in the corner and three of the goats slipped through.  Thistle remained in the pasture watching his herd mates who got busy eating oak leaves by the front lawn.

I wasn't worried about catching Little Bear since he follows us everywhere looking for love.  Whiskey is quiet and sweet and I was pretty sure I could get him back in as well.  Cowboy was the wild card, he's a bit skittish -- especially if he thinks you are trying to catch him.

I put a collar and leash on Bear.  Kersey saw the leash and thought we were going on a walk.  She started dancing around, bashing into Bear, and causing him to jump in alarm.  Brett called Kersey over and I led Bear back to the pasture.  Cowboy and Whiskey followed closely behind.  As luck would have it, Cowboy slipped through the gate and into the pasture right behind Bear.  Pistol made a dash through the open gate and cut off Whiskey who turned and headed the other direction.  I closed the gate and went after Pistol who had walked through the barn, out the other side, said hello to Jackson and checked out the grass in the dog run.  Once she was back in the pasture, it was easy to convince Whiskey to join the others.  He darted in the gate behind Pistol.

Meanwhile, Brett fixed the fencing in the corner.  I fed everyone dinner and started mucking.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Through the Woods

I never ride with a specific plan in mind; this is especially true of my relationship with Lucy. Sure, I have ideas in the back of my mind; things I'd like to work on; aids that need to be sharpened (or dialed back). But I always ride the horse I have and that means that I don't always do what I thought we were going to work on.

Today is a case in point. When I went out to get Lucy, the mid-morning sun was just warm enough to make me think of laying down in a sunny spot, laying my head on my hands and dozing. Lucy was one step ahead of me; sound asleep in her run-in shed with Pistol standing guard. She raised her head and looked at me but she didn't make any attempt to rise until she realized that I had cookies in my pocket and Pistol was getting all of them.

While I tacked her up she tried to chew on the tie rail, shifted from left to right, and lifted her tail repeatedly. So, I knew she was in heat and would be sluggish. We walked out to the dressage court, I mounted and she ambled into the arena. She couldn't seem to find forward and I wasn't in the mood to insist. Instead, we rode back out of the court and into the "woods" that surround the arena. We worked on Lucy's trail skills -- going under trees, through dry stream beds, and close to the road. For some reason, cars coming down the gravel road worry her something fierce. When she got too worried to think, we went back in the arena and did some light stretching work. Then it was back to the woods.

Although it wasn't the ride I had in mind, it was a good ride, Lucy worked on being brave and we had fun. And, really, these days I'm all about having fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's a Good Thing that You are Sweet, Jackson

....because you are a lot of work to keep going.

Since moving Jackson over to the donkey pasture, his bite and scratch marks have pretty much disappeared.  But he's still too skinny despite being fed copious amounts of hay.  He's been wormed and I've started a course of GastroGuard because he has a history of ulcers.  Maybe they came back while he was being harassed by Mufasa.  I've also added Ulcer-Gard to his low starch supplement in the morning.  It's frustrating.

His appetite is good, he's moving well (the trail boots and time in the barn during the last rain worked well) and he seems very happy.  I just wish he was a bit thicker around the middle.

Speaking of thick around the middle, I think Kersey has lost some weight (yay!).  I had to shorten her collar yesterday so it looks like her diet of Fat Dog food and many walks is working.

Our guests left after lunch today so I moved the flowers from the guest room onto the pie safe on the landing.  I'm proud of this bouquet -- picked from the garden, including those red jalapenos.

It was chilly this morning, 41F when we did chores.  Mufasa was racing around his pasture while Flash watched.

I lit a fire in the wood stove and Brett's sister sat close to the warmth while sipping her coffee.  Her husband, Doug, braved the cold with us and helped with chores.  It sure was nice having them here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Evening Chores

Brett's sister, Dana, and her husband, Doug, are visiting and helping with the chores.  They are getting the whole ranch life experience.

Doug got to work mucking the donkey/Jackson pasture.

Dana helped feed the horses their hay.

There was a small herd of deer keeping me company while I mucked the girl's pasture.  They didn't seem concerned by my presence at all.

Pistol, Lucy and the goats weren't concerned either.