Monday, October 29, 2018

An Abrupt End for Snow


           For those of you who think my being open to shooting a raccoon in the last post, please let me assure you. Locating it to eliminate it, can be much more difficult than you realize.  Since the initial loss of the rooster and three hens from the hen house, in a manner suggestive of raccoon, I am missing another bird.  Two nights ago, in silence, I actually heard a loud squalk all the way up at the house, and then silence.  The following morning, I found a mass of white feathers outside the barn, and then about twenty feet from there, another mass of white feathers. Then, if one followed the occasional soft abdominal feathers on the ground into the woods, and went another twenty feet or so, there is one more collection of feathers, and then no more. This is apparently where the predator finally broke Snow's neck, and she could fight no more. This attack, incidentally, is much more characteristic of a fox.   Snow, was a fairly large guinea fowl, who for some reason on the night in question, was on the ground, rather than up in her perch with her siblings and her mate.

           I raised this particular group of guinea fowl from hatchlings and they were excellent at defending themselves once they attained maturity. I have actually seen them in group formation, kill a copperhead snake. It's not pleasant to watch, but I was pleased they could defend themselves. Now there are only six of the original eight that I raised here several years ago. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Seasonal Farm Changes


            For the most part, things are well on the farm. Sally, who is extremely old, is presently fairly well and is holding her own.   Despite Hurricane Florence, the animals all have excellent shelters and are safe and well attended.
                  However, as Summer turns to Autumn and again as Autumn turns to Winter, there are parts of the year in which predators step up their game. One of our hen houses has a double wrap fencing, and should be quite secure from predators, and for about six years, this particular cage has been.  It also has wheels so that we may move it periodically to fresh grass for the hens. Until this week, this particular system housed a rooster and three hens, since we have a variety of other hen houses.  Then, Sunday morning, we found the ten year old rooster dead and partially dragged through the fencing.  We buried Frank, that was his name, and reinforced the fencing for the remaining three girls, who were all about seven years old each. 
                   In our experience, a fox doesn't drag a dead rooster through the sides of a fence, but a raccoon often will. Raccoons can open almost any enclosure with their amazing little hands, and sometimes will close it when they finish. 
                   Sadly, this morning, the three remaining hens were found dead.  This pretty much confirms that a raccoon is stalking and eating our chickens.  This is sad because the hens were only seven, and Frank, about age ten, was a good protector.  To have them all wiped out in the transition from Summer to Fall just seems so unfair.
                     I will attempt to trap the offending raccoon and locate him to an eight hundred acre forest a distance away. If I cannot, then I will need to shoot him.  I cannot have him killing the remainder of the chickens, the ducks, or the guinea fowl this Winter, or developing rabies as is fairly common in this area for raccoons, and then biting one of us or the horses or other livestock.  No matter when we lose our animals, it's always unfortunate.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Saving Miss Sally


            Many people who have dogs don't realize that a dog who has a stroke can have a near complete recovery, just weeks after the event.  Many years ago, when our children were small, I had an elderly dog, I'd had through childhood, who had a stroke. The vet told us that since I was home each day, and I could put a little work into hand feeding him and holding a water dish up to his face that he didn't want to euthanize him, at least not yet.  So, I walked my dog who had terrible balance, about six times a day. I hand fed him and watered him, and gave him the 81 mg. aspirin daily that the vet had ordered.  As a nurse, I wasn't at all sure that what we were doing was productive. The vet told me that the dog didn't need to recover enough to drive a car or balance a checkbook, just to be a family member, and to give and receive love, and so we did as we were told. The dog enjoyed what appeared to be a full recovery and died a couple of years later, with his head in my lap. I haven't forgotten this.
                A bit more than a week ago when Sally, the golden labrador we have had since the beginning of the 2000s, had a stroke, I was determined to try the same strategies that had worked before.  Sally is a larger dog, and our challenge was not food, water, defecation and urination, but getting her to stand up and assume the position for ambulation. We eventually placed a belt under her back end, to help support her weak back legs through the most acute part of this illness. It really did look dire, but then, I remembered to believe. I no longer have the scrappy vet I had in those early years. He has long since retired, but I often remember the things he taught me.
                Sally gets her 81 mg. of aspirin. The present day vet thought an antibiotic was a good move too, in the event there was an evolving pneumonia mixed into the stroke, as well. Almost two weeks later, she is getting up by herself, eating normally, using the bathroom normally, and disliking her regular bathing just as much as she ever did.
                 I know that Sally is an old girl and that she will be called home some day likely this year, but it was worth the work and challenges to see that she recovered from this particular episode. I knew she would have done the same for me. When I come to attend her, she gets up and wags her tail, still. Sometimes, it's wise to believe just a little longer.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Life Well Spent: The Life of Chocolat

This is Chocolat. His sister lives to our right, and his friend Walter to our left in the picture.

                          Although we'd had alpacas from 1999 on, the first baby alpaca or cria wasn't born to our farm until July 12, 2002, when a ten pound chocolate colored male was born, whom we quite naturally called Chocolat.  Chocolate was born to our herd sire Mr Ditto Two and to Queen Isabelle. Alpacas are interesting animals for many reasons one of them being that they are able to throw crias of different colors than themselves, often throwing a color of one of their ancestors. Mr. Ditto Two was jet black, and Queen Isabelle was a brownish rose color with some white markings. The entire herd rejoiced when Chocolat was born.
                           The following year, Shakria, a sister to Chocolat was born, and she did not establish nursing as well as she should have, and although we were in the process of correcting this, she died suddenly one morning, while we checked upon her. This was the first time that our alpacas thought that we might not always have all the answers. If we couldn't help them keep this young cria alive, then perhaps we weren't really trustworthy.  This time, the herd grieved, and there was nothing we could do, other than be attentive to their needs and sympathetic to their issues.  We did bring soccer balls to them and for a time, they enjoyed playing was truly resembled a soccer game. This ended when the vet said that one of them would eventually fracture a leg and need to be euthanized. I still remember the day I replaced soccer balls with tether balls.
                           The year which followed that one brought one more sister for Chocolat. Warrior Princess Camellia was born the following summer.  This time we identified her feeding difficulties immediately, and a veterinarian came, taught us to tube feed her until she grew a little larger, and gave her a blood transfusion in the hope of conveying the antibodies she needed.  As time passed, Camellia and Chocolat grew.  They lived in different pastures, but I think they knew that they were of the same parents.
                         The year that we sold and built a second farm, their mother, Queen Isabelle was diagnosed with astrocytoma. This may have been the root cause of her having difficulty producing adequate milk for her crias. Queen Isabelle died fairly quickly after her diagnosis, leaving the herd grieving once again.
                         By 2018, many of the alpacas that were part of the original herd have passed. Alpacas generally are felt to have a fifteen year life span, but at times, we have had individuals live as long as about twenty-three. Since alpacas are herd animals and cannot live as singles, we are faced with difficult decisions as we must keep adding one to keep the basic required number of three.  On May the 13th, we face this decision once again.  Chocolat, who was fine that morning, was found in the early afternoon, on his side, with labored irregular breathing. He passed shortly after.  He leaves a small herd consisting of his sister Camellia in he neighboring paddock, and his friend Walter, a white alpaca in the opposite neighboring paddock. These animals are the last of an era. We are at a loss as to whether to keep adding one more, one more, or not. I hope we do because we made a lifetime commitment to care for this family of animals, a long time ago.  Goodbye Chocolat. Thank you for coming.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Departure of Brown Betty

Brown Betty is the hen to the left of the waterer.

   Brown Betty was hatched here in an incubator in 2009. She was part of the mass hatching that my husband and I did, for the first time, the year after our youngest son died. We were determined to make this place a farm, just as we believed our youngest son would have.  We did everything so carefully that the hatching of fertilized eggs which normally yields a 50% viability, yielded 100%. (I will admit to helping two of the chicks get out of the eggs, when they might not have emerged otherwise.) Both those two I had helped, later died of cardiac anomalies, which leads us to consider whether leaving the weaker chicks in the eggs might be the kinder action to take, but one never really does know.

                    Brown Betty was not one of the largest hens, but she was not one of the smaller ones either. She was a maternal hen, and I noticed that she was helpful to each set of chicks, even when only one or two were hatched each year, even when we weren't deliberately hatching any. Brown Betty was good to chicks even when they weren't her own.

                    This year, Brown Betty would already be nine years old. One afternoon, in the past couple of weeks, we went out and fed all the chickens, and she was there at the feeding trough. A short time later, there she was dead at the side of the trough. There were no markings, she was afebrile, no obvious infection, nothing. All I can think is that she collapsed and died of a heart attack. Chickens do have heart attacks sometimes. I am glad that she likely did not suffer and likely died very quickly.

                      This morning Brown Betty was buried in a nice spot overlooking the poultry family she had known for her long life. Somehow, she had eluded foxes, possums, raccoons, and birds that occasionally plucked a rooster from the yard, and then broke their necks and carried them off as food.  She will be missed by chickens and by human beings alike.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Benjamin's Passing: After a Long Life


Great big beautiful Benjamin


  Daniel's beloved golden retriever, Benjamin, died early this morning.  Benjamin was adopted through an agency in Fredericksburg, back in 2006, when he was just under two years old and kept wandering from the small yard of a suburban home there.  This means that in 2018, Benjamin would have been almost an unheard of fourteen years old for a large breed ! Benjamin was also a little larger than the breed standard.   He enjoyed an excellent life here and was loved very much.  He received extra love and care after his "boy died".   Daniel would have wanted Benjamin, especially, who had a puppy temperament and would mouthe everything, to have received extra loving care.
                     Benjamin was quite healthy up to about this week.  We knew that the extreme cold outside placed him at risk, and so he was coming in from the kennel to the basement at night. We knew last night that something was a little off.  He was very tired and wanted to sleep rather than play. Very late last night we noticed Cheyne-Stokes respirations, and I sat with him for a couple of hours. He was peacefully sleeping by four am, and I slept a couple of hours then myself. I arose at five am, to find a newly deceased and still warm dog.  Gosh, even at fourteen plus years old, he was still a gorgeous dog.  He will be buried here on the farm, the day after tomorrow.

             Benjamin was always playful, and had a ton of toys all through his life. We always theorized  that his breeder had parted him from his mother early.

                      Thank you for trusting us and coming home with me that day, Benjamin.  I wouldn't have missed having you here for the world. I know Daniel and Dad will look after you, until we see each other again.  I love you, Buddy.

This is an earlier post that discusses the adoption of Benjamin:

  You will be missed, you great big cuddly Benjaminal hunk of dog....

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Please See: Safety in Secluded Areas

       This week the world lost a young woman who was a helper in animal rescue. She loved both dogs and horses.

 Please read my article on my other blog: