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Daily Drama 76 – Snow at the Not-So-Funny Farm

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Daily Drama 76 – Snow at the Not-So-Funny Farm

Snow is beautiful, isn’t it? It was so fun to look out the front door and see bountiful snow: fluffy clean snow, looking like Crisco. It’s so quiet. I forgot about that part. You see, Seattle doesn’t get much snow. Not enough to justify snow plows or snow tires, so everybody takes the day off to enjoy the magnificence of it.

This was my front steps.

I got out my snow ruler: nine inches! (23cm) And started to watch the weather forecasts like a fiend. More snow? Freezing temperatures, too? Uh oh. I started to bring in the hummingbird feeders after dusk. Get up at dawn, throw on my flimsy robe, hang them back up, hummers buzzing at the empty hanger, as if to remind me where the feeder belongs.

My official snow ruler

The back yard wild mallards landed in the Crisco snow, rapidly sinking in up to their necks, trudging back up to the surface, flying back up to the roof. Over and over. So funny! I could be mean and toss their ration of cracked corn into the deep snow, but that would be wasteful.

View from the living room. You have to imagine the thunk! thunk! of the ducks landing on the roof.

They quickly learned that the wild bird buffet was being served on the deck, right outside the kitchen door, in dishes. They had the area trampled flat in no time. There are at least forty-two of them, after all. The original pair have been here daily for a dozen years, rain or shine.

Yes, in fact some of them do knock on the door.

Dobby would have been sequestered in the kitchen for two weeks by now. There’s still about six inches of snow on the ground. The bare patches are thawing and we’re supposed to have more rain before the temperatures drop again in a couple days and they start bragging about more snow. The Prince would have been perfectly miserable, cabin fever in spades. This is one of the many reasons why I am not considering getting another capybara. Our mild marine climate is no longer to be trusted.

The Graveyard at Stacy’s Funny Farm

The graveyard‘s colors are muted, and the sun can’t illuminate the gems hanging from the arbor. The snow is so pretty, even the Dove dome is a masterpiece. That snowball in the foreground is a “Dogloo” turned igloo. The pigeon loft is behind it, and this morning I decided to take the eggs away from Phoenix and Cor-ten. Birth control is so easy for birds, imagine if we could lay an egg and simply walk away from it! Today there was a tiny fuzzy face looking out at me. I was too late. So they have a baby and I guess congratulations are in order.

The dove cage has never looked prettier.

When the snow first falls, the cats test it. Curiosity satisfied, Kitty Hawk rejoins his smarter half in the barn. The hens are smart enough to hunker down in the barn until it goes away. The ducks and geese have fancy feet and don’t mind the cold.

Goose and cat. Kitty Hawk is some kind of fool.

Well, they don’t mind it too much. Norman isn’t looking particularly happy here. It complicates his job as flock manager.

Gentle Norman. He didn’t sign up for this.

Even when there is snow, the ducks and geese prefer to sleep under the stars. In the morning, I can see where each one slept by the thawed  dirt ovals they create with their downy blankets. They pull their feet up inside the feathers, tuck in their bills, and they’re good for the night. In the photo below, you can see two ducks sleeping on the ground, and to the left, two thawed ovals where their friends slept the night before.

Tony and Vinny, snoozing midday. They are in the middle of the photo.

In the photo below, you can see the aviary netting is starting to sag under the weight of the snow. Look at the top rail of the fence, straight and true. The roof netting should be uniformly higher than that top rail, but you can see a droop near the center of the photo.

Observing the aviary from the kitchen deck after the first onslaught of snow

From inside the aviary it looked like this. I tried to smack at the snow from below, to get it to drop off the netting, but it was so light and fluffy it wouldn’t fall through the big holes of the 2″ chicken wire. Seattle snow usually falls straight through to the ground. Only deep dry snow falling quickly onto the thin frozen wires will cause significant accumulation. Even so, our usual quick return to 40 degree weather melts it away.

Crisco everywhere: above, below, even on the vertical wire fence

We had deep fry dry snow, frozen temperatures, and frigid nights. Most of the hens sleep in the barn on heated pads. Adelita still prefers her roost, next to where Conchita and Jello used to sleep. The geese and ducks still preferred the frozen ground to the cozy barn.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we got a couple more inches of snow. The net is relaxing under the weight of it. The duck pond is frozen. Beyond the fence, wild mallards gather the troops, ready to beg for cracked corn as I pass by for inspection.

Beyond the pond and fence, wild mallards accumulate with the snow.

The heat lamps come out and the Muscovy ducks come in. They are a South American breed and not as hardy as my other domestics. Their feet and caruncle can get frostbite and they love the heat lamps. The shavings in the barn don’t seem to freeze as long as they are dry, but like a fool, I provide drinking water in the barn during freezing weather and the ducks take care of the “dry” problem. It’s still nicer than the pile-up of snow outside.

新年快樂

The perennial Chinese New Year’s decorations are suddenly timely. Last night the barn lights didn’t come on at dusk. D’oh! They are on a timer and we had a six hour power outage. They have probably been cycling on in the middle of the night for the past week.

Her drinking water never froze.

About a week before the storm, I brought this little dove into the barn. She wasn’t flying up to the perches, and so I fixed her up with a cage that has a perch on the ground. Usually a week or so of R&R perks them up, but I’m also glad she wasn’t in the big dome during the storm. She’s cooing to her buddies in the dome so they all know she’s okay.

After all the snow, everyone was excited to finally see rain. It is Seattle, after all. It rained all night. In the morning, I was surprised to see robins gaily hopping in and out of the aviary. They are too big to get through the aviary netting, so that meant they had found a hole. It turned out to be a hole the size of a Mack truck. Several of them, in fact.

Coffee Bean and Grover learned to share this heated carrier.

Meanwhile, everyone became used to moving into the barn every night. When I gave the signal, Norman would march everyone in. When the netting collapsed, I realized the cats would be able to walk right out, so I locked them into the smaller portion of the barn during the day. Norman’s non-flighted flock would be okay waddling around in the wrecked aviary during the day while we worked on repairs.

Not only did the aviary netting seams rip open, each of the support posts poked a hole. The important central support was a tree that had died and was now rotten enough to splinter into several spongy logs. The central support cables tightly gripped the one remaining sound portion of the tree which was now dangling a few inches above the ground. We removed the other supports so that the netting would be easy to reach and repair.

It’s an eye test: can you see the pink flagging?

I built my first aviary in 1984 out of recycled fishing nets. Holes would rot out of it, unpredictably. The second one, in 1988, was smaller and I used Toprite aviary netting. Squirrels chewed it where it attached to the fence. I used sturdier Toprite for my third aviary, in 1991. It was an effective net, but the small holes clogged with snow quickly, necessitating hourly snow removal during the storms. A fallen fir tree once took the entire net out, ripping it to shreds. This 2001 aviary “roof” has a chew-proof stiff wire mesh edge with a 2″ chicken wire infill. For eighteen years, the snow has fallen through the netting, except where it is covered with twigs and autumn leaves. A yearly cleaning was all it took. Until Snowpocalypse.

No aviary repair kit is complete without a thousand zip ties.

I have a bartender on staff, and his job description is a moving target. I flagged all the holes with bright pink survey flagging. Where I could reach, we worked together to zip tie the holes. Then he went out the next day, like John Henry, and zipped the rest of those suckers right up. They didn’t have a chance.

Eye Test #2: Can you see the zip ties?

We put the supports back up, and Bob’s your uncle! Everything’s back to normal, and Norman can take a break. Sure, there’s still six inches of dirty ice encrusted compact snow on the ground, but I’m fairly certain it will go away. Someday.

Then I walked out to look at the still pretty clean snow in the front yard, and discovered that the core of my multi-trunked Flame Amur Maple had shattered. All of the branches have splayed out and collapsed to the ground as if a malevolent giant stomped on it. Oy vey, how is The Bartender going to fix that?

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Daily Drama 63 – Visitors large and small

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Daily Drama 63 – Visitors large and small

I was planning to write a blog post until the budgie on my desk claimed the mouse. She sauntered over to it and bit the heck out of my finger. Sigh. Not all of my minions are enthralled with me.

Visiting season has arrived and Dobby is in big demand these days. He and Sonya are writing a book, and she stopped by to kick his butt encourage him. His book is still on track for a summer release.

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Sonya Reasor and Prince Dobalob

Jeff Vandermeer galloped through the neighborhood signing books. He and his wife Ann took a small break from their book tour to say hello to Dobby.

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Jeff Vandermeer and Dobby (Dobby looks like a bear, doesn’t he?)

Finally, Ginger and Daryl Shekell dropped by on their way to join an Alaska cruise. Dobby kissed her pant leg so now she has capybara slobber on those pants for the whole trip. So adorable, that Dobby!

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Ginger Shekell

Dobby has his ups and downs and we keep tweaking his meds. His rear passenger side leg is very weak, though, and we will start laser therapy next week. We have several other options to pursue here in Washington State. He is an herbivore, after all.

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It’s okay, we live in Washington State

The Bully Pen has served us well this season. I move the aggressive drakes in and out of there to give everyone a break. They still fight through the fence, though, and the day before I left for the BlogPaws conference in South Carolina, Tony tried to kill himself. He had his head stuck through the chain link and managed to catch his bill in an adjacent grid, nearly hanging himself. When I discovered him, he had those little x’s on his eyes, just like the cartoons. He recovered swiftly and that afternoon he was good as new.

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Looking smart, Tony!

Out by the front door, Mason bees continue to live in the window frames. This one has been annoying me for several years, flitting in and out in spite of the human sitting right smack dab in front of her. They also made nests in the cheapo plywood siding grooves, above the window and door trim, all across the front of the house. In this photo, you can see her butt sticking out of the tiny hole. Today I noticed that the hole has been resealed. I also have a few kinds of bumblebees and crazy looking mud wasps. The wasps are a bit much, but I look forward to the visiting bees each spring.

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My little Mason Bee

Dobby doesn’t care about the bees. He wants to walk through the house to the back yard. He has never been allowed to go through that way, but he stands at the door and begs almost every time we go to the front yard.

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The front door is Not For Dobby!

Next he nibbles on my plants. He used to eat from that planter on the little table by the front door. I finally gave up and planted edibles for him- that’s lettuce and bok choy. Now he won’t touch it. Go figure.

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Frieda takes a short-cut

I mentioned BlogPaws, didn’t I? It’s an organization for pet bloggers, and this was the 6th conference I attended.

BlogPaws, typical attire

FANCY dogs, not the ordinary kind

There are dogs and cats everywhere, lots of swag (free samples), but never enough “exotic” pets. Snotface the ferret attended again this year, and there was a therapy rat, too. I should have taken Princess Blur, but our group had a guinea pig to feed on the table. that’s always fun.

Bobo!

Bobo is such a gentleman.

Patterned after prayer flags, honor flags commemorate the lives of our absent pets.

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Guinea pig honor flag

Sadly, there were capybaras to add to our flag this year. Chico passed during the conference, putting a damper on the weekend.

Pet Capybaras

ROUS Foundation honor flag

There are fabulous give-aways in addition to the swag. I won a VW bus! Melanie won the whale.

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My new VW Bus!

Here we are!

BlogPaws 2017 Gang of Four

Melanie, Angela, Stacy (me), and Becky!

Daily Drama 58

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Daily Drama 58

Winter is here and it’s awful. Those of you who live in a cold climate know about hauling water out to the flock in the morning. You know about “ice management.” That’s when you toss the ice out of the frozen waterers strategically, so that the shards of ice don’t create a hazard if they don’t melt within the next couple of days. You know about hoarfrost, and dig out around your gates so it can’t build up and shut you out of your pens. Winter water bowls are re-stacked so they aren’t frozen together when you need them. Food and meds are brought indoors so they don’t freeze. Ugh.

Dobby sleeps indoors, in all his glory, because frozen blankets are a drag. I have to wear my mud boots to walk through his section of the kitchen, because, you know, he’s “living” in there. In his seventh winter, Dobby takes sleeping indoors in stride. He even “goes” outside during the day. Sometimes. He has also learned to tolerate staying indoors, and not go in and out the door all night, leaving it ajar in twenty degree weather. Right next to the bird cages. He did decide to go out at 3AM last night. It was 28 degrees out there, his bedroom heater usually keeps it 10 degrees higher, so 38, and the blankets were probably pliable. I still had to go down and shut the door behind him, bird cages. Go back to bed and fall asleep, fretting. If Dobby wants to go out, there’s no keeping him in. He eats the door jamb trying to get out. Another response to the question “It’s kind of like having a big dog, right?” No. It’s not.

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November 21, 2016 issue, The New Yorker magazine.

For those of you who continue to ask, “Why capybara?” I offer this cartoon. I learned to walk by dragging a hamster cage around for balance. That means that this little joke is really the story of my life. It doesn’t explain the ducks, though.

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Vinny performs the Donkey Honk, a drake display move. Ping is not impressed.

Most freezing nights, the ducks keep their water open by swimming in it and dabbling in it. That means there is always drinking water for the hens and cats, too. It was iced over this morning, a thin sheet easily poked, one drinking hole still open, so they are doing a good job.

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The doves sit high and dry in their separate pen.

The doves are captive, though, and can’t get to the “dabble-hole.” I take out gallons of hot water to unfreeze their waterer. They have a bathing dish of water ice, and hop right into the warm bath water I take out in the morning.

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Beverly on the first day, contemplating her sudden loss of freedom.

Beverly is in jail, and has to keep her own dabble hole open. She’s brand new, rescued by a human Bev (the name is a coincidence) who befriended her at a nearby park. Muscovy ducks are from South America, not native here, so she’s probably an escaped pet. They aren’t as cold-tolerant as our indigenous ducks. Bev was able to pick her up and bring her to me, verifying her tameness, and I easily nabbed her for wing clipping. Now that she’s safe, we don’t want her flying away.

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Beverly’s first few nights here were cold, down to 18f degrees (-7c).

She spent a few days in quarantine, ye olde bully pen. She was desperate to join the flock, though, and looks very happy today, her first day mingling with the general population. Norman isn’t letting her get too close, but no one else seems to mind her.

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Freeloading Mallard hens

There are way too many Mallards, and when I open the gate in the afternoon for the Garden Party, they make a beeline for the feeder.

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Norman cleans house

The photo above should be a video. Norman the flock Manager, is at the back, beyond the gate, a pale blob above and to the right of Dobby’s hanging yellow and green soccer ball. He is marching toward us, honking, and all of these mallards, 17 I think, marched out in front of him. He chased them away from his feeder! Go, Norman! Geese are so cool.

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Carmen registers a complaint.

I was so pleased that I gave in and treated them to cracked corn out in the yard. That’s Carmen Miranda facing me, madder than heck at me for giving them HER corn. Note the stool on Dobby’s swimming pool steps, which are falling down in slow motion as they rot. They usually last a year, these were new late last summer.

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Front row: Shamrock and Vinny, Crowd scene behind: Cubicle, Tony, Sal, Norman, Boondock, little Ping and Emilio, Boxcar behind, and Carmen Miranda far right

The mallards left, and my little flock finally enjoyed their treat of cracked corn.

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Mr. and Ms. Mallard, posing after a synchronized skating exhibition. She’s the one who brought her children to the front door and then through the house to the back yard last spring.

Remember the stool on the swimming pool steps? This is another reason why it is there. Dobby isn’t doing much swimming these days, and he probably can’t mount those raunchy bales, but he won’t climb past the stool. These are the resident Mallards, the ones who have been hanging out here since before Dobby got here. I suspect that the unruly mallard crowd is their offspring.

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Frieda. She’s a little different.

Eartha, Windy, and Frieda are my newest hens. Frieda follows me around like I’m a busted feed bag.

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Dobby loves the barn. Sometimes he spends the morning out there, bothering everyone and eating their food.

I hate heat lamps, but this year I’ve got three out there, plus some heated pads for the tomcats, and of course one for Sir Dobbykins. He loves the barn. That’s the infirmary behind him. Lula is in there, but the door is open so that her companion, the inimitable Princess Blur, can come and go as she pleases.

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Princess Blur, displaying typical attitude, and her pet hen, Lula. Lula is handicapped, and Princess adores her.

A couple days ago Princess did too much going. She was missing when I went out in the morning. Blaming myself, I figured I had missed her at the nightly lockup. I walked the neighborhood. I put a notice on Next Door. I drove the neighborhood. I knocked on doors. And that afternoon when I went to open the gate to let everyone out for Garden Party, guess who was first to run OUT the gate? Today I discovered she has skritched out a hollow between the barn wall and a bale of straw. She can really hunker down in there. She’s so bad.

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Jello, Conchita, and Adelita on the roost. Princess Blur, in the background for once.

This was just before dusk, and the hens were ready for bed. These girls have been here a couple of years.

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Eartha and Windy, here since late October.

Here are the three new hens. Hmmm. They are finally settling into the evening routine. Where’s Frieda?

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Frieda, Kitty Hawk, and Grover

Frieda sleeps with the cats. Whatever. They aren’t as excited about it as she is.

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Dobby Burrito

Bedtime for The Dobster. He usually sleeps outside, but when he’s indoors, he likes his bed, his white rabbit rug, and his pink princess blankie. Goodnight, Dobby Boy.

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They’re coasters!

A very wonderful friend created and donated these tiles to the Funny Farm! They are raku fired ceramic tiles, backed with cork so they may be used as coasters. They feature the footprint of Caplin Rous, the World’s Most Famous Capybara! He was also Dobby’s big brother.

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Each one unique!

The glaze has a coppery iridescent sheen that doesn’t photograph to advantage because it changes from different angles. Right now they are mine, all mine, but I should probably sell them. They are available at Georgia Dee’s Gift Shop.

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Shanghai teens!

I will be incommunicado for about a week at the end/beginning of the year. My son is teaching at a high school in Shanghai, China and I can’t pass up the opportunity to visit. Don’t worry, The Bartender is gamely staying behind to care for Prince Dobalob and his subjects!

 

Duckling Days

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A couple days ago, the first thing I did was look out the bedroom window to see if there were any ducklings out there. I had seen some the day before, but I was astonished to actually see them again, on the driveway, glowing and backlit from the morning sun! What a great way to start the day!

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You have to imagine the glowing. I’ll never get a photo of that.

They live next door, to the south. I can see them from my deck, and from the window right next to my desk. I can hear the peeping, too!

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There is a little ball of ducklings in the very center of this photo.

I’ve never actually seen ducklings in that little pond before this year. Maybe that’s because their cat is now gone.

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Decisions, decisions.

Dobby’s little stream drops into a culvert, goes under my driveway, and into the little pond. There is a hole under the fence where the culvert dumps out. There is a little slope at one side that ducklings can negotiate. They don’t have to jump.

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The ducklings hesitate at the drop-off at the edge.

Sometimes they come over to play in my little waterfall and look for bugs in the quagmire next to my driveway.

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Heading around the fence this time.

When I saw them glowing, they were leaving my duckling playground, heading home the long way around the fence. There is pretty good cover that direction, even though they have to go near the street. It’s a dead end with hardly any traffic.

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There are plenty of puddles to play in between here and there.

I feed the mom all year long, so she doesn’t mind me following her around. We’re good friends.

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Almost home

I have been tossing out cracked corn for her. The ducklings prefer bugs, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about that.

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They have trouble getting over that curb!

Their little legs go pretty fast, but they aren’t so good at jumping! They’ll grow big enough to hop that curb by next week.

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Home sweet home!

The neighbors are helping to watch out for them, too.

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Ducklings in the pond next door to the NORTH, too!

If that isn’t enough cuteness, there are ducklings on the big pond to my immediate north, too! I was seeing ducklings all the time there, and then I noticed that there were two moms, two broods! I’m tossing cracked corn over the fence that direction, too.

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Ducklings on the north pond, viewed from my aviary.

This is the view that my tomcats have. Kitty Hawk and Grover are pretty interested, so I won’t be letting them out at all for a while. I relocated a wild turtle from the street to this pond last summer, but I haven’t seen him this spring.

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Sometimes they just look like this, under mama’s wings.

In the video, you can see three dads to the far left, watching over a mom with babies. The property next door has nearly 10 acres of wetlands, so there could be more than two broods there.

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One last look.

There’s a Gift Shop?

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There’s a Gift Shop?

In order to make ends meet at The Funny Farm, I will be selling some of my fabulous jewelry. And some funky jewelry, too. I might even sell some Salt & Pepper Shakers, some small plastic aardvarks, some vintage postcards, and anything else that is collecting dust around here. There might even be SuperCapy plushies available!

Check it out and read about where the jewelry came from here.