Category Archives: Volunteers

Daily Drama 73 – Mystery of the Missing Hen

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Daily Drama 73 – Mystery of the Missing Hen

Dusk is a noisy time in the henhouse. Roosting locations are allocated according to strict rules based upon hierarchy. In spite of that, last minute jostling as the sun sets is accompanied by complaints and disputes. Then there are the spoiled hens, Samantha and Windy, who require the personal touch: I have to lift them up to their respective roosts. Samantha arrived here from a residence where her roost was near to the ground and she can’t quite grasp the concept of “up.” Windy is a heavy breed, and seems to have developed a stiff little waddle rendering her quite incapable of reaching the roost preferred by her sisters. I pick up each hen and plop them up by the others and they generally stay put until morning. Fortunately, they can jump down on their own.

In the aviary I’ve got 9-1/2 hens (little princess is only half-sized and anyway doesn’t consider herself to be poultry), 10 ducks, 2 geese and the 2 cats running around. I don’t do mornings well but I toss food around and check waterers while I make certain nobody looks out of sorts or sulky, and check for holes in the protective wire netting above me. In the afternoon I open the gate for the Garden Party and they stampede for the treat dishes and dust baths. It’s at the end of the day that I perform the “head count” to make sure I didn’t leave someone out when I shut the gate for the night.

That’s Windy, front and center, in better days when I had expert help rounding up the flock at the end of the Garden Party.

Last Saturday night a hen was missing. Windy, where’s Windy? No, not already in the aviary. I went back out the gate, did a sweep of the yard. She’s often the straggler, but not Saturday. The yard is very secure, entirely fenced, some fences are 10′ high because they are above retaining walls. Windy is a heavy breed, a Golden Laced Wyandotte, and anyway, not inclined to jump, let alone fly. I searched the aviary one more time. Sisters Eartha and Frieda were huddled together, as if to illustrate that Windy was missing. I went back out to the yard, looked under every shrub, behind every pot, poked around between fronds, called out The Bartender. We both looked but found no Windy.

In the morning, I fed my flock, minus Windy. I checked the yard again for tell-tale feather explosions or spare parts, but thankfully found nothing resembling pieces of Windy carcass. My volunteer, Dechen, arrived and we went out to the aviary. I told her about the disappeared hen, and in demonstration of how I had looked in every conceivable hiding spot, peered behind a cage into an impossibly tiny gap. Large enough for a dove, but not for a fat hen. And there was a big fat Windy hen silently peering back out at me. We pulled the cage away from the fence and got her out. She was compressed like a four leaf clover in a diary. She bravely hobbled a few steps and teetered over. I picked her back up and checked her over a bit more carefully: I do know what broken chicken legs feel like, thanks to Conchita. Windy had an abraded shin, not even worth messing with, but she was still kind of folded funny. That’s what the infirmary is for, so in she went with food and water and treats. Dechen and I pushed that cage back, jogged it a bit to the side of a post so we could snug it right up to the fence.

Cropped so that you can't see the chickenshit on the top of the cage . . .

The funky cage on the right has been pushed to the side of that fence post so that only spiders can squeeze between it and the fence. Several hens roost atop the cage on the green blanket, and up there is where I had been stashing Windy and Samantha.

Thinking back, I couldn’t recall the last time I had positively seen her. Had she come out to the Garden Party the previous day? Did she come over for her morning treats? The Bartender’s eyes opened wide when I reported finding Windy. He reminded me that on Friday night (FRIDAY! It was now SUNDAY!) the hens had been cackling at bedtime to a ridiculous degree. I had already lifted up Windy and Samantha to bed, but Conchita was hollering from her roost at a volume certain to attract the attention of nearby mothers with small children trying to sleep. I had thrown on mud boots and gone back out there to check, seen nothing (“nothing” as in oblivious to the missing hen . . .) Conchita recruited her sister Adelita into the cacophany and it had taken quite a bit of discussion and admonishment on my part to calm them.

Ground perch solution fail. It’s a beautiful maple branch, but short enough so that both CMU supports sit squarely within the hens’ squatty bedtime positions.

I spent the next couple of days setting up a low roost for Windy and Samantha. They still prefer to hunker on the ground, but as the weather deteriorates, they may decide to hop up 6″ to the fabulous bamboo roost I fashioned for them. Or maybe they’ll continue to squeeze under it to the darker corner.

Potential final ground perch solution. The CMU supports now fall closer together and allow space for Windy (left corner) and Samantha (right corner) to hunker down on the ground. The bamboo roost is long enough to extend the full length, putting the ends tantalizingly close to the hens. You can lead a hen to a perch, but you can’t make her roost on it.

What a fool I am. After 35 years I should have more respect for the opinions of my flock. I was lucky this time because Windy spent only one day in the infirmary. The following day, I took her out, set her down for a moment, turned my back to grab her water bowl, and she sprinted for the common treat bowls. She’s fine. She has totally fluffed out again, pouffy, if you will. And she has forgiven me.

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Daily Drama 67 – Between Disasters

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Daily Drama 67 – Between Disasters

No, I haven’t been slacking off, and I’m not out of material to write about, either. It’s just that I can only find time to write when I’m between disasters, and today qualifies. Right now the only problem is the dead microwave oven. I’m re-discovering the joy of steaming and I will soon perfect re-heating leftovers in the new toaster oven. At $50, it was a bargain compared with replacing the built-in microwave. This is the third microwave I’ve had perish here over seventeen years.

And then there is the IRS audit. We’re all paranoid when it comes to fat envelopes coming from the IRS, aren’t we? Our Tax Compliance Officer reassures me that we are not being audited due to any action, lack of action, or violation. When I submitted our initial application, I used the fabulous new 1023EZ form instead of the old 1023 long form. She said that, unfortunately, there has been “public outcry” regarding the EZ form, and that it isn’t thought to be thorough enough. The IRS is now evaluating a random sample of the organizations who used the EZ form to determine whether the form should be amended. Lucky us. I am honored to have been selected to verify the validity of the EZ form, and hope future users of the abbreviated form will appreciate the week I spent helping them out.

The clogged “so-called drain” is at about the center of this photo, above the bright flare. Typical Pacific NW basement.

Time to get the drainline reamed out again. It’s cheaper to snake out the drain every six months than replace the 50′ of pipe between this basement drain and the outlet by the driveway. There is a discontinuity in the seventy year old sectional concrete pipe, caused by groundwater rearranging the substrate and allowing the sections to relocate. Underneath the basement floor and driveway. Don’t worry, everything stored down there is waterproof or up on little planks. It’s important stuff: all my spare cages, equipment, and supplies. The water has to rise another three inches to begin flooding the downstairs, but don’t worry, everything down there is waterproof or up on little planks, too. And anyway, it has been fixed now, and should make it through the season.

What would I do without Briana? All this stuff would still be neatly stored on shelves, not doing any good for anyone. My mother, Georgia Dee, would be so excited to see what we are doing with her inventory!

In stark contrast to recent disasters, our Jewelry Manufacturing Centre is up and running! New board member Briana Bell has dedicated herself to creating some exciting new items for Georgia Dee’s Gift Shop. We are specializing in earrings this year, by popular demand. You will start seeing new inventory . . . soon! Watch this space!

Stevie Ray, already looking a bit rough, and Squirrel. Stevie Ray was so good lookin’ he didn’t have to have a personality at all. He was cool, you know?

Little old Stevie Ray left the Dude Ranch in mid-October. He had been diagnosed with an abdominal mass in April. At seven years old, surgery was not an option. He rallied and had quite a few good months before he decided to check out and that was that. I miss his silly antics and his good looks, and so does Squirrel, his cage-mate.

Brutus (named before her gender was known, but I don’t judge) and Cookie Monster, beyond, with her four-different-colored feet.

Waiting in the wings are Brutus and Cookie Monster. They were thoughtfully referred to me by Stevie Ray’s veterinarian as potential future companions for crazy Squirrel. They were recently spayed and are in the process of being slowly introduced to Squirrel, after occupying a nearby-but-separate space. Rushing the process rarely works and these spoiled girls are first class prima donnas. Fingers crossed!

Oh, Conchita!

Conchita had her final veterinary checkup (Apparently Dobby had issued instructions regarding how to register a complaint.) and moved out to the infirmary as a first step toward reintroducing her to the flock. Now that Samantha has joined the flock, Conchita has advanced to step two: navigating the Bully Pen (a separate enclosure within the larger aviary). Her broken leg has healed but she’s got an uneven gait. Mostly, she’s got to re-negotiate her position in the flock. Pecking order is no joke.

Samantha at the green bowl, Eartha, Windy, and Frieda this side of the fence, then the little white hussy, Ping, and her useless but devoted boyfriend, Boxcar.

So, who is Samantha? Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire, is an older hen whose companions are no longer with her. Lately, a bobcat had been spending his afternoons staring at her through the secure fence that surrounds her coop. She was lonely and so now she’s here. Introducing a new hen can be challenging, but the flock has been very cooperative. She started out in the Bully Pen. Norman the Goose magnanimously accepted her without controversy. It wasn’t long before Eartha befriended her and joined her in the Bully Pen.

Ping in the distance, then sweet Eartha, and Samantha. Adelita is outside the fence.

It wasn’t long before Samantha was accepted by all and she is enjoying her new friends and her new home.

For cryin’ out loud, Windy! That’s pathetic!

The hens molt (get new feathers) this time of year. It isn’t always graceful. Most will lose and re-feather gradually. You’ll see the feathers around the yard, but otherwise it’s no big deal. Once in a while, a hen will have a very rough molt, like Windy. She’s uncomfortable, and she’s going to kill me when she discovers I posted this unflattering photo. The new feathers emerge through the skin encased in a waxy substance (How else would you push a feather through skin without mussing it?) that she’ll pick off as she fluffs up the feathers. The intact new feather shafts look like little toothpicks on her neck.

Turkey and a few friends. They have figured out that my flock comes out for a catered garden party every afternoon.

Remember Turkey the duckling who grew up in my bathtub and was released? Here she is! She’s the female with a mostly orange bill, more slender than the others. I’m serious: she’s in that crowd somewhere.

Not Cinderella’s coach.

Lord Dobbington, as he was referred to recently, always steals the show. The weather turned cold, so I jokingly got out his old halloween pumpkin costume. He seemed glad to see it again, so I found this rubber ducky rain slicker on sale, free shipping. He would wear hats and clothes when he was a baby, but refused during his haughty teen years. Now it seems he has discovered the practical side to jackets. Hats, not so much.

Rubber ducky raincoat on capybara.

Dobby is kind of a goofball, possibly a spoiled one. Grazing time is short, and pickin’s are slim, so he often has Uber deliver a bucket of bamboo to the kitchen. “Someone” has knocked over this bucket and spread out the bamboo for inspection. “Someone” is also demonstrating that his milk bowl is empty.

Foot-in-bowl disease is rampant at the Funny Farm.

October’s most time-consuming effort was the publishing of Dobby’s book. Rewards were autographed and shipped out to the Kickstarter backers (Thanks, again, everyone!)

“I could eat that!”

Prince Dobalob’s book is available online as a print-on-demand paperback, so any “not available” baloney you may see on Amazon is simply not true. If you have trouble buying your copy, please contact me here and I’ll try to figure out what’s up. I’m also collecting links to international sources, so let me know if you find it abroad, especially in Asia. The eBook will be available as an ePub edition soon, and I’ll update this post with a link here when it’s up and running. Sorry, no Kindle version: it doesn’t like graphics and it loads up sorta goofy. We haven’t given up on Kindle, but don’t hold your breath.

Gotta get this published before I am interrupted by any more baby pigeons coming in! It’s always something!

Daily Drama 65 – The Duckling in the Bathtub

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Daily Drama 65 – The Duckling in the Bathtub

We’re hurtling through the summer at breakneck speed.

With the Funny Farm a tad over capacity I’m grateful to have two summer volunteers.

Before we get to the duckling, Let’s see how Cookie Monster and Brutus are doing!

Cookie Monster: every foot is a different color. Brown, white, black and the fourth one is a hodge-podge.

Remember, they took over the “Floor Suite” of the Dude Ranch in June. Brutus is about 18 months old, and big enough to be “fixed” but little Cookie Monster is still growing. The big plan is for them to eventually live with the dudes, Squirrel and Stevie Ray. We’re more likely to have a successful introduction if the girls are spayed. Stevie Ray and Squirrel were taken care of years ago, but that doesn’t guarantee against rivalry, especially with two girls as attractive as this!

Interior decorators at work.

The boys are unconcerned, but they can’t see into the girl’s area where they are working on some very distinctive decorating schemes. I have had excellent luck with introducing new boars, but this is a different can of worms.

Stevie Ray and Squirrel massacre some wheatgrass. Six year old Stevie Ray has gained 1/4 pound since his abdominal mass was discovered in April. He’s more frisky and is doing great! You just never know, do you?

There is an orphan duckling in my bathtub. Her mother and siblings perished in a hit-and-run accident on the highway. Turkey was being raised with some, well, actual turkeys, and was doing great but came here where she could be with ducks until she is ready to be released. There have been guinea pigs and ducks in this bathtub, maybe a turtle, and even a baby capybara! It doesn’t get much human use.

Miss Turkey takes over Dobby’s old stomping grounds.

I think Turkey’s bill is too narrow and upturned and her legs too long to be a Mallard, but the older she gets, the more mallardy she becomes.

Turkey is sitting on a heated pad in this photo. It is positioned so that she can be on or off while she is near her mirror.

She is very well-behaved. Quiet and dignified, there’s none of that annoying non-stop peep-peep-peep-peep-peep nonsense.

In this photo, she is sitting beside- not on- the heated pad.

She loves her mirror and has lengthy conversations with it. She joins the afternoon garden party in a secure cage and adores the ducks and geese. My wild resident female mallard has been by once and was very interested in Turkey, but she hasn’t returned. She lost two broods of ducklings this spring. It was a horrific year for prey animals locally.

She may or may not be a Mallard, but she’s 100% duck. Duckweed is tiny floating pond plants that wild ducklings eat.

Turkey has her own swimming pool in the shower stall where she can splash and eat the duckweed I collect in the pond next door.

Dobby loves his stinky front yard mud puddle. It has dried up some summers, but this year it has stayed perfectly wet and mucky.

There’s no duckweed in my own pond. the pond scum is thick and brown. Oh, oops, that’s Dobby!

The Ding Dong can’t reach the ding dong.

Dobby still fantasizes about the living room and spends part of every afternoon standing at the front door. I’m glad he doesn’t know about the doorbell.

A great big bucket of grass is a great big distraction.

He wastes so much time at that door that I have to gather his grass in a bucket. His gait is still wobbly and that makes him timid and wary in the front yard. The bucket of grass actually helps him stand still for the k-laser therapy he receives for his broken back. The therapy has helped a lot, but he isn’t 100% cured, and we’re not sure how much more muscle control he’ll regain. Maybe his new therapy pool will help.

One entire refrigerator for Dobby-food.

Meanwhile, his refrigerator empties and refills like clockwork: corn, romaine lettuce, potatoes in the drawers, apples and pears in the door.

The car finally got washed between trips to the grocer and feed stores. Sitting in there, pulled along as soap and brushes removed a year of grime, it occurred to me that getting my car washed was the most luxurious event I could recall enjoying during the past six months. I need a break.

Shadow Rat

In spite of the piggies, the duckling, and volunteer help, Dobby’s injury overshadows everything. I don’t plan trips to Paris or Shanghai, there will be no house-boating craziness for a while. Dobby’s functioning well and seems generally content, but I can’t bring myself to leave him with anyone but The Bartender for now. I hope that will change.

Dobby’s book has been making fantastic progress, in spite of him! Sonya and I are well into the final edits and our plan to have books available later this month is on target! I will send out postcards announcing its release, so gimme your address if you want one!

Daily Drama 51

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Daily Drama 51

In the Pacific Northwest, winter seems to drag on and on and on. Summer is simply a brief, shiny, and distant memory. We have four more months of very iffy weather before “summer” which is unreliable until after Fourth of July. For now, I feed the ducks and chickens in the morning, then wash and dry my rain-soaked jacket in time for the afternoon Garden Party. It rains ALL THE TIME, there is slippery black mud everywhere, and even the ducks are wet. Dobby, supposedly a rainforest animal, refuses to do his “business” out in the cold, windy, relentless downpour. It’s just not right. Lots of fun coming up before summer, though. The ducks are starting to joust and I’m wondering how soon the Bully Pen will have to open for business.

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Jillian The Volunteer, cleaning the Dude Ranch

My fabulous volunteer, Jillian, needs to adjust her schedule around tennis practice. I still can’t believe she offered to come on Guinea Pig Cage Cleaning Night! We were able to clean The Dude Ranch plus the two rabbit boxes in a New York minute! It’s so nice to have help for the “less fun” tasks! Unfortunately, we forgot about Dobby’s extra Jillian Corn, and when she went to say goodbye to him, she noticed that he had registered a complaint IN HIS POTATO BOWL. Ugh. Sorry, no photo.

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Prince Dobalob The Author, taking a break from writing his new book

Part of the aviary fence is slowly rotting, as everything does here in the Pacific Northwest. Between the time when I counted rotten boards and showed my friendly neighbor where to install the new ones, another very suspicious hole had opened up. We hastily gathered up some plywood to patch the holes from the inside, and he can now replace the boards at his leisure. One week later, the suspicious hole resurrected itself, this time through the plywood! I set a 2×4 on the stringer and braced it with a CMU half block. Very late that night as I was readying Dobby’s kitchen area for the morning onslaught, a possum sauntered by, so close to the glass door he nearly brushed against it! So, yes, a suspiciously possum-sized hole. I kind of wondered why egg production had dramatically dropped off the last couple weeks. Thank goodness he didn’t go after the hens. And that reminds me I better check the hole from the entry-side of the fence, and maybe store a few rolls of chicken wire there. I’ve already directed the neighbor toward my stash of sheet metal.

Lula The Brave, one year ago, in the infirmary

My little hen Lula, who has been on Metacam just over a year now, is looking better day by day. Miraculously she has feathered out beautifully and seems to be putting on weight. Last night I found her roosted way up high with the other girls. I never thought I’d see her back up there, she has been roosting on a low laying box for months and months. The sun came out for about 5 minutes last week, and I saw her standing tall and enjoying it. It won’t be long before she’ll be joining the others for the Garden Party.

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Honey The Innocent

It has been a while since I heard from Honey Bunny’s owner, and so it goes. I really don’t like to take “fosters” because they are exactly as much work as full-time residents. I’m glad I was realistic about Honey’s future here, but she is probably the most “spirited” bunny I’ve known. She would be a more suitable guest if she’d refrain from leaping up to the bookshelves, but it’s hard to stay mad at a bunny doing figure-8’s around your legs!

 

 

Daily Drama 45 | Carl Sagan, Birthday Boy

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Daily Drama 45 | Carl Sagan, Birthday Boy

Hey Carl! Come over here! Let’s do an 8th Birthday photo shoot! We don’t know the exact day, but you were born around Halloween.

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“Corn is an extra special treat. Surely you don’t need me NOW?”

Okay, we can wait a couple minutes. I’ll get the camera set up.

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“I got dressed up in my favorite t-shirt!”

Very cute, but I had something fancier in mind. I do appreciate that you picked out a nice orange t-shirt to match the pumpkins.

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“Orange is my favorite color.”

Ha ha, nice. But everyone has already seen that costume. Don’t you have something else?

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“I’m getting seasick. Urp.”

Ah, yes. The hat I brought you from Venice. You make a very cute gondolier!

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“Oy vey! Oops, I mean, OLA!”

And here’s the sombrero I brought you from Zihuatanejo, Mexico! That is a great color on you, Carl.

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“Yes, I’ll have another pina colada, thanks for asking!”

Where did you find that lei from Hawaii? I don’t think that belongs to you. You’re right, though. It’s way too small for Dobby.

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“I do like these cowboy hats. After all, I live in a Dude Ranch.”

Now we’re talking! Sheriff Carl Sagan and his horse. Wait a minute, is that Capycoppy?

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“Now we’re just getting silly. Can I get back to my corn?”

Taking your dog for a walk down to the mailbox? Looks like you dodged the rain.

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“From bad to worse. I’m in a police lineup here. Aren’t we finished yet?”

The best costume of all is actually being a cute guinea pig, isn’t it Carl? Those friends of yours certainly have better manners than Stevie Ray and Fred!

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“I am NOT hanging around for a mugshot. I’m outta here!”

That’s right, Carl. You are INNOCENT! Happy Birthday!


[Carl absolutely LOVED the attention, but not all guinea pigs tolerate costumes. I also had an experienced volunteer on hand for the wrangling. Use good judgment if you decide to dress up your pet. Make sure it is fun for everyone involved.]