Category Archives: Volunteers

Daily Drama 99 – The Barbecue Car

Standard
Daily Drama 99 – The Barbecue Car

Mister Charlie had the blahs last week. He’s usually a little devil, a scheming opportunist, always angling for another saltine, or perhaps a clandestine foray into the aviary to evaluate the chicken food supply. He had his checkup only a couple weeks ago, but I called the vet. They couldn’t send anyone out that day but I signed up for a next-day appointment and spent the day staring at him for clues. Then they called back, sorry but the next-day appointment was already taken. Charlie sulked overnight but didn’t look any worse in the morning, so I drove to the airport to pick up my son.

Hamish is reluctant to leave the relative safety of the back yard.

My grown daughter is home for a while to deal with some medical issues and her brother decided to come home for a couple of months, too. In anticipation of his arrival we cleared out a storage closet for him and filled the back of my 2007 Subaru Forester with items for the Goodwill. We drove around with the junk for a couple weeks until we finally gave up and sat in the 40 minute drive-up line to donate it. The following day, I picked up my son at the airport in a less-than-pristine car, only a few capybara nips out of the upholstery, but certainly devoid of potential donations.

The “Fire Pit.” As seen at West Elm.

Charlie continued to improve but still wasn’t up to grazing in the front yard. I let both sheep into the forbidden aviary for a change, improving their outlook on life, even though I didn’t let them eat the chicken food. My son went for a walk, stumbled upon the new-ish pizzeria around the corner, and got a job there. The Funny Farm took in a homeless hamster, and my daughter and I went to the dentist.

Fire Pit detail.

Reminiscing about the pre-pandemic fire-pit he built in the front yard, my son decided to build another one. Unfortunately, groundwater seepage here is totally out of control. The serpentine stream in the wetland north of us has lost its way, and now oozes across my front yard and flows down the street, even during this drought. No problem, the fire pit is built on top of the ground, no pit involved at all! Left with a nasty pile of construction debris abandoned by a former tenant, our neighbor gladly donated the materials. As you can see, it is encumbered by neither aesthetics nor engineering though I would not want to stub my toe on it.

The Barbecue Car (AKA the Dobby car)

It still needed a BBQ cookout grill. I thought I recalled a brand new circular grill, but his old BBQ was no longer in evidence. He remembered that he had loaned it to a friend a couple years before, and the friend, standing next to him, audibly gasped. Left uncovered outdoors, it had totally rusted out, the grill wouldn’t be salvageable. She had obtained another grill, and so they hopped into my 2007 Subaru Forester to go get it. That evening they had a fun food-oriented reunion, the resulting debris still in evidence when poor ailing Charlie decided to brave the wilds of the front yard the following day. 

The barbecue, in situ

Most of the time, the sheep make a mad dash to the front yard like a freight train with faulty brakes on a downslope. When Charlie and Hamish saw the “fire pit,” chairs, and litter, they bunched up at the gate and refused to move farther. Mind you, Charlie was still not feeling so hot, but he is the more adventurous of the two sheep. Hamish is nobody’s fool and waits for Charlie to stick his neck out and watches to see it return intact before he follows. This time they stood neck-and-neck at the gate nearly forever and then slinked out to graze.

Charlie and Hamish inspect the fire pit.

The next day, my daughter and I went out to the car and I noticed a thin black chip on the driver’s seat. I picked it off and it fluttered away. Ash. We peered into the back of the car where the sad barbecue rested comfortably. No longer worthy as a cooker, it apparently was given one final spin around town in my 2007 Subaru Forester Hearse before being forgotten.

Unloading my daughter’s Subaru Forester off the car transport truck.

It just so happens that my daughter’s 2020 Subaru Forester was at that moment on a car transport carrier, and headed our way. This greatly alleviated our annoyance at having to chauffeur around the dead barbecue and we laughed our way to the bank and the pharmacy. In 24 hours, The Barbecue Car would be my son’s problem.

The barbecue lies in repose.

To our complete surprise, my son wasn’t bothered at all by the barbecue tagging along wherever he went. Then suddenly, the barbecue was deemed unworthy by even my son and ejected from the Subaru. It was still a surprise to see it roughly deposited in front of the neighbor’s house. Even though we had spoken about taking both the barbecue and the dead dishwasher* to the dump in a double disposal run, I abruptly took the Home Depot option of having them take the dead dishwasher when the new one is installed. So now it will be a lonely last ride to the dump for the old barbecue. *The Dead Dishwasher is a separate, though parallel story. 

Charlie tries out the soon-to-be-dead garden furniture.

And the fire pit? I have a new volunteer and I like her already.

Me: We will need to level the new turtle tank after we place it.  

Volunteer: I saw some concrete blocks in the fire pit.

Me: The Little Free Library is no longer dry underneath. We need to prop it up.    

Volunteer: I saw some pavers in the fire pit.

The fire pit better watch its step!

Daily Drama 96 – Once in a Lifetime

Standard
Daily Drama 96 – Once in a Lifetime

About one hundred and twenty years ago, I had some pets. Little rodents, mostly, eventually some birds. People brought me their sick pets, their inconvenient pets, pets in need of babysitting, and wild things one-step-above roadkill. I was an animal magnet. How did I become a non-profit? Read the rest of this entry

Daily Drama 87 – It’s All the Same Day, Man

Standard
Daily Drama 87 – It’s All the Same Day, Man

Nothing changes much around here, including the fundraising, to my surprise. Give Big 2020 was as successful this year as it was last year! It’s especially gratifying to have so many repeat donors. Once again, we had a number of totally anonymous donors, so if you mystery guys are reading this, thanks! Or maybe it should be thanks again! Read the rest of this entry

Daily Drama 83 – Deconstructing the Pond

Standard
Daily Drama 83 – Deconstructing the Pond

The ducks need a new pond. It was so bright and shiny when it was new that Dobby refused to swim in it. He was thoroughly disgusted by it.

“What the heck is that supposed to be? Because it sure isn’t a swimming pool. Make it go away. Now.”

Because Dobby was a Prince, he received a very fancy new swimming pool. My son and a couple friends were invited to help move the old tin can pool into the aviary. Because it was capybara-sized, it didn’t fit through any of the gates. You can read about that adventure here.

Okay, sure, it was a convenient hole for the hose to go through, but really? That’sa big meatball hole.

But it’s dead, now. The side that was set into the slope totally rusted out. It created a dabbling area that the ducks liked, but the jagged rusty edges were hard to look at.

Reinventing the wheel. A Funny Farm specialty.

This time, we decided to think it through. The new improved but slightly smaller duck pond rolled right through the gate. Of course, last time, it wasn’t destined for the aviary. But this time it was, and so look at us, now! So simple.

I am the Queen of Siphoning. No, I don’t suck at it. Ever. Look at that water– there are fish in there!

Now, to drain the old pond. It’s too big to roll out the gate. It’s full of fish and sludge. Our thinking cap was still on. Cut that sucker into smithereens. But drain it first.

The new blue plastic pond is smaller, but the water will never be rusty. A capybara would eat it up, though.

I know these fish. Eight of them. Four with IQ’s below 100. Four with IQ’s above 100. I have spent hours trying to net them. This time I will wait until there is hardly any water and make them beg to be netted.

You can see the four easy fish, but even those are tough to catch with this much water in there. I’ll wait. I’m smarter than I look.

I can usually get the first four fish without too much trouble. It’s trying to net the ones smarter than I am that is the problem. Can you say “Try to hide in that sludge, sucker?”

Still a couple fish in there. Mind you, these are not special fish: they are $.29 feeder goldfish. I can’t believe I almost took in a 30yr old koi into sanctuary here. Found a better home for him, instead. I know my limitations.

The last four fish cried uncle and swam into the net. They all went to Dr. Pepper Turtle AirBNB for a week.

Dr. Pepper is hibernating. I have until St. Patrick’s Day (first day of spring here) to get the last two out, and he’ll not be the wiser.

Time to bring in my top wrangler, Connor. He’s the one who deftly lifted the tree off the top of my barn and house last summer. You should all be so lucky to have a Connor next door.

Sparky!

I am always surprised when the neighbors don’t look over the fence, or phone, or ask a few days later. “What the hell were you doing over there on Sunday?” After twenty years, they expect this craziness.

Stompy!

Well, actually, Connor is one of those neighbors. He is usually the one over here making a gawdawful racket and having a great time. It was his birthday present to me, getting this old tin can pool outta here. I think he likes doing this stuff.

The pristine bottom of the pool is still there. How annoying.

The Bartender helped, of course. The project was timed to occur prior to his (second) shoulder operation. In case anyone wonders why he needed a shoulder operation. Come to think of it, I have had a shoulder operation, too, but not as serious as his. I guess Connor is next.

Check out Charlie & Hamish back there. They are pretty good sports about all of this. But they are guy sheep, so like Dobby, they love this stuff. Dobby would hear the chainsaw and could scarcely contain himself until he could investigate.

Connor and The Bartender cut and yanked and pried that old pool out of there. We were astonished to discover that the bottom of the pool was still in perfect condition, no sign of rust. Shiny and new. We tried to think of a repurposed use for it, but Connor’s trailer was going to the dump the very next day, and I looked around at all the other junk I never found a use for and the pool bottom was cut up, too.

The wuss poultry hides in the back. Boxcar, Ping, Frieda, Adelita, Windy, Coffee Bean, and white Adelita. Princess was in the living room, watching football and drinking beer.

The hens retreated to the far edge of the aviary and cowered. The ducks were even farther back, out of sight. None of them were terrified, they are used to the Funny Farm shenanigans. It’s much worse in winter.

I was so excited about the rooster tail of sparks that most of my photos have a fingertip in the corner of the photo. Some of us are slow learners. I should have had fishes number Seven and Eight take the photos.

Yanking is the worst activity, ever, if you are considering the longevity of your physical body. Shoulder, back, it’s never good.

Most of the cutting was finished, but there was still some more pulling and more yanking to be done.

One thing a duck owner learns quickly: Don’t sweat the mud. Trust me, this is clean enough.

Connor tried to leave, but I made him stack up the steps. Some of my elderly ducks have trouble getting in and out of pools. Then I filled the pool.

They love it! Ducks are easy to please, though.

You might think big bright fish would be easy to net out of a little turtle tank but, no. There are still two in there, clearly smarter than I, and I may never be able to net them, unless I drain the tank. Heh heh heh. But six of them are back into the new duck pond. The six dummies, anyway. A couple days later, the bravest ducks were swimming in the new pool. And six of the the fish are in there, tickling their feet.

Daily Drama 73 – Mystery of the Missing Hen

Standard
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.