I know, I know, the song is Who But a Fool (Thief into Paradise), not (Sheep into Paradise). But now that I have heard it that way, it will forever be a song about Charlie and Hamish. The joke is, this is hardly paradise right now. Read the rest of this entry
Even without Dobby and the rescues, it would be wild and crazy here, especially in April. The songbirds are singing, the hummingbirds have migrated from the feeders to the flowers blooming in the yard, and I listen for peeps that might mean an imperiled duckling.
Distant honking caused me to look up at the kitchen skylight in time to see a flock of geese flying back north. I have seen a few “V’s” fly by, but this is an entire flock.
Half an hour later, my neighbor knocked on the door. (WOW! I have forgotten what 9 months pregnant looks like!) She saw three deer walk out of my yard, and knowing how wild it can be here, wanted to make certain they weren’t escapees of mine! (Note to self: invite her over, let her boys feed the guinea pigs, give her a tour and a dozen eggs.) The deer were down at the end of the street, and I’m sure we have all seen better deer photos than this, but after 18 years here, I am stunned at the idea of deer wandering through. Over the fences. Eating Dobby’s grass and maybe even his bamboo!
Sure enough, deer hoof prints all over the yard. There are other prints, too, out at the street by the garbage cans. Who was this?
We have coyotes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, songbirds, hawks, owls, herons, and six kinds of woodpeckers. And ducks. Mallards are common, but I have had a Wood Duck drop by in the winter. A Bald Eagle swooped through here a month ago. No Mountain Beavers yet, but I keep hoping. I think it’s too flat and wet here.
This is a mallard nest by my front door. I watched her drop from the sky and scuttle into this nest. It looks the same whether or not she is in it, her camouflage is so perfect. She abandoned this nest, leaving two pretty blue eggs. She’s been hanging in my back yard for maybe 12 years now, before Dobby came. She’s brought her brood into the house, taking the front-door to kitchen route that Dobby craves when he begs by that door. Everyone knows that route exists, like the Northwest Passage, but only Mrs. Mallard has had the privilege of using it. No wonder Dobby is jealous!
This year, I can see her next door with her precious brood. You can count six in this photo. There used to be seven, and I chased “seven” back to her more than once when I found the little explorer in my creek. Alas, nature does not reward the babes who stray. No ducklings survived here last year, and neighbors later told me that Bald Eagles got them all. The angst can destroy you. Take a deep breath and do what you can, let the rest go. Yesterday she had only two ducklings. I’m afraid to look today.
I put out cracked corn: proper poultry food gets sour and moldy the moment it touches ground. Wild bird seed attracts “undesirables” and it is available in my back yard for “Ducks In The Know.” The food I put out is mostly for the momma ducks, anyway. The babies just mess around. They ate their proper baby duck food already. It’s called “duckweed.”
I suppose they eat other stuff, too. Connor was here today and carefully moved some wood in the front yard. Sure enough, there was a salamander under it. In this neighborhood, life lurks in out-of-the-way corners, and you might as well anticipate it. Inches away, the Creature From the Black Lagoon watches us.
Dobby has a mucky wallow in the front yard. Sometimes it’s a little pond, sometimes it’s a mud hole. It depends upon the groundwater, which, in turn, depends upon the rainfall. It suddenly dried up today. He was so disappointed!
Instead of rolling in the mud, he traipsed through it and then led me back to the Duckling Viewing Area. He used to sit back there and gaze at the pond, but he has been too busy to do that lately.
Well, how about that! Mr. Opossum is at the Duckling Viewing Area. Harumph! Move along, dude! He skedaddled to the Opossum Highway on top of the fence, and headed toward the back yard. Terrific. All my hens and ducks are out, but Norman the Goose will watch out for them. I know this guy, anyway, and all he ever catches is eggs, empty cat food cans, and occasionally he massacres a discarded corn cob overnight.
Dobby and I checked on the ducks and still saw six ducklings. This momma Mallard now has two drakes watching over her and her brood. Whatever it takes, I don’t judge.
Mr. Opossum wasn’t easily deterred, and I saw him in the back yard a while later. He’s perched on Opossum Highway, but outside the aviary. There’s a bushy evergreen growing through the fence and it creates a nice little observation platform. I wonder how often he perches there, watching my flock. He’s going to be sad when he discovers a nasty wad of chickenwire jammed in there.
Dobby is back inside the aviary, sitting in another lovely mudhole. So perfect.
Next, Dobby went into the hot tub to get clean, with a fan club cheering him on. It’s also slightly possible that they were waiting for him to get out so they could get in.
If you don’t get all the way in, and don’t scrub or use soap, bath results can vary.
Oh well, I guess he wasn’t through testing all of the Funny Farm mud holes. This one offers tender new raspberry sprouts. When he eats them, I don’t get raspberries later in the summer. That’s why I carefully fenced them off.
Wait! What about the hot tub? Don’t you want to go back in before you go into the kitchen? Please don’t shake! Dobby? At least it’s only mud this time. That’s how bad he is: I’m relieved that he’s only covered in mud. If you have to ask what’s worse, then you haven’t read his book! You can also follow him on his secret Facebook profile.
Blogging is not a priority for me this month. Dobby is participating in NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. The Prince has decided to write his autobiography. You might think this has nothing to do with me, but it has resulted in a lot of encouragement, research, consultation, and plain old butt-kicking from ye olde Farm Manager. He wants to do this very much, but he hasn’t the discipline or skills to go it alone.
Fortunately, my illustrator, Sonya Reasor has stepped in to help Dobby on this worthy project. It’s inspiring to see Dobby come to life on someone else’s sketch pad for a change.
My mornings are busy, and in addition to the usual chores, leaves are falling onto the wire netting that secures the roof of the aviary. If I don’t pick those before it snows, the weight of snow+leaves=broken roof. We had temperatures down to freezing night before last, so I will soon be winterizing the swimming pool pump and packing away all of the freeze-sensitive accoutrements around here. Time to switch Dobby to his heavier blankets, ratchet up his heater, increase his corn ration.
The three new four-year-old Golden Laced Wyandotte hens have already moved from the bully pen out to the general population. I guess they have never had a roosting perch, because they roost in a huddled pile-up next to the cat food dishes. Not a big hit with the cats, but they are sweet old traditional hens. They remind me of the hens in Chicken Run. (One of the best movies ever made, BTW.) Frieda, in particular is a friendly old gal, curious about everything I do.
Princess Blur is one of a kind, and I have known quite a few chickens. She befriended my old handicapped hen, Lula, and I have to carry them everywhere together. Blur is the only hen who doesn’t go home to roost, unlike the old adage. Oh, no, she flies up into the apple tree at dusk. Fortunately she prefers a low branch where I can pluck her down and carry her to her Official, if not preferred, roost in the safe and dry barn, near her beloved Lula.
Princess Blur is so funny and tiny. My other hens don’t know what to make of her.
Dobby is waiting patiently for me to take him to the front yard. The grass is nearly gone, but he still finds greens here and there. The bamboo is spreading like wildfire, but he eats it all winter long.
We walk through this storage area when we go to the front yard. We have had record rainfall and the ground is saturated. My entire yard is a mudhole, and there is an inch of standing water over most of the front lawn.
Dobby wants everyone to see his feet.
Dobby’s preference is to have his grazing catered so that he can enjoy a snack with his friends. I used to provide a cracked corn snack in the afternoons, but a gang of mallards keep crashing the party. Seriously, 30-40 mallards fly over, land in Dobby’s pool, and present vouchers for drinks and bar snacks as if they were entitled. I have been weaning them of this indulgence, but there is still a core group of half a dozen mallards who know their way around here and go into the aviary where the real duck food is available. Scoundrels.
For some reason, I cannot take a decent photograph of my silly little white duck, Ping. Today she sat and gave me the stinkeye while I administered medication to a dove. Yesterday, Norman and the flock was antsy at the end of the day. Turns out Ping forgot how to come around the apple tree fence, and was left behind, frantically pacing when Norman brought everyone else into the aviary for the night.
It isn’t much different indoors. Rats, it turns out, are little beggars. Fortunately, they are eternally grateful even for stale graham crackers.
We are all devastated at the death of our little old guinea pig, Carl Sagan. No one felt the loss more than Stevie Ray, who kept vigil in his special observation post long beyond necessity. He gazed longingly at the former location of Carl’s cuddle cup, and rather ignored snack time unless I handed him the treats. Fortunately, Squirrel was ready to be introduced into Stevie Ray’s spacious cage, and after nightly floor time on neutral territory, the big day arrived.
During the Monday Mayhem otherwise known as Guinea Pig Cage Cleaning Day, Squirrel moved in. He was so, well, squirrely, that I wasn’t convinced it would work, but poor Stevie Ray was so despondent, that even rambunctious Squirrel was a welcome respite. The two boars are getting along nicely. Stevie Ray is eating normally again and as long as the carrots keep coming, Squirrel will be happy!
Dobby goes out to sleep in his night pen every night. Fat Bonnie takes advantage of this and hops around to his side of the wall where we set up toys and treats for her. She would like it better if we didn’t also let the birds out for an evening flight. They like to land on her blanket and tease her. It’s not nice to tease dummies, but she is smarter than I thought! Not only does she “stand up for a cookie” but she also “turns around for a blueberry!” I never thought I’d see the day when Bonnie could do a trick!
What is Dobby looking at? Why did he park himself at the gate to the aviary?
It’s raccoon season. I have a love-hate relationship with raccoons. As long as they stay out of my aviary and leave us alone, I’m okay with them. But they are clever, vicious, disease-ridden, and a constant reminder for me to be ever-vigilant.
It’s great having volunteers! Look at Kim, pretending to be a guinea pig!
The cage needed a tune-up. I’m not willing to leave the walls unprotected to see if the guinea pigs try to eat them like my rabbits and parakeets do. However, the back panels protecting the wall were odd colors, and were slipping down. They’re all white now, and attached to the horizontal red ones for support.
Kim is especially partial to Carl Sagan.
We had a big windstorm and 14 hour power failure. Because Connor trimmed back all those branches last summer, we didn’t have any damage to the aviary. I was surprised to discover that the old mailboxes, now relocated as birdhouses to the front yard, had taken a hit.
In the photo above, please also notice the horizontal branch to the left of the mailboxes. That was not my tree until it fell into my yard Saturday night.
Here’s that tree, or rather, what’s left of the treetop after it shattered itself on the old mailboxes.
In the photo below, you can see where the tree “crossed the line.”
The last tree that tried to escape onto my property was a full-sized weeping willow. When it fell over, the roots turned skyward, breaking the edge of the pond, causing a bit of a flood. This attempted escape was very subtle.
The photo below looks back at their property from mine, toward the newly created stump. That’s Scamp’s turtle pond to the right. A second tree broke off near this one and is still laying in the middle of his pond. My neighbor lost 6 trees altogether. It’s all wetland over there, and the dead fallen trees make excellent habitat for amphibians.
My neighbor is very efficient and has already removed the tree off our fence. The larger bent pipe is the top rail of the fence. It’s still high enough to keep curious capybaras out of his pond. (Yes, I should take him over there, but I’m not confident I would ever get him to come back. Plus, from the pond next door he would readily find the creek that leads to nearby Lake Washington.) The smaller pipe, not so bent, is electrical conduit leading out to the greenhouse. Maybe I should get that checked out someday.
Earlier in the week, tragedy strikes. The graveyard has a new resident.
Little Krumpit, my handicapped Sparrow, died abruptly at the age of 5 years. This has been a year of many losses, but I am surprised at how much I miss this tiny bird. My little indoor flock has also been affected by his departure.
Dobby has been allowed to carve his own pumpkin. He has gashed a couple jagged scars in it. Now that Halloween has passed, we’ll see if he’s interested in sharing it with the guinea pigs, rabbits, and chickens. Or whether the squirrels will haul it up a tree, to join those decoys!
There has been so much drama lately that I haven’t had time to write about it! School has started again, and with it my 4th year volunteering in a 6th grade class. I’m fortunate to have the time to help out there. We’ve had some drama here at the Funny Farm, though. Never a dull moment!
There are three Highbush Cranberry bushes, berrying away behind Dobby in this photo.
I’ve picked most of these blueberries, but I have several bushes producing. Dobby eats the bushes, but not the blueberries. Sigh. And, sadly my tomatoes look just like this, but green. Yep, about this size. Oh well. There are a couple that turned red, but they’re pretty intense. And now a huge branch is on the ground.
I planted a pot of bamboo in the back yard for Dobby and surrounded it with protective fencing so it can establish. Good luck with that.
We’re starting to get some visitors to Dobby’s pool. I have mixed feelings about having a flock of mallards spending the day in Dobby’s pool, but they are shy and don’t usually stay long.
The drakes are getting along nicely these days, and the bully pen is closed for the season.
Why is Dobby so pouffy?
Does everyone know about this trick? There is a rumor out that capybaras poop in water, but in fact, adult capybaras go on hard ground. Dobby gets inspired when I clean his up, and loves to go directly into my dustpan!
You might think I am exaggerating his obsession with poop, but I assure you that I am not.
Speaking of facts, this is the quantity that I clean up every morning, including the more current embellishment. There will be another dustpan this full by the end of the day.
Not to change the subject or anything. This is a typical load from the Feed Store. The back seat is down, too, and there is a pile this big further back. So double what you see here.
I thought this “chicken toy” was optimistic. My hens would be bored with that in a minute. I know some sad little guinea pigs that will like it, though.
Finally, the day was ruined by Facebook bots. They deleted Dobby’s “Prince Dobalob”profile. Again. People are suggesting a page, but he has had a page since the deletion last April. I guess nobody sees the pages. Which is why I keep making profiles.
You want to see that again?