Tag Archives: winter

Daily Drama 61

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Daily Drama 61

Editing Dobby’s book has kept me so busy writing that I am neglecting the blog posts. Today, the Funny Farm is sad that my handicapped hen, Lula, has decided to fly up to the big roost in the sky. She came here five years ago, became lame at about 2-1/2 years, and stopped walking altogether two years ago. Daily meloxicam uprighted her, and she hobbled around, avoiding the other hens for a year. I finally moved her to the infirmary about a year ago, leaving the door open so she could come and go on her own.

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Princess Blur and Lula outside Dobby’s kitchen door. A lot of good stuff leaks out that door.

Last September, a tiny opinionated hen came to live with us. Blur’s sister had died and she couldn’t stop talking about it. Once here, she quickly became PRINCESS Blur, but she did quiet down. The size of a pigeon, she fights the cats, the other hens are afraid of her, and even Dobby is baffled. She has never laid an egg. Princess adored big Lula, though. They spent their days together, and when Lula’s lameness progressed, Princess Blur moved into the infirmary with her. In hindsight, they spent this last month beak-to-beak, neither one venturing into the horrific weather. I should have known Lula was not well. It will be interesting to hear what Princess Blur has to say about her.

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Princess whispers into Lula’s ear. They were inseparable.

The east coast is not alone when it comes to weird winter weather. We have had cold and snow and many Mallards. Many freeloading mallards. My resident pair are somewhat erratic, so Mrs. Mallard must have a nest, but she isn’t sitting yet. Sitting ducks hold their necks differently, as if they have spent too much time in one position. Their voice also changes, and their message is different. We aren’t there yet, but she has a nest, and it is nearby. I think they even spent the night on the swimming pool. I have never seen that before in the ten years since they have been here.

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Mallards on my roof. What must the neighbors think?

Dobby is making fair progress toward a recovery. He was feeling pretty good when he made these brown footprints. He was leaving the kitchen. Is that better or worse than if he had been coming in? There’s so much medicine in his milk now, that we ought to come up with a better word than “milk” which no longer describes it.

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Brown footprints: the Dobby version of yellow snow. 

Of course, we had a wind storm, too. A big birch branch crashed right through the wire roof of the aviary. It was a missed opportunity for the raccoons because my good neighbor fixed it that day.

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Timber!

The afternoon Garden Party has been damp. On good days it’s moist. Horrible days it is like living under a waterfall. I’m the one who wanted to live in a wetland, though. It’s groundwater, and it oozes up wherever it wants to. The asphalt out front has giraffe patterned cracks all over it. The cracks spit bubbles and ooze, eventually creating a flow down the street past the ambitious city public works drainage project that failed to take into account the source of the water. MY PROPERTY.

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Bird seed anyone? We’re eating it under a table because we don’t like soup.

Dobby IS improving, though he had a setback last week. He slipped on the deck when temperatures rose enough to turn the organics and rain into a coating of Deck Slime. There are now anti-skid rugs everywhere, and a bunch of cheap burlap bags as filler between the gaps. The hardware store guys roll their eyes when I tell them the bags have to be from Brazilian coffee, not African or Central American. Then they obligingly dig through the stack, commenting on the origins, and noticing the different bags for the first time.

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It’s the same bed, but different. For once I didn’t freak out about the change.

We lowered Dobby’s bed, so that the step up isn’t as steep. It used to have a standard box spring, but we switched it out for a “bunky board” which is a shallower mattress support. Now he can step out onto a big wide dog bed, and it’s a lot easier for him.

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Mine, all mine!

He’s feeling strong enough again to go to the front yard to graze . . . on non-existent winter grass. Prey animals are wary and they won’t leave a safe territory unless they have to. When Dobby is not feeling strong, he stays in the kitchen, playing pinochle and drinking mint juleps. Today he ignored the squealing little girls playing next door and went out to graze, so I know he is feeling pretty good.

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If you don’t let me in, I’ll bite the door. Again.

Dobby thinks he should be able to go in through the front door. In eight years, I don’t think I have ever let him in through that door. For eight years he has been begging.

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You’re late with my corn.

Oh, Dobby. He’s not very patient. His “offerings” have been top form, though. In an effort to offset his usual high-starch bad diet, I have been supplementing his vegetables with a bucket of cut bamboo foliage, in addition to what he grazes on his own. The fabulous local grocer, who supplies Dobby’s corn and romaine at a very reasonable markup, has been ordering us dandelion greens, too. The very same greens that I can pick for free from the garden this summer, are now a gourmet Dobby-treat in winter. I dole them out one-at-a-time to make certain Dobby appreciates them.

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Little Spitfire is helping me edit Dobby’s book. If my desk was cleared off (or if someone lit a bonfire to it) I could set up her playpen. She would love that. For now she is happy with the cubby holes and a paper clip. She’s a fightin’-bitin’ female, but my farmer’s hands are like leather, so the joke’s on her! She’ll settle down after a while.

Capy-painting

This is the working cover for Dobby’s book. We’ve been trying out some jacket copy on his fans, and hope to have a finished rough draft completed in a couple days. (Unless I remember to prepare my taxes.) It will undergo various levels of scrutiny, head off to a publisher, and Bob’s Your Uncle! That’s the plan, and I will keep you posted. It will be ready for summer reading, or bust!

 

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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!

 

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 49

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Daily Drama 49

I wasn’t busy enough, so I am now officially not retired. Sixty-four is an odd time of life to start a new career, but my volunteer status no longer adequately describes my activities, so I have been hired. Coincidentally, my wildlife photography, my non-stop blogs, and my stunning cinematography have been derailed. The dramas have no respect, and continue to unload at an alarming rate. Currently, the blog-waiting room at the Stacy’s Funny Farm Station is taking numbers, but all of the clerks are out to lunch.

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Miss Honey Bunny, looking so very innocent

For instance, there is still a rabbit at large in the guinea pig room. I am losing confidence that Honey Bunny will be reunited with her owner in the near future, but she is a lot of fun for now. Other than the fact that she has started to mark the carpet. My own Bonnie Bunny has previously attacked a rabbit- her own sister!- so I don’t dare introduce them.

Snow White, the dove, is finally perking up. I had brought her inside and she did well at first but then languished. I still don’t want her to have direct contact with her daughter, The Pirate, until I am certain she is healthy. For the past four days, I have been wheeling her cage into the kitchen so they can “flock,” and they are eating together (from afar) and Snowy is suddenly showing signs that she will completely recover. Next I will let them interact, supervised, and determine whether they want to share a cage. Snow White probably thought she was doomed to flock with guinea pigs. Oh, the horror of it!

In fact, the guinea pigs are a fine little herd. Carl’s eight year old legs still scurry with the youngest of them. He honestly doesn’t seem any older than the other dudes. Speaking of old dudes, my antique cockatiel, Jorge, still occasionally falls off his perch onto the padded cage floor. I’m beginning to think he is a LOT older than the sixteen years I know about. I’m his third owner, and he’s been annoying me here for ten years.

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Jello the hen, bathing beauty

The new hens are settling in, laying eggs, begging and underfoot. The flock dynamics are fascinating: little Bianca is now shunned by the two hens she arrived with, and old Jello seems happy to have her as a new companion. And yet, the roosting positions vary from night to night, with Bianca randomly sleeping near the two and then Jello. Little Lula sleeps below, but still manages to get off the ground. She has been on Metacam for a year, and if she ever dies we might discover what her problem is. She is a sweet happy hen, comes when I call her each morning for her medicine.

We had 11″ of rain in January, almost 1/3 of our yearly rainfall. Even the ducks are sick of it. Norman’s feathers are in poor condition, and the Muscovies look pretty bad on wet days, too. They have a heat lamp and whole wheat and cracked corn treats, but we’d rather have some sun.

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Quasimodo, not eating his food because it’s FEBRUARY

Quasimodo the turtle has been out a few times this winter. He’s been here since 2009, and each winter I wonder whether I should bring him in or let him hibernate. In this photo you can see the bulge at his right cheek, a calcium deposit he’s had since before he came here to live. I feed him when I see him, but he really isn’t interested in eating during winter. Dr. Pepper has emerged a couple times, too, but not for long.

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Lotsa mallards . . . oh boy, look at the steps. Will they make it to summer?

The crazy wild mallards are proliferating. There were 26 one afternoon last week, right at the time of day my flock generally emerges for the Garden Party refreshments. A couple of the mallard ducks march directly into the aviary, turn right at the turtle tank, enter the barn, and help themselves to the poultry food! I now have to make a sweep for mallards before I secure the gate for the night. One morning last week, a drake surprised me by flying off the roof onto the ground in front of me as I walked out with the breakfast treats. Entering the aviary I was greeted by a female mallard, merrily swimming in the duck pond. She was reluctant to leave, though her drake was mighty relieved to have her released.

My tomcats vacillate between boring and completely frustrating. Grover has decided to discover whether it is possible to actually perish from hairballs. Kitty Hawk is easy enough to handle that I occasionally grant him the privilege of walking the circuit around the house. Those days are over as he apparently strayed across the street. I figured that out when I heard the distant cat fight- who could that be?

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Prince Dobalob “I’m bored!”

Dobby, my precious angel, has been saving “gifts” for me, letting loose in the kitchen as I return home for school. He’s so thoughtful. I keep telling myself it’s the weather. You might think a rainforest animal would like the rain, but no. He seems to disapprove of rain, though honestly, in winter he disapproves of almost everything except corn-on-the-cob.

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Mr. Wooly Bear

There has been a tiny visitor at our front door, and I have almost stepped on him twice. The second time I brought him in for a photo shoot. It’s spring when wooly bear caterpillars appear, right? Summer is surely coming!

Daily Drama 48

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Daily Drama 48

It’s so cold out that I consciously zip up my jacket and put my gloves on before I open the door to go out. What that means for the Funny Farm is ICE MANAGEMENT. Some of you are already rolling your eyes or nodding your head or both. The rest of you have a big question mark hovering over your head.

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This is a 3″ (7.5cm) ice spike or spicule in one of the cat water dishes.

I didn’t think I would ever appreciate the arctic engineering course I took, but this week’s weather is decidedly Alaska-ish. Parking lots in Alaska need to include “snow storage” areas, because, as you might imagine, constant snow plowing means huge mountains of snow building up from October through April. Similarly, cracking ice out of Funny Farm water dishes (delicately, so the dish doesn’t break) results in a pile of ice blocks that partially melt together before they re-freeze together overnight. If you have a week’s worth of freezing weather, you soon have a half dozen frozen ice mountains deposited throughout your pens. Do they block a gate? Are they in the main pathway? Are they placed where the sun can melt them or cause them to sublimate, or are they north of an object where they will take a week to go away? Similarly, I check all the gate swing areas and excavate so that the build up of hoar frost doesn’t eventually freeze me out of the aviary.

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Analog rain gauge, not quite up to the task. More of the ice has sublimated than has melted, resulting in a leaning cylinder of ice decidedly narrower than the gauge.

I think weather is fascinating, and I am proud to say that the Funny Farm now has it’s own weather station! It’s connected to the Weather Underground, so that everyone can check in and see how truly miserable little Dobby is. The mallards show up in huge flocks for the afternoon garden party. It’s eery to see a turtle looking up at you through thick ice. The hummingbirds pouf out down to cover their tiny feet as they hover at the feeders. Funny Farm ducks, geese, even the hens take it pretty well, though I do have heated kennel pads for the cats. I also set out one heat lamp in the barn, but only Dobby seems interested in it.

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The Prince’s heat lamp. It’s hung high enough so that he can’t rub his morrillo on the bulb.

When I ask him if he wants to go to the front yard, he holds up a paw to let me know it is too cold for his feet today. For a while I was cutting him a bucket full of bamboo, but it is totally frozen now and he won’t eat it. Hay and lettuce will have to suffice.

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Too cold today!

This is his sixth winter, so he knows the drill. He hangs out in the kitchen during the day, and enrichment becomes important. Unless he is napping. Maybe I’ll finally get that video of him snoring: so far I have filmed several tedious hours of him sleeping. Guests feed him extra corn, he does tricks to get my attention, and he gets a little silly.

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Bucket-Butt

I have a special big quilt I spread out for him at night, and special indoor Disney Princess slumber party blankets. I hang an insulated curtain around the bird cages in case Dobby drags a blanket out that sticks the door open all night, weather hovering around 20°f (-6.5°c). If the temperatures fall that low, his heated outdoor pen can’t keep up and his blankets freeze stiff. That’s where I draw the line and bring him in to sleep.

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“My milk bowl is empty!”

Normally, The Bartender mops Dobby’s kitchen area every night, all the blankets and rugs get washed, the milk bowl gets scrubbed and ready for morning. None of that happens when he is inside 24 hrs a day. If he leaves for a moment, I grab a rug or blanket and wash it, but eventually I give up and everything gets dank and a little bit ripe. It’s always about then that the guests arrive.

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Dobby the sun worshipper. (Sun Worship, explained, but not in a family friendly way- Rated R.) Also note that you can see the weather station on the deck railing, stage left.

The sun doesn’t seem to work any magic at low temperatures, but Prince Dobalob, the sun worshipper, never gives up. Plus, there is another kind of sunshine that always works. Dobby has lots of friends, and one of his visitors sent him this fabulous drawing!

Dobby loves visitors!

Meanwhile, icy morning chores include shlepping gallon jugs of hot water out to the aviary. Putting the hummingbird feeders back out at dawn and going back to bed. Filling and re-filling the bird feeders and re-attaching squirrel guards to the suet feeders. Hot tub after hot tub for my super-sized semi-aquatic pet. Looking up at the sky and hoping it doesn’t snow on him.

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Must remind The Bartender to peel his oranges in single spiral so they look nice in the photos.

We’re past the solstice, now, so summer sunshine is coming. Isn’t it?


Check out the Stacy’s Funny Farm Weather Station!

http://www.wunderground.com/swf/Rapid_Fire.swf?units=both&station=KWALAKEF13