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Farmette1769's Blog

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Category Archives: Animals

What I want this year is to get back up on my horse.

The Big Man Dakota sporting his shaggy winter coat

The Big Man Dakota sporting his shaggy winter coat

“The Big Man Dakota” (I call him “Bigs”) is officially a pony, measuring 14 hands even. The standard for a horse starts at a height of 14.2 HH (at the withers).

While the weather is nasty and cold, I am slowly beginning stretching exercises, attempting to get my bad, upper spine to be more flexible and less painful.

This is quite the uphill battle, since progress can be non-existent at times. It seems that every day I am back to square one (I know – everyone is tired of hearing me whine). If I were a horse I could whinny instead, which is a much more pleasant sound.

Pony Stallion Yell Plus Bonus Duck Quacks

My Quarter pony’s yell is much more about getting food than his attachment to me. Yet, Bigs does trust me. That took quite some time. He arrived here as a blind, 5-year old stallion, and the blindness due to the frustration of his original owner.

Bigs3

Yes, Bigs is a stallion aka intact male. There are two mares across the way, yet Bigs has never attempted to visit them. Blind or not, 90% of stallions would try. Due to his calm demeanor, it seemed pointless to take anything else away from him.

Rocky the pony is already inside, taking advantage of the run-in with its new weather-proofing  (readied for the Arctic blast of Jan. 6, 2014).

Rocky the pony is already inside, taking advantage of the run-in with its new weather-proofing
(readied for the Arctic blast of Jan. 6, 2014).

Bigs's tendency towards claustrophobia leaves him hesitant of the change, but grain coaxes him in shortly after sunset.

Bigs’s tendency towards claustrophobia leaves him hesitant of the change, but grain coaxes him in shortly after sunset.

Although sightless, Bigs functions well and sometimes acts as if he can see things coming. It has taken me up to 45 minutes to get his bridle and bit on. He tosses his head about with a total lack of cooperation (even with a Hackamore). I have a feeling this is why the former owner got so upset with him.

Blind Pony Navigates Pasture

Bigs can’t see, so he has the fields memorized by feel, getting around quite well. He no longer breaks through fences in a panic. He no longer flees from being patted. Bigs’s overall behavior is actually quite good. I can get easily get on his back and could likely lay down to take a nap too.

CCsaddle

I purchased a very cool, used, close-contact training saddle this past fall of 2013. My aches and pains, enhanced by stress and aggravation got the better of me this season, so I only completed a parked test drive. It fits well and will work for both Bigs and I splendidly, once my hurdles ahead are cleared. In the meantime, Bigs and his companion Shetland pony “Rocky” will keep themselves busy doing what they do best – eating.

Bigs1

Being already run down from physical unrest, my hair-trigger temper has lately become long-term negativity. It has me wrapped up in my own mind, unable to break free of disparity in the human world. There are 7 billion people on the planet. Half of them live without running water or electricity. Therefore they have little or no access to health care, education, law enforcement, transportation, etc.

As one who attempts to follow Buddhist teachings, I must continue to practice not only patience, but also perseverance – and with this new year of 2014, get back up on that horse (pony).

nota bene: I am not looking for a Pep Rally. There is no need for anyone to cheer me on. If I get back up on that pony, that is what the future will bring. If I don’t, something else will happen next.

Chinese New Year 2014 begins January 31, 2014

Bigs2

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I’ve had this metal cup for some years now. It is likely from Ikea, one of our favorite haunts. Meant to hang on a long metal bar in the kitchen, it has served other purposes since leaving the bar behind at our old house.

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Having recently come across it at the same time that our door became void of its spring wreath, I hung it on. The idea that I had was to put things in the cup that were priced finds in the yard – like feathers or wild flowers.

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Someone else had a more important use for the cup. I thought “Who read my mind and started to fill the vessel with moss and weathered leaves?”. I had not yet shared the plan with my family.

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Then it dawned on me that a Carolina wren had beat everyone to the summer door decor. She was not going to leave a baby basket on the stoop. She was going to keep a family on the door. I left her to that task and found other arrangements to house my outdoor treasure hunt winnings.

One night, startled by use of the door, she flew into the house. It was quite the hunt, since she managed to visit every corner of the house before capture.

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Cupped in my hands, the tiny beauty waited patiently. Then I opened my fingers. She flew back out into the night, abandoning her tiny eggs. The nest bin was moved to avoid further disruption and I crossed my fingers that the little wren would return in the morning.

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There are many days in which enjoying the details of life in the country are out of my reach. I wake up to chronic cervical neck pain every day. But with life erupting all around, what choice do we have but to grab onto it, to seize the day?

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Whatever your obstacles, and I know each one of you has many, be patient. The peace will come, even if only for a brief moment.

This is the time to look for a bundle on your doorstep.

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We recently started a VERY small canine rescue. The idea is to adopt one black dog out of Gaston County Animal Shelter and re-home. They charge $90.00 which includes vetting and spay/neuter. Our adoption fee of $95.00 will fund the pull for the next dog and so on.

The Gaston Shelter has a Facebook group (run by a very dedicated volunteer). I browse and re-post/share dogs sometimes to help spread the word for possible adopters. There was a very pregnant dog at the shelter.

We already have one black dog available for adoption. But, I could not stand the idea of putting down a dog that was so full of pups that far along.

That dog is here now. And here is a good story from May 20, 2012.

After checking in on Penelope, I worked outside for an hour. I headed straight in to get a freelance client pitch finished. I had switched the video camera back from the mudroom to the driveway for the day. That was a mistake. Our son Dorian heard pups squeaking. I am so grateful that he did. One half hour more of me being focused on something else would have guaranteed failure in Pup #1’s outcome.

In the mudroom was Penelope and 3 puppies. One was cold, not breathing and not moving. I don’t want to get graphic about what this looked like, but she was dead.

Don’t stop reading yet!

I had just been talking to one of my chick buyers (we hatch and sell chicks for $ to buy food for our livestock) about waking up a dead, cold chick. I have done it once and her mother had done it when she was a kid. Coldness preserves the brain.

Our son grabbed the hand towel I had left on the piano for when the pups arrived. Glad that was handy! I started rubbing her to get her warmed up. This resulted in a few movements. They seemed to be electrical responses only. Again, I won’t get too graphic since it was not a pretty sight.

The project that I had been working on outside was a chick hatcher. I wanted something where the chicks could hatch and not get the incubator dirty. It was now in the living room for testing and adjustments – being homemade. I grabbed the fan and thermostat out and turned the heat lamp on. The top went on with Pup #1 in it. Our son watched through the viewing window while I went to check on the other two pups.

This is where we start to see light.

After they were cleared of goo, I went back to evaluate the situation. She was making some gasping movements like someone just pulled up from near drowning.

Gasping was still her main movement, but the rib cage had a very subtle rising and falling. She was starting to breath. After a while, she started to move. And then to squeak.

What a strong puppy!

She was brought back in to her mom. I kept an eye on her while helpig momma dog get pup sacs open and clear noses/mouths. I slept like a rock last night.

Pup #1 is FAT and full term. She also has her mother’s life saving colostrum to boost up her immune system. This pup is acting no differently than the other pups.

Here she is one day later: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AANlSR_nA0

I grabbed the first safe thing I saw to tag her with. It is a pink silly band – shaped like a dinosaur. We’ll check her a bit more often than the other pups, but she is eating and squirming like champ!

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Goats have quite a lot of horsepower for their size. We have four pygmy goats. Ours are 35-50 pounds each. One of them can make a formidable opponent in tug-of-war. When you need to move an unwilling goat on a lead, that is the game you play.

They have several jobs on the farmette, one of which is being a playful, cute pet. Goats are also foragers, and so clear brush like no weed-eater you’ve ever seen. They produce milk, which can be a great source of dairy foods for your household. Hopefully, this year will be the one that we actually try milking our goats. We have two very tame girls that should not be too much trouble to train to the milking stand.

Our little billy goat boy, Jeffrey, has turned out just as planned. He is very small, but gets his job done with his harem.

Jeffrey - Our Herd Sire

A nanny has to give birth in order to produce milk. A lot of people take the kids away and bottle feed. This way, the nanny will think of you as her kid when you are milking. Then you can share the milk with her real kids. The following pic is of Luna, who is 1/2 Nigerian dwarf and 1/2 pygmy. She should make a great milker since she is tame and friendly. Also, the Nigerian blood will make for better milk production.

Luna - Nanny #2

I had to give Luna extra attention when she was born since she was a super-runt, being half the size of her two brothers (her mother had triplets). She is my favorite due to the puppy dog-like personality that developed from the extra care.

We sell off the boys (you only need one). The sales goes into our farmette’s feed and grain money jar. Goats are a great livestock animals since they serve so many purposes. And again, they are very endearing too.

Special Goat Tip; Double up on the collar and connection when you leave them out on a lead. They are very agile, mischievous animals and it helps to have back-up security on tie-outs.

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2011 is here and it is time to pair down. Doing this quarterly helps keep an appropriate number of livestock living on our 5 acre Farmette. Reducing numbers now makes way for the Spring goat births and fowl egg hatching. Also, the original plans for building up the Farmette had to be scaled down due to a medical condition that slows me down.

The most recent to go was “Billy the Kid”. We have enough brush clearing goats, so this wether (banded/neutered male/billy) goat was not a necessity.

8 month old neutered male pygmy goat - SOLD

He had gotten quite fat and was very happy staying with his mother in our little herd. But, it was time for him to move on.

"Billy the Kid" (right) with his Mom "Olivia"

BtK could not have gotten a better home. He was a Christmas gift for the mother of a very nice young couple. The mother kept livestock for pets – not to eat…

If we have any boy goats born this Spring, they will be sold off when weaned and will not linger this time around. Only one boy – the herd sire – is needed here.

We enjoy our ducks, but they love free ranging. Unluckily, they do not come back to roost at night and become easy targets for foxes, coyotes and raccoons.

Two Duck Hens

The ducks have been penned since our trouble with predators. They would be happier loose and with a pond. They are advertised for sale on craig’s list.

There is also an Ameraucana Rooster up for grabs. He is a good boy and a beauty.

A. Rooster - SOLD

He is the last of the standard sized chickens for sale. There is one regular sized hen that we will keep since she was raised here from an egg. She’ll be bred into the Bantam flock this year or will just provide some nice big blue eggs for our breakfast table.

UPDATE: Went ahead and sold the last Standard Hen (Ameraucana/Jersey Giant) with the Rooster in the pic. The Duck sale has been delayed since they are the only ones laying right now – we do love fresh eggs.

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It is hard to write about the hard times on the Farmette. But it is important that everyone know that it is not all fun and games. Sometimes you lose livestock – and not to old age.

Parasites, illness and predators are a constant threat. The last chicken purchases may have brought in an illness. It could have been mice sneaking in to salvage any uneaten grain. It could have been carried on the wind from other birds. We lost several birds to sickness recently.

It is difficult when you are attempting to keep your Farmette natural and organic. I try to hold back as much as possible before treating birds with chemical based solutions. There are two little hens in a crate in the garage right now. Since they have both had the eye/sinus infections twice, I finally let go and am treating them with store bought antibiotics in their water.

This illness seemed to be compounded by some type of internal parasites, even though everyone was recently de-wormed. A couple of them just did not put on adequate weight as they were maturing. They were the ones became sick and did not recover.

One of the young guineas caught his head in the fence when poking it in the turkey coop. Fowl are very territorial. The turkeys pecked him to death in his vulnerable position. Our lovely little bantam hen, Pumpkin, ventured into the back fenced area with the dogs. The pack instinct set in and she did not make it back out.

Then there was the pen massacre. Something (weasel, cat, racoon…?) discovered an easy way to get a meal. The really nasty part about that was that it must think that bird heads are a delicacy, since it left the remainder of some of my little birds for the gruesome discovery.

There are no pictures for this blog. I’d really like to get all of those images out of my head.

So, now only the bantam chicken group is allowed to free range and only during the day. They get locked up at night now. Actually, the pigeon and 2 remaining guineas join them for sleepovers. They roost high off the ground, so they are the super free rangers, but they must feel safer still in the main coop.

The main coop needs work. If the funds can ever be raised, we would love to have a big barn to shelter the whole crew. But, for now, the coop seems to be keeping Jack the Ripper out.

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October is here. Introducing our Homing Pigeon seemed appropriate to help celebrate this month’s holiday – Halloween. His/Her name is “Boo” (we think she is a her, but that is not a certainty).

This type of homing pigeon is often referred to as a White Wedding Dove. Although quite elegant, they are not really doves. They were bred to release at weddings. The idea is that the keeper gets their birds back, since homing pigeons, if trained, will just fly home from the ceremony.

 

Boo

 

Since we purchased our homing pigeon as an adult, her wing feathers were clipped, so that she would not fly away. She was also kept in a big crate cage, so that no predators could take advantage of her vulnerable state.

By the time her feathers had grown back in, she was pretty content with her surroundings, so the mesh door was taken off of her crate. She had no desire to go very far and kept very close to her refuge.

It has been at least a few weeks since she was let free and she is now spreading her wings more often and venturing out a little farther. Yesterday, I was riding hay out to the ponies on the lawn tractor and she came swooping right at me, just missing my path forward. If you were not expecting it, that might be a frightening experience, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.

Even more frightening can be the approach of a jealous hen.

 

Boo and Pumpkin

 

Pumpkin, a Bantam Americauna (from the Pic/Photo #7 posting), has grown up to be a spoiled pet chicken. Whenever I am in the back feeding the flock, she jumps up on my arm to get pet and babied. Her sister has been trying that trick out too. I hope that the whole flock does not copy them. One or two overly friendly birds is plenty.

Pumpkin actually attacked Boo, but I did not catch that with the camera – poor Boo. She succeeded in chasing Boo away and stole the show. She knew that this blog should be titled after this month’s holiday, although alternatives such as “Pigeon Chickens Out” or “Which Came In First – The Chicken or the Pigeon?” were in the running. What other choice did I truly have for a title with birds name Boo and Pumpkin?

 

Pumpkin

 

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