Friday, May 26, 2006

Goslings, chicks, flies and fillies

After four of our original six goslings were killed by our puppies, I ordered 10 more goslings on-line and yesterday the post lady delivered them in a box along with our mail. These are weeder geese and as the name implies they are used in organic farming to weed crops. The grey Toulouse goslings were larger at the same age and always had a grey undertone to their yellow fuzz. These are small, more ducking size, with bright yellow fuzz and pale pink beaks, as adults they will be white.

Soon the chicks, which are just more than a month old, will be moved from their coop in the barn to the coop where the adult chickens roost. They have been let out of their coop during the daylight hours for the last two days and are exploring the barn and some of the area just outside the door. Ian and I spend quite a bit of time rounding them up at night. There was a thunderstorm here in early evening and as we headed to the house just after chicken herding I heard a lonely peep. There at the corner of the barn stood a drenched Buff Orpington chick wondering where its siblings had gone. Ian cornered it against a hay bale and it was popped back into the coop. Once the chicks are relocated to the larger coop and these young goslings are a bit older, I will house the dozen geese in the barn at night.

The flies are beginning to hatch so we outfitted the horses with fly masks. This type covers their ears and eyes in a soft mesh. Ian said they look like funny party hats. They really can see through the mesh and they must be comfy because they’ve not been rubbed off. They close with Velcro so if the mask gets stuck on something the horse can pull free.

Bonnie and the twins have returned home to Donna’s. The smaller filly’s legs are quite twisted and Donna has been researching how to splint the legs, trim the hooves and exercise the tendons to lengthen and straighten in hopes of having an adult horse without arthritis problems.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Xtreme Kiss Makes Six

This morning Ian and I went to see our newest horses. Late last week we bought Cairo’s mother Windy and the foal she was carrying. Windy is an eight-year-old purebred Arabian mare. She is broke to ride and we will use her as a brood mare. She delivered her foal, a stud colt, on Sunday morning. He is a National Show Horse. On-line encyclopedia Wikipedia describes that breed as follows:

The National Show Horse, founded in the 1980s, is a cross between an American Saddlebred and an Arabian or a combination between an American Saddlebred, Arabian, and National Show Horse blood. Both mares and stallions must be registered with their appropriate registries. Although any combination of these three breeds may be used, there must be at least 25% Arabian blood in the horse to be registered.

The horses combine the beauty of the Arabian with the flashiness of the Saddlebred. The resulting horse has the high-set, upright, long and swan-like neck of the Saddlebred. The breed is usually used for saddleseat riding. They are flashy park horses, with high-stepping action and a very elevated front end. A versatile breed, they can also be used for jumping, endurance, dressage, or western riding. They are very friendly, willing to work, energetic and can be any color.

As the photo of Windy and foal shows, he is a tobiano paint pattern that is chestnut and white in color.

His registered name will be Xtreme Kiss, after his mother RJ Kissthe Wind (Windy) and American Saddlebred sire TF Xtreme. I suppose we’ll just call him Kiss. Kiss and Windy will come the farm from the Genesis Training Center at the end of June. Before they arrive Windy will be bred to one of two purebred Arabian stallions we are deciding between. One is a half brother to our horse Trouble. The horse gestation period is 11 months 10 days, which means her next foal would deliver around May 1, 2007.

Today was the cats’ turn at the vet. Tinker and Tiger both had distemper, rabies and feline leukemia vaccinations. They really enjoy each other's company.

Saturday morning the 20th Cairo returned home from one month of training at the Ramblin’ Rose Training Center near Princeton. He is much more gentle and well behaved. He no longer bites and he leads and stands tied quietly.

Last week Donna and I set up an electric fence pasture for Whisper and Cairo is now his pasture mate. They are of similar size and age (two years) and they seem to like one another’s company. On Sunday Ian re-fenced an area of that pasture and cordoned off half of the open poll shed so Cairo and Whisper could share that while Nutmeg and Trouble accessed the other half. Now the four horses stay out all night and there’s no barn stalls to muck out. The joys of summer!

Two goslings returned to the Macdonald Farm last Tuesday afternoon, two days after their four siblings had been mauled and eaten by the puppies. I was so happy to see them I picked them up and cuddled them on my pap talking calmly to them. Geese aren’t into being picked up but they quieted down and seemed to understand that I was glad to see them. Now they are either in the locked and puppy-proof barn or out waddling around with the puppies safely out of sight in the house. There are 10 more goslings coming sometime this week. I plan to out the dozen together as soon as the younger ones are able to go outside. The two puppies are still up for sale and could be in new homes anytime.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Goslings meet bad end

On Friday evening, while Ian and I attended a training session with our two-year-old Arabian gelding Cairo the two remaining puppies killed and ate one of our six grey Toulouse goslings. I was horrified to see them happily chewing up its dead body on the barn floor. They had never bothered them before, but I guess with age and playful (never malicious) curiosity what probably started as a fun chasing game was taken over by instinct. How do you tell puppies this is wrong? “No” just does not seem sufficient. An old farmer’s remedy is to tie the dead carcass around the offending dog’s neck and let it carry around the bird until it rots. Yuck! I was so angry I thought this would be a good punishment, but anger clouds reason and what I wanted to do was communicate that we can all live together here on the farm.

This morning we were too late to catch them kill two more of the six and neither Ian nor I can locate the remaining three. I looked in the tall grass, walked the pasture and some of the neighboring acreage but I could not find a carcass or hear a peep. We have eagles and other birds of prey in this area so they could surely be in the mix. Donna believes eagles carried off one or even two of the small dogs she owned years ago some years ago. Puppies beware!

I wept when I came back to the house because I wouldn’t knowingly bring something to live here for it to be murdered. I’m also at a loss for how to explain this to the puppies so they will change their behavior. Of course these two are still for sale and maybe will go soon. I wish the remaining three goslings would return but I suppose they see that idea as certain death. I thought if they were outside that if the puppies bothered them they could outrun them. Not true. Sad, very sad, I had even picked up a gosling yesterday to show Alexa and Gaby, daughters of longtime girlfriend Beth. All three came for their first visit to the farm Saturday. I may go out and call for the goslings again in case I can still find the remaining three alive.

Whether or not I find the others, Ian and I decided we’d ordered 10 new goslings and will build a secure pen that they can live in during the day should the puppies still be here when they arrive. I got what’s called Weeder Geese, and as the name implies they eat weeds but leave plants. Could be handy when I get the gardens planted.

The horses are fine. Cairo comes back from training on May 19. He is certainly calmer, although he has retained his spunky character. I look forward to seeing him integrate with our other three; Trouble, Nutmeg and Whisper.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Obedience, additions and unexpected turns

Lady and I went to our first dog obedience training class last Saturday. Mitch, the instructor, informed the five owners that the name of the community education class was really people obedience, but he felt that not many people would sign up for that! Mitch worked with each dog to get a feel for its personality and to listen to the owner concerns. For the most part, Lady is well behaved and I want to learn how to get her to obey commands 100% of the time. As an owner I don’t have the challenges that others do and I think its safe to say that none of us in the 9 a.m. class have anywhere near the problems that began to assemble themselves in fits, starts, shouts, whines and barks for the 10 a.m. class. Yikes. One dog was simultaneously being shouted at, yanked and sat on by four adults! I’d be aggressive too.

We added another house cat to our family. Tinker belonged to our neighbors to the east. They are selling their home and mentioned the cat to Donna. Tinker is an orange and white 18-month-old neutered male. He was delivered to us on Sunday, April 30, and spent three days hiding out under the upstairs floorboards. I moved food and water up there and on Thursday he finally showed his furry face. He and Tiger have become fast friends; they chase each other around, roll on the catnip toys and sleep curled in our unmade bed.

While Ian spent last week in Houston working 12-14 hour days, my son Richard spent two days in the farm visiting and helping me with chores. We got the John Deere riding lawn mower out of the garage (it came with the farm) and Donna helped fire it up. I’d never used a riding lawn mower and it is a lot of fun. At one point Richard said, “A good mother would let her son ride the mower.” LOL

Chuck the farrier was here Tuesday morning and trimmed both Whisper and Nutmeg’s hooves. Chuck’s partial to Quarter horses and was very complimentary about Nutmeg’s looks.

Richard and I met my mother in Minneapolis for brunch on Wednesday and then I dropped him off at home. While Ian was in Houston I made good use of the time on my own and set up a new filing system and went through stacks of paper and either filed or tossed. I like to be organized, but it is something that can get away from me if I’m not vigilant. My mother will laugh when she reads this.

We have only two of the original seven puppies left; one female, one male, their tails are not docked and they look more black Lab rather than Rottweiler like their sire. They are seven weeks old. The ad is still running, but if we don’t get buyers for these two it wouldn’t be terrible. That said, I do think these two will go within a week and we’ll be back to just the lovely Lady.

Speaking of the ad, the local newspaper really goofed up! The price for the puppies is $100 cash, but the ad reads $10! Of course, the phone rang off the hook. I finally decided to screen calls and put an outgoing message explaining about the printing mistake.

If we still have these two puppies next week they’ll go in for their next set of shots. Tiger and Tinker are due for shots too. That should be a fun day at the small animal vet.

Our equine vet was out yesterday. I had her come to geld Whisper, one of two horses we bought on the 22nd at an auction. He’s reportedly two years old and is a non-papered Arabian. Jeske administered the anesthesia, which had him quite drowsy but standing on all fours, then learned only one of his testicles has dropped. This means no castration can be done until the other one drops and, because he is fertile he cannot be put out with the mares. Whisper has been in a separate area since he arrived because Trouble is quite aggressive toward other male horses and would be more so since Whisper is still a stallion (albeit one that has been underfed and has not bred). Basically, we’ll need to wait for the other one to drop before we can castrate him, so his living apart will continue and I’ll have to monitor the situation. That can be tricky! LOL Since Jeske was already here I had him vaccinated. It’s horrid to castrate during the summer fly season, so we’ll wait until the fall before gelding Whisper. In the meantime we’ll work with him, nourish him and keep him as gentle as possible. Stallions can be a handful. We went through some of this bad behavior with Cairo.

Speaking of Cairo, he’s doing quite well at training. I expect he’ll be back home before Memorial Day weekend. He has learned to reduce his biting a lot and is now a much better behaved character. Just think, this time next year we will have three horses to begin under the saddle. There will be a lot of riding next year.

Saturday morning our eight-year-old Quarter horse mare Nutmeg decided that since her stall door had not been properly latched she would trot down the road and visit Donna’s horses Beau and Bentley. Ian and I walked down the road to get Nutmeg and I rode her home bareback. We had saddled her the day after we bought her (the same day as Whisper) but she wasn’t too interested in standing still enough to let someone aboard Nutmeg is a lovely ride and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity. We’re getting our April showers a bit late so it’s been cool and somewhat soggy.

The twin fillies and their mother Bonnie (born April 19) are still in our barn with daily turnouts in their own paddock. They are doing well, but have decidedly crooked legs. Both Donna and I are hoping they straighten out. Jeske the vet had a quick look at them yesterday and suggested the legs be x-rayed to determine where the problems are and if the legs could straighten with time.

Last weekend, I went to a two-day travel writer’s seminar and think I could parlay some of the farm and travel adventures into published ink. I’ve ordered some books to get more detailed info on how to submit query letters and then plan to give it a go. I’ll keep you posted.

On Tuesday, Donna and I built a chicken coop area in the barn. Yesterday we transferred all the 99 chicks from her garage to their new home. We have Buff Orpingtons and Black Sex-links. Both are good for eggs and meat, so we will winter and some will become freezer food. This morning Donna came with a box that had one very lonely chick inside. He had missed being scooped up and was very glad to see his siblings.

The four adult rescue chickens (a.k.a. The Honeymooners) are doing quite well. They have their own coop and are getting quite comfy with being out and about on the farm. Neither the puppies nor Lady bother them. The goslings are growing quickly too. They have their own area in the barn and waddle around the yard quacking, eating grass and fertilizing during most of the daylight hours. The chicks are not old enough to be outside yet, but it should be quite a sight in a month or so. I’m pleased to have all these voracious bug eaters at work.