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Posts Tagged ‘Sunset’

Diary #562

One of the many benefits of having chickens is never having to go out and buy eggs to color for Easter.  Of course, sometimes friends ask for them too, and Jae has been on a quiche kick for the past few months, and I recently culled my laying hens, and the pullets won’t start laying until summer, and some henhouse doofus broke an egg Sunday morning.  That means right now, there are actually only four fresh eggs in my kitchen, which is a pretty rare occurrence.  Of course, we have a whole basket of boiled eggs and a jar of pickled ones in the fridge, and I’m getting 3-4 a day from the four adult layers currently in the coop, so it won’t be long before we start building up again; I never want to have to buy those pathetic, undersized, weeks-old store eggs with pale yellow yolks ever again.  As I have aged, some things that in my youth I barely even thought about have become important parts of my self-care, and having a plentiful supply of fresh eggs is one of them.

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Diary #560

My new pullets are three weeks old, and that means they’ve moved from the cradle to the playpen; I’ve got an area in the henhouse screened off with chicken wire, so the adult hens will be able to see, hear, and smell them for the next three weeks and thereby get used to them without being able to get at them.  This is necessary because chickens are the Fowl of Satan and will peck weaker specimens to death.  But years ago I discovered that if they have time to get used to the pullets first, they won’t peck as much (sometimes not at all) when I eventually let the little ones out.  The Sunday after Easter, I’ll start opening their pen in the morning and closing it after sunset so they can come and go during the day, yet not be trapped among much larger hens in the confined henhouse space at night.  That will go on for four more weeks, then finally at the ten-week mark (May 9th this year) they’ll just be treated like the rest of the flock.  Around July they’ll start laying, and next year they’ll be adult hens I need to protect the new chicks from.  As I explained last week, I’m starting to alternate colors to make it easier to cull the old hens each year; I’m rather pleased with myself this time because all the layers I kept are averaging an egg a day, which means I successfully located the slackers.  And after next year, I’ll just be able to do it by color.

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Diary #559

I’ve never seen chicks grow and develop as quickly as this batch. In only two weeks they’ve not only grown quite large and filled out with a generous display of feathers, but also developed strong enough wings to flit about their enclosure; just a little before snapping this picture one actually flew to the top of the little wall.  When cleaning their litter on Saturday I doubled the size of the enclosure, and it’s in the bathroom with the door kept closed, so even if one escapes she won’t get far.  On Sunday I’ll be moving them out into the henhouse; I’ve got a chicken-wire enclosure there to protect them from the adult hens until they’re a bit bigger, and they’ll spend three weeks confined in there before I open it to let them move in and out.  Meanwhile, I’ve culled three of the currently-adult hens who are poor layers; it’s not worth the trouble to kill and prepare them for the small amount of tough meat they carry, so I just took them down the road and let them go in front of a farm which has a very large free-ranging flock (Jae refers to this as “chicken trafficking”).  To make the process easier, I plan to alternate colors so in any given year, I can easily tell which are the old ones who need to be rotated out.  Yes, I have a system for just about everything; it’s part of the charm of OCD.

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Diary #558

Saturday was a sad day at Sunset. Orville didn’t respond when I called him for dinner, so I went to the barn to see if he might not be incapacitated again, as happened in mid-January; I found him in his usual nest, but unfortunately quite dead.  He was cold but not stiff, so it had apparently happened sometime late morning or early afternoon, and there were no indications of what might’ve happened except a little bloody discharge from his snout.  He hasn’t shown any kind of symptoms; the picture below was taken only a week ago today, and he appeared perfectly normal.  I haven’t noticed anything unusual about his stools (eg parasites or blood), and other than the incident in January and a chronic limp which seems to have been caused by the rough hog-tying his previous owners inflicted on him when they dumped him, he’s always been an apparently healthy animal.  I even asked our helpful neighbor (who keeps pigs himself) if had any clue, and he had none; he was as surprised as I was.  The internet seems to point toward a respiratory infection called actinobacillus pleuropneumonia (APP) which can “cause sudden death in all ages of swine…it is common to see pigs that have recently died with blood coming from the nose“.  Grace did not take the news well; she loves animals in general and was quite attached to her “little piggy”.  The only consolation is that he was a happy pig, and any suffering must have been very short-lived because he was in good spirits and had a healthy appetite just the day before.  And in the end, for pigs as well as people, the important thing is not when we die, but how we live.

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Diary #557

When I heard the chicks had arrived at our local Tractor Supply store, I pulled my chick gear out ofthe storage closet and got everything ready, including running everything through the dishwasher to be sure it was completely sanitary.  Unfortunately, I found for the second year in a row that this store never carries very many varieties of pullets; last year it was only hybrid leghorns and Ameraucanas, and this year Ameraucanas and a breed I was unfamiliar with, Sapphire Gem.  But they’re attractive birds and the advertising says they’re good layers (average 290 eggs/year), and the most important thing is to have hens that are easily distinguished from last year’s so I can tell the generations apart once these are full grown (next year I’ll probably get some Rhode Island Reds or a similar breed).  For the next three weeks, I’ll be able to enjoy their silly antics as they run around their enclosure in the bathroom; it’s the best place to start them because we keep the door closed, thereby protecting them from the cats and dogs.  We also keep a small radiator on low in there, so it’s the warmest room in the house.  At three weeks we’ll move them to a caged area inside the henhouse until they’re ten weeks old; for the last four weeks of that period they get to roam around the chicken yard in the daytime and are shut in at night to protect them from being pecked to death by the adult hens.  Over the years, I’ve found this strategy works best; it lets the adult hens get used to their smell and presence before being able to get near them, and that results in fewer lost chicks.  It’s a shame they’re only cute for such a short time, but once they’re grown up it’s worth the minimal effort needed to keep them for the deliciousness of fresh eggs.

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Diary #556

When Annie first arrived, it took her a while to fit in; Trip would crowd her away from the food, and since there were no cats at Winnie’s she wasn’t quite sure what to make of them.  And cats being cats, they took advantage of her uncertainty.  Not Aeryn, of course; she’ll be 19 in a few weeks so she is unimpressed by anything or anybody (including strangers and vacuum cleaners) and everyone knows better than to fuck with her despite her tiny size (note they give her the choice spot where the heating pad is).  But Spec wanted nothing to do with her, and neither did Chekhov’s cat Coco or the barn cat, Rocky; for a few weeks after she arrived, they’d hiss at her every time they saw her, and she started barking in reply.  But that soon stopped, and Spec slowly warmed up to her (they don’t cuddle yet, but I’ve seen them closer together than they are in this photo).  Coco now lives in Chekhov’s cottage, and even though Rocky still swats at her whenever she passes him, it seems a bit perfunctory now, as though he were merely doing it on principle.  As for the humans (including me), we’ve really become quite fond of her; at first I was just taking her as a favor to Winnie, but I quickly learned what an intelligent, affectionate animal she is.  She’s also an exceptional communicator; her tail displays her feelings perfectly, and she’s also good at responding to commands and attracting my attention when she wants something.  And in the evening, she likes to curl up next to me when I watch TV (in the spot occupied by Aeryn in this shot) while stoned.

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Diary #555

I’m glad I was out at Sunset for this snowstorm (the deepest Seattle has seen since 1969, though not as severe out here on the coast), because as I’ve observed before, “when [Seattle gets snow] everything basically stops and absurdist-theater levels of hysteria ensue, complete with ridiculous terms like ‘Snowmageddon’ for a few inches of accumulation“.  By the time I drove back into town yesterday, the snow was all melted and with it all the extra-stupid driving (leaving only the ordinarily-stupid driving), but I can only imagine what it was like on Saturday, given that this is what it looked like out back at Sunset that morning (as you can see, the animals were active out there before I dragged myself outside).  The extra accumulation we had that night resulted in the shitty awning over the hot tub sagging badly, but as we’re planning to tear it down as soon as that part of the roof is in place, I hardly think it matters.  Since I have a proper rural pantry rather than something designed by authoritarian sociopaths, there was no need to go any farther than the barn and henhouse to take care of the animals.  And when one doesn’t have to go out in it, a moderate snowfall is actually kinda pretty. 

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Diary #554

Why do cats dislike having their picture taken while doing something cute? Every time I see one of our cats doing something that would make an interesting picture, by the time I grab my phone and point, they’re already doing something else.  Case in point Rocky, our barn cat; he showed up practically as soon as we started moving things in, and quickly decided Sunset was his territory.  Grace and Chekhov named him “Rocky” because one of his eyes was swollen shut and they presumed he had lost it in a fight, but when they took him to the vet it turned out to only be a severe case of conjunctivitis, which we took care of (I think “Popeye” would’ve been a better name, but he’d already been named by the time I knew he even existed, so there you are).  Anyhow, the other day I found him perching regally atop this post (which will be part of the railing once we get to that point), but no sooner did I grab my phone from my jacket pocket than he crouched down and…well, see for yourself.  He’s a good mouser; despite Chekhov feeding him far too often, he often leaves little presents by the front door, and he also keeps away the black-and-white cat which I sometimes see skulking around the chicken coop and barn.  I’m not sure whether I’m going to allow him bathhouse privileges once the walls go up; we plan to allow the indoor cats out there, and I don’t want a territorial cat with claws and a bladder near my furniture.  But I guess I’ll figure it out when we reach that point, probably this summer.  And just in case you’re concerned about him being outside in the cold, I can assure you that A) it doesn’t actually get that cold here, though a light freeze is predicted every night this week and we expect snow on Thursday; B) he’s incredibly fluffy, and about half of his visible bulk is fur; C) he knows how to get into the shop; and D) Grace made him a hutch which sits by the back door and contains a pad that automatically turns on when he sits on it.  Yet despite C and D, he can usually be found sitting by the front door; I guess curiosity outweighs warmth unless it’s really nasty outside.  And he eventually even learned that no matter how cute he looks, I’m not letting him in.

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Bathhouse 27

Though power outages can occur anywhere, rural power grids have less redundancy and far greater distances between subscribers.  So when the power does go out, it can sometimes be a while before it’s restored.  What that means is, while having a backup generator is probably a good idea for any free-standing building, having one out in the country is a practical necessity.  In Oklahoma, we used Grace’s welder to power the house in emergencies, but she sold it as part of the process of moving to Washington, so all we had until earlier this week was the small backup generator we originally used to power the well in Oklahoma.  Unfortunately, that was only barely big enough to do the job before we added the guest cottages, and in the first major outage after the addition we discovered it was now woefully inadequate.  Furthermore, the process of switching over was rather involved:  switch off the external main; pull the shop cutoff; turn off the breakers for the water heater (which draws far too much power to use during an outage); start the generator; plug in the main standby feed line; throw the shop cutoff back on.  To test whether the power is back on:  pull the shop cutoff (thus disconnecting the house from the generator) and switch on the external main.  If there’s no power, reverse the process to return to generator power; if the outside power is back, turn off the generator, disconnect the standby cable, throw the shop cutoff and heater breakers back on.  So Chekhov offered to buy us a proper standby generator, and it arrived Tuesday.  We’ll connect it via a feed line to the propane tank and it will monitor the power; when it detects an outage it cuts off the outside line and starts automatically, then monitors the outside line and reverses the process when the power is restored.  The thing even runs an automatic test once a month!  Best of all, at 16 kw it should be strong enough to run everything other than the clothes dryer (which I won’t need during an outage anyway).  Once the electrician comes out to connect everything, power outages should be no more than a minor inconvenience in the future, and that fits into my master plan of removing al unneccesary hassle and stress from my life.

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Diary #553

We get a great deal of rain at Sunset, but not much snow.   But about 3 PM last Tuesday, shortly after Chekhov returned from visiting his lady friend, it started coming down in big, fat flakes.  The air had been very cold all day, and I hadn’t even bothered to change out of my warm, fuzzy robe; I made us a pot of turkey noodle soup for dinner, and then cocoa for our movie later.  It kept up pretty constantly until about 9 PM, but Wednesday was much warmer so it was all gone by nightfall, and thus did not impede my drive back to Seattle on Thursday.  That’s the way I like my snow:  on a day when I don’t have to go anywhere, and conveniently gone before I do have to go anywhere.  Too bad most weather  –  and most other natural or man-made conditions, for that matter  –  are not so cooperative with my needs and wishes. 

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