The Winter, It Will Pass

We’re only a calendar month into winter but already we’re enjoying hints of the coming spring. The first hint is that Runnings has their seed display up! There has been moisture in the air, bluebird skies, and the excitement of springtime approaching! It has been a whirlwind of sourdough baking and chickens, puppies and our first two calves, housework and laundry and getting ready to visit my sister in Illinois.

Calving has officially started for us with the excitement (and puzzlement) of our first two calves of the year, beautiful full-term babies in spite of being born a solid month sooner than expected. That’s called a bull with initiative. The first calf showed up on Sunday, and the second one was found Monday. Both pairs are safely settled into the nursery pen on our end of the ranch. What a beautiful sight! Gorgeous, lanky-legged, satin-sleek calves tripping along daintily behind their protective mamas.

Puppies are (literally) underfoot during most of chores and throughout the day, finding everything absolutely fascinating. They watch attentively while chickens get fed, torment the cats, and come running in a black and white wave when they’re called. It takes about ten times longer just to walk up the hill to the house, with half a dozen puppies chasing my feet and scheming to trip me. All our females are spoken for and we are looking for homes for our two boy pups, Max and Teddy. We’re excited to see how they all turn out. They are so smart, it’s a little scary!

The chickens are already going gangbusters (for a flock the size of mine), with fourteen eggs today and a dozen yesterday. They have come through their first cold snaps beautifully with only a couple mild incidents of frostbite on a couple larger-combed hens, have been healthy overall, and I’m excited to embark on my second year of chicken keeping. I have learned so much this year, dealing with coccidiosis in my chicks, bumblefoot in a few hens, a few unfortunate dog attacks and resulting chicken first aid, and dealing with a crossbeak chicken who, after today’s beak work, is able to eat again!I’m very thankful for the customers I have and am looking forward to being able to provide eggs for more people this year! It was satisfying to know that my family always had eggs, even when the stores didn’t! And they’re better eggs anyway.

I hauled a bunch of loose hay up from the stackyard this week to give the chickens something to scratch in when they’re locked up and to help with mud when we get snow. The run looks better and the chickens love it. I’m excited to work on making chicken farming more sustainable this year and to try growing some fodder crops specifically for feeding my flock.

So we are off to a running start this year, excited for calving, excited to get planning my garden, excited to grow my flock, excited for what this year will hold. Spring really is just around the corner. The winter, it will pass.

Blue-Eyed Banshees

A tragic incident on Friday bereft me of my favorite hen, and has rendered Pearl unfit for and relieved of chicken duty. My very kind husband never once laughed at my copious tears for poor Amelia who got her little head ripped clean off and the next day he brought home three cats. Three beautiful, white critters, with toffee-colored point markings and the bluest eyes. And they are wild as little banshees. Considering that, and they fact that they will never lay blue eggs, I’m not sure it quite replaces my poor beheaded chicken, but I’m willing to be open minded.

They were born to a neighbor’s barn cat and haven’t really ever been handled. As long as I keep both my eyes and all my digits, the two girls will be mine, and the male, provided he’ll let me shape and mold his disagreeable disposition, will be sent up north to my mother-in-law who lost one of her mousers (supposedly a mouser; I’ve only ever seen them snoozing) about a month ago.

Amelia (in honor of the deceased chicken, may we always fondly remember the dead) and Madeline are capable of the most withering looks of disdain, with their slightly crossed and very blue eyes, and such scornful looks they don’t hesitate to cast in my general direction if I offend them. As long as I mind my manners and don’t talk too loud, they’ll deign to emerge from their little corners and frisk about at a royal distance. Occasionally one might sneak closer, but stop far enough away to remind me of proper etiquette and the fact that they don’t appreciate having been cat-napped.

I rather have my doubts that they understand yet that all parties on this ranch will eventually be expected to fulfill certain obligations, but I’ll let these blue-eyed banshees bask in the warmth of their deity and their self righteous indignation for a little longer.

Meet Cinders

Okay, there’s another cat in the family…Actually, there are three, since Kashka had another litter of kittens back in April and somehow we ended up keeping all three. I have to say, it has been a delight. And Anna further delighted me by gifting me one of that litter. Ember was the first, a year and a half ago, and then this little adorable devil kitten was gifted to me just a few weeks ago or so. I almost refused her, but she snagged my affections pretty hard.
IMG_2903eOf all the cats we have had, this one thrives on physical affection the most. We’ve never had a cat that would cuddle (and I mean cuddle) and submit to being held for a half hour or more at a time. I love it. She is terribly affectionate, purrs like a motorboat when I so much as look at her, attacks me while I sleep (one of her not so nice characteristics), and literally has climbed our walls. She’s hilarious.

I’m not generally an advocate for cat collars, unless, of course, they’re town cats and tend to be “about town” cats. However, we now have three black cats (Kashka isn’t very creative with the colors of kittens she has), and two of them are virtually identical, except one is a boy and Cinders is a girl. It is a little awkward to have to “check” each time I want to identify one from the other. Thence, the collar. Makes it a lot easier.

As a teenager, I would occasionally joke about one day being the crazy cat lady (I’ve always loved cats), always attaching it to a hypothetical future day when I was “old and single”, old at that time being 30. I never really thought it would happen since I was allergic to cats at that time, and I really didn’t think I’d still be single that far in the future. It was just something funny I’d say to get a reaction or something, when I was 16 or so and 30 seemed a loooong ways away. Well, I’m no longer allergic (to our cats, at any rate), and I’m “pushing 30”, as a dear relative reminded me more than a year ago. So I think I can say I’ve reached the status of crazy cat lady, especially when I wake up in the morning with two cats in my twin sized bed with me. It makes me smile.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: God was so good to bless us with animals. So much was wrecked after Adam and Eve and their sin destroyed the purity and perfection of Creation. But God in His goodness has left so much beauty and joy and delight to cause us to wonder and marvel and praise Him. Little tastes of Eden.

 

Strange Neighbor

We’ve had our share of rattlesnake encounters over the past few years, including three that our dad has killed up by my grandma’s house. So sorry, to anyone who might be offended by that. But Dad can’t hear the rattle, so it really is a matter of safety, and our uncle’s dog got bitten by one two years ago, so we’re inclined to have a little animosity towards the critters. But I digress. When I got home last night and saw one of the kittens headed towards something darkly colored and mottled and narrow lying in the grass, I had a little panic moment. I kind of love our cats. But when it didn’t strike them (and when I got more than a quarter-second impression and reaction), I inspected the critter closer and found this ugly cute salamander.
2018-09-08_10-18-212018-09-08_10-18-04He was a large variety (the shoe is for scale), and wasn’t too happy the kittens were inspecting him. We’ve never really encountered these out here at our place, since there isn’t ever really any permanent moist-ness, but there he was. I scooped him into a box and deposited him a ways away, since I read that salamanders, including the western tiger salamander (this guy) are toxic to a certain extent and figured I’d get him out of the cats’ reach. I’d be more than happy for some input from anyone who knows more than the internet on this matter, especially since my experience is that the internet tends to exaggerate. For instance, I read that aloe is poisonous to cats, but I have a friend who had an aloe plant, until her cat ate it. The cat was fine.

Anyway, what a strange neighbor.

Meet Saber

We have another little member of our cat family to introduce to the world. Meet Saber. He looks harmless and innocent, but he is not. IMG_1227eThis is another one of Kashka’s kittens, from her summer litter. She had four beautiful children, and three of them were adopted away. But not Saber. Which is a good thing. Because as irritating and obnoxious as Saber is, we had all fallen in love with him. IMG_1223ecHe has a motorboat purr, dreamy amber eyes, and a cuddlebug personality. He loves affection. Until today, which was his first solo day outside, we would have to shut him up in the office when we were away from home or at night, since he has a proclivity towards destruction. If any cat was capable of arson, Saber would be. He let us all know that he hated being by himself by howling and yowling as I’ve never heard a cat howl or yowl. And not just any howl or yowl. “Yow-OW-OW-owwwwww!” Seriously. And, unfortunately, because he is so much fun to torment, we occasionally shut him up just to listen to him yowl. And then we let him out again and cuddle him to death. He climbs the beams in our cabin, terrorizes his half-siblings, terrorizes us, then comes and begs for loving, bumping his pink little nose against our faces with his motorboat purr reverberating peacefully.

Cats are such paradoxical creatures. Loving and sweet and terrifying all at once. One moment, the most destructive, active creatures. The next moment, the quietest pictures of peace and tranquility.

Goodbye, Luna

It always hurts to lose something you love, or someone, even if that someone is “just” a cat. I think we will all shed tears over this little critter, publicly or privately, and each miss him in our own way. He was Anna’s special cat, but all of us loved him. Even Dad, who always puts on a pretense of thinking that the critters are “just” critters and relatively useless ones at that, will miss Luna. Luna seemed like he was doing better day-before-yesterday, and seemed to be responding to our attempts to nurse him back to health, but he took a turn for the worse yesterday morning and fell asleep for good sometime this morning. We’ll miss his quirks and his cuddles.We had Luna for 2 years, and his personality has always amused and delighted and befuddled us. His looks were like a scientific illustration of a cat – he was perfect, with a long, thick tail, a perfectly proportioned body, and beautiful pale eyes. But aside from his looks, nothing else was dignified about him. He’s the cat who, even when quite full-grown, would curl himself up ridiculously to “nurse” on his own belly fur, a habit that he caught on to doing when his sister, Koshka, apparently missing their mother, started sucking on his belly when they were just 2-month-old kittens. Koshka eventually grew out of the habit, but not Luna. He’s the one who fell in love with Jess’s dog who was here for the first 9 months that we lived in the Hills.  The two of them would love on each other, with Luna allowing Baby to groom him from head to tail. He’s the one we babied when he managed to get part of his tail degloved this winter when he got his tail closed in the front door, and he put up with our clumsy doctoring and his poor cone very patiently and sweetly. He was a forgiving cat.  He’s the one who would taunt the dogs, then turn on them, claws unsheathed, and send the dogs scattering hilariously. Luna always strutted around like he was some hotshot, and then would go do something stupid. It is kind of hard to believe that crazy, beautiful cat is gone.
IMG_9040We all loved him.