Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Like boxes of poop in your house? Get a cat!

January 11, 2010

Yesterday there were 12 cats living in our garage where they were safe and warm. Now they will be sleeping in the shed, hopefully, so they will stay somewhat warm. The garage was OK but they pooped everywhere. And I mean everywhere! They pooped on top of Tim’s tools, under the mower, in any box that was halfway open, on any cloth or container that looked interesting. Tim is finally sick of it since they are his tools, and he does live right above the garage. So he threw them out today and cleaned up a bunch of poop. Anyway, here are the cats that are currently outdoor only cats:

  • Mama Cat*
  • Scotchy and Little Gray* from Mama Cat’s first litter
  • Stinky* from Mama Cat’s second litter
  • Toby, Butch, Hannah Montana*, and Big Eyes* from Mama Cat’s third litter
  • Swirly Junior from Little Gray’s first litter
  • Goose, Oscar, and Gunny* from Little Gray’s second litter

The following cats are indoor/outdoor cats. They are mostly indoors at the moment because it is so cold.

  • Vicious from Mama Cat’s second litter (obviously he’s turned out to be a sweetie or he would not be in the house!)
  • Tubby Boat* and Captain Gray from Little Gray’s first litter
  • A picture of a cat named Miss Tubby Boat

    Miss Tubby Boat

The following cats are indoor only cats, including the two we brought with us from Phoenix.

  • Riley
  • Cleo*
  • Booter from Little Gray’s second litter

The asterisks indicate the female cats. Only Cleo is fixed. It is possible that Goose and/or Oscar are female, but I can’t remember as the last time I checked they were tiny and I wasn’t really sure if they were female or not. We should get some fixed, I know. I’d like to get Mama Cat fixed as she’s already had 3 litters (that we know of) and she is not the nicest cat. She can be sweet to us, but she is a bitch to the other cats. She is a pretty good mama cat, at least until her kittens reach a certain age and then she is mean to them. Her kittens are not the friendliest either. Some of them are OK and some of them are mean like she is. Little Gray’s kittens have been really nice so far, but her second litter hasn’t been around us much so I have a feeling they will not be quite as friendly. So I think if I had to choose, I would get Mama Cat and all of her female kittens fixed. I might leave Little Gray and Tubby Boat unfixed as they are both pretty sweet cats. And then, if we need more cats someday I will just take all the cats offered on Freecycle. 🙂

Advertisements

Chicken noodle soup

September 13, 2009

I’m going to attempt to make chicken noodle soup today. This presents two challenges for me: first, I have to compete with a cheapo version from the store that cheats with MSG. Second, I have to get the skin off the chicken and the chicken off the bones. I personally don’t think the store kind will compete with mine, but we will see what Aidan thinks.

We have chicken broth that Tom made from the bones of the last chicken we roasted. We have several whole chickens in our freezer. So far the only way we have cooked them is to roast them, which is super yummy. However, now I have to de-bone this chicken and I really don’t know how to do that. I’m not worried. I know I can figure it out and do it. The interesting thing to me is that many people, myself included, are used to buying skinless, boneless chicken at the store that we don’t know how to cook with chicken that is whole. I am going to figure it out, though. I do know exactly what to do with the skin – feed it to the cats – and bones – make more broth.

When we start processing our own chickens, I think we will leave some whole for roasting, but we will de-bone and skin the rest so that we don’t have to cook an entire chicken every time we want chicken. Anyway, I am in search of a recipe so that I can have a starting point. I find that The Joy of Cooking – 75th Anniversary Edition is a very good resource. This cookbook has detailed sections on vegetables and spices, along with all the recipes (including a kick-ass brownie recipe). For instance, it has a short section on tomatoes and how to skin them. It has a section on canning and probably has information about how to de-bone a chicken.

Tomatoes from our garden

Tomatoes from our garden

Another cookbook that keeps coming up is Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. If I can find this at the library, I will check it out and see if it is worth buying. I’m very tempted to just buy it, since I’ve seen it recommended in so many different places.

Anyway, so far today I have made pancakes and bacon, watched a dance show by Moira, listened to Aidan sing into a microphone, and wrestled with the kids. Now they are occupied with the guys so this is a good time to go finish the curried butternut squash soup, the tomato sauce, and to start the chicken noodle soup. I’ll try to write an update today about the various foods I made and maybe even post a recipe for the butternut squash soup.

Things that woke me up last night

September 10, 2009
Things that woke me up last night and early this morning (not necessarily in this order):
  • Aidan because he had to pee
  • Mo because she was cold
  • An owl hooting nearby
  • Roosters crowing while it is still dark
  • Kitten playing with the cords for the mini blinds in the window
  • Kitten playing with my toes

It’s no wonder I was tired today. I woke up at least 6 times last night! The Orpington roosters are crowing well now. They no longer sound like strangled chickens. But now Chicken Joe and the other roosters have decided to have crowing competitions in the morning, which does not make for good sleep for me!

Orpington rooster

Orpington rooster

It’s like Easter every day

August 26, 2009
Lula Mae's old nest

Lula Mae's old nest

We now have two pullets who are laying eggs. Holly laid her first egg Monday, though she spent at least a week getting ready. I have now learned how to tell when a pullet is getting ready to lay. First, they get noisy – lots of cackling and clucking. The wattles and combs will get bigger and redder when they are near laying. They also start nesting. That sounds a bit obvious, doesn’t it? But they will make a nest (assuming you don’t have nest boxes, that is), usually somewhere dark and covered. Lula Mae, the first pullet to start laying, picked a spot in a raised bed that has a pine tree and bush growing out of it, as well as other plants. She made a little hole in the bark in an area that was quite secluded. She laid there for a cople of weeks, then switched spots. She made such a nice nesting spot that the cats thought they would lie there. I suspect that is why she moved her nest. It took us a while to find the new nest, though we had an idea of where it was. It turns out it was in the back of our shed, in a place that only the kids can get to since it has a little doorway leading to it.

Doorway to Lula Mae's new nest

Doorway to Lula Mae's new nest

Holly decided the garage would be a good place to lay. She had beein going in there making a lot of noise for a few days. She even found a box that was perfect. The kids and I shredded some newspaper and put it in there, but then the kids (OK, Mo) decided to empty that box out and move it later that day. So we tried to make a different area for her and she seemed interested, but kept going back into the garage. Finally, Tim got that same box ready so that Holly could lay in there. That’s where she has laid her last (and first) two eggs.

Holly's nest box

Holly's nest box

The other 20 chickens, the Buff Orpingtons, have been out ranging for a week or so. There have been no major skirmishes between the two flocks. Anytime Chicken Joe goes near the other chickens, they scatter. Joe is very secure in his position as top rooster. I have noticed the Orpington roosters (3 so far, not sure about a couple of others) fighting a bit and doing the mating dance next to the pullets. The Orpingtons are now 16 weeks old.

So the question that keeps popping into my head is, “What are we going to do when we get 19 eggs a day?” It’s a question that gives me a slight panic. Not a real panic, more of a I-better-figure-this-out-soon kind of panic. Mo suggested we slaughter (her word, not mine!) some. But then the kids thought maybe we should sell them. We can do that, of course, but there are some restrictions about that. Maybe I can just sell them to family and friends? I told the kids it would be a family business. They think it’s fun to collect the eggs since the chickens are day-ranging and we do not have nest boxes. Aidan keeps saying it will be like Easter every day! And he is right.

What do I love?

August 25, 2009
Aidan giving Mo a ride in the wagon last autumn

Aidan giving Mo a ride in the wagon last autumn

I found this article via Deborah at Antiquity Oaks. The main point is that people should focus and write about what is important to them, what makes them happy. Deborah posted her own list of what’s important and I thought I’d share mine. Incidentally, I also read another article that it’s better to have a loyal audience than to post everday. I’ll add a link if I can find it again!

First, I admit I check my stats. I find it interesting to see how people get to my blog, what search terms they use, what other blogs they read, etc. I have noticed that if I write a bunch of posts about cats and kittens, I don’t get as many hits. But you know what? That’s OK with me! And that starts my list:

  • I love cats and kittens. (As I type this, I have big old Riley on my lap and Swirly, Junior curled up by my legs!) I feel such an affinity for cats. I love their soft fur, especially the softest fur behind their ears, their little meows, their whiskers, their fastidiousness, their independent nature. I love the way they play with things and the way they wiggle their butts when they are about to pounce. I love that they have such a great sense of hearing and smell. I love their rough, sandpapery tongues. I just love them and I will write about them even if I know no one will read except my grandpa, who will roll his eyes the whole time since he hates cats as much as I love them.
  • I love my children. Love isn’t really the right word because it doesn’t even come close to the whole body and soul experience of being a mother. I don’t write about them as much because, for me, parenting is so personal and also political. My parenting style is outside the mainstream, but I love the way we do things. I just don’t feel like explaining or justifying that aspect of our lives. I do love that we are not sending them to school and that their education takes place on our farm and in nature. They have learned so much about animals and the circle of life since we moved.
  • I love watching the chickens. They aren’t playful and cuddly like cats, but they are fun. Sometime they are silly because they take themselves so seriously. And I love telling Chicken Joe he is a handsome rooster. I think I tell him every day. I also love the sound of a young rooster learning to crow. It’s not a pretty sound by any means, but it still makes me happy.
  • I like to sit outside on a beautiful day on a blanket with the kids, watching the animals, working in the garden, and just relaxing.
  • I care about the planet and the food I put into my body and into the bodies of my children. While there are certainly improvements I could make, I am at least aware of what we are eating and try to avoid horrible chemicals that shouldn’t be in food in the first place.
  • I love thinking about the way these things are all connected. Homebirthing, breastfeeding, eating and buying local food, gardening, raising our own meat, unschooling, homesteading. It’s all connected and it’s all good for us and for the planet.
  • I love to read, love books and libraries. I used to read just about anything and stick with it once I started, but now I am picky. There just isn’t enough time to read a crappy book. Yet, if I am bored or tired, the back of a cereal box will do nicely for reading material.
  • I care about animals and how they are treated, how they live, how they die. I do not want to eat eggs from a hen that shares a tiny cage with 6 or 7 other hens, can’t even spread her wings, and has a horrible quality of life.
  • I like planting and working in the dirt.
  • I like repetitive motions, such as sweeping, crocheting, rocking. They are very soothing.
  • I care about my friends and family (though at the moment they wouldn’t know it because I’ve been horribly out of touch since we got back from Phoenix). I want them to be happy and joyful and loved.

Newborn kittens

August 18, 2009

Yesterday we got a closer look and it turns out Mama Cat has a litter of 4 kittens. Two are orange and white tabbies, one is gray and white, and the other seems to be gray/brown/white/black. I had told Aidan about the kittens, but not Moira. That seems unfair, yet he is older and a bit more responsible with the kittens. However, this morning Aidan went out to look at them and Mo followed. So now they both know and are quite excited about the cute little kittens. Mama Cat did move the kittens down to the ground, which seems safer than the box that was on top of a stack of boxes. I admit I was a bit worried about that spot yesterday, so I’m glad Mama Cat is as smart as she is and decided to move them. This morning, the kids picked up the kittens and Mama Cat was fine with it. I did tell them to NOT move the kittens anywhere. So far, so good.

Peeking in at Mama Cat

Peeking in at Mama Cat

Four fuzzy kittens

Four fuzzy kittens

Kittens!

Kittens!

Nursing

Nursing

Rainy days and Mondays are still exciting

August 17, 2009

We’re having a lazy, rainy day today. And yet there are still exciting things that have happened. First, we decided to let the little chickens out of their coop. I let them out before I let out the big chickens. The big chickens were none too happy about this, of course. Eventually I went outside with a plastic garbage can lid in had to let out the big chickens. I wanted to be prepared in case the pecking got out of hand. To my surprise, I let the big chickens out and they went the opposite direction, totally ignoring the little chickens.

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Now, at some point there was a little pecking, mostly from Holly. Joe didn’t have to peck too much as I think he is secure in his place as top rooster and top chicken. So the little chickens were out ranging happily and peacefully. Last time I checked they were back in their coop roosting, probably to dry off since the ground is pretty soggy. I’m sure there will be more pecking as the two flocks reorganize into one or more flocks.

The other thing that happened is that Mama Cat went towards the creek. I followed her since I’ve been trying to get a look at her kittens, which were born around August 12. That’s the day she came back hungry and less round looking. I couldn’t find her kittens since they were somewhere near the creek and were hidden by the vegetation. A little while later, however, I spotted her moving one into the garage. I waited a bit to give her time to move them all, then went out to see where they were and try to get a look. I counted 3 kittens. Mama Cat was fine with me looking, but if I tried to reach in the box to move the kittens she would gently paw at me. I could tell she didn’t want me to put my hands in there, so I backed off. I’ll try to get pictures later, mayb when the sun decides to make a reappearance.

Cats and kittens

August 14, 2009

OK, today you get pictures of cats and kittens. (Tomorrow might be snakes. I know you are all very excited!)  These were taken almost two weeks ago, so the kittens have grown a bit since then. They are still cute and playful, though.

Here is one of Little Gray nursing two of the kittens. The kittens are about 3 months old in this picture. They eat plenty of hard food so are obviously in the process of weaning (and have been for a while!). I find this interesting because I know that when people sell kittens, they sell them when they are around 6-8 weeks old. Clearly, they will nurse much longer when given the chance.

Little Gray nursing Captain Gray and Tubby Boat

Little Gray nursing Captain Gray and Tubby Boat

This is Tubby Boat. She has some beautiful markings and is pretty friendly.

Tubby Boat

Tubby Boat

This is Swirly, Jr. He is the only kitten who has the privilege of going both indoors and outdoors. We bring him in at night so he is safe. He sleeps on our bed and plays with our toes and snuggles and purrs. We are all totally smitten with this kitten! 🙂

The cutest, sweetest kitten in the world.

The cutest, sweetest kitten in the world.

This is Swirly. You can see why the kitten is named Swirly, Jr. as they have almost identical markings. The biggest differences are that Swirly’s eyes are a beautiful amber color, whereas Swirly, Jr.’s are a little more brown. Also, Swirly, Jr. has a thin white stripe on his head. Of course, at the moment Swirly is much bigger than Swirly, Jr. We have other names for Swirly, such as Big Swirly or Uncle Swirly. Sometimes we call Swirly, Jr. Little Swirly or SJ or

Swirly rolling around on the sidewalk

Swirly rolling around on the sidewalk

This is Vicious, one of Mama Cat’s second litter. I thought Vicious was a girl, but now there is no doubt Vicious is a boy. He has turned out to be pretty friendly, considering our rough introduction

Much less vicious these days

Vicious, who is much less vicious these days

Here are Little Gray’s kittens playing.

Kittens playing. From left, Captain Gray, Swirly, Jr., and Tubby Boat

Kittens playing. From left, Captain Gray, Swirly, Jr., and Tubby Boat

A closer view of Captain Gray. He’s the least friendly, but I am sure that he will get friendlier as he gets older.

Captain Gray, one of Little Gray's kittens

Captain Gray, one of Little Gray's kittens

Chickens

August 13, 2009

Finally, some pictures of the chickens. The Buff Orpingtons are now 14 weeks old. I took these pictures more than a week ago, so they were probably closer to 12.5 weeks old at the time. They are big, but not quite as big as the New Hampshires. I’m waiting until they are about the same size before I let them all out. Or that is my plan at the moment, anyway. I really, really want to let the Orpingtons out to free range but I am worried the big chickens will pick on them. I suppose that with all that room maybe they will be ok?

Buff Orpington pullet

Buff Orpington pullet

I’m not sure how many roosters we will end up with, but there are at least 4 and I suspect that some others will be, too. You’d think I could tell by now! I suppose some of the others that look like they are getting combs and wattles could be pullets. And I suppose they could be laying eggs next month. Wow! They totally need to be out eating grass.

Buff Orpington cockerel

Buff Orpington cockerel

Buff Orpington chicks

Buff Orpington chicks

I had planned to name the New Hampshire pullets after my grandpa’s sisters, but that was when we thought we had 5 pullets. It turned out we had 4 pullets and that still worked since my grandpa had 5 sisters and only one is still alive. I figured we would not use her name since she was still alive. Well, now we are down to two pullets, so one is named Lula Mae, after my grandpa’s oldest sister. The other is named Holly. This is not one of my grandpa’s sisters’s names. It is a name the kids picked out when we were on our way home with the chicks. I didn’t want to use it because it wasn’t a name of my grandpa’s sisters…. but now that we only have two pullets I figured Holly works just fine as a name. So, here is Holly Hen. She is much bigger than Lula Mae, by the way.

Holly, a New Hampshire pullet

Holly, a New Hampshire pullet

I often say to Chicken Joe, “Who’s a handsome rooster?”

Who's a handsome rooster?

Who's a handsome rooster?

Here is a picture of Chicken Joe and Captain Gray, who is one of Little Gray’s kittens. We called him Tiny Gray for a while, but then I figured since he is a boy that name won’t fit for long. So Captain Gray it is. UPDATED: Sorry, but this is actually Little Gray, not Captain Gray, as Captain Gray is gray and white, but has very little white on his face.

Chicken Joe and Little Gray

Chicken Joe and Little Gray

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.