Saturday, May 24, 2014

More Than Just a Pretty Place

 Every spring I try to deck out the Shawhan farm in beautiful flowers. I like to get a few perennials each year along with numerous annuals. My goal in time is to establish a lot of perennials so I only have to buy a couple of flats of annuals. It's a slow process because I tend to get overwhelmed at the greenhouses as I browse the perennials, thinking to myself, This would look good there, but what if I find something even better? Or my personal favorite, I'll buy that and it'll end up dead. (Which happened to a few of the perennials I planted last spring thanks to the harsh winter we had.) Flowers along the house, a couple of planters, my ginormous garden and some hanging baskets later, I must say the Shawhan farm looks pretty nice these days.

 My flower planning starts early since I roll up all the spare change we've collected over the year and take it to the bank. I always feel like a nerd carrying in my paper sack and asking them to cash in my coins. I try not to use car washes for this very reason. I can wash my car at home for free and save the $8 for flowers. This year I felt like a millionaire because we took some scrap metal to the recycling place and I had a decent wad of egg money to spend in addition to my cashed in mint.

 I think I did a pretty good job in selecting blooming buds and I'm happy as to where I planted them. I got two hanging baskets that I will religiously water all summer long. Even last summer as I was cooped up in the hospital recovering from my C-section, I strictly ordered Dan to go home every day and water my hanging baskets. The two I got this year, I had trouble deciding which one I wanted, so I just got both of them. They are beautiful and come from a Mennonite greenhouse that have amazing prices on all their flowers.

 The first few evenings in taking down the baskets and watering them, nothing out of the ordinary happened. Then just a couple of nights ago, I noticed something in one of my baskets...

Someone has decided to have her babies in my flowers! At first there just one egg, and now we are up to six! Every night there is a new egg inside the nest. I've carefully watered around it, but I'm not sure what's going to happen once they hatch and the nest is over packed with baby birds. I am honored the momma bird has picked my hanging basket to bring her chicks into the world in, but there is a selfish part of me that is afraid my basket of colorful blooms will eventually die. I also don't want the mother to abandon the nest, since I'll continue to water it.

 To the unknowing eye, this particular basket looks like any ordinary front porch decoration, but to me and a silly little bird, it's more than just a pretty place.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mo' Minks, Mo' Problems

 A diabolical force has once again been plaguing the Shawhan farm. When the weather began warming up I expelled a big sigh of relief thinking we escaped a winter (finally) with no murdered chickens...the first winter ever! I thought to myself, Maybe this winter was just too cold for slaying varmints. And for awhile, it seemed to be true.
 Then one day... a nice, warm beautiful day... the nightmares began again. One of our Buff Orpingtons was found dead in the next box, all the clues surrounding her death pointing to the Mink family. Ms. Orpington was a nice young lady, a devote member of Flock 3, so she wasn't very old and probably in her prime egg laying year. My heart goes out to her since she was in a place she considered safe enough to lay her egg when she was killed.

 After that we began keeping the chickens locked in the coop. I really hate doing that since I know how much they love to get outside and peck and scratch around. After several days of confinement, we began letting them back out again. Then one day, Dan and I heard a loud ruckus, a more dramatic than the ladies make after they've triumphantly laid an egg. Upon rushing out, the mink was spotted in the coop! Dan tried to corner it and stab it with the pitch fork, the little devil was too quick and made it's escape, but thankfully that day, no chickens were harmed.

  Once again, we began to keep the ladies and gents locked up in the coop. We figured during the day they were sitting ducks in the nest box. Eventually in the later afternoons I'd go out and let them outside, figuring they were done laying eggs and no one would be caught off guard in the next box. This tactic seemed to work for awhile, and of course, we all settled down into an unsuspecting routine again.

 Just the other day, the first chilly day we had, (so our door was closed and it took me awhile to hear all the commotion) I heard all kinds of craziness coming from the barn. The chickens were going nuts! It was about 5:00 P.M., so I knew something was going on, as all the hens were probably done laying that late in the day. I ran outside and sure enough, the mink had struck again! What was worse was that I saw it!! The little son of a gun had scrambled under the coop itself (it can't get to the chickens from under there) and peeked its head out and LOOKED at me! LOOKED at me! Taunting me! Push the knife in a little deeper why don't you!

 On this day we lost a Golden Comet.

  The barn was FULL of drama! All the chickens were worked up, scared for their lives, looking at me, begging me to keep them safe and make the killer go away. The chicks across the aisle way had witnessed their first chicken slaughter and were begging me never to put them over with the rest of the flock. Charlie was standing in the back of the barn looking at me and begging me to feed him because he is always starving, despite his was a stressful evening.

  Back to confinement for a few days. We let them out today after we got home from church since we will be outside and will be able to watch for the suspect. Our first mink was identified as Jason Mink Voorhees. I'm suspecting this killer is his mother, Mrs. Voorhees. I'm also beginning to wonder if Fumm and Stupid Bantam couldn't take the pressure anymore and high tailed it out of here to a place where minks don't exist.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Farewell Fumm

 It's been a sad few of days here on the Shawhan farm, as we have come to the realization that our mighty, cocky and larger-than-life Bantam rooster, Fumm is gone. We didn't notice it right away...there was no evidence of a struggle or chicken-slaughter, we just noticed how QUIET things were.

 One evening a couple of days ago, as I was locking in the chickens for the evening, I didn't hear (as one would hear Fumm more than see him, thanks to his dwarf size) him anywhere. He always made his presence known, especially strutting across the entrance to the barn even when all the other chickens were confined to the coop and kennel areas. There was no chitter chatter from my little blond boy.

 I immediately knew something was wrong. Fumm was always so predictable. I looked everywhere, even though I knew it was no use. Even if Fumm was out in the yard, he always managed to get back into the coop at night (he was a sneaky little thing), so the fact that he wasn't in the coop that night was a dead give away he was gone.

 Like I said, there were no feathers littering the yard, there was no dead body stomped to death in the steer lot. I began to blame our new neighbors (they are weird) in that maybe they wanted a chicken dinner one night. Dan just laughed at me since 1.) Good luck actually catching Fumm, and 2.) There wasn't any meat on his microscopic bones anyway. So the only thing I can think of is maybe a hawk got him at some point.

 Or he ran away...

 There is SOOOOOOOOOOOO much gossip in the coop right now that Bravo TV is calling me asking if they can do a reality show. See, Fumm had a steady girlfriend, Jane Doe, a Barred Plymouth Rock, from I don't know which Flock. They were always out in the yard together going on hot romantic dates. At about the same time Fumm went missing, so did one of our Stupid Bantams (curtsey of Blooms and Berries). Blooms and Berries gave us 3 Bantams last fall, two hens and a rooter, who didn't last long. They are black with white poofy feathers on their heads that fall into their eyes, and I think impairs their eyesight. Those chickens are easy to sneak up on and catch, so we always refer to them as the Stupid Bantams. One of those is missing too...

 So, now the questions still remain, 1.) Did the weird new neighbors steal a couple of our chickens? 2.) Did a hawk or some other predator have itself a chicken dinner? or 3.) Was Fumm courting a Stupid Bantam on the side and they ran off together, leaving Jane Doe heartbroken?

 Rumors are flying (hahaha) all over the place around here! Charlie Percheron said he saw Fumm and Stupid Bantam running down the road towards the Old Order Amish community, both carrying knapsacks. Buzz (one of the Beefy Boys) says he saw them hitch a ride on a buggy with Samsonite carry on bags. THEN Chicken Hawk told me he received a post card from Fumm that was postmarked from a Five Star resort in Punta Cana.

 Whichever of these rumors are true, I don't know. All I do know is that I miss my little mighty Fumm and his larger-than-life personality.

 The Shawhan farm just isn't the same without him.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The 'Thing'

 A few days ago, as I was collecting the eggs, I discovered a mystery object in the second nest box. It was well hidden under some straw, so well that I almost missed it. Even though it was buried beneath the covers and barely visible, I could tell right away that it wasn't just another egg. In fact, I gasped at first and stood there staring at it, not even wanting to peel the straw back and take a look!

 It was pink, not brown, blue or those greenish/gray looking eggs we sometimes get. It also didn't have the smooth appearance of an egg shell, but something that looked more like skin. At first I thought maybe an animal had gotten in the next box and hunkered down, OR that one of my birds had squirted out an organ.

 Being the chicken that I am, (no pun intended), I got my trusty pink chicken herding stick and some gloves before I dared touch it or pluck it up. In my imagination, I pictured this little pink alien "thing" come to life as soon as I picked it up, snarling and flashing it's fangs. Did I mention little beady black eyes? In about two minutes, I had already given this creature a life of its own and I was scared of it.

 Finally I put on my gloves and slowly uncovered it and picked it up for a closer look.

 I know it looks like a tempting apple dumpling, but I can assure you its not! In fact, this picture was taken a few days after I discovered it, so it didn't look as pink as it did the first time I saw it. It also started to smell funny. I put it on the trash can where we store the chicken feed so Dan could see it, then told him not to mess with it because I wanted to take pictures (to share with you!) and so I sort of forgot about it.

 I'm wondering if it's a failed attempt at an egg. I really don't know what else it could be. The fact that it was so well hidden in the straw backs up my assumption. I can the poor hen who pooped this thing out, stand up and look at back at her craftsmanship. As her eyes widen with horror, her cheeks grow lobster red. She looks around nervously to see if anyone has seen her in the next box and that could identify her as the matriarch of this "thing". When she sees that she's in the clear, she hurriedly covers the reviling object with as much straw as she can, all the while trying not to draw attention to herself wildly scratching away inside the nest box. When she feels like it's buried god enough, she glances out the door of the nest box and looks around to see if she can get out without having been seen. Ba-gacking and flapping her wings, she jumps down into the coop and runs away like the devil is nipping at her heels.

 Poor girl...

 Before I laid this "thing" to rest in Manure Memorial Gardens, I performed an autopsy. After some examination, the results are inconclusive.