And yet again, the year has gotten away from me! I can’t believe it’s already mid-July, how did that happen?? We’ve been totally swamped and busy with projects galore around here… and kicking butt at it. Already we’ve managed to accomplish quite a lot this year. Of course, that means we’re busy from the moment we get up, usually around 5:30am to get ready for work, work all day in town, then come home and work until sunset. But we remind ourselves everyday that we’re working so much to save enough money to do all these big projects we want to do. The project list never gets any shorter around here… homestead projects tend to multiply instead!
As I mentioned in a previous post, we scaled back our garden this year. We only have maybe a dozen garden beds growing right now, and really a lot of the stuff that’s growing are flowers & low-maintenance plants. A few cucumber plants, zucchinis, pumpkins, tomatoes, & peppers as well. Oh, and one okra plant. We battled with chipmunks earlier in the Summer, and those little jerks ate most of our spouts. Our neighbor who’s been here forever told us, “chipmunks are not your friend.” The little rodents were getting into our chicken feed as well, eating all their seeds and leaving a great big freaking mess everywhere. As a weird side-effect, they were apparently stashing sunflower seeds in various places around the homestead from last year, and this year we had weird bunches of sunflowers sprouting up in garden beds where we’ve never planted sunflowers. Silly chipmunks. We have allowed Loki to go after the chipmunks when they pop up, and he has “taken care of” 2 of them now. We seem to have less chipmunk issues now compared to a month ago. Good boy.
We’ve also had bear issues this year. Since this Winter was so dry, the wild berries & oak around here in the mountains aren’t producing the way they should be. Literally, bears are starving. It’s actually really heartbreaking. Now we have a starving young bear attempting to infiltrate our bird coop. He’s tried 3 times in the last week to get in. THANKFULLY we put so much effort into making that thing a fortress that he has not succeeded. The first night we didn’t hear anything, but the next morning when we went down to feed the girls, we saw a whole bunch of destruction of their outdoor run. We couldn’t be sure it was a bear at first, but something had busted down their run, and pulled at the chicken wire that envelopes their coop. And the girls were quieter than usual and definitely spooked that morning.
The very next night, we were woken up at 3am to metal breaking (the t-posts that hold up their run) & chicken wire being ripped at. R grabbed a baseball bat, and I just had a flashlight, and we went outside to investigate. And there was a little skinny starving bear standing by the coop. We ran right at him, R threw the bat at him, and the bear ran off. I went into the coop and our poor girls were scared to death. But they were ok. We actually discovered the next day, as we were looking over the damage, that the bear had broken off part of the roof to their coop, like he was up there and fell off, probably when he heard us coming. He still would’ve had a lot of material to go through to get to them, but he did do some damage. And because of that, we will be doing some re-enforcing of certain areas of their coop this week.
We then decided to set up some “noise traps” around their coop so if he came back, he’d knock some stuff over to wake us up. We also had our shotgun loaded and ready to take down with us. We don’t want to kill him, we just want to make it very unpleasant for him to be here. We set up a lot of empty beer bottles and other things around their coop, in ways that we would hear if they got knocked over. And lo and behold, he did show up a couple nights later, knocked over a bunch of bottles, and ran off himself before we even got outside. The noise was enough to startle him. We haven’t had any bear activity since then, but we’re still setting up things at night and we’re ready to confront him again if it comes to it. I do feel really bad that he’s so skinny and obviously really hungry, but sorry man, you can’t have our chickens or ducks.
We feel very lucky that we haven’t lost any of the birds in over a year since we brought them home. And that’s because we did put so much effort into their coop, and we will absolutely protect them in any way we need to. Those girls are as much a part of our family as Loki is.
They totally know that Loki is their protector too. One of the black chickens has been broody the last few weeks. Broody basically means that she’s incubating eggs… she wants to be a mama. I keep trying to explain to her that, since we don’t have a rooster, her eggs will never hatch (she doesn’t seem to be listening to me though…). She’s sitting on un-fertilized eggs. But, I know from working with birds professionally for so long, that it’s better for them to go through this cycle on their own, than try to break it. So I’m just letting it happen, and she sits in her little nest all day and all night. I assume at some point she eats and drinks, but in the last almost 3 weeks, we’ve seen her leave her nest once. She came out, ate some food, drank some water, had a little dust bath, and went back to her nest. ONCE in 3 weeks. I don’t want to baby her, she knows where the food and water is, but it is weird that she just stays in one spot all day, day after day.
The really funny part is that she even won’t get up or leave if I touch her or feel under her to see how many eggs she’s sitting on. She just fluffs up and growls at me. Have you ever heard a chicken growl?! It’s hilarious. So I just pet her and scratch her and talk to her, and she’s SO mad, but she won’t move. Sometimes the ducks will crawl in next to her and lay their eggs in the same nest, and she moves the duck eggs under her too! One day she was sitting on 3 gigantic duck eggs in addition to her little chicken eggs. Poor little lady just wants to be a mama so bad! I’m hoping she gets out of this cycle soon so she can get back to the rest of the flock. I think the other black chicken is a little lonely without her friend, so when we have the birds out, we’ve noticed that she hangs out with Loki. She literally follows the dog around. Pretty funny relationships they have.
I can’t believe we’ve been living out here for almost 3 years now! Gets better everyday. Monsoon season started last week (yay!), which has literally helped everything around here, from fire danger to our garden to the end of the yearly cedar gnat life cycle. I’ve decided that June is my least-favorite time of year. June is just hot and dry and the cedar gnats are relentless, and everything sucks outside. Then July and monsoons come and everything is awesome again. We have been surrounded by wildfire this season and the rains could not have come at a more perfect time. There have been days when the smoke is nearly unbearable here… smothering the whole town. We watched as dark red smoke blew right over our house from a big wildfire about 60 miles from us. Happily, now those fires are mostly contained and we aren’t consumed by smoke in the mornings anymore.
Ok, well there’s a lot more, but that will come in future updates!