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Easy Peckings

It’s the time of year again, the short period when the Mason Ditch shuts down for maintenance. That means it’s time for chickens to feast! As the water drops to a trickle, my hens move into the mucky channel, all of them making happy little purring sounds. Every worm, every strange looking bug or dragonfly nymph stuck in a small puddle, is fair game.  I make my own happy little purring sound as I watch them eat. Every bug means they eat less purchased food. Nice!

Today, as the water slowed to a trickle, I moved from the bridge where the ditch enters the property to the bridge where the ditch exits to install my animal-retention devices. (These are otherwise known as a rusty old gate and a pair of handy panels.) Once they were in place Christina and I made our way slowly back up the ditch, checking each puddle for interesting life. I found what I consider a good sized crawdad and offered it to one of my girls. She snatched it from me and raced away, carrying at least some portion of the crustacean in her mouth.

This is normal chicken behavior when a hen finds something truly delicious. That’s because chickens are terrible thieves. If the other hens notice the girl with the goods, pursuit ensues, becoming a crazy game of bumper cars, the morsel moving from one beak to another until someone manages to swallow.  In this case, no one followed. Why, when there are more tasty morsels than any hen has ever dreamed of, just waiting at their toes?

As we reached the middle of the property, we discovered Rupert on the opposite, usually unreachable, side of the almost empty ditch. He was whining piteously. Some time ago, he slid into the ditch and was caught by the strong current. Although he managed not to be swept downstream, he apparently hasn’t forgiven the water for terrifying him. Today, with nothing but a puddle between him and us, he refused to put his paws in it. After much encouragement, he screwed up his courage and leapt over the muck.

That’s when Christina spotted them. Two absolutely massive crawdads. I’ve never in my life seen them that big! Even though they might have been big enough to make for a decent appetizer, I wasn’t going to brave those claws. (I don’t like the taste of them anyway.)

It was as we caught this picture that Rupert noticed what we’d found. All of a sudden, the danger of Mason Ditch puddles was forgotten. He dashed into the water and grabbed the big guy. An epic battle and some thievery followed, claws and jaws snapping. Radha got her mouth pinched. Rupert kept rolling the crustacean on its back, trying to get his teeth into it before it got him.

Amazingly enough, the puppies lost and the crawdad made its way back into the water, all limbs intact. But for how long? Although clearly this crawdad has managed to survive a good long time and is far too big for any of my birds to tackle, chickens aren’t the only hunters looking for easy peckings while the ditch is down. In a few days the raptors will show up, feasting on the catfish, baby carp, and occasional small trout that get trapped in the bigger puddles.

Keep an eye on the sky, big guy! You’re just the right size for an eagle snack.

A New Predator

Well, maybe a new predator. I’m remembering last summer when I found the puppies with eviscerated chickens and accused them of killing birds, then found a carcass outside the fence and had to apologize to the dogs.  New or old, this predator is pretty spectacular but my guardians are on the job! It happened on… Continue Reading

Busy Little Beavers

That’s what Christina and I have been these last two days, in the true sense of being a beaver. We’ve been working down on the banks of Oak Creek, removing not only the fences I lost in last year’s flood but the all the trees damaged by roaring, rampaging water over the last ten years.… Continue Reading

Disappointment

Well, there were no babies for Babs this week. I’m not sure what this means. It could be she’s not pregnant but would like to be. Or it could mean she got pregnant a week later when she revisited Buddy. Or perhaps she just likes the idea of a baby box. I don’t think rabbits… Continue Reading

Waiting on Babs

There are going to be baby bunnies here on the farm! Despite Buddy Bunny’s lack of experience and a wayward sense of direction, he achieved what he was meant to do and created soon-to-be-born progeny.  That’s right. Babs is due any moment. And how can I be sure of this? Because two days ago I put… Continue Reading

The Return of Joy

Like the returning sunlight after the solstice, joy is beginning to once again creep over the farm. Bear is finally recovering from Moosie’s death. I knew Bear had been mourning but I didn’t realize just how deeply we had been affected by Moosie’s absence. Much to my surprise, just like Radha, who was missing her… Continue Reading

A Few Warm Days

A few warm afternoons and all of a sudden everything is thinking spring has arrived. Of course, “warm” is subjective in this case. Since New Year’s Day morning chores have required me to walk out in temps below freezing. The sheep, Bear, the cars and the metal gates are all covered in frost. Before you… Continue Reading

Oops

So the ram lambs are getting close to grown up now that they are almost 6 months old. How do I know that? Because they’re playing their two lamb games–“headbutts” and “mount you”–in earnest these days. These days the two lambs do more than simply touch their foreheads. Instead, they back up a considerable distance… Continue Reading

A Christmas Storm?

I’m sitting at my desk, looking out the window at thick dark clouds. Rain, or even snow is predicted for Christmas day. That has me thinking about moving my truck across the road. This is because I didn’t move my truck last year when we had an unusually heavy snowstorm for New Year’s Eve. I… Continue Reading