Friday, May 15, 2009

Our Foreign Visitor and the First-born

We had our first cria of the season. He was born yesterday afternoon while I was at work. When I came home at about 9:30 I noticed a group of llamas standing at the top of the hill, all looking northward. They were clustered like they do when there is something far off to be wary of. I went closer and found that the farmer to the north had spraying equipment (big scary hydraulic machines towed behind tractors) and the llamas were concerned because they had a new member of the tribe to protect:

Here he is this morning, being kissed by his mom Star. It was very windy, you can see their fur blowing and the little llama's ears too, since they are very floppy when they're new.

Here are the chicks -- they are now 2 weeks old. They are fledging, and they have little wing feathers, primary feathers that will soon fall out and be replaced by adult feathers. They can fly a little at this stage, mostly to fly up and play queen of the castle on top of the food silos. They also can escape over the wooden box, so I have to be careful to keep the coop door closed so they don't accidentally wander out into the yard. There are many falcons, eagles and hawks flying overhead, just waiting for an opportunity for a chicken snack.

Here's a closeup so you can see how far along she's progressed. See how she's developing a ridge over her beak that will eventually become a comb. She will be a red hen, and you can see some of her feathers are coming in red, though the feathers on her wings are white. They are voracious eaters --in 2 weeks 50 little chicks have eaten 35 lbs of food, plus whatever greensI have given them.

Our foreign visitor the Chukar has remained. He found his way into the chicken pen, and seems to stay there at night. He has become friendly with the hens and rooster, and shares their food and water.

I saw him looking up and snapped a few pictures -- when I looked into the sky I saw an eagle or a hawk, very high up. The little partridge must have long distance eyesight like his predators. His eyes are bright red, and his beak is long and curved. It's a privilege to be able to view him from such close range. I always move slowly and deliberately around my animals, and that helps to keep them tame and calm, and it seems to work with the wild ones too.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I saw this old girl hanging around a streetcorner in downtown Wetaskiwin, looking for a home. She's elderly and has a bit of rust, though not as much as you might expect for someone of her vintage.

She's got an undignified grease pencil scrawl on her window that says FOR SALE and then a phone number. Inside is a certificate that says, among other things, "as is". If you are familiar with these cars, you'll know that the accoutrements of transmission and locomotion look very unfamiliar to the contemporary driver.

She's not roomy. Her bench seat would barely accomodate two adults. There is no back seat. She's a nice size for city driving, though I'm not sure you would want to be hauling groceries in her since there is little space for freight. Certainly a cozy drive and a wonderful conveyance for a first date. She may even break down conveniently, allowing the driver some time alone with his lady friend. (ah, but which lady friend.... the car or the date?)

Her eyes aren't quite aligned, here she looks like she's just got out of bed so to speak. She might be a bit cranky at first, and only the current owner knows whether or not she runs. Her knees look a bit arthritic, and notice that she does not have wipers. I think she has a visor though, and her windows are all intact, which is more than I can say for my car which is one stone away from losing its windshield.
On the farm, things are moving slowly into spring. Frost is still coming out of the ground. My back waterer thawed out May 1 which is typical, but if you dig into the earth, you'll still find frost at about 3 feet below the surface. I'm planning to plant raised beds this year, but I haven't been able to build them yet since the weather has been too windy whenever I've had time set aside. Fortunately I have some seed started indoors already so I don't feel as if I'm losing too much time.
Now that the chickens (the old hens and rooster) go out every day, I let them out first thing and then lock up the coop to keep the chicks indoors. The chicks are growing quickly: they are only a week old and are already attempting to fly -- one managed to escape the warmth of the box and stagger around the coop proper for a few hours. Their peeping has inspired one of the old hens (they are called biddies, hence the expression when applied to old gossips) to set on a nest and hatch some of her own eggs!
I saw this partridge hanging around the coop yesterday, seemingly entranced by the rooster's seductive yodelling, and the muffled sound of the indoor chicks.

My field guide says it is a Chukar (Alectoris chukar) of the pheasant family. Named for the sound it makes, a low harsh cackling chuk-karr "often repeated for long periods". The sexes look alike, so I don't know if it's a hen or a cock.
According to the field guide, this is not its range, southern BC being its assumed northernmost range. It is a partridge introduced from the "Mediterranean" dry belt of Eurasia. It evades predators by running really fast (we witnessed this when our littlest cat Molly attempted to bag it) uphill and then flying down. It must be able to elude predators if it has travelled this far north, through the treacherous land of coyotes and foxes.
The field guide adds: "its loud calls and colorful coveys enliven desolate country." Je suis desolee.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How We Cut Grass

Daytona, the Prince of Darkness, and his friends Rusty and Bridges are all helping me cut the grass.

I woke up this morning to all three of them lying around my front steps. I had left a gate unlatched last night after their evening visit, and one of them opened it overnight. I found all three laying down like three big watch dogs around the front step. I keep the driveway gates locked at all times now so that they won't inadvertantly be left open, and they kept the boys safe inside. If you ever visit a farm, remember that the primo rule is: ALWAYS LOCK GATES BEHIND YOU.

I don't know if you can see what the palomino Bridges is doing, but he's raiding the birdfeeder. Aside from mowing my lawn, I mean. I let the three amigos out every day to chomp the few acres of lawn for me. It gives us time to visit and it saves me getting out the tractor for a boring 2 hour job!

See the dedication. And I don't care what boys think, there's no lawn mowin' contraption invented by man as beautiful as these.

That's Rusty, who is nursing a bad tendon. I think he had a run-in with some wire, he was cut on the back of his foot pretty badly. However, he's coming along well, though he will be sore for a few months. Note the birdfeeder in background, with the little wooden structure lying on the grass. Once the boys found out there's seed available there, they make a beeline everytime across the lawn to check it out before starting on the ho hum grass. One of them flung the actual feeder down, leaving the more-easily-dealt-with platform.

Bring in Your Violets!
I bought these today for planting in the patio pots but that will have to wait a few days since the forecast calls for freezing nights. They are filling my living room with a sweet perfume. I recommend having pansies and violets either in the house, or near seating areas, their scent is wonderful!!

Have a wonderful evening, and give your animal companions a hug for me!

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Pickup and a Peep Show

Thanks everybody for your comments on my last entry! Be sure to follow the link on Michael's comment to see a very funny dog song by Bob Snider. Michael kindly asked Bob to sing the song (one of my favorites) and then posted his clip to youtube. It's very funny, as good as Garrison Keillor's In and Out Song, only dogcentric instead of cat.
Some of my favorite lines:
"they can hear the bacon falling even before it's hit the floor
but when their master's voice is calling suddenly they don't hear so good no more"

haha, priceless.

Well we have had some busy times lately. First thing this morning I got a call from the post office saying that they had a very noisy parcel for me. Here are the contents now that they have been safely delivered:

They are comical little girls (all are pullets, i.e. females since they are laying hens). They were hatched last night, then shipped via Canada Post, arriving at my local (very tiny) post office at 4:30 this morning in a box through the mail slot, during a chilly minus 7 degrees. They were brought into the post office around 7 a.m. and I picked them up at 8. At this stage of their lives they run around really fast, stop and peck something, run around again, go check on the water, then suddenly stop and fall asleep for a couple of minutes, then run around again, etc. You can see one little chick sleeping on her beak in the picture below:

I have 50 chicks here. They are all going to be little red hens, a cross between Sussex and ISA.
Another 25 "heritage breed" chicks will arrive in June.
To make their pen a little more beautiful, I started some sunflowers for them. I can't plant the sunflowers directly of course, because the chickens will eat the seeds and seedlings, so I'm starting these early and then transplanting them when they get big enough not to become chicken food.

And now, may I present...... Baby's First Pickup!
I bought this gal from my friends Penny and Don who brought her up from Texas. Before I moved to Alberta, when I was still in Toronto, a friend said my prospective move was going to make me like the woman in "Cast Away"..... no, not the girlfriend, but the woman who lived out in the country who had an art welding company with her boyfriend (boyfriend was later evicted) and who drove an old pickup truck. Well, it looks as though her prediction is coming true!

She's my first pickup truck! She's a 1979, which means she was born when I was still an undergrad. Penny named her Greenie, and I've nicknamed her Marigold because of her deep green complexion and amber highlights. Check out the bench seat. See, kids these days wouldn't even know what that was for:

I live in the vicinity of the Reynolds Automobile Museum, which is a fantastic little museum dedicated to restoration of all kinds of vehicles, from ancient snowmobiles, to some prime autos, (Duesenbergs, Rolls, etc), to public vehicles and industrial machinery. I highly recommend a visit there if you're ever in Wetaskiwin. It also has an auxiliary aviation museum, and you are driven back and forth in vintage cars! One fun aspect of living in this area is that on some weekends in the summer, the vintage car enthusiasts drive about, and it's no odd thing to see an old Meteor and a Packard and an old 40's Buick parked in front of you at the light. One day old Marigold will be up there too!
And finally, here's the first pic of the latest sweater I've done. It's in Elann's Highland Donegal. I made up the design, and I just finished sewing in the sleeves. It's not quite finished, I'm going to add some closures to the front so that the collar will stand up in Tudor style, and I'll take better pictures of it then.

Have a wonderful night wherever you are, and give your animal companions a hug for me!