Archive | November 2015

Foster Kitties


On 11/24 our oldest cat, Molly, passed away from cancer.  A sad time for us.   Molly was a sweet, very special cat.  She lived 15 years, most with us.  She was an animal shelter kitty.

I was feeling down when I happened to see two tiny, adorable faces on Facebook.  The Humane Society was looking for someone to foster the week-old orphaned kittens.  I could not resist their complete cuteness.

Caring for week-old kittens is quite a commitment.  They require feedings every three hours and need help to potty as they cannot urinate or defecate on their own.  They must be kept warm and cuddled, a lot.  As a licensed vet tech, I felt I had the right stuff to do the job.  Plus I had some experience caring for young kittens in the past.

On 11/27 I went to the animal shelter to pick up the babies.  When I arrived, the tech surprised me.  She said a pregnant mother cat had adopted the kittens and was caring for them and nursing them.  Would I take all of them home to foster?

Well, it didn’t sound like such a bad idea.  With mama cat to help, maybe I could sleep through the night and just do day feedings to supplement the pregnant cat’s milk.  I set the kitties up in our half-bath.  They could be isolated there.DSC09979

What followed was a couple days of feedings every 6-8 hours, checking kittens to be certain they were eliminating, weighing them daily to assure they were growing properly, feeding the mother cat, cleaning her litterpan and loving all the felines. The tiny babies (both boys) responded to me very quickly, rolling on their backs to have their bellies scratched and singing little rattly purrs.  The mother cat is very loving, too.DSC09990

I found ear mites and fleas on the mother cat and treated her. Also, I dewormed her with wormer safe for pregnant cats.  She felt much better after the treatments, I could tell.  The kittens were rubbing their ears and I spotted a flea on one when I was trying to get him to pee.  So they also had ear mites and fleas.

Treating kittens two weeks old for fleas and ear mites is a challenge.  I washed them both in plain warm water, submerging their bodies until the drowned fleas floated free.  Two fleas came off each kitten.  Then a drop of olive oil was administered in each ear to start the process of drowning the ear mites.

Oil is the only safe ear mite treatment for such young babies.  The oil needs to be applied daily for a month.  By then they will be old enough for a drug that will kill the mites for certain.

Today I had to separate the kittens from the mother cat.  She began to get rough with them, trying to push them away violently when they wanted to nurse.  She is probably getting ready to have her own kittens and that is nature’s way of protecting her litter.

So now I have two very needy babies to care for full time.  They will stay beside my bed at night.  I feed them every 4-6 hours. Then they must be burped, just like human babies.  After that I use a moistened tissue to rub under their tails until they eliminate. They get a quick clean up and it’s playtime for a while.DSC09994

The babies are about sixteen days old today.  They are beginning to play, chewing on each other and wrestling.  And they are starting to show affection by rubbing their tiny noses on me.  I have first dibs on adopting the babies when they are old enough.  I wonder how this story will end?


Last Day of Hunting Season

aSaw a big buck this morning, walking across our pasture.  He had his head down.  Either he was sneaking away from a hunter or following the scent of a doe.  If he makes it through today, the last day of the main hunting season, there is a good chance the buck will live and breed for another year.  He still has to survive muzzle loading season, much less of a threat to deer.

Most of the month of November in Maine is given to the pursuit of the white tail.  Only Sundays are off-limits to hunting.  Walking in the woods, riding a horse in the fields, working too close to the forest, can all get you shot by a careless hunter.  It is safest to stay in the yard during hunting season.  Even then, you can get shot and people have.

Early November with its warm, biting insect-free days are perfect for horse riding.  It is hard for me to accept not going out on the land I own and pay taxes to keep.  But, there have been too many hunting accidents for me to trust a few scraps of blaze orange to keep me safe.  One year I was horse riding in the woods with a friend on Sunday during bird-hunting season and a couple hunters shot at us.  They thought we were birds.  Sunday hunters, with their disregard for rules, are more dangerous than regular hunters.

This year I decked the horses out in blaze orange safety vests and let them out of the mucky barnyard during the afternoons to exercise and graze in the pasture near the house.  Yes, I was taking a chance they would be mistaken for gigantic deer.  The poor things go stir crazy if they have to spend most of November cooped up in a small barnyard.  By all rights they should be safe near houses and roads without having to wear orange.  I don’t want to risk it.  After today the horses will have freedom to move as they wish and we will all be much happier (including the deer!)

Winter’s First Snow


Last night the end of a rainstorm turned to snow and we received an inch of the dreaded white stuff.  Looking out the window this morning brought a grim warning of what lies ahead and a reminder that fall winterizing jobs need to be finished.a5

Many of the apple trees still hold their fruit, including this red delicious.  Deer, turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks, song birds, even porcupines, feast on the orchard bounty.a2

a6With the ground warm and unfrozen, this snow is not likely to last.  The sun has come out and the white is rapidly disappearing.  The chickens do not like walking on snow. Every year the young ones must learn what that white stuff is and that it can be safely traversed. The wet snow weighs down the net over the hens’ outdoor run. The net protects from winged predators like hawks and eagles.

a4Don’t know what this one has to laugh about.  Halloween is long passed and the white cap doesn’t hide the mold growing inside him. Soon the jack-o-lanterns will go to feed the horses.

a7I’ve got my eye on the balsam that will become our Christmas tree, the one in the middle. It’s enjoying the last few days of life. This tree and the ones surrounding it are all grown from saplings I rescued from logging trails, woods roads and from beneath fruit trees in the orchards.  They would have died anyway.  Now they get to be a very special tree for a few fleeting weeks.

Once fall work is finished, the snow is welcome to cover us, as far as I’m concerned.  Winter is my rest time, no mowing, gardening, weeding, fencing, etc, etc.  The biggest winter job is moving snow.a3


Cat Litter Revisited

aThis is a follow-up to a blog entry from March 9, 2014.  Since then I have found a renewable resource cat litter that the cats and humans like better than the one mentioned in that blog.  Our new litter is made using a wheat base.  It is heavier than the pine, cedar and corn-based litter so it tracks much less.  The wheat litter also clumps more firmly.  The urine balls up well making it easier to remove.

While the wheat-based litter is heavier than the pine-based, it is still much lighter than clay litter.  The wheat-based residue is also much easier to clean from the pans than the pine-based.  Something in the pine litter (probably a corn starch component to promote clumping) formed a sticky, glue-like residue on the bottom and sides of the pans that had to be scraped off manually.  Spraying with water did not remove the mess.  No such problem occurs with the wheat litter.

The only down side is the wheat litter does not have the nice pine fragrance of the old litter.  The natural pine scent really freshened the litter pan area.  The new litter has a smell reminiscent of dry livestock grain.  This is not a repulsive scent, just not as pleasant as pine.

After using the wheat litter through one summer, I was pleased with the odor control.  Because urine is clumped and controlled, it is easily and quickly removed, reducing the chance for bacteria to work and produce the familiar feline litter pan smell.

The wheat-based litter is also slightly less expensive per pound, making it a great choice for a family with three cats.

My favorite feature of the wheat litter is that it stays in or near the litter pans and does not get carried by little cats’ feet all over the house.  So hurray for the new litter!

Hazelnut Extract Update


It’s been a month since I started my first batch of hazelnut extract.  I tried the results this morning in my coffee.  The hazelnut scent is strong, the taste is different from commercial hazelnut flavored coffee, but it is not unpleasant.  Much of the flavor difference may be due to lack of added sweetener.  Commercial hazelnut flavorings tend to have syrup bases made with sugar.  I did not add any sugar or other sweetener to my extract or turn it into a syrup.

I altered the recipe from what was in the original blog posted Oct. 17.  I drained off the alcohol part into a small saucepan, crushed the nuts completely, then added the nuts and 1/4 cup water to the alcohol mix.  I simmered the mixture for about 10 minutes, allowing the alcohol to be evaporated off.  When the steam coming from the mix no longer stung my nostrils with alcohol, I decided it was ready.  Keeping the ingredients to a low, simmering boil allowed the alcohol to be removed without losing a lot of water content to steam.  I drained off the liquid from the crushed nuts.  The end result was about 1.25 cups of a cloudy, strongly hazelnut scented concoction.

I poured the extract into a glass container with a tight cover and am storing it in the fridge.  Adding about 2 tablespoons to my 12 oz of coffee lightened with half and half produces a nice nutty flavor that is not bad at all.

The vanilla extract I made at the same time as the hazelnut continues to work and will be ready in about a month.  The liquid has turned a very deep brown.  I shake the bottle every few days and remove the lid to smell.  The vanilla fragrance is already strong, so it will only improve with more time.  I plan to heat the vanilla extract as well to evaporate the alcohol before using it.

Prize Chocolate Chip Cookies


This is my secret recipe for the cookies that take the blue ribbon in the chocolate chip cookie category of the baking contest at the state fair.  I like them because they remain soft and chewy, are loaded with chocolate and they freeze well.  Let’s not discuss the calorie content, better to not even think about it!

The basic recipe is a Tollhouse cookie from the back of a chocolate chip bag.  I have adapted it to stay moist.  Most chocolate chips (and commercial chocolate candy in general) contain soy lecithin, an emulsifier.  I am very allergic to this soy derivative.  It causes intense itching.  I was lucky to find chunk chocolate in the organic and natural foods aisles of the grocery store that is made without soy.  I had a few left over regular chocolate chips that I threw in as well, hence the mix in the photos.  The chunk chocolate is wonderful in this recipe, making very tasty cookies, indeed!

Prize Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup oil (I use light olive)                                1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 cup sugar (can replace up to 1/2 Splenda)           1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed                               1 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs                                                             1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla                                             12 oz chocolate chips or chunks

Soften butter, cream with sugars and oil, blend well.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients together, mix into moist ingredients, stir well.  Fold in chocolate.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.  Place golf ball sized lumps of cold dough on ungreased baking sheets, spaced so they have room to spread as they bake.  Place in pre-heated 375F oven for 10 minutes.  The cookies should be just browning at the highest points.  If left too long, the cookies will be crunchy instead of chewy.  Cool for a couple minutes before moving to cooling rack or sheet.  Makes about 2.5-3 dozen cookies, depending on the size.  Store tightly sealed.

There are many secrets to getting these cookies just right including using part oil in the recipe, keeping the dough cold so it doesn’t spread too far during baking, and removing from the oven at the right time. Using butter instead of margarine imparts a fullness of flavor and extra stiffness to the dough.  I make up balls of dough and put them on a plate in the fridge so they will be ready to go on the baking sheets as soon as a batch of cookies are removed to cool.

Beware, people cannot resist these cookies, so make plenty!

New Ameraucana Eggs


Wanted to share the eggs this year’s pullets are laying.  Three or four young hens have started producing eggs nearly daily and I think the colors are very nice.  My goal is to produce a medium blue egg.  The one in the above photo at upper left center is getting close to the color I’d like.

The Ameraucana chicken, like it’s cousin the Araucana, lays an egg with a blue tinted shell.  There are three egg shell color genes in chickens:  white, brown or blue.  Shell color is one or a mix of those shades. All the eggs in the above photo have blue in them.  The green color is a result of dilution by brown.  The depth of color is a function of dilution by white.

When a hen first begins to lay, she produces the deepest shell color.  As she continues to lay the color fades.  The true egg color of a hen is found in the pullet shells or the shells of eggs made immediately after a hen finishes her molt.  While the bird molts, or sheds and regrows much of her feathers, she will not lay.

egg3As a sometime dues paying member of the Ameraucana Breeder’s Club, I procured a copy of their Egg Color Reference Chart.  Around the edge of the chart are all the known possible colors of egg shells that Ameraucanas produce.  To determine the shade, the card is held up to the egg until a close match is found.  To me, some of the colors are so similar that it is difficult to differentiate between them when comparing to an egg.  The best I can tell, my blue egg is similar to B2.  This would mean something to another Ameraucana breeder.  The shade in the center of the card surrounding the rooster is the ideal blue that all breeders hope to attain.egg2

There are eleven pullets from this year’s breeding program, so I am waiting for most of them to begin laying.  It will be exciting to see what the rest can do!  I have been selectively breeding for the best egg color for many years and I feel my efforts are beginning to show success.