Tag Archive | farm life

Little Bunnies One Month Old

Moonstone’s three babies are achieving maximum cuteness at one month of age.  The angora rabbit fawns are little bundles of fluff that fit neatly in your hand.  Two are white albinos with red eyes and one is a chocolate point with blue eyes.  I believe the chocolate point and one white are female and there is one boy.  They are still so young that I can be fooled when sexing babies.  I’ll check again in a month.  At that age their sex will be fairly obvious.

By copying what mother does, the little ones have learned to eat pelleted feed, drink from a waterer and bowl and nibble grass, hay, fruit wood twigs and apples.  Young rabbits have big appetites.  We go through a lot of pellets when there is a litter of rabbits to raise.  Happily, there are only three this time so the feed bill won’t be as big as when there are six or eight to grow.  

I talk to the babies and handle them frequently so they will be gentle and accustomed to humans.  As they enter four to five weeks of age, the fawns develop a natural curiosity and are moving away from the protection of their mom.  This is a great time to socialize them with humans. 

Mom still nurses her fawns and allows them milk once per day.  Whenever anyone tries to get a little extra drink, she hops smartly away.  At two months she will wean them and the little ones will be ready to go to new homes.  If the chocolate point turns out to be a doe, I may keep her for my rabbitry.  She is adorable!

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Fox!

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Here are some of this year’s chick hatch, all different ages together in a nice little flock.  They are safely within the wire and net enclosed run.  That’s because we have a fox!

For most of the summer, the chicks’ house has been open so they can go out and free-range at their pleasure or come in the house to get food and water or to roost for the night.  The doorway was covered with wire and had a small opening just big enough for young birds to squeeze through.  That way the adult chickens could not get in. In the morning when I did chores, I would spread scratch grain in their run and call them.  Soon, all the chicks would come rushing for their favorite scratch treat.

About two weeks ago while the chicks were eating their scratch, I counted them.  There are supposed to be twenty-three, but one was missing.  Because the birds move around quickly when they eat, I assumed I counted wrong and didn’t think much of it.  Then I began to have premonitions about a fox.  I shrugged them off.

Four days ago when I fed the chicks, none responded to my call.  I could hear them talking in the hedges and stands of daylilies and within other cover in the yard.  Suddenly, no one wanted scratch.

Then, when I went to tend the horses, I discovered the half-eaten body of one of my young black roosters in the paddock.  I looked the body over and suspected a fox attack due to the nature of the injuries.  That evening, rather than going to their roosts when it got dusky, the baby chickens came running to me.  I’m their mother.  They stood around staring at me and yammering.  I took them to their house and made them go inside.  It was a struggle.  The young birds were afraid to go in.

That’s when I realized a predator, probably a fox, had entered their coop the night before though the small opening and stole the rooster as he slept.  I counted my babies that evening and got nineteen!  Oh no!  I locked all their doors and reinforced the wire fence around the run.

The next morning one more little black hen was waiting outside the coop to join her siblings.  She had hidden in the hedge for the night.  So now I have twenty chicks.  The loss of a black rooster is not such a disaster.  He would have been sold for $2 otherwise.  Sadly, I don’t know what other babies were stolen.  Probably some lovely little pullets, knowing my luck.  I’m glad to say my most prized ones are still with us and not fattening some nasty fox.

Also that morning I discovered the three most recent rabbit graves, one about two weeks old and two dating back to spring, had been newly dug up overnight.  It was obviously the work of either a fox or small dog by the size of the holes.  So, I’m pretty sure it’s a fox.  There was nothing edible in the graves.  That didn’t stop the creature from digging them up again the next night.  Now they are weighted with rocks.chick2

All the chickens must now spend most of the day penned up.  I have no idea when this fox may try another sortie against my birds.  They are allowed to free-range for about two hours in the evening while I and the German shepherds are outside.  So far no fox has shown its face.  The older birds are indignant about the restrictions, but the younger one actually seem relieved.  They happily go to roost in their safe, locked-up house at night.  During the day they act content to be within the protective wire of the run.

Watch out, Mr. or Mrs. Fox.  Your days are numbered.  If I see the animal in the yard, I will get rid of it for good.

 

Morning on the Farm

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It’s a beautiful July morning, sunny with a bit of a breeze.  The dew is still on the grass.  Time to do the farm chores.  When I step out the door, snapdragons and a heliotrope greet me.  The blue flowers have a wonderful, sweet fragrance.

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Otto and Holly tag along.  They love to follow me everywhere.

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The fig tree has four good-sized fruit with many more small ones on the way.  Time to give this tree some fertilizer to help ripen the crop before frost.

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My new yard centerpiece, impatiens on a log.  They actually sit on the septic tank clean-out cover, marking it so nothing heavy (like a tractor or horse) goes across it.

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Day lilies and bee balm brighten the garden beneath the crabapple tree.

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Vista and Maddie, hard at work mowing the orchard.  Cheap laborers who love their job.

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Kai and Cary are out enjoying a little morning sun before their major nap of the day.

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The black raspberries are ripening!  Time to make some jelly.

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Black-eyed Susans make a lovely wildflower accent beside the iris bed.

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The recent rain has spurred the garden to exuberant growth, both vegetables and weeds.

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Finally made it to the barn!  The first and third chick hatch eat together peacefully.  The second hatch is too busy catching bugs and hasn’t responded to the breakfast call yet.

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Little guys and big sisters share the water dish.

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Someone else would like to have breakfast with the chickens.  Two chipmunks live in our barn.  They were being pretty decent little guys until one decided to chew the nozzle off a gas can.  Not sure what the attraction was, hydrocarbons?  Maybe it’s time to bring home a Barn Friend cat from the Humane Society to send the chipmunks packing?

With all the distractions, it’s a wonder I ever get the barn chores finished!

 

 

Garden Tour

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Today’s cool temperature and fine mist is a welcome change from drought conditions and day after day in the 90s.  Last night we had a thunderstorm with heavy rains.  I can almost feel the plants breathing a deep sigh of relief at the much needed water.

g2Despite the adverse conditions, the vegetable garden is doing well.  The indian corn was knee high on the Fourth of July, so we’re right on schedule there.  A few days ago I beat the weeds back with the mantis.  Still need to rake the loosened weeds and throw them out.  Also need to weed right around the plants again.  I did that about two weeks ago.  Weeds don’t seem fazed by drought.

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The red sweet peppers are doing much better than last year.  I planted them closer together and am trying to make sure to give them plenty of water.  They are all beginning to bloom.  The beets are ready to be thinned for the greens.  Can hardly wait for a steaming bowl full flavored with salt and butter, yum!g3

Carrots are ready to be thinned as well.  I already thinned the pumpkins and squash.  They have out-grown the threat of squash bugs and cucumber beetles sucking the juices dry.  I think it was a hard year for those bug pests, I didn’t see hardly any.  Could be they don’t like very dry conditions.g6

The tomatoes are blooming and some have several small fruit forming already.  Can’t wait to harvest my first tomatoes!  These Early Girls usually have fruit ready by the end of July.  We’ll see how they do.  The lack of rain may have slowed them down.  I watered three times, but I suspect tomatoes like even more moisture.g7

The wax bush beans are beginning to flower.  Once flowers show up, watch out!  There will be beans to harvest in no time.  I still have about a dozen cans of beans left from last summer.  That’s ok, never too many beans.g5g8

I planted head lettuce that is ready to be thinned and also beds of marigolds, zinnias and bachelor buttons.  One bachelor button plant volunteered from last year and has lots of pretty mauve flowers already.  Always enjoy a little color in the vegetable garden.g10

The sunflowers struggled a bit, but are now growing well.  Most are about a foot tall.  Once they get this big, they begin to shoot toward the sky, nearly doubling in size every week until they reach six to seven feet.  They will be covered with bunches of small blooms that later form black oil seeds for the birds.g9

So, everything is growing right along here in the garden.  Am hoping the rain returns more frequently so I don’t have to water too much. We’ll check back in a couple weeks to see how things are going.

Garden’s In

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After much weed pulling, tilling and fence installation, the garden was ready to plant last week.  It took two days to get all the seeds in the earth.  The weather has been so dry for so long that the dirt was like talcum powder.  I watered after planting to give the seeds a start.

The weather forecast was for rain over the past weekend and through most of this week.  Happily, we finally got a good soaking yesterday afternoon and overnight.  It poured!  Now the sprouts will start to pop up.

g2It is time to set the last of the plants in the garden:  the tomato and red pepper seedlings.  These came from a greenhouse last week and have been hardening off outside in the shade, preparing for the harsh conditions in the full sun and open air.  The tomatoes already have flowers!  The variety is Early Girl, a nice medium-sized tomato that is very early.  Usually I get my first fruit by mid-late July.  Yum, can hardly wait for that juicy, home-grown taste!

Planting Time

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Here are some of the seeds I’ll be planting today.  Just seeing all that lovely produce inspires me to get out there and weed and till!

Currently the garden is little more than a 50 foot square spot of dirt choked with weeds and overgrown with Jerusalem artichokes in one corner.  The area will quickly transform, with my exertions, into a fenced spot of fresh earth marked with rows of newly sown seed.a1The spring has been cool and dry, again.  Chance of frost still exists, but I’m willing to get started now.  Tomorrow’s forecast is rainy, perfect for jump-starting plants.  Next week I will put the tender tomato and pepper seedlings in the ground.

By the first week of June we should be safe from frost.  Yesterday was 86F, with lots of sun.  Today is cloudy and mid-fifties.  The weather is so changeable in Maine in spring that it doesn’t do to take something like last frost dates for granted.

Nest Building

a1Mama bunny Jade has a secret!  She is building a nest for a surprise.  She thinks babies are on the way. This rabbit can have false pregnancies, so I won’t get my hopes up.  She is due to kindle somewhere between April 8-9.

Nest building is a good indication she is pregnant.  Also, her belly feels very full, and her appetite has changed, all positive signs.  Rabbits have a strong nest building instinct.  To satisfy her needs, I give her some hay each day.a2Jade carefully gathers the hay in her mouth, strand by strand.  Then, she hops to her chosen spot and goes to work.  She drops the hay and using her front feet and head, pushes and pats to make a mound. When she is happy with the hay arrangement, she pulls hair from her belly to line the nest.  The super warm and soft fiber keeps hairless babies nice and snug.  Removing the belly hair frees her teats for nursing.a3Mama is intent on having a large, luxurious bed for her little ones.  She has built the nest in the same corner she used last year for a successful litter.  My fingers are crossed that all goes well!

4/11/16  Update:  sad news, on 4/8 she gave birth to 10 full term stillborn babies.  Wish I knew what was up with this rabbit.  She’s had 2 normal litters and two stillborn now.  We will try again in a month.