Friday, May 19, 2017

The Bad News First- A Ralph Post

I went out to the barn this morning to take care of the animals. History. We have three barn cats we feed. They are a Mother and her two daughters. We were/are going to get them fixed. Too late. We got twelve kittens from them. Cute as can be! 

The Grandmother, Auntie, and Mother all

take care of them to varying degrees. Some more so than others. The Grandmother and Auntie had combined their flocks for mutual care. The Mother kept hers separate. The Mother moved hers a couple of times.

I took the Grandmother and Auntie’s kittens to the back right of the barn and put them in the cat house. (Fiona says that name is technically correct, but she doesn’t like it.) There are eight of these kittens. They are leaving the nest and are all over the barn.

The Mother moved hers and we haven’t found them or seen them. Most of her kittens are calico. Two stood out. Helmet Head is dark and white with a yellow, round “helmet” between his/her ears. Calico equals female? And then there is Bat Ears! Bat Ears is yellow and white. He has the largest ears and a long tail. Can you say “a room full of rockers”?

We haven’t seen Mother’s kittens in several days. Bat Ears was laying on the ground to the side of bay 2. He was just barely moving. He couldn’t raise his head. He was just barely moving his legs. I finished up chores quickly and came back to the house. I told Fiona I had some good news and some bad news. I told her she was a new Grandmother. Turkey number 2 is hatching. At least two poults are out from under her and appear healthy. Then I told her about Bat Ears.

She has say around here on whether I eat or not and of life and death. (Sometimes, the same thing!) I described my observations on Bat Ears. I told her of how feeble he was. I asked if she wanted me to kill him or did she want to go through the possible heartbreak of trying to save him. She said “You know we’ll have to bring him in to the house?” I told her that I expected so. I told her if she didn’t want to try, to not worry about it, we had eleven more backups. She told me to go get him. She isn’t always successful, but usually is.

I went and got Bat Ears. He was cold to the touch. She opened a can of condensed milk. She wet her finger and put it to his lips. No reaction. She worked it in. After several fingers, he started opening his mouth a little. She switched over to a Q-Tip. Then she had me to start heating towels (and the milk) in the oven to wrap him in. He was opening his mouth a little better. She switched over to a syringe filled with milk (no needle). He started moving a little more. He was raising his head and moving his legs. He still couldn’t stand.

We put a heat lamp over a box and put him in it. She gave him more milk. Eventually, he raised up on his front legs. Shortly after, there was a wobbly stand. We were still keeping him covered under the heat lamp. Several minutes later, he crawled out from under the towel and walked a small amount. Minutes later, he was climbing out of the box.

He is still very weak. He won’t stay under the lamp (too hot? - we had raised it, but he still wanted out of the box). Fiona wrapped him in a towel and took him in to the bedroom. She laid down with him held close. I just checked on them. She pulled the towel back. He was dead to the world, laying flat and all stretched out. Sound asleep? She said he seems to be breathing normally. She just won’t let anything die in peace. She has to save it. And usually does.

We had a black hen hatch seven chicks. She ran them all over the place, usually around the barn and the surrounding grass and hay. About ten days ago, the chicks were alone, no Mother. The chicks were still moving around the familiar areas their Mother had shown them. These were the Super Seven. They continued to sleep in the Trophy Room with the ducks (in their own area behind a sheet of plywood where their Mother had kept them. In the mornings, they come out on their own (under the feet of the ducks - they need to get to be faster, or wait). They head on down to the barn and feed. They spend their day in and around the barn. At night, they bring themselves back to the Trophy Room and bed. All on their own. And we still have all seven. At least for now.

About a week ago, we were giving some chickens a treat. I noticed one black hen with a bad cut. I caught her. There was a three inch cut on her back. Fiona doctored her. We doctored her the next day. And I put her in a crate. The next day, she wasn’t moving. I called Fiona and told her to bring her doctor’s kit. I handed her the chicken and went to do some things. Two or three minutes later, I looked over and Fiona was crying. I asked what was wrong. She said the hen looked up at her, quivered a couple of times and died. She doesn’t save them all. And she takes it hard. Hence, my fears with Bat Ears.

About two or three weeks ago, turkey number one hatched out. We don’t know how many. She was on top of a roll of hay in the loft of the barn. Two had fallen off and died. We don’t know if there were more we didn’t find. We brought her and eight poults down to ground level. The next day, three were under the pickup. We captured them. Mother was gone. The three came in to a box in the house. Two days later, I was mowing weeds in a field. I flushed the hen. She was still alive. I searched around for the poults. I could hear poults in the weeds. I found and captured two. I found one of these about two inches from my foot. I had almost stepped on it. I brought them in and added them to the three. I went back and listened. I could hear poults calling, but couldn’t tell how many. When I would get close, they would move in the weeds and go quiet. It was hide and seek. It got dark. I went back. I could hear peeps from various locations, but couldn’t tell how many and couldn’t get an exact location. I found one and caught it as it was moving in the weeds. I brought it to the house. I went back. Eventually, I found one more and caught it. I kept listening and hunting for them until almost midnight. We think she had five poults out there with her. We got four. They were cold. The next morning, three of the seven we had were dead. They were brought in because the Mother would not go back to her poults.

It appears we have three male and two female poults. We built a pen out under a maple tree for the poults during the day. They love it out there and have really been growing, mostly in the legs. They sure are getting tall. We can’t put them out today. There is severe thunderstorms in the area. This is the same storms that has been killing people. The three toms have gotten out of their box and came in to say “hi” and to talk to me. One of the hens is small for her age and as compared to the others. I call her “Cumquat”. Fiona calls her “Little One”. They sure are talking. Lots of various sounds.

Day before yesterday, there was a ruckus down at the barn. I was in the east garden working. Fiona went down. All the chickens were in the barn and looking down to the south. Fiona looked out and saw something. She went around and down to it. A juvenile Bald Eagle had one of our large hens and couldn’t carry it off. She walked up to within ten feet of it before it flew off. She knows the difference between hawks and eagles. It was definitely an eagle. She said it didn’t have the white head yet, therefore, juvenile. The eagle had hit the head. It was a large hen. The eagle didn’t get his dinner. We had chicken hen for dinner. The meat was unharmed. He had bitten off more than he could fly off with.

These are things you experience on a farm. Not particularly nice or pleasant, but part of life.

We have planted twenty-three rows of corn of various maturity dates. The rows are 60 feet long. If all goes well, we will have lots of canning over an extended period of time. About the first few days of June, we will go back through the corn and plant beans, squash, cucumbers, etc. into the corn rows.  We want clover or such underneath for a cover crop and nitrogen fixing. The north row has onions planted on the outside edge for scallions. Beans will get the center of the row after I hill it.

We are late on getting most things done. We are hoping to recover.

Between the utility building and the west garden, we planted 34 fruit trees. Along with the 8 from last fall, that gives us 42 new fruit trees. And the 3 old apple trees that were already here, we now have 45 fruit trees, if they all live. We have plums, peaches, pears, apples, and cherries. Maybe next year, we’ll add mulberries, apricots, nectarines, and...

And we have planted 8 grape vines, 4 kiwi, 4 figs, 4 goji berries, 9 aronia, 31 asparagus, 7 jostaberry, 7 blackberry, 4 boysenberry, 12 gooseberries, 18 raspberries, 170 strawberries (from Tractor Supply - most were rotten, mushy - we won’t get many plants to survive).

And a neighbor had a patch of raspberries he wasn’t happy with (they were interfering with his blackberries). He was going to plow them under. He said if I wanted them, I could have them. We dug up 42 unnamed raspberry plants and brought them home. A couple may have been blackberry shoots. We planted them. We have had two die. A couple more may die, but most are looking good. We just couldn’t pass up on such a good deal.

Last night, we had a very confused turkey tom. He was roosting on the deck railing. He had his head all twisted around while looking at his tail. He had a lightning bug on his tail and it was turning on and off. He didn’t know what to make of it. And, on “His” tail, no less! Eventually, it flew off, much to his relief.

Ahh. Lightning bugs! We have fields on all four sides. The ones to the east and west are most readily visible. And, ohh, the light show! Any field you look at, there is an explosion of lights! They are on, and then off. They are up in the big oak tree. They are in the yard. They are in the fields. They are on you. They are everywhere. No matter what direction you look, there will be at least fifty lights on in your field of vision. And as one light goes out, another comes on. It is just spectacular! So many lights.

We have our sorrows. But we still have God’s joys! May you have the pleasure and joy of God.

Ralph and Fiona

PS: Bat Ears seems to be holding on to life. He is exhausted after his turmoil. He is sleeping like the baby he is. And there is no holding the poults down. They are exploring. Oh, what are we going to do with all this “wild” life. And the two poult hens have joined the toms under my chair. Even Cumquat. It is between a peep,peep and a whistle.
Turkey baby talk!

Photo parade: 
A Buckeye  x Australorp hen

 A Honeycrisp Apple tree blooming

A tulip Tree Moth  

  Donald and his hens

Ralph working on the mulch layer, a million adjustments.

Austrian Pea Cover Crop

Atticus our Buckeye x Australorpe Rooster

Depression, the second chocolate hen from the Christmas poults

And the very best of all. Three of the chicks LLFP hatched in February, the two gold pullets are her daughters! All 10 of them are just fine and growing really well. They love the old orchard and go there every day early and come back late!


  1. What an amazing and interesting life you have. Keeping fingers crossed and a prayer for Bat Ears, poor baby. If you have eagles, you must be vigilant as they will take any birds they can. Atticus is surly a handsome guy.

  2. Ah, that is life (and death) on the farm. We have days like that, too. They aren't ever easy but I would never ask for anything else.

    Have you tried any electrolyte kind of supplement for Bat Ears? Something like pedialyte? I don't know if you can give that to kittens?? He may just need a little boost. Poor little guy, but he is in gentle and loving hands! :-)

    Wonderful post, thank you for sharing.

    1. Yes I have given him electrolyte. And condensed milk, tonight he ate a tiny peice of chicken. I am hoping.

  3. has left a new comment on your post "The Bad News First- A Ralph Post":

    What a box of cute you've got there! Sure hope bat ears is able to rejoin them soon. We got our first home hospitalized animal, I'll cross my fingers for us all.

    [the above comment was from Jewlz...I cut it from the email she sent but blogger says it does not exist?]

  4. strange, I thought I posted as usual. I exist as far as I know LOL. Oh well, hope bat is still doing well :)

  5. Sadly Bat Ears died this morning. The little fellow just slipped away. 🐈 Bless you Bat...

  6. Bless your heart, Fiona, for trying so hard. He at least knew love before he left. It is never any easier. I love LLFP's girls! They look just like her! I know that turkey poults are very fragile and that the hens are not always good mothers.