Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

12:56 PM
Sorry I've been slow at posting.  Things have been busy here with a big snowstorm which dumped about a foot of snow.  Now, the cold has set in.

My neighbor came by on an ATV to buy eggs.  She showed me the picture of a mountain lion that hunters took a couple of weeks ago.  This is probably the same mountain lion that has screamed and hissed at me.  It was bigger than the ATV in the photo.  OMG.  I guessed it was probably 200 to 250 lbs.  No wonder our whitetail herd has been decimated.  Snowmobilers up on the state land behind the house have reported big cat tracks up there recently, so another cat has moved in.  Sigh.  It explains Mishka's hackles when husband takes the Malamute up there for snowshoeing.

I'm working with Sid and the clicker.  He's pretty smart, but llama training is sort of trial and error with me.  For example, he'll come into the barn when I have the big door open, but he won't if it is shut.  So, I've been trying to get him to step in.  He will stand right on the threshold and stretch his neck, then his head and then his lips to get at the treat, but won't step foot inside.  Snot! ;-)  I suspect we'll bring his new buddy up here after the first.  That'll be good.

Hope you all had a merry Christmas and have a happy new year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Llamas Need Your Help!

10:10 PM
Since it's pretty much in the news, I guess I can say that the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue is disbanding due to lack of funds.  It was a gigantic sanctuary which took animals in, mostly llamas, and did not adopt out animals.  As a result, when they lost funding from two major sponsors, they had more than 1200 animals to feed, of which are about 800 llamas. Yeah, it's a real mess.

There has been some allegations of neglect (I've seen donkeys on the news with severely overgrown hooves ), but I don't know what sort of condition the animals are in, so I'm assuming it's probably mixed.  Right now, the problem is feeding the animals, which Animeals is doing.  You can check in about the situation and donate to: Animeals

On that site are application forms for adopting animals or you can go here and fill an application out.   There are a lot, so consider tossing an application that way if you can adopt an animal.  As I said, there are a lot of animals and the winter up here is pretty severe for this time of the year.  You're welcome to repost this.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gigantic Egg and 9 Week Old Chicks

12:34 AM
Tonight, we got back from Harry Potter 7 and after dinner, I went to feed and water the birds and Sid.  The weather has been typically weird: first massively cold, then lots of snow, then a warm front that dumped lots of rain, and now settling into cold, but more seasonal.  I moved the 9 week old birds who are fully feathered out from the brooder to a dog crate.  They become sexually mature some time around the 15th to 26th week and right now should be able to handle the cold, provided I give them lots of water and good food.

My golden sex link who survived the pecking had healed up enough to where I reintroduced her back into the flock (the other one had died, sadly).  I had removed Crooked Toes who will be soon going to freezer camp and put in the barred rock rooster and his pal, the Brahma rooster.  Crooked Toes got demoted when he decided to go after me in typical Rhode Island Red fashion.  So, he's cooling his heels with the ducks.  Since his departure, the chickens in the pen have relaxed a bit.  I've put the Buff Orpington, Bossy Hen, in the cage there to get them all used to her.  She'll be joined by Oddball in a week or two once I get her mixed in properly.

Anyway, I know the Golden Sex Link hadn't laid any eggs since her injury, going on more than a month.  I began to wonder if she would ever lay eggs again.  I found an enormous egg -- larger than a goose egg (!!!)  -- in the nest and knew she had laid it.  Poor hen.  It looks like it is the fusion of 3 or more eggs.  I fully expect to have multiple yolks out of this one.  For such a little hen, she produces such big eggs.  The other golden sex link was my first egg layer and she laid such big eggs, I was so sad when the other chickens beat her up.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowshoeing and Llama Training

3:06 PM
Now that the snow is deep enough, we've been snowshoeing into the state lands behind our house.  We've been taking Haegl, Mishka and Sid up the mountain.  As I've said in the past, Haegl and Mishka adore Sid, barking and inviting him to play at every turn.  Sid is unsure about all this Malamute love, but he takes it stoically. 

One problem Sid has is he does not have the concept of snowshoes.  He's constantly stepping on mine, which has almost caused me to face-plant a few times.  He acts surprised when that happens and picks his foot off my snowshoes with an almost apologetic look. 

His favorite trail munchy is pine needles and branches.  He also likes the bark, but I don't let him eat it because it'll hurt the trees.  I think he learned to eat pine needles and bark when he ran around a bit feral at his last owner's, until she tied him up so he couldn't run.  He gets plenty of hay and llama pellets, so the pine needles are now just a snack.

The other day I decided to start clicker training him.  He's a very smart animal, so there's no reason why he couldn't be clicker trained.  I started on some very basic stuff -- learn what the clicker means, recognize his name, and come when I call.

The clicker is a bit disconcerting to him.  It's not a natural noise, so it takes him a little time to accept it so he isn't surprised.  He comes to me when I have llama pellets, which is his favorite food.  He will eat them right out of my hand, which is very cute and ticklish because he has no top teeth and uses his lips to move them into his mouth.  I've gotten him to recognize his name now, and come when I call, but he's nowhere perfect on that.  My goals for him is as follows:

  1. Come when called.
  2. Accept petting without shying away.
  3. Accept the halter without theatrics.
  4. Accept me handling and trimming his feet.
  5. Accept me brushing and combing him.
  6. Accept a pack and carry things (this shouldn't be a problem, since he was a pack llama).

I think they're quite doable.  I've had some positive results with him accepting the halter.  Considering this was a llama who would not allow me to touch him when I first met him, he now allows me to touch, pet and even kiss him, albeit with reservations.  He is good with the Malamutes and good with my husband.  He knows gee, haw, get up, and whoa.  So, I think he's very trainable. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A plea for donations -- sanctuary collapse

12:47 AM
I know times are tough, but there's been a large animal sanctuary that collapsed due to lack of donations and more than 1000 large animals are facing starvation.  What's more, these animals need homes as well as food.  Although Animeals is keeping the sanctuary's name out of the news, I'm pretty sure I know which one it is and they have a huge herd of llamas.  I'm asking that you go to Animeals and donate generously.  I spoke to Animeals today and while they have enough donated food for a week, that isn't enough.  If you can donate or offer to adopt one of these animals, please do so. Thank you.

 Today was worthless as I had to go into town and buy animal food.  They were out of llama lunch, probably due to the emergency, so I had to go to a feed store and pay nearly twice the amount for llama food.  Sigh.  All in all, I bought nearly 300 lbs of feed that should last approximately 2 weeks between the chickens, geese, ducks, llama and dogs.  Note that I had to carry that same 300 lbs inside and put it away.  I also picked up bags of sawdust for animal bedding.  My clothes are covered with sawdust as a result. 

I've been working on Christmas presents and I hope to have some done pretty soon. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wood Shavings, Happy Animals and Frames of Reference

1:25 AM
Today I got a line on free wood shavings.

While this seems like a little thing, when you have chickens, it's a big deal.  You see, it costs me between $4 and $6 for a bale of clean shavings.  Today, I picked up five 39 gallon bags of shavings to put down for my chickens, ducks and geese.  I gave the people there some free eggs to express my gratitude.  This was enough to lay down a nice carpet of wood shavings for all the birds plus lay down a nice pile for Sid. 

What's more, I'll be getting wood shavings every week.  Which means my animals will always be warm and dry.  This made me so happy because I've been trying to think of ways to cut costs but still provide a good environment for them.  Now, I have the ability. 

My husband and I got to talking about differences between places like New York City and Chicago and here.  I've been to these places and quite honestly, my world is very foreign to city dwellers.  I can't imagine spending my entire life in a city like New York, even though it is a cool place, it doesn't feel real to me. 

The rest of the world isn't like New York, but I can see how living there can give a very myopic view of the world.  The city is the environment.  Everything in NYC is man-made, from entertainment to Central Park.  Even the weather is affected by the city: the wind comes rushing around buildings because of the effect the narrowing of the "landscape" has on the airflow.  People in New York have vastly different days than I do -- they ride subways or take taxis, they eat in restaurants, and they seek their entertainment and hobbies within the city.

In comparison, I spent more than a month chasing after wild animals to fill my freezer with meat for the winter.  I'm highly entertained by my poultry and llama.  I sell eggs to neighbors to pay for my chicken feed.  And I sit near a woodstove at night and write. 

The funny thing is that I could do most of what New Yorkers do.  I could buy my meat from the supermarket, entertain myself by going to the mall (yes, we have a small one), eat in restaurants and do things city people do.  But I don't because I don't want to.  I've been there.  I grew up in suburbia.  I travel to big cities all the time.  I have my master's degree.  I just don't want to be like other people.

Today I spoke to a fellow who buys eggs from me.  He had served in Iraq, which make him pretty amazing in my book.  Instead, he was amazed at my life.  I don't know why -- I really don't consider what I do all that special.  But he seemed to think that because I hunted, had a small farm and wrote professionally made me special.  Seems odd, but there you go.