It’s a musical life

Our turkeys are musically inclined. My nephew was showing me a music video and the turkeys were singing along. With reasonably good timing, too!

Also, baby wanted food and momma was cooking. I sang and played music to try to stall. Eventually ran out of super sweet songs and put on what does the fox say.

Mystery solved! The fox says “go to sleep, little baby!”


Welcome to the world, Scarlett!

Huckleberry Hills has a new addition, or several! At 2:24 this morning, our baby girl was born! 6 pounds even, 19 inches, and with toes like a little monkey that tells me she will climbing trees almost as soon as she can walk!

Everyone is doing great, mommy is napping right now.

I’m very excited about showing her around and introducing her to our little farm. She’s always going to have good food, fresh air, and entertaining animals!

Had she been born just a couple hours sooner, she’d be sharing a birthday with a bunch of turklets!

Hands on veterinary experience

Warning: pictures of animal ear infection!

Recently we received a momma rabbit and her kits from someone who has since turned into a wonderful friend. Unfortunately, the stress of integrating into a colony setting allowed ear mites to take hold. With everything else going on, we didn’t notice for a few days, allowing it to get pretty bad.

Looking online, I found a home remedy for it, and we handled it. She’s doing well and her ears already look better. One almost looks back to normal. But for anyone else raising rabbits, I felt that our experience might be helpful.

First thing first, how to diagnose. It’s not hard. The inside of the ears gets crusty, and it happens fast. I wish I’d taken a picture before we started, but believe me this is already an improvement.

The first thing you do is hold the rabbit securely but gently. Some petting to calm her down can help. Remember, she is already uncomfortable, and probably doesn’t want to be held. Take some coconut oil and smear it onto the crusty stuff. It will be gross. Please don’t vomit on the rabbit, she’s having a bad enough day. Let that sit for a few hours.

Get some cotton balls, makeup pads, or q-tips, and some warm water. Depending on how bad it is, tweezers might also help. The crustiness might be flaky. This part is MUCH easier with two people. One holds the rabbit and the other gets the gunk out. She will not like it. She will probably bleed. She will try to get away. She may scream.

The instructions I read basically say to do this, then apply neosporin and observe for a few days. However, if it’s bad or you just want to make the process easier on the bunny, do what we did. We got the outer most stuff off, reapplied the oil, and went back to it several hours later.

Here’s where it got really gross. This is the gunk we pulled out of one ear. I guess as the flaky crusty nasty gunk formed, it was falling down into her ear and getting stuck. Well, she didn’t enjoy it but we got it all out.

It really helps to wrap her up in a towel to avoid getting scratched. One hand holding her head gently reduces the head shaking. If tweezers are in her ear and she shakes hard, it could injure her so be very careful.

We reapplied coconut oil and kept her in isolation. The last thing she needs now is to get into fights.

The final step, once you’re sure all the gunk is out, is to clean and disinfect. Gently wipe out the oil and apply neosporin or something similar. The coconut oil will suffocate most of the mites, but ear mite drops certainly wouldn’t hurt.

All the instructions I’ve seen indicate that you should expect a kicking, screaming rabbit. However, she was so calm and sweet that it was shocking. Sure, she tried getting away a few times and ground her teeth a bit, but not nearly as bad as we expected. She has earned a name.

Sugar Cookie is recovering nicely.

Even though it’s raining (thank goodness! We needed rain so badly) we recently upgraded the rabbit pen with a party canopy so she will stay nice and dry while everything heals.

Free bird! 🔥

Some time ago, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to stop the new generation of chickens from being free range. Their mother had taught them too well that fences were no barrier to foraging.

Well, some of them don’t even want to be confined at night anymore!

I do worry a bit about raccoons finding them, but not much we can really do to stop them at this point aside from clipping their wings, and we decided long ago we wouldn’t do that. So, I guess we will see just how survival oriented they are!

Also, I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but Diane has layed another clutch. I don’t like the idea of turklets as it gets colder, but having watched how well the cherps did under their mother even on cold mornings, I think they’ll be fine.

At least the eggs are all doing great so far!

These will not be brooder birds. That’s just too much work considering that the human baby will be here so soon! We have been timing contractions and it seems like three days in a row I’ve set the animals up with two days worth of food and water, just to go to bed as usual. But we will have a new addition soon!

Rabbits, rabbits, everywhere!

We are up to our ears in bunnies!! Well, not quite. There’s Benjamin and the adult female we got at the same time, her five kits, the two surprise grey adolescents that turned white, and some new additions!

Meet the new momma rabbit we got from some wonderful homesteaders in Seattle! She came with six babies. They’re downsizing so yay us! But one of the babies is a ginger! We will probably save her for breeding to have more genetic diversity and some new coat color combinations.

They’re in a 6 ft by 4 ft cage inside the bunny pen right now so that the existing herd can get used to them. Hoping to avoid any territorial fighting.

Slightly unrelated note, the pasture test plot out back has been expanded. Not quite doubled in size, but close! With the help of my nephew, we essentially got that hammered out in one day. Based on how the adjoining plot (look how lush it is!!) went, I figure once this entire area is open, it’ll give us about two weeks of reduced feed costs before it needs a recovery period. I’m not sure if I’ll get another patch done before the cold weather rolls in, but I’m sure going to try!

Busy girl

Usually turkeys lay a clutch of eggs, hatch them, raise them, and that’s it for the year. Well, the weather has been so hot and dry that Diane has gone into a second laying cycle.

With our own baby coming, we don’t want brooder birds, a newborn, and weather cooling off all the same time, so we’ve decided to have Diane hatch them out herself.

Unfortunately, she insists on laying in the nest boxes four feet up. That won’t be easy for the turklets to get out of, and they won’t be able to get back in. So I scavenged the only mini coop for a new box on the ground. Of course she won’t use it.

At this point I think we need to let her go broody in the upper box, and then move her and the eggs down one night while she’s sleepy.

Anyway, depending on how much time she’s spent around Tom, we should have a bunch of new turklets soon! That’ll give us a nice head start for thanksgiving next year!

Meanwhile, the big pasture test plot out back has worked beautifully, but it needs a rest from grazing for a while. I’ll be expanding that area soon. Hopefully I can have the bulk of the yard done before it starts getting cold. The birds sure did have fun mowing it down though!

Also, please enjoy this random picture of baby bunnies.

The little things

This whole farm life thing has a lot of big things. Fences to build, irrigation considerations, gardens, crop planting density, creating new pasture on poor ground, and so on. But it's a lot of little things too.
The daily chores aren't huge but there are a lot of them. I know this. I knew this. But as we prepare for the arrival of our little girl, I'm slowly trying to take over or at least practice on the weekends. It adds up! And small mistakes can have huge consequences.
We had some chicken losses because I forgot to tell the house sitter to check a specific spot for some birds that stubbornly refuse to enter the coop each night and the dog wanted to play with them.
No ones fault but mine. But it reinforced that I need to spend more time acclimating the dog to the birds so she doesn't see them as playmates.
Primarily this means she goes on a very short leash and I try to keep her sitting as the birds come and investigate. The turkeys and geese are the only ones not afraid. And Christmas Goose is downright brazen!

I actually had to separate them because Vasi was only going to tolerate being bitten and body slammed for so long. She did nip half heartedly at him once and had to be told no but all in all she did really well. Eventually I had to bring her in because she got too excited.
While all this is going down, we've got a new litter of bunnies just opening their eyes!
I've got some ideas for reducing the feeding and watering chores, but so little time to build the stuff. I already know that next year I need to have some sort of irrigation system and better soil amendments.
The black oil sunflowers have started blooming but they're a bit short, probably a nitrogen issue. Still pretty though!
Anyway, just a short post to show I'm still here and get some pretty pictures out there. This heat is unbearable. We need rain!

Reducing feed costs through forage based pasture pt 4: unleash the embden!

Seems to be the topic of the summer, eh? Well, it seems to be a success so far!
While patch 3 is growing in quite nicely, patch 2 has been deemed ready for the geese.
So we turned them loose! Honestly, it was far less dramatic than we were hoping for. But still cool. They enjoyed it. But I really think the turkeys enjoyed it more.

But ultimately, the point is that they were eating a renewable food source. The geese eat a ton, and that adds up.
But here they are, eating something we grew ourselves. Something that will keep growing and keep feeding them. And that's what this whole experiment was about. More to come on this!

Reducing feed costs through forage based pasture Pt 3

Yeah, I'm still going on about this pasture stuff! It's kinda my thing this summer. I wish it had been my thing this spring. It's hot out now!
The first test patch out front is doing really well. It's taken a little bit of foot traffic and even a couple of chicken escapees. The second patch is doing pretty well too. But the third patch is what gets me excited.
In terms of area, its larger than the other two combined. It had a substantial amount of useless weed grass and moss that the birds had already decided they didn't like, and poor drainage from years of neglect as a yard. Remember, this place was a rental for years before we bought it!the above shot is from the deck.
So naturally the first step was to get the old grass out. I don't know if I mentioned this but I don't have a lot of power equipment. I do have a mattock.
I quickly found out that while compacted, the soil quality wasn't actually that bad. It still took the better part of two afternoons to dig it all up. Probably about six hours of digging and mattock-ing all together.
Then pretty much the same procedure as before. Rake it all out and spread the forage blend.
Add mulch (this time I mixed the mulch from the front yard with some organic potting soil I got for next to nothing).
Add pasture grass seed, and cover it all up again.
Now we wait. But hey, I just reduced the birds' foraging area by nearly 1/5th! Luckily, patch number one is in need of a trim! Patch 2 not far behind. In carefully managed sessions, I'll be letting the birds in the first two areas to mow it down a bit, just on the weekends. That will, hopefully, keep them satisfied and not decimate my hard work. And in a couple of months, I can move the fence in the back yard to start a new patch, letting the birds into the first two.
Just one week and it's already started growing. Time allowing, I'll be doing another patch in the front that will be just a couple of weeks behind patch 3. With a little luck and a lot of sweat, by this time next year the entire yard will be lush, green, and reducing my feed costs! And as a totally unrelated benefit, it'll be a really pretty place to have a wedding.


Our black Easter egger hen has been missing. Naturally, there was some concern about this. I said she was probably fine. Actually, I believe my exact words were “I wouldn’t be surprised if she shows back up with a bunch of cherps in tow.”

Nailed it. 

A rather impressive number, too!