Vanishing Bees, Constipated Dogs, and Mite Infested Chickens: Reality on the Homestead

I’m pretty sure that after four years of reading our blog (If you’ve managed to hang with us that long), you know that this is not one of those that paint a wonderful, rosy picture of homesteading. We would be lying if we did that, and the Lord frowns on lying (among other things).

So you share in our successes, and more often you share in our failures. We hope you can learn from our mistakes and not make the same ones. If nothing else, it might give you a good laugh.

To us, however, this particular post isn’t funny, but it is an example of how quickly things go can wrong, and how bad they can get if you don’t get ahead of them just as quickly.

First, a couple weeks ago, Ed went out to set fresh hive beetle traps and check on all the bees. I was working at my computer, and Ed came in and said that two of the hives are gone. At first, I thought he meant they were dead, and my mind raced to figure out how that could have happened so quickly without us noticing something. Then, I realized he meant they were gone, like swarmed, only we really aren’t sure if that is what happened either.  The two hives in question were the ones  sitting closest together: the original hive that we split last summer, and the nuc that we bought last spring. The split hive, sitting out in the pasture, is still intact. I imagine that Ed will want to write about all that, but it may take him a few weeks to process it. It’s hit him pretty hard.

Then, Monday morning, Chicken Girl came back in from letting the chickens out, carrying a hen with her. She said the feathers around her vent were completely gone, and as she turned the hen around to show me, she gasped and said, “She has mites!” (Oh wonderful.) I told her to take the hen out to the garage and I would bring out the diatomaceous earth.

We have had unseasonably cold weather this week. We’ve had temperatures dip down into the single digits and we’ve even had some snow. That is more like late December and January weather for us, not early to mid November. Monday morning, it was cold and snowing. That’s why I told her to go to the garage. It’s not heated, but it would be out of the wind. So we dusted that hen with the DE, and then we examined the other three in that coop. One more had some, but the others didn’t. We treated them anyway. This morning, Chicken Girl told me she thought the mites were gone, but she’s going to keep a better eye on it. The chickens in the little coop were fine, but Chicken Girl is worried about moving them to the big coop once we get it finished.

Now, for the true highlight of the month. As you know, we have our big dogs, Meeko and Libby, outside in a large enclosure. You know this because we have written several posts about the seeming impossibility of keeping them in it. Two years ago, we reduced it in size by half, which actually put them farther away from the house. We go out to feed, water, and spend time with them twice a day, and were taking them out for a walk with us about once a week. However, once Bam Bam moved back in with the little dogs, the walks became problematic, and we hadn’t done it in awhile.

Libby has always been rather aloof. She isn’t crazy about being handled unless it’s her idea, and it’s hardly ever her idea. Add that to the fact that Meeko is a big attention hog. Getting past him to get to her is a challenge. OK, it’s nearly impossible without someone else distracting him.

Libby is also one of those dogs that gets a thick, heavy undercoat in the winter, and then spends all of spring and summer getting rid of it. By fall, when it’s time for her to coat back up, she looks semi emaciated, but it’s just that she’s lost all that hair.

Well, A few weeks ago, I noticed that Libby’s winter coat didn’t seem to be coming in. She looked even more thin than usual. She was eating the little bit of canned food we give them every morning (in case we have to sneak some medicine), but it didn’t look like she was eating a lot of dry food. We were trying to watch that anyway because she has worn her teeth down pretty far, and we wanted to make sure she could still eat the dry food. That being said, she was still taking dog biscuits from us and seemed to be chewing those just fine.

I wanted to get my hands on her, so I told Ed to get hold of Meeko. I was shocked. She felt like skin and bones. Later that day, I brought both dogs in the house and started watching what she was doing. I thought she might not be getting enough to eat and gave her a whole can of food, putting her in Ed’s office so that she could eat with out having to fight off the other dogs. She didn’t touch it. That was Thursday afternoon (Nov 1). By Friday, I realized that not only was she not eating, she wasn’t pooping. Thinking I might have to have her put to sleep, I called our regular vet. They were swamped and couldn’t get her in until the following week. I didn’t think she could wait, so I found another vet, and got her in that afternoon.

The diagnosis? She was constipated. No, she was Constipated. Her colon was completely full and it was backed up into her small intestine. She had lost 15 lbs! I don’t need to tell you how we felt, do I? The vet did tell us that her blood work looked great. Other than the obvious problem, she is in good shape.

So the vet gave us laxatives and instructions for the weekend, and told us to call her back on Monday. Since part of the laxative regimen required miralax in her drinking water, we couldn’t let the other dogs get access to it. So we confined Libby to our bedroom. Meeko did not like that at all.

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Meeko moping outside our bedroom door.

Monday nothing had changed, so we took her back. That was Monday, November 5th. She got to stay with the vet for a week, and we brought her home Monday November 12th. (The same Monday Chicken Girl discovered the mites). We did go visit her on Friday the 9th. They had a cone on her to keep her from pulling the IV port out. They took it off for our visit and told us to watch her because she’s quick (like we don’t know that!).

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Visiting Day: She was not happy.

When she came home, she was mostly cleaned out (I won’t give you all the details…yes, thank me), but they want her to stay on all the laxatives until Thursday. Then they will tell us how to start backing them off. The good news is that she obviously feels better, she’s eating and she is no longer constipated. However, thanks to the laxatives, she has no control over her bowels. Oh, and her weight had dropped to 50 lbs for a total loss of 22 lbs!

We cannot put her back outside because one, she has neither fat, nor winter undercoat, and it is cold, and two, we have to watch her to see how things are moving. We can see it alright. We can smell it too. We’ve already given her four showers to help keep her clean (yeah, she loves that), and are in a constant state of washing towels and blankets.

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After her bath this morning, she was shivering, so I put a blanket over her. She seemed to like it.

Oh, did I forget to mention the bill? $2365.00! That blew what little budget we had, and we had to remind ourselves that the Lord is our provider. We do the best we can and leave the rest to Him.

Don’t be too surprised if, in the next few months, we write a post about building in new dog pen right off the house, probably utilizing the front door. Also, I imagine Ed will want to tell you about what it was like living with Meeko in the house for a week, without Libby.

However, I think for next week, he might be continuing his series on firearms. He probably needs to get his mind of his missing bees, and cleaning up after a dog with free flowing bowels.

Connie

 

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While We’re Waiting

While we’re waiting for Ed to figure out that washtub bass, I thought I would fill you in on our last year, and share some plans for upcoming posts.

Last August, we took our first ever family vacation. We went to Georgia to visit my dad, then to Charleston SC so Chicken Girl could see the ocean. From there we went to Greenville SC to visit Ed’s daughter, and on to North Carolina to visit Cherokee and see where Ed’s grandparents lived when he was a boy.  We put 2600 miles on my car and made some great memories. There will be more about that in later posts.

While we were gone, James was supposed to stay here and take care of the critters.  Well, that didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped.  To make a long, sad, story short, James was not able to fight his Meth addiction and surrendered his probation. The judge gave him nine years.  The blessing in that is that he is clean and sober.  We pray that this time he gets the tools (and the desire) he needs to stay that way.

In the meanwhile, Bam Bam’s life kind of fell apart too, and he is staying with us again, along with his two small dogs, Rex and Gracie. They have been with us since December. It’s been nice to have him home again, and he is a big help. The little dogs provide a lot of “entertainment” although the cats are less than impressed.

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Bam Bam with Rex (black) and Gracie (white)

The big dogs are doing ok. Some days, Libby really shows her age, but I think we’ve stopped her digging out. Meeko still climbs out, on occasion, comes to the back door and barks! I think he wants to play with the little dogs, who aren’t terribly sure that’s a good idea.

On a positive note, we have finished homeschooling and Chicken Girl graduated on June 3rd. She is now taking an online Voice Over class, since she wants to be a voice over artist.

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Chicken Girl at her graduation party

As for the chickens, with the exception of one hen we lost to illness (we’re not sure what), they are all doing fine. We get between one and two dozen eggs a week, which is more than enough for us.  We are working on rebuilding the coop (again), as well as some new chicken tractors.

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Sunny about ready to fly the coop!

This spring has been an exciting time with the bees. Currently we have four hives. One we bought as a nuc, two from a hive we split, and one we took from an old house. I know that Ed will want to tell you all about that, but I will say I have finally put on the bee suit and started helping him. Capturing that wild hive was amazing!

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The wild hive was behind this wall!

Weather wise, things have just been strange.  With the exception of about a week of frigid sub zero temperatures, last winter was mild and dry. We didn’t get much spring. It just went from cold to hot, and still very dry.  We finally got some rain yesterday, but we need more.  The grass is dry and crunchy, but the plantain is doing beautifully!

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All the green is plantain. The brown is grass

We bought some fruit trees as well as some elderberry bushes planning to create fruit tree guilds. Well, we didn’t get as far into that as we would have liked, but we did get all the trees in the ground and they are hanging on.

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An apricot tree with mulch inside the drip line. We plan to plant understory plants here later.

Ed and Bam Bam built me a basement greenhouse, so I was able to get some seeds started. The only problem was that when they were ready to go outside, the weather was still too cool, and then the tiller broke down and Ed wasn’t able to get everything tilled.   We improvised and got everything I started planted. Some things didn’t make it, but most are, like the trees, hanging on.

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The greenhouse

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Tomato plants in the garden

After three years,  the blackberries are producing! Then a few days ago, I discovered wild raspberries growing behind the barn. This must just be a good year for berries. The mulberry trees in the fence rows are full of fruit in varying degrees of ripeness. The wild grapes have taken off too.

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Blackberries!

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Wild raspberries behind the barn

Well, I think that is pretty much everything. Hopefully, Ed will have that bass built next week, and he’ll post about that and all the other ways you can make your own musical instruments.

Connie

 

 

 

Good Fences Make Good Doggies

The bees will be here on 21 April, so there will be another post concerning cleaning and setting up my hives shortly. However, another matter has taken precedent and I had to attend to it before I ended up pulling what little hair I still have out. (See the post Don’t Fence Me In).

One of the things I try to do in this blog, is save you the time, money, aggravation and extra work I put in to my ventures, before I succeed. As long as I fall on my face in the direction of the finish line, I do not consider it a failure; just another payment on the tuition at the University of Hard Knocks.

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This is what playing catch up with a digging dog looks like.

Let’s talk about dog pens for a second. Two years, ago I built one. It seemed simple enough. Just fence in a piece of land, put the big ugly dog house in it, and insert the big ugly dogs. No problem right? Yeah…. sure you’re right.

The first question is, how much is enough land for a dog? I really cannot say. I have sicced Google on the problem, but have not found a satisfactory answer. First time out of the gate, I enclosed about 100 by 80 feet. Yes, that is 8000 square feet. Yes, I am a fool, thank you for noticing.

Shortly I realized that the north fence; the oldest line of fence I incorporated into my new lot, was totally inadequate. For a number of months, I tried to patch it with little success. I used electricity but that too, was inadequate.

Finally, I decided to back off approximately 60 feet, and put a whole new fence on the north side. Now we are down to about 4000 square feet. A little more reasonable. BUT, and there is always a but, Libby, the non-climber, took a special interest in that new 100 linear feet of fence. After the recent winter, the ground was particularly soft. Libby had a field day and once Meeko figured out what she was doing, the gimpy former climber became a pretty fair tunneler.

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Sixty feet less and a brand new fence.

 

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The first shots in the war for the North Fence

We were off to the races, but when you are patching as they go, you are always behind the power curve. My next attempt was to place pallets around the bottom of the fence; wired in, and nailed together where appropriate. Understand, I am still playing catch-up. While the tunneling duo have a preference for one linear 100 feet of fence along the north side, they have branched out, and it is impossible to predict where they will strike next.
What is wrong with my pallet answer? To start with, the dogs quickly out paced the local Co Op’s ability to supply me with pallets. Second, we are looking at 280 or so linear feet of fence. The average pallet is 44 inches long. That means I will need in the neighborhood of 70 more pallets. That would be a cost of $245.00. Shotgun shells are much cheaper.

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The first attempt at the pallet answer, for what it cost to do this all the way around I could have bought a better dog.

Then Meeko got out, killed a chicken, and wounded another. Enough. But what to do? I was really considering Turkey Shot. In desperation, we tied the dogs out by the barn and let them sleep in a concrete floored feed room. It was a really bad answer, but only lasted about two weeks.

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Tied out dogs them and I both hate it.

Then my lovely wife intervened. She took me out to the dog lot one day, and pointed out one obvious change. Change made: the dog lot is now 40 X 50 feet for two dogs. That would be 2000 square feet. Three or four people have been living in less square footage in our house.

What did this do for my fencing project? First, it reduced the linear footage of the fence by another hundred feet; now it was 180 linear feet. A hard and fast rule is that every foot you can reduce that fence, is one foot they cannot dig out of. Second, it gave me a vast amount of fencing and posts to work with when I reset the fence.

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The infamous north fence. Note the fencing on the ground. Yes, it does appear to be working. No I do not need to lose weight, that is where I carry my lunch. Several of them.

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Kat helping me line up a pole.

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Me driving a pole with a 6 lb pole hammer. Possibly the greatest invention since fire.

Next, I ran fence wire on the ground ,along the line of the fence, sank steel post every five or so (got a bunch of those too),and strung the fence with the able assistance of Kat, the Chicken Girl. Once I had the fence up, Kat wired the fence on the ground and the standing fence together. I added two short poles on the outside which Kat also wired in. These were to make it difficult for the dogs to push out on the fence. Anyway, as I have mentioned, I have a bunch of poles, short and long.

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The inside of the gate. Note the wire, even Libby cannot dig through that.

Then I pulled out the much abused and busted northern line completely. I laid wire down in the same way I had on the eastern side, added some poles, and put a sixteen foot cattle panel at the north-west corner which Libby seemed to take particular joy in attacking. Let her try to chew through that. After that, we fenced the rest. Everyone was helping there, and the dogs, chained in front of the barn, were watching; wishing we would hurry up and finish.

The western and the southern lines were the most stable. Along the western line, I placed all the pallets I still had. On the southern line, I stretched wire on the inside and the ladies wired it in while I was putting together the gate, and mumbling under my breath. It was getting late, but I wanted them in the new yard.

We hung the gate, and brought over the dogs, who were overjoyed about being able to run in their new home. Libby, of course, was checking the fence line carefully.

What can I tell you that you that will save you trouble?

1. Make a reasonable dog run. One lady, who had multiple dogs, said her 60′ X 40′ foot backyard was fine for three very large dogs.

2. If they are dogs, they can dig. Sometimes they dig just for fun. So find some way to build a no dig zone around the inside of your fence at least two feet wide. Wire fence works well; chicken wire not so well. Also, and this is my next project with the dogs, build them some stuff to play on and with.

3. Give your dog plenty of credit for creativity. When you think you have it sealed, think again.

All during the re-fencing project, there was a place where the fence had been bent and broken about 10 inches wide along the bottom. A number of times I said to Connie, “We need to patch that and slap a pole in there. In the hurry to get the Dweeble Twins off the chain (I hate chaining a dog), we neglected this less than a linear foot of fence. I went out the next morning, and they were gone out of that one little hole.

It is sealed now, and my ego is healing.

Thank You

Ed

One of Those Weeks

Well, maybe, one of those months.

Since Ed and I both write posts for this blog, we trade off weekly posting; last week my post, this week his. The idea is that we both then have two weeks to work on writing a post worth reading…Yes, I know, we don’t always get there.

This is technically Ed’s week. However, Ed has been sick for the last two weeks. What started out as a sinus and ear infection has moved to his chest. He went to the doctor for the second time yesterday, and she started him on a new round of antibiotics and a prescription cough medicine. He really hasn’t felt well, and to be honest, I don’t know if he realizes it’s his “turn”. I’m not going to put any more pressure on him than he has already put on himself. He missed two days work that first week. He made one day up, and has been working ever since, except for his normal days off.

Several weeks ago, he wrote about our constant battle to keep our dogs contained. Pallets around the fence perimeter seemed to be the solution…when we could get pallets. Unfortunately, the supply dried up, and we were back to using whatever we could find. At least twice a day, one of us would walk the fence, looking for evidence of new digging. Once or twice, we found some and were able to block the hole. I would love to go buy everything we need, and just fix the stupid fence, but we don’t have that kind of money, so we do damage control. At least Meeko quit climbing right?

Wrong!

A few days after Ed went back to work, the dogs got out, and I couldn’t find the hole. Using flashlights, Katherine and I walked the whole fence, and could not find where they escaped. I was doing some things in the house that made bringing them in for the night extremely inconvenient. In frustration, I decided to shut them in one of the rooms in the barn that had a cement floor and locking door. Katherine and I carried blankets, food and water out to the barn, and locked them in for the night.

The next day, Ed and I both looked for the escape route, but couldn’t find it. I still can’t believe that Libby climbed the fence, but I don’t have any other explanation for her escape. To see if we could catch them, Ed put out the game camera for a few days. The only thing we saw was chickens, three of our chickens have found out how to get out their pen, and have decided to free range themselves. The interesting thing was that the dogs really didn’t seem interested. Four days later, we found out how wrong we were.

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 From the game camera: chickens outside the dog pen. If Libby sees them, she’s not interested. 

Last Friday, we finally got good, gully washing, basement flooding, rain. We needed it. It’s been a dry winter. That day, our three free range wanna be’s flew out of their pen. I saw them and told Katherine. She can round them up faster than I can, so she went out to get them. A few seconds after she went out the door, I heard a noise that I cannot describe. I went to investigate, and met Katherine and Meeko at the back door.

“Put him in the house! He got Hoppy! Hoppy ran off!” Katherine was already running off to find the rooster when I grabbed Meeko, pulled him inside, went outside myself and shut the door behind me. (Ed was sleeping). My first thought was of Libby, but she was still in the pen.

Katherine and I found Hoppy hiding in the weeds. At first glance, he looked like he had been plucked. All the feathers were gone from between his shoulder blades and from his back, near his tail feathers. Later I would change the impression from “plucked” to “skinned”.

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Hoppy’s back near his tail feathers.

I rounded up the other chickens, and then went to get Meeko put back in the pen. Ed was awake and I quickly explained what happened. Once Meeko was out of the house, Kat brought Hoppy in and we cleaned and treated his wounds. Then we put him in a crate in Katherine’s room.

Did I mention, it was pouring? Yeah, we were all soaked.

Ed and I restarted the discussion we’ve had too many times: How do we keep the dogs in? Ed went to the barn and came back with two cables with hooks on them. His thought was that we’re going to have to tie them up, we just weren’t sure how to do it.

A little while later, one of us, I don’t remember which, saw Libby outside the fence. I went out first while Ed went to get his shoes. By the time I got outside, Libby had bolted. I saw both dogs on the far side of my neighbor’s house, and called to them. Then I saw the other dog. Meeko ran toward it, and then both dogs ran back toward me, with the new dog coming quickly behind. I got Meeko, and gave him to Katherine. I turned to see Libby head back toward the other dog. In the meanwhile, our neighbor’s son came calling the other dog. I called Libby again, and for the first time in her life, she came to me, and I was able to get hold of her.

The man was apologizing for his dog, and I was apologizing for ours, and somehow, Katherine lost her grip on Meeko. Fortunately, Ed was out by then and was able to get him before our neighbor’s son was in the middle of a dog fight. Fuming, Ed headed toward the barn with Meeko. I sent Katherine to the house for a leash, and when she brought it, I used it to take Libby to the barn as well.

Ed had to go to work, so Katherine and I would have to deal with letting the dogs out to do their business. That would be ok for the night, but what about tomorrow? Then I remembered the cables. I attached them to a stall door, and then was able to use them to let the dogs out.

Hoppy died the next day. We were even more determined. We know that we need to do something about the chickens too, but we feel that the dogs are the bigger issue. Even if we could protect our chickens, some of our neighbors have chickens too.

The original plan was to keep the dogs tethered out for a few days  while Ed and I did some serious refurbishing of the pen. We decided we would start over. We would clear the fence rows, and combine everything that we have to dig and climb-proof the pen. We would even get out the electric fence box and see if we could figure out why it won’t work. We would start on Ed’s next day off. The dogs would only have to spend a few nights in the barn, and a few days tethered.

The Ed got sicker. His chest is so congested that he gets winded easily and has been sleeping a lot. I can’t help but feel that if I had been a little more on the ball with learning about natural remedies, he might have been able to head some of this off. I’m not real crazy about his having to take a second round of antibiotics, and neither is he, but that is where we are.  I’ve been dealing with some health issues myself, and that doesn’t help either.

Ed says he is feeling a little better today, but he has to work tonight, so we’ll see how he is in the morning. Prayers are always appreciated.

As for the dogs, they are just going to have to deal with being tied out for a little while longer.

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Unhappy Dogs

Connie

 

More of the Same

It was a quiet week on the homestead, except when we were putting the dogs back. It seems like we spent most of the week just doing that. Three times in one day nearly sent Ed and I both over the edge. However, we did agree that we could be thankful that the weather has stayed fairly warm, so we weren’t having to try and do all that with ice, snow, and frigid temperatures. On the other hand, if the ground had actually frozen this year, Libby wouldn’t be able to dig out!

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In the afternoon sun, resting up for tonight’s digging!

Ed’s pallet plan seems to be working. We just need to be able to get our hands on enough pallets. To do the whole fence line, will probably need about 75 pallets. How many do we have now? Nine. Yeah, it’s a work in progress, and basically damage control for now. We find  where she’s digging and block the hole with a pallet. For two days in a row, we went out in the morning and the dogs were still in. These days, that is a major victory!

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Pallets on the gate side of the pen

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Two more on the opposite side. This is where they’ve been working the most.

I had some concern that the chickens were taking lessons from the dogs, because Moony rooster has been leaving his pen three or four times a day. I think Hoppy rooster may be picking on him, and he just needs a break. When I mentioned moving him, Ed said something under his breath about putting a diaper on him and bringing him inside. Um…no. Not doing that. Katherine and I did notice that the hens seem to be a little protective of him though. It’s kind of cute. Oh, and they have started laying eggs again.

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Rooster on the loose!

Like I said, it was a quiet week, so I don’t have much to tell you. I need to start thinking about starting seeds for this spring’s garden, but I just haven’t been able to get much into it. To be honest, I’m just tired. I’m carrying too much weight and I’m still having some problems with my foot from last summer’s surgery. I’ve gone back to cutting sugar and other processed carbohydrates. I feel a lot better when I keep with a paleo type diet. The most exercise I’m getting is up and down the basement stairs, and back and forth to the dog pen. I need to work on that too.

This weekend, Katherine will start the dissecting part of biology. I’ll have to let you know how that goes.

Connie

We Surrender!

Well, no we don’t , but those words did come from Ed’s mouth yesterday as we were leaving for a day trip to Independence.

As I walked out the back door, I looked out across our front pasture. None of the pastures were mowed last fall, and they are  overgrown. Something caught my attention, and I went back into the house for the camera. A plastic grocery bag, caught by the wind, was caught in a bare sapling. As Ed and Katherine turned to see what I was photographing, Ed laughed and said, “We surrender!”.  I had to admit, the bag did look like a white flag.

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See the white spot in the middle of the picture?

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Here’s  a closeup

We all had a giggle and got in the car.

Let me back up a minute. Night before last, late in the evening, we had a thunderstorm. Yes, that’s right. A thunderstorm in January, in northern Missouri. I didn’t see any lightning, but I did hear the thunder and the rain. It poured!  So, yesterday morning, everything was pretty soggy. On top of that, the weather must have remembered where it was, because it was windy and getting colder by the minute.

As we made our way along 116, Ed said that it looked like we might be going into some fog. We’ve had a lot of fog lately, so I really didn’t think that much about it until a few miles later. The air became cloudier and I had a moment when my mind had to make a small shift and remind me that fog does not blow across the road…no, snow does that.

Ed asked if I thought we should turn around. I didn’t, and we were out of it in a few miles.

The rest of the day went pretty much as planned, and we got home in the mid afternoon.

The dogs met Ed as he got out of the car. Then Meeko decided he should come across the driver’s seat to say hello to me. While Kat and I carried in groceries and other things, Ed went to plug the hole. It didn’t take long.  They have found a new place, but Ed will have to get more pallets before he can fix it permanently.

I think Ed is right about the free roaming dogs being the major catalyst behind the escapes, but I also think they might get a little bored. Let’s be honest, they have nothing but time when it comes to figuring out how to escape.

Kat and I have slowly eased back into school after the holidays, and this last week, in Biology, we looked at fungi.  We collected two different types from outside, as well as a mushroom from the fridge. She was able to get some spore samples and look at them under the microscope. Her overall takeaway is “Mushrooms are cool!” Next week, we move on to sea life. We’ll be starting some dissection soon. I’m not sure how well she will take to that.

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The three specimens

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Investigator Kat

Ed and I went to the monthly bee club meeting on Monday, and Ed was able to order new bees. They should be here in April.

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!

Connie

But Why??????

The dogs keep escaping. Anyone who has read my blog entries, facebook postings, emails, letters, prayer lists, rants, and things casually written on out house walls, knows that my dogs keep escaping. It is a continuing theme, as it well should be, because my dogs keep escaping.

It used to be mostly Meeko.

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Hi, my name is Meeko, I am very good dog. Good at escaping, excellent at making an all around nuisance of myself and the world’s greatest licker of unsuspecting faces.

Meeko has been known to literally go through a welded wire fence. Push with the head, get a paw in there, heave and struggle, and BOBS YOUR UNCLE, you’re out. His favorite method, however, has always been up and over. If Sir Edmund Hillary had only had Meeko along, he would have made much shorter and easier work of Everest. Meeko was the ultimate climber. No fence was high enough to withstand his assault.On his way out, he was often able to press the fence down, so the more gentile Libby could step over and have a run with him. We will discuss the difference in capturing techniques for the two dogs shortly.

That continued from the time Meeko was with us (2010) until November 2015 when he, while trying to climb out, got his foot caught in the fence, dislocated his right hip, and spent six weeks inside wearing a lampshade The whole ordeal cost us about five hundred bucks, which we just recently paid off. The injury, which still gives him trouble, has slowed Meeko’s climbing to a near stop.

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Hi, Meeko again, just after doing a header without taking the footsie with me. OUCH! But it’s cool, I think my hat is much nicer than Ed’s don’t you?

Yet my dogs keep escaping.

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I was working and Connie wired this dog kennel into the outside of the fence as a temporary patch until I got a day off. The next day it looked like this.

These dogs have, plus or minus, half an acre of scrubby brush to play with. Birds, rabbits, and what not visit them. They have a house and all kinds of open ground to run in. These dogs are well fed and watered, yet they have worn a trail completely around the inside of the fence and, way too often, we find them out and running come evening or early morning.

Why do my dogs keep escaping?
Libby next took up the mantle of escape artist most excellent. Libby had shown a propensity for tunneling even way back when but, after Meeko’s accident, she developed into a tunneler that would make a Welsh coal miner blush from his inadequacies. I would hazard a guess that if you combined her tunnels end to end, you would have dug a decent WWI defensive trench.

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Hi, I am Libby, I do not stand for pictures well because I sense you want me to. I am an older lady but still have a lot of spunk. Also, if I keep digging any deeper, I am going to have to learn to ignore people calling me in Chinese.

She also, even though she is getting on, has no dental problems. She will get any fencing, or troubling chicken wire we put down, in her teeth and bend it out of her way. I cringe when I think about it. So, since Meeko’s over is blocked, Libby bet on the under, and has been beating the house fairly consistently.

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Please note the bent up welded wire fence. Libby did that with her teeth. You just touched your mouth didn’t you? Yeah, that looks like it would smart. I covered the whole mess with chicken wire, hooked in with pig clips and weighed down with pallets. So far so good but she still tries.

I have a word for you: Pallets. She, so far, has been stymied by pallets laid along the bottom of, and attached to, the fence. Note: I said so far, but I might want to go check before I go much further. She IS a resourceful old lady.
Still…. why? Libby was a town dog and had no run to speak of, and Meeko cares about nothing much more that Libby or us. As long as we all appear happy, he is delirious. When he does escape, he is so proud of himself he comes directly to show us how smart he is.

Let me take a moment and compare and contrast how, after an escape, you recapture each dog.

Meeko: Yell, “Hey Meeko, come here!” and he comes. I do not believe it really matters who yells. He might just come to anybody. I am certain that it really doesn’t matter what you yell. “Meeko” is just proforma. Yell whatever you want. He will come.

Libby: Forget about it. She will not come until she is ready and, when she does come, she is more likely to give you that lopsided Libby grin and bolt right or left at the last minute. You see, when she was young she got the message that playing chase was a fun game and, if you came when called, that was the end of the fun game.

Treats? Good luck with that. I have personally offered her everything from raw meat up to (but not including) a child. She will ignore you. There is always time for treats when the game is done. Live rabbit, squalling cat, or two pounds of ground round, are not worth the end of the game.

So the best way to catch her is to let her run herself out or, better yet, don’t lose her to begin with.
But WHY do my dogs keep escaping?????

For Christmas I got an infrared, motion activated, game camera . On the very first night we put it out, we got a hint of the answer to that question.

What I have not mentioned was that not only was there a beaten path around the inside of the fence, there was also one along the outside of the fence. Perhaps not as well worn as the inside path, but easily seen and followed.

Find below some pictures of our dog’s visitors:

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Hi, I am the big, unleashed Rot that is not supposed to be here, I guess I am busted.

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This is the other one. I have only seen him/her once in daylight and at a goodly distance.

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I have business elsewhere as you can see but, based on the fuzzy tail, Ed wonders if I might not be a Fox On the Run. (For Tom T Hall fans everywhere)

The Rottweiler is a dog that should not be on our land period. I am very certain he killed another dog last summer, even if by accident. He runs with a big yellow lab whose picture I did not get, but we did see both of them here, the other day during, daylight.

I took the opportunity of their daylight visit to do some target practice, with our 12 gauge, firing at a Juniper tree that was just to the Rot’s left. The remarkable thing is the beast not only seems to recognize a weapon. He seems to know something of calibers, gauges and sizes. He just moved away when I brought out my pellet gun, but I stepped out the door with the shotgun he suddenly remember a pressing engagement elsewhere!

There is another trespasser that we don’t see often. A black and white mixed mostly Border Collie I believe and we have a blurry vision of what probably is a fox.

Thinking back, we had the same thing happen at our old house. Meeko had quit attempting to get out until folks moved in with two little dogs which were allowed to run loose.

So, having finally got enough breathing space, I got a chance to write a blog post.

Thanks for reading.

Ed

Damage Control and Starting Over

That is how I would describe the last few months on the homestead. Kind of like one step forward and 250 steps back.

When we first started this blog, our thought was to chronicle our journey into homesteading while we deal with the challenges of getting older, as well as dealing with a teenager who has challenges of her own. The challenges seem to have taken over, and there hasn’t been much growth on the homestead. That includes keeping up the blog, and for that, we apologize.

When I started to write this post, I had to look over the pictures I did manage to take over the last four months to give me some perspective and see that there was some progress, albeit not nearly as much as I would have liked.

I’ve been scooter and crutch free since the end of October, but I still have a lot of pain and stiffness. I don’t have much stamina and tire easily. The doctor said it could be six months total before I am completely healed, so we are looking at another six weeks or so. The Lord must really think I need to work on my patience!

Ed’s work schedule leaves him unavailable four days a week, with the other three days for trying to catch up. It’s not working out all that great, especially since he has to spend at least part of the time finding and fixing the new dog escape route. That deserves its own blog post, but let’s just say that Meeko meets us at the back door nearly every morning now. Libby has got out several times too, but she insists on digging her way out and Meeko just finds new places to go over. Apparently, he has forgotten that is how he dislocated his hip last winter.

The garden was mostly a bust; and what wasn’t, mostly rotted on the vine. We did collect a few tomatoes, and I did manage to make some bread and butter pickles from the over sized cucumbers. I found the recipe here (You have to scroll down the page a little to get to the recipe). They were really good, and I am not a big fan of bread and butter pickles.

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Romas

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Lost in the jungle!

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Finished Pickles

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I know it’s hard to tell, but this is basil. I hope I get some volunteer next year.

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Awesome Elephant Ears. I think I was supposed to dig them up before it froze. Too late now.

The first week that I was able to get about without the crutches, I decided that Kat and I would harvest the sunflower seeds The same day Ed decided to start clearing the fence row between the yard and front pasture. We both worked about two hours and I pretty much wiped myself out. From Ed’s side of it, when he quit for the day, there was a spot where you could actually tell there is a pasture on the other side of the fence.

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Sunflowers off the front porch

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Sunflower heads

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Seeds and Chaff

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Ed in the fence row

The okra continued to grow into November. We had a super mild fall and only recently have had freezing temperatures. I decided to just let it dry on the vine in hopes of collecting seeds and using the dried pods for art projects…They are still out there.

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Okra “Fingers”

We collected quite a bit of honey, and even sold some locally, but then the hives were infested with hive beetles and the bees died. So, we are working on cleaning up the hives in hopes of getting new bees in the spring.

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Dead bees on the hive bottom

A few weeks ago, Ed, James, and Kat, built the new chicken coop. We officially have three roosters and two hens. The jury was out on Hoppy’s gender for quite a while, but his crowing made it official. Since we discovered that a single rooster’s amorous tendencies are more than one hen should handle, we decided to separate the girls from the boys, by building a split coop. The plan was to run fencing between the two sides, but the weather caught up with us. The first night the roosters all stayed in the same coop, Sunny attacked Moony and Hoppy. There was a LOT of blood. So now,  Sunny stays in “time out” in the old coop, while everyone else seems to be getting along fine, at present, in the new one. Yes, we know we still have one rooster too many with the hens, and that really, there needs to be more hens for the one rooster. We’re working on that. The girls, particularly Scarlet, did start laying eggs this fall, but they have stopped now. We got a couple dozen fresh eggs anyway.

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The New Coop. Notice there are two drop down doors. Only one is open.

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Shingles we found in the garage when we moved in. Just right for the chicken coop!

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Hoppy the Rooster

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Eggs!

So what else happened since July? In August, James had a relapse of sorts and is back on probation. Bam Bam got married in September. I turned 53 in October and Ed turned 66 last week. James and I have both had to deal with some Bi Polar issues and we’ve all dealt with a stomach bug that cost Ed a week’s work. That, of course, caused us some financial strain, but the Lord took care of us, just like He always does.

On a positive note, school is going pretty well this year. We finished a study of ancient Greece and have moved on to Rome. In American History we are finishing up the “Gilded Age”(1877-1912ish) and have formed strong opinions about Herman Melville’s writing.  Have you ever actually read Moby Dick?  Now, only morbid curiosity makes us keep reading.

Katherine has discovered a handicraft that actually sparks her interest: candle making! We did manage to get some bee’s wax, so we will be playing with some of that.

Although I plan to get back to consistent posting, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with it until after the holidays. If I can’t, Ed and I  both want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.

Connie

 

An Interesting Week

Last week, we were feeling a little bit of a financial pinch, and I really didn’t want to spend anything more than I absolutely had to. Well, we ran out of dish soap, and were on our way to being out of laundry soap. I didn’t want to use what little cash I had for that, in case we needed something really important, like feminine hygiene products or toilet paper. I draw the line at DIY’ing either of those!

I had, however, made laundry soap before with limited success, so I googled a recipe for that  and one for dish soap. I had everything I needed in one form or another, except for washing soda. I did have baking soda though, and I knew I had read somewhere that you could change one to the other, so I went back to Google.

Once I found what I needed, I decided to sneak in a chemistry lesson, so I told Kat to look up the difference between baking and washing soda, as well as how to change one to the other. Surprisingly, she did it without complaining.

Making washing soda is easy. You can learn how here. Basically, all you do is bake baking soda in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. There is a slight change in color and a definite change in texture.

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Fresh baked washing soda

Then we used the newly formed washing soda in the recipes we found for laundry and dish soap. The dish soap recipe that I used did not work out well for me, so I will keep experimenting in that department and let you know what I find out.

The laundry soap, on the other hand, turned out great, and seems to work pretty well. I have not used it on Ed’s uniforms yet, but it did fine with the rest of the laundry. You can find the recipe here.  You grate soap (I used Ivory), and then mix it with Borax and washing soda, and put in the food processor until its a fine powder. I used about 2 tablespoons per load. It’s a lot easier and a lot less mess than trying to make liquid laundry soap.

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grated soap

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Before processing

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After. Notice the layer of dust. We let that settle for awhile before we opened it. Don’t need to breath soap dust.

Over the weekend, the dogs decided they would start playing “find the hole under the fence” again, giving Ed fits for about three days. Since they haven’t got out since Tuesday, I think he solved the problem.  He is still working on new living arrangements for the chickens, but I’ll let him tell you about that.

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Hanging out in the house while Ed fixes the fence . Notice the cats on the table above. Bookworm is annoyed, but think Captain is asleep

During all that, I discovered what I thought might be a spider bite on my back between my shoulder blades. I couldn’t see it with out mirror and I certainly couldn’t reach it. I enlisted Ed and Kat’s help for a few days, but finally gave in an went to the doctor on Monday. It’s an abscess..We don’t know how, and we don’t know why. She gave me a shot in the rear, put me on antibiotics, and told me to come back Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Ed planned to check the bee hives. He hadn’t had a chance to take a good look at them in about ten days, so he was kind of anxious to  check on them. When he went out just to look, the saw this.

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A ball of bees under the pallet the hive sits on. The usually don’t do that.

Then he came back in and called our friends at Crooked Hill. Tammie told him he needed to see what was going on inside the hive, which is what he already planned to do. So he donned his bee suit,  started his smoker and went to visit the bees. As I usually do, I went too, staying on the far side of the fence. From there, I can usually get pretty good pictures and stay off the bee’s radar. I said usually.

Since the Sparta hive had the strange activity, he started there first. All I can say is wow! The hive is crammed full of bees, brood, and honey!

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One frame from Sparta hive

Even with the smoke, they seemed especially agitated, and when I realized I was starting to get some attention, I walked away. When I got back to the chicken pens, they left me. A few minutes later, Ed walked over to the fence and asked me to bring him the camera. Big mistake. Suddenly I had a lot of bee attention. As I started moving away again I felt the first sting on my face, and knew I might be in trouble.  There is a an old metal washtub sitting out there near the black berries, and it was half full of rain water. I had noticed it earlier and decided that might be my best chance of freeing myself from the bees. I hit the ground and dunked my head in the tub, using my hands to splash water up on myself. Once I was pretty sure, was free of them, I went to the house and told Kat to get the plantain oil we made last fall. I know I had at least five stings. One on my face, two on my head and two (maybe three) on my arm. Ed came in a few minutes later to check on me. He got stung three times through the bee suit, but he doesn’t have the reaction I do to things like that. The plantain oil did it’s job, but I took some allergy medicine just in case.

The stings on my face and head swelled a little, but were nearly gone in a few hours. The ones on my head hurt the worst, but I think that was because they were right underneath where my glasses rest. The area on my arm got red and hot. You should have seen my doctor’s face when I went back to see her about the abscess and she saw my arm. Poor woman. She offered to give me a shot for that too, but I told her I thought I was ok. The abscess is nearly  gone.

Today, I had my pre-op appointment for my foot surgery next week. It will be an outpatient procedure so I’ll get to come home the same day. Ed’s kind of stressing about how he’s going to get me out of the car and into the house, but I think it will be fine. We went ahead and rented the knee scooter, so I could practice with it. I think I’ll be ok.

I told you it was an interesting week.

Things have calmed down a little now, although Ed is making plans for harvesting some honey. I’m sure he’ll be posting all about that next week.

Connie

 

Spoiled Rotten Roosters

Yes, I know it’s been a long dry spell again. Sometimes, life just happens and there are only so many hours in the day. Most of my focus the last month or so has been on home school, and changing some things that just weren’t working. I think we’ve settled most of that and are getting back into a routine.

Additionally, a young friend of ours from church was diagnosed with stage four sarcoma, and we have spent a lot of time not only in prayer for him, but also in helping get the word out about a benefit to help defray some of the expenses involved in his treatment. The benefit is this weekend, and I am also happy to report that he is doing well after a third chemo treatment.

Then, James’ dog, Loki, aka “little psycho grand dog”, was killed by a neighbor’s dog. We all spent a few days between “mad” and “sad” and back to “mad” again. Loki is now buried in the pasture next to Marshmellow. It’s very quiet in the house.

As Ed told you, we bought bee hives and ordered bees last month. His work schedule has left him little time to work on much of anything on the homestead. Often, when he has day off, we spend it running errands that take both of us. So the hives are still sitting in the garage, disassembled. He did get the gate put up for the new chicken coop. I don’t think he really sees the humor in my calling it, “the gate to nowhere”.

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The Gate to Nowhere

We’re all just kind of worn out. Except the roosters. They are just fine! Usually, I don’t get to see Katherine interact with them, because I am in the house tending to other early morning chores when she goes out. Sometimes, I do though, and I even got some pictures and video. I have come to the conclusion that we have two absolutely spoiled rotten roosters! I can’t post the video here, so I will share it on our Facebook page this evening.

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Sunrise (Sunny)

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Moonrise (Moony)

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The Dastardly Duo

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Kat and Sunny

We ran an errand to Chillicothe yesterday and got back about dark, so Kat went to put the roosters up. They were already in the coop when she went out there, but came running out as soon as they saw her. She caught Moony, and was talking to him, when Sunny pecked her on the leg!

I think he was jealous!

Last week, I was watching them out the window, when I saw a squirrel come up to the far side of the fence. It scurried around to the gate, apparently with the idea it could squeeze through and get some of that corn. Suddenly there were two very interested roosters at the gate, and the squirrel changed his mind. It’s amazing how entertaining chickens can be.

We are definitely seeing an early spring here. The lilies are coming up.

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pushing up

I hope to get back to posting consistently, so, Lord willing, we’ll talk to you again next week.

Connie