beyond the cow

Murphy strikes again… right in the middle of a load of work clothes

Shocking, I know. Our little world seems to revolve around the cows. Not to disrespect the cows, they do kind of take up a lot of our time because there is a lot that happens during calving season, pre-breeding, breeding season, branding, pasture rotation, checking fences so they don’t get out and annoy someone, etc… but we really do have other tasks, off-ranch employment and other animals that are part of our daily chores, too. We have some gardening, maintenance or repair of something…. there’s always that kind of stuff going on, like washing machines that start making weird noises after it fills and starts a cycle… care of chickens, turkeys, Cous-Cous the goose, L the sheep, Gus the horse, bees, a motley mob of goats, and dogs and the usual ranch-required herd of barn cats. The animals all have their daily moment(s) of fame, or disgrace, within the range of cuteness (baby critters) to lawbreaking (that would be the goats department).

I’m melting …. it’s a desert here
24-hr temporary poult brooder – not ideal but we weren’t quite ready since the mama turkey and her brood were in the pen we needed to use.

The turkeys and chickens have been in decline due to age over the years. An order was placed for some Bourbon Red and Tiger Bronze turkey poults. They arrived the end of June. Poults seem to be pretty fragile upon arrival and we lost a few due to ‘what ifs’…the failure to thrive (where they just don’t grow and develop), the stress factors of shipping or the weather-related heat we’re suffering under. It had been incredibly difficult to keep their temperature constant in their little pen with the crazy temperature swings between high and low. Raise the lamp up, no… set it back down, move it over here… no, not there – set it back over there…. all sorts of juggling occurs for several days as they feather out. Poults (chicks, too, but it doesn’t appear not so much as poults) don’t regulate their body temperatures very well until they are several weeks old and become mostly feathered.

But the little buggers are coming along quite nicely and as they grow we are starting to see who is a tom and who is a hen. There are several that are puffing and strutting their stuff. We also had a 2-year old turkey hen who decided she was going to take over the broody department since her mama died earlier this year. She hatched 3 poults a couple of months prior to the mail order batch arriving. They are now ‘weaned’ from mama turkey and hanging out with Gobbler and his buddy. The teenagers are starting to snoodle under their watchful supervision. Not sure who is a tom or hen but most likely 2 of the 3 are toms. May be all 3 are toms. That seems to be the ratio that there are more toms than hens. One year we had 7 eggs hatch…. only one hen in that group. Not promising stats if you are trying to grow your flock but very good for the culinary aspect.

The chickens, appalled by these events, decided that they needed to take drastic action. They couldn’t be one-upped by turkeys so 3 of them made a pact to go broody… at the same time. Only one peep hatched … heat, was a big factor on hatch rate… Corndog lost all of her eggs – twice. She almost holds the record of being broody the longest but she is now happily molting. A no-named foster chicken was the last of the trio setting. She was moved to a better brooding spot with a little cooler temperatures but she, too, did not hatch any of her eggs.

The barn cats are all in charge of rodent control and have joined ranks with the poultry and the wild birds in tackling the grasshopper population… except for Winky. He’s 19 years old, missing a few teeth and figures that he’s way too old to be running around in the heat, chasing insects. He supervises the turkey poults … from the picnic table…with his eyes closed…as they snoodle through the garden fence and protect the garden from the invading bugs. Afterall, the big tom turkeys can’t wiggle through the wire and claim that they are no longer responsible for the teenagers’ actions so it’s up to Winky to deal with. He’s okay with that as long as they bring him a mouse in payment.

Fly traps are strategically placed around the compound so as to not offend the senses. These do need to be checked. They get placed mostly around the coop, in shaded areas or watering spots. They work really, really good but the only drawback is that they smell to high heaven. If you get anywhere near one you wonder what on earth died until you remember that the smelly fly trap is nearby. We used to hang sticky ribbon fly traps in the coop in some remote corner away from the birds. They worked really well, too… caught all varieties of things. Insects, feathers, dust, a Salmon Favoroelle hen (Muffin) and Bourbon Red turkey hen (Bug… gee, wonder how she got that name?). No more sticky ribbon fly traps in the coop.

Oh, and speaking of insects there is also wasp patrol. They are getting mean and ornery this time of year due to the heat. Hence the word ‘waspy’.

Gus is supervising bee feeding

Bees need to be checked and fed. Excuse me… feed bees? Why on earth would you feed bees when there is blooming alfalfa crops and sunflowers all over the place? Because this time of year, when there is a lot of heat and is called the ‘summer nectar dearth’ when there is not many flowers because of the heat. A lot of the blooms this year have been cooked from the heat and hot winds. So to keep the bees happy we feed them a little syrup to get through this heatwave as they prepare their hives for winter. They are also getting a little waspy, too, from the heat.

L the sheep is happy to hang out in the barn during the heat of the day with her barn cats – napping. She has been a brat and nibbling on the good bale of hay that she wiggled the cover off. It will take some careful handling when time comes to feed it. She has her own stuff to eat. What was that L? Moo? Nice try…you still look like a sheep with a bad haircut.

Gus teases the goats when they are out in their temporary pen by his corral. They are doing some weed abatement but feel that they need to eat his hay, too. He pushes his hay bucket next to the fence so the silly, greedy goats stick their heads through to try to steal his supper. Payback for them when they get their heads stuck and he slowly eats in front of them, watching the show.

They’ve been really picky as to what they want to eat and what we want them to eat. They want to eat candy and we want them to eat brussel sprouts… without cheese or butter. Goats will eat and chew on just about anything… cloth coverings on the old wiring in the barn, boards, reflective tape off the equipment, jackets, bicycle seats, paint off the bicycles, the leaves off any fruiting or non-fruiting plant within reach – especially if it has a wire cage around it they will push until they can nibble it because obviously you don’t want them to eat it, break boards and feed buckets/bins because they can, crawl under the smallest of spaces imaginable, leap tall buildings with a single bound, and if your electric fencing isn’t set to bull-proof, light them up setting, well then silly human, they’ll show you what they can do and get into. If the hole isn’t large enough, make it bigger. Granted the old goat fencing was getting brittle and damaged from 8 years of continual use outdoors in scorching sunlight and freezing temps, the goats decided it was time to retire the mess. Nearly all the posts had been broken and were only supported by blue temporary posts. But a quick change to the old ‘spare’ fence, electric fence charger hooked up to the electric grid and it is amazing how well-behaved they are (knock on wood!)… well, except for putting their heads through Gus’ corral fence.

Oh, and we’re always on the hunt for goatheads (puncture vine) or thistle. Not as many goatheads as the years go by and the only way to get rid of those is to pull them. Thistles, we chop and cut the heads off if they bloom but this year they aren’t looking all that good because of the high temperatures and there are a couple of new spots where the fire went through that has allowed a rash of them to pop up. Not always a fun task but it needs to be done.

Well, we’re burning daylight so gotta run.
Until next time….

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