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Certified organic poultry farmer in SE Mass
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March 29. To answer the two commentors (re: my blog) about clotheslines...they are one of life's simple joys. Hanging wet laundry on the line brings you closer to nature than the automatic dryer! A simple task, yet so wonderful that it allows your mind to wander towards the sounds and sights that often are unnoticed. The songs of birds, distant and close. Recognizing the flight patterns of a woodpecker vs. a robin, both the same size but different in they way they use the wind under their wings.

Wintertime days are short and any laundry hung out must be done early in the day so it can freeze-dry. Always, the corners where the pins meet the line are frozen. The clothes often are not completely dry and must be hung on the wood drying rack to finish. Most find the automatic dryer easier.

I consider hanging clothes on the outside line a discipline. Inside, I sort my clothes according to size and shape. Sox with sox. All heels turned the same way. Towels with towels, not to be mixed with face cloths. All ready to hang, no shaking needed. Pillowcases arranged in a row, each neatly folded in the laundry basket so the hanging end is facing the top of the pile of wet clothes.

Sort the clothes in the basket, largest pieces at the bottom, smaller at the top.
The simple act of picking up a sheet and placing the clothespins at equal distance to keep the wind from tearing it off and carrying the sheet away gives me a sense of organization...not one found in other areas of my life.

Spring brings on many sounds absent during the snowy months. I wait to hear the first male Cardinal change from winter calls to territorial calls, telling other males that he is the boss in this neighborhood. The first call heard from the Orioles brings memories of past experiences when I whistled a male Oriole down to a branch just above my head.

At the end of the day, the clothes need to be taken down before dampness sets onto the clothes. If it has been a windy day, the towels will be soft. If it was a still day, the towels could be stiff. That is when the dryer comes in handy. Before hanging the towels outside, I put them into the dryer and set on fluff (no heat). The towels soften while tumbling, then are hung out to dry. No softener needed! BTW, fabric softener added to towel rinse will reduce absorbing qualities. A vinegar wash for towels will remove any sour smells that come in the humid months as well as removing any excess soap.

For me, the smell of the laundry that has been dried on the outside clothes line is intoxicating. Line-dried sheets put onto a bed can send me off into sleep immediately.

Folding time is reduced since the clothes are nice and flat. I like to fold as I take the laundry off the line, before they go into the basket. The only time I don't fold at the line is when the wind is strong, but I do make sure they aren't bunched up. I fold as soon as possible.

I must call the dentist this morning! I woke up this morning with part of a large molar missing. I wonder where the missing part is? I am sure I don't want to know! I am sure to have a toothache if it isn't addressed ASAP!

Rain coming, no clothes on the line today!

I have an early appointment with the dentist on Monday morning. It will be interesting to see what the dentist will do with this tooth, mostly a filling. I am not looking forward to the dental visit! Meanwhile, I am afraid to chew anything, drink or eat anything hot or cold.  Bummer!

I cleaned my caged bird cage, a job that takes about an hour or more, depending on how dirty the bird has been! She is a Cockatiel, maybe I spelled that wrong? Anyway, she was a rescue I took in about two years ago. Her coloring is Lutino, she is all pale yellow except for her cheeks. The folks who gave her up bought her and a  male bird instead of the dog their kids wanted. After a few weeks, the novelty wore off and the birds were ignored. Add to that the fact that they put these two hookbills into a parrot cage with bars that allowed them to poke their heads out of the cage (and almost their entire bodies, too!) and left them in a room without any interaction made for two very noisy and obnoxious birds.

In the mid-90's, I built a large aviary for my 'teals. It is made of 1" X 3" furring strips and 1" X 1/2" welded metal fencing. It has custom galvanized metal drop trays that come out and a large door for access to the interior. The aviary measures 5' high, 5' wide and three feet deep. I had custom rollers made so I could easily move the cage around. Where I once lived, I could take the cage outside onto the deck in summer months. That was very nice for the birds. It was easily moved back inside for rainstorms and at one time, housed about 7 birds. Now this bird is alone since I placed the male in another situation. He was a biter and pretty much anti-social. Now that this female is alone, she is becoming more friendly. But she is a bird, pretty messy and when she molts, feathers are all over the place. I have in the past, been behind in cleaning her cage and each time, I vow to be more diligent.

Yesterday afternoon, I put the one pullet who had injuries from the overzealous rooster back out with her flock. She wears a duct-tape saddle since she has no feathers on her saddle area. The wound is not completely healed, but she was going ballistic inside. I figure I will keep an eye on her to be sure the saddle (which will protect her tender back) stays on. Many of my chickens in that flock wear saddles due to this nutsy rooster. I think in summer, after breeding season, he might go into the freezer. His beauty has kept him in the flock, that and his good fertility rate.

Well, I shall stop writing now. Other things call me...

March Blizzard hits Cape Cod area
March 27. A large storm system came along early Weds. morning to this south coastal MA area. The winds were the worst for us, situated about 14 miles east and inland from New Bedford Harbor. Winds hammered at a sustained 50 mph with gusts of up to 95 mph. I kept the birds inside for the day since they would have blown to the next county and I would have never found them. The temperatures were in the low 20's and the wind chills were in the low teens.

I did have to let the ducks out and with them, the four chickens that have decided to live in that house. I have to feed the Ducky Lucky (my oldest Muscovy female duck) who has been lame for the past two years. She eats alone and sleeps in a large, plastic dog crate to protect her from the other ducks who will beat on her since they know she isn't well...and is a threat to the flock.

I waited till noon to go out to feed since the wind was so strong before that time, I couldn't open my storm door (facing north, the direction of the wind). My dog, BB, went out for about three minutes and ran back to the door having enough of that storm! Even with his long, winter coat and his jacket, he wasn't staying out in that!

I had locked the kitty up in the camper late Tuesday night with food, water and a sand box. He wasn't happy to be inside, out of the wind and complained loudly as I carried the small dog kennel he was in towards the camper. He had a nice, warm bed and would be out of the wind for the night and the next day. But you can't tell him that! He got fresh, warm water and food in the morning and evening during the storm. I let him out this morning after he had his breakfast. He is now checking things out to see what he missed while he was out of the storm.

Most of yesterday was spent going through old files in the filing cabinet, organizing papers and re-filing. I watched movies as the storm raged outside, shaking my trailer as it made itself known as the March storm to beat all. At late-day feeding time, the wind was still strong. I let the confined chickens out so they could stretch their legs and run around before dark. When I locked up for the night, the sky was clear and bright with stars. The wind continued until this morning.

When I let the chickens out late yesterday afternoon, one of the four-year old layers hunkered down in a corner and didn't show any interest in eating the scratch. I picked her up and put her into a dog
kennel suspended from the roof of the duck house. I use this kennel in case there is a bird that is wounded or is not feeling well.

This particular bird, named Giselle, was a "special needs" chix after her hatching mother left the brood at four weeks of age. Normally, a mother hen will stay with her brood for up to six weeks, even longer before going back to the big house to party with the other hens. When this hen left her brood, I noticed one pullet, smaller than the rest of the brood that was not allowed to feed. I began to pick her up, put her with bowls of food and water in a place where she was allowed to eat. She became a pet chicken. Her personality is one of calm and quiet. She loves to be hand fed and carried around in the crook of my arm. She is a favorite of children who come to visit the farm since she is so friendly and calm.

When I picked Giselle up, I noticed she was very light. She is thin...and what one would call frail. She spent the night in the kennel with plenty of food and water, both refilled this morning so she could eat before I let her out to roam with the flock. She will spend nights in the kennel with food and water until I see an improvement.

Meanwhile, one of my white layers has sour crop. When I saw her in the nesting box the other night, I checked her crop. It was gushy and squishy, a sure sign of a yeast infection in the crop. I expelled her crop and MUD came out!  Evidently, she had eaten a ton of dirt during the day and was suffering for it now. The next morning, I checked her crop to see if it had filled up again with "sour" liquid. It was completely empty, so I let her browse with the other chickens. I will continue to check her for problems with her crop.

Tomorrow, the temperatures are expected to be in the 50's and rain will come late in the day and continue into Saturday. It is 2 PM now and the temperature is 41 degrees, so I will hook up the hoses this afternoon and fill the pool for the ducks. I am sure they will splash most of the water out in short order!

The Purple-headed Grackles are back, a sure sign that spring has arrived. If only someone would let the weather know!

Off to hang out some blankets on the clothesline. You do remember clotheslines, don't you?
Winter returns!
March 23. Winter will make a return Monday with temps below freezing and teens at nights. Snow is predicted for later this week, of course, there is no estimate of snowfall. Ground has thawed and the worms are in the ground when I dig out the aster roots. The birds are crazed with the newly thawed dirt and compete for the worms, chasing each other away. Some pulled feathers fly as the chickens and ducks fight for space where I dig.

Over the past few days, I have clipped flight feathers from one wing on the female ducks to prevent them from flying out of the fenced area. They lay eggs at random all over and draw predators. I am afraid the ducks will start to stash eggs on nests, then return to incubate the eggs. They will lay eggs on the ground for incubation and predators will kill them as they sit on the nests. I have fed these birds all winter long (at great expense) and don't want to loose them now!

Of course, the ducks are not happy at the new confinement. They want out!!! But I need all eggs they lay for sale, since I now have a customer who will buy all duck eggs.

Nice weather keeps me outside and off the computer, hence no recent posts.

Egg production has increased in the layer hens. Now to get my customer base back up again after a fall and winter without any product to sell! I have lost several good egg customers but hope to pick more up soon!

I am heading out now to let the birds outside for the day!
A day at the Zoo
March 16, full moon tonight! Yesterday, I went to the Zoo at Buttonwood park in New Bedford. I went with someone I met recently. it was a good for outside viewing, a bit cloudier than predicted but not cold.

There were Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, several varieties of Mallard type ducks, Harbor Seals, two big cats (Puma & Bobcat), to mention a few animals. There was an indoor aquatic display, too. There were some rare birds in the displays, most were very nice with simulated natural habitat. Two different kinds of Plovers were running around in what was a replication of a beach scene with water available. The best (or the most interesting to me) was a display behind a thick glass bottom (for viewing the underwater activities) and metal screening over the top of the display. Inside, there was a female Pileated Woodpecker and a young male Cardinal with two small ducks (size of Call ducks). The caregiver was feeding the birds when I got to the display. The Cardinal was displaying the same behavior as he would if he was begging for food from his parent birds. I believe one could have hand-fed him. I spoke to the caregiver about the Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures as well as the other birds at the zoo. He said they were all unable to be released into the wild due to injuries that would have prevented them from surviving. I had figured as much and was glad to hear these animals would continue living in simulated natural situations.

There were Bison, White-Tailed deer, different breeds of cattle, sheep and goats. There were some pigs with black hair. Cochin chickens were hanging around the hall of the barn, all feathered out nicely. Two black bears had their heads in cardboard boxes in search of the food inside. Good they have to work to get their food! Both bears looked very sleek and fat.

I was sad to see the elephants, but that is because I would like them to be out on range somewhere rather than caged into a bare-dirt yard. I see the yards, stalls, barns are all clean, but still...these animals must be bored beyond imagination.

The River Otters were fun and entertaining. I think they were waiting for their lunch, too. All the animals looked in great health...but again, they must be bored to death.

Today, I hope to head out to prune some raspberry canes and cut down the perennial sunflower canes. The sunflower canes grow to over 15 feet tall. In late September, the top 3/4 of the cane is covered with 4 inch sunflowers. The weight of the flowers causes the canes to bow over to the ground, making gold-flower covered arches. It is a spectacular sight, to say the least. The bowing canes create wonderful shelters for the birds to hide under during the fall hawk migration (safety for the chickens is primary reason I planted these flowers). Now that spring approaches, the old canes have to be removed before the new sprouts come. Every year, these sunflowers increase in root size. Often, the seeds from the flowers will sprout in new places. What started out as 12 - 14 individual plants has increased to a very large display of these beautiful flowering plants.

The chickens have been laying increasing numbers of eggs daily. Ducks are now laying with more regularity and in increasing numbers. I am thrilled to have duck egg customers this year! Hopefully, the number of chicken egg customers will increase as well.

Time to sign off for today. Thanks to all of you for reading my posts.
Rodent repellant
March 13, continued...I saw the same product at the local hardware store but priced much higher. I declined since it seemed the duration was 30 days...maybe a similar product but not the same. I couldn't access the ingredients in the Fresh Cab, but will find it at the local tractor store in Wareham. I was down there last Thursday. Oh, well, next time I am there. Meanwhile, I shall see if the Oil of Peppermint works.

It is still snowing here and temps are in the mid-20's, down from 57, 12 hours ago. Snow flakes are very small, ground is barely covered. I am sure the soil is soft under this snow. I will figure out if the wagon or the sled will haul the water this AM.

Did I mention I joined the newly formed Agricultural Committee in town? This is the first time I have become involved in any Acushnet issues. No one wanted to join the Ag Com committee, so nothing has been done with this since it was voted in about four years ago. We are all new to this and trying to get our "ducks in a row" as it is.

Scrolling through the Massachusetts General Laws for information is less than fun! Seems these laws have no real way to locate what you are searching for unless you know what you are searching for. Catch 22.

Dishes are soaking and water is getting cold. Time to get off the computer and face the outside!
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