|hawk in the morning sky|
(keep on flying...away from our chickens!)
The dogs spent the night doing battle with a fox.
Well, now, to be perfectly honest, it was more of a yelling match than a battle. The cat-sized fox obviously knew better than to get too close, so it stayed just the other side of the fence, since it’s only defense was a horrible shriek. Over and over it shrieked and over and over the dogs barked, their deep voices thundering through the darkness. I love our Pyrs, but their barking does nothing for a good night’s sleep!
At one point, I went out with my big flashlight, hoping to restore peace and tranquility. I could hear another fox calling from the backside of the farm, so I thought perhaps the show-down was over. However, Gus and Ellie were intent on something just beyond the front yard. They greeted me joyously, seeming certain that I was joining the fight. The fox looked directly at me, ran a little closer, shrieked then dashed across the field. (I hoped it was off to join the one out back, far from the dogs) Thinking the disruption was finally over, I went back to bed. Only to find that apparently the confrontation was NOT over and the woofing and the shrieking resumed. For the rest of the night.
The entire rest of the night.
Quiet life in the country, this is not.
All that to say this...this post may be a little incoherent and I am beginning to think I should start writing Sunday’s Walkabout on a different day of the week.
For those of you who follow us on Instagram and Facebook, you know that it was “broiler week” here on the hill. (and, if you’re not following us on Instagram and Facebook...you should!) I’m pretty sure I have written about “Broiler week” before, but just in case you missed it. Here’s how it works.
“Broiler week” happens once a month. To keep the supply of chicken consistent throughout the growing season, we get chicks every four weeks from February to September. It takes just eight weeks for a broiler to go from a tiny marshmallow-sized chick to a big, meaty bird ready for the dinner plate. (it also takes a fair amount of work on our part, but that’s another story)
Over the years, we have developed a certain choreography that keeps the whole thing running quite smoothly. Monday of broiler week is processing day. The chickens in the field pen are caught, hauled to the backyard and processed. We can generally get this job completed by lunchtime, leaving the rest of the day for other things.
|broiler processing day|
This was the first time this season that we were going to attempt the job without help from the girls. I was a little apprehensive about the job, since it’s been less than 3 months from the Boss’ big surgery. But, his recovery has been amazing and he’s back to all his normal activities and he seems to have more energy than before. (some days I have a hard time keeping up with him) Maybe that’s why the job went so smoothly.
|moving the broilers to the field pen|
On Tuesday morning during broiler week, we move the mid-sized chicks out of the brooder to the field pen where they grow out until it’s time for them to make the trip to the backyard. Then, the Boss cleans all the old bedding out of the brooder, hoses it down and once it’s dry, gets it ready for the next batch of babies due to arrive from the hatchery on Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday of broiler week, I get a phonecall from the Post Office telling me when the chicks arrive. After a short road-trip, the tiny birds are given a drink and tucked into the brooder and the dance continues.
Except when it doesn’t.
I had a bad feeling about this batch. I couldn’t put my finger on why. I just did. The incredibly hot, steamy weather did nothing to ease my worries.
When I got to the post office, the postal employee scanned the box and handed it to me, but, something just didn’t seem right. The box seemed far too still. Even though it was quite chaotic with all the contract trucks delivering heaps and heaps of mail, I should have heard some peeping from the box.
|an awful sight|
Once I got to the car, I opened the box and was horrified to find dead chicks. Not just one or two, but lots of dead chicks. Mostly dead or dying chicks. One lonely little chick was bobbing about and peeping piteously. I felt ill and my hands began shaking.
I tried calling the Boss although there was nothing he could do. (at that point, I really needed a little reassurance, but he didn’t answer) I didn’t think to go back in the Post Office. But, there wasn’t much they could have done at that point anyway.
The only thing to do was go home.
That was perhaps the longest drive from town ever.
Every time that lonely chick would peep, I could feel the bile rise.
|the label on the box is cruel irony|
Now, living on a farm, we are faced with the messiness of life and death on a daily basis. I've been doing this a long time and it takes a whole lot to gross me out, but that box of dead and dying baby chicks did it. I really thought that I might have to pull over and throw up somewhere on the trip home. I was a wreck by the time I got back to the hill.
In the end, there were four living chicks to go in the brooder. (one of them succumbed by the end of the day) The hatchery was just as horrified by the situation as I was and promised to ship replacements that afternoon.
So, life goes on.
Except, I couldn’t quite get my groove back. Nothing I had planned for the day seemed to be working. And, I kept thinking about the replacement chicks. What if the same thing happened? ...and WHAT had happened anyhow?
In twenty years of getting chicks through the mail, this had never happened before. (our daughter had a batch with great losses once during very cold weather, but still, nothing like this)
Hatcheries across the country have shipped chicks via the US Mail for years. Most of the time this goes without incident. Tiny chicks have the ability to survive for up to three days as their bodies absorb the nourishment from their egg. Generally, the trip is far shorter and all is well. Yes, occasionally one or two may not survive, and with that in mind, the hatchery always includes at least one extra. This is the most efficient and economical way to get chicks and ordinarily works incredibly well. The hot weather of summer isn’t generally a problem as the babies need to be kept at a temperature of 90* for the first week or so.
But, somewhere in transit a tragic mistake was made. Maybe the chicks got left in the hot sun, maybe it was too cold in another postal facility. Maybe, perhaps…there was no way to know. And, no way to correct it at this late date.
There was no point in being angry. No reason to raise a ruckus. It was just sad. The loss of life and any suffering on the part of the tiny creatures was overwhelming and deeply disturbing.
I was just hoping it wouldn’t happen again. The proposed Friday trip to the Post Office worried at me for the rest of Wednesday and all of Thursday.
In the meantime, we planted and harvested and continued on…
|planting and mulching|
The Boss started harvesting potatoes this week!
The corn is beginning to pop up!
We can begin the count-down to abundant veggie harvest!
…and something is eating the winter squash.
|there should be leaves on all those stems|
Seriously? I tell you when it rains, it pours.
As I started supper, the Boss headed out to do something to protect the squash crop. except the fence is a little too short and he needed to order another piece. (which, of course, it back-ordered) He made do with some bits and pieces.
|heading out to save the squash|
|fenced in squash|
|red pepper for added protection|
(hope the rabbits don't like spicy!)
We’re pretty sure that the pest in the squash is rabbits. I saw three rabbits having a “meeting” in the alley last night. I’m almost certain they were discussing what to eat next. The upcoming week may have to include some time of “hunting wabbits” in a bid for the squash crop’s survival.
(off to eat the garden)
By the time the Post Office called on Friday, I was really nervous. There were some other boxes of chicks just coming off the big trucks and they were cheeping loudly. The postal employees recognize me by now and we chatted as we walked to where our chicks were located. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to peek in that box and see all those healthy little babies. The big, burly postal worker got a little misty-eyed when I told him what happened to the others. He said he always worries over the chicks in very hot (and very cold) weather. He wished me well and I headed back to the hill.
|box of healthy chicks!|
The new batch of chicks seems particularly lively and adjusted to their new home with no difficulties whatsoever. You should check out the video on Facebook/Instagram. https://www.facebook.com/HomesteadHillFarm/
All’s well that ends well, I guess. (and here’s hoping we never face that one again!) A big thanks to Moyer’s Hatchery for getting us back on track right away.
In related news, the hot, steamy weather continues.
|it even LOOKS hot!|
Yesterday, I read that over at the base of the mountain they have recorded over 22 inches of rain since the end of April. 22! We’ve only had about 15 inches here. That’s still a lot and while the ground itself is not soggy, the grass stays heavy with dew until afternoon some days, making it difficult to get things done. But, the hay is amazingly thick and heavy, and may make for a record-setting amounts…assuming it dries out enough to harvest it.
(our hay guy called recently…you can guess what we’re doing in the upcoming week…if it doesn’t rain…)
|loading hay at Ruby's next door|
I have rambled on for far too long, so it’s time to bring this to a close. My stint at attempting to be a doggie-manicurist will just have to be a separate post---(I know you’ll check back for that one). Then, there’s some good news about honeybees, more than one garden update, a few comments regarding the “gifts” on the back porch, and a look at the goodies we got from the American Lamb Board…(looks like I need to log a lot more keyboard time)
I truly hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!
Thanks for stopping by. Come back and “visit” again real soon!
Here’s a link so you can virtually visit our Market. (thanks to the Boss for the great photos!)