Saturday, April 30, 2011

It`s that time of year again

Time when a yodeling goatherder`s thoughts turn to flights of turkey hunting!

Oh yes, as surely as the sun shall shine and the moon shall moon us we on the hillside farm will don our camouflaged leafy suits and head out into Penn`s Woods, shotguns in hand and dreams of Turkzilla in our fey little heads! Now before I get into my story I have to share a picture of Miss Yodeling`s bird from last week. She was able to go on the special youth hunt our game commission has set up to encourage young hunters and help give them extra time in the wood.

Mister went with her and she bagged this very nice fifteen pound jake. She is one of the luckiest hunters I`ve seen although Mister says it`s his exemplary guiding skills that get her the results. I may have to argue that point somewhat. Not that his guide skills aren`t stupendous but she has quite a deadeye.

Okay, so now today is here. Feral is ready. Mister is ready. We gear up and head out the door at 5 in the morning. Across the yard and over the drive we go, trying not to get swallowed up by the bog that used to be called land has become. Thankfully it wasn`t raining this morning (shock of shocks!) and we got to our spot within a goodly amount of time. Goodly for me since I don`t go uphill with any great speed unless a bear is chasing me.

Mister and I got situated as comfy as a couple of Realtree bugs in a rug. Then I was instructed to make sure I could line up on the hen and jake decoys hubby had placed out in front of us. I could but there was some major brush in the way. Dear sweet husband of mine hurried out to eradicate the nuisance and rushed back to my side. I peeked to the left and about five feet from us was a hen! I froze and whispered to my man. He froze. Madame Turkey never gave us a putt, she simply continued on her way feeding and enjoying the rare dry sunrise. How she didn`t see him crashing around I will never know!

Anyway, within a few minutes another hen meanders past, then another, then another. Then two more hens fly down from the roost. One was a bearded hen which is fair game here in Pennsylvania but I declined to take her. As we`ll see later that decision turned out to be a good one. So the girls set to nibbling at the new grass starting. Okay now I thought this here is some good stuff! Six hens within forty yards of me! That can only mean one thing right? Old Turkzilla HAS to be nearby! No way is a tom going to ignore such a harem of lovely ladies! I whispered to Mister what I was thinking, and he nodded. Then I peeked over him on my left and lo and behold to what to my wandering eye did appear but a mature wild tom in full strut.

“Oh sweet jumping juniper honey there`s a gobbler!” I gasped in excitement.

“Just stay calm,” my more experienced hubby whispered. “Give him time to come in,” he added.

I figured that old tom to be about sixty yards out. Too far for me to take an ethical shot. Oh but did I squirm let me tell you! And boy did he strut! Strut and drum, drum and strut but not one gobble. Yet he would not come closer to our decoys which yeah, why leave the real ladies for a dumb old fake one right? As we were keeping our peepers on Mister Man a pair of jakes came in from our left. I am not averse to taking a jake if they present themselves to me. Heck, I`ve been chasing these darn wild turkeys for five years without so much as a sniff!

Those two young whippersnappers made a beeline for the decoys. Do you think they would draw apart enough for me to get a clean shot at just one?! Heck no! I didn`t want to shoot two since that`s not only illegal but unethical. There I sat, two jakes within fifteen yards and had to let them walk. By the time they broke apart they were amongst the hens. Again no ethical shot could be made. Consabbit I thought. Well actually I thought a few worse words but since I`m really trying to keep my G rating consabbit will have to suffice.

Suddenly down the hill comes yet another jake! Four gobblers and six hens now were moseying around in front of us. This now is where it gets pretty interesting. One would think the mature tom would put the buds to those young males right? Uh-uh. Those three jakes made a beeline for that long beard and curb stomped him! They chased that poor tom around and around the field, flogging him with their wings until he simply gave up and ran off with his glorious tale tucked.

“Upstarts,” I muttered to the side.

“Well three on one isn`t good odds for the old boy,” Mister murmured as the group fed and preened around us. We watched in silence as that bearded hen broke from her friends and crept off until she disappeared from view. I strongly suspect she was returning to her nest. I am very glad I made the right and ethical call and didn`t harvest her.

The remaining five hens led the whippersnappers down over a small knoll and out of view. Finally we could move around a bit! My butt was cold and needed a spell of movement to get some blood flowing again. I stood up slowly and engaged in a brisk round of rub-the-tooshy. Some time went by without so much as a peep from the band of turkeys. I rubbed and stretched and gawked about as I tend to do when nothing is going on then-

“Sit down!” Mister hissed and I dropped like a cow patty.

The three jakes had returned minus their group of lovely ladies. I was on Mister`s right. Two of the three walked nonchalantly across the field acting wary but not overly concerned. My tooshy rubbing had gone unnoticed thankfully. As they made their leisurely way closer to the pine tree we were under I had to crane to the left to keep my fiber-optic sights on them. Not a good seat at all if a good shot was to come my way. Of course it did. I pulled the trigger after making sure I was on the lead jakes head.

Not a feather flew. But man alive did those jakes! They took off like Satan himself was after them.

“You missed,” Mister said.”Clean miss too. I didn`t even see a feather knocked loose.”

“Well that stinks! I know I had him right in my sights!”

“Can`t be,” my spouse replied in his usual manner of stating the obvious.

“Well consabbit!” I spat and tossed my empty shell into my pocket with attitude. “I must be flinched.”

“Must be,” he responded and stood up to give the area a once over.

I got up as well just to make sure there wasn`t any feathers he might not have seen. Could be he missed one that got jarred lose right? Wrong. There wasn`t so much as a pin feather to be found although he seemed to think I could find my wad somewhere in the next county. Har-Har-Har. Lord but he is a real riot that man. Out of the blue someone gobbled! And it wasn`t Mister Yodeling either!

“You hear that?” he asked. That`s something we turkey hunters do must be. Ask the person we`re with to confirm that we actually heard a gobble close by. Just in case we`re going round the bend or something you understand.

“He`s just up the hill on the power-line,” Mister told me and then, once again, we dropped back to our damp cold rumps. He called on his mouth call and that old boy lit up the valley. Gobble after gobble after gobble. Heck he even started cutting Mister`s hen yelps off that`s how fired up he was. “Maybe you`ll get another chance. That`s a mature tom,” my hubby informed me. I nodded and grinned like a loon.

“Must be I scared those jakes off when I shot at them,” I whispered as we got settled for another wait.

“Yeah that happens when someone shoots at you,” he commented wisenheimer that he is.

It didn`t take us long to spot a turkey above us poking around in a thicket of pines. We couldn`t tell if it was a hen or tom though. After a few minutes old Mister Longbeard stepped into view. He and his lady love were about seventy or eighty yards away so again no chance for a good shot. Mister and I sat there for the longest time as he strutted around what must have been the lone hen remaining. Finally she led him off and out of sight. I turned my head to look at my husband.

“Thanks for an awesome morning,” I said and I really meant it.

Sure I came home empty-handed but what an experience! I have NEVER had so many turkeys around me in all the years I`ve been turkey hunting. Being able to sit under a tree and watch as nature plays out its dramas is a treat for me and all who enter the wood to hunt. It is not all about the kill.

From seeing a cardinal sitting on a limb with plumage of scarlet bright enough to blind to getting a shot at a jake it was one morning that I will never forget. And you know that next Saturday old Feral will be back under that pine tree!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Farm Friend & Farm Girl Friday Bloghop

Once more we`re leaping into the fun of Verde Farm`s Farm Friend Friday Bloghop! It`s a grand old time and a wonderful way to find new blogs and new bloggin` buddies!

Verde Farms

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Goatherders and Incubation

Hello all, tug out a chair and I`ll fill the sugar bowl since this is going to be a long post and we`ll need the java to keep us going!

First things first, thank you, each and every one of you, for your comforting words. They really did help greatly. We have not given up on hoping that Lucius returns to us some day, safe and sound and with a wondrous tale to tell. If he does not though we know that we gave him the very best life we could while he shared our home with us.

So now, onto other things shall we? I feel the sun glowing through the kitchen windows and Lu-Lu is sleeping on my left arm. Must be time to write! Oh! Lest I forget and I do that with frightening frequency anymore, a big hearty yodel of welcome goes to Debbi and Dreamer Lady! Welcome to the hillside farm. Knowledge of yodeling is not required in any way but if you know how to clog dance that`s always a plus!

I promised y`all I would show you the results of my spring hatching. And I will. Eventually. I know, I`m a terrible tease aren`t I? Before we get to the video, and yes Feral now has her own YouTube channel and is posting video on it, I thought I`d show and tell how we do our incubating here. We`ve been incubating birds here on the farm since the first year we lived here. We`ve hatched everything from chickens to ring-neck pheasant in our magic boxes. Magic Box you ask? Indeed! Simply insert eggs and three or four weeks later birds appear magically!

Over the years we`ve developed a pretty good knowledge and so I feel rather confident to pass along our ways. Do bear in mind that as with all farm related things how we do it may not be how others do it. All I can do is pass along what works for us and whatever tips we`ve stumbled-bumbled into. Alrighty then, let`s get moving shall we?

Before we even tug the incubator out of the closet we begin to gather hatching eggs. For my chickens fertility isn`t usually a huge consideration *Frowns at rooster shoving hens beak into dirt outside window* and I begin to gather chicken eggs as soon as the days begin to grow a tad bit longer. My ducks and geese on the other hand are seasonal breeders, and so I generally wait until I think the ganders and drakes are potent enough to fertilize the eggs. For us here in the hills of PA when I get my first duck/goose egg I add about a month before I gather hatching eggs.

Always try to get the cleanest eggs you can. I don`t ever wash my hatching eggs, ever. I read that washing them takes the bloom off; although there are cleansers you can buy for just such a job. Personally I shy away from that sort of thing and simply try to keep the nests as clean and dry as possible. That is a tall order when you have the soggy spring we had but it`s not impossible.

As I gather my hatching eggs I store them in egg cartons small end down or large end up if you prefer. Examine each egg for any cracks or imperfections. If you find any fry it for dinner, don`t keep it for a hatching egg. Keep your eggs in a cool, humid area 55 degrees F and 75 % humidity is recommended. Turn the eggs daily using an X and O system. You can mark your eggs with a pencil for this but don`t use a magic marker. I think I read somewhere the ink in a marker soaks through the shell. Now for goose eggs I use large mixing bowls since they won`t fit into an egg box. There ain`t no jumbo chicken egg box that can begin to hold goose eggs!

Okay, so Feral now has all the eggs she wanted. I started out with ten duck and ten goose eggs this year. Finally it`s time to set those buggers! Both of our incubators are Little Giant forced air incubators. We have had them for years and they are wonderfully consistent in terms of reliability and temperature control. Since they are forced air they run at 99. 5 degrees F whereas still air should be run at 102 F. Domestic goose and ducks eggs take twenty-eight days to hatch, a week longer than a chicken does. Here is what I have laid out when I decide the time to set the eggs is nigh-

Incubator of course because yeah, I ain`t sitting on them for a month! Also in this picture you`ll see a plastic tray that has wells in it. This did not come with the incubator but if you can buy one do so! They make clean up a breeze and really prolong the life of that expensive incubator. You`ll see my thermometer and a couple strips of purple sponge. Those sponge strips we cut from a regular sponge and I place them under the wire grid that lies at the bottom of the incubator. For waterfowl you`re supposed to keep your humidity around 50-55 %. I don`t bother with a hygrometer, I just make sure the wells are full of warm water and that the sponge`s are well soaked. If you wish to purchase a hygrometer please do!

Now we`ll place everything together.

Sponges under wire grid, plastic tray settled nicely into base of incubator and fan and thermostat running well.

A tip here for y`all, run your incubator for 3 -4 days before you place those valuable hatching eggs into it. They can be a touch tricky and it`s better to get the kinks worked out before you set eggs than after. We usually place our incubators on our dressers in the master bedroom. During incubation I draw my drapery to make sure the sun doesn`t beat on the incubator. That could jack up the temperature and we surely don`t want that!

Now that all is situated and the incubator has been humming along for a few days we can put our eggs in.

You`ll note I don`t have the egg turners in for this hatching. Our turners will hold chicken and duck but not goose eggs. You can buy cups for your turner and also an extension to fit into your incubator to give you added room for those huge eggs. I simply skip that and turn the eggs by hand twice daily. Call me Mother Feral Goose…or Feral Mother Goose. Whatever, just don`t call me late for dinner as my granny used to say.

Turning the eggs is crucial. Don`t forget or your hatch will simply not hatch. I place a piece of notebook paper beside the incubator and every time I turn I mark it down. Since my brain is forgetful having that big X or O to glance at really helps, and it also shows me that I`ve turned them that day. An added bonus to having a journal ready is that you know when to candle and when to stop turning. We`ll get to candling right directly. Keep the reservoirs filled, the sponges damp and the sun off the magic box and begin to wait.

*Start theme song from Jeopardy*

Wow, two weeks have just flown past haven`t they?! We yodeling goatherders candle at two and three weeks for waterfowl. This here is our homemade candler that Mister made many, many years ago.

It consists of a coffee can with a quarter-sized hole cut into the bottom of the can, some felt glued or taped now since the glue long ago dried up, a wooden base for stability and to hold the light fixture inside. It ain`t fancy but we have literally candled hundreds of eggs over this baby and it works great! I should imagine you can find plans for making your own candler on the web.

These are pictures of our duck/goose eggs at two weeks of incubation. I do apologize for the picture quality but you can see what a good egg and a dud look like from the images. In one you can even see the blood vessels that run from the embryo to the yolk.

Good egg-

Any duds, like this here one below, should be discarded since they`re infertile and can begin to make a very serious stink.

Rotten eggs are a bad, bad thing. Not only do they smell to high hell but they can explode and contaminate your entire hatch. So candling is a very important thing and also it`s enjoyable for the whole family! Now we`ll see some pictures from the third week.

Notice how little light we now see? That`s because the goose/duck is so large it`s filling up almost the entire egg. This hatch we started out with twenty total eggs and removed six that were infertile along the way which left me with fourteen viable eggs. Job well done ganders and drakes….and you ducks and geese as well! And now we begin to wait once more.

*Cue up that Jeopardy them music again*

Viola!! Time sure flies doesn`t it? On day twenty-five I stop turning the eggs. If you have your eggs in an automatic turner take them out three days before your scheduled hatch. Don`t leave the eggs in the turner during a hatch! Baby peeps could get caught in the gears and yeah, that would be really sad. I up the humidity also at this time for all birds, just to make sure they have enough moisture once they pip. Pipping the egg is when the chick/duckling/gosling breaks through the shell for the first time. From that starting point they will then begin to work around the egg, breaking off small bits of shell, until they have encircled the egg completely and can break free.

If your humidity is too low due to not having enough water or opening the lid frequently, the chick/duck/gosling may get stuck and not be able to finish their hatching. If they get stuck they usually die so please, please and please don`t lift that lid! I know how hard it is when you can hear them inside that box and the darn viewing windows are all foggy but don`t do it! Resist that temptation and your hatch will be a better one I guarantee it!

Now here is where I may differ from some others. If a chick/duck/goose does get stuck or seems to be making little progress compared to his hatchmates, I do not aid that bird. Some folks will assist the hatchling in breaking free from their egg. This is a tough lesson that Mister and I have learned over many, many hatches. It seems to us that every bird we ever assisted did not thrive well at all. Most actually die a day or two later. Also, do you really want that gene to be passed along to the next generation if that bird does manage to survive? Me either. I know it sounds very cruel but we as farmers and stewards of these animals want only the strongest and healthiest to grow and breed. But if you wish to help a stuck bird please be very careful when doing so. If you see blood stop instantly!

So now where are we? Oh yeah, the hatchlings are here! The hatchlings are here! I only remove the dried birds once a day and as quickly as possible, to cut down on losing moisture for the one`s still working to get out. Every one of the fourteen eggs hatched!!

We take them to wherever it is we`re going to brood them, this year it`s in our stove room. We use dry chaff from the goat barn for bedding but you all can use whatever you wish, although I don`t think cedar is recommended. May have to read up on that again but that seems to be sticking in my head. Someone correct me if I`m wrong. Make sure the sides are high enough that the little devils can`t get out of the brooding area.

Since our stove room is so warm I generally turn the heat-lamp off during the day for my ducklings and goslings. Chickens and turkey poults seem to need it warmer than the waterfowl do, but that may just be my observations. At night a lamp is left over them just to make sure they`re all comfy cozy. Every bird I place into the brooder I dip their bills/beaks to make sure they know where the water is. Also for my waterfowl I use crumbles that contain no coccidiostat. Again this is an old school way I think since I recall reading somewhere that the new medicated feed doesn`t harm waterfowl, but I shy away from it just the same. Chicks and poults get the medicated starter but not my waterfowl.

After the little fluffy butts are big enough to start escaping their first brooding area we move them to an empty coop until they`re done with the heat-lamp which is around 6 weeks. As they grow I change feed, you can ask your local feed mill what they recommend for whatever wee birds you`re growing. With waterfowl I`ll continue to feed them the crumbles, which have 20 % protein, until they reach about eighteen weeks and then I move them to laying pellets which have 16 % protein. My grown ducks and geese seem to prefer pellets as opposed to mash, but given how much feed costs anymore everyone gets mash. I think I spend more on critter feed than I do people feed some weeks!

There is some debate about when to let your web-footed babes into a swimming pool. The way Feral does is that I usually wait until they`re a couple weeks old. It has to be a very warm sunny day of course and I don`t use anything too deep. Also I place rocks in the pool and a ramp so that they can exit with ease and dry off. I figure that mama goose/duck has her brood in the water within a day or two of hatching so my allowing them their swim time at two weeks isn`t a bad thing. I`ve yet to have any trouble with my system but if you don`t want to allow it until they are feathered out then play the game by your rules. Feral is real easy to get along with!

And I think that about covers how we hatch, candle and raise our birds here on the hillside farm. Now, finally, you guys can see the hatchlings. The first video is us taking them from the incubator. The second is them getting their temporary brood spot and just being downright adorable! Ha! Downright! See because they`re ducks and geese and….yeah, that was bad although I thought it might quack you up. Okay, I`ll stop now honestly. *Giggles at lame jokes like a fool*

First peek at new hatchlings

Getting the hatchlings settled

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the info and also the video, it`s been a real hoot for me to have some babies to play with. I do so love my waterfowl!

So how do y`all go about your incubation and brooding??

Monday, April 25, 2011

The sun can`t always shine..... matter how much we may wish it to.

Yes Feral is still alive and kicking my friends. Please, do have a seat and let me grab a fresh pot, this may take awhile. You know writers, we like our words!

Now as most of you know I like to try to keep my blog posts sunny. I figure there`s enough gloom and darkness in the world, just turn on your TV if you doubt me, that if I can bring a smile or maybe a ray of sunshine to someone`s dreary day I`m happy. Sometimes though even I get caught in a downpour and get soaked with sadness. As many of you may know who are friends with me on Facebook my cat Lucius went out Wednesday morning and has yet to return home.

To say I am beyond heart-broken is putting it mildly. Guilt has been my steady companion for days now, along with that thick grey cloud of loss. It was me that decided to allow Lucius to be an indoor/outdoor cat.

I sit here and continue to stare out into the rain that just won`t go away here in PA hoping against hope that he will come home. Every time the wind jars the screen door I leap up with a rush of hope, then seem to get soaked once again when I don`t see my handsome mancat waiting to come in.

Let me tell y`all this has been a ghastly time, not only for me but for my husband and daughter as well. We`ve combed our property, calling and calling his name, to no avail. Asked neighbors and friends if they`ve seen him, posted pictures on Facebook. Truly I`m not sure who feels worse me or Mister. He seems to think because he let him out Wednesday morning with the dogs that he`s to blame. I seem to think that I`m to blame because it was my decision, as the cat fancier of the household, to allow Lucius to roam about.

You guys can`t imagine how hard this was for me to even post. I`m not one who usually likes to burden others with my troubles, heck we all have worries of our own to contend with I feel. I actually had a darling little Easter story all plotted out but somehow I couldn`t find the cheeriness required to write it after Lucius disappeared. I felt bad about that as well, as if I were letting my readers down somehow.

Then I got to thinking….

This blog is a reflection of my life. Would I be doing anyone a favor, myself included, to put on a false face? So I skipped the happy Easter story and opted to let my emotions out for the world to read since we are friends here, all of us who blog, are friends even though we may have never met each other face to face. I would like to apologize to everyone for not stopping at your blogs to visit. All my creative endeavors seem to have stalled and I`ve only been doing what needs to be done.

My writing muse has left me for the moment. Thankfully my fiction tales that are on other sites are well ahead or they also would be sitting in neglect. I slide into Facebook, check to see if anyone has seen Lucius, tend to my virtual farm then slide back off. Chatting seems to be difficult at the moment, but as soon as I post this I will drop in and say ‘Hey’ to y`all I promise.

One thing that`s really helped me through this time was something that Mister said to me. I had been in the middle of another complete meltdown, tears flowing like raindrops. I don`t recall what started this particular deluge. I`ve had many since Lucius left home. One was when I was getting ready to vacuum and had to pick up his little furry mice. There I stood, orange mouse in hand and bawled for thirty minutes. Ah guilt is a terribly crushing thing isn`t it?

Anyways, this round of weeping wasn`t about furry mice, don`t know what brought it on but there I was, coughing and crying into a wad of Kleenex when my husband pulled me down to the couch beside him.

“Honey listen to me,” he said,” You`re whipping yourself for allowing that cat to be what he wanted to be.”

“No!” I hacked and sniffled.” I shouldn`t have allowed him to go outside!”

“But would he have been happy being an inside cat?”

“He would have been alive! Not the meal of some fox or coyote or damned barred owl!”

“But would he have been happy? Or would his confinement mean YOU would have been happy?”

That set me back a bit. Not that my husband could offer me something to chew upon that was so profound. He is very sensitive despite what he would like others to think. I suppose what took me aback was how very true his words were. Lucius was never a cat that would have been happy being locked inside. From the time he came to live with us he was a roamer. He wasn`t like Lu-Lu who is quite content to sit here on my arms as I write and merely watch the birds through the windows, not Lucius!

Lucius loved to be outside. My rules about him staying in at night never did sit well with him but he abided them, knowing that when the dogs went out in the morning his freedom would come. He reveled in being able to be a cat and do what cats are born to do-Stalk and frolic and sneak up on unsuspecting chickens and mice-Dash through the weeds and bound up and down over the round bales.

So would I have been making him happy to keep him in what he would view as a prison?

I honestly still can`t say. If he had been forced to bow to my whims he would still be here with us. Would he have been happy though in this safe little cage of our home? That is a question that I still haven`t figured out the answer to. Maybe once some of the guilt and grief leave me I`ll be able to sit down, cup of freshly roasted in hand, and be able to tell myself that while he was with us he was as happy as a cat could be.

Perhaps sometimes what makes those we love happy doesn`t always make us happy. Mayhap the hardest thing to do for someone you love is to give them the freedom they need be they spouse, child or beloved pet.

Now I don`t wish for you guys to think that the past several days have been mired in wallowing and horrid depression, for they haven`t. Although I moved about with a dreary raincloud over my head the Easter holiday was a very nice one, although somewhat subdued. The meal was very good and having my dad and mother-in-law here made the gloom lift a good deal. Also there are some delightful little hatchlings breaking free in my incubator as I type! Once they`re all done kicking the shells loose I`ll post up an entry about incubating, candling and wee fluffs of duck and goose!

You know, as a writer or one who likes to say she is, I read over what I`ve written I feel a sort of release coming over me. We scribes tend to use our words as means of escape at times. We can sit down and with the mere sweep of our pen be transported to another time and place where happiness abounds. Also, we use our words and thoughts as a means of catharsis, well at least I do, can`t speak for all writers of course. This paper, virtual though it may be, is my therapist. Here, in the land of nouns and verbs I can toss off the manacles of my own making and just express and emote. That I can do so with dear friends such as you makes the experience even more touching and meaningful.

Thank you all for the umbrella of your friendship.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

From our farm to yours

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Feral Rambles-Boobs & Billy Joel

Yup, Feral is rambling again. Put your feet up and sip your java juice, it`ll maybe help you follow along my goofy mental paths even if the coffee is decaf.

Now you might be wondering how boobs and Billy Joel go together, aside from the obvious. Okay, that wasn`t nice really. There used to be a time that I actually didn`t mind Billy Joel too much. Some of his songs are catchy and despite the fact that I had Deadpool shoot him in a dream sequence once in a fan fiction notwithstanding the Piano Man and I used to get along well enough. This is Deadpool, a Marvel Comics character and favorite of mine from the comic books. My geek is showing isn`t it?

Now the bullet wound from the Marvel mercenary aside I bore no ill will to Billy Joel, and in all honesty this ramble actually shouldn`t be about Billy Joel, it should be aimed at the DJ`s at my local classic rock station. See where we live we have many radio stations but only one that plays classic rock. Ninety-five percent are country stations here in the hills and the other four percent play either rap or that new stuff like Lady Gaga or Justin Beiber. *Shudders*

I love classic rock and I adore my radio station. It is set and woe to those who may turn the dial! Today as I was running hither and yon (Which is just down the road and across from that red barn that the flood took out in `79) I had the radio on, my CD player gave up the ghost and the new one has yet to be installed. I made the trips in good time and many a fine tune had been played. Zeppelin, Stones, ZZ and Skynyrd and a lovely bit of Metallica tossed in. Heck I had almost made it home from Wal-Mart when Billy Joel came on. My top lip rolled up in a nice Billy Idol way.

Seriously did they have to play Billy Joel again?! I swear to you on my granny`s flannel knickers I cannot get into my truck and go somewhere without hearing Billy Joel. It has become a running joke with Mister Yodeling and me.

‘Guess what was playing on the way home?” he`ll ask when he comes in from work.

‘Billy Joel?’ I`ll ask and he`ll nod.”I know! He was on when I went to the feed store this morning! Egad!”

Over the years this daily dose of Mister Joel and his piano have begun to really spur my horse. Well, if I had a horse. Okay it curdles my cud that fits. Please oh please Mister DJ, spare us the lonely lament of Brenda and Eddy just for one day, please???? I don`t care if they WERE the king and the queen of the prom nor do I really care if they WERE still going steady by the summer of `75. I don`t really care about a microphone that smells like beer or what some guy does when his sister is out on a date. Nope, don`t care, not one iota. When did Billy Joel become rock? Pop yes, rock NO, at least in my feral mind. Drop down a record that shouts classic rock for Pete`s sake! Play me some KISS or some Cream or-Oh, yeah they don`t use records anymore do they? You all get the point anyways so I`ll ramble on a tad further.

Boobs are annoying. I know that was quite a leap wasn`t it? This is what happens when I`m driving alone for any length of time. My mind wanders here and there and today it meandered to boobs as I bounced along our lovely smooth roads (Please note sarcasm in that last statement) and cursed Billy Joel. Enough with the darn piano man Feral concentrate! Yes, boobs are annoying. They really are. Now I know why we ladies have them-to nourish and feed our young. Do they really have to get in the way all the time though? And how did they become a food tray? I don`t recall them being such when I was younger. Now it seems every time I sit down to eat something drops onto my boobs. Usually it`s something greasy that will instantly stain not only the shirt but the bra underneath it.

Case in point-For my birthday I got some nice new tank-tops. I wear tank-tops all year round I am just that hot of a mama! *Licks thumb and places it to sizzling hip*

Actually the woodstove has to be run at 70 so it doesn`t overheat and blow its cork so our house is nice and warm. So warm in fact that I sleep with only a sheet all winter. But I digress. So I got these nice new tank-tops and wished to wear them! Now I know I`m busty and all. Heck I`ve known that since sixth grade when I was the only girl in my class with BOOBS. They haven`t gotten any smaller over the years unlike my height which shrinks every time I see the doctor. And we won`t even go into what fun it is to have a mammogram yearly! All I`ll say is that they need to make their machines bigger since my boobs don`t seem to want to get smaller.

So here I am, prancing about with my new tank-top of lovely rich brown and what happens? I sit down to eat on Sunday and a glob of Shake & Bake chicken drops to my boobs. And it doesn`t just drop and roll off. Oh no,it sits there mockingly, grease soaking through with evil intent. (Yes chicken can be evilly intended! Don`t toss up common sense during a ramble my friends!) One wear and the shirt is now a chore shirt. I think that once a woman is done with them for the whole lactation schpeel she should be able to trade them in. You know, like that station wagon you had to have when your kids were young but now that they`re grown and in collage you get a smaller, more fuel efficient car? You can still have fun with a smaller car am I right???

I`d trade my Suburban in for a Pruis. This way I could flounce around without a bra even in August! Imagine the freedom. I bet if I had Pruis` instead of Suburban’s the globs of dinner would just tumble right off to the floor and I bet I wouldn`t have to arrange my two snazzy Pruis` when I went to sleep at night. Also, I wager the cost of covering the Pruis duo would be substantially lower than it is to cover the Suburban’s. Car covers for big old Chevy`s are costly! Maybe I need to invest in one of these-

I`d like to toss a yodel of welcome to Kasey Cox! Welcome Kasey, you picked a fine day to stumble in you poor dear. Now even the sweetie who runs my beloved local book store knows what lurks around in my mind. She`ll never see me the same way.

Monday, April 18, 2011

One Liners-4/18

'AHA! There`s her hidden stash of Milano`s!'

As always everyone is encouraged to play along! Just toss your one-liner in with your comments!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mother Earth`s Embrace

Mother Earth`s Embrace

I look upon the shrouded mounts

Their tops lost in hazy bliss

Soft shades of grey envelop them

A mother`s gentle kiss


The peaks are lost to mortal eyes

Gone are the trees and dale

She holds them closely to her breast

And shields them with her veil


Misty arms of Mother Earth

Embrace the hills I seek

Maternal clinch enshrouds them well

They sigh against her cheek

Poetry by Vicki Locey 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One Liners-4/12

'Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your long...........ears??'

As always y`all are encouraged to play along. Just stick your one-liner in with your comments!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Howdy gang! Tug out a kitchen chair and I`ll grab the pot, it`s just about done perking.

I hope everyone has been enjoying their weekend so far? It`s been gray and rainy here in the Laurel Highlands but at least not snowing *Peeks out window quickly* at the moment. It`s been a hectic couple of days but overall pleasant, aside from our yearly chore of disbudding the new kids. Of all the jobs that go with having goats disbudding is my least favorite.

It never seems to get easier emotionally but it is a necessity, at least on this farm. I will not have goats with horns for many reasons. They are dangerous not only to the goat but to its barn-mates and to anyone else who may irritate said goat. Also our county fair does not allow horned goats into the show-ring unless they`re meat goats.

I thought I would take y`all along with us via photos as we disbud our kids. For those of you with tender constitutions do not read any further. There is usually no blood involved, once in a great while we`ll have one that weeps slightly but Mister cauterizes it with the hot iron and that solves that. But aside from the lack of blood it is not for those who have delicate tummies. So with that warning let`s get into how we yodeling goatherder`s disbud our kids. The sooner it`s done the sooner we can get back to our coffee!

First I`ll show you the disbudding box that Mister built for us a few years ago.

We found the plans online and it works very well and cost much less than buying one from a supplier. He did a very nice job on it and it`s held up nicely over the years.

This is also one of my husband`s ingenious inventions. He made this little contraption to hold the torch and the iron.

In the second picture you can see what we have at our side when we disbud.

A towel in case we need to add some padding around a kids head to help keep them in place while in the box, two different cans of antiseptic spray and wire plumbers brushes to clean the iron between each kid done.

I know other`s that don`t use anything after they burn the horns but we like to spray the hot area with a veterinary astringent. We like to think it helps cool the burn while also aiding in cleaning the freshly disbudded area. As with any kind of farming procedure this is only the way we do things here, others do things differently and as long as everyone is happy Feral is happy too!

Okay so we have all our accoutrements ready and waiting. The iron has been in the fire and is ready to go. When the copper end of the iron changes colors as you turn it that is how we know we`re hot enough to proceed, I don`t think this picture captures the rainbow coloring well and I apologize for that.

If in doubt you can apply the iron to a block of wood and it should burn a nice dark ring. We`ve done that on occasion but after ten years of disbudding a dozen or more kids each spring we`ve learned the color trick and feel confident in our ability to gauge that the iron is ready.

Enter the first goat kid. This is Hawke and he was a real trooper!

After Hawke is tucked into the box Mister then sits on the lid and tucks those long Nubian ears back safely out of the way. He is the deed-doer for this since he has much more hand strength than I do. I assist by keeping the iron hot and cleaned and handing him the astringent spray before he has to ask for it. Miss Yodeling is the kid rounder-upper for this procedure. Disbudding can be done alone but we feel that since this is a family project that all here should aid however they best can. The burning itself is a simple matter.

Due to the heavy air yesterday and the acrid smoke all the images I snapped of the burning itself weren`t useable. I can explain the best I can though. With a firm hand on the kids head you place the iron around the horn-bud and push and roll slightly in a circle to ensure you burn a nice neat ring. That SHOULD kill the horn growth. Should is a big word for sometimes we do get scurs that appear later.

Scurs are small bits of horn growth which tell you that you didn`t get all the horn area burned well. Our bucks seem to be more prone to scurs than the does and buck kids seem to grow more massive horn more quickly than the girls do. Scurs can be a nuisance since they`re still living horn tissue and tend to be rather loose. You get two guys doing the head-butt, the scur gets knocked off and then they bleed, sometimes quite liberally. Not a nice thing especially in summer with all those nasty flies. So trying to do a thorough job when disbudding eliminates the scur problems down the road, but if you do get those scurs don`t despair, we sometimes have them too despite our best efforts.

This is what the kids head should look like after the first burn.

You can see the nice round rings around each horn bud. We burn each kid twice to help make sure the job is a good one. After the second round Mister then flicks the dark end of the burnt bud off to show these white circles.

Then we give both freshly burned areas a nice spray of antiseptic. That is not blood I want to point out, it`s the red veterinary spray. There is little to no blood when disbudding goat kids.

Sometimes we use blue tinted but this year we used the red since we had a full can left over after we had the Holstein calf dehorned. And that`s that! Hawke goes back in the barn with his mom and we move onto another kid. We did eleven of our twelve kids yesterday in under an hour. One doeling just didn`t have enough growth yet so we put off doing her for another week.

Here`s a couple shots of Mister demonstrating how to clean your iron. We use ½ inch plumbers brushes made to clean copper and they do an excellent job. Keeping your iron clean and hot during disbudding really does make the job run better and gives you a neater finished disbud when you`re done.

As I said earlier this is my least favorite job. I don`t mind castrating as much as I do disbudding although Mister seems to feel the opposite. (It`s a man thing I`m sure.)The kids bounce back amazingly quickly, faster than they do from the castration to be honest! Soon as they hit the ground they`re back with mom having a drink then off to play. I`d be looking for a few Tylenol after that procedure but then again my head isn`t as thick as a goats I don`t think. *Ignores comment from smarty-pants husband* I hope that was somewhat interesting for y`all.

Allrighty, now we can have us a sit-down, a fresh cuppa and a good round of gossip!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

50 sure has treated me far that is!

Morning all, come on in, don`t mind the muck outside and I`ll grab you a fresh mug!

First I`d like to thank every one of my blogging buddies for the warm birthday wishes yesterday. What a wonderful community we have here in Blog-Land! Also a big yodel of welcome goes out to Fig Forest! Howdy and thanks for dropping in to visit with us here on the hillside farm!

Thankfully Blog-Land is quite a distance from Zombieland, which is one of the presents I got yesterday. I think it may have been one of those' Oh Man I Love This Movie So If I Get It For Her I Can Watch It Too' kind of purchases on my husband`s behalf.Sort of like me buying Miss Yodeling a copy of 'The Proposal' for her birthday! *Giggles impishly*

I did get a passle of presents for the big 50 celebration though, besides Zombieland which Mister and I watched last night. Gotta love the double-tap! Lookee here at my goodie bag-

There`s clothes and perfume and a new stereo for my truck! Oh yeah, I`ll be rocking and rolling as soon as that puppy get installed! My old one wouldn`t play my CD`s. Seriously how am I, Madame Rock & Roll Over, supposed to drive without my chosen tunes?! My mother-in-law gifted me with this adorable card and a new gift certificate to our local bookstore!

The one she got me at Christmas got spent on J.R. Ward`s new book, two other spicy romance novels and a nice compilation of Dashiell Hammett stories including The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man and The Glass Key. I`ve never read the stories but I have swooned over Bogie in Maltese Falcon.

*Sighs* I just love Bogie.

Ahem, anydoodles I also got a few gifts from my pets, which I shant show you since they were rather disgusting. Lucius brought me a soggy dead mole yesterday and Trinity came back from a pee run with the lower half of a deer jaw. Both of those lovely and thoughtful gifts got tossed into the wood stove but don`t tell them okay? I know it`s the thought that counts. Also Ole Man Winter gave Feral this overnight-

Isn`t it just precious??

Nothing like a few more inches of snow. Personally I`d have been much more pleased with Ryan Reynolds in a bow-I mean with a bow- Aw heck, never mind, ain`t no point to trying to clean that dirty thought up now is there? All in all the big 50 was a lovely day spent writing, reading, napping and enjoying the evening with Mister and Miss. And what more could this old goatherder ask for?!

Well besides Ryan and that stragetically placed bow that is.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Embrace the Gnome

Today is my birthday. I am fifty. Now I`m not telling y`all that so that I can get nifty gifts although if anyone can send me Ryan Reynolds in a box with a bow I won`t turn it down! Nope, the reason I mention that today is my fiftieth birthday goes a tad bit deeper than wanting the congrats and the way-to-goes, it goes to something that I think many of you can hopefully relate to.

Getting older mean getting wiser.

That`s quite the announcement isn`t it? I mean, come on Feral we`ve all heard that a thousand times you all are muttering. I know you have, so have I. But at least for this yodeling goatherder getting to the half century mark means that I`m getting somewhat smarter I hope. And you know there are times I can see it. I`ll give you the one of the lessons I`ve learned, one that I think may be the most important.

I have learned that life is too danged short to not to what you love to do. If you love to tap dance, then tap away! If you love to knit or quilt or paint or mold clay into little fat gnomes with big noses then mold that clay baby! If you, like me, love to write then by all the holy goats of Caprinia write! Do not let others tell you what you cannot or should not do. Do what makes your soul sing. So what if the TV is dusty or the vacuum needs run! Will those weeds you fretted about or the pile of clothes in the hamper or the mop hanging unused for a week be what you wish you spent more time with as you lay in your death bed?

‘I wish….I had….cleaned more’ is not what I want to whisper as my last breath leaves me! I would like my last words to be’ Where the hell are the male strippers!?’ or something to that effect.

This is a lesson that took me a very long time to learn. I spent years trying to be what everyone else thought I should be. I kept a tidy house and cooked big meals every night and lived and breathed for my husband and child. I spent years doing for them without thought as to what made me happy…what made me Feral…what made me a woman who was special and unique and pretty damn cool and witty.

Am I saying we as women shouldn`t care for and coddle our families? Of course not. What I am saying is that once you discover that special thing that makes you really truly happy then embrace it! Don`t let others tell you that you are too old to be a writer now, or that you`re too old to take that collage class or that you`re too old to read comics or watch cartoons or play video games or think about trying your hand at oil painting or whatever it is that some will look down upon you for. Who gives a fiddlers bow if you`re fifty-seven and want to take up belly dancing?! Heck if I had a veil I`d join you!

See I guess what this ramble is about is being happy despite the number of candles on your cake. For women it can be a very tough go because we are doused with different messages. Back when I was a kid and the brontosaurus roamed the land…or would that be brontosauri?? Well whatever the proper terminology back in the day women had one role. Mother. Two if you included housewife. Three if you tossed in wife. Okay it was the role of mother/housefrau/wife.

Sometimes I sit and ponder if my mother was really happy, I mean really happy. Did she ever have dreams of being more than what society at the time thought she should be? I have to think that maybe she did because when she was into her sixties she took a floral arrangement class. She was ecstatic about it and I was just as happy for her. Isn`t it funny how as we grow older we begin to shuck off what others think we should do and do what we want to do? Why is it that we wait until then to realize this?

I have to think that it may be because when we`re younger we tend to do what others think we should do. Teenagers move in a very tight spiral of keeping within certain boundaries lest they are made fun of and I feel that many of us, not all of course, but many of us tend to stay locked into that mindset as we move through our twenties and thirties. I`ve seen it time and time again that when a woman creeps, or is thrown rudely, into her forties things begin to change subtlety.

Her kids are grown or to the point that they don`t need fulltime mothering, her husband is getting older as well and the rush of ‘I need you at my side constantly’ is gone. Then we stop and look around and see that there is something missing, something real and strong and vibrant that is battering at our souls for freedom. It`s at this point that we begin to search for what that something is. For me it was writing.

When I stumbled upon the knowledge that I could put my thoughts onto paper what a rush it was! Here was something that I could do that made me more than the mom and the wife. Here was where my imagination could soar and I could weave stories and entertain …..Well hopefully entertain, y`all are the judges of that one I guess!

Was this learning process easy? In one word no. I had to stop being concerned about what friends and family thought about this new love of mine. I had to stand up and fight for the right to skip the damn dusting once in awhile or maybe a lot in awhile but my point is that there have been times that people have given me that look when I say ‘I`m a writer.’ You know the look. It`s the same one they would give you if you said ‘I`m from Venus!’ only they don`t call the guys in the white suits immediately.

I have learned, and it has not always been an easy go my friends, but I have learned. I have to think that this progression of mine is a beneficial one not only for my daughter but for my husband as well. For my daughter to see her mother embrace higher education can only be good. And for Mister to learn along with me that a marriage isn`t about being side-by-side constantly but sharing the side-by-side time with a truly happy mate can only be good! *Waggles brows*

To wrap up this lengthy ramble I`ll just say this and then I`ll go celebrate the fact that I made it this far.

Learn what makes you happy and then go do it, even if it takes you forty or fifty or sixty years. Run out and do what fills your heart with joy and don`t ever look back. Sing, dance, paint, skydive, run a marathon, make a candle or write a story. Even if that book never gets published or that painting never hangs on a wall other than your own, even if that gnome with the big nose only ever sees your weedy garden…….Whatever it is just do it!

Our lives and our happiness are not measured in commercial success; they are measured in the happiness we give to others and to ourselves.

Embrace the Gnome.

Friday, April 1, 2011

One Liners-4/1

Two arms, two kids, tons of kisses!

As always everyone is encouraged to play along! Simply put your one-liner for the photo above in with your comments. I`d like to give a Yodel-Ey-He-Ho of welcome to caf12457!


Verde Farms

Once more we`re joining Verde Farms 'Farm Friends Friday' Blog Hop. It`s a grain pail full of fun and a wonderful way to meet new freinds and find new blogs!