Vacation Housesitters

RangerSir and I have returned from vacation and now I feel like I can blog here out in the world of everyone knowing because it is all in the past.  I think the hardest part of planning a vacation was making arrangements for our livestock.  It was much harder than I had imagined, as I had remembered as a young adult, I loved getting away from roommates.  Getting paid was a bonus because it was like having a part-time job that didn’t cramp my lifestyle. We finally make a connection for a house/pet sitter before we left.   It worked out well but oh the journey was an adventure.

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Cora is an easy pet to care for.  She sleeps and wants just a little bit of attention. 

We started by putting out the word to friends and family that we were looking for a house/pet sitter.   We have a small college in town and I was sure that someone would know of a person who was interested in the job.  We got no bites.   We were unsure if it was because we lived out-of-town or it was our menagerie but no one wanted the job.   We were offering to pay the sitter what kenneling would cost.

After a couple of weeks, we got worried and started to make kennel arrangements for the cat and dog.   We watched our neighbor’s horses and barn cats, so we knew that they would open the door for the chickens in the morning and close them up at night.   It was a workable solution, but it wasn’t the best solution because we did not want our house empty for ten days.

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Zip is a people dog and after a day alone needs some serious play time.   He also is a true terrier and can’t be trusted off leash, so walks require a human.   All that said he is still a loveable character. 

We started to tap into websites offering house/pet sitters, talking to folks, trying to figure out our liabilities, and what could go wrong if we were two days away from rescue.  There were so many pros, cons, and unknowns.  You asked everyone you knew if they knew this person on the net wanting to sit for you.

Finally, we made a connection with a young woman who would be in her last two weeks of high school the time we needed her.    Lots of people vouched for her maturity and reliability.   It was unnerving after all she was in high school.  I met her mother and knew her step-father and grandmother.   They were all comfortable with this and supportive of her doing this.  She had an afterschool job but would be home the same hours as we were when working.    We met with her and talked with her and in the end, she would be our house sitter.   RangerSir reminded me in a couple of weeks she could call herself a college freshman, so if she had such good references we should go with it.

In the midst of all of this one late afternoon, three of our chickens flew over the fence in their run attached to their coop.   They came to their favorite dust bath location by the back door at the edge of the foundation of the house and they were prone to do.  Unfortunately, Mr. Fox came right up to our back door and got our girls.    It was unnerving and devastating because this happened just a few feet from our back door that we use as our main entry.  RangerSir and I had decided just this year that we were not going to do baby chicks and the hens we had were likely our last hens.  In retirement we would be in town and chickens would not be part of our lives.  When we were gone so were these hens.    It seemed that fate was telling us that our train was moving much faster than we had thought it was.   We had one chicken left after this unfortunate incident and we called a girlfriend with a flock to see if she would take our last hen.  She took the hen with all the food and supplies we had for our backyard flock. Housesitting at our place just got easier for our young housesitter.

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All that was left of our chickens was a pile of feathers outside the back door.

The first night we were gone and out of cell phone connection most of the day and early evening.   We got back into service at 8pm Montana time to have a message from our housesitter who came home to find that we had no electricity (no water/well either).  When we finally connected up that night she just wanted to know if there was something special she needed to do as she had tried the breakers and no luck; the power company in town couldn’t help her.  I placed calls to her and made sure she knew where the oil lamps and flashlights were (things we had not covered in the walk through before we had left).  We are the next to last house on an electric run connected to a local electric co-op.  We placed calls to the co-op linemen in charge of our area and electricity came back on at 9pm her time.    She was so calm and collected and told us no worries, she was ok and it would be ok.  It was an immediate demonstration to us that we had left our house and critters in good hands and that this young woman may be in high school, but she was ready for heading out into the next step of life and working her way through the what life was going to throw at her.

When we got home our dogs and cats were happy to see us, but a little put out with us as well.  Life had been good for them while we were gone.  The house was clean, the sheets and towels were pulled and washed, though we had not asked her to do so.  We could not tell that she had been there.  The neighbors were impressed with what they had observed she was home with our pets as we had wanted and no crazy visitors.  I’d love to have her again, but she is ready for the world.  She and friend will be visiting NYC before she heads off to Seattle for school.   So as great as this was, if we go on holiday we will once again be looking for a house sitter.

A Spring Day in the Middle of Winter

It is still winter in Montana and will be at our house for months to come.   We have had some serious early thaws  recently as we will here every year about this time.   Today it had melted enough of the snow away that it was a perfect day to open the chicken run and let the ladies out today for some free-range time.

2017-02-19-2017-02-19-001-022-1280x853Though it doesn’t look like much the chickens were out there eating the shoots of new grass that the melted snow provided.  My chickens  can be an industriousness bunch when it comes to good fresh food after the snow hiding “good eats” and being on commercial chow for a few months.

Let’s hold onto the memory of this day with sunshine and blue skies as  we enter a week that is suppose to be full of show again.  The snow is happening less frequently and days like this are happening more often.   There is hope for spring, no matter how far away.

Here Comes the Next Season

Today we were under a red flag warning.    What that means is that conditions are right that a wildland fire if started could go wild and easily grow.   Today the air is super dry, my phone says the humidity is 13% and the winds are blowing a steady 21 mph in town.   The temperature here at the house is 84 degrees in the shade and the winds here are surely as strong as they are in town.   Yes I am from the Midwest and know that 84 isn’t hot at all, but at our place in Montana it is darn hot.

We are starting to enter fire season around here.   The Red Flag warning is a sign of the coming of the end of summer.    Our grasses are all cured and getting drier by the day.   The hottest days of the year should be just around the corner.   I can’t remember the last time we had any moisture, but we have dry lightening at least a couple times a week. That is how many of the local wildland fires start.    RangerSir had spent the last week trimming down grasses around the house and outbuildings because it is the time of the year you do that type of thing if you live here.   We had a large grass fire between our house and town last week.   If something gets started out here it should burn hot and fast through our property, but we should be ok.   There is always the factor of what are the odds of should really means.   So you do all that you can do to improve your odds.

I went out today to try and photograph rooster boy thinking I would get some good photos and would blog about the chickens.   The weather was not cooperating. He is a handsome blue rooster, instead here with the wind at his back  he looks like he is having a terrible hair day.   Oh well what is a little wind now that we are in fire season.

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Instinct Is Still Intact

Our dog, Zip, has been full of challenges.   Most of them come from his previous life as a puppy companion to an older woman.   He ended up in the shelter when the woman could no longer stay in her home and family could not keep her dear pets.

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Zip loves laying in the lush grass over the septic field.

Read between the lines, and you know what things Zip never learned.   Zip’s main purpose in life was to sit on her owner’s lap and be the center of her world.   We suspect his owner wasn’t very mobile  and because of that  he wasn’t house trained until he learned it here. He had never experienced grass before us. To this day he likes to walk and lay in lush Iowa green grass and hates prickly cured Montana dry grasses.   He isn’t crazy about snow and absolutely hates rain.   He can hold it for hours rather than go outside in even a light drizzle.   We have learned that we just pick him up and carry him out to a spot because he likely will never choose to go outside instead he will explode.  He will go on walks, but he is the first dog  that we have had that is not passionate about them.  He is not a dog who loves to train with me or gets me out when I don’t want to go.   We don’t tell him this out loud, but we think he is a pansy dog.

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He hates walking through even a little water on the road.

Today he fooled us.   His terrier instinct kicked in and he was on the hunt for some ground burrowing animal that has turned up in our yard.   We have not see what is making all these holes, but Zip was out there in the hottest sun of the day digging for all he was worth.  He was dirty from digging with his front feet and tossing with his rear feet.  His feet were digging through not only soil but also rocks and roots.  Some how I imagine that was harder on his feet than the dry grass.    His head was down in the hole, snorting in a highly unimaginable fashion before today.   His nose was mud caked from sniffing out his imagined prey.  It was fun to see him having fun doing something outside.

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This is fun and I know how to do it.   How’d I know how to do this, my humans have not tried to teach me this?

So we now ask ourselves nature or nurture?   When does it kick in?

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It was fun to see him enjoying himself doing something so dog.

Holiday Weekend – No Plans

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It is a hot day, but there is a little breeze that makes the temperatures feel quite nice.

RangerSir’s occupation means that he works the all the summer holidays, because on the holidays  it is all hands on deck and everyone is out in the field with the increased visitors.  Folks always act disheartened when they ask me about holiday plans and I claim none because of he is working.    For me it is quite the opposite, it is a long weekend were I have no plans except of my choosing.   I usually pick to stay home and do whatever possesses me.   Working up to this holiday we had company for over a week followed by a summer cold that had me off of work for several days.   I am still hacking a bit with a cough that hangs on  so I am hanging around the house.   All the chores and housework are done or will wait until after the holiday.   Instead I am taking walks, cooking, writing, spending some time in my studio, reading and I am even thinking a summer time nap in the hammock may be in order.    Sounds like a perfect summer holiday to me.

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Zip is napping.

Surprise

When you buy chicks, most folks buy them sexed, for a whole host of reasons.   Many folks can not have roosters in the city.   Even if you can have roosters, too many are problems because of too much testosterone.I have heard many a story of a nice or good rooster.   The only roosters I have had have been hard on the hens, and wanting to attack us and our dog. I would prefer not to have the hassle of roosters.      For this reason I generally buy sexed, female chicks.   Sexing is somewhere between 80-90% accurate.   Even in the best case scenario you will sooner or later get a rooster or two.   This year the jury is not in but we think we got two out of six.

So if getting  a couple of roosters was not a big enough surprise, I also got an unexpected breed.   Instead of getting two Blue Laced Red Wyandottes we got two Blue Andalusian.  That was the bigger surprise.   I had never seen or heard of them before.   I picked up my chicks when the regular chick lady was gone at the ranch supply.   I thought the blue  chicks they packaged up weren’t right. Wyandottes have a tendency to be mottled or chipmunk marked.   My blue chicks were solid blue.   Because the RLRW are somewhat rare, I did not question the staff, but assumed that my limited experience with these breed was the reason for the difference.   The store was a couple of hours from the house, so at that point what was I to do, it was what it was.

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This is the male.   He is a handsome fella, though they sport a single comb, something I stay away from due to the harsh climate here. So far he is a pretty pleasant fella.   I’d like to hold on to him for awhile and see how he turns out.

 

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Here is the female.   She was a lot more cooperative when trying to photograph her.  They are eight weeks old right now.   They are a pretty amazing blue color.   What a fun surprise.

Moving Day

Sunday was  the day the littles (this year’s chicks) movec from the brooder in the garage out to a larger brooder area in the coop with the bigs (our existing flock).  .   We started the littles  under the lights in a dog crate in the garage where we have fewer temperature fluctuations.  The big drawback is even with the heat lamp and the overhead lights on, they get almost no sunshine.   There is no scientific data, but  I think that slows their development.   Several times we have thought about moving them out to the coop but the last couple of weeks have been snowy and cold so we passed as much for ourselves as them. This week’s forecast is much better so we are moving them out of the garage.

RangerSir got the set up ready for them.It takes some set up time to get a warm safe, draft free space set up for them in the coop.  They need to be protected from the bigs. We have been doing this now for awhile  and know the routine.    It is a combination of a dog exercise pen, a dog crate, heat lamps, chicken wire top, and some kind of draft protection (this year plywood, some years it is cardboard.) This set up will do for the next stage of their life.

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