Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘flies

Aw Heck

leave a comment »

Two chickens missing at bed check last night. No evidence visible in the low light of evening to account for their absence.

We knew this was likely to occur eventually, but, of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Cyndie’s audit identified the missing birds as a buff orpington and a golden laced wyandotte.

A survey for any sign of feathers dropped will commence after daylight this morning.

It’s enough to make you shake your head, going bonkers…

Hunter knows how to do it. That’s his cow face.

I think he was shaking off flies when I happened to snap that photo.

Those pesky flies love the eyes.

I bet the horses know what happened to the two missing chickens. I haven’t mastered the level of communication with them that would enable me to hear their version of the story.

Well after dark last night, I thought I might have heard coyotes in the distance. Maybe it was just my mind’s effort to provide an explanation for the unknown. Coyotes would seem a logical possibility, although, a certain fox would be an even more plausible alternative.

There was no memory card in the trail cam at the time, so the culprit(s) will probably remain unidentified.

For the immediate future, the plan for the 10 chickens still with us is to confine them to their coop. There’s no reason to believe this will solve anything, but it just feels better to take some kind of action against an unknown foe.

Maybe this will spur the hens on to make full use of those fabulous nest boxes in there. We’ve still only found 4 of the small eggs associated with the start of their laying career. That leaves six who have yet to reach this milestone of maturity.

We are even more vested now in hoping the rest will live long enough to get there.

.

.

 

Written by johnwhays

August 8, 2018 at 6:00 am

Our Debuggers

leave a comment »

The main reason we wanted to get chickens was as a means of reducing the number of flies that show up when you have horses. Even more so when we heard they eat ticks, as well.

I had no clue how much fun they would also be as social pets. Of course, there is the added benefit of eggs, too. That’s a feature that I have come to value much more highly than I ever imagined I would.

Our flock continues to number twelve birds, which is really rewarding, but tends to make the inevitable threat of future loss more ominous, at the same time.

Lately, we’ve seen the chickens exploring ever greater distances away from the area around the coop and barn, which I am hoping means they are eating more and more bugs.

.

Otherwise, they tend to spend the bulk of their time under the thick cover of the trees between the house and the fields. When we walk past, it is common to hear their 24 feet clawing the leaves that cover the ground, as they search for bugs to eat.

My piles of composting manure no longer hold the shape I build up, as the chicken’s busy feet quickly wreak havoc in their search for precious morsels.

It’s a disruption to my sense of order which I gladly tolerate.

Despite all the bugs our chickens can eat, there remain plenty of flies that pester the horses. We put masks over the horses’ eyes, and this summer we are trying wraps on their legs.

Horses will often stomp their feet to knock loose the biting flies and that repeated concussion takes a toll on their feet and hooves.

Cyndie gave them some time on the short arena grass at dusk yesterday, where they can get some reward that helps distract them from the relentless harassment of the flies.

After that, Cyndie made a pass by the chicken coop to check for eggs and was rewarded with TWO eggs at the same time.

Now we know there are two hens laying. The rest won’t be far behind.

They might be our debuggers, but their eggs really are the crowning glory of our wonderful chickens.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

August 1, 2018 at 6:00 am

Planning Again

with 2 comments

Sometimes, between the daily chores and ongoing projects that never seem to be finished here, we allow ourselves to imagine new things we could be doing to benefit our operation. One specific vision we have held from the very early stage of arriving on this property is to have chickens, but it just keeps not happening for us.

Initially, it was seen as a way to naturally control flies and break up piles of manure. That benefit alone was enough reason for me to look beyond the details involved in actually caring for and protecting a flock of birds. We could sure do with less flies.

One early delay in our acting on that vision was that we didn’t yet have horses, and we instead brought home a very carnivorous young dog that required a lot of time and attention. When the horses finally arrived, our attention was consumed by the combination of orienting ourselves with actually owning and caring for the 4 very large creatures, as well as the puppy dog and 2 cats.

Now, as we have become more acclimated with our animals and the surroundings, and have grown more familiar with our neighbors, the subject of owning chickens gets discussed as a natural given. We should have chickens. George has even offered to give us some of his.

When someone else we met reported that, in addition to having less flies, they haven’t seen any ticks since they got chickens, it was a lock. We need chickens.

ManyPlansAll we have to do is build a coop.

Do you know how you would build a chicken coop? There are as many versions as there are people in the world. As is usual for me, I would like to accomplish it using as much found material as possible. I searched for plans using pallets. There are as many versions of plans for chicken coops built out of pallets as there are flies in a barnyard.

I am now at the point where I have a real good general idea of what I would like to do. That just leaves an unending number of actual details that need to be figured out and executed.

Yesterday, Cyndie helped me prepare 5 more pallets that I brought home from work. They have 4 extra blocks nailed on top that I remove to get a flat platform. We experimented with several orientations to see if there was a natural fit that would work easily. She then disappeared to the back of the shop garage for a minute and returned with 3 perfect clear vinyl panels that could be used for windows.

I had forgotten about those. The previous owners had screwed them on the sliding screen doors for protection from their small dog. I had completely forgotten of their existence.

A few more baby steps toward building a coop so we can get chickens.

One of these days, it might happen. It will be just like we have been envisioning throughout the last 4 years.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

June 11, 2016 at 9:33 am

Fly Masks

leave a comment »

Sometimes I think the flies on our horses bother me more than they do the horses. Legacy approached me while I was raking up manure in the paddock yesterday, and my intuition told me it was about the flies. Lately I have been noticing increasing numbers of flies congregating around the eyes of our horses, so I went into the barn to get fly masks.

DSCN2281eEven though Cyndie tried these last fall with limited success, I figured it was worth another attempt. I may be anthropomorphizing their behavior, but the way the mares willingly accepted the protection while the guys rebuffed my offer like I was offending their egos, seemed to match a common human gender tendency.

It took a lot of patience on my part to outlast Legacy’s hesitation about wearing one. Hunter never did give in, but of the 4 of them, he seemed to have the least problem with flies, so I let him be. I’m curious to find out if the masks will all still be in place this morning.

At one point while they were grazing in the arena space, I tried one last time to get Hunter into a mask. I had tucked a ziplock bag with carrots into my pocket to offer a treat as incentive and walked toward a position to address Hunter.

Legacy seemed to immediately read what was going on and approached me, cutting off Hunter from my attention. I walked around to rearrange my position, but it was obvious that Legacy was not going to give me any space. I walked away from him and he followed, closely. I decided to walk the entire perimeter to see how long he would keep this up.

I was surprised to see him put in so much effort while out in the hot sun, but he stayed right in step on my heels. I made a couple of diagonals across the arena space and he was still with me. As far as I was concerned, he had just earned himself a carrot snack. I wouldn’t try again with Hunter, unless he chose to come to me.

Later in the afternoon, I was sitting on the ground at the fence line of the grazing pasture, covering damaged insulation on an electric wire that had become tangled with my trimmer. While I was engrossed in my task, Legacy wandered up behind me. He nosed around some of my gear and then started eating grass right next to me. RIGHT next to me. He snorted his runny nose all over my arm. Next thing I know, I am being harassed by a cloud of flies. Legacy was sharing his flies with me!

If I still had the mask with me that I was trying to get Hunter to wear, I would have tried it on my own head at that point.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

August 21, 2014 at 6:00 am

Creepy Crawlies

leave a comment »

I was mowing the labyrinth yesterday when I had a series of episodes that made my skin crawl. Well, crawl more than usual for a day when I was sticky with sweat from summer’s heat and humidity, working outside with chainsaws and trimmers. There is always some dirt or plant matter pasted to the exposed skin of my arms. In the area I was working, there was also an ongoing battle with a multitude of insects that were taking great interest in my flesh.

DSCN2145e2Down in the corner of the grazing pasture, on the edge of the woods, I was cutting up the tree I dropped to the ground on Friday, soaked with sweat and covered with debris. It gets hard to know when it is a bug on my skin, or something else. The gloves I wore had loose cuffs, and more than once I pulled them off because I wasn’t sure if what just landed inside was alive or not.

I gained a new appreciation for the horse’s ability to twitch their muscles hard enough to dispatch flies. With both of my hands occupied on the chainsaw or trimmer, I was easy prey for the biting flies and mosquitoes. After a while, it becomes impossible to tell whether I am feeling something on me in a moment, or if it is simply residual sensation after whatever landed has flown away.

It was also a bit unnerving picking up freshly cut logs when I had seen millions of ants had been living inside the tree. Add to that, I am pretty sure that feeding the wood chipper and trimming the trail the day before put me in contact with poison ivy again. My skin was in a state of constant irritation.

It culminated in creepiness late in the process of using the trimmer in the labyrinth. It had been a long day, I was tired, and I really wanted to be done. I had already been forced to stop earlier to reload the supply of plastic line in the trimmer head, so the only remaining delay would be a need for another refueling.

shieldproIn my push to finish, I didn’t stop to use my toe to convince the little frog to move out of the way, I just cut up behind him, assuming the noise and motion would naturally drive him off like usually happens. For some ghastly reason, he turned and jumped into the lethal spinning line.

That stopped me. I shut off the engine and decided I would fill the gas tank anyway, setting my over-ear hearing protection with face shield on the ground. I topped off the fuel tank while swatting at things bugging my ears and trying to shake the heebie-geebies that frog had just caused.

When I resumed trimming, I continued to have the feeling like there was a bug flying around my right ear, and wanted to let go of the trimmer to wave it away, but I realized I had on my ear protection, so I figured I was feeling residual phantom sensations. Or was it just left-over creepy feelings from watching that frog?

DSCN2143eI had to check, stopping to pull off the head-gear. A bug flew out. Really. What are the odds of that? It’s not as far-fetched as what happened next. I tried again to resume my task, and in moments, my left ear felt weird. I figured I was just being paranoid at this point, but was also feeling jumpier by the minute, so I paused the trimmer again and whipped off the ear muffs. GAH! I did the squiggle-jump-flinch as a spider crawled out.

I gotta say, it felt extra-specially-good to finally step out of the shower last night, scrubbed as squeaky clean as physically possible.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

July 27, 2014 at 8:40 am

Not Proud

leave a comment »

Out of respect for the whole truth, I must report that it isn’t always sunshine-happy-roses here at Wintervale, despite all my blissful stories. Yesterday afternoon, Cyndie got out of her car after work, hobbling on a sprained ankle. She reported that it happened as she was squeezing out time before work that she didn’t really have, trying to walk Delilah one last time before leaving. Delilah ran off with gusto, pulling Cyndie off-balance.

With me trying to help out, doing more of the walking chores, we headed down to the barn to invite the horses into the paddock for their evening grain. I don’t know where he had been rolling, but Hunter arrived with dirt covering him, head to hoof. He was an absolute mess. Regardless the hindrance of her painful sprain, Cyndie wanted to try to clean him up. She worked her way into the paddock, with brushes and cleaning supplies.

He wasn’t interested.

She turned to Legacy, who had a fair amount of dirt on his back, giving him the option of being groomed. He didn’t seem to want to hang around, either. As we stood at the gate, after exiting, Legacy appeared to want to give us one last message. He presented his backside and lifted his tail. Message received.

We left the sorry-looking geldings to strut their muddy body art.

I dropped Cyndie off at the house and headed around back to retrieve Delilah from her kennel. Yes, she is still behaving like a puppy, despite our impression that she should be beyond portions of it now. For the second time in three days, she has ripped and de-stuffed articles of bedding. I found her insulated blanket torn open and puffs of white stuffing spread all over the place. It is so frustrating, especially when she presents such an obvious look pride for her “accomplishment.”IMG_2938e

On Saturday, Delilah was confined to her crate in the house, while we entertained guests. She made quick work of the bed Cyndie had tossed in there while cleaning. Ever so quietly, Delilah pulled the green stuffing out of it to surround herself, before lying down to nap.

Shortly after coming inside with Delilah yesterday, as I brought a cold pack for Cyndie’s ankle, while she propped her foot up in the living room, I stepped in a pile of poop Delilah had covertly dropped on the rug the day before. That afternoon was when Elysa was over, and both she and I smelled something, but weren’t wily enough to follow our noses to the source. Discovery was delayed for 24 hours.

Maybe we can blame Delilah for all the flies in the house. There has been an epic population explosion of flies around here this summer, and now that we have an unending supply of manure, the flies are thicker than ever. With Cyndie on the couch, pointing them out, I swatted at flies in a fruitless effort to curb the infestation.

This was not one of our proudest days.

Written by johnwhays

October 8, 2013 at 7:00 am