Tractor repair

Yesterday, the tractor quit running while Mrs. B. was working up the garden, and it wouldn’t restart. It’s done this before on hot days when the coolant was low, so we assumed that was the problem.

Today, she tried to start it, but the key wouldn’t turn and the starter wouldn’t go.

After getting some advice from Mrs. B.’s dad and the internet, I set out to investigate. There were two problems: (1) the battery terminals were dirty, and (2) the ignition wires were fried.

The simple solution was to bypass the switch, which would have solved the “on” part of the on/off switch. The tractor had a couple “spare” switches (at one time, they controlled the headlights), but neither of them worked. So, I grabbed the first switch I found, similar to this one in our house:

And now we’re back in business.

Clue, barn cat edition

The Victim

Young Master (or Miss) Fox recently moved to the neighborhood, and didn’t know his way around town. He ended up in a bad part of town* (for foxes) and…. well, now he’s six feet under.

* – not actually near any town.

The Crime Scene

The victim was found in the old red barn. The crime may have been committed in the barn, but it could have occurred near the fox’s home, in the ditch by the road.

The Suspects

Stripey: a young adult female cat. Normally very passive. A loner, she doesn’t like to eat with the other cats. Though she is missing eight teeth, she does have all of her razor sharp claws.

Pudgy: a middle-aged female cat. Very belligerent, she picks fights with other cats on a regular basis, especially when food is in sight. She is also equipped with razor sharp claws.

OC (full name “Orange Cat”): a neutered male with orange and white fur. Usually stays pent up in the barn. Still has razor sharp claws.

BBK (full name redacted): a neutered male with black fur. Though his meow is unintimidating, hunting transforms him into a ferocious predator. His black fur may indicate his stealthy habits. He is also equipped with razor sharp claws.

Boots: an unaltered male cat. Despite his natural condition, he is very tame. He was not originally included in the suspect list, until he was observed in the environs of the late Young Master Fox’s abode. He, also, is equipped with razor sharp claws.

Naturally, none of the suspects have responded to questioning.

Chicken Rescue Squad

The other day, several chickens were huddled in a corner of their pen. I don’t remember what the occasion was, whether it was raining, or if we were mowing, or what. Regardless, there were about three or four chickens packed into the corner between their house and the fence.

Dinner time was coming up, so I headed up to the house to start making dinner, and as I walked past the chickens’ area, I noticed three pullets pecking at something in the corner. It looked like there was some blood, so I rushed in to see what was going on.

The arrangement was like this: One araucana was laying down in the corner, apparently thinking that it was dead. A delaware was half-lying on top of it, with one of its feet caught in the fence, so its leg was stretched way out behind it. Three other pullets were busily attempting to help free the delaware from the fence. Their chosen method: amputation.

My investigation had stirred things up, so the pecking had stopped. I freed the delaware, and tried to pick her up, but she started pecking at me, so I put her down. I picked up the araucana and told her that she was still alive. She was pleased and ran off to join the flock.

The bloodied delaware had also tried to rejoin the flock, but one of the other pullets was chasing her around, trying to peck at her wound. So I had to be a chicken rescue squad to rescue the chicken from another chicken rescue squad.

Now the damaged delaware is isolated so she’ll have a chance to recover. She is quite dismayed at being separated from the rest of the chickens, and every evening at dusk she gets antsy, wanting to go get into the house with the rest of the pullets. And she’ll get her wish … in a week or so.

New chickens

We can now add spring chickens to our list of the signs of spring. We have 70 chicks under a heat lamp now. That’s up from 25 last year. There’s one breed that’s the same, and a couple that are different.

Some things that I’ve noticed this year:

Seventy chicks in a box are noisier than twenty-five chicks in a box. The ride home from the post office was … chirpier.

Seventy chicks are a lot crazier, when they’re out of the box. It’s kind of like kids… when there’s one or two, they’re usually pretty calm. But the more kids you put in the same room, the louder and crazier they get. The chicks moved around a lot more. They seemed to have fun running up the hills that lead to their water.

It’s a bit amusing to watch seventy chicks all stand up straight and turn their heads at the exact same instant when your toddler drops a loud something in the other corner of the room.

This morning, it was peaceful and calm watching the chicks all cuddled up with each other, sleeping. I’m glad their party wound down eventually last night, and they got some rest.

California Prop 2

I first heard of Prop 2 from the local AM radio station this morning. (When I say “local”, I mean the one (only one?) in the county we live in.) It was during an ag-update, of which there are many on this station. It said that livestock producers were concerned about the passage of the proposition. Producers in the midwest see it as an opportunity — California’s production will obviously decrease because of proposition 2. Oh, sad, sad, day.

I took it upon myself to research this perilous new law. I was curious about what types of terrible regulations had been passed by those crazies on the west coast.

Mere seconds after typing “prop 2” into a search box, I found the Yes on Prop 2 page. Obligingly, they have the text of the proposed (now passed) law in a PDF. The summary reads thusly:

“The purpose of this Act is to prohibit the cruel confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.”

Hm. That doesn’t sound that catastrophic, or even unreasonable. Well, maybe there’s some scary stuff hiding behind such a simple summary…

“25990. Prohibitions.– … a person shall not tether or confine any covered animal, on a farm, for all or the majority of any day, in a manner that prevents such animal from:
(a) Lying down, standing up, and fully extending his or her limbs; and
(b) Turning around freely.”

Well, that sounds awfully similar to the summary. And that’s it, other than some definitions and exceptions.

In contrast to the tone of the local radio station’s report, our farm would not be hampered by a law like this. The chickens we have now, even when they’re cooped up for the night, have enough freedom of motion that we wouldn’t need to change if Indiana passed the same law. As we grow, our intent is to give our animals as much freedom as we can (while still keeping them healthy and safe from predators) and to raise what our land can support; in short, we plan to grow sustainably.

I think it is terrible that this type of law is required. But, I think it is hopeful that things seem to be changing in a more positive direction.

All a-twitter

The dog discovered the chicks this weekend. No, she didn’t eat any (so far), but one of her new favorite places to hang out is just outside the door to their room. Every once in a while, she whines a little.

So, on Sunday, Mrs. B and I were sitting in the living room while the baby slept. We both heard, but didn’t really notice, the dog whining a little more than usual.

Later, we went to the kitchen for a snack, and noticed that the chicks were quite a bit louder than usual. Strange. Well, we both thought it’d be a good idea to check in on them — it had been a couple hours — so I snuck past the dog into the bonus room

From across the room, I could see that the chicks were all running around their little area, and there was lots of loud chirping. When I got closer, I could see that the loudest one was pinned under the water bottle… they had knocked it over, and one was stuck! I rescued it, it joined its friends in the opposite corner, and things settled down in chicken-land.

Silly chickens.

The chickens are here

A couple weeks ago, I ordered some chickens. This weekend, we set up the chick area.

This morning, the post office called at 6AM to say that the chickens were there. I went and got them, and they’re running around their little pen.

We’ve got 5 araucanas, 10 silver-laced wyandottes, and 10 barred plymouth rocks. We’re hoping to get about 10-15 layers, and the rest will be for meat.