County Fair Week!….all across the country people are flocking to county fairs to watch and participate in all the fun opportunities. We went to two different county fairs this week and participated in one. Many wonderful ribbons were earned and we all had a lot of fun.
Since our summer is so short, County Fair Week kind of marks the beginning of the end of summer for us. We will be starting school soon and we are only a few weeks out from our average first frost…and then it is fall. Amazing how fast time flies by, especially in summer it seems.
Bear in the Garden
We have had bears try to get into the trash, the barn, the coops, and successfully get into the camper and one truck. But this is a first…a bear in the garden. He tried to get into the trash first, was unsuccessful, and then decided that a salad would be a healthier option.
He broke down the fence at the corner, which also took down the medicinal herb garden fence, then squashed the celery and some peas as he lumbered over to the seed lettuce where he took several large bites from the lettuce heads. Thankfully, that was all he ate and the only damage.
We fixed the fence and Finley has been sleeping in his crate on the back patio to help deter another visit. This is the start of bear season, their intense drive for food, food, and more food starts now and will continue until they all head into hibernation in November.
While working in the garden we found two huge fat caterpillars.
At first we were worried they were some sort of destructive garden worm. So we put them into a container and went inside to investigate in our bug books. We found that they are Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars. They like carrot tops, dill, and parsley. We happened to find ours on the dill. From what we read it was clear that these big fat guys (or ladies) were getting very close to their chrysalis phase. So we decided to watch them go through their metamorphosis. We got them set up in a safe container, added a bunch of dill since that seemed to be their food of choice, and some wet cotton balls to drink from, a stick to hang from when they were ready, and then we waited. Sure enough, a few days later they hooked themselves to the stick with two teeny tiny silk threads, and went into Chrysalis phase.
In 10-20 days they will be butterflies and we will release them.
We put up another trailer load of hay. Only one more and we will be set for the year.
The Pullets are Laying!
We are now collecting regular hen eggs as well as small pullet eggs each day. Perfect timing since the hens will be heading into molt in the next month or so, so we wont have too much of a lull in egg production during that time.
Golden Eagle Issues
We are continuing to have issues with the mother Golden Eagle and her two fledglings. Last week I told you that we had lost a hen to a very cunning Golden Eagle mama who was feeding her fledglings and had carefully watched and waited for Anya to go into the barn for an afternoon nap in the cool with the sheep and goat. It happened on Friday and right after it happened we counted the chickens and looked over the flock (without picking anyone up) and they all looked normal. On Saturday and Sunday we kept them in their enclosed pen so they would be safe and we did another visual scan and everyone looked to be acting normal and fine. But not having them out loose in the barnyard, it was somewhat hard to notice that anything was amiss. Early Sunday afternoon when we went to check on everything Mtn man noticed one of the chickens, Carrot, was acting strange. He picked her up and was upset to find that she had some pretty major wounds under one of her wings going all along her side and leg. It was clearly talon wounds from the Eagle, but because they weren’t fresh and had started scabbing over we couldn’t tell if they went all the way into her abdominal cavity or not. We have had one hen survive an aerial predator attack because the wounds didn’t go all the way in. So we were trying to determine how bad the damage was without opening the wounds back up. We decided that since she had survived two days already, there probably was not internal damage. So we put her in her own pen with food and water and waited to see if she could recover. It has been a week now and she is improving each day. We don’t know if the eagle attacked two different times (Carrot, and Batina – the one that died), or if Carrot and Batina were standing right next to each other when the attack happened and Batina got the brunt of it and Carrot just got part. Because Carrot is clearly just one side and it isn’t a full strong hit like what we have seen on the other chickens that have been hit by aerial predators. We are hopeful she will make a full recovery.
Meanwhile, all the chickens have had to stay in their enclosed pen because the eagle and her juveniles are still hanging around. But man-oh-man they are going through their feed like crazy. They normally go through one bag of feed in about 10 days. But they almost decimated a full bag within the first 4 days of their confinement! Eeeek! Free ranging really helps with the feed bill! So we have been trying to make sure they get out for 30 minute free-ranging breaks a few times each day with a human protecting them. We take turns and take a book or knitting or whatever to keep us busy while we watch over them. Braveheart loves guarding the chickens and watching them and learning their different personalities and behaviors, so he has been doing the guarding more and more as the week progressed. We are hopeful the eagles will move on soon so we can go back to letting them out each day with Anya watching them. Of course, once the weather starts cooling the sheep and goat and Anya will take their afternoon nap in the barnyard instead of in the barn – then we wont have to worry as much either… theoretically.