Thursday, December 24, 2009

Making friends.

On Solstice, we made treats for our local birds and put them out.

I've been saving these sunflower seed heads for months just for this purpose.

I like the way they look, but am not sure if the birds will brave the cats to explore them.

It's been blowing 50 - 60 mph here for the last three days, and it's been a steady wind. This morning dawned clear and still and the animals, both wild and domestic, are celebrating. It might be cold, but it's cold without wind. Oh, that makes a difference.

The snow is hard. The girls can walk on it without it breaking, and it even holds my weight most of the time.

Happy Holidays, readers. I hope you have a wonderful time with family.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The plot (and the pile of mice) thickens.

When I went to feed my chickens this morning, I noticed that they were staying out of a corner of the chicken coop that they usually went in. I went to check it out and found this.

Like a good blogger, I went right back to the house and grabbed my camera. After I took the picture, I moved to clean them up and found even more buried under the straw.

It's the strangest thing. Apart from a few on their backs, most look like they just went to sleep.

A few more facts to help in your sleuthing. Some of these facts are included because of questions I got via email.

1) While I found the bodies this morning, I may have just missed them yesterday, as I was feeding in a hurry because I was heading to town for my girls' gymnastic class; however, the bodies were not stiff.

2) Wednesday night was a New Moon and last night was nearly a New Moon - the waxing was not visible.*

3) The barn cats leave my chickens alone. Ghandi, our big gray cat, does sleep in there with them, but he's the laziest mouser you've ever seen (this was a long time ago - as soon as we got Aradia, the calico, he quit mousing), so that's out. While I have found the odd mouse pecked to death in my chicken coop, none of these mice were pecked.

4) Weather: We had temperatures below 0 F (so *really* cold C) all last week and a bit of snow - maybe six inches - on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The temperature warmed up considerably during the day on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The temperature did drop to past freezing at night, but not lower than 20 F, so not *that* cold, and certainly not colder than the mice were used to.

5) I have found no dead birds or other small animals - just mice and voles. And really, they were mostly mice, very few voles.

6) After the chicken coop find, I searched all of our outbuildings, the garage, and under the porch. Zip.

7) We are surrounded by organic farm land, so mass poisoning was not a likely possibility. I did entertain the thought that maybe our new neighbors poisoned rodents and our cat dragged them over, but with the new find in the chicken coop, especially given its distance from the neighbor's house, I ruled it out.

My husband's theory from yesterday was that with the warmer weather and the resulting snow melt, the mice were forced out of their holes and froze to death or were easy pickings for the cats. He's ruled this out now with the chicken coop find. Those mice certainly didn't freeze to death and the cats didn't even know they were there.

My theory is an alien one - just for Danni. Have you seen Serenity? (If you haven't, you must. But then you'll get hooked on the short lived Firefly series it was based off of. Even people who hate SciFi tend to love Firefly. You can see some episodes of Firefly on Hulu right now.) In Serenity, the government puts a chemical into the atmosphere that is supposed to make the citizens more peaceful. It simply drains their will to live and they lay down right there and die. So .... my alien theory for you is that the aliens are testing their compliance drug on the mice around my house. Why choose my house? Because I have a kick-ass mouser. If I hadn't found the mice in the chicken coop, they might have gotten away with it.

Anybody have any more ideas?

*Please note that any references to the book 'New Moon' or the 'Twilight' series may permanently alter my opinion of your good taste. You are free to leave theories that have to do with Hugh Jackman Wolverine.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Does your cat ever bring mice to your door?

This generally isn't an issue for us with our barn cats. They eat the mice they catch and occasionally, if their kittens are near the porch, bring the mice to the porch for their kittens. This morning, however, I walked out to chore and found that our best mouser had brought some mice to the front porch.

Now I've always known she was a good mouser. But now? If there were a competition for barn cats, I'd enter her in it.

I know. Gold medal.

Now, before you get all excited/stunned/disgusted about how many mice that is, I should tell you that that's a close-up shot of *one group* of her mice. Here's a long shot.

And that doesn't include all of the mice around the corner and on the lawn (the ones the dogs had hauled off to play with).

So does anyone have an explanation for this besides "You have an overachieving barn cat"?

Some pertinent facts to help in your guessing -
1) There were over 50 when I stopped counting.
2) There were no visible wounds on them - classic cat kills, apparently. (So they probably didn't try to attack the house in the middle of the night.)
3) The bodies weren't stiff, so they were all recent kills.

Have at it. Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Skirt tutorial and updates.

First, I wanted to point you over to my other blog for a tutorial on how to make three-tiered skirts. Just in case you're interested.

No surprise, it's been cold here. Seven degrees Fahrenheit yesterday morning, minus three degrees this morning. And wind that'll blow you away. It makes it miserable for the kids to go outside at all, even to get to the car. Without the wind, it would be bearable, but this wind - it even makes the adults cower inside.

Right before this cold spell hit, we got the goats set up with their shelter, which they only leave to get a drink or a bite to eat. I get to bond with them once a day while we all stand shivering around their grain pails. We also put plywood up around the inside of the shed I'm using for the chickens. The walls were full of cracks and holes and I didn't want my chickens living with that through the winter. Now it's very snug. When I'm done feeding calves and am feeding the chickens, I'll hang out in the shed a few extra minutes to get the courage to run back to the house. The temperature change is surprising between the outside and the inside.

This morning I gave my chickens hot oatmeal as a treat. They enjoyed it almost as much as I enjoyed carrying a steaming pan out there.

We saw this yesterday when we were driving home from the store -

Made me think of my Arizona dwelling sister and her smug attitude every time we talk on the phone from December through March. ;)