My mornings are spent chopping, mixing and cooking hen food. Not only am I making the normal amount of breakfast for hens and sheep, but now I'm also catering for small beeping and very hungry chicks.
I stick to a base of cottage cheese, finely chopped and then with added various ingredients, according to mood and availability. Apples and carrots are very popular, as is sweet corn and peas. I add some water to the mix, just to be certain that the chicks don't choke on their food. They also get dry chick feed and various seeds, also chopped up into smaller bits. I never really learned what food chicks should eat so I follow the " tried and tested" principal. With our first small, funny looking bunch I read up on what and when, but they never ate any of it. Then the experts told me about the magic of cottage cheese and we were off.
The chicks can now drink from the hen's water dispenser. The mother hen stands primly by while they drink, but the little chick-gang quickly jumps into the water and ends up standing knee deep in their drink. This means that the water must be changed a few times each day. They do seem to have a lot of fun, while fighting dehydration.
As I think I told you, the second nest of eggs was tended to by three hens and as I have not had time to monitor the comings and goings of the care unit, I completely missed the fact that the hen who finally claimed the nest was Pippi, Eric's, mother. As two times before, Pippi left the nest and its eggs, after the first, tiny chick was born.
I worried about two mothers in the henhouse at the same time, but once I realised that our old pro was tending to the baby, all worries vanished. Pippi can stand her ground and we can all hear her doing so. By her command, we all stand quietly in a row when Queen Pippi walks past, tiny toddler in tow. She is one of our oldest hens and knows her place in the pecking order. The first thing she told me when she became a mother for little Eric was that I was now to give way and behave myself. It’s only possible that I call the shots because I know the location of the fridge. Pippi is a practical hen but not really a barrel of laughs, when she is tending to a small chick. I think this baby will be called Sunny and we must hope that it's finally a small hen.
Trisha the hen, runs around like a grouse version of the Queen of Sheba, with five small minions in tow. As her five are almost a week older than Sunny they are much braver, wilder and very keen on visiting our dear sheep. Molly greeted them yesterday, but I stayed close by just to stop Trisha from pecking Molly on the nose. All went well and I think the chicks agreed that our small flock of sheep are a fun lot. Trisha had to have a rest after all the excitement as she stresses a lot!
The month of April is leaving us with snow, slush and still slightly wintry weather. Never have I been so cold, as these last few weeks! Last night's snowstorm felt like winter is never planning to leave us, but it was a warm, snug feel in the stable. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My stayed indoors as they find getting wet to be highly irritating. As the radiator is still on in the stable, even I warmed up a degree or two.
The only one enjoying the weather is happy, funny Ebba, our very kind dog. Dear husband introduced Ebba to the idea of grilling meat outside and our dog is now the newest member of the BBQ-fun club. Apparently, it's the only way forward when it comes to cooking food. As a vegetarian, I can't really agree but they are happy and at least the smell of burned meat stayed outside. Ebba thinks vegetarians are a silly lot but it means more meat for the club members.
The rain has set in so maybe we can celebrate the first of May, tomorrow, without snow. Ebba can work on digging her mud bath in the paddock and that way keep her coat glossy and healthy. Ebba is a Spa kind of dog. Mud baths and paddling around in cold water. She will soon ask for healthy smoothies too! As long as she is happy, we'll just keep on drying her after her sessions in the paddock and hope for summer to arrive soon.
Happy month of May to everyone and please send us suggestions of names for five fluffy chicks. I'm all named out.
Easter Monday was a happy but slightly stressful day for our hen Trisha. The first two of her eggs hatched and she became a mother. A very protective hen mother, at that. Two days later there were four beeping, fluffy chicks and on Saturday the total became five.
Trisha has always been prone to taking any new situation with the maximum amount of emotions, so motherhood is making her crackle from stress and worry. The small, fluffy bundles of joy take her in their stride and are busy eating to stay warm and alive. We still have a very cold spring, so poor chicks. (Trisha does her best to warm them, bless her).
Jill and Jane are still waiting for their chicks to hatch so when that happens, we'll be in trouble. Where to place all these young, angry mothers, so they don't meet up?!
Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are four very happy sheep, as they love their hens and find small chicks to be the icing on the cake. They can already hear the constant beeping coming from next door but have not met the new arrivals yet. Molly knows that if you step too close to the chicks, the mother hen will attack you, so we are pushing the "meet and greet" forward. We’ll wait for a while, as a safety precaution.
Monty seems to have forgotten that he is, once again, a proud father and just carries on with his days as normal as he can. Maybe he will notice that something has changed, when we stand knee deep in small bundles of fluff?
The chilly weather is a challenge for everyone that finds freezing temperatures to be a slight irritation. It is also proving to be a setback for our sheep. The grass on the fields does not seem to grow at all. Our lovely sheep still live on hay and on last year's dry grass that they find in the fields. When let out in the mornings, they rush off to look closely for some fresh grass, but so far all they find is green moss. Then, when called in again, they settle in nicely in their pen with their big heap of hay, and all thoughts of green pastures vanish.
Ebba, the dog, found out that she quite likes sitting outside, in a smallish pen. Dear husband and a good friend of ours built Ebba an outdoor area where (hopefully) she'll be able to spend some time on her own, this summer. Ebba can sit stock still for a surprisingly long time if she has something to watch or listen to. By having a pen for our dear dog, we can work outside and still have Ebba with us. It's not a substitute for exercise or playing in the paddock as it is about 4 x 2.5 metres, so it's more of an extra bedroom than a play area for sweet Ebba.
I called to check in with my sister's friends, the orphaned otters, last week. They are both doing very well and being wild and happy, at the animal sanctuary where they have spent their winter. Now they will head off to their fishing course and hopefully return to us, in the autumn.
Otters stay with their mother for 15 months so we will not see them for a while, yet. I had somehow got the thought of them returning to the village this spring rather than the autumn. Firstly, they must become expert fishermen and all round super brave otters. I am now stressing about the two stars meeting up with predators, fishing nets, stupid people - you name it, on their return, but that's just me.
We are so happy that the otters have made it this far and now wish them a happy summer at school. We are also very impressed and grateful for all the work the nice people at the animal sanctuary have put in. It can't be easy!
This week’s lovely artwork made me laugh out loud. We are lucky to have dear Darya making this blog what it is!
Have a nice week and give our love to all your animals, small and large. And if you have a clean, tidy animal free house, enjoy that, too. We have a lot of sand everywhere, just know, although Ebba does claim to wipe her paws when she enters the house. Maybe it's the magic of spring.
We were blessed with these little darlings on Easter Monday. There are still eggs being cared for so we may still get a few more chicks.
The world outside our window has frozen, once again. This week has been cold and the weather forecast is telling us that next week is going to be the same. Waking up to minus six in the middle of April feels wrong, somehow.
Ebba thinks nothing of it and just carries on being young and bouncy. As far as she's concerned, you get less muddy in freezing conditions so she races around in her paddock, even faster than before. Her speed is impressive and she is getting more confident, when out walking.
Ebba still believes that it's possible to catch a passing bird even though it flies by, high in the sky. This makes for odd moments as she throws herself wholeheartedly into the chase, while forgetting about the person at the other end of the lead. I make a good impression of a rag doll, when this happens. So now we must look out for hare babies, deer, the odd car, blackbirds bobbing about, and all this while staring into the sky. Ebba is a very charming dog, though.
While on the subject of deer, we had a funny moment one evening, Ebba and I. Returning home from an evening walk, this cold week, Ebba went over to her favorite chair to watch the fields for foxes. At first, she just glanced in a sort of casual way and then she did a little jolt of a jump and quickly came to fetch me. When we returned together to her lookout point, the field below the house was filled with action. It looked like a convention for long legged animals as eight nice looking white-tailed deer, three small roe deer (one not so small, more circular) and three more white-tailed deer wandering up along the field, had a meeting out there. Ebba just stood stock still, taking it all in and did not move from her spot until the last animal had left. This took ages, as they found grass to eat and probably had a lot to talk about. It was an impressive sight and our dear dog fell asleep exhausted, after all that excitement. They say that it's important to exercise both body and mind of a young dog. I think we are doing just that. It's lovely that Ebba does not bark madly, in a situation like this, but takes time to observe and enjoy. Maybe other animals don't scare her as much as people?
Our hens had enough of being locked up, caged in and looked after. We still have a whole month of outside cage life to get through but our feisty, small hens staged a "Chicken run" scenario and legged it. Monty, our kind but slightly dizzy cockerel did not see it coming and was left behind. I helped him escape, I must admit.
Opening the stable door, one sunny but chilly morning gave me a bit of a shock, when Lina flew straight at me, followed by the rest of the hens. They did not stop until they were safely in the forest, in a deeply banked stream, where it's difficult to catch them. When Monty caught up with them (it took a while) they hurried upstream and played by a small spring, for a long time. Icy water is no problem for our lot and even Violet, one of our guest hens, had a small venture out into the stream. It was one of those perfect moments in life and we did understand their need to get out and get going. Lina, our oldest hen, was very proud of herself, that evening.
Our three guest hens left, not as we planned but that's life. One hen got ill and old, one old lady just slowed down and came to her end and Violet perked up no end. We decided, together with her owner's that as her companions went to heaven and she really likes Lina and Henrika, not to mention odd Monty, Violet should retire at Stoneback farm. Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My agreed, so there we are. Our charming sheep are liking the colder weather, as they are snug as bugs in their woolly jumpers. Mindy was tickled pink, when the hens joined them for the outing.
The Easter bunny visited us and we can now spend time eating chocolates and I guess that keeps us warm and happy. Ebba got a new chewy bone from the bunny and it's now hidden in my bed. She is still playing with the wrapping paper, though.
Have a lovely Easter holiday and remember to eat lots of chocolate eggs. We don't want to offend the Easter bunny, do we?
Spring has arrived.
The weather is throwing everything the month of April has to offer at us and all we can do is to take it. Snow, rain, sun and chilly wind one morning and then the next day starts cloudy and warm. Our dear sheep are ready to start grazing and sunbathing but so far outdoor life is more about wading in mud and chewing on hay. Dear Ebba is having a brilliant time in her play paddock at the moment. A muddy, water logged field is all she could ever have hoped for, it seems, and seeing her sprint through it all is pure joy. Trying to wipe her clean afterwards is less so, although Ebba is getting better at staying put.
The hens are completely bored with all and everything. This is the time to start roaming around the countryside and now they are not allowed to do so. The wind is too cold for them to be outside for any long period of time and the outdoor pen is a boring place anyway, they tell us, and they think we are being mean to them. Our two guest hens are leaving us next week and that will be another change in the hen house. Monty, our slightly dizzy cockerel, will be very sad to see them go and our five young hens will probably feel a huge relief when they can go back to being loud, wild and utterly charming. They have had to calm down a bit in the presence of the older hens. Our oldest hen Lina will miss the more refined ladies but as Monty will, yet again, have more time for his old flock, Lina will soon be busy ordering him around, all day, all evening.
It was nice to be able to help out with winter accommodation for our guest hens. They sang all through the dark, slightly cold winter, but I have made a promise to our lot that we will not have a repeat performance. It's too disruptive for hens, as spoilt as they are, to add temporary members to the flock. The younger hens got pushed far down in the pecking order and our leading ladies had to give way to bigger and stronger birds. Not the end of the world but, it was not fair on any of them, I think. Now we know and I learned my lesson, once again.
Trisha and friends are taking turns in tending to six eggs in one nest and four eggs in the next door one. I have never seen this way of mothering eggs before so we will see who actually claims the chicks, if they hatch. We might be in for a dramatic spring.... Mindy, our dear white sheep has offered to look after any chick in need of a good home. I have never seen an animal so in love with hens and chicks could stay snug as bugs in her woolly coat. Whoever gets chicks around here will at least have an experienced nanny service at hand.
Ebba is currently trying to learn how to fly. Our dear dog has realised that it's the only way to catch the very odd birds that has turned up in the village. They make a sound like an old-fashioned computer game (or as dear husband put it " like R2D2 "...) and Ebba finds them to be very annoying, first thing in the morning.
It's the northern lapwing, Vanellus vanellus, that is driving dear Ebba up the wall, around the bend and slowly stir crazy as she can't catch them. It's understandable in a way, as these birds like to fly really close to dogs just to lure them away from their nests. Add the constant Star Wars sound and a young dog can't help flipping out, a bit. Even older Mr. Chip found these birds to be slightly irritating and his hearing was not that brilliant, in later years. This spring it's a small flock of lapwings that has gathered here, rather than the from previous years.
The other loud birds, that arrived last week, are also entertaining us all with their calls. Ebba finds these birds to be fascinating to watch and fun to listen to. The common crane, Grus grus, is a big, calm and collected bird and maybe that's why it's more fun for a dog to study. Less flying about and more giraffe like prancing. They do toot from sunrise to sunset, so we all know where they are, even without Ebba at her "bird tower". It certainly keeps her busy with all these new neighbours and it's good for her to focus on other animals, than sheep.
Its lovely that it's less than a week until the Easter holiday is upon us. We all believe in the Easter bunny in our house so we have high hopes to find paw prints and maybe some Easter eggs in amongst the decorations and flowers (that are yet to appear..) in the yard. Anything that stays out on the step for a while, gets nibbled by passing sheep so the Easter tree and the daffodils must turn up just before the bunny arrives. Half eaten flowers and a brush-like tree cannot bring any joy or hope for a better world, to the poor bunny.
So, fingers crossed that we are not about to get an abundance of cockerel chicks in the near future and that Ebba does not catch the Easter bunny! We can also hope for a kinder world, a happy springtime for all and everyone and to wish for some warm, sunny days for our dear older sheep.
It's not too much to ask, is it?! Take care and do join Ebba's bird watching club, "It's fun!", she tells us.
This week I have been thinking a lot about a Finnish author called Tove Jansson. About one of her brilliant books called "An unwanted guest", to be precise. It's called "Skurken i Muminhuset" in Swedish and that says more about the book, than the translated name. Skurken is a charming bandit called Stinky.
Anyway, the book has been on my mind as the unwanted guest spread a strong odor in the Moomin house and was found out, that way. It all ended well in the story and Stinky got to stay with the Moomin family. It is a charming book.
Our unwanted guest made our hay barn smell oddly. First I thought it was a rat but as we seem to have run out of mice and other rodents, this was not likely to be the case. The mystery was solved by dear husband and Ebba, when they ran into the smelly guest. Turns out that we are downsizing in the predator department and have gone from huge Lynx to small Northern Stoat (Mustela erminea). What this little charmer lost in size, it compensates in being a vicious killer. Not someone you want to have living next door to your animals! It seems to be hanging out amongst the stone base of the barn and then popping in to the barn in search for mice.
I saw it today, twice. It's a very beautiful little creature, white with black on the tip of its tail. Come warmer weather it will change into its brown summer overcoat. The tummy and throat stays white and it has big, dark eyes and the funniest little face. Unfortunately, it also has a keen interest in our hens.
Ebba suggested that she could take care of it, but I politely declined the offer. Poor Ebba could get bitten badly in that meeting so we will try to skip that one, if we possibly can. Apparently, the stoat climbs trees and can kill a lot of pray in one fell swoop and then slowly eat through its larder, in order to avoid obesity. As my dear sister so aptly said "It's not easy being our hens at the moment". I'm now worried that the little weasel will get into the stable so it's not so easy being me, either.
My dear departed father used to say that the best way to see wild animals was to get some domestic ones. Oh my, was he right! We seem to be knee deep in fauna and it would be lovely if they could all turn into vegetarians and let each other be. No wonder that I love elks and I don't worry about deer stopping by, either.
We are getting a new electric cable put in, this spring, so there will be some digging done, around the place. This will mean that our darling sheep are going to be supervising the work, while dear Monty is going to try and be louder than the digger.
Our hens are either going to flip in their outdoor cage, not being allowed to join in the fun or else they will help with the digging. It all depends on the timetable - if the hens can be let out to roam freely, once more. They must be kept away from any contact with wild birds until the end of May, as far as we know. We have to just hope that no sign of bird influenza is found and that the hen's summer holiday season can begin. Ebba tells me that she will not join in with any digging party as she is busy at that time. It's code for "I'm still too shy to meet new people". She does try, bless her cotton socks!
Dear husband tells me that the hares in town already have had their first babies, so that's a sign that spring is here. The stormy weather we are having is bringing warmer winds so that's another thing that gives us hope. The animals are so fed up with the snow and ice and so are dear husband and I. It would be lovely to walk sweet Ebba without falling over all the time!
The lights are flickering as the storm is picking up so I'll call it a night. Just hope the trees can take it - we do seem to go from storm to storm this year. Global warming, I guess.
Time to start making Easter decorations and Easter eggs. Is the Easter holiday actually lovelier than Christmas, I wonder?
Be well, all and everyone.
P.s. It turned out that Ebba is even worse at getting into the summer time rhythm, than I am. Our funny dog is half asleep all morning and then can't settle in the evenings. She has no idea why we feel it necessary to wake up in the early hours of the morning and our dear sheep agree with her. They are starting a petition to end this clock changing business. I think I might sign it as my acorn week turned slightly epic this year.
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.