Guard

Free Range

This week was spent teaching the chickens to be free-range birds. The long, wet winter has made the yard super muddy and they’re going through food like crazy. We’re talking two bags a week. That’s more than we were going through when we had all the meat chickens and all four turkeys. I’ve been wanting them to be free range, and now seemed like a good time. I was concerned about setting them loose. What if they didn’t come back? What if the laid eggs all over the place, and I couldn’t find them? Well, we would just have to see.

leaves

So, chickens are creatures of habit. They rarely got out through the gate, and weren’t really sure what to do when I opened it up for them. Every one of them stood at the open gate and looked up at me. Huh. I opened the gate wider and looked away so they would think they were sneaking out. That got a couple through the gate. The rest were still looking at me. The alpacas, on the other hand, came right to the gate and tried to get through all the birds to get out. OK, close the gate and give this some thought.

Morning

Not only are chickens creatures of habit, they will also do anything for food. I got a scoop of scratch and scattered it OUTSIDE the gate. That got some more out, but also attracted the alpacas again. For day one, I would just go with what I had. I still had to make sure they would all come back.

That evening, I used the scratch trick in reverse, and the chickens all went right back in. Cool. Now, about those eggs. None. Not one. Not even from the birds that stayed in the yard. Well, it’s just day one. We’ll see if this works itself out.

Day two: The birds saw me coming, ran to the gate, and the ones who came out the day before went right out. This time, I had a plan. I gave the alpacas their grain, first. They NEVER turn away from food. Then, I took the scratch out and left the gate wide open. I stayed close, just in case the alpacas decided to make a break for it. I spread the scratch farther away from the gate, so the birds would have to come out to get it. It worked! Some of the birds stayed in, but most of them came out. One of the ducks and Matilda the turkey even came out.

I also put a couple of their laying buckets in a quiet area and put a couple of eggs in them, hoping they would get the hint and lay eggs in there. Only one of them figured it out. We still have a huge stockpile of eggs, so I’m not to worried about it, yet.

Matilda immediately assigned herself yard boss, and is keeping everybody in line. When she felt it was time for everyone to go in, she came to the door to get me. You can see the rest of the flock waiting for me.

Yard BossEnd of the week, and everybody seems to have figured it out. A few of the birds still prefer to stay in the yard, but most of them come right out. They cruise around all day and go in easily in the evenings. Many of them have adjusted their egg-laying schedule and I’m back to getting 10 per day, in the coop.

Hallway   Grazing

The extra benefit is the chickens are prepping the garden areas for us. The flower bed was completely cleaned out in just two days. Today, I spread their scratch through the pumpkin patch. Charlie will be so excited that he doesn’t have to till out all the weeds.

Weeding

Scratch I’m happy, the birds are happy, and it looks like Peanut and Matilda are going to be best friends.  As for all the food being eaten? Turns out that was Spike

Food Face

 

Mug Shot

Bird Bullies

I have a theory. Meat birds are jerks! I think that’s why they became meat birds. Early food eaters were probably perfectly happy just eating eggs. Then, one of the birds had to go and be a jerk. It didn’t take long to figure out that somebody had to go. Yeah. Meat birds.

People shake their heads and smile when they see how great our animals get along. No joke. They hang out. They share. They even play together. Alpacas, chickens and ducks, in perfect harmony. And then. Meat birds.

Harmony

My egg birds and ducks are peaceful and friendly. I love the calm, quiet quacking, and the friendly clucking. If you think I’m being overly sentimental, you haven’t spent time on a farm. They’re perfectly happy to swim and peck and lounge in the sun. I can actually feel my blood pressure lowering when I’m around them. (Relaxing sigh.)

Ducks   Hens

By the time the meat chickens were ready to be processed, I was ready to see them go. First, most of them were males. Lots of testosterone, and they all wanted to be Big Bird. My peaceful barnyard was turning into a feather-flying peckfest. At least they were about the same size as the other chickens, so it was a level playing field.

Now, we have these turkeys. I’ll admit it. I don’t like them. I thought I would like them. I wanted to like them. When they were little, I DID like them. Not anymore. They’re mean. When they first moved in, I had to stand guard because they were using their beaks to pick up the smaller birds and shake them. Not cool. At first, I thought they would settle down once they settled in.

Gang

They aren’t quite as aggressive as they first were, but the ducks and hens try to stay away from them. The turkeys peck and chase and squawk at anything that gets too close. If we had another enclosure, they would be put in segregation.

The turkeys were supposed to be for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but at least a couple of them won’t make it that long. Next year, we’ll be doing things differently. There will be a separate enclosure, and all the meat birds will be in there. It will be like our own little juvenile hall. I nominate Charlie as Head Warden.

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The Great Escape

Autumn is coming, and it’s quickly becoming my favorite season. It gets pretty cold at night, but we still have sunshine during the day, without the heat. There’s still some harvesting and canning to do, but the rush to get the bulk of it done has passed. Everybody else gets to have a lazy summer, we get lazy autumn.

Saturday morning was chilly, and nobody had to be anywhere. The perfect day to stay in bed until it warms up outside. The yard is quiet, except for the rooster, but that’s nothing new. But he sounds awfully close this morning. Nah. I decide he’s just getting his big boy voice and has gotten louder. (In reality, my eyes are closed, my feet are warm, and I don’t want to get up.)

Strangely, after I hear the rooster crowing, I hear something tapping across out patio. I decide it must be Tori heading out to work. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t ever leave by walking past our door, and she’s a lifeguard wo has no reason to wear high heels to work. It also doesn’t matter that I have to get up to use the bathroom, and her car is still in the driveway. (I’m going back to bed to close my eyes and warm up my feet.)

I really have no idea what these noises are, but my bed is so warm and cozy, I don’t give it much thought. Some of the birds get out from time to time. They find a hole under the fence, or manage to flutter high enough to get over the fence. They stay close, and return to the yard when it’s time to eat.

One minute, I’m sleeping soundly and snugly, the next minute Charlie is charging out the back door. “All the turkeys are out!” Oh, that doesn’t sound good. We clipped their wings so they can’t fly, and they’re too big to squeeze through the holes under the fence. “The chickens are out, too!” Crap! Good-bye, snugly bed. “And the ducks!”

The panic is now setting in because the only way everybody could have gotten out is with a major breach of security. Either the fence is down, the gate is open, or a tornado blew through, picked up the birds, and set them down outside the fence. Since we’re not in Kansas, it has to be the fence or gate. This means the alpacas could be out, too. As I said, crap!

Running out the back door, we check the alpacas first. They’re in the yard, even though the gate IS open. Once we know the pacas are safe, Charlie closes the gate and we start to figure out how to return our two-legged critters to the fold. Peanut takes matters into her own hands. Most of the birds are foraging in the woods, so Peanut charges through the group, and sends them scattering. Oh, great.

As it turns out, the solution was as easy as that. Once the birds are flushed out, they immediately head straight to the gate. We open the gate, they all file in, and we can relax. Except for the two or three or four birds that ran the opposite direction. Not to worry. By noon, out last wanderers have returned.

Neither Charlie, nor I, are sure how the gate came to be open. Friday evening, when the kids were visiting, one of the turkeys had gotten over the fence. Charlie thinks he may have opened the gate to get the turkey in, then forgot to close it, when he was able to pick up the turkey and drop it over the fence. Who knows? This is why we hook the latch.

latch

All’s well that ends well. And I can try to sleep in again, next weekend.

Skeins

Ribbons from the Fair

Charlotte’s Web was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. My daughter Carly is actually a Charlotte. It’s a family name, but I’ve always felt that I named her after that beautiful spider. When I brought Tori home from the hospital, Carly immediately started calling her Wilbur. They’re adults now, but sometimes I still think of them as Charlotte and Wilbur.

We had a fair nearby when I was a kid, but it was nothing like the fair in Charlotte’s Web. There’s just not a whole lot of “country” in the middle of the California desert. Oh, how I wanted to go to a real live country fair!  Now, I look forward to the Evergreen State Fair every summer.

After our first trip to the fair, I decided I was going to enter something. We’d only lived in the country a couple of months, so I had no idea what I would enter, but I was going to enter SOMETHING. The truth is, I wanted a ribbon. I didn’t care what color, any ribbon. (The only thing I didn’t want was the little sticker that says, “Thank you for entering. Please try again next year.)  I’ve never entered anything in anything, and I when I played sports as a kid participation trophies weren’t a thing. The kids had shelves of ribbons and trophies from years of soccer, baseball, baton, swimming and water polo.  Is it wrong for me to want just one ribbon?

Well, last year I didn’t pay attention to the deadlines, AND I didn’t really have anything to enter. The fair came and went, and I still admired all the pretty ribbons. THIS year was going to be different. I’ve learned to spin and crochet. I’ve also learned to make jam and jelly, and can all kinds of things. Not only was I going to get to enter the fair, I had choices!

I started checking and double checking deadlines in June when the fair entries were first published. I really thought I would enter my pickles and green beans in canning, but changed my mind. For one, they require a lot of information on recipes and canning methods. Two, they don’t even taste the canned product. They’re just judging canning technique. To me, that meant I would be judged on how well I followed directions. I’ll probably enter some canned goods next year, but for this year it just didn’t sound like much fun.

Ever since we got Spike and Tajo, I knew I wanted to spin their fiber and enter it in the fair. Because they’re rescues, I really wanted to show how awesome they are. We’ve had them for a whole year now. Because we got them shortly after shearing last year, I felt fully responsible for this year’s fiber. Whatever I produced, good or bad, was 100% on me.

003 (800x465)After shearing, I washed (and washed and washed and washed) their fiber.  Alpacas love rolling in the dirt, so this is a big job. I then dyed Spike’s fawn fiber with cherry Kool Aid. I would have liked to enter both boys naturally, but you can only enter one skein of yarn in each category.  With the natural shadings of Spike’s fiber, the yarn came out a really pretty rust color, with lots of different subtle shades. Then, I carded both batches of fiber. Twice! I wasn’t going to have any tangles or matting or grass interfering with my yarn. I’ve realized that after all the prep, spinning is actually the easy part. I was really happy with the results!

SkeinsOn entry day, I drove into town with my skeins carefully tied and twisted in the passenger’s seat. I’ll admit, I was a little afraid the people collecting the entries would laugh at my attempts. I kept seeing those stickers from previous years: “Thank you for entering. Please try again next year.” I would be so sad if I got one of those. I was absolutely tickled when asked if I was entering in the Master Class. Me? No way. Spike’s yarn got entered first. When she looked at Tajo’s she asked what method I had used for dying his fiber. She was amazed when I told her that was natural. He really does have fabulous, shiny, inky-black fiber! And with that, I was in!

EntryI had to wait nearly two weeks for the fair to open, to see how I did. The first day of the fair was free entry, so I picked up Carly and the kids and we went to check things out! We went straight to the yarn exhibits and I scanned the entries for my name. I would have been happy with “Some Pig.” Just please, please, please not a try again next year sticker.

Guess what!

1st Tajo     1st Spike

Yep. I got ribbons!

 

Packaged

Packaging Chicken

Now that it’s over I can talk about it. Thursday was traumatic, but every day after that got a little easier. I’m talking about catching, processing, butchering, and packaging our meat birds. The yard was crowded, the feed bill high, and it was time.

Flock  Red Chicken

We bought these birds specifically for meat, but that didn’t make sentencing them to death any easier. We had a dozen meat chickens, plus some others. It’s the “others” that made me cry. We bought 6 ducks for eggs, but 4 of them ended up being male, so those were going to go. We also had Sportacus the rooster. He wasn’t quite an “attack” rooster, but he liked to run up behind me, then act like he wasn’t up to anything when I turned around. Since we were set up for processing, it was a good time for him to go, too.  The most difficult were the girls. After about two years, their egg production drops off significantly. We had 9 birds that were this age, and we rounded up 5 of them. The other 4 girls are more like pets, and I just couldn’t bring myself to send them to the plucker.

The birds aren’t supposed to eat for 24 hours or so before processing, so we gathered them all up Thursday evening, and closed them up in the coop. Charlie and I came at them from different sides, got them in a corner, then Charlie caught them with his fishing net. Easier said than done. Sportacus saw us coming at him, jumped the fence, and took off into the woods. So much for the brave rooster protecting his flock!

The egg birds did make it a little easier on us because they all huddled up on the feed cabinet. That gave us fewer birds to deal with in the yard. A couple of the boys made it easy to catch them because they tried to hide UNDER the shelter. Since they couldn’t see us, they must have thought we couldn’t see them. Wrong.

Girls Hiding

Boys Hiding

There are no pictures of the processing because I was hiding in the house. The plan was for me to be gone, but the scalder we rented had a gas leak, so I had to keep pots of boiling water available all day. Joe came up to help Charlie, saving me from the yucky parts. I’ll tell you the steps of processing now, so skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know. The chickens are put upside down in a metal cone. Being upside down actually makes them calm, so they’re just chilling out there. Then Charlie would slice their throats which killed them quickly. I couldn’t watch this part at all. Once they’re dead, the get dunked in hot – over 145 degrees – water for 15 seconds. This loosens the feathers. From there, they’re dropped into the plucker. I hate this machine. It’s a plastic tub, with “fingers” sticking out from the sides. The bottom of the tub spins, causing the chickens to bump into the fingers, which pluck all the feathers off. Once they’re plucked, they look more like the whole chickens you would buy at the grocery store, so I could look at them again. The last step was Charlie cleaning them out, then putting them in the chiller until the next day.

We had to wait until Sunday to actually butcher, package and freeze the meat. Apparently chickens go through rigor mortis. If you freeze them before rigor has passed, they’re preserved at this stage and will end up being tough.  (The older egg birds would probably be tough anyway, so we froze them right away for stew meat.) Charlie cut them into breasts, wings, legs and thighs. We set aside several of the torsos and necks to make chicken stock right away, and froze the rest of them for chicken stock later.

Check out how big those wings and thighs are! You don’t see them like that at the grocery store.

Wings   Thighs

We had everything butchered and packaged in about 2 hours. This should last several weeks.

Ready to freeze

While we butchered and packaged, we had a whole bird on the rotisserie. Now that they look like meat instead of birds, I can tolerate them a lot better. And, served with veggies from the back yard, this one was delicious!

Rotisserie

 

Meat Birds

I’m having a really hard time this week. Charlie and I caught and penned our meat birds last night because Charlie is going to be processing them tomorrow. (“Processing” is a nice word for butchering.)

I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle processing day, but I barely got through catching them. The idea of hurting anything, or even seeing something get hurt, has always upset me. I won’t watch boxing because the idea of hurting someone on purpose, for money, makes me want to cry. When Cookie was a puppy and broke her leg, I almost passed out at the vet’s office when the vet told us the details of the necessary surgery. I’m not queasy about blood or broken bones, but I couldn’t stand that she was hurting.

Now, meat birds are mean. They pick on the other birds. And they’re kind of stupid. And they eat a LOT. And we bought them as chicks so we could raise them for meat. We know what they’ve been fed, and that they haven’t been exposed to medications or hormones. We also know they’ve had a good life. They’ve had room to run, fresh air, and lots of veggie treats from the garden. And yet none of this makes it easier to know I’m sending them to their deaths.

Even harder than the meat birds, was pointing out which of the older egg birds had to go. One of the hard farm realities is there is no place for “freeloaders.” As egg birds get older, they stop laying, but they keep eating. If we kept every chicken we ever brought home, we’d soon have dozens of “pets”.  I have such a hard time with the idea that they’ve done nothing wrong, but they’ve outlived their usefulness, so it’s time to go. It seems heartless.

We have eliminated an attack rooster because it wasn’t safe to have him around the kids. We would also not hesitate to put down an animal if it were suffering. When Charlie hunts or fishes, we eat what is brought home. We don’t take animal lives for granted.

If I’m able to eat meat from the grocery store, I should be able to accept responsibility for their lives. No doubt I will share recipes and cooking adventures when I’m making 100% homegrown, natural meals. It’s the whole reason we’ve taken on meat birds. I’ll either learn to be OK with it, or will become a vegetarian.

HappyTurkeys

Clipping Wings

One of our turkeys got out, and I caught it all by myself!

It wouldn’t have gotten out in the first place if Charlie wasn’t in the pen trying to catch it, but that’s not the point. I caught it, picked it up, and took it to Charlie!

We were catching them to clip their wings. We have four – two male, to female, we think – and they have been in our smaller coop/run. We’ve known that they needed to be moved to the big yard, but we have also been told that turkeys are excellent at flying and would have no qualms about, literally, flying the coop.

Turkey pen

Charlie has talked to other farmers and watched countless YouTube videos to learn how to clip the wings properly. He felt confident, but I just knew it was going to be a fluttering, biting, scratching, flapping mess. I’m so glad I was wrong.

The most important thing Charlie learned is to hold the turkeys upside down, by their feet. This instantly calms them, and they pretty much don’t move at all. Who knew? I still didn’t quite believe it. (Once you’ve been attacked by a rooster, it’s difficult to ever fully trust poultry again.)

Hanging

Well, how about that? It really worked! I kept waiting for the birds to lull us into believing they were calm, then springing a surprise attack on us. I was responsible for holding them, and I didn’t want to be the one who hurt them, or freaked out and let them go. Couldn’t have been easier. They just hung around while Charlie clipped their wings. They were so mellow I could even hold one with one hand and take a picture with the other.

First Cut

For those who have never clipped wings, there are actually two sets of feathers: A long set, and a shorter one. Using regular scissors, you clip the longer feathers, following along the tips of the short feathers. A built in guide. Our turkeys are old enough, the long feathers have completely grown in, and the quills are like fingernails. We can cut them right off, and it doesn’t hurt the birds at all.

Did you know you’re only supposed to clip one wing? It’s not the shortness of the feathers that prevent the birds from flying, but the imbalance. If you clip both sides, flying will be harder, but they can still get away. With just one side gone, it’s like paddling with one oar. They won’t get anywhere.

We were able to clip all four turkeys and relocate them into the big yard in about 30 minutes. Now they have room to roam, but won’t escape and become prey to the neighborhood coyotes.

My biggest problem now is these guys are really friendly and have quirky little personalities. They’re also supposed to be Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

Bluemoon

Blue Moon

I’m either getting smarter, braver, or completely hopeless.

The local coyotes have been partying in the full moon, in the back pasture. We’re on about day 4 of the yipping and howling, and most of the animals are ignoring them now. Then, last night, everybody went nuts!

The alpacas were alerting, the dogs started barking, the ducks and chickens were rioting. Learning from past experience, I put my shoes on and grabbed Charlie’s big Maglite before heading out to check on things. Peanut took off toward the howling while I investigated the animal yard. With the arrival of backup (me and Peanut) the animals had calmed down, and there was nothing there that didn’t belong.

I could hear Peanut, in the distance, chasing off the coyotes, and it sounded like they were running off. Then I realized I was hearing Peanut off in the distance, but I was hearing rustling to the right, in the pasture. I scanned with the flashlight, but didn’t see anything, so I had to trek around the fence to get closer to the pasture. Oh, great! Eyes.

I call to Peanut, and the eyes don’t move. She’s still off chasing the coyotes. As I move the flashlight, it picks up several sets of eyes. I make some loud noises, but the eyes stay put.

Coyotes here are pretty skittish. If you get close, they run off. I’ve had midnight run-ins with deer, but these eyes were much closer to the ground. There have been local reports of bears and mountain lions, so I can’t just go back inside and hope for the best.

My only choice is to head down the back path. During the day, this is a nice shady path, winding through trees and fern. In the middle of the night it turns into something from Sleepy Hollow. Especially knowing there are going to be eyes at the end of the path. Lots of eyes.

I debate heading back to the house and getting Charlie and his gun, but I have the big flashlight. I’m good. No headless horsemen jump out at me. Now I just have to find out what these eyes belong to.

I scan over the fence with the flashlight and pick up the eyes again. I also pick up a large black shape. Uh oh. Maybe I should have gotten Charlie. The grass is rustling, and I can hear Peanut’s tags clinking in the distance. Now I’m worried that she’s going to head back and take on this big bear. I continue to scan the pasture to make sure Peanut is safe and I come across another set of eyes. These eyes are attached to a large brown shape.

OK, this doesn’t make sense. I’ve never head of brown bears and black bears hanging out together. I move in a little closer and realize there are a dozen sets of eyes looking back at me.

Really? The neighbor’s cows have been moved into the back pasture! This happens for about 2 weeks each summer, as their main pastures regrow grass. The noises I’ve been hearing are these darn cows, laying around under the tree, chewing their cud.

I know the coyotes are no real threat to Peanut, and the cows are no threat to anybody.  I can pack it in and go back to bed. We have just a few more nights of the full moon. Then we can all sleep through the night again.

Rabbit Trio

Down the Rabbit Hole

I’m struggling with our rabbit endeavor, but we’re doing it, so I’m sharing it. Charlie has been researching raising meat rabbits for months. He’s checked out breeds, housing, feed, breeding schedules, butchering and processing their pelts. It seems like there’s a lot to it, but when he explains it, it sounds pretty simple.

There are several different meat breeds and the selection seems to come down to size. More importantly is the “meat-bone ratio.” If you have a big rabbit, and it’s all heavy bone, that’s not so great if you’re raising for meat. Charlie selected Champagne d’Argent rabbits. They’re known to be sturdy and have a good meat-bone ration, so you’re getting a good amount of meat for your efforts. The breeder Charlie bought them from says her rabbits don’t bite or scratch. I’ll have to take her word for it because I’m still afraid of rabbits.

Loaded up

Once he decided on a breed, he had to figure out housing. Rabbits don’t take a lot of space, but if you’re going to be breeding, you want to keep the bucks and does separated until you’re ready for kits. (You see how I used rabbit terminology there? Bucks = male, Does = female, Kits = babies). After looking at tons of different cage styles and set ups Charlie felt the 3 story cages would work best for him. Before picking up the rabbits, he made sure their home was all ready for them. Cage, water, feed, and little mats that they like to stand on.

Charlie and cages

Rabbits breed like rabbits, so there’s a little planning involved in scheduling. Rabbit gestation is 28-31 days, and a litter can be expected to be 8-10 kits. Butchering happens at about 11 weeks. The does can be re-bred the day after birth, but that seems harsh and unnecessary. Charlie will be re-breeding every 3-4 months. The standard home-breeding set up is 1 buck and 2 does, so there should be a new litter about every other month.New Home

I wanted to have names for the rabbits, so I would know who we were talking about. I call the buck Bucky, the junior doe is called Junior, and the youngest doe is called Kit. Pretty clever, right? So, here’s the rundown of how the scheduling works:

  • If Bucky and Junior are bred September 1, as planned, their kits will be born by October 1.
  • Bucky and Kit will be bred around November 1, with kits then due around December 1.
  • Junior’s kits will be butchered around January 1, and Junior will be re-bred to Bucky around the same time.
  • Kit’s kits will be butchered around March 1, at which point Kit and Bucky will be rebred.

Following this schedule, we should have fresh rabbit every other month, once they get going. None of the other bunny rabbits will be named, and Charlie will be in charge of caring for all of them. I almost cried when we were bringing the trio home. I don’t imagine I’ll do very well when it comes to butchering. I may or may not get over it. Everybody says rabbit is delicious, so I’ll just have to go through life believing the bunny fairy is delivering them to my freezer. I’ll post updates about butchering, pelts and recipes, but don’t expect a lot of pictures or details. I plan on going to the movies on the yucky days.

Since I’m such a wimp about it, we’re trying to make sure the grandkids are better farmers than Gabba. We introduced Raymond and Reta Jean to the rabbits and told them we’d be eating the babies. Reta Jean’s response was, “Yummy!” I think they’ll do just fine.

Kids meeting bunny

If you’re interested in raising rabbits, you can find the books Charlie has used at my Amazon store.  http://astore.amazon.com/redmwood-20

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Pool Time!

The weather forecasters and locals are going crazy! We’re in heavy drought conditions and it’s HOT! Now, I can get on board with the fact that there’s a drought. Last year, we had a total of just under 70 inches of rain. This year, so far, we’re at a total of about 6 inches, with a whopping 1/4 inch for the month of June. So, yeah, it’s dry!

The whole “hot” thing, I’m having a little more trouble with. It’s getting into the mid- to high-80s, and flirting with the low 90s for a few days over the upcoming weeks. Not having air conditioning does make the afternoon high a little uncomfortable, but the evenings still get down into the 50s and 60s. I can open up the house and let the cool air in, and I love it! OK, ok, it’s hot. But it’s not lose-your-mind-HOT! (Remember, I grew up in Palm Springs. This week, they’re getting up to 115, and their overnight lows are the same as our daily highs.)

The trick is to balance the drought and the heat issues. I was running the sprinkler in the animal yard for a while everyday, but it’s getting too hot for that, and the sprinkler would need to be on too long. We got a wading pool for the kids a couple weeks ago, so I figured it was time to get a few for the animals.

All the kids like playing in the water, but Reta Jean LOVES it! She says, “Gabba, I love the huge, huge bathtub!” The boys eventually want to go play at the troll bridge, or run up and down the hill, but not Reta Jean. She’s a mermaid princess!

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The animals weren’t quite as sure about the pools. Even the ducks studied them for awhile. Tajo loves the water as much as Reta Jean, so he was the first to head over and check it out. The hose was his first clue that something cool was happening.

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Spike came over next, but I’m pretty sure he was just looking for food. He likes the water, but he likes food MUCH more.

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The ducks crack me up all the time. They always quack-quack-quack around together. I’ll very rarely seen one away from the others, unless one is laying an egg. They held true to form in checking out the pool. Their quacking is usually very soft and soothing. The more the pool filled up, the more excited their quacking got.

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Even though the ducks were getting loud, they still weren’t getting in the water. I decided I would need to step back and let them do their thing. Once I wasn’t hanging over the fence, more of the gang came around. Tajo didn’t want to get in, but he enjoyed drinking the water.

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I think Spike was mad at me because it wasn’t food.

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The ducks eventually got in, and then they were really happy. There was so much splashing around, Spike decided he needed to keep his distance. He was like the mom hanging by the pool with the kids, but not wanting to get wet.

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I had to hang out and watch the fun. There was another pool in the yard, but everybody liked this one. Probably because it was in the shade.

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We have chairs set out by the animal yard, in the shade of pines and a flowery plant (I still don’t know what that plant is called). It was already one of my favorite spots in the yard, and now it’s even more so. When the days get to their hottest around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, this spot is shady and cool. I sit and watch the critters playing in the water, and wait for the heat to pass.

Life really is that simple.