Thunderclouds are a common sight around here this time of year. This was an especially pretty one.
While part of the country has suffered devastation by fire, parts of Florida have recently experienced flooding. So ironic. Too much of a good thing is destructive, including fire and water.
And I must mention the massive storm (super derecho) in the midwest this month which put millions out of power, some for over a week. My youngest brother, who installs automatic stand-by generators and designs renewable energy systems in Ohio, barely saw his family for several days trying to answer the deluge of calls from those wanting relief from the heat or trying to save their frozen food. He finally had to stop answering his phone so he could help some people.
In a town near them the only fuel available was at a station where he’d previously installed a generator, so there were long lines of cars. Many drove long distances to find fuel, and grocery stores had no refrigerated or frozen food after the first day. How fragile our fuel, food, and power systems are. One break in the chain can shut them down. What if a crisis strikes a much larger area at once, without anyone or any place nearby to get help?
When things go well, we get complacent. When disaster strikes, we suddenly realize our need. My brother now has enough orders for generators to keep him busy for a long time. A taste of disaster makes us act. Smaller crises can be blessings to help us prepare for larger ones.
I feel almost bad mentioning that we’ve been getting rain (praying for you who aren’t), but here we’re taking advantage of our wetness to burn palmetto piles. Palmettos hold lots of water making them hard to burn until they’ve dried out, and we have huge mounds of them from clearing our driveway and living area last fall. Now they’re prime for burning and the wetness keeps the fires in check.
The first pile to start burning
Palmettos are hard on wood chippers, or we would make them into mulch. Next best is to burn them and use the ash for some awesome compost. We will have lots of it by the time we’re done. Last week we made a small dent in piles close to the house. The dirt mixed in slows the burning, and some piles are too close to trees or other things we want to protect, so we pull trunks out by hand to throw onto the flames.
We're pulling palmettos from the mound in the background to burn in the driveway away from trees
I will be so happy to have those ugly, snake-sheltering piles gone! But burning is miserable in this heat. Silver Oak now goes out right after a rain has cooled things down (if he’s here) and lights a few piles when there is no wind. Slowly but surely they will diminish.
Three piles, burning at dusk
One palmetto mound in front of our house had become the nesting place for our guinea hens. The guineas were mature enough to be laying eggs but we couldn’t find their nest until recently. We heard a rattlesnake in that pile a few months ago, but it must be gone or it would surely be helping itself to the eggs! One big reason we got guineas was to control snakes, so they must be doing their job!
The pile in front of our house
Sadly most of our guineas have disappeared. They are very independent creatures and hard to contain as free rangers. In pens they would not serve the purposes we got them for: eating chiggers, fleas, and other bugs, killing or running off snakes, and sounding the alarm for intruders. But allowing them free range may also mean losing them; not sure how to solve that problem.
After initially losing a few baby guineas (keets) earlier this spring, they grew up as a flock of nine until Zoe killed one and then last month one female disappeared. More recently they divided themselves into two groups: one group of three with one hen and two cocks, and the other group of four with two hens and two cocks; a little off-balance on the male/female ratio. They’ve always faithfully come to roost in the tree above Evenstar’s rabbit hutches every night.
The flock of guineas before they divided and disappeared
Guinea eggs are smaller than chicken eggs, but taste the same. The large one at the top is a chicken egg.
Suddenly, this past week, the group of four was seen no more. We burned the pile that held their cache of eggs (after conviscating the eggs), and the newest field fence had them befuddled. We thought they were all gone till I spied the threesome in the neighbor’s pasture. Evenstar and I tried and tried to get them back, but the poor creatures aren’t too intelligent. The cocks finally came over but the hen refused, and before we knew it the cocks listened to her call and flew back to join her. Blah!
We found a path along the fence where they literally pace back and forth trying to come back home, but when they finally get across they turn around and fly back. We decided they are too smart for how dumb they are. Silver Oak thinks I have more important things to do so I’ll leave the impossible guineas to their own fate. So far the threesome is still hanging around. We did spot a small pile of feathers across the fence, so it’s possible at least one of the others was a coyotte or fox dinner. We may never know. We’re thankful for two good dogs that keep predators away from our livestock, but if something strays off our property there is no protection. (Before I got this posted the female also disappeared. Now we are down to two bachelor guineas. How sustainable is that?)
Meanwhile Buttercup grows larger. There must have been a miscalculation on when she was bred. Any day we’ll have milk again.
Buttercup waits more patiently than we do
A chick peeks out from under its mama the day it hatched
One fun thing recently has been watching two mama hens with their chicks. They hatched eggs together and are now co-parenting the seven chicks. So cute! One of the hens was at the bottom of the barnyard social ladder, and all her back feathers were pecked off by superiors. Now that she is mothering her brood outside the barnyard, her feathers are starting to grow back. The chicks and hens scratch around where they want, making a mess on our walkways, but they’re so cute I don’t mind too much. It’s temporary.
The fluffy balls come out to enjoy the world
They get around!
At 2 1/2 weeks their feathers show, and the bald-backed hen has new growth as well
Evenstar’s rabbitry is reproducing as rabbits tend to do. Bunnies are always fun, and she writes great ads with the cutest photos so they sell easily. People love it that they are so tame.
Her most recent purchase has been a 13 pound Flemish Giant. It is one huge rabbit! She sold her show quality registered lionheads and decided a large meat breed was a wiser and more sustainable investment of her time. Now she is raising three basic kinds: meat rabbits (Flemish Giants and New Zealand Whites), fiber rabbits (Satin Angora), and pets (unknown mix). Interestingly the unpedigreed mixed breed bunnies are the most popular and have made her the most money so far.
Some adorable mixed breed bunnies
Evenstar's Flemish Giant truly looks like a giant, especially next to Starlet, our newest addition
The newest (and greatly cherished) critter on our homestead is Starlet, a sweet little kitty. She and her siblings were found in front of an apartment complex after Tropical Storm Debby blew through a few weeks ago. Their mother had disappeared and they were guessed to be two or three weeks old. We jumped at the chance to take one of the females. Our 12-year-old cat Marble was the starving runt of a large litter when we got her at four weeks old. Evenstar was about five at the time and she and I enjoyed nursing Marble to health and happiness. Now we get to do it again! Hopefully Starlet will live as long and be as good a mouser as Marble.
Blossom gives Little Bird a turn at feeding Starlet
There's almost nothing cuter than a tiny playful kitten
The bigger girls took turns getting up at night to feed Starlet her bottle. What great practice for motherhood! This time there are six kiddos spoiling the kitty rather than just one as with Marble. That’s even more fun.
Starlet makes herself at home in our tiny house, as she's too little to be outside yet
We are grateful to still have Tess, our 27-year-old Arabian mare. A few weeks ago we thought we were losing her. It was so hot for several days and she was wheezing with lots of mucus draining from her nostrils. She refused to eat or drink and kept lying down in the sand like she was giving up on life. We prayed and kept hosing her off to cool her down. I managed to coax a tiny bit of nutrient-rich molasses water into her, which she usually relishes, and a little cayenne pepper to increase circulation. We were all sad about losing her, but obviously even Tess can’t live forever. To our delight the next day she was better and started eating and drinking again. Thank the Lord!
The children ride Tess who appears to have fully recovered!
Last, but not least, I have to show you our neighbor’s bull, a Watusi with a horn spread of six feet. He likes to hang out right across the fence, which we enjoy as long as he is not riled up about a nearby cow. Then we hold our breath hoping he won’t decide to use those beautiful horns to come through our fence! He is currently for sale, and though we will miss seeing this spectacular animal when he goes, we will also be a bit relieved.
What a grand specimen!
I guess it’s time to wrap this up before it turns into a book! Soon I will post about a recent old-fashioned frolic we had at our house. What a blessing!
Linked w/Barn Hop, Morris Tribe, White Wolf Summit Farmgirl, Growing Home, Frugally Sustainable, Live Renewed, Our Simple Farm, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thursday, Farmgirl Friday, Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday