A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Side effects can be distressing

Everyone has experienced the negative side effects of medication at some point in their lives. Nausea, weight gain, headaches, the list is endless.   We come to expect some side effects to simply be a consequence of the need for medication.

The same can be said for some aspects of life.  For instance, living outside the confines of the city, what some would call "the country," has it's own set of side effects.  On remote and some not-so-remote roads, people dump trash and televisions and the like along side the road.  I simply can't imagine where they think the stuff is going to go, it certainly won't biodegrade and it isn't going to be picked up by the junk fairy.  Nevertheless, people don't think, and they dump things along side the road anyway.

Since living in my house (off and on for the last 8 years or so), I had not encountered the side effect that has begun plaguing me until recently.

"The Beav" napping, days after he adopted us - MAY
One evening in May, I was headed out to put the chickens to bed when a cat scooted out from under the rabbit hutches and ran a short way. I clapped my hands and tried to shoo him away.  Instead, he ran under the wheel barrow and cried at me as though I had scared him.  He followed me around and refused to leave, spending evenings crying on my porch.  I took him to the vet, only to find that he had been neutered and released in my area with FIV.  FIV is the feline AIDS virus.  He CANNOT come in contact with my healthy house cats, or he could infect them.  The vet wanted to put him down immediately, but I protested.  I took him to the humane society, hoping they could help him find a forever home.  They informed me that they would not adopt him out, but they would not put him down either.  Essentially, they would treat him medically, vaccinate him, and release him back in the "area in which he was found" (at my house).  I resigned myself to this fact and made him a home in a separate part of my house, where my house cats are not permitted.  He lives happily here and has put on weight, grown his fur back and become a playful and loving kitty.  Cats can live relatively long and happy lives with FIV, although often shorter lives that healthy cats.  Secondary infections are the main cause of death in these cats.  So, as long as we can keep him healthy and happy, he can have a good life.

Rain eating one of his first meals - JUNE
In June, another cat showed up... this one very vocal and a little more shy.  Like the first, it was thin, and was apparently blind in one eye, but not unfriendly or mean.  I was certain it was a girl, until the vet told me otherwise.  It spent several days watching me from a distance before deciding to follow me everywhere I went in the yard, including the chicken coop.  We decided to let him audition as a mouser in the coop, since the chickens didn't seem to mind him and he paid them no attention as well.  We had been telling him to "go away" without results, so Lexi decided we should name him "Rain" as in "Rain, Rain, go away...."  She is such a doll!  I loved the name, so it stuck.

I went to a different vet with this cat, as I was VERY unhappy with the way my previous vet had handled the situation with the last stray.  This time, the vet diagnosed the stray with Feline Leukemia.  Contrary to my previous experience, the new vet spent time telling  me about how cats with Leukemia can live a long happy life with proper care.  It was settled, Rain is our mouser.  He seems to really be happy with that...as he spends lots of time in the coop and never asks to come indoors.

Copy Cat - JULY
We shut him in the coop every night, feeding him then, for his own safety.  Raccoons are vicious and we don't want him fighting them, other cats or anything else.  In July, Rain didn't come home for dinner in the evening.  I called and called, but he did not come.  I worried all night.  The next day, I saw him wandering around by the raspberries at the bottom of our yard.  I called and called but he didn't respond.  Something seemed strange about him.  I walked down to make sure he was okay, when I discovered the cat I was calling to was NOT Rain.  We dubbed this one Copy Cat, since he looked SO much like Rain.  He didn't stick around, and Rain returned, thankfully.

I call him YoCinnamon Sam, S calls him Apple. :-) - OCTOBER
Here we are, in October, and another cat has been dumped. I was sitting outside this weekend, manning our garage sale and petting Rain, who was curled up in my lap. A simply gorgeous, smokey cinnamon colored cat wandered around the corner of the garage and right toward me.  I held Rain tightly, so as not to allow him to defend his yard.  I shut him in the coop and worked at trying to get near the stray.  I have been keeping Rain contained and working to build trust with the new one. I really want to get him into a travel kennel and get him to some medical help.  When he showed up, he had a wound on his left temple and appeared to have been neutered VERY recently, as in, maybe that Sunday.  His ear was freshly clipped and still bleeding from it.

I am just furious that someone would treat an animal this way, and release them in an unfamiliar area like this, to potentially starve to death or meet some horrible end by tangling with another animal.  I know that there is at least one, maybe several, groups participating in Trap, Neuter and Release programs, but they are not supposed to dump animals.  They are supposed to release them where they were captured.  What they are doing to these animals is inhumane.  I suspect ALL of the cats that we have seen were dumped in this manner.  Nearly all have been friendly, leading me to believe these are NOT feral cats, but were at one time house cats.  I also suspect, that maybe most of them have FIV or Leukemia and have been judged "unadoptable."  This may be why they are dumping them.  Whatever the circumstances, I find the whole thing distressing and disgusting.  Humanely releasing animals and dumping them are two different things entirely.

This is one side effect of living "in the country" that I find disheartening, distressing and disgusting.  I will do everything I can to find out who is behind this and put a stop to it.  These animals deserve a chance at life... not to be dumped hungry and alone, fresh after surgery into an unfamiliar place with no real shelter available.  If they believe what they are doing is the humane way of treating animals, they are dead wrong.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Zilke Vegetable Farm Stand

It is no secret that I love hanging out with the Zilke's and spending time shopping their farmstand.  Over Labor Day weekend, I had the privilege of helping them out at the stand on my two days off (Friday and Monday) in order to give them a little freedom on those days.  It was a welcome respite for me as well. I got to spend the days surrounded by gorgeous produce and in the company of some truly superb folks.  
Friday was a very hot day.  Nearly 100 degrees Farenheit, it was sweltering when there was no breeze. I can't say that I minded it in the least.  The customers were wonderful and gobbling up the corn as fast as we could stock it on the shelf.  It was interesting to watch folks choose what they wanted fresh for their holiday get-togethers.  Helping them find the right, fresh, delicious produce to make their meals special was a ton of fun and immensely rewarding.  

Chestnuts roasting over.... um... aluminum foil?

Forgive me for the lack of timeliness of this post.  We picked up the chestnuts a couple weeks ago, but I have been a bit under the weather as of late and not up to writing.  As I am finally beginning to feel better, I am going to work on catching up on what we have been up to lately!

Ok, so the best way to roast chestnuts really is over an open fire, but I didn't have that option. SO, I did it in my home oven.  Results - very good!

Recently, we stopped by Zilke's Farm Stand to say hello and see what was new.  There was something truly new arriving as we walked up - freshly harvested LOCALLY grown chestnuts.  The bonus - they are grown with out the use of chemicals and pesticides. They were just being delivered and could not have been more temptingly beautiful.  We waited patiently while they were weighed and packaged and took home a gorgeous pound of them to try.  I don't believe I have ever had chestnuts before, so I was excited to try them.