Our animals

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Every year at this time our activity level speeds up. All winter there was much to do every day, and now in the late spring there is so much to do. The gardens are alive! As of yesterday, I have planted everything I want in the ground. The cucumbers and wax beans are starting to sprout, the pac choi and lettuce are ready for a salad harvest, the tomato transplants are growing every day, and the many tomato volunteers I found in the garden this year are getting bigger and stronger. I love flowers and we have planters around the yard filled with color, accompanied by seeds in the ground that will come up soon. Already I am harvesting and processing some of the bounty: dandelion roots, which are good in cleansing teas, are pulled and awaiting a good scrub in the sink. We have quite a few mint plants that are fast becoming accents in our juices (raw) and iced tea (heated in simple syrup). The plantain in the yard is coming up nice and large now and I will add it to oil to steep for a few weeks before turning it into salves and lotions.

Now that the plants are in the ground and do not need more than water and light weeding at the moment, I am enjoying that one week of the growing season when it all seems to be under control, easy to manage, and a delight to the eyes. This is good, because I have plenty of other things to focus on.

Coco has still not recovered from her accident. She was limping, then paralyzed, then moving her legs, then paralyzed again. At this point I am not seeing signs of improvement in her. It’s discouraging, but I am happy to give her some time to see what develops. I am well aware that we may have to put her to sleep. I’ve cried a lot about it. Just when I think my tears are all used up, they start to flow again. Part of what is so hard is that she is so young. And she’s mentally and emotionally here with us. I know that spinal injuries can take a long while to heal, if they heal at all, so I am going to wait a bit longer before making any decisions about her life.

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Out in the yard the chickens are in need of some special attention. Ticker, one of our nicest laying hens, looked sick the other day. She was standing alone, sort of hunched up. Her eyelids kept closing and she looked uncomfortable. I have come to recognize the stance of the uncomfortable hen, and I first chalked it up to a stuck egg that needed some time to work its way out. That happens sometimes. However, I soon knew it was more than that because she smelled bad. The whole coop smelled bad. “Bad” doesn’t even describe it. It smelled like death. We couldn’t breathe through our noses while we were near the coop, it was that bad. A quick search on the internet led to a diagnosis of Sour Crop. Sour Crop is essentially a yeast infection in the chicken’s crop. The crop gets big and mushy, full of fermented food, and it smells. The chicken isn’t digesting the food and getting the nutrients she needs to be healthy, so she starts to look sick. I am treating Ticker by keeping her isolated during the day, away from food and water, and I am feeding her kefir. She has a bowl of kefir in her pen for snacks, and I feed her directly via syringe twice a day. Kefir has live cultures in it much like yogurt, and it stops the overgrowth of yeast. I also emptied her crop a few times, which was one of the most unpleasant tasks I have ever undertaken in my life. Overall, Ticker is recovering pretty quickly from Sour Crop, and I attribute her quick recovery to the kefir. It has kept the yeast at bay. Today the coop smelled significantly better, and she looks as though her crop isn’t swollen anymore. What’s crazy is that the coop smelled so bad because her crop was infected. All that smell came out of one little chicken. I find that really strange.

Ticker also has some wing feathers that look eaten up, and I am thinking she might have scaly leg mites. If she has them, chances are the other chickens have them too, so I will have to treat the whole flock and clean out the coop. I’ll treat by bathing the chickens and then smearing vaseline all over their legs to smother the mites. This sounds like a recipe for disaster. I can’t wait to see how much dirt gets stuck to their legs. I’ll have to put the vaseline on Ticker’s wing feathers too, if that is what is eating them. Since this is a slow week in the garden, it seems like a good time to bathe and lubricate all the hens.

‘A’ and ‘H’ are good. They are both sad that Coco is injured, but they don’t focus on it which is probably a good thing. The spend time with her everyday but they seem able to disconnect when they aren’t with her. ‘A’ has been very helpful with the care of Ticker. Both girls are just about done with the school year. They are so antsy and eager to play as much as possible. We don’t homeschool through the summer. I’m finding that it’s easier for our family to stick to the public school calendar. It gives us the rhythm of regular school days, with short breaks throughout the year and a refreshing longer break over the summer. ‘A’ will be taking a writing workshop this summer and we’ll keep the skills polished a bit, but nothing too strenuous.

So, the girls are doing well, Jeff and I are also well. Grace, who turns 15 this year, appears athletic and energetic compared to Coco. Funny how perspective changes everything. I’ll have more news about her condition as the week goes on.

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