Friday, 31 August 2012

Mystery in the goat pen!

Jack and Jill are contained in the front part of one of the orchards, where they have numerous trees, a purpose built house, a very high fence and lots of dirt. Often when I wander in there they come running over, to see if I have food, and once they realise I don't they go back to doing what goats do best...eating!! Now as you know wherever I go, a procession of animals follow, so quite often I am in the goat pen with two dogs and three cats.

Yesterday when I walked through everything was fine and there were no problems, however, when I came back to leave there was a huge hole right in the middle of the goat pen. I stood there starring at the hole wondering if we had experienced an earthquake, or the goats were trying to dig an escape tunnel to freedom. I also considered if my husband had finally killed the nosey neighbour and was preparing the shallow grave.

I considered if the other animals might have dug the hole, the cats looked at me with a disgusted look of why would we! Charlie looked at me as if to say do I look like i would be bothered to dig a hole.....however, Max bounded over to the hole and sat proudly in the middle, wagging his tale with the sheer delight of any small person wanting to show a parent their latest creation. The innocent look of "I have no idea how that hole got there" was short lived as he continued to dig, and play, and roll, only as puppies can do with such enthusiasm.

Mystery solved, and Max looked very confused as we filled the hole in, so no one falls in the crater that he had produced. However, I have a feeling this wont be the last hole that Max chooses to produce....

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The male gene is strong....

Since being here we have had several batches of chicks born, which is great and will provide us with the next set of laying chickens, or so we hope. However, we have one issue that needs to be dealt with and sooner rather than later. The male gene throughout our chickens is strong, and we keep getting far too many roosters being born!

As the chicks are born, you have no way of identifying what sex they are, which often results in names being chosen wrong, and the roosters growing up being called sue, and the chickens Gareth! (G) Thankfully we have a 50/50 chance so, some roosters do have their strong male identity (mark) and chickens are happily called Ruth.....

Other than the wrong names when growing up, the roosters cause problems, maybe they are rebelling against the bad choice of name. However, they need to be dealt with, and removed before they caused huge social issues amongst the flocks. It is advised to have no more than two roosters in any flock, however, we have 4 mature roosters, 6 adolescent ones, and at least 9 smaller ones coming up through the growing process.

As they are growing, the orchards are beginning to resemble a school playground with fights breaking out regularly, as male hormones rampage. When the rooster fight it sounds as if someone is screaming, and I find myself in their trying to break up the fighting. I now know how my friend feels with her three boisterous boys!

Unfortunately, the only solution to the ever growing problem, is for the chicken man to come and remove some of the difficult roosters. This has to be done, and is our own fault for letting it go on for so long, however, he is now booked and primed to come and do the deed. I have no issue with this process being done as the chicken guy is experienced, quick and ensures that everything is done correctly. However, it does make every animal very subdued for a few hours afterwards, as they can sense that death is in the air!

Goodbye August

August has been a tough month for one reason and another, and to be honest I wont be sorry to see the back of it, and move on into September. The heat throughout this month has been relentless, which has brought numerous problems. Trying to cope with soaring heats is no fun, but to try and keep every animal cool and alive is a huge challenge.

During the month we have had two chickens die, a couple of chicks, which didn't make it and a massive drop in egg production. This has resulted in many loyal customers being disappointed, but sorry guys there is nothing I can do! The rate of mangos being produced due to the intense heat has resulted in many being thrown away as they are far too ripe, and not fit for human or even pig consumption.

August has been a steep learning curve in many ways, and hopefully as we move into September, I can put my happy farmer hat back on, and enjoy being here in cooler weather. There have been times this month when I have doubted why we are here, (in the finca, not on the planet!) However, determination is my middle name, and I knew this would be a challenge from the moment I walked in to the finca...lets just hope for cooler weather, and less stress.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Moving chickens

We have many discussions in our house about what is best for the finca, and how we can make it run smoothly and earn money. The chickens are a huge part of these conversations, therefore, they need to be maintained correctly. We have two main orchards and originally there were one set of chickens in one part, and another set down below.

My husband had mentioned on several occasions about moving the top lot so everything was in one orchard. This would make it easier to feed, clean and monitor the chickens, and I considered the prospect of attempting to move 30 chickens without disaster. I think the soaring heat must have got to me last week, as during one of the hottest days I declared we were moving chickens!

Now in my insane moment I believed that with some corn, the chickens were simply going to follow me out of the orchard, like the pied piper of hamlet, and into the bottom orchard...yeah right!! This "small" task took 3 hours, 4 rakes, a huge amount of swearing, and some stressful moments. Eventually they were all down the bottom, and I thought it would get easier.

The next morning as I bounded down the stairs (OK, I don't bound, but you get the picture) my heart sank as I saw that a huge proportion of the chickens were back, smugly starring at me waiting to be fed. It then dawned on me that this was habit for them, they knew no different, and had to be taught where to go. We repeated the process, and in all fairness it only took just over an hour this time....why I am not the size of a pencil I do not know the amount of chasing animals I do on a daily basis.

After 3 days of this I was pissed off, and demanded the not to slit their throats although this had crossed my mind, but to clip their wings! So far this seems to have worked, and they are enjoying their new nesting boxes, and the new environment. Lets hope they remain where they should be, and begin to get back to normal.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Animals in the house...

I have always considered myself to be very house proud, and try to keep everything clean and tidy, to the point that I have some OCD issues. However, living here is a whole new meaning to bringing the outside in, as my children love to do on a daily basis. I appreciate that with animals comes dirt, however, my children have a habit of arriving in my office with animals that should be outside.

There is a place for every animal here, and that is where they should stay, however, I often turn around to see chicks, rabbits and chickens being held out for me to inspect. There is some logic there, as I often tell my children to stop screaming "mummmmmmmmmmmmmiiiiiieeeeeee" when I am trying to work. However, they see the next best thing is to simply turn up in the house with some form of animal.

My son is the worst for this, and will often appear with chicks, which need examining, cleaning, or in his world simply mothering. This leads to the chicks remaining in the house for far longer than they should, as he explains that they do want to watch Star Wars, or play with Lego. I will often turn round to find a chick sat on his lap watching the TV.

This may seem cute to the outside world, however, animals bring mess, mud and often poop in with them, therefore, doubling my workload. On top of the typical amount of dirt and grime that 2 children create, multiply this with dirty wellies and boots, makes my job far harder. Therefore, I am trying to create a no animal zone in the house, however, it doesn't appear to be working very well, as my son has just appeared with another chick, claiming it wanted to share his frosties!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Chickens jumpers...

I have a small dog and have often been tempted to buy him a little jumper to wear, however, every time I pick one up my husband pulls a face that indicates that if I purchase one he will pack his bags. Therefore, the doggy clothes remain on the shelves, but I have found a really cool website that sells jumpers and hats for chickens. Now you may be questioning why, you would need a jumper for a chicken, however, if you see the condition of the batteries you would understand why.

There are many charities all over the world that rescue battery hens from the poor conditions of the factories. However, many of these chickens have no feathers, and this leaves them exposed to the elements. Therefore, knitted goods are required to ensure that the chickens remain warm, which is not as silly as it may seem.

With further research I discovered that there are dedicated websites to chicken clothing, and you will be amazed at what people dress their chickens in and how much time they spend on this process. Now I think the whole thing is slightly silly, however, there is something tempting about dressing all of the chickens in little Santa suits at Christmas, or as Leprechauns on St Patricks Day. Therefore, watch this space, as I go in search of a vast quantity of Santa suits for the Christmas photo shoot.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Chicken moat...

I have decided that I either read far too many strange websites, or I have an incredibly active imagination as my latest idea proves. We still have a few chickens which are determined to leave the POW camp regardless of what I do, therefore, I am searching for ways to keep them in their designated areas. When I stumbled across a lady that had built a moat around her chicken enclosure!

Firstly this extreme idea posed the question whether chickens can swim, as I for one have never seen them swim anywhere. However, it seems that yes they can swim, although this is never through their own choice, more for survival. I begun to study the designs for the moat, and could imagine little bridges, turrets and look out posts for the chickens.

At this point I was brought back to earth with a bump when I realised how big our orchards are and how much of a moat we would need! I didn't even bother mentioning it to the hubby, as I could imagine this idea would push him over the edge. However, you never know he might build me a drawbridge to enter the orchard, if I smile sweetly at him!!

So, for the moment we have no moats, no turrets, and escaping chickens that are driving me mad. Back to Google to see what other crazy ideas, I can come up with to contain the chickens and prove I am going slightly crazy!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Kiss of life time....

It has been a concern for quite a while that the 36kg lump of lard was going to hurt one of the smaller chicks that venture into her pen on a daily basis. They are attracted by the food that is offer and not for her charm, wit or delicate aroma that she releases. Peppa is playful, others would call it manic, and unfortunately the smaller chicks don't stand a chance when she rampages through her pen.

We have tried everything to keep the chicks out, but they do everything to get under, over and through the fence. This I knew was eventually going to end in disaster, and it did yesterday! Peppa was in her usual manic mood and was running through her pen scattering chicks like bowling pins, when she grabbed one of the smallest ones and tossed it in the air like a rag doll.

In slow motion I watched this small defenceless chick fly through the air and land in her mud pit, which is disgusting! By the time I had got through the Peppa defence wall, which takes some time as she has got to be locked in like Hanibal Lecter, the chick was wallowing in thick slimy mud. This is no mud pit that any living creature deserves to be in for any amount of time!

I grabbed the chick and it was coated from beak to tail in thick mud, it was laid lifeless in my hands, and at that moment I thought, "oh god Im going to have to have give this chick the kiss of life". Firstly I considered how this would be done, and secondly I thought where the hell is my daughter when I need her to perform crazy tasks!

Thankfully just at that moment it chirped, and blew mud bubbles out of its nose, I breathed a sigh of relief not only because it was alive, but because i didn't have to put my lips around its dirty beak! The chick was wrapped in a tea towel and dried off the best I could, it was shivering and obviously distressed.

I then pondered how its mum was going to help it, as she obviously couldn't lick it clean, but hey nature has a way of coping, and as I popped the chick back in the box with mum, she gently pushed him back under her to dry off. Peppas wall was reinforced some more, and hopefully that will keep the nosey children away from the dangers of the lump of lard!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Detective work needed.....

We have quite a few chickens that are not laying, and they will need to be dealt with by the chicken man, however, deciding which ones is the tricky part. Last time the chicken man came, we grabbed a couple that we thought were no longer laying, only to discover they had eggs inside of them! Bad selection process!! Therefore, we need a better selection process which will ensure we choose the correct chickens.

First things first is to count the chickens, which is never an easy task, as there are so many, and some look very similar to others. Its like trying to identify a set of twins, which only a mother can do that correctly. My friend has twins and I identified them as red shorts and blue shorts for months as I couldn't tell them apart, so there was no hope for brown chickens.

I needed to devise a plan to catch the chickens that are laying, and detective work was essential, I had watched enough episodes of Scooby Doo to master the perfect sneak technique. However, the chickens seemed to be all ganging up on me and every time I went to the nesting boxes there were eggs but no chickens.

I waited for the cries of "I have laid an egg" rushed down, camera in hand to discover eggs but no hens! The few chickens that I had found in the boxes I had simply annoyed with my nest box paparazzi antics,  and they got out of the boxes and left before laying their eggs! CCTV was my next thought, however, I don't think my husband will be ecstatic about installing CCTV to watch chickens laying their eggs! We watch some really C**p programmes on the TV but that would be going a step too far!

So, back to the drawing board, and guess work may be needed, or I leave them all and moan about the feed bill and the lack of eggs! Lets see if the chicken man has some old Spanish tradition about knowing which chickens are laying!!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Egg throwing....

Egg throwing should become an Olympic sport as my son is extremely good at it, and gives clear indications of the contents as he is performing his task. We often discover batches of eggs laying around especially in the barranco outside the house. These eggs have been abandoned by the chickens, and my son being 10 is often curious to the condition of the eggs.

Eggs that we find inside the orchard, or close by will have the float test performed, which is where we pop the egg into a bucket of water. If they float it is off, sinks it is good, and in the middle, well who knows! Any eggs that don't sink are then handed to my son to dispose of in a way that only a 10 year old can achieve.

Being a boy, he is fascinated by anything disgusting, therefore, loves to find the stinkiest of rotten eggs, and inform the world that he has achieved this. So, he stands in the drive and one by one will throw the eggs into the barranco. You may think he does this quickly, however, he comments on every egg to ensure that everyone knows what he has discovered.

So, you will hear..."rotten"...."chick" (they are dead..which doesn't make it any better, but I don't want you to think that we let him throw live chicks on the rocks)..."fresh" (yes, some do fail the float test and are still OK, however, once smashed all over the rocks, they are no good) Typically after the rotten eggs are thrown he comments on how stinky they were, goes to investigate, and then complains about the smell. Just before launching the next egg and performing the ritual all over again.

Before anyone comments, yes we do have a TV and this is not his only form of amusement, however, it is the task that he enjoys the most, and one that keeps him amused for hours. Although, throwing lemons at the old car, is another job he loves :-)

Clipping wings time...

I believe that birds have wings to a) scare the hell out of me when they flap and b) escape from predators when they are scared. Therefore, clipping their wings was something that I didn't really want to do, however, the thought of no more flapping in my face was appealing.

We were told that we had to clip the ducks wings, or they may fly away, therefore, this had to be done sooner rather than later. I did initially Google, but there are some things that you need to see first hand, and how to cut a ducks wings is one of them. So, I made a call to a Spanish guy and he popped over to show me how it was done.

The concept of clipping wings, is very straightforward, however, nothing in this house is ever straightforward! The first thing you have to do is catch the duck, which is usually a game of going round and round the pond several times. Once the duck is caught the massive wings need to be held out and then a pair of scissors does all the damage.

Once I had clipped the ducks wings, my attention was drawn to the feral chickens, especially vicious mumma who kept flying out everyday. There is only about 6 chickens that will not stay in, therefore, I decided that I would clip their wings, and show I was in fact far more intelligent than them! So, the 6 were caught, wings were clipped and tempers were flared as vicious mumma begun to karate kick the fence once she discovered she couldn't fly over the 7ft barrier. Battle point to me, or so I thought..

The next day she had worked out that if she climbed up a tree, fell onto the water barrel against the dog pen, leapt from there onto the roof, she could walk to the edge and glide down to the ground and to freedom! Her determination was admirable, and I wondered what on earth was so inviting that she would find anyway to escape. So, I followed her, and soon discovered that she was sitting on 21 eggs in the furrow....the mothers urge to protect her children was strong. We are now waiting for the next batch of chicks, oh joy!

Monday, 20 August 2012

The lump of lard is driving me crazy!

Peppa has been trying my patience this weekend, and unless she is careful she will become bacon sandwiches far quicker than intended. For every person that doubts whether we will in fact butcher the lump of lard, please come and spend a day with her. Soon, you will be imagining her on a plate with an apple in her mouth.

Pig enclosure building was never something that I claimed to be an expert at, however, I had Googled and seen that pigs will stay in very basic pens. However, our pig doesn't see it like that and escapes at every opportunity. Peppa has an ability to destroy everything including pallets, fencing and rocks, which are all used to keep her in. Smashing her way out of the pen seems to be her entertainment for the day, and this weekend I had enough.

The problem is Peppa is next to the maternity wing, where I have some very small chicks, and mixing these with a 36kg lump is dangerous. Peppa wants to play. However, she doesn't think that tossing a tiny chick in the air, will do it any harm. Thankfully she hasn't killed any yet, but it will only be a matter of time before she does. The famous four spend most of their day in with Peppa, I'm sure she thinks it is to be friendly, when the reality it is because she has food.

So, we spent the weekend catching the pig, encouraging her back into her pen, being snotted on, and repairing the walls to her luxury accommodation. Hopefully she will behave this week, or she could be off to the butcher earlier than planned. Everyone keeps asking will I do it all again when she goes to be butchered....hmmm the jury is still out on that!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Forgive me I have a chicken addiction.....

My name is unexpected farmer and I have a chicken addiction, it has been 21 hours since I last Googled something relating to chickens. I have finally admitted it, and it does feel better knowing that I am not alone in my desire to be in the ranks of the best poultry owners.

I find myself when no one is looking searching on chicken websites for tips and advice on chickens, I often stop to browse the well kept chickens and their beautiful coops. Pondering if my little finca will ever look as stunning as some of the "Chuckington palaces" which are on display. I am embarrassed to admit that I also joined a chicken forum, to discuss these feathered friends with other addicts.

I was on Amazon yesterday searching for school books for my children, when I found myself typing in "chickens" in the search bar, and then gazing longingly at the selection of books available. I even considered buying Poultry Weekly, but thought this may be a step too far and push me over the edge into complete insanity. What has my life become?

My husband and friends question my insanity on a daily basis, however, I do not want to become the crazy chicken lady! Chickens can live for a very long time, therefore, these strange creatures will be part of my life for many years. Within a short space of time, my addiction has grown, and I am concerned that within a few years I will be completely mad, reading Poultry Weekly and talking to the chickens! Oh hang on I talk to them now! is there any hope for me....

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Cactus cat

All of our animals are slightly strange, bordering on weird and defiantly clumsy, however, Felix surpassed himself yesterday! Felix is one of our cats, who we love dearly and was saved from a group of kids dragging him along the road behind a skateboard. Due to the intense banging of his head on the road we do think he is slight more dopey than he should be.

Felix loves lizards, and will often bring them in and sit with them hanging out of his mouth proudly staring up at me like a small child that has just drawn on the white walls with a crayon. The cat has very few demands apart from never take his lizard away. His desire for lizards is extreme, and he will chase them everywhere including in cactus's as we discovered yesterday.

Just as I was about to sit down for a coffee with a friend, which happens very rarely in this house, Felix appeared covered in cactus bits. He had a huge part of a cactus sticking out of his side, and stupidly he had tried to remove it with his mouth! Therefore, Felix now had a mouth full of cactus spikes, they were everywhere, paws, face, mouth side, you name it and there was a spike.

Why cant my children and animals give me half an hour of peace without a drama! so we sprung into action tweezers and pliers were grabbed and without thought to my own hands, arms, face, and every other part of me that the cat scratched and a cactus ended up, we begun to remove the spikes. This is no easy task when the person who has stupidly got attached to the cactus sits still, and as you can imagine Felix had no intention of sitting still whilst I rammed a pair of pliers down his throat.

After an hour of struggle, swearing, and shaking my head how on earth he had got cactus needles everywhere, we finally were happy that he had them all out. We released Felix hoping he would go and lay down for a while and recover, however, to my complete disbelief he went straight back over to the cactus, in search of his lizard that has gone missing. Why o why can't any of my animals just be normal!!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Clear instructions..

The thought of gong away and leaving anyone in charge of this mad house is something that fills me with dread, and the possibility of us having a family holiday ever again is pretty non existent. The issue comes is that we know these animals, we know their habits, routines and "little" quirks. Dropping a sane person into this chaos would be a disaster for everyone concerned.

This point was proven not so long ago, when we had friends staying, and I was asked to take one of them and the kids to Las Palmas (the big city) My husband was working, which left the dilemma of the ducks!! these have to be put away before it lets dark, which is very simple to do, they know exactly where they have to go, however, they have to be secured.

One of our friends was staying behind, which was perfect, he is an intelligent guy, knows one end of duck from the other, and could cope with encouraging the ducks to bed with the "magic rake" or so I thought...we went off on our journey, and as the time approached that the ducks needed to be in bed, I begun to worry, like a mother that leaves her kids with the unsuitable teenage babysitter for the first time.

I thought I would just send a short, friendly text to ask if everything was ok..."NO" was the reply, panic set in and frantic text messages went back and forth, it seemed that he could not get the ducks in the house. This I could not understand as they just go in, bit of encouraging, but never a fight. Time lapsed further and he text again, sounding distressed and wanted to know what he could do, as my ever helpful husband had filled his head with stories of killer cockroaches that come out at night to eat house guests!

Another text appeared with the statement of " You do have four ducks don't you?" at that point the penny dropped clunk...clunk....clunk! The poor guy was trying to get our feral duck into the duck house, which was simply never going to happen. I had completely forgot about Daphne who lived with the chickens in the orchard, and believed she was a chicken, so never had anything to do with the ducks. Daphne had managed to wander past just at the point of bedtime, which was bad luck for her.

This mistake had resulted in a strange man chasing her with a rake, round and round until they were both very confused. Once the confusion was settled, the other ducks were put to bed, and Daphne went back to being a chicken, peace was resumed. This is why I cannot leave this place for more than a few hours, as how was I supposed to know that people do not think about the feral duck in the orchard that thinks she is a chicken, and will never be enticed by the magic rake!!

The Incredible Sleeping Cat....

Our youngest cat Diablo, has an incredible ability to fall asleep anywhere, for designated power naps, which cause us and guests a huge amount of amusement. This has become a daily occurance, and I even take pictures now to send to friends, so they can be kept up to date with the strange power nap locations.

The cat will be walking past and suddenly just sleep on the floor, which is funny, and not at all strange as I have the ability to do the same thing. I can also sleep anywhere, and have proven this ability several times, by falling asleep within minutes of sitting down, at the table, at my desk and in the car. However, Diablo seems to like strange locations for his power naps including, on the potato sack, dog bed, fish tank, kitchen table, by the duck pond, in the rabbit hutch, plant pot and under the car!

Its under the car that has caused the most concern as he simply does not move when the engine is on, and as proved the other day when the car is moving. Only I could manage to run our own cat over, but yes I did in fact roll the car over Diablo!! As I went to move from the drive, i heard this almighty noise, and realised immediately that there was a cat stuck under the car, I put the car in reverse and released the cat! leaping out of the car I caught up with the cat, and thought I had broken his leg for certain, and bundled him off to the vet.

The vet confirmed that I had broken his hip, however, as he is still so young, there was nothing they could do, and we simply had to wait. I was mortified, and as I watched Diablo hop everywhere i had mixed feelings of "why didn't the stupid cat move" to "feeling sick that I had run the cat over! The vet informed us that the hip would fuse back together, and in time they could break it again and re set it, but Diablo would not be very active for a while...with that he leapt off the table and proceeded to have a good nose around.

Diabo is hopping everywhere, and the hip has fused, but in a strange position,which means that he hardly uses the leg. However, this  has not stopped him, and he continues to run, leap, terrorise every other animal, and sleeps where he shouldn't, including under the car! Diablo certainly lost one of his lives that day, and I am just grateful that he was so young, that there is hope that he will recover fully.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Curry threatening time!

I fully understand that chickens are not machines, and that they have good and bad days, however, unless egg production picks up soon it will be curry time for some! Everyone thinks that farming is relaxing, however, owning chickens is the ideal way to turn you into an anxious, neurotic lunatic. Checking nesting boxes, counting eggs and pondering over reasons for very few eggs has become an obsession.

According to everything that I have read we have done everything possible to attract the chickens to the nesting boxes. Even the famous four, who should be old enough to lay now, are letting me down! There are some common factors associated with egg production including:

  • Old enough to lay...check all of mine in the orchards are old enough...however, I am begining to feel that the famous four are late bloomers!
  • Chickens all healthy and eating well....check, my feedstore bill indicates they eat very well
  • Something to do with their pelvic bones, however, I have no intention of getting that intimate with my chickens and performing a pelvic examination, therefore, I am passing on this one

The nesting boxes are large enough, comfortable enough, have the correct bedding, and are even plumped and fluffed everyday! The chickens love to explore the boxes, kick the bedding out and cause a huge mess, but no incredible egg laying happening!

As I stood in the chicken coop I found myself threatening the freeloading hens with the chicken pie fate, and hoping they were just going through a bad patch..we will see! if not it may be time to call the chicken man, who knows exactly how to deal with chickens that don't lay!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

We weighed the pig!

Alongside this blog I also keep fans updated on Facbook with day to day activities that happen, and usually this involves the 30kg lump of lard named Peppa. Like a child Peppa has good days and bad days, and yesterday was a bad day! she has quickly worked out that her brain power may not be the highest, but her fat to pig ratio is massive. This means that when she applies her full bodyweight against something it typically collapses.

We are not pig pen building experts, and even Google cannot help to keep the pig where she should be, so when she is in her defiant, I'm going to destroy everything mood she often gets out. Now Im used to my children destroying their bedrooms, and in fact one of my older sons did a tremendous job of his room when he was a teenager. We have the video to prove the devastation that one teenage boy can create when he is told NO.

Peppa is very similar and she can destroy everything in her path! therefore, I posted this on Facebook yesterday and someone doubted by calculation on how heavy she was! I had estimated that she was now a 30KG lump of lard. Further to my previous blog about how to weigh your pig, people had asked if I had i fact climbed in with her and measured reply " Do I look stupid", however, I know someone who is stupid enough to grab her wellies and rise to the challenge.

We tackled this quest as we do everything here, 20 minutes on Google, then camera in hand and daughter in pig pen! Peppa considered the tape measure to be food, however, she considers EVERYTHING to be food. Once we had distracted her enough the measuring begun. Like a military operation the plan was to get in, get measured and get out!

Peppa had other ideas and she decided that today she wouldn't stand still, she would nip and bite everything within a 10 meter radius, and that all the attention was fantastic. Yet another task that took far longer than anticipated, the only good thing was I was on non smelly side of the fence with the camera. eventually we had the measurements, and off I went back to Google to work out the calculation.

I love it when I'm right, and I do gain satisfaction from saying the immortal words of "I told you so" therefore, when it was revealed that my guess of 30KG was not that far out I felt the warmth of smugness! I may be no pig farmer but I know my cuts of meat, and I had guessed 30KG when Peppa is in fact 36KG...which is not that far off...bring on the bacon!

Monday, 13 August 2012

How to carry the eggs...

Collecting the eggs that the chickens have decided to lay can be fun, it can also be challenging and dangerous. As you all know my chickens never lay in the nice nesting boxes that were built for them, they lay everywhere. Or the chickens that do decide to lay in the nesting boxes don't spread the wealth between the 10 nesting boxes, they ALL choose one box!

We have a basket for the eggs to go in, however, I forget it on a daily basis, and end up using anything nearby to place the eggs in. This includes feed buckets, scoops, pockets and if the egg ratio is more than 3:1 they will often go in the makeshift egg carrier called the bottom of my t-shirt. Some would call this initiative  others would call it laziness for not wanting to walk all the way back upstairs.

Whatever you call it, this activity happens often, and many times I will find the odd egg as I am wandering through the orchards. So, in complete madness these eggs will often go in my pocket!! Now, I have a lot going on, which typically means that I tend to have several lapses of memory throughout the day.

Therefore, the egg in my pocket will get forgotten, until it breaks, which is the oddest feeling as you realise that the goo running down your leg is in fact egg! I have learnt that the quickest way to clean up egg goo is with cold water, as hot water creates the strangest wet, scrambled egg! I have always considered myself to be intelligent, however, the egg in the pocket continues to be an event that takes place often!


Sunday, 12 August 2012

More for the maternity wing...

When a calima hits here, we are guaranteed of several things including no air, extreme heat and a batch of chicks being born. Every time the temperatures begin to soar, the eggs seem to think they are in an incubator and will hatch. We have been missing one of our ferel chickens for a while, and although we searched for her we could find no eggs or nest.

We knew that she would appear at some point, and why did I not suspect that this would be in the middle of the calima! We try and stay out of the heat as much as possible and ensure everything has water then run back into the shade before it become unbearable. However, yesterday "Honeybun" decided this was not going to happen.

My daughter was walking back up the drive when she heard chirping, now chicks chirping is quite a distinctive sound, and in the heat she could tell it was a distressed im really hot chirp. A quick 15 minute search revealed the hiding place of one mother hen and her chicks. Now don't ever be fooled into thinking that these creatures are clever or sensible. Yes, she had attempted to get home with her babies, however, by climbing up a mountain from the barranco, and managed to get herself wedged in between two rocks!!

My heart sank as I realised that this was not going to be a nice simple rescue, and as I carefully scaled down the hillside, I begun to curse chickens and their tiny brains. After 30 minutes, a lot of searching, and some major rock moving, we had mum and chicks in the box, and off to the maternity wing they went. Although the chickens are dumb, and they do cause me headaches, I would never leave them out in this heat...and they are rather cute!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Oh what a big cock....

There are a few things that I never imagined I would hear being said to me, and " oh what a big cock you have" is one of them. For obvious reason this is a statement that surprises me when people say it to me, however, on reflection he is rather impressive. I am of course referring to one of the cockerels we have here!

We seem to have rather a lot of cockerels, which is a bit of an issue as apart from the obvious reason, they serve no other purpose. They eat a lot, and are a nightmare to catch, which means to have them for food is just not happening. There are four, older, dominating cockerels, two in each orchard, which are the fathers, of a lot of the chicks. However, there are also several younger cockerels which are beginning to be a pain.

The noise cockerels make is never ending, and don't ever be fooled into believing that they only crow in the morning. Mine "cockadoodeldoo" all day long! from about 3am they start, and in a very long dawn chorus, continue until the evening. This is something we have got used to, and thankfully we manage to sleep through the annoying morning wake up call.

The older cockerel that we have is the one that causes the most comments "AL" as he has been named is an impressive cock, as many of the Spanish inform me on a regular basis. I don't claim to be a cock expert,  however, I have seen a few, and I must admit he is rather large and I can see why both men and women feel the need to comment.

There is something very majestic about the way that AL stands in the orchard, and you can feel the wisdom he expels. The chickens follow him like a harem, and he ensures that they all remain in one group, with no stragglers. AL has become the Hugh Heffner of the chicken world, and just like his human  role model he attracts all of the "girls" AL has none of the wealth that Heffner has, therefore, it must be his charm and good looks!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

We do have dogs....

Someone asked me the other day if we have dogs, as I rarely mention them in my posts, and they thought it was strange. So, the answer is yes we do have dogs, unfortunately one of dogs died not so long ago, and it was a subject that I didn't feel I was ready to blog about. Sam was far more than a dog, he was part of our family for over 13 years.

Sam was there every morning when I got up, he watched over our children as they were growing up, and was the constant thing throughout all of our chaos. Being a large dog we knew he would have issues with his back legs, and not live forever. However, he did us proud and lived until he was 14, which for a large dog is good. Sam had health issues towards the end, and I always vowed I would never let him suffer, however, bringing myself to make that final decision was never going to be easy. 

I refused to let him go, and he continued to show his dignity and pride up until the last moments. Sam choose when to go, he did it at home in my husbands arms. This broke all of our hearts, and I never knew I could feel pain, and loss like I did. We have another dog, Charlie who was abandoned and given to us, who sensed this loss and tried to comfort me, but he will never be Sam. Don't get me wrong I adore Charlie, but the void I felt was huge, and it would take a special dog to ever fill that.
As the weeks passed the emptiness was still there, I would get up in the morning and expect to see Sam. They say that you have to go through the stages of grief to fully get over it, and I don't feel that I have reached the end of that path. People suggested getting another dog to replace Sam, which made me chuckle as NO dog would ever replace Sam. however, the idea of getting another dog was not something that I had dismissed, it just had to be the right dog. 

I help one of the animal charities here, and often look at their pages of abandoned dogs, which there are thousands. None had appealed until the other day when four puppies were brought in, usual sad stories, and I was flicking through the photos, when a face looked back at me, and I knew he was the one. There was something in his eyes that reminded me of Sam, and I knew in my heart that Sam would approve. So, Max became part of our family, and he is beautiful, intelligent, and slightly nuts which allows him to fit in well!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Oh Rats!

Farms and rats go hand in hand, I have a philosophy that if they leave my animals alone, and I don't see them they can stay, however, begin to annoy me and it is war! when we first arrived there was a massive rat issue, as this place had been empty for some time. The rats had been allowed to bred, therefore, they were everywhere.

The first time I came face to face with one in the orchard, I was horrified, however, confident that with three cats and a terrier, the issue would be "dealt with" Oh how wrong I was...our cats love hunting lizards, and have no interest in the rats at all. The dog came face to face with a rat one night, and just stood there...this was round one to the rats!

We went to the ferreterria and asked for their help, they suggested getting a cat...errr yep we have three, and they are useless! So we bought a trap, "jaws of death" it was called, and I felt confident that it would do the trick. That night we placed delicious food on the trap, put it in place and waited. The next morning my husband went bounding down to the trap, it had been set off, food gone, but no dead rat! round two to the rat!

By this point they had begun to annoy me, and had killed some chicks and ducklings, which made it immediate war! We had to step up our game,and poison was suggested, however, I am always concerned with that as we have so many other animals, we have two more ideas, before we had to go down the poison route.

Our friend was going away and asked it we could look after her terrier, we were delighted to, and of course she had assured me that he would deal with the rats. I was confident that the rat issue would be stopped with this great hunting dog at the finca. Oh how wrong could I be, we took him out in the orchard, he saw a rat and...ran in the opposite direction...round three to the rat!

We were at breaking point as more chicken feed was vanishing, and more than the damage they had begun to do, it was the fact that we had been outsmarted by small, ugly creatures! My husband borrowed a gun, and he waited, and he waited, and when they finally appeared he took his chance, but the rats are hardy, and the small calibre gun did nothing...round four to the rats!

The poison had to come out, and with gloves on and a plan we dropped it down every rat hole we knew off, ensuring that it was well covered and no other animal could get to it and be harmed. I don't like poisoning animals, however, the rats gave us no choice, they were not going to play by the rules, which resulted in the final result.

We begun to find dead bodies, which wasn't pleasant, but necessary! In my mind the only rat we want to see is remy!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Talking Chickens

I read an article the other day that mentioned that some chicken owners firmly believe that their chickens talk to them, and that they understand what the chickens want! I wouldn't go as far as to say I talk to the chickens, unless I am threatening to curry them for low egg production! However, these dumb animals are in fact very vocal, and do make different noises at different times of the day, and for different events.

Here is my chicken speak outline:

I'm happy- this is the one we hear the most as they wander through the trees, pondering what to do next, you can imagine them thinking do I lay an egg, or scratch some dirt, decisions decisions....this noise is a gentle cluck.

I'm hungry- this is the highlight of the chickens day, so as you can imagine, there is a huge amount of excitement. The clucking is louder, faster and more purposeful, the scratching becomes quicker, just in case they find that rogue piece of corn.

I'm thirsty- the heat here can become intense, therefore, this noise we hear often, as they stand very still making a panting sound, very much like a dog.

Ta-daaa!- this is the excited noise that the chickens make when they lay eggs, very proud of themselves, showing off to the other chickens. This noise is very similar to "Buk, buk, buk, buuuuuuuuuuuuk and can go on for some time, and when you have as many hens as me can go on for most of the day which is great.

OMG the sky is falling- this is the Chicken Little moment when they believe that the sky is falling and the world is ending. The noises they make include intense squawking, shrieking, cackling and generally making a huge amount of noise over very little. This can include real danger such as a dog or cat, or something not as harmful as a twig or a leaf.

These are the most common noises that we hear throughout the day, and having read this back, I have decided that I need to get out more and get a life!

Bunny Farming

We have always had rabbits even before we lived here, as they make fantastic pets for children, and there is something appealing about them. Over time we have acquired two other rabbits, due to personal reasons from their current owners. They are all boys, which is fine, and on the whole they get along, and we never think of them more than our pets. However, whenever our Spanish friends come round they ask if they are lunch!

Eating rabbit here in the Canaries is incredibly common, and even the Spanish kids think it is strange that we have three rabbits as pets. Many have offered to take the fatter of the rabbits, and cook us lunch, I have refused every time. Eating one of the rabbits would be like eating one of the cats, which is odd, and not something that I could stomach.

However, not one to turn down a money making opportunity, one of the Spanish guys we know has offered to buy bunnies off us. After much discussion it seems there is a market for baby bunnies for the pet shops. Now whether you agree with bunny farming or not, it is a subject that is out there, and if you Google there are some awful images of how they keep their rabbits.

We of course are going to breed rabbits in a humane, comfortable and loving way are not hundreds of them! This involved a new "casa stew" bunny enclosure being built to ensure that everyone had enough room. Dutifully my husband got to work, and we now have the equivalent of a 5* hotel for rabbits. All we need now is some female rabbits, and let the breeding begin!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Siesta Time....

A day without a siesta is like a cupcake without frosting, they go hand in hand, and are an essential part of the day. When we first moved to Spain I scoffed at the people who went off mid afternoon for a "little" nap. However, I am now one of those people that need my power nap, and I am not alone, the daily siesta count is high.

Dog naps, cat naps, chicken naps, and even bunny naps are all vital to ensure that we function. maybe it is the heat, but it gets to a time of day when everything slows down and has that sleepy appearance. This nap has nothing to do with the lack of sleep that we seem to get, as I can sleep for hours, even with my massive daily intake of coffee. However, siesta time has become important, and I can feel myself needing this time every day.

It is not like there is nothing to be done, and I could think of a million things that need fixing, painting, building, or picking. But there is something about this siesta time, which is vital to everyone, apart from my husband who is superhuman and can live with very little sleep. So, as we all settle down for our afternoon nap, you will find the chickens snoozing in the trees, the dog curled up on the sofa, and the cats wherever they can find a spot! Me I prefer the sofa, with a comfy pillow, and 30 minutes of peace!

Milking the goat!

Jack and Jill are settling in well, and are incredibly funny to watch as they run across the orchard, their ears flap which makes me chuckle! They play with the dog and cats until they consider that they have had enough, and then gently butt them out of the way, unless you are our stupid dog who keeps coming back for more!

We were advised to tie the goats legs to stop them jumping out of the orchard, however, we didn't, as I am a firm believer that if you give an animal food, water and love they know where the best place to be is, unless you are a dumb chicken! The goats are happy, we love having them here and they are slowly growing into fat, cheeky creatures.

However, the thought of milking Jill is causing me a headache, as even with the power of Google, I have no idea where to begin. I can usually blag my way through anything, however, on this occasion I feel that knowledge would be good.

I understand the concept of milking Jill, and that the milk would be great to make cheese however, the actual act of milking is becoming an issue. Thankfully she is still too young to milk, therefore, I can spend longer researching and preparing for the milking time.

The amount of support material on the Internet for milking goats is incredible, with tips on technique and the "correct" procedure turning milking one small goat into an Olympic event.

So for the moment Jill can be safe in the knowledge that I am not going to sterilize and warm my hands in preparation of squeezing her teats. I do have my milking stool ready though :-)