A Change of Seasons

While we were away on vacation the seasons changed. I came home to pumpkins ripening in the patch,


furry goats all fluffed up against the morning chill, and a few autumn raspberries ripe on the brambles.

It seemed as if Philomena and Agnes went from being scrawny, young pullets, to full-grown, feather-bottomed hens. They’re laying, now, too.


My sons start school this week. It’s definitely fall.

It seemed like a very short summer. We had a cold and rainy spring. A dark and dreary summer. The worst part of it was that the mosquito population increased by 900% (I’m not exaggerating- that’s the number that was in the newspaper!)

Right now, the weather is ideal. Long-sleeve shirt weather. No humidity. Sunny skies. A breeze. Fewer mosquitos (what a relief!)

Along with the change in the seasons, there are changes here at HenCam. I’m tweaking my web sites. In the next day or so it will become easier to navigate between pages. The blog software has been changed. You can now post comments at the bottom of each post. I look forward to hearing from you!

Away on Vacation

Some vacations are a lot of work. A rented cabin in Maine requires packing sheets and food (and me doing the washing and cooking.) Sight-seeing vacations take planning, map-reading, and hustling in and out of hotels. But I just came back from a vacation that was relaxing. We were here.


Now I’m home, and I’m on my third load of laundry, I’m about to shovel out the goats’ stall and I have tomatoes to pick, roast and freeze. Which is fine by me. Bermuda was gorgeous and a true vacation. It was the perfect break. But, it’s always good to come home.


This is what a full goat belly looks like.


The first time you see your little goat swell to this size, you might panic. Don’t. This is normal and healthy.

Goats eat bulk. Hay, tree leaves, brambles. What’s not good for them is dense, rich food, like a lot of grain, or alfalfa. Eat that, and the goat will get bloat. Yes, Caper in the above photo, is bloated, but doesn’t have “bloat” which is when the belly is filled with gas. A friend’s goat just got bloat. The wether ate cut grass from her freshly mowed lawn. Rich stuff for a goat. She gave him pepto bismol. The goat lapped it up, and is better.

Notice how Caper’s belly sticks out more to the left. That’s where the rumen is, which is the first part of the intestinal tract that food passes through. Touch it and it feels solid as a basketball. The right side, although distended, is soft. It pushes in like a deflating kick ball.

It’s good to touch your goats. Chickens, too. You should know what they feel like when they’re healthy so that you know when something is amiss. You won’t be able to feel for a bound egg if you don’t know what your chicken’s bottom feels like when she’s laying normally.

You should know what they sound like, too. A first sign of intestinal trouble in a horse is when it’s belly stops rumbling. Goats, too, should have active stomach gurgles.

Listen to your animals voices. Already, I can tell Caper and Pip apart from their bleats. Caper’s is loud, solid and strident. Pip does short, softer calls. Sometimes, a hurt chicken will be quieter than normal. Or her breathing will sound labored or raspy.

The side benefit (or maybe the main one) to paying attention is that you will know – really know – your animals. I enjoy watching how Pip and Caper have different favorite foods in the meadow. I like knowing that it is Marge’s insistent clucking that I hear as I step onto the porch in the morning. I know that Candy is teasing Scooter, when she puts her nose to the fence, then runs, to make him chase her (safely separated by wire mesh. Clever bunny.) It’s a very interesting world.

A Bad Hair Day

Despite the 92 degree weather, (that’s 33 degrees Celsius. HOT.) Candy is shedding out her summer coat and growing in her thicker winter wear. I’d love to give her a good brushing, but she hates that. To comb her out, I have to wrap her in a cloth. Wrapped bunnies (like swaddled babies) are calm bunnies. But, it’s just too hot to do that to her.


Meanwhile, the hens have barely laid any eggs this summer. Their excuses are rainy dark days, heat, and old age. After providing only about two eggs a day from the whole lot of them (15 hens), they have now decided that it is time to stop laying for good and to go into molt. The first day of the molt there are so many feathers on the coop floor that I stop and count the hens to make sure that what I’m looking at isn’t a fox attack. Not to worry, they’re all there. But, what a mess!


Bountiful Blueberries

I keep planting blueberry bushes. I love their shapes and the color they turn in the fall – mottled greens and burnt oranges. They’re my favorite “foundation plant” – you know, those bushes that are planted along foundations to hide the concrete. I never, ever want an evergreen that needs pruning into unnatural geometries. I’m not fond of rhododendron and I really dislike azaleas with their neon-flowers. (Don’t send hate mail. I’m sure they’re a few nice varieties, but in my mind they remind me of the worst of suburbia.)

Blueberries would be fine even if they didn’t provide fruit. But they do. I’ve got four types in my yard, and so get berries that range from black to blue and from bb-sized to plump peas. I’ve been eating them by the handful, putting them in my breakfast cereal, and freezing them for the winter. I’ve also been baking. I’ve made a Maine Blueberry Snack Cake, a Blueberry-Ginger Crumble with Pecans, a Blueberry Buckle (like a cobbler, but it buckles in as it bakes), Blueberry Muffins and this Blueberry Pie with a Hazelnut Crust.


I don’t have recipes to share. Sorry. One of the pleasures of NOT writing a cookbook is that I can improvise and not measure as I go along. Hmm, but a blueberry cookbook would be fun to do….