How The Animals Are Coping With This Heat

It’s humid, too. The only saving grace is a stiff, wind that is making it bearable (just barely.)

The goats are fine. I feed them wet, juicy, crunchy water celery pulled from the water feature.

Then they recline in the shade and chew their cuds. They’re unperturbed by the heat that is engulfing us. Of course, they are Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats. It is very hot in Nigeria, right?

The chickens don’t like the heat at all. Betsy, who has been stubbornly, persistently, grumpily broody for weeks decided that the nesting box was too hot for her. She’s joined the other hens under the shade of Candy’s hutch.

I’ve put the the food in the shade where the chickens are, because the girls didn’t want to spend anytime in the coop eating, where even with the fan it is stifling.

To help out the old hens a bit, I turned the hose onto their pen.

The evaporation cools things off a bit, and they do like to get their feet wet.

The Gems are handling the heat, too. They have a damp, shady area behind the compost to hang out in.

When chickens are heat-stressed they pant and go limp. Obviously, the girls are fine. Little Blue does have a heavy feather coat and I’m keeping a close eye on her. She’s positioned herself in the coop. She’s been eating and drinking, so I know she’s okay.

The one animal that I don’t think could survive this heat is Candy, so she’s inside the house. She’s sulking.

The dogs go outside, and then come right back in. Scooter says he’s going to sleep through the heat wave. Not a bad idea.



Cooling Cucumber Salad

I’m sure that an herbalist could tell me why cucumbers are so cooling. I know they have an astringent quality, which is why people put slices of cucumber on their eyes to take down puffiness. (Anyone out there ready to join me in the shade by a pool, with cold drinks and cucumbers on our eyes? Yes?!) Luckily, just when the summer heats up, the cucumbers are in season.

I planted “Marketmore” cucumbers, and they live up to their name, with more cucumbers on the vine than other varieties I’ve tried. I like their size, too. Medium length and not too fat – just the right amount of juicy centers with tight seeds, and a skin that is thin enough to eat.

This is what I had on my countertop yesterday: Cucumbers, mint, parsley and chives from my garden, and a lemon from the market.

I partially peeled the cukes and then cubed them. Washed the herbs well, dried in a salad spinner, minced, and tossed them in. Squeezed the lemon and strained out the seeds over a measuring cup. A lemon usually yields about a quarter cup of juice, but it varies. I checked how much I had, then poured in good extra virgin olive oil to not quite match that amount.  Salt, pepper, whisk, toss.

This will keep me cool as the temperatures rise.

Make it a main dish by adding feta cheese. Or, serve as a side dish. It goes nicely with salmon and egg salad sandwiches. (One can salmon, one large hard-cooked egg, mayo, pickle relish. Mash.)  That’s what  I had for dinner last night. No heating up the kitchen at all.


Garden Harvest

It’s going to be a scorcher this week. Temperatures are expected near 100º by Thursday. Combine that with high humidity and I’m glad I’m not a real farmer who has to work in the fields everyday!

Luckily my vegetable patch looks like this:

and so there’s not a lot of work to do. The vegetables have crowded out most of the weeds. My main job is to find the cucumbers before they get too big,

and harvest the white chard before the slugs eat it.

I pick the summer squash when it is tiny and still has squash blossoms on the ends. This way I don’t have excessive quantities of baseball bat sized zucchini – the butt of so many garden jokes.

I slice these little ones and saute with a bit of very good olive oil, and then season with a touch of salt and pepper. Small squash are surprisingly sweet. Like corn, they’re best cooked the day you pick them.

I also have beets.

The greens are edible, and I like them, but not as much as the goats and the chickens do. I have enough bounty that I can share.

On a hot day, leafy vegetables are cooling and refreshing for the animals.

Candy also appreciates the greens. She’s an old bunny, and like other elderly animals, she hasn’t shed her winter coat fully (you can often tell a horse is old by their scraggly hair.) So, if the heat gets oppressive and there isn’t a cooling breeze, I’ll be bringing her inside. Candy will be annoyed, but I’ll placate her with parsley.

I have enough of that to keep even an ornery bunny satisfied.


A Short Outing

I have been crazy-busy, but found a half-hour to let the animals out for a bit of grazing.

The old girls enjoyed the grass and clover buds.

The Gems removed grubs from the garden. There were a few chases after the girl who found the choicest morsel.

Agatha had her face in the camera. Of course.

The Goat Boys helped by eating weeds around the pond. Notice that they are wearing collars and leashes.

That way I can keep them from getting into too much trouble.

Protecting the Hens From Predators

Predators are everywhere. In the city there are raccoons and opossums. Even rats. (Uggh!) Some southern states have snakes large enough to down a chicken. There are fox and coyotes, bobcats and fisher cats. There are loose dogs (the worst) who trot through your yard and grab a hen.

I live across from 800 acres of forest, with a wildlife corridor that extends, not even a mile away, to a river that is a national wildlife refuge. I live on a street where people walk their dogs – sometime off-leash. Woodlands border my yard. These tall trees are perches for predators,

like this juvenile Red Tail Hawk that was screaming from the very top of the oak tree on Saturday.

But in the eight years that we’ve lived here, I haven’t lost a single chicken to predators.

I’m very careful. The hens do not free-range unless I’m watching. I don’t believe that a chicken would prefer a short, happy live, ended by being mauled by a predator. I think it’s better for them to have a long, happy lives in their safe pens. Do they complain? Sure. But, my kids used to ask for candy in the supermarket checkout line. They complained, too.

The HenCam run has netting stretched over the top. It keeps the taloned hunters out. But, it won’t keep out raccoons. Once, ten years ago, a raccoon climbed the six-foot fence, ripped off the netting and entered the coop. The next morning, three of my chickens were either gone or in shreds. I’ve learned my lesson, and at night the hens are inside and the door is latched.

The Big Barn run is protected from predators a different way – I’ve run string back and forth and hung shiny CDs. A hunting hawk wouldn’t dare enter and get tangled up in the twine, and the beams of light bouncing off the CDs deter wild birds from entering the barn.

I believe in good fencing, buried six-inches below ground to deter digging animals.

If you have one of these

then you’ll need to add rocks to the edge. Don’t be fooled by this photo of her calmly sleeping in the shade under the ramp. Rabbits burrow, and could star in their own version of The Great Escape.

My main defense against feeding the wildlife chicken dinners, though, is my good dog, Lily. Hyper-alert to all things moving, she chases hawks out of the sky and coyotes out of the yard. She also keeps the squirrels off the bird feeder. But, that’s another story.