Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…. August 24, 2018

Well, after a quiet weekend, Monday started off with some excitement–the bear paid us a visit!

At 9 AM we were both up, but we had not let any of the birds out yet, thank goodness.  Bama, our ever protective rooster, started shrieking his alarm call.  The best way I know to describe it is that it’s like a long screech.  Chickens definitely have a vocabulary.

Bama the rooster

I stepped out on the front porch and looked around but saw nothing, so I crossed through the house, and Belle and I went to the back porch to finish our morning coffee. She walked to the steps, peered around the corner towards the coops, made a whiny/growly noise that I’d never heard her make and trotted back to me.  Then I knew the bear was back.

Belle and I stepped back into the house and I shouted down the hall to John that the bear must be around.  We all hustled to the front door, looked out again, and there it was, in our front yard, near the duck coop. John shouted, “Shoo, bear, shoo!” and the bear trotted through the yard.

It must be some indication that I am acclimating to this bear, because while John went back in the house for a shotgun (filled with rubber buckshot to scare the bear, not hurt it) and bear spray, I grabbed my phone and stepped back on the front porch just in time to see the bear climb a tree. I walked back in the house to get my bear belt (pistol and bear spray attached), calling out to John the bear’s location.

We rushed out the front door just in time to hear the bear come crashing out of the tree and see it run off. There was just enough time to get this shot:

Bear running off.

We are very thankful that we did not have to use bear spray, because the wind was blowing, and the spray would’ve singed us as well as the bear.

Someone who is reading this is thinking, “Eleanor, why didn’t y’all STAY IN THE HOUSE?!” Three words: goats, chickens, ducks. We know the bear well enough now to know that it is not aggressive to people, but it will eat a chicken, so we had to run it off.

GOOD NEWS: We re-homed the five white Pekin ducks! I have been threatening to re-home some or all of the ducks since last winter.  “The Boys” needed to go, for sure.  They are the three white Pekin males who served absolutely no purpose on our ranch.  All they did was eat some of their food, toss the rest of it around in their coop, slosh water everywhere, and shed feathers like it was their job. My lack of fondness for them is illustrated by my lack of pictures of them. The last time I tried to clean out the chicken tractor/duck coop, I swore they had to go.

Ducks in chicken tractor
Here are the boys in their chicken tractor coop. See what I mean about the mess o’ feathers?!

Do you know how hard it is to get rid of re-home male ducks with some reasonable assurance that they aren’t going into the crock pot? It’s akin to winning the lottery.

In desperation, I put an ad on Craig’s list to give away all of the ducks.  I was so sure it was not going to work that I didn’t even bother to post pictures.

After several weeks, a text popped up on John’s phone.  A seemingly kind young man named Skylar had two aging pet male muskovy ducks, and he wanted to replace them before they died. (And, no, I haven’t a clue as to the life span of a domestic duck.) He was willing to take all of them. On two separate occasions we each vetted him over the phone to make sure he wasn’t holding Julia Childs’ recipe for “duck l’orange” in his free hand.

Then John decided he wanted to keep the Indian runners.

I relented because DUCK EGGS.  They are marvelous for baking, and the eggs when scrambled taste so good “they’ll make you slap yo’ Mama.” (Southern slang for amazingly delicious.)

Duck eggs, green and white.
White pekins and one Indian runner lay white eggs; the other Indian Runner lays green eggs. Aren’t they pretty?

So I pulled two dog crates down from the rafters of the feed shed, and we packed the ducks in.  What a blessing, this young man “lives in our neighborhood” as rural life goes, so we met him at the post office for the hand-off.  He was a gentle giant of a young man with dark, curly hair and a beard, wearing a “Flathead Braves Wrestling” tee shirt from his recent years of high school sports.

We may or may not have high-fived each other as the pekins rode off in the back of  Skylar’s dusty blue Subaru.

I mentioned my birthday meltdown in a previous post. This, combined with multiple headaches, pushed me to call my naturopath for an appointment.  Alternative medicine is HUGE in this area of Montana.  A lot of people I know are as likely to see an alternative medicine practitioner as they are a traditional M.D.  You can learn more about naturopathic medicine here.

Vern could see me on Thursday, my usual “town day.”  Turns out that he has been seeing alot of patients with the same symptoms: depressed mood, headaches, memory loss, and an inability to recall and/or pronounce words.  Check, check, check, and check for me. He said it’s due to the high levels of carbon monoxide and benzene in the smoky air. (Is this getting national attention? That wildfire in Glacier National Park is in excess of 10,000 acres.) Between that fire, the five hundred fifty-two fires burning in British Columbia  (yes, you read that right,) plus fires in Western Washington, Oregon, and California, we have been engulfed in smoke and under air quality alerts for what seems like weeks.

Vern sent me home with a custom blended tincture to treat smoke inhalation, a cilantro/burdock tincture (cleanses blood), and black walnut tincture (helps oxygenate blood.)

Tinctures from Vern

I researched more afterwards and found that fatigue and an inability to concentrate, which a number of my friends (and I) are struggling with, are also related to high carbon monoxide levels in the air.

Please join us in prayers for rain.

In a moment of necessity, John and I discovered an alternative treatment for yellow jacket stings.  I have a wholesale account with doTERRA and have been learning about essential oils over the last year.  John and I each keep a small vial of “owie oil” in our pockets when out on the property.

We use owie oil to treat the inevitable cuts and scrapes that occur while we are outside working.  It’s a blend of melaleuca (antiseptic), frankincense (cellular renewal), and lavender (calming agent and antihistamine) essential oils, in a base of fractionated coconut oil, which helps the oils soak deep into the skin.

We were on a walk when a very determined yellow jacket would not leave me alone.  We thought we’d outrun him, but he crawled up my tee shirt sleeve and stung me on the inside of my upper arm.  Being nowhere near the house, John suggested that I put some owie oil on it.  I did, and within minutes, the sting and itch were gone and there was no swelling at all.  The only reminder of the sting was a small red patch on my skin, and even it was gone the next day! It is now our go-to for sting relief!

Speaking of the yellow jackets, here is a photo of the nest in the duck coop that Bug Hunters sprayed for us.

Yellow jacket nest
What a nest!

And a video showing how to make a yellow jacket trap.  This trap WORKS!  We had several five gallon buckets on hand, so we used those instead of the shallow pans.

And finally, in funny farm news: last week we announced the birth of ONE new baby chick to the ranch.  John dubbed it “Uno.” This tiny one is turning out to be a unique opportunity to watch a hen raise a young ‘un. Mama Hen has been very busy this week training Uno to forage for food.  She takes the baby chick feed out of the clean feeder, crunches it in her beak, drops it in the dirt, and then demonstrates how to scratch for it.  She actively discourages Uno from eating out of the feeder.

She is also uber protective!  I noticed a few of her hen friends strolling over to check out the new arrival, and Mama Hen fluffed out all of her feathers to make herself as big as possible and stayed right on the heels of Uno, who was busy exploring the enclosure.

Uno and Mama Hen

At night, they bed down in the straw of the dog crate and we close the wire door to as an extra layer of protection from predators. We really wanted to make Uno a pet, so we agreed to spend time every day holding it.

Well.  One morning I put my arm into the crate to pick up Uno, and Mama Hen flat out attacked me with beak, wings, and feet.  I had a hard time getting my arm out! Good thing I had on heavy leather gloves and long sleeves. (I am no fool.)

I spy a baby chick!
I spy a baby chick!

I relayed this story to John.  He did not come right out and say it, but I could tell by his reaction that he thought I was being a bit of a ninny.

And then he tried it.

Mama Hen latched onto his gloved hand and HUNG ON. Even as he was trying to extract his arm from the crate, she thrashed him with her wings and clawed at him with both of her taloned feet.  He was laughing so hard that it took a moment for surprise to register on his face.

I could not keep my mouth shut. “Uh, huh!  You thought I was exaggerating, didn’t you?!  Now you know!”

Uno is gonna be a wild child.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.