Friday, January 23, 2015

Tragedy Visits the Chicken Pen

Well readers, I have some bad news. Are you ready? The Tuesday before Thanksgiving a mink broke into the chicken pen. And in one night he murdered all ten chickens. All the Easter Eggers. And Ruby The American Mink is in the mustelid (weasel) family. It is very small. The largest males get no longer than 18 inches long and weighs less than 3 pounds. Now think about that. A weasel no longer than my arm and weighing less than 3 pounds killed all ten chickens in one night. Viscious. Mink can slink into any space that's one square inch or more and mister mink found a one inch square space to squeeze into. Readers, predators are a part of farming. When I was in grade school, a mink broke into our rabbitry. Luckily, only one rabbit was killed and we trapped him the very next night. Mink don't eat dead animals generally which makes them hard to trap in a barn environment especially if there is more than one hole they can get through. I knew something was wrong when I got to the door and it was too quiet. As soon as I surveyed the scene I knew it was the handiwork of a mink. I called Dad and began to collect the fallen hens. Yes, even Ruby had been taken. I'm very lucky that Dad is an expert trapper. We knew that the mink would return that night, expecting more chickens. Because you know, their brain is the size of a pea. To encourage the mink to abandon any caution he may have left, we borrowed a live bird from a neighbor and put it in a little cage that we hung from the ceiling of the coop. Dad laid out 4, count 'em 4 fox traps strategically placed on the coop floor. And, because my Dad is awesome, he put up a trail cam and all we could to was hope. And here he is my friends! Caught cold-blooded and red-pawed on camera! This mink is literally 4 steps away from the coop entrance and Ruby's retribution! And, the fox traps worked. To give you an idea of scale, here is another picture of the mink. His chicken killing days are O-ver! And for those of you keeping score at home, mink were in season to trap in November. I know this is sad news. I still miss Ruby. But readers, life must go on, on the homestead. I've had new chickens since Christmas and later this winter I will introduce you to them. Also, I will be experimenting with a new format to the blog so there will be more posts and a multimedia aspect so stay tuned. Ruby, gone but not forgotten.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fall Trip to Los Angeles

Well, we are finally into fall with the blogging. Andrew and I were in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara for the first ten days of November. We went for a wedding and saw a lot of sights. We spent our first weekend in Santa Barbara. We stayed at the Sandman Inn and it was very nice. It had a little dinner where they served a nice continental breakfast. Just ask the crow here, who took advantage of a donut left behind. Another crow comes to the breakfast plate too late. We spent the day around Solvang and Los Olivos. The weather was beautiful and we saw some really interesting garden features. My favorite place was J. Woeste. It was a garden and outdoor decorating boutique and there some really unique items. I regret we didn't but a piece and ship it, but maybe we will go back someday. Another lovely surprise in Los Olivos was this beautiful mural featuring 4-H. We went to Abalone Cove tidepools and spent an afternoon. I took the wrong lens, the macro instead of the zoom, so I don't have many good crab pictures. It is very relaxing to sit on a rock and hang out with the sea life. The crabs are so shy. If you sit very still, they do venture out after some time, closer and closer, but then as soon as you move they dart away. They basically hang out and snack. Not a bad life. We stopped at the Wayfarer's Chapel where I took some flower photography. Towards the end of the week, we went to a wedding at the El Segundo car museum. Andrew was a groomsmen. Check out this amazing hand painted picture of the couple, Edward Scissorhands style! Our last weekend we went to Disneyland with the newlyweds and it was super fun! Then we spent the last two nights on the Queen Mary ship in Long Beach. My pictures don't really do the ship justice and before I post them, I want to tell you a little bit about the Queen Mary. Built as the world's premier luxury transatlantic ship (over 1,000 feet long and way, way bigger than the Titanic.) In the early forties, the Queen Mary and her sister ship the Queen Elizabeth were stripped of their luxury fittings and converted into troop ships. The Queen Mary could transport 16,000 troops at a time. Winston Churchill's ocean headquarters was in one of the suites. He signed the doomsday invasion orders from the Queen Mary. Hitler actually put a 250,000 prize out for any German officer who could sink the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary was called the Grey Ghost because she was so fast. They could turn her in a zig zag course and she could make the turn in 5 minutes and it took the German u-boats 6 minutes to lock on a target and shoot. Historians estimate that the Queen Mary's role in transporting troops to Europe shortened the war by at least a year, maybe two. The Queen Mary also transported wounded soldiers and when the war was over, war brides and their children to the United States. Once the war was over, the Queen Mary's luxurious furnishings were reinstated and throughtout the 50s and early 60s she continued to cross the Atlantic. Celebrities and dignitaries like Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astaire and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the dude who advocated from the throne in the Kings Speech.) In the late 60s the Queen Mary was retired from travel. Pan Am made international flight more affordable. Eventually the Queen Mary was purchased by Long Beach and converted into a hotel. When we were there, lots of things were going on, a haunted house, a Princess Dianna dress exhibition, and a Marine Corps ball. They have a promenade with several restaurants and shops. Andrew (who planned this whole trip and did a very good job.) Planned our stay so we could go to their famouse Champagne Sunday brunch in their 815 seat dining hall. The Art Deco style was really incredible. The polished burled wood, the metal work. This ship mural in tile was one of the center pieces of the dining hall. The two lines across the mural are cables where electric ran model ships cross the Atlantic. Also, check out the harpist. She was really great. And look at the roses carved out of the watermelon. Fancy. Our room was so comfortable and spacious. I would definitely like to stay there again. Also, the Queen Mary was featured in Ghost Hunters. And yes, the Queen Mary is haunted. After being gone for ten days, the cats were definitely glad that we were home.