Category: Critters

SFH Journal: 2018-06-07

Highlight: We attended the Mass and burial of our friend today. It was a time for some sadness and for some fond remembrances. We will remember this day as we remember our friend, with a strong feeling of God’s peace.

Afterwards, preparations for the Third Annual Serendipity Farmhouse Tea Party revved into high gear. My beautiful wife made lavender tea bread while I was mowing and manicuring the yard. (Of course, yours truly and my faithful lawn tractor got stuck in the muck left behind by the rains.) Later, lovely spouse and I joined forces to make “Mom’s Pimento Cheese”. (See SFH Food 2018-01: My Mom & Pimento Cheese.)

While making a round of the yard on my faithful lawn tractor, I saw adorable wife gesticulating and making wild gestures to get my attention. I pulled the tractor to a screeching halt, jumped off, and ran to her aid. That is when she showed me these two huge winged insects with large and fearsome mandibles. The larger one (male) was nearly six inches long. (Please note: Beautiful spouse asserts that I may have ever so slightly embellished the truth in the reporting of this event.)

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We took pictures (very, very carefully) at a safe distance and rushed inside to determine the nature of the alien beasts that had invaded our yard. Fortunately, we discovered that these enormous flying escapees from a Godzilla movie were called Dobsonflies. According to Wikipedia: “Dobsonflies are a subfamily of insects, Corydalinae, part of the Megalopteran family Corydalidae.” (Learn more about this worthwhile predator of bugs and flies along rivers like ours: click here.)

Weather:  It was a very pleasant day.  (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: Nothing to report.

SFH Journal: 2018-05-31

Highlight: Bluebird fledglings were conducting flight practice in our side yard today. Mom and dad bluebird sat apart on our fence and urged the young ones to take wing and learn some basic maneuvers. We didn’t have our camera at hand and the angles were bad, but from the bedroom window it was a beautiful sight to behold.

On April 13th we posted Bluebirds – Our New Neighbors. At that time, the nesting pair was just checking out the birdhouse and setting up housekeeping. That was just shy of seven weeks ago. The North American Bluebird Society states that: “For bluebirds, incubation typically lasts approximately 12–14 days. After hatching, the chicks will remain in the nest for about 17–21 days.”

Serendipity Farmhouse has watched this event from the beginning. The young ones will soon depart. We will clean out the birdhouse and hope to see the cycle begin again.

I had lunch with three exquisite ladies today. Three generations of grace and loveliness – mother, daughter, and granddaughter. In such a setting there can be no happier man than I!

Weather: Some clearing and some rain. The yard is far too wet to mow. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: Nothing to report.

SFH Journal: 2018-05-27

Highlight: Two things are worthy of note today. First a good friend, who has experience in owning and operating a Class C RV, has offered to help us in our new quest for what we will call “El Camino del Monte”. We greatly appreciate his offer and will consult with him as we move through this labyrinthine process. (See SFH Journal: 2018-05-26 for details.)

DSC_0245The dear, dear friend of my most wonderful spouse has given us a thistle seed bag filled with seed for the local birds to enjoy. As requested, I have hung the bag from a limb of our magnolia tree. We now await the coming of some new flying critter friends

Weather: Hot and sticky. We worked for an hour in the gardens and by the time we finished, we had to clean ourselves up and change clothes. An extended afternoon thunderstorm cooled things off and ended in time to watch lightning bugs. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Our featured photo for today shows the first tomatoes developing on our Husky Red Cherry tomato plant. In June, these little guys will be part of our fresh garden salads.

In the past, Mr. Stripey has been our best producer of tomatoes for salsa andDSC_0249 pasta sauce. He requires great care. Because he is an “indeterminate” variety he will continue to grow until the end of the season, perhaps to 8 – 10 feet tall. As the season progresses, you will see how we have to extend this initial group of stakes to support his size and weight.

DSC_0234Harvest: Previous owners had planted strawberries near the well house. Beautiful spouse found that some were already ripe. She washed them off immediately and gave them to me. They were consumed before a picture could be taken. So, you get to see a picture of the plant with two unripened strawberries. Yes, they tasted great.

SFH Journal: 2018-05-24

Highlight: So much time was spent on chores and yard work, there was no time to take pictures and record highlights for you. However, almost exactly one year ago, we did have an interesting event that’s worth revisiting.

The featured picture shows a female, turtle.

Question: How did I know it was a female?

Answer: This picture caught her in the midst of laying eggs and covering them up. That’s a relatively good indication the turtle was a she.

We were fairly confident she was a snapping turtle. Unfortunately, neither my adorable spouse nor Mr. Monte took my suggestion to offer the laboring lady turtle a morsel of food on their bare finger or paw. It’s really hard to verify a theory when the helping hands are so timid.

After our turtle friend departed, we watched the area very closely for about three months (incubation takes 55 – 95 days depending on geographic location), but we were never able to determine if the eggs hatched and the little snappers made it to safety in the river. Right now we are on the lookout for our turtle friend or one of her young ones to return. It’s not likely to happen, but Mr. Monte is standing sentinel duty in the kitchen window. His dedication to duty is inspiring.

Weather: Finally catching  up with mowing and trimming. I tried to get most of it done early in the day. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: We harvested one asparagus spear. The season is hanging on.

SFH Journal: 2018-05-21

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Highlight: [The following is from Mr. Monte, the official SFH Security Guard.]

One can post as many PRIVATE PROPERTY – NO TRESPASSING signs as they like, some critters just don’t get the message. The young bear on the right side of this photo has already completed his unlawful entry and is now making his escape. See how closely and boldly he approaches our official warning sign.

It’s an outright case of arrogant disregard for the law and private property. If only Old Fuzz Face would let me out, I would make that bear pay for his transgression. I can find no mercy in my heart for blatant law breakers.

Weather:  Clear enough in the morning to mow the part of the lawn that isn’t still under water. There’s much work left to accomplish. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: We didn’t plant the apple trees at SFH, but we certainly know how to enjoy them. As you can see in the picture, the blossoms we showed you in SFH Journal: 2018-04-27 have now turned to small apples.

Harvest: Two more asparagus spears emerged from the rain drenched soil.

SFH Journal: 2018-05-19

DSC_0210 (2)Highlight: This morning, upon determining that the river was not going to overflow its banks, I proceeded to survey the Serendipity Farmhouse grounds for problems or damages. I learned two things. First, one of our poplar trees is now in full bloom.

The second finding, I think, is a very important scientific discovery. Apparently due to the recent week of rains, a mini-burst in evolution has occurred. The yard has been so filled with standing water that our local squirrels have had to develop a capability for flight. Now you might think that we have lost contact with reality due to the rain and cabin fever it induced. However, I have a photograph of one of our squirrel friends in the midst of a low-level flight to a nearby sycamore tree. Here, see for yourself.

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Weather: Rain continued into the morning and tapered off in the afternoon. We had a brief glimpse of a bright orb in the west in the late evening. We are searching through our library and the Internet to ascertain the nature and name of that orb. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: Nothing to report.

Things to Consider Before and After Investing in an Animal

My beautiful wife and I are blessed with eleven wonderful grandchildren. Several of them aspire to be writers. Always wanting to encourage young authors, we at Serendipity Farmhouse have extended an invitation to each to submit something they would want to share with you.

So, without further fanfare, here is the first post from Grandson #1. We hope you like it as much as we do.

Raising animals as livestock may to a bystander seem like a pleasurable, perhaps even romantic experience. Actually, it can be a stressful, time-consuming process, with few positive results…unless done right. It takes experience to succeed in raising domestic animals, and the rookie should certainly make it a priority to learn from those with familiarity on the subject before investing in livestock. I have been around farm animals for over five years now, and am still learning new do’s and don’ts, so by no means would I refer to myself as an expert. However, I know enough to offer the three following pieces of advice, concerning the decisions and preparations to be made prior to and following the acquirement of domestic animals.

#1 Ask Yourself: “Does the Profit Outweigh the Costs?”

Before purchasing any type of animal, be it livestock or a pet, you should first ask yourself: “Is this animal really worth the money and time it will take to care for it?” It’s easy to forget about money and time you will have to spend when you’re only thinking about the advantages to getting the animal. Remember the disadvantages. This may sound like pessimism, but it’s important to remember. Traveling could, for instance, become very difficult if you have a flock of chickens. You won’t be able to invite anyone over to your house with cat allergies if you acquire a feline friend. Think of all the disadvantages, and write down a list. If you can deal with each disadvantage, and if it’s still worth it to get the animal, then you can move onto the next step.

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#2: Before You Get the Animal, Get Prepared

I cannot stress this enough. It doesn’t matter if you think you need a cow to mow down your rapidly growing grass NOW, or if you think you need free-range eggs NOW, or if you need a flock of gorillas to protect yourself from your neighbor’s rampaging crocodiles NOW. These are all good reasons to invest money in some livestock…but if you rush things, and purchase the animals before you’re truly prepared, you aren’t going to get anywhere, and the animals themselves will just be another bullet point on your list of problems.

I will now present a story demonstrating the importance of this rule.

A year or two back, my family invested in two female goats to try to solve the problem of spreading poison ivy (Yes, goats can actually eat poison ivy!). It was a great idea, but unfortunately this process was probably a bit too rushed. When they first arrived, we had no milking stand (the goats had recently been pregnant and needed to be milked for a while), no warm, secure place for the goats to stay during the winter, and most importantly, no knowledge of how to deal with goats.

Great GoatsWe had to milk two crazy goats on a table, since we had no milking stand, which was a three person job—two people held the wild goat steady (one being me), the other milking the goat. We were fortunate enough to have a friend who knew how to milk goats, but even she could barely milk those crazy creatures without the help of a milking stand. P.S. We never got to taste any of the milk…a lot of it ended up on the table, and the ground.

Great Goats-2When we first got the goats, we thought the barn room we prepared would be a perfect place for them to spend nights and rainy days. The goats proved us wrong. We had to prop many heavy objects in front of the door, just to prevent them from butting their way out! Even when we added a small outside pen to the room in an attempt to make them happy, the goats still tried to escape through the cracks in the fence. Once, they did escape, and we thought we’d never hear from them again. However, lucky for us, an animal control guy brought them back, saying that he received a call from a family a mile away from us who found two screaming goats on their deck. Oops.

The goats did help us with our poison ivy problem though, so there was definitely potential. We just weren’t prepared for them. So, when winter came along, since we lacked a warm place for them, we gave them away to our neighbors.

This story is pretty much just a long, roundabout way of saying “Before you get the animal, you need to get prepared.”  Under all circumstances, do not forget this rule.

#3 Care for the Animal on Day #101 as You Did on Day #1

The day in which the majority of people give the most care to their animals is on day one after acquiring them. Then over time, as the days become weeks, and the weeks become months, they begin to overlook the animal a little bit, as they become used to feeding them, cleaning them etc. Don’t let this happen to you. Always remember to care for your animal to the same degree that you cared for it when you first got it. If you let yourself get into habits when dealing with your livestock, you may miss something important, such as the early signs of disease, for example.

Well, those are my three tips. Follow the advice, and I expect you’ll have a good quality experience with whatever animal you bring home.