Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mystery #1

About 10 days ago, my daughter and I noticed that one of her big, light brahma chickens, was missing her tail feathers. Every one was gone, like something had pulled them out. She was also acting very nervous and was very hard to catch. Not like herself at all. It was all really strange and, in the end, we chalked it up to maybe the hen was having a spring molt.

Mystery #2

This past Monday morning, I let our dogs out the front door and noticed what I thought was a white plastic bag laying in our front pond, about 4 feet out from the bank. The more I looked, the more I realized that it was not a bag, that it was, in fact, one of our Pekin ducks. I quickly waded into the pond and saw that she was still alive, but barely. I wrapped her in a towel and got her up on the porch. The feathers had been torn out from her back, she was barely breathing, and she was obviously in bad shape. Long story short, I ended up having to put her down. It was a shitty experience that I have no desire to ever repeat, and for the love of us we could not figure out just what the hell had happened to her.

The Answer to Our Questions

Friday, Pookie and I rode the Harley down to Wilmington. The day was beautiful, and after pretty much two weeks of mostly rain, it felt good to be out in the sun and "in the wind". While we were gone, our daughter let the chickens/guineas out for their usual roam in the yard. We got home, and as we were getting off the bike, my husband's phone rang. It was our neighbor telling us that a large dog had gotten hold of one of our chickens and carried it into his yard. We were very fortunate that he managed to wrestle the hen out of the dogs mouth. It was one of my black australorps, Ella (aka "Crazy Eye"). She was alive, had a chunk of feathers missing from her back, and her skin was torn in two places. We carried her back to our yard, only to see the very dog that had hurt her splashing around in our pond, very interested in our remaining 3 ducks. He ended up running from our yard, our daughter in hot pursuit. In the end: #1 - we got close enough to see that he had on a collar with no tags. #2 - no one in the neighborhood knew who he belonged to, but they had been seeing him on and off for about a week and a half. And, #3 - the last we saw of him he was heading down the street.

So, today my husband and I went over to Tractor Supply and bought a gate for the driveway. Then when we got it home, my awesome, amazing husband hung it for me, even though he absolutely hates the idea of having one to open and close whenever he leaves or comes home. This fact makes me love him even more.

P.S. As I type this, Crazy Eye is recuperating out in the feed room. Two times a day I clean her wounds with peroxide, then I slather on antibiotic ointment. She is eating and drinking and we are cautiously optimistic about her recovery. The rest of the flock are out happily pecking around our fenced in 4 acres. Complete with a gate.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

All Creatures Great and Small

Blue Herons are beautiful creatures.

Thanks to our ponds we have an abundance of waterfowl that visit us on a daily basis, and since living here we have had the privilege of seeing more Blue Herons than most people will ever see in a lifetime.

Things that I have learned about the Blue Heron:

Blue Herons are large birds. I'm talking HUGE. When they are full grown, they can reach 4 1/2 feet tall and have a wingspan of 6 feet 6 inches - that's as tall as Pookie!

Blue Herons have long, sharp bills which have been described as both 'impressive dagger-like', and 'sharp blade-like'.

Blue Herons are very patient. They stand very quietly at the edge of our pond, almost blending in with the grass and bank, just waiting for the perfect opportunity, the perfect snack, to swim by. Then, in a flash, they strike with that long, sharp bill and voila! Supper. Then they slowly, slowly, move a few feet down to their next fishing spot. This activity can last for hours.

I have seen Blue Herons at our front pond just before dawn, so herons are early risers too. There is something almost unearthly about seeing a Great Blue standing quietly there in the mist, just as the sun is trying to sneak up on the East'ard side of the Island. Always gives me goosebumps.

This morning I discovered that Blue Herons can also be vicious.

I had been over to the coop to let the chickens out. I had gathered their waterers and was over by the hose filling them, when I heard a racket coming from across the pond. I looked over and saw two herons, one on top of the other. I initially thought, "Well, hey! It's almost Spring". Then I saw the larger one, which was on the back of the smaller one, draw back that terrible, great bill and strike the much smaller one in the head. I immediately dropped the hose and ran around the pond waving my arms and screaming like a wild woman. I think I yelled "Hey! Stop it!" or some other useless phrase that I'm sure the heron could have given two shits less about. Anyway, I guess the combination of my yelling/arm waving/morning bed-head hair was enough to scare him and he stopped his attack and flew away. The smaller heron was obviously hurt and unable to stand. I went inside and got Pookie, and a blanket, and we walked back over to where it lay. After much discussion, we decided that maybe it was stunned and would recover in a bit. I would keep check on it, and if it didn't come around, I would call the wildlife center and carry it over to them, bundled up in a blanket in the back of the Jeep.

I am sad to write, that less than 30 minutes after the attack, it passed away.

Meanwhile, the ducks are off the hook with their obsession of furthering the flock, the trees are just starting to show buds, my Hillbilly Tomato seeds should be arriving by mail any day now, and I saw daffodils blooming in a yard on my way home from work yesterday. Spring is indeed in the air...and I have a Blue Heron to bury.

~Sue Sue

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Those Damn Guineas

The other day, there was a huge Blue Heron sitting on the roof of our house. He was watching our guineas as they walked down our driveway. I'm pretty sure he was trying to figure out what they were and why they were so noisy. Good luck with that.

Speaking of noisy, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure (?) of hearing the sound guineas make, it's a combination of a screech mixed in with what sounds like the words "buck wheat". Throw in some clicking noises for good measure, and you pretty much have it.

Every morning we let the chickens and guineas out of the coop and into the run. The guineas promptly fly out (which is what they are suppose to do). Unfortunately they entice the chickens to fly out too. Then they take them on, what we call, "a walk-about". I have a feeling that our neighbors call it something else. We finally had to clip the chicken's wings. Guineas are trouble makers.

We have that one guinea. She is louder and more obnoxious than the rest. I looked at her the other day and realized that she looks just like Phyllis Diller. Sometimes they just name themselves.

Out of our 6 guineas, we ended up with 5 females and 1 male, which we named Wallace J. Guinea-keet. Wally for short. He is the only male in the hen house. The other day I happened upon an article online about how guineas and chickens can mate. Their offspring are called "Guin-Hens". If you want to see ugly, google that.

Pookie and I were outside watching the flock the other day. We had let them out of the run and they were all having a large time walking around the yard. Something spooked one of the guineas, and mass pandamonium ensued. Pookie looked at me and said "I wish we had never gotten those damn guineas. They are a mess!" I said "I know. Aren't they great?!"

~Sue Sue

Thursday, October 6, 2016


As I type this, it looks like the coast of North Carolina is going to be spared from most of the effects of hurricane Matthew. The entire Crystal Coast has taken a collective sigh of relief.

However, that doesn't mean that we, here at Dingbatters Roost, aren't still taking some precautions.

My youngest daughter and I headed over to Tractor Supply yesterday on a feed run. It doesn't hurt to stock up a little on the essentials just in case, you know, like chicken and duck feed and cracked corn. Oh! And bird seed - the chickens and guineas love wild bird seed, and we give them a handful of it as a treat every couple of days.

The inside animals, Old Dog (who turned 17 this month!) and Poodle, Big Kitty and White Cat, also have plenty of food/treats/kitty litter to last for a good while.

Later today we will go outside and make sure anything that can blow about is either tied down or brought inside. They are calling for 35 - 40 mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph to blow in here Saturday night into Sunday. Rain is a given with possible totals of at least 5 inches - probably more.

We had an incident with the tropical storm/tornado that came through here in September and took the roof off the duck house, so the ducks will be going into the feed room section of the chicken coop Saturday evening where they should be tons safer. They won't be very happy about being stuffed into a dog carrier one by one and carried out there, but they will just have to deal with it.

Laundry is pretty much caught up and the generator has been tested and gas cans filled. So has the tank on the Jeep and the propane tank for the house. We have also made sure we have plenty of matches to light our inside stove with if we loose power. The generator will be used for the freezer and fridge and one small TV.

The garden is just about finished for the season so we are not too concerned with it. We are still getting some green peppers, hot peppers, and okra though, and I cut whatever I could and brought it inside yesterday. On the herbal front, I harvested some oregano from the garden and have it in the dehydrator now, and I really need to cut a bunch more of the basil and catnip before Saturday. I also have a bowl of dandelion root that needs to go on the dehydrator in the next day or two.

There is wine, beer and O.J. in the fridge, tequila in the cabinet and plenty of food in the pantry. Toilet paper is also in supply, so we got both ends covered, so to speak.

I would say we are as prepared as we can be.

So stay safe out there. If you are told to evacuate, do it. And as always: PREPARE FOR THE WORSE, HOPE FOR THE BEST.

And don't forget the toilet paper!

~Sue Sue

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Old Tin Cup

When I was growing up, my Granddad lived in an big old house on the side of a mountain, in the very small town of Piedmont, West Virginia. In his kitchen was a big, old fashioned cast iron sink, and on that sink sat a tin cup.

Water never tasted better or colder than when we drank it out of that old tin cup, and whenever my cousins or I visited, it was the first thing we would do.

Even to this day, I can close my eyes and still see my Granddad standing there by that sink after his shift at the mill, drinking "good ole mountain water" from that cup.

Many years later, when my Granddad passed away (at the age of 103!), my Dad got the old cup and brought it home. Eventually, he gave it to me. It has sat on the windowsill above the sink of every house I have ever lived in since I have had it.

It isn't worth much, it's rusted a bit inside and worn, but that old tin cup is listed in my will, and will be passed down to my eldest child, eventually.

I hope that she will cherish it as much as I have.

~Sue Sue

Monday, July 18, 2016

Summertime, and the Living is... HOT!

It's been hotter than the proverbial "Forty Hells" here. The humidity is off the charts and what little breeze we have feels more like a blast furnace coming off the water. The three H's (Hazy, Hot, and Humid) have hit with a vengeance and keeping the garden watered has become both a blessing and a curse.

This past Friday, it was 110 degrees out in the chicken house, even with the windows and run door opened. Luckily, I had a little fan for the coop and kept that running. It helped some. Yes, people, summer has indeed hit Eastern NC, and it's done so in a big way.

Speaking of hot chickens, earlier today, I headed up to our Dollar General and bought a $4.00 kitty litter box (extra points 'cause it was cheap and purple). When I got home I filled it half with sand, and half with wood ashes from our recent brush pile burning. Then I put it out in the chicken run, closed the gate, sat down in the shade and waited. The guineas figured it out first, which I admit was kind of surprising since they don't seem like the sharpest fowl in the barnyard. They had a large time in their first real dust bath. The chickens still haven't figured it out.

(Aren't our daughter's Light Brahma chickens beautiful?!)

Yesterday afternoon we had great excitement in the duck house. When I opened the back to clean it out, there were two eggs inside, the larger one a double yolker.  By the shenanigans in the pond, I would say they were most probably fertile. Speaking of which, we ended up with 4 drakes and 2 females.

As far as the herbal harvest goes: chamomile is doing great and I have been working at drying it along with some beautiful catnip that seems to be loving the heat. The basil is gorgeous and is just starting to want to bloom. Everything else looks really good and we have quite a collection of jars slowly filling up on top of our pie safe.

Meanwhile, out in the garden, full grown cucumbers just appear overnight.

For the past two nights, we have had a critter over at our side pond. I know this because at night when I take the pups out I shine the flashlight around (I'm nosey that way). Judging from the eye shine, if I had to make a guess, I would say it was probably a rather large raccoon. Most likely one that really likes corn and sunflowers, since something ate most of both from our back garden last month.

All this month my eldest Granddaughter has been here on the island with us. She has been a joy to have around and we are really going to hate to see her go home next weekend. She and my youngest daughter have been having a blast trying to "Catch 'em all" (Pokemon reference there). We also had our two youngest Granddaughters here for the last two weeks of June. They are ages 7 and 5, in a big way. They were so helpful with the chickens and ducks, and in the garden. Things sure got quiet when we took them back home.

So, as July slowly and surely leaves us for another year, and I try to come up with suppers in the evening that don't heat the inside of the house to the temperature of the outside, we know we have at least one thing to look forward to: August in Carolina is always hotter than July.

Forget Pokemon - I think I gotta catch me a pool!

~Sue Sue

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Spring Has Sprung

This morning Pookie was up at the crack of dawn (as usual) and got an early start on cutting the grass on our 4 1/4 acres. I got up a bit later at the crack of mid-morning and made my way outside to hang for a while.

After he was finished, we took a stroll around the property to see how things were going. He showed me a ton of wild blackberries, figs on our newly planted fig tree, and the new growth on two of my elderberries, both of which I thought had died. The ancient pear tree on the back of our property has even stepped up this year and has a ton of pears on it. The thornless blackberry bush that he and my youngest gave me for Mother's Day has berries too.

Next we headed to the "corn field", which is in fact 5 rows of bi-color corn that our daughter requested we plant. The corn is up about 5 inches which is amazing since the ground here is mostly sand (we do live on an island) and straw from the duck house. The sunflowers that I planted along the edge are getting flower heads too, which I'm sure the chickens that are coming in about another week and a half will surely love as much as we will.

Out to the side, the kitchen garden beds that Pookie built us are coming along. We already have some baby squash, tomatoes, and sweet peas. The onions are finally starting to look like onions and not marbles, and the potato's in the potato box look pretty good. Most of the herbs that I planted in pots out there have come up, except for the Rosemary. Rosemary is being a stubborn lady for me and it looks like I will have to end up getting some plants to fill in the pot. Take that Rosemary.

As for our ducks, they are big, and beautiful, and a joy to watch. They are still in their pen that Pookie made for them that has access to a small corner of the front pond. I know that it is getting time to turn them loose so they can have the run of the property, but I have become so protective of them that I'm scared to turn them out. Hopefully they will be smart enough to return to their duck house in the evening so that I can tuck them in for the night (LOL).

The one year anniversary of when we moved to our new place here is coming up in August, and it will mark the first full year of trying our hand at becoming more self sufficient. We have made great strides so far with the duck enclosure, chicken coop (which is about finished), kitchen garden beds, some fruit trees and berry bushes. Pookie also has his garage in place so the motorcycle has finally come home from storage (YES!). Every day I thank the good Lord for letting us find this unique property smack dab in the middle of the Island.

My biggest tip for others out there that may be thinking about trying their hand at the whole "becoming more self sufficient" thing: READ. There is a ton of information out there, on the internet as well as in books. You may just discover how truly satisfying getting back to the old, healthy way of doing things really is.