Monday, November 28, 2016


I took Ginger to the vet the other day to confirm what I had been told, which is that she was spayed. It appears that I was misinformed, possibly so that I would take her off the previous owner's hands. So now I am stuck with a $200+ surgery that I have to pay for in order to get her spayed to prevent any risk of her getting uterine cancer. The surgery will have to wait, however, because the vet also informed me of something I already suspected - that she is overweight and by about two pounds - and needs to lose some of the weight before she can have the surgery.

The reason I wanted to confirm Ginger's spay in the first place was because we recently added another member to the Unfarm - an energetic young male rabbit found as a stray who had only just been neutered - and I didn't want to risk introducing them if there was any possibility that Ginger was not spayed and could therefore still get pregnant as males remain fertile for up to a month after surgery. The last thing we need on the Unfarm is twenty some rabbits hopping around. 

Sprout, as we named our new addition, seems to have potential as a possible mate for Ginger - he is easy going, adventurous, and friendly. Ginger, on the other hand, has been something of a lone wolf or several years now and may not think of the addition of another rabbit as a good thing. She is territorial to say the least. I have tried bonding her several times over the years without much success. And by "much" I mean "any." I would love for her to bond but I am beginning to grow discouraged. Sprout will sit beside Ginger's cage during his time out of his house and wait for her to groom him. Ginger, for her part, will sit beside Sprout and try to bite him through the cage bars. It isn't looking good so far. My only hope at this point is that somehow spaying Ginger will reduce her propensity for territorial behavior. Should I try to bond them I will keep you posted as to how it goes. Or doesn't go. 

By the way, Lucy is still daily to be found in the little coop when bedtime rolls around. We still have not figured out why she is choosing to sleep there. We take her out of the little coop and put her into the regular coop each evening so that she doesn't get too cold by herself. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The mice of the Unfarm: a recap, and whether or not decorating is my calling

We have had several mice here on the Unfarm going, in chronological order, from Bernadette to Caroline, then Daphne, and then Evangeline, Francine, Gemima, and (since it was bugging me that I had missed the "a") Angela. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Gemima appeared to be losing weight so I made an appointment with the vet for her. It was quite timely because the morning of the vet appointment Gemima was sitting in her cage, hunched and moving very little with a discharge coming from her nose. I had her in the backseat of the car and was ready to leave for the vet's office when I got a phone call from them. An emergency case had just come in and the vet had rushed into emergency surgery with a ferret with a life threatening condition and as a result Gemima's appointment got bumped. Now I faced a dilemma: wait it out with Gemima at home and hope she pulled through until the vet could see her or take her in to the vet's office anyway and leave her there for the vet to check once he got out of surgery. I chose the latter. The next morning I got the call that she had unfortunately passed away sometime during the night, probably due to a failure of some sort in some internal organ. So my little quartet became a trio: Angela, Evangeline, and Francine are left still and are, for the most part, doing well. (Evangeline has a bit of a respiratory illness that she is not quite suppressing as well as she should but it is nothing that requires medication as of yet. Fingers crossed that she beats it on her own.)

Switching gears: apparently I am a horrible decorator. As soon as I set a litter box down in the rabbit cages the rabbits start tossing them about, moving them from one side of the cage to the other. Ginger was quite fond of tossing her litter box off the second floor of her cage and scattering her litter, box, and bunny berries all over the floor until I thwarted her by keeping her box on the first floor of her cage. Dog beds and blankets neatly laid out get scrunched and rearranged and dragged down the hallway until the dogs are satisfied with the new arrangement. The chickens and ducks are not much better - the chickens scratch about in their straw convinced that there is invisible food buried somewhere in the coop until they have made a proper mess and Minna is fond of pulling up any loose material around her to create little nests. I am no more successful with the mice. I cleaned their cage the other day and put in more bedding than I usually do - too much, as it turns out. I saw Francine at the cage bars yesterday, busily pushing bedding out of the cage between the bars and onto the table below. Maybe the feng shui was off somehow. Or maybe the cage wasn't "open concept" enough anymore. Or maybe I simply am a horrible decorator.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Banana bread, and why Scout doesn't like it

Banana bread

The original recipe was found in the Pillsbury complete cook book and included 1/2 cup chopped nuts that I usually leave out.

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
2 medium bananas, ripe (if frozen, let thaw)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9x5 or 8x4 inch loaf pan. Mix sugar and margarine in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the bananas, milk and vanilla and blend well. In a smaller bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt and stir well. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened, then pour into your greased loaf pan. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator.

Our freezer is full of, among other things, a large collection of over ripe bananas. No longer suitable for eating plain they get tossed into the freezer until someone - usually me - decides to thin them out by making a batch or two (or three or four) of banana bread. That was the case a few days ago when I managed to fit a triple batch of banana bread into our mixer - just barely - and made up three loaves of banana bread that I left to cool on the counter. Naturally I took precautions - I pulled out the bread boards effectively pushing the banana bread to the back of the counter where Scout can't reach it. Unfortunately, Scout figured out that he could push the bread boards back in. Now we practice basic math: if you made three loaves of banana bread and you only see two sitting on the counter, how many loaves did your mischievious dog make off with? 

Yep, Scout got a whole loaf of banana bread and had eaten at least a third of it before he was caught red handed, and he had slobbered all over the rest of it so the whole loaf was ruined. It wasn't a total loss though - the chickens had a field day with the other half of the loaf. I have yet to discover who might be the mastermind of these kitchen raids - the chickens benefit nearly as often as Scout does. Whoever was behind it, the plan backfired for Scout. It seems that a large portion of banana bread consumed all at once does not do the digestive system any favors as Scout was gassy for days afterwards. The next day he was offered a small piece of banana bread as a treat but would not touch it, having apparently grown sick of it. But as Scout is a slow learner I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before the process repeats itself with some other treat from the kitchen - he has already gotten a third of a jar of peanut butter a couple of months ago. Until then we can at least pretend that he is a good boy. Right?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pillow fight and a mystery

The chicken coop is a mess of late. There is the usual straw and chicken poop but in addition to that there is an abundance of feathers. It looks like the ladies had a rowdy slumber party complete with a pillow fight one night. I think all five of the chickens are molting simultaneously which results in a coop full of feathers and a bunch of rather pathetic looking chickens wandering around the backyard. Gretchen has lost his beautiful tail feathers and the hens are in various states of nakedness. Lucy is by far the worst off, looking something closer to a hedgehog than a chicken, with all her old feathers fallen out and her new ones growing in still. 

In addition to being challenged in the plumage department, Lucy has recently developed a mysterious new habit. She has taken sleeping in the Little Coop - the name we gave the second coop we made in case it was needed when raising new chicks. Normally all the chickens sleep in the regular coop - Villa di L'uccelli or [very] roughly translated: house of the birds - also known as the armored coop because something around 150 bolts were used in its construction and it was designed to be impervious to raccoons and other predators. The Little Coop is not nearly so fortified and has never found favor with any of the chickens until now. 

Every evening when the coop is closed up for the night we do a head count just to make sure everyone is in for the night and of late Lucy is always missing and can be found in the Little Coop all by herself. We don't know if she has grown tired of the company of the other ladies and Gretchen or if she simply finds herself out in the yard after dark and heads for the nearest coop or if she has some other mysterious reason for wanting to branch out on her own and go solo. So now every evening we have to fish Lucy out of the Little Coop and put her in the armored coop with the rest of the ladies because until we know otherwise, that is the safest place for her - safe from predators and safe from getting too cold without the other ladies to huddle up next to should the temperature drop.