Thursday, November 21, 2013


We've had this habit that we'll miss this coming winter.  I cook in the kitchen, I can set Ingrid by the door, and open up it up so only the glass/screen door is between Ingrid and the little kittens.  When she is there, they come running over, and they stare at each other and take turns hitting the glass, and I get a chance to cook without a baby underfoot.  They can entertain each other for quite some time.

The kittens are getting bigger, and steal into the garage any time they can.  Add to them the 5 adult cats, and there's beginning to be a few underfoot.  When we got them, we made the house's old summer kitchen into a cat house where they could hunt for mice near the house.  After a few weeks of seeing at least one of them at all times munching on mice guts (ew!) they seem to have found and eaten all of the mice near the house and have started to get curious about other things.  This hasn't been a big problem, but Knut gets annoyed at them from time to time being underfoot.  They've started venturing out to the grain bins to hunt, which is good because there's mice galore for them out there.

We've also decided to move 3 of the adult cats from the summer kitchen to the barn to live.  Silje set up a little bed for them, and their food and water dishes.  She said they were so excited to be down there, they couldn't even stay in her arms long.  We'll have them clean that place out next, and have less cats roaming around the house.  This is so much better than 2 years ago when I found where mice had nested little pellets of poison in the kids' toy boxes in the house.  With our grain bins near the house, we attract mice from miles around, and previously always controlled them with poison, as traps were never enough.  When the mice brought the poison in the house, though...I hit the roof in frustration.  That's when the cat discussion started, and at this point, I don't regret it at all.

They are quite social, which I like.  Knut and I are not cat all.  For me, I've never met a cat that liked me before, and all of these besides 1 likes me, so I'm feeling pretty good.  They all live outside or in the out buildings, but they come running for some attention when we go outside.  That bugs Knut.  It delights each of the kids, and they each have their favorites.  We just need one to wiggle into his heart.

Silje and I have also started plotting out our big vegetable garden move for next year.  Knut wanted us to plot out the French style beds, that will suit our desire to try out companion gardening next year.  In fact, I've been talking about the idea of planting in patches as weed control for years, but it wasn't until I got a book on companion gardening that Knut realized it was actually a decent method.

We've been talking about doing this for awhile, and we don't have much time left before the snow begins to fly.  This autumn, the plan is for Silje and I to plot it out with sticks and string, and Knut will fill up those areas with compost for the winter.  This coming spring, Knut will till up the beds, and we'll have to fence them off somehow from the chickens.  We're planning 6 beds right now: 5 vegetable beds and 1 just cutting-flower bed, though Knut is trying to convince me to do 5 vegetable beds and 3 cutting flower bed.  I think he just really hates mowing.

Right now the plan is for the beds to be 4 feet wide, 10 feet long, and 3 feet in between each bed as a walkway.  In the future, we may get "hoops" (which are like mini greenhouse-like contraptions) to extend our growing season into the colder months, which is another benefit of this style of gardening.

I've been pleasantly surprised with our addition of Missy and the cats to our yard this year, that all the animals get along so nicely.  With our 9 chickens, a handful of them are laying and we've been gathering 4 eggs a day finally.  Our capacity is really around 20 chickens, and that produces more than enough for our family, and enough to sell to pay for the feed, making our eggs virtually free.

We decided to wait to add more chickens until after the New Year.  These 2 birds above were Silje's show chickens this last year at the county fair, and she got a red ribbon because they were not fully mature by fair time.  So this next year we'll have to buy our chicks in the winter and raise them in the old basement until it's warm enough for them to go outside.  We won't have a lot of room for that, but we'll get enough to round out our flock to the right number.  When I look back this year, to how many chickens we've lost to predators, it's crazy.  We lost our flock that was in the teens all in one fateful night, and then we bought 20 new chicks and started growing them, and that number went down to 7 due to predator attacks.  So we've lost close to 30 chickens.  Then a friend gave us 2 of her hens that she had as overflow, which brought us back up to 9.

Do you know how many chickens we've lost to predators since we got Missy, our Great Pyrenees?


That's a lovely number to write.  I could write pages and pages on all the cool things that dog does.  I told Knut that had we been the ones to name her, we would have named her "Nanny" from Peter Pan, because she keeps a close eye on all things outside: chickens, cats, kids.

I once told Elias and Solveig to stay away from the faucet outside because it was too cold to play in the water.  After I told them the second time, Missy just walked over and blocked their path to the faucet, and she stayed there until they came inside.  She doesn't nip or bite anything.  She just uses her hugeness to block paths she thinks are wrong, and she does it so instinctively, it's crazy.

Then there's all the noises at the grain bins that are typical for harvest.  The grain dryer was running hard, and was noisy.  I'd walk back there sometimes to bring Knut his lunch, but Missy didn't like me walking into that area as she felt it was too dangerous for me, so she kept trying to herd me back to the house by gently standing in front of me and leaning in the direction she thought I should go.  I kept having to go around her.  

She doesn't bug the cats at all, either.  They'll come up and try to swat her nose.  She just sits down cooly as if to say, "did I just feel a breeze?"  I love it.


emi love said...

I've been thinking about getting a Pyr in the future as a livestock guardian too. Does yours live outside? If so what's the set-up like for an outdoor dog? Did you purchase him/her trained as an adult or raise as a puppy? Curious. :) Am glad to hear that he/she has been minding chickens and children.

Gretchen R said...

Yes, she lives outside. We have an inside dog who is a black lab/German shepherd mix, but she's scared of everything and is more of a "pet" than our Pyr. We got her when she was 3, as she was in need of a new home, so it was much less expensive as this breed typically is. You *can* train them, but it's really hard as they are really stubborn, and in all reality, they don't need much training as their instincts are so strong, and they'll normally follow that anyway. The major training that we do with her is to stay off of roads, and we use a shock collar for her on that, though if she feels it necessary, she'll blow through that too, even at full power with extenders for her long fur. We've seen her.

She has a doghouse, but only slept in there when she injured her knee. Otherwise she likes to sleep outdoors 100% of the time because the breed is obsessed with being able to see as many directions at the same time. In our case, she likes to sleep on the porch where she can see inside to our kitchen and keep an eye on us humans, and she can see the 3 exposed sides of our yard (the 4th side is thick with woods), and she can see the chicken coop and barn, and entrance to our driveway. They like to be in the know. That sort of thing isn't trained. It's just their character.

elizabeth said...

what a wonderful blessing of a dog! so glad!

Mom said...

Great post! It'll be fun to see the garden beds next summer. Hopefully weeding will be easier as well.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! I love learning about your family and farm. So glad things are going well this fall for you.