The bumps in the road-
I sometimes think half my life is spent delivering one form or another of "sorry this is late, but..."
After that last post, I was intending to zoom off and write the brilliant story of the guineas, so far- and, as happens so consistently around here, zoomed instead into a bump in my road; requiring me to spend all my energy elsewhere for several days.
The biggest problem with bumps, for me, is that they put you behinder than you were, on your previous plans. More catch-up to play. I have to keep raising the limit on my National Chores Debt- but what the hay, if an extra trillion here and there doesn't bother Congress, I should be able to do it too, right?
At the moment, I'm chasing the urgent chores that desperately needed to be done 4 days ago, and alas, writing about the guineas isn't right up at the top of the hyper-urgent list.
So although I'd rather write this as one piece, I guess we'll do it in short chunks, as I can get it done. Here's the first bit of the Guinea Saga; A Post-Peak Parable-
Building the Chicken Dungeon (otherwise known as the part-earth sheltered, part sod, poultry house) has been taking a loooong time. As good solid permanent structures are apt to. Meanwhile- the year progresses, and the ticks do not abate- so we ordered the guinea keets anyway. Maybe, we thought, that will make us build the Chicken Dungeon faster.
See, now I need to explain why we're calling a guinea housing facility a Chicken Dungeon.
Adding guineas to our operation here is not a whim, nor a single -purpose project. Yes, we need to do something about the tick explosion. (The geese, incidentally, didn't stick- they both appear to have been "homing geese" - and when they got the opportunity; they went home. Someplace else.) But; far far beyond the ticks; we really need to have animals- of a variety of kinds, become a part of our crop operations. We have bugs that need to be eaten- in the apples and other crops; and we have way way too much grass- which we cannot afford to just mow forever. The guineas are intended to be the start of all that- chosen because they are more able than most to take care of themselves; and they have the reputation of being excellent "watchdogs" - alerting everything else on the farm to the presence of predators; four-legged, two-legged, or winged. And they eat ticks, and weevils, of course.
We quickly discovered, though, that our real farmer neighbors do not take guineas seriously. Many have a few- as pets, for amusement. The idea that we're contemplating a future with maybe 300- 500 guineas on the place- just freaks them out too much. But somehow, the fact that we're building a sod poultry house- is mildly amusing, but not as threatening. And, we do intend to add chickens- as foster parents for the guineas, at least- pretty soon, so it's not a prevarication, much.
Back to the guineas. The keets (chicks) are cute little devils. They came in the mail; 33 of them; and at 2 days old, were avidly chasing the laser spot from the infrared thermometer we used to make sure they were at the right temperature- a hopeful sign for our fantasies about them becoming real tick controllers. Somehow this video came out soundless; they peep, at this stage, just like chickens.
They are closer to wild than chickens, though they were kept as domestic fowl by the ancient Egyptians. Which means, among other things; they fly; strongly. And, it turns out; very very soon. We discovered (no, the web information did not really point this out!) that guinea keets grow full wing feathers, and start flying, at the ripe old age of 3 weeks. Which meant they really needed to get out of their brooder box- now. And the Chicken Dungeon was far from ready.
Ah- temporary construction.
Basic advice- don't ever, ever, ever build something temporary. For one thing, you're wasting resources and time that should go into the real, permanent solution for your need. For another- the overwhelming tendency is for temporary structures to slide, sneak, and lapse into permanency. Because they're "good enough"- at the moment- and something else is now more urgent. So you are stuck with what is an admittedly inferior, inadequate structure- for all eternity. Temporary structures never die- you just add wire, and duct tape.
Knowing that fully, I set out to build a temporary guinea pen. It was a matter of life or death for the guineas, literally, and here I was on the farm, all alone- Spice off gallivanting- allein, und abgetrennt, von aller freude. (holy smokes, my spell checker speaks German, I had no idea.) Anyway- I was stuck; no choice; temporary is necessary in this case, and I hate it.
The bloody thing consumed about 4 days of my life, and should have taken about 4 hours. First I had to clear some ground for it- and the mower wouldn't start. So I had to fix the mower. Then I went in to town and bought chicken wire- only to have Bruce present me with a big weasel the next morning (not an Ermine, as I first thought, but a Long-Tailed weasel; a significantly more powerful predator, but still slender enough to maybe just walk through the mesh in chicken wire). So- back to town- a different town, a farther town with a bigger farm store... which still did not have the "right" wire...
Another reason not to build this way; if I hadn't been under such pressure to build something now, I could have ordered the right wire, through my nearby store. Now I'm stuck forever with 50' of half inch/half inch hardware cloth that is not, and will never be, exactly what we need.
Then spend a morning gathering the steel T posts (pulling old ones by hand, buried in sod...) then an hour searching for the post driver- which is missing in action... All of this in deep Equatorial African Jungle sweat conditions; hot, windless (all these damn trees I planted cut all the wind) and 290% humidity; blink, and you sweat- and the sweat drips onto and over and fogs your glasses- incessantly. Drive a post in that, please. Wrangle tightly wrapped 4' wide x 50' long rolls of wire onto the posts, and stretch it, alone... then chicken wire over the top, so the little bastards can't just fly out and turn into Instant Owl Chow-
Heroic work, I assure you.
Finally, the bloody thing is functional- I hope. Time to put birds in. At this point, we have, I think, 28 keets, after a few "failed to thrive" and passed on. They need, really need to be out of the brooder, but- does the new pen really work? Will it be safe? Will it actually keep the birds in? Don't put all your eggs in one basket, right?
So I moved 10, I thought- and put them into the pen. Except, when I let them out of the transfer box- there were actually 11. You cannot count more than 10 guineas while they're moving around, I guarantee; impossible to be sure if you've counted that one, or that one- or twice. Just counting 10 usually requires 4 tries, to be sure. And when you're stuffing them into a little box, some of them squirm back out again. (Once in, and the box is closed, they're actually very quiet and comfy.)
Sure enough- there was one little place where the wire didn't sit right tight on the ground- and one of the keets immediately ducked under the fence- and was out. Who knew they were half mouse? It doesn't mention this anywhere in the references I could find. Immediately- zip- up in the apple tree, way up in the top (my apple trees are not dwarfed). No way I'm getting that bird back. Sigh. This is why you start with 30ish- they're not all going to make it, no matter what.
Tune in tomorrow (I hope) - for the next episode- it gets more exciting, I guarantee-