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Brizzley's Farm News

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Cutting Firewood

Autumn, and it's time to prepare for cutting firewood. It isn't yet time to go out into the woods, there are too many burrs, stick-tights, doodads, and all the other seeds that stick to your socks. After the first heavy, wet snow crushes most of the weeds down to the ground it will be much easier to go through the woods. Before I can start cutting firewood, I have to make sure my tools are ready.

The first thing is to check the chainsaw. I change the sparkplug and sharpen the chain, and itís usually ready to go for the winter. Before starting it again, though, I carefully review a Civil War era text on emergency surgery. A good sharp chainsaw is an ideal tool for emergency appendectomies, the actual surgical procedure requiring less than two seconds. Amputations are also quick and clean using the chainsaw. If the medical profession werenít totally governed by conservative insurance companies we would see more use of the chain saw in surgical procedures.

Next, I sharpen the axe. Many people prefer the axe to the chainsaw for amputations and, if one wants to keep the amputated part as a memento, then the axe is less destructive of the amputated remainder. If the axe is dull, though, it is less superior in this aspect of its surgical use. Sharpening the axe involves lengthy periods of rubbing the edge with a sharpening stone. One should be very careful in the choice of music used to accompany this process. I once used Ravelís Bolero which produced a very sharp edge, but the final flourishes led me to cut the thumb which I was using to hold the stone. I recommend listening to some of the music from the African country of Mali when sharpening an axe.

In the barn, I select the ropes and chains Iíll use, and hang them where they will be ready at hand. If one is a bit rusty on knots, this is a good time to practice a few of the knots that are useful when cutting firewood: the Double Bowline, the Taut Line Hitch, the Timber Hitch, and the Hangmanís Noose, a magical knot which frightens away the guys in black hats.

Finally, Iíll put in each of the tractor and trailer tires a charge of goopy stuff, which plugs holes made by thorns. Both the chainsaw and the axe can put good-sized holes in tires, if that is what you are trying to do. Most of the time, though, I consider a flat tire in the woods during the winter to be a major pain, and try to avoid hitting any tires with the chain saw or axe.

With the tools all ready, it's time to select the place to begin cutting. This year, I'm going to start at a pile of trees bulldozed up along Water Line Alley. Although I'm not going to start cutting, yet, I clear a spot, find some stones, and build a small fire pit. Then I gather up enough kindling and dead wood to make a nice little campfire and stack it up. Now I have someplace ready to make a pot of coffee before I tackle a nasty old hedge tree. Sometimes, it can take quite a bit of coffee to reach the point where starting a chain saw doesn't seem a sacrilege.

Chickens Mature

Golden Sex Links, the name is strange, but the chickens are great. This spring they were cute, perky little chicks. Now they are laying twelve to fifteen eggs every day, a good rate for eighteen hens. A hen will lay one egg a day most days. Over the period of a year a super hen will lay about 300 eggs. Of the eighteen hens, it is quite possible that one or two have never laid an egg in their lives, and should be culled. Determining whether or not a hen is laying can be determined by means of an examination which is a definite insult to the hen's dignity. I don't cull because I just don't want to be the type of person who would treat a nice hen like that, especially not a Golden Sex Link.

Become a Barnyard Reporter: If someone told you that they knew a person with eighteen Golden Sex Links, what would you think they were talking about? Write an unlikely story about the name, "Golden Sex Links," and email it to jlware@ruralnet1.com. ALL submissions will be published, unless they contain language inappropriate for use in a chicken yard.

Ducks Lay Eggs, Move Indoors

Those clever Astrophysical Ducks have been laying eggs, too. Duck eggs mean custard pies, of which my beloved spouse has produced two this fall. The Khaki Campbell ducks in the barn lay chalk white eggs, somewhat translucent, and about the same size as the chicken eggs. Fried duck eggs make very interesting sink stoppers, certain to be a hit as birthday or wedding gifts. Hard-boiled duck eggs can be used for playing an interesting variation of Ping-Pong and soft-boiled duck eggs, sprinkled with wheat germ and topped with molasses and Tabasco, are great for breakfast.

Shortly after they started laying eggs, the ducks began spending nights in the barn. We're putting Betelgeuse, the buck goat, in his stall at night, so he can't charge around in the middle of the night and disturb the ducks' slumber. They found this arrangement to be satisfactory, started spending nights in the barn, and began to leave two eggs each morning. What nice ducks!

You may wonder why chickens and ducks lay eggs at this time of the year, as there certainly isn't any reproductive value to such behavior. Any chick hatched now would certainly expire by February, unless we burned a lot of wood in the barn stove. Somehow, through selective breeding, we have chickens and ducks whose egg production is far, far in excess of what could be used for hatching. In the case of the ducks, selective breeding produced ducks that not only lay eggs in the fall, but also are blues musicians, discuss astrophysics, and do Keystone Kops routines. Modern animal breeding is truly wonderful.

Cats Snooze

The cats, being felines, have mostly been napping. There are only two young ones left: Gobi and Spot, both young tomcats. Spot, who resembles a Holstein more than a Dalmatian, is fat and clumsy. Twice I have seen Spot fall out of the big tree in Fort Pedroja, once landing not on his feet but flat on his back. Spot is plump enough that he makes a good satisfying "PLOP" when he lands but, so far, has walked away uninjured from his falls.

Are Mercy and Trixie Pregnant?

This is the time of the year when we look carefully at the does and wonder if theyíre pregnant. Gestation for goats is five months. Usually, breeding occurs in September or October, and baby goats appear then in February or March. Breeding season seems to be initiated by shorter days and colder weather. This year weíve had shorter days, but the weather has remained warm. When breeding, goats are entirely too rowdy for hot weather. Their mating behavior generally includes running around the pasture until they are panting and their tongues hang out. What this has to do with producing baby goats, I donít know, but the goats seem to think that itís an important part of the process.

With the warm weather this fall, the goats have never really acted out all their normal breeding season routines. There was quite a bit of running around, but I have not yet seen mating happen. The goats arenít particularly modest, but I havenít been spending all my time watching them, either. If they are waiting for cold weather, then we might not have baby goats until April.

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