Saturday, February 12, 2011

Of Chickens & Catnip...

Bella has become a new mommy to three beautiful baby chicks - Truffle, Stripes and Blackie!  The tiny fluff balls are so precious, with their quick movements and their bright beady eyes.  Bella had decided to sit on one egg only, and despite my efforts to discourage her, as she was sitting in a very popular egg laying bay (in fact I think she probably hijacked her egg from another hen!), she insisted.  I snuck 5 more eggs under her, fearing for my fingers as she wildly pecked at me.  Of those original six, only 3 hatched.  It took her about 24 hours to decide to leave the nest to take her chicks for their first walk.

Bella with Stripes, Blackie and Truffle

As there are many birds of prey in our area, the race was on to coax the babies into the 'mothering cage' as we call it - a safe haven for the growing chicks and their mom.  Ernest managed to grab two chicks and I managed to grab one and we made our way hurriedly to the cage with Bella frantically fluffing herself up to three times her size and attacking our gumboots - what an amazing mother!  All were soon safely in their new temporary home, although it took Bella rather a long time to stop complaining to all and sundry about what her humans were doing.

We have unfortunately lost one of our beautiful teenagers to a mongoose or a genet - I forgot to close the chicken coop one night, and the next morning a trail of feathers belied the night's tragedy.  Part and parcel of smallholding living, but never a situation I could get used to.

Our little nursery is growing, and the plants are thriving under the new shadecloth.  We are still not finished laying the shadecloth, but this is sure to be done in the new couple of weeks.  To anybody who doubts the power that catnip has over cats I share this anecdote:

Mary cat in her dreamlike state next to the Catnip

I have probably around 350 plants in my nursery, all differents kinds, but I only have 3 small catnip plants.  One very hot afternoon, as I was watering my plants, I caught sight of Mary cat, ecstatically rolling right next to these 3 small plants - she stayed there for some time with a dreamy look in her eye!  This herb is also a carminative herb for humans, so a cup of catnip tea will be just the thing for stressed out executives.  Easily grown, with a white flower (catmint has beautiful lilac flowers and cats do also enjoy it, but is not the medicinal kind.)

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