30 July 2013

Pride Goeth Before the Fall

It has, dear readers, been one of those days for Mr. Fuzzy.

1. As he let the chickens out of the coop this morn, secure in the certainty they had slept well and safe from The Raider, he saw the corpse of yet another hen inside. Checking the game camera positioned in front of the coop door, there was the visage of the villain, staring out of the coop door about 1:00 a.m. Once again, Mr. Fuzzy had failed to protect his much-diminished flock.

2. Because the remaining dregs of the main garden served little more purpose than providing food and shelter for the enemy, the tiller was invoked and about one-third of the big garden simply tilled under. A sad admission of defeat by the weather, insects and deer.

3 (a) Those readers who have known Mr. Fuzzy for long know his life revolved around photography prior to Stratheden Farm. When times get tough, photography has always provided substantial therapy and this seemed like the day to run a test roll through a Mamiya RZ67 body recently acquired on FleaBay. Actually, two rolls were exposed, each with different lenses.One preparing to develop film in the darkroom tonight, a plastic tube slipped from the hose bib and sprayed water all over one wall (including the content of a cork board) and floor. Twenty minutes with mop, sponges and towel ensued.
3 (b) Once the film was developed and hung to dry, it is clear that the new camera has a light leak, either in the film holder or the mating of the film holder to the camera body. Once the film is dry, said fogged negatives will be scanned and the images examined to diagnose the true cause.

There is more but a litany of disasters is rarely amusing or entertaining thus this post will cease. Sigh.

It is sincerely hoped that you fared better today, good readers.

29 July 2013

A Day with the Doctors...

Fear not, faithful readers, 'tis not your correspondent who needed care but two of his ever-faithful companions.

On Sunday, after taking Rufus to be treated at the Virgina Tech Vet School Hospital, it was on Mr. Fuzzy's schedule to telephone the local vet and cancel Rufus' appointment for 9:00 a.m. Monday morn. Life intervened again though, and the appointment time was kept, not for Rufus, but for Fred the Cat. Fred is one of the four siblings born here in the bedroom four years ago. He is a tad on the scruffy side and unlike his brother and sisters, his fur is rather coarse. Like his little sister, he is a roamer, leaving Stratheden Farm's boundaries for weeks at a time, always to return (the knowledge of which does little to mitigate Mr. Fuzzy's anxiety when Fred has been away for more than a week). Last night, Fred drifted in after nearly a fortnight of adventure elsewhere. It was observed that in order to purr, Fred had to breathe through his mouth. Over a fifteen minute period, he launched several ballistic-level sneezes; his tiny pink nose ran constantly. So in Rufus' stead, Fred went to the local vet this morning. Diagnosed with a cold, he is in isolation (JackTar's former hospital acomodations) and is to receive the same liquid antibiotic that was given to JackTar - all before Mr. Fuzzy's hands & arms had opportunity to heal from JackTar's protestations...

Rufus' lab tests today confirmed the initial diagnosis by Dr. Honious at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning - Addison's Disease. The Virginia Tech hospital phoned shortly after Mr. Fuzzy & Fred returned from the local vet to say Rufus could be bailed out at 3:30 p.m.

Mr. Fuzzy leapt into the jalopy and sped northward toward Blacksburg and Virginia Tech, anxious to reunite with his buddy. The attending clinician, Dr. Ziglioli and student-intern-soon-to-become-a-DVM, Mr. Walczak, were there with Rufus. It must be repeated that both of these professionals complimented Rufus on his personality & behaviour, neither the fault of Mr. Fuzzy but just Rufus' innate character. Two other professional who apparently attended during his medical adventures made the same observations regarding Rufus, bless his heart.

The student-intern-soon-to-become-a-DVM, Mr. Walczak, carefully explained the malady which had struck the faithful canine and what steps were necessary to put his life back on a normal track. It was most gratifying for Mr. Walczak to address Mr. Fuzzy as if his level of educational achievement exceeded the third grade... the information was detailed & thorough as communicated orally; in addition, a printed sheet reiterated the information, including the somewhat complicated treatment modality.

As Mr. Fuzzy and his erstwhile quadruped companion prepared to leave, Rufus actually wanted to go back through the door where his new friends entered... it so evident that the medical staff were not only technically competent but truly loved animals and were deeply compassionate. It is difficult to say enough about how positive our experience was at the hospital. Below you will set your eyes on the visages of Dr. Ziglioli and student-intern-soon-to-become-a-DVM, Mr. Walczak, with Rufus. You can feel the warmth and sincerity.

A small leftover from Sunday night, if you will forgive the lack of sequence, dear reader: Mr. Fuzzy was delighted to learn that his entry in the New River Valley Fair won a blue ribbon, some small consolation for the poorness of the yield in this year's gardens, sigh. As you see below, there was, besides a blue ribbon, a cash award of $4.00 US.

Last, but not least, an update on the Raiders of the not-so-Lost Coop. Although no chicken lives were lost last eve (apparently verifying the source of ingress and egress was ended) the game camera camera captured an errant possum attempting to break into the coop. Perpetual vigilance is required to protect the domestic animals of Stratheden from its wilder inhabitants.

Mr. Fuzzy thanks the medical staff at Virgina Tech's Small Animal Hospital from the bottom of his heart for their expertise & compassion. Good night all.

28 July 2013

A rough ride

Sixteen days ago, something attacked JackTar the Cat - at the head of the basement steps. Mr. Fuzzy had just lathered up in the shower but heard a cat's war cry. By the time he arrived in the scene, all that was left was a small pile of black hair and no cats to be seen. About an hour later, as breakfast was in preparation, JackTar walked up but didn't Life his tail in salute, most odd. On close examination, his tail had been chomped by something larger than a feline; the worst damage was where the tail and the body met - there was a hanging flap of skin. By now it was 7:00 a.m. but the vet's phone line did not open for half an hour. On the stroke of 7:30, the vet's practice was called but there were already other emergencies and they could not see JackTar until 9:30. The wait took a year from Mr. Fuzzy's life. The vet immediately put him in surgery for nearly two hours. When competed, she was not certain if JackTar could ever lift his tail again - or if he would have any bowel control.

He came home very groggy and despite pain meds, clearly hurting. That night he pulled out both drains and some sutures. A call to the vet's office first thing Saturday morning revealed she was taking the day off, however, the vet tech believed this was a serious problem and referred us to the veterinary clinic at Virginia Tech, an hour away. A call was made there and then an hour's wait before that vet could return my call. Then we drove up, she examined him, had a surgeon examine him, and once more he was under anesthesia. By the time he had come out of post-op and we drove home, that entire Saturday was shot - as were the two of us.

The emergency room vet had sent JackTar home with a collar on to prevent him from removeing any more sutures... and it drove him into depression. For the ten days he wore it, he ate less than a  tablespoon of food a day and was stressed, pacing the floor in his quarantine room, catching the collar on everything. The twice daily dose of antibiotic probably kept his stomach and digestive tract out of whack as well.

This past Friday, the original vet removed his sutures and pronounced the surgery successful. She was surprised that (1) he had a fair range of tail motion and (2) complete bowel control. We drove home and he was elated to be released into the house, free of the collar. A quick bite to eat, a little water, and then an afternoon in the sun, cleaning himself up. You could see the smile on his face.

While JackTar's sutures were being removed, Mr. Fuzzy mentioned to the vet that Rufus the Dog was off his food for six days and not his normal gregarious & ebullient self. She opined that since his food had been changed, he was on a hunger strike. By last night, Rufus was clearly in trouble. Another call to Virginia Tech's emergency clinic and at 12:30 a.m., we left the farm on the hour long drive north. Tests indicated his blood sugar was well out of range (30 rather than a normal 100) and his electrolytes were totally abnormal. At 4:30 a.m., the vet suggested that I return home as she needed to observe him for another six plus hours. Additionally, she recommended that he remain there through midday Monday so more sophisticated tests could be run. It really concerned me to leave him although it was clear that Dr. Honorius and Ms. Mason were highly competent and compassionate (and quite attractive...). So at 5:45 a.m., I rolled back into the farm driveway. At this point, with incomplete data, the doctor believes he may have Addison's Disease http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/cliented/addisons.aspx

During this entire time, something has been killing the chickens in their coop. Due to several other major distractions, Mr. Fuzzy was not as quick on the uptake as he should have been. When he found the first corpse, he didn't examine it carefully; chickens do die in their sleep. But after the third fatality in three days, a closer examination revealed part of the carcass had been consumed, but not much. The puzzle was how did a predator enter the coop at night or was it present already when Mr. Fuzzy closed the coop doors? An afternoon with hammer, dykes, fencing staples and hardware wire was spent closing up any possible entry; only an anorexic snake could have found a way into the chickens' sanctum sanctorum. Alas, another body the next morning. Curses, foiled again!

A game camera was positioned to show two of the three exterior sides of the coop. As the sun rose, another dead fowl and nothing recorded on the game camera. Older and wiser, Mr. Fuzzy placed the camera inside the structure and caught the visage of the murderer: a raccoon.

Another careful inspection of the structure was in order. At last, a possible entry, although a very tight fit, where some chicken wire had come loose. This was closed up with hardware wire. Last night the camera was placed in the coop --- and no breech of security was recorded. Alas, the Hav-a-hart trap baited with a fresh peach failed to nab the killer and so it remains on the loose. One wonders if it is what passed through the cat door, rose up the stairs and attacked JackTar in the living room...

The weeds & grasses have nearly taken over the gardens. It has been far too wet to till and even hoeing has been restricted. The Japanese beetles which were difficult last year have over-run the main garden, at least those plants that survived the recent Biblical deluge. On Friday morning, Mr. Fuzzy was sorely grieved to see that the electric fence had been shorted out by a few tall,wet weeds and the deer had simply pushed right through the strands. Their tracks were over the entire garden where they had supped on the squash flowers, the new squash leaves, the tomatoes larger than a quarter, the patty-pan squashes (and uprooted the plants themselves to reach the fruits), and trampled the remaining pepper plants. If this series of plagues had struck a century ago, Mr. Fuzzy would be facing a starving winter.

There are more sunny days than rainy now, a fair relief. And those patio plants not savaged by the fowl are in their glory.

11 July 2013

rain, rain and more rain

It has been far too long since the last posting - which makes this post difficult to compose as there is so much to cover. Where to begin and how much to include? Take off your shoes, slide into your softest most comfortable slippers, pour a cuppa or a cabernet and come along for the ride.

Mr. Fuzzy made a trip to Kentucky to attend three meetings and visit two ill friends. It was harvest time for wheat, a crop he does not recall much in abundance there fifty years ago, but huge fields dot the western counties now - and with them, huge harvesting machines. These machines must move from field to field and farm to farm along sometimes small county roads (Mr. Fuzzy was taking the back roads). Several times, these behemoths either blocked the road ahead or forced him off the road as these rolled on past, taking far more than their share of the pavement. Their presence made one rather leery coming around blind corners... it is fair to say they made travel above 30 mph a major gamble.

At times, it seemed a better strategy to enjoy a roadside attraction for a few minutes rather than creep behind these giant devices rolling along at about 10 mph... a pre-Civil War cemetery was one such temporary distraction. Graves ranged from 1802 to the present. Intriguingly, although the cemetery as a whole was very well maintained, certain graves were entirely grown over. Shown here is a detail from a headstone commemorating a man who died just after The War. Some readers may recognize the symbolism.

As noted, there were grave markers indicating burials right up into 2013. At one recent burial was this unique wee birdhouse made from a Kentucky license plate. One must wonder if it came from the deceased person's automobile.

Kentucky has some relics of former days not so far in the distant past. There is a state of decay and reclamation by nature that is not seen in this part of Virgina. This was a stop to decipher why the Official Kentucky State Highway Map and Google maps on the iPhone were in a serious disagreement about whether to turn there or continue ahead. In retrospect, I think Rod Serling's voice could be heard coming from the decrepit building...

One of the three destinations was a Native American museum in a small town which was struggling for its life. Mr. Fuzzy came to (1) enjoy their major annual event, a day long program open to the public, (2) be a part of the program by displaying a collection of contemporary Native American pipes and (3) listening to the members and council explain what they want the institution to be and how it might overcome its past problems. The lady here is demonstrating Cherokee basket making; the following image is Mr. Fuzzy's small pipe display. In amongst all the seriousness, a dear local friend popped in for a brief visit and it was great joy to chat with him for a few minutes.

The remaining pleasures of the trip were with at the very end, visiting very dear friends in Lexington where Mr. Fuzzy indulged and spent an extra day reveling in their fine company. The older Mr. F. becomes, the more certain he becomes that dear friends are the single greatest blessing of life. They mitigate the pains and amplify the gains.

After one day back on the farm, Mr. Fuzzy motored to the Roanoke aeroporto to pick up some of those old & dear friends who were venturing out of the arid deserts of the American Southwest and into what was effectively a rain forest. In the four full days they were at Stratheden Farms, the rain gauge recorded over six inches of rain; at least their last day was sunny - although Mr. Fuzzy barely was in the farm's driveway before the clouds opend up and poured forth their burdens upon the terra muddy.

Later that night (Saturday) the clouds finally yielded to the setting sun - and Mr. Fuzzy realized his eyes had not beheld a sunset from The veranda in more than a fortnight!

If, dear reader, you have followed this blog, you know that the rains have been incessant and pounding this year, very atypcial. Roanoke broke its all time July precipitation record after only ten days into the month!


No official weather reporting station has been located in Floyd county since the onset of World War II but farmers pay serious attention to the weather and none of the neighboring agriculturists can ever remember a year like this one.

It has devastated some crops and not done favours for any crop - weeds, however, are in great abundance. The gardens look more like putting greens than gardens - it has been too wet to utilize the tiller for the last six weeks and mostly too muddy to even use a hoe. No one has any surviving potatoes as they have rotted. The crop of various sorts of peppers here mostly drowned or damped off; so much for that money maker. Corn has not been struck by enough light to grow beyond knee height. The patti-pan squashes seem to be doing well, however, as do the winter squash plants.

Weeds and all the sorts of native flowers seem to be thriving despite a lack of ultraviolet rays. The landscape is finely decorated with various flowers here and there. Yes, indeed, this is a place of rare beauty, wet or not..

The next dispatch may be sent from the wireless on the ark.