Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hysteria plants

So, we have been the proud owners of Bully Hill Farm for about six months now. It was an active horse farm when we purchased it, and we now have two horses of our own. As a new horse owner, and general freak of a man, I am concerned about the health of my animals. Thus, I was alarmed when I was walking up to groom the horses this weekend and noticed some new berries growing on a evergreen tree near the gate leading from the barn area to the top pasture.

(subject bush/tree thing)
I instantly realized what they were. They were yew berries. Then I thought to myself, "Hey, I think yews are poisonous to horses." I went on the interweb and looked it up. Sure 'nough this is what I found:

Yew (Taxus baccata)- This ornamental evergreen shrub contains toxic alkaloids that disrupt heart functions. It also contains cyanide. Ingestion of even a quarter pound is sufficient to kill an adult horse in 15 minutes. There are no symptoms, the horse just falls over dead.

Holy %#(@^& $#*^!!!!

Moments later I was sprinting up to the pasture with a saw. Sure, the tree had been there for years, the previous owners had kept numerous horses in these same pastures, but surely it was going to attack my horses any minute now that it was aware I knew of its sinister plans.

About half an hour later, the offending plant had been removed and I was picking berries out of the grass. Crisis overted... or so I thought. Here is a list of other things that are poisonous or otherwise harmful to horses:

Azalea or Rhododendron:

(thankfully this is in my front yard, not in a pasture)

Pretty in a picture, deadly in a horse belly. Toxin causes gastric and cardiac distress. Within six hours of ingestion, a horse can appear colicky and have tremors, along with cardiac arrhythmia. If enough of the plant is ingested, the horse could collapse and die.

Black Locust:

Toxins affect the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. As soon as one hour after consumption, your horse could exhibit depression, anorexia, weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea and cardiac arrhythmia. Death can occur from consuming significant amounts of toxin.

Fences: As we have found out, horses can kick fences and hurt themselves. May require ultra-sounds or hospitalization.

Bracken Fern: (Pteridium aquilinum)

Causes a vitamin B1 deficiency that leads to weight loss, muscle tremors and death.

Lack of fences: Would allow horses to find and eat Bracken Ferns, Rhododendron, etc...

Buttercups: (Ranunculaceae family)

Ingestion of any part of the plant causes protracted, bloody diarrhea and severe blistering of the mucous membranes lining the entire gastrointestinal tract.

OK, now that sounds like the worst thing ever... blistering of the mucous membranes? Good grief. I will note that a nearby farm has pastures that are almost entirely buttercups and they have horses. Apparently these horses have continous bloody diarrhea.

Groundsel, Tansy Ragwort, Fiddleneck and Crotolaria:

Ingestion will cause liver damage.

Hemlock: - not the pretty evergreen tree but this parsley-looking plant:

Kills horses and Greek philosophers. Remove from pastures and ampitheaters.

Nightshades: A relative of the Tomato plant (and yes, tomatoes are also poisonous to horses).

Ingestion of leaves or fruit will cause bloody diarrhea, weakness, salivation, trembling, progressive paralysis and death.

Oak trees(Quercus Spp): Yes, even Oak trees; the leaves and acorns contain tannic acid which is poisonous to horses.


Can cause nausea and extended exposure can be deadly. I guess horses just hate their brand of watered-down rock music. Yuck. Note: I think there is also a plant, Oleander, so I may be a bit confused here.

Grass: Yes, too much fresh grass can cause laminitis (founder). I'm not even making this one up.

Tabacco: Nicotine affects the central nervous system. NEVER let your horse smoke cigarettes. If your horse has been smoking and appears twitchy and irritable, he does not need another cigarette, he is experiencing tabacco poisoning.

Water lillies:
Can cause drowning.
Potatoes: I guess if your horses dig for tubors they can eat them and get sick. Yet carrots, fine. Huh.
They just piss horses off. I don't know why.

Children's laughter:
Tends to be a bit annoying to horses.
Thankfully, I'm industrius and I set up the stables to ensure nothing will ever hurt my horses.
I know I feel better now.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday fun

It has been raining non-stop for the past few days. Thankfully, Saturday afternoon turned into a lovely day. I decided to rearrange the agility course and have some fun with Petunia and HT. The old Mer got to stay inside and enjoy a big meal complete with some new wet food I purchased for her... a holistic, unique protein food with venison and sweet potato.
So here is the agility course:
I started HT out through the tunnel...
then had her turn back and jump the small jump.
Next I had her turn and take the tire jump...
then over the A-frame...
back over the taller jumps...
and finally over the see-saw...
making sure that we hit our contact area.
Once the course is complete, HT enjoys a moment of self-satisfaction.
Then we get to do everything over again. Here are assorted photos of Heckel and Jeckel doing the course:
This is a ridiculous fascial expression:
HT on top of the world:
and back down:
Then there was lots of jumping:

Good times were had by all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why does the caged bird crow?

Well, the short answer is, he crows because he's pissed that he's stuck in a cage. The reason that he is stuck in a cage is a little more complex. On Sunday, I went out to do my normal farm chores. I played with/fed the bullies, then took them inside. I went outside, let the chickens out and cleaned up around Coop D'Etat. . . nothing out of the ordinary.

I then took leave of my feathered friends, went through the gate, shut it behind me, and walked up to the barn with my wife, Mrs. BFP, and the Bumpases. The Bumpases show up the minute they hear the gate open. The noise of the gate also tends to attract Snow who is generally ready to eat. When Snow pops up from the field, Cowboy chases her up to the barn. It is a pretty solid routine and we all adhere to our roles pretty well.

On this day, however, someone decided to part with convention. We groom the horses, Ellie first, Snow second. Sarah and Cowboy wrestle for a bit and then nap in the barn. Suddenly, Little Brett Buckwalter comes around the corner to see what was happening. Now, Little Brett is a good bird, but he can be a little complicated. He likes to hang out, but he also tends to think he is pretty tough. I think this picture captures his personality pretty well:

On the one hand, he kind of looks at me as if to say, "I like you, please give me some apple." Yet, there is always the sense that he's thinking, "I can take you."

Thus, as Brett came around the corner, he gave off an inquisitive, yet confident air. I did not even have time to yell his name before two yellow streaks flew by me. Brett's confidence was quickly replaced by a wide-eyed look of fear. He ran. He ran pretty fast, but not nearly fast enough. Cowboy was on him before he got back to the fence that sheltered my back yard. I was in hot pursuit. I grabbed Cowboy and released Brett from him mouth only to see the fluttering mass of white feathers snatched up by Sarah. I'm not entirely sure what happened next, but I was able to grab Brett and toss him over the fence and into the backyard. He fluttered to the ground and stumbled into the bushes. We started through the gate to check on him when out of nowhere, Cowboy jumped the fence. Cowboy ran right past the Orpingtons and Camilla and headed for the injured bird, huddled sadly in the brush surrounding Big Fat Pond. I was again in full flight trying to intercept Cowboy. I did some blocking, when suddenly my wife came through and flat out tackled Cowboy.

As background, my wife is a classy broad. She's beautiful and stately. She looks like she should be carved into a broach or something. She is not the type of woman one would normally imagine tackling a muddy, rogue dog to protect a rooster, but there she was pinning a rather shocked Cowboy into the grass and weeds that make up our backyard. I believe that my wife is part of a militant sect of the Quaker religion. She flatly refuses to eat oatmeal which I believe is one of the tenants of the Quaker faith. Huh, I was going to put in a Wilford Brimley comment since he is a well-known oatmeal advocate, but I just learned on his Wikipedia page that he is also pro-cockfighting... a strange revelation considering the nature of this post. In fact, I'm so thrown by this revelation that I have lost my train of thought. Regardless, I can only assume that my wife has had some sort of training which allowed her to stop and incapacitate a charging dog.

I took Little Brett inside, washed him off, and cleaned out his wounds. I was not at all certain he was going to survive. He had lost all the feathers on his hindquarters and he had some puncture wounds. You don't really stitch dog bites, you just flush the wound. Apparently, birds don't stitch well either. Still, we figured he would likely need some antibiotics so my wife called around to find an emergency clinic that would see a rooster. She located one about 45 minutes away so we set out from the house.

Although the vet clinic handled birds, they had never cared for a rooster before. They were pretty excited. Brett, not so much. They took him "to the back," and returned him later with oral antibiotics, an oral syringe, and a balm to put on his wounds. Yes, yes... I have to put a balm on my [rooster] three times a day... laugh it up. I also learned that Little Brett weighs in at a hefty 4.3 lbs.

We took him back and set him up in a cage in the house. He's going to pull through, but it's not going to be easy. I cannot tell you how difficult it is to get a rooster to take oral antibiotics. He's not exactly thrilled with the situation, but he is being surprisingly good. Warning, if you have a problem with pictures of blood, overt your eyes and scroll to the end of the post now.

It was a long and stressful day for my boy. He fell asleep right after I set him up in the house.

I am pleased to say that Little Brett is doing fine. His wounds are not pretty, but he will be OK with a little TLC.
Sadly, I have come to the realization that we have 11 animals on Bully Hill: 3 pitbulls, 1 cat, 2 horses, and 5 chickens (Plus the 3 Bumpases with whom I am a bit annoyed, but still love). I fear that we may have crossed some sort of threshold here. I am concerned that from this point forward we will continuously be nursing some injured animal. We just got done with Ellie Mae's injury and now we have this. I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that is not the case.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Whoever said an apple a day keeps the doctor away did not own chickens. If I go outside with an apple, I risk serious bodily injury at the hands... errr claws... talons(?) of my little chickens.

They start with the intimidation:

If you have never faced death in the eye, this is probably a close proximity. It's surprisingly cute.

Eventually they will just take my apple from the very hands that feed them. At that point it is a crazed free-for-all... a blur of feathers, beaks, and some fruit pulp.

Here is Little Brett Buckwalter shaking an apple... to its core. OK, I'm not proud of that, but at least it was not potty humor.

On another exciting note, Camilla has started laying! She's like a real chicken now.

She has layed an egg every day this week. The eggs are small, but well-formed.

This evening I went out to Coop D'Etat and found a fresh egg. I'm not really a big fan of eggs and I had not yet eaten one of Camilla's eggs. It seemed kind of weird, frankly. Regardless, I figured that this one was about an hour or so old and it was a chance to eat the freshest egg I would ever eat. Thus, I took it in and fried it up.

It was good.

On a totally different note, I was walking back from the barn the other day when I noticed Cowboy and Sarah acting strange. Sarah was holding her mouth slightly open and she was not looking at me. I knew she had something in her mouth... something that was not supposed to be there. Sure enough, I opened it up and out dropped...

baby robin. I took it inside for first aid, but upon examination realized that it had not been injured. I soaked some dog food and observed it for a while to make sure it was not in shock. It seemed fine, so I crammed some spongey-wet dog kibble down its throat and put it back into the yard. I had noticed the mother robin flying about when I was extracting the baby from Sarah's mouth. I figured that momma-bird would find her baby again and if it took a while that was fine because the baby had just eaten.

I kept the baby on the inside of our fence so it would be safe from roaming Bumpases. I checked on it later and it had already run off. Baby birds don't do great in captivity so I think that this was a good result. I hope it goes on to have a fruitful life.