Tag Archives: Chick raising

A Month on the Farm – 12/20/2018

Tomorrow marks the first official day of winter and the shortest day of the year here on the farm, though the meteorologic winter began weeks ago.  I’m ready for the days to lengthen.  Being much a creature of natural light cycles, I awake each day around 5 or 5:15 a.m., but don’t want to get up and disturb the household until the sky starts to lighten in the east.  By sundown and full on dark, I am ready to snuggle in for the night, trying to stay up and awake with night owl hubby at least until 10 or 10:30 p.m., often to fall asleep in my chair before drifting off to bed.

The month has been a whirlwind with 5 craft markets in 5 weeks that require loading and unloading the set up and product from the car.

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This Saturday is the last one for the year with no more until spring.

The month also has included 3 Christmas celebrations, two in costume at Wilderness Road Regional Museum for their music, Christmas treats, and evening lighted tours as I spun on a beautiful old Walking Wheel that with a tiny bit of TLC by me, now works.

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I love this photo with the shadow of the wheel on the wall.  This one is credited to April the organizer of the events.  There will be one more on Old Christmas that I will also attend in costume.  The third celebration was with the spinning group to which I belong.  I have not been a very good participant of late with everything else going on, but made a point of joining them for that as many folks that don’t get to come regularly come for this event and I enjoy seeing my friends.  I hope to get back to the weekly spin days after the holidays.

The month provided another challenge as I bought a dozen winter chicks about 4 1/2 weeks ago.  They were fortunately already 2 weeks old and beginning to feather out.  The “brooder” I use is a huge 110 gallon flexible plastic stock tank with a heat table for warmth.  Not a fan of having the birds in the house, the stock tank is in the garage on a carpet covered platform about 4 inches off the ground.  It was cold when we brought them home and ended up adding a 250W red heat lamp and covering half of the top with a mylar sheet to help retain the heat.  This was functioning okay until we were threatened with and received more than a foot of snow.  Wet snow this time of year often results in loss of power, so the brooder was dragged around the back of the house and into the walk out finished basement where there is a wood stove, before the snow began.  The stove was kept going until we were sure the power was not going out, about 3 days.

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The snow was beautiful and before it was totally gone, the brooder was loaded onto a sled and dragged back to the garage.  By Monday, the littles were 6 weeks old, fully feathered and too big for the stock tank, so the thoroughly cleaned coop was layered with about a foot of straw and they were moved to tough it out without the benefit of supplemental heat.  We have had several very cold nights and all is well in the coop.  The basement then received a deep cleaning to remove the dust from having the chicks indoors for a week.

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I am working on teaching them to use the adult no waste feeder and no waste waterer, while providing the hanging feeder as well.  They are beginning to get their adult colorations.  By mid week next week they should know that food and water are in the coop and that is where to return when hungry and at night and they will be let out into the run.  I fear they are still small enough to get through the holes in the fence though and I don’t like to panic them by trying to catch them but until they will follow me back to the run for treats, they can’t free range.

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This view if you have followed the blog for long, often appears.  The end of that ridge in the distance drops to a gap to the New River.  That view is one of my favorites from the farm and it was just over 13 years ago that we saw this property for the first time in early December.  By January, it was ours to plan and build on.  If you can love a property in the bleak of winter, you can really love it anytime.

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The deck progressed in the past month as well, with a Thanksgiving weekend being spent by son and daughter in law preparing it for the decking, rails, and balusters.  Those materials are to be delivered tomorrow and by the first of the year, hopefully, we will be able to safely step out of the French doors of the dining room onto a solid surface, not a one story drop.  It is deceptive as the stairs come down on a flat created and held in place by a gorgeous stone retaining wall.  The deck itself is one story up from the grade below.

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With the prep for Christmas, the various events, cooking for family for Thanksgiving and preparing to cook for Christmas, little knitting or spinning have been done except for two pair of wool socks for a tiny farmer, the toddler son of one of the regular vendors at the market.  They have been knit this week after she asked last Saturday.  I hope they fit the little guy and can be passed down to his baby brother in another couple of years.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas or other seasonal holiday of this time of year and a Happy New Year.

Watching paint dry

As I have posted recently, we are trying to get our log house re-stained before winter. This either a tough or expensive task as the front of the house has 3 dormers on the upper floor, though the front of the house walks out onto a ground level porch but the roof is metal and steep.  The back of the house that originally was designed to have french doors that walked out to a ground level deck ended up on a walk out basement, not in the original plans and the french doors walk out onto a narrow part of the deck one story up and the deck itself sitting about 4 feet off the ground with a serious stone retaining wall under the west edge.  This makes the dog run dormer on the back of the main house on the 3rd story.  As we have set and moved scaffolding and Son #1 tries to figure out how to set up enough on the deck and in the breezeway garden to go over the breezeway roof to stain the east end of the house, we have discussed the dogrun dormer and its steep sides.

He reminded me that when he was designing and building the deck and walkout that he suggested we extend the walkout the full length of the back of the house to accommodate an extension ladder so he could get up there.  At that point, our building funds were running low.  The painting contractor who did the house 4 years ago sent two young men up on ladders set precariously on the roof to do it, and charged us an arm and a leg for it.  There is no way we are going to let our son do that.  We will get as much as we can done then hire someone brave or fool enough to do that part.  If we come into a windfall of funds (not likely since we don’t play the lottery and don’t have any known rich relatives), we will extend that deck walkout.

The stain we use, recommends it be applied between certain temperatures and with humidity at or below 40%.  This is Virginia, the humidity is never that low, so we have to pick the driest days with a string of expected dry days following it to get sections done and then we sit and watch the paint dry.  The stain should dry overnight, it is taking days.  Days of being careful not to brush up against it.  Days of hoping the cats and dogs stay away from it.  Days and days of waiting.

The plan was to stain the front of the house on Monday.  It absolutely poured rain on Sunday, so we needed a drying out day.  Instead of painting, we made our annual jaunt to Mabry Mill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabry_Mill) for the winter supply of grits and cornmeal.  Though it is not ground there anymore, it is locally ground especially for them, it is wonderful and I like supporting the Parkway, the Mill and having local grains in the house.

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The view from one of the overlooks on the Parkway.  A beautiful place indeed.

This morning I was going to start early.  Nope, this is what I am waiting for the sun to dispatch.

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Fog is definitely not low humidity.  Though the temperature last night fell to the low 40’s for the first time, when I awoke, I couldn’t see past the window panes.  Chicken chores were done by feel.

The Rainbow Rangers are huge now, they look like chicks in the bodies of adults.  Some have combs and wattles that are red, though they still behave and sound like chicks.  Their heavy bodies and thick legs make their movement amusing.  If they want to move quickly, they flap their wings and run awkwardly like they are trying to take off. They have 3 1/2 more weeks to feed and fill out before I will be back to only 12 hens and Romeo.  Just as all of the hens are finally laying, it is getting on to molting season and the two older hens will molt this year for sure.  The March hatches probably won’t molt until next year.

I know I said I was done canning, but I can’t resist making one more batch of applesauce so that Son #1’s family can have some this winter too.  And of course, I will continue to make Tomatillo Salsa and XXX sauce until the Tomatillos and peppers quit producing.  Guess I’m going to need more jars after all.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

A Moment from the week

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The chicks are now 3 weeks old and the 50 gallon plastic tote no longer large enough for them.  They were starting to escape, requiring more than the pint waterer and the gallon one took up too much of their dwindling space.  A piece of screen was put on the top to keep them in, but there was no way to expand the floor space.  We have a large wire dog cage and an extra large one.  The large one isn’t too difficult to erect, so it was moved to the basement, set up and set inside the larger plastic tray from the extra large one.  I know that there will be more mess to clean, but the chicks are getting big.  After putting it all together, I threaded two sticks from pruning fruit trees at two heights as perches and the chicks learning to use them is comedic as they tip and rock learning their balance.  I think I need to make the perches with 1 x 1″ wood scraps or larger branches to give them more to grasp.  We have a warmer week ahead and that hopefully is signalling an end of the cold weather.  In another week, I may move them back to the garage and I need to start planning how to divide the coop for their introduction later this spring.  That also means that the chicken tractor needs to be moved back outside and a nesting box or two added to it as 6 of the hens will be moved to it until sometime in the summer.  My coop was built for 14 and I will have 14 in there when the chicks are moved.  The size of the coop is fine during the spring, summer, and fall, but a bit over estimated when they are all inside on a snowy day.  We will see how it goes and the flock may have to be reduced back to 10 or 12 after this year.