Tag Archives: chickens

My Corner Looks Empty – June 6, 2017

In the past week, two of my three spinning wheels have gone to new homes.  The Louët left by mail last Thursday for Connecticut and arrived safely on Saturday.  The old Amable Paradis was driven by me about halfway to it’s new owner in North Carolina late this afternoon. The corner only contains the great wheel until tomorrow.

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If the tracking is right, the new Ashford Traveller arrives tomorrow. The oils and waxes to finish her are awaiting her arrival.  She needs to be stained with the tinted Tung Oil mix at least twice and be dry by Sunday when I will need her at the Smithfield House Flag Day Ceremony.  I really would like to get a good coat of wax on too, but don’t want to rush the drying process.

The delivery of the old wheel this evening was at a location chosen by the buyer’s husband.  He was to meet me without her and I had to drive to him solo as Jim is in Roanoke for the next 4 1/2 days at his rally.  Meeting a stranger in a strange location was a bit scary, but there ended up being 3 State troopers eating in Subway, a gas station, Chinese buffet, and motel all in the parking lot that made me feel better, then he called and said he had missed the exit and had gone miles beyond our designated meeting place in the direction that I needed to go to return home.  A new exit was selected between us and the meeting was uneventful, a pleasant retired Coastie, his wife is a lace maker and wants to spin too.

Prior to delivering the grands to Taekwondo and their Mom, granddaughter and I planted the pumpkin and tomatillo seedlings this afternoon.  The corn is several inches tall now.  Before leaving to babysit eldest grand next week, the Anasazi beans will be planted in with the corn and pumpkins.

Arriving home just before sundown this evening, the annual hay mowing had begun on our side of the ridge.  Our farmer friend mows and bales several fields around us including ours and the largest field near us was about half mowed.  By the time my week away babysitting and backpacking is done, our fields should be mowed and baled as well.

As it was still light enough to close up the coops and collect eggs without a flashlight when I arrived home, the hens, pullets, and Mr, Croak were secured and the lonely sole egg of the day collected.  The hens are so senior that eggs are being offered in very small quantities.  It will be nice when the pullets are mature enough to start providing.

The walk over to the coop and back revealed the first Daylily of the season bloomed today.  Daylily season is such a joy with the beautiful trumpet shaped, various colored blooms.  If only the season were longer.  Additions of later and ever blooming varieties have been added to the garden to extend the season but it is still too short.

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Though the header is a few nights ago, tonight was another lovely pink post sunset.

5/15/2017 Summer is Coming

The torrential rains of last week are gone with no more rain in the forecast until the end of the week.  The days are near summer like and very breezy.

Yesterday early afternoon, we all piled into the largest vehicle after calling ahead to Outback Steakhouse, one of the restaurants that won’t take reservations, but will let you call ahead to get on their list and drove the half hour to celebrate Mother’s Day for daughter and me.

Mother's Day wait

Somehow, out of the 5 of them crowded on the bench waiting, 3 have their eyes closed.  The wait was less than 30 minutes and we enjoyed a good meal together.

Today, being warm and sunny, Jim took the BBH out for a ride on part of one of the rides he will lead for the 5 state rally next month.  That left granddaughter with me as Monday is her day she does not have preschool.  We ventured off to take the garbage and recycling to the center, then off to have lunch together, and Mommom bought the little lady a 5 year old size purple garden hoe.

Back from lunch, my little helper worked on the bed that will contain the bush beans in a few days, while I weeded the other planted beds and the end of the bed where the sweet potatoes will grow soon, then helped her finish her bed.

Helper

She is the cutest, hardest working little helper on the mountain and she loves the garden.  Note, she left the volunteer sunflower behind her and asked if there would be more planted and would that one get tall and have flowers.  After the beds were weeded and the pea patch trellised, a break for an orange and some juice, a bit of sitting on the front porch swing enjoying the breeze, and we went back out to work some more on the three sisters plot.  The smart weed, lambs quarters, and dandelions are threatening to overtake it.  Working with the hoe and the 4 prong cultivator did little.  Finally just turning it with the garden fork appears to be the only solution.  This tired old body turned row after row while granddaughter picked out the rocks and about a third of it was dug before just wearing out.

Three sisters

Once the 15 X 15 foot block is totally turned, it will be broken up with the 4 prong cultivator to get the remaining weeds and smaller rocks out, raked into the 12 or 16 hills and the corn part of the garden planted.   The pumpkins and tomatillos are going to be started in little pots to be put in the ground in a couple weeks.  The Anasazi beans will be planted with the corn once it is up.

The potatoes are all up and the soil is being added to the barrels as the potato plants reach for the sun.  Once the  barrels are full, they will just be mulched and the potatoes will grow, hopefully to fill the barrels with potatoes for our larder.

During the last few days, the adult hens and Mr. Croak were allowed free range time.  When I go out, I feel like the Pied Piper, as they all come running toward me.

Pied Piper

If I can get the three sister’s bed dug, the beans planted, the chicken run will be altered to make the double fence on the east, south and half of the west sides of the vegetable garden.

5/13/2017 Mother’s Day Weekend

We waited too long to make reservations for lunch or dinner tomorrow, so we will have to try someplace that doesn’t take reservations and just has call ahead service.

Our new phones arrived yesterday and a rainy afternoon was spent getting them set up.  This morning, both us were awake early and with the town mobbed due to commencement exercises at the university, we headed in early to get breakfast and go to the Farmers’ Market.  So many vendors now and so many goodies to buy, meat, vegetables, breads, coffee beans, pasta, yarn, fiber, candles, prepared foods and beverages.  Other errand runs including making sure that the old cell service has been cancelled, bale of straw for the hen house, dog food for the 3 giant beasties that live here were all accomplished, before 10:30, then home.  The next 5 hours were spent in the yard and gardens.

Wood pile before

 

For several years, the woodpile has been up against the vegetable garden fence, leaning against the fence enough to require an extra T-post to keep it from collapsing into the garden.

Wood pile new

Up hill from the vegetable garden are two old cedar fence posts, two other posts that were under the wood were placed on either side of the two verticals, using them as end pieces and the wood was moved and re-stacked there.

Wood pile after

The resulting area will be part of the new flower and herb beds as soon as I get some more cardboard.  Once the wood was moved, the remaining stack of cardboard was toted outside, onions weeded, cardboard laid around two sides of that box where it has not been placed and where the lamb’s quarter was trying to take over, also placed under the fence at the south corner where I had quit prior to the rains.  More cardboard was placed outside of that uphill fence after lots of weed pulling and digging to  clean up around the comfrey and iris and to extend that bed  for two of the perennials that had been residing in pots on the porch. The cardboard was slipped under the fence to overlap the cardboard on the inside of the fence and spoiled hay mulched around them.  Another trip out for cardboard will allow me to carry the bed on around the corner.  The chicken run will just go around the south and west side up to the gate and the electric fencing wire will be reinstalled around the perimeter to stop the deer.

New bed

The inside of the henhouse was hosed down with white vinegar, neem oil, and essential oils and left open to dry.  The bale of straw will be spread in there as soon as it is thoroughly dry.

Something has been nibbling on the baby chard plants so that bed was covered with hoops and bird net.

The chickens have been free ranging since I started working outside today.  they should be put away so the dogs can go out.  We still haven’t gotten them so that they don’t chase the chickens when out.

Perhaps some more weeding and planting can be accomplished tomorrow before we go out for Mother’s Day.

Olio 4/14/2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Yesterday was another beautiful day, the 4th in a row.  The forecast is continued nice temperatures, but the next 10 days show 8 of them with a fairly high chance of rain. We had both grands home with us for their spring break, so no serious running around was scheduled.  We did go get the gate hardware at Tractor Supply and came home to a couple hours of work outside time.

The gate hardware was installed on the wooden post that was already set, having to drill a pair of 5/8″ holes about 4 inches into the post.  Once the gate was hung, the end T post was shifted a few inches to give the gate something to abutt  and the fence that had to be removed to move the post was reattached.  A section of rabbit fence was used to close the opening between the chick run and the cull run so the chicklets won’t be able to escape from one run to the other and then out through the welded wire fence.  The three 7 foot tall posts to hold the netting were strung together with a length of braided electric fence wire and anchored to the end T posts and the netting was suspended.  The run is ready to let the chicklets out in another few days.

Chick pen

 

There are two wooden 6 x 6″ posts with the two gates hanging from opposite sites of one post usually and the left gate closing against the second post.  That post now has gate hardware so that one of the gates can be moved leaving one run open.  Maybe someday, a third gate will be purchased, but since there are only two groups of birds to deal with right now, gate moving will occur instead.

Last year at one of the spinning/knitting retreats, I taught a class in salve making and in my shop, I sell several different herbal healing salves.  This summer, I am going to teach a similar class to kids at one day of their camp and am often asked what is the best use for each salve.  This is a topic of interest and so I purchased a new book on herbal medicine, an art that has been practiced since recorded history or before.

Herb book

 

And reading through the book over the last couple of days has gotten me thinking that at least part of the unused garden section can become a permanent herbal medicine garden, consolidating the perennial herb and the annual herbs in one bed of good soil.  One of the herbs that I have never grown, but find interesting is Hops.  In Tractor Supply purchasing the gate hardware, I found this.

Hops

Now a place that it can grow needs to be decided, the box says it will gets 15 to 30 feet long and will trail along the ground, on a fence, or a trellis.  There are a few other herbs that have been on my list for a while that will now be sought out and my next project is to make some tinctures.  As we don’t use chemical fertilizer or herbicides, the plantain and dandelion are safe to use right from the yarn once they have been washed off.  Another project is to try to build a solar dehydrator to dry the herbs.  I envision a stack of wire grids that have a mesh cover to keep the insects out.  Either one that can hang or on wheels that can be brought in off the deck if it is going to rain.

After dark, the big birds were all moved to the huge cull coop so that a cover crop can be seeded and hopefully will germinate in the main run before the 16 chicklets are large enough to move.  After a couple of days in the coop, the big birds will be allowed out into that run and they will be excited to find it full of chick weed to eat.

 

Weekend 4/8/2017

At last post we were expecting extreme weather.  Thursday the trip to take grand daughter to pre-school rewarded us with 3 rainbow segments.

Rainbow

 

At one point it was very vivid and a near perfect arc with the end settled in the valley.  This was the first morning rainbow I have ever seen.  It was accompanied by falling temperatures and increasing wind.  It rained until late in the day when it turned to a wintry mix. Parts if the state experienced tornado activity and a lot of damage east of the mountains.

April snow

 

This was Friday morning’s greeting and it snowed off and on all day Friday.  There was snow on the mountain above us, just a dusting on the farm.  It never warmed more than a few degrees above the prior night’s low 30s.  Again last night, it was near freezing, but today it is sunny and in the low 60s.  The wind isn’t as strong as the past 48 hours, but it hasn’t fully subsided.  It was a good day to get that chick pen fencing done.  They did fine the past couple of cold nights in the unheated garage with a single mother table to warm them.  The brooder tub is much too small for their rapidly growing little bodies and they need to be moved soon.  By midweek, the days will be in the mid 70s, the nights in the upper 40s to low 50s and the chicks will be at least 5 weeks old.  If a makeshift gate to their pen can be completed, they will be moved to Huck’s coop.

Fence   Fence done

There is enough fencing left to make some sort of gate.  A hawk cover needs to be added before they can be turned loose in the pen. But they will have to spend at least a week in the closed coop to acclimate to their new, though temporary home before they can be given freedom of the run.  Once they are too large to get through the welded wire fence of the run, they will be relocated to the main coop and the old hens and Mr. Croak will be moved to the large cull coop.  I am thinking about moving the old birds this week and thoroughly cleaning the main coop, roughing up the run and planting it with the cover crop to get some green growing in their before the chicks move in.  The run could probably benefit from 5 or 6 weeks of no traffic and the oats, field peas, and vetch would grow quickly in there, it was a portion of the garden with good compost soil and it has lots of natural fertilizer that they have provided.

If the weather holds, the lower garden and the chicken run will be broken up with the long handled cultivator and the cover crop sown tomorrow and Monday.  The warm week and midweek rain should get a good start on the spring cover growing.

There are still some aisles in the garden to be mulched with cardboard and spoiled hay and plenty of cardboard still in the garage to use.

Evenings have been spent planning a vacation trip now that our passports have been renewed and back in our possession.  Hopefully, this will become an annual event.

This week, we scored two 10th row center aisle tickets to see Arlo Guthrie in concert in July.  This prompted a weekend plan and reservations made for a quick get away.

Loving life on our farm and the return of spring.

The March “Blizzard”

I know that points north of us have gotten and are still getting deep late winter snow.  We only got about 3 inches and the roads stayed relatively clear.  The snow is wet, sloggy snow.  The cedars and pines are heavy with the wet glop.  The snow less of a problem than the ice layer beneath it.  Brushing the snow off of the car revealed an ice glazed vehicle with doors frozen shut and ice glazed windows.

Our local county schools closed for the day, announcing last night, the other counties around us opted for a two hour delay which would have been a better option for here, but the western half of our county may have received more snow.  Granddaughter’s school in the next town was not closed and driving in it was apparent that they received much less than we did, and her teacher said she received even less in the valley.

It is enough snow that the cooped chickens will not go outside their coop.  Though it is not a practice employed often, their food and a bucket of water were put inside for them but the pop door open if anyone gets brave.  The 16 chicks are cozy in their brooder as we fortunately did not lose power.  Tonight we will build fires in the woodstove and fireplace to help take the edge off for the heatpump.

Tonight we are going to have the first of three nights of temperatures in the mid teens (-9ish C),  The ice glaze, snow melt during the day today, and plunging temperatures with more flurries due today, overnight and tomorrow, the roads are likely to be a slippery mess tomorrow, especially the mountain roads to get to the main road that is always well maintained for the truck traffic that uses it instead of staying on the interstate.

This school closure makes one more day to be made up.  The built in days have all been used and they are down 2 days now.  There may be another day or two built into their schedule.  It isn’t common to get much snow this late in the winter, but it is always a possibility with our last frost date not until near Mother’s Day.

At least the garden planning and indoor seed sowing doesn’t rely on what is going on outside, as it continues to flurry.  Of the 4 small sweet potatoes saved from last year’s crop, the two purple one have roots and shoots,  one of the orange ones has roots though the other one got mushy and had to be composted.

Sweet potatoes

As soon as the slips are large enough to root, they will be broken off and rooted.  I guess the orange ones are going to have to be purchased at the Feed store when they come in later this spring.

The birds have found the feeder that was hung earlier in the winter and is now frequented by Tufted Titmice, House finches, an occasional chickadee, and the tiny ground feeding juncos enjoying the spillage on the deck. One of the birdhouses on the garden edge deteriorated and fell apart last year so there was only one.  It  too needs repair, but as we have a couple of families of blue birds each year, we bought another box to mount on the second pole.  With all of the scrap lumber in the garage, I should be making them myself.  Perhaps this one will get measured and a plan drawn before it is fastened in the garden.

Birdhouse

For now, it will be an indoor day with more cancer/heart health garlands being made for the yarn bombing efforts of a knitting group to which I associate.  Breast cancer, heart health, children’s cancers and melanoma sections have all been mailed off.  The skin cancer is about half done, crocheted this time, then on to white for lung cancer and a second skein of gold for children’s cancers.

garland

A Full Cold Saturday

It dawned clear and biting cold today.  Knowing that we were going to spend more than 4 hours on the road, we went for breakfast, picked up some greens, breads, and granola at the Farmers Market, but didn’t get any meat to thaw out during the drive time and took off for New Country Organics to pick up our chicks.  When the forecast was checked, the snow chance for Monday was all but gone, but it still seemed expedient to go on to get the chicks.  I failed to note that their hours end at 1 p.m. on Saturday and fortunately we got there about 12:45.  Sixteen adorable chicks, 50 pounds of feed, and a second warming table were loaded into the car and we were serenaded all the way home by a box full of peeps and chirps.

chicks

Sixteen little noisy balls of fluff, 4 that look like chipmunks and a dozen little yellow balls.  They are bedded down in the 110 gallon plastic animal water tub in the finished part of the basement with food, water, and two heat tables to tuck under.   The tub has a bent window screen over the top to discourage too much handling and to keep curious cats away if they should get past the gate.

Once home, half of the adult flock had escaped and several had gotten in the garden, scratching the mulching hay all over the place.  With much effort they were removed from the garden, the temporary gate put back in place, and they were lured back into the safety of their run.  The dogs were let out during their foray to freedom and must not have seen them as no one was chased or caught.

Today’s mail brought the last piece of my costume for spinning at the Plantation.  It is a short gown to go over the petticoat and shift.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is about as authentic as I will get for this venue.  Please note that I will remember to remove the Fitbit before spinning there.

While getting the chicks and chickens situated and the costume photographed, the forecast is back to 5 inches of snow on Monday afternoon and evening.  We will see what happens.  Glad we won’t be traveling then.

Busy Day

After a couple of days of winter, staying inside and knitting a hat for the shop, today is almost spring and it is sunny.

After breakfast, the pile of compost in the garden that was pushed aside for the boxes was attacked with a shovel.  Hard work for an already sore back, but it needed doing.  A lunch break and trip to town to get some more seeds for our garden and for son’s garden and back to work, this time with the tractor.  After moving some of the loose spoiled hay, flipping the bale, moving one of the half barrels, the tractor barely fit between the box and fence.  Using the bucket on the tractor, the three boxes were filled, some hand leveling with the rake and shovel and they are all ready to plant.  The tractor was then used to remove wood and rocks from the lower part that was ignored last  year, then the bucket was used to smooth and level that part.

garden

 

Son let me know yesterday that his family was going to have a large garden this year too, so fewer tomatoes and hot peppers need to be planted here, making room for some produce that otherwise wasn’t going in this year’s garden.  By clearing the lower garden that still needs a light tilling, a larger corn patch can be planted.  Two more 4 X 8′ boxes still need to be purchased and put in place, but soil for one of them was piled up where it should go.

Tomorrow the onion sets will be planted and covered,  one of the larger boxes and a starter flat purchased.  Some fence adjustment is going to be made to allow for a gate, maybe one large enough to allow the tractor in the lower part of the garden.  Next Monday, we go pick up the dozen chicks.  Spring is coming, grass is greening, buds swelling.  Soon we will have broody hens and more chicks.

A Day Outdoors

It isn’t really here and cold will come again, but yesterday was spring time.  The tractor finally got warm enough to start, allowing  some chores that had been needed for a while.  Haying farmer friend always brings me a couple of bales of old spoiled hay after he takes the new hay each year.  That old hay is used in the chicken coop until it gets too wet to be usable, it also is used over cardboard as mulch between the beds in the garden to help keep the weeds at bay.  One of the bales was dropped where it could be rolled down near the coop, but the second one was too far from the garden.  Our little tractor is too small to load a large round bale and though that ball wasn’t a full bale, it was too large for the bucket, so it just sat.  Now that the boxes are being put in place in the garden and mulching between them is necessary, the bale needed to be moved.  pushing it with the tractor bucket started it to unroll.  Once it was about half of it’s original size, it fit inside the bucket and was dumped over the fence into the garden.  Then the unrolled parts were collected with a hay fork, loaded into the bucket in several trips and dumped over the fence as well.

 

garden

 

Now there is a huge pile of spoiled hay just inside the movable part of the fence that serves as a gate.  Maybe this spring, a real gate will be hung. Shortly after moving in, we bought 4 half wine barrels at a winery to use for storing root vegetables.  They were only used for a year or so that way and then two of them were put in the garden for flowers and later for potatoes.  The remaining two were left behind the house and had begun to come apart.  One of them was sound enough to move very carefully yesterday in the tractor bucket and carried into the garden, partially filled with soil to help hold it together.  There are now three in the garden for potatoes.  The fourth one fell all to pieces and needs to be puzzled back together.  It really should be in the garden too.  For now it is a pile of staves, metal rings, and a bottom.

While the tractor was out, the culvert at the top of the driveway received a clean out as the winter rain has caused it to nearly fill with fine gravel again.  Two buckets of gravel, sand, and soil were scooped out and utilized to build up the area in front of the garage door that was forming a pond with each rain.

driveway

It was pretty quick work to scoop a bucket full from the ditch, drive it down, dump it and use the bucket to spread it flatter.  It only took a few more minutes with a rake to make a gravel area again where it was only sandy mud.  We will see when it rains again if the pond is gone and the water runs around the house as intended.

Some flower bed weeding was accomplished, the chickens loving something fresh and green to eat, the peach tree pruning was begun, but just too much to tackle in one attack.  It won’t produce fruit this year, but will be a much more manageable size for pruning in future years and perhaps the other peach tree will give us some fruit this year.

It was nice to be outdoors in February working in the yard and gardens.  Last year, we had just been plowed out by our farmer friend from one of the largest snows of the winter.

We are still searching for some chickens to increase our flock.  Chick days are about to begin, but that is really not the preferred approach.  Hopefully, the hens will be prolific this year and there will be many homegrown chicks from which to choose.  Their fencing still needs to be removed and replaced with a finer mesh and a top put in place to try to thwart the hawk so that we don’t lose so many this year.

We are toying with adding two piglets, putting them in the lower garden which is a large space.  To do so, perhaps that fencing will be used for the replacement fencing, it is good welded wire fence and just run a row of chicken wire around the bottom of the chicks pen.  We could just use strands of electric to keep the piglets in or put hog panels between the t-posts. More research needs to be done before that step is taken, to see how much a port-a-hut costs, how much feed will be needed, and where and how to get them processed.  It needs to be economical in the long run.

That would be another nice step toward self sustainability.  Still loving life on our farm.

 

 

Olio – February 3, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

If Phil had come out today instead of yesterday, he would not have seen his shadow.  It is thick and gray.  It looks like it could snow, but there is none in the forecast.  Even the weekend storm threat has dissipated, so there should be no missed school next week.  It is cold, each day this week has been colder by 10 or more degrees than the day before.  It was near the upper 60’s on Tuesday and it won’t reach freezing today with a low in the shivering teens.  We have had wind this week too, though today is calm.  One day, the wind took out our power for nearly 7 hours before they found the tree on the line and did some major pruning about a mile down the road.

With the lengthening daylight hours, the hens are picking up egg production.  Yesterday there were 5 eggs out of the 7 hens.

eggs

It amuses me to see the variation on the size and color of the eggs from the Buffys.  The top two right and the bottom left are all Buff Orpington eggs.  The top left is the Americauna and the bottom right is the Americauna/Buff Orpington cross.  The seller of the Buff Orpington pullets that were to increase the flock must not really be interested in selling as they have not gotten back with me though they have email and phone number to arrange the sale and pick up.  Hopefully the girls will  be prolific this year and provide us with enough chicks to replenish the predator loss and still give us enough for the freezer.

The Fibonacci Infinity scarf is still growing.

scarf

There is a 13 row white repeat to go, then pick up the blue with the white and finally the blue with the merlot.  It is already as long as my legs and very heavy due to it being a tube.  It will definitely be a warm scarf.  The silk cowl at the top is growing, it is about 70% done, only getting attention when I am the car passenger instead of the driver.

The Leicester Longwood, a bit finer than the yarn for the scarf is on the wheel.  Hopefully, it will make a knitted fabric that is more sweater friendly after a swatch or two trying different needles.  This week, my Spanish Peacock drop spindle went to a new home as it caused too much strain and pain in my shoulders.  The proceeds from that sale bought a new supported spindle and bowl.  That is a learning process and some of the soft California Red roving is being used to learn. This still allows for portable spinning with less strain on the shoulders and elbows.

spindle

 

This is definitely a learning curve.  The spindle spins nicely, but my drafting of the fiber is still very inconsistent and trying to avoid the park and draft technique makes it more of a challenge.

Still loving life on our farm.