Tag Archives: chickens

Olio, October 12, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

It has been a while since an Olio was posted, actually been a while since much of anything has been posted.

Spinzilla, the TNNA (The National Needle Arts Assoc.) team spinning competition ended Sunday night.  Our team had 25 spinners from across the US, sponsored by The Knotty Ladies and Strauch Fiber Equipment Company.  Most of our team has reported their yardage with a photo, it was due to our team leader yesterday, but mine was turned in before the official end of the competition by about 3 hours.  I was worn out, beat up, and generally over it by then and had finished plying a bobbin full of wool, so I quit.  During the course of the competition as my spinning wheel only has 4 bobbins and 1 of them has some pre Spinzilla alpaca on it that didn’t get finished prior to the start time, I plyed off every bobbin or two bobbins together, wound them off the plying bobbin, measured the yardage, and banded them with fiber, yardage, and weight and put the info in a spreadsheet to make the total tally easier to do.  In the end, spinning every spare minute I could on my wheel and everywhere we went on one of my drop spindles, I spun 5000.57 yards of wool, 2.84 miles in 7 days.

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Though we have often had our first frost by now, we are still experiencing daytime tempertures as high as 90, but the light drought we have been experiencing has finally broken and we have had some rain in the past week, greening up the browned grasses.  The trees are turning orange, red, and gold, some having already shed their leaves.

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The pullets seem to all be laying now, often getting up to 13 eggs from the 16 on a good day.  Only one of the old girls is still laying, though the molt seems to be winding down, it no longer looks like a chicken exploded in their coop and run.

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Normally in the autumn, we spend about 23 hours taking turns mowing our 30 acres with a 5 foot brush hog and our little tractor, but this year, we turned the task over to our retired postman and his helper and let them mow and bale the 3 big fields.  That leaves only from the house to the road to mow and that often gets done monthly anyway.  That was a big relief to not have to face that many hours on the tractor.

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He got 20 large round bales, not too bad for a second cutting of hay after weeks of really dry weather.  His cattle will appreciate it this winter if we get any bad weather.

Each day hubby and I try to get in a good brisk walk.  Even with the rain we have managed most days.  Between our house and Blacksburg, there is a large pond in the  National Forest and it has a nice path around it.  If we park in the upper parking lot, walk down to the pond and around it and then turn around and back track, we get about 2.3 miles.  From the library in Blacksburg to the rec center in Christiansburg is an asphalt trail on an old rail grade, mostly through wooded areas, behind residential areas, and some open fields and it has several access points.  There are two that we choose, from the library to Airport Road and back which is about the same 2.3 miles and from behind the hospital toward Christiansburg, a 2.5 section.  Our 4th walk choice is to go to Radford when we are over in that direction and walk 2.7 miles of Bisset Park on an asphalt trail along the New River.  As we are still seeing various specialists nearly weekly trying to determine what is going on with hubby, we have avoided steep climbs or walks that take us out of civilization where getting help if needed would be difficult.  There is another trail along the New River that we want to check out, but it is one that will probably involve taking along a picnic and making a day trip of it as it is a bit of a drive.

My crafting since the end of Spinzilla has been minimal, but I did get my studio corner cleaned up and mostly organized and used some of my hand spun, hand dyed yarn to repair my favorite pair of jeans.

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And I have read.  The Orphan’s Tale is an excellent historical fiction set during WWII set in Germany and France and set around the circus.  A really interesting read, highly recommended.

End of Week – 9/10/2017

The cruise obviously did not happen.  We are safely in our Virginia mountains, not at sea.  We will use our credit to try again in the spring when we are out of hurricane season.  Since we are home, we took advantage to make a short trip to Meadows of Dan to supply with Bent Mountain cabbages, Virginia apples, and Ashe County cheeses from the Poor Farmers Market.  This was done after our morning trip to our local Farmers Market yesterday.

Each day we try to take a brisk walk to improve our stamina and help both of us shed a few pounds.  Yesterday was a home football game, bringing thousands of extra people into the small town, making traffic miserable, especially as the main bypass road around the town is in the midst of construction, repaving great sections and a new interchange at the campus.  This has made travel even more miserable.  With no place to park on football days, we missed our walk yesterday but enjoyed getting away from it.

The apples purchased yesterday were processed today to make two batches, a total of 15 pints of spiced applesauce.  It is cooling from the canner to be labelled tomorrow and added to the shelves in the basement for our winter enjoyment.

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Two of the cabbages were slated for kraut.  One of our favorite winter dishes is pork chops seared then topped with applesauce and sauerkraut and slow cooked in the dutch over.

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Two half gallon jars are fermenting on the counter.  If I can stir up another wide mouth half gallon, the third cabbage may also become sauerkraut as one of these jars will be packed in pints or quarts and given to eldest son and his family once it is fully fermented.

Tomorrow, a couple of flats of jars will be purchased for another prep of salsa and an attempt at making Asian Pear Butter.  Once that is done, the fading tomatoes will be pulled and that bed seeded with a cover crop.  The peppers are being allowed to ripen to red before making a batch of Sriracha style sauce and for drying to use in enchilada sauce this winter.  The corn stalks are about to be pulled for fall decoration, the fall radishes and turnips pulled for salads and kimchee.  The sweet potatoes will be left until the first frost is threatened, then dug.

The young hens are now giving us 9 to 12 eggs each day.  The old hens have all but quit laying and some appear to be beginning to molt.  They have had a good life and will be humanely killed soon to be stew chickens.

On the craft front, I have spun little since I returned from the retreat, but I have been working on designing a fingerless mitt pattern.  I think I have gotten it all figured out and written up.  Here is a peek of the finished mitt.

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They should soon be in the shop.

 

The Absent Blogger – 8/10/2017

One day seems like the next.  A pleasant August of temperatures not typical of the month, most days reaching only about 80ºf, nights that warrant at least a sheet for cover.  Each day is a series of doctor’s appointments to try to diagnose hubby’s symptoms and the accompanying stress of not knowing, harvesting from the garden that daughter and grands helped me get totally weeded last weekend, canning the harvest, and refereeing the constant squabbles of the grands who have another 18 days before school begins and are tired of each other’s company and the play options available to them.  Most days ending in thunderstorms, though not filling the creeks, it is keeping the garden watered and the dust down.  The seeds planted in empty beds after our weeding session are sprouting to provide us with turnips, radishes, spinach, carrots, and peas for the fall.  The sweet potato vines are thick, kale, chard, and corn thriving, a few small pumpkins appearing amidst the corn. Several of the pullets are laying tiny eggs now, the hens have all but quit laying.  The Monarchs found the parsley and are chowing down, but the butterflies are welcome. The hay was finally moved off of our fields.  The shelves of salsas, pickles, and sauces are filling.  As the tomatoes begin ripening more quickly, pasta sauce and more salsa will be made.  The Asian pears are ripening and pear sauce or pear apple sauce will be made.

Such is a day in the life of the absent blogger.

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Putting by – July 29, 2017

This is the beginning of the putting by season for the non productive winter to come.  The garden has provided a lot of basil, peppers are maturing, tomatoes too.  Though the peas were a bust this year and potatoes not what I was hoping, the sweet potato vines look healthy, the corn is forming ears, and we are getting enough green beans to eat a few times a week and a bit in the freezer.

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Dairy free pesto for the freezer, pickled and canned jalapeños for the pantry, fire cider for cold season, oregano and basil vinegars, and shelling of field peas for ground cover and chicken treats.  That was one afternoon of work, along with bunches of basil and hyssops drying for teas and cooking.

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Today was our weekly Farmer’s Market visit and breakfast out.  We missed both last week with our music weekend, and next weekend will be the huge street festival that happens in town, so many vendors will not even try to attend the market on Saturday.  With this being the height of the season and with several of the meat vendors having recently gotten cuts back from the abattoirs, we stocked up on some meats.  Peaches are in season as well as cucumbers and we came home with several pounds of peaches and a couple of pounds of pickling cucumbers.  Once home, another putting by session was held.

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Eight half pints of the Peach Sriracha sauce that is a hit here, and 4 pints of classic dill spears were prepped and canned.  The pot used today for water bath canning only holds 7 half pints or 4 pints at a time, so one jar of Peach Sriracha sauce went into the refrigerator for use now.

Though she isn’t a sponsor and I get nothing for this recommendation, if you are a new canner, have limited space for storing, or a small family to prepare for, Marissa McClellan’s books, Food in Jars, and Canning by the Pint are priceless.  The Peach Sriracha recipe is one of her jams that I blend and prepare thinner for a sauce and came from one of her books. She has a newer book on canning with sweeteners other than white sugar that I haven’t tried as I make few sweet canned items.

Right on the 20th week since hatching, one of the pullets presented us with an egg.  It is a Welsummer egg, reddish brown but not as dark as I had hoped they would be.  All 4 of the Welsummers have bright red combs and wattles, so we should start seeing eggs from all of them soon.  The Buff Orpingtons will probably not lay for another month.

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Pullet eggs are so cute compared to the mature hen’s eggs.

Earlier this spring, I bought a pound of raw fawn colored alpaca locks from one of the local vendors.  This week, I spun a bobbin of it and a bobbin of some chocolate brown alpaca roving that had been given to me a year or so ago, and plied them into more than 200 yards of light fingering weight pure alpaca yarn, pictured in the header.  I think it will be knit into a hat and fingerless mitts for the shop, but maybe it will just be sold or traded, especially as more is currently being spun.

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.

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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.

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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.