Tag Archives: farm chores

Nice days

The beautiful weather has encouraged outdoor time. The peach tree that needed pruning was done.

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But what a mess is there to clean up now.  This tree won’t produce this year, but when it does next year, we will be able to reach the fruit.

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The help

 

The help wasn’t too helpful, though they did seem to enjoy the supervised free range time, foraging for bugs and seeds around the outside of the gardens and under where branches were falling.

Yesterday again dawned a near summer day, laundry was started with the idea of hanging it out on the drying rack, but hubby suggested a day trip to recalculate the mileage on a circuit that he had submitted as a potential ride for the regional Harley Davidson rally in June.  He also wanted to check for restaurants at the near halfway point that would accommodate parking a dozen motorcycles and seating their riders plus some passengers.  Though the day was nice enough for a ride, this passenger is only in a closed vehicle on 4 wheels, so the day trip was taken in the car. Restaurants other than fast food were hard to come by, a local pizza place, a Mexican place, and a Chinese place.  The Mexican was a possibility, the Chinese place didn’t look like it could handle that many folks.  We tried the pizza place and ate their pizza and salad bar buffet.  It wasn’t great by any means and costs about $8 each, so for what we ate, was fairly expensive. The halfway point town is an example of how humanity can take a beautiful spot and make it ugly.  Generally, the old downtown areas of the small towns are nice, not so this one.  The focus of the ride is a road of steep switchbacks called the Back of the Dragon and even with the bare trees, or maybe because of them, the views were stunning, watching the ridge undulate ahead and behind us and looking down into the valley farms.  Though this is only 80 road miles from us, much closer as the crow flies, the contouring of the slopes is much different than here.  Perhaps due to heavier glacial activity?

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Needless to say, the laundry ended up in the dryer, but did get done before the sheets and quilt were needed last night.  The daytime temperatures have been in the upper 60’s, yesterday in the 70’s, but it is clear and cooling back to the 30’s at night.  Today is another beautiful day, the peach tree mess is still calling for attention.  The lopers and saw will be hauled back out and the branches cut into woodstove lengths to use for kindling next winter.

 

Cha, cha, changes

I gave up on trying to break the broody hen and instead set her on a clutch of eggs.  Out of my flock of 10 laying hens, one is raising chicks, now 2 1/2 weeks old and very adventurous.  When I toss scratch in the hens’ run, scurrying through the fence to see if they can have some too.

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The littles are developing feathers and beginning to stretch out in size.  This afternoon I caught Mom teaching them to dust bathe.  It was amusing watching them imitate her as she rolled in the dusty edge of their run.

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Three are sitting clutches of eggs.  We started out the week with 28 eggs total under them, but somehow they broke three and lost one, so there are 24 incubating.  The first hen started on May 30, the last on June 3, so we will soon be overrun with little fluffy chicks running around the pens.  This is severely impacting the egg production.  The coop and chicken tractor will suddenly be way too small to accommodate that many chooks, even for the 16 to 20 weeks until they are large enough to sort, cull, and butcher for the freezer.  In that end, Son #1 is headed here tonight to work with a plan he drew up to utilize the reclaimed wood from the compost bins, extra roofing from building the house and a couple of rolls of hardware cloth to build a simple cull coop in which to house them.  The plan will be a coop about 90+ square feet with a couple of low nesting boxes for raising babies or for egg laying by the more mature hens that are being culled.

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I love that we are going to be able to use this old lumber, saved from an old farmhouse that was torn down and repurposed as the compost bins and now to be repurposed as the frame for the coop.  In preparation of these efforts and due to the tall grass outside the gardens and coops, I moved the new compost bin to a spot adjoining the garden and mowed the nearly knee high grass.  All of that was done before morning chicken chores were accomplished so as not to upset the chooks too much with mowing right around them.

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The hardware to make the assembly possible was purchased today, tomorrow, we will assess where this new coop will be placed and construction will commence.  If we get it done, the sitting hens will be shifted to the new coop prior to hatching and will be contained within it until their chicks are large enough for the sort and cull.  The hens who are being good Moms are being doubled banded so that we know which ones brooded this year and decisions can be made about which of the mature hens will be saved over for another year and which will be replaced with new pullets.  Next year, Romeo will likely be replaced with another Rooster to keep some variation in the gene pool.

The egg production is down, but the potential meat for the freezer is up.  I will keep you on the farm to see how many little yellow fluffy butts will be running around in the next few weeks.

Love our life on the mountain farm.

The Great Chill

Our Virginia born daughter who has lived the last dozen or so years in Florida and her Florida born children arrived as an Arctic blast hit our region. The first two days they were here, we saw highs of around freezing and lows 10 or so degree lower. They are cold, to the bone cold and the next two days are colder. We awoke to 20°f (-6.67°c) and that is today’s high.

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We have a wind chill advisory for the next day or so. It is snowing, mountain snow showers. The kids want snow to play in, but not this event.

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When I took food and water to the chooks, the wind cut through me. I filled the PVC feeder that hangs inside the coop and realized that even the water in the coop was frozen solid. The waterer was brought in to thaw and a pan of water put in the coop. I opened the pop door, they ran out into the yard, turned and back into the coop, where they will likely stay today.
Other than trips to the coop to check for eggs and thaw water, we are going to hunker down indoors with a fire going, games to play, knitting, planning and reading.

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My knitting  is an Ouroboros Moebius from Margaret Radcliffe, a local knitting designer and author, a friend knit out of Green Dragon Gradient sport weight in Teal which I will treasure as this other local friend is no longer dyeing yarns. Son#1 and family gave me the Organic Seed Grower for Christmas and my two favorite seed catalogs arrived during the busy holidays and I haven’t had time to even look at them.
The day will be fueled by a pot of stew or vegetable beef soup and maybe a pan of bread.

I’m getting too old for this!

The weather has been beautiful.  Mid 50’s at night, great sleeping weather with a window open, 70 for the day’s high.  Occasional clouds, some of them quite lovely.

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Last night it was so beautiful outside that after I finished staining the garage doors with Mountaingdad and then finished the half wall on the garage that Son #1 didn’t have time to finish, we grilled out and ate on the back deck.  I was tired and sore and needed some zen time, so I spend about an hour near sundown mowing in one of the back fields.  It really is quite zen to ride the tractor and watch the goings on around you on the farm.

Today being a copy of yesterday, I began earlier to get the front and back walls of the breezeway stained.  This critter with her brood of babies on her back watched from the stone wall nearby for quite a time.

 

 

 

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While I was doing the breezeway, our handyman neighbor was staining the ceiling of the front porch and we worked together to get the front porch posts to use up the remaining stain mix that was made today.  Once the additives are mixed in, it must be used within 6 hours.  As we were working on that, I spotted another spider’s work.

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It is spun to the contour of the A frame bird house.  This is the best I could do to get a photo.

The only parts of the house left for me to stain are the front log wall, seen in the background of the photo above and the 8 windows that are in the areas that I have or will stain.

About 38 years ago, I separated my left shoulder on the second day of skiing with my hubby.  We weren’t married then, though he says that my skiing for several more days after that injury helped him decide that I was the woman he had been looking for.  I am a southpaw, so I work that shoulder and arm a lot and when I do, whether gardening or staining like I am doing now, that old injury makes my shoulder quite sore.  I may need a day or two break before I tackle that front wall.  It will take me several hours to complete.  For now, I’m going to get cleaned up and go socialize with my friends at knit night.  As a bonus, I have 4 dozen eggs to sell to them.

Farm Chores and Relativity

For several years, we have had a burn pile of scrap wood collecting near a huge nut tree and a rock pile.  It makes mowing that area difficult and haying that area impossible.  A couple of years ago, I placed a Craigslist ad for free lumber and siding and had a few takers that reduced the size of the pile some.  Two years ago, the neighbor that hays our fields came over and removed cedar trees that had grown up in the hayfields that we had just been mowing around and while here, he stacked the scattered parts of the pile more compactly and cleared up some rocks that were also an impediment to the mowing and haying.  Every time we think to burn the pile something gets in the way.  You have to dedicate an entire day to the job as it has to be watched constantly and a hose needs to be nearby to squelch any errant flames.  We will plan the burn after a heavy rain only to have several days of too much wind.  Today was perfect.  I had mowed two brush hog widths around the pile, a couple hundred feet of garden hose were connected to each other and the yard hydrant and we set the pile ablaze.

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The burn was a little slow starting but once the two sides merged, we were a bit concerned as the flames leapt dangerously close to the lower branches of the nut tree.

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We hosed and watched for hours as it burned down, never both of us leaving at once.  Unfortunately, much of the wood contained nails, screws and large fasteners that hold our logs together, so now that the fire is out, there is much cleanup to do so we don’t pop a tractor tire on a spike.  We also discovered a pile of large rocks under the burn.  They are perfect to use for the retaining wall at the end of the garden, but it will take both of us and the tractor bucket to move them and they need to cool first.

I have oft mentioned the pups.  Big dog, little dog.  Ahh, no, Big Dog, Bigger Dog.  The Shepherd weighs about 75 lbs., the Mastiff a slight 210 lbs.  She is the dominate one.  She can run under him, grabs him by the legs and pulls him down, but he is so gentle and tolerant of the behaviors.

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And the Day After

The snow finally ended around 5:30 p.m. but the wind picked up and the dry snow is being blown into drifts deeper than knee high.  Our total was around 17-18″ (44+ cm), deep enough that a walk uphill to take pictures of the road and the house from the barn was very tiring.  One of the deepest areas is a shallow rounded cut between the garage and the chicken coop that is there to drain water from the driveway away from the house and on downhill.  I get a bootful every time I go over to make sure the chickens have food and water and to collect eggs, even with my Squall pants Velcroed over the outside of the barn boots which are taller than my snow boots.

Today is clear and bright with a very brisk wind blowing, but the temperature is above freezing.

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Several weeks ago, we watched a news item about a snow phenomenon that I had never seen before, or at least not notices.  It occurs when the wind blows across the surface of the snow, rolling it like you would a snowman, sometimes creating solid balls, sometimes a donut or pipe shape.  Much to my amazement when I went over to do morning chicken chores, much more difficult in deep snow, I spotted them in the yard.

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The dogs continue to romp and leap through the snow, rolling and playfully attacking each other until they are exhausted.  I haven’t figured out how to get them to “plow” me a path over to the coop yet.  After nearly an hour of moving snow, packing snow down and digging out one of the hay bales, I got enough hay on the snow to coax 6 of the fuzzy butts out to eat and drink.  While busy adding more hay in the run to give them a bit more space to be outdoors, I heard a racket inside the coop and found two hens trying to occupy one of the six nesting boxes together to lay their morning egg.   That was rather amusing but after checking under the one who had claimed it first there was only 1 cold egg, so I guess I interrupted them.  The hay is re-covered as we may get up to 3 more inches tonight.  That chore will have to be repeated again tomorrow.  I don’t want to keep food and water in the coop.  All of the cold weather and snow we have had has taken a toll on the coop’s cleanliness and even the deep litter method struggling to keep up.

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Success

Yesterday it snowed off and on all day.  The forecast had been for light snow showers to begin in the late afternoon and end shortly after dark.  It started just as I was coming in from the chicken chores, having finally lured them out of their coop with warm mash and fresh straw over the snow.  This allowed for some much needed coop “cleaning.”  It snowed hard for a couple of hours, depositing a new inch or so on the snow remaining from a few days before and then we had snow showers through out the day.  Nothing was accumulating on the roads so we didn’t worry about leaving the mountain.  Just at sunset, the sun peeked out of the broken clouds while it was showering and I stood on the back deck in the 28°f temperature to see if we would have a snowbow.

As it appeared to be clearing, we decided to travel about 20 miles to the Mall to see American Hustle, feeling safe that the roads would be okay on the way home.  The movie was pretty good, hubby liked it a lot and when it was over we exited the multiplex theater to find a mini blizzard going on.  The roads were covered with about 2-3 inches of new snow and it was coming down so fast it was hard to see the road.  This is the mountains and most folks up here have either all wheel drive or 4 wheel drive if they are permanent residents, but it is also the area of the state’s largest university and it seems that most of the students have cars and many of them are not appropriate for snow driving in the mountains.  Even town is not level with rises and dips and as we drove through on our way back to the main highway out to our home, we watched as people, mostly college students slid around corners, fishtailed trying to climb the rises and slid as they foolishly applied brakes going down hill then applied them more firmly to thwart their slide, which caused more sliding.

Once on the main road for the last 12 miles, the road goes up two mountains and through two passes and this is where it got really dicey.  There were cars that couldn’t make it up and had slid into the guardrail, some sideways, some spun around in the wrong direction, some perpendicular to the road.  There were people with 4 wheel or all wheel drive that thought they were invulnerable and were passing each other and driving by the spinouts too quickly and following each other too closely.  It was a terrifying ride, even as the passenger in hubby’s Xterra with the 4 wheel drive on.  When we got to the last 2 miles, going up the mountain on which we live, there were only 2 sets of tracks.  We made it home safely, but very tense.

To unwind, I chose to work on the lace cowl that I posted about a few days ago.  I never thought that I would say that knitting lace would help me unwind, but I had added stitch markers after each lace repeat after “tinking” two half rows and it was going along smoothly.  I finished all but the last three rows, staying up way past my bedtime.

Today is supposed to be warmer, the sun is out and the wind is calming.  After chicken chores which involved more new straw to coax them out to the snow and preparing breakfast for me, feeding the dogs and starting some laundry, I have knit the last 3 rows and bound off.  I am stoked, this is the first time ever that I have successfully finished an entire lace project of any complexity and it is beautiful. It still needs to be blocked but I can’t wait to show it off.
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From this

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To this

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and finally to this. Now I feel confident and am thinking about trying to create a hat to go with it using the same lace pattern.