Take five, they’re small…

“We can see a thousand miracles around us every day. What is more supernatural than an egg yolk turning into a chicken?” – S. Parkes Cadman

The other night we came home just after dark, and drove up to the chicken coop to lock up the chickens.  I noticed that there were only 3 chickens in the coop, which was really unusual, since chickens always return to their roost at night. So, I went into the pen and they were all crammed into the corner closest to their little doorway into their coop.  The little door was closed, so they couldn’t get int0 their coop.  Chickens, not being the absolute brightest sometimes, will all huddle together in a big ball when they are scared or, as in our situation, they wanted to roost and had nowhere to go.  Unfortuately, in both situations, it is not uncommon for them to crush one another (think: people crushing one another in those soccer matches overseas.  I guess people aren’t too bright, either)  Well, after I dispersed the pile, I found Dot, my daughter’s absolute favorite Bantam hen lifeless on the ground.  I attempted a feeble try at chicken resuscitation, no mouth to mouth, mind you, but she was already gone.  I did not tell our daughter that the turkeys likely crushed little Dot for fear that she would hate the turkeys, so the next day she assumed (as she does with all the animals that are not seen again) that ‘the coyotes’ had nabbed Dot.  So, of course, Dot had to be replaced by another ‘banty’.

We went to Atwood’s and, lo and behold, all of the baby chicks are now on clearance.  My daughter immediately picked out the chick that I had my eye on, which was a tan and black spotted little number, with fully feathered legs.  But, the most eye-catching thing about his appearance was that his bottom beak was at a 45 degree angle to his top beak.  The chicks were already a couple of weeks old, so it was apparent to me after checking out “Stanley’s” body condition, that even though he was a disabled chicken, he was doing just fine.  Yes, a disabled chicken.  So, as we were looking at the other chicks, another family (and I use that term loosely here) came by with about 3 kids and another on the way, and the smallest girl, who looked about two, wanted to touch the tiniest Bantam, whereupon her mother’s boyfriend/new husband/whatever told her, “No, you don’t want the runt.”  First of all, it isn’t as though they were buying chicks, they were just looking.  Second of all, it isn’t like being a runt is contagious, and thirdly, they were Bantam chicks, anyway! (that means miniature chicken, essentially) 

Naturally, I picked up the “runt” and I bought it, too, to save it from being the target of some other redneck’s comments.   Then, I picked up a baby chick for the little girl, who I was pitying at that moment, having to deal with a mother that was running around with an angry-looking redneck boyfriend who took every chance he got to make snappy comments at her, and she pet the chick ever so gently. (That woman really needs to listen to Dr. Laura)  So, then I picked out 3 more chicks that I am almost certain are Frizzles, and we left. 

My husband came home singing a song (we are always singing dumb, made-up songs) with some lyrics about, “Well, we went to get two, and we came home with five…”.  Oh, well. 

In farm life, we worked on the brick path yesterday, despite being 90 degrees with 400% humidity.  The weather has been so wacky lately, I’m surprised we haven’t yet been slammed with a tornado yet.  Today is hot, tonight will be cooler, tomorrow will be hotter, but then the next day we’re having a major cold front.  Go figure.  Anyway, we have completed enough of the path that it is now coming around the front of the house and we have gotten rid of two pallets of bricks that have been sitting in my front yard for about a year.  Yippee!  When Jason moved the last pallet, he found a snake for me, so of course I had to go outside and pick it up!  It looked like a Rough Earth snake to me, but I am not 100% sure on that.  But what I am positive about is that it wasn’t poisonous.  I don’t ‘do’ poisonous snakes.

Just around the corner…

Wow, and to think last time I wrote to y’all, days were in the 100 degree mark and HUMID.  Today, it’s misty and 72 degrees!  So, now we know fall is just around the corner.  This is my other favorite time of year, other than spring.  I always love the transitional times of the year the most.  The leaves are now beginning to turn; the sassafras is putting on its flame red foliage.  We should have a beautiful autumn this year for two reasons; we have received over a week of rain, and the fall’s first cool front is due next week, which is atypically early for us.  I’m excited!  Well, I may not be so excited when we are experiencing an extremely cold winter, but for now…

We have had a LOT going on in the past month, mainly illnesses in my little farm family.  Our youngest developed mesenteric lymphadenitis after a bout with gastroenteritis, and I have been on and off ill with a cold (flu? allergies?) for over a week now.  I do have much more energy now,  but I think that with all of this rain, I am reacting to the mold levels.  In other news, we adopted 2 kittens, a brother and a sister, about 3 weeks ago.  They are brother and sister, named Mr. Bobo and Ashley.  Aren’t kittens just about the cutest thing to watch?  Fran loves to chase them down and chew on their heads, but it’s all in good jest.

We also bought 2 white Plymouth Rock hens and we were graciously given 4 18 month old Leghorn hens, who are still laying big, white eggs.  I am planning on buying some MORE chickens very soon.  I also want to get some more Cayuga ducks.  The duck eggs are WONDERFUL.  I know most people balk at the mention of eating duck eggs, but I am telling you that the flavor and richness are unsurpassed by chicken eggs.  They do not taste “eggy”; it is a very complex and delicious taste.  Of course, our chicken eggs are also delicious.  There is NO comparison between ‘grocery store’ eggs and eggs from hens that are allowed a more natural diet.  I have the pictures to prove it!  Unfortunately, my camera is angry with my computer and refuses to share pictures with it, but I will get them on here ASAP. 

The newest additions are 4 guineas that I picked up at the feed store (and one that was hand-delivered…thanks, Rachel!). They are so funny to watch when they see a bug.  I told Jason it was like watching a pit bull in a chick suit.  They are extremely focused on movement and I have the feeling when I let them in my garden in a few weeks that they will do a great job of snapping up my pests. 

Well, Jason finally finished a log splitter that he built out of spare parts at his shop.  We already have about a 3/4 of a cord of wood from a fallen hickory in our woods.  It sure makes short work of chopping wood!  I can’t wait for more of our fireplace cookin’! 

I can’t believe we have already been here almost a year.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else!  Still a LOT to do here…but we’re whipping things into shape slowly.  The kitchen garden is ever-expanding and Jason finished several of the raised beds.  Now I just need to fill them with compost.  It’s also time for me to plant my winter garden.  I did plant some winter squash, beans, and cucumbers. I am still harvesting lots of okra, tomatoes (Brandywines from spring), and tons of cherry tomatoes.  Oh, and I do finally have peppers, lol.  I didn’t do so great with my peppers this year.  I’m not sure what happened there, but with the cooler temps and tons of rain, they are finally ‘makin'”.

I have also been putting up LOTS of muscadine and scuppernong grape jelly.  We picked 32 pounds of muscadines at a farm, and I am slowly working on turning them into delicious jelly!  I hope that soon myself and my MIL will get together (with our new food processors….NO MORE CHOPPING) and put up some more tomatoes/tomato products.  You just can’t beat homegrown flavor…no doubt about it! I also got a lot of figs last month, and I’m planning on doing a strawberry-fig jam.  I do have to wonder how many people in my age group can things?  Hmmmm….I’m willing to  bet not many.  What a shame.  Here’s a great LINK for making muscadine jelly, juice, or jam.

Today’s favorite thing:

Well, I am still on a budgeting kick!  I had to update my ‘cash flow’ form last night and wanted to share this form with you.  The idea is that NO dollar is unaccounted for.  It is fairly self-explanatory, but it is also great to have the book, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, which is currently on sale for under 10 dollars.  Download this FORM.  It is in PDF format.  I use this form every month, and I also use 2 envelopes.  One holds my receipts for anything that comes out of my checking account, and one holds receipts for anything that I pay cash for (that is NOT deducted out of my checking account).  So, at the end of the month, I have a paper trail, and also keep up with where my cash goes.  I NEVER have to ask myself, “Where did my money go?” because I KNOW.  It is so liberating, trust me. This is a system that works wonders for me.  I have been doing this since May 18th of this year.  If you are in debt, I URGE (and beg and plead for) you to try this system and find freedom for yourself!!!!

Well, that is all that I have for today, plus my entire right arm is aching for some reason!   :0)

Summer Swelters on…

Wow, I’m a really bad blogkeeper!  Been over a month now.  Well you can’t expect much when school’s out, lol.  I’ve learned a lot over the past few months.  Allow me to share with you:

GARDENING:

Always, always, always, with no fail, label your plants.   I thought I could remember what I had put in the ground.  HA!  I planted green beans, cream peas, and pintos.  So, one day, after things were lookin’ about ready to pick, I thought it was time to pick me some peas.  So, I waited till the pods looked a little dry and got my friend and his son to help us ‘shell some peas’.  I did not realize my mistake until about 2 weeks later when my REAL peas matured.  We had actually picked PINTOS and had the worst time trying to shell the little boogers because they weren’t ready yet!  I thought those were funny looking peas!  Now I know!

Keep out the chickens.  In my rose-colored little pea brain, I imagined some kind of idyllic symbiotic relationship between my chickens and my garden.  The chickens would remove all the pests while simultaneously fertilizing my garden with their nitrogen-rich poo.  I had about 30 – 2mo. old chickens loose in my garden.  At first, all was bliss.  Then, over time, I noticed they were eating my cherry tomatoes.  No big deal, I thought…I give most of ’em away anyway.  THEN  they started eating my big tomatoes.  That definitely put a hitch in my giddy-up.  Now, I work hard on my ‘maters and I’ll be danged if some stupid chicken is going to eat my meal (I still like chickens, mind you, I was just really upset with them.  I really don’t think they’re stupid.) Then, I found that my squash had been slowly but cluckingly methodically picked on.  THEN, they poo’ed all over my porch.  But not just the porch.  The chairs, my blankets, my tables, and to top it off, trampled my moonvine and my poor, poor Christmas cactus. Now I was really hot.  OUT, OUT, OUT!!!  I screamed as I snatched them up.  Anyway, now they’re safe in their own coop, and no more poop for me to contend with!

God praise canned green beans!  You would think they’d be easy to grow.  Apparently, this year at least, not so.  I know this because not only did my lovely, lush vines only produce 8 measley pods, but my mother harvested her bumper crop of 4 pods, and her friend reaped 3.  God Bless the Jolly Green Giant.

Hoss and Fran taking a nap

Hoss and Fran taking a nap

LIVESTOCK:

Goats:  After several months of budgeting, I found that having 12 goats costs me approximately: $25 a month in hay, and $29.24 a month in feed.  Not including their wormer, which, by the way, is quite pricey at $80 a bottle!  Fortunately, though, it lasts a LONG time.  We are planning on selling 8 goats, so I figure I can quarter my costs.  $15 a month isn’t bad for having some brush trimming!

Poultry:  It costs me about $43.75/mo. to feed my chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys.  Now, the geese and ducks don’t do anything besides honk, quack, and crap, but I really do like my geese.  The turkeys are endearing except for the fact that they lay on my plants and would eat a 50# sack of corn in one sitting if I let them.  Plus, now they’re too big to butcher.  Now what?  The chickens are the most useful so far, as they are giving us copious quantities of lovely brown eggs.  I think I will always have some chickens till the day I die! They also love to eat lots of grasshoppers and i haven’t seen hardly any around lately.

In General:  While free livestock is appealing, the reality is that you have to feed ’em, house ’em and clean up after ’em.  You really have to ask yourself if it’s all worth the cost and effort.  As far as my geese go, they love to eat grass, which I think it hilarious and they honk when they see someone they don’t recognize, which I also think is hilarious.  They are definitely more ‘pet’ to me than useful livestock.  The ducks quack and crap.  I hope that will change and eventually I’ll get my 100 eggs a year out of them.  Maybe next spring.  The goats are very useful for eating brush.  You will be very amazed at how clean they leave a wooded plot behind.  However, twelve is too many for me at the moment.  The turkeys are very interesting, but gobble down food at a phenomenal rate.  Granted, I do have a breed which is very large, so I am not sure how the ‘heritage’ breeds would do, but I can tell you that these guys totally chow down.  Bottom line is that my chickens and goats are, so far, the most useful livestock that I own.

FARM LIFE:

For the past 3 months, we have been budgeting.  I’m bringing this up because I feel budgeting is very important to everyone, and especially for farm folks so we can assess our profit to loss ratio.  I have learned that I just can’t currently sustain as much livestock as I thought I could, and that’s ok.  Actually, it’s a weight off of my shoulders to sell off some of my flock, not just financially, but also mentally!  After a major talk with myself, I decided to whittle down to bare minimum, and really throw most of my efforts into my gardening.  After all, so far, it seems to me that my garden has paid off more than any of my livestock (except, perhaps, my laying hens), and it is SOOOOO much less effort for me to ‘keep up’.  Sure, it’s work, too, but I don’t have to worm my plants, or chase after them, or clean up plant poo.  So, I’ll always have a garden.  The other thing I like about vegetable/fruit gardening is that you can sell the produce, sell something you’ve created with the produce, like baked goods or canned goods, or even just sell seeds. Anyway, I think it’s a win/win situation all around. 

So, with budgeting in mind, for a very, very small initial fee, I can have a great big, gorgeous garden for pennies on the dollar.  So, plants are in, new livestock is out for now.  And that’s the farm report for this time!

My favorite thing for the moment:  Ever listen to talk radio?  I didn’t either until a few months ago when my favorite oldies station morphed into a talk radio station.  That’s when I discovered Dave Ramsey.  After I had listened to his no-nonsense style for about a week or so, I bought his book, The Total Money Makeover.  So, I am currently on Step #2, which is the Debt Snowball.  I have never done a real budget before, and before this April, budgeting was very hard because of the way our business was set up.  Now that we get ACTUAL, REAL PAYCHECKS (lol), I can budget.  I did my first budget in May, and thought, my God, no wonder we’re always broke!  I have faithfully stuck to my budget sheet (which I print out monthly from daveramsey.com) and I have never, ever had this much money left over at the end of the month.  I even amazed myself!  We have paid off about 6 of our debts already and are slaving away to pay off our next debt.  I even have enough now, saved up, to pay for our house taxes for this year.  I have NEVER had that happen!  You can do it, too!  I like Dave because it’s not some weird scam, and he seems to be very down-to-earth about things, and seems to have good ol’ common sense.  One day, I’m going to call the Dave Ramsey show and scream, “WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!!!”  Just you wait and see!

Home is Where the Quiet Is/Chicken Tractors

So the other day, we left the farm to go work on our old house (my Mamaw’s house) in town.  We just had it re-painted and it looks wonderful, but we had to do the yard, since it was littered with painter’s trash and the beds looked really unkempt.

After about 10 minutes of working, I became annoyed at the honking horns, squealing tires, and thumping music.  I looked at Jason and said, “Can we go home yet?”.  I guess he thought I was kidding because he just chuckled.  So I pouted a little bit and worked for about an hour or so more.  Cars zoomed by, people were honking, and I grew increasingly irritated. 

Living in the country has that effect on you when you come into town.  People have the tendency to annoy the living daylights out of you, no matter how small the annoyance may actually  be. 

 I asked Jason again if we could go home yet, and he shook his head no.  Like a 2 year old, I stuck out my bottom lip, folded my arms, and sulked.  Finally, FINALLY, we were done, and I couldn’t WAIT to get back to my farm.  As soon as we turned in the drive, I felt a feeling of peace and tranquility wash over me.  I don’t need to be on medication for stress…I just need to go home! Every morning when I wake up and look outside, it’s like a dream that has come true.  Even the sky seems more blue here, and that’s the truth.  People don’t need drugs to stay sane, they just need some space.  That’s my theory, anyway.

OK, part two of this blog.  Apparently a lot of people get directed to my blog by looking up “chicken tractor”.  Lol.  Well, here’s ours:

Jason built the whole thing out of recycled wood, wheels, and hinges.  It’s small, but would work well for 2-3 adult hens if you don’t free range, OR you can use it as a portable coop for lots of chickens.  Right now, it holds about 20 small chickens at night.

More on tractors later!

A long week..

I’ve had a pretty tough week this week!  I’m really ready to see Friday night, crawl in bed and sleep in late Saturday morning.  I’m sure we’ve all had days like that!

I finally uploaded some new pics to share with you.  My first is entitled, “A Chicken in Every Pot” :

christmas08-032

This is one of the baby Silkie chicks at about 2 days old.  (Please note: No chickens were harmed in the making of these photographs)

Here is one of Fran, and even though it’s blurry, I think it’s really hilarious the way she looks, as though she’s thinking, “MMMmmmm.  Finger lickin’ good!”  Don’t worry, she didn’t do anything other than the Excited Chicken Dance.  I didn’t let her get any closer than that.

christmas08-035

Now the chicks are about 3.5 weeks old and I need to get pics of them.  They are mostly now feathered out and trying to fly.  Well, except for the Silkies.  Poor things look like a maribou boa gone bad.  They probably couldn’t fly if they tried.

I’m excited at the prospect of ordering my layers!  Yes, yes, that DOES mean more chickens!  My family and friends already think I’m nuts as it is for having as many birds as I do, and I’m sure I’m destined to be the ‘Crazy Bird Lady’, when I’m old.  But I digress….I am also going to get some ducks and a pair of geese (to help eat up some aquatic pond weeds). Oh yeah, and probably eventually some turkeys.  (!!!)  Ah well.

Not much else in farm news.  We’re constructing plans for my garden out front and trying to come up with plans for a cheap ‘hoop house’ for year round gardening.

 

We have arrived…

Well, two months ago, we finally did it.  We were able to move from suburbia to the country, the sticks, the boondocks.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier.  There is room to breathe and to grow!  Imagine that.  I was becoming increasingly paranoid living ‘in town’, especially after we had about $2,000 worth of OUR STUFF stolen from our house.

I don’t have to worry about people eyeballing MY STUFF or neighbors who drop in every time I was in my front yard. (sigh)  Not that I mind company, but you know, for someone who gardens, it can get pretty irritating to have someone want to chitchat every single time I was out in my yard!  I even started gardening after sundown, lol.  I actually drug a worklamp out in my front yard and planted herbs. 

Anyway, I don’t have to worry about that anymore! 

I have been rabidly reading Countryside, Mother Earth News, and the Farmer’s Almanac.  Oh yes, and Backyard Poultry.  I’m really nuts about birds. Seriously.  As a matter of fact, I….er, I mean SANTA, ordered about 20 Silkie chicks today and they should be here on the 23rd of this month.  I’m so pumped!  Last time I had my chickens, it was about 7 years ago.  These will be strictly for pets and eggs, but come spring, I’m going all out with some dual purpose breed; possibly Plymouth Rocks or something of the sort.  Yes, this will mean eggs AND meat.  I’ll have to write about that after we do our first ‘butchering day’.  I have to admit that I am not looking forward to that; however, I also cannot have 15 something roosters running around, and after all, I DO eat chicken.  I’d rather know exactly what my chicken has been eating and what its life has been like. 

Well, that will have to be almost it for tonight.  I’m terribly cold here in the sunken room…you know, there ain’t no cold like ‘country cold’.  It gets a lot colder out here with no houses to act as insulating windbreaks.  Also, we have a heat pump rather than a furnace, so it does run cooler, esp. tonight when the weather is below freezing.  Blech!!!  I’ve got on 2 shirts, my longjohns and pants and 2 pairs of socks, lol.  Thank you GOD that we have a fireplace out here!

Beware...
Beware...

Here’s a new photo I snapped a couple of days ago.  Ever heard the saying, “Red skies at morning, sailors take warning”?  Well, this particular morning, our entire bedroom looked pink and I ran outside to snap a photo, and this is what I got.  I’m kindof a weather buff/nerd.  So, this was taken Monday morning, I believe.  That night a squall line blew through and temps went from the 60s to the 30s.  Today it has sleeted and snowed and has not broke 40 degrees.  Anyway, there must be something to that old adage.