Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chicken Fever

My first batch of fancy chicks was ordered in January.  I have been forcing myself to wait until closer to their delivery date (they ship March 12) until I call the post office here in town to let them know to expect a peeping package.  I have literally had to sit on my hands to not pick up the phone.  I'm SO excited!

Then it gets better.  There were some breeds that I'd wanted, but couldn't find a matching delivery date, so I wrote them off.  Thanks to Teresa splitting an order or two with me, I'm getting them!!!  Granted, they'll come later than my first batch, but that might actually work out better.  So tonight, folks, I'm going to drag you into chicken fever with me.  The pictures you are about to see will be what I get to see every day.  I hope you can handle the gorgeousness.  Of course, these are all in addition to my wonderful Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, various bantams, and my ever-prized Yokohamas/Phoenixes!

Double Laced Barnevelder hen.  I'm only getting one since they're rather pricey.  Photo from

Black Copper Marans hen.  Ditto on the pricey.  You can tell I got the pic from

Welsummer hens.  I'm getting 2 since they didn't break the bank!  Photo from

Silver Laced Wyandotte hen.  I think I got 2.  Photo from

Jersey Giant hen.  They're HUGE so I'm only getting one.  Photo from

Easter Eggers (I think I'll get 4) for blue/green eggs.  Photo from

That's my first batch, plus the 5 Cornish cross meat birds that I want to make sure I can slaughter before I get more.  Now for the second batch that will get here in late April.

Speckled Sussex--I'm getting 3.  (Peter, I'm sorry, but I couldn't find Dorkings for this year!) 

2 Anconas are on the list.  They're supposed to be terrific white egg layers.  Photo from

And, just when I gave up, I actually can get Faverolles!!  THREE of them!
YAY!!  Obviously, from again.

And, if I find that slaughtering isn't a problem (and I really don't think it will be), I'm considering these for my meat birds:

Freedom Rangers (aka Label Rouge).  Photo from

So folks, I sure hope you're ready for plenty of updates on the baby chicks.  I simply can't wait.  Plus I'll get to look at (and look after) 2 batches of cute fluffiness at first.
Photo from (almost sounds familiar, doesn't it?)

Brace yourselves for lots of pictures.  I love my little feathery babies and I hope they become egg MACHINES :D  You'll hear about it one way or the other.  So, do what I'm going to do--take 2 aspirin and think about chickens in the morning.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Playing Possum

My cell phone warbled at me to let me know I had a new message.  I slid it open to read a text from my neighbor Barb:  "did your dogs steal my dead possum?" 

I had heard a shot last night.  I stiffened in my chair, then thought "oh, it must be Ralph.  I wonder what he got."  Well, within seconds Barb called me to let me know that it WAS Ralph shooting a possum that their German Shepherd had found and, well, it needed to be put out of its misery.  Hope had used it for a chewie toy.  I really wasn't all that bothered by it, just glad to have the vermin population around here reduced by one.

photo from
I can't believe city folk can be so . . .well, DUMB.

(as a side note folks, possums, raccoons and skunks are vermin.  They carry rabies and ticks.  They all want to eat my chickens and my produce, so they need to go somewhere else to live their lives if they want to live them.)

So back to the text.  I responded "lmao, not that I know of  . . ." Every now and then my dogs go over to visit Hope and play with her, but they didn't head that way last night, and nobody had possum breath.  (another side note:  possums STINK.  Not quite like skunks, but not pleasant either.)

She then responded with "It was gone this morning.  You might check Arthur's room."  GAAA!!  It took me a while to stop laughing about that one.  It's even funnier because he just might do something like that--heck, last summer he just had to show me the "worm with eyes" that he found.  It was a dead, half-eaten snake (Arthur didn't eat it, the cat did.  He was so proud of himself for finding a worm with eyes).  So, that led me to text back "ewww.  I'd know if he had it because he would have left it on the table!"  And he probably would have.  (and no, his room does NOT smell like dead possum, so I think we're safe.)

See, I know firsthand what dead possum smells like.  Not only did we trap and kill one by my coop this last fall, I even had an experience when we lived in the city.  On my way to work one chilly, drizzly day, I let our dogs out into our backyard.  When I came home, I decided to make taco salad for dinner, and went out to the garden to pick lettuce.  What should I come upon but a dead possum.  A BIG one.  GACK.  It says something that neither of the dogs ate it--it probably smelled too bad. 

I reasoned that they must have killed it in the morning (since it wasn't there the night before and I let them out around dawn) and it had been laying there in the rain, just waiting to be disposed of.  I went to get a trash bag.  Easy, right?  Turn the bag inside out, pick it up by its tail, reverse bag, tie bag, end of story.

OR NOT.  Here's this smelly dead thing, and to top it off, it's WET.  I'm not going to kid you folks, the smell would gag a goat.  Still, I figured that if MY dogs had killed it, it was MY responsibility to take care of it.  Scott had already had a rough day and probably didn't need to deal with dead animals on top of it.  I reached down and grabbed the tail.  Brace yourself.

The outer layer of skin on the tail sloughed off.  I know, that doesn't sound like a big deal, but what it meant was that the dead hunk of nastiness landed in a boneless pile even nearer to my feet with a kind of squishy thud and left me with a handful of skoodge (my term for a lump of skin and hairs) in the bag I was holding.  I had to go retch in the rosebushes.  The smell got even MORE overpowering.  The dogs, being intelligent, were watching me from opposite corners of the yard--as far away from the stench as they could get.

OK, next try was a shovel.  For those of you who have never tried to pick up a limp, dead animal in the rain with a shovel while trying not to breathe AND place said animal into a trash bag that seems determined to evade your every attempt, go ahead and laugh.  Someday you'll get to do it too.  Then I'll get to laugh.  Finally, I managed to maneuver the shovel properly over the bag and dump the noxious cargo.  I had to go retch in the rosebushes again and get some fresh air.

Then, holding my breath, I got the bag tied shut.  Dang, it was full of air.  What if Scott comes home, sees this in the Dumpster, and tries to pop it?  AAAAACK.  I did manage to warn him, and thank GOD he didn't pop the bag.  I had a serious twitch every time anyone said the word "possum" for weeks after that. 

I know that some people eat possum.  Even Scott joked with Barb that he knew we were having soup tonight but he didn't know what kind.  Ha.  Ha. 

photo from

I've eaten some strange stuff.  I like squirrel, I like alligator.  I even like mountain oysters if they're made right.  Barbacoa (meat scrapings off of a cow skull) is delicious.  Cabrito (roasted baby goat) is delectable.  Heck, I'm even getting myself prepared to slaughter my own chickens.  But you know what, folks?  I'd have to be starving before I ate possum. 

Just thinking about it . . .where's that rosebush?  I think I need to retch in it.  Have a good (possum-free) night!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mission: Impossible

Today started innocently enough.  True, Scott had to go in to Wichita to work instead of the usual work at home, but that was fine.  Arthur and I had a rather easy morning.  I lounged around, finally got chores done, got a shower . . .and all of a sudden, it was noon.

My big plan today was to go get paint to get my new coop remodeled.  Well, it happened to be lunchtime.  Arthur wanted to go to McDonald's (which, besides being fake food, is 30 miles away in the wrong direction).  I said NO.  Repeatedly.  So, we compromised.  He wanted a cheeseburger, so we went to the Wagon Wheel Express here in Marion.  Truly awesome burgers made by some truly awesome folks.  If you're in the mood for ribs, I think they do them on Saturday.  Getcha some.  If they're as good as the burgers, you'll be in heaven.

For those of you without children, eating a meal in public with kids can be an adventure.  A 4 year old BOY makes it truly epic.  I'm a stickler for manners (chew with your mouth closed, keep your elbows off the table, and use indoor voices), all of which my son seems to be hard-wired against.  Anyway, we managed to survive lunch.  If the food hadn't been that good, I doubt I would have made it.

Then we went to get paint.  The Bennetts (the folks we bought our farm from) had a rather eclectic taste in painting outbuildings, but it works.  Forest green, brick red, and mustard yellow adorn the outhouse (no longer used), mower shed, and even some places indoors.  So, for my new coop, I wanted to paint the framework green, plus use red and yellow to accent the panels on the door and nestbox lid.

I hunted for paint.  I knew I'd seen it around here somewhere.  Finally I found a can of what looked like the right color and brought it along on the adventure today.  Maybe it was my bad that I didn't go into a major store like Home Depot or Lowe's.  I just didn't feel like driving that far.  So, I went into our local hardware store and tried to find a match. 

Folks, I used to do color matching for a living.  It boggled my mind that I couldn't find ONE shade of paint that looked like what I was holding in my hand.  Of course, it didn't help that Arthur was constantly yammering at me . . .PLUS being a BOY in a HARDWARE store.  (Gotta touch everything, Mom!)  I finally found something relatively close, but the guy told me he didn't have the formula to mix it in exterior paint because it was "too bright."  Luckily, he got around it and mixed it for me anyway.  You should have seen his face when I asked him to add a few shots of black to darken it.  Come on, I'm a pro at this!  Just trust me!  I DO know what I'm doing!

Arthur got a big kick out of watching the mix being made, and watching the agitator mix the paint.  He had to do his own imitation, which was actually very cute.  Then we had to go through the rest of the store so he could look at everything.  And touch it.  YEESH.  Thank goodness they had a "store cat" who was very friendly and distracted little man until I could pay for my paint.

Arthur had been very vocal about wanting to help paint.  I DID NOT want to clean up that kind of mess.  Luckily, he solved the problem for me by promptly falling asleep on the couch after we got home.  YAY!  So, I headed out to paint the coop. 

Folks, it was COLD.  Cloudy, with a brisk breeze and a thermometer temp of less than 50F is not ideal weather.  I was out there slapping paint on as fast as I could dip it.  Yes, my barn jacket has some nice new green spots.  I'd finish one side then come in to thaw out my hands and the paint.  It still needs a second coat, but I'm pretty happy with it.  I still wish I would have had the guy add another few shots of black.  Eh, well, it's a coop.  No, you can't see pictures yet.  I'll post them when it's done and in place.  Waiting is therapeutic.  (wicked laugh)

The day ended well with a hot homemade turkey pot pie for supper, the kids not being COMPLETE terrors, and me knowing that my coop is almost ready for my gorgeous Yokohamas.  When I went out to cover their cage tonight, Maki had his wing over Sushi.  (I tried to get a pic of that one, but by the time I got the camera, he'd moved)  I really hope they'll like their new coop.  Stay tuned for finished pics!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Manure Happens

On our farm, manure is a way of life.  Pretty much everything that moves out here (including us) poops.  The horses do the most, but the chickens are really trying hard to do their part.  The dogs lay logs, the cats do their thing, and it's all natural . . .except for the human part.

I've just finished reading a very thought-provoking book called The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins.  I know, most of you are gagging by now.  WHY?  Why is human poo any different than dog poo, or horse poo, or chicken poo?  When you compost manure from any animal, it returns the nutrients taken from the soil TO the soil.  Heck, people pay big bucks for manure from animals they've never even MET, thousands of miles away.

What about the smell, you're probably thinking.  Well, I'm thinking the same thing.  I just had to wash out a pair of underwear with a pretty hefty skidmark in it.  What did I use to wash it?  DRINKING WATER.  Chew on that for a second.  Every time you sit on a toilet, you're putting your urine and feces into perfectly good DRINKING WATER.  (mind you, drinking water is one of the most priceless resources on the planet.)  Then you flush and it goes to a "treatment plant" that produces anaerobic (read:  unhealthy) sludge that some farmers pour on their fields without composting.  Yep, the food you eat is sometimes fertilized with unprocessed human feces.  I guess it does beat petroleum-based fertilizers, but still . . .we could do better.

Let's start back with composting.  In a thermophilic (heat-loving) compost, the interior gets hot enough to kill not only most bacteria, but most parasites as well (depending on heat and duration), and not produce a stench.  So, not only can you dump your kitchen scraps on your compost pile along with your yard clippings, you can safely compost your pet manure and yours as well. 

Oh stop it.  I hear you gagging again.  So tell me, are you healthy?  Yes?  Do you have worms?  Do your pets have worms?  My guess is no.  Have you suffered from a bout of E. Coli or Salmonella recently?  What about your pets?  Again, I'm thinking no.  Folks, the fact of the matter is that if you add healthy fecal material (regardless of the source) to compost and process it properly, your compost is healthy too.  Granted, managing a compost pile takes a little more than just forking it over now and then, but compared to your taxpayer dollars going to a water treatment facility?  It's cheaper than you ever thought it could be, and you'll be able to support your family on the garden you grow with it.  Then you can start the compost cycle all over again and build up your soil instead of constantly draining it.

Here's an easy "out" for those of you that are still creeped out about human feces and sawdust toilets.  Use chickens to help you process your compost.  What they don't eat, they'll till into the soil and fertilize it for you, plus giving you the most wonderful eggs you've ever seen.  Heck, run some broilers and not only do you have tillers, you'll have MEAT.  That is, unless you're creeped out about killing things too.  Just remember that every time you flush that huge poo down the toilet, you're creating waste somewhere . . .and wasting valuable drinking water as well.  If you're a Vegan, fine.  Ask me about it.

In this current climate of "recycle, reduce, reuse" we all need to think about what kind of impact we're REALLY having on the environment.  Composting NEEDS to happen--do you know how many tons of kitchen scraps fill landfills every day?  We MUST start giving more natural material back to the land and end our dependence on petroleum based "fertilizers" and start reclaiming our food supply.  Come on, I dare ya.  Read the book and comment. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fish on Friday

No, I'm not Catholic, but my husband and his family are, so we observe the fish on Friday rule during Lent.  It's probably good for us anyway as long as it's not LJS. 

But, sitting there tonight eating fish got me in the mood to GO fishing.  I'd been plenty of times when I was a kid and my uncle had a trout pond up in the mountains.  I used to go deep sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.  Somehow, I forgot how much fun it was until my friend Tracee came to stay with us this summer.  She reintroduced me to the joy of fishing.

This is Tracee.  She catches fish.  Sometimes turtles.

We went fishing several times a week, since it was so hot this summer and this was just about the only way to get cool.  At first, it was only her joy.  I went out and got a brand spanking new tacklebox.  I got all the fancy baits, hooks, lures, and whatnots.  My truck was permanently stuffed with our fishing gear.  Even the kids were excited when they got put on nightcrawler duty and sometimes fought over who would get to bring Tracee or me a worm.  (Ask me sometime what a worm threader is!)  Heck, even the KIDS caught fish when I let them use their poles.

I caught everything BUT fish.  Rocks, branches, even a fishing net once (I figured I was getting better by then).  I did manage to catch SOME seafood eventually:

It took a fancy schmancy lure, but look at all those zebra mussels. 
This is the THIRD rock I caught that day and man did it put up a fight (when it caught on that underwater log).

Finally I moved up to "the big time" and caught a bluegill.  They're pretty small.  Still, it was a FISH.  An honest to God FISH.  Several fruitless trips passed, but then I could hardly believe my luck when I finally caught a CARP.  Yeah, I know.  Most people think of them as CRAP.  But hey, it had fins and scales, and definitely wasn't a rock.  I felt that I was moving up in the world.

Carpe Carp.

Then one day, I thought I really had it made.  I managed to catch a CATFISH.  It was big enough to KEEP!  I about fell over in surprise.

Ain't it purty?

So this year, I think I'll find every shred of warm clothing I have and try for some walleye in spring.  I'd never had it until Scott's folks introduced me to it, and it's become an obsession.  So look for me out at the reservoir quite a bit this summer.  I usually bring the kids, which usually wrecks my fishing but oh well, I COULD be catching rocks!  If you talk to me real nice, I'll even show you my catfish spot.  If you bring the beer, I'll even let you use my stink bait.  See you there!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cooped Up

Sorry I've been rather lax on posts, folks.  I know how you all hang on the edges of your seats for new ones!  (HAHAHAHA!)

Last night was another doozy of a night.  It all started about a month ago on my local poultry swap list when a friend posted about a coop that she'd found on Craigslist.  A 4x8 foot (possibly mobile) coop for $60?  I'm all over that!  Well, I sent an email and never heard anything back, so I assumed it had been sold.  All of a sudden, I got an email this Tuesday that apologized because my message had gone to their SPAM folder and they hadn't noticed it.  Was I still interested?  It had to be gone by Friday.  OF COURSE!

Hubby at first said OK, until he noticed that it was 2 hours away.  Then he started to balk.  He insisted that he could build a coop for me for less.  Now remember, my darling lovely Yokohamas have been living in a large dog crate RIGHT UNDER our bedroom window for about 3 weeks now.  I still adore them, but the crowing at 3 AM is starting to grate on my nerves.  I told him that, not only would he have to have it done THIS WEEKEND but that I wanted upgrades to the design (welded wire instead of chicken wire to keep the raccoons and possums out, handles, wheels, etc.).  He finally sighed and said "Call her.  We'll go get it."  I do love that man!

The next day produced a mad scramble to clean my truck, arrange to borrow Ralph's trailer (and, as it turns out, truck too, since his taillight hookup didn't match mine), pick Caitlin up from school instead of waiting for the bus to get here, get both kids back home and through the bathroom, transfer the car seats,  and take off like the devil was on our tail.  We had about 2 hours' drive each way, and daylight was ticking away.

Folks, there's a reason that we usually plan road trips for after dark when the kids are asleep.  They're great kids, don't get me wrong.  They USUALLY get along.  But when they don't . . .oh boy, hold on to your hat.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I was grinding my teeth so hard I could have created enough kinetic energy to power the truck.

Well, we finally got there.  Sue was SUCH a nice lady.  She even had kids fairly close in age to mine that didn't mind playing and sharing their toys with my hooligans while we loaded the coop.  That sounds so easy, doesn't it?  She DID tell me to bring 4 extra people, but after looking at this picture, I figured that it couldn't be THAT heavy, could it? 

Um, yes, yes it was.  I didn't help any by leaving hubby's drill and the equipment he'd gotten together to help move it in my truck, which was back at Ralph's.  2 hours away.  ACK.  We also were trying to do this in falling dusk and maneuvering over composted hay.  Still, after all the pushing, pulling, and poking we did, this thing was solid as a rock, construction-wise.  Thank GOD Sue was there to help.  With Scott (his muscles and some straps) at the front, and her and me at the back, we finally got it moved up onto the trailer.  Again, THANK GOD the trailer had a ramp.  I'm so glad the kids played well together.  (Mind you, Sue has 2 of the cutest kids to grace the earth!)  I was also beyond tickled to get some bales of sprouting hay.  Yeah, I know that sounds gross, but the chickies will love it and it'll make us some great compost.

So we got home way too late last night.  Blessed man that he is, Scott not only carried the kids up to bed, but unhitched the trailer so I could gas up Ralph's truck this morning and get it back to him in time for him to run into town for lunch.  I fully expect that we'll have even more adventures unloading it, so be on the lookout.  I plan to add some hail screen, wheels, and paint--this will be a complete Tour de Coop when I'm done with it.  Thanks, Sue, for building a solid chicken pen and giving us a great deal.  Thanks, Ralph, for loaning us your truck and trailer.  Thanks, Scott, for not only letting me get a new coop, but putting so much time and sweat into it.  Thanks, kids, for not making me pull over to the side of the road to strangle both of you.  Thanks, readers, for taking an interest (and hopefully getting a chuckle or two) in my blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Great Escape--The Sequel

Well folks, it's been quite a day.  From finding my son's window open (Lord only knows how without the knob) after a 29 degree night, to having him "help" me with laundry by cramming in 2 extra full loads on top of a "clean" one in the rinse cycle . . .eeesh.

Still, I think it beats yesterday.  I headed down to the coop to check for eggs at about 10 AM, and noticed that the gate to my horse pen was hanging open.  I had time to notice that the chain was on the ground before I looked up and saw BOTH of my horses in the field across the road.  With a heavy sigh, I went to the barn to get some alfalfa pellets to rattle in a bucket. 

(I'm not going to post a picture of the horses today because I don't want to use THAT much profanity.)

Approaching them circuitously, rattling the bucket and calling them sweetly, I had high hopes.  THEY, on the other hand, had high spirits.  They went charging off through the field.  I called my trusty husband on my cell, since (thank goodness) he had the day off and was at home.  I tried to keep them in sight while he rounded up Arthur and got in the truck. 

They played quite a game of silly buggers at first, coming closer to the house, then charging away.  At one point, we were within 100 yards of their pen. Up on the railroad tracks, back into the unfenced pasture, then OVER the tracks and away they went.  Scott and I ended up in two vehicles just trying to keep tabs on them.  "Does nobody out here believe in FENCES?" I thought, for the first time in my life. 

After several hours of chasing and calling (our minutes are probably GONE for the next 6 months), we finally found someone who DID believe in fences, and as a matter of fact had their own herd of broodmares--and his unused pasture had an open gate.  Mind you, we were a couple of miles west of our house by now, and had spent plenty of time trampling around outside the vehicles in 40 degrees with about 40 MPH wind.  It was COLD.

We got them in the pasture (separate, but next to the broodmares), but they got out again.  The air literally would have turned black if my son hadn't have been with me.  Another hour or so of chasing ensued, and wonder of wonders, we eventually got them back into that same pasture.  Now mind you, it's a BIG pasture.  By then we were ALL tired, cold, and cranky.  Scott went home to get the trailer (a girl can always hope for a miracle, right?) and I stayed in his car, shivering.  His heater really doesn't work that well, and all I was dressed for was a morning round of chores.

He soon came back with his Carhartts.  I'll tell you what, that was the best Christmas present I ever got him.  We trampled around some more.  A LOT MORE.  Arthur, to his credit, was awesome at staying in the truck and amusing himself without destroying anything (a rarity in itself).  Still, we had no joy.  At this point, we had been out chasing for 3-4 hours with no signs of catching at all.  At the beginning of this shindig, I had called Barb and Ralph to ask to borrow the Rhino (since they were out of town) but wasn't willing to use the boltcutters to cut the latch that Ralph uses to keep it secure.

I was ready to put up LOST HORSES posters (and tell whoever found them that they could keep the hussies).  Scott hadn't eaten, and Arthur had only had some granola bars and juice.  All the while, I was cursing myself for having Arabian crosses.  Arabs are known as "drinkers of the wind" and prized for stamina.  Heck, if I would have had Quarter horses, they probably would have been worn out by now!

We were headed back home to take a breather when Barb called to let us know that she and Ralph were back, and had a pretty good idea of who owned that land.  Scott ran into town to get oats (since alfalfa pellets, after all the fresh mouthfuls they'd had that day, were probably unappetizing).  Sure enough, Barb made a call or two, and the landowner said he'd come out and help us.

So we remobilized.  Back in the truck.  Ralph, being the wonderful person he is, not only came to help, but brought BEER.  (I really needed one by then!)  Barb headed back to meet Caitlin coming home off the bus.  We got out to the pasture and met Gary, Toby, and Lisa. They went tooling around the pasture in their truck after the horses.  I'd have done that myself, but . . .it didn't belong to me and I didn't want to impose any more than I already had.  Sure enough, within 15 minutes, they had my (*&@#_$(*& mares caught and headed back towards the trailer.

Then the fun ensued.  Remember, the wind is whistling along at high rates of speed.  It's making the trailer whistle too.  My girls haven't been trailered in over a year.  And, to top it all off, there's a thunderstorm coming in.  (Thank GOD the weatherman was wrong and it wasn't raining all day.)  So, with much prodding, pushing, and cooperation, we got the horses into our trailer just in time for it to start raining.  YAY.  (I really hope our wonderful neighbors liked the barmbrack that I gave them--I wanted to do something to say thanks!)

We got home in full rain.  Scott had to move the plow to be able to pull the truck around to the horse pen.  With Ralph guiding, he finally got it backed up and got the gates set up.  We were ready to unload.   Amid cracks of lightning and crashing rumbles of thunder, we got Aurora out first.  She didn't seem to want to come out, after all the work it took to get her in there.  As she was coming out, it started to hail.  With groans, we took her halter off and turned to Aces.

One of their adventures was running through a barbed wire gate.  Aces had gotten a cut on her upper leg, plus a nick on her nose while trying to load into the trailer.  I was armed with Bag Balm, and there we stood in the rain and hail, trying to smear the balm on her cuts.  She was dancing and flinching, and we were all getting wetter and wetter.  I decided to call it good.

Well, now that they were back, better feed them, yeah?  Make home a nice place again?  So I trudged down to the bale, forked them plenty of hay, and stopped to close the chickens in . . .but wait, the chookies needed food.  Back to the barn.  Feed the chickens.  Throw the cat out of the coop.  Wait, there are more eggs.  Put them in a bucket that I hold at an angle to my chest so they don't get wet.  Get inside.  What's that?  Now that I'm inside, the SUN IS SHINING?!?  GAAAAH.

Scott is a truly wonderful husband.  We both got in (dripping wet) and he said "how does pizza sound tonight?"  I would have kissed him if I had the energy.  As it was, smiling was an effort--at this point, my back was locked up tighter than Fort Knox and I needed dry clothes.  I decided in favor of the pajama strategy.  After all, even my UNDERWEAR was wet.  He was awesome enough to run into town for pizza after he changed too. 

Padlocks for the gates are in order.  More gifts for neighbors are in order.  (I took Ralph half a dozen smoked eggs today.)  I'm still exhausted and sore, but so very thankful for folks willing to help.  Folks, no matter where you live, cultivate good neighbors.  BE NICE TO THEM.  Someday you're going to need their help.  Just be sure you help them back.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tie Dye For: The Final Chapter . . .or is it?

My amazingly talented niece with her shirts

So today was The Great Rinsing And Unveiling.  I couldn't be more tickled with how Tiya's shirts turned out--she really has a talent for tie-dye!  We ended up rinsing them out in the tub, since I didn't feel like running a hose out and having my hands in cold water and cold wind this morning.  Still, I think they came out marvellously.  I was pretty happy with the ones I did for my kids too.  And, since we mostly used my dyes, she's got plenty left to COME DO IT AGAIN!

Yesterday and today with my niece and nephew were so very awesome.  They're great kids--smart, talented, and well mannered--just a pleasure to be around.  They even texted their mom to get permission to go shooting.  Before we went out, I quizzed them about gun safety rules (thinking that we'd have to go over all of them again).  They nailed all the safety points, and even Caitlin and Arthur got in a few.  We were good to go.

I just wish Arthur hadn't leaned on the rotten board on our neighbors' picnic table.  Looks like I owe them a board, as well as a new target sticker.  Still, we all had some great fun, so it's worth it.  Even the littles got to shoot with my help. 

Today was a day Tie Dye For.  I hope that the kiddos can come back out in summer and go fishing with us!! 

Tiya, Adam, thanks for being so awesome.  Stirling, Becky, thanks for loaning them to us--and I really mean it when I say I want them to come back. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tie Dye For Part II

Today has gone better than I ever thought it could.  My niece and nephew have been absolute joys today--they helped with chores, they played with my kids, and were just generally awesome.  My brother and his wife have raised some exemplary children.

Tiya and I got our tie dye started too.  It was an absolute HOOT!  (How in the world did I end up with 5 packages of purple?  The world may never know.)  We both chose not to use gloves, so we dyed our hands too. 

I really hope her mom won't be too mad that she got a few drops of dye on her jeans . . .eek.  Still, she came up with some really innovative new ideas that I hadn't even thought of before. 

This last one is Claire the Great White Hunter being a helpful kitty and supervising our efforts. 
She actually perched on my back for a while.

So it's been a great day.  Tomorrow is the great "Rinsing Of the Garments" and while they dry, I'm going to take my niece (aka Annie Oakley) out to shoot at some cans.  Life is good.  I hope they can come more often.  Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tie Dye For (Part 1)

I am a conservative hippie.  Chew on that for a minute.

I belive in giving more to the land than we take from it.  I believe in using the resources available to us rather than having to depend on imports, whether it be from another country or another state.  I believe that the government should get itself the heck out of my life.  I believe that I AM qualified to determine what I can/cannot and should/should not eat.  I believe that my right to keep and bear arms should absolutely not be infringed.

I also love to tie-dye.  My niece got a tie-dye kit for Christmas, and I offered to show her how.  We've had many tie dye parties out camping, and I even got my bellydance group out to dye their own veils.  So, just in time for my brother and sister-in-law's anniversary, my niece and nephew get to come over and stay the night.  The weather is even cooperating!!  We're going to have a dye party, go hiking, and pretty much figure out what else we can get into.  I simply cannot wait.

My niece is an amazing person.  I still can't believe that she's grown into the young lady she is now.  Heck, it seems like yesterday that the most wonderful thing in her little baby world was my sparkly blue fingernails.  (she kept trying to eat them.)  Now she's a beautiful young woman, a talented oboe player (and that's saying something!!) and a martial artist.  WOW.

My nephew is no less amazing.  I still remember when his bitty body would come crashing into my legs with the force of an NFL linebacker.  I still see him at that size, and it comes as quite a shock to see him bigger in person--a handsome, smart young man.  He's got quite the technical mind, and I envy him that (to some degree :) )

So tomorrow I'll have 4 kids.  I can't wait to introduce them to farm life.  Even more, I can't wait to show them the artistry of tie-dye.  You can have a basic method in mind, but it doesn't always come out like you think it will.  But even those things--they're beautiful.  Sometimes beauty is found in what you thought was a mistake.  Bob Ross used to call them "happy accidents" and on that point, I agree. 

If you've never done tie-dye, come see me.  You can do basic patterns and colors or try something wacky, but unwrapping each project is like unwrapping a Christmas present.  Each one comes out just a little different.  Just like all of us.  So maybe it's not quite like you planned, but the longer you look at it, the more beauty you see.  That's something to remember.

Photo from Wikimedia.  You'll see our projects on Saturday!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mind If I Smoke?

our borrowed smoker.  Yes, that's the hippie camper bus on the right.

Who would have guessed that having a smoker was this much fun?  Granted, when we lived in the city and had a small one (that hubby usually ran RIGHT OUTSIDE the back door), I hated it.  The house smelled like smoke for weeks.  Well, now that we have this one at a decent distance from the house, I've found that I simply adore smoked foods.

His Uncle Mike built this one, and we're giving it a temporary home.  I never thought I'd say this a few years ago, but I really hope it can be a permanent home!  Scott has smoked some of the most delectable dishes (using apple wood from our wonderful neighbors' pruned orchard) in there that I've ever tasted in my life.  No longer is a smoked Thanksgiving turkey a smelly nuisance.  Smoked rosemary-rubbed chicken is a delight.  My favorite snack this afternoon was the crispy smoked skin from the chicken.  Smoked beef roast . . .well, I need to go get a napkin.  It's making me drool. 

Then there are my smoked eggs.  Thanks to my wonderful hubby finding a recipe, and my faithful friends letting me do taste tests on them, I've settled on my method.  Boil in brine, chill eggs, replace in cooled brine to steep, then slowly bring up to temp in the smoker.  They taste like bacon and eggs without the grease.  YUM.

The reason for the smokescreen today was that Scott had promised a coworker a dozen smoked eggs at the next company potluck lunch.  All of a sudden (yesterday) he remembered that the potluck was Thursday (and he'll be gone tomorrow).  EEK.  I usually like to give my eggs more brine soak time than that.  Then he figured that he didn't want to tend the smoker all day for 2 dozen eggs, so he went out and got the chicken and roast.  Well, as he got tied up with calls while working from home, I ended up tending the smoker this morning.  It's not hard, but I'll tell ya what folks, it's pretty interesting when part of a smoldering log falls out of the firebox onto your boot.  Luckily it was the boot with the hole in it, so I wasn't too worried.  I had fun stamping out all the stray embers.

So here's the finished product: 

That lovely marbling is from the condensation dripping on them in the smoker.  They're still in the shell.

Now if I could just figure out how not to have the green ring around the yolk.  I chilled them promptly and properly.  Maybe it's because I cook them twice.  ARGH.  Oh well, the taste makes up for it.

So I hope you don't mind if I smoke.  Luckily my neighbors don't seem to mind, thank goodness.  My husband is becoming quite the smoke artist, and that suits me just fine.  Hopefully next time he'll give me enough notice to do the eggs properly!

And, just to give him credit on Valentine's Day, he came through in spectacular form.  Not only did he smoke the meat for supper tonight, but I found these flowers waiting for me after surviving being a room parent at Caitlin's Kindergarten party.  Whatta guy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dirty Little Secrets

I spent half an hour with my son today watching the washing machine go through its cycle.  All right, go on, laugh.  Get it out of your system.

Are you done yet?  No?  Fine, take a few more minutes.  I'll wait. 

Alrighty then.  I noticed earlier today that when he went out to play in the snow that his winter coat was FILTHY.  Yeah, I know he plays in the dirt, mud, dust, you name it.  But DANG, that thing was a disgrace!  My mum raised me to keep my clothes clean, so by golly, that coat was going to get cleaned.

Then I noticed my own barn coats.  They could do with a wash too, I thought.  So I chucked them in the washer with Darling Son's coat. 

For those of you who have never met my son, he's quite a whiz-banger.  He's all over, into everything, and just generally in perpetual motion.  Keeping up with him is a full-time job.  Well, he noticed that I'd put his coat in the washer and wanted to watch it get clean.  Easier said than done!

By the time the coats went through the first wash cycle, the water was nearly MUD.  I'm not kidding, folks.  It was gross.  So I tried to cycle through to get it to drain, then start washing again.  Of course, the dial on the machine was acting up.  In the meantime I got to look at the soup of mud and God Knows What swirling around our coats.  EWW.  I guess the good news is that part of it was probably some of the diatomaceous earth from the chicken coop, but still.  EWW.  Even Arthur was grossed out at this point, and that's saying something.  I mean heck, this kid picks up dead, half-eaten snakes to show me.

So I finally got it to drain and started the cycle again, and both of us watched in fascination.  (stop laughing, you were supposed to have gotten that out of your system long ago!)  He got a real kick out of watching his coat as the agitator worked.  He was happy that the wash water didn't look like mud anymore.  He kept asking if it could kill him, and I told him that he'd just better not find out.  He even told me that he wanted HIS OWN WASHER.  I'd be happy to oblige if he didn't think that folding his clothes meant wadding them up tightly and throwing them on the floor.  Oh well, at least I can teach him how to run this one so he can help with laundry.

And at least he was on the OUTSIDE of the washer today instead of the INSIDE.  Yes, you read that right.  I found him a few days ago (it was quiet, TOO quiet) when I came back in from doing chores.  I was hanging up my coat and I saw the lid of the washer move.  HUH?!?  Am I suddenly in a Stephen King novel?  I gingerly opened the washer, and there was Arthur, Twinkie (my kitten), half of a banana, and some unrolled electrical tape.  Luckily the tape was only stuck to the washer, and not kid or kitten.  Or banana.  Goodness.  At least he found the electrical tape that Scott and I had been looking all over for after Darling Baby Son found some scissors and tried to kill the cord on the dehydrator.  GACK.

There are days that I feel like a terrible mom.  But ya know . . .how many moms have ever stood there for half an hour with their kid and enjoyed being together, watching the washing machine?  It wasn't such a bad day after all.  Sometimes you do strange things, but loving and teaching your kids is always special.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

You Might Be A Farmer If:

*you can tie a tarp down over a round bale with baling twine in a bow while wearing clumsy gloves and standing in the rain/snow/wind/mud.

*you're used to hay seeds, etc on your jeans/boots.  Brush em off, they'll grow again somewhere.

*you layer up every hour on the hour to make sure that your chickens' water is unfrozen and to check for eggs that are also hopefully unfrozen.  Sometimes you may even traumatize the chickens as you lift them off the nests because, dangit, you're out here and they better have laid an egg.

*you spend time out in the freezing cold every morning to pick greens (clover, chickweed, grass) for your chickens so they'll be healthier and lay better eggs.  (GET ON WITH IT!"--what I say to my chickies when they've been in the nest box for over an hour.  Monty Python fans should like this.)

*you keep a hose in your basement so you can water your horses without carrying buckets from the house, hefting them up over the fence, and dumping them in the water trough (and wearing most of said water).  You also closely watch the weather report so that you can be reasonably sure your hose won't freeze in place.

*you actually freeze cubed vegetables and water bottles to give your chickens something cool to eat/nestle up to in hot weather.  You take the bottles out several times a day.  Chicken addict speaking. 

*you think your ancient tractor is cooler than most modern cars (notice I said MOST.  If someone gave me a Veyron, I wouldn't turn them down.  In the meantime, our old Allis is pretty amazing.)

My dream car:  the Bugatti Veyron Pur Sang.  $3 million.  8.0 litre quad turbocharged W16 engine with 900-1000 HP.   Top speed:  over 250 MPH.  Photo from and info at
Yeah, like that would last on Kansas roads.  At least a girl can dream. 
Our old Allis in front of our old barn.  $1200.  I have no idea of the horsepower.  Hey, it works.  Thank GOD.

*you've ever said "wheeeee!" while driving a tractor down the road at 15 MPH.  OR . . .

*your neighbor loaned you their Rhino, let you tool it around out in the pasture and you were yelling "WOOHOOOO!!!  I'M HAVING MORE FUN THAN A TORNADO IN A TRAILER PARK!"

*you know your neighbors' vehicles and wave to them whenever you see them . . .OR . . .

*you lift 2 fingers or touch your hat when passing absolute strangers.

*you start seeds in the cellar under grow lights in January and wonder when the cops are going to thermal image you . . .then imagine their faces as they see that it's just beets and chard.

*you look at piles of deadwood along the highway and wonder if those folks would let you come out to cut it up for firewood.

*you explain to everyone you know the benefits of hoophouses and cold frames.

*oh yeah, and how to get your chickens to fertilize the hoophouses for you.

*Did I mention composting?  Dang, I meant to.  I probably didn't mention vermiculture either.

*vermiculture is growing worms to help you with composting.  You can also use them for chicken food in winter.  Or bait . . .don't even get me started on worm threaders.

*you get really excited about ways that you can give back to the land instead of stripping it for what it can do for you.

Farming isn't a dirty word.  Farmers aren't dirty people.  Sure, some of us are lunatics . . .but people said that about Edison and Einstein too.  Call me Farmerstein.  Just don't call me late for dinner, because I cooked it.  If I'm late, it's burnt.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Baby, It's Cold Outside

So far, Kansans have been blessed with a VERY mild winter.  Heck, just a few weeks ago I was outside in shirtsleeves in 70 degree sunshine.  Today . . .well, that's a different story.

We got down into the single digits last night, and right now, it's 23F.  Thank goodness the sun is shining and the wind isn't blowing much.  I've been going out to the chickens to bring them unfrozen water and collect (hopefully) unfrozen eggs about every hour or two.  The thermometer in the coop reads 35F, so I think we'll be OK.  Besides, the chooks are all playing outside in the run.  They're tough little birdies!

One treat this morning was going into the hoophouse to pick them fresh greens.  I didn't figure they wanted frozen salad on an already cold morning, so I hit my hoophouse stash of clover and grass (from the plots we haven't planted yet).  I walked from the chill into the most lovely, warm, humid place and was surrounded by the smell of good earth and growing plants.  Here, enjoy it with me.

I can't wait to change that walkway down the middle into worm bins. 

The other upside is that I've discovered a new sport.  I call it "Chicken Appling."  The kids have been eating quite a few apples lately, and I'd been throwing the cores on the compost pile.  Well geez, why?  I dunno, but today I finally saw the light.  I chucked the apple core out into the chicken run.  Folks, you've never seen any professional sport that could beat this one.  All the chooks chase the rolling core, and every now and then, one is lucky enough to grab it and run with it.  Of course, all the others are immediately in hot pursuit.  They tear around the yard, into the coop, back out of the coop, frenziedly clucking and cackling the whole time.  I get to stand back and laugh!  As a matter of fact, I'm eating an apple right now so I can go do it again.  Pay Per View?  Who needs it?  I can create an appling game anytime!

Our lovely "monster" in the basement (see previous blog:  "Got Wood?") kept us toasty warm last night thanks to judicious applications of hedgewood.  The sun streaming through our windows is heating the house nicely today.  It never fails to amaze me how just plain old simple sunlight can improve my mood so much.  Sure, it's cold, but the sun helps me feel warm on the inside, which helps quite a lot with the outside.

I suppose I'm going to have to find a bigger rock too.  Years ago on The Prairie Home Companion radio show, the News From Lake Wobegon (Minnesota) was about hunkering down and staying warm in winter.  (I won't kid you--I'm too much of a wuss to live up there!  It's COLD!)  Well, one old man said that if you're still cold, you just carry around a bigger rock.  Scott has this thing about gathering rocks, so I'll just go have a peek and see if I can find a nice big one.  That should help, as long as I don't drop it on my foot.

The possibility of snow in the near future has the kids more than a little excited.  They have so many things they want to build out of snow that we'll probably need 3 feet worth to do them all.  They want to build snow men, they want to build snow Daleks.  The latest is a snow dog. 

(photo from                                               (photo from

Stay warm, folks.  I'm going to bundle up and go Chicken Appling!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sheer Joy

I know, it's odd.  It's winter, one of my least favorite seasons.  Today was grey and dreary, and tomorrow promises to be cold (so I'll have to carry lots of water to the coop).  But it's still been a joyful day.

First off, I received an email from one of my heroes, Harvey Ussery.  His techniques with chickens still have me awed.  I didn't get a generic reply, but two personal ones.  This guy ROCKS.  If you're a chicken person, you really need to get his book "The Small-Scale Poultry Flock."  I call it the Bible Of Chickens.

My dad finally got a copy of my column in the Hillsboro Free Press.  He called me to tell me how terrific it was.  (I've always been a Daddy's girl, and his praise always encourages me to do more!)  Then my friend Pam told me that her mother didn't like reading much, but the words in my column jumped off the page at her.  She loved it, and wished I'd write every week.  Talk about heartwarming on all three counts!

Even my critters gave me joy today.  The poor chickens that I chased around while trying to catch Hyacinth yesterday ALL laid eggs, and not a no-shell among them.  As a matter of fact, several of them were jumbo size.  We had a SEVEN egg day.  That's pretty amazing, considering that it's February, my coop isn't heated, and I only have a total (so far) of 8 hens in that coop.  WOW.  My horses went easy on the hay today, which is also good.  They gave me plenty of happy nickers and warm snufflies when I went out to visit them, which always warms my heart.  I got the Yokohamas (Maki and Sushi) relocated into a bigger cage too, at least until I can get them a coop and run built.  (I'd let them free range but I'm afraid that our neighbors' dog or coyotes would nab them.  ack.)  Thanks to someone on the Kansas Poultry Swap, I have a line on coop-building materials.  For CHEAP.  AWESOME. 

So today might not have been so adventuresome (compared to yesterday!) but it sure was a good day.  Gotta love every minute.  Thanks to my family, friends, readers, supporters, and critiquers. . .I couldn't do it without you!

No pic today, but here's a song that I think fits my mood.  (you know me and my pipe organ fetish!)  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Chicken Dance

Headed out to the coop this morning, I noticed that Hyacinth the Buff Orpington (one of my best layers) had a bald patch just above her tail.  The boys think she's pretty attractive and they're breeding her often.  Going back out to check for eggs, I noticed that the other hens were pecking that spot, HARD.  Having heard horror stories of cannibal chickens, I raced inside to consult the trusty Internet to find out what I could do.

Yes folks, chickens will eat each other alive if they see a spot of blood.  The more blood, the more pecks, you get the story.  They're omnivores and usually not picky about where they get their protein.  I do feed a balanced ration but, for some reason, they just can't leave blood alone.

So, after the search, I found a thread on Backyard Chickens forum that mentioned using duct tape to cover the spot.  I went on a mad hunt for duct tape, but all I could find was black Gorilla tape.  Knowing that it wouldn't come off until she moults in September, leaving her with a heat-attracting black patch on her back all summer didn't seem like a good idea.  Ordering a ready made chicken saddle would not only take too long to get here, but I'm also trying to save some money.  I would have had to remove her from the flock to heal if I didn't do something FAST.  I didn't want to remove her if I didn't have to, since she lays so well and integrating her back into the flock would be a real pain for us both.  Of course, I'd seen a hen saddle plan in Backyard Poultry magazine, but wouldn't you know, I couldn't find that particular magazine.

Luckily, flockwatcher on BYC gave me a very simple plan to make a saddle using nothing more than scissors and some polar fleece.  I've got all kinds of fabric scraps, and just happened to find some fleece in Hyacinth lavender!  All I had to do was cut wing holes and a tail hole in it and put it on her to cover the wound. 

Reread that last sentence.  PUT IT ON HER.  That meant that I had to catch her.  hmmm.  I don't have my catch hook yet, and I didn't think my handy net would do so well inside the coop.  My mom suggested that I use a towel and I thought that might work.  I headed out, equipped with saddle, towel, and Bag Balm. 

After shutting the roosters and most of the rest of the hens (a good idea, I thought), I tried to throw the towel over her.  That didn't work so well.  There was much squawking and flapping.  We all ran a merry chase around the feeder, under the roosts, you name it.  I finally gave up and went to get my bamboo stick that I usually use to gently move the chickens where I want them to go.  Finally, after several failed catches, I managed to corner her and catch her. 

Once caught, she was rather calm about the matter, aside from looking at me like "what on Earth are you DOING?!?"  Finally, I got the saddle on, smeared the bald spot liberally with Bag Balm, snuggled her, and told her what a good chicken she was.  She didn't seem very impressed, but she wasn't struggling either.  I took that as a good sign.  There was much rejoicing.  At least on my part.

She was eager to show her flockmates her new finery after a few pecks at it to adjust it just right. 

I am happy to report that, as of roosting time tonight, the saddle was still firmly in place.  Here's hoping it will be tomorrow, but it looks like I'm going to have to:  A) spend more time in the coop, and B) catch her more often to check on her.  Lord only knows what kind of eggs I'll find tomorrow--stress sometimes makes them lay shell-less eggs the next day.  Yuck.  I'll have to stay on top of that so nobody starts eating eggs.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she'll be like her namesake and be so proud of her beautiful new "clothes" that she won't feel stressed. 
Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket (that's BOUQUET!!) in Keeping Up Appearances

At least I know how to make my ladies the latest in "shabby chic" fashion now without having to even break out the sewing machine!  I guess I'll have to go digging for more colors of fleece.  I know they're around here somewhere . . .

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dirt Roads

Pic from Wikimedia
As I was reading yet another of Joel Salatin's books today (Family Friendly Farming, for those of you who want to know), I came across a line that gave me belly laughs for quite a while.  Brace yourselves.

"You know what they say about people who live on a dirt road.  We never have to lock our car doors except in August--to keep the neighbors from putting runaway zucchini squash in them."

Heck, I honestly can't remember the last time I washed my truck.  It doesn't do any good--before it even gets dry, someone drives by and it's got the first coat of dust on it.  And to their credit, my neighbors have never tried to stash runaway zucchinis in my truck.

Now that you're done laughing (at least those of you who have raised zucchini or lived on a dirt road), think about that for a minute.  There's a code of ethics on dirt roads that vastly differs from that of the city.  We take care of our neighbors and are happy for what they have, instead of eyeing our neighbors and wondering what we can take.  We're also smart enough not to leave anything valuable in our cars anyway. 

It's interesting to me how farmers are usually vilified (you know, those dumb hick redneck hayseeds) but the same person, in the same breath, will talk about those wealthy farmers taking advantage of hired hands.  It saddens me that farmers are seen as one of the lowest classes of people, at least to urbanites.  Folks, even small scale farming is HARD (and I'm just barely getting my feet wet yet).  It takes brains to figure out what to plant and when, how to give more back to the land than you take from it, feed your family (and others), and not drive yourself into bankruptcy.  It takes quite a bit of trial and error, often costly at first.  Seriously, would you be willing to bet your entire year's income on whether or not you'll get fired (aka a freak storm to farmers) and still have to pay the bills?  Somehow I doubt it.  Whether you know it or not, every single person in this country relies on  . . .you guessed it!  FARMERS. 

Big business tells farmers that they have to have the latest and greatest.  That means newer machinery (unGodly expensive--some of these machines might cost more than your HOUSE) or fittings.  That means using THEIR seeds (GMO's, and they can sue you if the pollen from theirs infests yours that isn't GMO).  That means using THEIR fertilizers.  That means following THEIR instructions.  That means that they're ruining OUR land.  And they don't even live on our dirt road.

Tilling and runoff are eating away at our soil.  What does big business say?  Just add more fertilizer.  SYNTHETIC fertilizer.  Or pesticides.  Even the current idea of "no-till" farming involves spreading chemicals over the land that produces YOUR food.  Whatever happened to the idea of using natural animal behaviors (and that beneficial by-product, NATURAL manure) to enrich the soil instead of draining it?  What happened to the natural diversification that farmers used to practice before the big boys had them by the throats?

There IS a better way.  We've gotten so concerned with what we CAN do that we don't stop to think if we SHOULD.  We've thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  Cliches, I know, but in this case, they're fitting.  We all deserve healthy food, but we've let the government decide what's best for us.  Thanks, but I don't need a Big Brother (I've got one already and at least HE doesn't tell me what I can or cannot eat).  Utilizing natural resources and focusing on a big picture, actively giving back to the land (without chemicals), instead of following the "SSDD" pattern is better for all of us.  We'll all be healthier for it. 

So value those people on dirt roads.  Even the ones whose methods you don't agree with.  They'll always pull to the side for you to pass, and probably wave.  Wave to them, and if you get the chance to talk to them, thank them for raising the food you eat every day.  Walk a mile in their work boots, and you'll understand. 

Permaculture begins at home.  So what if you have a pot of tomatoes in the window?  So what if your "farm" is a 6x6 plot in the backyard?  Giving back more than you take is always important whether it be to people, plants, animals, or the Earth.  Go drive down a dirt road, think of all the lives around you, and then I dare you to tell me otherwise.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spring (?) Cleaning

I'll be honest with you, folks.  I'm not the best housekeeper ever.  I'm REALLY not.  But, well, when you've got someone other than your family (who knows how crazy you are) coming over, you should clean up a little bit.  Maybe. 

I have pets.  I'm used to tufts of hair laying around, and I'm used to seeing hair in places those pets have never been.  It seems to be a scatter effect, rather like Pigpen from the old Peanuts comics.  I have outdoor animals, and I freely recognize that the act of grooming the horses is actually the art of transferring their hair and dirt to me.  I even dropped my cell phone in the chickens' dust bath today.  Diatomaceous Earth is beneficial, right?  Somebody call me so I can make sure it still works.

So here I am, trying to get motivated to clean.  It's hard, since I just got another book that I've been dying to read.  Plus, with 2 dogs, 3 cats, and 2 kids, you know that whatever you clean will be messy again in about 2.5 seconds.  I've even given up on dusting for the most part, since I know that as soon as I do, a car will drive by and everything I own will once again be coated in a layer of dust.  VERY demotivational.

But then I found this video.  Ladies, click on this link for a good laugh.  Kids, please don't click on this link because it's for adults and I don't want your parents suing me.  People who are offended by dirty jokes, that goes for you too.  You've been warned.

Suddenly I'm getting all motivated again!

I think I'm looking forward to cleaning tomorrow!  I sure hope Scott doesn't mind me being in a romance with cleaning products.  Oh, and FYI, you REALLY shouldn't beat carpets when you're wearing a black shirt and standing downwind.  Keep it in mind.

Happy Cleaning!!!

photo from Wikimedia

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Something To Crow About

Most people, when they think of a rooster crowing, just think "Cock-a-Doodle-DOO."  Fact is that that many syllables in a crow is rare, and most people just don't know how different crows can be.  Another myth is that they only crow at dawn.  They crow any dang time they feel like it, even at night sometimes. 
Cow the Bantam Sultan is my most prolific--and annoying--crower.  His crow is shrill and grating.  He uses it every chance he gets.  I guess there's something to the "banty rooster syndrome" because he announces his presence every time something moves.

Cow the Bantam Sultan being annoying

Stewie's crow, on the other hand, is almost pleasant.  It's lower pitched and melodious.  It doesn't hurt either that Stewie the Rhode Island Red is a "talker."  He chuckles, he chortles, he clucks to his ladies.  He talks to me too, and his body language makes it pretty easy to tell what he's saying.  He crows fairly often, but when he does, I like to hear it.  He's got quite a range.

Stewie the Rhode Island Red displaying his magnificence

Then there's Trouble the Ameracauna.  He doesn't crow much (since he's a lower ranking roo) but his isn't bad.  He sounds like he's got a perpetual sore throat, but he's giving it his best shot.  Trouble will also play "I crow, you crow" for quite a while if you're up to it.

Trouble the Ameracauna giving it the old college try

I get the most chuckles out of Maki the Yokohama.  He's apparently settling in, and started to crow today (right outside my bedroom window).  His crow sounds like what you'd get if you stuck a kazoo in the end of a trumpet.  At first I DID think it was the kids with their kazoos imitating chickens.  He seems to go in spurts as the mood takes him--about 3 minutes of good solid crowing, then quiet for hours.  I'm still giggling.  So far, he's a closet crower.  If you go out and crow at him, he'll clam up, give you an indignant look, and cluck annoyedly (because OBVIOUSLY you interrupted his session).  Sorry, I just can't seem to get a pic of him when he kazoos, er, I mean crows.

One of my treasured sights was going out to the coop on a really cold morning, and watching Stewie crow.  Mind you, when a rooster crows, it looks like they're bringing it up from their toes and devoting all of their life force to making that noise.  So there Stewie went, and let loose a crow.  His beak was open, his body was tense, his neck was stretched up, and I could see the steam coming out of his throat as he greeted the day.  When he finished, he shook out his feathers and all was well with the world.  Watching him, I even forgot that it was cold.

Chickens have their own "voices" like we do.  Wild birds do too.  Whenever you hear birdsong or crowing, or clucking, take the time to realize that you're "meeting" that particular bird.  Some of them might get on your nerves, but hey, some people do too.  You just deal with it and appreciate those voices that touch you.  You never know how pleasant a voice can be until you get to know it.

Got Wood?

It's a cold, windy night here, and my loving husband is feeding our monster.  She's hungry on cold, cloudy days and nights.

Here she is in all her glory. 
I keep thinking that she's the illegitimate offspring of a potbellied stove and an octopus.
I always wonder when I'm going to go down and find new ducts.

And a closeup of her "face."  She's a Lennox Torrid Zone 42RB, circa 1930ish? 

We don't have central heat, we have the monster.  For some reason, I think of her as female.  She eats logs like some women eat chocolate.  Some women gobble it, but she's one of the ones that savor it.  If we have her dampers adjusted right, she enjoys those logs all night long, and so do we.

Heating with wood takes some getting used to.  I was used to campfires, but this is a whole 'nother ballgame.  There are air intakes, there are vents, and there are dampers that all need to work together for max heat efficiency.  Then there's chucking wood.

Luckily we have a chute that comes in from the outside, so getting it into the cellar isn't a big deal.  That is, unless you catch a log wrong and mess up your elbow like I did.  We have all sizes of firewood, from sticks to logs.  On still days, the draw doesn't work as well and you need more kindling.  On windy days, you have to close it up a little bit.  I'd say you get the drift, but you're probably scratching your head wondering why in all the world we don't just install central air. 

Well, besides being way too expensive to install, all of this great firewood on our place would go to waste.  That's hardly ecological.  We get other benefits out of it as well--the kids love to help with the smaller pieces, and that teaches them that work can be fun.  We get a workout loading the bigger pieces.  Scott cuts ours and splits it by hand.  If I can manage to catch the logs right, it feels good to heft them and swing them into their proper spot.

Sure, sometimes we get smoke in the house.  Usually, that's because we haven't swept the chimney as often as we should.  It's happening a lot less this year, so we must be getting a handle on it.  As we get used to it, I realize that I wouldn't want it any other way.  Gotta go.  Time to feed the monster again before going to bed!