Baby Steps…and Baby Invasions

So, before I fell super sick, we were working on about 2463 projects, all of which are in various degrees of planning or completion. Although most of the daily “stuff the Mama does” has gone undone in my absence, we have been making some progress on some other things.
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The tractor is once again operational. We’ve upgraded the starter and alternator to a 12 Volt system, and as a result had to put in a new ignition switch as well. Figured if we were going to replace it, we might as well prevent the problem from occurring again. Once my honey got all that done, the first of the produce beds got disced, so we are one step closer to planting!

If the weather would only cooperate a little more, it would be lovely. We had a series of unexpected crazy weather days last week. As in, literally 68 degrees one day and wet slushy snow the very next morning. We lost some plant starts, not enough to make me cry, but enough that it was a loss. One of our favorite local farms, Bennett Orchards, got hit far harder than we did. After a six hour stint of temps in the 20’s, despite smudge pots and helicopters, they lost their ENTIRE 2016 peach crop. We pick and buy bushels of peaches and blueberries from them each year for canning, I’ll miss them a lot this year. Thankfully, so far it looks as if the blueberries came through the freeze.
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And our Flemish Giant Rabbit doe appears to have some surprises in store for us as well. She has taken up fur pulling and nesting, and trying to rip my fingers from my hands when I feed, water and clean in her hutch, so it seems she may have already been bred and kits may be imminent. She’s not typically nasty, the rabbit growling and snarling are kind of scary.

The off-the-farm work boss called us last week to remove a large swing set from one of their rental properties, due to concerns about its age, insurance, and the potential for injury to some vacationer’s child. Since the components of the swing set were pretty well thrashed, we decided to save the frame to build a new chicken coop / tractor. I’m hoping to get a jump on that project this weekend, we’ll see how I feel.
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Ryan’s personal 7-egg incubator that he waited so patiently for has epically failed to hatch anything at all. It will likely be trashed after one more attempt with just a couple of eggs to insure that it’s incubator error and not ours. That was a disappointment, but he took it in stride. Having new babies hatching in the big one softened the blow. The season’s next large incubator hatch is due Sunday.

We’ve been peddling a few chicks from home, it’s been nice to have clients and visitors to the farm again. With me being sick, that extra few dollars here and there has sure been a help, too. Our first two hatching egg sales on Ebay have been completed (with a third preparing to sell in just a few moments)  and Ry’s birds now hopefully have offspring growing in Massachusetts and Oakland, California at a school!

We have some new breeds of chickens / chicks. Some Silkies, Lavender Aracaunas, and Blue Laced Red Wyandotte bantams have arrived! The first four of our Black Copper Marans chicks are doing quite well, too!

In our most exciting and happy news, one of my grown children’s families will be coming on the 7th of next month for an extended stay. The babies are invading! They’ve been toying with the idea of a permanent move up this way for quite some time, and recent events in the neighborhood they live in gave them a few more reasons. Dad’s already secured comparable work locally, and my girl and I are making plans for some much needed support for her, and possibly school. I’m excited to have a partner for the shop, and it looks like her artistic and crafty talents may get a pretty serious workout this year. Additionally, the extra hands around here will be a blessed relief, and I think we will make much more progress than I planned on for this year! Now, to figure out where to put six more bodies in this camp!

Hope everyone is enjoying the change of seasons, hope things are going well for all!

 

 

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It’s Alive!

Well, I’m alive. Although I have spent the last week mostly wishing someone would relieve me of that burden and put me out of my misery.

It started with what I thought was a stitch in my side. Like normal people get from running. It usually passes after a few minutes. I figured it was just the fat lady smoker who swills coffee and diet soda version of the same. Only it didn’t pass. It got successively worse over the course of a week.

After over an entire week of being borderline bedridden with sporadic fevers, a wracking cough that reduced me to tears, the energy level of a sedated slug, and the uncanny ability to lose the capacity for breathing before reaching the end of the hall, I finally decided Monday morning that I’d had enough.

T was somewhat relieved. I think being afraid that the ever growing pile of dirty dishware in the sink was going to either breed wildlife or result in an invasion by the EPA, or FEMA, or whomever the heck condemns your home when the dish fairy, laundry fairy, and meals and general care fairy can’t function on the most basic of levels for entire week was a driving factor. Possibly the horror of having to exist on takeout and whatever can be pan fried, grilled or blackened, and (GASP!) having to match his own socks helped too. At any rate, after having to stop halfway across the pasture with tears rolling down my face and plead with one of the horses to allow me to lean on her long enough to catch my breath drove me over the edge and I came to the conclusion that an ER trip was in order.

I decided they would either break the news I was going to croak, or help me do so. Or at least let me know the reason why I felt like it was imminent and necessary. I had serious visions of small creatures inside my chest and lungs with little sharp pointed objects stabbing the bejesus out of my innards every time I tried to draw a breath. I walked in with the reasonable fear that a chest tube was in my future. I’ve had that joyous rodeo once in my lifetime, and I really don’t care to enjoy it again.

Three hours and a series of chest x-rays later, my doctor (why do I always get the one who looks like a 13 year old Doogie Howser?) swept back into the room with his nurse-y entourage to tell me I’ve developed… Pleurisy. What?

I have managed to get an archaic condition that, Monday, I was lulled into believing had gone the way of, say, rickets…scurvy…polio…Only me. Sigh. Scurvy is likely next, since the last citrus I ingested was probably in a margarita and I’ve been alcohol free for the better part of a year.

You see, pleurisy, if you’ve never shared the experience, is what happens when foolish women (or men) get a cold, and continue to work themselves like dogs. Then it descends into bronchitis, and she keeps on truckin’. Then it reaches the edge of pneumonia. The lining of the lungs becomes so irritated and inflamed in spots that it becomes like sandpaper and causes sharp, shooting pains in the chest every time you attempt silly things like movement, or breathing. You want to punch people in the face if they successfully manage to make you laugh. Coughing fits will turn you into a quivering puddle of tears on the bathroom floor while you beg for someone to just.come.kill.me.now.

So, the verdict is in. I’m not going to die and they’re not going to mercy murder me. I’m sent home by Doogie with a pile of prescriptions including steroids, anti-imflammatories, painkillers, and some fancy new cough suppressant “pearls” designed to disable the cough reflex nearly entirely. And strict instructions to rest and set a follow up appointment with my regular Doc that I will likely ignore. It’s spring, I’m now wayyyy behind, and if these do the trick I’ll be too busy playing catch up with more than this blog.

I am going to try and get a post up today to catch up on all the happenings during my week of forced silence. Hope all is well with everyone and spring has finally arrived.

 

Happy Hatch

My lovely other half purchased me some very pricey and sought after hatching eggs lat month, and we (mostly me) have awaited the hatch day pretty anxiously. Eggs started pipping on Friday, the day Ryan was due to come home and the grandmuffin patrol was due to arrive, so it was pretty cool that they got to be here for the grand event. We had babies hatching Saturday and Sunday, and the final late bloomer finally fought its way out late Monday.
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We incubated a bunch of our own eggs from our birds (including a couple from our Marans, and the dozen shipped Black Copper Marans eggs T bought for me. Buying and incubating shipped eggs is always a risk. The seller can handle them and pack them perfectly, but there’s no way of telling what sort of care they receive between buyer and seller.

Post office handling procedures and temperatures can vary greatly. Eggs can be jiggled, juggled, dropped, shaken, tossed, smashed, scrambled, X-rayed, and depending on the time of year, frozen or overheated. They can arrive perfectly packed and intact and be completely nonviable. It’s always best not to “count your chickens before they’re hatched”…but even more so regarding shipped eggs. A hatch rate on those of 50 % should be considered a raging success.

So with two of our Marans pair’s eggs, and 12 of the shipped ones, and a little over a dozen from our Reds and Aracauanas in the tray,I was hopeful but trying not to be unrealistic. For some reason, the Aracaunas are usually always first. The eggs are a tad smaller, but true to form, the first one to pip (small hole) was a blue egg. We upped the humidity in the cabinet and went to go pick up Ryan. By the time we got home, several of the brown eggs had begun to show pips, and lo and behold, one of the dark shipped eggs!
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The waiting is the toughest part. Patience is not a virtue I was provided with in great heaps. The grandbabies arrived late Friday evening, and we had some progress, but still no chicks. Saturday morning, my eldest granddaughter, Teagan, got up with the sun and she and I trudged out with flashlights and Wahooooooo! We had the first of the fluffy butts scrambling around in there. We must have made twenty trips over the course of the day, and one by one, chicks started making their way out of the shells. Great fun for the kids to watch. Of course, the first thing they want to do is open the door and retrieve the new babies, but you can’t. While chicks are trying to break their way around the shell enough to “unzip” it, the humidity has to remain high. The second you open the cabinet door, all of it is sucked right out in a great big WHOOSH, and before it builds back up again, you can rather effectively shrink wrap your hatching chicks in their own shell membranes. They will dry out and stick to the chick’s fluff, acting like a super glue of sorts that prevents them from any further movement or progress.

You can safely leave them right in the incubator for up to several days after hatch, having just absorbed the rest of the yolk inside the egg, they are born with enough nutrients and hydration on board to bear that quite well, so there is no huge hurry to get them out. When doing so endangers the rest who are still trying to hatch, it’s counterproductive. Additionally, the ones who have already hatched will “help” others out of the shell, sometimes by directly pecking at it, and sometimes just the act of scrambling around over the other eggs does the trick.
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Our first ever Marans chick hatched here about 2:30 Saturday afternoon. We ended up Sunday with a grand total of 16 new babies, 3 Aracaunas, 3 Black Copper Marans, and 10 Rhode Islands. We had one Marans baby expire trying to escape the shell, and one of the Reds as well. I was thrilled to pieces with the hatch rate of our own eggs, and satisfied to pleased with the shipped eggs.  Given the time of year, it’s a perfectly acceptable percentage, and I would buy from that seller again. The Marans babies from her eggs are from the french line, and were all hatched with perfectly feathered little legs and outside toes, a fantastic sign of a good breeding line. Additionally, as our first test hatch of the season, our rate on our own eggs was stellar, and well above our self restricted mark for selling our own hatching eggs. (Shipping on eggs can sometimes cost the buyer as much or more than the eggs. We won’t sell and ship them if we do not have a hatch rate in the 90’s.)
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Teagan and I moved the babies from the incubator Sunday morning into a brooder box in the house for the head count and mandatory chick cuddling.  We commenced with our day, breakfast and an Easter Egg hunt for our family’s week late bunny visit. We left the additional eggs in the incubator, you can just never tell what sort of late bloomers will appear.

Monday morning as I made my rounds, I checked with the light before opening the door to turn the new tray of eggs, and there was a new pip in one of our own two Marans eggs.  Turning was postponed, and by lunch, one more fuzzy baby was in there waiting. Once it dried out, I moved it into the brooder with the rest. (And Ryan’s one older single chick from the feed store, who is too small to go outside yet.)

So our hatch was a success, there are two new trays of over a hundred eggs in there now. Ryan’s small indoor incubator with seven eggs is due to hatch this weekend. It’s a test run, the first one for that incubator, so we’re guardedly optimistic. If there’s a hatch, I should be able to get some decent photos to post , as that one has a clear domed top.
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We’ve also posted the first of our new hatching egg auction line on eBay.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful spring week, and did NOT wake up, as we did yesterday, to a bunch of frozen white slop!

 

Grandmuffin Madness

I’ve been a little lax with the posting of late and I apologize. It’s been an uber-busy week.

Terminal broke-ness resulted in me actually having to go and work this week…like, GASP…outside the farm. It was heinous and horrible, but necessary, I’m afraid.  Good timing, though, with my wee man being out of town. Cleaning super funky rental units crawling with insect life that the tenants chose to not take with them for the move for your part time boss will distract you from anything else you’d be prone to put at the top of the whine list. Like missing your 8 year old, who’s off on a Dad visit.

I joked with the boss this week I was going to fire his exterminator and put diapers on a tribe of my chickens and turn them loose in the next one to deal with the insect pets. I’ll call them the “cockroach containment unit”. Environmentally friendly. Chemical free. What’s not to love? Oh, yeah…free feed in the form of pestilence and disease with six legs. Ok, maybe NOT my million dollar idea.

But Friday, all was once again right with the world, Ryan was back home, and my eldest and her hubby and brood of four girls were coming for the weekend. I have been covered up in glorious girly grandmuffin madness all weekend long.

Sometimes I feel like since we didn’t go anywhere or take them to DO anything that I’ve failed at Me-mawing. But the weather was icky, it rained all day Saturday and today was a frigid windy mess. And I found out that as usual, I worry too much, because they mostly just had a blast.

We had eggs hatching in the incubator and we wore a trench of a path from the back door to the incubator / brooder shed with flashlights checking on the progress of hatching peeps. Teagan, my eldest granddaughter, the self proclaimed “chicken mama”, spent a large portion of her weekend on egg collection duty and incubator watch. She takes these duties very seriously.
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We had Easter Bunny tracks through the kitchen this morning, and a two acre egg hunt this afternoon. We’ll be running over the un-found eggs for months to come with the tractor.image

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I occasionally refer to my grandgirls as feral children when they’re here. In the most loving way, of course. Mostly because they walk through the door with the confident assurance that they know exactly who is running the show from that point on, and it is no one over 4 foot tall. They have one of two speeds on this farm at all times. Full tilt boogie and comatose exhaustion. There is no happy medium.

The shoes come off for the duration of their stay and the dirt begins accumulating on tiny faces. The back door never stops swinging and is rarely shut properly. There is very little that a pouty face and threatened tears won’t get you. Or get you out of. Or tiny arms slung around your neck, laden with motives because why should we not have candy before breakfast? The popsicle stash ebbs and flows in great waves. We eat what we please, we play till we crash from exhaustion, and then we get up and do it all over again. Bedtime? What’s bedtime? Pap and Memaws = anarchy. We have soup for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. There are toys in every square foot of the house and stray socks and blankies and stuffed animals, and we all love it. It’s completely unorganized chaos. It’s glorious.

And thankfully, my daughter and her husband accept that. Or they’re just tired. Either way, I love them so much for allowing me to turn their kids into a tiny tribe of anarchists when they come through the door. I miss them already.

 

 

 

Squishy Egg

This morning, one of our Rhode Island girls laid a soft-shelled or “squishy” egg. This is a fairly common occurrence, especially in newly laying pullets, or can sometimes indicate a calcium deficiency in a hen. So I thought I would take a minute and cover egg issues for those who have yet to have the joy of reaching into a nest box and shrieking like a teenaged girl when your fingers touch something, well, gross.
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Squishy eggs: Often a new layer issue but can be indicative in an older hen of a calcium deficiency, or something lacking in the diet. Our particular completely squishy egg had no white, only yolk. No chance of hatch, and I’ve personally never attempted eating one for fear that bacteria could have made it through the membrane.

The next day a second, half squishy egg was laid by likely the same hen. The portion of the shell that was complete was so thin you can see in the photo where my finger went through it, simply by picking it up. This one was all white. No yolk.

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Wrinkled eggs : These can happen when a growing pullet is just starting to lay, or if there’s been some upset or interruption during the egg forming process…the egg can come out with little ridges, usually only at one end. Perfectly safe to eat, and we’ve had them hatch in the incubator as well.d117c0d2_22466_100_5470.jpeg

Under / oversized eggs: Under sized eggs can be from the size of a marble on up…again, usuall newly laying chickens, or sometimes an aging hen. They can be perfectly normal inside, all yolk and no albumen (white), or the reverse, no yolk with all albumen…these are sometimes referred to as wind eggs, fairy eggs or fart eggs.  The over sized variety will often contain a double yolk, and very rarely, an egg inside another egg. You can safely consume all of the above, should you desire to. However, undersize eggs will almost never hatch, because they only contain albumen or yolk, rarely if ever both.  Hatching double yolkers “twins” can be done, but is very rarely successful.

Wind eggs: see above…an egg with no yolk. Never tried eating one, but they definitely will not hatch.

Blood Spots: Little blood spot in your breakfast egg? No worries. Lots of people think this is the indicator of a fertilized egg. It’s not. It’s the result of a tiny rupture in a blood vessel in the oviduct of the hen during the formation of the egg. Scrape it off gently with a knife if it grosses you out, carry on with breakfast as usual.

Lash Eggs: Ok, these are just gross and usually very bad news. Not for anyone with a weak stomach, you can read a fantastic article on them Here: Lash Eggs explained. If you find an egg shaped mass with layers of icky, squishy content, this is probably your suspect. Generally caused by a disease called salpingitis. Prognosis for a hen with this condition is poor at best.

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Ashy Eggs: These are eggs that are laid with a chalky or ashy appearance, like a film of sorts over the usual color of the egg. Not a big deal and I’ve both eaten and hatched them.

There are all sorts of abnormalities that can occur during the formation of an egg during its travels through the oviduct of a hen. Most of them shouldn’t alarm you, but lash eggs or a hen that continually produces abnormal eggs should be cause for immediate quarantine or culling, and a vet consulted if the hen is a pet.

~Lisa

 

 

Multiplying Like Rabbits.

Ok, so I mentioned that this week we found out that I had made a boo-boo last fall. It happens.

We raise Flemish Giant Rabbits. They’re not ordinary rabbits, these are one of the largest rabbit breeds in the world. You can read a bit about one vying for the World Record of longest rabbit here.  Longest Rabbit Contenderarticle-1199340-05AF2660000005DC-525_634x820.jpg

Benny, above, is that contender. Flemish routinely weigh up to or over 20 pounds and are bred for show, pet, meat, and fur, usually in that order. They can be over two and half feet (30 inches) long, and when they stand up on their hind legs, are really impressive. Below is our doe, Big Mama, sitting on T’s lap.

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T and Big Mama

Most of our buns go to 4-H or pet homes. I can’t bring myself to eat one, although we do eat rabbit, just not ours.  The remainder usually go to auction, where again, the show or pet buyers will drive the price up beyond what the meat buyers are willing to pay. Even so, I refuse to offer rabbits for sale in the spring before Easter. This prevents impulsive “pet” home purchasers from showing back up on my doorstep with the “I didn’t know what I was getting into’s.”

They eat. Like furry ravenous Vikings after a ten day sail…it’s astounding how much they eat. So, as a rule, we will winter ONE buck, and several does. Last year, we pared down so we kept one of each. And last week at auction, T picked up another doe.

More info on Flemish Giants Here

So the annual bunny breeding festivities began this week. Rabbits were removed from winter quarters in the barn, and put out in a row of Great Dane sized kennels on the lawn to graze grass and sniff test one another. (rabbits are “forced ovulators”…meaning the does release an egg when stimulated to do so by the presence of a buck.) We put them out 12-24 hours ahead of time for a little “Getting to know you / rabbit speed dating / hormone havoc.” This pumps them up like frat boys and sorority girls at last call and generally prevents any indecision. Then, like the above human creatures, ANYONE looks good at last call.  After breeding, the expecting does get moved to rabbit tractors like the one below, out on grass. This is good for both Mom and my feed bill.

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The rabbit speed dating singles bar.

We take the doe to the buck, then supervise to make sure she’s receptive and breeding takes place, and to insure that no injuries occur if she’s less than willing. You can generally tell that  breeding has been successful by what we call the “DFO” factor. This is a highly scientific (no, not really) thing imparted to us by a very experienced lady breeder of Flemish show quality rabbits. DFO is what happens when the buck has done his job correctly. He will visibly “Done Fell Over”. (Yes, really.) The entire breeding process is like 4 literal seconds, after which papa rabbit will (if he’s been successful) stiffen, sometimes squeak, and then fall over sideways, usually bonking his rabbit noggin in the process. Don’t expect any reaction out of the doe other than eyes cutting  to the side or a “Wait, that’s it? You’re done? Really? I can move on?” attitude. I’m dead serious, this is the rabbit way of things. There are probably a ton of youtube videos available if you’re a nonbeliever.

We normally let this process occur minimum of twice each “meeting” for two days straight. Then you wait. 30 days later, ideally, mama has lined her nest box with fur and popped out 6-12 naked rabbit kits. There are people who can examine a doe during this period and determine if she’s bred. I am not one of those people. So we wait 33 days, and of there are no kits, we try again. Here are pics of one kit from one of our litters. .  6578_652296578130543_641044128_n

So morning, we put Doe #1 in with Papa  , job was completed with minimal protesting on behalf of either participant. Afternoon, Papa was joined by Doe # 2. In the five minutes that followed, there was chasing and squeaking, several bouts of awkward attempts at copulating with the wrong end on behalf of both participants, and then some nippy scratchy wrestling and squalling that induced an emergency breaking up of the combatants by Tony, the rabbit bouncer.  An undignified inspection of the removed “doe’s” nether regions revealed a scratch injury to some very non-girly parts.

Oops. My bad. Rabbit sexing epic fail.

You see, sexing juvenile rabbits is not an easy task. I’ve really not perfected it yet. My batting average is pretty darn good, since this is only my second epic failure. Mostly it involves turning a squirmy, slippery, kicking, sharp clawed, uncooperative rabbit on its back, prodding at the business end of things until what is in peeks out, and there is a SLIGHT difference in the shape and mechanics of the peeking parts. Snap judgements are made, so you don’t get scratched to ribbons by surprisingly strong back feet. Apparently last year, during the annual separation of the remaining rabbits, I spoke too soon.

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Last year’s babies in one of the Rabbit Tractors.

 

Sigh, so we have overwintered an extra buck. I am still getting over being sick and took an out of character afternoon nap in my despondency about only having one doe and one possible spring litter (which won’t even cover the feed bill). While I did that, T posted a for sale ad and sold the spare buck with the now slightly scratched and dented male parts for 25$. In like 5 minutes of posting, because they don’t sell for that price unless you’re pissed enough to price them that low. Considering the roughly 175$ in feed and hay that misidentified beast has likely hoovered up over the winter, I’d call that a loss.

Oh, well…we’re expecting extra chicks this year, which should make up the difference. Sometimes raising livestock is more like forced savings than a profitable venture.

We’re expecting Flemish kits the last week of April.

Blech.

Blech. That’s the word for the week. After trying hard not to submit to the mystery bug that rolled through the house last week, my system finally said “That will be quite enough, foolish woman. I tried to warn you.  You will take to your bed and rest. Now.” Illness coupled with crummy gray cold wet weather, prepping to send my youngest on a weeklong visit with his father to VA with the usual dread, and the recent rash of mini-disasters didn’t help. Neither did my current financial status which doesn’t enable me to un-fudge said disasters…or the fact that we’re edging into the absolute busiest time of year here.

My egg eaters seemed to have slowed down. I hope I’m winning the war, which now requires at least four treks across the pasture daily to the new chicken casa to snatch eggs from under indignant hens before they get the chance to destroy them. My winter weight gain can certainly benefit from the extra mileage, but it’s no fun when you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.

We’ve temporarily put our new pride and joy out of commission. The tractor has thrown the starter and requires a new one. Technically likely our fault, since the bad battery was 6 volts and we were jumping her with 12. This resulted in some electrical bad juju that resulted in this glorious shearing apart of heavy metal parts. Lesson learned. Expensive lesson. She’s getting an upgrade to 12 volt status.

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That nice crack? Nope, no bueno.

Also in the user error department, I just found out today I’ve spent the entire winter feeding a buck rabbit that was originally mistakenly tagged last fall as a doe. Sexing juvenile rabbits is not a skill that I’ve perfected yet (Obviously), but this hit will insure I check again before wintering another buck I don’t need. Not a biggie unless you’re talking about 20+ pound rabbits that Hoover up feed like teenage boys ingest Mountain Dew. Plus this puts us one doe short of this year’s target number of litters.

A long planned and eagerly awaited trip to the feed store Friday resulted in mini-disaster number umpteen. As a result of an incorrect store website, we arrived thirty minutes AFTER opening to discover that the chicks Ryan has waited a month for had all been sold. In thirty stinking minutes. Apparently, the chick pirates were lined up in the parking lot at 6 am and we were not among them.

My middle son reached the magical age of majority (also Friday) which slaps one in the face with the reality that these lovely strands of gray glitter in my locks might not be premature. You start by celebrating your success that they’re now eighteen and you managed to not kill them! This is an epic parental accomplishment, as they send you home with them with absolutely NO instruction manual to refer to. It also provides equal amounts of terror and relief. You’re no longer legally responsible for their actions, and you can now no longer BE legally responsible. You have to hope and pray that you’ve taught them well enough to make the decisions that they’re frothing at the mouth to make.

Justin, below, as a grinning toddler on the beach, (enjoying his big bro’s entrapment) and just days shy of his independence-bringing anniversary of womb eviction.

 

I almost got skunked last night visiting the incubator shed to turn eggs. It’s a small skunk, and was as surprised to see me as I was it. However, it retreated to the safety of what appears to be his den after standing up on his front legs and wiggling and pointing a loaded rear weapon squarely at me. Unfortunately, his den seems to be directly UNDER the incubator shed. And the brooder. So on this week’s fun and games list is to live trap and relocate an angry and petrified skunk. Good times will be had, I’ve no doubt.

And to add the cherry on top of this S%it sundae of a week…Yesterday, as T was chainsawing down the line of adolescent trees that now front the property after the inattention of years past, he has hurt himself. Some sort of twisting of his knee that has now resulted in pain, swelling, hobbling about and clicking and popping noises that even I can hear. We’ve cancelled our plans for Easter sunrise church services in the first time ever in the history of “us”, and we will likely spend a good portion of the day at the Emergency Room instead.

I’m going to try and get my motivation back up and running over the next few days. Spring is definitely here and after working so hard to be ahead, it appears we are destined to be behind once again. Murphy’s Law prevails! I hope everyone is having a wonderful and blessed Easter Sunday if you celebrate it, and National Deviled Egg making week if you do not! 😉

~ Lisa

 

Liebster Award

liebster-award

I was once again pleasantly surprised this week with a wonderful nomination for a blog award, The Liebster Award! Again, with our farm blog still a newborn by most standards, it’s very gratifying to be nominated by one’s fellow bloggers for such things. I owe today’s thank you to Raili Tanska over at Soul Gifts – Telling Tales. She is amazing, talented and very supportive of my efforts at this whole blogging business, and you can just never tell what’s going to pop up on your reader from her!

And being a kindergartner at all this blogging stuff, I have to look up the “official” rules for things of this nature. There is a great post here by Lorraine Reguly that gives several versions of the actions to take if you’re nominated and choose to accept. Wording Well

Ok, so down to the award to-do list…

What drove me to start blogging? Well, a combination of things. I wrote for a small local paper for a couple years, which dissolved when its publishers up and moved to sunny FL and defected from our little realm here in the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware.I really miss them, they’re still among my dearest friends.  I missed writing.  Many friends have suggested I do so in recent years. Or, maybe they were just desiring that I give my rambling Facebook posts a fresh new home and quit clogging up their news feeds. At any rate, there are so many people these days trying their hand at backyard chickens, gardening and canning for the household, and attempting to be more proactive in the production of their own food or at least more conscious and aware of where it comes from. Every time we have an egg, livestock, produce or meat customer we deal with, it’s a new friendship formed and there are always lengthy conversations and questions and new things to learn from one another. Add that to the fact that my blog is like a living breathing journal of our efforts, and provides me with a level of accountability mentally.

Some of my absolute favorite things? Books. All sorts. I must admit that I’m a purist on some levels. I enjoy online reading as much as the next gal, but there’s something less satisfying about a tablet or kindle than the feel, smell, and sound of an actual book in your hands. I am a very fast reader, and will devour anything and everything. I once spent a year going through every single Nora Roberts book at my library (including the J.D. Robb series) Coffee. I’m an addict, I freely admit it. I do not function without the stuff, even my family knows better than to interact with me until the first cup is on board, and we murder coffeemakers frequently because they are constantly running. I figure I have given up enough vices, I will carry on my romance with the coffee. Anyone who suggests otherwise has clearly never had the joy that is dealing with an under caffeinated yours truly. It’s un-pretty.  First we drink the coffee, then we do the things. Movies. Mask with Eric Stoltz, Cher, and Sam Elliot. Dirty Dancing. Silence of the Lambs. Tarzan. (Disney one, the music is awesome)

Where would I like to visit? EVERYWHERE. I’ve traveled pretty extensively within the United States, but never outside of it. I’d love to see absolutely everywhere. From the savannahs of Africa to the frozen tundra in Alaska, to the tropical islands. Ireland. Scotland, England (Castles are on my wish list)  The jungles in the Amazon. Australia. Paris. I guess now I can put Cuba on the list too. If I had an unlimited budget and a caretaker for this place, I would Never. Stop. Traveling. My Dad and Stepmother once spent a year in an R.V. and visited every state in the continental US, Alaska, Canada and Newfoundland. We only knew their itinerary after the fact by the postcards. I was wickedly envious and so very proud. I’m so grateful they had those traveling days before we lost them both. Two of the hardest working people I have ever known, they deserved every bit of it and then some.

And now for my nominees!

  1. Tamtoes over at Down2earthmama : I enjoy very much reading about her family’s dreams of a small farm, and wish them the very best of luck in their endeavors!
  2. Debc at There a chick who is a fellow chicken herder, and I’m much enjoying the photographic and fun diary of the newest additions!
  3. Martha Mims at Virgin Homesteader It’s been nostalgic watching her recent incubator adventures…I’m wishing her wonderful luck with her hatch.
  4. Julie Brown at Dysfunctional Family Stories who makes me laugh regularly and uncontrollably. This blog is not for anyone with an allergy to wine or F-bombs, but it’s pretty hysterical if you’ve a tolerance for those.
  5. Hannah Simmons at The Scientific Stickleback whose first posts have been very engaging, and I love the science and research that are put into them!

And there you have it, now you nominees are under no obligation to accept, but if you do, please pass on the love across the blogosphere and I hope everyone has a happy and blessed holiday today!

An Emmy for Emma?

Emma

I told you guys earlier in the week about a high school schoolmate of ours that along with his wife, now owns and operates a super cool operation called Apricot Lane Farms. In addition to being a very talented filmmaker and the pair of them being new parents!

I just read on my newsfeed this morning that this piece they made about a pig on the farm, Emma…has been nominated for an Emmy!  Please check it out if you haven’t done so already!

 

The Creeping Crud and Mustard Mayhem

Everyone in the house has been down for the last few days with a wacky combination of strange sinus funk, headaches (mine have been nearly migraine proportion) and just the in general blahs. Hence my absence here for a couple of days. The Creeping Crud got me. I’ve spent them mostly horizontal and the percussion section in my head has made staring at a screen of any sort impossible. Although the Ry-guy hasn’t missed school, he has come home both days and gone to bed. Last night he slept through dinner.

It’s been an unpretty compilation of Pj’s and bedhead, kleenex and coffee chasing cold meds around here. Except for the critters. The have all been just dandy. Mostly. They don’t care when you’re sick. They are hungry and thirsty and demand to be fed.

So I’ve managed to drag my butt and my ten pound thumping head all across all eight acres and do what’s required to stave off the animal anarchy. Also, I can’t speak for everyone, but around here, if you’re not running at one hundred percent, this is the time our animals choose to completely go insane.

I’m not sure if it was my change in schedule, or boredom, or the icky weather, or the moon, or what, but my Rhode Island hens lost their minds. When I went to collect eggs Sunday, there were precious few. There was goop in the nest box, but no eggshells I could find. I thought maybe one of them laid a shell-less egg, or perhaps one got trampled and caused interest, or maybe a resident rat showed up for brunch. I didn’t see any tell tale egg yolk on any of the girls’ faces.

Monday there were NO eggs. We’ve been getting at least 10-12 per day from the Reds, and bam. None. Cleaned the nest box again. One from the Marans pair, for a total of four from this week. Ryan’s small incubator arrived, so we fired that up and got it prepared. I try to use the freshest possible eggs for incubating, and it’s not looking good for the reds at this point.

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself over to feed and got there just in time to hear one of the girls singing the egg song. I peeked over the wall and spotted one of the two Aracauna hens that keep company with the reds peering into the nest box. And she pecked the brand new egg! Then it broke, and what followed was absolute chaos. Suddenly nearly all of the 14 hens descended on that egg like the Mongol Hordes. Houston, we have a problem.

I grabbed that hen and tossed her in with the Lavender Orpingtons over in the new coop. There’s only one hen in there, and she had already laid sometime the night before. The Rabble Rouser wouldn’t get any eggs to destroy in there, and with three roos in there, it’s definitely the eqivalent of chicken prison. That’ll teach her.

I spent the next hour assembling the artillery for the war of the eggs. Time to refer to a method I’ve heard about from older folks for years, but never yet actually had to employ. Plain white wax candle, golf balls, mustard, I need a big needle. Oyster shells from the driveway were pulverized on the back step and put into a small feeder bin, in case this is not boredom related and they’re lacking minerals.
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I blew out several of last weeks eggs by poking small holes at either end. Scrounged for a large syringe, ended up using a turkey marinating injector. I filled all three eggs with mustard, and used a dab of melted wax to seal the holes at either end. And back across the field I went.

I dropped the oyster shells off and planted one of the golf balls and all three mustard filled eggs under the hen currently occupying the box. And waited. When she started singing and got off the box I dashed back in and grabbed the one good egg. Took about 60 seconds after they thought I was gone for a creeping ring of hens to make their way over to the box and investigate.

For a minute, I thought one was going to hop in and take her turn as usual. Instead, she turned around several times, shuffled the “eggs” around, and then she did it. She pecked at one of those eggs a couple of times and as soon as it cracked, there was a veritable riot. All the other rushed over, not wanting to miss out, like a little feathered mob…and one by one, everyone got a beak full of mustard.

Hens DO NOT like mustard. They dove in, got a dose, ran off, and immediately started trying to wipe off beaks on the ground, the roosts, each other. Heads were shaking and there was cackling and carrying on. Hens were running for the five gallon waterer. It looked like the chicken equivalent of pepper spray training day at the police academy. I might have felt a little bad for moment. But I was cold and trying so hard not to laugh because it would just make my head hurt worse. A couple of brave souls went over and took a second try at it, but mostly the chaos was over.

Once the cackling and head shaking had slowed to a mild roar, I went in and removed the soiled bedding and remains of my mean mustard bombs. I left the golf balls in, just to discourage any further pecking. Maybe a sore beak will quell any further investigation.

Here are the un-molested eggs from the rest of the day. I managed to save seven. The top fiver there were an unexpected surprise. We keep a dog run out back with roosters for sale for driveway customers. We put an older black Hen in there last week that we were sure wasn’t laying anymore. When I went in to neaten up yesterday, there were five eggs in one of the boxes!  I’d have let her set them, but she’s auction bound this week. I just might fill an incubator tray this week after all.
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I’m stocking up on French’s, just in case. I once discounted this method as an old wives tale. I have now seen it with my own eyes. Listen to the old folks. They know their stuff.