So if we’re going to get into the why’s, as in, for what earthly reason I’ve revamped and refreshed my determination to be like Nike and just do this thing…watch this video. This Paul Harvey bit has always been moving to me. Ram said it best when they said “For the Farmer in all of us”. There is a little “farmer” in all of us.
That’s what it all comes down to. What makes me happy, what makes me feel joy, and accomplishment and successful. I’m happy when I’m feeding kids and critters. When I’m digging in the dirt and checking on calves and pregnant goats and horses and even chickens in the middle of the night. When I can take old things and make them useful again. Or my favorite, taking things and repurposing them for something totally different than what they were intended for. I like selling people things that I’ve grown, raised, restored, or created. I like growing things, and canning, I really, REALLY like not paying for stuff, but rather creating or growing it. I like knowing where it came from when it hits my table and feeds my family. Like, I get ridiculously pissed paying for eggs. Or vegetables. Or hay.
Unfortunately, I didn’t come equipped with the single mindedness that a venture such as this generally requires. Nor was it a necessity as long as I held an income producing job. That’s where the line is between hobby and homestead. Right now, we’re riding that line. I’ve left my conventional “job”. My honey has one that’s more like several. I rented a storefront last fall in a nearby beach town, which for the moment is closed for the off season. My plan is to reopen it this spring and feature things that are made or produced here. To capitalize on the buy local, sustainable, organically grown, farm fresh craze. Frankly, we are not exactly in a high traffic area here at home, and a sign out front proclaiming fresh eggs, plants and livestock for sale has been only marginally successful.
Now, we’re basically starting from scratch all over again. We’ve got a few of last year’s peeps who have finally now started gracing us with eggs. Funny story about those chickens. And why I still own them, (read, grudgingly fed the feathered freeloaders all fall and winter) but we’ll get to that later. We purchased at auction last week, 3 of the most gorgeous Rhode Island Red roosters I have ever laid eyes on. I unearthed three years worth of purchased seeds and starting trays. And, as of exactly five minutes ago, we made plans to go this evening and pick up the first of this year’s bottle babies, a 6 week old ram lamb.
This week, my son and I took on the task of unearthing an old fowl coop that had been overtaken by briers and overgrowth and general disuse. There are literally trees and briers growing up through the middle of it. Inside too. It’s been languishing toward the edge of the farm unoccupied for nearly a decade. And it showed. This photo is AFTER Ryan and I spent nearly six hours chopping and clearing briers.
Tony purchased this part of the property from our neighbor some years ago (pre-me), who is approximately a century old, likely legally blind at this point and mostly deaf and still drives a large pickup truck and farm equipment. (Much to the terror of other motorists.) He is a sweet old twinkling eyed soul with alarming strength and energy for his age and a wicked sense of humor who most recently used this building for raising rabbit dogs. (Beagles, for you non-hunting folk) He also raised pigs and chickens for many years.
After Tony bought it he kept some birds in it, including quail. He had mama quail over there setting on a nice clutch of eggs and they were just a couple days shy of hatching when up through the holier-than-thy-bible floor came a sizable snake who made a meal of the eggs, and subsequently Mama quail. I believe that was the end of any bird keeping in this building. Anyhow, there are five separate runs inside the building that lead outside, and one with no exterior “door” that will do nicely for brooder chicks not ready to join the flock yet. There’s also a pile of long-ago purchased brand new netting that we can install across the top to prevent “who jumped the fence?” Heinz 57 breed chickens and hopefully avoid feeding the local owl, eagle and hawk population. And there is enough spare wire around here to separate the outdoor portions of the runs. So there is our newest set of projects. Runs 1 and 2 will house the Reds and the Easter Eggers. Ryan has laid claim to the Easter Eggers and has his heart set on some white crested black Polish. (Known around here as afro chickens.) Mom wants Black Copper Marans, and Tony wants Delawares, so there are runs 3, 4, and 5.
On the chicken story that I promised we’d cover later, here’s how the current hens came to live here. We have raised peeps nearly every year for sale, and own a really large, un-pretty even by our standards, very temperamental cabinet style incubator that will hold hundreds of eggs. Last spring, my granddaughters and their Mom were staying here for an extended visit. My honey thought they’d enjoy hatching some eggs, so off we went to go purchase some from a neighbor. And we hatched a pile of babies. My oldest granddaughter quickly declared herself the “chicken mama” and very purposefully took on the task of seeing to them. I tried explaining that we were raising them to sell and I foolishly thought that fact had been driven home. So as our driveway customers came and went over the coming weeks, the day came when one of them bought the last of the hatch, except for two Easter Egger pullets and 2 roos.
I was not prepared for the aftermath. My granddaughter was heartbroken. There were real tears, and screaming and stomping and snot bubbles and gnashing of teeth (hers). There were more tears and tearing of hair (mine). I was a traitor and the meanest Me-maw alive and my heart broke in half. A frenzied drive to the local Southern States took place. I bought (at twice their auction worth) the last eight biddies in the building. And I took them home and presented them to this little face right here. Order was restored…but only after I had to solemnly swear and pinky promise that Me-maw would not, could not, ever EVER EVER sell these chickens. Or eat them.
I have turned away I cannot tell you how many offers on those damnable birds this winter. I have poured countless 50 pound bags of feed and all of the kitchen scraps down their little gizzards for nearly eight months now. The one Easter Egger roo is a bona fide Class A jerk of a chicken. He waits until I’ve turned my back and goes after my calves with his freshly sharpened beak and a whole bagful of unfettered glee and no mercy. The freeloading feathered fiends finally started producing eggs this month. I sort of love them again. Except that roo. He’s an asshole.