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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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.

 

 

 

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

 

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.

 

Apricot Lane Farms

I just want to share with everyone a project that I have adored watching the progress of over the last several years. Although we could never dream of doing anything on quite this grand a scale, it’s inspiring and amazing what they’ve been able to accomplish on their own little piece of the planet.

I went to high school with filmmaker John Chester. He and his beautiful wife Molly took on this mission several years ago. You can view a short film about the project that has been featured by Oprah Winfrey, along with others they’ve made at this link.  Apricot Lane Farms

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. 🙂

Happy Sunday!

The Mother of all Auctions

So today, my dear sweet other half decided to get up and make coffee and let me sleep. This is when I know that something is very, very wrong. That plans have likely been made for my day, and that I have not been consulted, and I may very well not be pleased. These plans normally involve climbing up a tree or getting bait all over my hands…but not today.

This morning in a pre-dawn fit of genius unfortunately accompanied by our current financially challenged-ness (because we just bought a new tractor), he apparently decided we needed to drive an hour to the Harrington Fairgrounds and the Mid Atlantic Equipment Auction. I should also mention that it’s on the day that our balmy 70 degree temps from yesterday have pulled an Elvis and left the building. It’s frigid and damp and the weatherman had the nerve to mention that dreaded S word this morning. I’ve never been to this one, but I know it’s a monstrous, twice a year affair that takes over the entire fairgrounds.

After everyone donned 3 layers of what turned out to be nowhere near enough clothes and rushed around like crazy people trying to get the horses in, and all the birds and bunnies and demando-lamb fed up and put up before the wet arrived, we hopped in the truck and off we went. I only managed to fire down two cups of coffee that didn’t even meet my very basic standards of drinkability and was concerned I wouldn’t have enough energy to do the grumbling this venture was going to require. I knew there would be every conceivable farm implement and tractor PTO attachment known to man. And that we could buy none of them. It was going to be like window shopping, which, even as a woman I find completely STUPID and a total waste of time.

I was not prepared. Even a little bit. Pulling onto the fairgrounds it was almost like the pickup truck twilight zone. All trucks, big and small, with every imaginable sort of trailer attached. Every hundred trucks or so, you’d see one lonely small car, looking totally out of place. page_bg - Edited.jpg

Then the walking began. I can now consume half the pan of brownies I just made guilt free, because if I did not walk ten miles today, I didn’t walk a step. Row upon row of every farm and construction and home and garden machine there is. There is an entire row of flatbed trailers filled with small items, tools, parts. ATV’s and minibikes. We lost Ryan there. No worries, I came back to that spot and he never moved. He found a friend of his and they were lusting after a 4 wheeler that ended up going over 600$. I was out at 75. They ran completely wild all over the fairgrounds for the rest of the day. Bouncing between sets of parents and staffers from the farm across the road from us. There was a constant stream of phone calls and texts between everyone as we watched and bid on items for each other in different places and kept tabs on all the kids. Children are awesome coffee runners when you bribe them with cocoa and cookie money.

There’s a whole section of plants and shrubs and fruit trees. I lost out on blueberry bushes I waited 30 minutes for. 17 each was too much for my current bank balance. And there are FIVE auctioneers making their way up and down each row in stands on trailers. It’s impossible to gauge what 42 other things you’re missing in that 30 minutes that you were interested in. You just can’t keep up alone. I lost count of the amount of times I had to turn to a companion and say “what’s that, and what does it do?”.

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Fencing. Miles and glorious miles of fencing in varying degrees of usefulness. Solar chargers (Sigh). Stall mats and hay racks and water troughs. Transport crates and kennel cages. Barn lights. Swamp cooler systems for barns and poultry houses. Disassembled greenhouses. Golf carts and Gators and UTV’s.  Stock and utility trailers galore. Boats and even an older RV that I’d have bought in a heartbeat if I could have. And entire car lot’s worth of fleet vehicles we have no use for. I want it all, and I can afford none of it. But I’m like a big kid in a toy store, bouncing around from row to row.

Concession stands and food vendors on golf carts. Four staffers in a trailer at check in and check out, who DID NOT STOP taking money all day long. I can’t even begin to fathom how many dollars changed hands today. More than I will ever see in my lifetime, for sure. Probably several lifetimes.

T and I watched countless bush hogs auctioned. From 2$ to over a thousand. He joked if he’d have had money, he’d have just bought every crappy bush hog he saw and sell them two at a time at a profit for continual income. We watched large equipment go 5 and 6 digit bids. There was a fellow joking he was going to be in trouble with his wife for spending a few hundred dollars and I wondered about the ones who have to go home and say “Didn’t do bad today, dear. I only spent 130K, give or take a 10.”

We didn’t have much of a budget, but I managed to score a 13$ triple candy vending machine that will have feed in it for the petting zoo pen I’ve planned for farm customers. T got a small outboard motor for resale for 70. And we both walked around drooling over all the things we’d have bought if we’d have been working with more than pocket change.

I was so totally unprepared.

I marked the calendar for the fall auction. We will be there. I’m already calculating how and where I can sock away a little bit here and there. We’ll dress better, and go to the preview the day before and bring extra bodies and all the walkie talkies we own.

Ryan’s buddy came home with us for a sleepover. I can tell they enjoyed themselves. As I write this they’re in Ry’s room auctioning off all of his toy trucks, tractors and trailers. Big day. I have brownies to eat and a vending machine to re-key. Hope everyone had a great Saturday!

~Lisa

 

Progress, Not Perfection

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those critters who can best be described as a procrastinating perfectionist. You may think those two things can’t possibly go together, but I assure you they do. It’s a character defect, and one that I am working on.

The procrastinating perfectionist lives in a constant state of chaos, with select areas of organization and completion that are almost militant. For example, all of the family pictures that line the hallway in my home are organized with nearly military precision, I know instantly if one has been brushed slightly out of line. Yet at present, you have to step around a gaming chair that has lost favor with my youngest, and a crate of outgrown toys he’s sorting to hand down to his nephew to navigate said hallway. They’ve been there for days.  And the carpet needs cleaning.  20160318_071335.jpg

At any given time, I have 468 projects in progress, give or take. The procrastinating perfectionist (Moi) will wake in the morning and mentally go over Every.Single.One. in her head. As a mass, they are completely overwhelming. Instead of picking one to just start on, I will infallibly spend a ridiculous amount of time dissecting every one and finding all the reasons (I lack the time to complete, proper materials, tools, what have you) why I can’t do the task correctly, completely, perfectly, and therefore I should not begin that one. This process will be repeated 467 more times over my first two cups of coffee.

So I’m working really hard on changing this, because it drives me bat crap crazy. The past six years around here have been a struggle. I’ve known what I wanted to accomplish, but I’ve tended to concentrate more on the hurdles than the finish line. I’m trying to take the time every day to concentrate on gratitude, and progress, and small victories and recognize that those things lead to big victories and completion. It’s tough to do when you have trained yourself to think differently without even realizing it. So I’m trying to pick a project a day, and complete what I can of it in the time I have with the tools I have. Progress, not perfection.

Today’s project to start on is the front flowerbeds. They’ve been a war zone the past couple of years. They were neglected long before me…but they were once beautiful, I’m sure. There are plants and shrubs in there that were once expensive to both obtain and maintain. Both were done by a landscaping company my other half had dealings with through his business years ago.  When the business was sold, the maintenance stopped, they declined and most are now beyond repair. I detest looking at all that glorious space occupied by the skeletonized remains of shrubbery and the weeds that now occupy it. 20160318_080336.jpg

He has been steadfastly refusing to let me just yank it all out, and start over. This is what the procrastinating perfectionist in me has determined is required. He looks at it and sees the bills from ten years ago that he paid, not what it is today. “My God, woman! Do you have any idea how much putting those bushes in cost me?” He did relent last year and pull out two shrubs that would not have come back to life, EVER,  with anything short of the hand of someone with magical powers. 20160318_080303.jpg

This spring, he has finally decided that I may take it back to the ground and start again. I’m excited to get started on it, and I plan to post before and after photos when it’s complete.  I want to put in both some edibles and flowers, and the right side around the corner got its start at being herb-ville last year when everything else in it was dead and he let me till up that precious 5 x 7 spot.

Now, to figure out how to keep Sophie the free-range Houdini goat out of it.