Friday, June 28, 2013

Mama Hen Update - The Final One

Mama Hen kicked the kids out today.  I've been wondering when it was going to happen.  The little guys are now about 4 weeks old, and in that gawky in-between stage where they have more tiny feathers than fluff.  I guess that officially makes them pullets.

I first noticed the issue this afternoon when I took corn out for everyone to scratch.  Most of the pullets were huddled together in a corner of the upstairs part of the Egg Cart'n, while Mama was down stairs.  After I threw in the corn, she greedily pecked it up, but the pullets seemed afraid to go close to her.

I confirmed that Mama was finished tonight.  6 of the pullets were downstairs, while one was desperately trying to get under Mama's wing in the nest box.  Mama pecked and kicked until the poor little one retreated to the empty next box next door. 

I decided the best course of action would be to return Mama Hen to the Chicken Barge with the other hens, and give the pullets a bit more time on their own to grow.  I set Mama on a roost in the Barge, and she settled in for the night without another peep.  The pullets, however, needed a bit of convincing.  I finally got them settled in a nest box with extra fluff.  They were all snuggled up and quiet when I left them.

I'll post a new picture of the pullets one of these days.  They certainly look different now!

In the meantime, we've received almost 2 1/2 inches of rain in the past 72 hours.  Mom, the girls and I worked down in the garden for several hours after the first rain fall.  I am please to say that the lower section that we meticulously dug sorrel out of, then amended with manure and lime, is doing wonderfully!  I decided to plant beans down there in order to help fix nitrogen in the soil.  We have lovely cabbages and a huge crop of various beans growing down there now.  There are also LOTS of weeds, but hardly any of them are sorrel.  We are slowly getting the area weeded and mulched with straw.

I've had to tie the asparagus back so that it doesn't shade my beans!

I also thinned the carrots, and mulched there.  We have a big bag of fresh, organic baby carrots to munch on for awhile!  Along with carrots, I gathered peas, spinach, a small zucchini, and a handful of blueberries and asparagus.

The strawberries are about finished, but the blueberries, as well as the wild black raspberries, are coming right along.  The garden is looking really great these days...lush and green.  I'm really quite proud of what we've accomplished in there so far!

With all of the fresh spinach, I made one of my favorite spinach salads from my Extending the Table cookbook.  Here's the recipe:

Sesame Spinach Salad (from Korea)

1 lb fresh spinach, steamed until tender
1 T sesame seeds, toasted
3 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T sugar
1 T rice wine vinegar
dash black pepper

Strain and squeeze spinach to remove most of the water, then coarsely chop.
Add all ingredients except spinach and sesame seeds in a small jar, and shake to mix thoroughly.
Toss dressing with spinach and top with sesame seeds.  Serve chilled.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The End

This afternoon I finally made myself go downstairs and pack up all of the Cyber School materials to send back.  I've already received 3 phone calls about returning the computer (which was up in the attic in the original boxes, still unopened), even though school officially ended just 10 days ago.  I finally made myself this deadline, because tomorrow morning I will be in the area of town where the UPS drop off is during their very limited open hours.  I put it off as long as I could, puttering around the house, watching the chicks for a while, reading to the girls.

It was a really hard task to do,  both physically (I packed up 8 boxes of stuff) and emotionally.  I got teary many times.  It felt like I was packing up my things to leave my job.  A job that was both wonderful and terribly frustrating, that was challenging yet simple, that has been my main focus for the past 5 years.  The books I packed were old friends, having read them with both girls for first and second grade.  I packed up inflatable globes (uninflated), CDs, DVDs, song books, art prints, and Math manipulatives.  Surprisingly, I didn't feel even a smidgen of relief to be packing these things up.  With all the hard moments, and tears, and tender times, and excitement of learning, it is a journey that I am SO glad that I took with my girls, even though I was initially hesitant.

The arrival of J's Cyber School supplies,
summer of 2008
The relief came tonight as I loaded all 8 boxes into the back of our incredibly dusty van.  I'm glad that task is over with.  It will be bittersweet sending both my girls off to school next Fall, and such a HUGE change for me.  I can't even imagine what life will be like.

Now it is time to celebrate summer, and the opportunity to teach my girls in the garden, in the kitchen, and to spend many hours snuggled together on the sofa reading wonderful books.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

All Gone

This weekend was full with lots of outside work.  I did some more weeding and mulching in the garden, and mowed the garden paths.  JP did a full 5 hours on the riding mower.  I hung 3 loads of laundry outside (and J brought it in!)  JP FINALLY got the trailer hitch installed on the van (now we can take our bikes to the beach!)  The girls helped me arrange all  the bird baths and pigs in the flower garden.  JP and Dad cut down a few dead trees around the edges of the property.  I got the chicken barge cleaned out.  Whew!

Today we all worked together to take down the unfortunate Maple tree that died in our side yard.  Dad and JP took it down and cut it up.  The girls and I loaded the branches onto the tractor to take to our brush pile.  Dad remove the stump.

Here's how it went down:

From tree to firewood in about an hour!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Two Peas in a Pod

L has spent some pretty intense days with her BFF, E since Saturday.  E is visiting from the West Coast, and it's been nearly a year since the girls have seen each other.  I have to qualify this by saying that these two practically grew up together.  I met E's mother when both girls were 6 months old, and we realized that their birthdays are only 6 days apart.  They are so much alike that we couldn't tell their cries apart when they were small!

This week has been a flurry of sleep overs (in the tree house and not), VBS, meals together at home, potlucks in the park, and impromptu outings to the local Farmer's Market. The girls have gone on ATV rides, taken walks, found turtles, made "flour" out of grass, played Capture The Flag, Red Rover and Steal the Bacon.  There has been lots and LOTS of unstructured play time too...they are not wasting a single moment of their time together.  These kiddos are TIRED because most of these nights have been late ones. 

It has made my heart lighter to hear the fountains of giggles coming from whatever corner these two are in.  And it will be a sad, sad day tomorrow when they must go their separate ways again.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lack of Sleep and a Long To-Do List

The girls had trouble sleeping last night.  They watched a (stupid) movie, which combined with the funeral we attended yesterday, freaked them out.  The movie was "Clue", based on the board game of the same name, which is one of their favorites.  You know - Miss Scarlet comitted the crime in the Ballroom with the wrench.

They were in and out of their own beds, sleeping bags in our room, and our bed.  I was in and out of my bed and L's bed (with and without her in it), and not much sleeping occurred for anyone.  Consequently, today it has been exceedingly difficult to accomplish anything.

I did go out to the garden with my Mom first thing.  I brought in spinach, lettuce, peas and strawberries.

I decided to see what would happen if I let the peeps down stairs in the Egg Cart'n today.  They all managed to get down and seemed to have a wonderful time scratching, pecking and taking dirt baths.  Hopefully they will be able to get back up this evening!

Fantine has moved back into the Chicken Barge with the other hens.  I have been ambushing the hens at night when they are all roosting and spraying them on their wounds and naked parts with Vetericyn.  They are starting to grow new feathers, and the wounds are healing up.

Right now I am supposed to be storing up water in all the 5 gallon buckets that I can find.  There is some kind of crazy storm, called a "derecho" coming through tomorrow, with hail and damaging winds.  I have no doubts that we will lose our power.

I also should get some cleaning done and make up beds for our guests coming this weekend.

But first, let me close with this picture of my potted flower arrangement for this year.  I like the cheerful orange and purple!

Sunday, June 9, 2013


I worked out in the garden most of the afternoon.  Whew!  It was a hot one today!  Now, I'm not smelling so good, and I'm a bit itchy and sticky.  Time for a shower!

The girls and I picked strawberries again.  We got about 2 1/2 gallons.  I think we've harvested almost 9 gallons out of the garden between my Mom and I, and there are still many more to go.  Hooray!  We used to pick 25-30 lbs of strawberries every summer at the U-Pick farm about 45 minutes north of here.  I discovered 2 years ago that they charged MORE for me to pick my own strawberries, than our local grocery store charged.  That was my impetus to grow enough of my own strawberries to be DONE with those fools!

I did some weeding out there, and planted the last bed of corn, as well as replanting some of the beans.  We found a Swallowtail caterpillar on the parsley, and L moved it to her butterfly habitat so that we can watch it change.  I picked some lettuce and peas for dinner.  The Bee Man came to harvest honey while I was working, and he gave me some honeycomb.  I feel rather rich this evening!

Every time I take my camera out to photograph the new Chicken family out scratching, they run and hide.  All seven peeps are doing just fine.  (I finally tossed that last egg on Wednesday night, it was a dud.)  I think you can see most of them in this photo.

My Dad commented that these peeps are so much quieter and calmer than the 3 dozen we purchased as day old chicks last Spring.  We think that must be the influence of Mama Hen.

The rose that I dug from my friend's garden last summer bloomed this week.  The flowers were so heavy that after a rain, they hung down to the ground, so I cut them and brought them in so that we could enjoy the sweet, strong scent inside for awhile.

One of the families that moved away last summer came back to visit this weekend.  We invited the rest of the gang up to Poplar Ridge for a pot luck.  It was so lovely to have T back with us, even for a short time.  We ate until all that was left were a few crumbs in the bottom of the bowl of chips.

Sadly, the mother of one of my dear friends passed away this weekend, so our gathering was bitter-sweet as we all felt her heartbreak in our midst.  I didn't know her mother well, but she was one amazing woman, who owned a little piece of heaven up the road by a bubbling stream. 

My parents were away at another funeral today:  my great Aunt was killed in an auto accident earlier in the week, and her husband was injured and hospitalized at the same time. 

It struck me again, as I worked in the garden today, the mysteries of the cycle of life.  New plants are growing in my garden, and old ones are becoming more beautiful and productive.  There are bright green striped caterpillars that in a couple of weeks will become beautiful black and yellow butterflies.  At the same time, the end comes for some.  I feel overwhelmed at times like this with waves of both sadness and gratitude.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

No Showers Again!

The girls took a lengthy shower together tonight, while I picked strawberries in the dimming light.  Most of their showers are lengthy, as they find the acoustics in the stall great for singing, plus they fight over who gets to use the hand held shower head.

When I returned, hands red and sticky, they were snuggled up on the couch with JP, listening to the final paragraph of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.  I turned on the water to wash my hands, and a fine trickle of water dribbled out.

Perfect.  Another summer of hauling water?  Sigh.

We tucked the girls into bed, then started a team effort to regain water - because you never miss it as much as when you don't have it! 

Old Bessie was filled with a most of a load of wood mulch that I didn't get around to putting on the flower beds over the weekend (although I did get them weeded.)  JP backed her up to my flower bed, while I found a giant tarp.  Then we both shoveled mulch on to the tarp until Bessie was empty again.  At the same time, my Dad came over to repair the Water Buffalo, which blew out of the lean-to one windy day over the winter and sustained some minor damage.  Then he assessed the well situation, and (we're just guessing here) it doesn't appear that the well is dry, but that the pump is damaged...perhaps because of the half a dozen or more brown outs in the past week and a half.  Finally, I scrounged up a handful of quarters, and JP headed out to the potable water station at quarter to ten at night.

He has returned now, and it takes a while to empty all 200 gallons into the cistern.  I think he plans to return for a second load yet tonight.  In the morning, I will need to call our Well Man to check the situation.  Dad will probably need to make another couple of runs for water.

Well, at least we'll get showers tonight.  For now though, I need to rustle up a few more quarters!

Mama Hen Update #9 - The Whole Flock

Mama Hen has been out and about in the Maternity Ward with her 7 chicks today.  She has 5 black ones and 2 yellow ones.  They all seem strong, healthy and curious, and do just what chickens should do:  eat, poop, and scratch in the shavings.

One lonely egg remains in the nest.  It hasn't changed since I candled it at about 2 weeks.  There was something growing in there, but it stopped.  I don't have the heart to toss it yet, but I guess I should.

Fantine down below in the ICU is frantic for her discharge.  She did lay an egg today, so I guess she is doing fair.  I haven't been able to catch her to evaluate her wounds since she was admitted.  My opinion is that she will need a couple of weeks away from the rest of the flock.

I will try to post pictures soon of the whole family.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mama Hen Update #8 - A Chick of a Different Color

This morning, Mama had 6 chicks with her, and another egg with a pip.  One of the chicks is definitely from a Golden Comet hen, since he is a little puffy, yellow fellow.

We candled the suspicious egg again, and still no change.  We also gave it the good old sniff test, and were definitely getting a whiff of something stinky.  That egg is WAY out in the woods now.

The egg with a pip hasn't changed since this morning, but the chick is still tapping away in there.  That leaves one egg to go!

Hopefully we will actually catch one while it is hatching so we can watch!

Catt and J brainstormed this afternoon, and came up with a hatching chick Haiku:

Pipping, zipping out.
Playing around and about.
Fluffy little chick.

Much nicer, I think, than the one I wrote about our chicks last year:

Now just balls of fluff
Scampering, peeping, scratching
Soon to be my soup.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mama Hen Update #7 - Hospital "Wing"

We now have 3 adorable, fluffy little black chicks!  Here is a picture of #2 shortly after it hatched.  Its eyes are still closed, and it's still sticky and wet.

The egg in front has a pip on the left side. 
We banded Mama with a green zip tie so we will
remember that she has broody tendencies.

These eggs hatched much faster today, I guess they were good and ready!  There are 2 more eggs with "pips" (a little cracked hole where the chick begins its exit from the egg shell), so we may have a few more chicks by tomorrow.

Recent unfortunate circumstances have required us to turn the Egg Cart'n into the Hospital Wing of the chicken yard.  The top floor is the Maternity Ward, and the bottom floor is the Sick Bay. 

All of our hens have been looking terrible lately, with feathers missing from their necks, hips and backs.  From everything I can tell, they are not ill, and do not have mites, but are getting "over mated" by our rooster.  I read that usually a rooster needs 4-8 hens in order to prevent over mating.  We have 19!  This evening I found a hen who was not only missing feathers, but actually missing skin in an area at least an inch in diameter over each hip.  She was immediately removed to the Sick Bay, where we have improvised shelter, roosts, food, water, and (most importantly) quiet for her.  We don't know yet if she will make it, but time will tell.

In the Hospital Wing, while poor Fantine recovers below, new life is arriving upstairs.  We hope everyone makes it in the end.

Mama Hen Update #6 - One Baby!

Early yesterday afternoon, I noticed that one of the eggs had a small hole cracked in it.  I thought we were FINALLY going to get some chicks!  I checked it every hour or so, and nothing changed.  After dinner, the hole appeared a tiny bit bigger, and we could hear cheeping and tapping from inside the egg!

There was no change late last night before bed, so I worried that something was wrong.  After all, it had already been almost 12 hours without the chick coming out of the egg!  Unfortunately, I chose to look up on the Internet about helping a chick to hatch.  As you can imagine, the comments I read (everyone's an expert) ranged from taking the eggs to a vet, to never NEVER helping a bird hatch, to help after 12 hours or 24 hours or 48 hours.  NOT HELPFUL!

I woke with a start at 6 AM this morning when the power flashed off and on again.  (JP's CPAP machine beeps when it's turned off...wakes me every time.)  I couldn't possibly get back to sleep, even though sleeping in on weekends is one of the highlights of my week.

I snuck out to the Baby Hotel and heard tiny peeps along with Mama's disgruntled clucking!  One adorable, fluffy black little chick was peering out from under Mama's wing. 

Yay!  One down, 8 to go!