Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bringing in the Sheaves

The 4 of us spent a couple of hours this afternoon bringing in some hay that my Dad cut in our neighbor's field.  We use it for bedding in the chicken house.  I laid in the trailer on the way to the barn on a bed of new hay in all of its fresh smelling wonder.

The garden is doing very well.  The strawberries are almost finished, but the blueberries are going strong.  The next best thing to homemade Greek yogurt on a bowl of fresh strawberries, is the yogurt on a bed of freshly picked blueberries.

I'm also picking lots and lots of sugar snap peas.

The flower bed is becoming more colorful all the time.  I now have red, pink, and peach lilies in bloom, with Shasta Daisies from my friend, T.

In addition to the mauve, pink, peach and white Yarrow, I have red, pink, white and lavender Monarda blooming.

Our enormous roosters have been practicing their crows of late.  JP and I decided that it was time to harvest the broiler chickens this weekend.  We butchered the remaining 4 broilers, plus 2 of the old ladies that I had marked during the winter as non-layers.

I do not enjoy this part of sustainable living.  In fact, I felt pretty queasy during the hour and a half that we were working on butchering and cleaning the chickens.  It's part of being an omnivore, however, and I have come to terms with the not-so-nice parts.  The broilers have been either grilled for dinner, or frozen, and the stewing hens have been canned.

Honestly, I am a bit overwhelmed by chickens at the moment.  Until butchering day, we had chickens in 3 different houses, each requiring water and feed on a regular basis.  We still have 20 layers and 24 pullets, which I hope will be weaned down to about 18 good layers by Fall.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Last night JP & I got to cross an item off our "Bucket List."  We went to a U2 concert with some friends.  They are doing their Joshua Tree Reunion Tour, and happened to be in a city nearby.

I have been a huge fan since their first Joshua Tree tour, 30 years ago (as evidenced by this U2 poster in my dorm room, circa 1988.)

We had a fun night, but I have to admit that I'm too old to stay out until 1 AM, and then go to work the next day!

This amazing rainbow appeared over the stadium after we had been waiting over an hour for the band to come out:

I wish that I could have actually SEEN Bono & The Edge a bit closer up, and I wish the sound system didn't have so much interference, but overall, it was really good.
Consider that one crossed off the list!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

One Project Done, 27 More To Go!

I finally finished painting the propane tank today.  It was delayed by needing to purchase paint, and by rain on my days off.

It has gone from looking like this:

To looking like this:

Big improvement, no?  I even painted the end handles into little inch worms!

It looks like the birds were doing some decorating of their own on the lid of the rain water cistern.

I planted 2 more garden beds over the weekend.  Now there are only 4 to go, plus the ones L likes to plant.

Someday I will be all caught up on projects, right?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Chicken Research

After losing one of my cockerels, I discovered that my other 3 cockerels had similar, albeit not so severe issues.  I did some online research, and determined that they were all suffering from "pendulous crop".  Since chickens have no teeth, their food is ground in the crop, a specialized part of their esophagus that grinds the food, along with grit (dirt & tiny stones that they swallow) before it moves on down the digestive system.  In some chickens, the crop can become impacted with food, or conversely, stretched and filled with liquid that doesn't move through.  In some cases, this liquid can develop a yeast infection, called "sour crop", that can cause all sorts of digestive and malnourishment problems.  This is what apparently happened to my 1st cockerel.

I realized that although the TSC chicks have been pastured on lovely, green grass, and moved every other day to a clean area, they do not have access to any grit to eat.  In addition, I learned that although they get fresh water every other day, adding a smidge of apple cider vinegar to it can be very helpful in alleviating and preventing the yeast infections.

I immediately added ground oyster shell to the feed of all my young chickens, and vinegar to the water of the TSC chicks.  Since then, 2 of the cockerels are greatly improved, and the 3rd, the one with the gimpy leg, is no better.  It appears that we may need to butcher him sooner, rather than later.

I also researched meat chickens, and although I am still unable to identify the breed of chicks that I bought at TSC, I am convinced that they are meat birds.  It is recommended that they be butchered between 5-13 weeks of age, usually at 6-8 lbs.  I am working on a method to weigh them, but it may soon be time to have fried chicken, as they are 9 weeks old and quite large.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

I'm THIS Close to Crazy

There have been an insane number of things going on in the past week.  J visited Fallingwater with the rest of the 8th Grade, and she sang 3 solos in front of a packed house at the local Sandwich shop at an Open Mic the other night.  L had her last ever Art Day at school (all art, all day, fun, fun, fun!)  I spent 2 hours before work on Thursday, and all day Friday at the Elementary School helping out with said Art Day for the last time.  Just to name a few...
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I forgot to mention that they finally took the well rig away a couple of weeks ago!

New things are blooming in the flower beds.

These peonies are currently blooming.

The Creeping Thyme and Yarrow are in bloom as well.
The pullets are getting bigger all the time.  Here they are next to my old ladies.

Sadly, we've had a few casualties with the TSC chicks.  They are ENORMOUS, which makes me think that they are broiling chickens, and not layers.  In any case, 2 of my cockerels have developed large, fluid filled sacks in their chests that hang down to their scrawny chicken knees.  One has since expired.  Another one appears to have dislocated his hip today, so I suppose we will be eating him soon.
Speaking of good eats, the strawberries are in full force.  I have picked about 2 gallons of them.  There is nothing better for breakfast than homemade Greek yogurt on a bed of homegrown strawberries, and topped with homemade chocolate-peanut granola!

I've been letting J's rabbit run around with the chickens.  He has a grand old time!  You can tell that it's high time that we mow in the chicken run.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Blast of Summer Sun

The cool rainy weather stopped as abruptly as it began, and summer arrived overnight.  We have had sunny skies and temps in the high 80's - low 90's for the past 3 days.  That has made it much too hot to do much outside, although I did finish planting potatoes on Monday, put in a bed of onions, and broad forked another bed.  I was hoping to plant the tomato plants today before it rains tonight, but I just can's get myself outside into the heat!

Poor L was out in the heat all day today!  She and the rest of the 5th graders went to Pittsburgh and took a tour of Heinz Field and the locker rooms (where the Steelers play.)  After lunch, they went to a baseball game.  One of the teachers has been sending updates and pictures all day.  The last I heard, they left the game a bit early to try to miss some of the traffic, but the Pirates were winning.

I spent several hours in the cooler parts of the past couple of days painting the propane tank.  Right now I am painting on the shapes of rocks.  I have a few more "rocks" to paint, then I need to do some highlighting/detail work, and I'd like to add a few flowers growing up in front of the rocks.  It already looks better than it used to!

I also finally edited the video from J's duet a few weeks back and posted it.  You can see it here.

Keeping all of the chickens in water and food, and watering all of the outside plants has kept me busy too.  In fact, I need to go water everything/everyone again!

Some more things are blooming, and it's looking lovely!



Peony 'Sarah Barnhardt'

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day Weekend

This is the first weekend in the past several, that it hasn't rained...much.  It was slightly dried out so that JP could mow part of the acreage today.  I tried broad forking 2 garden beds, and it's still pretty muddy.  I persevered though, and planted one bed of potatoes!

Yesterday, as per our Mother's Day weekend routine, we went to the nursery.  There I bought annuals for my outdoor pots, as well as some herbs for my new herb garden.

Basil, Cilantro (aka "that vile weed"), Chives, Thyme,
Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Parsley, and Lemon Grass
JP also got me this stunning petunia.  I think it's called "Night Sky."

I transplanted a few things from other flower beds, plus got almost everything planted that we picked up.  While working in my big flower bed, I found this tiny guy.  I was able to identify him/her as a juvenile Eastern Box Turtle.  So cute!

More things are in bloom:

Lupine & Grandma's Irises
Peonies after the rain...
Lovely weekend - I felt very loved by my family.  Hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day as well!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Farming by the Numbers

I have my recycled tractor tire herb garden ready to plant...even bought a few baby herbs to get it started, but first have to figure out how to convince the kitties that it is NOT their new litter box.


In the meantime, I am a bit surprised and proud of myself for working out all of the logistics.  Instead of randomly buying a bunch of garden soil, and winging it, I thought I'd figure out how much I would need in a scientific manner.  So of course, I turned to my stellar geometry whiz of a daughter, and asked for the formula for the volume of a cylinder.

V=pi*radius squared*height

The tire is about 45 inches in diameter and 15 inches high, so if you do the math, it comes to almost 14 cubic feet.  I bought 3 - 2 cubic foot bags of garden soil at Big Lots, and hauled 4 wheelbarrows full of manure and compost from the garden, and it filled the tire perfectly.

Other numbers on the farm include 30 pullets and cockerels, who in 43 days, have eaten 140 pounds of chick feed.

There are also the 22 hens, who in the past 11 days have laid only 99 eggs.  That averages to 9 eggs per day, which means that less than half of the hens are laying.  Pathetic.

It has also rained approximately 4.08 inches so far this month, which is why I have only 2 out of 16 garden beds planted.

The good news is that it is 8:33 on Thursday evening, which means that there are only 15 days of school remaining this year, and just 18 more lunches to pack.

Monday, May 8, 2017

May Showers and Flowers

The sun is finally showing itself after a week of rain.  There was a frost warning last night, so I covered my strawberries.  We didn't get frost, but it was COLD this morning!  I was worried about my little recovering chickens during the cold night, because it is difficult to keep the Egg Cart'n warm inside.

They did fine overnight.  It has now been a week since I put my Tractor Supply chicks in their own quarters for daily nursing care.  They are doing much better, and starting to re-grow some new feathers.  The wounds are still healing.

While  I was out uncovering plants this morning, I took the time to take pictures of my flowers.  They look so pretty in the sunshine!

These are my 'Nelly Moser' and 'Wildfire' Clematis.
I also have a red 'Earnest Markham' one, but it has
never bloomed!
My grandma's Purple Iris (you cannot possibly
kill this one), Salvia 'May Night', and some
Solomon Seal behind the Iris.
My large flower bed has Iris (Grandma's Purple, and
some yellow ones), several colors of Columbine,
Lamb's Ears, Yarrow & Bee Balm (not yet
blooming), and 'Sorbet' Peony.  The Lupine will bloom
soon, as will my other Peonies:  'Sarah Barnhardt',
and another that will bloom this year for the first time.

This is my stone wall shade garden:  I have 3 varieties of
bleeding hearts, and 'Tiramisu' Coral Bells, as well
as some garden mint.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Raising Feminists

The sky is turning black, and there are tornado watches in our area, so I will make this brief so that I can turn off the computer!

You may think that I am writing this post about my girls, but I am not.  I am writing about my 29 red x-link pullets.  I noticed about 2 weeks ago that 4 out of the 6 peeps that I bought at Tractor Supply appear to be cockerels.  Just a few days after that, I noticed that all 4 of them were missing all of their tail feathers as well as most of the feathers on their backs.  I slathered them all with bright purple "Pick-No-More" lotion, which is supposed to stop picking and help with healing.

A few days later, their tails looked decidedly better, so I have been applying the goop about every 3-4 days.  This morning, however, just 24 hours after the last application, 2 of the cockerels had bloody tails, and I caught the red pullets in the act of pecking them.  This had gone beyond picking out feathers, they were through the skin and into the flesh of the poor little guys!  I removed them from the aggressive young ladies.

A couple of hours later, I found a 3rd cockerel bloody and being actively pecked.  I moved all 4 of the cockerels to the empty Egg Cart'n for respite and recovery.

So it appears that my pullets have gone past being simply strong women, to being raging feminists.  I actually looked up the antonym for "misogynist".  Although rarely used, it appears the correct term for these little beasts is "misandrist" - a hater of men.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gonna Be Startin' Somethin'...

I have several projects in various stages of completion.

I finished painting the trim around the windows and doors of the Chicken House.  We also created a run for the pullets (and cockerels), and they have been spending some time out of doors every day.

I pressure washed the propane tank, and started spray painting it with grey primer/rustoleum.  I am planning to decorate it this summer, so this is the first stage of the project.

JP brought this tractor tire up the hill this evening.  Ages ago, someone dumped it in our creek down below, and I am going to recycle it as an herb garden, just a few steps from the kitchen door.

I also have stain purchased to paint the tree house, which is looking rather bedraggled lately.

In the meantime, L had a project of her own going.  Thursday evening was her Science Fair, so she displayed her electromagnet.

Friday a week ago was J's final middle school chorus concert.  She and her bestie sang a duet, and kept it a secret from me until I sat down at the concert and read the program!  They sang "For Good" from the musical, Wicked, and did a lovely job.  The girls are continuing to get compliments from the general public!  I will try to post it here if I can manage it.


We have had heavy thunderstorms, and then beautiful sunshine this weekend.  I spent a couple of hours walking through the woods this afternoon, looking for morels.  I didn't find a single one!

The peas are up, and Monday begins the final month of school...oh thank goodness!

Thursday, April 20, 2017


The chicks are in that awkward, gangly, pre-pubescent stage, with tiny feathers sticking out all over, except on their fuzzy little heads.  I am becoming more and more sure that some of my "bonus chicks" are actually roosters.

Little by little, I managed to get all the weeds out of my Moss Bed.  I sat on the rocks on my butt for hours to get that done.

L and JP worked for several hours over break on her Science Fair Project.  Unfortunately all the work was futile...they were unable to nudge any power out of a pile of potatoes.  At the last minute, she decided to switch to an electromagnet, and it works like a charm.

Math homework is driving me crazy this week.  It's actually making me weary.  6 more weeks of math, people!

This time of year is actually beautiful - it's my favorite time of year, when everything comes alive again.

I harvested a handful of asparagus and of rhubarb from the garden this afternoon.

Here's my field of baby clover:

My new bleeding heart (and my new favorite) is blooming for the first time:

The Redbud and Dogwoods are gorgeous in the woods:

And it just rained, so everything is clean and shiny:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring Break

This year, JP managed to get time off during the girls' Spring Break - and miraculously we had the entire scheduled break off because of no snow make-up days.  At the last minute, we threw together a Rock-N-Roll Spring Break for the girls.

We started it off with a trip to Wheeling to see a Beatles tribute band (Classical Mystery Tour) that played with the Wheeling Symphony.  We got really great seats, and really reasonable rates, and had a fun time!

"Paul" and "George"
A day later, we drove up to Cleveland.
The girls by Lake Erie

There we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

There we saw more Beatles,

and some of this,

and MJ's glove,

and a bit of that.
ZZ Top's drum kit

It was fun too.

We got home last night, and had our Easter Egg hunt in the barn today due to rain. 

It has been a really nice break, with lots of down time, as well as some work and long over due appointments.  JP saw his retinal specialist, who told him that the poor vision in his "bad" eye is now due to a cataract (an expected complication of his past surgery.)  I have another appointment tomorrow, and we are expecting our friend, C, to spend the day with us.  L has been working on her Science Fair Project, and it hasn't been working - she is starting a new experiment now.

On Tuesday, it will be back to work and school, with no more breaks until Memorial Day - right before the end.   Sigh...hopefully the Rock-N-Roll memories carry us through!