Progress is a Beautiful Thing

Pretty kohlrabi

Pretty kohlrabi

Another weekend is history and March is less than five days away! I never fail to question where the time went, but I can see through progress, that time is being spent well, here on the farm. We do piddle slower than some folk, not in too much of a hurry that we can’t enjoy a few minutes here and there just admiring the beauty that surrounds us. After all, it is well known that slow and steady wins the race, and though this human race is a long one, I’m sure the finish line will be sweet to happen upon one day.

Life is precious, in all it’s forms, and when it ends, suddenly, whether at the beginning of life or after much time on earth, there is reason to mourn. On the farm, we’ve experienced some failed incubating, and some peepers just weren’t strong enough to recover from the hard work of breaking free from their shell womb. We’ve lost a few heads of cabbage to a horrid pest that has to be uncovered, before the damage is realized. The same garden pest eliminated a few of our cauliflower heads as well. Alas, death is an avoidable part of life and serves it’s mysterious purposes as well.

Our 10 bunny rabbits are still hoppin’-happy. They are such a fabulous distraction from chores that I have accidentally added about 30 minutes to my daily rounds, just cuddling and giggling with the sweet babies. SuperMama is back in her own cage and getting geared up to be mated again. With Daphne and Ms. Bunny No-Name still expecting…note to self: It doesn’t do any good to mark the calendar if you’re going to mark it wrong!

SuperMama's SuperStar

SuperMama’s SuperStar


LillyBelle and a sampling of our first blooms

LillyBelle and a sampling of our first blooms

We’re hoping for plenty of chicks and bunnies to sell at the local Farmer’s Market for Easter. If all of my equipment comes in, I will also be selling a very special product that my Mom and I have been working on and honing. I’m still keeping this a secret, until I test a few markets, but personally, I have never had better! Ooooh, the mystery!!

I mulched and watered our fruit trees and roses and all our greenhouse greenery, and anticipate pulling them all out very soon! We need room to start our tomatoes and peppers! Dad and the boys did more work in the garden, preparing the ground for corn and squash, tomatoes, melons and much more. Even though this weekend was best for weeding and pruning, they planted a long row of purple hull peas and I planted mesclun, spinach, and romaine lettuce. We weeded around the onions, and hilled around the cabbages. I still need to do more hilling of the broccoli and cauliflower. There is always more work to be done, but nothing is more rewarding than reaping the rewards of gardening.

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The past week was filled with dishes inspired by our garden and chickens. I made a divine butternut squash casserole, and will post the recipe very soon. Keep your eye out for it. We’ve enjoyed our broccoli and carrots and chickens in a delicious pasta bake, and salads, complete with boiled eggs and fresh lettuces, carrots, broccoli and radishes, also from our garden. And as usual, our chickens, rabbits, pigs, and ducks have reaped many healthy benefits from our greens and scraps, as well.

I see buds on the redbud trees and our flower gardens are beginning to burst with color, ah the signs of spring are always such a welcome sight. As I write, it is rather gray out, and it is definitely cooler than yesterday, where I noted many a drops of sweat falling from my brow, while weeding. The free birds are just singing non-stop, such joyful odes to the return of spring.

My Dad scored several free cedars for posts. These posts will flank the long chicken run. He has taught me that it doesn’t take much to cut costs. All you have to do is be observant and bold. Always be on the look-out for resources, and if they aren’t on the side of the road for trash, then just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be told no. Our neighbor cut down many trees, clearing their land, and all Dad and the boys had to do was clean the cedars up and move the logs out.

He has a system going now that started soon after our arrival and my interest in working the garden with him. He has a carpenter that bags saw dust for him to pick up, he has tree trimmers dump mulch in our outer fields to season, and he then trades with the saw dust for other necessities…and/or extra chickens. This is the same man who bartered with the doctor who delivered me. The doctor was paid a nice smoker-grill for his services. That doesn’t happen anymore!

I realize not everyone is as skilled as my dad is in selling his perspective and goals, but I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with him and learning from him, as he pursues lofty dreams and visions of grandeur—farm style. If only everyone were on board, we might actually take flight sooner, rather than later. But there’s that pesky little element, called time, that has a way of changing and re-arranging things, so I’ll just go with the flow and learn what I can in the process.

Dad will pick up anything that he thinks he might one day utilize. I used to scoff at him, especially as a teen, when he’d make me wait in the truck while he jumped in the dumpster after a piece of lumber or scrap metal. But in getting the garden together, last fall, I began to see the method in his madness. He pulled out some rebar from one of his piles to use in mounting the low tunnels. I used to get in trouble for trouncing over the piles of those long metal rods, as a young child. He would warn me of snakes, and of the dangers of getting hurt or sick with tetanus, but mostly, he would get frustrated that I was going to somehow mess up his treasures. Fast forward 30 years, and he finally found the perfect use for a few of them.

He’s the tidiest of hoarders, and has running inventories, just as he had of his fittings and pipes during his plumbing days. I truly hope my boys learn all they can from him. He’s a big reason I moved my family to this farm. I knew he was just what the doctor ordered for my boys. It’s a messy world out there, and it is my hopes that my boys will be fully equipped to not only survive, but thrive, as grown men. So many skills are being lost in the wind. I want more for my boys than what a city could offer them. As a gal who started life in the country, I valued my upbringing, as it has served me well.

I’ve seen some progress in my sons’ growth and maturity, in the five months we’ve been here. A lot of resistance, but I think they’re wearing a little. It’s starting to sink in that the decision I made was made out of love and hope. One day, I believe that they will look back on this time in their life with nothing but gratitude. But until then…pray for us all! Ha!

And on that note, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

"You mess with me, you get the chicken!"

“You mess with me, you get the chicken!”

Vaya con Dios

Spring Prep: Warm Weather Welcome

What a difference a day can make! We started this week with dreary, gray chilliness, and are ending it, shining in the sun! You’ve gotta love Texas’ two-step path to Spring, cold-cold-hot, cold-cold-hot… But hey, who can complain? (Most Texans!!) At least we’ve got a nice swinging variety to keep us twirling into the shortest season on a Texan’s calendar.

Chaca, the wild hog, has been retired from her position as roto-tiller and is now relaxing in a shady spot, south of the garden plots. The rafters of the future chicken coup/well house combo went up today, and we planted a nice long row of potatoes as well as red/white/yellow onions, radishes and nasturtium. We will be steadily plotting and planting in the coming days, getting a nice start on our spring/summer garden. It was so lovely today that we uncovered the low tunnels and watered the winter garden for the first time this year.

Our winter garden is still yielding nicely. Tonight I incorporated some delicious kale into a rich potato soup that included beer, cream, broth, sage breakfast sausage and bacon, and herbs and spices because, well, WE LOVE FOOD! Last night it was a tasty spinach quiche, using our spinach and our farm fresh free-range eggs. I feel like Popeye! I have the strength of 10,000 men!!

Okay, I don’t, but I know that I am feeding my family the best of the best, and in that, I feel very blessed.

Our broccoli is on tomorrow’s menu, as are our carrots. Every other day, I feed all of our free-range and caged chickens and rabbits some of our garden greens, whether they be our various lettuces, or kale, turnip or mustard greens, as well as radish greens. Our radishes are massive, and still crisp and tasty. I was lucky enough to get a picture of our turnips before I misplaced my phone. I have become a greens maniac, and love making a big ol’ pot of greens…with a lot of bacon, of course.

Giant, delicious turnips

Giant, delicious turnips


Speaking of bacon, our hogs have been processed and are now in bits and pieces in the freezer, awaiting my culinary finesse. I am awaiting some invisible form of inspiration!

I know I’ll be grinding again soon. We have some sausage to make with the hog and venison. But other things take priority, and right now, we have a garden to plant and a coop and run to build, and well, other things will surely pop up to attempt or succeed in thwarting best made plans, as per usual. Murphy’s Law or something, isn’t it? I’m not sure, but it has been the way of the day for quite a while now. It seems to be the season I’m in.

God’s been working on my whole “control freak” persona. He’s steadily remodeling each of us, and in this case, I think He’s teaching me to “roll with it, baby”. Several things have popped up in the past six months, that in the past would’ve sent me into a foot-stomping, my-way-or-the-highway tizzy. I really am a girl who has always liked controlling my surroundings, and I never really so readily recognized the personality flaw until I faced getting to know and help the chickens!

Just saying “No” to things such as butchering venison and cleaning chicken poop/beheading chickens, seemed utterly non-sensical, if I were to become a true farm-person. Time to toughen up Nelly in a whole new way. And time to let go and go with the natural flow, instead of creating unneeded waves.

God seems to be using a friend of mine in this plan of His to elevate me to the next level of servitude and gratitude. Her visits alone bring about a form of forced domestication, of which does not come natural to me. But during this most recent visit, she began, what became a sudden increase in creatures on the farm.

You see, I’m not sure she even realized how crazy she was, until I reacted to the gift she brought to my youngest son. Recognizing my son’s love for animals, she saw no reason not to get him the perfect gift. I mean after all, he had captured an alligator turtle and kept it for a time as a pet for a time…and Pawpaw brought a wild hog to live on the farm. These people are running a happy little menagerie. They’ll barely even notice the addition and it will bring even more joy into their home.

She was right by the way…but the adults’ collective initial reaction was enough to scare my friend away for good. She brought my son a rat. A cute little baby rat named Coconut, complete with a cage and food. She brought my son a R-O-D-E-N-T. All my life, I only saw rats as a nuisance and believed the only place they belonged was stuck in a trap. I have even poisoned a few.

Yes, I had a very poor reaction to my friend’s thoughtful, but insanely crazy gift idea! My Dad’s reaction was even-keel with my own. He even told her, in jest, (we hope-ha ha) that she wasn’t allowed back on his property again.

But I must say, Coconut is a source of enjoyment for the boys and he’s survived his first week on the farm, fat and happy.

Speaking of fat, my Dad, who is also pretty crazy, brought home a year-old pot-bellied pig named Patty. Obviously, this is not an edible, or in my personal opinion, a useful creature, and yet, it is here, I suppose for the same reason as Coconut—free(ish) entertainment.

Personally, I didn’t miss the pig squeals after Dad had to put his last pot-bellied bellower down, due to chronic pain from being crippled during a surgery. I must admit, these additions have me scratching my head, but I’m rolling with it. I’ve seen smiles produced due to both Coconut and Patty the Pig, and I’m all about happy family members. So let the smiles continue. I am not going to put my foot down…at least not for now.

On the feathered end of the farm, we’ve welcomed a Buff Orpington hen, a Black Orpington hen, and a supposed Cuckoo Maran hen. Her feet are orange and Cuckoo Maran’s feet are supposed to be black. She looks exactly like Old Mama, who is believed to be a Barred Plymouth Rock.

The original owners were duped and thusly attempted to unknowingly dupe my dad. We’re keeping them caged, separate from our other flocks for a bit, just to make sure they are healthy. There are a lot of chicken illnesses out there, and our birds are happy and healthy, so we’re gonna make sure we do all we can to keep them that way.

My crazy friend's sweet and brave daughter loving on our khaki quackies

My crazy friend’s sweet and brave daughter loving on our khaki quackies

The ducks finally have their quacks! Little changes like this are so easy to notice when you’re in a place teeming with life. From the bunnies and their ever-elongating ears to the bees buzzing around the broccoli blossoms, I love the ever-changing cycle of life and it’s just absolutely magnified here. Spring is definitely in the air, I can feel the power of new life whizzing in the breeze like electricity. This has been a long, cold winter, and this bear’s ready to get out of the cave to stay!!

Speaking of bears, my cubs are demanding my attention. They want to make chocolate-covered bananas. If anything is going to pry me away from writing, it’s chocolate. So until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

Vaya con Dios!

PS Plant root crops when the moon is waning, or decreasing.

Soufflé or Quiche? A Recipe from the Crazy Chicken Lady

Call me crazy, but I don’t care what the difference is between quiches and soufflés. All I know is that I can take a handful of any assortment of veggies and sauté them with either bacon, ham or breakfast sausage and be well on my way to Yummytown.

Here is a simple enough dish that I tweak from time to time, depending on what meats, veggies and cheeses I have on hand. No matter what, it’s a big hit with the family. And yeah, sometimes I call it quiche, sometimes I call it a soufflé, but no matter what, we all call it delicious, so enjoy!

Stacie’s Quick and Easy Cheesy Quiche

tonight's offerings...Souffluiche ;)

tonight’s offerings…Souffluiche 😉

1 chub of Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage (or 1 pack of bacon, or both, or diced ham…oh the options are endless!)

1 dozen or more eggs (you will soon realize I do not measure, so everything is loosely based)

1 medium red, yellow, or white onion, diced

1 bunch (or more) fresh spinach, mustard greens, and/or kale

(additional veggies to include, if on hand and so desired are: diced mushrooms, diced bell peppers {red, green, and/or yellow}, jalapeños if you are daring, chili peppers, minced garlic, etc.)

1/3-1/2 c. half & half

1 or more c. sharp cheddar (or mild cheddar, or mozerella, and/or cream cheese, etc. OH CHEESE, GLORIOUS CHEEEEESE)

salt & pepper to taste (dill is fab with bacon and/or ham)

Ok, start browning your meat while you get your greens cleaned. While your cleaned greens dry in a strainer, chop that onion (and mushrooms, peppers, etc.) and add to your browning meat. Shake your greens good and dry and cover the meat and veggies with them. Cover them and let the greens wilt and the meat finish browning. After about ten minutes, give them a good toss, re-cover and let them cook on the stove top a bit longer.

At this time, pre-heat your oven to 325F.

In the meantime, grate your cheese and set to the side.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk your eggs until thoroughly mixed. Add your half and half, salt, pepper (and any herbs you desire, or have on hand) and mix again, very well. Toss in the cheese. You’re almost there, baby!!

Depending on the amount of eggs, meats and veggies you add will obviously weigh on what dish you decide to use. Sometimes I can get by with a nice pie dish, but on other occasions, like tonight, I use an oblong, baking dish.

Be sure to coat your dish really well with a cooking spray or oil. I have been using coconut oil spray, as of late and it works just fine.

Take your meat/veggie mixture and evenly spread it across the bottom of your baking dish. Then, simply pour your egg/cheese mixture all over the top, give it a lil’ shimmy-shimmy-shake, and then pop that bad baby in the oven.

Give it anywhere from 25-40 minutes, depending on size. Just keep an eye on it, from time to time…I know you won’t let it burn.

When you go to slice and serve this souffluiche, be sure to offer complimentary condiments, such as sour cream or salsa. Some of my boys like to add ketchup to finish it off, and my oldest son and I prefer a dash of Cholula!

Enjoy!

And until Next Time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

Vaya con Dios

Quail Isn’t That Special

Here on the farm, we raise various poultry.  We have our award winning chickens and roosters and their award winning eggs. We also have guinneas, quail, and our newest feathered friends, three baby ducks.  Each of these birds have different needs and different problems.  The guinneas pretty much care for themselves, and honk their annoying alarms on and off through out the day, while perching in trees, on the roofs, and occasionally bullying the chickens.  They are a rather rogue gang of noisy birds that I really don’t have too much to do with.

pretty pullets

pretty pullets

Our quail, however, are another story.  Quail are tiny and delicate and flighty.  They operate under a cult-like mentality, and rarely, will you be able to differentiate between the hens and roosters, unless you catch them in action, as they look nearly identical, male and female.  Some more avid, hands-on quail folk will tell you to squeeze their bottom, and if foam comes out, that means the quail is a girl.  I’ll pass on that.

A few days back, my Dad noticed that one of our quail hens was egg-bound.  In other words, her egg became stuck inside her on it’s way out.  This does not bode well for birds, being egg-bound, but at the time, I didn’t know that.   I did as instructed; we sat the lady in some warm water, and we could see that the worst possible outcome in such situations had taken place.  The egg had broken inside her.  The shell was most likely causing internal damage.

The bitty darling was not happy in the water and after cleaning her, helping to dry her, and moving her back to the infirmary cage, I knew things weren’t looking good.  She was stiffening.  She laid on her side with her legs unusually stretched out…she was dying.  We put her in a small animal carrier and brought her into the house to keep an eye on her over night, but when my Dad came over for a visit, he said she was not going to make it.

Farm life is full of both life and death.  Truly, there is no where else on earth that continually offers you all the aspects of life than the farm…besides a hospital.

Walking into the caged area often brings surprises, both good and bad.  From new layers, and new chicks to baby rabbits who didn’t make it through their first night, and bloodied roosters who apparently looked at their neighbors the wrong way. Some days bring about sorrow, as one fine blogger pointed out, the other day, when she lost a kit of baby rabbits.

She wisely shared Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 here.  Farming will help you grow a thick skin, but God’s Word will help you gently cope with the facts of life.

From the incubation stage forward, you deal with loss.  As you candle eggs to see which were truly fertile, you cannot help but mourn what might have been, with the unfertilized eggs.  No longer edible, these eggs are disposed of and forgotten.  It was the day before Christmas when our first quail hatched from the incubator.  Quail incubate fully within 16-24 days, depending on the breed.  Ours usually hatch around day 17.  They are a variation of Chinese painted quail and they lay the most precious mottled brown and khaki egg.

baby quail are itty bitty cuties!!

baby quail are itty bitty cuties!!

Our first quail hatchling did not survive the night.  It’s enough to make you question your methods.  But we know, from practice, that we did everything according to book.We dunked it’s little head so that it discovered water and consumption, we kept it’s box at a cozy 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Some babies just weren’t meant to flourish.  Thus is life.  Like many premature births in nature, nature took it’s course.  Out of a dozen quail eggs in the beginning of incubation, 7 were born and 5 survived.

We feed our quail specified quail feed.  You can get this at your local feed store. It is of the utmost importance with all caged fowl, to keep their water and food containers clean and fresh.  This wards off disease and illness.  During the cold seasons, these little delicate birds require extra warmth.  With the use of heat lamps, you can keep your quail happy and cozy.

 

Quail eggs are such a rewarding, precious protein, and pairs will lay you an egg a day, if you offer them a comfortable environment.  I use 4-5 quail eggs per standard egg in recipes.  They are also fun to boil and peel, just remember to let them age in your fridge or in your cool cupboard for at least a week to allow air between the shell and membrane.  This will help with peeling all boiled farm-fresh eggs.  The tiny boiled quail eggs are fabulous uncut, in potato salad, but it’s hard not just to pop a few freshly peeled delicacies right in your mouth.  YUMMO!

Three week old quail note the temperature drop as I prepare their water

Three week old quail note the temperature drop as I prepare their water

After a few weeks in the hatchery box, with a warm lamp and a small amount of ventilation, these little peeps are ready to move to the caged area.  We have a pretty awesome assortment of chickens and roosters to keep our quail company.  Within only a month we have received eggs from the hatchery graduates.  They are of course unfertile, but even that changes quickly.  Yes, quail roosters grow into their roles of dominance and seeding rather quickly, and if you have the time to watch for such action, you can then band the leg of your hens and roosters, respectively.

I have yet to enjoy a bacon-wrapped quail or any other prepared quail, but my parents say they are divine eating.  We are definitely building our quail up for such a time.  But in the meantime, I truly enjoy watching them hop around in their spastic manner, attempting the occasional escape, only to find a waffle wall of wire in their way.  I love the rooster’s shrill-full crow.  It never fails to take me by surprise and give me a rush of goose flesh.

The latest surprise on the farm came in finding our first d’Uccle egg yesterday. D’Uccles are an exotic breed of bantam quail, and are originals. So I’m curious to see if we have another egg waiting today. I just know my dad is going to want to whip out the incubator when he sees what has been collected while he was gone. So I better be off! The farm work calls!

Mamacita and Papacito, the d'Uccles

Mamacita and Papacito, the d’Uccles

Until next time, this is the Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

Vaya con Dios!

 

 

 

 

Our First Winter Garden

I thought I would give you all a break from my chicken talk, and focus for a moment, instead, on our bountiful winter garden.  Gardening can give one a really unique perspective on life.  The wins, the losses, the pruning of the vines.  You begin to understand some of God’s more questionable maneuvers or at least see them in a different light.

First off, I need to confess a few things.  No matter how much you wish for compliance, not all of your family members are going to be as excited or helpful as you are about this garden.  You may get lucky and have a few happy helpers, but you are going to get a lot of whining and moaning too, unless everyone involved is over 25!!  In my little utopian fantasy, I saw all 8 of us planting and picking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company and keeping pace.  This is why I hardly watch movies anymore. They set you up for failure!

Secondly, it is important to plant crops at the appropriate time for your area. This year, we planted the following: broccoli, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, beets, turnips greens, mustard greens, kale, spinach, red leaf lettuce, baby butter heads, arugula, spicy Cali greens, cabbage, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, Alaska and assorted peas and beans, sweet potatoes and purple, red and white potatoes.

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

Our pig rooted up the sweet potatoes right away, so that ended that quick! Our chickens will not let the majority of our broccoli rise above 2 inches. We only have about a quarter of the broccoli still thriving that we began with. And that is only because the chickens are full by the time they get to that point in the first row.

Right now, the broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are dormant. But we expect to have a great March-April harvest! The onions and garlic will be ready to pick about that time as well.

My dad tested the soil and added nitrogen and other nutrients to boost the soil content for the seeds to sprout. Through out the season, mulch, saw dust and a little miracle grow was added to encourage the best results. The first crop to produce a harvest was the radishes. We know now to stagger planting radishes, so they are not all ready at the same time.

Our harvest of radishes produced several big mamma-jammas

Our harvest of radishes produced several big mamma-jammas

Everything was coming up roses! Our hearts (dad’s and mine, mostly) danced in delight as all the leafy greens sparkled in the sunlight. We began to enjoy baby greens as well. I had never eaten greens before, after being forced to eat them as a child (do y’all remember canned Popeye’s Spinach?! Blech!). But as with so many other culinary delights, my taste buds have matured and I gave greens another try. I’ve grown to like them too, especially when I use the recipe my sister gave me.

One day, I might be kind enough to share my winter garden recipes with you, as through experimenting, I have really pleased our palates this fall/winter.

in full bloom

in full bloom

Things changed after the freeze snaps began. Within the first or second snap, we lost our entire summer garden. This was to be expected on one hand, but on another, the tomatoes had really started making a comeback. Boy, was that a heartbreaking day. Dad and I silently folded the clothes we had covered the tomatoes, butternut squash, eggplants, and a plethora of peppers with as we silently mourned our summer friends.

After the third freeze, all but the Alaska peas survived (like duh, haha!) in our bean and pea field, so we set the boys to move the loops to the winter garden. In the winter garden, the spinach was not fairing well. Even with the covering we provided that delicate crop, the spinach just couldn’t handle the unseasonably frigid Texas temps.

They are still hanging in there, but the leaves are all spotted brown with what I believe to be freeze-burn.

The kale are a different story. They just seem to get more lush and beautiful as the snaps come. They are native to Siberia, so that also makes sense! We recently enjoyed kale and beet chips, but I usually put kale in soups, and quiches. Not too much either, because it is a strong flavor not all enjoy. I especially like it in a sausage potato soup. But that’s just me!

Frosty, Happy-Happy-Happy Kale

Frosty, Happy-Happy-Happy Kale

As for beets, we planted them for Mama. The chips were bearable, but I’m not a beet fan and never will be. Now if we are talking beet dye…that’s a whole other ball game!!

By this time, we were enjoying our lettuces, as well as turnips, which can be used like a water chestnut in stir fries, and is a MARVELOUSLY surprising filler in meatloaf!! Try it, I dare ya! I think turnips are so pretty. We are growing the purple-top variety and it looks like a shiny baseball, only half purple and half white. I love baseball! But that’s not really relevant here.

I don't use this word often...but is this some sexy lettuce or what?!!!

I don’t use this word often…but is this some sexy lettuce or what?!!!

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Our rabbits LOVE Rocket Arugula

Our rabbits LOVE Rocket Arugula

Next were the kohlrabi and carrots. I use kohlrabi like broccoli, which it is very similar to, in taste and texture. I learned to treat it like a potato, peeling the skin off before cooking it. It’s great in stews, stirfries, blanched…like I said, think broccoli. At first our carrots were not that sweet, but as they’ve grown and as the cold days have lingered, they are getting better and better!

The night before the “polar vortex” touched Texas, the boys covered the hoops over the winter veggies. Up until this point, aside from the spinach, we had not covered the winter garden. It was a pure pleasure to see our veggies thrive in such cold conditions, but after having a cabbage head turn to mush due to a surprise freeze, dad was done taking chances!

We did not eat our cabbage for New Year's Day, but they will be ready to enjoy in the near future

We did not eat our cabbage for New Year’s Day, but they will be ready to enjoy in the near future

Did I mention our potatoes? Dad dug most of them up after the second or third freeze. The ones that were not affected were delicious, but immature…winter really isn’t the time for peas, beans, nor potatoes.

I am hoping that this new year brings new attitudes around the farm concerning farm work. I realize I drug my children and husband onto this farm with high hopes and great expectations, but I also know nothing is impossible with God! I feel like these experiences can only enhance and enrich their lives as well as nutritionally providing the best for them.

I’ll admit, it’s kind of ridiculous of me to have expected a smooth transition, but it’s slowly getting better. Everyone is slowly getting with the program, each in their own ways and own fields.

I want to thank you for stopping by my blog today. I hope you leave with new knowledge and with a smile…and I hope ya come back now, ya hear?!!

Until then, Vaya con Dios!

This is the Crazy Chicken Lady signing OUT!!

Frosty Mornin’ To Ya

The robins are going berserk this morning, trying to keep warm.  Our country is currently being slammed by what the meteorologist folks are calling a “Polar Vortex”.  The tag just makes you feel all warm and cozy inside, doesn’t it?!  Global warming at it’s finest, lemme tell ya!  Robins migrate to Texas in the winter, because we are generally a two season location, hot and hotter!

Okay, occasionally a few cool days slip past the border, but normally, Texas winters are pleasant and mild.

The cold doesn’t affect me the same way it does most of the populous, because I wake up radiating heat.  The cool air is most welcome, at least first thing in the morning…as the day carries on, I know the chill will set into my bones.  I probably should take care of the chickens before that occurs!
Owning chickens is not for the weak.  They require much care to remain healthy, fertile and happy.  Because caged chickens have a tendency to defecate in their food and water, you have to stay on top of keeping the food and water containers clean and fresh.  You also have to keep their trays clean.  (Rabbits too…have I even mentioned the rabbits?  Probably not, but I love them and this goes for them as well!)

We have five rabbits, 2 bucks and 3 does

We have five rabbits, 2 bucks and 3 does

But back to the chickens.  Although, I could carry on about this fat lil’ male cardinal who is perched on a branch outside my window…so cute.  And yes, I may or may not have ADHD, but I roll with it.

When working with the chickens, I have learned a thing or two.  They like it when I sing to them.  Not every day is a happy singing day though, as you know, and on those days that a song does not depart from my lips, I talk with them.  The chickens and rabbits each have different personalities.  There are sweet ones, mean ones, goofy ones, and everything in between.  As for the quail, well, they remind me of the aliens from Toy Story.  I cannot differentiate between any of them and they all act and sound the same.  The rooster-quail’s crow is something else!

This past Saturday, I mentioned in my previous blog, that my dad and my youngest son went to show their chickens and eggs at the local annual Poultry Show.  Well, I am happy to report that they raked in the rewards for all their hard work.  1st place in Bantam egg content, 2nd place in Standard egg content, 2nd and 3rd place in best egg trio, 1st place for our Dominiques…you may know them from the unlucky story of Lucky…killers!!  They proved the ol’ saying “the bad guys always win!”

Mr. M was disqualified because Dad was misinformed of his breed…instead of a copper maran, he turned out to be a blue-copper maran!  By just one word missing, he was eliminated from the competition.  He would’ve received 1st as well, as he was the only blue-copper maran in the building…picky picky!!

Mr. M, our blue-copper maran

Mr. M, our blue-copper maran

My little Mamas and Papas received 2nd, Dad reported, but their ribbon was M.I.A.!  Mr, White, whom I have yet to introduce, also placed 1st, but his ribbon was M.I.A. as well…something about a missing judge and his portion of missing ribbons.

Some chicken people can be sneaky!  Someone also took off with a shirt my dad won in a raffle, as a man claimed to be my dad!  Last year that same man is probably the one who made off with Dad’s chicken coop he won.  Sneaky, crafty, snake!  My first chicken love, Leonerdo, won 3rd in his division.  They also won $100 in gift certificates and cards, and won 2 bags of feed and 2 bags of chicken treats.  Made out like real bandits, they did.

He did well for his first show...and on his 11th birthday no less.

He did well for his first show…and on his 11th birthday no less.

My son truly enjoyed his first experience showing chickens.  However, last night, he did confide in me that there were a few boys there that were chiding him and being really ugly towards him.  But thus is life, and I told him they were just jealous of him because he had the coolest chickens and grandpa in the building.  He always amazes me with how he handles things so well.  Sometimes I wonder if he was switched at birth, haha, because he handles things way better than his dad and I do, most days.

My lil' rooster with Leonerdo the third place winner

My lil’ rooster with Leonerdo the third place winner

Watching him handle the chickens with grace and assurance is astounding.  He was definitely made for working with animals.  I was made to learn that I could if I just gave it a shot.  Not something I ever thought I would actually do or enjoy doing though.  But chickens grow on you, with their daffy ways, sounds and personality traits.  Even ol’ Mrs. Dominique has garnered my love for her, though I know she was the one who hurt Lucky so badly…well, she and her husband.  I may name them Bonnie and Clyde.

Naming chickens just happens.  Normally, they are not named right away, as they must grow a little and show their personalities, but some chicks are pegged from day one, such as our newest incubated hatchlings.  We have a lil’ black chick with a white stripe on his head and he is an aggressive lil’ bully, so he got named Stripe, after the Gremlin.  But it was only yesterday that I gave a name to one of our female rabbits.  It was as if she told me herself, as I was getting her water set back into place.  Daphne is such a sweet and interactive lil’ lady, and she can put the drink away like nobody can!

Chickadee, Chickadoo

Chickadee, Chickadoo

Well, it’s time for me to put the laptop away for the day.  It’s time to start school with my youngest two and we still have those chickens to take care of as well.  So, may your day be blessed and your body and soul be warmed by the Sonlight!

Until next time, this is the Chicken Lady, signing OUT.

Vaya con Dios

New Year, New Blog…Welcome Readers

There are times in life that take you by surprise, and I’m in one of those stages.  I have worn many hats in this life: daughter, sister, wife, mother, singer, songwriter, painter, chef, preschool teacher, etc., but no one could’ve convinced me that chicken farmer was in my life’s blueprint.  That being said, I have gladly accepted the challenges and rewards of my newest “hat”.

In this blog, I plan on sharing my on-going experiences with chicken raising and gardening, and anything else I learn along the way.  For instance, I recently butchered a couple deer my son brought in.  Later, I further broke down the venison in our meat grinder, added pork and pork fat and then, my Dad and I pressed the mixed meat and seasoning into casings for sausage, with an old school grape press.

IMG_4652

Made in America

Made in America

My dad then smoked the sausage links three ways, with hickory, pecan, and mesquite.  After that, we vacuum-packed them and gave them out as Christmas gifts.  We have received rave reviews, with the most repeated compliment being, “BEST SAUSAGE EVER”.  That made us happy, because all in all, there was about 70 combined hours of labor that went into the 42 lbs. of pork-venison smoked sausage.

We have a beautiful array of chicken types, from marans, legbars, and ameraucanas, to sikies, d’uccles, d’anvers and quail.  We also have a fabulous organic winter garden full of nutritious and delicious root veggies and greens.  There is much work involved on the farm and I look forward to sharing my experiences, lessons, and yes, even trials on this blog.

our garden

For instance, on December 23rd, my husband and I were faced with having to “take care” of a rooster that was on the losing end of a fight.  After my husband beheaded Lucky (or Not-so-Lucky, as it turned out), I assisted in skinning the skinny guy.  My knife hit the leg bone and jumped right into my leg.  ICK!!!  Chicken germs are not to be toyed with.  This anti-modern-med chicky had to go to the ER for a tetanus shot, 3 staples (SO UNCOOL!!), and antibiotics, to ward off any infection.  I was livid!  AND I missed out on going to see my 2 living grandparents due to the fact that I couldn’t bend my leg for 3 days without excruciating pain.

Lucky...before his luck ran out.

Lucky…before his luck ran out.

I cried and cried at the thought of having to put Lucky out of his misery, but it was the humane thing to do, as the Dominiques who resided next door to him pecked him up pretty bad.  Other dramatic moments on the farm have to do with my sweet dog Skaar taking the blame for the mass murders that occurred all too often from November through early December.  While I cannot believe my awesome boy could do such a thing, I am in the minority with my consistent arguments in Skaar’s favor.  I truly believe it to be a combination of hawks, possums, and the bob cat that lives across the creek on our land.  However, Dad’s game camera caught Skaar as recently as Christmas, giving the hens and cocks chase.

When we lost my most beloved rooster, Chief, pictured below, the gig was up.  Skaar can only be outside when the chickens are in their coop, or he has to be chained up.  I hate that!  But Skaar happens to love it in our home, so I can’t complain too much.  I look forward to the day when the men around here finish the new coop and chicken run so Skaar can be free to roam the land again.

RIP, Handsome Chief

RIP, Handsome Chief

Well, that is about as good an introduction as you are gonna get from me today.  My youngest son turns 11 tomorrow and will be showing eggs and chicken pairs at the local Poultry Show, so I will be sure to have pictures and a report following his first big event!

Until then, live out loud and love every moment!

nothing sweeter than a mother's love

nothing sweeter than a mother’s love