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

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Everybunny’s Doing Swell

I took a minor trip, to break away from the animals. No, not the farm animals, my own hatchlings, aged 11-17. The farm animals have nothing on the animals that live beneath my roof. From the smells to the yells, I just had to fly the coop for a few days, if only to regain perspective.

looking into the great unknown

looking into the great unknown

I can’t say that I was gone long enough to get anywhere with perspective, but at least I got to see other members of my family who make me feel sane. I was also blessed to be able to visit with my life long best friend, and meet her precious baby. Yes, it was a fabulous get-a-way, but I have to admit, I missed the animals.

I found myself talking chicken with anyone who would listen. This is obviously an epidemic, this chicken raising scheme. The chickens have a master plan to rule the world, and I am obviously just a pawn in their grand plan. Okay, maybe I give the flocks a little too much credit. But there’s power in numbers. And chickens practice voodoo…I know they do!

Look into my eyes...

Look into my eyes…

While I was away, the bunnies and hatchlings continued to grow. I am amazed what can happen in a few days time, growth wise. The kits are so active now, and will come right to you, as you open their hutch. They have needle-sharp claws, which they use to climb up your sleeve, if you’ll let them. I’m mesmerized by their cuteness. I try not to think about their actual purpose, because it’s such a joy to play with my food.

Huey, Dewey & Louie

Huey, Dewey & Louie

SuperMama and her Super Babies!

SuperMama and her Super Babies!

My husband came home last week with an interesting chicken horror tale.

His father and mother began raising chickens four or five years ago. At last count, they had a small flock of 16. The morning after the big freeze, my father in law went out to their coop to check on his flock. What he found both startled and disturbed him. Right in the middle of the coop, were all 16 chickens, laying dead in a pile.

Later that evening, he went back out, to clean up the sad loss, and the chickens had all neatly been moved to the corner of the coop. Still dead. (For some reason, as Mike told the story, at this point, I half expected the chickens to be alive and well when my father in law went back the second time. Sadly, I was wrong.) As he bagged each chicken, he noted that they did not seem scathed at all. That is until he came to the bottom of the pile, and there was a headless chicken awaiting him.

They live in south Texas, about 45 minutes north of the coast. Even though through research, I found that ringtail cats aren’t generally prevalent in that area, it is what his friend and he surmised to be the predator at large. His friend informed him that ringtail cats kill for sport, not unlike humans, and that the way he described finding the chickens, lined up with the nature of the ringtail.

What a horrible way to learn about a predator. We live about 3 hours north of them, and we definitely have a mess of predators to deal with here. In November, Dad shot a possum that was perched behind our chicken cages. Luckily, he did not get one of our chickens before his surprising end. We have hawks and a bobcat that lives right across the dry creek bed from us. We constantly keep the cages clean and food and water fresh, to deter unwanted pests and predators from sniffing their way to easy pickin’s.

While I was gone, the inevitable happened. Dad whipped out the incubator. But another thing that happened is that further construction took place on the future chicken “megaplex” that the boys are working up for our ever-growing feathered crowd. Too many generations are crowding the one tiny coop we have, which leads to laying boxes that resemble port-a-potties, and odd roosting situations, and unnecessary fights. Luckily, with our still-thriving winter garden, we are able to supplement with greens and nice scraps, to keep their health up in the more stressful environment. Just like us, they don’t do crowds well for long.

here we go again

here we go again

So I’ll leave you today with a few pictures of our roosters. With Mr. M hanging in a cage, the other roosters are finding their pecking orders have slid up a notch. So enjoy our farm studs and have a lovely day in the Son.

Chief Rainbow, Precious and widower Mrs. D

Chief Rainbow, Precious and widower Mrs. D

I think Mr. White might be racist...here he is with his harem which includes Lavender the white guinea, and Super Girl, the red-headed flying beaut.  She's only with him until her man is released from the infirmary.

I think Mr. White might be racist…here he is with his harem which includes Lavender the white guinea, and Super Girl, the red-headed flying beaut. She’s only with him until her man is released from the infirmary.

Leonerdo and the ever-social Lavender (who believes herself to be a white chicken)

Leonerdo and the ever-social Lavender (who believes herself to be a white chicken)

Mr. Kellogg Wellsummer

Mr. Kellogg Wellsummer

As you can see, it’s hard to sleep in, around here.

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

Vaya con Dios

And So It Goes and So On…

Wouldn’t you know it!?!  The very first time my youngest son gets to show chickens…on his birthday, no less, I get sicker than the dickens over night.  I will spare you the details and instead share a bit more about a couple of my favorite chickens as well as other chickens that are being shown today, by my son and my dad, at the annual Poultry Show in our area.

While sitting here, sulking and beating myself up for my darned luck, I decided to look further into my favorite little true bantam hen, and come share my newly gleaned information about them with you.  I’ve named our pair of  Dun Quail d’Anvers Mamas and Papas.  Mamas stole my heart the day after she arrived on the farm.  She is a rescue chicken, meaning she did not originate on our farm, but was given to us, in this case, by a suddenly overwhelmed grieving widow.  Mamas and Papas are two of eighteen or more different chickens we were given stewardship over.  Every one of the new chickens are unique and more unusual than your typical yard bird.  As this particular blog rambles on, I may decide to talk about them too, but truly, I am all about Mamas!!

Have you ever seen a sweeter chicken face in your life?!

Have you ever seen a sweeter chicken face in your life?!

Here she is with her jealous husband

Here she is with her jealous husband

The night that they all arrived, she caught my eye, but her fancier cousins, the d’Uccles, a leopard-spotted breed of bantam quail, really peaked my interests due to their showy appearance.  But even with their leopard spots and feathered feet, the d’Uccle couple quickly moved down on my list the next day, after Mamas practically hopped in my lap when I went to feed her and her spouse.  I had only held baby chicks and adolescent chicks up to that point and had prayed for the courage to hold a chicken.  And God answered with the ever sweet and eager Mamas!!

At this point, some of you have decided that I am a rather ridiculous Nelly, and I will give you that, but have you ever been pecked or spurred by a chicken or rooster?  Well, I haven’t and I wanted to keep it that way.  Chickens are kind of spastic and definitely are not predictable.  With Mamas on the farm now, she is giving me the opportunity to get used to handling chickens, a little at a time.  I think she may have me spellbound, as not a day goes by that I don’t think about her cute face and have to go hold her and pet her soft feathers.  That is another thing about my sweet lady.  Unlike the texture and feel of some chickens (crunchier than soft), Mamas, the Bearded Dun Quail d’Anver is so soft and pettable.  She gently lets me know when she’s ready to go home and upon entry, her jealous husband gives her a good peck on the head.  His unruly behavior has not stopped her from giving me a little company every day though, and for that, I am glad!

While walking the land one day, not long after we got our new boarders, I found these terrifically beautiful seeds on our land.  I gathered them for a craft, and immediately decided to create Mamas with the seeds for a lil’ Ducky that I love.  (My friend’s daughter, not a real duck, for crying out loud!)  Mamas has become my muse.

With juniper berries for eyes and oats from Mamas and Papas feed and wild seed for her feathers, from our land.

With juniper berries for eyes and oats from Mamas and Papas feed and wild seed for her feathers, from our land.

So here’s what I learned this morning.  Mamas, Papas and all the Bearded  Dun Quail d’Anvers are true bantams.  This means that there is not a regular-sized chicken counterpart.  So she is an original…and if you know me, you know that suddenly made her even cooler.  These d’Anvers also make great pets for children, although the male tends to be more aggressive, as I noted above…he’s a real pecker!  Because they only need one square foot of living space, they are also great for suburban chicken enthusiasts and homesteaders.

When cooking with bantam eggs, one chicken farmer recommends using 2 bantam eggs in recipes that call for one egg, and 3 bantam eggs in recipes that call for 2 regular hen eggs.  We also raise quail and I use 4-5 quail eggs in place of one regular hen egg.  Quail eggs are more yolk than white and make the cutest little rich boiled eggs you will ever see.  And upon hatching, baby quail are no bigger than your thumb…in fact, it is most likely smaller than your thumb.

The ring around this little 2 day old quail's neck fits around my ring finger... cute and tiny!!

The ring around this little 2 day old quail’s neck fits around my ring finger…
cute and tiny!!

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Quail incubate even quicker than the 21 day incubation period of a bantam or regular-sized hen’s egg.  When we have the incubator’s rotators in, they must be removed and all the various eggs (quail, chicken, and duck, this round) have to be hand-rotated, once the first chick hatches.  Yesterday, a reader asked about the dashes on the eggs in my header picture.  We mark the eggs with a positive and a negative sign to keep up with rotation.  The eggs must be rotated every twelve hours by hand from that point on.

Once hatched, the chicks are very delicate and have specific needs.  For instance, during incubation stage, the eggs need a humid 100 degrees Fahrenheit in order to incubate properly and hatch.  After they move from the incubator into the hatchery box, they still require 100 degrees for another week, before dropping the temperature 10 degrees per week, for several weeks afterwards.  This is done with heat lamps.  All chicks also need to be baptized right away, okay, okay, they need to be dunked in their water in order to learn to drink and from what source.  Otherwise, chicks quickly show their intelligence through drinking, feeding and socializing.

Another thing about chicks…they love greens!  And greens are so very good for them.  I can tell you from the shape our winter garden has taken, that they really, really, really love broccoli leaves!!!  Our free range head rooster, Mr. M, brings his haram over for fresh broccoli and other assorted greens, every day.  Well, except today.  Today, Mr. M, our glorious Maran is being shown, along with Mamas, Papas, and a few other of our most prized birds.  There is a definite hierarchy within our little society of chickens and Mr. M is the head honcho around here.  He even has a tendency to remind me of it, from time to time.  He creeps me out, so I only admire him from a distance.

Mr. M and a few of his favorite gals

Mr. M and a few of his favorite gals

Chickens are fascinating, and provide not only great sources of protein through their eggs and meat, but they also provide hours of entertainment, as you observe their little microcosm.  There is a soap opera story in it for sure, which is why I am slowly introducing you to our chickens, so that you can enjoy future stories concerning their own little world, As Their World Turns with All Their Children.

So, until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OUT!

Vaya con Dios!