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.

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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

Meet My Fine Feathered Friends

I have been meaning to do a pictorial of our menagerie of chickens and such for about a week now.  Unfortunately, a rotten cold plagued me and my family and I haven’t felt much like sharing anything, this past week.  Luckily, I am on the mend, and aside from two, the rest of my family is much better as well.  HALLELLUJAH!!

So, allow me to share a few of my favorite chickens, as well as a first look at Supermom’s 10 kits, and a sample of our daily egg collection as of late.  There might even be a surprise or two sandwiched in between all the cluckers.

First is Mickey, our young, handsome Black Polish Bantam Rooster.  He’s a real looker and seems to know it, but he’s not friendly with others, which is why he has a bachelor’s pad all to himself.

Mickey's named after my new brother-in-law

Mickey’s named after my new brother-in-law

Next is SilkiePoo.  Again, exotic and lovely to admire, but this Silkie is a bit spastic at the moment.  She/he/it is also in her/his/it’s own cage.  I tried to pair SilkiePoo with Mickey, but Mickey is just too aggressive.  So, until she/he/it is old enough, and/or the run is finally finished, she will be a bachelor/ette/whatever!

Kind of wicked lookin', really

Kind of wicked lookin’, really

Then there’s Granny, who isn’t as old as her name would suggest, but doesn’t she look like Granny to you?  She’s so sweet like a Granny too, this White Crested Polish hen.  She is bunked up with Daffy-Doo, another White Crested Polish hen.  However, Daffy’s crest is more like Mickey’s, spikey and jagged.

Granny

Granny

SamKitty just explained that he would really like to be right in the middle of these beautiful chickens, because he admires them greatly.  He also admires himself greatly and believes he’s too sexy for his shirt.  So he wanted me to share this picture of him, shirtless, of course, because he always models shirtless…because he is so hot…his words, not mine.

don't hate me because I'm beautiful

don’t hate me because I’m beautiful

My Dad is really getting nervous about SamKitty and his attraction to pretty chickens.  So he will probably not appreciate the humor of sticking this troubled, vain man-kitty in the middle of his chickens…or will he?

 

I’ve introduced Mr. M to you already.  He really is the finest specimen of Blue Copper Maran to be seen.  He was however, disqualified, for being mis-labeled a Blue Maran, when he was the only Blue Copper Maran in the building and was sure to win the grand champion prize.  Bygones.

I’ve also mention my fear of this dominant roo, as he truly gives me the strangest chills when he is around and has charged me on several occasions.  He actually got my youngest son in the lip, the other day.  So not cool!

He is suffering from double Bumblefoot at the moment and has been caged for the time being.  Dad will be operating on him real soon.  It’s a simple enough procedure for a man like my pop!  Mr. M will be good to strut again in no time.

It’s a catch 22 really, because I rather enjoy him caged, as do many of our other free-range roos.

Anyhow, here is Mr. M with two of our four guineas.  They have no names…they live to annoy us all.  But they are a beautiful annoyance and one day I will enjoy creating something with their beautiful feathers.  Until then, they serve as extra eyes on the farm, alerting us to anything out of the norm…and squeak, squawk, and honking all other hours of the day for no particular reason except to hear their own voice.

Some folks might say that about me and my writing!  Haha!

Supergirl, the high-flying hen, totally photo-bombed this pic

Supergirl, the high-flying hen, totally photo-bombed this pic

 

These guys just have one thing to say:  “We are the Sultans with Wings”(think Dire Straits)…that’s all…autographs are worthless, as no one can read the henscratch, but you’re welcome to try.

(think Dire Straits)

 That’s Daffy-Doo up on the feeder

 

Here’s a group of our free rangers going mad for greens, which were just delivered to their coop.  The second-step brooder box is above, with feeders for the layers and for all, hanging below.  In the spring, we will clean the coop real good, raking a lot of the mashed down, soiled hay into the compost and spraying down the roofs of the brooder box and laying boxes.  During the winter, we let the hay and shavings and compost-y materials such as discarded green scraps and chicken poo accumulate, as it adds needed warmth to the coop.  We also have the coop’s open chicken wired areas tarped securely to help with the heat and the brooder box has a heat lamp as well.

They go cuckoo for greens

They go cuckoo for greens

Right now, the ducks are in a large cage in the corner of the coop.  They are so nasty!  They destroyed two cardboard brooders in a matter of days, which is why they wound up in the coop.  Their food is suspended and their water is a dog bowl dish, since they wanted to swim in their waterer and spilled it everywhere anyways!!  We have to give them a fresh hay bed, daily, and put them outside in a larger, bottomless pin during the day, due to their mess-factors.  But even the chicks in the brooder box need fresh paper and shavings every 2-3 days to maintain sanitary, healthy conditions.  It’s about stewardship.

Our baby khakis, with a crested Huey, and then Dewey, and Louie

Our baby khakis, with a crested Huey, and then Dewey, and Louie

Aside from our quail, which a whole blog post was recently dedicated to, and our caged bantams, the majority of our laying hens are happy free-rangers.  They are supplemented with laying pellets, fresh garden greens, as well as some dinner scraps, and we will from time to time, put a little apple cider vinegar in their water.  Our eggs have won several ribbons at the few shows my dad has shown them at.  That is why I boast of them being award winning eggs.  Here is Sunday’s collection, although a few more were collected later in the evening.

Since their release, I hadn’t laid eyes on our pair of Sumatra Bantams, with the exception of Saturday evening.  They are a beautiful ornamental Japanese breed, given to us late last year.  They have made a home in the woods behind the caged area, and only pop up when they think no one is looking.  Dad told me that they are sleeping in the trees and do not intermingle with any of the others.  I miss them.  They are beautiful.  Now that Mr. M is caged, they have been spotted closer to the flocks, but they still kept a healthy distance and disappear when they realized humans were near.  This is the first time chickens didn’t automatically get with the program and enter the coop with all the others in the evening.  It’s rather amazing, really, how quickly new groundlings find their safe havens.  Proof those clucks are more than clucks!!

As this pair is ever elusive, now free, and I did not get a picture of them, while caged, you will just have to google them.

 

One of the many things dad has entrusted in me, is pairing mates.  I love this.  I was actually pretty good at this back in the day and got 4 human couples together based on my feelers, and I’m proud to report that all four couples are still together to this day.

Here’s a young couple, I recently paired, sharing their dinner.   Isn’t that lovely?!  When you allow the little things to give you joy, inevitably, they will.

True love in bloom

True love in bloom

A major predator on the land, that was caught red-handed today, carrying Lavender, our Pearl Guinea in his mouth, is Skaar.  BUSTED, BUDDY!  You can only imagine how I hate this.  This is why I am crossing my fingers for the soon return of a healthy husband and a week of warm, sunny days, so they can get the well-house/coop/run combo up and running.  But you know how things go; so many things pop up that demand attention and priorities shift.  It is the way of the day, I tell ya!~!  GEESH!

Here’s the naughty doggy, just a waggin’ his tail and grinnin’ next to his humble abode.  This is where he gets to hang out during the days now, chained to the tree.  Hopefully the chickens will keep their distance, because the boy has the thirst for chicken blood.  SUCH A BUMMER!!  The good news is Lavender, who believes she is a chicken, survived the ordeal.  Bad Bad Puppy!!!

will he ever learn??

will he ever learn??

These two are part of our quartet of fellows on death row.  They had the unfortunate misfortune of being born male, and we tend to eat males around here, since our ladies know how to work it in the egg laying factory.  It’s a shame such handsome fellas have to meet such a fateful demise, but alas, it is their purpose, after all.  Before you ask, yes, roosters tend to be tougher.  They need to be boiled longer and make great soups, as well as chicken and dumplings.  We fatten them up before the culling.  They really don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late.

our two-headed roo...or not

our two-headed roo…or not

My baby brought our favorite little girl into the house and put it in the tub.  I’m really not sure why, as I’ve learned not to question the Littlest Chicken Whisperer.  Like all boys, he’s prone to lie anyhow, so why bother!  Mamas has begun laying.  I was so excited, you would’ve thought I just became a grandmother.  Chickens have an odd effect on people, I tell ya!

cutest and sweetest lil' girl in the whole world

cutest and sweetest lil’ girl in the whole world

 

And then there is Chaca, our garden hog.  My crazy dad and crazy son captured Chaca and they are letting her root around on our spring/summer garden plot to get it all nice, aeriated and fertilized.  Chaca is just certain that one day she will escape her fate…but she’s destined for a luau.

The guys also killed and cleaned two wild hogs for the freezer.  It’s been a good hunting season with 4 deer and 3 hogs.  Our freezers are blessed beyond measure, our God is a Master of Provisions.  I give Him all praise for what has become of our lives, since our move to the farm.  He has taken us to a new level and is growing us, just like we’re growing the veggies and animals.  Life is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

I come from a long line of crazy

I come from a long line of crazy

 

Let’s not forget the bunnies!  Here’s SuperMama’s babes as well as the proud pop, Buck.

you can't see them all, but believe me, there are ten burrowed in there

you can’t see them all, but believe me, there are ten burrowed in there

Such a handsome bloke

Such a handsome bloke

 

 

Mr. Dominique met an early demise upon release.  I’m not sure if he was chased or trying to escape, all I know for sure is that my Lil’ Chicken Whisperer came back reporting that he’d found Mr. D’s body in the creek bed.  It’s a pitty, though I admittedly blamed him for the untimely culling of (un)Lucky.  His wife is still with us and has been claimed by Mr. Wellsummer.  What I’m not sure of, is how Mrs. Wellsummer feels about that.  But she seems happy enough to be a free-ranger now, so I’m not too concerned.

Mr. D, before his untimely demise

Mr. D, before his untimely demise, in an action shot

There are so many other chicks, pullets and older layers that I’ve not snapped a picture of.  These are a few of the ones that have a particular claim to some acreage in my heart.  Chickens know voodoo.  I’m just sure of it.  They have me under their spell.  I think about them all the time.  I talk about them and write about them and sing about them, even.  Working with them brings me an immense joy that I can’t describe except to say it surely comes from my Lord Jesus Christ, son of the God of Abraham; my stay and my stead.

He makes everything magical…just wish I could explain it in a way to save the world.  His majesty is beyond me, and at the same time, within and all around me!  Oh me oh my, my God is Good.

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

VAYA CON DIOS