Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

shameless plug!

Can't get enough chicken in your day? Need to see more dog nose? The 2010 farm calendar is now available! (See link at right) Makes a great gift for all of your would-be homesteader loved ones. Or, y'know, for yourself. ;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

every day is a mixed bag

I'm learning that there's no such thing as a good day or a bad day on the farm. Well, they're rare, in any case. Every day seems to bring with it a (mostly) balanced mix of little successes and failures, catastrophes and strokes of brilliance, pleasures and annoyances.

We've started letting the Margenes out to free range. They're about four months old now, and nearly as big as the big girls. It was time for them to taste freedom, to make their own way in the world. Time to kick them out of the nest, as it were. When I opened the door for them for the first time, it was quite a show. A couple of them tentatively stuck their heads out to peck at the green grass just across the threshold. Suddenly there was a rumbling from the back of the house...a few over-eager girls started flapping their wings madly, annoyed by the slow progression forward. Finally their pent-up enthusiasm could no longer be contained, and they all came bursting out through the door in twos and threes, semi-airborne, wings fluttering, as if shot from a cannon. They looked like Fourth of July artilery shells with feathers and beaks.

When you first let young pullets out to free range, you can expect some losses early on. They're novices at this, you see. No street smarts. It takes some time and a few misfortunes for them to get the hang of things. We lost one overnight last night*. It seems she didn't make it back in before we closed the door, and went unnoticed behind the house in the waning daylight. I discovered a sad pile of feathers up against the back wall, where she must have tried to settle for the night. This is what I mean. You can expect some of this in the beginning. At least one or two will unwittingly venture into the dogs' yard and not make it out. Another will wander off alone, never to be seen again. As badly as I feel for these poor early casualties, they serve as a warning to the others. Chickens aren't stupid. They learn what to do and what not to do.

My dismay over this finding was tempered by another. This:

I swear I looked at these plants yesterday, and...nothing. But we have broccoli! Well, we have itty bitty broccoli, but...still. Broccoli seeds are incredibly tiny. Broccoli plants are enormous. This never ceases to amaze me. It's just incredible that something so small can contain so much. I've never attempted to grow broccoli before, so this discovery thrills me. Such are the endless tiny dramas of farm life.

See? Mixed bag.

* Tara's Law of Poultry Attrition : Whichever breed of chicken you own the fewest of, or whichever is most rare will be the first to perish, virtually without exception. If you have 50 Barred Rocks and ONE Silver Spangled Hamburg, guess which one will be the first to meet an untimely end? This rule also applies to whichever particular bird is your favorite. The one I lost last night was a Buff Orpington, and while they are not rare, I had only two (out of 50-some-odd total chickens). Now I have one.

Monday, November 9, 2009

in case you were wondering...

This is why I don't post more pictures of the goats....

the chicken coop is started!

Finally after many weeks of rain and mud, we were able to start the coop! We got the concrete poured and with the help of my brother and his girlfriend, the floor is in place. Once we were able to get started, this part went rather quickly. We got this far in just a couple of hours, and it was a huge relief to just finally get started - to have something to point to.

I asked the goats if they would mind giving us a hand, but they declined.

I suspect they're annoyed that the chickens (!) will have nicer digs than theirs.

Construction continues this weekend, so stay tuned.

Friday, November 6, 2009

when the bread don't rise

Apparently I tried to make bread with some dud yeast. Not one to waste things, I decided I'd try to salvage it by rolling it into thin rounds and baking it as pita bread.

Much to my delight, it worked! I had saved the "almost became chicken food" dough and turned it into something useful. Word.

P. S. - I ground the wheat flour for these by hand with my birthday grain mill. Fresh flour on demand!


Just a small one, but still...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


See, we have this...structure...that we built. Or rather, that my husband built. It's been around for a couple of years now. It's nothing fancy, and in fact you might say it's rather crude, but it is a chameleon of a thing. It seems to have an uncanny knack for serving whatever purpose we need it to serve in the moment. Here it is at its birth, when it was a rabbit hutch:

After awhile, we moved the rabbit cages into the barn, and when the ducks arrived, we converted this into a house for them. We cut the legs off, knocked out the solid sides, extended the front by several feet, hung a door and enclosed the whole thing with welded wire. Here they are, not enjoying it:

Shortly thereafter, the ducks turned up their bills at the accommodations and moved out. Conveniently, we had new tenants waiting to take up residence:

All it took was the addition of some roosts and some smaller-weave poultry netting to transform it from DuxHostel to Casa de Pollo. The chickens like it just fine, thank you very much.

Ah, but they'll be moving out soon too. Pretty soon their dee-luxe accommodations will be complete, and they will all be moving into the poultry penthouse, leaving the structure empty once more. Around that time, the goat barn will no longer be co-ed. The boys will be needing their own dorm. As we sat on the porch over the weekend, planning their shelter, we looked over at the rabbit-duck-chicken-hutch-coop...

"I think the goats' shelter could be about that size. The height is fine. It's plenty deep and wide enough too."'

"Okay, then. I'll use that as a guide and build their shelter more or less to those dimensions."

"Wait...why don't we just use that?"

"Hmmm...yeah...the chickens will be moved out. I'll need to fortify it a bit."

"...and put a roof over the whole thing, and pull off the wire and add on some solid walls."


Ouila! Maison de Chevres! I can't wait to see what it turns into next.


This is the first food eaten (by me!) from the fall garden. A simple salad of collards, kale, chard and pak choi, and one tiny turnip. It was lovely, and it means bigger and better things to come.

Monday, November 2, 2009

going for broke

I now have a thorough understanding of the expression "make hay while the sun shines". We've been hit hard by rain for so many weeks that it has crippled any effort we might have made in the name of progress. So when the sky cleared and the forecast called for sun all week long (!) it became an all-out push to get as much done as humanly possible.

We got the concrete poured (finally) for the chicken coop we're building. Now we can actually start the construction in earnest. I made a huge trip to the feed store, and got stocked up on everything. We cleaned a pickup-load of trash out of the barn and hung new fly traps (the previous ones filled up in a matter of DAYS - we have mega-flies). I gathered dry kindling and installed solar outdoor lights around the barn and yard. I planted more veggies in the garden and we set up a makeshift greenhouse in the hopes of getting a little more out of our tomatoes and peppers. I mucked all the wet straw and hay out of the goat barn and put down dry. The goats had to spend the better part of the day shut out in the yard while I did it, but since they've been holed up inside the barn for weeks, I don't think they minded too much. They even played with that dog. That's how happy they were to be outside.

And then there were other things. Some things the rain forced us to do - having all the water pumped out of our septic tank, for instance. Other things the rain is still preventing me from doing. I have winter rye to plant, but the ground is still too wet to till. I only hope it will stay dry long enough for me to get that seed in the ground. There was even a little time to do some indoor things as well. I planned meals for the next couple of weeks, ordered my honeybees for spring and got my birthday present set up for use - a Country Living grain mill to grind my own fresh flour for baking.

And even after all the work, in honor of Halloween, we spent our evenings watching a long string of scary movies, with a bowl full of popcorn and a jack-o-lantern providing our only light.

This may have been the most satisfying weekend ever. There's something wonderful about checking loads of things off your to do list in a short time, and without exhausting yourself. It makes you feel unstoppable.