Wednesday, December 30, 2009

will wonders never cease?

It's snowing again today, for the second time in a week, and the second time already this winter. I can't begin to express how unusual this is for us. It's not that we don't ever get snow - we do. We get it once or twice a year, and almost always in January or February. This area had its first white Christmas in something like thirty years. For a girl raised in the north, I can tell you it was quite a thrill!

This strange weather feels like a harbinger. I have the feeling, deep in my gut, that the coming year will be different. I'm not sure quite how, but I get the sense that it will be a pivotal year, not just for us, but for the world. Perhaps it's because it is the start of a new decade or because our world seems perched on a precipice, as if we're all collectively holding our breath waiting for something to happen. Don't get me wrong. I don't think the world will end, or civilization as we know it will fall apart - nothing as dramatic as all that. I just think that this time next year, when we close the doors on 2010, we'll all have seen things we never thought we'd see. We'll experience a fundamental (if ever so slight) shift in our perspective. We'll all come out the other side just a little bit changed.

* Disclaimer: I don't make predictions or claim to know what the future will hold. This is simply one woman's opinion, based on instinct and nothing more.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

how to open a feed sack

We're here all night, folks. Don't forget we play for tips. ;-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas!


Oh, who am I kidding? Cluck cluck CLUCK! You think this is a joke? I'm funny to you? Well, guess what you're getting in your stocking? Droppings! That's right, droppings! Now put me down before I leave you a present!

I'm keeping the hat, though. It's jaunty and it makes me feel pretty.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

chicken coop update

Between all the rain, our day jobs and the holidays, this has been a very slow project. We had a breakthrough last weekend, though - it actually finally started to look like something!

The walls are up and all the roof trusses are on. This weekend the actual roof will go on, and it will be something of an open-air pavilion. When the walls go up, things might get difficult, psychologically. It will look done, but there will still be so much more to do. Once the walls are in place, we'll need to paint it, install roosts and nest boxes (LOTS), put in windows and hatch doors and frame in the interior walls. This building will be divided into three parts. The door is slightly offset from the center, and will open into a storage area, where we'll keep feed, pine shavings, supplies, etc. Immediately to the left will be another door that opens into the chickens' living quarters, which comprise slightly less than 2/3 of the total area. To the right of the storage area will be the brooder. This side will be enclosed floor to ceiling with wire (most likely with some solid reinforcement across the bottom) and will be used for brooding chicks, raising meat birds, segregating broody moms, newcomers, or anyone else that might need separate quarters. Since we don't plan on getting new chicks anytime soon, it's likely that we'll put newborn goat kids in that area when the nights are cold. It will be something of an all-purpose space.

The coop sits between our two barns, and in front of the goat pen. We'll fence in the area between them, connecting the barns, and that will be the poultry yard. This way Caspian will not have access to the birds (bad dog!) but he'll be close enough to afford them some protection. They'll certainly be much better off than they are now. They'll have access to their fenced yard all the time, and will be let out to free range at our discretion. Part of the motivation for building this coop was not only the need for larger accommodations, but also the need to take back OUR yard. Free ranging poultry is awesome, but it does come at a price. Our front stoop, sidewalk, back stoop and patio (including the chairs and tables) are covered with poop. ALL THE TIME. When you go out to have a nice glass of wine on the patio, and there are pullets roosted in rows on the backs of all the chairs, you know it's time to set some limits. If I can just figure out what to do with the ducks*, we might have a nice place to hang out again, like civilized people.

* Duck poop is grosser, smellier and far, FAR more copious than chicken poop. There's nothing quite like it. I adore the ducks, but four of them make a bigger mess than forty chickens - I kid you not.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

seeing my way to the end

The holidays always bring a flurry of activity around here. In addition to the usual cooking, decorating and gifting that everyone does this time of year, we also find ourselves prepping the farm for winter. We're laying in firewood, fortifying the animal shelters, stocking up on hay and straw, putting the garden to bed. We've been at it for a good six or eight weeks now, trying to get things zipped up for the year.

We probably don't need to do this. Our winter "down time" really only lasts for about six or eight weeks. But here's the thing - we like the down time. We need it, really. It would be easy in a place like this to just plug along all year and never take a break. But the holidays wear us out a bit, and we know that come mid-February the real work will start, so we relish the dark days when we can hole up in the house to plot and plan.

I'm not done with Christmas yet. I'm close - I can taste victory - and the tasks I have left are all ones I enjoy. I have a bit of cooking, a bit of crafting, quite a bit of wrapping (I love wrapping) and I'm there. I'm on the home stretch. I can see those dark days of January in my sights. I'll finish up in the next couple of days, and spend the last week before Christmas just being. I'll drink hot chocolate and watch movies. I'll nap with my dogs. I'll browse the pages of seed and poultry catalogs with big dreams. We'll spend Christmas with the family eating pate and sausage balls and cookies. We'll drink too much wine and play charades. We'll build a bonfire and talk to distant relatives on the phone. The week after Christmas will be more of the same. We'll drink champagne on New Year's Eve in our pj's, watch James Bond films and eat brisket for days. And when we rouse ourselves from our party-heads, the dark days - the down time - will be upon us. We'll sit together with notepads and pens on the sofa (still in our pj's) and plot the next step of our takeover - our farm domination. We'll be the overlords of this place. We'll decide who stays, who goes and who gets hired, what gets built and what gets torn down. We'll look across our property with grand designs in our heads and make plans.

At least until mid-February, when the shackles go back on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

how did I ever live without...

Steel-toe cowboy boots? Hooves don't scare me.

Bellows? Essential for keeping the home fire burning.

A good bedding fork? Two-day chore turned into a two-hour chore. 'Nuff said.

Super-mega-candlepower spotlight? Because sometimes you really need to light up the barn...from the house.

Welded wire fencing? Makes an instant garden fence, instant chicken corral, instant tomato support, or, y'know - fencing.

Leather work gloves? Get YOUR OWN. Get as many as possible.

Insulated bibs? They will change your life. Farm chores in freezing rain and 30 mph winds? No problem.

Friday, December 4, 2009

for all the climate change naysayers...

We were supposed to get snow today. That is pretty unusual in itself. We seldom get snow at all around here, and when we do, it typically doesn't arrive until January, or even February. I was all psyched for a nice, snowy Friday at home working by the wood stove, only to get up this morning and find that all calls for snow had been rescinded. I was so sad. Why would the powers that be cheat me in this way? All that snow that was supposed to ours surely didn't just vanish. Surely it turned tail and went elsewhere. Someplace more deserving of its charms. Someplace like Nebraska or Colorado or...


That's right. It is apparently snowing in Houston. So put that in your climate pipe and smoke it.