Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nice to Have a Happy Ending

Though Ferdi's gone, I haven't really reflected on his absence.  I've been more interested in seeing how the gaggle is without him (slightly adrift, but they're getting there).  However, it was really nice to get this email this morning.  It made my day.

He's the new dictator of my geese. Where he goes they follow
 My geese know when I shake food and call them
where to go but --- he doesnt -- they are going everywhere following him and he's got no clue where bed is. Too cute. He figured it out. Everyone is safe and sound.

Sounds exactly like the Ferdi I know.  A match made in heaven!
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ferdi Finds a New Home

Goodbye, Ferd!

Ferdi has moved out.

He now lives 40 minutes away, at a farm where he is wanted for his shrieking and aggressive tendencies.  I think he will be very happy, as he's joining another gaggle and will have plenty of room to run and can scream as much as he likes.  In fact, the woman who took him wanted him for that very fact--she needed a shrieker.  So I think he will be just fine there.

Ferdi had become too much for our little farm over the past year.  He latched onto Benjamin, the Pilgrim gander with a ferocity that was something to behold.  He totally ignored Ginger, who was his mate.  He became aggressive when challenged, and way too noisy for my taste.  He just no longer fit in.  I am glad that this is the way it went with him, though.  My only other option was to serve him for dinner, and I would have regretted that.  He was one of the first goose pair I ever owned and I will always love him for that--he taught me so much.  I am happy that he will be able to continue and be encouraged to do what he loves best-yelling at the top of his lungs and lunging at people.  Good for him.

Ferdi in the carrier, which is too small for him now.  Can you see him cursing at me?  He is.
Am I sad?  No.  Surprisingly, no.  I think it's a mark of a good farmer when you can recognize that an animal is not working for you and can let go of it, no matter which way that is.  It took me quite a while to get here, and that's the truth.  I remember I used to read in horror about people who selectively keep the animals they raise for the good of the breed--if you weren't up to snuff, you were outta here.  And though I admit I'm not up to that stage yet, I can see it on the horizon for me.  These animals are no longer pets, they're working partners.  You don't work, you get fired, end of story.  It's too expensive to feed a slacker.  And my time is way too valuable to spend trying to make a square peg fit a round hole. 

So Ferdi's story ends at Chicken Scratch, but begins somewhere else.  I hope that he will serve as a wonderful look out and have many happy years screaming bloody blue murder.

What did I get in return, you ask?  We didn't go the money route, if you're at all curious.  We bartered.  I gave her Ferdi and she gave me these:

 Two little Welsummer chicks.  Wellies have become one of my favorite breeds, so I was thrilled to have them.   Ferdi's worth more than two Welsummer chicks, and I know it, but with the two in the incubator nearly ready, the 36 more that are going in right after, and not to mention my yearly order of chicks coming in in May, I have plenty.  Plenty of plenty.  These two little 'uns will be good companions to the two hatching on Monday.  And that's good enough for me. 
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I Turned 'Em Off.......I Think

I turned off word verification, because since Blogger changed it,  I can't read the damn things half the time myself.  If it gets all spammy in here, I'll have to turn them back on, but for now, they're off....I hope.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012


Either a small dinosaur has been through our property, or an emu has.  Or Ginger's up to her old spring thang again.  And early.  Last year, she didn't start nesting until mid-April.  I think that speaks a lot to what type of year we're having.  And possibly it portents an early spring?  It certainly has seemed to be coming early here, with the weather being so mild.
Does Ginger know something we don't?  Probably.  Only time will tell. 

She's picked the bushes again, like last year.  She made a beautiful nest out of dead leaves and some mulch.  I did take the egg, though, and I will take all her eggs, because none of them will be fertile.  Unfortunately, since Ginger's run in with the dog that left her wing down permanently, she's an outcast with the gaggle and no male will touch her.  Poor baby.  Plus, with her injury, she no longer has a mate.  Ferdi, instead of being with her, has decided that Benjamin is the love of his life.  Lovely for Ferdi, but Benjamin isn't doing his duty, if you know what I mean.  Ferdi's going to have to go, I think.  He's gotten hyper aggressive and possessive.  I'll try to find him a good home, if I can.

Sigh.  This is farming, isn't it?

Anyway, I have this beautiful egg.  It's a 7 ouncer, which is giant, compared to chicken eggs.  I think I might blow it out, it's so beautiful.  What a gift, huh?
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Well duh

I had the MOST atrocious day at my paying job today.  Just horrible.  The day started off so promising with the surprise snow, and just went totally downhill.  I will spare you the details, but I can say that the day reinforced why I like animals so much and why I have such a hard time with humans.  There's no lie in saying I have always understood animals so much better than people.  Animals are honest in their interactions, and that's the truth.  And let's leave it at that.

Anyway, I had a bad day, and when I came home, it was dripping wet snow and just did nothing to lighten the mood.  I have a "bad day" cloud over my head that nothing but a good night's sleep will erase.  Not even looking at the chicks kicking like crazy in their eggs helped.  That's why I'm surprised when I went into the coop and saw this....

See that little one in the middle?  That's what I'm talking about.  :)
....I finally figured out what it is. 

This is the third one I've gotten, and they are few and far between.  The first had no yolk, so I thought it was someone's dud.  The second one had a perfectly formed yolk, but it was tiny.  Again, I thought maybe it was someone's first attempt or just a weird egg.  But this is the third.  And I finally figured it out, on today of all days.

Do you know what it is?

Give up?

It's a guinea egg.  Turns out Violet not only survived her ordeal, but she actually lays eggs. 

Well, on the coop floor and probably all over the woods, but let's not be choosy, right?

Who knew?  Not me.  Or, not until today, anyway.  Go figure.  I guess that mystery is solved.  Today was not a total waste after all. 

Here's to a much better tomorrow.
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For two days, it's been so warm that I've been opening the windows to air out the house.  This morning, things looked a bit different.

I call this one "Lone Duck Got Stuck" (out of her yard and now she's panicking to get back in, but that part doesn't rhyme)

Weird.  I guess winter's not over, or maybe this is it's farewell.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thank Goodness I'm a Procrastinator

The egg that I thought had died ( I thought I saw a bloodring) is alive and well.  Did my check today, and both eggs were markedly lighter in weight and when I candled them, both of the little ones in the eggs were kicking like crazy.  Thank goodness I didn't throw it out like I thought I should the other day.  Thank goodness I was so hesitant and lazy.  So the two look like they're going to be ok right now.  I hope for good luck so that hopefully both hatch and then they can be friends.

.....What did I do when I saw the chicks kicking around in their eggs?  Why talk like a complete idiot, of course.  Baby talk and everything.  I am a hopeless case.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Busy Weekend

Every weekend is busy around here, so the title is one of those "yeah, what else is new?" kind of things.  However, this weekend it felt like we made great strides around here, so I thought I'd share.
  • I worked on the fence protecting the raspberry/blackberry bushes from the marauding chickens.  We had a beautiful flush of berries last year that none of us got to enjoy, except for the chickens, who liked them when they were slightly under ripe.  As much as I love my chickens, I would like to enjoy our crops, so a fence is being constructed out of all found sticks and branches.  I will share pics when I'm done, and this weekend I almost finished.  Yeay!
  • I worked on a fence around the front garden area.  Last year I dug out a huge garden bed in the front--one solely for flowers and "for pretty".  The chickens ate the roses, the geese ate everything else, including my beloved irises.  I was too busy establishing food beds to do anything about this garden last year, but as the largest garden bed is already in place, I can turn my attention to the "fluffier" parts of the house, like this bed.  The fence uses old parts of that playhouse we took down when we first moved here, and some inexpensive bird netting.  It should keep everyone out so the plants have a chance to grow.  Won't that be something? 
  • Speaking of that playhouse, it just keeps giving and giving.  There was a lovely (sarcasm) blue slide on it that we just did not know what to do with.  What do you do with a blue fiberglass slide anyway?  My husband had the brainy idea to cut it in half and try to solve the pond's never ending leakage problem.  So while I was doing 8 million other things, he cut the slide in half and banged it into the ground where the leak is worst.  Then together we dug out dirt from the pond and piled it on top, along with rocks and wood and whatever else we could find, to try to build a bank.  The result so far is this:
You can see only one side of the slide above the water.  The other is to the left in the photo, and it's totally buried.  There needs to be more dirt moved here, but neither of us had it yesterday.  Wet dirt is heavy!
  • Also on tap for yesterday; banding the birds.  Do you band?  Some people do, many don't.  We do, because I like there to be some identifying something on a bird if it, say, wanders off, as the ducks are prone to do.  Ours are a little fancy, they have the name of the farm on them and a number.  I don't use the numbers as identifiers, because with 13 breeds of chicken, they all pretty much look different.  And if they don't, they just get the same name and that's that (which is why we have 4 Hermiones).  But I do like that the farm's name is on there, so there's no question as to whom they belong.  Of course, banding a flock of birds is no picnic, and it took me, my husband and my daughter as catcher a full hour to band them all. 
....... Well, all except for

Pete!  Dum dum dah dum!!! 

Yup, Pete did not get a bracelet, and therefore Pete did not get a pass.  Pete insists on attacking everyone all the time and I am just tired of it.  Pete my friend, you will go where the fighty little roosters go one day soon.  So sorry.  You just could not learn to get along.
  • The incubator seems to be doing ok.  Out of the four eggs that were in there, two of them had no one home, so I chucked them out.  There are two left, but I candled them this morning, and one looks like it may have died.  I'm giving it another two days just because the dark spotty eggs are so hard to see through, but I'm pretty sure.  That leaves just one little guy in there.  I am hoping the little one makes it, but I am worried about having just one chick all by his/her lonesome.  Poor little banana!  He or she will probably be a house chick in a basket until it can be joined by his/her many brothers and sisters that will hopefully hatch in my daughter's classroom.  Won't my husband love that?  Probably not, no. 
I believe that's all the news that's fit to print, so I'm on my way outside now to try and finish a fence or two.  Have a great day! 
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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Et Voila!

The project's big reveal.  Are you ready?

Drumroll, please......

Ta daaaa!!!

Is it wrong that I like this so much?  It just makes me SO happy.

Ah, the things that can be done with an old mailbox and some reclaimed wood and paint.   It's wonderful!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Trip Down Memory Lane

**Before I forget, the pattern for the placemats is Cotton Ginny's My Chicken Kitchen.  Hope that helps!

I've been inside for a few days, as I've mentioned, and one of the things I've been doing is getting my sewing room together, which is no easy feat.  However, while doing this, I thought that having a room simply for sewing is lovely, but kind of a waste of space in our little house.  I truly need an office.  So, I've combined the two, and now my sewing room is becoming a combo of sewing room/office, which meant that the big computer that I do my office work on had to come up from the depths of the basement.  It wasn't being used down there, because the light is poor and it's cold, and I really need to use it.  Now it's here and getting much more use.

One of the things I keep on this computer are pictures, and since bringing the computer up from the basement, I've had a chance to sit and look at some of them.  There are tons and tons of them, and many of them are from our old house, which we fixed up really nicely, and which had beautiful gardens. 

This house was in a  very suburban development.  We were surrounded by neighbors, which I hated, because I need my space and privacy, which this house did not have.  To me the yard is just another room in the house, and I want to use it that way and not be seen by everyone while doing it.  So I wasn't very happy there.  However, the site had fantastic sunlight and nice dirt, and because I was a stay at home mom with two little kids, I spent a LOT of time either in my sewing room or in the gardens, trying to keep busy.  There were no gardens to speak of when we moved in.  I spent the nearly 3 years we lived in that house changing all of that.  Do you want to see how it all turned out?  Sit on down and let's take a trip, shall we?

This is what we started with.  A 1970's house with 1970's bushes.  Woo hoo!

Can you see the neighbor? UGH!  There's one on the other side, too.  And across the street one way, and the other way.  And I could see into everyone's backyards all around.  BLECH.

So it was pretty bad.  Ugly and outdated, no privacy.  I hated it.  I set about gardening, and didn't stop until we had to sell the house in 2009, due to a job loss.  It was the best/worst thing that ever happened to us, because we wound up here.  But that's another story.  Let's just enjoy the after pictures, shall we?

The house was improved...

The gardens were added...

Boundary gardens dug in (because it looked like one big lawn otherwise.  See the neighbor's driveway?  That drove me nuts).

Around the house

 This is our driveway's garden.  One of my favorites.

The end of the driveway.


We had a total of four trees.  Four.  Three of them were in the front yard.  I could still see all the neighbors.

And of course, the suburban shed.

And yes, I did have a vegetable garden, a very small one.  But it was lush.  Take a look...
That's my little boy and his Clifford sitting in the midst. 

Tomato jungle


Ok, enough of that.

I did take some of the roses with me to this house (and the chickens like to eat them) and I did take some of the irises to this house as well (and the geese like to eat them).  They've been planted, but need protection from "predators".  I hope that one day the gardens here will be as beautiful as the gardens there, but I'm in no rush.  Except maybe to get a lush vegetable garden.  That would be a good thing.

Spring where are you????
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Testing, Testing....


I'm T-minus 3 weeks to the big school hatch (in case you missed it, I'm guest-running an "animal lifecycle" unit in my daughter's 4th grade class.  We're hatching chicks), so I needed to test the incubator and egg turner, not to mention to learn how to use it.  It seems to work beautifully, and it was not difficult to figure out.  I put 4 eggs in it; 3 of which are from my Welsummer, Hoppy, and 1 from one of the Black Copper Maran girls.  Or it could be the other way around.  Or is it two and two? They're all kind of super-spotty at this point, since the Marans have been laying for a while and the color's not as dark as it could be.  I don't know who the daddy is for any of them, so if there are potential chicks in them, they'll probably be a mix of Welsummer/Copper Maran.  The Silkie boys can't reach (if you know what I mean), and Beethoven, the Ameraucana roo, isn't allowed to mate too often.  The older boys see to that.  I believe there will be a couple of mutts in our future, if there's anyone home.

Anyway, the incubator has been whining away for a few days on the kitchen floor.  It is a truly annoying noise, which is the only drawback.  Well, that and thermometer doesn't stay put, but that's the fault of the turner, because as the eggs shift, the thermometer shifts too.  It's no big deal, it'll just be another thing for the kids to watch for.  It seems to be holding the temperature well, and it's definitely rocking the eggs, so I am a happy farmer.

On the flip side, it's been super chilly and wet as of late, so I've had nothing much I can do out of doors, and I've been working inside.  In fact, it's holding up that project I showed you, so it's going to have to wait for another nice day for me to finish.  Bummer.  In the meantime, I've been making headway on cleaning out my sewing room, and I dusted off my sewing machine yesterday to make these:

Oh hey, that's sideways.  Let's try that again, shall we?

Oh hell, I give up.  Sideways it is.  Blogger, you can be SO stubborn.

Guess what these sideways things are?


Shaped like chickens!

Oh laugh, laugh laugh!

Yes, the little things amuse me.  And these are my new favorite table accessory.

Stay tuned, as I'll either have chick news to talk about or a project to reveal, depending on the weather.  Have a great night!
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Yes, She Has a System

The project I showed the other day is nearly complete.  I will be doing the "big reveal" shortly, I promise.

In the midst of all the maple syruping, projects going on, wood splitting, and wondering where the ducks have gone (because every day they disappear ALL afternoon-but hey, I've wised up and now just wait for them to come back), I have neglected to show you what I came up with for all my seeds this year.  I have a system, which is a first.  Normally I just guess how many plants I want of a certain type, plant them, and hope for the best.  It's a totally right brained approach (read: lazy).  Last year, this bit me in the butt, and I wound up with not enough food being produced and too many weeds. Great food for the geese, but not for us.  This year I want to rely heavily on the garden's production, and get real results.  This meant I needed to get my act together.

To do this, I first went to the Garden Planner on Territorial Seed's website and created my garden for next year.  The nice thing about this app is that it gives you a list of how many of each plant you would need for each space you're trying to fill.  As I have proven that the guessing I was doing wasn't working, this was very handy for me.  I found that I was going to underplant pretty much everything, and wind up with the same problems I had last year.  Not good.  So I did the tally, figured out loosely what was lacking seed-wise, and placed the orders.

After all the orders were received, I put all my seeds into the cool narrow box that my Christmas knives came in (nothing says Christmas like knives, after all), and proceeded to catalog them.  I was going to share all the seeds I have here, but the list came out to be 6 pages long, and that's just ridiculous.  I'm not trying to put you to sleep, after all.  Many of the seeds I have are from a few years past, and there are a few left in the envelopes.  Some are new, and some are gathered from the garden.   No matter what, I cataloged them all so I knew what I had.  I categorized them first by type of plant (tomato, pepper, annual flower, etc), then by name (Brandywine, Black Cherry, etc), then by company, year of the seed packet, and then by the amount of seed left in the packet (I didn't count them; I wrote things like new packet, very few seeds, that sort of thing).  It looked like this:

Then the work began.

Working with a few books and some web sites, I calculated what needed to be started when--which is always my other problem.  Usually I'm too late when starting plants and they don't produce as they should.   Many plants needed to be started inside, but quite a few should just be started outside instead.  I noted all of this and figured the dates on when it should all be planted.  Then I made a chart.

It looks like this:

But I'm a visual person, and this wasn't enough for me, so I made it look like this instead:

And that works for me. 

So, using my fancy new system, I have started the perennials for the gardens, the leeks, and the onions.  The onions are a little earlier than scheduled, but that's because they chitted faster than I thought they would, and I had to put them in the dirt.  They are doing just fine.

I am hoping this is going to work out for me this year.  Last year's yields were pathetic, and there just was not enough food produced.  This year I hope to redeem myself.  If I do, the systems works, and I will be one happy camper!
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