Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dead Birds Walkin'

The last of our rotten roos have flown the coop today. They took an early morning ride with Bill to the same place that their brothers went, to a very grateful fellow who was glad to have them for his table. I am especially sad to see Mr. Jeffries go, as he was my little honey, but that jolt of testosterone that came at maturity turned him into a great big meanie, who, along with his brothers, all of a sudden simply lived to harass our hennies. Sorry, my boy, this here farm is partial to the women-folk and that sort of shenanigan doesn't fly.

The parting of these boys means that the last of the bantams that we hatched out in the incubator last spring are all gone, and we didn't get an egg from or get to eat a single one of them ourselves. What a bust that little trial turned out to be.

If you'll forgive a little gallows humor in my moment of reflection, let us review the trials, tribulations and eventual fates of the bantam eggs, formerly known as the dirty dozen.

May 2010- 9 out of 12 eggs hatch within 24 hours after having been fawned over and candled daily for three weeks. A few of the babies had early difficulties, trouble pipping, pasted vent, etc., but all pulled through.

July 2010- Near catastrophe as the brooder's heat lamp gets knocked into the brooder and the pine litter very nearly catches fire, filling the garage with smoke and giving us a good scare.

Multiple foiled escape attempts.

August 2010- The big move. All critters are initially traumatized.

October 2010- Our first baby is lost. Eglantine is hit by a car. The terror twins, Scout and Harold are sent to "freezer camp".

November 2010- Molly disappears one day, during the day. We suspect the neighbor's cat after a pile of feathers are found under the rhododendrons.

December 2010- Bird pox hits us just as the remaining five "babies" are reaching sexual maturity. We're down to one hen and four roosters at this point. Sky the rooster and Charlotte, our last bantam hen, die of the pox. The other three boys are isolated from the laying flock until it is clear that they are healthy.

After being cut loose from quarantine, the boys go completely nuts and start pestering/chasing/injuring our hens non-stop. WAY beyond boys will be boys, more like a hostile takeover. A coop coup, if you will.

Back into separate housing the boys go until today, when they went on their final journey.

What a hot mess this whole experience has been. Wasted time, wasted effort and plenty of wasted money.

Here's a look at the ugly financial aspects of this experiment -

Incubator set up - $100
Dozen Fertile eggs - $5
Brooder pen, lights, bedding, etc. - $60
Food for 6 months- ???
Vet bill for Sky (including having him put to sleep)- $70
Grave stone for Eglantine, our first ever critter to die- $30
Horrifying Total =$265+ for jack squat in terms of food for us.

Besides the monetary dings, we've also had the unfortunate experience of having one of our chickens die practically every way imaginable short of the electric chair - car "accident", predator attack, pox, lethal injection and "guillotine" (if ya know what I mean).

We are by no means desensitized to the tragedy, but seriously, if you can't find something funny somewhere in this mess, then you'll just end up kicking yourself to death over the ridiculous waste of time and money that this whole project was. I know I've learned from it, but still. Mostly I've learned about what NOT to do. Don't mix bantams and standard breeds, don't forgo vaccinations, don't bother with roosters unless they are angels because they're more trouble than they're worth, etcetera, etcetera. Anyway, this chapter is now closed and we're down to six hens that I will be guarding with my life from now on.

I knew that the life of a farm girl wasn't an easy one, but some days it can feel like fighting the tide just isn't worth it. Wild animals, strangers and farm supply stores are all benefiting from my grow-your-own approach, alas I am still buying my eggs and meat from other farmers. I'm going to have to buckle down and turn this mess around come Spring, otherwise I'm going to lose my marbles.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seeds to Share

As mentioned in a previous post, I've already gone off the deep end a little with my seed ordering this year. The physical manifestation of my unchecked-zeal walloped me over the head when the postman brought me a 5x5 box of seeds instead of my usual small padded envelope. I reluctantly admit it, I may have overbought.

But this overindulgence can be made good. As in, I've got oodles more seeds than my garden will handle, and so I intend to share them. Here's what I've got to offer some of-

~Dill, 'Boquet'
~Summer Squash, 'Early Prolific Straight Neck' (yellow in color)
~Pea, 'Mammoth Melting"
~Pea, 'Lincoln" (aka 'Homesteader')
~Lettuce, 'Red Romaine'
~Lettuce, 'Merveille de Quatre Saisons' (Bibb type)
~Lettuce, 'Cimmaron'
~Lettuce, 'Buttercrunch' (Bibb type)
~Pole Bean, 'Kentucky Wonder'
~Bush Bean, 'Topnotch'
~Celery, 'Golden Self-Blanching'

I may have more to add to my list of offerings, but at the moment I'm being a bit conservative with my seeds because I've already promised to share some with a few of my friends and family. Shoot me an email or leave me a comment with a way to contact you if you are interested in a few free seeds. If you'd like to order larger quantities of these very same seeds, check out Victory Seed Company - they're the best. ;)

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Pox on Our House

This month has been a rough one. It started off with tons of wind and rain and here it is, Christmas Eve, and we have more of the same. No white Christmas here, just a wet one.

Even for Washington state, these past few weeks of rain have been pretty epic. We've had the trifecta of mudslides, floods and trees coming down left and right to usher in the change of season. The quantity of rain was such that the accumulation of water in our bog grew noticeably every day, to the point where I'd actually classify it as a full-on pond now, waterfowl included.

In addition to the deluge, we also had some ups and downs with our critters this month. Gertie finally, without-a-doubt went into heat and was summarily whisked away to meet again with her fellow, Scout. According to Scout's people, there was a whole lot of lovin' going on over their three day rendezvous, making us optimistic that Gertie is good and knocked up this time. If everything took, Gert's kid(s) should be here around the 8th of May, which means I've got a hell of alot of reading and research to do about goat gestation and birth between now and then.

On a much sadder note, we lost two of our chickens to Bird Pox. Sky the rooster fell ill quite suddenly, and was diagnosed with the pox by our vet. The bulk of Sky's illness and discomfort was not directly related to the pox itself, rather the opportunistic bacteria that overtook him in his weakened state. In the end, we put poor Sky to sleep, as he was having a great deal of difficulty breathing and could no longer eat or drink. The following day, Charlotte, our last bantam hen died in the night. She did not have any outward signs of having had the pox, but before burying her, Bill inspected her and palpated her crop, which he found to be swollen - one of the symptoms of bird pox. We were concerned that our remaining three bantams (Snowflake, Sunny & Mr. Jeffries, all roosters) might also be infected, since they were hatched out at home and never immunized, so we isolated them in an impromptu coop made of baby gates, plywood and cardboard. It was ugly, but it worked. We kept them separate from the hens for three days until it was apparent that they were well (if they ever had been unwell at all) and no longer a danger to our girls.

Losing Sky & Charlotte brought us down to nine chickens, which will be further reduced by three this coming week. The aforementioned roosters have finally come of age and practically overnight became holy terrors. They very nearly killed our hennie, Strawberry, by running her off from her flock and pecking and plucking her incessantly. When a cranky roo threatens your laying hens, it's kind of a no-brainer about who has to go. The boys have since gone back into isolation/death row housing and are none too pleased about it. Little do they know what lies ahead...

We debated their fate. Give them to the guy who took Scout & Harold, give them to someone else, or eat them ourselves? The girls surprised both Bill and I by suddenly seeming to be ok with the idea of us harvesting and eating these roos ourselves. I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to eat a critter who I hand raised, but if the rest of the fam can, then I guess that I'll be roasting Snowflake. ;\

Life just keeps getting more strange/complicated/amazing every day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas, Boggy Hollow style

I'll spare you the repetitive choruses and just skip to my good/bad/crazy holiday countdown. Things are always nuts around here, but poxed roosters and horny goats have really spiced up my day!

Twelve days of Raining
Eleven Gifts need Wrapping
Ten Dozen Cookies
Nine Rivers Cresting
Eight Knitting Projects
Seven days 'til School's out (Boo)
Six Hens not a-laying
Five Cups of Jooooooooe!
Four Acres Drowning
Three Roosters Sick
Two Cranky Kids
And one very frisky she-Goat in Heeeeeeat!

Happy Holidays, everyone! ;)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Planning the Garden & Ordering Seeds

Is it a sign that I'm getting old and dull when I look forward to this time of year more for placing my seed order than I do for getting gifts?

I am like a kid in a candy store when it comes to seed shopping. For the past few years, I have bought almost exclusively from Victory Seed Company. They have a really nice selection of heirloom, open-pollinated seeds - all of my old standbys and an ever-growing assortment of rare and unusual seeds as well. And, being that we intend to plant a garden roughly four times the size of the one at our last house (with plans to expand it further still in the years to come), well, I may have gone off the deep and a little with my seed purchase. But everything looked so good!

Here's what I've ordered (so far) - P.S. - Don't tell Bill about the "so far" part. ;)

Corn, Yukon Chief
Radish, French Breakfast
Pole Bean, Kentucky Wonder
Beet, Cylindra*
Carrot, Atomic Red
Carrot, Solar Yellow
Carrot, Little Fingers*
Cucumber, Homemade Pickles*
Kale, Russian Red
Lettuce, Merveille de Quatre Saisons*
Lettuce, Little Gem (Butterhead)
Lettuce, Cimmaron
Pea, Lincoln*
Pea, Mammoth Melting
Pumpkin, Cinderella*
Pumpkin, Small Sugar
Squash, Cocozelle*
Squash, Early Prolific
Squash, Burgess Buttercup*
Sunflower, Giant Greystripe
Mammoth Dill*
Daisy, Gloriosa*
Bachelor Buttons
Sunflower, Autumn Beauty*
Thickspike Gayfeather
Job's Tears
*Have grown or at least tried to grow in the past.

Notably absent are the more tender herbs (basil, etc.) and tomatoes which I have tried to start from seed over and over again, only to fail miserably. I will buy them as starts in April or May from my more capable gardening friends at the Farmer's Market. I also have not yet figured out how many and what kind of potato we'll try this year, though the girls are lobbying hard for the blue variety. ;) I've altogether given up on trying to grow my own peppers from seeds or starts, as their growing season is just way too long for Western Washington's unpredictable spring & summer weather.

With this extra large garden space available to us, we've come up with some extra-large goals for our garden. In addition to growing enough food to feed our family, I'm hoping to have enough extra to not only share with friends, family and food bank, but to possibly sell on a small scale at a roadside farm stand, along with our eggs if our hens should ever decide to commence laying them again. We're also hoping to grow a substantial portion of our critters' food, that being the corn and sunflowers, as well as the odd vegetable. Bill also believes that we can get a cutting of hay from the bog and back pasture when it is dry in the summer. I don't know the first thing about growing or cutting hay, but it sure would be nice to not be so dependent on the feed store for it. Especially since the quality of the hay seems to vary so widely from batch to batch.

I'm also excited about growing a small "cutting garden" of ornamental flowers. I have yet to learn what sorts of flowers presently grow in my new yard, but I'm going to supplement them with the likes of bachelor's buttons, dahlias and daisies. I've also chosen a slightly unusual plant called Job's Tears which is an ornamental grass that grows lovely hollow seeds which are used as beads. Cool, huh? :)

And so, the plotting goes on. What other fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers do you grow and recommend? What varieties of fruit and vegetables would you like to see offered for sale at your neighborhood farmer's market or farm stand?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

On a Little Bit of Property

I remember when we first looked over the house and the property here. I thought it was a bit oddly laid out but I thought the same thing about the house as well. Both have come to grow on me. My only true wish is for more and bigger out-buildings, a barn and especially a garage.

Something has grown on me here that I haven't felt since I was a teenager. At night if I take the compost out to the bins behind the red shed or go out to check on the goat I feel at peace. Sometimes its the stars in a clear cold sky or more often than not (now that winter is here) it's the mist rising up from the bog. If it's late at night there are no cars out and you can't even hear the freeway (miles away though it is). At times there is the hooting of owls and I've been startled more than once by a deer who likes to visit the compost bin. Her eyes reflect back blue just as those of the goats do.

I will often stop for a few minutes, turn off my light and smell the roses so to speak. Remember the names of some of the constellations and feel the night around me. In the snow it's especially peaceful.

Yet it's not like when I was growing up in the Bald Hills. There you couldn't hear anything besides the neighbors voices ringing across their pasture at times and the stars were brighter and clearer. You could see the milky way. I felt it too when we visited Dillon Montana years ago and saw whitetails bouncing away from our cabin at dawn.

Here we are now so close to the comfort of our little town, great friends, fishing, mountains and the sound. So to have a little piece of the peace I knew in the hills is a great gift.

This winter there is much to do. The deer fence must be built around the garden patch and a new chicken coop constructed to house multiple flocks away from the predators that keep nibbling away at our birds. I also am thinking about fencing the back acres so that our goats can run far away from their little pen that they periodically escape from now.

These chores will wait until after the holidays... Until then I'll wait, making beer and hard cider for the harder part of winter to come...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hens on Strike

This year it seems like my girls' egg production stopped earlier and more abruptly, and I am bummed about it. I actually had to break down and buy eggs! And even the "cage-free, vegetarian, organic omega-3" eggs literally pale in comparison. The kids noticed the difference right away.

Referring to her plate of scrambled eggs, Liv asked "Mom, why are these eggs so white?!"

"Because they're from the store, bunny."

"Oh yeah. Ew."

Unfortunately, I'll have to keep buying eggs for baking, but I think we're off the scrambled eggs until our hennies are up and running again.

Has anyone else had their hens ever stop laying so early and so abruptly? I know that I could probably get them going again if I put a light in the coop, but I really don't want to do that.

Are there any Olympia-area peeps out there that have any GOOD eggs for sale???

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Postcards from Camp

Dear Mom & Dad-

Hay! Just wanted to send you some pictures from camp. I'm having fun, but I can't wait to get home on Sunday! I miss you guys. I miss my brothers. I even miss the tiny, noisy little two-leggers that you sometimes send to feed me. But things are going well here. I've already made a friend!

This is a pic of me and my friend Scout. Actually we might be more than friends. I think he likes me!

Anyway, see you on Sunday. Say "hay" to Spike and Arch for me.


Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone

Gertie-girl took her little trip to Scout's place last night, where she'll stay until Sunday. The whole fam-damnily is going when we pick her up so that we can all meet Gert's fella and check out what a larger-scale, goat-centric family farm looks like.

I hope she's doing ok. Bill said that she mehh'd like crazy when he left her. Poor girl probably thinks she's been re-homed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our boys are a mess.

Normally when I go to feed, they see me a mile away and start milling around and jumping up on the fence and meh-ing their fool heads off. Today, nothing. In fact, they didn't even bother to drag their butts out of the goathouse until after I was already in the pen. This is totally unheard of behavior for them. I poured their sweet feed into their dishes, and they lazily ambled over to nibble, not devour as usual. My poor little men are depressed!

I wish I could reassure them that their herd Queen was not gone for good, but just on a little field trip. I think I'm just going to have to go heavy on the sugar cubes and butt scratches until our little lady returns.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Very Goaty Honeymoon

Bill is heading out with Gertie momentarily, destined for Enumclaw and the pen of a fine young buck named Scout.

Let me tell you that when you go to Petsmart and ask for help finding a kennel suitable for holding a small goat, you get a few weird looks along the way. I'm getting used to it. ;)

I feel as sure as I can be that Gert is in heat without ever having had any experience with menstruating goats. I guess we'll give it a go and see what happens. Now would probably be a good time for me to read up on how to determine in your doe is pregnant. Looks like we're flying by the seat of out pants once again. Wish us luck!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Matchmaker, matchmaker...

...make Gertie a match! We think we've found a suitable young man for our Gert-Gert. Ladies and Gentlemen, the dashing, Scout.

Young Mr. Scout is a one-year-old Nigerian Dwarf buck. I LOOOVE his gorgeous milk chocolate color and his blue-blue eyes. Won't he and the Gertster have pretty babies? :) Just to clarify, we won't be buying Scout, rather Gertie will spend a romantic weekend at his place, and hopefully come back to us with babies on board.

If all goes well, and Gertie has her babies this coming Spring, by late Spring or early Summer we could have chèvre! And soap, lotion, cajeta! and eventually Tommes and Parmesan, maybe ....

No pressure, Gertie, but if you could put yourself in like a super-fertile mindspace, mama would really appreciate it. And Scout probably wouldn't complain either.

Mother &%$#@&* Raccoons!

The bastards got poor Georgie. :(

We found a pile of feathers out on the edge of the bog with some raccoon scat nearby. Bill has just set the humane traps out, three of them. I hope that we've caught our perp by tomorrow morning so that we can all sleep a little better tomorrow night.

I am so bummed about losing George. He was as sweet as can be and so loyal to his Gracie. We are consoled knowing that George no doubt laid down his life protecting his girl, as a good rooster should. I only wish that if we had to lose him, that we could have bred him first, since he was so pretty and had such a sweet temperament.

Rest in Peace, sweet Georgie. Your girls are locked up extra tight tonight and Daddy's got blood in his eye for that raccoon. You will be avenged!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Mystery of the Unflappable 13

Chickens come and chickens go, but somehow, we always seem to have thirteen of them. It's starting to get a little spooky. Like, if I buy another hen, is somebody going to bite the dust? :(

Since "the babies" (nine of them) hatched this past May and joined our "big girls", our flock has numbered lucky number 13 near constantly. We were up to fourteen for about a week when Grammy J gave us Miss Cotton the white Cochin, but then our poor, ill-fated, Eglantine wandered into the road and brought us back down to thirteen.

Then the bad boys began their reign of terror and nearly killed a couple of the big girls with their aggressiveness and had to go bye-bye. The same day the Scout and Harold rode away in a box toward their new home in someones freezer, Grammy J came up for a visit and brought us two gorgeous golden-laced Polishes, a hen and a rooster, Gracie & King George, respectively, bringing us right back up to thirteen again.

George & Gracie, sittin' in a tree...

The Polish pair are quite a site. George looks like he's suffered an electrical shock with his bolt-upright crest and spazzy-flighty manner, while sweet Miss Gracie appears to be nearly blinded by her foofy crest, venturing out only sheepishly, and never far from George. We haven't had any eggs from Grace yet, but when she does lay, they are supposed to be white, which will thankfully differentiate them from our other big girls' eggs.

We are looking forward to building our new big coop shortly, featuring a few honeymoon suites for our "fancy" breeds. Georgie & Gracie will get the first spin in the love nest to hopefully give us some fertile eggs for incubating. I'd just as soon let Gracie do things the old fashioned way, but it is an unfortunate fact that Polish hens are not good sitters (they seem to have a very high-strung temperament), and so, after a week or so of alone time, I will start squirrelling away Gracie's eggs until I have half a dozen or so to incubate. I can't wait - baby Polishes are CRAZY cute!

In addition to breeding a few (or God willing, MANY) of our own, we're going to order a few more chickies from the hatchery this spring also. Let us hope that somewhere along the line that the curse of 13 is lifted and that I can eventually realize my destiny as the kind and benevolent Chicken Baroness of the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I can't believe that it's come to this...

My evil roosters' evil ways forced me to buy a couple of these this morning -

That's right it's a hen's saddle (also known as an apron), meant to protect a young lady's feathers from the amorous assaults of a rooster, or in our case, two roosters. The boys tend to grab at the girls' neck and back feathers with their beaks, and sometimes even dig in with their spurs during mating, leaving a poor hennie quite a bit worse for the wear. Two of my girls in particular, Rose & Annabel are looking just pitiful these days. Liv says that they look half-plucked. I wouldn't go that far, but they are missing quite a few feathers, especially in the neck and tail regions. Poor babies! And of course just as soon as the poor girls were plucked, the overnight temperatures start dropping like a rock.

Enter the apron. I'm hoping that these will at least offer my girls a little extra warmth until their feathers grow back. The evil roosters - aka the terror twins, Harold the Terrible and Scout the Destroyer are about to be taken out of the equation, if you know what I mean. ;)

It wasn't easy to break that bit of news to the kids, I assure you, especially so soon after losing Eglantine to the road. However, they seem to have made peace with the idea that the boys need to go in order to save our sweet lassies from being plucked/tormented to death. They have even begun referring to the doomed roos as Chicken Strip and Chicken Burger, and eye them with the most venomous disdain for reducing our once-lovely hennies to the skittish, scraggly messes that they are at the moment.

The boys having been whooping it up for a while now, but come this weekend, the ladies of the coop will be having the last laugh. After deposing our two mean and nasty roosters, the reign of Mr. Jeffries the Gentle shall commence. He is a very mellow boy (at least so far) and has never participated in the frat boy behavior of the evil boys. Let us hope that he will have learned a lesson from his doomed predecessors and be a kind and gentle man o' the house. Or else, buddy, or else...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Best laid Plans...

...frequently get shot to smithereens around here.

When I started the Bog Blog, part of my intent was to keep a daily-ish log of what we were harvesting/collecting each day. Well, that was just plain silly of me because a) Consistency is not my best-known trait, and b) I should have known that the lack of a garden + unreliable laying hens = extended dry spells between harvests. D'oh!

I miss picking, and weighing and canning the glut of garden goodies so much. Spring can't come soon enough!

Decisions, decisions...

Murray McMurray hatchery, why did you have to send me your catalog so soon?

We won't be able to accommodate any additional chicks until Spring, after we've designed and build our new, vastly expanded coop. Yet here I sit ogling the Buff Brahma's, Phoenixes, Barred Rocks and Blue Cochins like most women my age would pour over a jewelry store catalog. Is it wrong that I'm kind of proud of that? ;)

After intensive research (mostly on Livy's part), we're leaning towards adding more Americauna/Aracaunas and a few Buff Brahma's to our laying/breeding flock, and mulling over Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds for our meat flock. Livy's advice is that we go with the RIR's because they are not known to be overly friendly, a good trait in critters that are destined for the dinner table.

But in the mean time, I'll just sit here by the fire, reading and re-reading my battered catalog, and changing my mind 50 times between now and March about how many and what kind of birds to get.

Oh, the torment of waiting!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Liv's Egg Label Art

Livy just up and decided to make us an egg carton label for our yummy BHF eggs.

Didn't she do a great job?!?

Unfortunately, we wouldn't actually be allowed to label these as organic (even though they are), since we're not certified. But you have to admire the girl's creativity and commitment to healthful hens & eggs. That's my girl! :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Official

We're farmers! Well, hobby farmers anyway. I guess we'll be "real deal" farmers once we sell something that we grew for a profit. Anyway, my definition of a farmer up to this point as been one who owns actual livestock, aka, something with hooves. And here we are, goat owners shepherds lackeys.

Introducing our 3 newest babies, Gertie, Archie & Spike-

All are Nigerian Dwarf goats, two wethers (castrated males) and one doe. The boys have already exhibited their stubborn streak by head butting fences and each other, and showing off some highly skilled evasion tactics while we attempted to herd them into their pen. Our girl, Gertie, so far is nothing but sweetness and light. We hope to breed her ASAP so that we might have her kid in Spring, and hopefully get a little milk for us by Summer. I still have a WHOLE LOT to learn about caring for these little rascals, but we're already madly in love with their goofy faces and their curious little nibblings (Bill was not totally thrilled that Archie tried to eat his shorts, but human/goat relations will no doubt improve over time).

I am very fortunate to have a cousin who lives a few miles down the road, who's daughters are serious goat experts. I'm going to have to learn the ropes of goat grooming and maintenance lickety-split, so I'm incredibly grateful to have someone who is totally enamored of goats to be showing me the right way to care for them.

According to "Raising Miniature Livestock", our wee little farm might now qualify for some sort of tax break in the form of an agricultural exemption, now that we've got actual livestock. Holy mackerel, what a year this has been!

More pics for your goat viewing pleasure-

Archie, the shy guy

Our sweet little Gertrude

Spike, Mr. Bossypants

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Hardest Part... saying goodbye. We lost our first chicken today. In fact, it was the first loss of a pet that my children have ever suffered. Today we had to bury our sweet Eglantine.

Eglantine was originally named "Rocky", as she was the first egg to wiggle, and in her struggles to pip, moved around the incubator a great deal, bumping and thumping her siblings along the way. I actually had to help her hatch, as some membrane had dried on her from her prolonged, weak efforts at pipping her shell open. I have a really hard time believing that that was just 5 months ago. It feels like we've had these "babies" forever.

Eggy somehow found her way out into the road and was struck. The most upsetting part of which was that whomever did it did not bother to stop and tell us, but left her there for Scarlet and I to happen upon while going to get the mail. No kid should ever have to see their beloved animal like that. I can still hear my poor girl's wail.

While I took Scarlet inside to break the news to Olivia, Papa buried our chickie girl under the biggest Alder tree that he could find in the back pasture. I told the girls that that means that Eggy's body is a part of our farm forever now, and that she will, in a way, grow with the tree. But most importantly, that her lively little spirit has gone to heaven to frolic with Grammy's dog, Shadow, and to eat endless corn and red worms.

We're all still having a little trouble getting past the sudden trauma of her passing, but the goats coming tomorrow has helped brighten an otherwise very dark day. Please keep my kiddos in your thoughts, their hearts are saddened and strained as they struggle to learn and accept the rules of life and death. I could pray that this would be the last such traumatic loss that we'd suffer, but accepting the realities of life on a farm means accepting the brutality of sudden loss. I just wish that I could save my girls from the pain of it.

The Goats Cometh!

Three of them!!!

Pics and more details tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The New Kid in Town

May I introduce, Miss Cotton.

Young Miss Cotton is a full-figured white Cochin seeking new friends and adventure, but sadly meeting with little luck in the friends department. The other boys and girls like to pick on her and chase her.

This is day 3 of Cotton's life at Boggy Hollow, and thus far she has only ventured out of her hidey-hole in a blackberry bramble a handful of times, only to be chased and snipped at by the Alpha hens (aka the big girls) and the roosters. Poor girl. She outweighs them all and could kick their sassy butts if only she had the nerve. In the mean time, she's hiding out and getting bread and pellets hand delivered to her twice a day and somehow managing to sneak into the nest box and lay us some pretty pinkish/brownish eggs.

If anyone has any thoughts on how to help integrate Cotton into the group, I'd be most open to hearing them. We want our girl to feel safe and at home, and so far, I'm afraid that she feels neither. :(

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Today's Pickin's 9/28/10

This past weekend we "harvested" our pears - all 4 of them. I used one tonight in a pear-ginger-white wine reduction that I served over pork chops. Yum!

We also somehow managed to get 5 eggs today, though I don't think that any of them are from our banty pullets. Every once in a while one of our girls will lay one in the evening just after they're tucked in for the night, then another late the next day.

We're very much looking forward to the "little girls" first eggs. Since the boys from the same hatch date are crowing and sexually harassing all of the hens now, I figure that their sisters' coming of age cannot be far off either. Hopefully we'll soon be getting 8 or 9 eggs per day. :)

Today's Totals (including this weekend's pears)-
5 eggs
4 pears (5 oz each)
4 apples (12 oz total)


Ah, yes, our boys have become men, literally overnight. OUR FIRST ROOSTER CROWED THIS MORNING!

The girls can't agree on whether or not it is Scout or Harold (formerly Daisy) doing the crowing, but sure enough, at least one of them is cock-a-doodle-dooing his fool head off. I was just wondering how much longer it was going to take for these boys to get going, and now I have my answer. For the record, they'll be 20 weeks old on Saturday, putting them right on schedule.

Now... where are my eggs, ladies?

Behold the Mighty 'Shroom!

I've been hunting around in our "woods" in search of some edible mushrooms. I found a few boletes that google helped me sort out were edible, but not palatable, resulting in my bitter disappointment, and the undesirable fungi hitting the compost bin. Alas, the very next day I spotted this mushroom (or is it a toadstool?) from a distance of about 30 feet away. Check out "Mega Shroom" -

Nuts, right? It weighed in at over three pounds! The oddest thing of all though, might be that I am sure that this mushroom wasn't there the day before when I'd picked my first few specimens for researching. I knew that mushrooms could grow quickly, but who's ever heard of a 3-pound mushroom springing up overnight?

This, too, was a boletus of the edible, yet non-tasty variety, (not to mention that it had been hit pretty hard by slugs before I found it), so it too was composted. However, now that I know that I have the right conditions under which to grow mushrooms, I now just need to figure out how to get my preferred type of 'shroom growing. I've picked up a few chanterelles from the grocery store and am going to go shake them around under the spruce tree where I found the others growing, in the hope that I can get them to drop a few spores and grow like weeds. Yummy, free, 3-pound weeds. ;)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Silence of the Roos

I know that I'll probably regret asking this question someday, but... when are my roosters supposed to start crowing? And at what age do they become err... potent?

They are 19 weeks old now and have all of their big boy plumage AND have been seen trying to get frisky with the big hens on a few occasions. Can a banty rooster even mate successfully with a standard sized hen?

I have so much to learn. Help!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today's Pickin's 9/14/10

We got the usual 4 eggs, plus our first pear AND Liv & I found a blueberry bush that we didn't know existed. It's on the fence between the chicken yard and the bog. It's sort of a miracle that the chickens didn't find a way to pick it clean before we got to it, but I did notice that they've made a little dust bathing hollow right under the bush.

Today's Totals-
4 eggs
1 pear (6 oz)
3 oz blueberries

Slowly but surely, this land will feed us, someday. ;)

Trees... and not much else

I have been gloriously, self-indulgently lazy since the girls went back to school last week. I haven't harvested, picked or canned a single thing since the great apple-a-thon a week and a half ago, and I suppose that it's time to get back on the horse, as it were.

The one thing that I did get done was to get our new plants in the ground. Rather, I told Bill where to plant them and he did. ;) We put in an Arbequina (Spanish) Olive, a "Ukraine" highbush cranberry, a Himrod Grape and a horseradish root. Knowing that food will soon become harder for the deer to come by, and that they will then naturally look to my tasty plants for nourishment, I safeguarded them as best as I could. Don't laugh -

My bitty olive tree

Until we get a deer fence in place, lets just hope that the deer will find the tomato cages and saran wrap are more trouble than eating my tree (all 5 bites of it) is worth.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Nature of a Todo List

I thought the "selling the house while buying a new one" todo list was daunting.  Now we're in the new house and lo, the todo list is bigger than ever.  The good news is though that everything we do now is for us and not someone else.  I have managed to knock a few things off....

  1. Put the new desk together in the office
  2. Tarped over the stack of firewood
  3. Moved the workbench into the red shed
  4. Put the pergola next to the red shed (for now)
  5. Researched deer prevention measures
  6. Dug the back of the chicken coop into the hill so it sits more or less level now
  7. Cleaned out the firewood pile next to the basement door and moved the critter feed over there
  8. Put up some chicken wire against the fence to keep the bantys out of our front yard
  9. Much much more.....
Still though there is much "todo"...
  1. Buy the posts and plant them for the deer fence around the garden
  2. Research and start building the support structures for our grape vines
  3. Wash and seal the back deck
  4. Patch the hot tub
  5. Figure out the water feed line to the shower in the hot tub room
  6. Put a new light in over the kitchen table
  7. Clean out the basement and get rid of the pool table etc...
  8. Put the shelf up in the office and fully unpack
  9. Cut a bunch of kindling for the wood stove and clean out the wood stove
  10. Put a fan in the bathroom
  11. New handrail on for the stairs
Its worth it all.  I really want to focus on the house and getting the garden ready to go for next year.  We have grand plans for this garden, perhaps making a buck or two.  We'll have to save up to bring in some good dirt/compost but that'll pay off too.  In the interim I'm happy with the small things.  Like peaceful moments watching the chickens wander across their yard...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Apples and Eggs

I've been neglectful of my record keeping. Bad Chelle! Anyway, to catch up-

From 9/3 - 9/7
20 eggs (All of the big girls are up and running again!)
50 lbs apples
3.5 pounds blackberries

Apples & Cider - A Family Affair

First, we picked our apples - 50 pounds worth!

The girls were in charge of the sorting, washing and drying.

Bill and I pared and cored the lot. God bless the inventor of the Yankee Apple Peeler!

Chillaxin' while the steam juicer works its magic

Finally, Bill adding the sugar and pitching the yeast to get this cider brewing.

It's hard to believe that it took 50 pounds of apples (cored, but not peeled) and a day's worth of labor to make roughly 2 1/2 gallons of juice. We all enjoyed some of the fresh cider before handing the remainder off to our brew master, Bill, for "hardening". ;)

He added some sugar and half a packet of yeast, and into the man cave/basement it went to ferment a while. Our fingers are crossed that this will be fermented, bottled and carbonated by the holidays. See you in three months!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and Cherries that Weren't

Today was just one of those up-and-down type of days. For every highlight, an annoying downside that nearly negated the good stuff. Am I the only one who seems to have these sort of days a lot?

For example, my shipment of plants from One Green World came today - yay! Woo! Unfortunately, only half of what I ordered was in stock. Thumbs down.

The whole reason that I placed this order was to get some pie cherry trees in the ground ASAP, so that I might, might be able to score enough cherries this coming summer to make my beloved Summer Solstice jam. The rest of the trees and plants in my order were impulse buys of a kind. Oddities and experimental goodies that I just couldn't resist, thrown in just to try. Guess which trees they didn't have in stock, and won't have until January? The peach tree and Heavenly Blue grape were unavailable too. Well, poo.

On the ol' chicken front - Strawberry laid an egg this morning - FINALLY. On the downside there, the other two Americaunas have now taken their second day off in a row. Fussy little stinkers. What's a girl got to do to get some consistent egg action around here?

Today's pickin's-
5 pounds assorted apples
1 pound +/- blackberries
2 eggs (Strawberry is back, baby!)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From Summer to Fall in one Day

Today was a rather blustery day, the first of it's kind so far this season. Between the abruptly gloomy weather blowing in and school starting next week - glory, hallelujah! - Fall is definitely on it's way. :)

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the window-pounding rainstorms, hot apple cider and lazy afternoons spent reading and knitting in front of the fire. Yes, ma'am, I'm ready for it!

But then there are the chores. ALWAYS THE CHORES. I'm in complete denial of exactly how much leaf raking there'll be. Most of our trees are deciduous, the neighbors' trees are deciduous and the wind through our little hollow is strong, which I suspect will mean that our yard and pasture will be the area's leaf repository. On the upside, it makes lovely compost fodder. Try to focus on the positive, that's my motto. Or it should be.

I picked a few of the ripe plums today. Grandma J says that they might be the Damson variety. All I know is that they are tasty. :) I also picked up a few apples knocked down by the wind. I thought I'd gotten them all until I saw a black-tailed doe and her fawn munching away under my apple trees - and on my rhododendrons. We watched them, and they, us, from about 20 feet away. They were beautiful and quiet enough to almost seem surreal. I'm sure that the thrill of their nearness will be gone once they've had one of my roses for lunch, but seeing them today was pretty wonderful.

The chickens are well. Strawberry is still not laying, or if she is, not where we can find them! I think she may be starting a molt, though, as her feathers are looking a little on the sad side lately. Hard to tell when she's windblown and soaked to the bone, though, as we all were today.

Today's (and yesterdays - oops!) totals-
6 eggs
2 pounds windfall apples (varieties unknown - saved for critter food)
3 plums (about 4 oz total)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lazy Sunday

We didn't get a whole lot done today, nor did we get much from the critters, just two eggs. Strawberry has been slacking off big time. In fact, I'm wondering if the move has thrown her off her game, or if she's just squirreling her eggs away somewhere in yet another fruitless attempt at hatching chicks. Hmmm...

The banty hens (of which we think we have 8 or 9) could start laying as early as mid-October, right when they hit the 5-month mark. Once they hit their stride, we'll hopefully be getting around a dozen eggs per day, with the help of the "big girls". A few of our bantams (at least 3, maybe 4 or 5) appear to be roosters. Two of them attempted what I'm assuming was supposed to be a crow the other day. It sounded exactly like when you pinch flat the neck of a balloon and let the air out slowly- sort of a warbling honk. Utterly pathetic!

For those of you keeping track of the babies, there have been a few name changes along the way, as their genders have become apparent-
Scout (hen?)
Daisy (definitely a rooster, needs a new name)
Sunny (Sultan, possibly a rooster)
Sky (Sultan hen)
Snowflake (Sultan, rooster - should we change the name?)
Ruthie (definitely a rooster, now goes by Mr. Jeffries)
Rocky (hen, now called Eglantine after a character in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series)
Wilbur (Americauna/Aracauna hen, now named Molly)
Charlotte (hen)

All are doing well and are getting their "big kid" plumage. Their hobbies include getting chewed out by the big hens, escaping from the chicken yard into my yard, flinging beauty bark out of the flower beds onto the sidewalk, and doing their pre-pubescent version cock fighting (basically they just jump around and fluff their neck feathers up. Real badasses, they are.) God save me from hormonal teenagers of all species!

For the record, today's take-
2 eggs

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Building our Orchard

Since most of the items that I eventually want to grow/raise must wait until Spring to be bought, planted or born, I'm focusing my energy on the few things that do best when begun in the Fall, which around here means primarily, trees.

My sister-in-law turned me on to a very cool nursery out of Molalla, Oregon, called One Green World. They offer a pretty diverse selection of fruit & nut trees, native plants, berry bushes and more, all acclimated to the weather of the Pacific Northwest. Here's what I ordered-

*2 Montmorency Cherry trees (These are the classic sour "pie" cherry, which are impossible to find in any store.)
*1 Autumn Rose Peach
*1 Arbequina Olive tree
*1 Himrod (green grape) vine
*1 Heavenly Blue (blue/purple grape) vine
*1 Highbush Cranberry
*1 Bigtop horseradish

An olive tree! Can you believe it? In western Washington?!? I can't wait to see if this pans out for us. How cool would it be to be able to make my own olive oil? :)

The four new trees will bring our "orchard" up to a whopping 10 trees! We currently have some nice old apple, pear and plum trees which are presently fairly heavy with fruit, with the exception of the pear. I think that they would all benefit from an expert pruning, so I guess that I'd better start saving my pennies.

As for the grapes, these particular varieties are intended mainly for eating fresh, drying for raisins or cooking down for jelly. That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that I won't be trying to eek some wine out of them. ;) The other big benefit to having a grape vine or two is of course, the leaves. They are not only delicious in dolmades, but can be used in place of most any cooked greens. My rabbits also adore them!

I'm so looking forward to getting these in the ground. I don't know if they will be established enough to bear fruit for us this coming spring, but as long as they thrive, I can be patient - if I have to.

Today's Take-
2 eggs (Strawberry and Amelia seem to have taken the day off.)
1 plum - YUM!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Life on the Farm, day 7

We've still not completely settled into this place, but still, it already has the feeling of home. We have so much work to do to get this place ready to roll for next spring that I don't know where to begin!

On the short/urgent honey-do list:
-Add smaller-gauge fencing to the south side of the chicken yard, to keep the banties off of my lawn.
-Mow the grass of the lawn that will become the garden.
-Borrow a goat to eat the pasture down a bit.
-Weed, weed, weed
-Harvest plums
-Start building a second chicken coop
-Make a garden plan/start building raised beds

This is going to be one jam-packed Fall and Winter, in terms of chores, at least. I'm looking forward to the rewards of running a farm, but have to admit that I'm a little daunted by the work that it is going to take to get things rolling. Here's the thing about our little farm - it's just 3.5 acres, but there is nothing besides a few fruit trees and little bit of fencing that is farm-ready about this place. We have no barn (or even a garage!), the fence is in poor shape, the pastures are way overgrown, and there is no garden at all. Getting this farm established is going to take a lot of hard work just getting the infrastructure in place. Not to mention, schooling myself in the fine art of animal husbandry. Right now, we're taking a hard look at dairy goats, pigs, turkeys, angora bunnies and possibly Dexter cattle. It's a good thing that we have a long, cold winter coming up - I'm going to need a little Winter's rest before the madness of Spring descends.

In the mean time, just for my own notes, I will try to post daily what we've harvested from our not-quite-yet farm. ;)

For today -
3 eggs
1 lb, 4 oz of blackberries