The Last Couple of Weeks

We haven’t been too busy around here.  We basically only came out of hibernation on the weekends since it was beautiful weather the last two weeks.  It really felt like spring and we were looking forward to the things we could get done outside only to wake up to this…

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Ugh.  I. AM. SO. SICK. OF. SNOW.

Torran got the tractor to start (yea!) and he was able to drive it into the barn.  Now he can tinker with it until it is time to till up the garden area.

Speaking of which, the garden is being planned and we have decided to till up the baseball diamond in the back yard.  We have no kids and we don’t have big parties (we are working on changing that) so there’s no real need for it.  Besides, Torran wants to put in a horseshoe pit – that’s waaaay more our speed.

We’ve purchased the supplies to start our seeds indoors and I’m starting to get more and more nervous because the business is finally moving forward.  I’ll be happy if I sell just a few vegetables this year.  I knew it will take a couple of years to really get up and running, and to remodel the barn for the store, so I have really relaxed expectations for this first year.

I am excited to grow nine varieties of tomatoes, seven of which are heirlooms (most of our plants are heirlooms and we plan on using only organic pest/disease/weed control).  Why heirlooms?  There are various reasons, but the big ones for us are they are they taste better and they’re open pollinated, meaning we can save the seeds.

I’m also looking forward to white cucumbers, red carrots, purple cauliflower, purple beans, and a popcorn that looks like glass beads (all heirloom)!  There’s so much more I can’t wait.  So nerve-wracking yet exciting; I don’t know if I want to jump up and down with joy or go cry in the corner.  This type of reaction is normal, right?  Right?!?!?

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In other news, our baby chickens (as I call them, they are 15 weeks old and not really babies anymore.  Technically they’re called pullets) have ventured outside for the first time.  Well, okay, fine, they were *gently thrown* outside; more of a small leap from my hands to the ramp and then a slight push to keep moving.  Yeah, that’s what happened.

After catching all 12 and “placing” them outside, we closed off their door so they’d have to stay out there.  That lasted half an hour – I’m such a softie.  However, they’ve been going out by themselves now and in the next few weeks (if it ever stops snowing) we’ll take down the separation fence and let them interact with the rooster and the hens.  I hope they don’t fight, but I know I can’t stop it. Maybe I should take a few shots before we integrate them.  Or ten.

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That’s it.  February was a slow month.  March is coming in like a lion so far (again, ugh, snow).  Hopefully spring arrives soon (come on March 20th!) otherwise I really am going to be really drunk and crying in a corner.  😉

Oh January…How I hate Thee.

January, in my opinion, is the worst month out of the year.  It is cold, dreary, grey, rainy, snowy, frozen, boring, and miserable.  Just.  Plain.  Miserable.  This January was a little more exciting than others (but not in a good way to most people); running out of LP gas, the water pipes freezing in the barn, the driveway turning into a dangerous downhill skating rink, Torran totaling his Jeep, and dealing with the lowest of  lifeforms known to man – the car salesman.

One would think, “get out while you can!  Who knows what the rest of the year will bring!”  Oh no no no, not us!  We are stubbornly determined to conquer the setbacks that happen and to turn this little hobby farm into a money-making enterprise (at least making enough to feed the animals and us – we aren’t greedy).  Perhaps the most important lesson we have learned since we’ve moved here – don’t kill each other when the going gets tough!  This month has certainly taught us that.  We have learned to laugh in the face of disappointment, to smile at a challenge, and to snicker at provocation!  (At least after screaming into and punching a pillow.)  What keeps us going?  The thought of what can and will be.

One thing that will happen this spring is pigs!  Take a look at this little face…we can’t wait to see what conundrums we’ll face when they get here.  Not to mention the abundance of pork we’ll have in the fall (which we’ll be selling).

We got to meet the litters we will be getting a pig from this year!
We got to meet the litters we will be getting a pig from this year!

Another adventure that better happen soon concerns our hens laying eggs.  They are 27 weeks old and we were told they start anywhere from 24-28 weeks.  I go out to feed them in the morning and looks for eggs, but have been disappointed every  morning so far. Ugh.  I’m having a hard time being patient; I keep telling myself it will be worth it one of these days.  Patient is something I’m not, but the farm is helping me to learn good things are worth waiting for.

The rooster, on the other hand, has grown by leaps and bounds and is now crowing (which scared me when he first did it because I was not expecting it) and is trying to get his jollies off with the ladies.  Did you know roosters crow anytime during the day, not just in the morning?  Wonderful.

 

Cock-a-doodle-doo!
Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Animals need water and so I have been going to the other barn each day and filling up the chicken water buckets and lugging them back to their coops.  Until we lifted the handle one morning and it was frozen.  It was below zero out at night for a while and something like twenty below with the windchill so we shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were.  For the last couple weeks I have been lugging my trusty red bucket named Ralph (ha, get it?) from the house to the barn with lukewarm water for the cats and the chickens to drink.  I am happy to report I checked the well this morning and we have running water again!  Ralph is being retired for the time being.

Ralph, get it?
Ralph, get it?

So while I was lugging Ralph out to the barn I had to traverse our driveway…only our driveway was a SOLID SHEET OF ICE.

This is after we spread 200 pounds of salt and had a couple days over 33 degrees.  It may look like snow - nope, ALL ICE.  Fun times.
This is after we spread 200 pounds of salt and had a couple of days over 33 degrees. It may look like snow – nope, ALL ICE. Fun times.

While this could be good if we owned ice skates (I grew up ice skating but I don’t know that I have ever seen my husband ice skate…hmmm…future project slash dare).  Anyway, I am proud to report I have not fallen at all but I have wobbled a couple of times; I’m sure I just cursed myself, great.  I am hoping we can continue on with the warmer weather so the rink will turn into a mud pit…but that is an adventure for another time.

P.S.  Stay tuned for our adventure/nightmare with car salesmen – it will not disappoint!

Nesting Boxes

Our older chickens are now 19 weeks and they should start laying any week now.  This past weekend we decided to build nesting boxes for them.  Neither Torran or I have expansive carpentry skills, but I think we did alright!

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The boxes are on the outside of the coop so we don’t lose space on the inside since we have 12 more birds to add in a couple of months.  It has three nesting areas in it and a bar to help them get reach the boxes.  We  have plans to do another box on the right of this one.  Eventually we will have two more boxes below these.

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We’ve heard that putting a dummy egg, such as a golf ball, inside the nesting boxes help.  So here we are with golf balls in our boxes, patiently waiting for eggs.  Any day now, ladies, any day.

I’m a new mom…to baby chicks!

Two weeks old.
Two weeks old.

It all started with me seeing a post on a Facebook page from the chicken lady.  She had two-week old Buff Orpingtons for sale.  Well, I messaged her she said she also had Silver Laced Wyandottes, Barred Rocks, and Light Brahmas too.  Decisions, decisions!  What kind would I get?  How many of each kind?  I debated back and forth and talked to Torran about it.  He was ok with it as long as I took care of them and we didn’t get too many for the coop.  I did some math, hemmed and hawed some more, decided I wouldn’t get them – who wants to take care of baby chicks in the winter?  Two days passed.  The next day I woke up and I was still thinking about them and so we are the proud owners of 12 baby chicks – three of each kind!  We now have 18 chickens.  No one told me they were this addicting…

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Chickens!!

We took the plunge and got our first farm animals – chickens!

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I didn’t grow up with chickens (well, we had one chicken given to us as a joke because my mother grew up with chickens and hates them) but the Hanauska farm across the street had chickens and I remember going into the coop when they had baby chicks – they were so cute!  That was the extent of my chicken experience until earlier this year when we went to the Racine County Fair and I was able to pet one and see all the different kinds.  I started warming up to the idea, but I was still concerned with the amount of work they might be – especially in the winter.  Who wants to go out to the barn in the middle of January when it’s five below out?!?

Torran was adamant and did all the research and so I finally caved and found a “chicken lady” right up the road from us.  Her name is Raegan and she raises hundreds, sometimes over a thousand, chickens each year to sell.  Check out her blog at www.comefarmwithme.com  and their farm’s website www.corner40farms.com.  She has an egg wagon she puts out everyday and the eggs are wonderful – much better than store-bought eggs!

We went to pick up the chickens and first we had to catch them.  Remember, I had never caught a chicken, much less held one.  I was scared (I know, I’m a little chicken myself, ha!).  She was so kind and told me it doesn’t hurt if they peck at you, how to grab them, and how to hold them.  After holding the first one I was hooked.  I didn’t catch any of them – Torran did all that work with a fish net (I think that’s what it was) while I loaded them into a dog carrier Raegan lent us.  I still feel bad that I didn’t wash out the carrier when I returned it – sorry Raegan!!

Torran catching chickens. Photo courtesy of Raegan Dexter.
Torran catching chickens. Picture courtesy of Raegan Dexter.
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Me holding my first chicken! Photo courtesy of Raegan Dexter.

They are Red Star chickens.  Red Stars can come from different red chicken breeds for the hen but are crossed with a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red rooster (read more about them at http://comefarmwithme.com/1200-chicks/ ). They are winter hardy and so they should be just fine in the barn during the winter.  

The big bad rooster…who is not so big and not so bad…he lets me pet him.

We had the coop, the roost, and an outside run so all we had to do was pick up a feeder, water bucket and feed.  We did all this the day before we got them so we were ready.  We released them into the coop and they just kind of sat there.  I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe for them to frolic around and be excited for their new home.  Nope, just blank, scared stares and they all huddled in the corner.  Bummer!  So we left them alone.

Their new home is ready!
Their new home is ready!

Over the next week or so they got used to us and were enjoying being outside in their run.  I went out one afternoon and could only find five of the seven.  Turns out something ate one and one was hiding in some big weeds; the others were inside.  Time to get a roof over the run!

We cobbled together some chicken wire and now they are safe from predators.  I felt bad their run was now smaller so I went to work to spiffy up their roost.  I added a cabbage on a string (I read this would be a good “toy” for them).  I also had seen chicken swings on the internet so I fashioned one out of a piece of wood and some twine.  They haven’t used it yet, but I am hopeful one day I will go out to visit and one will be swinging away!

Homemade chicken swing.
Homemade chicken swing.

Next spring I want to paint the coop, add some chicken decor, and give them a mirror to look into (I’ve read they like to look at themselves – vain little creatures).  We also need to extend the roof over the run so next spring will be busy!  In the meantime, I will be looking for more “toys” for the chickens…and no, I will not be crocheting them any little sweaters for the winter…unless I get extremely bored…

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