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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 is almost at it's end.  We have so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to.  The older I get, the more amazed I am at how quickly time flys by.  Wasn't it February just a few months ago?  How did summer come and go so quickly?   How did Caelum get taller than me? How did Ruby and Olivia become such big girls? 
I called Marci a few days ago to establish (in my mind) how old the kids are.  I STILL can't get it straight ...  I think the kids are MUCH younger than they are.  I am not sure how time slips away as it seems to do.  I still see Emilia as a 4 year old.  Shelby and Josef are still very small.  Caelum ... not nearly 13 .... Ruby and Olivia are still babies.  Lily, is still the baby she was the last time I held her.  Abi ... holy cow, she can't be 16 .... she is still that little girl I met when she was 3.  OK, enough of this .... on to today!
I really wish the kids were here with us as we end the year. They are young enough to ring in the new year ..... Me, I think it is close enough now.  Happy new year.  Off to bed I go!

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Adventures in cheese making

I have wanted to learn crafts like cheese making for years.  Along my journey I have learned things like soapmaking, butter making, bread making etc.  All of these things I have learned on my own.  This summer I met someone who raises his own cows and I started buying milk from him.   We formed a friendship and talked a lot about cheese making.   He has been wonderful and blesses me with a lot of milk to play with. 
My first attempts at cheese making made me realize I needed a mentor.  I had no idea what I was doing wrong, but I ruined gallons and gallons of raw milk.  Finally a couple of weeks ago I was successful ... and my cheese turned out the way it was supposed to.  I think I finally understood some things I just didn't "get" before.  I have made 4 batches of hard cheese that seem to have turned out.  I was OK with the soft cheese ... it was easy and I "got it", but now I "get" the hard cheese!!!  Yippee!!!  I am so excited for the cheese to age and I am able to taste the fruits of my labors!  (I am still looking for a mentor)

Remember the nursery story about little miss muffet?  Curds and whey are exactly what I am working toward here.  In this photo the curds have formed are are waiting for me to cut them and get started with the cheese making

Here the curds have been cut into small chunks.  They still have a lot of the liquid in them so they will have to be pressed to get the liquid out of them

The curds have been placed in the mold in a cheese cloth.  I am pressing them with 50 pounds of weight.  I have to figure out how to place the weights better so I am not putting so many pieces on the board.
And this is the final product.  Well, it is the cheese waiting to be aged.  I wish you could see the labels on the back two blocks.  Olivia wrote them for me.  I love reading her little girl printing.  She is so talented.  After they have formed a hard rind and dried out a bit they are waxed and left to age.  Hard cheese needs to age from a month or two up to years depending on the type of cheese.  I can't wait to try some of this stuff!!!!
There is a lot more to cheese making, but I am not trying to teach, only to share my new found hobby.  Most people have lots of questions, my best answer come help me make some.  That will likely answer a lot of questions.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I am so in love with my life.  I must say I would never be where I am without Phil to push me.  I was SO afraid to take this plunge and buy Pooh Acres.  What if I loose my job?  What if we can't make the payments?  What if the house in Omaha doesn't sell?  Guess what.  Phil lost his job 20 months ago, and we didn't sell the house in Omaha, and we have still managed to make the payments on this place.  I think it went ment to be!
On the weekends I love waking up to the roosters crowing .... During the week I have to rush and get ready for work, so I don't get to enjoy this time.  I went out this morning to let them out, and they were all so excited to get out and scratch.  Phil made a door into the lower garden so they are able to get in there and scratch and poop to their hearts content. 
Today I am going to start a new "adventure".  I have been wanting to make cheese for a long time, but the cost is prohivitive, and I didn't have time during the summer.  This summer I made friends with two guys who have a couple a cows.  I have been buying milk from them since we got out new  (and much cooler) refigerator.  I am not a milk drinker, but I love the by products.  Brad (the owner of the cows) is very supporative of my learning efforts and gives me a lot more milk than I pay for.  I have experimented with cottage cheese, keifer and a few simple cheeses. 
I told Phil I was going to build a cheese press this weekend.  I have the plans, I know what I need.  Yesterday he bought all of the componets and started putting it together for me.  We still have a few "bugs" to work out, but not many. 
I bought a gallon of milk on Thursday and Brad gave me 3 more.  I brought it into into the house a little while ago to skim the cream off (for butter) and then ........ I am off on my first big cheese making adventure.  Who knows, Pooh Acres could be a cheese adventure in a few years!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hang the underwear in the middle

Every since I was a kid I was taught to hang your clothing around your unmentionables. You did not want a passerby or neighbor looking at them. When I was little we lived at then end of a 2 mile driveway so if someone came to see us, they were there to see US. I understand that hobo’s did come up to the house from the railroad tracks from time to time, so maybe that is why mom was so specific about it. When we moved “to town” we were still on an acreage with very few neighbors, but there was a road close to the house. I have always stuck to the same rule; strangers don’t need to see your underwear. Phil didn’t do a lot of laundry before he became unemployed 19 months ago. He has been doing the laundry a lot more lately, and it is funny to see that I have taught him that same paranoia.

I enjoy hanging my laundry out. Not for the energy saving reason (although that plays into it) but for the reality check. When I come home I leave the city and the craziness behind. I hang our clothing out for God to kiss and make smell wonderful. I love Saturday nights when I get clean sheets. I wash my mattress pad way to often just so I get that wonderful smell. Why would you use a dryer if you had the choice?

I have been working on making some money from Pooh Acres. I put the word out on the meat chickens, and had the sold in an hour. I made some harbanaro jelly and took samples to work. I sold all of that, and I am thinking about making one last batch from the end of the peppers. I have honey at my desk and sell a few jars every week. People tease me about someday being self sufficient. That would be wonderful if it would someday happen.

I came home tonight to find one of the chickens had an impacted egg (at least that is what I was told last time it happened). The last time I followed all the advice and “nursed” the chicken for a week giving her medicine and doing things that I never want to do to a chicken again. She was miserable and died anyway. I didn’t want to do that with this chicken. I told Phil I was going to butcher her tonight, she was slotted to be butchered this fall anyway. I am always sad to see one of our girls die, but I feel so good about providing our own food. She will be a great pot of chicken and dumplings tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The journey continues

I never wanted to raise the fast growing chickens we have now. I had read enough about them to know they didn't really have a life. When they are day old chickens the look like a "normal" chicken but that soon changes. This chicken is intended to eat and sleep. Our chickens are 7 weeks old and are larger than the 14 week old chickens we butchered earlier this year. I feel so bad for them because they don't want to move. They are happy to simply sit and eat. We have an appointment to butcher next Saturday and I am hoping they will last that long. One we looked at this evening is having a difficult time walking, not that they WANT to walk much. There is a possibility some of them will actually break a leg before next weekend because they have grown so quickly.
This is not a way for any creature to live. I feel joy when I listen to my layers. I feel wonder when I see a chicken sitting on her eggs to hatch them. When I work in the garden I listen to the happy clucking of the hens, or the excited bragging when one of them has just laid an egg. This is normal and good.
The meat from these chickens is fantastic. Phil likes it because one chicken will fill an entire platter. Our heritage chickens tasted fantastic, but were kind of skinny!
I think we took on to much this year. We started spring with 125 new birds and now another 50 plus all the layer hens. We have not had a summer. Next year, I think we will downsize some. (But people LOVE the eggs).
Enough ranting for tonight. Off to bed I go.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tribute to Pinky

We started our chicken journey last spring when I found 2 leghorns on Craigslist for sale. We drove over to Carter Lake Iowa and met the family they were living with at that time. We fell in love with the chickens and the family. We named one Pinky because she had somehow gotten pink hair dye on her from the “mom” who had bright pink hair. The other was Whitey, because she obviously was white.
Our chicken journey went kind of crazy from there. These two small chickens became the core of our flock. We could always pick them out and they came to us by name. We also added another favorite, Red our Rhode Island Red who came just a bit later. Last winter all of the chickens got sick with a cold. We lost quite a few of them, including Whitey and Red.
A few days ago Phil called me at work and said Pinky was acting strange. She didn’t come to him and just didn’t look good. Yesterday we went to put the chickens to bed before the storm hit and Phil found Pinky lying beside one of the sheds dead. We always said she would live here until her time was over, we didn’t realize it would be so soon. She hasn’t laid an egg for quite some time but that didn’t really matter. We love all of the animals here on Pooh Acres. I know they are supposed to be livestock but they are Gods creatures first and foremost. I am thankful she lived a good and peaceful life and I am thankful she spent the last year with us.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chickens and stuff

Oh my, what a night! While I was still at work a thunder storm warning was issued. I went out to the parking lot to close the window on the car and the sky was blue with a few puffs of clouds. Absolutely beautiful!!! By the time I left for home the sky looked kind of funny but it was still nice out. Not long after I got home the clouds rolled in and the sky opened up. We were able to get the chickens into the run just before the downpour. The rain didn’t last long but we stayed in. A while ago it started raining A LOT! The wind was blowing the rain into the windows in the front of the house and in the back at the same time!! I went outside to see why there was so much noise …. We had hail the size of quarters falling! I am concerned about the roof on the house and the cars! The weather in the Midwest is so DRASTIC! I wonder what the gardens are going to look like in the light of day. We are still under a thunder storm/tornado warning but I think the worst is over.
We got new chickens 2 weeks ago (today!) We decided to get the fast growing “broilers” that are ready in 7 or 8 weeks. I am already not happy raising these chickens. When we had the heritage chickens … they were chickens. They played and raced around their brooder. These chickens just kind of sit there. We saw a few of them chest bumping and playing but for the most part they don’t. I feel bad raising these chickens. This doesn’t seem natural or right. It feels like killing a fish in fish bowl! They have no chance. Our heritage chickens had fun. They ran and played and enjoyed life. I guess I shouldn’t over think it …. but I live with these animals and I want to make them as happy and comfortable as possible.
I harvested the rest of the sweet corn a few days ago. I was so sad to find out that the deer had eaten most of corn in the upper garden. They ate part of every ear in that patch. It is OK …. I am willing to share part of my harvest with the wildlife. Thankfully they haven’t found the blackberries and grapes.
I can’t believe how large the blackberries are. Some of them are twice the size of a quarter. They are so sweet and wonderful Yummm. We have grapes for the first time this year as well. I STILL don’t have them staked so they are laying on the ground and rotting. Hopefully I will be able to get them staked soon. Apparently the are not eating grapes …. But juice grapes. I don’t think I will make wine … but maybe jelly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

to market to market to buy a fat chicken

I remember Mom reciting the childrens poem, to market to maket to buy a fat pig, to market to market to buy a fat hog. We don't have any pigs at Pooh acres but we sure have a lot of chickens. I am certain that I have talked about a fateful Sunday when I was playing on the computer and told Phil that I ran across this wonderful "deal" for chickens. If you buy 100 meat chickens you get 3 free ducks!!! Plus I could get a great deal on 25 layers that will give us lots of colored eggs. He, apparently not really listening to me said sure, whatever you want to do. So, I ordered 125 chickens to be delivered toward the end of March. It didn't "sink in" for a while what we committed ourselves to. We didn't have a place to keep them when they were little. We really didn't have a big enough chicken yard for them. Heck, we had no idea what we were even doing!!!!!!
So, on that fateful morning of March 23 I got the call from the post office at 5:30 AM to come get them. It was COLD that day. We had to change plans in mid stream in bring a horse trough into the kitchen so we could keep the babies warm. We have somehow struggled through the growing process and only killed a few chickens. We have both learned to open our hearts to these feathered creatures who touched us in so many ways.
I have learned to butcher these birds, but I always give them a hug and tell them thank you! I don't ever want to be de-sensitized to the killing of an animal.
Today we took 66 of our birds to be slaughtered in a USDA approved plant. We got everything ready last night so we just had to catch the birds and get on the road. I was OK with catching them and stuffing them into cages. I was OK with knowing what was going to happen to them. I WASN'T OK with seeing how them were handled. When I butcher I am careful to hug each bird and tell them how much I appreciate their sacrifice. When this kid butchered he didn't care that I have spent every day for the last 4 months with these birds. It was simply a job to him. He didn't care that I knew each bird by sight (sorta) and knew how they were going to act. He didn't care that I had fed each of these birds by hand crooning to them all. He didn't care that each of these birds had been petted and loved by both of us. It was just a job to him.
We left after they were all butchered, wating to be processed. I have to admit that I shed a few tears .... and I believe Phil did as well. I wonder if this is really what we should be feeling. But, then again, I don't want to not have feelings for our animals. I want to be aware of the sacrifice.
We are home, I feel totally drained. I fed our layers and gave them water. I huged a few of them and fed them watermelon rinds. I went to visit Momma and her new baby. She worked so hard (no babies the first time so continued to sit until we gave her another 4 eggs to try again)
One of the 4 hatched.
What am amazing life we have. I wonder why our country gave up living this way. I have such a hard time going into the city every day and working from 7 - 4. I am loosing so much time that could be spent out here, growing, harvesting and preserving. I think that is what God intended us to do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Olivia and chicken feet

Spring is here, and the craziness of summer is my life. The garden got such a late start because of the rain and cold temperatures. I started thinking I would never get seeds in the ground.
The last few weeks have been productive. It looks like almost everything is popping up, and the gardens look good. I am running very low on mulch, so nothing is mulched the way it should be. The weeds are running rampant.
I am excited about the “upper garden”. This was an area chest high in weeds when we moved here. I started taming the area by laying cardboard down and covering it with hay or leaves. Two years ago I planted berry plants up there. Last year I planted a few vegetables up there. This year, thanks to lots of manure, mulch, and time I have planted corn, popcorn, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, quiwa etc. I don’t know if they will live through the deer. Rabbits etc, but I will give it a try. I would really like to keep it natural and unfenced, but I don’t know if that is possible. I went up tonight to check on everything and found that I forgot to cover the popcorn rows after I planted them. Guess what happened??? The birds ate all of the seeds. I replanted it all tonight. The corn I planted last week is coming up, and I am excited to see what grows to harvest.
I am gaining a bigger and bigger following for my eggs and vegetables. The poor chickens can’t lay fast enough for my customers. I am amazed at work when I hear people talk about how good the eggs are, and they would never go back to store bought eggs.
OK, I wrote that several weeks ago .. Time just gets away from me, especially this time of year!!
Phil and I decided we needed to butcher a chicken or two to see how big they really are. Saturday Phil and his friend went into Glenwood to garage sale and run some errands. While they were gone I caught three chickens and butchered them. I was disappointed that they were so small. I was hoping to send them off to the butcher soon but that is not going to happen. They ended up weighing only 3# dressed. I must say, they tasted wonderful! We grilled one with Dorothy Lynch dressing brushed on the skin and Phil beer can grilled another (using coke). The last one is in the freezer.
One of the cool things about chickens is they will eat almost anything. A few weeks ago when I butchered a pig I boiled the head thinking I would make head cheese ….. I just could not do it so I gave all of that to the chickens. They picked the skull clean in no time flat! After I finished butchering the chickens I gave them all of the innards and feet. The only thing I threw away was the feathers and head.
Saturday evening Delana and the kids came over (to wish Grandpa happy Fathers day). The kids love running around and getting into everything. Olivia was in the chicken run and came out with 2 chicken feet. She was waving them around walking them etc. She wanted to know if she could keep them and take them home. I of course was laughing so hard tears were running down my cheeks. I told her she had to ask her Mom … Mom, the vegetarian of course totally freaked and said a resounding NO!
Later I asked Caelum to help me give Mable a haircut (his job is to hold her on the table). Olivia saw all the black dog hair on the ground and wanted to that THAT home as well. Mom didn’t understand that either! (I have to wonder what the kids want with all the junk they want to take home from here)
I wish all the kids were here … I would love to have grandloves out here all the time!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


The Missouri River is flooding. We are told it is going to get very bad. We ran into town yesterday to get a couple of things ..... I told Phil I had a lot to do so we could not dawdle. We decided we needed to look at the River and see for ourselves what is happening. Three hours later, we had driven over to Pacific Junction, into Plattsmouth, and back through Bellevue. In PJ, it was a steady line of tucks bringing dirt in to build a burm around the water treatment plant, building up the RR tracks (that is a major line) and around the few businesses that are there. It made me cry to see the people packing their household into trucks are preparing to leave. From there we drove the back road down to the river. We wanted to see an area that last year was hit so hard. We were again stopped by huge trucks with dirt trying to protect the railroads. When we got to the road we wanted to check out it said road closed, so we drove on to get to the other entrance. When we go there, the road was gone. It was nothing but water. Last year these brand new houses were surrounded by water, and could not even use their driveway so I am pretty sure the houses are or will soon be under water this year. Then we got to the river. We were both amazed .... The recreation area our neighbors are part of was entirely under water. The fields that we normally see are now part of the river. I have never seen the MO River this huge. Phil said as we were driving over this narrow bridge that he did not want to come over this bridge again until the flooding is over.
After the bridge you drive up a steep hill then back down into Plattsmouth. Through the trees I caught a glimpse of the river area..... Where there used to be a wildlife preserve, and a recreation area was nothing but water... When we got down the hill into town the road was blocked so we were not able to get any closer, but it looked like it was totally under water to the rail road tracks.
From there we drove north into Bellevue. We crossed over the Platt river ... totally out of its banks and into the farm land. There is a bar and grill on Hwa 75 with a sign that says boat parking soon. It's good to see some humor in all of this.
Going into Bellevue was heart wrenching. The baseball field we spent so much time at last year was under water. The campground that flooded last year was much worse this year. The waters are close to the road, I don't think people will be able to use that bridge much longer. I was worried about the Iowa side, but I think the NE side is going to flood first. The water is very close to the road at the toll booth. It won't take much more to close it.
Back into Iowa we drove along a back road closer to the river than we are .... People are packing up preparing to leave. Houses are businesses are sandbagged ready for the water. My heart was so heavy watching them pack and preparing to leave their homes. I don't know what they are feeling, but I am sure their hearts are broken, and they must feel tattered....
I am so thankful to live where we do. I think I will be able to get to work even under the worst of conditions but if not I have a great place to be safe. Phil and I talked yesterday about what if's ......and how would I. I think I can get to work, going some back roads.
Thankfully we are high and dry. There is no way we can be flooded by this situation, (not saying that we could never be flooded)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial day weekend

Well, here it is Memorial day weekend already. It is hard to believe it is almost June. The weather is still frightful. We are getting so much rain, and the high today was only 55.
The chicks are getting so big. They are not big enough to butcher yet, but getting closer. Phil said when he went to feed them today they flew onto his shoulder to get food from him. We certainly need to clip some wings!
Well, I started this two days ago, and just now getting back to it. Friday night we went to a movie in Glenwood. It is always nice to have a “date night”. Yesterday was spent working in the garden. Today I woke to rain, so was not able to work outside. I cleaned my office!!! That may not sound like a big deal but it was! In our house when we don’t know what to do with something it ends up in the office or my bedroom. After a while it is overwhelming! Next I need to tackle my bedroom! I am in the mood to de-clutter, so I have a load to take to Goodwill.
One of the cool things I uncovered today (I had simply forgotten about it) was a year book from 1924. I asked for some advice and found a new owner for it. I didn’t want it …. But didn’t know what to do with it. Now, it will be used for the annual alumni banquet in Weeping Water.
This afternoon I was able to go outside and work in the garden. I have all the starter plants replanted (after they were frozen or flooded out)…. I still need to plant some seeds, but it is looking really good. I have new/different plants to try this year. I am excited to see what happens with my ground cherries. From what I read, they are sweet and wonderful. I am also trying different grains. Hopefully we can use some of the grains to feed the chickens.
Delana invited us to go to a baseball game with them on Tuesday. Olivia won a free ticket because she read so much during the school year. I am excited to go because I have not been to the new ballpark yet. I don’t know if the girls will be “into” the game, but Dora the Explorer will be there on Tuesday, so I know they will like that. Grandpa is excited to take his mitt and hopefully catch a ball.
Well, here it is the next day ….. gosh it takes me a while to get things done. This is the last day of my 3 day weekend. I need to get some seeds in the ground. The kids are coming over in a bit, so I will have some help. I wish I could stay home every day. I think I would get so much done (or maybe not). I keep thinking ahead …. In only 10+ years I will be able to stay at home all day long. I wish I had been born rich so I could do that now. LOL I really love my weekend life. If I could figure out how to pay the mortgage and not go to work. I would be a happy camper!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring time!

I am not sure where to begin. Life has been so busy lately. The weather has been so crazy. Last week we had a freeze, and earlier this week it was almost 100 degrees. I decided to take Friday off to work in the garden. It rained buckets on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Today (Saturday) have been cold and nasty! I am worried that I am not going to get the garden in and still have time to grow and harvest.
Phil has been working so hard the last few weeks to get water down to the chicken coop. It is a pain to carry water down to the chickens every day. It wasn’t bad when we had only 30 chickens. Now that we have all these babies it is a lot of work. He always “over does” everything, so I now have water to the chickens AND to both garden areas. I am so excited. This is going to be so nice this summer. He is a wonderful husband!
The chicks have taken so much time since March. We had them in the house for a couple of weeks. After that to the barn. They were so little at first and the brooder seemed so big for them. Phil made the brooder out of a shelf that was in Delanas old house. She was going to leave it, so he pulled it out and brought it home. It is a 2 story model with a ramp between so the chicks can go between the two levels. About 6 weeks later the chicks had outgrown the brooder. Last Sunday we moved them to the chicken coop. Phil (gosh that man does a lot around here) made an area for only the babies. They are separated by a fence, so when the time comes they will all know each other. Anyway, last Sunday we moved them. We put them in a cage, 20 at a time and moved them. The first load Phil held the cage and I caught and put them in. After it was done we looked at my arms and realized I was bleeding. Those chicks had scratched me with their toe nails everywhere. I put a long sleeve shirt on for the rest of the journey. When I went to work the next day my boss said it looked like I got into a fight with a bear! They are much happier in the larger space.
This afternoon was warmer and I ventured out to the garden to plant. It is still to cold, but I planted tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, melons, and beans. I still have so much to plant, and I wonder how I will get it done. It always gets done but I wonder how?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chicken talk

It’s been quite a while since I have blogged. It’s not that I have been to busy, I think I just had nothing to write about. Our life out here is pretty quiet. I go to work and then come home. Phil doesn’t get out very often at all. I am happy with this kind of life. Phil complains about the chickens and how much work they are, but I think he likes them too. They are all getting so big, they need to go outside to the run but the weather is not cooperating. It is still pretty cold. I can’t wait to get them outside and let them get some fresh air. I’m sure they are looking forward to that as well.
It is funny to watch them mature. Most of the meat chickens (if not all) are roosters. They are chest bumping each other and starting to tussle around. When we come to feed them they rush the door trying to get the first piece of food. One jumped out last weekend and we chased it for a while. Phil told me that 8 of them jumped out this morning … and he had no one to help him. Apparently he managed to catch them all and get them settled in again.
The ducks got a new home a couple of days ago. The rooster we were keeping to butcher found a new home. Phil’s buddy wanted him, so the cage in the barn was now free for new animals. These poor ducks are so much bigger than the chicks, but apparently the chicks pick on them and pull their feathers out. Phil is hoping the ducks will be pets rather than livestock. I personally hope that at least one of them is a female. Duck eggs are great! If two were female and one a male that would be perfect. I’d love to have some little ducks following her around.
I have been doing very well selling eggs. Last Monday I had 8 dozen eggs and no customers in sight. I posted them on a local food web site and I took some to work. The last two weeks have been crazy. Phil and I have not had any eggs at home because so many people want them. I sure hope that keeps up. I took some of the honey from last year to work with me as well. I was sold out in 2 days! Now I have people anxiously awaiting my garden. I hope I am able to grow enough to have what we need plus sell to these people. I have been trying to find a way to make Pooh acres pay for itself. Maybe I am on the way.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March madness

Spring is here ... or almost.  Tomorrow is the Official first day of spring.  Every day I see more signs that winter is (almost) over.  The trees are starting to come to life.  I see grass coming back.  The bees are out buzzing and collecting necter. 
I took today off from work.  It is so nice to have a 3 day weekend and get some things done.  I started laundry then realized that the neighbors were burning down the hillside.... that would not be a problem except now my laundry (hung outside) smells like smoke.   Oh well ....
I did a full inspection of the bee hives today.  The spring inspection is always quite long ... trying to find the queen ( I can never find her!!) and making  sure there are eggs and larve.  I swaped positions of the boxes so they can build up (the way they like to do).  They look really good.  I am so happy to see them healthy.  This is the first year I was able to winter them over.  I am excited to see how they grow this summer.
The chickens are doing well. I am so excited that they are once again paying for themselves. The price of chicken food has raised so much we had to raise the price of our eggs, so far it doesn't seem to matter to our customers! I am thankful for my loyal customers. I think if I had more eggs I could sell them all. People love farm fresh eggs. We are trying to incorporate the "sick chicks" and the babies into the flock. I have never seen a cock fight until today. I am wondering if it would have been worse if they were not brothers and raised together??? It was amazing to see they actually drew blood! I think we are going to have to cull one of the roosters. I don't think they can live together anymore. I really try to be objective and never get attached but I still do. The chickens are still pets. I still cry when I have to butcher them.
I am getting ready for planting season.  The beans I harvested last fall for seed were still sitting in my shed ....  so I needed to harvest them.  They are now ready to be planted. 
Last summer I bought a bunch of seeds at an auction and I wanted to make sure they are good seeds.  These seeds were stored in jars  in the worst possible conditions.  They still seem to have survived. The chickens are enjoying the sprouts!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another day on Pooh Acres

What a year this has been already. We are certainly newby chicken farmers .. but I didn’t think we would be such BAD chicken farmers. We have tried to follow all the rules, as far as we understood them.

Since bringing chickens to our home last summer we have learned a lot. I thought I knew so much (being raised by farmers and around farm animals) but the longer we have animals the less I realize I know. I had no idea that chickens can catch a cold that will turn into pnemonia. We lost quite a few chickens….. I didn’t count and I don’t want to know. We not only lost the chickens, we lost all the eggs from ALL of the chickens for a minimum of a month. Last weekend was the climax of the illness. Our favorite hen, our only Rhode Island Red got sick and died in Phil’s arms. It appears that the worst is over, we have two hens that are still suffering, the rest seem to be much better. In a couple of weeks the medicine will be out of their system and we will once again get back to selling eggs. My customers are understanding and anxious to get back to production.

I have been getting up at 3:45 every (weekday) morning and going to the gym before work. Although it is good for my body, it makes me very tired and probably cranky. Phil says I pretty much fade out after dinner. I try to sleep in on the weekends to “catch up”. Sleeping in for me is 7 AM!! I had planned to get up at 7 because we have some things to do this morning but at 6:45 I was awakened by a loud Cock a doodle doo from the barn area.

I am amazed to see Phil becoming more and more like my dad. They never met so this is kind of crazy. Phil was a city boy. He used to pay his guys to take care of his garden! He had never lived in the country, never taken care of machinery etc he paid his workers to do all of that. (He owned a sprinkler business) Now, living out here he is maintaining all of the machinery. He builds whatever needs to be built, and he keeps this place running. He will take some scrap wood and make a chicken “hospital” or fix something that I would have thought unfixable. Every day he is growing more like dad in all the good ways.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reinventing Myself

I sometimes feel as if the person I was four years ago is gone and replaced by someone else, not entirely but in many ways. The person I used to be enjoyed going out frequently. I was an avid follower of the local arts and went to many productions of theater, opera, etc.

The new me. I really love to stay home. Our house is not beautiful. It is not a house to entertain in and I don’t really like it. Our land is breathtaking. I am so happy that I feel like I am in a place I belong. I love watching the gardens grow and change. It is so exciting to pull up a fresh sweet carrot unlike anything you will ever get in a store. The blackberries are so sweet and juicy; you mouth smiles without realizing it.

Winter is tough. I go through a time when I am at least somewhat depressed. The lack of sunshine affects me more than many people. I try really hard, but it still makes me crazy. I have found a new project this winter. My boss, Dale, is a hunter. We hit it off when we first met, and have been building a friendship every since. He brought me some deer meat a while back and I made it into jerky. Since then I found that you can request deer meat from hunter who want to hunt but don’t want the meat. I butchered my first deer a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Phil went with me to pick it up and by the time we got home it was pretty late, so left it for a few days (it was quite cold outside). The day I worked up my courage it was still cold outside! Phil helped me drag her into the garage and onto a makeshift table. He said it was up to me to do this, and he played Packman.

The first cut was the most difficult. I started at the neck and skinned her out. I was surprised that I got it done so quickly. Cutting the meat off was not difficult, but I am sure I didn’t get all the cuts right. I washed it all off the next day and started making jerky. The rest I froze until I am ready to start on it again. I was amazed that I was able to do that! I am (was) pretty wimpy. My next step I guess is to actually go out into the yard and shoot one all by myself.

I started another new project recently. I have always wanted to make a rag rug. I have been saving wool and denim for quite some time to complete this project. I broke out the denim and started cutting it into pieces and then started the project. I want to braid one and crochet the other. This one is crocheted. I think I started out with a fabric that was to thick for a novice. It is going together, and honestly I think it is going to look pretty darn good, but it would have been easier with thinner fabric. I will post a photo when it is done. I think if I cut more tonight I may be able to finish this over the weekend. I think that the braided rug is next on my agenda.

We have been struggling with sick chickens lately. Some of them have caught a cold (I didn’t realize that happened). We have them on Antibiotics and away from the rest of the laying hens. They will have to stay isolated for a while until all that gets out of their system ….. so we don’t eat the antibiotics. One poor chicken has a really icky eye. Phil is building her a special isolation cage to keep her away from the rest. I am not sure if she is going to make it or not.

In September I got 3 baby chicks for free. Phil raised them by hand in his garage then built them a HUGE cage in the barn. We found out last week that at least one of the three is a rooster. I was out in the garage feeding them when he crowed! It startled me … then he did it again! We did some research about how to trim their spurs and keep us a little safer when he is big. Our last rooster was pretty hard on the hens. I wonder if we will have some babies this spring?