Sunday, August 31, 2008
We slept till noon today and when we woke up there was a card from Ian (Jim's 12 year old son) on the counter waiting for us. Inside was a sweet sentiment wishing us a happy anniversary and many more. The chickens gave us a gift too--two little eggs, one from Gertie and a second one from Sweetheart.
This is the second, and last, marriage for both of us. We've weathered some mighty storms, yet through them all we have always had each other's back. Nothing has been able to wreck this ship, not the ex, not the struggles, not the kids. We are a formidable team when we set out to accomplish our goals.
We didn't do anything out of the ordinary today, we just spent our day doing what we wanted to do. I cooked a nice meal for supper and Jim went swimming with Ian afterward. Derek played with his trains. Jim worked on some projects in the shop and I relaxed. Ahhh! How nice!
Ian asked if we were going to go anywhere for our anniversary and Jim said, "No, we're just going to spend our day where we're happy, at home." I truly am happiest at home. I yearn to be here when I'm at work. I look forward to everything home has to offer, including the work. I feel more satisfied now than I ever have at any other point in my life.
It's nice to know that I've got my childhood home and can share it with the man I love. I'm living my dream.
The picture above shows Rocky and Jim together. We haven't seen Rocky in over three weeks. He must have a family of his own now.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Since banana peppers are much smaller I had to cut the stuffing recipe in half. The recipe calls for one large egg, but I only needed a medium egg. I have five store bought eggs in the fridge, but I'm saving them for baking. What to do?
Rewind to earlier this afternoon. The boys and I noticed that Sweetheart, Derek's 19 week old Buff Orpington pullet, kept pacing in the chicken coop. She was hopping into the nest boxes and was agitated when I went in to clean the coop. She chose a nest and began rearranging the straw in it, then sat. It was hot in the coop and she was panting, but she wouldn't get out of the box.
I was busy making stuffed peppers in the kitchen and told Derek that I hoped Sweetheart was seriously laying an egg and not just fooling around in the nest boxes. I needed a medium egg to finish the peppers! Just about the time I was telling Derek to go coach his pullet, Ian rushed in with a lovely medium egg, still warm and damp, fresh from the chicken. Sweetheart delivered the goods! You just can't get any fresher than that! I cracked the pretty egg into the ground beef and finished making the peppers.
Sweetheart owes her life to Derek. If he hadn't named her she would be in my freezer right now. And I would be out of a medium egg!
Friday, August 29, 2008
I still don't know who is laying the eggs. This one is not as long and pointy as the first. Could it be from a different chook? I suspect the Australorps, a breed known for laying early, but no one is fessing up!
Did you lay this egg Lily? She's not talking.
How 'bout you Betty? Did you lay this egg? She just turned her rump to me and ignored me. I compared the egg to her fluffy butt. But Betty is a Barred Rock and shouldn't be mature enough to lay yet at 20 weeks.
The world may never know!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Finding the first egg was so exciting that I literally ran into the house.
"Guys! Guys! Come look! Our first egg!" I let each of the boys hold it in their hands to experience it for themselves. Jim held it up next to a store bought white egg and compared them. I marveled at this little treasure.
I was so sure one of the boys would find the first egg, but as luck would have it, it was me. I got such a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, a feeling that can only be felt by raising your own food and seeing the fruits of your labors come to light. Self-sufficiency is so gratifying.
Eggs symbolize many things. Eggs are a promise for the future. Eggs are full of hope. This little egg lifted my spirits and carried me through a long night at work. And when I came home this morning I fried my little egg in pure butter and ate it on a piece of buttered toast. Well, I did give Jim one little bite and he tried to snatch the rest from me, but I wasn't sharing! It was delicious!
Life is good!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
My week off has been so hectic that I don't really feel like I've had a week off. I don't ever remember being so busy. How does this happen? It seems that there is a never-ending list of things that need to be done around here.
The ducks are so big now it's hard to believe that they were ever small. I keep meaning to get an updated picture of them but it's very low on my list of priorities. We put them out in the shade of the spruce trees by the pond each morning and let them spend the day doing what ducks do...eat, poop, sleep. That's about it. Oh yes, they also are very cute and very sweet.
Derek started 8th grade football practice this week and his position is left tackle. Now, the only thing I know about football is that the ball is brown and pointed on both ends, so it's a little awkward being a "football mom" without any prior experience. Derek is very tired and sore this week but he's sticking to it. I gave him until Friday to change his mind but he's not backing out. He's made two new friends and feels that he's earned some respect amongst his peers. I'm glad to hear he's got some new friends; he was the new kid last year and I was worried because he didn't mention friends very often. He had to leave his buddies behind when we moved back home last August, so it's good to know that things are improving for him in the social department.
A bit of Derek trivia: at 5' 10" he's the 2nd tallest on his team. Somewhere between 12 and 13 boys experience a growth spurt that actually makes them skip a clothing size. Derek went from a boys 18 to a mens small within the span of 3 months. He went from a size 7 shoe to a size 12! The kid I could look in the eye in April is now taller than me and I have to look up at him! Only ducks grow faster than that!
The chickens are 19 weeks old and I am trying to be patient waiting for eggs. I check the nests (and beneath them) mid-morning and again after dinner. The girls are showing signs that they are maturing and at the point-of-lay. I'm wondering who will get an egg first...Susan, Ron, Don or me? Perhaps we should have a prize for the first egg!
Derek told me about a scary incident with the chooks this morning. He said he heard them clucking loudly and went out to investigate. A large female Cooper's hawk (perhaps a juvenile) was sitting on a support beam for the chicken run fence. All the girls but two were inside the coop clucking loudly. Silver, who is turning out to be worth his weight in gold, had flown out of the run and was clucking loudly below the hawk, wings a-flappin' and hackle feathers raised as high as they would go. I guess that hawk decided she didn't want to tangle with the likes of Silver. She could have easily taken him but she didn't know he's nothing but fluff and attitude. His body is only the size of a Nerf football! Thanks to Silver's protective actions and the girls' quick thinking, no birds were killed or injured. I noticed that they were very vigilant for the rest of the day, sounding the alarm for birds as small as doves.
Silver has begun calling the girls to any food he finds. Out of the six roosters I've had this year, only two have exhibited this behavior. It's very interesting to see a rooster do this. He picks up the tiniest tidbit and just when you think he's going to eat it he drops it and with an up-and-down head bobbing motion he points to the food with his beak all the while making a sharp clucking sound. The girls come running and when they see what he's pointing at they gobble it up. What a good boy! Now I've got to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to this wonderful Hamburg rooster. After dinner tonight the boys helped me staple some bird netting over the far end of the run. Hopefully Miss Cooper will think twice about landing on the fence again.
I think that chickens that are given the chance to free range near the cover of evergreen trees are safer than they would be fenced in. They can quickly run for cover and escape danger in a thick tree. My friend Susan experienced a similar scare with her chickens recently and she said her birds took cover under a spruce tree in her yard. Not only are free-range birds happier but it would appear that they are also safer.
Have a great weekend!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Right now the smell of freshly baked apple crisp is holding the air I breathe hostage. I picked up some dropped apples in the orchard tonight. Jim peeled them for me (well, half of them anyway) and I baked a homemade apple crisp. It's too hot to eat yet, but oh boy does it smell good!
If I had to give up one of my six senses, I could never, ever, give up my sense of smell. My memories are intertwined with odors...the smell of Ivory soap at my grandma's and the honeysuckle bush in her yard. The smell of a field of corn in pollen can make me feel the corn leaves on my arms as I run through the skyscraper stalks in my childhood adventure of the day.
I can't always trust my eyes and ears, but I can always trust my nose. Scents don't lie.
The flock is quiet and peaceful now that the big 3 roosters are gone. I was watching them today and it immediately hit me just how quiet and calm they all were. There was no screaming, chasing or terrifying sounds in the chicken run. There was plenty of food to go around. That's what I want to see! And it was very nice to finally have it the way I'd had it pictured in my head.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
1 Siamese fighting fish
Rocky doesn't count because he's currently on the loose.
I went to the grocery store after I got up and got two steaks for Jim and me to dine on this evening. Since we are sans boys tonight it's time to indulge a little. I found two nice cantaloupes too, so we will have some nice melon to go with the steak. Looks like the chooks will get a treat too when I give them the melon rinds.
Now, I wonder if I can talk Jim into helping me process some chickens after dinner? Boy we sure do know how to relax, don't we?
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
After supper Jim wanted to take the ducklings out in the pond for an introduction to their future home. They were a bit alarmed at the new situation and when we placed them in the water they immediately headed for shore! Then they discovered that they could stick their heads under water and nibble at the wonderful mud! A few discovered the algae and began to eat it voraciously! That made me happy. One of the reasons I wanted to get ducks for the pond was to keep the algae under control. They are a good non-chemical method for aquatic weed control.
After the ducklings got their fill of the pond and algae I put them in their cage under the light to dry off and warm up. Jim and I tackled the pile of papers that needed to be filed in the shop. We made a nice filing system and got everything organized which is a huge relief to me.
And now I am at my desk with my feet up...finally!
Ducks cannot tolerate being separated from their family unit. They form very tight bonds. Jim took one of the ducklings away from the group to try to pursuade the rest of them to follow but it didn't work!
Monday, August 11, 2008
Day One of my vacation was somewhat busy for me. I woke at 9 which is uncharacteristically early for me, but I seized the opportunity to get some things done around the house. I put the ducklings out in the grass next to the back deck and gave them their food and water, plus a bowl of water to play in. They thoroughly enjoyed their time outside and I didn't bring them in until 7 p.m.! I think they grew since morning too.
When Jim got home we headed to Perrysburg to pick up a huge display case and some slat board from a "Linens & Things" that was going out of business. It's good quality stuff and Jim got a good bargain on it all. He's putting it in his gun shop to help display items. The display case was used for kitchen knives and it will work well in a gun shop. We borrowed my father-in-law's truck to bring everything home. On the way back from from returning the truck to him, a young buck ran in front of us on the bridge. This is a long pair of bridges that span the Toussaint River that borders the family property. Jim saw it coming well before it was too late but we still bumped him with the truck hard enough to knock him off his feet. Since he couldn't escape from us by jumping into the river he ran ahead of us until we got clear of the river, then he jumped into the ditch! What was really scary was there were two cars coming at us from the opposite direction and I wasn't sure if they could see the deer too. I kept elbowing Jim and telling him to high-beam the oncoming cars so they would slow down and not hit the deer.
Deer are STUPID and not cute at all. I've hit two in my lifetime. There are no large predators in our state to keep them thinned and I think there should be a year-round open season on deer in Ohio. PERIOD!
I have come to the very painful conclusion that keeping four roosters in the flock is out of the question. Just this week Roo has become very aggressive to little Silver and I am genuinely concerned for his safety. I have also seen Hector the Australorp display typical rooster behavior. Now don't get me wrong, I fully understand the function of a rooster and I'm not anti-rooster. I am, however, responsible for the well-being of the entire flock and must quickly decide what action to take. Penning the extra roosters separately is not an option so the reality is which three are going to end up on the table?
Everyone likes Silver because he's the snazzy medium-sized Hamburg with the pretty feathers. He's smaller than the girls and they don't really take him seriously, something that keeps him from becoming domineering with them. I have a feeling it's going to be the three heavy breed roosters that will have to go. I can't tolerate the constant fighting, chasing and screaming. I've seen Roo grab Silver by the neck feathers and not let go. Silver's neck is starting to look tattered and he refuses to come into the run if he sees Roo in it. Enough is enough!
Never again will I order roosters. They are more trouble than they're worth, unless you want to have them for breeding purposes.
Now, for more pleasant things...check out the ducklings enjoying a warm bath in the sink! They are intrigued by the water pouring from the faucet and they try to bite it. I would recommend ducks to anyone with the means to keep their desire for water satisfied, ideally a farm pond. I wouldn't have ducks here if I didn't have the pond. It would be cruel to deprive them of what waterfowl need to thrive. At the rate the ducklings are growing it won't be long before they'll be swimming in the pond.
Another interesting thing about ducks is they can't stand to be separated from each other. When I transfer them from their cage to the sink for bath time they peep loudly to each other as if to say, "Where are you?" Even if I only take two from the group, the others will call incessantly until they are all back together again. Ducks are wonderful birds, dedicated to each other to the point of affection.
Friday, August 8, 2008
I have to work this weekend and then I'm off on a week's vacation. I'm going to relax and do the things I want to do. The weather is going to stay nice so I won't have to deal with the hot, humid conditions we've had up until today.
The boys have spent the past 2 nights sleeping in a tent in the yard. They are having fun and we're glad they can stay outside at night without us having to worry if anyone is messing with them.
I got some photos of the baby swallows yesterday. The nest is in the security light at the east end of the house. I can hear them from the office too. Mom and dad are very busy feeding them and they look to be just about ready to fledge. We welcome swallows here because they are such efficient insect eaters. They love the pond. They swoop down just over the surface to get a drink.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Mom came over this afternoon to give me a haircut and we had dinner with her afterward. She brought some good sweet corn and we enjoyed some tomatoes and cucumbers from my mother-in-law's garden. She also gave me a head of cabbage which mom turned into cole slaw. Add burgers from the grill for the main dish and you have a lovely summer meal! The chooks enjoyed a treat of peels and stems from all the fresh veggies.
After dinner I put the ducklings out on the front lawn inside the wire section of their cage to let them play in the grass while I replaced their soiled bedding with fresh. They loved the grass and tried to pull some of it to nibble. They aren't strong enough to pick the grass yet but they sure had fun trying. They also pulled hard on a dandelion head but their efforts weren't enough to break it off the stem. Mom and I had fun watching their antics. I'll give them more yard time tomorrow.
I've noticed that ducks are much nicer to each other than chickens are. They aren't so interested in a pecking order and they do everything together. Also, I have yet to see a mean looking duck but I've seen some pretty mean looking poultry!
Speaking of poultry...while I have been spending time with the ducklings I haven't forgotten about my chooks. I have been working with Sweet Pea, one of my two Barred Rock girls. She has been shy lately and I've been hand feeding her on her roost in the evenings to try to win her over again. It seems to be working and she has been coming up to me in the yard looking for food. I've also been holding Roo for about 10 minutes each evening to establish respect from him. He's been a good rooster so far with no signs of aggression toward people. He gets a bit uppity with the other chooks at times, and I like hold him when he gets pushy in the pen. It seems to be working and he gives me a wide berth when I'm around, unless I've got treats. Derek and I keep the roosters pushed away from the treat bowl until the girls have eaten, then the roos are allowed to have some too. He who controls the food controls the flock! This is something we should have done from day one but we are making up for it now.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The boys were still asleep when we got home. I set the ducklings in their cage and showed them the food and water. They were a little slow in finding things but eventually they figured it out. They sure do love their water!
Don't they have the neatest little feet? I just love the way they feel when they're standing on my hand. Here's a little black Cayuga foot. Aaaah, how cute!
After a while I took one of the little peepers into Derek's room and sat it on his pillow to wake him up. It was peeping very loudly which woke him up right away. Then it climbed over his pillow! Derek was smitten.
I'd only had a few hours of sleep so I headed back to bed to finish sleeping. Derek woke me at noon to say that one of the Cayugas didn't make it. It was sad but I explained that not all hatchlings make it. He took it pretty good. I suggested we let the duckies have a little bit of a swim in the sink and that took his mind off losing one. I didn't let them stay in the water long because they're so little. They loved it though and they had great fun splashing, diving and swimming around!
The Buffs seem to be the least timid while the Cayugas aren't real crazy about us. The Blue Swedish are a bit shy too. I'm sure they will get plenty of socializing with us.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Since I began raising my own chickens in April, I've paid a bit more attention to the packaged meats I buy at the grocery store. For instance, I never really paid attention to the fact that factory butchered poultry is injected with a saline solution to promote juiciness. So that's how they get that pre-salted flavor!
Today while preparing a package of chicken thighs for the grill, I read the label. It came from a local grower, Miller Amish Country Poultry. The upper left hand corner of the wrapper read, "...fed an all-vegetable diet* and are hormone and antibiotic free." I'm all for the hormone and antibiotic free, but since when did chickens become vegetarians? In addition to fresh grass and grains, my chickens eat worms, insects and frogs for cryin' out loud! They get the fat trimmings from pork and beef as well. If I fed my chooks an all-vegetable diet they would knock me down and peck my eyes out!
Have we gone and flipped our lids? Why do we feel the need to deprive an omnivorous creature of its natural diet? There seems to be a notion that feeding chickens "animal by products or fats" is a bad thing. I eat animal by products and fat every day! I'm an omnivore!
This just enforces the fact that I prefer to raise my own food. I want my birds to free range and eat whatever their little hearts desire (except my pansies). I like knowing that they spend their days doing what chickens do best: foraging for their own food.
I'm going to start my chickens on an all-vegetable diet...I'm going to feed them nothing but vegetarians.
*The all-vegetable diet consists of "a mixture of corn, soybeans, minerals, salt and vitamins that is mixed at our own feed mill and there is no animal by products, animal fats or coloring added, never."
Chickens and dust baths go together like peanut butter and jelly. My chooks prefer to use the pine mulch we worked so hard to chip this winter while I prefer they use the area behind the barn or, better yet, the driveway.
Sweet Pea was a good girl and used the driveway this evening. She had a hard time deciding where to plant her fluffy butt but once she did she really went to town. She spent a good 15 minutes stirring up the dust. Roo stood guard until she finished despite the fact that he was missing the frog hunt going on at the edge of the pond. He's a good rooster and looks out for the girls.
Roo let out a few crows as Silver lead the rest of the flock around the pond. You can hear Silver in the background.
When Sweet Pea was finished she was a White Plymouth Rock! Doesn't she look pleased?
The post office didn't call to say my baby ducklings were ready to be picked up. We were all a little bummed out. Hopefully they'll arrive tomorrow morning. In the meantime, here's the chooks hunting a frog this evening. I can only imagine what was going through their little brains as they were taunted by a leopard frog just out of reach. If you listen closely, you can hear him teasing them.
"Ooooh! I hear a frog!"
"Where is it? Where is it?"
"I see it! There it is!"
"Awwww! I can't reach it! What do we do now?"
"Hey you girls, come over here and help us catch the frog!"
"Here we come! Where's the frog?"
"Right there! Can you get it?"
"Oh no! It's in the water. Where are the ducks? Maybe they can help."
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Butchering was something we both had to participate in as children and this was our first time doing the whole thing as adults. You know what? It wasn't that bad! It wasn't scary or overly gross and our chickens died very calm, humane deaths. As we sat down to dinner to enjoy that mouthy barred rock rooster, we thanked God for the chicken and asked that he be used to strengthen us. It was a wonderful meal.
It's been a hot, humid week and it's taking its toll on me especially. I work in a factory where it's already hot. It takes all the energy out of me and by the end of the week I'm just a mess. Wouldn't it be awesome if our business took off to the point where I could quit my job and focus on raising our own food and livestock? A thunderstorm moved over the lake which is less than 5 miles north of our house. I captured the lightning show in the huge clouds tonight. Some of the lightning was beautiful! We got just a sprinkling of rain. I hope we get more during the night, we desperately need it.
I've got 10 ducklings coming this week. I'm hoping the post office calls me Monday at work to let me know to come get the ducklings. It's easier to leave from work rather than struggle to get out of bed at 7 a.m. since I'm a night owl.
After Derek got upset at Achilles' demise, I promised him that the ducks would be just for pets. I want them to feed on the aquatic weeds in the pond as well as the insects, slugs and snails that live in the yard. I'm sure they will also help keep the frog population under control, just as the chickens do. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch them grow and explore their new big pond. I hope they will have fun swimming with the boys too. We are all looking forward to spending time with the ducklings and getting them to bond with us. We are looking forward to watching their funny antics in the pond as they swim around and do ducky things. To have ducks in the pond is yet another dream of mine to be fulfilled. Most likely, meat rabbits will be next. One thing at a time though.