Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Farmstead Photo Dump

It's been a while since I've been able to blog.  We've been quite busy around here.  Instead of telling you all about it, I thought I'd let the photos do the talking...

Winter set in, in earnest, and the sight of it never fails to leave me awestruck. 


The girls aren't as enamored with the cold as we are, spending most of their days huddled in the coop.  The coop, surprisingly, is ALWAYS warmer than the outside air temperature, and is, obviously, drier.  The "babies", who are not really babies any longer, seem to love to frolic in the snow...


Our poults (the chicks we raised) are growing quickly.  The girls should begin laying at any time now, and Jefferey has found his voice:  


We've had some excruciatingly cold weather.  The humidity climbs here during the winter, and so the sub zero temps combined with the humidity makes for some amazing hoarfrost!  



My man continues to keep our home toasty warm with the firewood he's harvested and continually cuts.  


On sub-zero days, I don't envy him the task.  Frankly, I don't envy him the task in any weather!  

We received several inches of snow around Christmas and have enjoyed it since.  


I found a fabulous photo taking site during a hike.  Unfortunately, you have to hike into the back country for about an hour to find the site.  Think I'll keep that one on my "not now" list of picture sites.  I was glad on this day, to have my camera, though.  


I had grand plans for a Christmas card using the two pictures above.  Then, those plans changed to a New Year's Card.  And now?  Now, you just get to see them on the blog.  So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Heh, heh, heh...


Before deep winter kicked in, Mr. Farmer Man started working on a greenhouse using upcycled windows and timber.   


While we have some finishing touches,  I now have an amazingly huge (and free!!!) greenhouse.  I can't wait to order seeds and begin planting!


Over the Christmas holidays, our friends' heifer calved.  What a blessing it was to meet this sweet baby when she was only hours old.  We've since had several opportunities to spend more time around "Annabelle" and I have even had my first milking lesson on her mama!!  


We've had a great winter in terms of wildlife sightings.  Elk, deer, coyotes, wolves, foxes, skunk, eagles, hawks, and quail.  While most sightings are either too distant, requiring binoculars, or too quick, we do have frequent quail visitors.  Watching their little heads bob and their plume shake is truly entertaining.  It is also interesting to see the babies' plume as a little shoot, while Dad's is quite impressive.  Their coloring is exquisite!


We are loving winter!  There are challenges (keeping critters' water unfrozen, getting out of the road/driveway after a heavy snow, needing 15 minutes to get dressed to go outside, etc.) but the benefits far surpass the challenges.  We have enjoyed hiking, walking, snowshoeing, sledding, snowmobiling, snowman making, snowball fights, real snowcone making, and all other other fun activities that snow and winter bring.

(Confession time:  The layout of this particular post is driving me CRAZY!!!  I cannot figure out why some of my photos are centered and others are not, and why the text is not uniformly spaced between the pictures!  Perfect I am not!)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Girls

So, you've followed along for Parts One, Two, and Three of the Poultry Palace's building.  

Now, you probably want to see who gets to live in such nice digs.  Right?

I was in such a hurry to have chickens that were laying eggs that I scoured the internet for options.  I thought I would buy birds from the local hatchery, but apparently they don't have any chicks after July.  Something about colder weather and little birds not mixing.  Go figure...

So then I searched on Craigs List.  And searched.  And talked to locals.  And posted on Facebook.  

And then I hit gold.  A guy had listed 300 (!) laying hens for sale.  I didn't want near that many, but after talking to the man, I found out that I could buy the 14 I was looking for.  He assured me they were all in good health and that they were all laying.  So, we packed up the car with the dog carrier and drove two hours to get our girls.

When we arrived, we could see why Animal Control was taking the birds.  The conditions were deplorable.  I did not see any feed or water.  It was a barren piece of land with an abandoned, old garage on the property.  And, 230 chickens were shoved into the garage.  It was crazy!!

We looked at the chickens, and though it wasn't the best circumstances, we knew we wanted some birds, and felt that we were rescuing some of them.

We packed up 14 of them and headed back home.  

After about a week, we noticed that the girls seemed to be doing a lot of preening (bird term for itching and taking care of their feathers).  After doing some internet research, and doing a few very personal checks of our chickens' skin,  we realized our girls were infested with lice.  Ewww!

Since we're going the natural route with our critters, we decided that we would try a Poultry Day Spa in order to get rid of the itchy wee beasties.  So, each chicken was treated to a luxurious 3 pool dip.  10 minutes in a vinegar/water bath, 10 minutes in a Dawn/water bath, then about 5 minutes in a rinse bath.  I would have some FABULOUS pictures, however I was elbow deep in dipping chickens and couldn't stop to take pictures.  Crazy thing?  The girls seemed to like the warm baths.  They'd make a low, deep purr while in the water.  After they were done being deloused, one of the kids would dry them and hold them close for a few minutes in the warmed coop.  The girls didn't like this part too much.  A chicken cannot regulate her own body temperature, and relies on her feathers to trap air to be warmed, and therefore warm her body.  
Wet feathers = cold, cranky hens! 

After dispensing with the wee beasties, we thought eggs would be pouring out of the coop.  We waited with baited breath for our first egg to appear.  It seemed to be taking forever.
So long, in fact, that we lovingly named the birds, "The Freeloaders."

After several different evolutions of nesting boxes, and trying several different things in terms of roost bar locations, etc. we realized that we may have bought old chickens who were past their laying days.  The girls were just not laying eggs.  We gave them grace due to the stress of being contained in an over crowded garage, and for the stress of being moved, and for the stress of the Poultry Spa, and for the Fall molt.  But, after a while, we became discouraged. 

The Freeloaders seemed pretty happy with their cushy digs, fresh water, breakfast in bed, and all the kitchen scraps they could scarf.  They didn't seem to be in any rush to give us an egg. 

Then, one day... An egg!!

While we are grateful for any eggs we receive, most of our girls still don't lay.  We get 1-4 eggs a day, usually only one.  That could be due to the age of some of the hens, time of year, short daylight length, etc.  We've decided to let them continue being Freeloaders through the winter.  We've culled a few from the flock, and will do so again after the days are long enough that everyone should be laying.  So far, culling is definitely the worst part of owning farm animals.  Feed and other costs are too high for us to raise chickens as pets.  To quote Dave Ramsey, "You don't work, you don't get paid." 

For now, we will enjoy the fresh (DELICIOUS!!) eggs we are receiving and watching the antics of silly birds. 

They are the cooky-est, funniest, most entertaining animals I have ever owned!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Poultry Palace, Part Three: It. Is. Finished.

So, you're back for more?  Great!  Then let's carry on, shall we?

After finishing the hardware cloth flooring, Mr. Man began to measure boards to begin the roof.  The view on this particular day was spectacular.  The trees and clouds weren't too bad either!

I honestly don't know how he did it.  Not the nailing the boards part, but the figuring and measuring and making it all, well, roof-like.  I looked at the notes he'd made, and he explained it to me, but all I heard was, "Math, math, math.  Blah, blah, blah.  Nails."  There was only one thing I understood. 

Needless to say, once the day was out, he'd made the roof joists.  Or frames.  Or whatever it is called when you put up some boards, all at the same angle, and then lay the roofing materials on it.
We were able to salvage some metal roofing materials that were left on our property (sometimes it does pay to buy from, uh, less than organized or let's-not-clean-up-after-we're-done-with-a-project type people!) in order to make the roof.  Add to that some other metal bits that were around the house and property and we had a water tight roof!  

Then came the time to get all the boards onto the walls.  This was the most laborious part of the job (as if all the rest of it has been a cake walk!) as it entailed milling out each.  and.  every.  board.  for the entire stinkin' thing!  

So, Mr. Man milled as fast as his saw could go, and I measured, cut, and nailed the boards to the coop.  If I remember correctly, this process took over two days.  

Once the boards weathered on the coop, they shrunk a bit.  (First time homesteader note:  allow boards to dry after milling before using them in a project.)  The kids and the Mr. used a spray can of insulating foam to fill the holes.  Once dried, I used a small saw to trim off any extra gooshing bits.  

Then came the run.  Oh, the run!  Sounded pretty easy.  Put up some posts.  Wrap chicken wire around said posts.  Wah-lah!  Chicken run.  Um, nope.  First, we had to dig down into the hard packed soil.  AGAIN with the pick axe!!  Because we didn't want varmints to dig under the run fencing, we pick axed (shudder) down about 18 inches and sunk more hardware cloth down and out at a 90 degree angle to the fence.  

Then, we easy peasy lemon squeezy hung/wrapped/wrestled the chicken wire onto the posts.  Funny thing:  When you measure for the length of wire you'll need for your fence, it might be a good idea to take into account you'll need extra to go around the posts, or you'll find yourself "sewing" together scraps to finish said fence.  True story.

Mr. Man made a beautiful run gate out of wood scraps and chicken wire, complete with a gate latch and an "Oh, Stinker! I just locked myself in the run!" escape lever.  

And then, one day later, our chickens arrived at their new home.  But, you'll have to wait for another post to hear more about them!

P.S.  Know that if you come to visit, we will most likely put you to work.  No one is immune.  Shortly after we finished the coop, my mom came for a visit and spent the better part of two days helping me prime and paint the coop!  

Missed the first two parts of The Poultry Palace?  No worries!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Poultry Palace, Part Two: Varmint Precautions!

We knew that our chicken coop would need to be the Fort Knox of the chicken world.  We had read a lot of blogs and books to get some ideas about how to protect our chickens from varmints.  

I had been thinking we'd need to be wary of coyotes, and cougars, and bears.  Oh my!  And while those are all real threats living where we do, the bigger threats are skunks, foxes, and birds of prey.   Varmints!

Since our coop sits on the ground, we decided to run hardware cloth along the underside to keep any digging varmints from getting into the coop.  

Remember, it's July.  Not terribly hot, but the ground is terribly solid.  And, also remember that I Hate.  Hate.  LOATHE... the pick axe!

After Mr. Man and the kids helped me to dig down a bit (dratted pick axe again!) we stretched the cloth under the coop frame.  

So that they wouldn't form a breach in the high tech security system, the panels needed to be attached to one another. 

Somehow, this became my job...

I took the 3' wide panels of wire and "stitched" them together using wire and needle nose pliers.  I didn't like the lack of dexterity when I was using gloves, and so I did this bare handed.  After a couple hours, my fingertips were screaming!

I was certain that if I didn't get the panels snugged together and practically air tight that something would find the hole and eat my girls.   

 After the wire was secured, we piled all the dirt back on.  

The guys started piling before I was even fished "sewing" the pieces together!

 It was a big project, but one that we felt was essential. 

And, with everyone pitching in and doing their part (!), the job was a great accomplishment!

As you can see, the coop still had lots more work before we could get some hens in there.  
We'll get to that next...

The Poultry Palace, Part Three:  It.  Is.  Finished. 

And, if you missed Part One, you can catch up here:  Let It Begin!