Saturday, June 6, 2015

Things Happening on the Farm

The hot and humid twins have arrived and will stay with us until around October.  I try to remember how beautiful it was in March.  It's hard when it's 92 and you're sweating buckets...  However, life (and it's good) goes on.

We are putting final touches on the coop and run.  Predators will try anything to get our babies, so we need to put netting across the top of the run, too.  Hawks, crows and eagles love little chicks as appetizers.  Not my babies!

The stunning Stella at one week

They love their new roost in the box.
 Of course, we Skyped with the grandkids that couldn't make it to see the new babies, but a couple lucky kids - Lauren and Graham - got to stay with us.  Lauren holds Arabella the proper way.  Middle finger between the legs and scoop up.

Graham is holding Luna
 Of course there were other activities.  The boys made a fire pit while the girls got the s'more stuff together.  Need I say they were delicious?
Lauren also is crafty, and she wanted to make a fairy garden.  This is what she came up with after MomPom scrounged around for fun things to use.  Cute, eh?  That was so much fun, we made five more Fairies.
Memorial Day was coming up and we had a flag, but no holder.  Gary found one, and he and Graham attached it to the front deck.   Happy belated Memorial Day to y'all!
 After the kids went home, it was time to get back to work.  We need a fence around all our 5 acres, but the back half is too wooded right now.  But the front half is doable, so we chose our three gates, fencing and posts appropriately.
 Unfortunately, the 8 foot telephone pole post that I wanted was near another one, and when I pointed it out, it fell against another with my hand in the way.  That kinda squished it and broke the bone.  Ouchy, ouchy.  Off to the ER for x-rays and stitches.  That was 10 days ago and the 5 stitches (2 on other side) come out tomorrow.  It is just a pain in the rear right now.  Kinda hard to type with a huge bandage on, but I can manage.
 There is always a silver lining (besides Gary doing the washing up) and this rainbow reminded us of how beautiful our front yard can be.
Soon after Gary made this bluebird house, there were tennants. Only 21 days ago there were five eggs.  Bluebirds lay five eggs their first time, then four the second, then three the third and last time. So this was not the bird who nested in the eve of the garage earlier in the season.  That nest prompted Gary to build one (out of the free pallets we found).  They hatch one each day in order of being laid.  That doesn't sound so good.
Two little ones, and three to go
 These little guys, mockingbird babies, I found by accident as I was tending our strawbale garden.  The Mom flew out of the nest and nearly knocked into me.  A quick search, and there were four blue speckled eggs on a branch I don't even have to pull down to see into.  So cute!
 Chicken TV is our new past time.  We take a drink out to the run to our chairs, give the girls something to play with, and giggle.  Tonight it was corn cobs on a string. Each new treat we give them is curiously inspected then tasted.  Usually they wipe their beaks immediately because of the new taste, but if it's good (and it's ALWAYS good), they have at it.  I used to spend an hour catching grasshoppers with a net and jar, but I'm not into bugs anymore.  They are gross to handle.  We raise mealworms in a plastic shoebox, and I have to use a spoon to sprinkle them on the ground.  YUCK.  So I make them egg custard, fresh herbs, frozen watermelon and creamed corn.  Gary gives them red wigglers that he raises.  But the girls are big enough now to find their own bugs.
 Another spectacular evening's natural display.  I LOVE thunderstorms, and Gary let me take shots of this one because it was so far away.  See the streak exiting the left side?
Anyway, we love our small homestead and continue to work hard and play hard every day.  Thanks to God.

Life is wonderful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Proud Mama!

They're here!

All eleven of them.  Little fuzz butts.  They are not your typical yellow.  

I got the call at 7 am.  My chicks are waiting for pick up! They were cold and hungry at the airconditioned Post Office, so I held the box on my lap hoping to make it warmer.  But it was not going to make it to 95 until we got home.  The heat lamp was on, the water filled and the kids (Tristan and Tracy) were anxiously waiting for us to come home.

We dipped their beaks into water laced with probiotics and electrolytes.  That was their first drink.  Then we checked their bottoms for pasty butt (a dangerous condition), but all were clean.

no name yet
 Each one explored the box and immediately knew how to drink from their waterers.  One has plain water and the other has the probiotics and electrolytes in it. 
 So we figured their egg yolk sacs were about used up (their first food for 48 hours) so offered them their chick starter food.  Well, they all jumped in the little bowl, so I filled a large bowl and they all jumped in that!  Hungry babies!
Lucky, the rooster
 Birds eye view of box.  It's so cute when they all sleep at once.  They lay all over the place, no cuddling together.  Just close their eyes, fall over and sleep until one steps on it. 
small bowl of food
 So, our new adventure begins.  Stay tuned for more photos and happenings.

Life is excitingly good!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Labor Pains

I feel like a first time mama.  I never had chicks before and don't know what to expect.  Brings back memories of Michelle's arrival 37 years ago.  Holy cow.  I can still remember almost every minute of her delivery.  Knew nothing!!! 

I am in labor.  My chicks were born on Monday and are in transit to our local Post Office.  They left Cleveland, OH last night at 9 pm on a flight (the post office thinks) to Jacksonville.  On arrival they should be put on a truck and brought to our post office.  Oh the pain of anticipation.  Oh Oh Oh.

My bag is packed.  The truck is gassed up. The 'crib' is ready.  Their first drink will be Pedialyte.  Haven't slept much at all...

Keeping the phone charged for that CALL that should arrive early in the morning.  Won't sleep tonight.

Tristan and Tracy are spending the day at Disney today, and will arrive tonight.  It would be cool if they got to go to pick them up with us, but we'll see.

Wish us luck!  Any time now.  Oh, the anticipation!

Hopefully they will all be OK and  pictures will be forthcoming!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

We've Got Chickens! [Almost.]

Warning - picture intensive.  

 This is what we have been working on since March.  Our chickens arrive next week, and summer has already arrived minus the humidity.  Some days have even been chilly, thank goodness, because building is HARD WORK!  We had no plans for this coop, the design is completely out of my head.  We have researched and visited a few coops, but I haven't seen one like this.

So first the layout.  We wanted fast and cheap.  Well, fast was not doable, and cheap?  Ha, no way.  We had seen photos of coops made completely out of pallets.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to take apart a pallet?  Those things are made to stay together!!!  You have to cut them apart.  And most are untreated, so would need water seal.  We thought about ready-made walls - OH, privacy fence panels!  Not too expensive.  Then we needed some plywood flooring, two sheets to make the coop 8x8.  I won't go into all the stuff we needed, but it was a LOT.  Some things we had, like leftover 2x6s from the deck.  And hangars from garage sales, chicken wire from CraigsList, etc.  Such fun treasure hunting!  But we hit Lowes at least once a week for one thing or another.  Never built a building before in our lives!

Taping the layout of coop and run

framing the floor and roof

The first metal panel goes up

Metal roofing is sharp!
 The three sides of the coop are up, and the roosting bars were put up after a hunt for cheap linoleum for the flooring (easy poop cleanup).  It's a lovely pattern.  Do you think the chickens will like it?
roost bars up

Barn Red Paint
 The coop is almost done.  We are not going to lock them in at night.  Therefore we need lots of protection around the coop.  Twenty six wood posts and four chain link posts at corners will secure the 6' wire.  We have every animal that loves a chicken dinner living around us, so first 150' of 3' hardware cloth sunk in the 1' trench and cemented with 350 pounds of cement along the bottom.  That took a couple days, uh huh.  We went through 4 nail/staple guns.  Fortunately we had bought the warranty, so we just kept taking them back.  The last one seems to be working.  But we still have that warranty just in case.

 We got a chain link gate and had the old cement platform from our old A/C unit laying around, so when we discovered it fit perfectly, we laid it in place under the gate!  More security and FREE - my favorite four letter word!

 Here the hardware cloth is cemented in and stapled onto the posts.  We also love zip ties, and used them at the corner posts. 
 These posts look so crooked!  But they're not, I assure you we used a level on each one. I think it was the photographer...sheer exhaustion, maybe?
150' of chicken wire stretched and stapled
 This is a sign that we were supposed to have chickens, don't you think?

Well, it's almost done.  We made it a little more private for the chickens and put up a lattice screen on the front.  We are not worried about our chickens being cold, they can stand snow.  But the heat and humidity can be daunting for them.  We still need to put on wire along the whole top between poles to support the netting to keep out eagles and hawks.  And we will tarp part of it for shade and rain. Chickens hate rain.  Now to keep the critters out.  We knew that from research electricity is a chicken's best friend.  But it's really pricey.  A find yesterday was a big tub of electric fencing, the box and the connectors, etc. at a road sale (impromptu sale on side of road).  Bought the whole thing for $20.  Best find so far.  :)))

The chicks are arriving by mail next week from Ohio and they will need to be warm (95 degrees) for the first week of their life.  So we got a refrigerator box from Lowes to make a brooder, cut it down and it is ready for their arrival.  We figure that by the fourth week of their young lives, it will be warm enough for them to go outside and play.  They will be too little for the run, so we made them a playpen.  We lugged around a tent in our RV for years, and never opened it.  What a great playpen!  We made a frame from some of those leftover 2x6s, braced it, put on wheels (garage sale find) and attached the tent to the frame.  Now we can move them from green grass to green grass during the day, and back into the run at night. And it's collapsible when not in use!

Voila!  Moveable playpen!
 We finished that this morning, then Gary made a bluebird house for our poor bluebird that is attempting a second nest in the garage corner.  Some other bird destroyed their first one.

Lots of hummers, new strawbale garden started, landscaping and planning our son's wedding in September is just a few of the other things we are enjoying.  Gary sure would like a tractor, so I jokingly said 'get a job, and we can afford one'.  The smallest Tractor Supply store in Florida is here in Lake City.  BUT they are building one even closer to us that will be the BIGGEST one in Florida so they are hiring now. So we'll see if he takes me up on it...


Monday, February 2, 2015

Salad Time

Time for an update!

Salad anyone?  Things are still growing strong down here on Almost Farm.  We need to have a salad almost every day.  And it is all really delicious.  Come share some!  We've had all the carrots, that suddenly popped up in November, so sweet, and one whole cabbage, that was coleslaw and tossed in with corned beef, and still some left.  Next ripe one I will make sauerkraut as well.  I just made some apple butter today with some organic apples my friend gave us.  Canning is a new hobby, but it can be very time consuming.  I need to plan a day with nothing else going on.  However, it had to cook so long, that I managed to get that done and work on our shutters (see below).  I can hardly wait for the summertime and all our new veggies.  We're going to need some more strawbales, honey...


Russian Kale





A few weeks ago we traveled down to our daughter's home to look after the children while her hubby had hernia surgery.  They left at 5:45 am and arrived home at 9:45 am.  Everything was fine, and he felt good enough to come down for my birthday dinner and cake made by Lauren (11).  Beautiful AND delicious!  [MomPom is my grandma name].  Those little blue decors are Cinderella Slippers!  I feel SO SPECIAL!  Needless to say, we (10 of us) ate it all - a la mode.  A birthday to remember.

Back at home, we have been busy painting the living, dining and kitchen walls, and are now making shutters for the kitchen windows.  Gary is enjoying all his boy toys. We continue to go on 'treasure hunts' each weekend and have found some good things.  Cheap chicken wire for the chicken run, small tires for the playpen, waterers and feeders, lumber, shingles, paint, a little of this and a little of that.  Some things are totally free, like the 2 8' wood bookcases in an alley with a sign that says "please take".  They fit perfectly in our work room.  Only because they were built-ins and were ripped-out, so not inside quality.  Thanks goodness for a pick up truck, and they rode home with us to Lake City.

Right now we are making kitchen shutters.  Gary blames Pinterest for all these ideas I think we can do, and he's right.  They will be adorable, but most importantly, keep that hot summer sun outside.  I hope we can get them done by summer...just kidding.  They're coming along, and I will post pictures as we go.

My woodsmith

All the cut boards
We sanded all edges, and primed them.  Then we needed some cross pieces.  We chose a 6x2x1/2" piece of trim, but I thought that paint stir sticks would be easier to cut.  And free.  I asked for and received 8 sticks which we cut and sanded and primed today. (Thanks, Home Depot) 


More pics to come as the shutters unfold (hahaha).

So, that's our life right now.  And life is sure good.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Another New Year

That special time of year again.  We barely got our home decorated in time for Santa.  And I'm glad our 9 foot tree just fit.  We had 20 foot ceilings in Sarasota, and room for an angel, but this time Angel had to attach to the front of the highest tip.  Our stockings were hung by the chimney with care, but, does that tree look a little crooked to you?  Hmmm. Or maybe the photographer?

Our usable front door because of new deck
 Our daughter Mandy and family stayed overnight on their way to their Christmas Disney Cruise.  They let Granny stay with us for a 3 week vaca.  We actually spent Christmas day with our other daughter, Michelle and family in St. Pete.  Their 8 stockings were hung by their chimney too!  Even Daisy (the Mastiff) got her own stocking.

 Christmas Day arrived, and we had a cool Santa to hand out presents.  This is Charlie, number 4 in line.
 One fun gift was a tent.  The boys try it out.  Then it went up into the play room, and we didn't see the boys for an hour.  Sweet.
 At dinner, we had Christmas Crackers, an old tradition from when our kids were little.  Gary, wearing his crown, read his Christmas fortune.  Health and prosperity for the new year.  YAY!
 This was Granny's 91st Christmas.  She was just a little thing on her first Christmas, and the kids asked her what she remembered getting as a little girl.  Her earliest recollection was a red wagon and a china doll with movable arms and legs.

Between the kids, they have six sets of grandparents and Granny is the only great grandparent.  Not to mention Aunts and Uncles.  READ:  LOTS OF PRESENTS!  But how often do you receive a thank you note for a Christmas gift?  All these kids need to write thank you notes to each giver.  (They also mentioned that was their least favorite part of Christmas).  I know I will treasure mine forever.

The day went awfully fast and we ate awfully much.  But it was fun, as usual, and we were glad to get home.  However, before we left, there was a glitch.  Michelle and family were headed to Atlanta on Saturday, and forgot to book a kennel for Daisy.  Would we take her for a few days?  Sure, we said.  So they stopped by on their way north on 75 and dropped her and her food off.  Well, Daisy is a great dog.  However, she did have a little separation anxiety, and Michelle kindly offered to have our carpet cleaned, which we did.  And Daisy was happily reunited with her family on Wednesday.  

The best news is that our son, Tristan, asked Tracy to be his wife, and she said "Of course".  No hesitation there!  She will graduate with her PhD at Miami University in May, and then we will finally get to meet her parents.  They reside in Kansas City, KS, and will plan to throw an engagement party at the same time as graduation.  We are so blessed to have Tracy in our family!

Soooo, I needed to time the arrival of our baby chicks until after we get home. Somewhere between May 12 and 14 we will be expecting 10 little girls and one little boy.  Meanwhile, we need to get a coop built.  We are slowly acquiring pieces of wood and feeders, and reading like mad.  

I do plan to sell the eggs at the farmers market.  Along with some garden goods.  Our garden is looking wonderful!  We can hardly keep up with eating it all.  Can't wait till our first cabbage is ready - maybe next week.  But it will have to wait till we get back from taking Granny back to Raleigh on Monday.  We will be visiting our family and friends again.  And it will be COLD.  Brrrr.  Gotta dig out warm clothes from somewhere.

Meanwhile, we hope your holidays were wonderful, and wish everyone a prosperous, healthy and FUN 2015!