Year nine on the farm: Older, fatter, and furrier

October 2017 marks two milestones for our family; we have now been on the farm for nine years, and I turned forty.

Turning 4-Oh

Something about turning forty has changed me. With any luck, I hope to live another forty years. It would be a gift of another lifetime! With that, it got my little pea brain churning, thinking about:

  • The importance of living every day to the fullest
  • Celebrating every birthday, and that sending birthday cards to family/friends is no longer optional
  • Planning for a life we’d like to live after the kids have moved out
  • Becoming debt-free so we can work minimally and live to the max
  • Maintaining our health so we can enjoy life to the fullest

I also think about how I have already lived four years longer than my own grandfather did, and how every day is truly a blessing.

On a funnier note, I am trying to understand why, at forty:

  • My body has begun to cling to every single calorie like a person dangling from the side of a cliff
  • God decided that visible nose hairs are not optional just because you are a woman while simultaneously they become more prevalent/darker…yet at the same time, I am losing the hair on the top of my head
  • Any new hair I DO happen to grow on my head is either white and silky or a thick and extremely unruly black menace that sticks straight out
  • I can throw out my back by simply standing up and moving my leg half-inch in the ‘wrong’ direction

These are the things I ponder now.

 Year Nine on the Farm

With this year, we are still working on paying off our debt, maintaining the home and grounds, and now we are downsizing.

While I did keep some baby chicks hatched this year, the new goal is to continue to downsize the flock until we have a nice number of laying hens. Let’s face it: I do NOT get $100 worth of eggs a month that I’m paying for the feed at this point! We do have some older layers as well as several hens who are more like pets, but as usual, we also possess a disproportionately large number of roosters who are getting fat on my dollar.

Now for a review in photos!

October 2016:

That time that everyone got ticked off after playing Sorry:

November 2016:

The cold and wet beginning to our square foot beds:

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Our living room/library area after bringing in the ferns for the winter:

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Fall foliage:

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December 2016:

A beautiful winter sunset!

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From 65 degrees to 48 in 47 minutes!

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January 2017:

One day, as I was hanging laundry, I looked up to see this ‘mackerel sky’. I made myself pretty dizzy trying to take a good pic.

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This year marked the beginning of new beds and a new gardening method: Square Foot Gardening. I love it!!! Jason built the beds. The soil you see was just, well…crappy, but it’s all I had. Now it has much better soil.

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2017 was the Year of the Annoying Ladybug/Asian Ladybeetle invasion. Here is a group in our barn, but there were hundreds in the house. Yuck. Glad they do eat aphids, but it would be lovely if they would hibernate outdoors like REAL ladybugs!!!

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February:

Being sensitive to sodium nitrate (Read: gives me major migraines), I can only eat uncured meats. Let’s face it, when you live in the sticks, things can be difficult to find. Our local Wal-Mart decided to stop carrying ‘my’ bacon, so I was forced to drive thirty miles to find some. Jason came to the rescue with my Valentine’s gift!

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Ladybug invasion continues in the warm sun:

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A true ladybug! I found several Twice-Stabbed ladybeetles on our pear trees. Yaaaay!

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March:

Another ‘true’ ladybug, the Convergent Ladybeetle. I probably learned more about ladybugs this year than in my last 40 years!

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April:

April showers and all of that!

May:

May’s warmth brings out the reptiles! Anoles and rat snakes are in full force!

June:

A cicada emerges!

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Swedish strawberry cake:

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A new friend emerges from the woods! My first photos of Eleanor, the wild cat.

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July:

Happy Fourth!!!

We add another new family member. Meet Esther. Note: Esther is the one without the beard.

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August:

Esther enjoys robes and hiding in the mini pantry. This behavior was not endorsed by yours truly. No one likes cat hair in their cereal.

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September:

Another new family member! Meet Milo:

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2017, so far, has proved to be the Year of the Cat! I also have declared it the year of Returning to the Homestead since I have now deactivated my Facebook account and suddenly have hours and hours added to my day! Amazing, isn’t it? Hope you enjoyed this year’s re-cap.

On to 2018!!!

And the wind….cried….Ernie….

I’m not exactly sure when I became the Crazy Chicken Lady.  Probably about the same time that I began to decipher the chicken language.  I could tell what a chicken was doing just by the sound it made.  Found a bug?  Excited peeping noise.  Rooster found a bug?  Excited clucking to get the ladies to come around.  Frantic peeps?  Obviously a lost chick looking for mama.  Growling sound? Chicken unsure of what’s going on.  The list goes on.

But I knew I’d really lost it when I started getting telepathic chicken messages.  Allow me to explain….

Last year, we had a little bout of Arctic air blow through in late November.  The winds whipped at the pines mercilessly, and temps dropped rapidly when the sun disappeared.  As the night wore on, the lights flickered on and off frequently.

I had hatched out a late batch of chicks a few days prior.  Not really the best idea to hatch out anything so vulnerable that late in the year, but that’s what happened.

About 3am, after a very fitful attempt at sleep, my eyes flew open.  Our ceiling fan wasn’t moving.  It was pitch black. There was something…something…something pecking at my brain.  My mothering instinct was on overdrive, but it wasn’t something with the kids….I was forgetting something….what is it, what IS it……..OH MY GOD, THE BABY CHICKS!  No electricity meant no heat lamp, which meant no heat for 14 tiny 2 day old chicks in a barn.  I jumped out of the bed and ran to our barn, fully expecting to find 14 frozen bite-sized chicken nuggets in the brooder.  Miraculously, they were piled in a fuzzy little heap, all very much alive although pretty disgruntled.  I gathered them all into a plastic tote and hauled them into the house by our woodstove.  Putting a towel on my lap, I took the 14 little fuzzies and wrapped them up until I felt that they wouldn’t keel over from hypothermia and then put them back into the bin.  Listening to 14 peeping chicks for the remainder of the night wasn’t exactly what I’d describe as peaceful.  Fortunately, the wind ended with daybreak and electricity was turned back on.  No baby chicks were lost.

Was it just my mothering instinct?  Or did the chicks send out a “Hey moron, we’re freezing out here” psychic message?  Another example:

It was almost midnight, and I was in bed about to fall asleep.  Suddenly, I heard a tiny, muffled sound of a rooster crowing, or at least I thought I did. Not any rooster, but Ernie specifically (trust me, once you’ve been around chickens long enough, you can distinguish their voices).  How odd, I thought.  Ernie never, ever crows at night….

THE DOOR! I forgot to shut the stupid coop door!  I ran out to the coop as fast as a half-asleep person can and sure enough, the coop door was still very much wide-open with my very favorite hen sitting completely unprotected in front of it.  Naturally.  Did Ernie really crow? He’s certainly not revealing anything.  Or am I slowly turning into a chicken myself?

One thing that is sure to get my attention is the sound of a baby chick in trouble.  They tend to make an extremely annoying, loud pitched ‘PEEEEEP PEEP PEEEEEP’ to try and solicit some sympathy from Mama Hen.  One day, right at dusk, I kept hearing a noise.  A very familiar and annoying noise.

“Do you hear that?” I asked Jason.

“Yeah, just a bird,” he said, as he went back to reading.

I sat and listened for a few more seconds.  My chicken senses were awakening.

“No. No it’s not, either,” I said.

I walked out to the front yard to find (surprise, surprise) a newly hatched 1 day old baby chicken who was very much lost and twice as confused.  How it ended up all the way from the coop to the front yard, I’ll never really know.  Regardless, “Big Mama Hen” came to the rescue that day.  I swear, they seek me out, they really do.  Oh well.

There’s probably not much need for a chicken psychic.  Then again, maybe I could start the Psychic Chicken Network Hotline for chicken owners.  (“Mrs. Jones, the reason Doris is acting so depressed is that she’s really wanting some vegetable scraps. Wait, hold on….can you hold Doris up to the phone again, please?  Mmmhmmm….She is also telling me that you’re buying the cheap pellets again.  Is that true, Mrs. Jones?”)

Until next time, keep on cluckin’.

A long week..

I’ve had a pretty tough week this week!  I’m really ready to see Friday night, crawl in bed and sleep in late Saturday morning.  I’m sure we’ve all had days like that!

I finally uploaded some new pics to share with you.  My first is entitled, “A Chicken in Every Pot” :

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This is one of the baby Silkie chicks at about 2 days old.  (Please note: No chickens were harmed in the making of these photographs)

Here is one of Fran, and even though it’s blurry, I think it’s really hilarious the way she looks, as though she’s thinking, “MMMmmmm.  Finger lickin’ good!”  Don’t worry, she didn’t do anything other than the Excited Chicken Dance.  I didn’t let her get any closer than that.

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Now the chicks are about 3.5 weeks old and I need to get pics of them.  They are mostly now feathered out and trying to fly.  Well, except for the Silkies.  Poor things look like a maribou boa gone bad.  They probably couldn’t fly if they tried.

I’m excited at the prospect of ordering my layers!  Yes, yes, that DOES mean more chickens!  My family and friends already think I’m nuts as it is for having as many birds as I do, and I’m sure I’m destined to be the ‘Crazy Bird Lady’, when I’m old.  But I digress….I am also going to get some ducks and a pair of geese (to help eat up some aquatic pond weeds). Oh yeah, and probably eventually some turkeys.  (!!!)  Ah well.

Not much else in farm news.  We’re constructing plans for my garden out front and trying to come up with plans for a cheap ‘hoop house’ for year round gardening.