Archive for December, 2008

Farewell to 2008

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

As 2008 draws to an end, I look around here and am quite pleased with what Bernie and I have accomplished on the Homestead this year. The list of things to do is never ending, and I would say it’s gotten shorter but with each task we mark off of it, it seems we add two more. That’s OK. What would I have to blog about if we didn’t have things to do?

 

I trust each of you had a happy holiday season. I enjoyed spending time with my family over Christmas. It was warm down south, but very cold here on the homestead while I was gone. After a couple of nights of 11 degree weather with the daytime temperatures in the low 20s with raging wind, poor Duke got a little frostbite on his comb. I’ve been smearing antibiotic cream on his comb each night and, so far, it doesn’t look as though he will suffer with an infection. Time will tell how much of his comb he ends up losing. I am hoping it is only a couple of tips, but the back section may need to be removed.

 

Our little soft shell layer has begun laying completely shell-less eggs. She’s only laying every four or five days now and the last three have had no shell at all. It makes quite a mess in the nest boxes, but there really is nothing she or I can do about it. I suspect she has some internal issues, and as long as she doesn’t suffer with it, she’ll just be a pet that I occassionally have to clean up after.

 

I started a T-Shirt quilt for Bernie over a year ago. I’m making it from Harley T-Shirts he’s collected over the years. It was supposed to be his Christmas gift in 2007, but that didn’t happen. Then it was supposed to be his Christmas gift for 2008, but that didn’t happen either. I’m hoping to finish it up this weekend and give it to him. I’ve applied the fusible interfacing and cut out the designs for the blocks – and that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Here’s a picture of the blocks:

 

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I plan to put a 1 inch border between each one, and then frame the whole thing with another 1 inch border. I’ll snap some pictures as I go and share them. Maybe that will motivate me to finish up this thing. I’m sure Bernie hopes so.

 

I believe it’s very important to set achievable goals as New Year’s resolutions. Last year my only New Year’s resolution was to eat more ice cream and it was probably the first New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept. This year my New Year’s resolution is to finish Bernie’s quilt, eat more eggs, and drink more wine. In fact, I will reward myself with two pickled eggs and a glass of wine when I finish Bernie’s quilt this weekend.

 

I hope the hens’ New Year’s resolution is to lay me more eggs, and that Bernie’s is to buy me more wine. And I hope that YOUR New Year’s resolution is to keep reading my blogs and putting up with me.

 

I wish each and every one of you the very best for 2009.

 

Bee Free,

Penny

Pictures of Happiness

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Today, this is what makes Bernie happy:

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He and Tex fabricated the mounting on the Trail Wagon for the ATV snow plow Bernie had.

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Just look at that wench

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Let’s just hope we don’t have to use it anytime soon.

And here’s something that makes me happy:

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Just look at that handsome boy.

And how about this cutie? She just melts my heart.

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And do they come any better looking than that wirey, little Bobby Lee? Does he not make you want to kiss his feathers right off of him?

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Bobby Lee doesn’t get too far from his Black Spanish hens. He’s got it pretty bad for those girls.

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It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Good friends, cute chickens, a nice little snow plow…… and maybe a week of weather in the 70s. But I’m not complaining…… this week.

Bee Free,
Penny

Soft Shells, Sleepy Worms, and I’m Not Complaining

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

After hearing about the horrible ice storms north of us that have caused so much damage and left so many without electricity, I am not going to complain about our cold weather on the homestead this week. Many homesteaders I have met through internet forums and email have really suffered from all this nasty weather – some have lost chickens due to the extreme cold, and a few have had signigicant damage to their homesteads. And all of them are in my thoughts and prayers. I’ll start complaining again next week.

I’ve been busy packaging and mailing out soap orders – a big thank you to all who have ordered from my shop! I still have a limited amount of soap, lotion, and other items. I’m heading down south to visit with my family for Christmas, so this week will be the last week I will be able to ship orders in time to arrive for Christmas.

A few weeks ago, we began finding a soft shelled egg in the coop every other day or so. I wasn’t too terribly concerned as it is not all that unusual that a new layer will lay a few soft shelled eggs before her body figures it all out and begins making harder shells. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but one morning I found a Golden Pencilled Hamburg looking very puny. I picked her up and discovered she had a soft shelled egg protruding from her vent. It had burst, and the egg white had hardened – effectively gluing the soft shell in place, and blocking her vent completely. I brought her in the house and soaked her bottom in warm water while I gently worked on tugging the shell out – only to find there was yet another soft shelled egg right behind it. It too, had burst. I was able to pull that out as well.

I kept the little Hamburg in a dog cage for 24 hours, and she perked up. I had planned to keep her inside for a few days and feed her extra calcium until she layed a hard shelled egg, but she had different plans. She would not eat a bite while inside. The minute I put her out with the others, she immediately began gobbling up any food in sight. *Sigh*. I’ve been watching her carefully, and though she continues to lay soft shells, she is actually laying them and none have gotten “stuck” again.

This Hamburg is one of the lowest on the chicken totem pole, and often does not get at food until everyone else is finished. I leave oyster shell out for the hens 24 X 7, but she doesn’t seem interested in it. I feed back all of the egg shells from the eggs we use, but she doesn’t get at them until everyone is finished, and then there is usually not much, if anything, left. I’ve given them cheese and other calcium rich snacks, but again, she doesn’t get much of them. She won’t eat when she is separated, and doesn’t get much to eat when I put food out for everyone. She does appear to be a fairly good forager, but that apparently does not provide the calcium she needs to lay harder egg shells.

What’s a Chicken Mom to do? I suppose that as long as she continues to lay soft shelled eggs without a lot of ill effects, I will just continue to watch her and hope things kick in and her body gets the whole-egg-making-thing squared away. I know many of you would tell me that I should cull her. I’m not going to argue. You are probably correct. I just can’t. Not yet. We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks.

Bernie and Tex completed the fabrication neccessary to mount the snow blade to the Trail Blazer. I am quite impressed with it.  To be frank, I envisioned it would be a Mad Maxx looking machine when they completed it, but I was wrong. It looks pretty darn good! And the snow blade can be removed, returning the Trail Blazer to it’s original, cute, dirty self. As impressed as I am with it, I really hope we don’t need to use it! But that opens up the conversation for me to complain about winter, and I’ve promised not to do that…… this week. I had hoped to post a picture of it today, but it has been raining/drizzling/icing all day and as you may know, I’m not all about going out in that kind of weather. Other than the egg checks and throwing out some chicken snacks here and there, I haven’t ventured outside much at all today. But, I’m not complaining about the weather this week……

Although I am not going to complain about the cold weather, my meal worms made no such promise, and they are indeed complaining.  Well, “complaining” may be a rather strong word. They are, in fact, being rather silent. For those of you that only recently began raising meal worms, don’t be alarmed if you are not seeing any of them right now. They actually hibernate during cooler temperatures.  You may see the beetles, but you will likely not see any meal worms if their environment has dipped below 75 degrees or so. Not to worry. As soon as it warms up to a consistently toasty 75 – 80 degrees, they should become quite spunky and  visible. That is most probably a few months away though, so don’t forget to warm them up every few weeks so they will wake up, eat, and not starve on you during the winter. Also remember to check the water source (raw, halved potatoes work great) and insure it hasn’t dried out. I keep my meal worms in a large, plastic container. I bring the container out and leave it in the room with our wood burning stove for a few days each month. I hope they appreciate the gentle, loving care I am providing them and that they will grow into plump, happy meal worms. Because my chickens want to eat them ;-)

I am sending my best wishes to each of you. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, stress-free, filled with cheer, and surrounded with people you love. Be safe. Stay warm. Hug a meal worm. Kiss a chicken.

Bee Free,

Penny

It’s STILL Cold on the Homestead

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Like many of you, we’ve been having unusually cold weather here on the homestead. I don’t think I can remember a November and/or December with this many days of below average cold temperatures. I am trying not to be in a bad mood over it, but these cold temperatures are testing my good nature.

Yesterday morning it was a brisk 14 degrees outside when I let the chickens out. The good news is now that the coop is insulated, it was 15 degrees warmer in there. The bad news is that 14 + 15 = still freezing. Their water was frozen solid. I dragged out the heated font I have and plugged it in for them. Today the temperature is in the mid 30s, but the wind is blowing something fierce. If I were a hen, I’d snuggle up in a nest box and pretend I was laying an egg all day long. As it is, everyone is outside in this frigid weather.

Bernie got the electric finished up and I now have electricity in both the coop and my garden shed. Yay! I know he isn’t crazy about working outside in all this cold weather, but he heads out each day and takes care of things around here. I just love that man to pieces.

I have some sad news this week. A few nights ago we lost our first chicken since they were little peeps. When I went to tuck them in the coop, I came up one short on the head count. I looked through the woods and decided to count again, just to be sure. As I was heading into the chicken run, I spotted one of the Golden Penciled Hamburgs huddled up in a corner of the run. I knew when I picked her up that she was in a bad way. I brought her in the house and Bernie wrapped a blanket around me and her, although she didn’t seem particularly cold.  She was so weak that she didn’t even fight me as I checked her over. I could find nothing wrong with her – there was no blood, her vent was clean, and she had no unusual lumps or bulges. She died within an hour and 1/2.

We were very sad about losing our little hen, but we were also concerned about why she may have died. To be safe, I sterilized all water and food dishes, and sprayed the coop and run with Ozine. Due to the fact that she died so quickly after showing symptoms of being ill, we suspect it was likely some sort of poisoning. I was in the chicken run with all of the chickens at 4PM, and no one showed any signs of being ill. I fed them some scratch and everyone was eating and pecking. I went back out around 5PM to do the head count and close up the coop, and it was shortly after that I found the sick hen. She died so suddenly that poisoning does seem very likely. We do not have any type of poison out that is accessable to the chickens, but we do have many plants around here that are poisonous to chickens. These plants grow wild all over our property. Pig Weed, for example, is listed as poisonous, and heaven knows we have enough of that around here. I think most of these plants are dormant right now, but I suppose chickens could still dig up the root system. It’s hard to know. So far, no other chicken has exhibited any symptoms of being ill.

I’ve spent the majority of this weekend making gifts for my Christmas Victims. Bernie has been keeping the wood stove going and firewood stacked up in the living room. He also brought in a small refrigerator we had in storage and plugged it up in the dining room so we can free up some space in the big refrigerator for something more than cartons of eggs.

Tomorrow Bernie’s heading to Tex’s so the two of them can hook up a snow plow to the little Trail Wagon. A few years ago we bought a second hand Arctic Cat ATV and it came with a snow plow that we never used. Since we use the Trail Wagon for everything around here, Bernie decided it would be nice to put the snow plow on it. It will take a little imagination and fabrication, but I am confident he and Tex will get it hooked right up.

That’s about it from the homestead today. We’re just trying to stay busy so we don’t think about how dad gum cold it is outside. Hope you’re staying warm!

Bee Free,

Penny