Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chickens in The Compost

Since the chickens have gotten bigger, we have started letting them out of their pen for several hours in the late afternoon so they can forage in the woods. They really enjoy this and if it were possible to keep the cat away from them, I'd love to be able to let them out more. We will probably build a movable pen for them at some point so they can spend more time out in the yard.
Their day looks something like this: at around 6:00 am when I let them out of their coop, into their run and feed them their "grow" and "scratch". Around noon, we bring them all of the fruit and veggie scraps from the kitchen as well as more grow and scratch if the kitchen scraps are sparse. We let them out into the yard around 4 pm each day. When we let them out one of the places they enjoy visiting is the compost bins.
They really love kitchen scraps and I usually put some in the compost, so they head over for that and to see if there are any bugs or worms as well. It is amazing to watch them clear an area of bugs.

Here is a close up of "Susan" enjoying herself in the compost.

They are about 2/3 grown now. Its hard to tell from this picture because I was standing above when I took it (can't squat down near the chickens because they will either try to eat the camera or hop up on my lap - funny girls).

Here are two of the roosters hanging out near the dog. They have already figured out that he cannot get to them as long as they stay outside of a certain range. They are much more adventurous than the girls, who tend to stay in the woods, near the coop/ run. In fact, the four roos can usually be found together roaming the property, like a little gang of boys. The roosters, by the way, have already begun their first attempts at crowing, which are pretty funny - half crow, half choke.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Really Hate Exercising

I was very fit in high school (I guess most of us were). Not only was I in ballet approximately 3 days a week, but I was also on a National Champion competitive cheerleading squad and we practiced every day, unless we were practicing twice a day. So how could I possibly hate exercising. I wondered about that for a long time. I wondered why I could not make myself get on a treadmill every day. Why did I avoid the stationary bike like the plague? We have a small stair climber, and I do use that sometimes - maybe once a week. I enjoy yoga, but can't make myself do it more than a few times a month. Why? My husband works out faithfully at least 3 times a week and he loves it. As an adult, I've often felt like a lazy failure because I could not make myself do it too.

For a while now I've thought that maybe it had to do with the exercise not really having a purpose outside of just the exercise. Its really hard to stay motivated to do something you really dislike just because you need the exercise. In high school, I enjoyed ballet, so I took classes. I didn't take classes because I wanted to exercise. It seems I may have been right. I spend approximately an hour and a half a day cutting, chopping, hauling, building and digging. I sweat more than I've sweat in years. I'm sore every day and I love it. I have not felt this healthy and in shape in 15 years or more and I am even slowly beginning to see the effects of all of this "farm" work on my arms, legs and waist. Very cool But to be honest, I'd continue with all the work even if I were not getting into better shape by doing it. I take care of the dog because we all love him. I dig and haul to build an organic garden so that my family has lots of fresh naturally grown fruits and veggies. I take care of the chickens so my family will have vitamin packed, healthy eggs in a few months and I cut down and chop up small trees on our property so that we will have firewood next winter. My "workout" has a purpose and I know that is what is keeping me going.

Do you enjoy working out? What do you do to stay fit?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Farmer's Market Finds -Woo Hoo!!

Just got back from the farmer's market and I am so excited. The produce farmers were there today!! With produce!!! I came home with pastured eggs, broccoli, spring mix salad greens (can you see the edible flowers?), english peas, baby zucchini and baby yellow squash!! Woo Hoo! I am so excited. They all said that they were expecting to have even more next week - yay!

This is what the market looks like from the outside. Its a really nice building dedicated strictly to the farmer's market which is just Saturdays right now, but during the summer it runs Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday.

This is what it looks like inside. I was standing in the middle when I took this (blurry) shot. Behind me was a mirror image of the side you can see.

There is an outdoor market in another town, a little closer to us that will open on Saturday and Wednesday starting in two weeks. Last year, that market had even more produce than the one I went to today, in particular, homegrown fruit. I cannot wait!!

Did you get anything at the farmer's market this week?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another E Coli Outbreak

I just heard on the news that there has been a recall of romaine lettuce associated with an e coli outbreak that has 12 people hospitalized, two in critical condition. This frustrates me on so many levels. First, I am frustrated because e coli is so dangerous. It is not the "bad stomach bug" most people think it is. It is a deadly infection that, in children especially, often causes something called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or HUS. This is scary stuff, folks. Basically, the body's systems begin to shut down, one at a time and may or may not start working again. Hospitalization lasts for MONTHS. I understand why the media does not explain how deadly e coli can be - if they did it would shut down our food growing and distribution industry. But still, it frustrates me that it is portrayed so lightly.

I am also frustrated that our congress will most likely "respond" by passing legislation that does not actually help anything, and might actually make things worse. This sort of problem is caused by large scale industrial agriculture-farmers who do not have to look their customers in the eyes; farmers who must compete on price alone, so they must cut corners elsewhere just to keep from going under. These kinds of things rarely happen in small scale farming, so why does our government try to solve the problems by tying the hands of the small farmer?

I'm also frustrated because this kind of thing makes me more scared to buy from the grocery store. My garden is small this year and the farmer's market is still not offering much in the way of produce; mostly just lettuce and strawberries, for which I am very grateful. But, thank God we are in May and last year the farmer's market had more fresh veggies and fruit than we could want by the beginning of June. Thank God!!

Stepping down off the soapbox, now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We Have Roosters!!

My Dad, who lives in town, bought 4 straight run chicks a few months ago, figuring at least some would be hens. Surprise! All four were roosters. He decided that he wanted to keep his neighbors as friends, therefore, the roosters had to go. So, the guys moved here to the woods and are hanging out with my girls now. They are about a week older than the girls, but are so much bigger. We are holding out on naming them since we are planning to select the one who seems to be the best protector and keep him, and the rest will most likely end up in the freezer. Although . . . As luck would have it, they are the same breeds as the girls; 2 are Dominques, 1 is an Americauna and 1 is a Rhode Island Red. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get them to raise chicks :) Ah . . . farm dreams . . .

Garden Update - May 5, 2010

Our little garden is coming along. We are harvesting a little something almost every day now (mostly peas and strawberries). Here are a few pictures and updates:

Here are some blueberries. We have two bushes and they are loaded down with pretty silver-blue berries. We are really going to enjoy these in a few months.

These are our yellow bush beans. They look a little droopy because we had just watered them with the hose and that usually temporarily knocks them down. Behind them, you can see russet potatoes which are growing like crazy.
These are "Small Sugar Pumkins" the boys planted a few weeks ago. If they fruit, the boys want to make pies from them.

These are "Sugar Snow Peas". We have been harvesting a few each day and some of them even make it all the way into the house before they are eaten :)

This is my parsley plant. It has been eaten down to the dirt several times by the adorable little woodland creatures, so I put this hardware cloth around it until we get the fence built. It seems to be working well.

These are our little "Black Prince" Russian heirloom tomatoes. This picture is almost a week old, and I cannot get over how much they have grown in that time.

These are some bunching onions that my Dad gave me from his garden. These never develop a full bulb, but serve nicely as green onions. He originally got these from my grandfather who was a farmer. Dad has been growing these for years without ever having to get new plants, since they make new onions by growing "babies" around the "mama".

These are the garden boxes my Dad built for us last year when we were in a rental. The tomatoes are planted here as are the snow peas, some bulb onions (red, yellow, white and sweet), some carrots, a few strawberries and spinach.

I do not have pictures of the rest of the strawberries, nor the pear tree with its thousands of little pears, nor the fig tree. For some reason, I also don't have a picture of the Swiss Chard, which is ok, since it is still pretty small. When there are more leaves on the new raspberry and blackberry canes, I'll post pics of those, too. Also, we have recently been gifted a loquat tree, which has the boys thrilled. It is still really small, but when we find a place for it, I'll post a pic, too.

The garden is small this year, but I am really hopeful. We are planning to remove some of the big trees near the house, which may free up some more space to garden. Do you have a garden update on your blog? Feel free to post a link in the comments, since most of my readers love to read garden updates. I know we'd all love to see what's going on in your garden. :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Woods are Full of Creepy-Crawlies

I am a girly-girl. Not a pink princess kind of girly-girl, but a "honey, come quick and kill this bug for me", or standing on the chair screaming when there is a mouse, kind of girly-girl. I'm not a big fan of that kind of thing. Creepy-crawlies are interesting to read about or look at from behind glass, but definitely, not to touch. But living in the woods has slowly begun to cure me of those tendencies. I mean, there are bugs everywhere. I either have to get used to them or stay inside ALL of the time, so I am getting used to them. So used to them in fact that I now catch some bugs with my bare hands in order to feed them to my chickens :)

There are two creepy-crawlies in particular that I am getting used to, but still really don't like very much. The first is ticks and the second is snakes. We live in the woods and these woods are filled with deer, so we have to contend with ticks. I've already spoken with our doctor about it to make sure we are not in danger of contracting diseases and he said that we are too far south to be in danger (the infected ticks are several states further north), so we are not resorting to chemicals to deal with them. We are employing the hungry hen method of tick elimination, hoping that our girls will rid the area immediately surrounding the house of those creepy-crawlies. Until they do that, though, I am getting some experience with removing ticks. I'm hoping to soon post some interesting stuff I learned about tick removal.

Regarding snakes, we've only seen a few and they have all been rat snakes which are non-venomous, so I'm trying to be ok with it :) Here is a picture of the first time we saw one (you will need to enlarge it to really see anything).
We've since seen a few more, once even in my compost, but each time, they were gone when I returned with my camera (I guess they are shy ;). So, in order to make sure we don't have any bad snake encounters, we are doing a few things to keep safe. First, no one goes out into the woods without their boots. Second, we are learning to recognize the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes. And third, we are working on increasing our situational awareness - really being on the lookout for snakes.

I recently read that chickens will eat mice and small snakes, so my girls are going to help us with the snake population as well as the tick population, I hope. Love my girls!!

I'm going to try to get a garden update posted in the next few days. Its going to be a small garden this year, but its still such fun!!