Up With the Chickens

Raising children and chickens on a little buffalo farm

7 QUICK TAKES…

It has been a while since I’ve done one of these 7 QUICK TAKES, but today is a snow day, so I’m taking advantage of the extra time…

1.  SNOW DAY!!! 

One of the great things about living in Arkansas is the way we handle (or don’t handle) snow.  Here in Northern Arkansas, we get just enough snow that everyone owns a sled and a decent pair of snow (or farm) boots.  But we don’t get enough snow to be really equipped for it.  In other words, at the first sign of a flake, we all rush to the grocery store to stock up on batteries, bottled water, and junk food.  And when it hits, whether its 1/2 an inch or a foot, school is closed, businesses shut down, church services are cancelled, and we all get an unplanned staycation.  When the snow started Wednesday during school, chaos ensued.  Parents showed up at the school in droves to extract their children lest they be stranded.  Those children (and teenagers) who remained could not be restrained from jumping up to look out the window every 30 seconds to check accumulation amounts.  The excitement was electric.  In the end, school was dismissed at 12:45, the roads remained clear, and we received little to no accumulation.  However, by the next morning it had sleeted just enough to give us the rest of the week off!  Here’s the way things look at our place…

2.  BABY BUNNIES DUE ON SUNDAY!

We are expecting a litter of rabbits on Sunday.  This is particularly exciting because this doe, Penelope,  is a first-time mother, and this will be our first litter of Flemish Giants.  We are also a little nervous because this is our first time to breed a doe that has never kindled (had babies) before.  I’ve heard horror stories of first-time rabbit mothers eating their babies. What a ghastly surprise that would be down at the barn.

3. TURNS OUT, I HAVE A (DEEPLY) HIDDEN TALENT.

Okay, not really.  For my mother’s birthday this year, I bought us a class at a place called Painting with a Twist.  We attended a Paint Your Pet workshop.  I sent them photos of our dogs, and when we arrived, they had sketched each of them onto a canvas for us to paint.  It was a lot harder than I thought, and the instruction was minimal, but it was incredibly fun.  However, in retrospect, as much as I love our French Bulldog, Lily, I wish I had painted my rooster or a buffalo.  How cool would that have been!  Still, for someone who can’t even draw a straight line, I was pretty proud of my finished product.

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4.  I’M REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY TIRED OF THE PARANORMAL TEEN ROMANCE GENRE.

I write for another blog called What Kids Are Reading that reviews popular YA books.  This blog is not about what we wish kids were reading.  Otherwise, I would be reviewing Anne of Green Gables and Oliver Twist. As a 9th grade English teacher, I wanted to at least be able to enter into a conversation with my students about their books choices.  But recently when I tried to read Beautiful Creature.  I just couldn’t do it.  Why isn’t the cool new teen genre Historical Fiction?

5.  MY LENTEN READING HAS BEEN A TREMENDOUS BLESSING.

I am reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Father Michael Gaitley, and I cannot recommend it enough.  Fr. Gaitlely combines the Divine Mercy with Ignatian spirituality and the teachings of Saint. Therese of Lisieux.  The result is life altering.  (If these Quick Takes were in order of importance this would be #1.)

6.  I’M STILL TRYING TO PERFECT MY CHOCOLATE, PEANUT BUTTER QUINOA BARS

Maybe it’s time I accept the fact that I can’t combine all new healthy food obsessions with chocolate.  I have spent untold hours concocting coconut oil chocolate smoothies, coconut oil chocolate bars, coconut oil chocolate ice-cream topping… you get the idea.  Truth is, most of these experiments have been delicious.  Quinoa is proving to be much more difficult to disguise with chocolate.

7.  I’VE STARTED A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR MY CONFIRMATION CLASS...

And for the rest of the youth in our parish.  I’m hoping this will be a good way to enhance our religious education program.  My goal is to post prayers, Catholic trivia and teachings, reminders, and links.  I would appreciate any suggestions – especially good websites and blogs for Catholic teens.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.  God Bless!

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Farm Blessing…

Buffalo Morning

We haven’t gotten much snow in the Southern Ozarks this winter.  In fact, the dusting we got this morning has been about it.  But that was just enough for me to snap this photo.  By noon all the snow was gone, so I am happy I got the shot.

I’ve been feeling especially grateful for all the blessings of farm life lately.   It has put me in mind of the following prayer…

Bless, O Lord, Almighty God,

this farm.

May health and purity,

goodness and meekness 

and every virtue reign here.

May all those who dwell here

be filled with faithfulness to Thy law

and with thanksgiving to God,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

May this blessing remain on this farm 

and all who dwell here.

Through Christ our Lord.

 

Linke to:  Prairie Homestead Barn Hop

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Bee Not Afraid…

      We have a new addition to the farm.  Bees!  I’ve actually had them a while, but I got sidelined writing about it because I could not land on just the right bee pun for my title. Here were some of the ones I came up with:

It’s Unbeelievable!

A Beeutiful New Addition…

Well, I’ll Bee…

Okay, you get the idea.  Bee Not Afraid is somewhat of an ironic title  – because I am.  So, for now, I’m leaving the bee feeding up to Big Hal.  A few years ago when I was nursing babies, I decided that all potentially harmful or life threatening tasks (like tasting the chicken salad to see if it’s still good or dealing with thousands of angry stinging bees) should default to Big Hal.  That might seem harsh, but did I mention that I was pregnant and/or nursing for over 10 years and two of the babies were 10 pounds?  So, I think I’ve earned a free pass. Anyway, He wears protective gear – not a real bee suit, but some sort of turkey hunting garb he has that includes a veil.  If the hive (and Hal) survive through the winter, we will invest in a bee keeper’s suit this spring.

Most of the real bee keeping is actually being taken care of by  a friend of ours who has years of experience.  We hope to learn a lot from him and be able to tend to them all by ourselves someday.  We also hope to have a honey by fall.  I’m already planning a honey themed harvesting party!

In the meantime, we are already seeing positive results from having bees on the farm.  A peach tree which has never yielded fruit, did this year. With the bee population on the decline, I hope that our bee keeping will contribute positively to the local environment, and I hope to see more people raising their own hives in the future.  My father says that when he was growing up, everyone had a hive or two.

As a bee keeping newbie, I don’t have any advice to offer, but I do want to share some links.   It might seem strange for a big scaredy cat like me to be encouraging others to raise bees, but keep in mind my fears are mostly irrational and stem from a wasp in my hair incident in 2nd grade.  Yes, my bees scare me, but I will overcome my fear, and learn to feed the bees myself – someday.   Perhaps some of you other farmers and farmer wannabees, might like to give bee keeping a try too!

how-to-get-started-raising-honey-bees

how-to-raise-honeybees

Beekeeping.html

lc

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Praying For Rain….

Prayer:

O God, in Whom we live and move, and have our being, grant us rain, in due abundance, that, being sufficiently helped with temporal, we may the more confidently seek after eternal gifts. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer Source: Novena in Honor of St. Isidore: Patron of Farmers by National Catholic Rural Life Conference, National Catholic Rural Life Conference

(linked to homestead-barn-hop-61.html )

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Baby Bunnies!….

Yesterday, our beloved Claudia had a new batch of baby bunnies!  This is the third litter in the history of our little farming adventure.  So far, the excitement of new babies has not worn off.  Here’s how it works.  We put the lady bunny in the man bunny’s cage – never the other way around because the girls are very territorial and do not like to have their space invaded.  I guess they know the man will just come in, leave his socks around and hog the remote.

Anyway, after a brief courtship – of oh, about three seconds –  the loving couple consummates their union…again and again and again.  We usually give them about three days of intimate bliss then it’s time for the lady bunny to go home.  We learned that the reason we can’t leave them together indefinitely is because a female rabbit can get pregnant WHILE SHE’S ALREADY PREGNANT!!!!   Since I had ten pound babies, I am so happy this is not true for people. It’s not so great for rabbits either.

Once the Mamma-To-Be is back in her own space, we wait. It takes between 28 to 30 days.  In the meantime, Dad goes back to just hanging out and nibbling hay and waiting for the next conjugal visit.   At about day 25 we put a nest box in Mamma’s cage.  Here’s where it gets fun. A day or two before she gives birth, Mamma Rabbit does this cute little thing where she hops about the cage gathering hay in her mouth and transferring it to her nest box.  She’ll spend all afternoon doing this.  That night she’ll pull out tons of her own fur to add to her nest.  The next day the fur pile is so big that it looks like she should hardly have any left on her body, but  amazingly she looks none the worse.

After the nest is made it’s just a matter of days.  Claudia made her nest Sunday.  We checked the next box on Tuesday after school and behold – a mass of wiggling new life. That’s it. No muss. No fuss. I’ve heard of rabbit birth trauma – most of it involves the mother eating her young, but so far we’ve been spared this horror.  We’re cautious how much we mess with the nest and handle the babies in the first few days, but we think there are about five kits (baby bunnies).  I won’t post pics because, frankly, baby bunnies are gross looking at this stage. In another week, they will be unbelievably adorable.

I hope the excitement of new bunnies never wears off around here.  It’s so much fun to see The Littles’ enthusiasm.  They get a real sense of pride from having livestock that has actually reproduced – something cuddly, not just eggs.  Last time we sold a few rabbits, gave a few away, and even had a Name That Rabbit Giveaway contest on our rabbit Facebook page. We didn’t even make enough money off our rabbit sales to pay for a much rabbit food, but it was great fun!  And that is, after all, what our farm is mainly about.

And stay tuned for further adventures.  I’m asking for goats for Mother’s Day.  I know I’ll find lots of good information at homestead-barn-hop-60.html

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Rooster Woes…

Have I mentioned that all of our poultry have saints’ names?  I wanted to give the rabbits saints names too, but The Littles always  insist on naming new rabbits cute bunny names like Petal or Blossom.  Personally, I like names like Boniface or Francis Xavier for a bunny, but it is two against one.  So, I’m resigned to naming the chickens and roosters instead. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible for me to tell all 25 hens apart. Fine. The hens are all Brigid  and the three roosters are all Isidore, after two great saints and patrons of famers.

Anyway, this was a bad week for the Isidores.  The fact is, I never wanted roosters.  I’m afraid of them.  I’ver heard horror stories of rooster attacks.  But last fall, our “summer nanny” and chicken guru, Kenny (I’ll have a whole post on Kenny later, but he isn’t really our nanny. We just pretend he is) gave us three beautiful little banty roosters.  I couldn’t turn them down partly because they were a gift from Kenny and partly because he put them in my hen house when I wasn’t home, and I was scared to try to get them out.

They’ve been fine.  They make a wonderful cock-a-doodled-doo sound, and they strut about so prettily that I really have enjoyed having them.  At least I did until a week or so ago. That’s when one of them (we’ll call him Isidore I) started becoming aggressive.  I am sure there are more effective ways to deal with an aggressive rooster, but my method is to run out of the hen house and shut the door fast behind me.  Unfortunately for Isidore I, I closed the door a little too fast last week and caught his leg.  He seemed okay at the time, but I guess he went downhill slowly.  By Monday night, the Brigids and the other Isidores had turned on him in his weakened condition.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that those Hunger Games Tributes have nothing on my gals.  Hal managed to rescue him before they pecked the poor fella to death, but he did die later of either his leg injury or injuries inflicted by his coop-mates or both.  It was really sad.

That being said, I am ready to be rid of my roosters – not because of what happened with Isidore I, but because I think they are the reasons all the Brigids look so awful.  I’ve read up on feather loss, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason my gals are so feather bare on their backs is aggressive roosters.  There is a thing called a hen saddle (believe it or not) that is designed to protect hens from the effects of overly amorous roosters. And at only $10 each, that is a mere $250!   Ummm no thanks.  The roosters have got to go.

Chet (who is clearly way braver than I am) captured Isidore II, and we put him in an empty rabbit cage until we could find him a could home.  Bad idea.  The dogs could not stop obsessing over this one lone rooster, and poor Isidore II was a nervous wreck.  Today he flew the coop – literally.  I opened the cage to feed him and he flew out before I knew what was happening.  I somehow managed to get the dogs put in the house before they snatched him up.  But with all my men folk were gone.  I was left to face my rooster fears alone.  So of course I did what any seasoned farmer would do, I called my mother – my elegant, refined, city-raised mother.  As she always does, she rose to the occasion. We managed to wrangle Isidore II back into the hen house.  It was a proud moment for us both!

When Hal gets back we will catch him and Isidore III and take them to the Madison County Livestock Auction.  From what I hear, that is an adventure all its own. I can’t wait.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to tell.

 The official Hen Saddle.  Who knew?

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A Blessing of Eggs…

We pray Thee, O Lord, may the grace of Thy benediction come down upon these eggs, that they may be healthful food for Thy people who eat them in thanksgiving for the Resurrection of Our Lord JesusChrist, who liveth with Thee and ruleth for all eternity. Amen.

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The Patron Saint of Chicken Farmers

St. Brigid of Ireland is the patron saint of chicken farmers.  We keep her image hanging in our hen house.  To read more about her check out this delightful children’s book St. Brigid’s Cloak.

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Chicken Pins about Chicken Pens (and so much more)

I love gathering my eggs each day.  I love washing them, drying them, and arranging them in cardboard cartons.  It’s a time consuming chore that I could easily delegate to my children (and sometimes I do), but as often as I can, I do it myself.  I savor the simplicity of the whole process, and I get a real sense of satisfaction from seeing all my eggs lined up neatly in their cartons.

It’s silly, but one of the things that makes this chore such a joy is my egg basket.  It makes me happy to carry it empty down to the barn and return with it full.  It’s a charming little basket. For me, it adds to the joy of farming.   Now that I’ve discovered Pinterest, I realize that charmingness and chicken farming go hand-in-hand. Apparently there is a whole subculture of  poultry lovers out there, and their appreciation for all things chicken is delightful. It’s fun to see what chickens and chicken accessories other farmers are using to add to the joy of farming.  From darling muck boots to pretty aprons to lovely chicken coops, it’s all on Pinterest.  If you’d like to see what I’ve found,  Follow Me!

Farm on! (and Pin on!)

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Farm Fresh?

Another GoodEgg Tip

We’re getting so many eggs now that I wanted to be able to tell which ones are the freshest. What did we ever do before the days of google?  According to southernfood.about.com , This is how to tell:

  • Fill a deep bowl or pan with enough cold tap water to cover an egg.
  • Place the egg in the water.
  • If the egg lies on its side on the bottom, the air cell within is small and it’s very fresh.
  • If the egg stands up and bobs on the bottom, the air cell is larger and it isn’t quite as fresh.
  • If the egg floats on the surface, it it should be discarded.
  • A very fresh egg out of the shell will have an overall thick white which doesn’t spread much and the yolk will stand up.

Farm on!

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