Shearing Day, 2018

It’s that time again, and I hardly slept last night anticipating the challenge of shearing the goats. I planned ahead and got my electric shearing machine repaired last week, then stayed up into the wee hours of the morning watching YouTube videos that made shearing an angora goat look as easy as slicing butter. I spent an hour in the morning setting up my workshop with every tool I could guess I might need, including a little tube of super glue in case of a cut I couldn’t stop from bleeding.

When I took a deep breath and switched on the shearer, Eddy squirmed and tried to bolt in fear of the obnoxious buzz, but he was securely chained into the halter on his goat stand. I lifted the first handful of hair and prepared to slide the shaver smoothly along his skin. Thunk. It must have missed those videos because it made no headway at all. I tried over and over, but both Eddy and I were too nervous and edgy to keep it up. In the end, I dulled every scissors in the house painstakingly hand-snipping all that hair off. It took me hours.

When I finally released Eddy into the goat yard, Ely did not recognize this new little white goat and immediately challenged him to a duel. They wrestled and tugged on each other with their long curved head-weapons, but eventually Ely figured out that this was his same brother who shoves him out of the way to eat from the breakfast trough, and they went back to their normal social hierarchy.

By this time, I was out of sharp objects, so we took a break and dropped all of them off at the local sharpening shop while we went for a quick lunch. When I got home, I was determined to give that shearer one more try and re-read the troubleshooting instructions. I tightened up a knob and voila! It started cutting. It still took me a couple of hours, but I was able to turn Ely into a silvery smooth handsome devil. I’m tempted to go back and smooth out Eddy’s coat now that I know what I am doing, but I am so tired and achy from this job and it took a long time to clean up my mess so I think I’ll just let them both start growing out again for the next six months.

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Oh, Come On!

20180416_190646Enough already, let’s get this place warmed up. Spring is so cruel, teasing us with warm days, greening fields, and sunshine, then smacking us with cold, windy snow yet again. I even set up the goats’ summer watering trough but it’s full of slush today. I am so ready to get moving into the new season.

20180416_191005Since we mowed the fields to make room for the new prairie sprouts, there is not much cover for the little critters to hide in. My two barn cats have taken to wandering in the woods all day and just coming back in cover of darkness to eat and rest in the hay loft. I went several days not seeing either of them and was really sad. I worried that they had been adopted as indoor pets by another family who recognized how wonderful they were, or worse, had been eaten or run over on the highway. Happily, though, they have appeared on an off so I know they consider the barn a safe haven when they feel like it.

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In the lovely sunny days since Easter, we began a big project of clearing out the Chinese privet bushes that have clogged up the wooded hill between the highway and our farm. We spent hours with a chainsaw cutting them off at the ground and dragging them back to the barn to burn. The second day we worked on it I had the bright idea of just running the brush hog mower over them to chop them into little bits.

The brush is mixed with lots of wild grapevines that have wound their way up the trees and require lots of effort tugging down. I think this is fun and I don’t even mind when they break loose and send me flying. So far, I haven’t contracted poison ivy from the vines that may not really be grapes. The physical labor is exhausting but after I drag my feet home and collapse for a nap, I recover pretty well and feel so good about what we’ve accomplished. Hours and hours of work, but when you drive by at 40-50 mph, you pass it in an instant and don’t even notice. If we are diligent, though, it will make a real dent after a month of concerted effort. We might plant something that can help fight off future privets.

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A Couple New Mohair Creations

I’ve been having fun with my goats’ mohair yarn and wanted to share the last two items. The first one is a little cap for my good friend who is suffering from some bad hair days. It was a quick two-day project and I had no idea what was forming until I got half-way through it and figured out what was going on. The light green band is made in a long narrow cable stitch that you then join together and continue from there to fill in the top of the head. I was running out of light green so I switched colors. This was a great way of using up leftover balls of yarn from my mohair stash.

I’m getting better at figuring out that pesky gauge issue before I have to rip out all my work.

The other (spoiler alert for my daughter-in-law) is a first-birthday present for my little granddaughter, Eleanor. I finished it a week ago, but was waiting for a shipment of onesies and stretchy pants that arrived today. It has an interesting zig-zag pattern in the lower half and the sleeves that kept me alert making sure it did not go in the wrong direction.

I did not want to go all Barbie on this, but I did have a pile of hot pink-died fiber. To tone it down a bit, I plied together pink and white so it is kind of a peppermint stripe.

I’m having such fun with this! I actually started a monthly needlework circle with friends from church so we can sit together and compare stories while we knit and needlepoint together. I’m pleased that it is not all women. Some of them don’t know how to knit and want some help so that might be fun.

 

 

 

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Caught Up Carding

Before you can spin beautiful yarns out of raw fiber, you have to card it, meaning you comb all the fibers in one direction and roll it neatly into batts or little “rolags”. For big volumes of carding, I am fortunate to have a drum carder.  If you are diligent, you remove all the little “second cuts” that snuck in there. These are the short snippets of hair that you create when you try to even out the goat’s coat so they don’t look like they got a terrible haircut. When spinning, these aren’t long enough to really hang on well and may end up sticking out and shedding from the sweaters you make. You can see here on the floor the piles of second cuts I set aside as I worked my way through all the remaining fiber from the fall shearing.

I really needed to force my way through all that remaining fiber this week because in another week or two I’ll have to shear the boys again. Oh, man! This never ends. No, no, I am not complaining. It’s just that those goats keep me on a schedule. Here are the many smooth batts of mohair waiting now to be spun into beautiful yarn. I’d say, on average, that two batts make a skein or ball of yarn.

It helps to know what colors you want to make the same day you wash the new fleeces because then you can get it done without drying them first. I have to decide what I am going to need and buy some new colors of dye. I’m thinking pastels might be a nice change. This is before I have specific projects in mind, but it is really nice to be able to pick from my stock and make what I want.  I ran out of yarn for the last two things I made and had to stop and spin another ball before I could finish. That’s not a crisis, and it is better than having to run to the yarn store and hope they have the same lot number you bought earlier. I really love being relatively self-sufficient.

 

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Field Day

Igniting the Burn

Hooray, it’s that time of year again! Time to burn the prairie and mow down the old dry grass to open up the way for new green shoots to feel the spring sunshine. We divide up our prairie fields into four sections and cycle through burning a different section each spring. This gives the grasses a big boost as the competition with other stuff is reduced.

We got up early and out to put our safety measures in place – a water pump on the tractor and a rubber snuffer for me to drag over stray flames. We toss some straw in the air to confirm the wind direction and then start a fire on the side away from the wind to prepare a fire break.  We mow paths that make it easy to break the burning into small pieces that are easy to control. The problem we have is that a lot of the tall stems don’t really care to catch fire, so the whoosh of flame gets mostly the undergrowth.

The clear view from the house to the beehives.

After all the fires were out, my husband mowed the rest of the property to expose the gentle rolling hills that we only see for a month or two in the spring. It’s disorienting to be able to see clear across the farm with no place for the critters to hide.  Soon will begin the race to the sunshine of one species after another, each crowding the previous one out for that upper real estate. By end of summer, it will be six feet tall.

It was bitter cold standing in the morning wind, in spite of the roaring fire. I found myself shivering uncontrollably and had to clomp home with stiff cold feet to fetch a sweater and scarf for under my coat. You’d think the goats would suffer in the cold, but I found them sleeping out in the open field this morning, rounded lumps with frost covering their full mohair coats.

I get a thrill seeing the seasons begin to change. This is one of the best features of living in Michigan.

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New Breakfast Spot

Eddy and Ely are the best of friends who can’t abide being apart and will tell me so with frantic “Baaaaa-ing” when I pull one into the barn for maintenance. Still, when it comes to breakfast time, Eddy rudely shoves Ely out of the way with his shoulders and his horns so he can get most of it to himself. For this reason, last year we put in a long narrow feeding trough to hang from inside their shed. It was much more difficult for Eddy to hog the whole 30 inches of feeding area, so they both got their fair share.

Goat breakfastThis winter, though, I got tired of climbing over the electric fence and walking carefully through the ice and snow to deliver their breakfast in bed. I knew it’d just be a matter of time before I slipped and fell on my backside. I changed to feeding them together from a big flat rubber bowl. It did bother me to see Eddy going back to his greedy ways, but I pushed it out of my mind in the interests of safety and convenience (mine.)

Recently, I told my handy-man husband that I’d be so happy if only I could feed them from the long trough but not have to cross the fence. He was in a creative mood, so he built me this cool new feeding station. Painted to match the barn, yet! It has a nice little roof to protect the food from the rain and snow, although the goats seldom leave their breakfast in the trough longer than it takes to gobble it all down.

The boys seem quite happy with it already. They were unsure tonight whether to dance over to the breakfast station or wait by the hay feeder. Both are so fun!

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My Olympic Hoodie Project

Front

Back

Yay, I finished the sweater project that I wanted to start and end during the Olympics! I worked really hard on it, and am quite happy with the final result. It’s all hand sheared-dyed-spun mohair from my goats and so it has a silky sheen to it but this sweater was made on small needles so it is very compact. It ought to keep my grandson quite warm, so I hope it fits him.

I’ve been obsessed with getting this done under the Olympics timeline and I think I’ll take a break from knitting for a while to try and find other ways to spend my time. Maybe I’ll shift my focus back to spinning more yarn or getting some exercise!

 

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On and Off Snow

This late winter season has been quite erratic. We had days of deep snow last week, followed by a day in the 60’s and lots of rain in which all the snow melted. Now there are flood warnings and it got cold and icy. I just don’t know what to expect anymore, although I admit I don’t often attend to the weather forecasts. When you are retired and living on a farm it’s just like: “Who cares? I’ll just live with whatever I wake up to.”

The deep snow was beautiful and I don’t mind the shoveling. The squishy saturated soil hints that spring is on the way and I worry over a few premature daffodil sprouts. If I had the option to choose, I’d go for the snow for a few more weeks, at least.

 

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More Knitting Lessons-Learned

I am making a cute little hoodie for my grandson’s third birthday, adorned with construction trucks. (He loves trucks.) I zoomed through the picture portion of the project, eager to see how it would look. In the process, I made a zillion mistakes and ran into innumerable mysteries regarding why everything was not working out as it should.

I ripped out, re-knitted, ripped out again, and finally took it to the local knit shop for advice. It seems that if you skip the crucial step of checking your gauge, in other words how many stitches and rows per inch, things just may not come together right. I was excited and lazy and forged ahead without worrying about it. Surprise, it matters!

I had to start all over, probably losing about 15 hours of effort, with smaller needles and hard-earned wisdom. The smaller version of the “digger” is in the right gauge. The larger one is going to be unraveled and the yarn used to do other pieces over.

Another goal with this project is to make all the yarn from my goats’ mohair, dying and spinning it all to fit the requirements. I am getting better at spinning, but still have some lessons to learn about dying it. I needed the light green in the picture, so I took several batts of white that I’d carded months ago and threw it into the dye pot.  I loved the color! Then I fished it out and put it into my washer to rinse and spin. It turned into big lumps of felt!  I did not throw it away, but it took a good deal of effort to brush it back into a soft pile that I could spin. I developed some muscles, if not blisters!

 

 

I’ve joined a knitting race sponsored by a knitting website called “Ravelry”. The goal is to complete a project from start to finish during the Winter Olympics, and so it is called the “Ravellenic Winter Games”. I haven’t double-checked to see how much longer I have to get this done because I was sure I could do it. That was before I began that repetitive process of knitting, unraveling, knitting, unraveling, swearing, knitting, ….I think the moral to the story of my life is “Haste Makes Waste.”

 

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Ta Da!

I just finished my first mohair sweater, for myself. I was really worried that all that work might be for naught and it wouldn’t fit. I did extend the pattern three inches on the length of the body and sleeves. When I tried it on, the sleeves were still four inches too short so I had to cut them and insert about 25 more rows. In the end, though, I am happy. It is warm and fuzzy and soft, just as you’d imagine mohair to be. Thank you, angora goats!

Now, I have learned a lot about what works best in spinning mohair yarn and will start playing around with mixing colors and keeping out the short little pieces that make it even fuzzier than necessary and have to be pulled out. Live and learn. On to a birthday sweater for my little grandson.

 

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From Scratch – Goats to Sweater

A friend nudged me to get back in the habit of blogging. It is so easy to slip out of one habit and into another and before you know it, you are off on a new quest and forget all about the old ones. I wonder if that is only me and my 62-year-old highly distractable nature?

Here is what is going on at the farm this January. I visit my animals at least twice a day for feeding, petting, and those dirty chores required to keep their homes from smelling to high heaven. The bitter cold weather causes them to stay close to home and it is my job to see that their water is not ice, that they have food that generates heat as they digest overnight, and that they know they are loved. A periodic thaw like today, with that rare winter sunshine brings everybody out to explore and play with their friends, and lifts my spirits as well.

In the mean time, I’ve been spending my time trying to stay rested and healthy in the midst of swirling cold and flu viruses. I have focused my productive time on creating things with my goats’ mohair. I did a lot of knitting for family on the lead up to Christmas, and now I am indulging in making something just for myself.

Here is a photo of a mohair sweater I want to make. I figured out how much yarn of each color I will need and discovered that I did not have enough purple to make it as it is in the photo. I tried dying some yarn I’d made earlier but it came out a dark teal instead of purple. I sat down to debate with myself how to proceed.

Here is my plan. I picked out colors from my stash that I dyed in the fall, and I will spin just a ball or two of each to cover the requirements in the yoke. I have enough of the teal to do the bulk of the sweater. Today, I start spinning the yellow and the bright blue. The navy is already done and is lustrous and soft. Picking and spinning the materials and the anticipation of how it will all look together is really fun. The scary part is waiting to see if it actually comes together into a piece of clothing that fits me. Hats, scarves, and mittens are very little risk. A sweater, however, could mean a month of effort and a big chunk of my materials all wasted on an item that doesn’t really look good on me or anyone else.

So, drum roll… Weeks from now, we shall see.

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Snow Comes Again

I am fond of snow this time of the year. (Ask me in March and you’ll hear a different story.) We finally got our first couple inches this week and all the animals are remembering what it’s like and what to do with it.

Goats 12-2017The dogs came in flinging little snowballs from their feet all over the house. The chickens did not wander the yard as much as usual and the three “babies” did not venture out at all. The goats’ curly foreheads were crusted with ice and snow, although I’m not sure why. I looked around for their tracks and it looked like they’d slept in their shed, out of the cold. They were out in the pasture nibbling whatever green stuff they could still find. Maybe they’d rubbed their faces in the snow in the process.

I found cat paw prints all up and down the driveway, so one or both of them have been out exploring.  Their prints were intermingled with rabbit, mouse, and deer tracks. Emmie’s silky black coat stands out starkly against the snow so if I look out the window it is easy to spot her. Mickey seems to prefer staying in the barn but I have found him outside a couple times so I know he has figured out the cat door.  This may be the first snow that either of them have experienced.

My game camera broke so I don’t know if we are still getting visits from foreign cats at night. I’m curious whether the cat door discouraged the visits. Yesterday, I broke down and ordered a new camera from a more reputable company. I am nosy and just want to know what’s going on out there when I’m not around.

For me, I am spending most of my time indoors, creating things. I’m really getting into the joys of knitting, especially for Christmas gifts. Once the gifting season is over, I’m going to focus in on spinning more mohair yarn. Now that I know more about what I’ll do with it, I am excited to start experimenting with different weights, colors, and textures.

Even so, it is good for me to have the barnyard visits to get me out of the house and into the fresh air a couple times a day.

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Catwalk

Both my barn cats have finally been to the vet for checkups and vaccinations. The vet thinks Mickey is about seven months old, which would explain his crazy kitten behavior. Emmie finds him soooo annoying. He has gotten bolder with her and sometimes I worry that she’ll run away just to avoid his irritating antics. At first, a hiss and glistening cat fangs were enough to keep him at bay but now he is relentless.

 

I think I have solved the problem, though. I leaned a long plank of scrap lumber up into the hay loft from the workbench and stapled burlap on top to make it easy to grip. Emmie caught on immediately and gingerly balanced her way up into the new territory. Micky has gone up there as well, but I saw Emmie slash at him and scare him back down the ramp so he’d leave her alone.

I couldn’t find Emmie when I went out to feed the gang this morning. I called out to her, “Meow!” and she popped her head up from her new perch on top of a bale of hay. Quite happy, here, thank you very much.

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Return

returnWe’ve had a hard couple of months. My mother-in-law was suffering from a terminal illness and was in and out of the hospital with increasing frequency, until the doctor suggested it was time to call Hospice. We spent a good deal of time sleeping on her couch and floor while we got a schedule worked out for 24-hour caregivers and then returning to be by her side for her final week.

In between, we came home to the farm and furiously worked at the chores and projects that had to be finished up before the snow arrived. The long lists got a flurry of check marks and then had to be left to gather dust each time we had to drive back across the state lines to help out. Then, there was the funeral, and now, all the legal steps to tie up loose ends of a life.

It surprises me how my comforting, familiar routine at home can be abandoned abruptly and slip out of my vision with no feeling of loss until, bit by bit, it begins to creep back into place. That’s where I am now. I haven’t looked at any blogs for a month. I got out of the habit of following the news and lost track of the story lines of my favorite shows. I am sure I missed out on some important things, but none of it seemed relevant anymore.

So anyway, here I am, back in the world. During breaks from catching up on bills, chores, and commitments, I will see what I missed in the blogosphere.

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The Spare Kitty

My farming friends have advised me that you need more than one barn cat. This was following a scare in which we found Emmie’s twin lying in a roadkill heap out on the highway in front of the farm. It was not her, though, and I’ve felt that much closer to Emmie ever since thinking we’d lost her.

Still, things happen. I am gradually learning to accept that living on a farm with free-ranging animals that we will lose some of them to predators, accidents, and maybe someday running away from home. My littlest hen, Scooter, disappeared last week and we’ll never know why.  This points to the farm wisdom that you plan for losses by bringing in more animals than you think you need.

So, this weekend when the local shelter had a free adoption event, my husband went over and picked out a sweet little male kitty named Micky. I believe he is not full grown yet, as he acts playful and curious like a kitten and is smaller than Emmie. Micky loves to be held and snuggles up around my neck with his little purr motor rumbling under my hands.

The two cats have not yet become friends. It took no time at all to hear the back-of-the-throat hiss as Emmie faced off with this intruder. I am hoping it will gradually settle out and they will learn to enjoy each other’s company. Currently, Micky comes bouncing out from hiding when I come into the barn and begs me to pick him up for a cuddle. Emmie then sidles out and gives him the evil eye, putting him on fearful alert. I am trying to give them both lots of one-on-one attention so they learn that I don’t play favorites.

It’s surprising to me how quickly we have adapted to loving cats. My husband is terribly allergic and, as I have said, I am firmly a “dog person.” Still, the cat experience in the barn is just as sweet as sitting on the sofa with my beloved dogs. Who knew?

 

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Our First Grape Harvest

This is the third summer since planting our little vineyard and this year we allowed the Concord grapes to form. Last week, I scrambled under a tight time window to get the first batch of ripe grapes turned into juice and jam. Boy, is it delicious!

Picking the grapes was simple. I just snipped the stems and let them drop into a tub. I picked about a third of them, just the darkest purple bunches. Then I swished them around with water from the hose and took the rinsed grapes into the house for a final cleaning and picking them off their stems.

We’d purchased a juicer, which is like a three-piece double boiler. The grapes go into the top pot with a sieve at the bottom. The lowest pot is for boiling water into steam. The middle pot has an opening in the middle for the steam to rise into the top pot and then catches the juice that leaks out  from the grapes above it. The juice can’t leak back down the steam hole. Got that? There is a tube coming from the middle pot with a clamp that allows you to release the juice into another container as it builds up.

This was an interesting experience. I made several batches of jam, learning the tricks as I went along. Strangely, they did not all come out the same. I’ve had plenty of chemistry lab experience so I would have thought I was quite careful but I must have done things slightly differently from one time to the next. With the juice that didn’t add up enough for the jam recipe, I added a smaller amount of sugar to make juice. I always loved grape juice, but this is the really good stuff! Thick and substantial.

Last night I went back out to check the remaining fruit. Oh oh. These grapes were super ripe and were crawling with yellow jacket wasps. I backed carefully away and slept on it, dreaming how I might get my share of the harvest without getting stung. This morning, I tucked my jeans into tall rubber boots and suited up with my honey bee jacket, veil, and gloves. Armored for war, I snipped the clusters right off into the tub and dragged it away with swarming wasps all over it.

I thought I was pretty clever. I filled the tub with water from the hose and the wasps floated up and over the edge along with the tired, wrinkled grapes that were past their prime, and I just swished them all out with a stick. Now, the final, sweetest grapes of all are on the back porch with a towel to keep the bees away. One more session with the juicer and we’ll have saved the bounty of the vineyard for year number one.

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Dyed in the Wool

Technically, angora goats produce mohair, not wool, but I dug in and did the shearing, washing, and dying all in this one labor-intensive week and created some pretty flamboyant piles of colorful fiber. I am quite proud of myself.

I will roll this backwards and show what it took go do the job. Here is a picture of the protective coverings I had to put all over the stove to prevent splashes of dye from getting into the grout and countertops of my kitchen. I only had one splash and the paper coverings captured it all.

I did have some trouble remembering to put on my rubber gloves as I worked with the dye powders, but the stains on my fingers have already faded away.

Before I could process the mohair, I had to soak it all overnight in a special detergent solution and rinse it a million times until the water finally came out fairly clear.

Here it is divided into eight sections  of Eddy’s white hair and Ely’s silver-gray locks.

Of course, the step before that was actually hauling my two boys into the barn stall for their haircuts. I have really struggled to find a regular shearer, so I gave up and decided to bite the bullet and learn to do it myself. A faithful friend came to help hold the goats still while I buzzed them with the big black monster of a shearing tool. After a while, I got fairly comfortable with it and by the time I was done with the second goat I did a pretty decent job. I brought Eddy back in to neaten him up a little and the motor died, so that was the end of that. I’ll have to figure out how to repair the machine.

Here is a picture of Eddy and Ely munching their dinner. Eddy was already sheared and Ely was still weighed down with his full six-month growth of hair. I think we have turned the corner in my farmer-hood. I can do this!

 

 

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Goodbye, Old Isa

I knew when I got chickens that they have a shorter lifespan than dogs, and worried a bit what I’d do when their time came. Well, it looks like I know now.

My first generation of chickens is now three and a half years old.  They rarely lay eggs anymore, and move more slowly around the chicken yard, reveling in their status at the top of the pecking order. I feel bad when I witness some of my old favorites angrily lashing out at the young ones with their beaks to put them in their places. What cranky old ladies they have become.

Isa as a teenager

Yesterday, I noticed old Isa was sitting alone on the roost in the morning. By late afternoon I peeked in and she was still there. I picked her up and petted her, checking to see that she was not injured. I set her gently on the floor and she stood up and looked at me. When I went to close up the gates in the evening, she was still in her spot on the floor so I picked her up and placed her back on the roost so she could stay warm with the flock overnight. This morning, she had passed away.

I guess that is the way to go, warm among your flock and in a safe place. Hopefully she died in her sleep. I dug a hole in the field where the chicken graveyard has gradually formed. Now, I look at my other older hens and my dear rooster, Cooper, and think sadly that their months are numbered as well. I know this is just farm life and the cycle moves on.  I have learned to introduce a new generation of chicks each year and will look at them as “the class of 2016”, “2017”, etc. as we move through the years. The class of 2014 will probably always be my favorite, though, as we learned together how to live on the farm.

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Re-engineering the Chicken Run

20170828_080915I got an idea this month, as I walked out through the chicken run to feed the goats and as usual, the hens all rushed past me out into the pasture. What if we had an inner wall with a door so that I could control when they were able to slip out? I put my inventive husband onto the task and this week we created the new wall.

This is working great, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before! I moved the chicks’ box to the inside of the enclosed area and now I have a two-stage process for bringing everyone safely in at night. Before, when one or two stray hens came late and I had to open the door to herd them in, there was always the risk that someone else would then slip back out and I’d have to go chasing them around the yard. I don’t like my chickens making me look foolish.

When we’d finished up and I was walking about picking up loose tools, I shooed a hen off the straw bales we store along the wall. Under her, I was shocked to find that some of the hens had taken to laying eggs in a secret nest they’d made in the straw. I had noticed that production had slowed lately, but this clutch contained 20 eggs! 20170826_155341

Those stinkers. I rearranged the straw bales so they no longer have a nice hiding place, and now I know enough to go searching now and then for a secret cache. I’d like to retrain them to go back to laying in the convenient nest boxes, but I’m not sure how to do it. Now, they are laying on the floor in the corner of the coop so I have to walk inside to fetch them

Do you chicken experts out there have any good ideas?

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Are They Old Enough?

20170818_081205This year’s chicks have had a rough go of it. They are seven weeks old now, and I am trying to decide if it is safe for them to be running free. You may remember that I set them up with a door in their cage that would allow them to do this, a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it was too soon.

One day, I couldn’t find them. I normally could hear the “Peep peep peep” as they clustered around each other running from here to there. I tiptoed carefully around all the places I’d seen them before, to no avail. I’d almost given up when I noticed one step further and I’d have stepped on them, hiding under the weeds in the pasture. They were keeping very quiet and still.

I suspect they’d been witness to a murder. One of them was missing, and my guess is that a hawk had spotted them and picked the first one off, planning to come back for another snack whenever it got hungry again.  I herded them back into their safe haven and closed up their door so they’d be unable to wander into danger again. That is where they have remained except for the few times the enclosure was breached for one reason or another and we’ve had to hunt them down and tuck them away in safety again.

20170824_081722In the mean time, they are growing fast and the largest is too big to slip through the fence anymore. The smallest is still quite little and looks like a baby but she is quick as a shot so if she is alert she should be able to dash out of the way of danger. Her sister was not.

We have four left, out of the eight we brought home this summer. Three died of injuries when they were tiny, and the fourth was the one who was whisked away. I grieve for each one, but all I can do is learn from the experience and figure out how to protect the others from a similar fate. I guess the next time I should buy twice as many as I really need. I am not yet enough of a farmer to look at little creatures as commodities.

As it is, today I decided to give them some freedom and hope they learn to come back to the fenced chicken run at night so they can be locked in safely like their brethren. I hope they all make it.

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