Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

This was what I saw when I came in after offering Pyper some blue cake batter. I made a flag cake for a friend's Memorial Day party, the cake being red, white and blue. Pyper looked like she had gone a few rounds with a Smurf...

My flag cake. It tasted as good as it looked.

We were gardening, and lost track of Pyper. I came around the side of our outbuilding and found 2 old friends talking...

And sharing a pat and rub.

Pyper and I went to our friend's organic farm, Omega Lane Farm, down the street from us. They have a passive solar green house and raise all their veggies from seed. We bought 7 different tomato varieties. One of which is a yellow tomato. We'll try it. I think that's the fun in gardening--exploring new varieties and seeing what works from year to year.

Our tomato selection

I bought all my kitchen herbs from Omega Lane Farm as well. These are all perennials, so I'm planning on having them for a while. I hope. Last year, we forgot and tilled them all up. Oh, well.

Pyper wanted to paint the fence like daddy, so Shannon filled up her bucket with water, and she went to town, wanting to accomplish something like this...

Shannon staining the fence. It's been up for 2 years, and we've been meaning to do it, but one thing or another kept us from doing it. Now, it looks so fresh and clean. I love the outcome! Shannon works so hard around the farm. What would we do without him??? I guess just have ugly brown fence.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Feathers and Fins

They still look small in these pictures, but our Dixie Chicks are really growing. Their tail feathers and wing feathers are really coming in. They chase each other, hopping and flapping their little wings.

This picture really shows off the wing and tail feathers of Myrtle, one of our Rhode Island Reds...Also, at the pet store, Pyper and I picked up 2 dozen "super worms." These super worms are gnarly. They look like a cross between a meal worm and a centipede. Pyper LOVED feeding the chicks these super worms. I was not keen on handling these VERY wiggly, ugly, nasty things, but my daughter had no problem with it. She reached down, picked them up between her index finger and thumb and examined each one for several seconds before throwing them to the peeping crowd below. She would then clap and proclaim, "YAY!" Pyper is one tough chick.

Pyper was VERY excited about the "ish" (fish). That's 18 month talk for ya. She was really more interested playing in trough water. We decided to buy 2 goldfish for each 100 gallon water trough to keep down mosquito larvae and the algae in the tanks...

I'm glad Shannon told me to float the bags with the fish in them so the bag water would become the same temperature as the trough water. I let them sit in the trough for about 30 minutes or more to ensure our little goldfish would be ok.

These are how tiny the fish are. The lady at our local pet store said they will grow as large as my hand (even though I have really small hands), because they grow as large as their tank. She also said a goldfish's lifespan is 25 years. I doubt our little guys will make it that long, but who knows? Maybe they will!

Now, as you read this blog, please know this was not an easy endeavor for me. It was POURING down rain when we got into the car from the pet store. Within the 10 minutes it took for me to get home, it was a MONSOON. I left Pyper watching Aristo-Cats in the car, while I ran in and changed from my work clothes into my barn clothes...mud boots included.

I then got the umbrella, and perched Pyper on one hip, holding the "bags-o-fish," super worms, fish food, and chick gravel in the other hand. We trotted to the barn, trying hard not to get wet, Pyper squealing (she loves the rain), and I threw open the coop door, dropped Pyper in the shavings, and dropped the bag. After leaving Pyper in the care of the chicks while I acclimated the fish to the water troughs, I booked it back into the coop.

We fed the Dixie Chicks, watched them preen and settle down for the night, then went and released the fish. Luckily by this time, it had stopped raining. We hiked up the hill to the top pasture to release the fish in the top tank. Pyper wanted to play in the water more than release the fish, so I let her for a little bit. Then the horses decided to follow us up.

Pyper by this time was a muddy mess, and refused to leave the water trough. I was tired and ready to go in, so I picked her up, with her kicking, screaming and trying to hit me. The horses trotted behind us all the way down the hill and then BOOM! I lost my footing, and we went down. I landed in such a way to protect Pyper, but not my hip. We slid down about 10 feet in the mud, me 24 weeks pregnant, holding a toddler and the whole time, Pyper screams, "YAY!" I'm glad she thought it was fun. It was laughable after the fact, but I was irritated that we both needed baths after all that.

Whew. I'm exhausted. So was Pyper, she fell asleep with no fight. Ahhhh...the life of a hobby farmer. I wouldn't change one minute of it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Growing up...

Shannon prepping the rows with fertilizer. We used an organic compost last year which greatly added to the soil conditions. We didn't add any this year, but plan on putting compost and putting the chickens on the garden in the fall to add Nitrogen and have them eat some good bugs and grubs.

Getting ready to plant. Pyper is our foreman, and is available for consults.

Shannon found 2 moles in the garden right after tilling it. Disappointed in the lack of effort from Hammish, our wonder hunter cat, Shannon killed both moles. I was amazed at how big its front paws were and the design made for digging up our garden is astounding!
Pyper watering her garden

Pyper selecting potatoes for the garden. We told her to pick sections with "eyes" on them, and she proceeded to point to her eyes. She is one smart cookie. Well, that's what I thought until she took a big bite out of this raw potato. She's Shannon's child...

Abby is growing more and more every day. She has just turned 1, and I can't believe she is almost as big as her momma, Anna. Anna stands at 15.3 hh. I have a feeling Abby will be a bit taller. Only time will tell.

The Dixie Chicks are growing sooooo fast! In fact, yesterday when I was doing a daily once over, I noticed little tail feathers growing.

Their wing feathers are growing in, and they are getting bigger, over all...

It might be all the night crawlers and meal worms we're feeding these girls.

They are growing so fast, in fact we had to put up 2 ft chicken wire around the brooder to keep them contained. While playing with them today, one chick escaped by hopping and flying over the side of the pool. Pyper thought it was great fun to chase it all around the coop. This fence, has worked. So far.
Speaking of things Pyper likes to chase, here is our sweet Hannibal. Vicious Rottweiler, extraordinaire. He loves to play fetch, and Pyper loves to throw the ball for him. He is her ever-present companion, and faithful friend.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chick Viewing Party!

After church, we ran to the local bait and tackle shop (a gas station) and bought a little tub of meal worms for the Dixie Chicks. We had great success with earth worms the other day, and Shannon thought to mix things up a bit. We had invited some close friends and their little ones to come over and see the girls. Chicks are really only cute for a week or two, so we decided to make a day of it. We had hot dogs (thinking that serving chicken would be in poor taste) and goodies, the kids rode bikes and 4 wheelers, and then wanted to see the chicks.

The kids (and adults) loved watching the chicks play keep away with the meal worms. We call it the Chicken Derby, because they were running around with a meal worm in their beaks so fast we just saw little blurs of either red, black or yellow. Interesting side note: the Barred Rock chicks (black ones) are far more aggressive and competitive than the other chicks. They are less timid and will take the meal worms right out of our hands. The others are too timid to trust us just yet.

Hunter, the little boy resting on the pool side, was mesmerized. He really seemed to enjoy it.

My friend Frances, holding one of the girls for her kids to pet.

Steven Jr being brave and holding a meal worm. He liked to feed the girls. Jen, his mom, points out where to put the snack.

Grant, on the left, was very excited to see the Chicken Derby. Pyper looking on proudly, as these are HER cuck-cucks.

I love this picture. This is little Clara. The youngest of our bunch. She's almost 10 months old, but you can see the wonder as she pets the little chick with her dimpled fingers. It is times and days like this that I thank God for living on a farm, and having great friends. God is so good, all time.

Pyper Meets the Dixie Chicks

Heading out to the barn to meet the chicks. Pyper knew something exciting was about to take place and kept saying, "Whoa!"

This look is priceless. She was entranced by the little "cuck-cucks" as she calls them. They were hopping around and peeping giving her a good show.

She desperately wanted to get her hands on one, so I caught one, and she proceeded to give it a kiss...

Tirelessly trying to catch a chick. Luckily, they are too fast for her dimpled little hands. We won't let her hold one on her own. So, she gets to look with her eyes, and only pet with her hands.

Trying to talk Shannon into letting her hold one...

"So many chicks, so little time!!!"

Getting a chance to pet one on the head. She likes to point out the body parts as we name them.

"These are all mine!!!"

"Seriously? I can't even hold ONE???

After we changed out the paper towels (they were nasty) we changed everything over to pine shavings. Pyper thought this was a great idea and literally spent an hour putting shavings in the brooder and taking them out. This is her new favorite past time. She still enjoys the chicks, but the shavings for whatever reason seem to entertain her more. She likes them so much, she dumps them on her head and squeals. Oh, well...a bath can remedy that...

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Dixie Chicks!

Shannon and I (mostly Shannon) have been working hard on finishing the coop and brooder for the chicks. Shannon spent all day on Wednesday predator-proofing the coop. Tuesday night, I set up the brooder. Basically, it's just a 5 ft baby pool for the chick containment. I then put together a left over medium moving box and Shannon attached the legs, which was some left over trim work laying around in our barn. He attached the legs so the box would sit about 10 inches off the ground to provide a concentrated heat source for the chicks. He then cut a 6 inch hole on the top of the box to release the heat. I threaded the heat lamp cord up through the hole, and wrapped the cord around a spare piece of wood. This will allow us to regulate the temperature. Starting temp should be around 95 degrees and reduced 10 degrees/week. I used a 250 W red heat bulb. A red bulb is suggested to prevent excessive chick aggression. They literally can go coo-coo if a regular white light is used. Who knew??? Anyways, the piece of wood along the top of the box allows me to adjust the height of the heat lamp without worrying about clips, and such. I put down paper towels initially because I had read several accounts where newborn chicks mistake the pine shavings for food. This blocks up their intestines, and they die. So, as a precaution, I heeded their advice and used paper towels. We plan on switching to the shavings today, since they now know what is considered food.

*As a side note, if you follow this bedding advice, do not use newspaper. It leads to leg problems such as straddle leg. This is caused because the newspaper is too slick, and does not provide proper grip for the little legs.*

The chicken coop is a converted horse stall with access to the outside. Here, the door, with access to the barn aisle, needed to be re-evaluated. The top was open, so Shannon added this top dutch door, with a screen of hardware cloth. We don't suspect any hawks, owls or barn kitties will be able to break into the coop with this sturdy door. Also along the top line of the stall, Shannon added wood to seal off the coop from the inside of the barn. Again, to prevent any flying predators or curious cats from entering.

This iron guard was so the horses could look around and check out what's going on in the barn. Now, with a heavy screen behind it, it will provide outstanding cross-ventilation for the coop and prevent any flying or 4-legged critters from squeezing in. You may think this is excessive, but you will notice a bit of the ladder to the left of this picture. That is the ladder to the hay loft. I've seen our one, very adventurous cat, Smelly Nelly, climbing this ladder to get to the barn swallows that nest in our rafters. I wouldn't put it past her to climb the ladder, squeeze through the bars to eat the chicks. She's hard-core like that.

And, without further adieu....

Here are 3 of our "Dixie Chicks!" From Left to Right: The black one is a Barred Rock, the yellow one is a Buff Orpington, and the red one with stripes is a Rhode Island Red. I got 3 of each breed with a total of 9.

They finally discovered the feeder after Shannon had spread out their food on the paper towels. They were certainly happy little chicks!

The more they ate and drank, the more they poo'd. It was pretty gross, but hey, it happens!
I love hearing their little "Peep, Peep, Peeps" coming from the coop.

Just plain cute...but not for long...

This is me and Blanche. I had a Great Aunt named Blanche, and she had dark brown to black hair, so I thought it was appropriate. She also lived to be 102 years old...I wonder how long this little Blanche will live. hmmmmm....

Until next time, see ya!