Saturday, March 31, 2012

Project: Make Birds Happy

Its been a rough week for birds here.
First, the new bear in town destroyed all my bird feeders and ran off with my fresh beef suet AND the special orange suet net.  He stuck around until Wednesday and was then seen on Water Street down nearer to the village.  He was described as a "big" bear.

It took me awhile, but I was able to locate a very old, broken, smaller bird feeder.  With the help of silly glue and some spare parts from the destroyed bear feeders I was able to piece together a replacement feeder. 

The sparrow crew from the forsythia bush seem satisfied.

I bring it in at night.

The 4 heritage chicks in the brooder in my bathroom have been growing leaps and bounds.
As much as I love hearing them cheep to the wild birds early every morning, my bathroom was crowded and getting that unmistakeable poultry-in-the-house-smell.  Even though I cleaned the brooder every 24 hours, as they grew, it made no difference.

So yesterday morning I emptied Mavis' former large dog crate of all my potting soil and planting containers and moved the flock into their new condo.  I also put the condo downstairs in the mudroom/laundry room/back porch, near the heating ducts.

They have lots more space, a roost and constant conversation from all who enter and exit the house.
Its a much more social spot for my future snail killers.
They are able to dine on more treats since they are closer to the kitchen area.
This morning they had some kefir and whey with their crumbles.
I made them a little shavings back splash to keep their bedding inside their crate and not out on my floor.
This morning they were perky.

They seem satisfied with their move to the first floor.

As much as I missed their sweet chirping early this morning, I was thrilled to have the bathroom ALL to myself.   I enjoyed my extended hot shower minus the 4 sets of eyes and the flying practice that has taken place for 2 weeks everytime I was in the shower.  I had my rug back and my towel too.

I never realized what a luxury having a bathroom to oneself was. 

For a few days I will enjoy this, as my brooder is now ready for the rare breed ducklings that hatched yesterday.  They will be coming here soon.  They will be big fun in the bathroom.
Right now, all the birds, as well as the adults, at this address are now content.

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Coop Builders

Everywhere I go, I see coops.
Its the latest rage.  Goes right along with the chicken-in-every-backyard craze.
These boys are building a huge coop, on wheels, in their driveway.
It will hold 50 hens and get moved every couple of days around their pastures, following their beef cattle.  The hens will eat insects and grass, plus break up all the cow patties and spread them around.
The eggs from the chickens will feed the family and the surplus will be sold at their farm stand.

They found an old boat trailer that wasn't being used.

I could live in this thing.  Lots of room and ventilation.

They were surprised that I was so interested in what they were doing.
I saw the project from the road and drove up the driveway to get a better look.
Once I introduced myself and explained my coop envy, the project manager became like Vanna White with vowels.  I got the full tour.

I really appreciate people who can build stuff.   
I desperately wanted to go to a vocational school for high school so I could build my own barn, but my mom wanted me to go to a parochial high school. 

So, although I can say a wonderful Hail Mary, I can't build anything other than a compost pile and a decent tuna fish sandwich.

Building skills would be good to have this week.  My chicks are growing quickly and I am needing a good coop.

Did you build your own chicken coop or purchase, barter or trade for it?

Anyone know of any 8x8 coops that need a good home ?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Things That Crumble

Had a nice road trip to northern New Hampshire and got to see many "old" things.

Old sad barns falling down.

Built in 1799 with hand axed beams and post and peg construction.

Hurts my heart to see barns like this.

Down the road I found the Old Man.
An almost exact replica of the New Hampshire State Emblem: Old Man of the Mountain, which crumbled and fell down the mountainside several years ago.

Did you hear it when it crashed to the ground?

This natural outcropping is in a secret location.  On the side of a major highway that no one gives a second look at.
I do hope it doesn't crumble and fall apart.

Someone recently put up a sign.

Nice little surprises await in the most unexpected places.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chick Trip

Last Sunday was a road trip for Chicks.     In many ways.
Myself and a farmer friend went on a long road trip to the far reaches of northern New Hampshire.
It was the first step in our exclusive snail eradication project that I have been talking about since last summer when snails invaded my garden and destroyed the vast majority of my veggies.  I swore it was not going to happen this year.  I have a plan.
On the way to our destination we visited a green house. We saw the Dirty Worm sign on the highway and just had to go see the green house and experience beautiful flowers, warm air and really neat crafts.

We found chicks, lots of them:

 And color!


And many more chicks. 

Some folks have no self control when it comes to chicks.

My copilot fell in love with this metal hen.  She justified her purchase by saying that the hen wouldn't eat much or be bossy OR messy in her coop.

There were so many things to see along our journey that we were 90 minutes late for our very important appointment.  We scrutinized every barn, bird, pond, vintage truck, humane society, diner, chainsaw art, trading post, boat and church.  It was a very long trip.

When we finally arrived at our destination, we were met with some serious "eye candy."

This private hatchery breeds and raises colorful heritage poultry.   There were a few dozen handsome hens roaming around.  This is a splash type blue laced red wyandotte.  A dual purpose type fowl that is calm, beautiful and winter hardy.

Our reasons for this long road trip were the same, but different;

My copilot needs 10 hens to replace her aging brood of egg layers. She sells her fresh eggs and needs hardy, consistant laying birds to fill her egg orders to her many customers.  She buys several different batches of chicks during the spring and summer to ensure egg production during the winter.

She chose black australorps as her main breed here and then picked a few other breeds to "color up" the box she had placed the black chicks in.

My plan is to use hens and ducks as "weapons of mass destruction" to kill snails and nasty bugs in my garden.  I need just enough to cover my 40x40 garden.  

I hope the chicks I pick are hens so that getting eggs will be a bonus. However, if they turn out to be roosters, thats ok too because they will end up in my freezer.

Eventually, I was able to pick out 4 chicks that I thought could perform their future snail killing duties well.

A splash type blue laced red wyandotte was my first pick, since I had met both of the parents and they were foraging well around their yard.
Next, I met 2 English speckled sussex chicks that I knew would enhance my SEP (snail erradication program) and their cameoflaged colors would make them a bit more predator proof.
Finally, I saw a blonde bombshell running amongst all the other chicks in the brooder and thought her spunkiness would be an advantage to the war on pestulance.

It was hard to use self control, because I really wanted 40 chicks.

The ride home was just a bit faster, especially with all the noise of the chicks from the back seat telling us they wanted food, water, entertainment and a heat lamp.

In anticipation of picking up my chicks, I built a very simple brooder last week.     And it welcomed my 4 very special guests when they arrived.

Since it was St Patricks Day weekend I got them an Irish water fount.

As they grow I will train them to forage in the garden area and start eliminating bad bugs, slugs and snails before I start planting.

Next step;   Snail Killing DUCKS!    RARE ones.      Stay tuned.

Wanted:   Chicken coop.    8x8  


Monday, March 26, 2012

Parsnip Cake

I hate to waste.

And throwing out food is a mortal sin as far as I am concerned.

So when the blessed Rototiller man tilled through my entire parsnip patch I rescued as many as I could.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid."

Luckily, a visitor that day brought me an article in the newpaper about an unusual parsnip tea cake.

Without any hesitation the oven was turned on and parsnips were prepared.

There were enough rescued parsnips for 2 loaves of delicious spring cake.

The wonderful aromas filled the house with spring sweetness.

The consistancy of the cake is similar to banana bread and 10 times less calories. 

2 large eggs
Three-quarters cup extra-virgin olive oil (or try local sunflower oil)
One-half cup buttermilk or yogurt
1 3/4 cup sugar (I used a bit less and next time will sub in some maple syrup)
1 3/4 cups grated parsnip (about 3 medium, wash but no need to peel)
1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or spray two 8-inch loaf pans. (I used 2 8-inch rounds instead.)
2. Whisk together eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar and parsnip in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together white flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using a large wooden spoon, mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Fold in walnuts, mixing until just combined. Do not overmix.
3. Pour cake batter into greased pans. Bake for about 45 minutes (35-40 for 8-inch round pans), or until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pans, then remove and set on racks to cool completely.
Perfect with tea, coffee, milk or kefir.   A conversation piece in its own right.

Moore to the story:
Enjoy..and remember:

"When life gives you lemons, make parsnip cake!."

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Last night reluctant cow dog Mavis growled and barked out the window from 11pm until 4 am.
I assumed it was the herd of 56 deer, the pack of 9 coyotes or the wobbly family of active skunks that drew her attention.
When I came downstairs early this morning, the remains of all my bird feeders lay in pieces spread over the yard like the remnants of the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean.   The super large chunk of fresh beef suet was missing too.  Along with the net bag.  The only thing left swinging from the chains, that use to hold a buffet of feeders, is the metal cap cover to the largest sunflower feeder.  A sad sight.

Even sadder were 2 dozen or so purple finches, sparrows and gold finches sitting in the blooming forsythia bush waiting for breckfast.  They kept flying to the chains that once held suet and feeders.
After my initial shock wore off, I got a container out of my recycle box and put 2 cups of fresh black oil sunflower seed from a farm down the road who grows the best in the region. The small birds dived in and flew off with their meals.

The bears are awake and hungry.  Its so early in the season that there is not enough natural foods in the woods or swamps available for the bears to eat, so suet and seeds are the most logical target for grounchy, hungry bears.     Feed birds during the day and bring your feeders in at night. That plan will reduce damage to feeders.       Bears have never been in this particular area, so this experience is a new one for me.

Anyone have a big tube sunflower seed feeder they don't want?


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dirt Cowboy

Like everyone else, I have taken full advantage of the unusually warm weather.

On Monday I planted peas and last night I carefully planted some Iceberg lettuce in my front garden.

I dropped other seeds in my other various smaller gardens as well. As I looked at my calender I noted that it would be another 6 weeks before my garden was formally tilled. 

So imagine my surprise when....

Today I came home to find my favorite sign of spring; The rototiller man!!!

Earliest ever!!!

He rode the metal machine with style and dexterity around my largest garden.  As planned, the garden was enlarged.  Monster rocks were dug up and removed. The boundaries extended.

Unfortunately he rototilled my parsnips before I arrived.  I rescued a few, but the rest will be organic compost....

It was cool and breezy so he took his time navigating his machine around my fertile garden.

The air was full of the aroma of sweet spring soil.   Indescribable.  Wish it could be bottled.
I have been smelling whifs of it for several weeks.  That special smell inspired me to start lots of seeds in the house since February 2nd.

As I enlarged the borders of the garden and planned my "map" of where my seeds would be planted, I heard above me another springtime sound.

Canada Geese.    Coming home.

They headed for the nearby river for the night, flying low over my herd before landing.

I have dirt under my fingernails, on my pants, and on the bottoms of my boots, and I am content.

Don't waste a moment.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Fun

The big yella bush in front of my house has been blooming since Monday.

Every day it looks better and better.

A few birds are building nests in it.

Everyone in town is calling this unusual weather the "Vermont Summer."

It was so hot today I drove my side kick Mavis to get an ice cream cone at the ice cream stand that opened 6 weeks early because of pressure from townsfolks who have been demanding fresh ice cream since last week.  

After enjoying a tower sized ice cream cone we drove over to water the herd in their new field.

I found them in various locations sunning themselves, napping in the shade and trying to rub their thick coats off on the big maple trees.

I came home and planted some lettuce and more sunflowers.  I am frothing at the bit to rototill the garden and start planting the entire thing.  I am using alot of self control!

There are birds everywhere building nests and collecting materials from the fields.

All the grain stores are taking orders for chicks.  

I looked at the lists today while picking up several blocks of mineral salt for the cows.

There were 4 breeds I would like to get, but I already have 4 fast growing chicks flying around my bathroom.....       

Have you picked up your chicks yet?  What kind did you get?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Empty Nesters

The yearlings are gone and the moms didn't make a fuss.    They are probably happy not to have to continually give the kids a bath and keep track of them.
Most of the moms were very attentive when I drove up today.

The snow is gone, the kids are gone.        Time for a vacation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Virgo Seed Fever

84 degrees Yesterday.  Again.
When I got home from work I grabbed the hoe, seeds, rake and a hat and raced out to the garden.
In 15 minutes I had planted 2 kinds of peas and some giant sunflowers.

I was dirty, sweaty and happy when I got done.  Trucks were driving by ...slow and watching me dig in the garden.
The garden is a little damp but drying out quickly in the sun.
My compost and straw mulch made rich soil.  It smells great and its ready to grow some veggies!

I made a small trench and planted my seeds and put row markers with dates and string. 
The Garden Bunny is now officially on duty.  In MARCH!

What a great day!
Mavis kept watch over me and my dirt digging.

The crocus are up and blooming. Daffodils are coming up fast.
The neighbor was mowing his lawn and mulching his leaves.

I hung my laundry ON THE LINE to dry!

Farmers were on their barn roofs making repairs today--shirtless!  In MARCH

Moved the herd to a new field to graze.  In MARCH!
Still feeding hay.

If the grass could grow just a bit faster before we use the last 4 bales and have to buy 20 more....

I am wearing shorts to work tomorrow  : )
Anyone else take advantage of the heat to get seed crazy ?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Push'n Seeds

The snow is gone, the robins have been here for a week, the finches have changed colors, the male red wing black birds have returned and all the Canada Geese are all paired up and nesting by the rivers and ponds.  I heard peepers Saturday night and my neighbor saw a toad hopping across her driveway last evening.
The calender says its March, but the sun, sky, birds and soil are saying its JUNE.Its been in the high 70's and low 80's for several days and more coming.
It's hard to ignore, especially when your entire body wants to plant stuff and grow.
I broke my piggy bank and bought some great potting soil to start my seeds.

Most of my seeds arrived in February.
And I swapped seeds with friends and garden club members.   More seed swapping in April will happen too.
Also have lots and lots of seeds I saved from last year.

I warmed up the soil for a few days in my heated mud room.
Now its plant'n time!

Its also chicken fever time!!!   More about that later.

Are you seed starting yet ?
Got your chick order in yet ?
What are you doing different this year in your garden or coop?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cabin Fever: Food, Fellowship & Music

There is nothing like a winter Community Church Dinner on a weekend.  By March everyone has cabin fever and need to get out and socialize.
Everyone brings food and a big smile.
It all happens so fast I had no time to take a "before" photo, so here is what it looked like after the "food stampede" to fill plates and cups.

The dessert table was left in shambles.
These church folks know how to cook and bake!

Most of the foods on the tables were locally grown and raised.
The turkey in the cooker below was named Rupert.
He was the last turkey slaughtered last Christmas at my neighbors farm.

As we ate desserts, musicians got up and started playing.
Celinda, from the church choir, made the piano rock with her rendition of a 1695 Irish song written by a blind man of that era.    The next song was Roll Out The Barrels.

Next up was Brian and the Muddy Roads.    Their songs were creative and passionate.
Everyone was singing, tapping their feet and participating in the fun.
There is some real talent up in these mountains!

Met new people.   Some folks drove all the way from New Hampshire for the food and social interaction.

Can't wait for the next Community Dinner.
Go to one if you have a chance.