Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Rural VIEW Today

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday it rained hard all day and the wind blew from all directions.  Few of the flock came out. even though there was green grass in view for grazing.
The 5New birds came out and were totally undaunted by the wind and rain.

These barred rocks are truly amazing. i often wonder if the entire breed is like this or is it because the first owner raised them to be indestructible food scavengers ?  If you got some, please tell me how yours are.

I just want to know if mine act the way they do because of genetics or environment.

Early this morning, the temperature was 22 degrees and put a layer of ice over everything the rain had touched.
A sprinkling of snow covered the fields.
The wind chill made it about 4 degrees and the when the wind hit my face it stung like pins and needles.  Know what I mean ?

My loyal 7 chickadees have almost emptied the sunflowers from the feeder.

When I go outside to let the flock out of the coop, I bring several pails of warm water for them as the buckets from last night are frozen solid.   One bucket goes near the house so I can quickly add to it all day and the second one goes into the coop.

Mrs Howell is the first pullet out of the coop and races over to her preferred bucket of warm water.

I had to walk carefully as the entire driveway and side yard were like skating rinks.


I moved the Winnebago /chicken tractor to the south side of the coop last week so the flock would have easy access to it and so it was out of the way of the snowplows.  I keep putting 2nd cut hay and scratch feed into the Winni so the hens can peck through it and stay busy.   By putting hay in every day the ground stays somewhat unfrozen.  I think this year I am going to wrap plastic tarps around it to cut down on the wind and make a protected sanctuary for the girls.  Now I just have to find some tarps.....

I am so thankful for this unique recycled coop, the extra large chicken tractor and this comic flock of birds. They keep me busy, laughing and well fed.

I am thankful to the carpenter who listened to my need for a coop made out of recycled materials and found a 250 year old barn being torn down. He scavenged the remaining good wood, doors and hardware and built me a new, 250 year old coop!
I am thankful for my friend who is an engineer and gifted me with this enormous chicken tractor on wheels.  I can easily use this as a brooder for chicks or ducklings and better yet I can get inside of it to add perches or remove birds, easily.

This hay fills the air with its wonderful just-cut smell.   The birds ravage it and consume as much as possible.      Later I will bring out warm oatmeal and steamed broccoli for their lunch.

 Chicken colors mesmerize this ADD flockster.

 Inside the coop is toasty warm (35 degrees).  The windows face south to add light and solar heat and I am not opening the large door this winter to eliminate big drafts and shavings being blown out. That strategy is keeping the coop a bit warmer and the pullets laying much more than this time last year.
I am using the the emergency pop door on the south side of the coop on cold, bitter days like today.

The girls like it.

Here are a few of them heading to the upper nest box to lay some eggs.

 As I head back to the house to feed Mavis I smile as I see the tracks of my flock.

Yesterday I added a munga chunk of fresh beef suet to the bird feeders.

I was reasonably certain all the bears in the area had gone to bed for the winter, so my feeders are safe until March.

An hour later when I came back out to check the nest boxes for eggs in this bitter cold, I found this wonderful gift.

7 eggs before 9 am!

That's about as many as I expect for today.

I have 14 hens, 5 are recovering from moulting and 2 others are not laying at all. One of the non-layers is headed for the stew pot and the other non layer has beautiful feathers (see second feather photo above) and makes soft humming noises. Its obvious that she wasn't blessed with brains as she gets lost, often, and is very codependent on her hatch mate. Her breed is a mystery. She came with the splash Blue Laced Red Wyandotte (BLRW) and is thought to be a darker version of the Blue Laced Red Wyandotte. However, she needs to start laying soon as she was hatched March 1st of this year.        32 weeks and counting.....

 I have had a nice surplus of eggs lately, so I have been gifting people who have been doing good deeds and this week I brought several dozen to the local food shelf to add to their thanksgiving baskets.

I encourage all flock keepers to please donate surplus eggs to your needy neighbors and your local food shelf.
I usually put 6 eggs in a carton, more depending on how many I have by Tuesday.
So 2 dozen eggs can go to 4 people.

 I always try to make a nice color combo in every carton and I make sure eggs going to families with kids have at least one blue egg, compliments of Amber the shy Easter Egger pullet.

We celebrated Thanksgiving here on Monday when the weather was much better and relatives had time to come visit.  It was PieVille here!  Pecan, lemon merangue, grasshopper, pumpkin, apple and mincemeat were just a few that came for the event.
I was thankful for such a great visit, conversation and kindness.

Lots of veggies too.  Most from my own garden and the rest from friends gardens.

So many that the flock has been enjoying some too, especially the mashed potatoes, green beans and brocolli.

I am thankful for my constant companion who makes mischief but keeps me out of trouble.

Mavis is a true joy to live with.   I do hope she thinks the same about me.

My greatest thankfulness is because my herd has a brand new barn at their new farm.
It was a stipulation I made before I transferred my herd to the younger farmer.
He was true to his word and had an enormous barn built for them.
4 times bigger than I had suggested.

 My heart is always heavy when I think of my beloved herd.
Tears roll down my face, as they do now, but I can not explain the relief I feel knowing that now they have shelter from the weather. Finally.
3 years after our barn burned down and our other barn collapsed in a freak ice storm, they are safe, sheltered and living like royalty.

I am also thankful for the kindness of strangers in this blog world and all the factual information that YOU leave for me in the comment section. Your suggestions, encouragement, support and humor have kept me going in the rough times.  Know that I appreciate each and every one of you and look forward to sharing more rural adventures.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Car Hens & PUMPKIN Love

I was cleaning out one of the vehicles the other day and went go to get a broom and when I came back out.... I had a passenger....  Again.

This is Mrs Howell and she has decided she wants her own vehicle. She has spent more time in it recently than I have.

Her inquisitive nature has helped her find some unexpected treasures here.

Pumpkin muffin crumbs, an old granola bar, spilled thistle seed and several dimes.

I drove into town the other day and discovered she was in my backseat.   She had crawled in through an open window......

I am taking her to the next poultry meeting....

Will have to find a chicken sized seatbelt for her.

We are processing the squash and carrots into soup this week.

Darn delicious.   Perfect for the cold nights that have crept up on us.

I obtained a few more of the Long Island Cheese Pumpkins as they make the BEST everything!
Soup, muffins, bread, pie, cookies, etc etc.  Rich and creamy.
Next year I am dedicating an entire area to only grow this type of pumpkin.    I have never tasted anything so good in my life (other than lobsta chowder).

Storing them on this old ladder works well for these giants orbs.

But I didn't store them long.

Here is what they were turned into today:

 Several pies...

 2 qts of soup.

and some left over for pumpkin muffins!!!

 The Blue Hubbard are next to be processed.  I have run out of room in my small shed and it is getting very cold around here, very early.

Got any favorite recipe for Hubbards ?

Whats your favorite pumpkin this year?

Any new discoveries ?

Its raining cows and cats here today. Got streams of water running down the driveway and of course all the hens are on the porch watching it all.Its 45 degrees now but predicted to go down to 30 degrees and turn the roads into a skating rink.

May all of you have safe travels, good company, exciting conversation and healthy meals during this Thanksgiving season.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Autumn Guernseys - Blondes Have Moooore Fun

Last February I discovered this beautiful gold barn. It was a cold, but sunny day and after my brief visit I swore I would come back and see the cows that lived here, when they were outside on a warmer summer day.  Here is the blog post about my first visit.


Last month I finally went back to see if the cows were outside.

They were.

Here is what happened.

They were in a back field, far from the nearest road, so I had to drive behind churches, schools and tiny village stores to try to get closer.

Thank Canon for a zoom lens.

The adult milking herd were mostly laying down and chewing their cud while enjoying the last of the foliage.

Assorted shades of gold and a few token Holsteins thrown in....


They had no intention of coming over to see me.
Although they seemed interested.

Meanwhile, the juveniles were in a field near the high school.

They showed some interest, but had no intention of coming to see me either....


Mavis got out of my truck and came over to me.

Then it was a wild stampede to see who could get to the little dog first!!!!!!

Such beautiful, FAST, heifers.

Their total focus was on the dog who had, of course, run like the dickens away from the thundering hoof beats and was hiding behind a tree.

I hung out with the girls and enjoyed every minute with them.

The smell of their warm bodies and hot breath always makes me smile.
Green grass and trees always make gold cows even golder.

Such powerful feet and feminine legs.  These feet act as snowshoes, mudders and sneakers, depending on the seasons.
Such soft hair.

Other than my own cows, I had never experienced such gentle, friendly, curious heifers.
They followed me back and forth along the fence and made all the soft gentle mooing sounds and continually tried to touch my hands, face or other body part with their nose, tongues or face.

It was obvious to me that someone, probably a woman, was the direct caretaker of these particular blondes.  (my village librarian later told me my instincts were 100% correct, as she knew the farmers here and the man did all the outside field work and the woman raised and milked the herd.)

It was hard taking photos of them because several of them were nudging my arm and licking my face.
Their tongues were so rough that I think they removed a few of my freckles...

I hummed a few of my favorite tunes and they were all ears...

At some point a few of the adults came over to ask the yearlings about their uninvited guest.

The most chatty kids went over and gave a full report.

When I talked softly to these wonderful yearlings, they of course came even closer to hear my voice.

It doesn't take long before I become smitten by such wonderful creatures.

Here is the Simmental looking heifer that got my attention right away.
Even though she is a registered Geurnsey, she has the "Simmental stripe" across her shoulders.

She also had the same big head.

Here are the two together, that if I had my choice, I would bring home with me. Much to Mavis' displeasure.

I love these colors.          Shades of Gold.

Mavis, the reluctant cowdog, stayed as far away as possible. But at least she came out from behind the tree.  Progress.

This heifer with the two cowlicks wanted to go meet Mavis so badly.

Temple Grandin says that cows that have cowlicks above the level of the eyes are troublemakers.
I somehow believe it about this one.   Look at the intent in her eyes. Hide, Mavis, Hide!

Long eyelashes to protect them from dust, dirt, snow, pollen and angry bees.

This one needs a better haircut.

This heifer has the state of Texas on her side.

I spent more than an hour visiting with this exceptional group of yearlings.

I hated to leave.

I promised to return, next time with treats.

They made mooing noises as I walked away. Some followed me as far as possible down the fenceline towards my truck.

It took MUCH self control not to return immediately to them and stay another hour...or two..... or bring my sleeping bag back and just camp out for the remainder of the weekend.

I will return.  Or better yet, I think I will introduce myself to the farmer who has done such a impressive job of raising these intelligent yearlings.

Perhaps she needs a cow sitter during the holidays???

Hope you are all having a Moooovelous day!!