Quick Farm Update

First, let me just say that if you’re reading this and only want to hear about my upcoming book releases, my book email list sign up list is here. Sign up and you’ll get one short novel free, as well as any future short novels I write.

Now back to the animals….

The two new Cream Legbar hens are all grown up, and should be laying their first eggs soon. They are supposed to be sky blue, but I’m slightly skeptical that they will really be THAT blue. I’ll keep you posted!

I’ve named these two new girls Khaleesi and Sansa. The white one is Khaleesi, of course!

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Their brother, Bertie Wooster, who I was hoping to keep, turned out to be gorgeous.

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Pure white, and he seemed like he might turn out to be a pretty nice guy. Unfortunately, while the nearest neighbors were fine with him, some guy on another street complained, and so I had to get rid of him. Roosters are technically legal to have inside the city limits where I live, but they come under the noise complaints laws, so if someone complains, you’re out of luck. Oh well, better now I guess, then when the hens really got attached to him.  They were a little annoyed by him now, because they just didn’t get the point of his dancing and posturing. They thought he was one weird hen…see Josie’s face in the picture below? That’s her “good gracious, what is he going to do now?” face!

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The Rex rabbits are grown up too, but I’m not going to try breeding them until the end of February, at least. I don’t want to deal with new mothers, babies, and cold temperatures. I’ve been letting the male, Sorrel, out to run in the chicken yard, and you can tell they’re of age, because he goes right over to the does’ barn and says hello.

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There’s nothing sweeter than a stolen kiss through the wire!

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The does are not particularly friendly – they tolerate me because I bring the food, but Sorrel loves to be petted. Since he is so tame, I trust him to play out in the entire yard.

If you’re wondering, the “thing on his neck” is his dewlap. It’s a roll of fat that adult rabbits have. (My mom just had to ask that question on camera, lol).

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Best Books I Read in 2017

I read a lot of books, usually around 150 a year. Every year I create a list of the top few I read that really stuck with me, or that changed my life in some way. It’s normally a mix of fiction and nonfiction, junior books and adult. I list them in no particular order…except I always save the absolute BEST BOOK for last. So here we go!

1: The Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Allen.

Lush photos combined with old-fashioned cookery. Also has chapters on keeping chickens, and other related skills.  This is one of those books that I found at the library, read about two pages, and bought myself a copy off Amazon.

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2: The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How, by Andrea Chesman.

I put off getting this book for ages, even though I love the others in this backyard homestead series. I felt like I would already know too much of the information inside. Wrong. Although I did know a great deal, Chesman wrote a very entertaining and personal book, with a wealth of helpful information.

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3: Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud.

The final book in the Lockwood & Co Series. This series was phenomenal all the way through, and this particular book could easily have been the best of the year…except that it was overtaken at the very tail of 2017 by the actual winner.  I’m just blown away by the world-building Stroud has done here. Funny story…at my library, a 30s something guy came in to pick up this book, and he was visibly over the moon at having it in his hands. I commented on how excited I was to get it myself, and he clutched it against his chest and said, “Yeah, I have to read it fast. My daughter wants it too!” I hear Stroud is considering a spin-off series, and I’d definitely be down for that.

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4: Into the Drowning Deep, by Mira Grant.

Mermaids. Evil, murderous mermaids. Or…are they? Really well-done, well-written, and just plain fun. Mira Grant also writes under the name Seanan McGuire, and she’s made this list before under that name.

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5: Radical Homemakers, by Shannon Hayes.

This book is how I feel. It’s amazing. And the historical information is extremely interesting.

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6: Eat Dirt, by Dr. Josh Axe.

Incredibly interesting book. This could be a life-changing book for almost everyone.

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7: Nourishing Fats, by Sally Fallon.

Natural animal fats are not the enemy. Despite what certain medical organizations would like you to believe, it is the lack of whole milk, cream, butter, lard, organ meats and other sources of traditional foods that is causing heart problems, obesity, and almost all of our health issues. This book explains the science, using the medical profession’s own studies to definitively prove that the low-fat diet is nothing more than a lie. Eat more butter! It’s critical for your health.

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8: Will Dogs Chase Cats in Heaven, by Dan Story.

Having made an extensive study of the topic, I’ve come to the conclusion there is ZERO Biblical evidence for the idea that animals don’t have immortal souls – and an astounding amount of Biblical evidence that they do. In fact, I think it’s blindingly obvious (once you look) that animals will be redeemed and resurrected from the curse we put upon them. I look forward to sharing my eternity with the animals I love.

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9: She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper.

Loved everything about this book…except that it ended. And the author is absolutely right: the bear isn’t real, but he’s true.

Can’t wait to see what Harper writes next.

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10: Deep Nutrition, by Catherine Shanahan, M.D.

One of those books everyone should read, especially if you’re EVER planning on becoming pregnant, if you currently have any sort of ill health, are trying to lose weight, or if you just want to strong, young, and healthy all your life.

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11: Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by Harvey Ussery

There’s a foreward by Joel Salatin. Do you need to know anything else? Incredible book; hands down THE BEST book on small farm and backyard flocks available. I’ve read most of the chicken books out there, and not a single one comes close to this one. One hundred stars.

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12: Assassin’s Fate, by Robin Hobb.

Fantastic end to this series…and probably to all her series set in this particular world. So many fates besides Fitz’s are entwined in this book. Not ashamed to say I was bawling like a baby by the end.

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And out of all 150+ books, here’s the absolute best book I read this past year:

13: 7 Things You Have to Know to Understand End Times Prophecy, by Jack Kelley

The cover is a bit cheesy, I will admit. But the words inside are pure gold.  This book has literally changed my life.  Now I’m eagerly watching and anticipating, absolutely positive that we’re not only living in the end times, but that Christ will return within just a few years (if even that long!) to take his church home “in the twinkling of an eye” leaving the rest of the world behind.  For the first time in all of history, ALL the things foretold in the Bible are not only possible, but are actually in the process of happening. It’s incredible to watch the news and see it happen, piece by piece. Jack Kelley also has a helpful website: gracethrufaith.com, with TONS of studies, articles, and answered questions. I’ve been glued to my Bible the last week or so.

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New Book Release!

We all of us have monsters inside our heads: the folklore of that inward country, the things that frighten us when we are alone in the darkness. People not just of England, but across the world, find themselves haunted by thoughts of the same unearthly beings: vampires, ghosts, fairies, and gods. And if enough people have thoughts of the same monster, the magic will be given power to manifest itself in the image of what is feared. And thus the monster will be given teeth to bite, and will ravage across the land until it is destroyed.

When the newly-crowned Queen Victoria announces an expedition to India, Miss Winnifred Sebastian-Veals volunteers by joining an elite all-female group: The Society of Queen’s Own Monster Hunters. To her dismay, the other members are rather middle-aged, and more interested in knitting needles than sorcerous spells, vile manuscripts, and iron-bound doorways to hell. But after the Queen’s airship is attacked by an evil djinn, she discovers there is more to the ladies–and herself–than she ever imagined.

Warning: contains horrible ghosts, mermaids, gigantic worms, ghouls, sea monsters, pirates, and incredibly silly Victorian fashions. Also several attractive men who may–or may not–be of possible Romantic Interest.

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Now for sale on Amazon.com. And starting tomorrow – this first volume will be FREE for one week!  Also, if you sign up for my author newsletter, I’ll send you another free book: An Intelligence of Zombies. It’s the prequel to this new series.

Also available on Amazon.com is the second book in this new Society of Queen’s Own Monster Hunters:

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Books 3 & 4 will be up for sale very soon!

Interesting fact: the dress on the covers is actually designed and created by me.

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Chicken & Garden Update

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The garden has been producing green beans like crazy. I’ve canned four batches already, and I’ll be doing another tonight.  Maybe this year will be the year I don’t run out of canned beans before fresh beans are in season.

My frizzle cochin Ophelia (who already raised one batch of babies this year) went broody again, so I gave her some Silver Fresian Seagull eggs. I don’t know a lot about this breed of chicken because they are super rare, but I was won over by the description of the adults having the profile of actual seagulls, and the chicks being the cutest babies ever. I don’t know about the adult profile, but the chicks are truly adorable.

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I gave her a dozen eggs, and it looked like six would hatch. But three of them died as just-born chicks. I’m not sure what happened with two of them, but the third was clearly squashed as it was busy trying to hatch. Ophelia is a big, heavy girl. I’m thinking I’ll keep her for fostering the meat chicks in the future, and leave the more delicate egg hatching business to one of my lighter girls.

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They are a lot more grownup now. They have properly feathered wings and tails now. I need to have a photoshoot with them. They were not in the mood when I tried the other day…and Ophelia was being difficult too. She really doesn’t approve of her children’s pictures being plastered across the internet for everyone to see.  Do they look like seagulls yet?

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Charlotte also hatched eggs this summer, and hers are growing beautifully. They are Cream Legbars, which I wanted particularly for their blue eggs. I got one in the standard color:

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And two surprises – a couple of rare white sports! One is a girl, and the other a future rooster.

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The one in front is, of course, the girl. The other is the cutest little roo I have ever seen. I’m in love with him, folks. If he plays his cards right, I might just attempt to keep him in the flock. I’ve already named him Bertie Wooster, which just suits his personality and makes me laugh every time I say it. The white girl is probably going to be Minerva (Minnie for short), and the brown girl still hasn’t told me what her name should be.

The Naked Neck meat chickens are still around, because apparently they have the whole thing figured out, and are refusing to eat enough to get fat. Skinny little birds, these guys. I think I’m going to have to look into other options for next year.

They are still funny.

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I might still get a few next year, just for the humor and joy they add to the farm.

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A few nights ago, I went to lock them up in their coop. I counted them and counted them, and came up one short. Mom and I looked EVERYWHERE. In the neighbor’s yard, in case it flew over the fence. Under the bushes and up in the trees. I kept expecting to find a sad little scattering of feathers, because I thought something had surely gotten it. But I didn’t even find feathers. Finally, I gave up.

In the morning, it was back in the yard, wandering around like nothing had happened. The next night, it was the same story. One was missing, and couldn’t be found. Finally, though, as I was passing under the grape trellis, I happened to look up.

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There it was, looking down at me. I don’t know how many times I walked underneath this trellis while I was searching. And the whole time…staring down at me….

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These guys. They are so silly.

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I’ve been giving lots of garden tours, so many that I decided I needed to start charging.

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And I’ve been working hard on the summer kitchen! The inside is still quite a ways from being finished, but the outside is looking very pretty….

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New Rabbits!

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Last Sunday, Mom and I drove up by Hamilton to pick up two little 9 week old Rex does. These will be the mothers of my meat rabbits. I chose the Rex as my choice rather than going with New Zealand Whites because as a two-person family, we really don’t need a super high production animal, and with the Rex breed, I can learn to tan hides as well, and have some really lovely furs. This is good, because I believe it’s important to waste as little as possible when a death is involved.

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Blackberry is a “black otter”, a color I didn’t know ever existed until I started looking at Rexes. I’m really pleased to have found her, because I fell completely in love with the color.

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Thistle is a blue, and is so lovely and plush! Unless you’ve petted a Rex, you have no idea of how incredible this fur feels. It’s completely unlike regular rabbit fur.

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They are living together as a colony in the Bunny Barn I built them. It has a thick layer of pea gravel, followed by hardware cloth to keep them digging out (and other critters digging in).

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The inside is spacious, enough room for a hay loft. The roof is a framework of wood, covered in more hardware cloth, with a used billboard tarp to make it waterproof. These tarps are pretty cool, being tremendously cheap as well are being fairly indestructible. You can’t choose what design is printed on it…mine is an advert for an island golf resort!

They have a litter box (which they are already using) because I want to collect their manure for the garden, and a hayrack made from an old magazine rack.

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There is a side door; it will lead eventually into the buck’s quarters. Only the foundation of this section is built so far. The chickens are enjoying peering in through this door to be scandalized by the new neighbors!

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There are big windows in the front, both so I can walk by and see inside, and so the bunnies will be able to jump up on a window ledge and see out themselves.

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They will have a great view of the chicken yard!

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Then, yesterday, we met another breeder in Stanwood and picked up our buck. He’s a bit older, about 6 months, and is a real sweetie.

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I think his name is going to be Sorrel (we name all our rabbits after garden plants.) Until his Bunny Barn wing is completed, he’s got a pretty fab apartment in the Roof Garden quail coop. I moved the white Bobwhite girls out to another coop, cleaned it out, and moved him in.

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He loved it, from the moment I moved him in. Probably, he’d never been out of a wire cage before…and no matter how nice a breeder tries to make a cage, it’s no substitute for a pen with enough room to run and jump and play. I decided a long time ago that if I got meat rabbits, I wouldn’t keep them in wire cages, but in a manner that lets them express their ‘rabbit-ness’ (as Joel Salatin puts it.)

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I put in a litter box for him, too. And if you’re wondering why their food is in/close to their litter box, it’s because rabbits like to poop and eat at the same time. His hay rack is made from the wire bottom of a hanging flower basket.

He likes his ‘nest box’.

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And even though he has all this room, and doesn’t really know us yet, he still is friendly enough to come over and say hello.

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It’ll be quite awhile before the does are ready to breed, but until then, I’m enjoying these little sweeties!

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Beneficials

My garden is entirely organic. Other than a limited use of Sluggo when the slugs get completely out of hand, I don’t use even natural sprays.  And hopefully, I’ll be able to discontinue even the use of Sluggo eventually. I have noticed SUCH a difference in my yard since I stopped trying to control nature.

Things that used to be a problem, like aphids, just really don’t exist for me anymore. I used to have aphids covering my rose buds in spring, now I rarely see any. If you leave the bugs alone, the predator insects will come! I have tons of ladybugs instead. Last year, I planted a lot of currant bushes, and I had little worms eating the leaves. I fed a few to the quail, but otherwise, I left them alone. This year, I saw about two worms…before something swooped in and devoured them. I have never seen such gorgeous currant leaves!

It really bothers me when people’s first reaction to seeing an unfamiliar bug is to kill it. So many posts on my gardening groups are something like: “What is this bug and how do I kill it?” Killing things should not be our first reaction! Just today, I was out by one of my mini ponds, and I saw these gross-looking larvae swimming around in it. They looked like maggots with rat tails…and no joke, when I googled, them, that what they turned out to be named: Rat Tail Maggots! Ick! Kill them!!!!

Not so fast. Turns out they are the larvae of Drone or Hover flies, and they are a very important beneficial bug in the garden. Resembling pretty little bees, these flies are great pollinators, and are one of the top predators of worms, caterpillars, and aphids. I want these guys in my garden. I’m willing to let their gross (but weirdly interesting) larvae live in my pond. So glad I didn’t just dump out the water and kill them.

I also enjoy having non-bug beneficials in my garden…like moles. Yes, moles ARE beneficial!

Contrary to public opinion, they don’t eat your vegetables…or any vegetation at all. They burrow through your soil, improving it while consuming worms and grubs. Having a mole take up residence is usually a sign that you have pretty good soil…and you’ll have even better soil by the time he moves on. Sure, he pushes up little hills of dirt here and there, but that’s no biggie.

The only critter I’m having a problem with right now is baby rabbits. Wild ones, from the field behind me. Once they are grown, they are too large to fit through my fence, but baby rabbits are tiny and squishy and cute. Cute…until they eat every single kohlrabi you plant…and do it over and over, because you think you have covered all the holes, so you plant more, and THOSE vanish overnight too. I have a bunch of scrap wire and wood lining the bottom half of my fence now, but my kohlrabi are safe at last. I don’t mind sharing – but I do want some for myself and my chickens!

It is amazing how useful birds are, too. I do have to cover my sunflower and pea sprouts, but otherwise they leave most things alone. And they eat tremendous amounts of bugs. I see the little nuthatches hanging upside down in my roses, looking for bugs. It’s far more interesting, then simply putting out a feeder…because you get to see birds doing actual bird behavior. I need to get more nest boxes out there! The one in the picture above has been in constant use so far this year. The nesting pair gathers feathers from my chickens to refresh the nest after clutch. Even though it is right above one of my most used paths!

One thing I don’t have…yet…is snakes. I’m working on attracting some, but until then, I make do with $1 plastic ones from Walmart. I place them where I really don’t want birds – with my pea sprouts, my ripening strawberries, etc, and they really do keep the birds from coming too close. Even the chickens stay away!

It seems like every time I go out in the garden, I see some new wildlife activity, and it’s so cool.

In other garden news, I have so much lovely fruit ripening from trees that I planted. This year, my very first espalier apple is producing: Cox’s Orange Pippin, a very old heirloom variety and reputedly one of the best tasting…if not THE best tasting. Apparently the taste depends a lot of which part of the world it’s grown in.  It’s from England originally, and since the Pacific Northwest is basically the exact climate as England, I have hopes it will be amazing here.

Also going crazy are the little peach trees I planted just last year. I can’t believe they are producing at all – much less so bountifully! There are at least two dozen peaches developing.

And since I picked great old varieties with leaf curl resistance, I’m having no problems with no spraying.  One is Indian Free, the other is Charlotte.

A garden is a magical place.

The Little Meats

These guys have been such a pleasure to have around. I don’t know whether it’s the breed (Naked Necks) or just because there are ten of them (plus one future layer) but they are FUN.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve shown you pictures, so I’m putting them in chronological order, so you can see them grow. They still have a ways to go before they have their ‘one bad day’ as Joel Salatin puts it, but until then, they are having a ball.

They are experimenting with the Big Girls’ perch – much to the dismay of the Ellie, my Welsummer who likes to go to bed early.  It’s simply impossible, she says, for a civilized hen to share a perch with such an uncivilized gang of youngsters.

And just look at their necks! Are we sure they aren’t diseased???

The babies love their kefir.

Even the new future egg-layer, our Golden Sexlink. We have named her Matilda, Tilda for short.

She is the sweetest little bird. I have to be very careful not to step on her, because she’s always right at my ankles. I haven’t socialized these meat birds much, because…well, they ARE meat birds. They aren’t scared of me (because I bring the food) but they don’t really want to be touched. Tilda does. Even though she was raised exactly the same, she started approaching me, and wanting affection – or at least extra treats!

They love to sunbathe – they spend more time stretched out in the sun than any chickens I’ve ever raised.

And when they are in the way back part of their yard, and they hear me coming with the fermented grain, it’s like having a little flock of velociraptors. They are fierce, when they run!  Sometimes, it startles me…but always, it makes me laugh. I need to try and get a video of it.  I did get a video of them drinking kefir.

I just took this pic today. Relaxed, happy babies, just hanging out.

And Ellie peeking at them through the grape vines, still convinced there’s something wrong with them…

I have been working on planting the chicken areas with lots of future fruit sources: grapes, mulberry, blackberries, herbs, wolfberry, roses, apples, and many others. It’s really starting to look pretty nice, and the girls appreciate the greenery, even if it’s too soon for fruit.

I have also spread a thick layer of wood chips out here. The chickens are not very fond of them when they are fresh – I don’t know if they don’t like the smell, or the prickliness of all the pine needles and twigs, but it prevents the ground from turning to mud in winter, and bare, dry, cracked earth in summer. Once the chips age a few months, they will be in here, constantly digging through it and finding tons of worms and bugs.