Where I live in the PNW, snow is rare. We can go years without anything but the lightest dusting…if we get anything at all. Today I woke up to about five inches of the white stuff, which was enough to get me a paid snow day off at work! As I write this now, it’s still snowing, and we’re up to about eight inches. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to start melting, and the temperatures are supposed to stay above freezing even at night, so this is basically the perfect kind of snow. It comes, it looks gorgeous, then it goes quietly away within a couple of days, without turning into crusted ice.
Dexter, my corgi was extremely excited. He loves snow. We took him a long walk, and he enjoyed every second…even though the snow cmpletely buried his legs.
What was strange though, is I let the cat, Bundy, out into his catio, thinking he’d avoid the snow…but he loved it too!
Predictably, the ducks were ok with it, and they looked mighty pretty out roaming about the garden.
The chickens were less impressed. They HATE snow. Absolutely hate it. They took one look and refused to come out of the coop…even though they normally can’t wait to escape the coop every morning.
Goosie (who assumes she is a chicken because she was raised by a chicken mom with chicken sisters) thought she’d hate it too. But once I shooed her out into it, she couldn’t figure out why the chickens were being so weird about it.
I was going to show you the new raised strawberry planter I made, but now it’s covered in snow, so you’ll have to wait. Though it doesn’t look like it at the moment, spring will be here very, very soon, and I am rushing to get ready. I have my tomato seedlings growing in the kitchen window, and tomorrow I’m starting more seeds. I made a 3D paper mockup of the new bantam coop I’m building, and am so eager to get started building the actual thing…but first priority are some other projects. Update on those in my next post, once this white stuff goes away.
Oh, and if I needed anymore proof of spring on the way? Watch this:
This is going to be a bit of jumble post. A little bit of urban farm update, plus some of my favorite things of last year. I know 2020 sucked for a lot of people, but I’m going to focus only on the positive!
First off, in urban farming, I am so hopeful for this coming season. My biggest issue in the garden has always been my persistent and overwhelming bindweed problem. Then I got a team of partially free-range guinea pigs, muscovy ducks and a goose, and I watched my bindweed literally disappear. So this year will be more of the same, plus some changes/adaptations I’m making to work around the bindweed-eating critters. Because ya’all know…if they’ll eat bindweed, they’ll eat everything else, right? Well, almost everything! The guinea pigs are fenced into three areas of vegetable/herb gardens. Because they don’t dig or jump, I’m doing container gardening in their areas, and letting them eat all the weeds in the ground, including the bindweed. The pigs are EAGER to get to work!
For the larger garden, I’m planting more of what the ducks don’t eat (roses, peonies, herbs, etc) and fencing off a section that doesn’t have bindweed to plant a few treasured plants that they DO eat.
Because it’s right in the middle of their coop/run entry, I had to leave a walkway for them to come and go. One thing I’m planting here is more wild violets. Besides being beautiful, they are edible. I bought some from Box Turtle Seeds, and they arrived today in great condition.
Speaking of seeds, if you haven’t yet ordered yours, you’d better get on that. Last year, many varieties were sold out, and this year is shaping up to be even worse. I’m hearing that supply is already getting limited, and lots of my favorite companies are actually closing to orders (at least temporarily) while they catch up on the tremendous influx of orders they already have! Personally, I bought most of mine months ago, enough for both Spring and Fall planting. I even bought an awesome storage box for them.
It’s actually meant for photos, but it works perfectly for seeds. Most people seem to get the clear colored one, but I got the rainbow, because I can use the colors to visually sort the seeds. Green for lettuce, yellow for squash, red for tomatoes…you get the idea! I also used a sharpie to write on them, rather than messing with labels. A bit of rubbing alcohol takes the sharpie right off, if you need to change anything!
It’s like it was made for seed packets!
It’s hard to believe, but in about a week, I’ll be starting the first seeds, breeding my rabbits, and picking up the first batch of chicks! I hope we’ll have an early Spring…and the garden seems to think we will. The clematis is budding out, and the bluebells are coming up!
I also am experimenting this year with different ways to grow strawberries. One thing I’m testing out is Mr. Stacky:
And I have bought a new variety of strawberries from Scenic Hill Farm to put in it. They are called Eclair, and they are so scrumptious-looking.
2020 has actually been a good year for me, despite all the stuff happening out there, and as I said before I’m only going to talk about positive things. So here are a few unexpected things I have enjoyed.
Social distancing. Maybe I’m the only one out there, but I like the whole not-shaking-hands and wearing a mask. It is NICE not to have to have some guy crush my rings into my fingers, or suffer through one of those ‘limp noodle’ handshakes far too many women seem to give…you know that type…when they just lay their fingers limply in your hand and leave them laying there? *shudder* Plus, I always have cold hands in winter, and it is awesome not to hear “cold hands, warm heart” every time I shake hands. Gets old fast, lol. And masks. Yeah, sometimes they got a little stuffy in summer, but in winter? LOVE. IT. So cozy, and I can mutter under my breath without anyone thinking I’m crazy. And no worries about spinach stuck in my teeth! Plus there’s the whole no-getting-sick thing – and I’m not just talking about Covid. You would not believe how many people across the counter from me at work used to just cough and sneeze IN MY FACE without any attempt to turn away or cover it. Now they have to be masked AND stay six feet away. It’s brilliant.
Shopping. Curbside pickup is the BOMB. Love it with a passion. Never, ever want to go back to the way I shopped before.
My job. I’m deeply saddened that so many of my co-workers were let go, and I do miss seeing and talking to a bunch of my favorite customers face-to-face. But since the library is now closed to public and we are only doing curbside pickup, I’m not going to lie…there are a number of things I really, really love. Most of the things that were the most stressful and aggravating about my job have just…disappeared. The drug addicts sleeping in the reference room and causing periodic ruckus and 911 calls and fears of someone being stabbed…no longer a thing. Fighting with customers over not taking off their clothes/bathing/doing drugs/unmentionable things in the bathroom…no longer a thing. Angry people throwing books and library cards in our face…no longer a thing. Dealing with poop/pee/vomit/blood…no longer a thing. Instead, there is a calm, quiet building full of books, and I can eat my lunch out in the stacks in the cozy chair by the window, or leave my projects spread out on the tables, or shout back and forth across the building with my co-workers. The only nasty people I have to deal with are those idiots who refuse to wear a mask or follow the rules at curbside pickup. It hasn’t happened to me, but my co-workers have had people deliberately pull down their masks to cough on them, or twirl a mask between their fingers while screaming”You can’t make me wear this!” like a five-year-old child having a temper tantrum. I honestly don’t care if you believe Covid exists, or not, or what your political views are. If you can’t respect me and my co-workers enough to put a piece of cloth on your face for the five seconds it takes for us to confirm your ID with your driver’s license, you are a terrible person. Okay, that got a bit negative. But overall, my job has been great these past months. We are even doing fun things with our pickups, like offering personal shopping for books, and right now, we’re working on setting up an interactive puzzle-based mystery for our patrons!
Lastly, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things I’ve discovered this past year. First off, I was having some issues with inflammation in my knees and back. The knee thing was on-and-off, but the back pain got pretty bad, to the point where I would wake up every morning feeling like a 95 year old. Not fun. I did some research, and discovered turmeric can help. You do have to be careful that it comes from a good source, and in order for it to be absorbed by your body, it needs to have black pepper added. I found NatureWise Curcumin Turmeric, and started noticing improvement in the first week. By the time I’d gone through the first bottle (a two months supply), my back was almost back to normal, and so were my knees! This is a keeper, for sure.
If you have critters, you know the struggle of keeping them in clean water. I found these RentACoop waterers, and am a convert. They don’t leak (as long as you screw them together REALLY tightly) and are so easy to keep filled. They make them in several sizes and styles, and I’ve been switching the quail, pigeons, guinea pigs and finches over to them. Still need to buy a few more!
Meat Illustrated: A Foolproof Guide to Understanding and Cooking with Cuts of All Kinds. Also a bit of a sucker for books about meat. I want to learn how to cook all those cuts I see in the grocery store and never know what to do with! You can’t go wrong with America’s Test Kitchen. Not only to do they tell you EXACTLY how to do it, in order to make it turn out, they tell you WHY. It is one of my pet peeves when a book says “Don’t do that thing”, but doesn’t say what will happen if you do. If I ever burn the house down, it will be because a book told me not to do a thing, and I was feeling testy and did it anyway just to see what would happen. Because I want to know. America’s Test Kitchen will never put me in that situation.
The Fat Kitchen: How to Render, Cure & Cook with Lard, Tallow & Poultry Fat. If I could convince everyone to do just ONE thing in their kitchen, it would be to throw out all their margarine, canola oil, and Crisco – and start cooking with animal fats. Those medical studies that convinced you animal fats are dangerous? Outdated and wrong. The NEW studies show it’s exactly the opposite: man-made fats are the dangerous ones, while grassfed animal fats are good for you! And they taste SO incredibly good…I mean, if you’ve never had potatoes cooked in duck fat, you haven’t lived.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I have long been a fan of V.E. Schwab, but this particular book…it’s the book that is going to make her career. Indescribable, beautiful, haunting, and deeply thought-provoking, this is the book I recommend to my literary book snob friends who look down their noses at mere ‘genre fiction’.
Wow, that was a longer post than I thought it would be…I guess that happens when I don’t post for weeks….
As always in this world, there are good things that happen, and bad things. I had two Muscovy hens sitting on eggs…but only one hen managed to hatch out her babies. My black hen, Tabitha, did hatch one successfully, but I found it dead in the far corner of her broody pen the following morning. It didn’t look injured or malformed, it just looked like it got out of the nest and died of cold. I suspect she threw it out, not recognizing the baby as hers? This is the second time she’s failed to hatch eggs, so I may not let her try again next year. We’ll see.
But the other wannabe mama, Tilda, is going great! she hatched nine ducklings, and they are just the cutest things, ever.
That is a just-hatched duckling…not even completely dried off.
She is super happy with herself, and super concerned I’m going to steal her babies. She’s my skittish hen, never very friendly, which is unfortunate, since all I want to do is snuggle ducklings.
A few days after they hatched, I let her take them out into the duck run, and one of the babies just…disappeared. I looked everywhere for signs of what happened, but there was nothing. I suspect the little hawk that lives in the field behind my house got it. So then I had to keep them confided in a more secure area for a few weeks until they were less vulnerable.
And the ducks are doing the job I hoped they would! Bindweed control! My entire garden is infested with bindweed, to the point where gardening is very frustrating. If I don’t pull it continually, it literally devours everything.
But I started noticing something…the bindweed is dying! Where it was grown up through a rose bush, it was all brown and dead! One area of the fence that I had pretty much given up on, was suddenly bare.
THAT, friends, used to be a solid wall of bindweed! Now it’s just…gone…except for some brown and dead leaves the ducks can’t reach.
And the fence along my chicken run, used to be overgrown, too.
But it’s not all the muscovy ducks’ work. Goosie has been working too. She’s getting everything on her side of the fence. And she’s been picking at the dead stems of bindweed wrapped through the wire, too, cleaning it up. If I had known this was possible, I’d have gotten muscovies and a goose thirty years ago!
Of course, having ducks free ranging through my garden does have a few negative points. They have trampled down a few plants I’d rather they didn’t…but I can put wire around those. They would eat my veggies…but I fenced them out of the veggie area. And they made a mess of the container water gardens I had. So I moved one to a non-duck area and converted the other to a bog garden.
This used to be filled with water; now it’s filled with a mix of peat moss and sand. It holds the water and keeps the plants happy, but isn’t attractive to the ducks. It’s all about the compromise! And I’m happy with a few squashed plants and nibbled leaves if it means the bindweed is being controlled.
And finally, I have enough elderberries on my oldest tree to start preserving a few. I dehydrated them, and will use them to make elderberry tea this cold and flu season.
There are people who claim that guinea pigs can’t be kept outside. That is absolutely incorrect. As long as they are acclimated to the environment, and have a dry, protected hutch, they will thrive. They are regularly kept outside in England. My pigs are loving their outdoor life…especially now, as they are officially useful, working homestead pigs!
The worst problem in my garden (and it is a really, really severe problem!) is bindweed. This stuff is incredibly evil, and it will not die. None of the methods I normally use for unwanted weeds works at all on bindweed. The only thing that works is pinching every last bit of new growth off at the ground the moment it appears. But my garden is way too big and full of far too many plants for that to be possible.
In a few sections where I was trying to grown annual vegetables, I’m giving up and switching over to an above-ground-and-piggie system. Because the ONE THING bindweed has going for it is that it is edible for animals. My rabbits, ducks, goose, turkeys, and chickens will all eat it – although the chickens really aren’t fans, so they eat very little. My rabbits, on the other hand, LOVE it. But I can’t let the rabbits into the annual vegetable garden because they also LOVE all the other veggies. And rabbits jump. They will happily jump up into the above ground planters I’ve switched over to and eat the veggies.
So no rabbits for bindweed control. I could pull it by hand, since it won’t become a threat to the veggies until it has grown knee high. But why do that, when you can work with an animal?
Enter the piggies. Guinea pigs don’t jump, and love to scurry around planters and eat bindweed.
Their new garden patrol is fenced off and safe, and they go in and out of their hutch at will…including putting themselves to bed well before dark. They only thing I have to do is shut and lock their door. So far, it’s working perfectly. If it continues to work, I will have to consider getting a second group of piggies to work the front veggie garden!
(And if you’re wondering why the strawberry plants look so terrible, it’s because I transplanted them in the middle of summer, and they are objecting. They are already growing fresh new leaves, though, so they will be gorgeous in Spring.)
I love giving the animals I love a natural life, filled with the things they enjoy!
In other news, the turkeys grew up to five weeks old, and were mostly independent. One of their two bantam chickens moms decided she had taught them everything necessary, and went off to live with the other chickens in the main chicken coop. The other mom was sticking with it…sorta. She still slept with them, but didn’t really spend any time with them during the day. So I decided it was time.
Within 15 minutes of posting them on my local facebook poultry group, I was fielding questions from four interested people. And then about 5 minutes after that, one guy took them all. He has a little farm, and although he’s been raising a few modern breed turkeys for thanksgiving each year, he is now getting interesting in becoming more sustainable, and wants these guys to be his new breeding flock of heritage Red Bourbon turkeys! So brought all five to work with me at the library, and he picked them via our curbside pickup. I have the best boss, honestly. When I texted her the night before to warn her I was bringing my turkeys in with me, she just said she couldn’t wait to see them.
Next year, if these bantams volunteer again, I might see what other interesting eggs I might get them to hatch. My mom suggested peacocks! Hmmm…..
I thought the turkeys would be the last babies on the farm this year, but it turns out my Muscovy hens had other plans. I don’t remember if I blogged about it, but my drake had a thing happen to him very early this year. He had a prolapsed penis, which resulted in him losing his penis. This isn’t a problem for a male duck, as the only thing he uses his penis for is fertilizing the females…he can still go happily through the motions of mating (and does all the time!) but he can’t actually fertilize those eggs. Or so I thought.
About three months after the…hem…incident happened, one of my females, Tabitha, went broody. I let her sit on the (I thought) infertile eggs while I decided whether I was going to get some eggs for her from somewhere else. I ended up checking the eggs just to be sure…and wow. There were babies developing inside! After checking with someone who checked with her vet, it turned out ducks can hold sperm inside them for up to three months. Okay, I thought…they just barely made the deadline!
And then, something went wrong late in the game, and the eggs didn’t hatch.
So that was it. No ducklings on the farm this year….or so I thought.
About a month ago, my second hen, Tilda, went broody. This was a good FIVE months after the…hem…incident happened. No way this girl’s been holding sperm this long. It’s scientifically impossible…isn’t it?
I let her sit, while I considered my options, and finally decided I’d just take the eggs away because it’s getting late in the season, and I really prefer having babies earlier. But just to be 100% safe…I checked the eggs.
And…there are babies inside! What. In. The. World. How is this happening? I’m thrilled to have a miracle drake who can apparently father children without a penis, because I really wanted to have a sustainable little trio of muscovies, and I love Tiberius and don’t want to replace him with another drake.
But really….what is going on here?
And then, after Tilda went broody, Tabitha also decided to go for a second attempt at being a mother.
Tilda has somewhere around ten eggs underneath her, and Tabitha has four. Tabitha’s eggs are also developing. Tilda’s eggs are due to hatch sometime next week? Maybe? I didn’t mark down the exact date, because I was so sure they weren’t fertile. Tabitha is due maybe a week after that. I’m pretty excited, guys.
And extremely puzzled.
In the garden, the grapes have wrapped themselves decoratively under the eaves of the chicken coop.
The bees are buzzing around their favorite flowers, which are leeks. I don’t grow leeks for the leeks, ya’ll. I grow them strictly for the bees!
And the artichoke is getting closer to flowering as well. This is also for the bees. And for the drama! If you’ve never seen an artichoke flower, you’re missing out.
But the real star is Goosie. She is turning out to be the most perfect addition. She’s extremely chatty, but she only gives the loud and obnoxious alarm call when she really feels there’s a problem…like when she first saw the guinea pigs roaming around! Those piggies are clearly chicken-eating monsters. But after giving the alarm, she settles right down. And she’s so sweet and affectionate.
Lots of babies and flowers happening on the urban farm. First off all, Sophie the goose (or Goosie, as she is commonly called) is growing up SO FAST. This is a video from a few weeks back:
Even though she was fostered by a chicken, along with two chicken “sisters”, she is very friendly to me, and will happily leave her chicken family to follow me around. I should have kept this video going, because right after I turned it off, she walked through a patch of calendula, and came out with a flower on her back!
I let her take it back to the chicken yard as a present for her chicken-mama. She is super sweet with her adopted family.
If you can’t quite see what’s going on in the above photo, Goosie is snuggled in against her mama, and her two sisters are snuggled in on her back. They treat her almost like a second mother.
Today, I took the picture below. Goosie is easily larger than her mama now, but she still snuggles with her sisters, and they follow her around the yard. The two little chickens now have names. The soft grey one is Elsa, and the brown one is Anna.
The three male pekin ducks I had shipped with the goose are also much larger. And today, they found a muddy place in the yard to play in! Duck joy!
And in the biggest baby news…the accidental baby turkeys have hatched! Out the six eggs that were mistakenly shipped to me, five are now official turkey poults. They are super cute. I’ve always had a fondness for turkeys.
These five turkeys were hatched by two sisters, a pair of bantam cochins. They sat together on the eggs in the same nest, but I wasn’t sure how it work once the eggs hatched. Would they divide the poults up? Would one hen steal all of them?
As it turns out, they are excellent at co-parenting. The poults treat the two hens equally as their mother, and both hens work together to feed them and keep them warm. It really is the sweetest thing.
I’ve been allowing the muscovies free-range status in the back garden, even though they are squashing down some plants. They are just so happy! And they like to follow me around while I’m weeding and chat to me.
In the garden, things are growing.
Including pears. It’s going to be a good year for pears.
And calendula. I love this new variety I found. Notice that the back of each petal is striped!
The last few weeks have gone by so fast! I was furloughed from my work because of covid-19, so I’ve just been avoiding public places and enjoying life on my little farm. I’ve actually been doing a lot more cooking/baking and crafting lately, but I have done a few things outside.
I have a few places in my yard that are basically a no-man’s-land, as far as planting in the ground goes. So this year, I decided to reclaim one section by using above ground planters. It’s out of the way, behind the chicken coop, so rather than investing in something expensive, I just went with large storage totes. So far, it’s been brilliant.
If you notice that some of the leaves are a bit…nibbled on, that’s the fault of my chicken, Ellie. She likes to help out in the garden, and takes her pay by taste-testing my veggies for me.
One of my Muscovy hens has gone broody, and has staked claim to a corner of the overflow coop.
She’s super sweet, not aggressive at all, and completely unflappable. My corgi managed to get in the coop with her yesterday, and stood there, barking in her face, and she just sat there and waited for him to go away. I did not think the eggs were fertile, because my one drake suffered a penile prolapse early this Spring, and ended up losing his…ahem…male equipment. This isn’t a problem for him, but it should mean no fertile eggs for me. I ordered three pekin ducklings to foster with her, but the day before they arrived, I double-checked her eggs by candling them, and miracle of miracles–about five have babies inside them! I don’t know if they’ll manage to hatch, but since they should be due any day now, I’m holding onto the pekins, and hopefully if she hatches some muscovies in the next few days, I’ll be able to slip the pekins in with them. I can’t give them to her now, because she’d abandon the eggs. You don’t know how hard it is to avoid snuggling three perfect little fluffy yellow ducklings! But I don’t dare give them much attention, because then they would imprint on me, and not accept her.
And speaking of perfect little fluffy creatures…along with the pekins, I got my future chicken guard goose! Meet Sophie.
She’s a tufted Roman goose, and is currently being fostered by my best broody hen, Ophelia. Ophelia didn’t even bat an eye at this strange new baby. Along with Sophie, I gave Ophelia two chicken chicks too, because I wanted Sophie to have ‘sisters’. Chickens are mean girls, and it really helps if you’re brand new, to have a few brand new friends.
I still need to figure out names for these two. The silvery grey one is a Lavender Orpington, and the brown one is a new hybrid called a Colorpack. It’s part Cream Legbar, so I will have colored eggs, either blue, green, or pink.
And just to show the size difference between a chick and a gosling…here’s Sophie and her sisters:
And here’s a video of Ophelia and Sophie:
It is so so so so HARD not to snuggle this gosling! Goslings are possibly my favorite baby animal, and Sophie is so calm and sweet. She keeps walking over to me and looking up at me with this adorable expression.
I’m hoping that once she’s safely imprinted on Ophelia, that I’ll be able to snuggle her. Ophelia won’t mind. This is the hen who, when I pick up one of her babies and the baby yells, runs over and pecks the baby to tell her to stop acting like an idiot. Humans are friends! They bring us food!
It’s going to be so much fun to watch Ophelia and her three mismatched children explore the chicken yard.
Well, pretty much everything has changed since the last time I posted, hasn’t it? As I write this, I’m under lockdown in my state for two weeks. They hope this will “flatten the curve” and keep this virus from becoming as terrible here in the States as it has been in other parts of the world. I don’t know if that will work or not. Honestly, I have complete security knowing that everything will be fine for me and my family, whatever happens. We are completely safe, forever.
But right now, I’m off work (with pay, thankfully!) and I’m sitting at home being bored and miserable.
You didn’t believe that last statement, did you? If you did, you haven’t been following this blog very long, I’m guessing! Of course I’m not happy with why I’m at home, and it feels a bit weird knowing I can’t just pop into JoAnn Fabrics at a whim – but even in regular times, it’s basically my goal on most days to never leave my property. It truly is a glorious feeling to have all the time for whatever I want to do…and I gotta say I’m loving how quiet everything is. I live near a busy street, and normally the sound of traffic is constant. I woke up this morning to silence.
I’ve been sitting with the chickens, cooking new recipes, playing games, and crafting. So much peace, here on my property – with just a bit of spice, when we plan future trips to pick up groceries (mainly just milk) and animal feed, wondering if the stores will still be sold out, and if we should spray everything down with bleach before we bring it in the house. It’s honestly…kind of fun. I’ve always loved reading about people who lived through “interesting history”, and wondering what it would be like to be one of them. If this current world-as-we-know-it holds together longer that I believe it will, one day little girls will be reading about the pandemic of 2020, like I read about the Spanish Flu. I think I’d feel quite a bit differently if I hadn’t already read the ending of The Book, and know that whatever happens, nothing can keep me from the glorious future waiting for me. Some of my friends and co-workers are so scared. I wish they understood. One day very soon, they will.
But I actually just wanted to talk about some of the interesting things I’ve doing these past couple of days. Things like letting the Muscovy ducks out to roam in the garden.
Things like trying salt-cured egg yolks.
You completely cover raw egg yolks in a salt/sugar mixture, and let them sit in the fridge for a week to dry out. Then you remove them from the salt, further dry them for a short time in the oven on a low temp, then they are ready to eat! But WHY? Because you can grate the yolks and use them as a tasty topping for almost anything that calls for grated cheese. I haven’t tasted them yet, they are still drying in salt, but it sounds intriguing. And if there’s one thing I have plenty of right now, it’s eggs. Particularly since I’m locked down and can’t sell my extra eggs at work.
Today I also brought out the craft I bought a few months back, and didn’t have time to do.
My first attempt turned out pretty good! This book has THE CUTEST little felt doll clothes for this doll, can’t wait to make the little fox hood/cape!
Out in the garden, Spring is springing up all over. I’ve got the lettuce starts I bought out in the garden, getting a head start while the seedlings I’m growing from seed are in the greenhouse. It never ceases to thrill me, being able to plant things like lettuce – and NOT have slugs immediately devour them! Letting the chickens out to dig through the garden in winter and early spring, controls them so amazingly well. They eat all the slug eggs (and a few of the slugs themselves) and I have a nearly slug-free garden. It works so much better than letting ducks wander through your garden, eating the adult slugs!
The peach and plum trees are blooming.
The chickens are laying, and hopefully considering going broody. I’d love it if one of these new bantam cochin hens decided to raise a family for me. I really, really want a Lavender Orpington this year.
Though not you, Khaleesi! Every year this frost Cream Legbar decides she wants babies, and I remind her that she is quite possibly clinically insane, and thus not a suitable mother.
Do you see the insanity in her eyes? It’s there, I promise you. She is the most neurotic, crazy-butt chicken I’ve ever owned. I’d think about rehoming her if she weren’t so entertaining.
The nine meat birds are growing so large already. They are so heavy and…meaty. I’ve tried several different kinds of meat chickens, and these Freedom Rangers are the best. They are so calm and easy to keep. I keep them in a separate coop, but now that they are large enough to hold their own, I let them out to share a run with the rest of the chickens.
They are living a happy life, as they should. Even meat animals – perhaps especially meat animals – should be raised in a way that lets them live a natural, happy life. Right now, it’s hard to imagine butchering them, they are so sweet. But as they are almost all roosters, about the time they reach butchering age, they also start acting out and getting bratty. It makes it so much easier!
Before all this virus lockdown stuff happened, I managed to complete most of my must-do spring building list. One thing was raising the quail cages off the ground.
When they were on the ground, I’d have rats burrowing underneath, trying to get at the quail’s food. This was not a situation I liked. So I raised them up, creating raised beds filled with dirt, so the quail still have a natural place to walk, scratch, and dig. Bonus: I can now enjoy the quails themselves better, since I don’t have to sit on the ground to see them easily.
Two of these raised quail coops are in the chicken run, so I purposely raised them high enough for the chickens to be able to get underneath. Hawk protection, plus shade and rain cover! Ignore the roof on this next one: I’ve got a few roofs I need to finish, but that will have to wait until after this lockdown.
Another thing I did was install a solar lamp post in the middle of my garden, a tribute to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. It has a flickering flame light inside, so it’s pretty dramatically realistic at night.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. Hopefully everyone reading this is nestled at home enjoying their family, and catching up on all the things they always intended to do, but never had the time. For those of you who are “essential employees”, thank you for what you’re doing. A lot of you probably thought you had fairly non-essential jobs – no one ever really appreciates a grocery store clerk or truck drivers on a daily basis, do they? At least they didn’t until now, when you guys are truly demonstrating how essential you are. I hope you’ll stay safe.
And for all of you, whoever you are, if you’re scared right now, if you wonder whether the world will ever be normal again, the truth is, it may not be. And if it does manage to regain some semblance of normality, it won’t last. It can’t. But that doesn’t have to scare you. You can have complete peace, and complete security, no matter what happens next. I do.
“Short Answers to 8 of The Most Important Questions Regarding The Will of God, Salvation, The Gospel, Eternal Security & Repentance.” By Gregg Jackson
1. What is the will of God? To believe on The Eternally Existing Son of God, God The Son, Jesus Christ! “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth The Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40)
2. What are the works of God? To believe on the one whom God the Father sent, His Son, Jesus Christ! “Then said they unto Him, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.’” (John 6:28-29)
3. What must I do to be saved? Believe on The Lord Jesus Christ, that He died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day according to the scriptures. “And brought them out, and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.’” (Acts 16:31)
4. What is The Gospel & does believing The Gospel save me? It’s The “Good News.” That Jesus died for all your sins (past, present & future), was buried (proving He was dead) & rose again on the 3rd day according to the (old testament) scriptures for your justification in the eyes of God. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you The Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (1st Corinthians 15:1-4)
5. Are works required for salvation? No. We are NOT saved by works or kept saved by works. We are saved FOR works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)
6. Can I lose my salvation? No. Once a person genuinely believes the Gospel they are sealed by The Holy Spirit in Christ the instant they believe forever and can never perish! “In whom ye also trusted (referring to Jesus), after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14) “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
7. Do I need to endure till the end to be saved? In Matthew 24 :13 Jesus tells the disciples, “he who endures till the end, will be saved.” When read in proper context, it is clear Jesus is speaking about Jews during the tribulation (which occurs after The Church is raptured). Jesus is telling them that those Jewish believers during the Tribulation who “endure” till “the end” of the Tribulation will be saved. The word “saved” in proper context in this passage signifies being saved from danger during the Tribulation, not saved from hell.
8. Do I need to repent for my sins to be saved or to stay saved? No! Neither Jesus, nor any of His apostle’s or disciples ever told anybody they needed to “repent of their sins” or “stop sinning” to be saved. Sin is transgression of the law. Repenting of sin is following the law. Salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Not by faith in Jesus PLUS obeying the law. The only requirement for eternal salvation is believing The Gospel! AFTER a person is saved, they SHOULD repent from their sins (confessing your sins to God) not to stay saved (because you can never lose your salvation) but as their rightful service to God to stay in right relationship with Him. The ONLY requirement for salvation is trusting (BELIEVING) in the finsihed redemptive work of Jesus Christ on The Cross ALONE for the remission of all your sins and eternal life. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son that whoesoever would BELIEVE in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
This past month has been insanely busy. We’ve had a few gorgeous Spring days, and some less-than-completely-gorgeous Spring days, but I’ve been outside working in all of them. All day, every moment I have! This is my favorite time of year. I’ve discovered that I don’t even mind working in the rain, as long as I’m wearing a hat. I’ve been too busy to even blog, so I’ll slowly have to catch you up on everything that’s been going on. Believe it or not, the loooong post to follow is just a small sampling!
First of all: new chicks!
I have Freedom Ranger meat birds. These guys are the best. So calm, so quiet, so completely chill. We did a test run of four last year, and absolutely loved them. They were awesome to raise, and tasted the best of any chicken we’ve had.
Second: We rat-proofed the chicken coop. Guys. We had such a rat problem this past winter! They were burrowing into the chicken coop, and stealing all the food. I couldn’t go outside without seeing them scampering away…they were bold as squirrels. First step, we laid an apron of hardware cloth around the perimeter, inside and out. We got rid of the areas around the coop that the rats were using as cover. We set traps. And we bought a rat-proof feeder. This one.
The chickens took to it instantly with no learning curve (even the dumb ones!), and the rats almost instantly stopped coming around. I saw a rat now and then for about a week, and now I see no rats at all. Not a single one. This feeder is worth every penny.
Third: The neighbor took their tree down, and we waylaid the tree-trimming company and snagged the chips. Last year, we did not get a proper layer of chips down in the chicken yard, and we paid the price all winter. The ground was a soggy, muddy mess. I was forced to put down some straw just to make it bearable. In the below picture, Mina and Valentina are scandalized by the muddy state of their yard. Behind the hens: lovely, thick chips. In front of the hens: mud and squish.
Free wood chips have been the most amazing thing we’ve ever done for the chickens. They hate them when we first put them down – I don’t know if it’s the fresh scent, or the texture – but they hate them. Within a week, however, they are loving them, and are scratching down through, to the ground which remains diggable, soft, and full of worms.
Fourth: Moving Cocoa’s cage. My angora rabbit requires special housing to keep her fur clean. No slumming about in shavings or dirt for her! She’s bunny royalty. I had her cage inside the breezeway, but I started feeling sorry for her, because she was so isolated from all the other critters. If there’s one thing I’ve loved seeing, it’s how all the animals on my backyard farm are interested in each other. The ducks explode with joy whenever a chicken comes near their pen (every duck I’ve ever owned has been obsessed with chickens!) the quail and the chickens watch each other like television, and the chickens and the rabbits nap near each other on sunny mornings.
So I moved Cocoa out to the bunny area. Her cage is raised up off the ground, both to keep her fur clean (she has a linoleum floor) and to give the chickens another place to get out of rain. She has a hardware cloth window through to Bramble’s cage, so they can spend non-sexy time together, and of course she can watch the chickens. I still need to roof her cage. That ugly tarp has to go!
Fifth: The pigeons got new nestboxes. They are built on the outside of the cage, so I can do welfare checks on the squabs without going inside.
They like them, and it’s much easier for me to keep them clean (and handle the babies).
I had three pair in this pen, but I decided that was one pair more than I need. I found a buyer for the extra pair, but since he needs to build his cage before he can take them, I stuck Casanova and his mate in the Bunny Barn temporarily. With the rabbits.
People on the internet will tell you this does not work – even though they haven’t tried it themselves. They have all sorts of reasons why not: It will scare the rabbits, and they will die. The rabbits will kill the pigeons. The pigeons will blind your rabbits. The pigeons/rabbits will get sick. The rabbits will get pooped on. They will eat each other’s food and die of malnourishment. They almost had me convinced. But then I found a person who actually does it, and it works perfectly for her. And I was reminded of all the rabbits who live with chickens, and my common sense came rushing back.
The rabbits were not scared. My rabbits are not namby-pamby wussy critters locked away in solitary confinement–my rabbits live in the real world, with screaming neighbors, fireworks, and other animals. The only time they are ever stressed out is when it’s time to cut their toenails. The rabbits and the pigeons completely ignore each other. The pigeons live in the loft areas, the rabbits live on the ground. Since I feed my rabbits real grains with their hay, they are largely eating the same diet as the pigeons–and the pigeon food is up in the loft, anyway, and the rabbits eat on the floor. No one has gotten sick, or even pooped on. Most of the things that might make an animal sick are species specific, anyway. It’s not a thing I worry about. I am LOVING having these pigeons in the Bunny Barn. It may have started as a temporary thing, but I think after this particular pair of pigeons are sold, I might put a different pair in there. The potential is wide open!
Sixth: Starting seeds, and preparing the garden. It’s a bit early to direct plant outside, but I do have the greenhouse full of seeded trays, and I’ve put out a few hardy beasts, like lettuce.
And speaking of seeds, my book library has decided to start a seed library. Of course, I ended up being part of the process, and it’s been interesting. The actual seed library itself won’t be operational until Feb 2021, but we are busy figuring out stuff behind the scenes…including special events like our upcoming Seed Share and Garden Fair.
While those with seeds of their own to share are completely welcomed, our focus is on getting seeds out into the hands of people who want to garden. So there is absolutely nothing expected of anyone but show up, enjoy the live music, attend the seed-starting workshop if you want to learn how to begin planting (1pm), let your kids make some garden-related crafts, and of course take home free seeds! The entire event is from 1-4pm.
Seventh: Cleaning up. How does so much junk accumulate over one winter?
And lastly, because if I go too long without mentioning Ellie on the blog, someone always gets concerned and asks if she’s ok, here’s Ellie.
She’s not amused by the new chicks, doesn’t think the new chips smell nice at all, isn’t sure why I want so many rabbits, and thinks I waste entirely too much time building cages and nestboxes for other animals, when I could be sitting in the sun with her on my lap. Or bringing her mealworms. Or doing something that she wants. Because she is a cranky ten-year-old lady who just wishes those crazy ducks would get off her lawn.
As some of you know, I support my chickens by working at my local library. This month is going to be particularly cool, because we are hosting one of our local artists, Karen Bakke. Every Saturday in February, she will be live at the library, painting! This past Saturday was her first, and it was so much fun to watch.
She’s super sweet, and so kind. I followed her on Instagram, and she saw pictures of my costumes and says she would like to paint me! How cool would that be?
She also has a display of her art hanging at the library all month, and I am in love with almost all of them. I couldn’t find pictures of my favorites on her social media, so you’ll have to come down to the library and see them in person.
She also does custom art, like this splendid corgi portrait:
Ya’ll know I am partial to corgis! Her art is also very reasonably priced, something I do appreciate as a person who is supporting many hungry chickens. I actually bought one of her paintings, this wonderful bluebird:
I can’t wait to see what she paints this Saturday!
Besides a new favorite artist, I’ve also discovered miniature room kits. They come with everything you need (including tweezers, paint, and glue) to recreate a miniature room – they even have a light! I bought one for my birthday gift to myself…no surprise, I chose the library/bookstore.
They come in a box with literally thousands of pieces, and everything is really amazing quality. I wasn’t expecting everything to be so nice – not for $24! I would have guessed this kit would cost more like $50+. Some of the books open, with illustrated pages you can flip through. You even put together and upholster the red chair! It was so much fun to do. The only changes I made were to change out the flooring to “wood”, paint the walls yellow, and add the mini cats. Because how can you have books without cats? I’ve put it on my bookshelf, where it seems to fit.
If you want to watch a video of someone building one of these:
I totally want to do another one, but it will probably have to wait until after Spring. They have the cutest little tea shop I have my eye on….
In between the monsoon of rain we’ve been having, I’ve also made it out into the garden a few days to begin the year’s Spring projects. Every since they tore down a nearby abandoned house, we’ve had a rat problem, and since the protective wire on the bottom of many of my animal’s housing is nearly ten years old, it’s starting to give way. And I will not feed and house rats. No way. Even though I love pet rats and every time I catch one in the live trap I think “You are so cute!”….right before I kill it.
The Muscovy drake, at least, appears to be doing one of the jobs I got him for. When he was young, I used to find rats scurrying out of his coop in the early evening before I locked the ducks up. I haven’t seen a single rat around the duck coop lately. And a few days ago, when the ducks were over by the chicken coop, I heard a squeaking, and looked over to see the drake had grabbed a small rat and was vigorously attempting to destroy it. Good on him!
So to force the rats to move on to somewhere else, we just redid the protective wire on the chicken coop, and got them a new rat-proof feeder. I just put the feeder up yesterday, so it’s too soon to tell, but so far the chickens seem to be learning how to use it, and it seems quality and like it will do its job. I also replaced the wire on the pigeon coop, and while I was at it, built them new nestboxes. I’ll do a separate post on that later. Next up, I’ll be remodeling the quail coops, and Cocoa the angora rabbit’s hutch. And fixing up a couple of the unused coops to prepare for the new ducks and chickens coming this spring (meat birds).
And then. And then, guys…I’ll finally be able to build a BRAND NEW coop, for a BRAND NEW critter coming to the urban farm. No, not the goose. She is coming, but she’ll live with the chickens as their guard. No, I’m going to mail order some fancy doves! I had doves eons ago, and I miss them. They have such wonderful sounds, from the gentle coo, to the manic laugh! I’m still debating, but I think I’m going to get the tangerine color.
Really wish this rain would let up a little…I’ve got so much to do before planting season begins!
I don’t believe I mentioned it here, but I lost my Rex buck, Sorrel, this winter. I’m not sure what happened; his illness didn’t seem to match up symptom-wise with anything I could find. It doesn’t appear to have been contagious, thankfully, because the does share a wire wall with him, and they are both thriving. But it left me in want of a new male. I had pretty much decided on getting a breed other than Rex this time, and was keeping my eye out for a breeder of something interesting in my area that would have kits for sale in Spring.
And then, surprise, surprise, I stumbled onto this little fellow.
Meet Bramble. He’s still a little freaked out by his sudden change of residence, but he’s sweet-tempered and pretty. He’s also a New Zealand/Cinnamon hybrid, which seems about perfect for me. Hopefully I’ll get some gorgeous babies from him.
And in other news, I decided to go ahead and get a Guard Goose for my chicken flock. The idea is, you get one (and one ONLY) female gosling, and raise it with your chickens, so it bonds to them and wants to protect them. Geese are terrific protection against aerial predators like hawks.
I have a female tufted roman gosling on order with mypetchicken.com, and since they need to ship at least three waterfowl together, I also ordered three male pekin ducks. I’ll raise those for meat.
I’m hoping one of my chickens will be broody at just the right time (I have four cochins, so the odds are in my favor) and I’ll be able to have her raise the goose. I really can’t wait to see a chicken raise a gosling! How adorable will that be????
I chose a roman tufted because they are quite small for geese, quieter than average, and have an interesting history to them. As one of the oldest varieties of geese in the world, they were around during the time of the Romans. Hence the name. In 365 BC, as the Gauls attempted to steal into Rome under cover of night, it was the honk of a Roman goose that awoke Marcus Manlius and saved the capitol. As I adore both geese AND ancient Roman history, I’m quite excited about this addition to the farm!