Category Archives: Uncategorized

Favorite Things of 2020

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Shopping. Curbside pickup is the BOMB. Love it with a passion. Never, ever want to go back to the way I shopped before.
  3. 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!

And lastly, my four favorite books.

The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies. I am a sucker for pie books. I buy them all. Do I actually bake any of the pies? Sometimes.

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….

Sad Times

I had a few sad animals deaths on the urban farm recently. First though, let me say that Ellie the miracle chicken is perfectly fine. She’s around eleven years, and still doing great. But my bobwhite quail were getting quite elderly for quail, so it wasn’t a great surprise when my last little female snowflake, Bellatrix, passed on in her sleep.

I’m already planning to hatch more in the spring, because bobwhite are a pure joy to have around. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some more of the snowflake eggs.

Then, a few weeks later, I found Ophelia dead in the chicken run. No sign of sickness, and a postmortem examination turned up nothing obviously wrong, so I think she just died of an age related heart attack or stroke. She was a heavy breed, and not young. She was a wonderful girl, though. Always a visual standout in the flock, and so sweet and willing to hatch anything kind of critter I gave her, even a goose.

Then, the most sad death happened, just last week. One of my bantam cochin hens was missing at bedtime. A search of the chicken yard revealed that she’d been killed and eaten by the merlin hawk that lives in the field behind my property. This hawk primarily feeds on pigeons and other wild small birds, and is too small to take a full-sized chicken. It’s never bothered the banties, either…until now. I think the problem was a combination of its normal hunting ground being torn up by developers (who keep coming tearing up the field and destroying all the habitat and wild bird nests…but then never actually building anything – and they’ve been doing this for YEARS now and it frankly pisses me off) and also because the banties were all molting, and thus looked much smaller than they usually do.

And, of course, out of the three banties, the one killed was my favorite. Millie, who I called “Little Friend” because she followed me around and loved to snuggle on my lap. She was an absolute sweetheart.

I knew the other two banties weren’t going to be safe now that the hawk knew it could take them, so I made arrangements for a friend to take them both…and in the meantime, I put together a covered makeshift run to protect them.

I thought it was safe. It was completely wired in, with a tarp over the top. That hawk, though…. I went out mid-afternoon, and found the big chickens all hiding at the complete opposite end of their yard, as far away from this makeshift run as they could get. And they were looking up and acting jumpy and nervous. I thought they’d just seen the hawk fly over, so I wasn’t too worried, but I went to check on the banties anyway. And found one of the two remaining banties dead. The hawk had waited until she was scratching around close to the wire, then struck her through the wire and killed her. She had a couple of talon marks on her, but because she was still behind the wire, the hawk hadn’t been able to eat her, just pulled a few of her wing feathers out.

Because my friend has only standard-sized chickens, I wasn’t comfortable sending one banty all by herself to integrate with a new flock, so I thought of a different friend who has a flock of just banties. I asked her, and yesterday Keri came and adopted the sole survivor, Mollie, into her own flock. She says she thinks Mollie will end up being the alpha hen, and I believe it. Despite her size, Mollie was always a dominate girl. She had the goose completely terrorized of her!

This whole situation makes me very sad, both because it’s always difficult when animals die of anything other than natural old age – especially when you feel you should have been able to keep them safe, and you didn’t – and also because I really loved having banties in the flock. I loved how adorable they were, how sweet tempered and good at being mommas they were, and also their small eggs. Because it’s just the two of us, I often split recipes in half, and it’s always been an issue when a recipe calls for just one egg. I know you can whip the egg, then split it that way, but it feels like a waste. I discovered that banty eggs were perfectly sized to be “half an egg”, and I loved that.

So now I’m thinking I will get banties again, but they won’t be able to run with the regular flock. I have a section that I could fence off and cover (with smaller hawk-proof wire!) for a run that would be perfect for three little banties. It would also be a secure place for them to raise any chicks, since I’ve long been worried about the potential dangers of letting the mommas and babies run with the regular flock. Not because the other hens would hurt them – they never would – but because of all the various dangers involving water buckets, escaping through fence holes, or predators that can befall such tiny creatures.

I feel bad about my regular hens too, because they don’t understand why the banties were killed, they don’t realize their own size difference in comparison to the Merlin. All they know is they saw two of their own killed, and they are worried they’re going to be next. The morning after I found the first dead banty, two of my girls led me over to the sad little pile of feathers to show me what happened. One of them was Penelope, the dead banty’s particular friend. They both stretched out their necks, peered cautiously at the place where it happened, made the churr churr sound chickens make when they see something bad, then looked up at me. They had such worried, upset faces. Anyone who says birds don’t have feelings and emotions like humans do is absolutely wrong. Hopefully the hawk will move on now the last banty is rehomed, and they won’t keep getting re-traumatized by it flying over.

But to end this on a happier note, since it’s now winter and the outside garden is put to bed for the winter, I have been busy these past couple of months gardening inside. As of right this moment, I have eight tropical fish aquariums in my house, five of them in my bedroom. They range in size from 2.5 gallons to 45 gallons, and they are bringing me such joy. I’ve been following Father Fish on YouTube, along with a score of others, who believe that the way aquariums are commonly set up, with a inch or so of gravel, some plastic plants, and a smattering of chemicals to keep everything alive is a travesty. It’s possible to have a natural aquarium, one with a dirt substrate, real plants, and hardly any human tampering once it’s established and balanced. I love this so much.

Father Fish has a great rant on the subject of how the traditional methods of keeping tropical fish is destroying the hobby, and I agree with him.

I find it really difficult to take nice photos of aquariums, but here’s one that turned out fairly decent. It’s prettier in real life, though!

I absolutely love the idea of capturing a piece of actual nature, and it really is so simple.

Finally! A Solution for Bindweed?

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.

Guinea Pigs Loose in the Garden?

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!

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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.

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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?

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Enter the piggies. Guinea pigs don’t jump, and love to scurry around planters and eat bindweed.

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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.

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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?

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And then, after Tilda went broody, Tabitha also decided to go for a second attempt at being a mother.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

I’m loving having a goose in the flock.

Duck, Duck, Goose…Turkey?

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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Including pears. It’s going to be a good year for pears.

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And calendula. I love this new variety I found. Notice that the back of each petal is striped!

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When is the Rapture?

Okay. I really didn’t want to get into all of this, but I feel God wants me to, so here it goes.

There is a coming rapture of the church off this earth, and the biggest debate among Christians is when exactly it happens. I believe the bible is clear that any time God has sent down his wrath to destroy wickedness on earth, he has ALWAYS taken his people out of harm’s way first. It happened at Noah’s flood, it happened when Sodom and Gomorrah were pulverized – and the plagues that God sent down on Egypt during the Passover were only for the Egyptians. No Jewish person suffered, as they were protected by the blood of the lamb. And just as a side note, every one of those times, the believers’ animals were also taken or protected. In the case of the Passover, the Jewish animals were also protected from the plagues by the lamb’s blood, and even though at one point Pharaoh relented and said he’d allow the Jews to leave Egypt IF they left their animals behind, God said no. Not a single hoof was to be left behind. I’ve specifically studied the issue of animals throughout the bible, and now I absolutely believe that our animals will taken with us in the Rapture. The bible says they have souls and spirits, using the same words as for humans, and says all spirits return to the God who made them.

But back to the biblical timing of the rapture. I believe we born-again believers (and ALL of the born-again believers!) have no part in the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the Day of the Lord, or the time of God’s Wrath, as the bible alternately refers to that period of torment after the rapture of the church. That time is reserved for the unbelieving Jews, to bring them to salvation, and also to show the rest of the nations that God does exist, and to give them one final chance to choose him. He doesn’t want anyone to perish.

The place in the bible most (pre-tribulation) rapture believers agree is the rapture of the church is in Revelation 4:1

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

But I believe this is wrong. This is the moment John is taken up, to be given knowledge of everything that is going to happen, but this isn’t the church. More in a bit. The other place people hit on is the 24 elders, who are shown already up in heaven when John arrives, sitting on thrones and wearing gold crowns. Revelation 4:4

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

Christians are indeed promised thrones, and crowns, but this is not the church as a whole. For one thing, there are only 24 of them, and I think it’s wrong to assume they are representative of the entire church because the entire church is never referred to as ‘elders’. Only specific people are considered elders. I think these are actually 24 specific people. But who are they, then? For one thing, they are up in heaven BEFORE the church is raptured. Look at this. In Revelation 5, God the Father is given a book that is sealed with 7 seals, and which contains the wrath and judgement of God. An angel proclaims:

Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

And John weeps, because: And no one in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

That phrase ‘no one’ in the original language is very specific. It means absolutely no one, with no exceptions. Who is the only person worthy to open this book? Jesus Christ. But the bible is very clear that at this moment, not even Jesus Christ himself can open this book! No wonder John was so distraught. But why was Jesus unworthy at this moment? Because this book is the deed to the redemption of the earth, and the moment Jesus became worthy to redeem the earth was the moment after he died and rose again. So here we have John and the 24 elders, up in heaven together before Christ had risen from the dead!

And just a few lines later, one of the elders tells John to stop weeping, because the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

And after that, John beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain….And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

There it is! The moment in heaven where Christ appears, having just prevailed over sin and death! And unsurprisingly, all those in heaven rejoices with exceeding joy:

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

The elders in particular here are singing this song about how they have been redeemed to God by Christ’s blood, out of every people group on earth – and that is certainly speaking of believers. But wait! How can that be? Since they were already up in heaven, sitting on thrones and wearing crowns before Christ rose from the dead? The answer to that is quite simple. They are indeed believers, but they were people who believed by looking forward to the resurrection of Christ, rather than believers who today look backward to the resurrection. Every believer throughout all of history has been saved by only one thing: grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The bible says that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), and the very first prophecy of Christ’s sacrifice was given in Genesis, right after Adam’s fall into sin (Gen 3:15.) All the old testament believers knew and believed that Christ would come, would die to redeem them from death and sin, and would raise himself from the grave.

So who are these elders? Well, we know of two old testament men who had an early rapture. Enoch was a man who lived before Noah’s flood, and he walked closely with God, and one day God took him up to heaven without him ever tasting death (Heb. 11:5). And Elijah, one of God’s prophets, was taken up to heaven in a rapture, a rapture that around a hundred people knew was coming on a specific day, and which at least one other man witnessed (2 Kings 2:11). So here are two people who were taken up to heaven, in a rapture, without dying, just like the church today will be. And they were both taken up to heaven a long time before Christ physically came to earth. They would have been up there, saved by their belief and faith, just waiting for the day all the things they believed would be fulfilled. I believe Enoch and Elijah are two of those 24 elders. And the other 22? I suspect Moses is one of them, and as for the others – who knows who God decided to take? We’ll find out when we join them!

So if the 24 elders are not the church, where in Revelation does it mention OUR rapture? Okay, listen closely now. This is going to challenge some strongly-held beliefs. I know I struggled with this, when God first started pointing it out. I only saw it because I started studying the bible for myself, deliberately setting aside all the things I’d been taught growing up, and all my church traditions in order to see what the bible actually said.

The seals are not part of the 7 year Time of Jacob’s Trouble, or the judgment of God. Daniel says that the book must be sealed until the time of the end, and then it will be unsealed, as knowledge increases (Dan 12:9). When is the ‘time of the end’? It’s been the last two thousand years, from the time Christ rose from the dead, to the time Christ finally returns. The New Testament writers repeatedly refer to that time period as the ‘last days’ or the ‘last hour’. And Jesus himself referred to the ‘beginnings of sorrows’ which are not yet the end of the world.

In Jesus’ olivet discourse (Matt. 24) he goes through a list of things that will start happening in the world, things that we all will go through. These things align exactly with the first five seals:

matthew-24-and-revelation-6But as Jesus says, ‘the end is not yet.’ I believe as soon as Jesus returned to heaven, he opened those first five seals, and as a result, all the things included in them have been gradually increasing on the earth: war, famine, death, pestilence, martyrdom, and earthquakes – just like the labor pains of a woman gradually increase in strength. Some people say the seals can’t be open now, because the fourth seal says that a fourth of the world will die, and that would be millions or billions of people dying all at once, and that hasn’t happened. Is that what the bible says, though?

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

This does not say a fourth of the world’s population will die. It says “Death” will be given power over a fourth part of the earth, and the people living within that geographical space will be suffering various kinds of death. I checked the statistics of how much of the world is affected by war (or its aftermath) a couple of years back, and surprise! According to secular experts, exactly 1/4 of the earth is living under those conditions.

Next, the fifth seal. It’s commonly believed that these martyrs are those who died during the ‘Great Tribulation’, killed by the antichrist. This logically can’t be for several reasons. First, the fifth seal happens so early on, chronologically speaking, that the antichrist hasn’t even gained his power yet.

Second, the 144,000 Jewish men who will become believers and preach salvation during that time have not yet been chosen or sealed with protection – this happens during the sixth seal. So if the fifth seal martyrs are those killed by the antichrist, that means the 144,000 would logically also have been killed, since they have no supernatural protection until the sixth seal.

Third, the witness of those martyrs themselves…listen to what they ask God:

And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

Once the antichrist rises to power, the bible begins a very specific countdown of days. He will have exactly 1,260 days to reign on earth. There would be no reason for these martyrs to ask God when he will send down his wrath, because the wrath would already have begun, and they would know to the day exactly how long the world has left. These martyred people are those killed for Christ throughout history, who long (as we do) for Christ to settle all wrongs and begin the process of destroying all evil forever.

So the seals are NOT part of the wrath of God, or the seven years of Jacob’s Trouble. These are the things we are experiencing now, and which will continue to grow in intensity and pain until they find their final culmination in that future seven years. What about the sixth seal? Listen to what the bible says:

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

First, right there, it says that the great day of God’s wrath is come at the sixth seal – not before. Second, read the description of what happens to the sun and the moon, and compare that to Joel 2:30-32

I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved….

The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood BEFORE the coming of the Dary of the Lord. BEFORE. Not after. The Day of the Lord, aka the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, aka ‘the Great Tribulation’ cannot come before the events of the sixth seal. And notice also that Joel says everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

So when is the rapture? At the sixth seal, probably at the very moment that earthquake hits. There is a fantastic book, called “Earthquake Resurrection” by David Lowe. It’s free on Amazon, if you have Kindle Unlimited. It breaks down all the numerous cases where the dead have been resurrected, and how there is always an accompanying earthquake. It’s quite fascinating.

John goes on to describe what happens at the sixth seal. First he describes how  the 144,000 Jewish men are sealed with protection. And then:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.

This is the raptured saints appearing in heaven, being presented to God as a flawless Bride. Some claim these are the tribulation saints, those who were killed by the antichrist, but again, just like with the fifth seal martyrs, these people arrive in heaven too soon. The Day of the Lord has just begun, the antichrist is not yet in power, and the mark of the beast isn’t even in effect yet. John also wonders who they are, and asks one of the elders, who explains:

And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

I don’t have time in this particular study to explain my theories on what exactly the ‘great tribulation’ the elder speaks of is, but right now I’ll just say that ‘coming out of’ is not the same as ‘going through’. If a gunman entered the back door of MacDonald’s, and some of the people inside the restaurant saw him coming and fled out through the front door, you could describe them as ‘coming out of’ MacDonalds and escaping the massacre to come.

Another reason why these can’t be the Tribulation saints is because the Bible tells us when the Tribulation saints are raised from the dead, and that happens at the very end of Revelation, after Jesus returns physically to earth (Rev:20:4).

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(Note: in the above graph, the first seal should be antichrists, plural, not one antichrist. The New Testament writers were clear that many antichrists would be among us, but according to the bible THE antichrist, the final one, will not rise until after the rapture.)

So the rapture will happen when the sixth seal is opened, but when is that? I don’t know, but all the signs God told us to watch for are here, now, and the kingdom of the antichrist is visibly being prepared for him. We can’t have long. Most of us who are studying this believe it will be this year…or if not, possibly next year.

But soon. So very, very soon. NOW is the time to come to Christ.

This is everything.

THIS isn’t what I ordered….

So I mentioned in a previous post that my two little bantam cochins have gone broody, and are sitting together in a nest post waiting to be mamas.

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I really don’t need any more chickens this year, but I feel like all my critters deserve the chance to fulfill their natural desires, whenever possible. Plus, I do love having babies around.

So I decided to order some fertile eggs for them, with the idea I’d probably sell the offspring later on as young pullets. I chose a breed of chicken I knew was perpetually popular in my area: marans. Specifically, these gorgeous French Marans in a mix of colors: blue, black, and splash.

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Marans have very dark brown eggs, like this:

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So…when a box showed up at my door (delivered by a very excited mail delivery woman, who is interested in getting a rooster for her hens–but that’s another story) and the eggs inside the box were not very dark brown, but were beige and speckled….

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….I knew a mistake had been made, somewhere. And they were also quite larger than I expected….

Turns out I’m hatching some turkeys this year!

Red Bourbon Turkeys, to be exact.

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I contacted the seller, both to inform him of the mistake, and let him know there was likely someone else out there expecting turkeys who had gotten my box of marans eggs. He was very apologetic, and offered to send me the marans eggs too, but as I only have two small broody hens, and these are quite large eggs, I said I was happy to just keep the turkeys.

I’ve always wanted to raise some turkeys, y’all. But I expected to get one of the small breeds of turkey, like the Midget White, not a full-on HUGE turkey breed like Bourbon Red. These guys are around 33 pounds when full grown! I may not keep them to full size. I probably won’t. Once they’re old enough to leave their mamas, I’ll sell them, and probably make a bit of a profit. Who knows. Maybe I’ll keep one, and raise my own Thanksgiving dinner!

And the seller – so nice – said to keep him posted, and if my broodies don’t accept these eggs, let him know, and he’ll send those Maran eggs out after all.

Life never fails to be interesting.

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Gosling, Also Penelope.

Goslings are too freaking cute. Also, so friendly!

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She and the lavender orpington chick have become besties. I’ve seen the chick running after the gosling as if she were her mother. And they also eat together, and nestle under the broody hen side by side. It’s extra cute, since they are the two with the largest size difference.

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No one minds having an oddly large, ungainly chick with a strange accent in the family!

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Sophie the gosling is so cute when she snuggles in her mother’s feathers.

In other chicken news, I raised a few meat birds, and this year it turned into quite the sweet and heart-warming story! I bought an automatic chicken plucker with part of my covid stimulus money, so wasn’t quite dreading the entire process as much as usual. Chicken plucking by hand is definitely doable, but it takes time, and is NOT particularly fun. I assembled the unit (the Sportsman brand, if anyone’s looking for an inexpensive, but quality machine) and got everything else ready.

And then the machine didn’t work. It wouldn’t even turn on. I checked all the instructions, then mom tried to call the help line, but of course it was Sunday, and they were closed.  The frustration was immense. I had nine birds – five of which were crowing roosters – and they needed to go. I was already overdue, because I’d been waiting for the plucker to arrive. I finally decided to just go ahead and do them by hand…and then mom saved the day by finding a review online which mentioned having been equally frustrated, by the same issue. It turned out that the instructions left out a critical detail, and two little stickers needed to be perfectly aligned when you put the drum on the base…or it doesn’t turn on! Seriously? Why would they not put that in the instructions! And the stickers just said ‘top’ and ‘bottom’, so it seemed like they were just informing me as to which way the base and drum were situated, not that those stickers needed to be matched together. Sigh.

But after that, everything went perfectly. Almost.

Two of the meat birds were not roosters, but hens. One of the hens was skittish and not friendly at all. The other…the other was a genuine little sweetheart. I don’t really spend much time with the meat birds, but this girl purposely sought me out, from the time she was a chick. When I would sit and hold one of the layer hens, she would come over and jump up on the arm of my chair and snuggle in against me. I tried not to fall in love. But I sort of was. I mentioned to mom how sweet she was, and that little meat bird played the same tricks on mom. It took mom about five seconds to decide we had to keep her.

So meet Penelope, once a meat bird, now a member of the layer flock.

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(She looks slightly horrified, because I’m holding my camera. I swear, I do not beat my chickens with my camera. I don’t know why they hate it so much!)

So I processed all the other meat birds, cleaned everything up, and put everything away. I took a relieved breath because all the noisy roosters were gone, and I didn’t have to fight them off every time I went in the chicken yard to feed the hens. Seven young roosters create a LOT of chaos.

And then I looked out across the chicken run. And I saw…a rooster. A meat bird. Just standing there, looking back at me.

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No. No no no no no! I couldn’t have miscounted. I couldn’t still have one meat bird left.

I had. I did. Bloody freaking roosters!

I couldn’t face dealing with another bird right then. He got a temporary extension. I have a friend who will be asking me to process her extra rooster a little later, so I guess I’ll do this one along with that one. And I must say, it’s like he KNOWS. I have never seen such a quiet, unobtrusive rooster. I rarely even catch sight of him. Smart little buzzard.

And lastly, two of my three bantam cochins, the little mini flock known as the Fluffernutters, have gone broody. I’m considering my options. I would really like to see these adorable tiny birds raise some adorable tiny babies. So maybe. Meanwhile, they are sitting on non-existent eggs together and look so cute.

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I feel kind of sorry for the fluffernutter who isn’t broody, though. Suddenly, she’s all by herself, among the Big Girls…and she doesn’t even have the flock of meat bird roosters to chase anymore. (The bantam gang had those big ol’ roosters terrified! This little fluffy girl would come strutting out, and the roosters would scream and run for the hills.)

Broody Hen Adopts Gosling

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And just to show the size difference between a chick and a gosling…here’s Sophie and her sisters:

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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.

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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.