Cluck cluck, Gobble gobble

Our neighbors (whose dogs killed our chickens) bought us some replacement chicks and when we were at the store picking them out we also picked up 4 turkey poults. They’re all in a brooder box in our living room. So far this time raising birds hasn’t been as messy. We’re using wood shavings instead of the pellet bedding we used last time. That stuff was so dusty!

Turkey poults.
McCoy checking out the birds.

We have 4 broad breasted white turkeys (I believe that’s what they were), 2 rhode island red pullets, 4 black star sex link pullets. Ren, one of our dog attack survivors is a rhode island red.  I was hoping the feed store would have some chicks that will lay blue or green eggs but they sell out of those super fast! We got the birds on May 7th and they’ve grown so much since them. The turkeys are much bigger than the chicks and they keep trying to fly. It’s fun watching them grow and listening to their chirps but I cannot wait to get them out of the house!

Garden Update

We’ve had such a cold and wet spring so our garden has gotten a late start. April 11th was one of our first nice days (that also coincided with Ryan’s days off!) and Xander and Ryan turned over the garden bed.

Digging in the garden.
Working hard.
Muddy toes!

The problem with doing catch up posts is things are out of order, when we were working in the garden we had the chickens close by hoping for worms and other tasty things. Now only 2 of them are still alive.

RIP: Aplets, Peaches, and Mariah looking for bugs.

The next week, April 17th, we had an even warmer day. Ryan got some seeds started in the garden while Xander helped find rocks.

Ryan and Poppy Seed
Oops, left the door open! 2 of the 5 shown survived the dog attack.
Xander found a rock!

After the planting that day we went for a walk, all of us.

Hens and Poppy Seed
Poppy Seed and McCoy
Ryan and Xander climbing a tree.
Chickens like climbing trees too!

Unfortunately warm days like that one have been few. Yesterday, Ryan said that some of the seeds he planted have started to sprout. Hopefully it will be sunny  or at least not raining this weekend and we’ll be able to get more seeds started. We also need to dig an area for the tomato plants that Ryan’s parents are bringing us at the end of May. Our garden news is up to date!

Sad and Angry

I was going to title this post Massacre or Tragedy but those seem over the top and Sad and Angry really is what I am feeling. I looked out the window this morning and saw weird things in the yard, at first I thought it was the wood shavings we use for bedding but they didn’t look right. Finally my brain figured it out…

Feathers, lots and lots of feathers. I ran outside and found different piles of feathers.

What I first noticed from the kitchen window.
More feathers.
This hen laid an egg while being attacked!

Then on the far side of the coop I found Peaches.

RIP Peaches

At the same time I found Peaches I also heard noises in the woods and saw the culprits.

The neighbors dogs aka Chicken Killers.

The house on the East side of us is empty most of the time, seems like the owner and his friends only show up on weekends or so. They just leave the dogs with food, no attention whatsoever. We feel really sorry for the dogs, or at least I did until they killed my chickens!

I tried to get the dogs out of our yard but they wouldn’t listen to me at all and they knocked Xander over (not being aggressive just super in your face friendly) and I just freaked out. Called Ryan pretty hysterical, he was on his way to a meeting (pulled over before answering the phone) and came home instead. He was able to hook a leash around the one dog and the other one followed. Then he walked the fence line and found where they had dug under and he filled it in and put rocks there. He buried Peaches and then had to get changed and go to another meeting.

While Ryan was dealing with the dogs and fence and burial, Xander and I were walking around looking for chickens– alive or dead. We found Patty!

Patty the leader of our coop!

I was able to catch Patty and later Ren and put them in the coop. No signs of any other chickens or corpses. Patty is walking around the chicken yard calling out mournful cries, it’s horrible! We’re hoping some of the other chickens are still alive and just hiding but obviously some of them must be dead (from the amount of feathers) and either eaten or dragged into the neighbors property.

I’m keeping our dogs on leash for the next few days. Don’t want them finding injured or dead chickens and getting bad ideas! This day SUCKS!

Spring

Spring is here according to the calendar but our weather seems to be confused. This week we’ve had snow and hail and this morning we woke to a layer of frost on everything. Last week we had a dry day, not sunny but at least not raining. We took advantage of it and got some yard work done.

I emptied out some of our Earthboxes and filled them with fresh soil and was able to plant some strawberry and mint plants. I’m planning on getting some seeds started in the other planter. While I was working with the planters, Ryan used our new (electric) lawn mower and got the front yard all mowed.

New strawberry and mint plants, garlic coming up in the other planters.

Yesterday evening the weather was nice for awhile so he went out and mowed the section behind the house. The chickens were very happy with the newly cut grass. Speaking of chickens we never did find any sign of Mango. We trimmed all the other hens wings so they can’t get over the fence.

Hoping to get more work done on the garden soon.

Going Primal, & Missing Mango

The Primal Blueprint I haven’t felt good in quite a while. Achy, fatigued, moody, just not all that great. I’ve also been putting on weight, getting up to the heaviest that I’ve ever weighed at 174lbs. I’ve been a fan of going barefoot — made a huge difference for my plantar fasciitis — but I haven’t really been exercising much. After a recent photo, just seeing how much weight I’d gained in my face and body, I decided to look more into some things I’d heard about including more nature-based exercises, and a diet of healthier eating. That all led me to look into folks like Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson, both of who advocate for eating based on what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten before agriculture developed. Plants and animals, but not grains and sugar. After reading some of the content online we ended up starting with Mr. Sisson’s The Primal Solution. We took the plunge with our shopping and spent most of our money on food from the vegetable/fruit and meat sections of the store. Still lots to learn, but the results in others like the Unconquerable Dave are encouraging.

In other news, one of our yellow chickens “Mango” has gone missing. We thought she might have made a nest in the woods and was sitting on eggs, but after lots of tromping around through the woods we haven’t come across any sign of her in the last few days. If she’s out there she’s really hiding and being quiet. It may have started that way and something with a taste for chickens came across her, or she may have foolishly jumped the fence into the neighbor’s yard with the dogs. It’s too bad.

Chicken Run

Our chickens roam around our 1.24 acre property and seem content to remain on our side of the fence. One time a chicken jumped the fence into the neighbor’s yard. He chased her with a big fishing net but couldn’t catch her — when I picked her up and brought her back to our yard I think she was happy!

Anyway, whenever we go outside the chickens tend to come running. Most of the time they aren’t far from the house, often they’ll go around the side yard and in the woods, but not so far that they can’t hear or see us.

Ren the Hen
Ren the Hen
This is Ren the Hen, coming out of the woods to see what I was doing (throwing chicken litter onto the compost pile). Later I took a stroll up the hill to go check on one of their nesting sites in the woods, hidden away in the top of an old stump, and they all came running up the hill after me. They’ll follow us all around.
Chicken Run
Chicken Run

Patti
Patti
Patti (the leader and the smartest hen) with Mariah (arguably the slowest of the hens), wondering what I’m going to do next.

List of Projects

Projects abound here at Woolly Dragon Farm. The writing business takes up much of my time but I try to find time to get in work on the place too. And I want to post more regularly to this blog. If I could only pack in a few more hours into each day it’d be easier, but I haven’t found a way to compress the local time stream yet.

At the moment there are several projects occupying my mind.

  • Organization — it’s a constant problem, but I’d like to get things more organized in the house. A two-year-old toddler makes that a difficult task, but I’d like to work on it and clean out some of the clutter. Some of it we brought with us when we moved and it is still sitting around. If it’s still in a box I can’t imagine that it’s anything that we need, but it takes time to get through it all.
  • Concrete demolition — when we moved in one of the first things we saw that we wanted to change was the concrete slab alongside the house. I’d prefer to have that be an extension of the front yard instead. I’ve actually started on the cutting of the slab along the house but that takes time too. Dusty hard work. After cutting I’ll have a go at it with the sledgehammer and see if I can break it up. The rubble might be used in drainage ditches, or beneath new animal housing for drainage. Or we could use it to create raised beds or flagstones, we’ll just see.
  • Animal Housing — speaking of animal housing that’s another task. We’ve got an old shed that half is the chicken coop but I’d like to replace that with a better coop for the birds. And then I’ll look at building housing for some Nigerian goats one of these days.
  • Office Shed — I’d like to build a little office shed building up on the hill, maybe earth-sheltered, but that’s more long term.
  • Garden — I want to do a lot more work on our garden too. Last year was not our best year for plants, I’m hopeful that this next year we’ll do a better job. Plus more ornamental beds.
  • Fencing — Along the side with the slab, I’d like to put a taller wood fence and then do a picket sort of fence around the front yard.
  • Flooring — We’ve actually started on our flooring replacement, taking up the old carpet in the living room. Now we’ve got to get the concrete cleaned, patched, coated and then we’ll do a colored stain.

That’s only a few of the projects that I’d like to tackle. Time and money, those are the biggest constraints. We work on things as we can.

Garlic: Better Late Than Never?

Yesterday I went out and planted garlic in three of our Earthboxes. Last year I planted two types of garlic out in a patch of earth that I double-dug. It was a lot of work and I discovered too that our ground needs much more organic material. It’s rocky and hard. One type of garlic didn’t do much of anything, the other grew and actually produced some heads of garlic. It wasn’t really all that much, though they did taste good. I decided to take what I had left and plant those cloves. First I covered the Earthboxes with silver mulch, poked holes in the top, and then planted the cloves through the holes. As the plants come up I’ll guide them through the slits.

If the garlic grows and does well in the Earthboxes we’ll have more garlic next year than we did this year.

Tree Down

Boy, we’ve been bad about posting to this blog! That’s what happens sometimes, I guess. What’s been going on around the homestead? Not a whole lot. General maintenance around the house mostly. The garden didn’t really do all that great this year. The ground needs a lot of work. Still, we got some things out of the garden. We’ll aim to do more this next year.

The chickens are all doing well. We’ve got far too many eggs but they’re really good eggs so that’s nice. We recently had a cold snap and snow! The chickens didn’t know what to think about that.

Snow Shocked Chickens

McCoy loves the snow and had fun chasing snow balls. Xander thought that was pretty funny, but wasn’t too sure what to think of his first real snow.

McCoy

Snowy Boy

Right before the snow came it was rainy and the tree in our front yard fell down — away from the house! It hit the fence instead. The ground was wet enough that it just pulled the roots right up.

Fallen Tree

I went out that morning and cut off the branches with our handsaw, and part of the trunk but didn’t have time to do the rest. Plus I decided that it’d take quite awhile to get through the trunk with a small pruning saw. The next day when we went to town we stopped at the store and bought a small, inexpensive, electric chainsaw that looked like it could do the job. Today I went out and cut the rest of the tree into more manageable pieces. The new chainsaw worked well and I didn’t have any trouble. The tree still needs to get cut into woodstove-sized pieces, but at least it’s off the fence. I also hauled the branches from out in front of the property over to our field for future disposal.

I want to start planning for the rest of the winter and next year. I think the next thing I’ll do is plant our garlic in the Earthboxes, and start figuring out what else we’re going to do.

Homesteading a small acreage