our first chicks hatched on the farm

Who knew that a five month old hen would go broody? I certainly didn’t… but it happened, and whilst our two roosters were too young to facilitate their roosterly duties. So what’s a farm girl gonna do? Buy fertile hatching eggs, of course!

That was about 10 weeks ago. She’d been broody for a week and I caved because she didn’t look like she was going anywhere. These were from MyPetChicken.com and were from the Chickens for Elitists selection. I ended up getting a Chocolate Orpington, a Blue/Black/Splash Ameraucana, a Lavender Ameraucana and a Swedish Flower Hen.

Mama Ginger sat like such a champ in the little broody house we made her that she didn’t get up. At all. It got scary. She refused to eat or drink unless I hand fed her egg and peas… so of course I did. She pooped right where she sat. It wasn’t lovely.

But three weeks later she got up, ate, pooped a softball, and dustbathed in the sun. I thought “yikes, the babies are supposed to hatch tomorrow, should I take them inside?” I though she was finally done. That’s when I’d noticed that the Swedish Flower egg was pipped and chirping. A baby! Mama was smart and knew what was up, returning a short time later. Phew. I moved her and the eggs to the big brooder with a door, just to be safe.

Little Flora (Swedish Flower Hen) was the first to hatch. I begged and pleaded and hoped for only girls for three weeks. Phew again. She’s a girl.

Lumin (Lavender Ameraucana) was the second to hatch. I went back and forth with her a few times but I’m now positive she’s a girl too. Heck yeah, blue eggs!

The other two eggs didn’t make it. They were probably boys… I feel bad that maybe I killed them with wishes.

Lumin has some pretty magical looking blue eyes.

And Flora has a funky cute head plume and fancy green eyes like her human mum (me).

These girls were fully integrated with the rest of the flock by 5 weeks and it was the easiest chick integration ever. It would have been sooner but Lumin cut her comb a piece of wire fencing and was bleeding so I didn’t want them running around a bunch of carnivorous bitches with bloody wounds… so we waited an extra couple of weeks for her to heal, though two days would have sufficed. (The other reason is that I fell victim to other people’s opinions. Like don’t integrate them until 6 weeks. You would be evil if you integrated them before they were full grown. You know, stuff like that. But then two of my Farmland friends both said they’re already integrated. They’ve been looking at each other for weeks. That makes sense.) The girls immediately took to muddy dust bathing and jumping over the big chickens for treats… like literally jumping on their backs, running up their bodies and pouncing off their heads in front of them to snatch a yummy chunk of hardboiled egg.

In spring I hope to hatch several more, plus add some more Lavender or Blue Ameraucanas and a couple of Cream Legbars. But I really want more now. My basket needs more blue in it! (Pardon the muddy feet prints on the eggs — it’s been raining like crazy and rain means crazy mud. And I don’t wash my eggs until consumption, if at all.)

If anyone has an old incubator laying around that you want to let me borrow for 3 weeks, I have some fertile Welsummer roo x Cochin, x Golden Cuckoo Marans, x mint egg laying Easter Egger, and x pinkish lavender laying Australorp eggs I think would be fun to hatch out, plus a mystery double yolker (Barred Rock, I think — dunno, just want to attempt twins). Those would make a little half feather footed fluff baby, one with super dark and hyper speckled deep chocolate eggs, dark green speckled and maybe mint green speckled? Those would all be awesome. I could force Finn to participate and we can get all science experiment up in here. I keep threatening to try to hatch one in my pocket or bra but my fellas are appalled at the idea.

They’ve obviously never been mothers.

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oops, it’s autumn (i mean winter)

Well… it appears that we haven’t done a blog post in roughly five months. Which then suddenly morphed to eight months after starting this. That’s unfortunate as many amazing things transpired in late spring and all through summer, then autumn. And some seriously unamazing as well.

Here’s the nutshell version of things, as we couldn’t possibly share it all, but first, happy autumn!… and happy winter!

Our first batch of 12 chickens are all grown up and laying. This is Raven, our champion layer of mostly massive double yolk eggs (this photo was taken before the run was enlarged to include the chicken compost she’s on).

I know we started with a lot more than that but one died, as you recall, 10 went to the neighbors per a prearranged deal, and I have since sold 5 troublemakers. It was either sell or soup and even though I bought all of the proper knives and accoutrements, I opted for the sell option this time around. Next year soup. Lots and lots of soup.

Our second batch of chickens (7 girls) are about to start laying too, probably right around the time of the ducks within the next three or four weeks. Update: a few of our second girls are now laying. Not a duck egg in sight.

Two of them are Olive Eggers, one is an Easter Egger that I got as a surprise bonus and to our Golden Cuckoo Marans so we have the beginnings of a rainbow egg basket. Just need some blues, darker greens and more chocolatey chocolate. That’ll happen by Spring for sure.

Our third batch of chicks (10 girls and 2 boys) may not start laying until Spring either, unless they want to be winter layers. I think I have two but I’m not positive yet. In retrospect, July born babies aren’t the best idea. They end up being freeloaders a lot longer than spring or late fall babies.

And then we hatched our own chicks, but that’s a different story. We have 33 chickens now. ♡

Ducks are disgusting little beasts as babies, I’m warning you. You need to change their brooder every single day and it’s… yuck. If I were a nicer human, I would have changed it twice a day. I’m not that nice.

Ducks as teens and young ladies (as in outside ducks) are freaking awesome! They will make you laugh and smile and totally crack up several times a day, every day. They are the best farm entertainment I could possibly think of (outside of goats, which will hopefully also happen in Spring). And the most impatient (try to change their pool water without them getting in until you’re done — not going to happen). Three more ducks are getting added to the farm in February.

The garden was kind of a sad story this year. It started awesome in spring, then turned lame with the start of summer.

Thankfully it got mostly awesome again after that.

We had previously decided that all we were going to grow year one was stuff for us to eat on our homestead and get to the market garden growing and farm sales next summer.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can grow the crap out of anything except (bell peppers from seeds — we frequently quarrel) but most of our garden just refused to grow. And what did grow, the deer mostly ate. Except squash. The whole no fence thing? Dumb idea, at least until things are established. We’re buying some fences within the next few weeks to protect our autumn garden.

(Yeah, that actually already happened — we now have about a 3000sf fenced garden area.)

After a couple months of little to nothing going as planned in the garden, we tested our water PH. Things had been growing amazingly when watered by the rain but when we switched to well water via hose, they stopped growing. That was the problem! 8.4 ph, I think it was. Or 8.6? Now that we have that sorted out, everything is growing miraculously well again… just in time for autumn. Except our rainbow fingerling carrots that got off to a poor start.

Fruit has been a totally different story. Plums, pears, blackberries and apples have been so abundant. We even had early blueberries and cherries.

Canning has been awesome this year! My favorite so far was a maple bourbon plum butter. Oh and blackberry pear jam. We also canned spiced apples, chai spiced plum butter, cinnamon anise pears, plain blackberry jam and we’re about to do some pickled apples this week. (That was months ago.) I’ll keep you posted on that one. (Next year I’ll do a post on pickled apples.) I’ll probably also do some apple and pear sauce. (Didn’t happen.)

Cabin one still isn’t done but we literally didn’t touch it until about a week or two ago because we’ve been too busy with animals, orchard planting and other plantings… and everything else. I think the last time we worked in it was November? Maybe December? But the floors are now all done, all of the electrical is done, drywall and insulation is about to start going up in the living room and kitchen and everything will soon be textured and painted like that.

Holy crap, and we have a bathroom sink! With hot water to wash your hands! I can’t find the pic right now but I’ll share soon.

Paul ended up having to get a job, we discovered that he miscounted and we’re 9 pieces short on drywall so the cabin is once again in hold.

a chicken hiccup and a veggie harvest

Oh how I love our new baby chicks!!! We received them last Monday and have gotten behind I’m sharing due to working 12 to 16 hour days. We had a little hiccup though. Or heartbreak. Or… a fuster cluck.

One of the chicks arrive injured and sickly. I named her Penguin because she looked and hobbled like a penguin. We bonded hard and fast because she was too weak to eat and I was hand feeding her. By day two, she was doing MUCH better and could actually walk for the first time, and feed herself a bit, though I continued to hand feed her egg yolk and chick starter to keep her strong.

Every hour or two, when I went in, she would perk up, hop into my hand and snuggle in for a nap. She always nuzzled my hand. It was so precious! I was head over heels for her, my soul chicken. The one that would never go to freezer camp or end up in the soup pot. By day four, she stopped eating or drinking entirely, but every half hour or so I would try anyway. Sadly, she died in my hands. I’ll spare you the gory details but although rough, I’m so glad it was quick.

I dug her a little grave in our pet cemetery (in the faerie garden), planted arnica and yarrow over her and marked her spot with pretty rocks, daisies and fir cones. It was sad.

But the good news is that we still have 27 other fluffy little feather balls to adore. None of them are my soul chickens like Penguin was but I adore them times a million. Six are actually for our wonderful neighbors. I’m just fostering them for a few weeks. 

There is nothing cuter than their egg yolk feeding frenzies!

They’re a crazy blur of darting and hopping feathers most of the time, but every once in awhile one will slow down enough to get a not totally fuzzy shot.

In other good news, those few days of nearly 80º days kicked things into high gear. We have lots of big beans, zucchini, yellow squash, herbs, corn, peas, raddishes, etc.

We even nibbled our first baby radish today. It was a bit small because they were planted late, but we really felt like it was a perfect day for a sacrificial radish.

planting a homestead, growing a farm

I couldn’t possibly tell you how many things we’ve started in the gardens and greenhouse, but it’s a lot. We’re starting with a more “homestead approach” and planting all we know we’ll eat, and adding to that to branch out into full fledged farm over the next year or couple. I guess currently we could be considered tomato, pea and garlic farmers as that’s what we have enough of started to sell, so far. And orchardist offerings, of course. 

The first meandering bed is growing, nicely lined with fallen logs and limbs, and more gifted from the creek. The paths will eventually be lined with wood chips (oh how we dream of owning a wood chipper!!) and access is easy on each side. In the wider spots I’ve put stepping stones for ease of harvesting so I don’t have to step in the soil or squish things. I say “I” only because there will be no lack of ease for my tall fellas — little ladies tend to have short arms, and I’m not even 5’2″. It may not be the best utilization of garden space but I love it!! Next year we’ll add another heap of organic compost and another log to raise them up a bit more, holding them together with an earthen mixture such as is used in cob or strawbale construction. This is 75% planted already with lettuce, a few varieties of kale, peas, raddishes, carrots, onions and spring garlic, plus borage, dill (next to a blank spot for future cucumbers), marigolds and soon, nasturtiums, etc. It’s still funny to me how tall these look in person and how shallow in photos, but you’ll see… it’ll be great!

Lots of things are sprouting and growing… peas, kale, chamomile, onions, thyme, tarragon, basil and tomatoes. I only just planted cucumbers and dill so those will be soon, and the rest to follow. Hopefully our eight dozen peppers sprout soon — I have big plans for those babies. I’ll take photos when I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to do so. In the meantime, here’s one of our massive pears in bloom. We’ll have a good 872 pounds of Bartlett. We trimmed all the dead junk out of both (And the old apples) and are all so very happy. 

Things outside of the food gardens are blossoming like crazy too. We had one visible bud on this tree a couple of days ago and now it’s covered in big pink blossoms. It’s a Camellia Japonica and it sure is pretty! I dont think the flowers fall off immediately like our other Camellia. It’s funny… I keep talking about making a space inspired by The Secret Garden but it’s starting to become that all on its own. I can’t wait to have the cabin done so we can rebuild the main house into a woodsy faerie house. It’s already in the perfect setting for it. ♡

Part of our inspiration comes from this Jacob Witzling pacific northwest tiny house… or really his building style in general. He’s amazing!! We don’t really have the funds to do the whole house in such stunning wood, but we’ll be thrilled to at least have the front and garage look similar upon approach. I don’t care if the rest is ten different kinds of recycled siding painted a lovely hue of “wood”.

I spent the evening at the creek last night as the sun was starting to set and it lit the trees ablaze with brilliant light. It’s a wonder we get anything done around here with so much stunning beauty to get lost in at all times.

On the way back up to the house, what did I spy but a Fairy Slipper Orchid! And then I noticed they’re actually everywhere along the path. These are and have always been one of my very favorite flowers, along with trilliums. We apparent have those too, but I haven’t yet happened upon any. Regardless, I’m buying and planting some one of these days.

The orchard is almost officially complete. We received a few more trees and have only two apples and a persimmon to plant this week, then the orchard is done… until we get two fig trees and four meyer lemons. The above photo is of a Sweetheart Cherry. Isn’t she beautiful! 

I’ve been juggling between planting several varieties of lavender and rosemary around the periphery of the garden, sowing seeds in the garden and planting a kazillion things in the greenhouse while the husb has been working on the cabin. I’m refraining from posting pictures so we can do a full unveiling but the kitchen has been 100% gutted (drywall, insulation, cabinets, sink and all), sill plate replaced, some structural bits replaced, and new concrete floors ground and ready to seal once the living room floor is done. He rocks!

More lovely blossoms of the week. I am over the moon with all of the spring beauty. It’s like christmas every day, waking up and rushing outside to see what’s new. I found out that a large portion of our muster bulbs are Lucifer flowers. They’re gorgeous. Devilishly beautiful? I have no idea why they’re called that. We also have an abundance of uncommon daffodils, hyacinth, regular irises and bearded iris. Or so we shall see.

Another project underway is the chicken house rebuild. This is a screenshot of the Eco Paint colors I narrowed it down to because my girls need a pretty house. The interior and trim will be egg blue and the exterior will either be wood nymph or glass bottle. Really, I’d like to incorporate all colors (and more) but this zero voc, no chip, eco and pet friendly paint is not cheap ($73/gallon!). So I may just have to get Lowe’s zero voc exterior paint and color match (~$30/gallon). We are 100% ready for the girls’ arrival in three weeks except for their house and I couldn’t be more excited. Well, and except for their massive outdoor area too, though they’ll be free range ladies much of the time. And they’ll be inside babies so we have plenty of time.

We also got a load of 8′ peeler cores (and helped our neighbors pick up three more loads). I want to use them as fence posts for the massive chicken run because that would be much lovlier than ugly metal t-posts. Yes, I know they will need to be replaced and aren’t the most efficient option, but… in this particular case I don’t care. 

We’ve done and experienced a lot more than that this past week but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m chicken distracted (that’s a real affliction). Our little rainbow flock is starting out with three each of the following: Black Australorp, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington and Delaware. I’ll still need to get (3 each) Amaricauna, Cream Legbar and Oliver Eggers but that’s a secret (husb “authorized” me to get 12 to start). I got the 1 and the 2 confused — it’s called chicken math. Oh, and a couple of roos. ♡ Shhh.

busy in the sun

Since the snow has melted and things have started to warm up, we’ve become quite the busy bees. Yesterday we finally got the greenhouse UV cover on our little hoop house (it’s not really that “little” — it’s 10×24′, which should be more than plenty for now).

The whole family pitched in and we got it done yesterday. We also have enough cover for a whole second greenhouse next year which is also exciting. We love not having to buy more supplies for our projects. 

It’ll be all tight and smooth on the ends once we get the doors built and attached. We have a few too many ideas on what we’ll be doing for doors but no solid plan yet. We’ll get that figured out in the next day or two and get everything complete within the next week or so. Excited!! We even dig trenches along the sides which we’ll line and fill with gravel so the rain runoff doesn’t flood stuff.

I also discovered yesterday that we have a flowering quince! The day before we discovered a hydrangea. Every time I decided what I want to buy from the seasonal nursery down the street that we haven’t been to yet, I find that particular plant growing here already or we’re gifted it out of the blue. Apples, plums, raspberries, bamboo, bluberries, dogwood, hellebore, daffodils, apricot, japanese maple, irises, hydrangea, quince… I really want to support local businesses but I’m running out of ideas on what to go there for. I’m sure I’ll be inspired the minute I get there though.

I discovered this yesterday too, growing and blooming off the back porch of my art and healing space. There’s so much beauty around here!

And a lot of work. ♡ Shovel compost, haul it, unshovel it, spread it. Repeat. Until the wheel in the cart breaks. Oops! We got way better fat wheels though and Paul fixed it all up tough and sturdy. (And then the mower drive belt broke, but we’ll have that fixed by this weekend.)

The last of the flame weeding got done too (and blackberry bramble burning in unison). See what happens when the sun comes out? We bust ass.

With the alternating crazy rains and lovely warm sun, things are growing like crazy. The garlic is huge.

The plums, nectarines, peaches, cherries, pears, almond and apricot are all budding and blooming. 

Even our super old lichen covered pear trees are going crazy with buds. This place is going to look so magical when all of these trees really start blooming, holy cow!

And really it already is magical. I try to go on a long walk every day, or at least a shorter one on days we’re super busy. The sun filtering through the trees and illuminating the ferns and moss is one of my favorite sights (especially when the gnomes and faeries come out to play).

I love shadows because shadows mean sun, of course. After weeks of gray, it’s so rejuvenating and welcome.

Another amazing discovery was this stunning crystal I received from the nature spirits on my birthday. I was on a long walk and was told that my gift was on the path I was traversing. A voice said “turn around, you passed it,” so I retraced my steps. When I was told to stop and look down, there it was! It was a beautiful day that started with thick heavy snow that immediately melted, and was replaced with sunshine and that soft fluffy rain that tickles your cheeks and makes you smile.

It was on the path diagonal from this stunning spot in the creek. The waterfall are re-emerging too. Spring is in the air!

This was our cloudiest day all week, and clear blue skies the past two days (but I was too busy to get good shots). The rains return tomorrow but I don’t mind because we’re cruising into down to get chick supplies. 
We’re going to have babies next month!! 

(Photo credit: mypetchicken.com) They’re going to live inside for awhile but we need to get our butts in gear and re-roof the coop, replace the missing walls, put up fencing and build laying boxes. They’ll be our free range farm and forest girls and I couldn’t be more excited! We just need to get a few blue and/or green egg layers and our little rainbow flock of layers will be complete. Next year, or maybe the year after, we’ll build a separate area for meat birds, but one step at a time.

We have lots more to share (like the progress on the cabin kitchen) but I have to make breakfast and get back outside while it’s still nice.