Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More eggs and more chicks!

I have 23 beautiful, big, blue eggs in the incubator rocking away. Since my Ameraucana hens refuse to start laying (I know they are doing it just to mess with me!), this was our first chance to see what one of their eggs will actually look like. Cole was very happy with the size. Looks like a Jumbo egg from the grocery store, except that it's blue. I should have my Marans eggs here tomorrow so I'm waiting to take a picture until those deep brown beauties are in there too. I'm not sure how I'm going to fit all these eggs in the incubator. It's pretty full right now. But I'll find a way! My Marans hen and the Ameraucana hens are 24 weeks old now and I've talked to several people who have started to get eggs from these breeds at that age. I look all over the coop every day, just waiting to see a blue or brown egg tucked somewhere. But so far... nothing. We should have some chicks hatching in about three weeks. That is always so fun!

My chicks were shipped today. I hope they'll arrive tomorrow. Their little homes are all ready on my dining room table. I just need to run to Tractor Supply and get the right food. The post office better be taking good care of my 35 new little girls! I can't wait to get them!!!

Our new best friend

After six months of talking about it, we finally met with our County Agent yesterday. Kevin works with the Clemson University Extension office and came out to the farm to answer any and all questions we had about land, farming, ponds, everything. And we sure did have a lot of questions!

The first thing he said was to move the donkeys and goats into each other pastures because the goats will eat all the brambles that the donkeys have ignored. Done! Cole and I actually managed that quite effectively after Kevin left (despite a few moments of the donkeys running wildly past my car!!).

We asked about our ponds, our trees, our soil, chickens, pigs, cows, fish, birds.... That man has a lot of patience!!! He told us about several programs we need to look into, gave us leads on who we should call for so many things that we need, and started us out on the path to having healthy soil and pasture.

Thanks, Kevin, for all the time you spent with us! We even know what to do with our goats now and we won't have to give them away for free!!! Woo hoo!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A big fish for a little boy!

My son went fishing yesterday afternoon with his Dad and our neighbor, Russ. They caught this nasty-looking Gar right off our dock at the lake. Then threw it back! Hope it doesn't saw off my leg next time I'm in the water!!! Colin spent the rest of the afternoon telling me repeatedly how he reeled it in. A big day for sure!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The coops are done... time for fun!

Chicken World is finished... for the time being! Cole finished the chicken run Saturday. We now have three beautiful coops and two separate chicken runs... one for the little breeds and one for the big ones. Plenty of space for everyone to play and all nice and secure from any predators that want to get my babies.

The two runs adjoin each other so the chickens can see one another but have their own separate areas. I'm so happy with how it all turned out! We also have two little self-contained chicken tractors that we will use for sick chickens, growing out babies, and any other reason we'll need to separate a chicken or two.

I need to beautify around the new run and maybe put a few potted plants on the porches. The flowers I planted a couple of months ago are doing well and the chickens seem to like them! See Snowman peeking through the flowers at me? Guess he's camera-shy.

I might add one more little coop at the end of the large run when my 25 little girls coming this week grow up. But that's down the road. No need to upset Mr. with that news just yet.

Now that the work is done, it's time to play! Cole blew up our water trampoline and anchored it in the pond. The kids had a great time swimming and jumping while I mowed acres and acres of grass.

It was a fun Saturday on the farm. My children did a morning full of chores without complaint (not too much anyway) and after all the swimming and playing, it was time to head back to the lake and our neighborhood cookout.

I will end this post with one piece of advice:

My, how we've grown!

We spent Friday night on the farm which gave me the chance to get up bright and early, and before I started to melt in the heat, and take some pictures of my babies chickens. Everyone has thankfully survived this three-week heat wave. The chickens spend most of the day under the coops in the shade, so morning is the best time to take a few pictures.

Stormy... our Cochin/Silkie rooster. He thinks he's hot stuff.

Our 10-week old white Silkie.

A little Black Silkie.

One of my Easter Egger hens. She will lay a colored egg but the exact color will be a surprise until she starts!

Big old Frosty, our Silkie rooster and Colin's favorite. He's a sweetie.

Toffee, my only chicken that is currently laying, preparing to lay an egg.

Breakfast! Barred Cochins, Silkies, Black Cochins and an Easter Egger.

My big birds.... Ameraucanas and Marans.

Yes, this is a chicken! My little baby frizzled Silkie/Cochin mix named Fog.

This is Lemon Drop, our Giant Cochin Rooster. He's very gentle and loves to crow... a lot. We love his beautiful tail feathers which are turning into iridescent green.

One of my favorites.... a little splash Cochin/Silkie named Marshmallow. One of nine little chicks we hatched out 7 week ago. They are adorable but fast!

A bunch of Silkies and Cochins enjoying the beautiful morning.

This is Misty, Stormy's sister and another Silkie/Cochin mix. She loves to be held and is headed over to Colin to be picked up. See his shoe? She'll just sit on your lap forever.

A couple more Easter Eggers. We have seven total and I think three are hens. They are only about 12 weeks old now so I have a month or two to start getting eggs.

The first set of chickens we ever hatched. My Giant Cochins: Black Jack (the only hen), Lemon Drop, Mr. Fancy Pants, and Butterscotch (the frizzled one looking out the window).

My hens, Martha Washington and Boo. Martha is an Ameraucana and will lay a beautiful blue egg. Boo is a French Copper Maran and lays the darkest egg of any breed: a deep chocolate brown. They should start laying any day. I look hopefully in the coop each morning but haven't found an egg yet.

This is Puff, my frizzled Silkie/Cochin. She is the first to greet me in the morning and an expert cricket and grasshopper catcher. A particular favorite of Cole's although he tries not to let me know.

This is Coffee, our little Partridge Silkie.

There are a lot of little chickens that I didn't get a picture of since they are way too fast and just won't hold still for a moment. I can't wait to get our new chicks next week and the eggs for the incubator. 100 chickens... here we come!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Chicken Empire grows!!

Next week I have 25 day-old chicks being delivered! They are supposed to be all girls and there will be 5 different breeds. All are good layers and should be easy to handle and pretty! Plus I have 26 Wheaten Marans and Ameraucana eggs coming that will go into the incubator. More chocolate brown and blue eggs on the way!! Once my Easter Eggers start laying and the new little ones grow up, I should be able to put together a basket of eggs with dark brown, blue, green, pink, light brown, olive..... who knows! All I know is I'm excited and it will be amazing!!!

My husband calls me The Crazy Chicken Lady. But I'm not. I just like chickens. They're fascinating!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vultures.... the model of efficiency

I was in one of the chicken coops yesterday looking hopefully for eggs and putting out fresh, cold water for everyone. I was quickly distracted by a loud racket coming from the goats. Wailing is more like it. My heart immediately sank knowing that the sound was a cry of hurt and not a normal goat sound.

I ran over to the pasture and found our newest little Mommy, Happy, looking into the donkey pasture and just crying over and over. A quick count of the goats came up one short and the missing one was Happy's little baby. Uh oh. And there it was, lying dead in the donkey pasture, trampled by one of the donkeys. Poor little thing.

Many farmers keep donkeys as guard animals to protect their goats and sheep. They will singlemindedly chase down a predator and trample it to death. I've seen it happen once when our dog accidentally got in there and those donkeys were chasing him down! We prevented it that time but not this time. The fence between the two pastures had a little area where the fencing had been stretched and I guess the little baby squeezed through it and into the donkey's area. I can't blame the donkeys. They are just doing what they are programmed to do (although seriously, they should know this little goat is not a threat since they see it every day right next door!).

I finished my chores and went home to tell my husband that we needed to dig another grave. His first response was why didn't I bury it. No way! I have to draw a line somewhere. Truthfully, I can't bear the thought of that yet. Maybe someday.

We didn't get back out to the farm yesterday, but we all went out first thing this morning. Driving up the long drive to the farm, all we could see were vultures everywhere. I wish I had brought my camera! It was amazing to see! Vultures are big and they were in the pastures, on the fencing, in the trees, on the power lines, on the chicken coops.... even sitting on top of the water trough in the goat pasture. There were at least 50 or 60 vultures in a fairly contained area. The sight was a bit creepy but definitely a sign of Nature in progress.

Cole headed out with a shovel and his daughter to bury the little goat. For some reason, Annaliese is fascinated with anything to do with the animals. She wants to watch their surgeries, shots, help bury them.... she's certainly braver than me! They came back when it was finished and Cole said the vultures had definitely done their job. There wasn't much left of the little goat. Yesterday afternoon it looked whole and complete. Apparently the vultures had a busy night and were still working when we arrived.

When you think about it, vultures are quite fascinating. They somehow locate a dead animal, tell all their friends, head over to the party and get to work. And they do it quickly. They are not pretty animals, but God made them for a reason and they do that reason well.

So in the past two days, we've lost a chicken and a goat. That's enough for now. I'm going to go buy some hatching eggs. I feel the need for new chicks! The circle of Life....

Monday, June 21, 2010

A new canoe and another chicken lost

What a fun Father's Day weekend! Cole got a new canoe for Father's Day thanks to my nephew Hastings who found it for us. It's used but perfect for the ponds at the farm. Now we can explore and fish from on the water! Woo hoo!!!

Saturday morning dawned very foggy and misty which made the pond look enticing to two children with permission to use the canoe. We only have one paddle so Cole, handyman that he is, quickly fashioned one for Annaliese out of some scrap boards we have left over from the chicken run. The pond is really deep so life jackets are definitely in order if child-only canoe excursions are on the agenda.

A little work on the chicken run, a little snuggle with the chickens and we were off to the lake to spend the afternoon boating and tubing. If only it weren't so hot!

Cole awoke on Father's Day to coffee in bed, presents (surely we couldn't just get him a canoe!) and a dance routine performed by two adorable little dancers. Vacation Bible School songs rock!

What's Father's Day without a snuggle on the bed with your little babies?

After a wonderful church service, and lunch at the Country Club (total yum!), we were off to the farm to spend the rest of the day. Cole decided to take the kids on a Walkabout. Sadly, it's just too humid for my poor lungs to spend much time outside. After my bout with pneumonia, hospital stay and surgery a few years ago, summer time humidity and heat = me inside during the heat of the day. Two hours later, the Walkabouters had not returned and I was beginning to worry. They eventually showed up, hot, dirty and sweaty but thrilled with all they had seen. Next on the agenda, a dip in the pond.

This was the first time we'd actually swam in the pond and Cole declared it just as good as the lake. Even Toby got in on the action! I'm sure the water felt wonderful on this sweltering afternoon. Uh, Cole.... I'm not sure that's the right way to use the canoe!!

Unfortunately the weekend ended up on a sad note when Toby killed another one of our chickens. Fudge Stripe got out of the screened door we are in the process of putting on the chicken run and out into the yard.  I heard a horrible sound and we all ran outside to see Toby with that sweet little rooster. Fudge Stripe was a beautiful bird and had a very sweet temperment. He was one of my favorites. After questioning the children, Annaliese admitted she had gone in there and left the door unlatched. Poor little girl. We convinced her it was just an accident and no one blamed her. Cole buried Fudge Stripe in our animal graveyard while Colin cried inside and Annaliese helped. Losing animals remains a horrible fact of farm life. Losing them at the hand (or mouth) of one of our other animals stinks. Toby's future on the farm is precarious in my mind.

Anyone want a very gentle dog?  I wouldn't recommend him if you have chickens though.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ahhh.... Summer!

Boy, is it hot. What happened to some nice temps in the 80's and low humidity? We have been sweltering for the last 10 days in 90+ heat, high humidity, and oh look.... a heat advisory for today! Yippee!!! It will feel like 105 out. My poor animals. So far everyone is doing okay but I worry.

The kids discovered a bunch of wild blackberry bushes all around the farm and headed out one morning before the heat set in to pick some.

Of course, all that berry-picking took some time and the children were hot when they got back. What does a good mom do? Turn on the sprinklers in the orchard and let them have a blast. And they did!

My vegetable garden is finished, all secure and planted. Planting in June is never a great idea but it's all I could do this year. We'll get what we get and it's fun to watch everything grow. The children each have their own little bed and both only wanted canteloupe and watermelon. I snuck in some cucumbers, pumpkins, tomoatoes and peppers though.

We have Vacation Bible School this week so we are all off to church. Then out to check on all the animals. I just heard from a friend of mine that lost several chicks to heat stroke yesterday. I'm praying everyone is okay. Unless it's just the roosters that die. I'm mostly just kidding.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rooster, anyone?

My poor little boy! All he was doing was minding his own business and walking around the chicken coops, when our very large rooster Zaxby (we also have Bojangles... my husband named them) decided that he didn't appreciate Colin near his girls and went after him. Thankfully all he did was scare my boy half to death but that was enough for me. And all the screaming scared me half to death.

The rooster got locked up and we all spent the afternoon staring daggers at it. My children cried every time we talked about giving away any of our chickens or even worse, eating them, but my son has had a change of heart I think. I don't believe he'll be sad to see that rooster go.

On a happier note, we have another egg! It's from my little silkie and it's teeny but fresh from our farm. I served my sweet husband our first egg with toast and freshly sliced tomatoes in bed this morning. He's put up with a lot of chicken stuff the past 6 months and all he ever asked for was some eggs. So how could I deny him the privilege of eating the first one? He claimed it tasted much better than store-bought eggs but I'm pretty sure he was just humoring me. Plus he had me and the two children staring at him expectedly, saying "How is it? How is it?" What could he say???

So.... anyone want a beautiful rooster?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's official... we have a new name!

Sugar Hill Farm is no more. After much family discussion, we have decided on Huckleberry Farm as the new name for our farm. Now we can finally move forward with some things I've been waiting on... like a checking account and other important stuff. We love the new name!
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