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Even Roomier Quarters March 29, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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After a few weeks in their second brooder, the rapidly growing chicks were ready to be like the “big chickens” and move to a chicken tractor. The kids and I loaded them in a storage tote making several trips down to their new home.


This group of chicks exhibits interesting dynamics, different from some we have had in the past. They have spent considerably more time napping and tend to be all chirping loudly at once or all suddenly quiet. There has been some play at facing off with each other, but not much. The pecking order isn’t very obvious yet. The other thing they do, which we’ve never had a problem with before, is pecking out each other’s tail feathers. Not the same victim each time either- many different ones have had their turn. It’s unattractive, but there have been no fatalities from the injuries yet, I’m glad to say.


The transition to the chicken tractor went well until Tuesday night. I had noticed that the chicks were choosing to sleep under the open portion of the tractor rather than under the tarp. I told Joe that I was concerned about what would happen if it rained during the night. I didn’t think they could see well enough to find their way under the tarp and they had never experienced rain before. I hoped they’d get a trial run during the daytime that may encourage them to sleep under shelter at night.

Unfortunately, their first rain came that night. They had bedded down like a crazy quilt of feathers, one pressed against another. Apparently, when the rain began, they huddled closer and closer, but toward the corner instead of the center. (I knew the danger of “piling in the corners” but not only thought that danger had mostly passed, but wasn’t sure how I’d round off the ends of the chicken tractor- cardboard would fall apart outside). When I went out yesterday morning to move them to fresh pasture and feed them, I found two rather flat chicks in a corner. They had suffocated from the weight of the others. That kind of discovery can really spoil my day.

A 20% loss of chicks before adulthood is considered by many to be “normal.” I’ve never been content with that and have taken great care to avoid such losses. But not all possibilities can be anticipated or avoided. We’ll learn from this and try to figure out a way to prevent it in the future. On the bright side, we still have 47 or so that have thrived thus far.


Thwarted Motherhood March 28, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Betsy and Martha gave it their best shot, but were unsuccessful novice mothers-to-be.  The dutifully set their eggs for weeks, but maybe too devotedly.  The two hunkered down in the same chicken-sized nesting box, side by side, with their necks bent at terrible angles and their tails hanging completely out.  I never did see them get out of the box, and the amount of droppings would indicate that they only got up once or twice.  (That alone is amazing to me.  HOW can they survive all that time- a month or more- on just a couple mouthfuls of food and water?!  God has certainly given His creatures marvelous abilities, especially when it comes to raising young).

When we relocated Betsy and Martha to a chicken tractor, we gave them some fertile chicken eggs as long as they seemed intent on setting.  After the 21 days necessary to incubate them passed, I began listening for peeping sounds.  I let a couple more days go by, just in case, but the girls were obviously not going to hatch anything.  I suspect that since they weren’t getting up for food and water, that they also weren’t turning the eggs.  That may explain why they didn’t hatch.  (Normally, a hen will turn her eggs by rolling them with her beak.  This is thought to prevent the embryo from “sticking” to the inside of the shell and aid in even development). 


As the baby chicks began to outgrow their brooder, we needed that chicken tractor for them.  Joe and I gloved up and went out under cover of darkness to take the turkeys off their eggs.  We opened up the boxes and Betsy began to hiss.  I got Martha out and we were assaulted by the smell of rotten eggs.  After almost 4 weeks of being kept at 100 degrees but not developing into chicks, the eggs had turned bad.  To worsen that, the weight of the two birds had crushed some of them and they were both coated with rotten yolk.  It was a mighty aromatic walk back to the henhouse!

When we returned for Betsy, she was determined not to be wrested away from her eggs.  Her warnings didn’t intimidate me, so I reached right in.  She went for my gloved hands with her sharp beak, but once I got them around her, she went for the exposed arms.  One ugly bruise and some scratches (on me) later, she too was back in the henhouse. 

I expected that the turkeys would be pacing at the chicken tractor at first light, trying to get back on their eggs, but by morning, they seemed to have forgotten all about being mothers.  They spent the next couple days not straying far from the henhouse, just eating and resting.  Then yesterday, I noticed them trying to sweet talk Percy again.  They were up to their old tricks of flanking him, nudging him with their heads, then running in front of him and squatting down, side by side.  I’m going to have to talk to them about not being so forward- it’s hard to raise a lady these days!

A soccer season anew March 25, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family.

Benjamin played soccer for a year and a half starting at age 4. He really enjoyed it at the beginning but towards the end he became less enthusiastic about going to the games and practices. So we let it drop at the end of his third season.

This spring, his interests in the world’s most popular sport were once again awakened. So we signed him up in the spring league in Ashland City.

Benjamin’s coach is a very good with the kids. Having played soccer for the better part of his life, he is also very knowledgeable about the intricacies of the game. I know Benjamin will learn a lot from him while having fun.

Benjamin is one of seven players on his team. In the 8&9 year old league, each team fields 5 players – one goalie and 4 in the field. Benjamin is number 20 for the blue team.

Their first game was this past Saturday. Benjamin started the game as goalie. At the end of the first quarter with the score 0-0, Benjamin rotated to a field position.

We played hard and the boys and girls had a really good time during the next three quarters of play.

In the end, we gave up several goals without managing a score ourselves so we lost the game.

But, Benjamin left the field eager for the next practice. I’m glad he’s getting back in to the game.

Here’s a short movie clip that I took during the game. It is an avi file and I think you should be able to play it just by clicking on the link.

Meet the Flock, part 3 March 23, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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Prince Buttercup and the Princesses

This “royal family” belongs to a breed of chicken originating in Sicily.  Their unique characteristic is their crown-shaped comb- a two-sided comb that forms an oval shape when viewed from above.




(The prince looks down upon his subjects from the top of a gate near the henhouse.  This picture doesn’t do his plumage justice.  He has deep rust orange feathers on his neck and hackles, mahogany feathers below, and an iridescent beetle-green/black tail.).

True to his name, Prince Buttercup has a rather regal bearing and holds his own in the barnyard (except against Napoleon, our smallest bantam rooster-  but that’s another story).  His sisters have completely different coloring, but most have a smaller version of the crown he sports.


 Like most chickens with white “ears,”Sicilian Buttercups lay white eggs.

Roomier Quarters March 20, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.

The chicks have grown quite a lot since their arrival a few weeks ago.  They quickly became too crowded for the stock tank, necessitating the construction of a new brooder.  Voila!


(Now does that look homemade, or what?)

I designed this to be multi-functional.  The brooder is made of 3’ x 3’ panels covered in chicken wire.  The wood frame of each panel is made of 4 balusters from the deck section of the lumber department.  They are already mitered at 45 degree angles.  We connected the panels together (two on each side, one on each end, and two making a roof) with cable ties, leaving one of the end panels only tied closed on the right side so we could use it as a hinged door.  We cable-tied the heat lamps onto the ceiling so that they could not fall into the cedar shavings and start a fire.  I hope that the panels can be used for other temporary animal stalls, specifically making “jugs” for lambing ewes.


(This has GOT to be one of the most flattering pictures my husband has ever taken of me!  I love how my jacket is puffed out to look like I’m still pregnant, while my sweatpants make me look like I’m lumpy and bow-legged.)

Chicks chill quite easily before they have feathered out, so we attached cardboard to the inside of the panel walls to keep drafts out. We tried to round off the corners a bit to keep the chicks from piling and suffocating if startled. When the temperatures dip at night, we put scrap wood on top to hold the heat in for them.


(Though they have been moved to considerably roomier accomodations, they are huddling in the rounded corner for “safety in numbers.”)

We have had a Barred Rock hen that is fond of laying in the barn stall instead of the henhouse.  Whenever she gets the opportunity, she sneaks into a corner and lays her eggs in the hay she has formed into a nest.  This time, she obviously decided to keep an eye on those noisemakers and layed on top of the brooder instead.


A minivan and the hay fork March 13, 2007

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.

For years, both Laura and I have resisted buying a minivan. We each had our own reasons for not wanting such a vehicle. My reasons were admittedly, at least in part, rooted in vanity; I didn’t like the idea of driving such an emasculated-looking ride. There is just nothing “manly” about a minivan.

The usefulness of minivans became apparent to us a few years ago when we went camping with our Sunday School class. Out of the fourteen families, ours was the only family that did not make the trip in a minivan. We crammed all of our stuff in the back of a SUV; the other families transported their camping supplies in the comforts of their oh-so-roomy minivans. It was then that we first became aware that there is a certain practicality to minivans and that perhaps that’s why they are so popular.

Still we resisted.

Eventually we replaced the SUV with a 4×4 truck. As a family feeling led back to a homesteading lifestyle, being a two truck family afforded us a certain amount of flexibility. If either of us needed to stop by the store on the way home to pick up some fence posts or chicken feed, no problem – we each had the room.

However, in December as we were preparing for Lydia’s imminent arrival we discovered that although each truck could seat five, having a rear-facing infant carrier in the mix made it significantly more difficult get people in and out of the rear seat.

So we began reconsidering the minivan. And we bought one in late December.

Now we really see why they are so popular. Running errands, going out to eat, and taking trips are so much easier when you have a minivan. It’s great. Now we take it anytime the whole family is going some place together.

This past weekend, we made a trip to Alabama. We went to attend a farm equipment sale in Moulton with my grandfather. As we were packing for the trip, we were in a quandary – which vehicle to take? My first thought was to take one of the trucks just in case we found a farm implement that we could not pass by. But on the other hand, it’s just so much easier to travel in the minivan.

Finally, the allure of traveling in comfort won out and we took the minivan. We reasoned that if we had to, we could always borrow my grandfather’s truck to transport any purchased items back to his house and then we make alternate arrangements to get them back to our house.

So, we headed off to the auction. As we pulled into the grassy field to park, we laughed as we realized that our minivan would be easy to spot when we decided to leave. The rest of the vehicles were large farm trucks – 1/2 tons and 1 tons, flatbeds and duallies. Many of them were pulling trailers large enough to carry multiple tractors. We parked our white minivan between a dusty dually and a 3/4 ton pickup hitched to a trailer that must have been 40 feet long.

Once in the auction, we looked around a bit. They had lots of good stuff. I eventually won a much-needed hay fork for the back of our tractor. Yippie! Now we can move the hay rolls around as needed.

But now, how to get it home? Parked back at our house were two 4×4 pickups, either of which could have easily carried our newest farm implement home. But no truck, no matter how good it is, can help when it’s a couple of hundred miles away.

Since my grandfather’s truck was about 30 minutes from the auction, we decided to fold down the rear seats in our minivan and try to put the hay fork in the back. Laura went to get the minivan while I settled up with auctioneers.

As she drove in the gate to claim our merchandise, the guy guarding the entrance stopped her and politely told her that she could not park here. Laura told him that we had just bought a hay fork and we were picking it up. He looked at her, looked at the minivan, and then back at her and skeptically said “Are you planning to strap it on top?” Laura told him of our plans and he could barely keep a straight face, but he waved her through.

When the our hay fork arrived at our van – on a forklift no less – the driver helped me to carefully position it into the back of the minivan. It fit! Just barely, but it fit nonetheless! 🙂

When we returned home, we were even able to wedge our luggage back there among the prongs.

Now I’m an unashamed convert – minivans are great! I’m not giving up being the primary driver of a truck, mind you, but until the kids are out of college, we’ll probably own a minivan.

The porch swing March 8, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.

Growing up, I spent quite a bit of time at my grandparents farm, most of my summers in fact. And on that farm we had a dog…Sorry I couldn’t resist. 🙂

Looking back, one of the things that I enjoyed (though I didn’t realize it so much at the time) was sitting on the porch. We’d sit on the porch after dinner most nights. We’d sit on the porch during the heat of the day to shell peas or shuck corn. We’d sit on the porch to visit with others who may have stopped by for a visit. The porch was a place to lazily pass time and enjoy a simpler life.

That’s one of the many things that really attracted us to the place where we know live. It’s got a big , deep porch. It’s eight feet deep and spans two sides of the house. It’s complete with rocking chairs and an old wooden swing. The picture on the top of the blog is of our porch.

It was far easier back then to find the time to sit on the porch than it is now. I think that’s one reason I love when it rains; it imposes a natural slow down. Maybe it’s God’s way of telling us to sit back, watch the rain, and enjoy the life He’s provided.

The Big Race March 7, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family, Scouts.

Last night was the big race. The culmination of all our hard work, designing, carving, sanding, and painting Benjamin’s entry in Pack 178’s Pinewood Derby came to fruition. He worked hard on his reproduction of the 1940 Ford pickup.

The whole family loaded up in the Mommy-Van and we headed to church (where our pack meets) for a pizza dinner and the race.

There were 8 cars entered in the race (we have a rather small pack). Plus, a couple of siblings made a car for fun.

With so few entrants, each car got to race multiple times in our triple elimination race.

We all had a good time watching the boys get excited over their cars.

In the end, Benjamin’s truck placed in the middle of pack. But, he did win the Best Looking Award.

Here’s this year’s truck and last year’s Jeep (which placed 2nd in the best looking category).

One of the highlights for Benjamin was getting to race his truck against a car that I had made when I was a Bear Scout some 30+ years ago. (It’s amazing what a mother will hang on to!)

The same basic kit was used way back then so my car still fit on the track. The nails used as axles were rusty and one of the wheels barely turned, but that didn’t matter to Benjamin. He wanted to take on his old man.

Of course he beat me by 20 or more car lengths; I was just happy to see my car cross the finish line. I told Benjamin to enjoy it now because I’m going to save his car for the next 35 years and laugh when his son’s car zooms past his truck on the track.

He asked why I didn’t paint mine. I told him Olsen’s Mercantile was out of paint back then. He just rolled his eyes.