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What’s this in our fridge? Oh, it’s a clean slate. December 29, 2007

Posted by Joe in Farm.

Over the past three years, we’ve learned a lot about chickens. Laura has done a ton of reading on the topic and really enjoys the nuances and characteristics of the different breeds. And the distinct personalities that some individuals seem to have. She’s introduced you to many of the birds in the series of postings that she’s entitled “Meet the flock”.

We currently have approximately 70 chickens running around Blessed Acres Farm. Getting an exact count is rather difficult since they are free range and prefer not to be still or line up for any sort of roll call. About the only time they will assemble for us is during the morning or afternoon feeding. Then they come running; well actually stampeding is a better term. To the uninitiated, it’s actually a bit unnerving. None of our chickens are aggressive towards people or kids. Still when you see 140 or so chicken legs propelling their 5-pound feathered frames at you as fast as they can from all directions, it can be intimidating.

The number of chickens we have will vary due to the natural attrition caused by local predators. Dogs, raccoons, and opossums periodically dine in or around our chicken house. However the number one predator is hawks. They swoop down, grab an unsuspecting chicken, and fly off to dine high-on-the-fowl.

One of the things that we’ve learned is that during the winter months, egg production for chickens goes down considerably. At first I thought that this was in direct proportion to the air temperature, that more of their energy went into keeping warm, leaving less for their reproductive cycle. But no. Laura has learned that it’s actually the amount of day light hours that is the true cause of the diminishing return on our investment.

Last year we did a very unscientific experiment. We added an incandescent light in the chicken house and turned it on for 3-4 hours each evening when the chickens came back to roost. It seemed to make a difference; egg production did decline some, however we still received more eggs per chicken per week than during the prior winter. It was unscientific because we didn’t have a control set, we didn’t record the exact number of eggs per chicken per week during the prior year, etc. And I’m not really sure how to have a placebo light installed anyway. Nonetheless, we think it did make somewhat of a difference. Was it worth the added cost of the electricity required to illuminate their abode for several hours at dusk? I don’t know.

This year, our egg production dropped off considerably. Starting in July! We assumed it was due to the really high summer temperatures combined with the record drought in our part of creation this year. We were averaging 6 to 8 eggs per day – this from the 90 or so chickens we had at the time! Chickens should lay one egg every 36 hours. We cut them some slack because you could actually seem them panting from the heat.

As fall rolled around and the mercury fell, our egg production didn’t improve. In fact it got worse. That’s when we discovered that the chickens had developed the really bad habit of eating their own eggs. Lucy and Daisy, our two dogs, were also sneaking into the chicken house and absconding with eggs during the day. We tried several times to identify which of the fowl had developed this foul habit. We tried isolating them, collecting eggs several times throughout the day, etc. But to no avail.

Reluctantly, we had to tell friends and patrons that we didn’t have any surplus eggs. 

Just before Thanksgiving, I opened the fridge to retrieve something and noticed a covered bowl full of bright white eggs. “Aha! We’re actually starting to get some eggs”, I thought. But white?? I didn’t think we had but a few chickens that laid white eggs? That’s when I noticed the small “NH” stamped on the chalky-white side of the eggshell. NH? “What’s this in our fridge?” I wondered.

That’s when Laura admitted that she’d resorted to buying eggs for our own use. We have almost four-score of the little free-loaders running around outside, and we have to buy eggs from the grocery store. Arrgh!

So, we’re going to start over next spring. We’ll buy some eggs or chicks and raise them to produce our farm-fresh eggs. Sure we’ll keep some of existing chickens that we’ve grown rather fond of, but most of them will eventually participate in our agrarian life-style in another way. I do love chicken and dumplings.


We wish you a Merry Christmas! December 25, 2007

Posted by Joe in Faith, Family.


Merry Christmas to you from all of the Webbs.

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Lydia is Front Page News! December 24, 2007

Posted by Laura in Faith, Family.


This precious picture was in the local paper on the FRONT PAGE. Notice Lamb # 2- isn’t she a beauty?! 🙂

I was there when they took the picture and it was hilarious!! Lyddie was still in her helmet, so I took it off. She was supposed to wear the lamb costume and hat that had ears and eyes and such on it. She never minded the helmet, but the lamb hat was NOT staying on. She was trying to simultaneously take it off and put it in her mouth while crawling away.

The angel was alternately picking her nose and sticking out her tongue. If you look closely, some of the wise men and shepherds, while standing where they were told to, are bawling! Baby Jesus was actually sleeping until the others started crying.

My friend Bekah Plunkett is constantly lending her award-winning talent at church taking pictures. She patiently took many shots while the rest of us made complete fools of ourselves trying to coax smiles out of the assembled members of the nativity. This is the best shot.

I tried to give you the link directly to the newspaper, but they have an error in the archives that has the previous week’s edition again on this date. Too bad!

What a great church we have!

Lydia’s helmet is off! December 23, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family.
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Earlier this month, Lydia had her final appointment with the “helmet doctor”. He was very pleased with her progress. He said that the helmet can come off for good and that he doesn’t need to see her anymore! Whoopieee!!!


Here’s a picture of our two girls, sans headgear!

Brave Pioneer Woman December 13, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.

Out here on the frontier (well, rural TN anyway), a lady’s got to be tough and courageous. Ready to take up arms and defend what’s near and dear to her. And that’s just what happened yesterday.

Joe was on a cattle drive (okay, he was working on someone’s computer network, but that just doesn’t fit in my story very well). Usually, when he’s on a trip, a major appliance or utility breaks. This time, I was up against a much more sinister enemy. (Are you getting goosebumps?).

As I was fixing up a mess of vittles, I spied a critter slinking around the tool shed. I went out and began yelling at the dog who was surveying the chicken buffet ambling around the yard. It was unimpressed with my ferocity. I threw sticks at it but it just watched them whiz by from the cover of the tractor. As I approached and tried to wow it with my double arsenal of yelling AND throwing sticks, it began to growl at me. I called our dogs to tear it to pieces forthwith.

Lucy and Daisy have scared many a visitor and delivery guy, but they just haven’t read the memo about chasing off others of their own kind. When they even notice a trespassing canine, they just run up and greet it, tails wagging. I yell, “Get him, girls!” and they try to engage the would-be predator in a game of tag.

Since the crazy dog didn’t know our dogs wouldn’t tear it limb from limb, I called them. I think they must have been off hunting antlers or something, because they didn’t appear.

What to do, what to do…

I called Joe. The conversation began with “What kind of bullets are in the pistol?” That kind of greeting always seems to get his attention. “Ratshot?” I asked hopefully. “No, the kind that leaves a big hole. Why?” was the concerned reply. I explained the problem.

Now, I hate guns, but I have learned a thing or two since we’ve lived here. One of the facts I’ve faced up to is that once a dog begins to dine on our chickens, we’ll never break it of that habit. This dog concerned me a lot more than most. All other dogs I’ve encountered will run if chased and yelled at. This one was standing its ground and growling back. Not a good sign. And I was all alone to deal with it.

I tried to think through other options. I don’t even like to hold that gun, much less shoot it. And knowing it had hollow points in it did not encourage me. By phone, Joe insisted I use it.

So, with phone in one hand and 15 pound pistol in the other, I walked back down to the toolshed. The dog was just where I’d left it.

I threw some more sticks.

I’d tucked the gun into my jeans’ pocket, but my pants were sliding down my hips under the weight of that monster pistol. Joe was meanwhile telling me that the dog would wipe out our flock, it was quite possibly rabid by its behavior, that it wouldn’t be safe for the kids to play outside, and so on. I was hemming and hawing and willing the dog to run far away. To no avail. Joe insisted I shoot.

I gave up arguing, but since the usual ratshot wasn’t in it, I wouldn’t try to hit the dog- just scare it away. I said I needed to concentrate and I’d call back in a minute. He told me to be ready for the dog to charge me and to prepare myself to shoot it. Oh, great!

I cocked the gun, aimed carefully about 10 feet away from the dog, (the tractor, the fence, the concrete, the cows, and the long list of everything else). With shaky hands, I fired. Gunpowder burned my hand and the sound nearly deafened me. “Surely that did it,” I thought. But no! He only moved off about 15 feet and then stared defiantly at me! I called Joe back.

“You have to kill it. There is something really wrong with it if being shot at didn’t scare it away,” he said. “You have no choice.”

I held the blackened pistol in both hands… and lowered it. I couldn’t do it.

We’ve been eating game Joe has hunted and chickens we’ve raised for quite some time now. I know that God gave us supremacy over the animals, that He even required their slaughter for sacrifices. I have gotten over my qualms about eating meat that came from animals I knew in life. But I have yet to get to the point where I am the one who visits death upon another creature. I am so grateful to have a husband who takes care of such things.

I couldn’t just leave the dog to do as he wished, though. I came up with an alternate plan. I’d call a friend, a church elder who is retired and had come to my rescue when a pipe burst on another of Joe’s trips. Bless him, he came right over. He managed to get the dog into the bed of his truck and drove away with it. I don’t need to know anymore.

So, brave pioneer woman I am not. Not yet, anyway.


Caninus Elephantus December 12, 2007

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.
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We’ve discovered a new species! Somehow, by a strange mutation of genes, this dog developed tusks. Could it be the result of too many accidental run-ins with the electric fence? Global warming? Aliens? Whatever it was, there is no doubt: there will never be another dog just like Daisy.


Daisy is our dedicated treasure-seeker. When we went out to feed the cows one evening, she was proudly impersonating an elephant. This picture doesn’t do her justice. She pranced around with this rack of antlers perfectly centered in her mouth for a couple of hours. I couldn’t capture her straight on, but we laughed for a long time. Goofy dog!

Happy Birthday, Rachel! December 8, 2007

Posted by Joe in Family.

A few weeks ago, our little girl got another year older! Rachel is now 6! (She’s disobeying her mother who told her that she had to stop at 5.)

It took a lot of puffs to blow all those candles out!

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.”
~Psalm 127:3

Cub-n-Family campout December 6, 2007

Posted by Joe in Scouts.
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This time of year is so busy with the holidays, year-end projects, and preparing for the winter months, that I’ve gotten a bit behind on the less critical activities, such as blogging. So, I thought I’d attempt to catch up a little bit at least and share some photos from a recent Cub Scout camping trip.

In mid-October, our Cub Scout Pack participated in the Cub-n-Family camp out. Benjamin loves the camping trips we take several times a year. He does a great job helping out around the campsite while still having a lot of fun.

At the Cub-n-Family outing, each family brings their own tent, food, firewood, etc. Nothing, save fun daily activities, are provided for the Scouts. This gives them a chance to help plan and buy meals ahead of time and then prepare it outdoors at the campsite. This is in contrast to the summer camps where meals are provided.

Boy Scouts and other Scout leaders are there to provide activities for us. In the picture below, Benjamin is turning twine into a woven rope.

Here’s the finished product and a Scout proud of his accomplishment.

There were also bottle rockets, but not in the traditional sense. These bottle rockets were kid powered. They took 16 oz bottles partially filled with water and fitted them onto a piece of PVC. A bicycle pump was connected to the other end of the PVC pipe. The boys pumped air into the bottle until the pressure was so great that it overcame the friction keeping it attached to the PCV pipe. And away it shot into the air. Accomplished Scouts could send them over 100 feet skyward.

What kid doesn’t like to pillow fight?

Benjamin talked with a man in Chicago on a ham radio.

One of Benjamin’s favorite activities was petting a real wolf.

All in all a fun time. We’re looking forward to our next camping trip. I think Rachel is going to join us on that trip.

Meet Lacy and Gloria December 5, 2007

Posted by Joe in Farm.

You’ve met the donkeys, the goats, and many of the poultry that call our little slice of creation home, but I’ve been remiss in making a proper introduction to the bovines  – though their reputation proceeds them to some extent.

You may remember that within 24 hours of taking possession of the heifers, they decided to broaden their horizons and left home for a week. Alas, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  Fortunately, a friendly neighbor noticed that our two girls had joined his herd and he returned them to us. Read the complete story here.

The girls seem to have gotten over their rebellious phase, now. They are are gentle and even come when I call them. Sweet feed works wonders when bribing a ruminant for their affection – well affection may be overstating it a bit, you get the point.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce Lacy.

And her half-sister Gloria.

They are strikingly beautiful heifers, though some people claim that all cows look like simpletons.

Our plan is to allow them calve when they are old enough. Any female offspring they produce will be used to grow our herd organically. Males offspring will serve, or more aptly, be served, in another way – with a baked potato and side salad.