Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chicken Teens

In the mornings-every morning-- for the last few weeks I have been visiting the chicken coop and our 100 Jumbo Cornish Rock chicks.  They have a big title because they are going to be food.  I am on a farm and we are raising clean, active, heathy birds that will feed my relatives, friends and family.  I am proud of these birds and what I will be able to do to help others find 'un-chemicaled' food. 
Another part of me so admires this growth process as I see them changing every day.  Last week they were losing their yellow downy and starting to get white feathers.  They would run around flapping and sometimes 30 or 40 would all go flapping together across the pen.  This week they are growing so fast they have bald sections of their body.  The feathers cant keep up.  I am challenged by them to keep their environment correct.  This week we put 2 inch wood blocks under the feeder and the water tank.  If we keep the rim of the feeder at 'chest high'  the feed will stay cleaner and more birds can get to the feeder at the same time. This morning I adjusted the feeder so more grain would come out for them.  They ate 20 lb. of feed yesterday.  So I don't want waste but I have to keep alert to what they are doing.   I started 'turning their bedding' this week.  The bedding is straw and wood shavings.  I move slowly through the coop, forking over the bedding. It fluffs and unmats from the floor.  Now that they are used to me doing it; dozens swirl around me, pecking straw, chirping , and  fussing like they are cleaning their playground.  Then I add some new straw and shavings. They go to work on that too. Tomorrow I will dump all the bedding into compost and bring in all fresh bedding. As these teens get bigger I will need to do this more. 
The daytime air is in the 50's and 60's so I open the windows to knock down the humidity during the day and with the cross breezes dry the bedding a little.  So food--water--shelter, then I sit a while and watch.  They are funny, clever, pushy, and so active.  Tonight the windows are mostly closed, 40 degrees by morning,  one heat light is on in case someone needs it, and the feeders are full.  As the sun goes down most just flatten themselves into the bedding and sleep. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rain Train

We had the experience of having rain for 30 hours.  I've never been in a 'rain train' before where one storm after another after another after another moves over us and it just rains continually.  Now after the rain has stopped, in the slough the water is rushing over the tractor trail as though it were early spring.  In the woods, every low spot is a pond. I noticed that my fine homemade driveway is puddle after puddle all the way out to the road. Hardly any level spots at all.  That is not the way I had envisioned it.  It must be practice.....   My rain gauge showed 4 inches.  Wow!
 I am not complaining at all.  Last week I was walking around in the dust, I was planting onions, beans, peas and the first line vegetables out in the garden. I was hoeing dust, raking dust, and covering the seeds with dust.  I wasn't feeling  like the brightest bulb in the bin.  But now everything is good.  That Gulf rainwater warmed everything up. The quack grass and dandelions are almost up to my knees. My strawberry bed disappeared. But I'm not complaining at all. It is a wonderful week .   I think I have some new fun projects to do, like finding the strawberry plants and mowing the grass.  Everything is so green.  I love it here. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Week Later

I think the chicks are double in size---- Their feet and legs are so much bigger and their bodies are becoming so lean and tall.  They get fed 3 times a day and I keep the water jars full. We are introducing little grit and sand for their digestion. I worry a little so I am keeping watering the dry food.  I suppose I should let that go and start doing half mash and half crumble feed.  I'll try.  Tomorrow I get to change the poopy wood chips they have been calling home.  They will probably be chattering a lot when I get in there. I think I will feed them at the same time and most will not notice what I am doing.  I guess the chicken chores are becoming routine now.
This morning it is still freezing outside.  This area is North and West of the main weather stations and they seem to be at least 5 degrees warmer. So I have learned to do some subtraction from the weather report temperatures. My garden is still empty and the brown dirt is looking at me.  I have onions, peas and salad seeds ready to go in the garden and in covered frames.  So I am getting motivated.  They will go in the ground this week.  Also I want to start the tender plants in containers. So I am planning a big gardening week.  The seed packages are spread all over the big studio table and I am starting to arrange them for companion planting. 
This farm living is sometimes difficult for me.  There are a lot of 'facts' in my head that have always known, but they don't really work.  This area is really cold, really dry and really windy.  The soil is almost 'pottery clay' and it needs  coaching to be its best. The idealized things that people say just don't quite work.  My independence is coming slowly. The earth and sky are teaching me.
It is still freezing outside, but the sun is out and the greenhouse should be warming up by now.  The little salad garden there  is under pink insulation sheets on freezing nights.  Out there I am moving my tomato plants from little pots to big pots. They look like gawky teens for a couple of days until the stems get tougher and they stand on their own.  I have one little corner of the greenhouse that I will use for a tomato garden. Maybe I will call it 'Georgia.'

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The chicks

Tonight we brought the chicks home.  They are 3 days old, they have yellow feathers  and are soooo little.  And so full of life! They got a sip of water as we took them out of the mailer crate.  We put them into their heated area and  they ran and pecked mush and just got busy. After an hour half of the chicks were eating the softened mush and some were running and a big clump were under the lights sleeping.  This was a good delivery. None were dead or acting damaged. Now I can go to bed too.  
I remember that in the bigger picture these are Jumbo Cornish Rock hens.  They will have wonderful tasting meat and because of their genetics they carry double sized breasts when they are adult.  So it is my job to give them a good environment with excellent feed for eight weeks.  Then they will be processed so family and friends can have wholesome food. That is my job too. One day at a time I am grateful for what I can do.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Summer Sun!

Today we had sun all day and the temps were in the 70's.  The Earth up here came alive!  The popple trees opened their leaf buds and the hillside took on highlights of  light green.  Finally. Something besides Black, white gray or tan---- real green.  Speaking of green the grass is a pretty bright green too.  I think I can crawl through the asperagus and weed them.  Monday I will start planting the garden.  Now I am planting in the Greenhouse and in Cold Frame boxes near the greenhouse.  My daughter planted the coldweather salad greens in the greenhouse three weeks ago and they are up and growing now. The ground was so cold I didnt think they would grow. By this weekend we can have a salad and aspeargus Is this worth the wait? Yes. 
The garden is cultivated, the oats field[about 1/2 acre I think.  I never measured a half acre before, but a big city lot size.] had it's first tilling.  Many weeds had a tough day.  Tomorrow I can seed some of it with oats/peas. I have to do that by hand some how.  The egg-layer chicken flock in the orchard is really getting into 'bugging.' They hardly ate any of the feed I put in there.  AND they are back to laying eggs again. I gathered twice today and totaled 3 dozen!  The rooster had them all gathered in an assembly this morning.  ---Like Johnny Cash singing to the crowd.  So I'll change their name from 'egg-layer flock'  to 'Johnny's Flock.'  This is a good day!    

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Coop Cleaning!!!!

What a day!  We got into the Chicken coop today and Cleaned It Out!  Straw, dust, dirt and all the mess that chickens can leave behind.  So sweep, scrub, rinse, bleach, rinse, scrub, rinse and the coop is cleaner than our studio!  We just kept at it, we both felt good to have it done.  I tilled out the yard and planted timothy and wheat seeds. How could we be so motivated??  This is a new year on the Farm!  Next week the chicks are coming from McMurry.  By Monday the coop becomes a nursery for 100 Jumbo Cornish Rock hens. The farm will be in operation again.

There is a little more to this.... The coop was being used by another flock of chickens. So last night in the dark we moved the Egg layers into the orchard. That is their summer hangout. There are about 30 Bantams and Leghorns and we moved them back to their old hangout from last summer.  They will be outside all the time.  They  have a nesting [bad weather/night] insulated box and a sports bar box if they need a separate shelter  or if there is strife in the flock.  These chickens have personality and there is  always fussing going on.  Today they were ranging through the grass with a lot of clucking going on.  It was good to see them being so comfortable right away.   This is a good day.  We are tired, we hurt. But this is what I want to be doing with my days.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Slow Spring

Here I am excited about 2 nights in a row when it didnt freeze.  Well, except it was freezing this morning,  so I am thinking it is plodding progress not a leap into summer.  The May flowers are out in the woods and it is so pretty to be walking up there.  Sometimes we step on a leek and you can smell the onion......  The aspeargus is coming up.  So Spring is here.  The farmers here are starting to till and disc and plow so I  started tilling up some ground too. The soil is dry enough and the frost is deep enough that it seemed to be fine.  So today I will do some more tilling.  We have to move the egg layer chicken to a new spot so I will get that ready next.  There are just so many jobs to do.  I have to stop and think.  I am not a working machine.  Maybe now I can plan the next 3 weeks, make a schedule and do work and play in a balanced way. I have all wonderful things to do and it will be just fine.
This is a good time for a walk. Maybe I can see one of the wild turkeys I have been listening to this morning.