Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Moments

Thanksgiving Week

It is hard to believe that it is the end of November in Northern WI; I am wearing a T-shirt outside.  The honey bees quit their cluster and have been flying around the yard.  The ground isn't frozen any more. It is just so nice to have this mellow weather.
I wandered around and cleaned the gardens a little better. I'm inventing my own Hoop house and I got it repaired from the winds just in time for winter. Well if it survives it will be a nursery and a warm place for transplants. A lot of the garden tools and mowers are stored in the Chicken coop.  So Now I Can Dream About Next Year's Gardens!
Now I get to go up in the woods. Yes that woods in this picture. It was a foggy morning and the sun was rising.  So beautiful and quiet....   Let's see--chainsawing firewood, hunting, clearing brush, making trails and brush piles. When I clean a little place, or sit along a trail, it is really something.   Just like real Thanksgiving moments.

Do good.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Good Morning to the First Snow

Good morning to the First Snow....

I like to think about things; Nature, the seasons, the wind, sunrises, and the wonder of it all!  So today in my walk-around I was greeted by snow pelting into my face, whipped by the south wind.
So in my mind and my body I started to see the new season as reality, not probability.

So how have I done in my preparation.... The gardens have cleared and ready for next year.   I put off working on the high hoop house. I was reading Colman's book on 4 Season Gardening. It was pretty amazing. I started to believe in it, then this summer I  hurt my ankle and I had time to study it more.  I realized he is in Maine, but in climate zone 5. I am in zone 3.  Duhhh.  The high hoop house was going to be my 4th season garden.  In the next weeks I'll get it closed in and in spring I will be able to plant early.  So up here this fourth season is  Winter. I am going to experiment with spinach and onions in the greenhouse.  Last year in the greenhouse I had some onions and chard that survived the winter even though the ground was frozen hard for months.  So I hope to understand something about plants this winter.
Two weeks ago I brought the hives together and set up an Apiary in the corner of Garden #1. It is behind the fence in this picture. I have 2 hives.  I am getting more confident about being with the bees. I did some clumsy things when I was opening the hives and working with the bees this summer.  Now they have plenty of honey in their frames and I am starting sugar feeders. When I go by the hives I can hear the 'humm' as they swarm inside the hive.  The hives do not have enough wind protection yet. By this weekend the wind fence will be up. Next year Garden #1 will become a flower garden. Partly for the bees, partly for me....
It looks like a bleak windswept landscape. But there is a lot going on.
Do good!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Empty Yard

'empty yard'

The chickens have been gone for two weeks and the yard has been washed by the rains.  The netting is down,  the trays and waterers are stored and it is almost all cleaned up.  Soon the summer garden stuff gets stored in the coop until next year.
The organic garden did pretty well, except for the droughts. Perhaps if I had mulched more.... but I was in an airboot for my wrecked ankle. I just had to let a lot of things go. [until next year.]
In the background you can see the woods where I get firewood for the winter, nature lessons and 'peace-of -mind' walks.  We had 2 bad wind storms this summer and some trees had their tops blow off and some just tipped over, roots and all. Now I am going around with my little tractor and wagon, picking up piles of firewood that I cut last winter.  Last week I cut a few dead trees but I am taking it easy yet.  The cutting doesn't seem to hurt me at all.
There is  a lot to do before  the first snow. I'll keep reporting in.

Do good!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cool Drinks

Cool Drinks......
This week we have had freezing temperatures overnight.  So the water lines were frozen when the birds came out of the coop.  But they came out, picking little green grasses, cucumber seeds, and the  corn husks. However the water that was always there had to wait for the Sun to warm up the ground.  One day I had to take the waterers up  to the house because we couldn't wait.
The Stratford John Deere Coop returned my little tractor.  They straightened the bent Mower Deck, and got it all tuned up/repaired for another year. I mowed some rows of the grass field, for the bedding in the coop.  The chips are ok, but dry grass is better. So I was glad the machine was back.

All week I was saying 'good-bye' to the birds.  I have been working with them 3 or 4 times a day, and watching them for problems and making their life as good as I could. So now I have to remember that they will give me and others clean, organic meat.  So I have been thanking them in advance.

Wednesday I cleaned the trailer, and got the cages repaired. My daughter loaned me some cages too so they wouldn't be so crowded on the trip to the processor.  Thursday we brought them in and in a short time they were all processed, chilled, and inspected by the USDA guy. So we went home and I spent the afternoon starting to clean things up.  So I feel sad.  But living close to nature, farming, harvesting has
raw moments.  Just think how hard it was to make a living out here a hundred years ago.

Now I feel much gratitude.

Do good out there....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Frozen feet?

Frozen  Feet..... Well not really.
The temp was in the 30s and the plants were frozen and crunchy.  Then the Sun came up and everything warmed up again.
The change into Autumn is apparent; frosty mornings, cold showers, and the winds.
So I am working so that the birds have an environment where they can thrive outside in their yard.  They moved into yard #3 with fresh grass and clover. Today I put green 'wind-break' fencing around the yards.  So they are going to be good!

Oh, just now a big storm came in from the West... Rolling black clouds, wind gusts and lightning.  So I was out, hustling the birds inside the coop.  Well, they didn't know what the black clouds meant. So they didn't want to move from their yard. So I waved my broom around and told them it was a hawk. That helped them move a little faster..... The last ones got in just as the winds from the North swooped through.... leaves were flying all over. Wow!!!

Yesterday I call the processor about the time I was bringing the birds in.  They had a glitch in their scheduling and my date got moved back to Oct. 2.  So the delivery of your birds will be delayed about a week.  I will have enough feed to last if I supplement with over-ripe garden produce. Tomorrow I will start experimenting with the bush beans and a few tomatoes....
Life is good.  Hanging out here with wild Mother Nature is a trip!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Big birds

I missed a week writing to you..... Lots of gardening/landscaping---and the cast is like an anchor. Yesterday I broke the tractor crashing around up in the woods. I learned that a lawnmower is not a brushcutter.  Next time I'll put the snowplow blade on for the first trailblazing trip into the brush. Trails from 2 years ago have gotten way overgrown.
Most importantly....Your birds are doing fine!  They have been spending 12 hrs a day outside in a 20x60 yard with a white sun tarp and a mesh net over the top. I feed them 2 or 3 times a day. I am experimenting with more feed twice a day or a little less feed 3 times a day. If I put too much in the feeder, they eat the corn chips and ignore the rest of the feed. But if I am a little late with the second or third feeding, then they come out to the fence and look at me.
In this picture you can see the 'Cornish-rock' genetics--the birds are getting wider.  I try to keep them walking and moving so their legs stay strong enough to hold their weight. In the background you can see a bird running and flapping her wings to 'simulate low flight.' They do that a lot.
Today I was setting up their next yard. Moving the tarp and setting the netting in the rain was really refreshing after all the hot days we have been having.  Rows of clouds kept coming over, making little rain showers. Then there were the V's of geese heading South.  Most I could see but some were up in the clouds. It was a great day.
... Hope you had a great day too!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Running Birds!!!!

The birds have their feathers! Their weeks of being half feathered are over.  In the morning when they come out of the coop.  They run, they are strong.
In fact I just moved their food about 15 feet farther from the coop. Today they got outside at 7am and they pecked and explored for an hour before I brought in the feed.  
Today they hit a new marker. As a flock they ate a 50 lb. bag of organic feed. They are growing and maturing.  So I try to keep up and keep ahead of them.
In the last week I am seeing more hawks cruising.  A big red-tailed hawk landed in a tree above me. He was just interested in the little white birds out in the yard. So I yelled, waved my arms. He flew away and I started thinking.  My bird counts are short.  The most I get is 102.  Could it be that the hawks are not hunting mice???? I haven't caught they grabbing any birds, but I needed to do something. Today I was getting up some bird netting.  I feel responsible for these birds and I am the only one that can act.
We'll see how I do....... and I'll keep counting.
It hasn't rained here and even the grass isn't growing.  The woods is like tinder. I see how the fires could start out West. Tomorrow I'll go out to pick vegetables and dig up some of the potatoes whose vines have dried up. The tomatoes are beautiful, they must love this hot weather!


Friday, August 31, 2012

Gang on the Front Porch

Gang on the Front Porch-----

The birds are doing their daily 'Shade Chase' and now they have it down pretty well.  We start the morning all over the place. But the Sun starts cooking by 10 AM. Most birds go to the West side of the coop and some stay on the front porch. Then in the afternoon there isn't too much shade except on the front porch. Later in the afternoon the east side will get more and more shade.
 You can't see the shade tarp off to the right. The wind has been flopping it around so much that the birds won't stay there even if that is where the water and food trays are.  Today I tried to fix that by stretching a rope below the tarp and above the tarp so it can't flap so much.   There wasn't much wind today and there were about 30 birds under the tarp tonight.  So maybe I have figured something out. If it works, I'll have a picture next time.
Yesterday I realized that I only have 6 bags of organic feed.  I think a bag lasts 2 days now. I am not feeding so much because they are picking out the yellow corn chips and ignoring the white fine-crushed feed.  Now I have been Not filling trays until they are mostly empty of everything.  Some of them meet me at the gate and garble at me until they get me to realize I have to get some feed in the trays....
Oh, they love zucchini.... especially the big ones.  They can really peck them apart.

This is cool..... Yesterday I was doing something down in the field and I saw a hawk circling them.  When I got closer, the hawk had moved off to the west. But All of the birds were on the porch-tight to the coop wall, standing, and watching the hawk until it circled out of range.  Chickens are not so dumb.

Well, it is hot, dry and baking out here.  Last week the leaves on  a big pretty birch tree turned completely yellow and in 2 days the branches were bare.  Another different kind of summer season.  Tomorrow I water the gardens again. I guess you just do the next thing.

Be well everyone.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cool Chicks

Cool Chicks-----

In this picture the birds are in the shade next to the coop. Those are white fence slats that don't let the birds under the coop.  It is cool under there and breezes come blowing through too.

The birds are out every day and we are getting into some routines about how the day goes.  I get out as early as I can, about 6.  I open the coop doors and take the 5 G waterer out and refill it. When I finish that and look around there are about 20 birds out in the clover pecking at things.  When I get the feeders out and fill them, I put them under the sun tarp.  By then half the birds are out. Full feeder are a big attraction!
 It is a treat for me to watch them exploring and figuring things out.  Today I broke some  oversized cucumbers in the yard.  In a moment the pieces were surrounded by pecking birds.
 Then I go into the coop, invite everyone out, clean the bedding, add more shavings, open the windows and close the door until late PM [or storms or hawks].
I come back in mid-afternoon, fill the feeders, check to be sure they have moved to the shady areas, and just watch. Today the tarp was flapping and snapping in the stronger breezes today. So I moved the poles and reset it. it seems more stable now.

Tonight I moved the waterer and half-full feeders inside. I lowered 2 windows for overnight, and left the door open. Some birds went right in. I'll go back soon to invite the rest inside and close the doors for the night.  The birds don't move when it gets dark, their wisdom, owls fly at night.  So if it is a twilight like now they are probably in the coop already.  So that is the day today. All of us did well!  Hope you did too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chicks Getting Out..

Chicks Getting Out....
The babies are almost 4 weeks old; their feathers have them pretty well covered, they are healthy, they have attitude,  and their clover is out in the yard waiting for them.

Most of them caught on to the idea of moving to keep in the shade as the Sun moves through the sky.  I put up a shade tarp but the wind flaps it.  So they prefer the shade of the coop or the green wind fence.  I can put up more green fences so the grass is shaded too.  The last two days the Sun has been powerful.
Today  I must have gone over to the coop 8 times to check on how they were doing, or putter with something, or stay around when I saw the hawks circling.  That wouldn't be a big deal except that I am wearing a 'Star Wars Boot' to rest my left ankle.  I did something to my tendon and 'positive thinking' wasn't getting it healed.  Anyway I sort of have to hop like a cowboy... Or I ride around on my little mower tractor. It is sort of like a green mobile chair for off-road.

The ground is really dry out here. We were between the clouds on the last round of thunder storms.  I picked some zucchini and tomatoes.  The plants seem like they are just 'holding,' waiting for more rain. It has been like that a lot this summer. I do some watering but it is just not enough. I am bringing in the onions and some of the potatoes that have vines that have dried up. We got good sweet corn but the stalks were like little mutants. But they put out really nice cobs. Nature is funny sometimes-- how did they get the signal to make cobs when they weren't 3 feet tall?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wonder Chick at 15 Days

Wonder chick at 15 days old.....

This little girl is just being a show-off, or getting ready for the Chix Olympics!!  They love to run and they will climb on anything they can. In this picture the heat lamp is making an orange spot in the background. I try to keep the temperature around 80 degrees.  Usually I have windows open too, so that the humidity doesn't get too high.  I check in with them at least 5 times a day.
You can see the feathers they are growing.  Also you can see  the seams of bare skin that show where they are outgrowing their feathers. Every day they are getting bigger.They have tripled their coop area. They are starting to use an adult feeder and a bigger watering jug.  It will warm up next  week and they will have more feathers to handle the range of temperatures.  Then I will get them moved into the main coop area.
I have been feeding them a mix of Organic grains. This is the first time I have used this feed.  It seems to be going well.  When I refill the feeder I make a mush of the uneaten feed, so they eat everything without them totally emptying the feeder. Each morning I have been bringing in a big bouquet of clover plants. They start pecking on the clover heads.  When they get outside their whole yard is planted in clover.
So far I am behind in my yard fencing..... it is about 50x100 and I have got a lot of fencing to do yet! I'll make it my big project tomorrow.
Sunday I had a big day in the woods. I put my chainsaw in the trailer and spent the afternoon clearing the wind-falls off the trails.  It was glorious! Then I made a mistake and hurt my ankle. When I came  back to the cottage, Stoney got ice on my ankle and took over chicken care for the next two days. I am so lucky that she 'has my back'.  So this has been a week of hobbling, limping, icing and walking slow. Today we went up on the hill and watch the storm clouds blowing over. I am so lucky.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chicks getting their Lunch

Chicks getting their lunch.....
The chicks are 6 days old. Each day I am aware of changes and growth.   The term 'doubling' seems to apply. They need twice as much water, feed and space.  In the next few day I will be introducing a bigger water jar and bigger feeders. I have been giving them clover and corn cobs to try out different foods.
These little birds love to run. Now they can turn, stop and jump. At first they were just running until they hit something.
This morning when I came out the birds were in the corners away from the heat light. A few days ago they were all sleeping under the light. And when they first came, they were under 2 heat lamps day and night. It is in the 70's during the night. So today I shut off the light for the day and took out the divider. Now they have the whole little coop room to run and spread out. So tonight when I turn on the heat light [It is cold for a few hours...], they can sleep in their comfort zone.  I think they need some external heat until they get their feathers. But this way they can choose. I'll see where they are sleeping in the morning.
Yesterday I worked on the outside yard. I pounded in the t-posts for the outside yard. The ground is so dry the clay soil and stones didn't make much resistance at all.  It may have helped that I was standing in the wagon box, so I had really good leverage.  In the afternoon I sculpted the hillside around the coop door.  I had to bring the ground level up about 12 inches on the length of the building so the birds can walk in and out easily.  Also if we ever get rain, then the water has channels to go around the door area. Well, raking dust is not easy.
My arms and hands insisted on a vacation day today. So hooking the fence on the posts will happen tomorrow. I haven't done much fencing since before my surgeries, but I think I am strong enough.  Let's see, Fence, Door, hooks for the shade tarps, a skirt around the building and I will have the yard completed!!  This will be nice. It is a much bigger yard than I had before.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Chicks have Arrived!

Baby chickens in the coop

Thursday morning the Mail lady delivered two boxes with 105 Cornish-Rock chicks.  They were riding in the back seat.
The coop was set-up--- papers were spread on the wood chips, the heat lights, dishes and trays were ready. Out of the box, all the chicks got a drink of water to practice swallowing and they went into the 'small chick room' to spend the next two weeks. [The coop has 2 rooms, one about 4' by 10'--the small chick room. The other is 12'by 10' and is the main room as the birds get to be adults.]
They have little eating and drinking trays that I fill about 4 or 5 times a day. I also change the newspapers once a day and adjust the heat lights so the temperature stays between 80 and 95.  The chicks can move around so they can get in warmer or cooler places if they want to.  Their gizzards don't have grit yet so I put tiny ground rocks in their mash and dry feed so they will be able to grind up the grains they are eating.
Every time I come into the coop, I just watch to see what they are doing. I've noticed they are eating more each day.  I added one and now a second 12 opening feeder.  I try to keep ahead of them.  Yesterday i noticed that their wings are starting to get feathers.  The growing up starts right away. So now I am off to the evening feeding......

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chicken Coop

Chicken coop in empty field---A new beginning!

This winter when the ground was frozen,  I helped the chicken coop migrate to a new piece of the pasture.  It is on a patch of clover and meadow brome grasses that have been planted over the last two years. In the background you can see the Ark and the trees out by the road.  I just leveled the coop and mounted it on concrete blocks to keep it out of the dirt. It got cleaned, disinfected and painted inside.  A new beginning for the coop.
From the coop the chicken yard can stretch out to the north, west and east.  The coop is starting new on organic ground with organic clover and grass plants.  This flock will have a fence that goes to the
west, toward the Ark.  I am ready to put that in next week.  The boxes with the chicks are coming late next week. Monday I go to the feed mill to get the feed mix that this flock will be getting. It is a mixture of grains with nutrients..... all organic.
 Part of the coop has a partition so I can make it into a big incubator.  For a couple of weeks they need the temperature at 90+ degrees.  So I have 2 heat lamps in there creating 'hot spots' and then the chicks can move around to be comfortable. For a week or so I go in every few hours to watch them, check their mush and water, and see if any chick needs coaching.
So I am excited waiting for the babies to come!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Getting started!!

May 10, 2012
The importance of learning new things....  Why am I out here?
This is a place of lessons, life and beauty!

I did not write for a while.... I had some lessons to learn. Now the ground is not so cold and ready for seeds. The days are longer and I am ready to start. That is the first lesson. When it is time....Start.

This place has gardens, flower beds, fields and a wilderness that have all started their spring/summer growing season. And I am starting too.
Today I will be in Garden 1 and 2. I am weeding and cleaning the asparagus bed in Garden 1 and in Garden 2 I am putting down the cold frames and the walking mats.  It has been freezing at nights and the ground has been so cold and soupy, it just didn't seem ready.
It feels good for me to stop looking/thinking/planning and getting ready.   I'll write more soon.