Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back in the Nest Box Again

The girls have apparently taken my many lectures on the evils of freeloading and failure to fulfill a promise. This morning, a bright sunny end-of-November-cold kind of day, I wandered out and handed over the obligatory two (two!) scoops of scratch grains and refilled the water supply per usual. The girls were dissatisfied greatly with the ice on their water bucket, and muttered evil things under their beaks as I knocked out the ice scum and apologized. I seem to spend a lot of time apologizing to the current girls in the flock...
In any case, when I lifted the lid of the nest box bin, I wasn't expecting to see anything but the yellow plastic "encouragement" egg looking back at me. Imagine my delighted surprise when I found this dark brown beauty tucked into the straw! Yes, folks, that's right: Someone finally got the guilty bug and laid me an egg. I have my suspicions that it is from Fifi, my lovely Cuckoo Marans hen. That breed is known for laying deep chocolate colored eggs, and this one is of a definite cocoa hue.
Yes, I apologized to the girls for lecturing them on not laying for me, before checking for eggs. I don't think they accepted it.
In other chicken news, Thing One has been renamed Rudy. He is growing into a fine young rooster, with lovely irridescent green tail feathers and exceptional wing plumage. I hope he doesn't turn out to be noisy, because I would rather like to keep him. I have visions of hatching my own chicks come spring "meat bird" season! (Thing Two is hanging onto her name, appelated as Twoey. She isn't impressed.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Tale of the Little Blue Cooler

Today was one of those cold, gray days that are Mother Nature's way of telling you that winter is at hand. Snow was predicted (and as I type, it has actually come and appears to be staying), and the whole day felt like it was waiting. As for myself, I was layered up, hat on head, and headed out the door to my friends' place, Living the Dream Farm.

Khaiti and Andrew are this simply wonderful couple, and I am happy to say that since I met them this summer, they have decided that I am a friend. It's always nice to meet people who also like growing their own food, and who don't think I am insane for having a wee little farm in my backyard. Ahh, kindred spirits unite!

Anyway, today as Turkey Harvest Day (otherwise known as the Saturday Before Thanksgiving). One of the nicest things about buying a turkey from Khaiti and Andrew is that on-hand participation is strongly encouraged. So when the time comes for your turkey to fulfill it's destiny, you get to help with all parts of the process. Plus, the turkey is nice and happy and eating turkey nummies (in my girl's case, yummy black mud) right up until they get tucked into an old feed bag. It was rather ingenious actually--my bird got gently stuffed into a cosy recycled feedbag with her little neck sticking out, and I snuggled her for a bit until the throes of passage were over. (Yes, I know. And I hope you are all appreciating the euphemisms I am using. Death is a part of life, but some of you out there get a little squweed out when I start talking about how my dinner gets made. It really was a nice process--would be that everyone's purpose in life was so clear, and death be so calm...)

I learned today that plucking turkeys is sooooooooooo much easier than plucking chickens or ducks. Give me a turkey to pluck any day. I met some really nice folks too, who were all there gathering their turkeys. All in all, it was a really nice morning. But errands and duties called, so I had to pack up my little hen and head back home. (I made it just before the storm started.) My morning adventures were done, and now the main course for my Thanksgiving dinner is waiting in the little blue cooler, preparing to make a grand, butter-basted debut in full glory. This really is the way to celebrate a holiday based on thankfulness.

Here's to good friends, local food, family coming to share in a good meal, and honoring my once-a-year turkey. I hope your holiday is full of good things, too!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Packin' Heat

It was time. The stars had aligned, pay day was at hand, and I was headed to a gun shop. Before the day was out, I was going to be the owner of a weapon of mass destruction.
Well, sort of. I was on a mission to buy myself a bad-ass BB gun.
You could smell the testosterone before you even opened the door. The walls were lined with animal heads with freakishly shiny faux-eyeballs. Everyone seemed to be wearing some combination of flannel, Carharts, and ball caps (dear lord, it was my lumberjack fantasy come to life.....) Shelves lined with scopes, firearms, cases of bullets. There was a gynormous display of Old Dutch potato chips, side-by-side with a display of jerky. It was overwhelming. I think I now understand what men feel like when they accidentally wander into Bath & Body Works.
When I wandered in, there was a discussion going on consisting of how many points respective bucks had had in years past, and how badly the current speaker was stretching the truth. It took them a minute to notice that there was a girl in their midst, but then they saw me. All conversation stopped, and suddenly not only the glass eyes from the ceiling were staring at me. It was one of those somewhat-tense moments, where you wonder if you've fallen down the rabbit hole and perhaps running away might be the better option. (Thank god they were deer hunters, not cannibals, or I would really have started sweating.) Finally, the guy behind the counter cleared his throat and asked "Er...hem...can I help you with something ma'am?" So I explained I was looking for a BB gun. And some guy in the back near the corn stove piped up "Your boy going after some tiny deer, honey?" Har har har. (Did I mention I had conveniently forgotten that it is only three days before gun-deer season starts? Ooops.) I waited for the laughter to die down, and said calmly "Well, no, honey. I'm planning on shooting them myself." Snorts, har-de-har, whoooeeeee she gotcha, Bobbo! Oh funny lady that I am. I followed this up with "Actually, I'm raising rabbits and I thought I could kill them faster with a tiny bullet, rather than standing on their necks." Silence. From the back: "Uhhhh....really?" The male stares were suddenly a bit warmer. Apparently, in this neck of the woods, a woman who knows how to knock off her own dinner is an object of desire. Where is the singles dating site for that?!?
I found myself in the middle of a discussion of the merits of a classic Red Ryder BB gun (ala "you'll shoot your eye out") versus a high powered Gamo model. Both had their good points, and fan clubs on either side. What seemed to win the argument was a statement from a laconic farmer-type who finally broke into the fray with a story about how on the hunting channel, he saw a guy take down a wild boar with the Gamo model. And taking down a boar that is charging of course means that I'll be able to take down a bunny in a box. The vote was unanimous.
That's how I found myself walking out with a lovely box containing a pump action, super-scoped high powered BB gun, with some very nice gentlemen cheerily waving good-bye. I also have a lot of advice about how I can stalk chipmunks covertly living in rock pile sanctuaries and take down those crazy little squirrels that live in the tall tall trees, mocking all of us bipeds with their suspiciously expert climbing abilities.
Just wait until I wander back in for .22! I'd better still have both eyes....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lights On!

With the days growing colder and shorter, the chickens once again have simulated daylight. With the help of a 40 watt lightbulb screwed into a utility light and a timer, the girls will have an extra four hours of day added to their wintery evenings. If all goes according to plan, the light will click on at 3:30 PM and click off shortly after 7 PM. I'm contemplating adding warm cereal to their evening routine. I thought Cream of Wheat or hot oatmeal, but that seems a little excessive. Maybe I'll just round up a bag of mash at the feed store. Apparently, you add hot water and mix it up and there you have it, instant hot meal for the chickens. They seem a little thin to me, so I think adding a bit more meal to their day wouldn't be a bad thing with cold weather coming on. If the Almanac is correct, it's going to be a cold and snowy winter and the girls are going to need the extra calories.
In other news, I am once again celebrating the joys of having a handyman on call. While I was at work this afternoon, my rabbit barn got cleaned, plywood was nailed up over broken plexi-windows on the sunporch, and my two freezers were leveled which my handyman swears will keep the compressor from burning out. He's coming again to put plastic around the covered chicken run, once the wind dies down and the plastic sheeting won't take flight and sail off to Michigan. It is simply wonderous how many items got checked off my to-do list while I wasn't even at home. I wish I could say that I have been half as productive since I got home this afternoon....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Brighter Week

Life is amazing, how a couple of days can make a difference in your view of the world. This morning I woke up to the first snow: three inches of wet, white stuff that hardly stuck to the gravel and melted on the road. It was definitely snow, though, and while I am sure it means a long cold winter is ahead, I still get excited at the prospect of chilly days and deep-blue snow drifts.
Yesterday evening, I drove home in the most beautiful twilight that I have seen in a long time. The usual assortment of deer bounded in front of me, but I managed not to hit any of them. It's hunting season here, and the middle of rut, so the poor things are running from arrows AND panting after each other. Nature sure has a sense of humor....I love November evenings, where the combination of the quality of light and deep purpling skies blend to give lovely closure to a shortened, crisp day. Of course, November has a high proportion of grey skies and murk, so it makes a lovely evening even more noteworthy. I arrived home with enough light to do chores without my headlamp, and it had warmed up enought that the hose had unfrozen. It's nearly time to pack it away for the winter, and I am not looking forward to lugging buckets from the house to the outdoor livestock. The rabbits were happy to see me, as I've changed their feeding schedule to evenings and they looooooove their hay & kibble. Little Mama had a lovely surprise for me, with a litter of new, naked babies in a fur-filled nest. I think she had them just that morning, because they were incredibly small and very naked. Don't worry about the chilly temperatures! All the outdoor animals are loving the colder weather, and rabbits are most cheerful when it is fall-into-winter. Their permanent fur coats finally serve their purpose. Of course, Little Mama made it known that now she requires double rations. I think I'll pick up some kale for her at the market this afternoon on my way home from work. She's earned it, and I love to see her little pink eyes crinkle in bliss as she munches her greens.
More news from the farm soon. Yes, I know: I still need to post those Halloween pictures! Patience, my pretties. Patience!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rough Week into November

It's been one of those kind of weeks around here. Monday night, my pup Charlie passed away while he was at the vet's office. What we thought was a routine kidney infection morphed into something horrible, and poor Charlie just had to go. I miss him a heck of a lot...particularly his bounce when I'd come home at the end of a long day. He was the only dog who ever refused to not snuggle on the sofa with me, and he was a very jealous lover. It was nice to feel so desirable to somebody, even though he was a dog. He was my dog, and I love him. I was really lucky to find him...or be found by him, I think is more what actually happened. Anyway, enough sadness for one posting...

Halloween was a good night, even with sick dog woes and the usual work-week stresses. I had about 100 kids come, and all seemed to love diving into the "Cauldron of Candy". My favorite kid was Dr. Who, who got my fish fingers with custard joke. (It's a Dr. Who thing, you'd have to watch it to get it. And then you too will be a geek like me.) He was so excited, and shared his sonic screwdriver with me for a while. Pictures will come soon. They're still on my camera, which is somewhere in the mess formerly known as my house. The cats are eyeing my witch's hat trimmed with feathery festoonage, so I'd better get cleaning sometime soon--or I'll have no costume for next year. I still have 40-odd pumpkins in the yard, which hopefully someone will want for animal feed or compost or something. I'll put some in my compost heap, but I surely don't need 40 of them. Somehow I think that would throw off the mixture a tad...

This weekend, I am hoping for decent weather so I can pick up after Halloween, tidy the gardens for winter, and put out my Pilgrim People. Yes, I do decorate for Thanksgiving, that no-mans-land holiday that seems to get swallowed into Christmas. And no, I don't use a giant inflatable turkey to mark the day. Somewhere in here is likely a picture of my bad ass homemade decorations, but I'll post them again when they are up and lit. Simple and chic, that's how we roll with T-Day around here. Anyway, I am looking forward to cleaning a bit and reclaiming my yard. Potentially I may get to enjoy the decadence of sleeping in. With time change happening Saturday night, I really need to take advantage of that extra hour. If the stars align just right, maybe I will take care of rabbit butchering too--I'll post edited pics of that adventure, for all you wanna-be rabbit farmers out there. I just need to round up a nice BB gun first...