Quantcast

Archive for the 'Rural Living' Category

Captain Jack the Australorp Rooster

September 24th, 2010

Have you ever had a rooster?  They really have a certain charm and liveliness that gives character to their home environment.  Perhaps a little noisy at times.  Maybe really early times at that.   ‘Ole Captain Jack is quite the jaunty fellow…  as I write this he’s announcing the morning inside the coop.  When I open the door he’ll continue his pronouncements for a bit.  He even likes to crow when we come home…

He does his job well, looking out for the hens, and making sure they get the best treats first.  He looks at me funny now and then, but doesn’t seem to mind being picked up at times.  I’ve read that Australorp roosters can be fairly gentle compared to others.  I’m glad for that, and hope he stays this way.  It seems he grows a little more handsome every day :)

 

Poke Salad Annie

September 9th, 2010

Beautiful mornings with cooler temperatures. The days are becoming noticeably shorter, and the light just changes somehow. I love how the sun is lower in the sky, especially in the afternoons. Light filters through the trees and reflects off the pond in different ways, shimmering as the wind drifts across the water…

 The nights over the past week have been interesting too.  I’ve seen glow worms in the grass… I know, most people say, “Glow worms? There’s no such thing!” Ah but there is.   Really they are just firefly larvae, but most people have never seen them.

When you walk along at night, with dew on the grass at this time of year, you think you may be seeing things.  As you walk along you begin to notice little sparkles of light, almost like the stars above, yet twinkling all around you.   It’s natural magic I tell you…

As I write early this morning, Captain Jack is outside crowing like a banshee.  Or, um, a rooster I suppose.  Good thing we live a few hundred yards from our neighbors! If I listen carefully, there’s another rooster crowing a good distance to the south, so maybe he’s just keeping up appearances :)

I have to say the eggs these little birds give us each day are really wonderful.  I’m officially spoiled now with having fresh eggs and store bought cartons will never seem the same.  So in the name of enjoying such bounty, I’ve decided to encourage the girls to continue laying this winter by adding a little artificial light.

There’s a host of passions on the issue, but honestly the chickens I have are bred to be decent winter layers anyway. But I realized an extension cord into the nearby shed would be too simple, and perhaps it will give the girls a little extra heat in the winter. I’ll keep the light going for a few extra hours each evening, and that should be just enough to keep their egg production going well. I have to admit I also like the idea of the chickens earning their keep!

So the cool thing about how the coop fits together with the shed is that the window in the shed serves as both the “feeder door” and as a window for the light to shine through.    I put the food into a 30 gallon galvanized can to minimize the mice or other critters getting to it. When it’s time to feed (which seems to be all too frequently lately!), we just scoop it up and reach through the window to their feeder.

Makes it so much simpler, and I’m soooo glad I built it there.  Between the shed and the nest box door outside the coop, we don’t have to go inside the run and coop itself very often.   Of course if all the hens laid their eggs in the nest boxes, we’d only have to go in the coop every few days to change water.   There’s a couple of hold outs…  those hens seem to lay their eggs wherever the mood strikes them!

The light works well enough, although I may run it into the coop this winter to provide a little extra heat.  Or maybe the inherent heat within the shed will help keep the coop warm.  Either way most of the walls are insulated, and when I figure out what to put over the screen windows the chickens should be fine.

Otherwise it’s time to clean up around here.   I’ve been battling weeds and grass, and thinking of preparing for winter.  Summer’s done gone…   The cycle begins again it seems.   I did come across an interesting plant, way up high in a dead tree.    This snag has been around for a long time, and this year a Pokeweed plant (Phytolacca americana) decided to grow about halfway up on the right side…

Have you ever had poke salat ?    Lots of folks in the south have made it a staple, at least in the older days.   I tried it last year, not bad… if you like cooked greens.   When the little head and shoots are coming up around 6 inches in the spring, you just cut them off at ground level.

Then you boil the heck of them (two or three times is a good idea) and maybe saute them like spinach with butter or garlic and olive oil.  Pretty tasty, although I was a little hesitant because just about the entire plant is poisonous!   You can’t eat the plant or the berries in their mature form at all.

But if you never ate it before… then maybe you’ve heard the song.   Remember Tony Joe White’s Poke Salad Annie?   Here’s a grand ‘ole duet with Tony on the Johnny Cash Show from April, 1970… think I was in third or fourth grade, somewhere between California and New Jersey…



That’s just plain good stuff…

 

Late August Days

August 27th, 2010

Where has the time gone this week!? Between back to school and priorities at home, I have not written a single word… I think it’s time to start a few of those “wordless” photograph days :)

It has been a beautiful, dry week with cooler temperatures. To provide a little emphasis to his “back to school” week, the boy was stung by a wasp last Monday. Yeeouch! It was a doozy… and after a couple of days of itchy red swelling, his foot is nearly back to normal but very bruised and purple-red looking. Wasp stings can be very unpleasant, moreso than a bee sting. When I am stung it’s usually just a little red and itchy and some swelling for a day or so.

But wasp stings last longer and seem to bruise more. I’m trying never to take the bees for granted either… I found myself running out in a t-shirt and shorts “just to check” on the hives a time or two this year.   Big mistake… although I was never stung severely, the bees let me know that a good veil, protective suit and a smoker can really help keep things under control.   Sometimes however, the bees go crazy for no apparent reason…  I’m glad Warren is okay, and hopefully I will never have that experience!

Speaking of going crazy, I let the chickens have the run of the garden this afternoon and they were simply nuts! They ran everywhere chomping veggies and weeds, chasing bugs and diggling little holes to wiggle into and squirm all around. I never knew chickens liked to lay on their backs! This one was too funny…  a red hybrid upside down next to a Barred Rock.

After a while she leaped up like she had forgotten herself and shook all her feathers.  We can’t complain about their oddities… they’re laying about 6 eggs per day now, either in or near the nest boxes.    

Of course the boy had to go around petting and picking them up.    He managed to pick up none other than Captain Jack all dressed in black.   Jack is five months old now.  Funny, the kiddo has that pirate wink thing going on because of the sunlight.

The good ‘ole Captain runs the show around here… even the New Hampshire Red rooster takes second fiddle to the Captain. I’ll have to get a good picture of him, but when he puffs out all his feathers he puts on quite a sight! He’s got quite the crowing call as well. He put up with the boy’s attentions and I fed him a little scratch while he held him. Jack ate the scratch grudgingly, pecking my hand with a little extra fervor.

Saw this critter cruising along the shoreline of the pond the other day.  I’ve only seen the non-poisonous variety of snakes around here, but it’s enough to give you pause if you were thinking about swimming!

*******

I also took a day this week to drive down to Arkansas and attend a memorial for the father of a family friend.   His son is a good friend of my brother who is serving in Afghanistan right now, and the gentleman was a navy veteran.  So it was a privilege to put on the uniform and attend, and especially to meet his family and friends.   They hail from south of a  small town, back in the rugged Ozark mountains.  

It was a beautiful afternoon.    There was a small military contingent presenting a flag, and a bugle player.  Driving home late that night promoted much reflection, and as events of that nature tend to do, put many things in perspective.  This good man’s sons and grandsons helped to bury his remains, completing a circle that we often don’t consider until later in our own lives.   

I’ll write a bit more later…  summer is quickly winding down and the garden is a mess.  I should think about planting some peas or something, but my jar of garden motivation seems to be missing right now :)   I hope you have a great weekend.



Fair Days in Iowa

August 18th, 2010

Well… This morning we entered the “land of rain” or, as Ed and the signs fondly proclaim… Iowa. I’ve read how this is such a wet year here, but wasn’t prepared to see miles of flooded fields.

We have traveled in a small camper these past two weeks, the boy, the dog and I. Now ensconced amid hundreds of other “mobile homes” this morning was a sea of mud, grass, fiberglass and aluminum while the rain poured down..

But we persevered! The Iowa State Fair is amazing in its size and scope. The boy even milked his first cow :) I love seeing all the livestock, and the ag exhibits. The 1300+ pound pumpkin won the blue ribbon.

The boy was tickled playing with that “old-fashioned” rotary phone… He was amazed we grew up that way dialing so slowly and tied to the cord… And here I am writing this from a tiny wireless device that can call anywhere.. My father would have laughed- he worked for Western Electric and the telephone industry for 34 years.

Several families walked around with “Century Farm” t-shirts, reaching that family milestone which is so impressive in this day and age.

I had my first “Beef Sundae” (think pulled beef on potatoes with gravy and cheese), and the boy other gastric oddities like a “Monkey Tail” or frozen banana dipped in chocolate.

We could see downtown Des Moines and the State Capitol from the skyway ride. The rain kept things cool… A nice day with a lesser crowd. Tomorrow we’ll have another go before heading home. Need to find that Dr. Suess butter exhibit!

I miss the north country already… But I’ll show better pictures later. That washing machine was all I figured out from my phone for the first time! Maybe we’ll find that Mexican restaurant too…

It’s classic summer fun… We had hoped but won’t see the poultry exhibits at the fair…they don’t start until after we leave. Maybe the goats tomorrow which I think are cool. But I hear our own little chicks are going on two dozen eggs!



Small Wonders and Big Smiles

August 4th, 2010

The other morning I awoke to a light fog… beautiful and mysterious. My hope soared that it would be a cool, cloudy day… but then I saw the blue sky through the mist- I knew the sun would be blazing.

It was very warm outside, and the humidity has reached so high that you start sweating as you stroll around the yard. Yesterday the temperature pushed a bit over 100 F… but there were cooler refuges in the house or basement thankfully.

Yesterday I finally finished the chicken nest boxes! I was mulling over various options- buying some online, or maybe using milk crates or something. I had this nagging feeling that I really needed to finish them because in a few weeks the chickens would be ready to lay eggs.

So with morning gusto and three cups of coffee I just dove in to what I’d been putting off, and started building something…. anything… boards flying everywhere, the circular saw zipping through wood (carefully!), and hammers sending nails flinging across the garage floor.

The boy helped hold things in place and gave his opinions… He doesn’t think he helps, but he does! He even put a few nails and screws in. I was on a roll, and scraps of osb (along with a few muttering sob’s), pieces of siding and 2×4’s came in handy.   Before lunch rolled around we came up with this:

I kind of like how it came out, at least I hope so for a chicken!  I’m not sure they’re deep enough, but it stands on four legs and we went out to put it in the coop.   Fit pretty well at the height I wanted for the outer door.  I fiddled around, moving the feeder to the middle of the coop and tweaking it a bit.   Ok… tweaking a lot!  That’s what happens when you’re going on instinct.  Maybe some plans would’ve been easier.   When I first started, I didn’t know there were sites like this one.  I would have used it to help with planning.
 

Build Your Own Chicken Coop

 
And back to our story, wouldn’t you know that after putting some pine-shaving bedding material in the next box, our little Brownie hen jumped right in there!  She seemed to like it…  I was surprised, because they say it’s a “learned experience” by the hens, but they also like private, dark little places.

I couldn’t resist adding a few golf balls to the nests to help the chickens get the right idea… they seemed quite interested and made funny little clucking sounds.    I walked outside to check the fit…

Looked pretty good, if not a bit silly with golf balls!  I’m still not sure the inside opening for the hens to get into the box is big enough, or if the nest is “deep” enough for them.   Then I thought “What if they don’t even use the nest boxes!”   Oh well.  Which probably will be true… they’ll lay eggs anywhere at times I’m sure.

It was a busy day though- and after the boy and I weeded the garden for a bit he kept peeking in the nest box door to see what was going on.   He found one of the red hybrid hens sitting in a nest and giggled.   It looked like another chicken or two had been poking in the boxes but we weren’t sure.   Later that afternoon the boy wanted to “go check for eggs” again (for the umpteeth time)… so there we go.

Guess what we found?

The boy opened the nest box door… and his eyes grew wide and we both stared… he was speechless! I was speechless!  Then he said, “Daddy look! It’s an egg!”

Yep.  Would you believe that in a few hours after I put the nest boxes in that coop that a chicken laid a magical, beautiful, hard little egg right in that middle nest box?!?!?!    Our first egg! I couldn’t believe it.  And it was a “shack”… bombing lingo for a bullseye.   I  looked around to see if the Easter Bunny was hiding in the bushes.

We took it in the house and marveled with excitement… our first egg!  So then of course we thought we better look for more… he had to call his Memaw too, and while she was on the phone, lo and behold he found another egg inside the coop on the floor!  “Okay ladies, who missed the nest boxes!?”

Well, maybe a good omen that our first egg ended up in the nest box?  I hope so… I’d rather not rummage around the coop.  The boy loves it for now- and I hope it lasts.   I’d sure love to keep watching an automatic-egg-gatherer in action :)

Two eggs on the very day I put the nest boxes in.   I love it when a plan comes together, and maybe that nagging feeling paid off…  or those golf balls worked really well!  Or maybe the girls just humored me.   ‘Course we haven’t had any other eggs in the past day or so, but the chickens are only going on 17 weeks now. A few weeks more and they should really start laying.

They seem to enjoy their coop and run.   I haven’t let them out running around as much lately, but each day we throw in weeds, grass and a mix of scratch with corn and millet.  They seem to be just fine- even with the heat.  They seek the shade, and stay in the coop until the afternoon shades the front a bit more.   After they get in a strong routine of laying eggs, I’ll let them outside more often.   We still have that extra rooster if you’re looking for one… :)

Yesterday morning I had the cutest, tiny poached egg… and the boy had one scrambled. Pretty darn good. Not a very good fiscal return on the money invested, but hey it’s a lifetime of lessons, right?  I’d say that’s a better return than anything else.

That’s the big news around here…  small wonders and big smiles.   I need a few more of those in my life :)

*******

After this week’s heat, I’m going to take a blogging break and spend a week or two roaming with the boy, perhaps up north (that’s why we had to get those nest boxes finished!).   Maybe we’ll up towards Michigan where the nights are cool… I’ll check in a time or two and wrote a couple posts that will publish automatically, but I hope everyone can find a little cool refuge this month too!

Next »