Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A year on the farm (almost)

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the day we bought the farm. One year ago we were ecstatic, freaked out, a bit overwhelmed, and super excited. One year ago, I was packing and packing and doing more packing. One year ago I was looking through hatchery catalogs looking to see what kinds of chickens I wanted.

So how'd the year go?

We got the chicks on Feb 4, when they were three days old. We built a brooder area in my office and they lived there until we could  move them outside. Had to wait for the weather to warm up and for the chicken coop to be delivered. Now we have 13 hens, three roosters (one is a Wellsummer - he was my "free exotic chick with purchase"), and this October, we hatched out some chicks and while we started with 13; we are down to eight but they are a large healthy size now so they should make it through the winter with no worries.

In February, we bought four American Guinea hoglets - two males and two females. After about two or three weeks, we added two more males to the mix for friends of ours. By September, they were big enough to go to the butcher. While the meat is great, the sausages are tasty, the bacon was fantastic, this type of hog is more for lard than meat; going to try something different next year.

video

The garden beds did really well. I'm going to be expanding the garden to make it even bigger but this spring/summer all I could manage was two rows containing seven beds that were 8' long by 4' wide with 3' paths in between. We've had the hogs in a fenced kennel that we've been moving all over the area where the garden will be. They are rooting up all the grass, digging up, turning over, and fertilizing the soil. Should be perfect next spring.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thirteen Chicks

We're up to thirteen chicks now. Three of them are Welsummer and Buff Orpington mixes and right now, have buff bodies and dark stripes on their wings. Very cute! This one was born last week. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Makin' Bacon

Brined for two weeks and smoked over apple wood. 

Chicks!


We had six chicks hatch last week. Mama Buffy is taking excellent care of them. 

This is the first one that hatched. It looks like we have Buff Orpington chicks as well as at least one hybrid. That one has dark stripes on its head and back. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Critters

I was gonna post something snarky on Facebook about how a coyote was in my yard chasing my chickens and I ran out to have a meaningful dialogue about how he shouldn't be using his might over poor defenseless animals and perhaps he should think about moving to another area but he was blatantly ignoring my olive branch so I shot him.

Unfortunately, he ran off...with any luck, he won't be coming back.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Unexpected but wonderful!

I had a really wonderful surprise guest this week. On Mon or Tues, an unfamiliar car parked in my driveway. That's a big deal because my driveway is 4/10 a mile long. If you're parking, you mean to BE here. 

Turns out, it was an older African-American woman who had worked for the Words for 30 years. 

The Words sold this house in 1997. They were the last of seven generations who owned this place, starting in 1775.  So, even if 1997 was when she stopped working, that means she's known this house since around 1967. 

Of course I let her in! She told me all kinds of neat stuff like missing doors, stairs, apartments; there was a bathroom in my pantry area at one point.  

Her son was with her; he was a playmate of the Word's only son, David. He told me about sliding down the bannister and David's toys, riding dirt bikes in the woods, and hunting there too.

She asked if she could come back. I told her she had to bring pictures next time. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rodents

I'm somewhat annoyed by a FB "friend" who insists on commenting pushback shit. If you don't have anything nice to say, than don't say anything. Isn't that common knowledge?

I have a rodent problem on the farm. Woodchucks / groundhogs are eating out of the garden, pilfering chicken feed, getting a little too close to my chickens and Nigerian Dwarf goats, and digging tunnels all over, some are just too close to the house.

Apparently, I'm to try and humanely get them off my property. And take them where? To the animal shelter for them to gas and then send to a processing facility? Set them free in the woods and hope they don't find their way back?

They are nasty critters and seem like they have the balls;  if they got close enough, they wouldn't think twice about trying to bite one of my kids or my dogs. 

She throws out statements like "whatever your justification" (not "reason" because I'm apparently irrational) and "it's not my Khama" (I'm an atheist so whatever), and Buddha (again...) WTF?

These are big rats. Rats. RATS!

At least my shoot em, kill em, and throw in the woods method feeds some of the carrion birds around here. 

Been bad at blogging

We're getting at least a dozen eggs a day; thankfully we all like eggs. 
We've also been getting lots and lots of tomatoes. I've been harvesting a handful of green beans every day and a few each of two different types of peppers. 

Was thrilled to dig into the potato bed and pull out 6-7 of two types and various sizes. Nice haul, right?



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tomatoes

I have about 14 or 15 types of heirloom tomatoes growing in the garden. I think I'm going to pick up some canning jars and start preserving them. 

Can't wait to see multicolored jars of tomatoes :-)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tomatoes!

Lots of tomatoes are starting to ripen. So much that I was able to make a batch of chunky gazpacho using various heirloom tomatoes. Peppers are following close behind and the golden watermelon plants and cucumber plants are all starting to flower. Cabbages and cauliflower plants were all eaten by something so I'll try again for a fall crop.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Oklahoma City

Was able to go back to OKC for a visit this weekend. As short as a visit as it was, it feels and looks like we were gone for longer than three days. 

In three days, the Brussels sprouts were decimated by something. The cabbages too. The pigs managed to push the fencing up in sections and the chickens invited themselves in and helped themselves to some hog chow.  The backyard looks like an Amazonian jungle.  The dogs have shed all over my living room rug. The weeds in my garden have increased exponentially. 

I'm not going to go anywhere again for a long time.

But, I did find a little potato! I planted five types so I'm not sure what this is other than not red-skinned :-)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Blueberries

We have two types of blueberry bushes and right now, I'm getting a large cereal-bowls worth every other day. So I baked some naked pies. Also baked some pocket pies. Delicious! 


And the chickens like the blueberries too! 


We have eggs!

Found our first eggs this morning. After checking on and off for the past few weeks, I found 16 or so. Had to trash a few because they were dirty. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cows

We have tenants in our upper fenced pasture. 
They belong to the neighbor to our east. The previous owners had an agreement letting him graze his cattle since the land wasn't being used. 

I want steak out of this deal. There's a lot of yummy grass and clover saving him lots of money on feed. 

How best to approach that, I'm leaving  up to my husband. He's from OK and I'm from NJ; he's way more charming.

Garden beds

Last night I got two more beds planted with three different types of peppers. I threw a piece of wire fencing over the beds to deter the chickens. 
I also used my new Japanese gardening tools to weed the asparagus bed. I hope I didn't screw up the bed...I killed the leafy green fern bits that were supposed to grow til they died. Well, I guess I'll see what happens next spring. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Finally, spring is here...or wait, is it summer?

Managed to get all 14 types of tomatoes planted on Sunday night only to have a frost Monday night. I about cried this morning when I went out to water because I have lost about 1/4 of the plants I put in. I'm tempted to plant some seeds to replace the plants that died - especially since it looks like all the pink vernissage plants are all dead and most of the pink icicles are as well. Sigh.

I started digging out the second row of beds. It's going faster this time around, but it's been in the high 80s for the past two days so too hot during the afternoon for me to head out. Plus, I can't be out in the sun for very long. I'll be out there tonight digging out some more so I can get those 20 bags of compost out of the truck and into the beds. I still have three types of peppers, two types of cauliflower, two types of cabbage, and some brussels sprouts to plant outside AND I have to get the beet, carrots, beans, peas, melons, and pumpkin seeds planted. Meanwhile, the bed with the potatoes is doing wonderfully! I keep mounding the dirt up around the green leaves and the green leave keep growing higher! I hope there's lots of tuber action going on in there.

Outside today, I saw a deer running along the road across the street as I waited with the kids for the bus this morning. A little frog hop away from me near the little composter and a lizard hid from me under the house near the steps up to the porch. A rabbit ran past the garden out in the woods - they haven't found the garden yet. A bird built her nest on top of my propane tank inside the little gauge cover and I heard babies in there.

The hogs all haven't figured out how to use the waterer yet. This one (Bacon) has; which is why he looks so smug taking a dip in the water trough. It's funny but nasty at the same time. The water gets so gross and yet if they just would go on over to the waterer and nudge the flap that opens the water valve, they'd all have fresh water.

So I got some hog nipples; they are like the chicken nipples I picked up only much bigger! There's a farm swap on Sunday in Midlothian, VA and the man from whom I bought the first water barrel is going to be there. I'm going to get another barrel and use the nipples on this one. Hopefully the dumb hogs figure out how to get a drink.

Finished up in the kitchen finally! I got a piece of barn wood trimmed to fit and covered it with some poly. I love how it looks and the color picks up the counter. So much better than it was! The only thing left to do is paint the trim white; it's white already but it's old and crappy looking. I'll just use the paint I have leftover from painting the cabinets.


Finally, we have irises all over the farm - most are in shades of purple. We have dark, deep purple, and light lilac and lavender colors. There's even one that's white with dark purple edges but I have never seen an iris in this red color. It's so unusual and it matches my hair color. :-)


 

Monday, May 6, 2013

April showers bring more showers in May

It's been mostly miserably grey and damp for the past week and a half or so. Last week, I wasn't feeling well - mostly allergies with a cough and also was a bit depressed because of being sick and getting no sunshine. Whole week was mostly a right-off.

Did get the lawn mowed around the house in the short time between the rain showers. And planted potatoes that something dug up and around. There are some that are showing signs of green leaves growing, so I'm hopeful.

Went to my first farm swap this past Saturday in Glenn Allen, VA at Gilmanor Farm. I got some good advice, a big barrel to make a hog waterer, a rabbit pot pie, a jar of wine jelly, and some contacts for later down the road. I also met up with the woman from whom I bought the bacon seeds and she had picked up a fleece for me from another FaceBook farm friend. It's huge and fluffy and very soft. I can't wait to figure out how to make it into yarn.

The hog waterer building didn't go as planned - several adjustments later, I think the leaks are gone. Now it's getting the damn hogs to figure out how to use it! LOL One of the figured out to keep bumping it with his nose but the other ones were complaining so much that I just went ahead and filled up the trough so they could get a drink.

Sunday morning, Catherine and I went to my friend Valerie's place to check out her LaMancha goats. Originally I thought I wanted Nigerian pygmy goats but after talking to a man at the farm swap about how hard it was for him to milk them because they were so small, I got to thinking about the logistics of an Amazonian-proportioned woman trying to milk a little tiny goat. NaaaaaaahhhhhhH!~ LOL

So my friend said I should get the kinds that she has so of course I wanted to check them out. Catherine had so much fun playing with them. Two of them were copying her jumping around! It was too cute. She really wants goats and now that I've seen how Valerie keeps hers (uses chain link fence panels joined together so she can move the pen around and the goats sleep in igloo type dog houses), I convinced we don't have to set up a permanently fenced pasture for the goats but move them around so they can graze/mow the grass.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My husband and the hogs

Cam was out this weekend scratching the hogs behind their ears. Apparently Martha and William Howard Taft (WHT) both just LOVE to have their ears scratched. WTH loved it so much that he flopped down onto the ground onto his back and had Cam scratch his belly too! It was freaking hilarious to watch.
Martha is the one on the left; she has white front feet. I think that other hog is Abigail. The gilts are noticabley smaller than the barrows but Martha is getting chubby - if she keeps it up, she'll have a ground-dragging belly! :-)

Lots of yard work done this weekend but still no plants in the ground. Kind of grateful for that considering that we had a bit of a frost last night. I think we're safe now though and after I pick up some nitrogen, I'm going to plant some potatoes this week. I also have a ton of tomatoes to get moved out to the garden but I still need to get more beds made. I'll work on that tonight, after I get finished with my day job.

That is, if my elbows can take it.



 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Progress Report

I painted the kitchen! It's a very cheerful aquamarine-ish color named "Woodlawn Charm" which gives no indication of the color. It's on the National Register of Historic stuff and is a color from George Washington's neice's house. He bought her the house - apparently, she was like a daughter to him.

I tried to post pictures of the kitchen on FB but the color doesn't look right and frankly, the countertops have been rather messy with me moving things around so I could paint so when I'm finished with everything (still want to install two more upper cabinets flanking both sides of the window over the sink and install a glass mosiac tile backsplash. But so far, I'm LOVING the look.

The chickens seem to get bigger everytime I go outside. Yesterday, I rented a mega-huge ultra powerful tiller and got about 1/4 acre garden plot tilled up. They LOVED following behind me and snacking on all the bugs that were turned up! Tomorrow I'm going to start digging the beds and paths. Next I'll start moving the vegetable seedlings that are all over the house down into the garden.

I got some soil and compost in my cold frame boxes near the kitchen. I'm going to move some of the herbs and the lettuces in those as they are closer to the house. That way, if I want some herbs for cooking or some greens for a salad, I don't have to go all the way back to the garden.

I got in touch with the previous owner today and she called me. She told me there were pecan and peach trees, maybe an apple tree, and some blueberry bushes on the property. There were also like three dump-trucks worth of garbage and tires that they cleared off the property when they bought it. 200 tires? That's nuts. I'm glad they got rid of that much - we still have a bunch of stuff but in comparison, I'm very thankful.  I asked her about what they did to the house - she said there was only one bathroom (the master) so they added the one in the front entrance way under the stairs as well as the one off of Catherine's room. They also pulled up tons of orange shaggish carpeting and refinished the original hardwood underneath. I have beautiful floors throughout the house; again, another reason to be thankful. One of my neighbors told me that they also are the ones who put the siding on the house and the replacement windows...I'll find out more as I know her. I extended an invitation to come visit whenever she wanted. She said selling the house was a very hard decision because she loved the house so much and she was thrilled to know I love it too.

As I look out my office window (really, the sun room / breakfast nook area) out into my backyard, I can see my chickens pecking and scratching in the grass, and see my hogs rooting around in their pen. I can see at least a dozen type of birds that call this farm their home as well as honey bees, moles, and wasps. Overnight, the combination of warm weather and rain has started all the trees to start greening up and the grasses to grow.

I do love it here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Birds on the Farm

Since moving here, I have seen the following birds:
Turkey vultures - landed back behind the kitchen and was hopping around - I tried to shoo it away but it just hopped and hopped into the woods. I'm sure something ate it as I think it had a problem with its wing.
Hawks - several kinds just can't identify them from the house.
Doves - have seen them up closer to the road than to the house.
Red-headed Woodpeckers- can see and hear these guys around.
Crows - there are so many that one morning it seemed like it was Crow-mageddon. The squawks were heard up from the creek so loud with so many crows cawing that I was having a "The Birds" moment and ran back into the house.
Blue Jays - they are big and obnoxious but so pretty!
Eastern Bluebirds - one was caught trying to get into my bathroom. Was perched on the ledge when my husband managed to get a picture.
Carolina Chickadees - this one seems to hang out the most in the bushes.
Cardinals - males and females - we have some FAT red dudes hanging out here. They like the pig feed and will drink from their water trough.
Sparrows - they are so small and so colored as to appear as an undulating mass in the brown/green grass.

Snow Days from March 8

It snowed about 6 inches total around the house on Wednesday, March 6th. I was going to cuss the groundhog but really, what kind of person uses a groundhog to predict the weather? I might has well start throwing chicken bones and rune stones around.

School was closed for two days and had a late start this morning. It wasn't too bad because we never lost power and we have a decent sized house so people can avoid one another if need be. The twins actually played nicely together and Andrew played hide and seek and other games with them as well.

If it weren't for the PHI-redaction project from hell for work this week, it would have been just about perfect! :-)

Took some video of the pigs - they will be 8 weeks old on Sunday and they are getting bigger. They all travel together around their area. Although if you startle them, it always seems that three will go one way, and the fourth will go the opposite direction and then look back as if to say "Aw dang it, GUYS?!" 

I have two rubber feed dishes for them to share - I had to get something small enough for them to reach into but tough enough for them not to destroy. Three of them were fighting over one dish while Martha, the smallest, was happily and quietly eating from the other dish, enjoying it all to herself! LOL


 

Random Stuff

Done this week: I built a handrail for the stairs that lead from my office to outside. The home owner's insurance policy is going to be cancelled if we didn't get that and a missing brick repaired on one of the defunct chimneys before the end of the month. I FREAKED out because they sent us a refund of the balance before the policy was supposed to end. So how fun is it going to be to have to get that check deposited so I can pay them again? Yeah not because my closest bank branch is like 50 miles from here. Joy.

Also had the oldest son build me some cold boxes. We used extra lumber lying around the property again and I had taken the 9-paned windows from the rent house for this reason so all I had new were the nails. My design, his labor. He built those while I fixed the handrail.

Recently finished painting the kitchen cabinets. After I put in a new counter, sink, and faucet, I had to do something about the god-awful ugly cabinets. They were painted a baby-shit green with a pearl or metallic glaze?

Like shiny baby shit is a pretty color?

In addition to painting, I popped off the rounded molding detail attached to the faces of the doors and drawers (you can see where they used to be in the picture), filled the nail holes with some putty, sanded, painted, sanded, and painted them bright gloss white and found beautiful coke-bottle green glass reproduction depression glass knobs. Now I'm going to paint the walls a tame aquamarine.

I have seedlings all over the house now - cabbages, cauliflowers, peppers, tomatoes (14 kinds), lettuces, herbs, and onions. I'm trying to get a price to get someone to bring in a dump truck of top soil and some compost (if I can) so I can get the raised beds built. I don't have enough space in the cold boxes for all the plants I'm currently growing. And I have more still to plant but need to wait til their times... :-)

We had snow today, yes the second day of spring was heralded with about a half inch of snow. My middle child grumbled the entire morning. Truth is, the school district has had two-hour delays with less on the ground and this morning I was very surprised that I wasn't woken at 5am ish with call from the school district. The bus driver showed up on time as the roads were clear - another reason the middle child grumbled. He saw the clear road and realized that there would be no turning around.

Since last I wrote I pulled boy twin from school. They were under-programmed to deal with his sensory processing disorder and ridiculous intelligence. It worked fine at first because he was put in a special ed (and these kids were true "speds") class where he was doing nothing. Then he was tested for reading placement and the main special education teacher discovered he was reading with comprehension at the 6th grade reading level. So then they tried to mainstream him and all hell broke loose. As the principal put it, "The honeymoon is over." All his negative behaviors started manifesting - hitting his head, running, screaming, and threatening other people (in this one, he was within his rights - there was one little "extra" sped-ish kid who would just sit and STARE at James - for a kid with sensory issues, that is a giant freaking NO NO and she did deserve a smack up side the head but I never said that to him). So, he's being homeschooled now. He does some math on the iPad, and some handout work that I've found but I think I'm going with the unschool method for him. Normal learning environments don't work for him....the challenge for me is to keep him challenged without frustrating him because he's wicked smart and he's a giant sandy butthole with anger issues at times. I need to find him a social skills class but being out in the middle of bumfuck VA doesn't lend itself to that sort of social situation. He hates writing BUT he will happily take dictation when I need to create lists. He doesn't want to read UNLESS I find subjects that interest him (like ancient China did recently). He doesn't like people much but does like the one boy who's his age and lives right at the end of our driveway so I'll let him invite neighbor boy over whenever he wants to play games and have snacks. I think I'm going to sign us both up for a yoga class in Yogaville. I think I need the exercise and the adult interaction and he could use some grounding in his own body and some techniques for self-calming.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dinner time with the pigs

Two dinner dishes and three of them are fighting over one. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the fighers, Martha, the littlest, is happily and quietly eating all alone.
 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Piggies!

We picked up our four American Guinea hogs on Saturday. And built them a pretty nice run-in shed.

When we went to check on them before bedtime, they were all snuggled up together, buried in the hay. Today when I got home, they were all hanging around near the feed bin. So I took some feed out to them but they all skeedaddled when they saw me.

Tomorrow I have to expand the brooder box. I'm going to make it the size of the screen I found to serve as a cover.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Kitchen Renovations

To say the kitchen in the farm house was crappy when we moved in in an understatement. The faucet was leaking and it had been for such a long time, that the laminate counter top was crumbling apart in places. The sink was okay but nothing special and there is insufficient storage for all the kitchen equipment and gadgets I own.

First thing to do was buy some shelving. We got two chrome storage shelves from Lowes that hold about 350 pounds per shelf. I ordered a stainless steel prep table from a restaurant supply store to use as my island. This week, we removed the old counter and sink and put in new.
This is the before sink. You can see the chips along the edges of the counter where the dishwasher is. The counter is an odd dark green with a stainless sink.

This is underneath the counter. I put 1x3 pine boards along the front and back edges for extra support for the cast iron sink AND it puts the counter a little higher for me. I'm 5'11"; better fit. I added cross braces from front to back as additional support. The sink is REALLY HEAVY!
 This is the sink template. Was a pretty easy cut with a jig saw.
 

Sink hole cut out; was very proud of myself because I didn't have to make any adjustments to the cut. I did however have to trim the pine board supports underneath it along the front edge.





Counter, sink, and faucet in place. No leaks!
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Grey day...

Not sure why I got to wake up with a headache this morning. Was in bed before 11 last night; may have been the fergocking dog barking at 5:30 this morning that helped it along. What was Barney thinking? That's an hour earlier than I needed to be up.

Argh.

So the good mood spread all over this morning and James was a sandy butthole. Complains he doesn't want to go to school and then when I explained that he only had to go to school for three days this week, he complained about that too! LOL can't win with this kid sometimes. The reason he only has a three-day week? Because of his behaviors last week, he's not allowed to go on the field trip on Friday so instead, I'm keeping him home and we'll go by ourselves and wave to his classmates as we pass them in the halls.

It's crappy and overcast, grey and not very pleasant out there this morning. I need to get to the dump (blech) and to the hardware store. I have to pick up a few 2x4s this morning so we can install the cast iron sink. I'm fairly certain that the counter, being brand new, would hold up the weight of the sink, but I'm also a little doubtful so I want to shore up the counter with a little support system of 2x4s. Then tomorrow, when it's supposed to be nicer outside, we need to clear out the pigpen and build a little shed for the hogs. The Amercian Guinea hogs (four of them - two females/two barrows) will be coming here over the weekend.

Harrison has been working on the label for the pickles. Andrew wants in on the act too so his dad has him working on a graphic for something else.

It was so quiet in here a little while ago, I was worried about the chicks. Turned out they were all just chilling out but it's funny how used to a sound you get and when it's gone, it's odd. It'll be weird to NOT have the chicks in the house once they get bigger. Right now, they are almost 3 weeks old, are getting tail feathers and combs, and are trying to fly out of the box still! LOL I did find a window screen that I can use to cover the brooder box. That way, they'll get the warmth from the heat lamp and air but won't be able to escape.

 

Monday, February 11, 2013

American Guinea Hogs

Originally we planned on getting two female American Guinea hogs so we can breed them and use their offspring for meat. But that plan wasn't going to work for about a year or so since we're getting 4-6 week old piglets. New plan is to get two castrated males along with the girls so A) everyone is a little happier moving in a larger group; and B) we can eat the boys come fall. :-)

Girls will be named Martha and Abigail (after the first two First Ladies) and the boys will be named Bacon and Banaster (it's an American revolution name reference from my husband).

When I put the deposit down, I thought I'd have more time to get ready! Initially they were to be weaned and ready for their new homes the first week of March but now it looks as though they'll be ready sooner. And thus we must be ready sooner as well. We have the fenced in section, we just need to go over the ground with fine-toothed comb to ensure there's nothing that can harm the piglets in that space. I need to cover the gate with some hardware cloth so they can't escape through the bars, and I have to build a shelter. We have enough scraps lying around that we can build a pretty nice little run in shed. I'll get that started this week.

Still have to place my order for the lumber to build the chicken coop and I swear the chicks are twice as big as they were only one week ago. They are flapping their little wings and running across their little box brooder. I think I'll be adding some length onto that and moving it to a more spacious location in my office :-) I say "office" like I have an actual office; in reality what I have is an old kitchen table sitting in the corner of the breakfast nook. I get lots of natural light and a beautiful view of my back "yard."

I have the lumber list written up based on using 2x4's for the floor; but I think I'm going to adjust that and use 2x6s for the floor for additional strength. I'll be going in and out and I want to make sure I don't fall through the floor. LOL

Friday, February 8, 2013

Chickens and Coops

Well we had one chick die this morning. It was a runt and hadn't been doing well. Unfortunately, it was Catherine's.

I wasn't going to say anything to her but I realized we're farm girls now and have to put our big girl panties on and face the death of a farm animal


Catherine cried a little bit. But I explained that we talked about how small it was and that sometimes it's better that an animal who is sickly or not doing well die rather can continue to live a not-so-good life. She understood...and then picked out another chick which we dotted with a brown spot on its head.

It might be the first death but it won't be the last.

RIP Chicketti.


The remaining 30 chicks are doing very well. The whole "pasty-butt" thing is an on-going hygiene issue. Anyone who's got dried matter on its backside is picked up and sponged off.

There's lots of hand washing going on here.

The kids love picking up the chicks and talking to them. The rule is to wash hands before and after. We don't want to give the chicks any funky germs and vice versa. I do want the kids to be comfortable with handling the chickens at the various stages of their development and I want the chickens to get acclimated to being handled.

I've drawn up plans for the chicken coop. I think it's going to turn out well. It's basically a box with a pent roof so I don't have to deal with gables and too many wood cuts. I've got a door on site that I can reuse as well as a few windows to let in light. We'll add some vents up near the roof line to help with circulation. The coop will be situation on cinder blocks up off the ground and I'll probably have to shore up the underside with some 1/2 x 1/2 inch hardware cloth to keep out all sizes of predators.


I've decided that the coop will be situated near the garden so that the chickens can help with bug control. I realize that there are some sections of the garden that I'll have to protect with chicken wire or other boundaries to keep the chickens from eating the vegetables or ruining the beds, but they will certainly enjoy scratching in the paths between the raised garden beds.

 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chicks!

The chicks arrived this morning. Was hanging out in my pajamas (since Dad was home over the weekend he took the kids up to the bus stop this morning on his way back to his office) when the post office called. Jumped up, got dressed, turned on the heat lamps, and filled the waterers and headed to the post office.

I could hear their little peeps as soon as I walked in the door. Wearing my black overcoat and giant black sheepskin hat, I probably looked a sight, but I was too busy smiling like  dork over the fact that my chicks arrived.

Took them home, and opened the box, and everyone made it! No one seems unwell, all are good sized, and no one had pasty butt or any other issues. As I took each chick out of the box, I dipped its beak in the water dish so they'd get a taste for a drink. For the moment, they have the equivalent of gatorade in their water bottles. They are finding their water and feed with no problems. Right now, they are all huddled up under the lamp, peeping away happily. Or at least I think they sound happy. They don't sound UN-happy! :-)

This little girl/boy is the "exotic" chick that the hatchery (Murray McMurray) gave as a free gift for getting 30 Buff Orpingtons (I got 5 boys and 25 girls).


I did have a "oh crap what have I gotten myself into) moment a few minutes ago. But I'm good now. I'm a farmer. :-)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crazy weather and ladybugs

I'm sure most people see ladybugs and smile nicely. I used to.

Freaking things live all over my house. They must have moved in when the previous people moved out. Yesterday, it was super weirdly warm here (in VA it shouldn't be 73 in January) and one of the windows in the family was literally coated with ladybugs! Thank goodness they were between the screen and the window and were technically not in the house but I'm so sick of finding their little red bodies everywhere.

At least they make a satisfying crunch sound when you step on them. Yes, I know - gardens need them. But there are so many of the little f*ckers, I doubt I'll run out before spring.

I hate my work computer. It's slow as shit, constantly boots me off the VPN, and is running out of space. So I put in a requisition for a new laptop from work.

First one they send me doesn't work. At all. Won't turn on. Finally get a reaction just to discover the battery is shit. A laptop with a shit battery is useless.

So I get a second one - one without ANY PERTINENT to my job software installed. NOT EVEN THE VPN software. So not only can I NOT do my job with it, I can't get it updated at the corporate website because I cannot connect.

 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gloomy, dreary, and sometimes scary

In hindsight, perhaps buying a farm in December wasn't such a great idea.

When we moved here, the first few days were nice and sunny; now however is a completely different story. Winter has certainly arrived with dreary weather and grey days. It's hard to get motivated to get out when it's raining and craptastic. Hard to envision what I want to do with the yard and the land. And really hard to stay happy and positive when I feel like I'm being cried on.

Back to house stuff.

I managed to finally fix the hot water heater. The first step of the fix was to drain the tank. It's a 50-gallon tank so it took a while. The primary problem was the hot water heater is under the house in a crawl space/old cellar. Couldn't run a garden house up and out because of that pesky gravity so I had to fill up buckets and haul them out myself.

Once I got all the water out, then I was able to change out the upper and lower heating elements. Better to fix them both than have to do this again even though I know it was the lower element.

But that didn't fix the problem. When I ran the water, it would be hot for about 12 minutes, and then just cool off.

Dang.

So, googled more information about hot water heaters and the information I found seemed to indicate that the problem was with the thermostats. So off to the hardware store again - this time I tried the other store on the other side of town. Picked up the upper and lower thermostats and managed to replace them both in about 20 minutes. Easy enough.

Gave it an hour and tried filling the tub again. I set a timer for 15 minutes and when I came back the water was STILL nice and hot. Probably a little too hot - I need to go back and adjust the temperature down a bit so no one gets burned and I don't screw up the pipes but we're all very happy we can take hot showers and baths now.

Newest problem is a leak in the office area. The ceiling had some damage which we noticed during the inspection, but the area tested dry. Of course it did - it hadn't been raining for three days when we came to do the inspection. It's a small leak and I think it's where the roof of the office addition meets the wall of the house. I got some of that spray on rubber leak stuff. When it stops raining, I'll climb up on the roof and get that covered.

Also have to make some repairs according to the home owners insurance people. There's a brick missing in one of the chimneys (which we can't use anyway but whatever right?) and some repairs to a set of stairs (top step was replaced  with plywood - hello stupid idea) and there's no handrail but those I can do. Climbing up on a slate roof to fix a missing brick? Not me.

We need to find someone to help us chop down some trees. The scary Locust trees, while they all look dead, are covered with an odd green moss and are starting to grow small branches that have REALLY BIG SPIKES/THORNS! I've never seen a tree like these...

Perhaps they were planted to keep invaders at bay?

Regardless, they are too big, too broken looking, and too close to the house. They have to go

This weekend I need to head up back to the old house. I need to pack up as much of the garage as I possibly can fit into the back of the truck and I have to do it without getting stuck in any snow. I think the weather advisory was changed and the snow is more likely to hit further west of us so that's good. I don't think anything in the garage will be harmed by being rained on but I just don't want to have to do all the packing in the rain. Joy.

 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Catherine and the Terrible Day

Catherine has a dilemna. When I asked her about her day at school yesterday as we walked home from the bus, she said it was "kind of terrible."

Of course, I was concerned - "terrible? What made your day terrible" I asked her.

My little social butterfly is frustrated by this ONE girl who seems to have attached herself as Catherine's new best buddy. And Catherine wants to reach out and make other friends (she's got her eye on this other little girl that seems "cool" - lol ) and this new friend is blocking her efforts to reach out to others.
...
I'm trying not to laugh out loud because this is serious for her...and I'm not one for making friends easily so I'm not sure how to help.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Cabin

We have a cute little cabin on the property. When we first came to see the house, the caretaker told us it was the "slaves' quarters." However, I think it more likely that it was the kitchen at some point in history. The fireplace in this is really large in comparison to the size of the cabin. I think that perhaps the kitchen slaves may have slept on the second level above the kitchen.
See the door there, there's a marble stoop at the entrance.

I had a look at it this weekend and was really surprised to see such nice thick marble out in the boonies. Then I looked closer, and one end was rounded while the other end was flat and I thought "oh uh."

So I flipped it over.

And what I thought was correct. However, we did some more research in the old cemetary and this man is listed on the headstone with his wife, who died in 1972. So I don't feel too bad now about the fact that this has been a stoop for so many years.

weird huh?


 

Friday, January 4, 2013

First day of school for all three

Yesterday was supposed to be the first day at their new schools for my three children. They are 7, 7, and 12. The twins C and J are in the second grade. A is in the 7th grade. So yesterday morning we rose bright and early (early being relative because at his last school, A had to leave for the bus 10 minutes before he now has to get out of bed), and headed to the middle school.

The middle school asked for the enrollment package and I had nothing. The secretary called the board of education's office and was told that the Selfridge family's paperwork was there. So over to the school board office - it's a mile away so no big deal.

Big deal - they only had C's paperwork prepared. I think that A and J's schools waited until the last day of school before winter break to fax the paperwork over. The problem with that was while it was Fairfax county's last day of school, Buckingham county had been dismissed for winter break three days earlier; Tuesday was the last day before break.

I called the schools, the paperwork was refaxed and by the time I finished getting C settled in her class, filled out more school-specific paperwork, and got back home, the paperwork was ready. There was an additional stop at the municipal building because I have to get a county sticker in order to take trash to the dump and probably pay a property tax (we had that in FFX county and it sucked - more taxes to pay on a car for which you already paid the taxes when it was purchased. Giant rip off.)

The car is in my husband's name  as he bought it when my mini-van broke down on the way to our beach vacation in August. He hadn't updated his address at the DMV website and so we don't really live here yet according to the county. I guess that''s fair considering our first mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance) isn't due til February. Long story longer? No sticker, trash piling up outside in cans and cardboard boxes (empty) lined up by size in piles on the porch.

C had a great first day - she made four friends. She couldn't remember one of her new friends' names, but the girl said her nickname was "Chicken...so I'm just going to call her that." I had to giggle. She had people fight over who sat  next to her at lunch, and I'm pretty sure her math homework was something they covered a little while ago at her old school. She'll be in charge within the month.

This morning, all three kids had breakfast, headed to the truck and we sat at the top of the driveway, and waited for the bus. We were given an approximate time because the bus driver was trying to figure out where we were on the highway - 7:20a.m. Good guess because she got there at 7:32a.m. ALL grade levels get picked up on various routes and go to the primary/elementary school campus, the middle school, and the high school. So C and A took the bus in today and I drove J in so we could finish his paperwork.

J has an IEP (individual education plan) because he has sort of a learning disability. He has sensory integration dysfunction syndrome (SIDS). Because of this, a normal classroom situation of 20-something kids is too much. He needs to move around and he's got a temper with still developing social skills. He's sweet when he wants to be and in reading, read 20/20 on a fourth grade reading level. He's got insane reasoning skills and a wicked sense of humor. He can be sarcastic like his mother, and he thinks outside of the box. He enjoys drawing himself as a comic book hero - something out of Roblox (?). At his new school, he'll be mainstreamed for things like lunch, art, recess, and gym and be in the smaller class size for the academics. Less stress with less people.

When I left J this morning, he did really well. I thought I saw him go a little bright pink at one point when he got a little scared but he worked it out and I reminded him to use his coping skills, take deep breathes, ask for time out breaks, and "keep cool." When I left, children were still arriving, but I only saw seven or eight cubbies. Nice size room. Beautiful new school with lots of spaces for the kids to hang out, little caves for reading, kinetic chairs - it's perfect for a kid like J.

So here I sit and write after working today - both at my job as a technical editor for HP and unpacking and organizing the house. The kids were set to load onto the buses 10 minutes ago so I think I'll head down my 3/10 of a mile driveway and see how their days were.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chick Kit!

Starter Kit
My Murray McMurry chick starter kit arrived today! The chicks (25 female and five male buff orpingtons and a surprise exotic) are set to arrive between February 4 and 6th.

Gotta start that chicken coop! It's okay though because in the interim, they'll be living in my breakfast nook/office area.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Front hall light, long view

Just to show the scale. The lamp shade is 20- inches across/diameter.

Front hall light

Leaded stained glass. Beautiful.

Front door bell

This is really neat. It's a door bell that is operated by turning a key-like tab outside. The turning turns the clapper around, striking the bell. Sadly, it's not working. But I'm pretty mechanical.

Front door knob

Beautiful isn't it ? Thankfully there is modern deadbolt above.

Inside of the "slaves' quarters"

Inside view of the outbuilding. Finding lots of useful left behind things - another heat lamp for the chicks, a hammer, many tools, electric fencing stuff, and some scrap wood.

Pictures 3

What was described as the slaves' quarters but what I think was the kitchen at one point. The property did have slaves at one point and it was a tobacco plantation at that time. It would make sense that this separate house would be the kitchen because of the proximity to the main house and the size of the fireplace.

I think the kitchen slaves slept above the room in a small loft.

Pictures 2

View from my desk, left.

Pictures

First one is the view facing forward from my desk.