The Children, The Chicken, And The Chores

It has been awhile since I have written anything on our farm animals or gardening or anything of that sort. Must of been the trauma of losing our goat Ramsey. Ha! That’d be a lie. Truthfully things have been pretty low key around here. We managed to keep the majority of our chickens alive so I was ecstatic to say “nope” every time we came across baby chicks for sale. It only took purchasing like twenty five chicks to keep six alive. Practice makes perfect people. Six is plenty for us though as we can not eat enough eggs to keep up with the production here. I’ve given several dozen away and HAD to have an egg hunt just to make use of two dozen or so.

Wanna be my neighbor?

I want to take a moment though and introduce you to Tiny. Tiny was from last springs batch of chicks. Not sure if I wrote anything on the challenges of introducing old and new flocks but let’s just say, there will be blood. The chickens were mostly living in harmony when one day during a coop cleaning we set everything off kilter. An older hen, who my children innocently and ironically named Queen Bee, severely bullied Tiny and bloodied her up pretty bad. After getting her cleaned and assessing her wounds I was really hesitant to put her back with the flock so I stuck her with the ducks where she could recover. Well it’s been like six months and according to the girls the ducks, Sunny and Webster, have adopted her. Tiny is truly a free range chicken and she is living it up! She gets dinner scraps at the back door, she comes when you call her, she follows the girls everywhere and she’s eats dill pickle sunflower seeds.

I mean does it get any better for a chicken??

The kids have really taken ownership of the animals and ensure that everyone has food, clean water, and a clean environment. Jason has started giving them an allowance and I have been super proud of Micaila and Ryann as they, on their own accord, tithe off it every Sunday. Caleb on the other hand asked me the other day when he will have a million dollars. We calculated his 2 dollars a week and figured it would take roughly 9,616 years for him to get to a million but hey, there is always an opportunity to move up around here. 😉

The girls continue to have riding lessons with Duet. She has been such a great horse. I love watching the girls do ground work with her on their own or just go out and brush her. They have gained so much independence this last year and it’s bittersweet for this momma.

Jason has already planted the garden and last year I did try a few pickling recipes that were a big hit so, looks like it’s a requirement this year. That is, if we grow anything….😳😉

Fireflies and Frogs

It isn’t the last day of school or the intense heat wave that sets summer in. It isn’t the beach vacation or first days at the pool.

It’s the fireflies.

Even Billy Currington knows it. 😉“Summer comin’ through, a rolled down window, tearin’ down an almost two lane back road. Freedom and fireflies in the air.”

Last year we spent many evenings on the porch waiting for the sun to set and the fireflies to rise up from the lush green grass. I’m certain this year will be no different. We ran around last night grabbing the glow bugs and sticking them in a giant pickle jar. Caleb squealed with delight over the “butterflies”. He later discovered an old pink bb gun and proceeded to go around “shooting” them. Ryann and Micaila are expert catchers, far better than I, no doubt. They’d catch 5 to my 1.

In addition to catching fireflies my girls enjoy trapping all the night time frogs. A past time they had with their cousins. Micaila attempts to do so with as little contact as possible. Ryann on the other hand….. She.just.don’t.care. She had 7 in a bowl in a matter of minutes. With apprehension I picked up my first frog in about 20 years. It took me all of 5 seconds to run to the sink and sanitize my hands. I’m so glad that my kids find it entertaining to play with both frogs and fireflies. I’m also glad I have been influenced by women who showed me that it’s not only okay for my kids to get dirty, touch bugs and frogs (and whatever else their exploring outdoors finds them) but it is good for them. 🙂

I sometimes feel insecure about not having “some THING” to do at our house. We have no pool, trampoline, or playground. We have 2 broken 4 wheelers and a few bikes. I don’t know why I think coming over to simply play isn’t enough. It always was when I was a kid. But imagine me…. “Hi Miss Smith, would Jill like to come over and play with frogs and fireflies today?” No seriously, fake names but that really happened. The minute I begin feeling insecure though, I am reminded that my children lack no good things. Not only do they have an abundance of material possessions but they have each other. They play for hours on end with all sorts of natural stuff, using those wonderful imaginations God gave them, and building their relational bonds. Just like I did as a child. I definitely would enjoy having a pool, or a playground, or atvs that were running. Those things are good. They provide unique avenues for our children (and us!) to grow in courage, maturity, confidence, strength, endurance, etc., but I don’t believe that we are deprived in any way because we don’t possess such entertainments. And I don’t want my children to believe that either. I hope we can continue to cultivate contentment and thankfulness for all God has given us; from our toys to the fireflies. I am certain these simple traditions will be some of our fondest memories. And at any rate we are fortunate to know people that do have other sources of fun. Both the kids and I are practicing gratitude for the friends and family that are so generous with us. 🙂

Win, win. 😉 Happy Summer!

To Save the Chickens

Oh the predicaments I find myself in to rescue animals. 🙂 What really gets me is how God uses the everyday ordinary (or maybe not so ordinary) things to remind me of his love. Are you ready for story time? 😉

Our goat, Ramsey, is becoming quite the nuisance. We built this wonderful little fenced in area for him that, now with the arrival of spring, is full of lush greenery that he could eat till his heart’s content. But he’s not content. The grass is greener on the other side. And our porch is more desirable too. Did you know goats enjoy rocking chairs as much as humans? It’s completely normal to me now to see our goat curled up in a rocking chair nibbling on a tassel from our cushions. Yeah it sounds adorable but let me share with you what accompanies that “cute” picture. Goat poop all over my porch that fortunately is like rabbit pellets so it’s easily swept. Just the other day I hear quite a ruckus going on. I walk out to find that Ramsey has pushed three out of five chairs off the porch and scattered the bag of chick bedding (pine shavings) all over the floor. I mean, it was as far from a serene inviting country porch as you can get.

What has landed him in solitary confinement (until we repair/reinforce his pen) was what occurred last night. It had been raining all day and the rain brought cool temperatures with it. I’m merrily (merrily happens on occasion) cleaning the house before Jason gets home and something in the window catches my eye. The heat lamp we use for the chicks is knocked over. A couple weeks ago they moved to the porch where they can begin acclimating to the varying temperatures but still have access to the lamp when needed. I walk outside to see why it’s on the floor and I discover that Ramsey had knocked their brooder bin off the porch. I should have expected this I suppose. I look in the bin to assess the babies and one is missing. The bedding and chicks are soaked with cold rain water and bodily fluids. I’m fearful that the missing chick is buried in the mess of bedding. Fortunately I look around the yard and she’s nearby, soaked and panic stricken. I imagine they had been there for a good 45 minutes. I pull the bin up under the porch and start to take them out one by one while gathering my thoughts of what to do next. I knew I needed to get them inside, dried and warm but wasn’t about to bring that disgusting brooder bin in my living room. The kids had pulled out one of the snow sleds so I grabbed a towel and loaded the chicks up on it for the time being. Ramsey had busted the heat lamp so Ryann retrieved the blow dryer. Ryann was so concerned about them, “Oh mommy, they must be freezing!” and was ready to help me in any way. Quickly Micaila became aware of the situation and they each got towels to wrap the smallest chicks with. At this point I’m preparing myself for a burial. They are much tinier and they looked in rough shape. Just drenched and freezing to their little chicken bones. After about 20 minutes they finally started drying and began to even nibble on bits of food. The process of cleaning out the bin was slightly ridiculous. I had to do it outside because it’s just too nasty to even think about bringing indoors. So there I was in my house slippers (because that’s what I wear when I’m cleaning and in life or death situations there just isn’t time to change shoes!) I’m running around our sopping wet yard trying to grab the hose and rinse everything out. Have you tried running in house shoes? In the rain? Jumping puddles? Just not exactly what you plan to do on a Thursday evening, mid cleaning party. Pretty sure I’ll be needing a new pair of slippers. So I get the bin clean and laid fresh bedding inside so we could transfer the chicks before they started pooping all over my house. Whew! We finally started to see life coming back. I honestly did not think the bantams were going to survive.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s funny to me, all the trouble I would go through and concern I have to save a few chickens that cost us like 2 dollars a piece. And it reminded me of that scripture Matthew 6:26-27 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet their heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

And I needed that reminder because I worry and I at points even wonder “How could/does God love me?” And what really hit me was I, a sinful, broken human, have the desire to rescue and save these chickens. How much more does a perfect loving God want to rescue his people? 🙂 A whole heck of a bunch more! And for that I am hopeful and so incredibly grateful. I just love it when I’m doing something as monotonous as say cleaning a toilet and the Lord whispers his truth and love to encourage my soul. My word to others today would be look closely and listen carefully; Jesus is always near wanting to speak to our hearts at just the right time, in just the right way.

All the chickens are doing great! I think we are in the clear and the girls and I are very pleased. 🙂

How does your garden grow?

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On Jason’s day off and we did what any young, in love, married couple would do. We shoveled and spread horse manure. 😉 Just add it to the list of “Things I never thought I’d do”.

Though our garden was not a total bust last year, we had cucumber out the wazoo, the majority of our other crops didn’t fare as well. We were essentially “first timers” with limited knowledge and equipment. We are determined to have a successful flourishing garden come summer time. This year we’ve got ourselves a tractor and have done a little more research, though gardening books do not fascinate me all that much. Mostly we’ve talked with other individuals who know more. 😉 One of our sources is actually not with us anymore but his gardening reputation lives on. Jason’s Papaw was a big believer in horse manure being your best fertilizer. I’m sure a lot of gardeners agree, too. Since we just had some friends visiting in our pasture, we happen to have an abundance of free poop. Yay, aren’t we so lucky? 🙂 So when Jason, Caleb, and I had a wonderful morning walk, feeding the animals, and visiting the new baby cows, you can imagine how ecstatic I was at the idea of shoveling manure for the afternoon.

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Spend the day side by side scooping poop? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. 🙂

A primary reason for getting all this property was to have outdoor activities that would keep us home more. I am finding such joy and contentment doing things around here, like gardening, with Jason and our kids. Yes, even shoveling horse dung. In the midst of our labor there is a sense of peace and freedom; something about the open air and space, I think. There is also a great feeling of productivity; this is part of the process of growing food. Not to mention just the pleasures of doing things with people you love. I’m glad that Jason’s enthusiasm for all this farm stuff is rubbing off on me because we do have a lot of fun together with it all. He especially likes to taunt me by catapulting doo-doo over the truck bed to see if it will hit me. He makes up for his boyish tactics by letting me enjoy the lighter work like running the tractor and disc plow to mix up the soil and manure.

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A little farm work can really help break up the monotony. Good times. 🙂

The girls were not sad to have missed out on all that fun but we did save some prep work for them. We want to grow our tomatoes from seed. We did this last year but we waited too long, sowed them directly in the ground, and produced like 4 green tomatoes. It was a sad day for our girl Ryann, who eats tomatoes by the handfuls. Needless to say we are getting those seeds going on time this year.

 

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We also are trying out lettuce for the first time. I bought two kinds; Bibb lettuce (which we need to plant in the garden like yesterday) and Great Lakes (which we will start now inside with the tomatoes). I have not a clue what I’m doing with the lettuce. I looked for the closest thing to what I believe I eat in my salads haha!

We’ll see. 🙂 Any fellow gardeners out there want to chime in? What are some of your favorite crops? And more importantly, what’s your favorite fertilizer? 😉

Still a newbie country girl

Some days I think to myself “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” In my wildest dreams I never thought I would have to wrestle a goat out of my house….. or my car….. One minute I’m bringing in groceries the next minute I see a black bearded Ramsey trapped in our suv. Seriously? Don’t you dare pee in my car! He knows we store his food in the laundry room so he’s frequently trying to slip through the back door unnoticed. The only problem; his putrid scent comes wafting in the house with him. Who let the goat in? He jumps on the counters and leaves a trail of poop behind him just for laughs. You would not believe the pleasure I get from chasing him around with a broom. He runs off and does his goat thing, leaping in the air, wiggling and kicking his whole body. Goat shenanigans, it’s pretty entertaining.

Then there’s the time I was feeding the chickens and realized I had scooped a brand new nest of baby mice out of their grain bucket into their eating pan. What in the world? As much as I felt bad I was equally disgusted. They were tiny and translucent and I was reasonably confident I just killed them. Meanwhile their mom is just staring at me from the bottom of the bin probably thinking “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Knowing the feed was definitely compromised I set the little critters back in the bucket and hoped for the best. The next day I had to face the music and ended up setting the mom free and laying the babies in the woods. I’m sure they made a nice snack for something. :-/

There have been other occasions where I showed more compassion towards mice. Like the time three older babies fell out of our tractor. We did try to rescue those. They had fur though! Way cuter. After the first two died I decided to set the third “free” and spare us the grief. We haven’t had much luck rescuing wild baby animals.

Since we’re on the subject I might as well get it on record that we lost our only laying hen, Penny, shortly after Thanksgiving. We had several hawks hanging around and they managed to snatch her and one of our pullets. It’s never the roosters! We’ve gone from nine to five chickens, two of which have proven to be useless cockadoodles that I can’t bring myself to slaughtering for dinner. I suppose they make for great photos. 😉 If I hadn’t read that book “Made from Scratch” I’d be thinking we should call it quits, obviously it’s us! But the best things we experience in life require us to press on, keep trying and gain wisdom from the past. Our family is learning new and unique things on a regular basis. And fortunately we get to do all this without worrying about whether we succeed at “farming” or not. I imagine it was a way bigger deal years ago when the farmer lost a few hens. I have a growing respect for that day and age but I sure am thankful for a conveniently located grocery store. 🙂

Enough about death, let’s talk about some life! Last Sunday the girls had the pleasure of meeting our neighbors’ day old baby cow. How cool is that?! Someday I hope we get to witness our own animals giving birth or hatching eggs. I suppose we need to first master keeping them alive!

With winter settling in nicely (lows of 8 degrees!) things are calming down around here. This means we have time to plan and dream about what all the spring may have in store. Until then, I’m hoping to have some great snow memories to share later. The little retention area in our front pasture froze! We got a big kick out of that. Ice-skating anyone? 😉OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA