Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Hopeful Farmer #8

       Cleaned the coop this morning - fun, fun, fun.  I just keep reminding  myself of the benefits all the composted chicken manure and shavings will have on the gardens this coming year.  Hauling out wheelbarrows  filled with droppings is not my favorite part of owning chickens.  The eggs, however, are.  We have been getting an average of 5 a day now, so we are going to need to start selling some occasionally.  Here are some pictures: you can see the difference between the eggs of the chickens who just started laying this last week (very small) versus the  girl who lays huge double yolkers.
A wide variety of colours, sizes and textures

This one is crinkly, but hard, unlike the few leathery ones we had a couple weeks ago. 

Barred Plymouth Rock vs new laying Australorp

An example of the variety of brown eggs we have been getting.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Hopeful Farmer #7

   After a week of well below freezing temperatures, we are experiencing our January thaw.  I vividly remember these thaws from  when I was a girl, because they always happened when we'd had several inches of snow on the ground and my father was on a business trip.  What???  No, really, every time, Daddy was traveling.  Why do I know this?
    We lived in a house with a basement that flooded every time we had these conditions.  The thaw would come, along with rain, and somewhere in the middle of the night my mother would wake the five of us up with these words, "Girls, I'm sorry.  You have to get up.  I need your help.  The basement is flooding."  Followed soon after we got downstairs to see the two or more inches of standing water, by these words: "Where is the hose to the sump pump?"  And we would scramble, trying to find the hose, to hook it up, so the pump could help drain water out, as we mopped, squeegeed and pushed water out the door using snow shovels, push brooms, dustpans as scoops.  It was crazy, and tense, because my parents' business and all the stock and equipment and computers were in that basement.
    One year we could not find the "damn hose" and had to try to reach Daddy.  Because his job came with a very high security clearance, we were never allowed to know exactly where he was; no hotel name or room number, so reaching him involved calling his secretary, having her call Daddy, then having him call us.
    I thought of all those crazy nights with my sisters and the dustpans and push brooms this morning when I went into our barn.  Nothing like a driving rain and melting snow to show you where someone else made a mistake.  I walked in to see a puddle near the pump - not unexpected, as there had been ice there.  Then I noticed puddled in the middle of the floor near the tractor, and looked up to see a very rusty patch in the metal roof, leaking quite nicely.  That will need a patch.
    The area near the large back double wide door was a gigantic puddle, merrily encroaching on the chicken coop run.  I spend several minutes digging petrified horse manure, hay and dirt out of the very dry run in and throwing it at the base of the door to create a small dike.  Then  I added more to the small pond that had developed along the side of the coop, trying to absorb some of the water there.  Realizing that half the run was dry, but half getting very muddy, with a small puddle forming at the far end, I took pine shavings and tossed them in the run, hoping to keep a drier section for the girls until this evening when the temp will drop to one degree above zero and freeze it all again.  Since the coop door was open, I tossed a handful into the coop.  BAD IDEA!  The hens in the coop could not see me, just saw pine shavings exploding across the floor of the coop through the small door, and they freaked out!  I have never heard such squawking!  The rooster started crowing, the girls were as loud as they could be, and there I was, holding a bag of shavings, trying not to laugh out loud and add to the cacophony.
   Apparently all the puddling and flooding is due to the "brilliant" requirement of a person who was planning to buy the farm (before we did), and needed the barn to be scraped out before she bought the place.  Well, rather than using a tractor and a back blade and leveling it,  several local kids were hired to dig it out by hand, so there are MANY sections of the barn floor that are below the outdoor ground level.  So water runs in, the floor is muddy, and it is a mess.
    The silver lining?  This happened now, so we know where to fix and level and add dirt, before we have sheep in there.  I now know we have a weak spot in the roof and can fix it.  So, all in all, as frustrating as it sounds, this was a good morning.  Well, except for dumping the chickens water down the inside of my rain boot.  That part, I could live without!