Sunday, October 19, 2008
I thought I'd post a few shots of our nearly-finished chicken condo and yard - Jay is just putting the final touches on this little beauty and I ran out of barn red paint, so that's yet to be completed, but I wanted to share the bounty of our flock. For good measure I've also included a shot of the little red hen made famous in my previous post...
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Let's start from the beginning. You have to understand, there's been a whole lotta canning going on around here. Tomatoes and apples mainly, or things including tomatoes and apples. We can. Yes, we can. Si, se puede. So we've had a string of nice, Indian-summerish 70 degree days here and I haven't had the heart to stay inside and can, which got me thinking about the girls a little bit. While our chickens (the first batch plus a bright shiny set of 6 added to the flock last week) are enjoying their new and gorgeous chicken condo very much indeed, we hadn't yet gotten to putting in their yard, which means they were stuck inside on a bright, sunny day. And just like my mom used to do when she'd catch us kids staring gape-jawed and glassy-eyed at the boob tube on a summer afternoon, I decided to kick those little chicken butts out for some free ranging.
Now, when you check the internet for information on this kind of thing, you might be surprised at how wildly the opinions vary. You get the folks who want to convince you there are HORRIBLE CARNIVORES around EVERY CORNER just WAITING TO DEVOUR your precious girls in the WORST POSSIBLE way, most likely by RIPPING THEIR HEADS OFF and sticking them on a stake outside of the coop, just as a warning to the rest of them. Then of course there are the people who will REPORT YOU to the SPCA IMMEDIATELY if they hear you are keeping your chickens LOCKED IN A COOP like so many small, feathered inmates. For the most part, though, I found the general consensus was that if the chickens had been in the same coop for a while, they'd consider it home, chilling out around the premises, eating a few ticks and other six-legged undesirables, and then flying back in when night fell, because they do like to cuddle up for bedtime.
So here's what happened. I opened the door, and the chickens all flapped out madly, rejoicing in their freedom and promptly disappeared into the neighbor's cornfield. I kept an eye out for them all day, but to no avail, and I went back and forth between feeling confident they'd find their way back and being worried that they were most definitely stupid enough to get hopelessly lost in a giant cornfield. So when dusk fell, I made my way out to the coop and found four of them - two of our beautiful, glossy, brown-egg laying Red Stars, the white one that hurt her leg a few months ago and Speckle, the friendly one. They seemed perfectly confident and happy to be back home. I went back in to the house, leaving the coop door open because I figured more might come. And that's when it happened. There was a rapping, a rapping on my kitchen door. And I went to answer it expecting a neighbor or perhaps a Jehovah's Witness who had gotten turned around on the county roads. And what I saw was the third Red Star, just standing on the deck watching me with her head cocked to one side. I went out on to the deck and she did a little dance around my legs and then as I walked down to the coop, she followed right along with me, hopping down the stairs and heeling as well as any little dog. It was the darndest thing.
At any rate, at that point our half-wit rooster had come stumbling out of the corn about 300 feet down from the coop with several of his ladies in tow. And then he proceeded to miss the coop entirely and bed down back in the corn, attempting to roost on a single downed stalk with three hens. This ended up requiring a late night ambush wherein my shockingly adept chicken wrangling husband was able to grab THREE while they slept. The rooster came back acting all nonchalant this morning while we worked on getting the yard up, and then the neighbor's beagle flushed out a very startled looking Barred Rock later this afternoon. So at this writing, we have 10 of our 13 chickens back in the coop, including a rooster whose DNA I'm not even that sure I want passed down to future generations.
Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books that were popular back in the 80s? That's kind of how I feel about my time spent on this farm. For better or worse, I tend to learn from my mistakes. Do you let the chickens out for an adventure? If you do, go to page 23. If you decide to keep them in, go to page 34. Good luck!
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Ellis: It's fall now, mama!
Me: How can you tell, Ellis?
Ellis: Because the leaves are falling! And the helicopters too! (the helicopter seed pods from the Box Elder tree). But these helicopters don't have windows.
It is fall. Red, orange, yellow, green, brown, gold. And that blue sky. This morning, Chris, Ellis and I took a walk through our neighboring field - a favorite place for skiing in winter too - and had a perfect view of autumn in all its splendor.
And, back in the garden, we have been taking down and cleaning up...preparing for winter and next spring. What was this in July:
Is this today:
Being the order-happy person that I am, I take great joy in this clean slate. I feel like it is the least we can do for this earth - put it to rest, appreciating the dark, rich soil, rid it of any remaining weeds - especially given the incredible bounty our garden blessed us with this year.
With all that is insecure with the economy, all that is in upheaval in politics, all the anxiety and fear and experts and politicians and media...today I simply turn off the radio and take refuge in the peace of the hills and valleys down Lostview Lane.