Monday, February 23, 2009

Ready and Waiting!

Here is a photo of my chick brooder. This is what I have used previously for the first couple of weeks, and then I switch to a large appliance box. I love the visibility factor, allowing the chicks to see out and us to see in. I think it has made my hens the friendly sweet girls that they are.

I am so excited to bring the babies home. It feels something akin to being 9 months pregnant and waiting.

I use pine shavings in the bottom of the brooder, and if they are not out of stock, I will also pick up a bag of paper shavings which really absorb moisture and work well both in the coop and the brooders.

I am going to try something a little different this year when it comes to watering the chicks. I am going to use a rabbit or hamster water bottle instead of placing the mini chicken waterer inside. Due to the fact that chicks run, jump, flap, scratch and play they tend to get shavings in their water rather quickly. Even when I placed it up on bricks inside the brooder I would still have to rinse it out several times a day. I am hoping that the hamster method will be cleaner, safer and less mess.

The other mess issue is the shavings that inevitably end up on the kitchen floor. The cage that I am using this time has a deeper pan, so I am hoping that it will reduce the mess without adding a bumper cover around the outside.

Well.. I will next be posting when the babies arrive! Poor Murdoch's is probably getting tired of me calling! I definitely have the "nesting" instinct!
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

For Today: February 14, 2009

Outside My Window: My cat upon the window sill is crying to come in.

I am thinking: That the ice and snow can leave now, bring me spring!

From the learning rooms: Warren Weirsbe's "Be Mature" awaits my attention as I am part of a women's bible study group at Fresh Life Church, and this is the book we are using to take us through the bible book of James.

I am thankful for: Renewed mercy, snoring pugs, old movies and a comfortable bed when I feel unwell.

From The Kitchen: Sadly I am too tired to make dinner! I brought Mike home a Rueben Sandwich from Julie's and he ate that. I dined on some leftover potatoes and peas.

I am wearing: My jammies, tired bones need comfy clothes.

I Am Reading: A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken and I LOVE it. What a beautiful book to have been loaned the day before valentines day. This is love!

I Am Hoping: That I will be strong enough for work tomorrow and that it will be a good day.

I Am Creating: Aprons from vintage tablecloths and hankerchiefs.

I Am Hearing: Lulu snoring, the keys of my husbands computer keyboard clicking and Sleepless In Seattle on the Television.
Around The House: It is quiet. Garrett is on his own, M'Kayla is babysitting. My ears still find it strange as just two months ago I could not find a quiet corner to save my sanity. All things change, nothing but God stays the same.

One Of My Favorite Things: Losing myself in time spent with God.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: I have statements to mail out, taxes to prepare, doctors to speak with, rent and utilities to pay, floors that need cleaning, closets overflowing. If perhaps i could put things in some sort of order...

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you:

The Simple Womans DayBook

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Dreamed Of Chickens and Spring

There is something so blessed about waking from a dream that is not troubling. Most often, my dreams are filled with wavy watercolor images of the problems and stresses of waking life.

This morning I woke at 6 am from a dream so simple and sweet it has left a happy mark on my day.

I simply dreamed of chickens in the spring. They were scratching and clucking and making their contended chicken sounds while a warm spring sun warmed their feathers and the earth.

It is about this time of year that most of us seriously feel the need for winter to be over. Cabin Fever becomes epidemic.

For me, seed catalogs come out, garden plans are sketched, and chick brooders are set up awaiting the arrival of the late February babies. Compost methods are researched, goat pens discussed, and I feed myself off the blogs and books written by other people with the same love of homesteading, both urban and rural.

But as I busy myself with plans for the future of my backyard farm, and feel a growing urgency for thaw and impatience with the last months of winter, I am reminded by my dream that sometimes the waiting is half the joy. And at times, waiting and dreaming are far better than the real thing ever turns out to be.

These weeks spent in longing and dreaming are part of the whole. Not something to be hurried through. So I will drink them in slowly, savoring the taste of the dream. Without them spring would not be as sweet and welcome as it is.

But still... Just 2 weeks till the baby chicks are here!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Goldie Locks

This is Goldie. Goldie was one of the chicks that my husband brought home last spring. We would feed them meal worms when they were tiny little balls of fluff, and Goldie would always get the worm.

She is the most photogenic of all the girls, always posing for the camera. Turning her head just so and clucking at me to get her good side.

This morning on our little farm, its crisp, cold and bright. The contrast between the bright blue sky, the glittering ice covered branches and the brilliant white snow is magnificent.

When I come out of my back door, I have to open the latch on the gate to enter the backyard. As soon as I touch the latch, the girls hear the sound and begin calling to me. I imagine it goes something like this "We haven't had food for days! We want bananas! Can I have a drink of water? I want to come out of the coop! What do you have? Do you have something? Do you? Because I want something. How about oatmeal? Did you make oatmeal?"

When I walk into the back yard, if they are free ranging, they lift their wings and run to me. I know, I know.. you have to be a chicken mama to understand, but it is possible to love a silly hen.

I open their coop door and reach down to check the water level. As soon as I touch it, all of the girls gather round to drink as if the water hadn't been there before I touched it. I pick up their feeder and swirl it around with turns of my wrist to evenly distribute the food. They then run to the feeder, pecking at the crumbles as if now they are fit to eat.

I gather the eggs and scold them. One of the girls forgot to jump down from the nest box before relieving herself. Naughty girl.

Reaching into their warm pine scented nest is probably the sweetest part of my day. If I'm wearing an apron I will lift the hem and gather the eggs gently in the fold. Once I placed the eggs in my over large coat pockets and then forgot they were in there...well thats not exactly true. I did forget they were in there, but it wasn't my coat pockets, it was my husbands. Imagine his suprise.

There is just something so yesteryear about gathering eggs. I feel as if I am in line behind a long chain of women, lifting eggs from nests and placing them in aprons or skirt folds. I am standing in the present and living the past.

It's a lovely thing.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Late Beginning

I have decided that I would like to keep a journal of sorts, tracking the changes that time and hard work bring to our smallish Urban Homestead.
3 years ago this spring, we moved into this little apartment in town. The building is a 4plex, 2 up and 2 down. It was built over 100 years ago and was once the very first church in Kalispell.
We are blessed to be able to use the backyard in whatever manner we would like, as it is my very own awesome farm mama that owns the building!
We began with a backyard that was covered in a carpet of grass, just like most backyards. In one corner was a giant lilac tree and in the other corner a very fruitful Italian Plum tree.
The urge to cultivate any bit of land I have access too was imprinted upon my by my mom. I hold her fully responsible for my crazy urban homesteading.
The first year we lived with the yard as it was. I was sick with an intense lupus flare, and didn't have the time, energy or inclination to begin. The second year, still sick but beginning to see the light at the end of the lupus tunnel, I convinced my awesome and incredible husband to craft me an A-Frame chicken home. He is amazing when it comes to building anything, and in no time at all he had designed and built a chicken ark. Roosts and nesting boxes up top, little run underneath. I wanted something very unobtrusive and neighbor friendly. I had called the City of Kalispell to check on chicken ordinances, and found to my delight that I could keep as many hens as I liked, but no roosters. I also found (and have stored for future farming) that we could keep two miniature dairy goats and two pot bellied pigs IN OUR BACKYARD!! Living in Montana definitely has its perks. Late August 2007, as soon as my husband had pounded the last nail, I had four delightful young hens moving in to the ark. I named the girls after ladies I had cared for in the nursing home. Elsie, Lucy, Mae and Polly.
7 months later, my husband brought home a box full of peeping cotton balls. He had been at the feed store and decided to surprise me with 4 day old chicks and a promise that by the time they were old enough to live outdoors, he would have a proper coop and run for all the girls. (See, I told you he was awesome).
We raised 4 adorable, crazy, personality filled chicks in a big appliance box in our kitchen. It was so very much fun, and incredibly frustrating at the same time. Oh they were fine when they were too tiny to hop up out of the box! I have some great photos though, and wonderful memories.
As promised, I had a gorgeous red and white 12X4 coop and a 20X20 run just waiting for the girls when they were old enough to live outdoors. Can I even describe the bliss I felt at watching my girls peck and scratch around their new chicken run? I woke up at 5 am the next morning, pulled a stool up to my kitchen window and drank steaming hot coffee while waiting for my hens to come out of their new chicken door and into their run. Pure bliss.
Shortly after, he also built my daughter a rabbit condo, where our mini lop bunnies enjoy life, and a 5X25' raised bed garden area for me to plant. He also fenced in the back yard which gives us more privacy and a place to let the dogs run about.
Sadly, since beginning I have lost 4 chickens. One to cold, one to heat and two to an unknown illness, possibly Marek's disease.
Currently I have Elsie (the only original girlie left) Orabelle, Maggie and Goldie. They are all healthy and happy and laying like crazy. Soon I will be making the trip to Murdochs to pick up some new babies. We are going to get 8 more babies and plan on selling surplus eggs next fall.
We have a compost pile to make use of the wonderful growing elixir the hens and bunnies create just by being alive, and will be adding even more to our raised bed lasagna garden this year.
Neighbors would stop by last summer and tell me that I must be an incredible gardener as rarely had they seen a garden take off like mine did. I told them the secret was in the layers, and I am in high hopes of having an even more successful garden this year.
Mike will be building me another box, this one in a shadier part of the yard to plant the lettuces in as they bolted too quickly in the heat of last summers sun. I am hoping to plant a thick row of peas around the perimeter of the chicken run. This will give the peas something to climb on, the chickens something to nibble on, and something to freeze come harvest time.
I will also post here when I make my batches of soap, sew aprons or other useful items, discover great recipes, can and freeze harvests and knit or crochet something fun.
There is such joy for me in the earth and all of God's glorious creation.
I am reminded of that worship song that says "All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, Oh Praise Him, Alleluia Alleluia!"