Category Archives: Chickens

Wrapping Up Summer

It’s hard to believe that autumn is here. I just wanted to hold on to summer – perhaps indefinitely. Since it is humanly impossible to stop time, the best I can do is hold onto and treasure the memories that Summer 2019 gifted me.  I have decided to place some of these precious memories in this post where, like keepsakes in a trinket box, they will be safely stored and I can return to them whenever I like.  I will also share them with you.

At The Farm 

In early August I used my hours at the farm for picking blueberries, watering plants, and mostly weeding the prayer garden (this is the time of year that weeds really start to take over if they are not kept in check). IMG_5686 (2)

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the prayer garden was in full bloom. My husband said he wanted to correct that statement but didn’t. He is right of course – by design the prayer garden is in continuous bloom, from early spring, when the daffodils appear, until late fall, or at least until we get the first frost of the season there is always something blossoming.

By mid August my chore list had changed. We had some decent rain so we didn’t have to do much watering. We began picking tomatoes and peppers and I began cleaning our 2019 garlic crop.

IMG_5708

For the past four weeks or so the focus has been on harvesting our garden and either cooking and eating or preserving the harvest. While most of the tomatoes have been frozen so far, I did manage to get 15 quarts of tomato sauce canned. We have been enjoying fresh red skin potatoes (boiled or made into potato salad), Swiss chard (sautéed with garlic, cooked into an omelet or added to a cream cheese stuffed chicken breast), baked butter nut squash, tomatoes (fresh on the side, on a sandwich, or cooked into homemade pasta sauce) and stuffed green peppers. I also cut up three small cabbages and started the process of turning them into sauerkraut. This is the time of year that all of the work pays off.

The Bees

Busy, busy, busy.

IMG_5611

We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.

 

IMG_5619

We have harvested honey three times this summer from three different hives. Each harvest yielded approximately 30 lbs. of honey. After we harvest the honey and wax from the frames my husband sets the frames back out for the bees to finish cleaning them up. The picture above shows the bees completing this task.

IMG_5756

A few weeks ago one of the hives swarmed. My husband captured the swarm and put it in an empty hive. He then placed a feeder with honey in it on top. The next day the bees had left that hive. We are not sure why they weren’t happy there but they did fill up on the honey before leaving.

The Chickens

The eight Jersey Giants that were cute little chicks this spring are now full grown hens. They began laying in eggs in August and will hopefully keep us in fresh eggs through the winter months.IMG_5650

Soap Making

Normally I don’t make a lot of soap during the summer months but I found I was out of a few varieties. I decided to have some fun with it.

IMG_5695

My sister had given me some silicone mini molds so I made a few small bars using them. I can see making holiday themed sample soaps or using teddy bears or duckies as favors for a baby shower. They would however need to be clearly labeled  “Don’t Eat It!” as I would want someone thinking they were white chocolate.

IMG_5697

I have also been practicing using my soap stamp and getting better at it. It’s really a matter of stamping the soap when it is still just a little soft.

Family and Fun

In early August we planned a family picnic at the farm. Not all of the girls could make it but Tina and Ken brought our grandkids and Kara also came out. After we ate, our three year old grandson, Jackson, went fishing with his dad and grandpa and caught his first fish. I didn’t get any pictures of this because Tina and Kara and I had taken (granddaughter) Addy to pick blueberries.

Not only did Addy enjoy picking the berries she enjoyed eating them as well. The cutest part was that each time Addy, who is learning to talk, picked a berry she would say appo (apple). The first time she said it we thought it was so cute we laughed before telling her “berry”.  So after that each time she picked a berry she would say “appo” and laugh then when we told her berry she would say “ber-ry”. Her laugh was so contagious that we were all laughing each time she said “appo”.

IMG_5529

In August my husband and I went plant shopping. Normally I don’t like shopping. The exceptions are going to a greenhouse or nursey and shopping for yarn or other craft supplies. Each spring we usually go to a local green house and pick up a least a few plants for the year but it’s quite easy for me to get carried away and buy way more plants than I need.

You may remember from this post that my husband was working at a greenhouse this spring and was able to bring home many plants that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster. With all the free flowers we had there was no need to go plant shopping…until August. While working the landscaping job that he started in July my husband had to make a trip to a nursery where they purchased anise hyssop plants that would be planted at one of the jobsites. “They had pretty purple flowers and the bees were all over them,” he said as he told me about the plants. I knew this herb had some medicinal  properties and if the bees like it then we should definitely plants some.

I did a little homework and found that anise hyssop is generally a plant the deer avoid because of it’s strong fragrance. This sounded like the perfect addition to our prayer garden.

IMG_5711

We purchased two large plants that were in full bloom and two smaller (less expensive) plants that should continue to grow each year until they are about a foot wide. I understand that these plants also drop seeds each year that will readily sprout into new plants. These plants are still blooming more than a month after we planted them and I saw bees foraging in them yesterday. 🙂

As we were walking through the green house I noticed a table full of flowers that I was not familiar with. They had bright orange and yellow flowers. They were marked $5 each. After asking an employee if the deer would eat them and being assured that it was not likely, I picked out two yellow and one orange. (There I go getting carried away.) The plant is called lantana. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized that they are an annual so will not be coming back next year. 😦

We took a Sunday off in August to visit the Armada Fair and watch the tractor pulls.

20190818_123437~2 (3)

My husband and I wore our matching tractor pull t-shirts so my daughter snapped a photo of us. We were joined by daughters Kara and Lindell and Lindell’s boyfriend Brysen.  We arrived early enough to walk through the animal barns and view the exhibits before the tractor pulls began. I’m not sure which is cuter baby goats or baby cows. I love seeing them both.

We also filled up on lots of expensive fair food. I wonder which was higher the calorie count or the price.

For those of you who, like Brysen, have never seen a tractor pull, let me sum it up. Basically tractor pulling is a competition to see who’s tractor can pull a weighted sled the farthest. If you would like a little more information see this article.

IMG_5576This tractor, named Cruel Intentions, is owned by the Capozzo family. They also own and operate the excavating company that dug our pond. This is the tractor we were rooting for that day and they did take first place in their class.

 

After the tractors were finished they brought in a couple of semi’s that did an exhibition pull.

In the photo below I was trying to get a shot of the score board that electronically records each tractor’s speed and the distance they pull but my aim was a little high.

IMG_5577

After viewing this photo I did spot something I hadn’t noticed before. The street signs to the right of the score board mark the intersection that leads to the adult beverage tent. If you can’t make out the signs they say “Good RD” and ” Beers LN”. That made me chuckle.

The beverage tent was the other place we visited at the fair and while I mostly stuck with non alcoholic beverages that day I did end up drinking a glass of hard cider when Lindell ended up with an extra one.

IMG_5572
Lindell, Me, Kara

Even though autumn has arrived, and the temperatures have been slowly cooling, we are forecast to have at least one more of summer-like day today and I will happily take all that we can get.

Have you ever seen tractor pulls?

What is your favorite memory of this summer?

Beginning Of Summer Farm Update

It’s been just a few days since summer arrived, but for once the weather seemed to coincide with the calendar. The heat that we have been getting has served to dry things up nicely so things are looking much better at the farm.

STRAWBERRIES

Despite the cool, rainy spring our strawberries did well. We have been picking berries for about two weeks now.

IMG_5194

These berries were from the first day we picked. Since then we have picked about 60 quarts of strawberries. They seem to be slowing down but we will probably be picking for the next couple of days at least.

IMG_5216

Besides eating fresh strawberries (even some right in the field as we pick) we have enjoyed them in fruit salad, as strawberry short cake with homemade whipped cream, I made nine pints of strawberry jam, and we have about 15 quarts in the freezer. We have also been able to share them with family and friends.

As we were picking berries on that first day we came across this well hidden nest in the middle of the patch.

IMG_5202

We had no idea what type of eggs they were and we hadn’t seen a momma bird around at all.

Then a few days ago when my husband was picking berries alone he called to tell me that the eggs had hatched. He also said that momma sparrow was watching him from the fence.

IMG_5249

Yesterday as we picked she stayed on the nest until I took her photo.IMG_5252

I think that startled her and she quickly flew away, so I was able to get a photo of her young.

IMG_5250

Although there were five eggs in the nest I could only make out four babies.

GARDEN

Over the last two weeks we were able to get the garden planted. Although planting conditions were less than ideal we planted cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, basil, parsley and more tomatoes. We also put in carrot, beet, and Swiss chard seeds.

The plants that we put in seem to be taking hold but the seeds that only went in a few days ago have yet to sprout.

IMG_5234

This year we decided to use weed guard around many of the plants. This product is a thick organic paper. It will help keep moisture in and weeds down. It will also break down over the course of the summer and can be tilled into the soil.

Having been unsure when or if we would be able to plant a garden at the farm this year I had planted sweet peas and pole beans in containers and they are growing on our deck.

The peas which were planted several weeks before the beans are now producing pods and the peas are growing inside of them. I picked a few of the pods that had not began to fill out and added them to my beef stew a couple nights ago.

BEES

As always we have been keeping an eye out to see where the bees are foraging. We have seen them in the clover, chives, thyme, and raspberries.

IMG_5227

Last Saturday while my husband and son-in-law were doing some fishing I was moving some bricks with the tractor (I love driving the tractor) and I noticed this swarm of bees in a pear tree. Christmas in June! LOL!

IMG_5236

The guys finished up their fishing and my husband prepared to capture the swarm. We helped him set up the new hive and he got out all of the equipment he would need.

IMG_5238

The swarm was located within reach so he had no need for a ladder.

The hive these bees were placed in is a warre top-bar hive. Since there are no frames to remove and the top bars run across the top of each box it was necessary to have the box upside-down pour the bees in. Then he covered it with a piece of cardboard while he returned to the pear tree to gather the remaining bees.

The bees that did not get captured the first time around were collecting back on the tree limb so he gave them a little time to settle before shaking them into the bucket and taking them to their new home.

After pouring the remaining bees into the hive box he again covered it with the cardboard. then Ken helped him hold the cardboard in place as he flipped the box over and placed on top of the lower box. He then slid the cardboard out so the top box sat directly on the lower box.

IMG_5245

CHICKEN

I thought I would include one last picture just because I thought it was cute.

IMG_5212

Not all of our chickens have names but there are a select group that have earned their names. This one is Honey. She is one of three surviving chickens from our very first batch of chicks in 2013. She earned her name by being friendly and lovable. She is at the top of the pecking order, and while she is rarely mean to other hens she pretty much rules the roost and the bumper as the case may be.

I will leave you with this – one of my favorite scriptures.

IMG_4033

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Has summer arrived is your part of the world?

Chickens, Dandelions and Mud Puddles ♥

I am fairly new at being a grandma. My grandson, Jackson, is almost three years old and his sister Adeline is about 15 months old.

I was recently telling my husband that when my kids were little my mom was teaching them to blow bubbles into their milk through a straw. I could not believe that she would do such a thing, because when my sisters and I were young she would yell at us for blowing bubbles into our drinks. Why was it inappropriate behavior for us, yet she encouraged her grandkids to do this? I never understood until this past weekend while spending time at the farm with our grandkids I realized that I am the kind of grandma that my mom was.

It was a chilly spring day and our plan for their visit wasn’t necessarily to spend time outside at the farm. Tina had forgot to bring hats or boots for the kids, and while I didn’t have any extra footwear for them I grabbed a couple of extra hats to at least keep their heads and ears warm.

When we got to the farm the first thing Addy did was begin picking dandelions. This immediately won my heart. I am actually planning on picking dandelions soon since I’ll need some to make my Sweet Dandelion Soap. Having little helpers would be a dream come true.

IMG_5023

Her mom was a little concerned about her pretty pink jacket get dirty,

IMG_5024

but Addy was fascinated by the pretty yellow flowers,

IMG_5026

until Ken broke out a bag of treats for the chickens. We know they are not the healthiest treats for our chickens but every once in a while we give them mini marshmallows. Chickens Love Marshmallows!

IMG_5032

Since the kids couldn’t throw the marshmallows very far the whole flock surrounded them, hoping to be next to snatch up a treat.

IMG_5034

Jackson and Addy had a blast feeding the chickens.

After a while we walked back near the barn. Addy continued to pick dandelions along the way. Ken led us across a grassy area to avoid walking though the mud puddles in the driveway. Nice try Ken –

IMG_5037

but it didn’t take long for Jackson to discover the mud puddles. Before his parents could stop him he was stomping his feet in the water and laughing. As his parents tried to redirect him I said “let him play. When he gets back in the truck you can take his socks and shoes off and put a blanket over his feet,” and that is just what they did.

IMG_5039

I’m not sure but I think Addy might have taken this flower with her. At least I hope she did.

It has occurred to me that as a young mother I would have been concerned about a muddy jacket and wet socks and shoes, even more so than Tina and Ken appeared to be.  Perhaps since then I have gained (grandmotherly) wisdom. They grow up way too quickly. Soon dandelions and mud puddles will be a thing of the past.

Life is too short not to pick dandelions and splash in mud puddles.

You should try it.

 

 

Life Is Happening Faster Than I Can Write

There are so many things going on that I have wanted to write about but it seems there has little time left for writing. Thankfully I have been taking some pictures along the way to remind me of what I want to write. I have decided to combine many things into this post.

BREAD BAKING

I will start with an update on my sourdough bread making. IMG_4878

This loaf was made the same as my previous breads but I reduced the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and baked it covered for 35 minutes. I then removed the cover and baked it for about 25 minutes more. I am very pleased with the results. 🙂

SPRING AT THE FARM

It seems like a slow transition into spring but it may be better that way. When warm weather comes on quickly and all the plants begin to flower there is an increased risk of losing them to a spring freeze or heavy frost.  Here are some of my observations of our world awakening from it’s winter nap.

IMG_4853

The hickory buds are swelling.

IMG_4874

The maple trees are flowering. They provide pollen for the bees.

IMG_4876

The lilac buds are getting ready to open.

 

IMG_4877

The garlic is about three inches high.

 

 

IMG_4863

This time of year the back corner of our farm is a swamp. It becomes the noisiest spot as the chorus of frogs announce the arrival of spring. I love to hear the frogs sing 🙂

PLANTING

While it is way too soon to do any outdoor planting. We have a lot of stuff growing indoors.

IMG_4822

My husband started two varieties of tomatoes, five varieties of peppers, cabbage, basil and parsley.

IMG_4824

Several years ago we constructed this grow shelf by attaching florescent lights to the underside of  each shelf . As the seedlings begin to sprout we place blocks or boxes underneath their trays to get them closer to the light. We then gradually lower them as the plants grow taller.

IMG_4873

Having them closer to the light helps them grow stronger stems. We also have plants growing near many of the windows in our home.

While I normally don’t plant many annual flowers this year will be different.

IMG_4825

My husband took a job at a greenhouse for the season. They are a wholesale supplier of annual flowers. For various reasons not all of the plugs make the cut, so my husband has rescued many that would have otherwise been discarded.

We shared some with neighbors and family members and even donated several flats to our friends at Special Dreams Farm. Once the weather warms I will be planting Marigolds, Geraniums, and Phlox in our flower beds.

BEES

This year our son-in-law, Ken, decided to become a bee keeper. Since he does not have property of his own to set up a hive we welcomed him and his bees to our farm. Ken said he has been reading about and studying bee keeping for a couple of years now. After doing so he decided to design and build his own hive and feeders. I can’t describe all of the bee-friendly features that this hive has, but if it works out well perhaps Ken will do a guest post to share his hive design.

image1

He decided to keep Buckfast bees, a breed that we are not experienced with. His bees arrived on Saturday, April 6 and we were blessed with perfect weather for hiving bees. Since the Buckfast bees are known to be a gentle/non aggressive breed Ken was comfortable not wearing a full bee suit. (He only got stung once.)

My husband was there and walked Ken through the process of hiving the bees. When I spoke to Ken later he said that he was thankful for the help and probably the best thing my husband told him was to take his time. I understand this because standing amidst  10’s of thousands of bees can be unnerving.  It is important to stay focused and not to rush to get things done. That is how mistakes happen.

Our hive is doing well as evidenced by the number of bees coming and going on warm days. Since there is not much in blossom for the bees to forage my husband set up an outside feeder for them.IMG_4857

He poked small holes around the bottom of the ice cream bucket. He then put honey in the bucket. The honey is thick enough that it does not run out of the holes but the bees can suck it out.

We have ordered five packages of bees. They are scheduled to arrive on May 10th so I expect I will write a post about setting up five new hives.

CHICKENS 

I saved the best story for last.

Our first batch of chicks, the ones I said won’t be with us long, have moved to the farm. We had decided that once they were out of the brooder we would get a second batch. Rather than the Cornish cross chickens that we got the first time around and are normally raised for meat birds we decided we wanted a breed that would forage for it’s own food.  Jersey Giants was the breed we selected. I had spotted some recently at our local farm store. As their name suggests Jersey Giants are said to be the largest true breed of chicken. They are know as dual purpose birds being raised for either egg laying or as meat birds.

Our plan was to go last weekend to get some but that just didn’t happen, so when Monday came around I offered to go get them, “or we can go when I get home form work” my husband suggested. We eventually decided he would stop on his way home from work to get them. “How many should we get?” he asked. “Eight?” I said. “Eight sounds right,” he agreed.

IMG_4866

When he got to the farm store and found the brooder containing Jersey Giants he discovered there were only eight left. Perfect timing!

While he waited for the customer service person to assist him, he noticed a women holding a very small chick. “The others were picking on it,” she told my husband as she showed him the sore area on it’s foot where they had been pecking at it. “My husband won’t let me rescue it,” she said.

“My wife will,” he replied as he took the tiny bantam chick from her. “Let me take this one home,” he said to the store employee. She agreed.

We have never raised bantam chickens before so I had to do a little research to find out what we had. I learned that bantam chickens are small breeds. There are several breeds that are “true” bantams but each regular breed of chicken also has a bantam variety. Other than a small incredibly cute chick I still have no idea what we have. In fact these chicks are not sexed before sale so we may even have a rooster.

IMG_4871

It seems a dichotomy that this tiny little chick that was being abused by it’s peers has been accepted by this group that is 3 or 4 times it’s size.

“You get to name it,” my husband said to me.

“That is tough,” I replied “when I don’t know if it is a male or female.”

“Pick a name that could be either or,” he said.

After a few minutes of thought it came to me…

 

IMG_4882

Let me introduce you to Big Bird! LOL.

 

Do you also feel like time is flying by?

Are you experiencing nice spring weather and the beauty that comes with it?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

 

Welcome Spring

This post is dedicated to my friend and fellow blogger Linda who blogs at Walkin’, Writin’ Wit and Whimsy. Linda, who takes readers along as she walks at various parks in South East Michigan and introduces us to the furry and feathered friends she meets along the way, has been as eager as I have for the arrival of spring. On occasion her posts reference classic songs – oldies but goodies –  leaving me with an ear worm for the day. As we welcome spring, Linda, I thought I’d return the favor.

So let me tell ya ’bout the –

BIRDS

Sunday morning as I walked out the door on my way to open up the chicken coop for the day I was greeted by the song of a robin. It is a sound I have become quite familiar with over the past few years as each spring a robin nests in the maple tree outside our bedroom window. He or she starts singing each morning long before the sun comes up, (sometimes as early as 3:30 a.m.) and long before my husband and I are ready to awaken. If the early bird catches the worm then this is one well fed robin.

In Michigan it is said that robins are a sure sign of spring but the truth is that some robins stay in Michigan throughout the winter. Robins that migrate south for the winter are doing so because of the limited food supply available this time of year, not because of the cold temperatures. During the winter those that stay will eat fruit and berries that are left on the trees/bushes.

As I arrived at the farm to open the chicken coop two robins flew swiftly past me. 🙂

Red winged black birds are also said to be a sign of spring.

 

IMG_4803.JPG

I spotted this one as Trooper and I walked the back field yesterday.

Our hens have been enjoying the weather and egg laying has increased – we are now averaging about 12 eggs a day from our 23 hens.

IMG_4800

Spring is also the time of year when baby chicks show up in the farm stores. Each year that I have been blogging I have shown pictures of adorable little chicks that will be raised on our farm. Thus far we have only raised egg layer but this year is a little different. These will not be laying hens.

IMG_4799It’s ok to say “awe, they’re cute” – just don’t get attached because they won’t be with us long. (That note is as much for me as it is for you).

and the BEES
Several days last week temperatures warmed enough for the bees to come out for a cleansing flight. We had just one hive going into winter and were relieved to see that they are still alive. It is not warm enough to open the hive yet and since nothing is in bloom they are still dependent on their winter food stores.

and the FLOWERS

Even more promising than seeing robins were the daffodils that have begun to emerge from their winter sleep.

IMG_4793

Soon we will be seeing their smiling yellow blossoms at various places throughout the farm. 🙂

and the TREES:

We decided not to make maple syrup this year but if  you are interested in how we do that you can check out my posts from previous syrup seasons 2018, 2017 , 2016 and 2016. Based on temperatures that we have had last week and this week I suspect that had we tapped our trees this year we would be cooking syrup this week.

In the past few years it has been my observation that the first trees to bud in our area are the poplar trees. Their flowers, that actually look more like caterpillars, provide resin that is collected by honey bees and used to make propolis.

The maples seem to bud out next and while this triggers the end of the syrup season it is good for the bees as the flowers of the maple trees seem to be their first source of food in the spring.

and the Moon Up Above

Last night my husband mentioned that the moon was close to being full. This morning, before daybreak, the sky was clear and the moon was bright. This year spring is being ushered in by the full moon.

IMG_4805

 

and a Little Thing Called Mud

IMG_4792

As the snow melts and the ground thaws there is no avoiding it. When you live in the country mud is more than a “little thing”. Water + dirt = MUD. Lots of mud. You learn to deal with it. For us that means wearing a pair of rubber boots and rinsing off our boots and the boys paws with a garden hose before we go into the house.

Over the past 8 years we have learned that starting the year with this kind of moisture in the ground is more of a benefit than a nuisance. By mid June we often find ourselves in a dry spell and are using the pond water to keep our gardens alive.

 

If there is one this that is certain about spring in Michigan it is that the weather is extremely uncertain. Currently our day time temperatures are getting above freezing while the nights drop back below freezing. Today as I look at the 10 day forecast it shows that trend will continue for about the next week. Tomorrow when I look at the forecast that might change. It’s not surprising to have snow storms and freezing temperatures well into April and even May. On the other hand summer weather might show up at anytime and be here to stay. For better or worse the calendar says spring is here.

WELCOME SPRING! (Happy Dance 🙂 )

What is your favorite season?