Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Welcome to our greenhouse!

Isn't it wonderful?  Abe made it.  The doors were salvaged from a neighborhood where the HOA made everyone take out their perfectly adequate and expensive double-pane french doors to replace them with identical new ones.

A friend found the water tanks (there are actually two, one on each side) in the "free" section on Craigslist.  Our aquaponics bins are cheap under-the-bed storage containers, and we used as much scrap wood as we could find.

I planned to do a whole series on our greenhouse construction during the winter, since during cold months there isn't really much going on around here .  Instead I got consumptive pneumonia multiple colds and sinus infections and wrote nothing at all.
But there's always hope for the spring!

Things are growing in our greenhouse!

Things like collard greens, swiss chard... and Dale.

Dale is a toad, and I hope he likes to eat mosquitos.  The pond water for our aquaponics system plus the warm climate of the greenhouse is heaven for those suckers. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

pullet care

Happy Valentine's Day, a made-up holiday to celebrate the honeys that you should care about year-round.  So what better day to talk about caring for baby chickens?

Instead of true baby chicks, we got 3-4 week old pullets.  It's something of a trade-off:
PROS:                                                                           CONS:
-they are bigger and less fragile                            -they are bigger and less adorable
-they don't take as long to start laying                   -they're awkward, pre-pubescent chickens
-they can be "sexed" (so no unlawful roosters)      -they cost a bit more

The dark birds are Blue Wyandottes, and the others are mystery chickens.   Hopefully, all of them are hens.

Pictured is all that you need to get your pullets home:  a box with airholes and a bit of straw.  At this age, they can snuggle together pretty well to maintain their body heat, but once you get them home you'll need a brooding lamp too.

You can order one online or maybe even three like my sister-in-law.  She bought a heat lamp for Abe's Christmas gift last year, and the first one was completely mangled when it arrived.  With good customer service, it was replaced quickly enough - but when the replacement arrived, her husband picked up the box, thought it was empty, and burned it behind the house. 

We kept our pullets in our carport storage room overnight, and moved them out to the chicken coop the next day.  They have their own exclusive area (for Very Important Pullets) separated from the other hens, because chickens are famous for bullying.  VIP's need protection!  See?

For only being a month or so old, they're pretty easy to care for.  They need a feeder, a waterer (Abe is the feeder and waterer at our farm - but we also use this and this) and clean bedding.

Monday, February 13, 2012

To do:

Lately I've felt overwhelmed. The past year has been full of changes - we bought a house, raised a puppy, lost a kitten, left behind full time jobs with benefits and started a handful of part-time endeavors. I've struggled with knowing what I want to do with my life and with all there is to do just to keep up.
I lose perspective and can't figure out where to start - with the day-to-day stuff like laundry, dishes and paying bills, the creative stuff like coming up with crafts to hussle for health insurance, the work stuff (like always having to be there...), and the long-term homestead goals.

I came across this the other day, and it reminded me that sometimes things are less complicated than I think they are.  This is what I should do.

This is what you should do:
Love the earth and sun and animals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people…
reexamine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
dismiss what insults your very soul,
and your flesh shall become a great poem.

- Walt Whitman, excerpt from the preface to Leaves of Grass

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Someplace amazing. In Cherryville.

I mentioned we were getting more chickens, didn't I?  (Unfortunately, not this big boy... roosters aren't allowed in our neighborhood, and I'm afraid he'd scare the farm dog.) Because we did, from someplace amazing.  It's a shop called the Flint Rock Coon Den in Cherryville, which is pronounced by locals like "Cher'vul" (and no, that is not an actual phonetic spelling. You might have me confused with my mother, the linguist).

The "locals" to the Coon Den probably live about a hundred miles away from it, because it is in the boonies of Gaston County.  The internet classifies it as a pet store, which is hilarious - while they do have pets, it's not that kind of place.  It is the kind of place that has four older guys - one called Bud - in folding chairs chewing tobacco by the register at 11 am on a Friday.  A couple times a month, the old timers get out their instruments and play bluegrass and gospel for anyone who wants to stop by.  It's a dusty old hardware store in the front, a classroom/music hall in the back, and around the side is where it's really amazing (and stinky).  They hatch chicks!  And in coops behind the store, they have just about every kind of beautiful heritage chicken and rooster:  Black Giants, White Silkies, Delawares, American Speckled Sussex, Silver-Laced Wyandottes. Plus quail. And of course, pregnant coon hounds.

Up next:  caring for our pullets.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

if you pray

It's been a long and very difficult week and I don't really want to talk about it.  Our brand new Penny is very, very sick.  She has an infection that's filled her lungs with fluid and made it difficult for her to breathe. For now, the vet is keeping her and trying to treat the infection with antibiotics, but we were told the sitatuation is very life threatening.

So if you pray, please pray for my tiny Penny.

update:  Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.  The vet found three cancerous tumors causing the infection, and there wasn't anything more she could do.  Even though we didn't know Penny for very long, we loved her and miss her dearly.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Franc makes a friend

With our frequent focus on baby animals, it was only a matter of time before this site single-bloggedly doubled the volume of cuteness on the internet.  Meow we've done it!  Abe surprised me with this little sugar plum on Christmas Eve.
Excute the purrr quality picture.  New kitties don't cooperate and neither does my poor excuse for a camera phone.

At first, Franc wasn't so sure about his new buddy, who we immediately dressed in a Santa hat and named Penny. (What?  You don't have appropriately sized holiday gear at-the-ready for adopted baby animals?  No offense, but it's no wonder all of the wee little ones congregate at our place instead of at yours.)  It wasn't that Franc felt jealous of her festive attire - he has his own, obviously.  He just had to be sure that there was enough love to go around.  And there was.

Penny's been with us for a month now, and we've had so much fun getting to know each other.  These are her favorite things:  all kinds of people food (seriously, watch out), sleeping on top of the house plants, watching movies, and kisses.  When she's lonely, she looks all over the house for someone to love while she meows and meows.  And when she's startled, she jumps straight up in the air with all four legs at the same time.