Thursday, July 27, 2006


Sometimes it's just so hard being a pre-teen. Those big feet, the awkward growing bodies...

The chicks at 3.5 weeks. Growing fast, going strong!

(Don't worry, there will be something besides chicken content here someday, but they're just peeping for attention right now!)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Still here: 3.5 weeks!

We've experienced an internet lull lately due to the very fun visit of WF's sister, parents and sister's family, including 5 and 7 yr old nieces!

Trust kids to remind you how exciting simple chores like egg gathering can be! We kept a very close watch, gathering the eggs one by one as they were laid. They definitely appreciated the chicks, too... it was a highlight of the trip. Glad our poultry can be such a draw, all the way from the East Coast! They didn't hold the chicks, though, because the Momma hens said NO to that. WF was trying to sneak up on a chick when the hens were out of sight. Just as he went to grab it, out shot Momma hen from the mini-coop and nabbed him, fast! The girls understood, and we all decided their mom would do the same thing for them if they were in trouble.

It was great to have everyone here. We did a huge basement clean-up before the visit, and I now feel much better about this place. Great to see former messy storage areas being used by enthusiastic kids...I think the house is giving off better vibes somehow, too!

The chicks are still doing well, with a more "communal" situation, now; no divider between the two families. The chicks kept finding their way to the other side of the little fence. One hen would end up with all the chicks, then fussing would begin when the chicks couldn't figure out how to get back to the right Momma hen. The hens are tolerating each other pretty well, and we've giving up trying to figure out which chicks go with which hen... they just all scurry around and sleep a few to a nest each night. Glad they are all easygoing about this!

We've continued the "pampering" of this batch, and below is one of the hens enjoying some clover, sharing it with the young-uns. Next time people tell you chickens are stupid, remember the determination of the Momma hens!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Peep Show

Ha! Take that, googlers! A different kind of peep, showing off in their box this evening. Momma hen isn't too patient with the paparazzi, but my persistence paid off. Adorable, eh? Check out those feathers!

C'mon, kids, let's get away from this crazy camera lady...

Doing well

Chick update: They are all doing well, now at about age 2 weeks. Most have nearly fully-feathered wings, and they're popping out tail feathers, now, too!

Keeping our fingers crossed for continued chick success. More soon!

Berry Competition

We’re getting to the time of berry ripening around here, a bit earlier than usual. WF We’ve planted a few berries ourselves, but will depend on wild berries for the next few years.

There are a few hints of wild raspberries, a sprinkling of dewberries and it’s finally about time for the Juneberries (also known as Service or Saskatoon Berries) to come on full force (so why are they not called Julyberries?)

We have some competition for these berries. The raspberries thrive on disturbance, and the “main” patch is a product of the driveway building about 8 years ago. In my three summers here, I’ve already noticed a decrease in productivity as other plants grow back in; succession in action.

The wild strawberries always look promising, but leaves and flowers don’t often produce berries; not sure why. The juneberries are impressive for their sheer volume, and are pretty tasty. I got optimistic and headed out last night to our back 20 with a container.

It appears it has been a good year already, but someone got to them first! Someone larger and quite a bit furrier- a bear! Black bears! It looked like a bear tornado had gone through the juneberry patch (about 400 ft from our house)- broken limbs, entire bushes pushed down, bits of fern thrown up into the branches. Not very “sustainable” with their resources, those bears.

I still salvaged a few berries and headed closer to home, happy to know the woods are alive with Ursus americanus. We’ve never had troubles with them in the yard (knock on wood)- but there are a couple berry bushes closer in that I’ll try to claim for our use. We’ll probably someday hunt the deer which abound in the area, but the bears stay protected. Just leave me some berry bushes for next year, ok, bears?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Glowing Eyes

Eyes. Glowing eyes. That’s all we could see last night of our possibly resident predator, staring down at us from a tall windbreak pine.

We awoke about 12:30 am to deathly shrieking. WF was out the door before I was even really awake. I put on boots and a headlamp and went out to find him staring up into the tree, ready to climb after this thing! All was quiet by now, but WF had thought he’d heard hissing. I looked up into the tree and first saw the pair of green, glowing eyes, quite far apart, indicating something fairly big. Our brains cleared a bit and WF decided that maybe climbing a big tree in the dark towards something with a clear tree-climbing advantage (and claws) was not wise.

We checked all 3 chicken housing areas, and thankfully all seemed well. The shrieking must have been the death call of a rabbit or chipmunk, maybe? All stayed quiet- the chickens were not even riled up.

We went back and looked into the tree with headlamps, and the two green eyes stayed put high in the tree, calmly looking back at us. We told it in no uncertain terms it was not welcome and that it should leave, but couldn’t think of anything else to do at the moment. I suppose some people would immediately think of hunting, but we have no guns or traps, and what if it is a protected species?

The tall tree is part of our farm windbreak and marks the edge of the yard and chicken housing; beyond is an old shed and two of our garden plots. A robin had been nesting in the old shed; WF saw the three blue eggs and a concerned mama robin a few times. The one day about a month ago all was quiet and he found only a few remnants of an adult bird, and later a predator-type poop on the outer compost pile.

Hmmm. That was all outside the windbreak and we’d seen no sign of trouble inside the yard area. But then yesterday morning WF saw some suspicious tracks in the dew on top of the Chicken Tractor… possibly Fisher, Marten or maybe Raccoon, we’re not sure. They were pretty vague tracks. I think last night’s performance narrows it down to possibly Marten or Fisher? We know people who have lost cats to Fishers in our general area, which is why we don’t allow the cats out after dark.

So what to do now? We just left it in the tree and went to bed (after telling it again to GO AWAY- can’t hurt to ask, right?). We’ll keep checking the chicken housing to make sure it’s as strong as possible and definitely enforce the more-indoor cat rules. WF feels it will only strike at night, but I’m more of a worrywart. A friend over in WI had a marten come right into their yard and grab a chicken in front of them one evening last month. She says: no more free ranging chickens for them. Should we also do that? It seems a shame, but I certainly don’t want to hear that death-shriek coming from one of our own critters…

Saturday, July 08, 2006

They're out!

Okay, people. We really have to get a grip and realize that perhaps half of these adorable baby chicks might actually become dinner someday. We don't need more roosters, and we won't know what these are for a while.

But darn it, then they go and do something like this, and I'm helpless to resist the power of cute!

Both hens are taking them out for little jaunts lately, and those little legs get a workout scrambling over the grass and stubble. They even mimic mom's scratching: scratch, scratch (kicking their legs behind them), then back up to see what they've uncovered. The adult chickens were raised in the basement in a box, and didn't see grass until they were a few weeks old. They were scared of it and refused to exit their box for a while when we first put them outside.

Momma hen wisdom works again!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hen Wisdom

All is quiet on Blogger today; uploading is working quite nicely! Here is Blue Saddle Hen teaching her babies to eat. She has the best intentions, but keeps insisting on teaching the chicks to scratch in the shavings for food that she takes from her "adult" feeder. They definitely listen to her "good food" sounds! The chick food gets ignored (or buried in the corner from all the scratching). Ah, well- they'll get to go outside soon and can really use their scratching skills there!

Superhen has figured out the feeder idea, and is doing well in showing them the ropes there, too...


Family Passage

We gathered yesterday to say goodbye to my grandmother; sweetheart of one, sister of 8, mother of 9, and grandmother of 21. It wasn't as hard to let go as we'd feared, since we felt she was at peace and enjoying what she believed the next life to be. My aunts gave wonderful eulogies, speaking of her no-nonsense manner and her natural mothering abilities. They didn't read parenting books in those days, but somehow it all turned out right.

Her kids gathered together a great display of pictures from over the years and it was so nice to glimpse a bit more of her life before we said goodbye. Some parts I remember, and some help illustrate for me why I felt like I did about my grandparents. Being the first grandchild, I got wrapped right into the kid-raising era. I'd never seen this photo before, and think it shows that spirit well:

I'm the baby in the middle, with my parents around me. Grandma's on the left with some of my younger aunts, and my oldest uncle (my godfather) and youngest uncle (7 yrs older than me) are on the right. She was never a doting, knitting grandma, but a matter-of-fact, busy lady who still managed to show her love in a subtle way.

As a kid, I was proud tell my friends that she worked at a hardware store and even sometimes swore! She did manage time for baking (with lots of lard!) and late night advice sessions. She could solve the world's problems and tell it like it was. She was raised in a very traditional world, but was always curious and accepting of her offspring's crazy new choices. I grew up knowing that she was very smart, despite the fact that she'd had to quit school at a young age. She was always happy to hear what new adventures we might be having, living vicariously through her kids and grandkids.

I will miss her, but there are many lessons offered by her living and dying. I will try to heed those lessons; she can be with me still.

More snippets and glimpses of the new baby chicks soon; they are doing well. The generations carry on! Peace!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Chicks and CD's

We have so far been blessed with good chick luck and attentive mother hens! All 8 eggs (4 under each hen) hatched and look healthy so far (knock on wood). The hens are very protective. WF has a few good peck-marks on his hands!

Here's the one we call SuperHen: she never tolerated much nonsense from the rooster and never needed a saddle. A few of these eggs were likely not hers- WF chose them for her at the beginning of her broody time.

One little one still has wet feathers in this picture! Awww...

The clutches (?) are about a day apart, and Bluesaddle Hen is already teaching hers to eat. And the Hens have had some great service from WF: he brings them food and water on the nest. Very sweet!

Thanks for everyone's good wishes with this endeavor and my grandmother's passing. I am spending much of today editing a CD I recorded 5 years ago of both my grandparents laughing and talking about their lives. I will give more copies of the edited version to relatives this weekend at the funeral.

I am so glad I have at least this much recorded- it was wonderful to listen to and remember. Of course, it made me think of 100 other things I'd like to ask them, and wish I had done another one of just my grandmother this past spring. My grandfather was a bit of a ham, and really "got going" more on this CD than she did. He loved to play the harmonica and was quite good, and she loved to rib him about it.

If any of you still have your own grandparents or other elders around, I highly recommend renting some CD recording equipment and saving some voices for posterity. It's amazingly simple, and you'll be glad you did!