Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Take a Chicken to Work Today...or tomorrow

(Proper attire for a dress up day at work...if you are a chicken)
I thought that it would be a nice gesture to take one of the hens to work. You know, let her get an idea of where Chicken Mama spends all her time and how she earns the money to keep "Baby" knee-high in feed and clean straw. Don't you agree that is a good idea? Either you will agree to that or...I need to be fitted for a straight jacket. The next thing I propose could be even more absurd...like taking my chicken to therapy with me. We might discover why she doesn't want to fraternize with the other hens.

Okay, the real story: Tyner (golden girl of the new Ameraucanas) gets pretty worked up when it is time to go to bed. She just fusses something fierce. Well, night before last she was kicking up quite the dust storm when I noticed that she was panting, a sure sign of anxiety. Not good. I stopped and took a good look at her and discovered that her beak was actually out of alignment! VERY BIZARRE. I picked her up and gently tried to ease the beak back in place, only to have her squak (possibly in pain) so I set her down.

Yesterday I watched as she carefully ate little bits of food and drank water. Of course I felt horribly responsible, wringing my hands all night until I realized that commercial chicken factories actually "de-beak" the hens to keep them from injuring one another in crowded conditions. I know that those poor hens can live without a beak, so maybe Tyner can.

Okay, now what about work. Well...I have decided to take Tyner to the vet and the only time I can really go is after work. SOooooooooooooo...I am taking her to work with me! I asked everyone at work if they would mind...and they all said...Take your chicken to work! I'll let you know what her fantastic vet, Dr. Dave Rupiper has to say. Maybe she'll have to go on a liquid diet for a little while. Lovely. I can see it now...the blender out in the morning with worms and bugs and grass and...more than I can think about right now!
PS: my thanks go to Stan Frieberg for letting me so kindly paraphrase his famous, "Take an Indian to Lunch".

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Breakfast on the Farm

Farmer Jeff was awakened, again, by the hound dogs. This time at 5 am. Bless his heart, he decided to surprise me with breakfast. Not any breakfast, but breakfast cooked in the Pizza oven (freshly plastered!) and with his home cured and smoked bacon. Oh...and our farm fresh eggs! He had built the fire and was chopping onions by the time I rolled out of bed at 8! I felt so lazy!!!

He made wonderful baked Chilaquiles with corn tortillas, roasted chiles from New Mexico, (see the senses of fall/smell blog) and our roasted chile and tomato "salsa ranchera" sauce that we canned last fall. He mixed it all together with sauteed onions and a little bacon (more YUM!!!)

We have been working so hard on the yard and on the outdoor kitchen. This was the first breakfast we have eaten out there, so it was a very special occasion! We have re-done the floor of the outdoor kitchen, Farmer Jeff plastered the pizza/bread oven, and I...um...well, I trimmed and weeded and fertilized the roses!

We are also having a lot of fun these days with our VERY new little chicks. We have been looking for Marans hens or chicks, or even eggs, for the last year and then found out that our magical farm supply place was going to get some of these "exotics"! We ordered 6 but then decided to take 8, along with the 2 Brabanders (VERY rare) who lay white or ivory colored eggs. So...the nursery is set up again in the garage and the other babies have been moved to the pen out in the coop.

We are so happy to live on our farm with all of the animals, and each other. We do have to work to keep it all alive and healthy, but it is worth every second. We are the luckiest folks alive!

(This little baby is one of the Brabanters. She reminds me of the Sun Bears from Malaysia that I grew up seeing at the San Diego Zoo because of the "rising sun" markings she has on her head. She has been named "Sun Bear" in their honor.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Spring Cleaning…or what I did during Spring vacation!

For spring break/vacation some people to go Hawaii, some go to Florida while others go to Puerto Vallarta. What did I do? I stayed home to work on the farm!!! Farmer Jeff and I have taken time off this spring to…work!

I have trimmed the roses, picked all of the dreaded black spotted leaves off of the plants, weeded, mulched, watered and generally spruced them up! That was the job of the weekend. The next job was…drum roll please…mucking out the chicken coop and pressure washing the mesh covers for the poop bins. AAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!! I took 3 showers that day. It also didn’t help that it was hotter than heck that day…and muggy. Oh brother, did I STINK!!! It is one of those jobs that has to be thoroughly done every 6 months. Thank God I put down linoleum flooring in the coop! It makes it SO much easier to clean! Could someone please tell the rats to quit eating it?

The next big job has been working on the paths. We are laying down these great “tan” colored dividers that interlock and will help to create a very finished looking path. Farmer Jeff is very particular about the look of his paths…so we will, without a doubt, be using the level, once again. I swear, that man is so German…although my family is the one that has closer ties to the old country. Oh well…it does appeal to my Swiss sense of order to have everything level and lined up! I can’t help it, either!!!

We are also working to put down a new patio flooring under the pole barn in the outdoor kitchen. That will be such a cool (literally!) place to be! I can imagine being out there during storms in the winter, just hanging out and watching the rain! Now we just have to convince the dogs that they will be dry under the cover, instead of having them burrow under the house!

While I have been working on all of my projects, Farmer Jeff has been busy at work planting the pasture land next door. He has planted the rest of the cherry and roma tomatoes, corn, green beans, swiss chard, collard greens, pickling cucumbers, peppers, 5 different kinds of “zucchini-like” squash, butternut squash, melons and…I think I am forgetting one…

We have decided to take off a week in the spring, a week in the summer and perhaps a week in early fall just to stay home and work in the garden. Sounds like heaven to me!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tasso, Prince of the Canine Carnival

With great excitement, Farmer Jeff announced there was to be a Canine Carnival in the town square on Saturday! There was also going to be a beauty contest and Farmer Jeff thought our boy, Tasso, could win since he is the cutest and handsomest pup. When it comes to going out in public, he is also the only one we can control! Callebaut and India are really unsocialized when it comes to going out in public. Callebaut understands walking on a leash, India does her famous "air-walking" and only with great stubborness.

Farmer Jeff appeared in his sparkling white chef's coat and the two of them really stood out in the crowd! Tasso was not feeling as outgoing or secure as Farmer Jeff and just wanted to sit up on the highest spot in the square. Other than standing on each of us, that proved to be by the water fountain benches.

Unbeknownst to the participants, the judges of the contest wandered around and checked out the dogs! We all walked the parade route together, past the reviewing stand and then were seated until they announced the finalists. Sure enough! Tasso was one of 20 finalists! We were just thrilled. When it came time to announce the winners, first they announced the Court Jester, a very young and chubby female bulldog that was tripping over her pink tu tu, and then then announced Prince TASSO!!! HOORAY!!! He received a lovely silver beaded necklace with a reflective purple medalion and looked as though he had just come from Mardi Gras. Pretty appropriate for our New Orleans pup!

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Baby "Hawks" Emerge

Around the time we had Mama Josephine hatching her babies, Farmer Jeff and I got so excited we went to the chicken store and bought 4 - 1 week old Ameraucana chicks. We started our flock with 3 full grown Ameraucanas but one has since died, Queen Elizabeth. I think she had some sort of egg laying problem and I didn't realize it until I found her body.

These little chicks have grown up SO quickly in comparison to the little bantam kids. The Ameraucanas are looking more like hawks every day! We started them out in the bathroom, but Farmer Jeff wanted to move the nursery to the garage, so they moved to a new area. It is really getting hot in the garage, and these little girls all have their mature feathers, so we are going to move them, in their safety cage, to the main section of the indoor coop. That way they can get used to seeing who is in the big area and the big girls can be more accustomed to the kids!

One of them is very gray like Eleanor, one is VERY golden and the other two just look like hawks!

They will need to be about 5 or 5 1/2 months before they start laying eggs, but then they will lay greenish/blue eggs! We are so excited! At the end of May we are due to get 6 Marans baby chicks/hens. They will lay very dark brown or rust colored eggs! They will be so pretty and it will fun to see all of the variety of colors!