Monday, January 31, 2011

Storm is brewing

My daughter said that they are anticipating schools to be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, high winds and ice predicted.  Forecast here, about 150 miles north of her, is for up to 24 inches of snow, winds up to 40 mph.  It's kind of hard to believe.  Sky has been sunny most of the day, and it is in the high 20s - too warm for that ice they are predicting here as well.  I put a heat lamp out in the Moop, just in case the storm develops into the worst case scenario. 

The girls are having to deal with a light coming on in the morning about 6 a.m., and not going out until 8 p.m.  So far, I haven't seen any dramatic improvement in egg production.  In fact, I am supposed to deliver two dozen eggs, and there are only 13 eggs in the fridge.  They had better get cracking!  I need to take a dozen with me to market tomorrow, and one of the shareholders is picking up milk early in anticipation of the storm.  So I will need another dozen for her at about 4 pm.  Well, I will have what I will have.  I do not know how to lay eggs.

This has been a rough winter.  I have always enjoyed snow, but except for a few days before the New Year and another few days in late November or early December, the ground has been white - solid white - only an errant weed sticking out of the snow here and there.

Spring is looking pretty good right now.  There are onions growing in the atrium, as well as a huge tub of lettuces.  I am ready to go out to the greenhouse for a little sunbathing on the next sunny day.  I have to do something to get past the winter blues!

I will keep you posted on the storm.  Plenty of firewood cut, and the freezers, fridges and cupboards are all well stocked.  I should be able to weather the storm quite well.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Were the chickens safe???

Last night was Purple Porch, and I delivered my wares to the distribution point.  It was a gloomy day, and that means the chickens will go to roost early.  Androo was milking, and I asked him to check when he was done to see if the chickens were in.  If they were, then please button up the Moop for the night.  I didn't ask him to call me, but was pretty sure that they would be inside before he left the place.

My customers all picked up early.  I was sitting there knitting, and suddenly I just got a feeling.  I broke down my display and headed out about 45 minutes early.  As I headed up the drive (by then it was totally dark), I saw a fox.  They like chickens.  He was down by the road, but nevertheless it made me very uneasy.

I swung the car over by the Moop when I got near the house, something I usually don't do when there is snow on the ground, but by now I was very worried.  The door was up.  Androo must have finished milking early.  I trotted through the snow to the door and was so very relieved to see everyone lined up on the roosts.  They were done clucking and cooing; it was dark and they were asleep!  No chicken feathers scattered about.  All chickies accounted for. 

Would the fox have made it to the Moop if I hadn't gotten home when I did?  I will never know.

I put their feed troughs inside and gently lowered the door, giving thanks to the powers that be that my chickens were safe.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sleep, wonderful sleep

For years, I probably averaged about four hours of sleep a night, and just thought it was my metabolism.  Sometimes I would take long Sunday naps, and I figured that was my "catch-up" time. 

The corporate world is often hard on one's sleep - many things to worry about.  I had rough jobs the last few years I was there.  In the corporate world, you have little or no control over your fate.  You are at the beck and call of the whims of the latest boss, and I watched people scramble to follow the new rules of engagement with every change in leadership.  For me, being something of a control freak, that world did not contribute to restful nights.

When I finally got to do my own thing, when I retired from that world and started my little booth at the farmers market, I thought all would be well.  Although taking two months off after leaving my sales job, I still suffered from insomnia and seldom slept more than five or six hours.

It has been over eight years now that I have been the master of my own world.  Little by little, I managed to burden myself with a second booth at the market, a huge expansion in product line, and then of course, let's bring some cows down here, and get some chickens.  And why not become certified organic?  I saw my time shrink, and I realized that I was lying awake thinking about cows instead of airplane wheels and brakes.  Bottom line, I wasn't sleeping very well again.

Enter Kayla, my assistant.  I am starting to realize just how ridiculous it was to think I could do it all.  Kayla is working only 20 to 30 hours a week right now, because she is also milking for the Milk Association, giving the other milkers a much needed break.  But even 20 hours is a big load off.  My house looks decent, and all of the baskets and boxes on my counter at the market are filled with product. And I have some time off!

Sunday I did nothing except a few chores - maybe an hour's worth - and worked on a small problem with the milking system - another hour.  The rest of the day I was lazy.  A couple of naps, watched Da Bears win, read a little, ate well.  And I slept again that night, all night.  And again last night, a good night's sleep, nearly eight hours!

Being too tired to sleep is no joke.  I should know - I was there for more years than I care to remember.

Well, time to hit that paperwork again.  My next objective is a clean desk.  :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finally - some eggs to sell!

While I am still paying off the people who helped build the Moop for me with free eggs, I am getting about a dozen a day and have started selling some.  It is nice to have a few pennies in my pocket to begin to defray the investment in my poultry business.

I shudder to think how much I have spent to get this flock going, and how many chicks I bought to get to my current flock.  I was also given nine "hens."  It seems three of those are most definitely roosters, and I know they need to go into the pot.  Once the weather warms up and they get frisky, it will be a disaster to have five roosters here. 

I have reconciled myself to knowing (and having kissed) the bearer of the beef in my freezer.  But the chickens - I have gotten to love the little critters so much.  In fact, I find myself eating poultry less often.  When I go through the subject matter of my blogs, it is the chickens who reign supreme.  Maybe it is because they talk to me.  I am a very verbal person, and I talk back to them.  I go out there three times a day - in the morning to let them out, at which time the boys are crowing even on the dullest day.  They are all quite excited to be breaking their fast.  Mmmm!!  Three troughs full of fresh chicken feed!!  Mmmm!!  Fresh water!!  So much clucking and scurrying about.

In the early afternoon, I go out and pick up eggs (have to take an egg carton with me now, too many for pockets).  They seem to be telling me how they've been spending their day.  With snow on the ground, they will be hanging around the Moop, although those Campines are often in the woods seeing what they can find.  They are great little foragers, and are noted for being one of the best feed-to-egg converters out there.  I check their food and switch out their waterers.  I'll bring in the one they have been working on to fill with fresh water when I go out for the third time - to button them up for the night.

At night, the conversation is completely different.  They go from chattering to cooing, such soft little sounds.  One of the Buff Orpingtons that was a gift is rather mean.  She yells at me, and if I get close, I'm in for a peck or two.  She is often sitting on the bar that has to go up to keep them from going into the nests at night, and moving her is a trial.  But I put up with her.  She is one of my girls.

I always sing a short song to them before putting down the lid on the back of the Moop.  No matter how much clucking or cooing was going on, when I start to sing there is total silence.  Then I slowly lower the lid, call out "Good night" and call it a day.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms says that every house should have a chicken coop attached with a couple of chickens.  I agree.  It's the road to world peace.