Category Archives: chickens

day 5

Don’t forget: Mamma’s Best recipes are due by this Friday (today).   

No words this week, just pictures. Simple, sweet pictures of life here on the farm.

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granny

Granny, our Brahama hen

everyone on this farm has a little attitude

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newbies

Aw, look who joined the farm last night! Eleven sweet little teenager hens and 1 little rooster man were brought home from friends in Cedar Springs to bring our flock back up to speed.  We were down to 11 hens- which is totally fine, but I find that our ladies really do best when there are 20-25 friends to hang with.

Plus, my girls are all on the down-side of laying. Hens only lay for 2 years… did you know that? They start laying at about 6 months and are finished laying at 2 years. They live to be about 7 (or so I’ve heard… ours don’t get much past the 4 year old range thanks to the foxed, raccoons, opossum, and hawks around here). All ours are 2 or older and still laying, but it’s time to add some young ones into the coop to overlap the cutbacks that are bound to happen soon. They would make perfectly fine chicken stock for soup after their laying days are over, but we don’t butcher our older girls.  They get to hang out here as long as they’re happy… or fast.

Gideon was less than impressed. But I’m excited. New animals on the farm are always exciting.

 

Alright.

I finally got all the details worked out for some new sweatshirts!

TEXASnorthSTAR

If you’d like to order, THESE are our 4 options! Super fun, right?  These are all adult unisex sizes and I’ll only be ordering what you ask for, so there won’t be any wiggle room.  The hooded sweatshirt is GILDAN brand and the crew-necks are ALTERNATIVE APPAREL brand, if you want to do some sizing research. Best to order up a size if you’re unsure of shrinking or in-between sizes. I have some plans for youth and kiddo sizes, but I’d like to see where we stand on this order first.

Some things to consider:

  • the logo will be printed on the front in white ink
  • these are all adult sizes
  • there is no XS in the green hooded sweatshirt
  • 2XL sweatshirts of any kind are $5 extra
  • shipping for each sweatshirt is $5 each

 

Clicking HERE will take you to a page that will allow you to order. I’ll respond with an email invoice that will include your total and double-check your order. Let me know if something’s funky. I’ll let you know in the next week if we’ve reached our 25 sweatshirt minimum.

Happy Monday, Folks!

We love you here at TexasNorth!


humble pie

Oh, Friends.

I stand before you a broken woman.  Innocent, no more. The days of blissful Farm-Maiden-ness… well, they are long gone.  I spent better (?) part of 7 hours on Saturday mucking out, hosing down, spraying with vinegar, and whitewashing the inside of the coop to rid our farm of mites and lice and other things we shall never speak of. My boots, which work on a regular basis, had never seen the likes of our Saturday.  They are officially broken-in.  No fashion wellies on this farm.  You gotta pull your weight.

Now, to be fair: it’s not the chickens’ fault.  They’re birds. Birds get bugs.  All the nice people in all the farm stores and internet farm forums said the same thing: birds get bugs.  I just thought… I hoped… I pretended… that two people who love each other and have the best intentions of keeping their animals happy would NEVER have bugs in their chicken coop.  Apparently, it takes a little more effort than that.  Well played, Nature.  Well played.

The coop- the big house– has been in action since 2008. I read that post and I laugh.  I roll on the floor and cackle.  “But they are so easy and so funny.”  Blah. blah. BLAH.  I’ve always gathered eggs daily and freshened hay accordingly.   It’s not always pretty- rain makes mud, raccoons ravage, winter is long and stale- but you clean as you go and life goes on.  Amazingly, it 4 years for any buggy creature to realize there was a nirvana within the walls… hay, feed, feathers, a little mud, and the occasional broken egg.  Add in Michigan’s recent summer of 100° days and you’ve got a perfect storm for a crawly explosion.  Good intentions, be damned.

While the coop (and water and feed and nesting boxes) gets cleaned out regularly, this was the first time it received a Deep Clean.  After clearing out the feed bins and tools, I brushed, scraped, and pitch-forked all the bedding out of every crevice and corner.  Then I sprayed it down with regular ol’ water from top to bottom.  This cleared out all the cobwebs and dust that had moved in with the ladies over the years.  Messy.  By this time, I was soaked and nasty and completely emotionally defeated.  Also, I gagged a little bit.  There may have been a few tears.  I used 100% vinegar and a backpack sprayer (similar to this one) to disinfect the coop before whitewashing. I used this recipe (Mother Earth News has one, too) for my whitewash:

1 gallon water
1 lb. salt or 2 cups
5 lbs. HYDRATED lime (white and fine like talcum power)
-mix in a 5 gallon bucket little by little (aim for pancake batter consistency)

Whitewashing brightens everything up inside small, dark barn spaces and has a little antibacterial action going for it, too.  It’s also much cheaper than paint.  I also painted the bottom of our apple tree saplings to help keep the sun and bugs at bay.

Everything I know, I learned.  The hard way.  So, lest you think I am SuperWoman living a dream out here in the country where the stars are bright and the moon is high… well, I am. But it’s not always local beef  and free-range bliss.

Because birds get bugs.

And I, I am a better farmer for it.

Surely, you’ve had some humble pie in your lifetime as well, Friend?  Lay it on me.


deep breaths

We’ve had 6 bull calves, 1 heifer, and 1 stillborn… with 1 still to come.  We are nearly identical to last year and the year before, which bodes well for consistency but not breeding.  Good for meat sales but not for growing the herd.  Good for learning to sling hay but not for watching the past come alive. (Doesn’t that cutie on the left look like he has a tornado on his head?  Or a chicken?  Or Texas?)

We’ve been selling eggs for years but have recently had reports of a few sour eggs in the crates.  Time to look at the collection methods, the laying methods, the cleaning methods… make sure we’re not missing anything.

And I cannot write this without tears, but you should know that we lost our Blue Dog Thursday night.  By grace, it was a clear decision that she needed to be put down after an accident on the farm left her paralyzed.  She was a remarkable dog.  A remarkable dog who didn’t even realize she’d been hurt… just wanted to keep going and going.

We find ourselves a little dumbfounded, standing in the middle of burnt fields with heavy hearts.  What do you do when things are hard?  When the hobby turns to heartache?  When doubt rises faster than hope?

You throw a few things.  Because, you know, you’re human.

Then, you breathe.

And, you pray.

And, you remember that ‘all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ‘ (Romans 8:28)

We do love God.  And, we do believe we have been called to this place for His purpose.  So, we will wait for rain.  Pray for wisdom.  Watch for the next calf.  Keep going, keep going.

Experience: that most brutal of teachers.

But you learn; my God, do you learn.

(C.S. Lewis)

And now… just now… it is raining.

Perhaps, just maybe,

He was waiting for us to ask for help. 


dreaming about chickens

This week has been, in a word,

ridiculous.

But, I did manage to finish a project! I’m still waiting to hang it, but it is otherwise finished.  Pallet Projects are all. over. the world-wide-web right now and I do love me some rustic wood.

Just be sure- even if you’re just making a sign- that your pallet is clean.  As in, wasn’t used to store oil containers or boxes with meat in them or the like.  It’s impossible to know a pallet’s history, really… they are bought and sold like Pokemon cards and do not come with a passport.  But, clean that baby good- just to be sure.

The gaps between boards were small enough that I didn’t make any filler boards. I did coat it with a coat of stain and then spray painted it white.  I should have saved myself the time… the wood soaks up everything.  Be sure to use a good primer under your top coat if you’re going for opaque.

So, you start with a plain pallet.  Clean ‘er up.

What’cha want your sign to say?  Now, if you’re fancy or current (which I am neither) you’ll use your electronic cutting tool to make your letters nice and even.  These machines even cut out vinyl, which you can simply paint over and then peel off.  Genius.

I’m working old-school here, so I have the alphabet in 300 point Caracteres font.  Look familiar?  It’s the font used in French transportation signs.  It’s also the font I’ve used for years on my celebration banners.  Long ago, I printed out the alphabet onto plain paper.  I cut that out and then traced each letter onto empty cereal boxes.  These have been my stencils ever since.  The letters fit almost exactly (which, according to how words work, is not exactly) on the pallet boards… but good enough for me.  I was not about to cut out a whole new alphabet!

I played around with the letters… some t’s are out of place and the i’s are always a bit low… just to make it interesting. The quote was roughly traced with a black sharpie and then filled in with black acrylic paint.  All in 10 minute increments.  This place is crazy.  I kid you not.

The two empty boards at the bottom bug me to no end.  So, they will be cut off.  OR, some hook will be added to hold towels and swim suits after Sprinkler Time. I can’t decide.  Either way, some foam will be glued to the back so the pallet doesn’t scratch our siding, and then the whole thing will be hung on the back porch with some rough rope.  It’s huge and perfect for filling up some major dead space.

Love it.

Now I need one for the front porch, but I’m having trouble finding to perfect quote.  Suggestions are welcome.

Have a great weekend, Folks!
We love you here at TexasNorth!


postcards from Texas

The Mulder family is off the farm this week visiting KatieKate’s motherland of Texas.

I’ll be posting postcards every day this week!  Y’all come back now, ya here?


longhorns and chickens

So, sometimes cows get out.  You know this.  Miss Bonnie is especially fast when the gate is open and incredibly agile for a, um, hefty woman. She can bob and weave with the best of them.

Fortunately, she is easy to get back IN the pasture… a little sweet talk, a little romp through the garden and she is good to go.  She just likes to make Curt work, is all.  She’s my favorite.

It’s been such a mild winter that the chickens have been roaming instead of penned up.  Usually, I pen them in a smaller yard when there’s snow on the ground because, and let me be perfectly honest here, they stay out in the snow until their feet freeze.  We’re not dealing with the top of the food chain here, folks.

Letting them out to roam 24-7 usually results in the girls picking new places to lay their eggs… they forget to go back in their nesting boxes in the coop and we begin finding eggs in buckets, under hay bales, and most recently in the planter next to my front door.

Talk about home delivery!  Thanks, Ladies!

Hey- we’re headed to Texas tonight.  In the van. All of us.  I am terrified.  Say a little prayer, won’tcha?  For safety and sanity and all things in between?  Thank you so much.  I’ll be here next week with a few postcards from the Mother Country.

Love to you all this weekend!


freedom ranger chicks, 5 thru 7 weeks old

Sorry for the delay, Folks.  The Mulder fam went camping for a week and a half- and I did not take the chickens or the computer with me.  I did manage to take some pictures before we left (top: 5 weeks old), and then some today (bottom: 7 weeks old).  The 6th week is gone forever… with their baby feathers. I was shocked to find them all looking like full-grown birds upon our return.  No more junior high… these peeps are varsity now.

I’m not sure if you know this, but chickens aren’t the brightest of the animal kingdom.  It’s fine.  They don’t have to do my taxes or anything, but MAN if they could just figure out that sleeping IN the coop is so. much. safer. than perching outside.  Every night after dusk I shoo/herd/man-handle the 10 or so rebels that nestle down just outside the coop window and put them inside for safe-keeping.  Granted, they are getting a bit crowded for the mini-coop, and I need to work on an overflow area so they can be contained but roomy after dark.

They are so much heavier/denser than my egg layers.  It’s wild.  They continue to burn through the feed- at least 50# every 5 days.  It’s all in one barrel now, so I can no longer keep track of bags depleted.  I know I bought 1 bag of starter mash and 14 bags of broiler mash all total.  We’ll see what’s left at the end… if any.  Now that they are old enough to graze and wander, they’ve added grass and hay and bugs and veggie scraps to their diet.

I think they’re pretty happy.  Stinky (as we all are after bedding down with 49 of our closest friends for 2 months), but happy.

These bottom pictures crack me up.  If they look like they’re ticked at me, it’s because they are.  It’s beautiful afternoon here and they simply don’t want to be bothered with photo shoots.


freedom ranger chicks, 4 weeks old

Annnnnnd, we’ve reached the month mile-marker.  50 chicks, all still happy, all still sassy.  Their sass is actually increasing to compensate for the awkwardness they feel in losing their baby feathers.  There’s a bit of Saved By the Bell action going on in there… lots of posturing, lots of flapping, lots of mischief.

This week, they’ve killed another 50# bag of feed and I have officially let them out of the circular pen to wander at will during daylight.  They still choose to stay close to the water and mound of grain but are learning to explore and peck with each day.  It’s hard to remember they’re only a month old… they’re enormous!


freedom ranger chicks, 3 weeks old

The Freedom Ranger meat chickens are now 3 weeks old!  Tonight they graduated to an outdoor pen which will allow them to roam and hunt and peck a bit during the day.  They will still sleep in the minicoop at night to protect them from critters.  You can see the skepticism on some of their faces… it took a bit of convincing before the first few would venture outside.  Chickens.

As of today, they have finished their 2nd 50# bag of feed.  That’s right: 1 week.  Let it not be said that I am not feeding them well.