Thursday, June 25, 2009

And Summer has Only Begun...

June is almost gone, and it went by in a blur. Life has been busy with farm and garden activity, and other summer fun.

Last week Nolan and Lydia went to 4-H day camp for four days. For me it was kind of like sending them off to their first day of school. Bittersweet. I was a little nervous for Nolan, but thankfully he and Lydia were in the same group. He had a great time. They both did.

I asked Nolan what was the best part of camp. His answer, "Swimming."

"What besides swimming did you like."


Apparently he really liked the swimming.

That Friday Jake and Delilah came down for the weekend, and to drop Jude off for a week long stay. Ashley, Miles, and their aunt (who is their age) came down for two weeks.

Monday morning we dropped Kellen and Miles off for five days of 4-H overnight camp. This was Kellen's first time for overnight camp. Again, bittersweet for mom. I was very excited for him to go, until a few days before he left. At that time I had a slight panic attack, and wondered what they heck I was doing sending him off to stay with strangers for five days. He was undaunted, and very excited. I can't wait to pick him up tomorrow morning, and to hear all about his week. He'll probably only want to talk about swimming.

Of course we aren't just sitting around while the boys are at camp. My mom is on vacation and there are more grandchildren here than normal. Tuesday she took them all to the library and the spray park. Yesterday, we took them rock climbing. Today for swimming, paddles boats, and play at a nearby water park. Tomorrow we pick up the boys, and rest (and do laundry, and get ready for the next week of activities.)

Saturday my parents will be heading to Ohio with Miles, Ashely and Micah to take Jude home. Jeff and Gail will be coming here and leaving for Ohio on Sunday with Kellen, Lydia, and Nolan for a week. I will be working all weekend. Are you following all this? Because my head is spinning.

While the three oldest are involved in countless fun activities and being spoiled rotten by their grandparents, Tim and I will be taking Vivian for a three day camping trip. And hopefully finding some peace, quiet, and rest. On the Fourth the kids will be back. That following week looks gloriously empty.

I plan to enjoy it while I can. (Actually, canning is probably what I will be doing that week, or picking berries.) Then there is VBS at our church and a consignment sale I'd like to participate in, and then it is the fair. I'm scared to look on the calendar beyond that.

Lydia asked me the other day why summer goes so fast and winter takes so long. I tried to tell her that summer has only begun. I tried to explain to her that it only seems to go faster because there are so many more activities. She didn't get it. I have to admit that neither do I.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kellen's First Shave

All the kids seem to be growing up so fast, but Kellen especially has been growing up by leaps and bounds. In the last year his feet have grown several sizes, to the point that they are almost the same size as mine. Early last summer his clothing was size 10. This summer; 16, and I even bought him some adult smalls.

He also is taking on more responsibility. He mowed the yard for the first time a week or so ago. He is helping Tim and Papaw more and more with the work around the farm. He has learned to cook several meals, and can be trusted to watch Vivian while I am outside or up working in the garden.

The kid is growing by leaps and bounds quickly approaching the transitions from boyhood to teenager, and then to adulthood. It is a very bittersweet time. Then on Sunday, while I was at work, he had his first shave.

Shocking isn't it? I have to admit I was rather surprised myself upon returning home after work.

Here is my little man three days later, very thrilled to pose for a picture. Ah, he is growing up so fast!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poultry Adventures

One of the first things most people get when they start their little farm is chickens. A few chickens running around gobbling up bugs and leaving you eggs to eat is just what every homestead needs. Of course you want them to have free range to gobble up the most bugs and to provide you with entertainment. Of course they will obligingly return to the nest boxes you've so lovingly provided so leave their eggs. It is so perfect, isn't it?

We started with three hens that were given to us. They roamed freely and it worked out pretty well. They did scratch the mulch onto Mamaw and Papaw's sidewalk some, and there was a little poo around here and there, but with only three chickens it really wasn't a problem.

Then a friend gave us some ducks. I really enjoy the ducks. For the longest time they made their home under our back deck. They didn't cause any problems. Finding their eggs could be a challenge, but when we did, we were rewarded with large rich eggs. It worked out well, until they got brave and ventured to the front yard.

For some unknown reason the ducks decided to take up residency in our front yard. Fine, except one thing, they decided the front porch was the best sleeping area. Every morning they left large unwanted deposits right in front of the door. Around the same time, another friend gave us more than a dozen chickens. It was time for some fencing.

Papaw and Tim spent quite a bit of time building a fence for the poultry. We still wanted them to free range, but wanted to keep them away from the houses. The solution was to put fencing far enough out that chickens could roam in the forest, clean up under the rabbit hutches, and clean up in the goat barn, but not go around the end of the fencing to the yards. It took awhile to get it poultry proof. Actually it was never quite perfect, as we have a few smaller mixed breed hens that are quite determined to lay and nest away from the rest of the chickens, but for the most part we were happy with the solution. The poultry also seemed happy with the solution. For the better part of last summer, and all winter, they stayed in the pasture.

Then this spring, the ducks starting going on adventures. Our ducks are Rouens. Their bodies are heavy. Their wings are short. They are bred to not fly, and they don't. They barely look like they can walk, but these awkward waddling birds were walking well over a quarter a mile around the fence to feast on the tadpoles in our ditches this spring. Soon they had found their favorite nest spot on my front porch, and then they demolished all the peas in the garden. Time to build more fence.

Instead of adding on or enclosing what was already built for the chickens, we decided it would be easier and work better to duck proof a small bit of pasture that we use as a nursery area for the livestock. It already had a small wallow in it for water. We moved an unused dog house in for shelter, and the wallow was dug out to make a small pond for the ducks. It took many attempts to get all the gaps closed enough to keep the ducks in, but finally they were staying in. At about the same time, we started noticing chickens were missing.

The chickens were perfectly happy in their pasture. They were foraging for bugs, and cleaning up the areas there were supposed to. Not all of them were diligent in returning to the nest box to lay, but for the most part things were working out well. Then the rooster went missing, and a count revealed a couple of hens were also missing.

One afternoon Kellen heard the chickens sound out their alarm. One minute he saw a hen walking along the edge of the ridge. The next he saw a puff of feathers. Tim tried to track it, but only found that puff of feathers and a small bit of remains clear down in the hollow. We suspect a fox was the culprit. We've set out a live trap, but have caught nothing. Maybe this free ranging isn't all it is cracked up to be?

The poor hens spent over a week shut up in their coop. Another fence line has been added around their coop to create a large run, and they finally were let out today. The pullets that are in another location, have also been prey to something. They will soon be joining the hens. The chickens will have a tiny bit of forest to forage in and rabbits to clean up after. They will no longer have access to the goat barn. I guess we will have more flies this year.

Chickens are a staple of the family homestead. They provide meat and eggs, and will clean up after the other animals. They are fairly easy to care for, but certainly do come with their own challenges. I doubt that our poultry adventures are over, but hopefully there will be a lull in the excitement.