Tag Archives: chickens

RIP Henrietta

Once upon a time we had three chicks that grew into happy, fat chickens. One flew the coop, never to be seen again. One was killed by an unknown four-legged assailant. The last one, Henrietta, chattered and ran around the yard, living her carefree life, happy enough to peck and scratch and eat treats we brought out for her. Over the past few days, we noticed a change in her: she wasn’t running for treats, and mostly she was sitting under the palmettos or under the rack in the coop, not wandering the yard. Yesterday, she was panting and not moving much at all. Mom and I were out looking at the girls (since we added more chickens to keep her company the past two years) and a storm blew up. I gathered her up from under the palmettos since she wasn’t moving to get out of the storm and took her into the coop, then out of there to the back porch into a box lined with a towel. We knew she was on the way out, so we made her comfortable and kept an eye on her. Last night, she finally stopped breathing and this morning I buried her out on the edge of the property where I’ve buried two other chickens.

So long, Henrietta. You were definitely the favored one amongst the girls.

“I can eat fifty eggs”

Someone will have to, eventually.

The days are getting longer, the girls are a bit older, it’s warmer, and apparently they’re beginning to hit their stride. They must have heard our nefarious plan to replace them, and kicked things into motion. I suppose we’ll have to keep them, and when the new chicks start laying as well, we’ll be getting a lot of eggs in any given day. Hopefully people around here will be ready to have fresh eggs always on hand.

Oh, the quote: if you’ve never seen Cool Hand Luke, you should.

Chickens? Check.

At some point last year, we decided that in addition to keeping chickens as layers, we’d get some to raise for meat. Me, I’m all for it, as I’m very comfortable knowing where my food comes from and how it manages to get from the barnyard to the store (or, in our case, the farmers from whom we purchase our meats) to my pots and pans and into my belly (not that I eat a whole lot these days).

Still, I’m perfectly fine with raising and processing and freezing our own birds, and I thought other people in the family were as well, even if they didn’t actually participate in the processing portion of it. Now, though, my mom is questioning whether she could eat an animal that we raised, so it appears we’re just down to me on the farm to human really, really local food chain.

Instead of bringing to the ranch a group of chicks to be raised for meat, I ordered eight chicks destined to live out their lives laying eggs instead. Worst case, figuring a 50% loss in shipping, we wind up with four birds. Best case, we wind up with eight, who should lay enough for us and extended family. They’re due for delivery in mid-March right around my birthday, which gives us about a month to get rid of the current girls and clean everything up for a group of peeping fuzzballs. In a strange twist, it appears that the oldest of the girls, who had not been laying at all, has started laying once more, as if she’s on to our nefarious plan to give away this group for free to anyone who wants to come get them (most likely for the stewpot, since they’re older, and erratic layers). If anyone local to the greater Jax area wants them, let me know.

No more mutt chickens, though. The group of replacements we got last year are of indeterminate heritage, and although docile, not tremendously consistent in laying – the very reason they have to be moved out for more productive birds. I ordered four each of Red Star and Delaware day old chicks, a good mix of medium to high production layers, and both breeds are friendly, docile, and easy to manage. Maybe next time around I can convince everyone that having our own meat birds is nothing to shudder about.

Going around the bend

Tomorrow, another visit with the oncologist to see what the results of the testing say – hopefully, there will be results and this won’t be another trip into town for nothing.

Today, though: planning. Planning for next season and next year. This afternoon, I managed a tour around the rear garden to see the pitiful state of affairs. Blight has taken hold of several frames of tomatoes, and the bugs are munching on the cukes and zucchini like it’s their personal buffet (although I did manage to squash a few during my brief stay outdoors). The corn is dead, for yet another season, and I’m of half a mind to just give up on that altogether. The new round of lima and green beans are not thriving, as they say, and are either dead or dying. Some of the transplants I managed to get into the frames before going into the hospital are still alive, and even thriving, including a new round of Cherokee Purple tomatoes and some bell peppers. The watermelon and butternut squash transplants don’t look horrible, but they’re skinny things and I’m hoping they make it through.

The other part of planning involves chickens. We decided before I went in for surgery that next year we’re going to raise our own chickens for meat in addition to those we keep as layers. This is not without logistical issues, of course, and it’s likely that only my brother and myself will be able to actually butcher the birds, but that’s fine. Other family members can handle the less gruesome parts, like packaging the birds, whole or pieced out, once they’ve been dressed. That seems like a fair enough division of labor to me.

Since the birds are generally processed at about 12 weeks, and the chicks are available year round, we could do multiple groups per year if it turns out to be worthwhile. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be, as how often do most people really get the chance to raise their food almost from start to a very definite finish? We’re not quite on the path to hatching our own chicks here, and probably never will be since that would require a rooster, and that simply isn’t happening around here. I’m content enough with ordering chicks even though it isn’t as completely self sufficient as would be the case in a utopian universe. Now, if it really comes does to the end of the world as we know it, complete with zombies, we’ll rethink that part of the equation. Until then, we plan for stocking the freezer with freshly butchered, pasture raised chicken, right off the property. There are, no doubt, worse things in life.

Birthdays, we got birthdays

Three, to be precise. We combined them into a single dinner to keep our (my) sanity intact, since I am also cooking for tomorrow’s superbowl dinner and next Saturday’s baby shower for Gabs.

But first, to the humor impaired fuckwit who took some weird offense at my “sarcasm” based on my being funny about the length of an error message presented by an application: it takes a certain arrogance to think that the entire world revolves around you and that every comment is directed at you personally. It does not, and it is not. Get over yourself. And thanks for the reminder about why it’s a complete waste of energy to try to respond with anything other than “Fixed.” when people like you open a ticket. Pity we didn’t know you’d be such an ass before we replied – but we certainly know now, don’t we?

The Boy turned 22 yesterday, and requested steak for dinner. We had ordered some bison ribeyes, so we had those, with baked potatoes, rice with shallots and parm (mom’s request), and roasted vegetables (red onion, zucchini, tomatoes). I also made a fresh batch of vanilla ice cream to go along with the cake.

Seven (and a half) for dinner.

Table for seven

Roasted vegetables. All gone.

Roasted veg

Burning down the house.

Lighting

A cake afire.

Fiery cake

The lights begin to dim.

Blown out

Quite a nice evening, altogether, but yet another in a series of very long days today for me. Today, in addition to work and the cooking, we also finally got some seeds started and I prepped an area – by hand, no less – about 56′ by 15′ to lay some seed  (a pasturegrass mix, no endophytes). This will be the area we’re planning to keep the chickens and their coop when they graduate from chickhood. I still need to clear a space and some kind of cage for them when they arrive later this month, as I’m definitely not allowing them to take over my bathtub for three weeks. Whatever I come up with will also have to be cat-proof, since without that, their lifespan will be quite short indeed.

Where’s the food, already?

I know, a real dearth of food and garden stuff lately. This morning when I got back up after my few hours of sleep, it was 35 degrees and rainy outside. Brrr. Where’s my spring?

It’s also that time of the year when the whirlpool of month end and previous year end paperwork/filings/activities are at full blast, which leaves only a little time for the other things I like to do. Since it’s still spitting rain and not going to warm up outside past 50 or so, and everyone is gone, leaving just me and the animals, it’s a perfect day to blast through as much of this stuff as humanly possible.

We will return to the goodies eventually – next week, we will be building more frames and mixing the soil to fill them, getting seeds started, and in general working on more prep for the garden. For some reason, I don’t give as much love to the winter garden as the summer. It may be because half the stuff I cannot/will not eat (lettuces for the former, brussels sprouts for the latter), and this year it may be because I hate the plants we picked up from Home Depot to transplant and get us kickstarted (that would be the broccoli, which has been a complete loser, in my opinion – we’ll be starting some anew from seed). The garlic is going gangbusters, though. I just hope it doesn’t rot in the ground from the weird rains we’ve been having.

The spring and summer gardens should be huge, given all the seed we have. In the past two days, we’ve received shipments of worm castings, chicken manure, and a batch of tomato and pepper seed varieties we’re going to try. We’re awaiting the arrival of some worms and a will have a bin for our wormy friends to do some composting in addition to the regular compost pile we have. There are also more seeds en route because – and there’s no other way to put it – I must be insane.

We still need to:

– find a permanent place for the asparagus.

– build a coop for the upcoming chick parade, with laying boxes.

– get the greenhouse up, but only after the latest five loads of topsoil that isn’t really topsoil is spread – it’s swamp muck more than topsoil, and completely unlike the nice loads we got last time from this very same place. Since they’re not entirely as consistent as we’d like, as they apparently do not go to the same pit on a load to load basis, we will simply find another supplier. Topsoil ain’t exactly cheap, and since we need a lot of it around here to top off our sand and fill various areas, it makes no sense to use a provider who cannot perform to the standards we need.

– figure out which trees we will plant where out front when it does warm up into spring.

– plant all these damn sagos my uncle keeps giving my mother and she keeps bringing in.

– edge off the driveway to keep the slag in place.

– figure out where we’ll put the fences around the huge garden area we’ll have to keep the bunnies from thinking it’s a free lunch around here.

– put up some solar-powered exterior lights on the corner of the barn.

– pick up some more coastal hay for mulching and moisture control as I continue my quest to extend our grassy area out front.

– get the pasturegrass started on the west side of the property, as a place for the rolling coop and an area where we can eventually cut our own hay.

– put together a menu that will help keep cholesterol ranges in the norm. Mom’s latest bloodwork came back with a sky high count, my sister’s is also high, and I’m sure now that I’m eating again, mine has gone back up to my BC levels. In our family’s case, it’s more hereditary than dietary (although diet of course contributes), so there are limits to what diet alone can do – that’s why there are drugs for that and why we’ll probably all be on them at some point. I was, until the first surgery, in fact.

– various other things too numerous to mention, but which all fit right in with our homestead theme.

Doing the funky chicken

Or maybe not.

Tonight’s dinner plan was to roast a chicken (salt, pepper, ginger, fresh orange, onion) for dinner. When I started peeling it out of its wrapper, it smelled like a three week old chicken left in hundred degree heat after a skunk had sprayed it. In other words: no chicken tonight. Fortunately, there was cheesy potato vegetable chowder to be had on this gloomy, rainy evening.

My seed packets are spread out on the table, with the exception of the packets of the sungold tomato seed, which I can’t lay my hands on this instant. I need to get some flats started in the garage under the heat and grow lights, in an area which will also house some special guests for several weeks: chicks. Yes, we will have a few chickens when all is said and done, and they’ll be here in mid February to take up residence with the rest of the zoo.

It’s going to be an interesting spring around the homestead…