Thursday, June 28, 2012

City Girl to Country Girl - chicks and haying

Yesterday was a big day at the farm - I'd had trouble sleeping and was awake for an hour or so in the middle of the night so I jumped out of bed at 7am in a bit of a panic when I saw what time it was.  After a quick breakfast I dashed out the door to pick up the new chicks we had ordered.  200 little-fluffy-bundles-of-peeping-cuteness.

Someone asked in the comments yesterday:  what on earth were we going to do with so many chickens? Yes - we've gone from 6 chickens in the back yard to hundreds of birds and suddenly I AM a chicken farmer!!  Here in Ontario - I think perhaps in all of Canada - the maximum we are allowed is 100 egg layers and 300 meat chickens in a year if we don't have quota.  The Chicken Farmers of Ontario says this: Quota can best be described as a license granted by CFO that allows the person to whom the license is registered to produce and market chicken in Ontario. 

One thing has led to another and our customer base for eggs is growing as people discover the health benefits and the beauty of free-range eggs.  Right now we have about 45 layers - we had more but the flock has suffered some losses over the year by raccoon and other predators - almost always at night when they don't come back to the coop - naughty chickens!  

Chickens lay reasonably well for about two years but after that it is more sporadic which is difficult when you have customers who expect them to be delivered regardless of what actually happens on the farm.  Things were simpler when we had fewer girls - more than once when we've had supply problems I have said to a customer - I don't lay them myself and I can't squeeze them out of the chickens any faster!  All of our customers are personal friends so they understand my humor!

The end result was we need to replace our laying hens and since we've been having trouble keeping up with orders we went with the maximum allowed - 100 Black Sex-Links.

One of the other problems with having any number of chickens over 6 - is that you eventually get to the point here you can't tell them apart. (yes- I just admitted I can't tell Gertie from Clementine!) We have some that are 3 years old and some that are around 2 and a few younger ones but unless they are completely different breeds - ah - I can't be REALLY sure.  So this time we went with the color-coded system.  The new ones are all black making it simple to know which ones we keep.  In a few years we'll order Red Sex-Links - fool proof (I hope!)

The little yellow puff balls in the picture are the meat chickens - they will turn white as they mature and start growing feathers.  When ordering chickens you can have them "sexed" - for us that means we choose to order all our meat birds as roosters because in the end they grow bigger and faster.  Bet ya never thought that all that chicken you've been eating were BOYS!  I  didn't either before we had our own! We are aiming for the maximum allowed in a year this year because my kids have had difficulty finding summer work and this will allow them to make some money.  

The other exciting thing that happened yesterday was our first experience haying.  Use 
"exciting thing" interchangeably with "exhausting" in this example.   I'm writing this post at 3am because I'm awake having an allergy attack but by the time I fell into bed last night I was like the walking dead.  Pooped!

Farmer Gord came on Monday morning and cut the hay.  The weather was perfect on Tuesday for drying so by Tuesday night he was baling.  Somehow watching this on OUR farm - knowing the hay will end up in OUR barn is way more exciting than just watching it otherwise.

Yesterday morning my son and I along with my parents - who rock! - emptied the hay wagons into the barn.  Such a simple sentence that doesn't do justice to the amount of work it took.  We got a system going and it took us an hour to unload the first wagon.  Farmer Gord was sending someone over at around 10am to switch the wagons for us so after a coffee break (my dad doesn't have blood in his veins - just coffee) we went out for round two.

Farmer Ryan was there switching the wagons - a young born-into-it farmer of many generations - he had been haying since he as 8 years old.  We could tell.  He stuck around to help us unload so he could drive both wagons back to the farm in one trip.  We had the wagon empty and stacked in 25 minutes - that's because we WERE DOING IT WRONG!  You are supposed to stand in the wagon and heave the bales 25 feet into the barn with one arm.  Yeah - like we could have done that!  

When we were finished it was a good feeling to stand back and see the hay stacked in the barn - enough hay to feed the animals for the whole winter.  OUR hay from OUR field. That was a very good feeling indeed.  

If I'd ever had any doubts - I felt like a farmer at that moment!  I think I can say the transition from City Girl to Country Girl was somehow completed yesterday - DREAMS COME TRUE.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New chicken pen in the Jesus Tomb

Summer is in full swing at the farm and we were in need of some more space for some of the animals so we fixed up what we affectionately call The Jesus Tomb.  When we first arrived at the farm it was the creepy building with about a foot of old cow poop in it - dark and dirty and full of junk.  We ignored it for almost a year barely venturing a peek in the door until one day we decided to have a better look.  We cleaned out the ancient poo and took the wooden covers off the windows and discovered that there might still be some life in the old place. Eventually we decided to use it as our meatie bird pen and after lots of elbow grease and some carpentry work by my kids and myself all we needed was a better door.  Son-in-law Joel to the rescue.  He spent a whole day re-building the frame and installing a new door and finally we were ready.

We moved the 60 meaties we have currently into their new home yesterday.  They seem happy with the extra room to move around.  We built a temporary outdoor run for them this morning because we didn't want them venturing too far and forgetting where home was.  It's a thing of beauty huh?  Old snow fence and a few T-posts and voilĂ  we have a run.  This would of course NOT be strong enough to repel any intruders but with the sheep and the donkey near by we haven't had any problems during the day with free-ranging.

We have been fortunate to have had a stash of leftover wood and random bits and bobs left here by the previous owner.  It's been very handy to have it all around but we're getting near to the end of the pile!

This building must have been a chicken coop in the past as it had a chicken-sized hole in the wall.  The "hatch" was made out of old backdrop sets from a drama company now defunct - thus the fancy paint job!

As we were standing and admiring our work I asked the kids approximately how big they thought the pen was - we decided it was about 18x24. My son added that it was almost as big as our house in town - we laughed - the chickens have it pretty good!

A minute later we hear the clop clop of tiny hooves - ON THE ROOF!  The building is set into a hill and as you can see in the picture above it's only a a foot or so from the ground to the roof. Harriet the baby was happily running across the metal roof with no concern at all for her safety - I could imagine her falling off the roof!  We improvised some rope and all the branches laying around to prevent another incursion.  Hopefully that will do until we can think of something else.  There's one in every crowd herd!

Tomorrow morning the rest of the new chicks arrive - 100 Black Sex-Link egg layers and 120 more White Rock meaties.  It will be full-house for the next few weeks.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Morning Tea

I am a blessed woman to have a husband that has always worked at home.  One of the special joys that it brings is time for starting our day together with a cup of tea.  We usually discuss what we need to do that day, spend some time reading a short devotional and praying for our kids and whatever other needs are pressing that day.

A few years ago we were seeing a alternative health practitioner who suggested that DH drink at least 8 different teas a day for his health - my eyes bugged out as I thought - ARE YOU NUTS??? Who has time to drink 8 cups of tea a day.  I LIKE tea and I don't drink that much plus the idea of having to remember the multiple kinds and I was about ready to give up until one day I had an idea.  I'm sure this isn't new to some of you but it was to me! I put all the tea bags in one tea pot and we were done in 1 large cup of tea.  I had been buying organic boxes of tea bags at the health food store - at 8 bags a day it was getting ridiculously expensive.  I knew some of them where things I could grow at home eventually but I had too much on my plate to figure it all out at the time. I'm giving myself until these herbs run out to figure out growing my own!

So I went on line and ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I went a little nuts and it still was cheaper by far than all those organic boxes of tea I used to buy.  They had great customer service and had my package here in record time considering it had to cross the border.

I used the labels from the bags the herbs came in to decorate the jars.

I bought:
1lb Parsley Leaf organic
1lb Ginger Root organic
1lb Milk Thistle Seed organic
1lb Dandelion Root organic
1lb Turmeric Root powder organic
1lb Echinacea Purpurea Herb organic
1lb Raspberry Leaf organic
1lb Rosemary Leaf organic
1lb Peppermint Leaf organic
1lb Elder Berries organic
1lb Eyebright organic
1lb Alfalfa sprouting seed organic
1lb Broccoli sprouting seed organic
1lb Lavender Flowers organic
1lb Mullein Leaf organic
1lb Oatstraw organic
1lb Rosehips organic

Ahh by the way- 1 pound of mullein leaves is a LOT of mullein!  This whole buying by the pound and not by eye-balling the bag gets me every time!   some of the things I bought are for other purposes than tea but I'll let you know about that later.

I mixed 1 cup of each of the herbs I wanted and put it all in one jar - ready for making tea with just one scoop.  Everything is good so far.

Brewing this tea was another thing.  I tried filtering it through cheese cloth - it worked but was very messy.  I thought about sewing individual re-usable tea bags but dismissed the idea as too labour intensive.   I tried my whole collection of tea balls - some of which are really cute but it always left a little pile a debris in the bottom of my cup.  Fussy huh?

One day while out for a date with DH I came across a RED Bodum.  Hey - I wonder if THAT would work?  Well it does and splendidly!  If you've never seen one before you put the tea leaves in the bottom and pour boiling water over them.  Then you place the top on with the plunger up.  After it steeps for awhile press the plunger to the bottom and pour the tea.

Now I can pour my lovely herbal tea out of my RED Bodum into my huge RED mug and I am a happy girl every morning drinking tea with DH.

 These are the little habits that make each day special.  We both drink ours with stevia for a sweetener and he ruins his by putting milk in it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How did you find Adventures in Country Living?

Hey friends - I'm headed off for a week of camping with my daughter and my mom and dad - yahoo!!  So instead of a regular post I thought I'd ask some questions!

How did you find this blog?  What do want to know more about?  What's your favorite post?

You can answer any or all of them!  I know some of you have had trouble with being able to leave a comment so I am activating the ability to post comment anonymously - hopefully that won't backfire on me because I won't be home to moderate until next weekend :)

I love hearing from all of you!  It's what makes writing so much fun!

Have a great week - I'll think of you while I sit by the lake with my book or go for a hike in the woods!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Going Homestead Hippie - Home Made Deodorant

OK - you may think I've gone completely bonkers with this one!  I made my own deodorant.  After great success with home made laundry detergent and home made liquid hand soap I decided to go step further and try my hand at deodorant.  WHY you might ask...

Well there are actually several reasons. Most over-the-counter deodorants contain aluminium chlorohydrate, parabens, propylene glycol, triclosan, TEA, DEA, FD&C colors, and quaternium 18, among other toxic chemicals. Some of these have been linked to higher incidences of developing Alzheimer's and cancer.  I've tried many "natural" brands over the years with varying  degrees of success - the ones that worked really well were far more expensive than the national brands (for which there are often coupons and sales!)  So if exposure to chemicals and the extra expense wasn't enough incentive - how about long storage life?  You could put the ingredients into long term storage and smell good till 2040.

This "recipe" contains only three ingredients, was very simple to make and IT WORKS!  I have had this personally verified by my resident "nose" - my daughter who has the sniffer of a hound dog.  Since I don't have a sense of smell I wouldn't want you to take MY word for it!  Here's a blog post from someone else who thinks it's the greatest: Suzannah Paul  from the Smitten Word (and I checked - SHE has a sense of smell!)

The recipe: 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup corn starch  arrowroot powder and 1/2 cup coconut oil (or a little more).  Mix altogether in a large bowl.  Tip:  Make sure the soda and the corn starch don't have lumps - it's much easier to mix without them!  The end consistency should be that of thick icing - still spreadable.  It will harden somewhat after it sits.

I used a stick blender because of the lumps - I probably should have used a sifter first.  Since coconut oil has a low melting point if you make this in the heat of the summer the consistency will be more like lotion - try it with less coconut oil - in the cold temperatures it's more like cold butter.  Either way - scoop into some small pretty jars and top with a lid.  This recipe made 2 1/2 - 1/2 pint jars and I used plastic storage lids for them.

Apply a pea-sized amount.  It smells lightly of coconut when you first apply it and it makes your skin feel soft and silky smooth.  I ran the numbers and the conservative price came to approximately $1.88 for the three jars.  That's about 20x cheaper by volume than the "on sale" commercial brand of ladies deodorant I have bought in the past.  I'd say that was worthwhile.  It took about 15 minutes of my time - including the time it took to clean the blender!

Homestead Hippies unite!  Are you going to try it??

My toothbrush is feeling lonely - I wonder if I can find a home made toothpaste recipe!