Friday, June 29, 2012

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da


Laa la la la life goes on.....!  During my absence in the blogosphere Prissy and Sheila have finally become mamas.  They seem quite happy with themselves.


I didn't really intend to be gone so long but things have just been so busy lately.  The two mamas and their 6 babies now reside in Goober Chicken's old pen.  No one knows whose babies are whose but it doesn't seem to matter.  They just run to whoever is closest!



The babies wasted no time in acclimating to outdoor life.  They run and scratch with the best of 'em.  These little babies are basically mutts, so I have no idea what they will look like when they grow up.  They seem very healthy and strong.


The bigger bitties are doing really well also.  This is one of the Partridge Rocks I believe.  Most all of the others have most all their feathers now, including tail feathers, but these still have what I call "baby butt".  No tail feathers at all.  They are pretty cute.  These bitties reside in the largest run and have their own house.  They are some of the fastest little craps you have ever seen; they never stay still.  It's like they all get up and take a shot of espresso every morning.


 The garden is doing really well this year and that has been taking a great deal of time.  I'm already putting up pickles, jam and beans.  I'm especially pleased the potatoes have done so well this year.  I've harvested about 12 lbs. already from just a few plants.  I believe the influx of so much chicken poo is really helping the soil and such.






The red raspberries are coming in now; the black ones have finished, and the ever-bearing strawberries are finally cranking up.  I harvest a couple of cups worth a day usually.  Not enough to can or such but enough to provide plenty of fresh fruit for my morning yogurt and a snack later. 

I'll be back soon with some more in depth posts.  I've been feeling very much like the ol' square peg in a round hole as of late and not very sociable.  Ya'll know me though.  It'll pass.  It has also been over 100 degrees every day here for several days and it is quite oppressive.  We work outside in the morning all we can and then retreat to the cool inside when it gets too bad.  Hopefully this heat spell will be over soon.  Anyway, I'll have more later.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Some Recent Goin's On


Jack has been devoting most of his time to building a firewood drying/ storage shed.  He designed and built it all on his own and I think it came out really well.  Well, I did give my 2 cents worth on some of the framing and I made his rafter pattern for him, at his request.  There will probably be a little diagonal bracing added and he has about half of the roofing on also by now.  I thought it was a right nice looking shed!  It is located down the valley a little bit, beside the secondary driveway, so it is easy to access with a truck or wheelbarrow but not right up next to the house.


He has a little bit of firewood already in it but has all this to move!  Plus some you can't see stacked behind this stack.  I think we'll have enough firewood for the next 2 years at least!



The little zoozoos have been moved down to their new quarters and boy are they excited!  The little tub they were in was getting cramped but this new place is very roomy.  As you can see, it even has an upstairs and perches in between.  They love running up and down the ramp and jumping from perch to perch.  It's wire all around so they can sun themselves on the east side and rest in the cool shade on the west.  The hardware cloth bottom is great because since they are still small, their poo goes right through and they are not running around or sleeping in it.  I'll show a better picture of the outside so you can see how it's situated against the big chicken coop.



 Jack built all this too!  We do best if we just leave whoever is going to do the building alone to do it.  He might occasionally ask me a framing question or such but for the most part he doesn't need my help so he gets to do the non-house structures and I do the house!.  Well, we do help each other if it's something heavy or awkward to hold; you know what I mean.


 We have let the bitties out into the yard a little and they just went wild!  They were flying and running everywhere.  One got so excited it ran head on into the water jug.  The little Speckled Sussex appear to actually be getting their speckles.  I didn't think they would show up this soon.


On a sad note though, my sweet little Goober chicken died Saturday afternoon.  Well, she really wasn't little; she had gotten quite large.  She had a little more trouble getting around but she could still walk, although not gracefully by any means.  She had her own pen and would make the rounds of the fence digging holes here and there to find bugs.  She couldn't scratch like a regular chicken but she could dig some hellacious holes with her beak. Then when the urge hit she would go to her little shed and lay her egg.  Although she was a strictly meat bird she laid the nicest, most consistent brown eggs of anybody.  I would go check on her several times a day and she would often times have dirt caked up on her head from digging.  Her comb had gotten so big it flopped over to one side, so she would turn her head sideways to peer up at me with her unobstructed eye.  She also never clucked like most chickens but kinda chirped and sang to me.  She seemed to mostly do it when I was near her and she could see me.  I would get out of my truck and yell to her and she would squeal as loud as she could and start singing and she always sang and chattered to me while I worked in the garden..  The last couple of days I noticed she was having a lot of trouble moving; she basically wasn't able to walk.  It kinda came on suddenly it seemed and I noticed that sometimes her comb would be kinda blueish too.  I think maybe her heart was failing.  I gave her a couple of days to see if she was going to be able to recover but she about stopped eating and drinking and I knew it was close.  She didn't sing as much either.  I didn't want her to suffer but it was going to be really hard to put her down myself.  I picked some strawberries Saturday morning and shared them with her; that was her favorite.  She did eat a few but it took her a little bit.  Later in the day I checked on her and she just looked bad and was panting hard and wouldn't drink.  I stayed with her and was really trying to decide how to put her down.  I went inside for a few minutes to check a book on the subject and while I was gone she had a heart attack and died.  We buried her over with the others in the cool shade near the creek.
Those type meat birds aren't meant to live long anyway; whether you butcher them or not, so it was a wonder she lived as long as she did.  I guess I should have put her down when she was little and first started having trouble walking but she never seemed in pain and always seemed rather chipper.  It's funny; the other hens can get around fine and they always seem to be griping and complaining about stuff.  They scream at each other if one gets in the other's nesting box; they fight over food and are constantly making a racket.  But Goober, who couldn't walk very well, always seemed happy and chattered sweetly all day as she dug her holes, grass and dirt flying all around her.  I guess it's stupid to be sad over a chicken but I miss her songs while I work in the garden.  It's not quite the same without her.

Pablo, I'm sorry I left you out of the last post on Father's Day; you certainly deserved to be mentioned.  And if I left anybody else out I'm sorry about that too.  I've just been sad about Goober and maybe a little preoccupied.  Most all my posts or comments where I try to offer commendations or condolences just end up being screwed.  I don't have the knack for it and should just accept that.  My apologies.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father Figure


I just wanted to say Happy Father's Day to all the great Dads I know that read this blog!  And that means you Ed, Woody, Floridacracker, Richard, Philip and Karl!!  If I didn't mention you I may not know if you are a Dad or not or whether you read this blog!  When I see how these guys participate so much in their kids lives, especially their daughters, it sure gives me hope for our future and for the lives our our future women.  Ya'll guys ROCK!  Seriously.  I hope your kids know just how lucky they are.

I could write a lot more about fathers but I'm just going to say that I am thankful that I at least had a couple of male teachers that encouraged and believed in me when no one else did.  Thank you Mack, Ted and Ricky.  You have no idea how much your kindness meant.  (and yes, I have told 2 of these guys this in person!)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Safe Haven


The gals had a close call with a hawk the other day but thankfully, they all survived.  Jack had walked outside and around the corner just in time to see a big hawk take a dive right for the hens but they all scattered into two groups and got away.  It was interesting because they stayed in the two separate groups hiding in the trees for about an hour.  I checked on them and they were all just sitting or standing just inside the tree line and, what struck me as most unbelievable, they were completely silent.  Even Bertha, who complains about everything constantly, was quiet as a church mouse.  They did come out later but stayed pretty close to the house the rest of the day.  Then yesterday as I sat at my wheel working, they all came sliding into the basement, obviously in a little bit of panic and kept peeping out the door and looking up.  Apparently they had spotted another hawk.  They stayed just inside the door for about a half an hour, taking turns peeping out.  I guess Bertha and Bea (the 2 in the back) decided the coast was clear and they wandered off.
Thanks for all the kind comments on the last post.  Of course the title was just kind of a joke; I consider myself fairly responsible...most of the time.  I also meant to add that whenever I tell people about the way I live it's almost always because they ask.  I learned not too talk much about my beliefs or people start to look at you kinda funny and/ or make snide remarks and I prefer to just avoid that kinda BS.  I will however say a few things if people inquire and I have had a number of people ask how do I afford to do what I do.  As in, how can I afford to live an artist's life (which most people don't see as profitable) and that kinda thing.  I don't like to live hand-to-mouth as Ed was referring to.  (I see a lot of bloggers the same way Ed) I did enough of that when I was in my 20's.  But I also don't feel that working yourself to death for the sake of money is the way to go either.  I prefer a middle of the road approach.  I do keep a certain amount of savings.  I believe in keeping insurance.  I learned long ago it only takes one bad accident or streak of luck to throw you into a pit of debt for some time and that can be extremely hard to get out of.  I don't necessarily disagree with financing large purchases though.  Depends on the situation and whether the payments are truly affordable for you.  I think the main thing to accepting and living a peaceful, frugal life is just to understand the difference between 'want' and 'need'.  I would say 85% of what most people think are needs are simply just wants.  I don't entirely blame people for this misunderstanding though.  For the past 40 years we have had so much marketing shoved down our throats at ever turn that it is not hard to get caught up in that rat race.  I was very much a consumer in my younger years and cringe now at the money I wasted on just outright stupid crap.  But, thank God, I learned.  Partially because I knew my body wouldn't hold out to do the kind of work it was doing for the rest of my working life.  So, I think I'll be doing a few posts on financial matters and just how exactly I save money on things and get by being a "starving artist"!  If anyone has any specific questions about the subject please feel free to ask.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Call Me Irresponsible


The other day, as I hung the laundry out to dry, I kinda got to thinking about how much time normal, everyday chores take around here as opposed to people who say, don't line dry their clothes, have chickens, have a garden etc.  Then I got to thinking about how many people view the idea of voluntarily having such chores and a few of the wildly erroneous ideas that they have about others that choose the "live frugally, work at home, sustainability" path.  I think there are 2 main ones.  1.  People like this lay around all day on the sofa eating bon-bons and watching TV because they don't have a "real job".  2.  People like this are modern day hippie/ hillbilly types that rarely venture forth into the "big city" or any of it's conveniences, either because they can't afford to or they fear/ hate the fast pace.  I think both are a bunch of hoo-haa, but back to the first one.
If constantly being frustrated and wishing you didn't have to work is what constitutes having a real job, then no, I don't have one.  But I do have a job; one that takes a fair amount of time.  I try to devote about the same amount of time each day to paid work as I did when I worked 'out there', but the only difference is this job means I am sometimes working on Sundays, late at night and on holidays.  True, I can take a day, or two, off whenever I feel like it for the most part, but this job is similar to my previous one in that if I don't produce a product, I don't get paid.  In fact, sometimes I produce a product and still don't get paid.  That's one hitch with art; just because you made it doesn't mean anybody is going to buy it.  Fortunately, my work is fairly attractive and does sell okay here.  Now, I still have my regular chores such as washing and cooking but I am at home and can often do all these things at once, and often have to.  That is a great advantage to working at home.  Yes, hanging laundry out to dry does take longer than just throwing it in the dryer but I'm here all day.  Generally I do a few gardening, house chores in the morning first thing and then go to my studio.  Then, in the afternoon, I take a break from that and do a few house or garden/ animal things.  I stay busy all day and rarely ever turn the TV on.  I do check emails and such during the day though!


The second idea is one that really cracks me up because a lot of people think if you recycle and reuse, choose not to be a Consumer, then you must be poor.  Pooooor, pitiful thing...shut out from all those wonderful, sparkly things that people kill themselves to buy and let define their lives.  Actually, if people want to believe that I'm some destitute woodsy that's okay with me.  Less chance of them running over here bothering me for stuff.  But, the sad truth is Jack and I actually have quite a bit of fun, enjoy seeing new sites and even occasionally treat ourselves to a modern convenience like dinner out or a movie!!  Normally, through work and just necessity, we end up going into town about once a week.  Now, when I say town I mean a place large enough to have a variety of shopping, restaurants and movie theaters.  I don't really care for movies but what I mean is that if the town is large enough to have them it's large enough for the other stuff.  While we are in town we enjoy it and usually treat ourselves to dinner out and maybe a little window shopping or such and of course, you know we sometimes go to plays or concerts.  I think we enjoy our times out more because of this, rather than feeling like we have to rush through it all because we've got to pick up countless items from 6 different stores. 
I have trouble understanding why a lot of people find such a life deprived.  Yes, we watch our money and don't eat out every night.  I only have clothes and shoes that I actually wear.  We grow a lot of our own food so that means I have to get my hands dirty.  We use our local library instead of buying.  Both our trucks are over 8 years old.  But.  We have so much freedom.  I actually see my house and enjoy it pretty much all day.  I don't have a clue what rush hour is like anymore.  I don't owe anyone anything.  It's true, I don't spend half my free time at the local mall buying crap that I'll discard tomorrow but I do spend half my free time creating prized objects that I and my customers will enjoy possibly for a lifetime.
But what really kills my soul...is when you explain all this to a few people and they say yeah, that sure sounds great and they genuinely seem affected by what you have told them...  And then they turn around and hop in their new vehicle and head straight for the mall.  I guess old habits die hard or it's just too hard to change that radically.  I mean, I know Jack and I have some advantages, (no kids, he's retired) but we still have utility bills and insurance to pay and I can't grow everything and simply not everybody can work at home and live in the country.  But can we all not enjoy our lives a bit more than what most people seem to nowadays?  Maybe it's the aforementioned stigma, maybe it's the hard work, maybe it's just admitting there might be a better way.  I don't know; what do ya'll think??

Monday, June 11, 2012

Walk On The Wild Side


Okay, all you plantophiles out there, I have a bunch for ya'll to rest your peepers on and see if you can tell me what these things are!  I have an idea about a couple of them but am not for positive on my ID.  The one above, I haven't a clue.  This clump just sprang up in the garden besides my volunteer zinnias.  It sort of has a vague resemblance to a poinsettia.  If you break the stems it exudes a thick, milky substance.  Something in my primitive brain tells me this is a bad plant. ????


I haven't a clue on this one either.  As with the first one, I have never seen this plant before but I think it's really cool.  This is actually more like a shrub too and the only one of it's type I've seen around here.


I think this is a type of skullcap??  This is a greatly enlarged image as the plant is kinda small.  It stands maybe 12 inches tall.  There are loads of them growing beside the drive but this is the first year I have noticed them.  It is so cool that so many new flowers/ plants pop up here every year.  I love discovering the new ones and finding out what they are.


I hope this is St. John's Wort but I am not certain.  I looked and looked at photos but I couldn't really decide.  These plants are about 16 inches tall and there are a number of them in clusters behind the house.  I have seen them around before but this is the first year I've seen them so heavily behind the house.  Maybe it's because I have cleared more back there this past year.


And last but not least, I'm not really sure what this is but it's pretty common around here.  These grow in various patches around the place in partial shade.

In other news, the baby chicks are doing real well and hopefully tomorrow they will make the move down to the main chicken run and their new digs.  They got their bronchitis/ Newcastle vaccine today so they are set I think.
The garden is going full speed ahead.  I have harvested several pounds of blueberries and black raspberries so far and today I cut 3 large cabbage heads.  Those were the first of the cabbage to be harvested this year.  The others should be along shortly.  Also should have squash, zuchs, cucumbers and onions soon.  And the rest of the garlic as soon as it dries up a bit from all the rain we've had lately. 
Since it's been raining a fair amount and I can't work on the outside of the house, I've tried to get caught up on some pottery.  We drove to Atlanta the other day to pick up a load of clay.  We had a real nice time of it and a great lunch while over there.  I took my camera but then realized on the way over I had forgotten the card for it.  So, no photos... 
Anyway, hopefully I'll have another post soon.  I've got tons of things floating around in my head; just gotta get them organized!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Lake Shore Drive


A couple of weeks ago Jack and I drove back up to Guntersville to deliver pottery to the museum of that same town for their gift shop.  The building above is NOT the museum!  The Guntersville Museum is actually a large, somewhat modern looking building; very nice.  Their little gift shop is kinda small but at least I can say I have my work in a museum giftshop! lol!  Anyway, while we were in town we decided to make a day of it as Guntersville is a huge tourist destination due to copious amounts of lakes, rivers and state parks.  The building above is just an old school I think that is constructed using a method that I think, you mainly see in the south.  It is built using chert rock as the exterior and due to the looks we always called them 'peanut' houses or buildings.  I think it's kinda of a neat look myself.  It does look a bit better when the rock is combined with wood siding in a somewhat Craftsman style.  I suppose that this method is prevalent here, only on older structures, because it was a way for poor people, which the south had a lot of, to have a stone house.  Nowadays you cannot buy chert rock really because nobody wants to fool with it but you can pick it up lots of places.  Most people are happy for you to come get it off their property.  I have picked up, and laid, my share of this stone.  It will tear your hands up if you don't wear gloves.


So after dropping off the pottery and having lunch we drove up to Guntersville State Park.  I think they are serious about keeping people out of this area because they had a herd of these emus in there and those things can be mean!  I thought it was a little odd myself.


We drove through the regular campgrounds and then up the mountain to where there is a large, luxurious lodge. (Say that 5 times fast!)  The view there was really nice.  The lakes to me are kinda more like rivers because they are so many and vast.  They also had a number of cabins and chateaus you could rent up here or just rent a room in the big lodge.  The rates were not too bad really.


If you look in the lower right corner you can see just a bit of the campgrounds below.  Or what is left of them really after this area got hit 4 times last year by tornadoes.  The grounds used to be quite wooded and some areas are fairly bare now as they are still cleaning up downed trees.  They had cleaned it up pretty good though and there were quite a few people camping and all.  Some areas of the grounds still had a good number of trees.


The lodge was very nice and had some spectacular views.  I can see where it would be really relaxing to lounge around up here!


There were a number of decks too, to choose where you wanted to do your lounging.  They have a nice restaurant in the lodge also.  Jack and I thought it might be nice to go up one Sunday for the brunch they offer and then hike it off later on one of the many trails through the park.


This was one area inside near the restaurant.  Some of the artwork left a bit to be desired but otherwise it's a nice place.  Lots of people come here at various times to watch the bald eagles that nest in the trees below the lodge.  I think that is one of the biggest tourist draws here.  It would be really cool to see.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Drawing A Blank


I keep thinking I'm going to be able to come up with a story or something for ya'll but I'm just coming up blank here.  I guess I'm just tired when I finally get time to do a little posting in the evening.  I feel kinda bad for just continuing to put up the same (basically) ol' chicken pictures!  I do have some other photos but I am actually working on some type of how-to or such with those and don't want to put them up until I have the whole sequence.  Well, as far as the photo above, these are our girls now except for Prissy and Sheila, who are sitting on eggs at the moment.  And Blondie is there but just not in the picture.  One good thing is that Scooter has gotten old enough that Bertha and Bea, the 2 other Barred Rocks, have 'taken her under their wings' (HA!) and she hangs with them a lot now.  Bea is probably her mother so I was glad that they finally accepted her.  She even gets to sleep up on the top roost with them now whereas before she had to sleep on the bottom and get crapped on.


These little boogers are getting to be a handful!  We did lose 3, including the little tophat, but these seem very vigorous and healthy.  One died just about within 2 hours of the shipment coming in and the rest in the next couple of days.  Well, one died yesterday.  They just couldn't seem to get the hang of either eating or drinking or didn't want to for some reason?  The last one I tried so hard to get to drink but it just didn't seem to ever do it on it's own.  You can't really force them to drink or you can drown them so I tried dipping it's beak, holding water up to it, mushy food, dropping water on it's beak etc.  It would drink out of a dropper but I guess that wasn't enough.
Well, now the post seems kinda depressing.  Dang!  I got to come up with something else to talk about. 


This has been a very good year so far for berries!  Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and now blackberries!  These were some Blueberry Strudel Muffins that I made the other day with my blueberries..  Very good.  I think I'll have lots of fruit put up this year for the winter.  Lots of things are starting to come in now from the garden and so between that and caring for babies and working on the house there is just not much time or energy to put into writing.
It is very gratifying to finally be literally reaping the fruits of my labors of so many years.  All the tilling, composting, mulching, planting and on and on is finally paying off but then it like buries you!  It's good though; I'm certainly not complaining.  Maybe I just need to go out and blow off some steam!  I talked to a couple of my fellers from work last night and it was nice to hear from them.  We gossiped and chatted about this and that.  I miss having that many people to interact with during the week I guess.  So see, that's what ya'll are here for!!  Haha!!  Just kidding.  I just need to have some people over for a party or something.  Well, anyway, I'll try to have something a little different next time.  Maybe even something about the kitchen progress!  Which isn't much by the way.  Or one of you can give me an idea for a post or question to answer!!  Yeah!!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Martha My Dear


Things have been super busy around here this past week and I just haven't had the energy most evenings to post much.  I finally told myself ya'll were probably tired of looking at that last post though so I needed to get something up!  Things are starting to come in from the garden so most mornings are spent harvesting a few things.  Usually it's blueberries, black raspberries, a few strawberries and this morning I added a little broccoli and green onions.  The cabbage is getting close too.
 I'm not getting a tremendous amount of berries but it is enough to go with my yogurt every morning and to make an occasional batch of muffins.
 

 Jack and I also spend 2 days getting the weeding under control as it had gotten just a little ahead of us.  I am now in the process of putting down weed barrier and lots of mulching so we don't have to deal with that again.

 

The raspberries improve every year so even though I'm not putting up pounds of them I am pleased with their progress.  I get a big handful every day and the red ones have not even started turning yet.  What I'm harvesting now is black raspberries.


I also dug one half of the garlic crop, or all the Inchellium Red.  I left the Red Toch to see if it would grow a bit more.  This batch looks really good with some pretty sizable heads.  It's all drying now and soon I will have to finally learn how to braid that stuff!


We also had a new batch of bitties come in!  We have had to do a major overhaul of our flock.  We culled out the 5 Rhode Island Reds we bought from that guy across town.  I will never, EVER buy hens from somebody I don't know personally and well.  They were a very bad choice but I guess it's a learning experience.  Even though we kept them separate from the girls for a while I could not see that there was anything wrong with them.  Turns out they gave our girls lice and possibly bronchitis.  I'm still not sure if their eggs problems are due to that or a calcium problem.  We had a time getting rid of the lice but we did and now they look so much better.  I'm sure they feel better too.  Let me tell you; washing 10 upset hens in a tub is not something I ever want to do again.
I'm beginning to think their egg difficulties may have been our fault though and giving them too much scratch.  I don't know; it;s so hard to tell unless you have some tests run I guess.  The soft eggs and dropping eggs in the night has improved but we still get one occasionally.  The worst part is another hen died though.  Sweet little Martha, the Buff below, died Tuesday.  I think it was an issue with egg binding and this may have been what killed Emily, way back.  Both acted the same.  Very sudden not feeling well, not wanting to walk around.  They both sat on the nest for some time but never laid an egg.  I tried what I could with Martha, even going to far as to examine her for a stuck egg but couldn't feel anything.  I soaked her in a warm bath etc.  Nothing helped.  Then I noticed she had some discharge that looked like egg remains so it may have busted inside her.  I don't know really.  But she died that same day.


So, in reading I found out too much scratch, which contains a lot of phosphorous, can deplete a hen of calcium and thus cause such problems.  So, now they only get scratch as an occasional treat with 90% of their diet being layer mix and what they forage outside.  We do give them fruit and such too.
So, I had ordered a mix of female bitties to replace the ones we've lost and get a better strain of hens going here.  I got mostly Speckled Sussex, a few Partridge Rocks, New Hampshires and a few Brown Leghorns.  We also decided to let Prissy hatch a few eggs since she is so determined to stay broody.  We got a few eggs from Rurality and stuck under her.  Hopefully she will get to be a mom.  Oh, we gave Runt, our roo, away a few weeks ago.  He seemed to be getting too aggressive with the hens and had just terrorized a couple of them to the point they would hide in the coop house or woods to stay away from him.
So, that is just part of what has been going on.  I'll be back soon maybe with more.
Oh, the new bitties are up at the house, away from the regular flock and have been vaccinated for several issues.  They will be vaccinated again for bronchitis (it's done twice) before they go down to the chicken complex.