Thursday, December 11, 2008

Braggin' on my DH

My husband James is a tireless worker. He works hard at his job, and he works hard at his volunteer work. Recently he was honored as Team Leader of the Year by the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), for which he is the local county representative. I am so very proud of him! See more the press release below:


December 9th 2008

Recently at the Kentucky Equine Education Project’s (KEEP) Annual Team Leader Training Banquet, Grant County Team Leader, James Haggerty was chosen as the 2008 KEEP Team Leader of the Year. KEEP has more than 150 county team leaders across Kentucky. Team leaders are asked to fill out applications explaining their involvement in the horse industry in and out of their county. In addition they answer several questions about their views of the industry and KEEP.

When asked why he became a county team leader, Haggerty stated “I wanted to make a difference in the horse world.” He explained how his community had no public land on which to ride. When speaking to a local politician one day, he was told that the politician could help him out with a 4-H ride, and get permission for them to ride in the city “dump”. He thought, “There has to be a better way.” As you’re about to hear, he’s working very hard on making a difference.

Haggarty became involved with KEEP as both a member and team leader in 2006. During his two years of service, he’s had two experiences that stand out in his mind as most memorable. First, he helped initiate the KEEP flags for carrying in parades, and was able to represent KEEP in the Lexington 4th of July Parade. The other experience was bringing together an alliance of non-horse groups to establish a small area of land for equestrians in his county. No more expecting them to ride in the city “dump”!

He’s done much more than this though. In his county, he’s been active in the local saddle club and helped to keep them up to date on bills related to the horse industry. He’s been involved with the local 4-H Horse Club, helping them obtain grants and such. He’s kept the communication lines open with local politicians for discussing horse industry issues in his community. He created political support for EMA large animal rescue and initiated training for this in his community with a KEEP grant. He also has two daughters that are actively involved in the KEEP Youth Council and has been a great asset to that group. Outside of his county, he has presented at the Kentucky Horse Council Annual Meeting, promoting horse and non-horse alliances, and representing this as a KEEP initiative. He has partnered with CSM (Retired) Charles Duffee, JROTC lead instructor at Grant County High School, to develop recreational/training site for cadets and equestrians in Grant County.

Mr. Haggarty and his family live in Berry, KY where they enjoy trail riding, participating in parade on horseback and sharing family time on the farm.

KEEP was formed in May 2004 to promote and protect Kentucky’s horse industry. For more information on KEEP visit

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Giving Thanks for Hot, Running Water

Running water is something that most of us take for granted most of the time. We're thirsty, we get a glass and fill it from the tap. We want to wash our clothes, our dishes, or our bodies, easily done.

This past week our family had to make do without running water for three long days and nights, and it was very illuminating. We live in an area where wells are not possible (high clay content in the soil.) And although city water is available, the cost of running a line down from the road to our house would be several thousands of dollars, so we have learned to make do with our cistern, which holds 5,000+ gallons and runs under the front porch as part of the foundation of the house. When the rainwater collection system in place doesn't fill the tank well enough, we run a series of hoses down from the hydrant we installed in the chicken coop area by the road.

This past summer, as well as last, we had fairly severe drought. One of the consequences of same, about which we were unaware, is a shifting in the soil around the foundation, and sometimes, a crack. Since our cistern is part of our foundation, when this happened, we found out because suddenly we had a slow leak of water into our basement! The crack was high up on the wall of the cistern, so it didn't come to our attention until after we had filled it with city water (which is relatively cheap, but not free, by any means.)

I was reluctant to have the cistern fixed at that point (early September) because I had just paid for all that water. So we used the water up, mopping the leak as we went. Time passed, and suddenly it became very cold, unseasonably so for Kentucky this time of year. I knew we had to have the cistern pumped out and repaired. What I didn't know was that the repair would take several days to dry.

This past Tuesday I called a local cistern repair/cleaning service (basically two guys, a pump, and some shovels.) I asked them to come give me an estimate on cleaning and repair of the leak. I had been told by neighbors this might cost as much as a thousand dollars. Happily, when the team arrived, they said they could do it all for half that amount. Unhappily, they wanted to do it right then, and furthermore, it would take up to three days to dry/cure. Yikes!

I scurried around, filling five gallon buckets with water, all that I had. I knew I could still get water out of the hydrant up at the road, but our needs are not just for a family of four, we have all that livestock that needs watering every day as well! Four horses, two goats, two large dogs, six cats, and a multitude of chickens large and small (we're probably down to about 125 right now, which is a seasonal low.) That many critters needs a lot of water hauled every day.

As the repair men were pumping out what was left of the water I had paid the city for, we were able to save some by shooting it across the horse pasture with a fire hose into one of the horse troughs. But most of it was lost, down the hill into the hollow. The repair men did their thing: cleaning out the leaves and gunk accumulated during the past seven years (we've lived here for five, I feel certain the previous owners didn't clean the cistern since they built the house two years previously.) I didn't even want to see what came out, but was told it would make lovely mulch. (Ick.)

Once cleaned, the cistern was repaired and relined, and off they went. I was left with a house with no running water, and all those critters with big thirsts. So I hauled water. I estimate I or we (James, the girls and me) hauled between 350 and 450 pounds of water per day, for our own use (manual flushing of toilets, etc.) and for the animals. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. We used five gallon buckets (for the most part) and filled them about four gallons full - any fuller and water sloshes out and gets your pants wet, nasty in cold weather. So between 50 and 55 gallons per day. The horses alone go through about 25 per day, then there are all those chicken pens, the dogs, the goats, and oh yes, the humans!

Happily, we have friends who took pity on us and let us come to their house and shower (thanks Susie and Randall!) But it's not the same as being in your own bathroom, not by far. And hand washing with water in basins and plastic gallon jugs is an exercise in ingenuity. I goosed the drying of the repair along by putting a fan down there. James was the brave one who climbed down the ladder, I just couldn't bring myself to descend into the dark, nope, not me. And after three days of being back in the days when water was hauled for every use, yesterday evening we determined that the repair was dry, and we could start filling the cistern.

Four hoses linked together, hooked to the hydrant in the "Big Coop" area where the layers live. We let it fill for about three hours, putting about a foot or so of water in (it holds about six feet in height.) Enough to cover the inlet valve, and oh my gosh, hot showers! In my opinion, there is little in life that can match the sybaritic delight of a long, steamy, hot shower after a long day of hard work in the cold. Glorious!

With luck, we'll remember this experience for a while, and not take for granted the true luxury that heated running water is. But the human brain being what it is, we'll likely forget after a week or two, and the experience will just become one of those funny stories we tell about living on a farm. But I hope, every time one of us takes a shower, we remember, and give thanks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gift of The Old One

It's getting to be almost holiday time, so I thought I'd post this, which I did not write, but love.

The Gift of the "Old One"

The young couple had made their usual hurried, pre-Christmas visit to the little farm where dwelt their elderly parents with their small herd of goats. The farm had been named Lone Pine Farm because of the huge pine which topped the hill behind the farm, and through the years had become a talisman to the old man and his wife, and a landmark in the countryside.

The old folks no longer showed their goats, for the years had taken their toll, but they sold a little milk, and a few kids each year, and the goats were their reason for joy in the morning and contentment at day's end.

Crossly, as they prepared to leave, the young couple confronted the old folks. "Why do you not at least dispose of "The Old One". She is no longer of use to you. It's been years since you've had either kids or milk from her. You should cut corners and save where you can. Why do you keep her, anyway?" The old man looked down at his worn boot, scuffed at the barn floor, and his arm stole defensively about the Old One's neck as he drew her to him and rubbed her gently behind the ears. He replied softly, "We keep her because of love. Only because of love."

Baffled and irritated, the young folks wished the old man and his wife a Merry Christmas and headed back toward the city as darkness stole through the valley.

So it was, that because of the leave-taking, no one noticed the insulation smoldering on the frayed wires in the old barn. None saw the first spark at all. None but the "Old One".

In a matter of minutes, the whole barn was ablaze and the hungry flames were licking at the loft full of hay. With a cry of horror and despair, the old man shouted to his wife to call for help as he raced to the barn to save his beloved goats. But the flames were roaring now, and the blazing heat drove him back. He sank sobbing to the ground, helpless before the fire's fury.

By the time the fire department arrived, only smoking, glowing ruins were left, and the old man and his wife. They thanked those who had come to their aid, and the old man turned to his wife, resting her white head upon his shoulders as he clumsily dried her tears with a frayed red bandana.

Brokenly he whispered, "We have lost much, but God has spared our home on this eve of Christmas. Let us, therefore, climb the hill to the old pine where we have sought comfort in times of despair. We will look down upon our home and give thanks to God that it has been spared."

And so, he took her by the hand and helped her up the snowy hill as he brushed aside his own tears with the back of his hand. As they stepped over the little knoll at the crest of the hill, they looked up and gasped in amazement at the incredible beauty before them. Seemingly, every glorious, brilliant star in the heavens was caught up in the glittering, snow-frosted branches of their beloved pine, and it was aglow with heavenly candles. And poised on it's top most bough, a crystal crescent moon glistened like spun glass. Never had a mere mortal created a Christmas tree such as this.

Suddenly, the old man gave a cry of wonder, and incredible joy as he pulled his wife forward. There, beneath the tree, was their Christmas gift.

Bedded down about the "Old One", close to the trunk of the tree, was the entire herd, safe. At the first hint of smoke, she had pushed the door ajar with her muzzle and had led the goats through it. Slowly and with great dignity, never looking back, she had led them up the hill, stepping daintily through the snow. The kids were frightened and dashed about. The skittish yearlings looked back at the crackling, hungry flames, and tucked their tails under them as they licked their lips and hopped like rabbits. The milkers pressed uneasily against the "Old One" as she moved calmly up the hill and to safety beneath the pine. And now, she lay among them and gazed at the faces of those she loved. Her body was brittle with years, but the golden eyes were filled with devotion as she offered her gift - because of love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Three days without water

Ok, our cistern cracked this summer during the drought, which I didn't discover until I had filled it with about 5000 gallons of water and it started leaking on the basement floor.

I didn't want to get it repaired until we had used at least SOME of the water that I had just paid to have put in there, so I waited. And now the guy who's here fixing it today is grumbling because it's so bloody cold. Like I knew it would be Jan temps in Nov?

And because it is so cold, it's going to take three days for the sealant to dry, which means three days with no running water in the house. :(

I guess I'll go take a shower at my friend's house down the road. But jeez, no dishwasher or other way to wash dishes, no toilet flushing except using the big buckets of water I filled before they turned the pump off, no hand washing (which is really yucky.)

I can see I'm going to have to go buy paper plates and hand wipes and all that totally non-green stuff I try to do without. Very unhappy-making. But the upside is, having a broken cistern is very bad Feng Shui, and fixing it will be A Good Thing. And the really good news is that it's going to cost about half what I thought it would (only $500) yay!

But I sure wish I'd taken a shower this morning before the guy came (I usually shower at night.) Ah well...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wrapping up the show season

Well, unless I change my mind, we're through showing for the year. Between being Show Secretary for the Bluegrass Poultry Association's 5th annual fall show and getting ready for the Ohio National (over 5300 birds this year!) I'm pretty well chickened out for now.

And the weather has turned cold, so it's time to winterize things anyway. I'll be setting up breeding pens soon, although I won't set a hatch before Christmas this year, in case we go away. We have a wonderful family who come and house sit while we're away, but don't want to burden them with chick care as well, so I'll wait until mid-December to set eggs.

We had a very good show year this fall, with some excellent successes here and there. Colleen and Allie won Champion Bantam in the Youth Show at Lucasville this year, with a Dutch bird no less! This is quite an accomplishment, as the SCCL (Single Combed Clean Legged) class is such a large one, and it's very hard to compete with the White Rocks and Leghorns and RIRs. So if nothing else happened this fall, we'd have been content.

But we did well at the Bluegrass show too, and the OH National is always a pleasure, so many of our good friends there, and partying with the Wolfe men and Tylor is an annual treat for us. We did have to dodge the crazy chicken lady while we were there, but that's a story for another day.

I must admit I don't mind the change of seasons, as much as I like being outdoors (when it's not brutally hot or cold), I do like to be curled up with a book and a cup of tea, or to sit here and putter around the Internet on the computer too. I love the way the 'Net allows me to connect with so many people I'd not speak with otherwise, and I enjoy the social networking sites.

Cool weather always prompts me to catch up on neglected paperwork too - I finished up the tardy show reports yesterday and today printed a number of letters for new BPA members. Looming on the horizon are Christmas cards, but I'm not ready to go there yet. Time enough for those in a week or two!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I've Seen Tomorrow

I don't normally blog "off the reservation" but a new friend of mine sent me a link to a video he recently posted to YouTube with a song he wrote, and I felt compelled to write about it here. I know some of my friends are not Obama supporters, and that's fine, I know some are, and that's fine too. I am a staunch Democrat, have been ever since I was a young person, even worked for Jimmy Carter's campaign when I was a senior in High School.

At any rate, check this link for an awesome song and moving video full of hope:

I know I can hardly wait to see what happens next week, I am hoping for good things and a positive change for our country that I love.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Silkies and their Beanie Little Heads

One of the breeds of birds we raise is Silkies. I got them originally for the 4-H kids in our county, they weren't a bird that appealed to me overly, but the kids love them, so I caved.

Since then my daughters have really learned to enjoy them, both their goonie behavior, and for shows. They're cute, they're fluffy, people are definitely attracted to them whenever we show where the public might walk by.

The downside to Silkies is, they have "vaulted" skulls, which means essentially that their skull isn't completely closed. Sort of like the fontanelle in a baby, there's a hole in their heads (actually two, one on each side.) The vault in their skull is part of what gives them the poofy crests like the picture of Luna, above.

The problem with the vaults is, it means that part of their brains is only protected by skin, not bone. And if they get excited and thrash about (as chickens do), they bonk their heads, injuring their brains. It's a problem. It happens more to certain bloodlines than others (those with bigger holes in their heads, if you will), and we're breeding away from it. But it doesn't make it pleasant to deal with when it does happen. There are all sorts of treatment protocol one can use to help cure the problem when it happens (often called Crookneck), but the bottom line is, a bird who is susceptible really shouldn't be bred to.

We have a young bird now who is struggling with this issue. Naturally, he's one of the nicest ones we have (it's never the crappy bird you don't care about who has a problem.) I've been treating him, and hand feeding him. But I don't know how he'll do. Sometimes they get better, sometimes they don't. And I can certainly never breed this bird, so as nice as he is, he's now pet quality instead of the show quality he looks like. But it's the price we pay to work with this breed, I guess. Just wish it didn't happen...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Running for District 5 Director of ABA

I have been asked by Matt Lhamon to run for District 5 Director of the American Bantam Association, and I'd like to ask for your vote in the election this year.

I have been involved in breeding and showing poultry actively for the past eight years, but my family has a long history of exhibition poultry, going back to the early 1900s with my great-grandfather and grandfather. My mother was a city girl at heart, and while I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, we went down to the family farm at least once a month.

I have vivid memories of the chickens, both large fowl and bantam, and the waterfowl that my grandfather had at the farm (especially one mean old gander who loved to chase and bite us grandkids!) How well I remember his birds strutting around the barn, and the loud calls of the guineas as they roamed!

In 2000, when my husband and I were able to find a farm on which to board our horses, we also got into goats and poultry.
From there was no going back, and now that we're on our farm here in KY we've been going full bore with the birds. At present we've narrowed our breeds, going for depth in the ones we've chosen to work with, including Buckeye large fowl, Dutch Bantams, and Silkies (for the kids.)

Here is all my ag-related info:

Volunteer and Board Positions:
American Bantam Association State representative - Kentucky 2007 to present
APA Marketing Committee 2006 to present
APA Newsletter Committee 2006 to present
ABA Sunshine Committee 2007 to present
APA-ABA Youth Program Director, Kentucky 2006 to present
Bluegrass Poultry Association Secretary 2006 to present
American Dutch Bantam Society District 3 Director 2007 to present
Grant County, KY 4-H Certified Livestock Leader 2004 to present
Grant County Extensions Council 2005 to 2007
Grant County Extensions Livestock Committee 2005 to 2007
South St. Louis County, MN Certified 4-H Volunteer 2001 to 2003

Professional and Related Memberships:

APA 2001 to present (Life Member as of 2006)
ABA 2004 to present (Life Member as of 2006)
American Dutch Bantam Society 2004 to present
American Silkie Breeders Club 2006 to present
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy 2005 to present
Bluegrass Poultry Association 2004 to present
North American Marans Club 2005 to 2006
American Marans Club 2005 to 2006
Ameraucana Breeders Club 2005 to 2007
American Quarter Horse Association 2000 to present
Kentucky Equine Education Project 2006 to present
American Dairy Goat Association 2001 to 2005

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to email me through our farm website: or leave a comment here. And thanks!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chickens in the basement!

One of the hazards of living 'way out in the boonies as we do is the sheer volume of predators we have here. Raccoons too many to number, opossums, skunks, weasels, coyotes, hawks, owls, the list goes on. All of them eager to make a meal of my chickens. So we are forced to keep things in the most secure pens as possible, which includes a great deal of hardware cloth (very small mesh wire fencing.) A raccoon can reach in through chicken wire and pull a bird out piece by piece (very disgusting) - the only thing chicken wire is good for is keeping chickens in, not predators out. We have developed some easy to make and relatively inexpensive pens for our birds to keep them on grass. They're called hoophouses, and you can see some images of them on our website here. We have five of them at this point, and we even use them over winter (not that it gets all that cold in KY, especially compared to MN!)

The youngest of birds though, need to be kept in a temperature controlled environment, chicks need heat of 95 degrees for the first week, reducing in temp by five degrees a week until they are old enough (and feathered enough) to go outside. Some people keep their birds in their kitchens (you know who you are) but I hatch too many for that option, (chicks shed an inordinate amount of dander and fluff as they grow!) so mine have been kept in the basement since we've lived here. But DH is finally building me a brooder room in the barn, for which I am immensely grateful. Heated, lit, with boxes that don't need to be protected from the house cats, it will be heavenly! And I can finally vacuum up all of the dust that has accumulated in the basement, which I am quite looking forward to. My non-poultry owning guests never quite understand the mess down there, why it's a sisyphusian task to try to keep up with.

At present I have no birds in the house, for the first time in over a year! The last of the chicks went to a young boy who is newly starting in 4-H this fall. I love helping 4-H kids get started with good birds, it makes them happy, it makes me feel good, and is win-win all around. And I'm pleased to have my basement back, will start getting it clear of dust today. Now just have to ensure the brooder room gets done by November, as that's when I start to hatch all over again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Poultry Shows

It's been an interesting summer. After returning from the beach life went full-tilt boogie and I've been running to keep up. This time of year is County Fair time all across the country, and here in KY is no exception. My children are 4-H members (of course!) and DH and I are both certified leaders, have been for 7 or 8 years now. Since we have horses, goats, and poultry, we've participated in all of those projects, off and on as the years have passed.

At this point the girls only do the poultry project in 4-H, which is run by the very competent Cathy Sams. She's been in 4-H for many, many years (her eldest is 21 I think, so at least 13 years.) She's a woman of strong convictions, firm loyalties, and dedication. She always goes above and beyond for her kids, and I am proud to call her my friend. Over the past couple of years we've worked together to make the poultry project a better one, and I like to think we've succeeded. The show is far and away better than it was when we came to this county, and the kids have increased their knowledge and skills ten-fold, due to no small part to her efforts.

This past Saturday I was asked to judge a show in a county about an hour away from my home. It was my first time as a judge (although I have clerked for years) and I thoroughly enjoyed it (although four hours on my feet was a bit more than I'd have liked.) The hardest part for me to judge was the Costume Class. Four young people, several of whom were very young indeed, had dressed their chickens, and in some cases themselves, in costumes. My job was to pick the "best" one. A terrible choice to have to make, as they were all good.

The standout choice was the little girl who was wearing a skirt and kerchief in a red fabric with small white stars on it. Her chicken had around its neck a small quilted collar in the same fabric in the shape of a large star. When I asked her about her costume, she said "It's a Red Star!" The bird she was holding is a commercial cross commonly called a Golden Comet, but they are also known as Red Stars, and I didn't make the connection until she reminded me. I thought the costume quite clever, and she won the prize. But I told the 4-H agent that next year, should they ask me to judge again, they would need some sort of celebrity judge to do the Costume Class, as I found it just too hard to pick one from all the cute costumes the kids had devised.

Monday, June 23, 2008

At the Beach

I'm on vacation now, two weeks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Pure heaven! My grandfather was a clever man. He had spent many pleasant visits here with cousins as he was growing up (we're related to Thompsons in Elizabeth City) and in 1957 bought a cottage on the beachfront in Nags Head. I was a glimmer in my mother's eye at that point, but she brought me here as an infant the following year. I've missed some summers (life can do that to you) but this is my 50th year of coming to the beach. 

I didn't come last year, as the beach was the place I spent the most time with my mother, and she died suddenly last March. I spent most of our time together with her here over the last ten years or so, and I couldn't bear the idea of being at the beach without Mom. I came down this year with mixed feelings - I love being here, but wasn't sure if I would be able to do so without making myself sadder about my Mom's passing. After some initial sadness (I feel I will always miss her, here more than ever) I am ok with being here without her. 

One of my Mom's hobbies was bird watching. She wasn't a fully-fledged (pun intended) bird geek, but she knew a ton about birds, and had a long life list. I remember as a child sitting in the living room as she played records of bird songs so she could learn to identify them. After she died I started a life list of my own, as a sort of tribute. I'm not rabid about it, but I'm having fun with it, and being here at the beach has given me lots of new species to add to my list. I like to think she'd approve.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Love Spring!

This is my favorite time of the year, bar none. I love the sunny days with their cool breezes (my mom used to call these days "Portuguese weather", as it reminded her of when she went to Portugal as a teen.) I love being able to go outside and not be drenched in sweat after ten minutes of work. I love the forsythia as it blooms, the daffodils and narcissus and tulips and iris flowers. I love the smell of the lilac bushes blooming, the sounds of birds nesting, the sight of baby calves and goats gamboling across the pastures. Love it love it love it.

I'm not so wild about the regular rain that makes the grass grow faster than I can mow it, nor the way the barn tends to flood (we're planning a major barn renovation in about a month), nor the sudden wild windstorms that can scream through and rip shingles off the roof. But for the most part, Spring is my favorite season. I wish it would last for six months, and we'd go straight through to fall, skipping summer here in KY altogether.

I don't care for summer here. Too bloody hot, sticky, humid. I hate the flies: the houseflies; the horseflies (omg when they bite they take out a chunk!); the deerflies (I am very allergic to them and when bitten swell up like the Elephant man on the afflicted limb); the Japanese Beetles; the bugs in general. I don't care for bugs. Summer is not my favorite time. Give me a long, extended spring. Let the hay grow like crazy, let's get three cuttings or more this year. Let it be Spring. Ahhhh......

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Earthquakes in the heartland!

Yesterday was an interesting day. We started out with an earthquake at 5:38 am. I was sleeping deeply, and awoke to the sound of the mirror on my dressing banging against the wall. Being the sort who is a bit groggy until after a cuppa, my initial paranoid thought was that we were under attack (interesting to note how strongly the 911 attacks affected my subconscious.) Then I thought about thunder, but when I looked outside I could see stars, which meant there was no thunderstorm (clouds would be required, natch.) I then listened to see if there was a suite of gravel trucks on the road (several of our neighbors work hauling gravel in huge dump trucks and will sometimes travel together on a job.) Nope. No trucks in sight or earshot. But the dog was agitated, so I got up to investigate further.

DH was already out watching the local news, and it confirmed my conclusion, earthquake! Seems over in IL (although they initially thought IN) there was a 5.4 quake. The local news stations were all atwitter about it, it's all they carried for the morning (at least, for what I watched of it, I don't watch tv during the day.) Later that morning as I was sitting here at the computer working, I felt the aftershock. First in my feet, as the house trembled, then I noticed my computer monitor wiggling and doing the Hootchie Kootchie! I shouted, and the dogs began to bark. I logged onto my favorite local chat site and checked in with the gang, sure enough, another quake! Smaller this time, only 4.8, but big enough to be felt all the way over here in the Bluegrass. Yeehaw!

I emailed my BFF (former college roommate and friend for life) in Los Angeles, and she, being rather used to them by now, commiserated. She's originally a New Yorker born and bred, and says it took some time to become as blasé about them as her neighbors. I also read that there have been a number of quakes off the coast of Oregon in the past few weeks which scientists have been monitoring, but are not sure what the activity means. But for us here in the heartland, it was a novel and exciting occurrence, we just don't get earthquakes around here very often!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

All the Grass That's Fit to Eat

Pasture management is crucial to anyone with livestock. Our horses rely on it, as do the goats, and to a lesser extent, even the chickens. And it's been one of our biggest learning curves since moving to Kentucky from Minnesota. In MN we didn't have access to pasture, per se. The place where we kept our horses (hi Cynthia) was mostly trees, on land typical of the Duluth area. There just aren't the rolling fields of grass there that folks are lucky enough to have other places. At that time we boarded our horses with friends, the Niemela family (John, Cynthia, and their two children.)

John and Cynthia had to have all the hay they used shipped in from southern MN, and it weren't cheap! She paid as much as $45 a round bale then, and I'm sure it must be higher now, five years later. When we arrived in KY, we had about 30 of our 45 acres in grassland, but very little was fenced in for horses. The previous owners had made a deal with a local guy to have him hay it in exchange for him keeping the hay (they had no animals, if you can believe, so had no use for it.) That first year we kept the same bargain, only we worked it so that we got half the hay and our neighbor kept the other half.

That first summer James spent every free moment putting in t-posts so that we could string electric fencing. Bless his heart (as they say here in The South), he put at least 8 acres under fence that first summer. The rest we had hayed, and wound up with about 30 bales for the winter, which was just about right. Round bales typically weigh about a ton, give or take, depending on size and moisture content. I remember many years ago, when we were living in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan), we had a friend fly in from New York to visit and do some consulting. On the way into town from the airport we passed fields of hay and rape seed. Brad looked out over the fields, which had been hayed recently, and asked "What the heck are those wheat balls for?" Ahh, city boys...

We've been here five years next month, and are still learning about managing the pasture. It needs to be mowed regularly so the weeds won't overtake it. It will need to be limed either this year or next, to keep the Ph balance proper for good grass production. And for some reason this past year, we've had a bunch of cedar trees crop up, as have a number of other people in the area. I don't know the scientific reason, but my gut tells me it's related to the drought we had last year, something about dryness and the environment that particular species of tree needs to thrive.

For now, our pastures are doing well. We have three right now, and James is always tinkering with the portable electric, opening up small add-on paddocks to the larger pastures, enabling the horses to get at grass that otherwise would go untouched. So far this spring we've had some good rain (almost too much!) and I am hopeful we'll get at least two if not four cuttings of hay this year. The rain makes it hard to get out there an mow the lawn (which has gotten quite high!) but I guess that's a topic for another day.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Getting ready for my NPIP inspection

This past week has been just crazy (heck, this past month has been crazy!) I had my NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan) inspection yesterday, and spent days getting ready. And this on top of all the other craziness that goes on in springtime, and I'm just about beat. I am taking today off, (well, sort of) and some of tomorrow too. I have a new computer to install and I want to be able to focus on that, which invariably takes at least twice as long as you think it will.

I wound up deciding not to go to the show this weekend. There was just too much going on, and I wasn't able to wash birds last weekend. As well, DH was deathly ill with the flu (he's still hacking a bit this week) and I had the inspection coming up. I knew I had made the right decision when I felt a sense of relief after canceling the hotel reservation.

Now all I have to do this weekend is get things tidied up, clean out some brooder boxes, and move some more birds (I swear, I feel like I spend my life moving birds from one place to another, rather like laundry!) Then I can focus on getting the new computer set up and running (my old one is ten years old, it's time and then some.) And I might even take an hour or two off to read a book or something! ((grin))

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Yes, we do give our chickens baths!

Gads, another big gap between postings. As I said, spring hits us hard here on the farm, I think I've been working 12 hour days for the last three weeks, with no break!

Today I will be washing birds for a show next weekend. That's right, for those of you who don't own show poultry, before we take birds to a show we actually give them baths!

Here's an article I wrote last year about preparing for a show:

- About two weeks before the show (or as early as one month before if you are seeing feather degradation) check your birds for mites. (This is something you should be doing on a regular basis anyway, about every month or so.) If they show signs, de-mite them with either your powder of choice, or Ivermectin (we use Ivermectin, as it both de-worms and de-mites, see this link for more info: )

- About two weeks before the show, have your state NPIP tester come and test your birds. Some shows will let you test as you arrive, but then you may have bloodstains on your neatly washed birds, better to do them beforehand.

- About a week before, clean out all pens/coops/cages in which your birds live. Re-bed deeply with clean shavings.

- About a week before, if you have cages, put the birds into them to get them used to being caged. Practice taking the birds in and out of the cage (always headfirst!) so that it is comfortable with the process. Treats help with this. A piece of wood as a perch helps the birds get used to being caged. Leave them in there for several days (with food and water, of course!) then wash them.

- About seven to five days before the show, wash your birds. Assemble the following tools:

- Three pails or large buckets

- One large towel per bird

- Dog nail clippers

- Dog nail file

- An old toothbrush

- An old washcloth or other rag

- Blood stop powder, or cayenne powder (in case you nick a quick)

- Carriers deeply bedded with clean shavings

- Hair dryer (if it's cool outside)

- Dish soap (better to use something like Ivory than Dawn, which strips too much oil from the feathers)

- Apple cider vinegar

- Bluing (only use if you have white birds, and not too much!)

Fill the buckets with warm but not too hot water. Put some ACV into the second bucket (not too much, just enough to cut the soap) and if you are washing white birds, several drops of bluing into the third. Gently lower the bird into the first bucket (but do not cover the head), swishing it up and down to get the feathers wet. Put some soap into your hand and gently brush it onto the bird, stroking in the direction of the feathers, not against the grain. Work the soap in, paying attention to the vent area and the toes. Be careful with soap around the eyes, best to just use a washcloth to wipe the head area. Use the toothbrush to scrub the toes and legs, get all the crud off of them.

Transfer the bird to the second bucket, swishing up and down to get the soap off. Then put into the third bucket for a final rinse. Wrap the bird in a towel, leaving the head and feet sticking out. Sit with it on your lap (you will get wet) and gently trim toes and beak (no judge likes to be scratched.) Use the file on the beak to remove sharp edges and refine the look. Wipe around eyes again with the towel. Using the warm (not hot) setting on the blow dryer, dry the chicken so that it is almost dry (you won't get it all the way dry.) Place it into the crate with shavings in a warm, non-drafty place to finish drying (this may take several hours.) We find we can do between three and six birds per day effectively (run out of crates!) Once the bird is completely dry, return it either to the cage or its clean pen.)

To take to the show:

- Your NPIP form, and health certificates if needed.

- Food and water for all your birds. It sometimes helps them to drink if you start adding ACV to their water several weeks before the show, so if you run out of your own water you can add some ACV to the water at the show and the birds will recognize the taste.

- Extra shavings, just in case (if you have room.)

- Some Vaseline, for putting around eyes and beaks to make them shine (not too much!)

- Some folks use Pink Spray, or Show Sheen to spray their birds with, I find it tends to attract dust (and I don't care for the smell.) You decide.

- Paper towels, you never know if you'll need some.

- Baby wipes to remove any last minute stains.

Once the birds are dry, you're ready to pop them in the travel crates, and off you go!
So that's how we do it. At some point I'll make a video of the process, it's pretty funny to watch.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring comes early on the farm

I just realized it's been weeks since I last posted here, no surprise really, given the time of year. For most people it's still winter, but for the average poultry breeder, spring has already begun. I started hatching in December, with my first hatch on Christmas Eve (what nice presents!) However due to Murphy's Law of Early Hatches, out of 21 chicks (a small set) 18 turned out to be cockerels. Most breeders would greatly prefer the opposite ratio, as we typically sell our birds as trios (one male, two females) and there never seems to be enough pullets to go around. Ah well, several subsequent hatches went the other way, so it turned out well.

At this point I figure I have about 200 babies in the basement, give or take. I even made the decision last night to take a break from hatching, and turn the incubator off (well, after I set this last batch of eggs, that is.) ((grin)) But I've got five brooder pens filled with babies of varying ages, and it's not quite warm enough to put them outside yet. The ones who most need to go out are the cockerels (young males) and if I put them out too early they'll get frostbite on their combs and lose the tips, not a good thing. But they may graduate out to the garage this week, it's cooler than the house, (too much warmth makes their combs grow too big), but not as cold as outside.

We recently had a big snowstorm (at least, for Kentucky.) We had about 12 inches or so, which made things fairly impassible for a while. DH and I are used to this sort of thing (he's Canadian, after all) having lived most of our lives in the North. I suppose we're Snow Snobs, but hey, when you spend six+ years in Western Canada, 12 inches down here seems pretty minor. The only real problem is cities in KY aren't set up to clear the snow from the roads very well, so driving is definitely at your own risk. But it has warmed up already, and I expect it all to be gone in another day or two. Sure was pretty though, I hadn't realized how much I missed the feel of a bright, sunny day with a foot of clean, unwalked-on snow on the ground. Ah well, it's the price we pay for living here, I guess.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Farm life changes us

It's interesting to note the many ways we change when we move from suburbia to a farm (no matter how small or hobby-farm it may be.)

I am still a stay at-home mom, but my life, and my general appearance is very different. I no longer wear makeup (as a general rule), because when you're out doing chores in the high heat of summer, makeup just runs down your face and into your shirt. I no longer bother to grow my nails or polish them, because when I'm working with the horses or cleaning a chicken pen, they get dirty and torn. I keep my hair simple - long and straight, because it's easier to pull up and out of my face so I can see when I'm trimming a hoof or collecting eggs. I have a lot more work clothes than dressy clothes, because I spend so much more time getting dirty than I do lunching with ladies or going to wine tastings.

Our priorities change too. A couple of years ago, my mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday. In years before we owned a farm, my mother would spoil me with a lovely art print, or piece of collectible pottery, something beautiful, but inherently impractical. That time when she asked, I told her what I really wanted was about ten tons of pea gravel to put around the barn to improve the drainage there. She was amused, but didn't really understand (Mom was ever a city girl, despite her father being such a lover of livestock.) Now for gift-giving occasions I ask for things like a power washer, or a new incubator, things like that. No flowers or perfume or jewelry for me, thank you, stick to things I can use! Oh, I still have pretty dresses and jewelry I can wear if I chose to, but the opportunities for such are fewer, and farther between now, and I can honestly say I don't mind a bit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More on perspective changing

Living on a farm makes one rethink many things. Before we got involved with farm animals on a day to day basis (when we lived in Duluth), we lived in a small house in the suburbs. I was then (as I am now) a stay at-home mom. Our house was kept pretty clean, the only real dirt brought in was by the children and the dog, and it was easily handled. I remember being somewhat pie-eyed when we first began taking lessons at our friend Cynthia's house, and her buddy Leigh Ann teasing me about it, saying "still not used to the dirt that comes with farm life yet, eh?"

Fast forward five years to farm life here in Kentucky, and it's a whole different ballgame. Dirt is just a part of living on a farm, especially in this area of the Bluegrass, where it doesn't snow much, and mud becomes a whole season in and of itself. Rubber boots are mandatory now, each one of us has at least one pair, plus the shorter rubber shoes for when we're not walking in the deep mud of the pastures. It doesn't snow much here, so when we get precipitation, it's Mud Time.

Despite my efforts, dirt comes in the house. Mud in Kentucky laughs at the idea of a doormat.
We have whole separate sets of clothing in which we do chores, so that when we go to town we're not wearing mud, or blood, or feces of some sort (owning animals means you invariably have one or more on you at any given time.) I remember when we had babies in Saskatoon, I prayed for carpeting over our hardwood floor. Now we have carpeting, and I'm thinking of ripping it all up and just going to hardwood (Cynthia, I know you're smiling, you with the glorious tile floors in Duluth.) I had to purchase a Dyson vacuum just for animals in order to truly get the carpets clean in this house (the Great Dane and three indoor cats don't help, I suppose.)

But all in all, one does become more tolerant of good clean dirt. It's almost impossible to keep out, and unless I want to spend my entire day cleaning (I'm not that kind of girl, Martha does not live here), it's going to be here if you come to visit. Just how farm life is. Keeping baby chicks in the basement over the winter doesn't help either, they tend to shed as they feather-in, and chicken dust floats all over the place. It's part of the price we pay for being here and living this wonderful life.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The National Animal Identification System, or NAIS

As a small hobby farmer, you would think I have nothing in common with large factory farms. In theory, that would be correct. But in reality, we have one large connection, and that's the National Animal Identification System.

It's a complicated notion that sounds simple. Identify every animal on every farm, ostensibly to be able to track the progress of disease, and find its source, should it occur. That's a laudable goal, but the manner in which the USDA is implementing the program they've developed is nothing short of draconian.

I don't want to get into a huge discussion about the NAIS, there are lots of websites with excellent information about it, no need to reinvent the wheel. Go to for an overview of the system that will make your hair curl. But I will give you my brief take on the plan.

The premise is simple. Each farm which has livestock is given a number (trackable by GPS.) Each animal on each farm is given an individual number at birth, and then any time any animal goes anywhere off the farm, the movement of that animal is reported to a centralized database. So if illness in a horse, let's say, shows up at a show, the USDA could track all the movements of the horse, and find all of the other horses which had been exposed to the disease, and deal with them. Each farmer must tag or otherwise electronically identify all his animals, at his own expense (and the RFID chips that are being proposed are not cheap, costing between $2 and $5 each, depending on species.)

In actual practice, such a system would be a nightmare for the small farm owner. Any time I go on a trail ride with my horses, any time we cross over the land of another farmer, or enter any show ring, or public place, each and every one of those "movements" would have to be recorded, by me. My horse would have to have an expensive microchip implanted (which some studies have shown cause cancer, especially in light-skinned horses, of which I have two.)

So let's say I go out on a ride, travel just four miles down the road. I pass twelve farms. Each movement onto a farm, then off the farm, has to be logged (hard to do while riding, but I suppose I can write while my horse walks.) On off, on off. For each farm we cross, and each horse we're riding (we like to go out as a family.) So for four horses, which go on and off twelve farms, that's a total of 26 individual movements per horse (have to count on and off our own farm), times four, for a total of 104 movements. Each must be entered into the central database with the day and time (possibly including minute!) All for just one simple trail ride.

Under the NAIS as it stands now, we'd have to do that with every single animal we own, anytime they leave the farm, (and return, if they do.) And it gets even more silly when it's applied to animals such as chickens. Under the current draft proposal, each and every chick will have to be tagged, with a multi-digit number (something like 12 or 14 digits), identifying it for life. Now anyone who knows anything about chicks (especially bantam chicks) knows there's no possible way to do this. Any such tag would be much too large for a tiny chick. And chickens would tear the tags off each other, even if we could figure out how to get them on. I hatch between 100 to 300 chicks a year, how on earth will I be able to log all those numbers and report any movements such birds make? Even if I had the time to do so, how would I afford the cost for that many animals? It's not like I'm getting rich selling chickens, I assure you.

The program gets really interesting when it compares how an individual farm, such as ours is, fares against the big factory farms such as those owned by Purdue and Tyson. Those corporate giants are permitted to log whole barns full of birds with just one number, under the logic that they all move "as a lot" through the chain from hatch to slaughter. Very convenient (and cheap!) for them.

The system as it is proposed is overwhelming for small farmers. Many folks like us feel it's a move by big corporate farms to put the small farmholder out of business. Many are concerned about the loss of genetic diversity which would come if only the big factory farms were left to raise animals for the food chain. Not to mention the fact that in most, if not all cases, incidences of bird flu are directly attributable to the large factory farms, not the small farmholder (who generally raises his animals in ways which are much more humane and easier on the immune system than factory farming.)

I don't want to rant forever here. I do encourage all of you to read the following blog for some interesting information about how past government administrations have impacted our environment and health by allowing the FDA and USDA free reign with our food and livestock. See this link for some interesting comments, and if you'll pardon the pun, food for thought:

I encourage all of you to do some research before you vote this fall, and make sure the person you're voting for is going to do the right thing for you, your children, and (without sounding too preachy), our planet.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The things we do...

Sometimes I wonder, even about myself. One of the things I do here is raise various breeds of chickens. One breed I am working with now (for my daughters) is Silkies. They're cute (if you like that kind of thing) and fuzzy and appeal to most folks. One aspect of them is a problem though; they have what's known as a "vaulted" skull, which basically means they have holes in their heads.
(See this link for photos to illustrate what I mean:

The problem is, because they're chickens, they get easily startled, and are prone to bonking their heads. Without skull plates to protect their brains, a head bonk is a serious thing for a Silkie, often resulting in neurological damage, and a condition known as "Crookneck." This refers to the tendency of an injured bird to screw its neck around and look up at you upside down and backwards. It's really rather pitiful to look at.

Last fall I purchased an expensive breeding cock bird in order to get a particular color in my flock. The male is Splash, which means he has two copies of the Blue gene, or BlBl. In order to get Blue birds (which is what I want), I breed the Splash male to my Black females (who have blbl, or "not blue") to wind up with Blues (Blbl.) Blues are lovely, a soft grey, and a color I work with in my Dutch as well (modified by the Cream gene igig, which is likely more than you wanted to know about chicken genetics.)

At any rate, I've hatched several Blue chicks this spring, and at least two of them are pullets (young hens) which is wonderful. What's not so wonderful is that one of them has bonked her silly head, and I am now treating her for crookneck. I even; ((gasp)) took the chick to the vet, something I would never do with any other breed. I felt rather stupid and foolish, but he was very nice, and gave me the prednisone I needed to treat her with. I am also supplementing her with B and E vitamins and putting Arnica gel (a homeopathic remedy) on her head, which is working really well. With some luck and time she should completely recover, and as long as I keep her in an area where she won't re-bonk her head, she should never have any further problems.

But I do wonder at myself sometimes. I mean, going to the vet with a chicken is something I never thought I'd do. Just goes to show you, never say never.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Not From Here

My husband and I have moved around a fair amount for his job. Since we married, we've lived in Western Canada, Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and now we're in Kentucky (where we have our first farm.) It's funny for us, as when people ask us where we're from, it's not an easy question. Neither of us is from where we live now, or even where we've lived as a couple. I think I counted once and since I went away to college, I've moved something like 17 times. So DH and I often refer to ourselves as NFH (Not From Here.)

When you live in a place all your life, you make connections that run deep and wide. They're wonderful, you have family all around you, always someone you can call in a pinch to babysit or help with a project around the house, things like that. But when you move around a fair amount (it's not quite as bad as being in the Army), you do learn to be independent, and that's not such a bad thing. When we were a new couple with little babies, we couldn't call our moms and ask for help babysitting, they were at least 1,000 miles away! We had to learn to make friends, and get along with people of all sorts of cultures and backgrounds, and our kids have too, which I think is a good thing.

Where we live now, people know I'm not from here as soon as I open my mouth. I do not speak like my neighbors (although I'm learning) and they are reminded of it any time we talk together. To them, I'm the one with the accent (but to me, they have the accent!) But we always find a common ground of one sort or another, and often it's something to do with farming. Our community is primarily farmland, although the big city up the pike is encroaching a bit. Many people in this area still set tobacco, even though it has been deregulated as a crop. And there are tons of horses in our area - my husband once estimated he saw as many as 50 horses in one long horseback ride down our rural road.

So there's always something I can chat with my neighbors about if I find myself running out of conversation. Things like, how the hay crop is going to turn out this year, if many of the local varmits are showing up in their barns, whether we're going to get some good corn this year, or have another year of drought. Some things are great levelers, and living in the country we are so much more affected by the weather that we are much more conscious of it, all the time. And being able to find something in common with our neighbors that way, makes the fact that we're NFH just that much less obvious, if only for a little while.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Perspective changes

Living on a farm certainly changes your perspective about certain things. When I was younger, I thought raccoons were adorable, the book "Rascal" was one of my favorites as a child. My mother even used to go so far as to buy children's cereal to feed the raccoons that lived in her yard (even I thought that was a little crazy.)

However moving to a farm has changed the whole cuteness factor for raccoons at this point. Now I think they're nasty, brutish creatures, and we actually trap and kill any we can. Raccoons are smart opportunists. If you leave grain in a big garbage can, they'll not only rip the top off (bungee cord or no bungee cord), and eat the grain, they'll also defecate on what they haven't eaten so as to completely ruin it. Raccoon have small little paws that resemble nothing so much as human hands. They are very dexterous, and can put those little paws through holes smaller than you'd think. They are vicious, and will kill and eat anything they can reach, even pulling chickens out of cages piece by piece and eating them alive.

I don't care for raccoons any more. Or skunks, or possums, or stoats, weasels, or minks for that matter. Varmints who want to kill my chickens do not warm the cockles of my heart, no matter how cute their little faces may be. A live trap and a rifle work really well for me (to be honest, for my husband.)

The year we found them killing chickens (before we covered every pen with hardware cloth), my husband trapped and killed 30 raccoons in 30 days. It became a routine. He'd come home from work early in the morning (he works a night shift), check the trap, kill the raccoon, and take the carcass out to the hill in the west pasture. It got so that every morning there'd be a flock of buzzards waiting in the tree for him to bring them their breakfast. We took to calling that big oak the Buzzard's Cafe, and actually started to like the buzzards for how efficient they were at cleaning up the carcasses. Funny how your perspective can change about things when your situation changes as well.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ups and downs

Living on a farm certainly has its ups and downs. Sometimes, when it's cold and windy and nasty out, the last thing I want to have to do is go outside and slog around, hauling water, and doing chores. I'd really rather be back inside where it's cozy and warm, and I recall the days when I was a suburban housewife in my little house in Duluth. No real need to go out unless I had to drive somewhere, and there were no animals outside waiting on me to bring them warm water to drink.

But other days, when the weather is nicer and the sun is shining (amazing how much affect that has on my mood), I am SO GLAD to be living out in the country. I can sit down on an upturned bucket, look around over our fields, and rejoice in our good fortune. We have lots of land. Our nearest neighbor is far enough away that I can't see in through his windows, and he can't see in through ours. If I wanted to, I could theoretically sunbathe naked on the back deck, and the only ones who could see me would be the critters (not that I do that very often!) ((grin))

So it evens out. I will admit that spring is my favorite of seasons. Summer here gets much too hot for me, I hate getting soaked in sweat and having to work with it running down my face into my eyes. I dislike the winter less than the peak of summer, but I don't care overmuch for being too cold either. Spring and fall are my favorites, cool enough to work outside comfortably, warm enough not to be stressful for the animals. The middle ground is where I like to be, even when it comes to the weather.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How we made the transition from city to farm

It's been an interesting road, morphing from suburban housewife to very rural farmwife. I know DH would disagree with portions of this story, but hey, he can get his own blog and then tell it his way.

I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, but my maternal grandfather had a "gentleman's farm" of sorts, and I've been around horses since I was old enough to be propped up in the saddle and not fall over. We lived about two hours north of the farm, and went down to visit on a regular basis. I adored riding with Grandpa, he knew so much about animals and plants and trees, every ride was a lesson of one sort or another. My dream when I got older was to move back home after college and start breeding horses again in the big barn down there (great-grandfather bred high end American Saddlebred horses as a hobby.)

But one thing led to another, and even though I worked as a groom/trainer at several barns on the East Coast, it didn't happen (long story for another post.) But the farm back home still remained, and one year when DH and I were home for vacation, we took the DDs down there with us, and went riding on the four pet horses that were still there at that time.

The girls were about 5 and 7 at the time, not old enough to go out on a trail ride, although DH dearly wanted to. He hadn't all that much experience with horses, and I wasn't comfortable taking them out on a long ride on horses who didn't get ridden all that often. So we just rode around and around in the arena, and left it at that.

Later that year, we discussed taking riding lessons, comparing it with the idea of buying a small sailboat (we were living in Duluth at that time, right near Lake Superior.) The decision we made then changed our lives forever. A friend told me of a riding instructor she'd met that she thought I'd really like, and I called her. She lived outside of town on a small farm with horses, goats, and poultry (gee, sounds familiar!) We signed DH and the girls up for lessons, and it all began.

Cynthia was a great person for them to learn to ride with. She has a wonderful attitude about teaching and horses, and passed those values along to my family. She introduced us to the concept of barefoot trimming and not stabling horses but letting them roam the pastures 24/7, which for me were very foreign concepts at the time. She helped us get involved in dairy goats, and re-introduced me to poultry (my grandfather and great-grandfather had poultry on the farm at one point or another.) And when we moved to northern KY, everything we'd done at their farm prepared us for being where we are now. So we owe her a debt of gratitude for all she taught us, and for pointing us in the direction we ultimately wanted to go.

It always baffled and bemused my mother, that this city-bred girl would wind up on a farm at 45, but really, if she'd thought about it more, she wouldn't have been surprised. I've never been a girly-girl, and always cherished the time spent on the family farm with her father. Mom's gone now, but I like to think both she and Grandpa are looking down on us here from heaven and are proud of all we've accomplished.

So folks, remember, follow your dreams, you never know where they'll lead you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A bad afternoon

Had a wretched afternoon. I have eggs in the hatcher (which is like an incubator, but specific to the last three days, when they're about to hatch), including some from DD#1s favorite Silkie, Luna. Luna is White, the only White one we have, and the male I have in with her is a Splash, again, the only Splash I have. He's been sick of late (with "limberneck", a neurological condition caused by brain injury from bonking his silly head.) I don't know if he's going to recover or not, so hatching those eggs sired by him if I can is very important to me.

But so far I've not been able to get any of Luna's eggs to hatch, for whatever reason. This hatch I had three in there, which isn't many. One has hatched (yay!) and I think will be a White (maybe a Splash, hard to tell right now.) There was a second egg that had pipped, and was about ready to pop out, but then seemed to get stuck, and went no further (the hatcher has a plexiglass front so I can watch what's going on in the trays, if I use a flashlight.)

I watched this egg all afternoon. But did I check the humidity levels? Noooo, that would have been too bloody smart. And the damned thing ran out of water and the levels got much too low. The poor chick was stuck, and damn it, died.

Perfectly formed chick, seemingly a White, dead in the shell (I snatched it out quickly so as not to loose too much of the humidity I had sprayed back in there.) ((sigh)) I'm so mad at myself. It was a stupid mistake, and of course, it's always the ones we want the most which seem to have problems, not the expendable ones.

Lesson learned, be more vigilant about the humidity. But it just makes me sad, and mad, and sorry for the poor thing. Let's hope the third egg hatches after all (no sign as of yet.)

Intro of sorts

We live on a farm in northern Kentucky, although it's important to note that we're not FROM northern Kentucky. When people ask me where I'm from, I ask how long they have to listen.

I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. Went to college in Syracuse, NY. Then to Manteo, NC for a year. Then back up to Syracuse. Then to NYC for a couple of months, living with a buddy in his loft (very cool.) Then Englewood, NJ (just over the bridge from NYC) for five years. Then to Nashua, NH for four years. Then to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for six years (to be with my husband.) Then to Janesville, WI for two years. Then Duluth, MN for five years. And we've been here in KY for going on five years now. So we don't really fit the local profile all that well. But we have a small farm here (45 acres is small, according to our neighbors) and we like it a lot.

We've got an interesting assortment of critters. Four horses, two dairy goat wethers, two big dogs, six cats (three in and three barn), three geese, six guineas, and about 100 or so chickens (I haven't counted the chicks in the brooder lately.) DH works a straight job, he has to, no way anyone can really make money doing the family farm thing any more. Factory farming has taken away any sort of profit that can be made, so most folks like us are really just hobby farmers. If we make enough money to pay for even some of the expenses, we feel like it's a triumph.

But we love being able to raise our own food (or, at least some of it.) We like knowing what goes into the meat we eat, or doesn't, as the case may be. We like knowing the animals we raise have happy lives until they die, and that they are fed good quality food and get to run around on grass and feel the sun on their little faces. No factory farmed chicken can compete with that!

We also show our chickens (see our website, for pics of our birds) and have fun doing it. Our kids do 4-H, ride their horses, and generally enjoy being here (although DD#1 will shake the dust of this place off her shoes and spend the rest of her life in a city if she has her way about it.) Living on a hobby farm is good. It keeps the family together, the kids happy, and DH gets to play cowboy to his heart's content. Gotta love it.