Playing Farmgirl

Just one week before my 50th birthday, I became a Farmgirl - a lifelong dream. Of course it's my own opinion that I'm a farmgirl now, I'm only just starting to experience the definition of a farmgirl. I am really just a 'chicken keeper', and have many projects on the burner, and huge "farmdream" plans- but I am getting a little taste of the complexities of farm life with the chickens.


Farmgirl Lesson #1: things never go quite as planned.

I can't say I'm having 'fun' yet; I'm paranoid all day now, taking peeks out my window to check on them. They are all outside in their yard, then all inside the coop where I can't see them. 
My first thought is always: they escaped! 
Then: A dog got them all!
It's kind of nerve-wracking. And then I see them out again. Whew.
I laugh because they are so big they look like turkeys! 
And they could really use some red clown noses.


Tazz gave me a dead mouse for my birthday. He'd been stalking that mouse for 3 weeks, dutifully checking every cabinet (they can't get inside the cabinets but you can hear them behind), listening to the floor and the walls, and under the stove. He's such a good mouser we don't need a cat!  


LOL - I had hoped the chickens will give me at least one egg for my birthday! It was a pipe dream.... Every time we disturb their coop in some way, they punish us with no eggs, and even try to bed down outside of it.
They are so sensitive! 


But the 2 eggs I've gotten were beautiful!


I'm always checking the bushes for a stray egg. They laze in out in their yard and make little dust bowls in the ground around the bushes. No eggs there either. 


I don't know why, but  they always look at me with an eye of distrust! (Enlarge the picture to get the 'look' up close).
Well, maybe that's my imagination.
What do you think?:
They are so comical.
I was in the process of moving their nests to ground level so they might use them.... This hen cracked me up when she took a side-step while eyeing the new nests (now on her level), as she walked by. 
 Then when she got a few more steps farther away...she stopped for a 2nd look, craning her neck:
But then, notice something else!
-in the absolute CORNER....look hard!
LOL!
I totally didn't see that yesterday!
My 1st egg!  Haha, that joke is on me!

Here's another joke on me: When I loaded the pictures and saw the egg, I went out to get it, and discovered - they had eaten it!

Seriously, I was going to 'bait' one of the nests with that egg, but while I waited for the rain to slow down, they "made it disappear", leaving only a wet spot on the floor to show that I wasn't imagining things.


I've read that you need to 'train' your chickens to use a nest or a roost (the staggered ladders to sleep on).
Gahhhhhh!  I'm definitely not having "the best time" all the time.

That's why I moved the nest boxes OVER THERE... maybe in aiming for the corner, they’d accidentally lay in a nest! Ha!
(6 plastic crates with 3" board across the front is under the shelf)

Then after another 2 days, I found an egg -and a half
Yep, I really mean that. It had a little ‘etch’ mark, as if one and ½ an egg had been fused together- which I’m sure is exactly what happened.
(white egg from the supermarket for comparison)
Love that color! 
But you see it has been cracked on top- she must've been standing up when she laid it! 
Well, the dogs enjoyed the double yolks in it!
Then the next day we put a light in the coop, to encourage laying (and for a little heat as temps dropped to the 20's). I should've KNOWN....
No eggs at all for four days now.
I have tried turning the coop light on from the deck outlet outside our bedroom around 11pm give or take, and unplugging it again when we rise (4am - 6am) or when the sun comes up. I've also tried turning it on only when we rise, which would add another 2-3 hours of light a day. 
I really don't know what's best. Sigh.


Before I discovered this breed, I was looking at the silver Cuckoo Maran. 
They are so similar, but much less feathered- and smaller/lighter in weight.

My second choice after this chicken breed was the blue-copper Maran, another pretty bird. Both lay dark terra-cotta colored eggs:

I like Welsummers too - their eggs look like chocolate!
What could be more appetising than that?


I also looked into silver Barnvelder, and the lavender Orpington.
The Golden Orpingtons are highly popular: fat & feathery, and extremely broody (which means they like to sit on their nest and hatch their eggs).
But from what I can tell, lavender birds are more delicate, like blue vs purple flowers tend to be - especially when trying to breed them - their colors don't easily breed true (it's complicated). But they are beautiful birds.


If you're at all interested in raising chickens- this is the best resource for information: Backyard chickens.com


As you may know, there really ARE chocolate turkeys....I like the chocolate (and red palm and bronze) turkeys a lot! 
photo credit: porterturkeys.com
Aren't they appetizing!? 
(Just so you know, color matters more than anything else to me. I know that's weird.) But, I want to raise a few turkeys one day- just to sell. We just don't really like to eat turkey much. 


If you never considered raising your own- take a look at all these yummy looking turkeys and you're bound to change your mind! 

I like my gray and black flock a lot, though it's funny, I tend to go for the black & white animals and birds- spotted goats, pinto/paints, spotted cows and lacey- patterned chickens like the Wyandottes. 
Few breeds are feathery enough to endure winters here without a lot more oversight (and electricity). I think it's not a good idea to start out borrowing trouble like that just for color of feather - or egg.
Though those in our subdivision with chickens all seem to have one blue-egg layer - it gets confusing between Americaunas and Araucanas. Some are TAIL-LESS, but this silver Ameraucana roo is completely & amazingly  beautiful:
(source: backyardchickens.com)


And I've looked into the Muscovy duck- a delicious meat bird which needs little to no water, like most other ducks do. Some say they are ugly birds, but I found one I like! The lavender, of course:
(source: Wikipedia.org)
and the WILD version (with domestic breeding) looks awesome:
(source: http://www.birdinginformation.com/)


And today I just discovered the Sabastopol goose. All I can say is  WOW. Please delight your own sensibilities and be INSPIRED!
(check them out here!)

LOL, isn't all that interesting?!

I know many bloggers name their 'ladies'. For me, names are hard. They have to mean something so I can remember them, and Stormy is a cute and fitting name for one of these gray hens. But what about all the rest? First I need to be able to tell them apart and see if they have specific traits I can spot over time.
For instance the lightest hen is always the first one out the door in the morning , and always the first one to walk toward me now, looking for scraps. And the smallest hen, the one with the prettiest wing pattern, the darkest, is last in the door all the time when I’m herding them in for the night.
Not exactly 'naming' material though.

Here’s why I'm herding them in about an hour before sundown:
  
bedding down in the yard at sundown

It's better in here.

I don't know if I really need to name them- might wait until next spring when I hatch some new birds! I just don't know.

On another topic, we’ve had our first snow already (Oct. 8th), but it didn’t stick. Thank God! 
THEY got over 2 feet up in the mountains in the north... I guess that makes some people happy.

A "first snow" is always sort of nice, but mostly not, and I KNOW you're probably thinking I'm just being grumpy.
Sure, I enjoy the flakes falling, and sometimes it's nice to take a stroll down the silent white road... but it points to changes that I HATE - gray for months on end...and the ugly trees, and car doors frozen shut, and high heating costs. (Double what we paid in southern California. If we use propane and wood heat, that's up to $300 a month for each! Which truthfully EQUALS the cost of fuel in southern California, if you average it out over the summer here, when you use neither wood nor propane... it's just hard to come up with the funds in lump sums for 6 months of the year). 
It's already been in the 20's overnight and we are using the wood stove every morning.

The only good thing is that Winter is my season for escaping into stories, music, art. 
Snow insulates from the world at large. You drive and there is no sound of tires on gravel or pavement. It's quiet when you stand outside and listen, like cottonballs in your ears. And when the thick smooth clouds come, they insulate my little world. I focus better. This is a good thing. Everyone needs to both express and internalize, like ying and yang. The seasons provide the opportunity for it.


I don't know how I'll feel tomorrow about turning 50, but right now I'm feeling just 'free', like all doors are open and I have only to walk thru the door(s) of my choice. I could still go back to school even, if I wanted to. (I don't, but I do fantasize about having a business career sometimes, combining counseling as a psychologist & adding nutritional counseling (as a nutritionist) AND run my own daycare center. Not watching the kids full time-  I just want to design the programs and the school settings and supervise the supervisors, lol. I would like to do all 3 at the same time! You know, associate them all together and then have multiple streams of income!)
Funny I don't fantasize about being an artist- author or painter. I guess there's no glamour related to those things because I know how much work they really are. Although the romantic notions I harbor toward the agrarian life makes no sense at all either.
Maybe I'll become more eccentric! Then I'll FEEL like I'm an artist. 
I need a new wardrobe to look like one!
But then, that's not very practical for doing farmy chores...

Of course, I do more fantasizing about being a farmgirl than anything, and how the heck does that even fit in with anything else at all? (A "fiber artist" maybe, but not the other stuff I do). 

Maybe I'm already eccentric and I just don't know it!

I've been planning my winter regimens and routines and getting everything winterized (cleaned up), all under the most glorious azure blue skies this week! I'm propagating about 100 Russian sage plants for future bees)... 
  (I just transplanted this sage bush- it's in shock but should come around)
...since I'm joining the local Buzz Club (bee club) soon & hope to get bees. (There have been mass bee die-offs south of us in New Mexico and the pecan trees didn't produce well). 
We're on the edge of the edge of drought. I can only hope it doesn't last!


Having a little less snow to contend with is fine with me, as long as the rain makes up for it....


Some people have traditions they follow for the first snow day- like making a pot of chili. So do I. I hunker down to watch the whole marathon of "The Lord of the Rings".
Maybe it inspires me that if they can survive all that, then I can survive through winter. (Remember, when we lived in Southern California, and it would start to rain, we would make a run on the store for 'supplies'! And it wasn't just us- it was everyone! LOL)
The first 2 years I lived here, I cried when it snowed. Not sad tears, but tears of dread, fear of being trapped, enclosed by a tomb of snow. Even if only 3" fell... it was just sheer fear of what MIGHT happen.
I don't mind anymore- it doesn't scare me to drive in it anymore, but it's very hard to see when driving thru snow at night. It's like driving through a Star Trek Warp Speed 9- into a starry outer space. The flakes circle around as you go forward- and that's about all you can see.
It helps to have a 4WD vehicle. Which we now don't have:

We had our two broken vehicles towed off (to Rocky Mtn PBS). One needs an engine, one a transmission. It was bittersweet to watch them go, not satisfying like it feels when you clean out your closet.
However, it's for the best. And look at that azure sky!

(goodbye Blazer)

(goodbye old truck!)

Wish you were here! 
Nooooo, not just to help with all the chores!

Share with me- what you're up to & how you're preparing for winter, how you're working on your dream! I would love to hear!


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