Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teaching Old Chickens New Tricks

What's a golf ball doing in our chicken coop?  Actually, there are 3 golf balls currently in the nesting boxes of our coop. The golf balls are teaching our chickens where to lay their eggs.  It makes me laugh.

This year's group of Gals were all about 1 year old and laying daily when they arrived on the Little Farm.  As you can imagine, moving from one "farm" to another can be a bit discombobulating for a poor hen.  That is a big change, especially for a less than genius chicken.

I mean...when, early in our marriage, I moved the laundry hamper from one side of a door to another it took The Big Guy about a year to get used such a monumental change.  I moved the silverware drawer (it moved from the top drawer to the one directly below) about 5 years ago.  The males in my house are still getting used to that one...but I digress.  (I love the differences between boys and girls!)

Anyway, when the Gals moved in, they weren't sure where their eggs were supposed to go.  For the first couple of days, we found them all over the ground under their coop.  This wasn't the end of the world, we still found them easily and such.  However, a few of them were broken. 

Broken eggs!  That's like throwing away a treasure!

So, Farmer Ron stuck one golf ball in each of the nesting boxes on the top of the coop.   Ta Da!  The next day, we had 4 eggs laid IN the nesting boxes.  All they needed was a good example.  Good thinking Farmer Ron!  The Gals sure are quick learners.

At this juncture, I could point out that the Gals are, in fact, GIRLS and that said girls adjusted to this change quite speedily.  And this stands in stark contrast to how the males on the Little Farm seem adjust to things moving around, but I won't...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yet Another First from Our Last Young'un

Feeding carrots to the chickens before breakfast.
Abby Grace is our littlest Young'un.  She's very smart, really independent, astonishingly busy, pretty darn cute and extremely hilarious!  Being the fifth child in a busy household, she's also has the opportunity to fly "off the radar" a bit.  I mean, I just can't keep track of her all the time.  I try and I even have help, but sometimes she's on her own. 

Most days, Abby's unintentional alone time turns out just fine.  In fact, usually the results of her alone times are quite impressive.  For a 3 year old, she is excellent at drawing.  Her most recent picture of our dog is displayed in our kitchen gallery.  Come check it out!

Her alone times also resulted in her infamous "Caboodie Dance."  Seriously, one day she walked out of a closet (of course, I had thought she was in a different room) and told me she had a new dance.  It's hilarious!  Abby has taught all of us the Caboodie Dance now.  She and the Big Guy do it best.  They've got the moves, those two.

See how one side is a bit shorter?
This weekend Abby Grace had some alone time which resulted in a first here on the Little Farm.  Abby used her scissors (yes, she has some scissors) and decided she needed a haircut.  We've never had a Young'un cut their own hair before.  New territory yet again!

Apparently the cutting happened on Friday night.  However, I didn't realize it until after she'd gone to bed (no, I didn't notice when I was putting her to bed.  I'm a good Mom, really...) and I found clumps of hair on the floor.  That would be clumps of pretty blond curls on the floor...

Turned out they were from our sweet Abby Grace's head.

The damage was such that a rather dramatic trim was necessary.  There are still a couple of spots where it's a bit uneven (we didn't want to shave her head), but that'll work itself out in a month or two.  I was sad to loose the sweet curls.  The Big Guy was even more sad.

The results of all the trimming is actually quite cute.  Her curls are still intact!  I actually think the new do fits her spunky little personality.

Abby and I have had a talk regarding scissors and their proper usage.  She's been briefed on what will happen should she decide to perform another haircut or some other such unauthorized use of her scissors.  Time will tell... it's always a crazy, fun, sweet, exhausting adventure.

Really.  How can you resist this face?

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Chickens Have Arrived!

The Gals have arrived on the Little Farm!  They moved in last Saturday morning and have already given us 6 eggs and some laughs.  We've even had some sessions of Chicken PE classes!

This year's group are all less than one year old.  We've got a Rhode Island Red, Americuna, Brown Americuna/Unknown cross and a Black Australop.  So far, their eggs have ranged from off white to dark tan.  The dark tan eggs are easily the size of jumbo eggs from the store.

The Gals are currently living in the backyard.  Farmer Ron moved their chicken coop/tractor thingy back there from its place beside our garden.  We thought we'd let them get used our place and roam around the backyard for a few weeks.  The garden is pretty wet and sloppy right now.  When it dries out, we'll move their coop out there and let them eat all the random seeds and weeds in the garden.  We love letting them do our work!

In their coop
We're all glad to have the coop filled again, especially the three youngest Young'uns.  They have been out to look for eggs about 3 times each day.  The youngest Young'un spent a good deal of time in the backyard talking and singing to them.  Hope they like company!

Hanging out by the sandbox

I know the Gals have been given names, but I'm not sure what they are...I've heard about 20 different ones floating around in the past few days.  When they've been officially christened, I'll let you know.

Be sure to check the Egg Count in the sidebar.  I'll keep it updated every few days.  We'll see if these Gals earn their keep over the next eight months or so.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making Paper Pots for Starting Seeds

The seeds have arrived!  The next step, here on the Little Farm, is to get the tomatoes and eggplant seeds into some dirt so they can start growing inside.  We can't put plants or seeds into our garden much before Mother's Day each year.  This means our growing season is pretty short and we need to give some of our plants a head start if we want to have any veggies.

Starting seeds usually means getting a black plastic tray or two and some peat starter pellets from the infamous Fleet Farm.  Once home Fleet Farm, we'd put the pellets into the tray, add water, "ooh" and "aah" as the pellets puffed up into dirt, stuck our seeds into the dirt and wait for a few weeks.

This year we're doing something different...I bought a Paper Pot Maker from Amazon using some of my Swagbucks!

I'd seen one of these little babies a few years back and loved the idea, but hadn't gotten around to giving it a try.  My Amazon gift cards had been sitting in my account (thanks Swagbucks!) just begging me to use them, so I thought we'd give the Paper Pot Maker a go. 

The Verdict:  so far, I love it!

In the space of about an hour, I made 103 small pots out of newspaper!  They were easy to make, are the perfect size for starting seeds and the materials (newspaper) didn't cost me a thing.  Once the plants are ready to put into the ground, we can stick them in pot and all since the paper pot is biodegradable!

Besides all of this - I think they're cute!

Here's how it works...  Cut strips of newspaper about 4 inches wide. 

Wrap a strip around the Pot Maker snugly, but not too snugly or it'll be tough to slide your pot off when it's done. The ends of the paper should hang over the bottom end of the pot maker by about an inch or so.  Fold these ends in towards the center.

Press the Pot Maker onto the circle/base thingy.  I found it takes some pretty decent pressure to get the bottom to sticky somewhat tightly.  It worked best to have the base sitting on a table or some sort of firm surface.  There are grooves on base which help to make the bottom stick. 

 Here's what the bottom of the pot looks like after it has been pressed and mashed around a bit on the base.

At this point, you slide the pot off the end and viola!  You've made yourself a cute little pot that's all ready for your dirt, seeds and love.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Seeds: They Make Me Happy!

 On Saturday afternoon, our friendly mailman (I do know I'm supposed to call him a "postal worker," but he is a man and he was delivering our mail) knocked on our door and handed me a small, square box.

"Could it be?" thought I.

One quick glance at the return address and I knew.  Our seeds had arrived! 

Oh the joy!  Oh the hope!  Oh the possibilities!

I'm pretty sure I sensed the slight taste of a big juicy tomato in my mouth...

In my happiness, I gave the aforementioned mailman a big ol' kiss, took my package and shut the door.

The seeds for this year's garden here on the The Little Farm have come from Fedco Seeds on the recommendation of a friend, Laurie, who is miles and miles ahead of me in all things "farming."  She has a lovely garden, property and blog, Common Sense Homesteading.  She is so smart about so many things, but I digress...

We were looking for a new seed source because last year's seeds were a bit disappointing.  The catalog from Seed Savers looked gorgeous and I love the idea of what Seed Savers does, but the seeds didn't turn into many plants.  What plants we did get, didn't do so great.  And, to be honest, we're in this for the food.  We've got five Young'uns - two of whom are teenage boys and one 3 year old who's favorite summertime activity is to hide in the garden and eat veggies.  She's learned what jalepenos look like, but again, I digress...

Fedco.  One look at their website and they had me.  Here is the first line from their "About Fedco" page:
Welcome to Fedco Seeds, your source for cold-hardy selections especially adapted to our demanding Northeast climate.
See why I liked them?  The Little Farm isn't in the Northeast, but we still need cold-hardy selections.  This may have been the trouble with last year's seeds - not made to grow in the Frozen Tundra.  Did I mention we had snow falling here today on April 4th?

Back to the box.  I opened it with ooh's and aah's.

Do you think 31 packs of seeds is too much?

I loved the seed packaging - thick white envelopes with green printing and resealable flaps.  They also have explicit planting directions on the front of each envelope, something which is very helpful to gardening wanna-be's like us.

As I spread them out on the table, reading the names aloud, I got even more excited.  Amish Paste Tomato, National Pickling Cucumber, Over the Rainbow Carrot Mix, Arugula, Swallow Eggplant, Pink Brandywine Tomato, Mammoth Dill, Arugula, just to name a few.  (I know I mentioned Arugula twice.  Say it aloud - it's fun.)

The seed packs have been sorted into piles of those we'll start early in our basement (hopefully in the next couple of days) and those we'll sow directly in the ground.  I'll keep you posted.

Seeds!  Oh the joy!  Oh the hope!  Oh the possibilities!

(I'm just kidding about kissing the mailman.)