Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy rams

You may have noticed that the 'Lamb Watch' gadget on my blog is up and running again....guess what that means? It's that time of year again. Romance is in the air at Crosswinds Farm, and the 2012 lambs will be here in about 5 months.

I normally put the rams in with the ewes right around Thanksgiving time, and for some reason, I was thinking that I still had a while before we would be playing the Sheep Dating Game, but as I was looking at the calendar last week, it occurred to me that it IS Thanksgiving time and I needed to get sheep moved around....I have no idea where the year went, but here we are!

The sheep certainly didn't forget what time of year it is though. There have been lots of lustful gazes going back and forth across the pastures.

The boys have been waiting patiently to meet their dates....OK, maybe not SOoo patiently.

And there has been A LOT of unlady-like behavior from the girls.
" I smell boys!"

Even the ewes that are normally the best of friends have been acting like guests on The Jerry Springer Show.

 " You're goin' down, sister!"

Have you noticed a common denominator...or, I should say, common dominate-r, in most of these photos?
Awwww, it couldn't be sweet little Athena, could it?

Yeah, I'm not gonna lie, it's totally her. She may be the smallest ewe, but what she lacks in stature, she makes up for it in attitude.

The rams and ewes were put together in two groups last Sunday, putting an end to all the fighting. Little Miss Athena and Lucina ( the black ewe lamb) are safely tucked away in a pen to protect their virtue; they are way too little to breed. I can't promise that there will be no fighting in that pen though, 'cause, well....Athena is in there. 

Mama Llama is just happy that things have settled down....
She was getting a little stressed with all the fighting.

 In my next post I will let you know which ewes are with which ram. ; )

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall and stuff.

Fall weather has definitely arrived here in Eastern Iowa, and the crisp temperatures keep reminding me of all the projects that need my attention before the dreaded S-word starts falling. Come on you guys, I meant SNOW!

The weather has been fickle lately, to say the least, which makes it awfully hard to plan things, but it does make for some very interesting, and beautiful, Autumn skies.

The Squmpkins have been harvested, and for those of you who inquired as to the contents, they did end up assuming more of the pumpkin characteristics than the squash. The outer skin even started to take on a bit of an orange cast a few weeks after harvest, and by all accounts, they were delicious!

With the new batch of chicks growing like crazy, one of the projects on the 'to do' list was to get the small chicken coop fixed up to use as a brooder house. The coop is ancient, it was here when we bought the place, and it was in extreme disrepair at the time. We debated on whether we even wanted to bother keeping the old eye sore, but, in the end decided it was worth salvaging. We have patched it over the years, put a new roof on it a couple of years ago, and finally decided this year to put all new siding to finish it up. 

We started working on it over the weekend, and got it completely done - except for adding a husband doesn't know that he will be doing that in the spring. Also, unbeknownst to him, he will be adding window box...and a barn quilt over the door. I neglected to mention that I wanted those things at the time because couple-bonding over home improvement projects with power tools can sometimes end badly, so it is best to get the basic necessities done without bloodshed before mentioning the extras.

This is the back side.

I wanted to paint it something other than white, but we had white paint, so it's white. Don't tell my husband, but we will be painting it a different color in the spring too.

This is the front of the coop. We had a lot of volunteer building inspectors making sure we did an adequate job. In fact, some of them were such good helpers that they now have white paint speckles on their feathers.

There is ventilation all the way around the building, and there is a screen door to let the fresh air in on warm days, but for now the chicks are closed in because they still need the heat lamps and a draft-free environment. Once they are big enough, they will run free with the big girls.

The chicks have lots of things to keep them busy in their new home. For one thing, they been mastering the fine art of roosting. They have been doing pretty well, but it is still a challenge for some of them to keep their balance.

The little Egyptian Fayoumis is looking, well, Fayoumis-y. Hopefully it isn't a rooster, and hopefully, it doesn't live up to the breed's wild reputation.

"OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH! LOOK! Not to change the subject here, but does anyone else have green legs???"

"Oh, wow, yeah, those are really green, you should probably have that looked at."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Boys will be boys!

There has been a long-held belief, that up until now has remained unproven. This unexplained phenomenon is not limited to culture, geographic region, or economic status.

What is the hypothesis that I now have irrefutable evidence to prove true?

 Little boys never grow up.

Last Saturday, my sister called me from The Habitat for Humanity ReStore, she said that the Store had just received a donation of several Rubbermaid stock tanks, and they were selling them for $20 each! The tanks had been used by a local company that makes concrete sculptures, and they would need a good cleaning, but were otherwise in good shape. I jumped at the chance. New, Large stock tanks can run about $100- $150 dollars and, even though I didn't have an immediate need for one, they have endless uses here on the farm. I asked her to buy 3 of them for me.

I picked up the tanks, and since the weather was nice, I started power washing them right away.
As I was washing the tanks, I noticed that my 87-year-old father-in-law, Fred, was intently watching me work. When I looked at him questioningly, he sheepishly asked , "Can I try that?"
So I handed him the pressure washer wand and walked away for a while to let him work. When I returned several minutes later, I couldn't help but notice that he was still focused on the same small area that he was working on when I left. OMG, I thought, this will take for-ev-er. I then took a closer look at his work.......

I started to giggle and shook my head as I saw the proud grin on his face.
So, you see, it's true, boys never grow up. Give a boy a wand of any sort, and they are going to write their name on something.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kinder, gentler Chicken Math

Some of you may be wondering, where was the Chicken Math this year? Yes, my friends, there has been an inexcusable absence of Chicken Math. The spring was fraught with family emergencies of one type or another, leaving us with little time for, well, anything, let alone new chicken acquisition. I ended up picking up a couple of chicks here and there. You may remember, in April I got a few Blue Copper Marans chicks, they have grown into gorgeous hens and are just starting to lay eggs.

I also got a couple of Welsummers at the time I purchased the Marans.

During the summer I got 6 Black Sex-Link pullets that were a few months old and just at the age to start laying from Wesley Acres.

My friend, Chanin, Chicken Mathed me into some Orpington chicks back in April that are all grown up now too.
She gave me some Blue splash Orps. Can you tell this girl has an attitude?

As well as a few Buff / Blue Orpington crosses. They turned out kind of cool, except....

As often happens in Chicken Math situations, it became apparent as the chicks grew, that one was a rooster.

So he now hangs with Rooster Cogburn and Mr. Swagger.

With only a handful of new fowl friends added to the flock this spring, and an aging population of retired hens in my flock, my egg production was down significantly and my market customers were clamoring for eggs. I had to do something.
I normally keep all of my old girls forever, but with the large flock that I have, and so many older hens no longer laying ( but still happily gobbling up feed...a lot of feed ) I made the decision to find a new home for some of the old granny chickens. There was a problem though, I would only give them away to someone who would keep them forever - I didn't want anyone eating my girls! 

Who would be willing to take a bunch of old chickens? This was probably going to take some time.

 In talking to one of my Farmers' Market friends, I was able to find just the person to take them. Linda, from Tuftee's Garden. I discovered that she LOVES the old hens and would be happy to take a few to live out their lives on her farm. She told me I could bring 10, but in the end I could only part with six of them. The six that I chose were all between 5-6 years old and hadn't laid an egg in....well...a long, long time. 

 Marie and I brought the chickens out to Linda's lovely place, and they settled right in. They have a large barn, surrounded by greenhouses, with an outdoor run. They will be allowed to roam outside on the property during times when there is someone at home to keep an eye on them.

Marie and I were just getting ready to leave, when Linda was silly enough to mention that, since it was the end of the season, we should take some plants home with us. The greenhouse was closed until spring and most of the plants would not winter- over, so they had to go. She had no idea what she was saying. I thought she knew Marie better than that.

Within seconds, a pile of plants began to form at Marie's feet.
I'm not gonna lie, I got a few plants too, but my dear sister Marie is just as addicted to plants as she is to shiny things. There was a lot of conversation like, "Oh, noooo, Linda, I couldn't possibly take one of these......I shouldn't..............they are really pretty though... Ok, maybe just one then."
And then, this traveling greenhouse happened in the back of my truck. These are just the hanging baskets, the small plants are hidden in the back. Plant Math.

Good thing this bad boy was anchored down, or I'd have been hauling that home too!

The old hens were settled into their nice new retirement village, so we headed home with The Little Shop of Horrors going on in the back of my truck. But I still hadn't solved the problem of needing younger laying hens.

 I decided that I should order some chicks soon, so that they would start laying eggs by spring.
If you've read this blog, you know how I love to get chicks from SandHill Preservation, but since they don't sex their chicks, and they always send a  lot of extras....a lot of extras, I really, really wasn't prepared for full-on Chicken Math going into winter. I opted instead to place an order for ALL PULLETS, of good egg production lines, from Murray McMurray . My friend Cassie, from Farm Genevieve wanted a few too, so we were going to split the order. 

I was ordering 25 chicks, and Cassie wanted 10. I placed the order for 15 Black Stars ( 10 for me, 5 for Cassie) 15 Easter-Eggers ( 10 for me 5 for Cassie) and 5 Red Stars for me, 35 chicks in all. McMurray has a box on their order form that you can check to receive a "Free rare breed chick", I always make sure that box is UNchecked because, with my luck, the free chick is certain to be a rooster. The order for the 35 chicks was to be shipped on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week. 

The Murray McMurray hatchery is only about 3 and a half hours from here, so the chicks usually arrive at the Illinois postal sorting- station,  about a 30 minute drive from here, the same evening that they ship. I left a notation on my order for the sorting station to call as soon as the chicks arrive, and I would pick them up to minimize the number of transfers that the little chickies would have to go through. I also called the sorting station personally with a reminder in the event that they didn't get my original message on the order form. Why does that surprise you? You know how I am. 

I didn't receive a call on Tuesday evening, so I assumed that they must be going to ship out on Wednesday. No call came on Wednesday, so I called the hatchery and was told that, yes, they would have been shipped out on Tuesday or Wednesday, and that I should receive them soon.. I called the sorting station..again...."Yes, ma'am, we have your note right here, we'll call when they come in." 
Thursday came, and still no chicks. OK, I could have driven to the hatchery and back 12 times by now.....where were they? Thursday night I called again...." YES, WE HAVE YOU MESSAGE!"  I am 100% certain that by this point I had been placed on several governmental watch lists, but I didn't care. Where were they? Friday morning around seven, the phone rang, I heard a chorus of peeping in the background. "This is the Davenport post office, we have your chicks, do you want to come pick them up, or do you want us to send them out with your carrier?" Well, duh.
I am not sure why the sorting station didn't call, or why they went ahead and sent them on to the Davenport post office....maybe they were too busy assembling a security team in case the Crazy Chicken Lady showed up.
In any case, I got to the post office in about 15 minutes to find that all of the chicks were healthy and fine. Whew!
As soon as I got them home I pulled each one out of the box, dipped their beaks in the water to get them drinking, and counted them. 35, 36, 37....wait. 38.....39, 40?????

So, apparently Murray is somewhat versed in kinder, gentler Chicken Math. We only  had 5 extras. When Cassie came to pick up her 10 chicks, I was gracious enough  to allow her take 3 of the mystery chicks. ...that was all I could talk her into. One that Cassie took appears to be a Phoenix.

One of the extras that I kept, I later discovered, is an Egyptian Fayoumis, which, sadly, as adults are not quite as attractive as the artist's rendition on the hatchery website would lead you to believe.

....Drawing on the website......
Aaaaand, the frightening reality....YIKES!

The other extras appear to be more of the same breeds that we originally ordered.
Here are some photos of the cuteness.

" Should we make a break for it? I heard the people at the post office say that this lady is a little CRAA-ZY."

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