Garden prepping is in full swing here. My husband Chuck has started his seedlings. We moved some existing plants, planted last year from the front gardens, into different gardens in our backyard to protect them from deer. If I had realized the deer would be a problem I would’ve done more research when we started revamping last year. And of course, the chickens are doing their part turning over all beds in prep for planting.
Other Garden Prepping
We dug out flowers from neighbors who were looking to thin or remove perennials. Then planted them into our gardens In addition, we have reworked some of the garden beds from last year. We made some larger and added another new bed. We are trying to make the beds curved in such a way as to accommodate our riding lawnmowers ability to navigate with ease.
What do the labels on Egg Cartons mean? Does my back yard flock meet these labels? Are my chicken’s eggs healthier vs. store bought eggs? We eat our chicken’s eggs. I sell the eggs. Our chicken eggs are given to our family. It’s important to me to have the best eggs possible.
Marketing always manages to sneak into our subconscious whether it is right or wrong, especially when we really haven’t done the research to ensure the claims are accurate and meaningful. Then there’s the whole question of what is accurate.
Labels you will see on Egg Cartons
ALL NATURAL There is no legal definition for all natural. Does that mean our chickens eat natural bugs vs fake bugs?
FARM FRESH– Again, no legal definition for this. Did the eggs come from a farm, like with crops and cows? Were the eggs from a farm that has 2 million chickens laying eggs in cages? What about my 1 acre, is this a farm since we grow food, raise chickens and have a pack of chihuahuas?
HORMONE-FREE– Are you aware it’s illegal to give hormones to poultry in the USA? Therefore all eggs and chicken are hormone free so the label is redundant.
ANTIBIOTIC-FREE– Laying hens are not typically given antibiotics although some meat chickens may have been if necessasary.
USDA-CERTIFIED ORGANIC– A farm must apply for this designation and undergo inspections to ensure all standards are being met. Chickens are fed organic feed from their 2nd day of life. In addition, the chickens must have access to the outdoors.
I am not certified organic, however, I take great care to meet the needs of my chickens, and they are only fed organic non -GMO food. In addition to a great deal of research on my part, my daughter, Stevie, who works for the USDA specializing in poultry and has been an excellent resource.
Perfect hard-boiled eggs was a feat in which I strived for my entire adult life. I have attempted to have perfect hard boiled eggs thousands of times. I’ve never had any success until now!
I swear to you. I have tried every method out there. With each attempt, I would have eggs that wouldn’t peel. Every egg I ever cooked looked like it had been malled by a wild animal after it was peeled. Ask my husband, ask my children. Seriously, go ask my BFF Raquel whom I would I repeatedly beg her to boil eggs for me!
I tried for perfect hard-boiled eggs by placing them in cold water, enough to cover by an inch, which then was brought up to boil. I turned the heat off and let sit covered for 20 minutes. Peeled eggs resulted in half the egg white pulling away with the shell.
I boiled eggs with a tablespoon of vinegar. Or a scoop of baking soda. Also, Boiling the eggs for 5 minutes. Another time 7 minutes. Plunging the boiled eggs into ice water to cool. Another time leaving them to cool in the pot on the stove. Peeling them under running water. All with the same un-peelable results.
Egg-tastic – How I present my eggs for selling is all about the packaging. Earlier I told you about my love for good packaging. The last couple of weeks I’ve been working to come up with great packaging for the eggs I sell. I think I nailed it and it’s egg-tastic!
Previously sister-in-law, Ruth, and her husband gathered an entire box full of recycled egg cartons. And they brought them to me when they visited last November. Ruth was also very excited to gather the eggs every day. She defintly had a serious case of chicken fever.
The most important supply is the previously mentioned recycled egg cartons. I have many. Which is a good thing. I did sort through them and chose the ones I like the best. There are two styles I prefer.
Over the Holiday break, my mom drove down and brought my nephew, Anthony, with her. It was an extra treat for me to have both of them. Anthony is a sweet, creative, gentle boy with too much energy to be confined inside.
The first morning they were here I got up and went to let out the chickens as normal around 7am. Just as I was walking to the coop Anthony came barreling out the door with a long sleeve shirt in hand and one shoe still not on. He desperately wanted to go see the chickens with me! I said I would wait until he was properly clothed. Makes me laugh even now.
Dressed now, we headed up the hill. I let the chickens out of the coop and after they all ran out I teased him he would have to clean up the chicken poo. He, of course, was not interested in that. He only had eyes for the chickens, I’d say he had already caught the Chicken Fever after only one night here.
We had really nice weather, most of the day’s mom and Anthony were here it was in the upper 50’s and low 60’s. This was so nice because we spent a good amount of time outside. Which, of course, meant lots of time with chickens. He got up the nerve to pick up one of the chickens and he snagged Agnes! She is an Ameraucana and is very sweet and gentle.
After just a few days he was very comfortable with the chickens. He gave them snacks every day. He even hunted the dirt for worms to give them. No doubt he would be a great Chicken Keeper. Katie? Andy? What do you think? Can he come to live here and take care of the chickens? I’m sure he wouldn’t even mind cleaning up the poo! He loved collecting all the eggs and was very excited about the blue ones. He asked if he could take home some eggs for mom and dad. He also ate eggs almost every day while here. He knew exactly which chicken gifted the egg he was eating. I’m sure that makes them taste better.
As I’m writing this I’m watching the chickens via a closed circuit camera. I’m doing this because I’m trying to determine which one of my True Blues are laying. Currently, Louise, the chicken that was broody last fall and then molted, is in a nesting box. I really thought the blue egg layer was Kittie as she did not molt. Having said that subconsciously I must have thought really it was Louise because that is who I marked as laying in my chart as well as writing her name on the eggs.
A bit of egg-laying background. As the days get shorter chickens lay fewer eggs and some stop laying all together. The end of November we saw a definite decline in egg laying in our hen house. You know, just as Chuck starts doing extra baking of cookies, cakes, and bread. Hens do not lay eggs in the dark, so with the shorter days leading up to the Winter Solstice, this is normal for egg-laying. Now that we are on the other side of the solstice the days are beginning to get longer and therefore more eggs begin to be laid.
The nesting boxes have been like Grand Central Station today. So far I have an egg from Agnes, Ida, and Coco. Louise is still sitting in a box, she has been in and out for the last hour or so. She has been in four different boxes. I guess she is trying to get inspired. Perhaps Kittie has been the layer, and now with Lou, maybe I’ll get two True Blue eggs today. Yesterday I collected my first Cuckoo Maran egg from Gertrude since November!
I’ll keep watching while I do my chores. I hope today is another 5 egg day. We have had three of those this week. For the last month, we’ve been averaging 2 eggs a day. I actually had to buy a couple dozen eggs. With the longer days it will make for busier chickens.
Come for a visit and see if you catch the Chicken Fever, too! We will see how contagious it is with my brother-in-law, Pete, and his family here this weekend. Then the following weekend my oldest two boys, Charlie and Ricky, arrive from Michigan. Also, Charlie’s girlfriend, Agatha, is coming with them. Charlie said she wants to learn to knit, I can definitely help with that, and I think she is the most likely to catch Chicken Fever. I’m looking forward to these visits!
I’m not really the type to set New Year’s resolutions. I always want to be working on bettering myself and our quality of life. I know I need to do things like exercise more, eat healthily and be more patient, always.
So rather than specifically have a resolution here are the things I want to focus on;
make the most of our acre and grow food, and actually eat it
focus on getting chemicals and toxins out of my life, that means you too, diet Pepsi
find my people, I’ve been a hermit this past year
In a nutshell, we are already planning what we want to grow, will refocus on shopping places like the local farmers market and the newly opened Earth Fare, clean up our eating with help from the previous two, and put myself out more in the knitting world and visit my family.
Short and sweet with the intent of accountability. Next time I’ll tell you a bit about my nephew’s visit with my mom. Anthony, too, is a huge fan of our chickens.
Until then I’m off to measure my gauge swatches on my January Gansey for the knit along I joined.
Happy Knitting, gardening, cooking or whatever brings you joy.
What came first, the egg or the chicken? In our case it was the chicken. We have ten of the twelve we originally started with. Shortly said, we had one chicken that developed a cross beak and she was unable to eat enough to sustain life and she went to chicken Heaven. Bea was very friendly and sweet as could be. You can see a short video of her looking for me on Instagram here.
Then there is Frida. Frida was one of two straight run Polish Crested Chickens we purchased. These were the only straight runs we bought, all others were sexed and determined to be pullets or female. They were an, OMG! they’re so cute, impulse buy. We knew we had a chance of having one and possibly two roosters. But I was optimistic and named one Frida and the other Ester.
And, yes, I’ve been told Ester should have an H and it’s spelled ESTHER. Having said that, I don’t care, I have spent my life spelling my name (and the names of our kids) so why not give sweet, little, Ester her own spelling, too?
Anyway, I’m telling you about Frida. Frida turned out to be Fred. When I told this to my son, Rick, he asked why I needed to change the name just because the chicken was now known to be a boy? He was right, damn it! Gender equality and self identifying for everyone and I kept referring to him as “her” anyway. SO, Frida the Rooster was hence forth known as the Drag Queen Rooster, Frida!
You might note- Frida as some Purple feathers. Well, Frida is all black except for the feathers on the very back of her head, those are white. When the hens weren’t pulling every damn one of the white feathers out! I swear. She looked like a Friar, no pun intended. So I kept spraying the white feathers with a thing called Blue Coat which is an antiseptic for animals. The spray dyes the skin blue and as it happens, white feathers purple.
As we moved further into the summer and the chickens were all reaching maturity, eggs were getting laid and Frida was getting frisky. The more Frida matured, the more aggressive she became. That in itself isn’t a bad thing. She protected her flock. Frida gave Cali (one of our dogs) a lesson in messing with chickens 101 and as a result she now has a very healthy respect for chicken personal space. Eventually Frida decided she didn’t like me collecting eggs and started kicking dirt and jumping at me. This continued to progress and I researched how to handle it. In spite of my efforts she became very agressive and even drew some blood from me. It seemed she was destined to go live on a farm somewhere.
So Chuck listed Frida on the Williamsburg Trash and Treasure FB Group and someone called and said he would like Frida, he was hoping to cross breed with his hens and see what interesting mixes a Polish Crested would bring to his farm. Off Frida went. And peace reigned in the run again.
That’s how we ended up here, months later with a Broody Hen and no fertilized eggs for her to hatch. Instead she has been spending the better part of two months sitting in nesting boxes whether they actually had any eggs or not. She has long since stopped laying herself, which is too bad because she lays pretty blue eggs. She is one of two True Blue Whitings we have and her name is Louise. She is a pretty yellow and golden brown and very sweet. I removed her from the nesting box several times each day and at night to put her on a roost. She never stays out long.
Today. Today I took drastic measures. It’s a brisk 55 degrees and sunny. After spending lots of time debating on different ideas I decided to take the plunge, well for Louise to take the plunge actually. It is recommended to but a broody chicken in cold water with the thought that this will lower their body temperature (which is elevated when the go Broody.) I put her in a big bucket of cold water and held her there for 4 minutes. At first she was very unhappy but quickly relaxed and waited it out. Once I released her she ran off and spent quite a long time preening herself and fluffing all her feathers as they dried.
I also decided to “lock” her out of the chicken run all day in hopes the colder day would aid in the cooling of her temperature. Since the gate is shut I have had to play gate keeper to the hens in order for the other hens to have access to the nesting boxes, since they are still laying. I haves pent the better part of the day outside or looking out windows to see who is trying to get in the run. And unfortunately Lou has been up there more than I had hoped. I keep chasing her off and she goes but reluctantly.
Maybe I should have kept my Attack Drag Queen Rooster and let her hatch some. Maybe next time I’ll ask Stephanie to purchase some fertilized eggs from her friend on my behalf.
Today is the first sunny day after rain on and off for the last few so the chickens have found a nice sunny, dry spot to take a dust bath. Click this link to watch a couple minute video. If you haven’t seen chickens dust bathing they look rather strange. I find it entertaining and I’m sure you will, too.
I haven’t had a true Fall for several years having been lost in a desert oasis. There aren’t many trees in a desert and it’s still rather warm this time of year. So, it’s basically just like the summer only a slight bit cooler, like in the 80’s instead of 90’s. This year it’s different. We live in a beautiful neighborhood with trees galore. Our neighborhood is named Queen’s Lake and we are in Williamsburg, Virginia with the leaves beginning to fall and the nights getting pretty cool now.
I’ve always decorated pretty enthusiastically for Halloween. This is year was a little slower in that regard. I only just yesterday would say I finished decorating. Stevie and Hanna are both big fans of the Halloween time. Stevie got married on Halloween and her rehearsal dinner was a costume party. Which was really neat.
I think I had a harder time getting in the spirit of the season since Hanna is in Oklahoma and Stevie is up in Alexandria. These girls always go big on costumes along with their respective men. And I really enjoy seeing their creativity.
For me this year was a little sad, and anticlimactic, particularly because I don’t have my friends coming over every Monday to knit and share in the joy of a holiday theme.
I try to invoke a witch atheistic. But, basically, a lot of my decorating consists of covering everyday stuff with spider web table cloths. Then I might throw in a pumpkin or two.
This is a very simple thing with a big impact. I’ve been collecting the table cloths, table runners and such for a few years. I find them mostly at Target and Michael’s and I try to pick up a couple new ones each year.
I always set up my “The Witch is in” spot. This is my favorite thing. It’s different each year but always includes this broom that I’ve had for probably 15 years.
I really need to upgrade my rug, but overall, I like the way this turned out. I even had some help from Mother Earth with making this feel authentic. Notice the spider just above the witch hat? It’s the perfect touch. [As a side note, I used a heavy duty magnet to attach the hat to the suitcase so it can’t blow away.]
A nice big Daddy Long Legs, or whatever they’re really named. This year I added the old suitcase I found for a couple bucks at an estate sale a few years ago. The suitcase was living in my fireplace in the living room. My sister-in-law, Ruth, asked why I had a suitcase in the fireplace. I say, why not?
Here’s the first level of Fireplace decorating I did when we moved into this house which included said suitcase. I thought it was charming. I really don’t like having and empty hole in the fire box.
For the fall I changed this fireplace up a bit. We probably will have fires in this fireplace and not in the other one in the family room. I will change this again to allow for that when I decorate for the Christmas season.
The bit of change was adding a old toolbox, cedar shavings and a few pumpkins to “Fall” it up. The big Pewabic tiles hanging over the fireplace have a fun story. You may know of my love of reading and of all things books. I also have a great big spot in my heart just for libraries, and specifically, the Detroit Public Library main branch building.
The Friend’s of the DPL did a fundraiser a few years ago, coordinated with Pewabic Tile, to replicate the story themed tiles that are on the fireplace surround in the children’s room in the DPL’s main branch library.
Following is are the two tiles above my fireplace up close. They are replicas with more contemporary colors that happen to suit my decor style perfectly. These are the “Steadfast Tin Soldier” by Hans Christian Anderson and” Midsummer’s Night Dream” by William Shakespeare. They measure approximately 11×14 but as they are individually handmade they vary slightly, adding to their charm. My brother made these frames using our wet bar counter.
I have two other tiles from this fundraiser. but they currently are living with my brother. I think I should do a full blog post just on Pewabic and these tiles.
But today I’m talking about Halloween decor. The last bit I’m sharing today is the dining room table. I added some table runners to the chandelier and hung my ghosts, too. A simple table cloth and runner I’ve had for a while and some red candles with ghosts from Party lite that I’ve also had forever. Then I added more table cloths to cover up the everyday things, including the chairs that forever are living stacked in the corner……
It’s a pretty low key style with my Witch aethtic going strong. I left the burned out lightbulb to add to the effect, or maybe I just don’t have one to replace it with, whatever.
These are some of the favorite bits. There’s more. Come on over and see. And you can grab a dozen eggs while your here. We have a few. A few dozen or so.
I’ve also finished some knitting projects that need photographing and I’ll update those soon.
Around here there seems to be an abundance of yard work. Having an acre of land can be rather daunting. Especially having spent the last 8 years in the desert. Though we made plenty of garden space with raised beds and lots of flower pots we did have rocks instead of grass. Not cutting grass for so long has significantly skewed my perspective on the amount of time it takes for this task.
I told Max, whose responsibility it is to weed whack, that it would take me around an hour to cut the front yard. Here’s where my skewing comes in. It took me about three hours in reality! And mind you I have a riding lawnmower. Previously, Chuck or Max have taken turns at doing this job. I was relegated to this task as it’s currently one of the few I’m “allowed” to do.
What do I mean “allowed?” Well, apparently, I’ve broken my foot bones in three places. I wasn’t even aware I broke anything. I knew it hurt, particularly when walking on uneven ground or up and down hills and such. Some days it really hurt and others it wasn’t noticeable.
Until one day at Tim’s therapy, where I was sitting waiting for him, I dropped my kindle. I leaned forward to pick it up and I guess I put weight on my foot just right and had such a sharp pain for a second I thought I might pass out! I definitely saw stars. I set up a Podiatrist appointment that day.
After seeing the dr, and getting X-rays, it was clear I had two very significant fractures in the bone second from the left with a hairline crack in another. It was concluded that between the pain meds I’m on for Fibromyalgia and not having any initial swelling or bruising I didn’t realize it had happened. [It’s most likely happened when I stepped wrong on a tree root raised above the ground. Probably the very one I asked Chuck to cut off that was by the chicken coop, since I always was tripping on it.] The powers that be must have decided to give me a wake up call. Saving the bones from actually breaking off by the continued stress of walking on them and therefore preventing the need for a surgery.
So, now I have a ugly, heavy, hot, robotic-like boot I have to wear for at least 6 weeks. And orders to stay off my foot whenever possible. Which as it turns out has been a real challenge for me, I’m not a very good patient.
But it is not so bad if I look at it from the point of how much time this leaves for knitting. And Chuck, being a great support, is doing a lot of the work I usually do and both boys are helping out, too.
And I have been doing lots of knitting. With each row I knit on my shawl I gain more and more stitches. Thus, each row requires more and more time to knit. I think that I’m winning. I’ve been powering through the Hydrangea Shawl like a beast. I’m now fully into color 4 of 5. While my shawl is clearly getting more blue as I switch through the colors I think my Hydrangeas are also getting bluer with the addition of fertilizer and the rusty things I’ve added around it. (Plus I’m saving all the coffee grounds in order to spread around the roots on my SIL, Carolyn’s, recommendation.)
What do you think? Are the flowers turning blue? Right at the centers I think.
This is Frida, but I’m thinking she is a he, so really this is Fred. When we decided to have chickens we knew we wanted all pullets, which are chickens that have been sexed to ensure they are female. You pay a bit more for the guarantee. When I went to pick up our White Leghorns they had also just received in a bunch of Polish Crested, they were so cute, I tried to resist. Not very hard, obviously. I chose two, a black and white one and a brown one. Because these were a straight run, not sexed, I knew I could end up with a rooster, or two.
The brown one is Ester, she is half the size of Frida/Fred. They both are friendly and easily let me “catch” them and hold them a few minutes.
Our neighborhood, Queens Lake, is in Williamsburg but we are considered rural residential. There are different rules for different districts within the city. Because we are rural we can have chickens, one chicken for every 2500 square feet of property with a maximum of sixteen chickens. We hope to have them free range the back yard but so far they are sequestered to the chicken run. I have worked hard to make the run a fun chicken space. I understand chickens can get bored and I don’t want that. That’s when they find trouble.
We did have two chickens escape this week. I had Covered about 50% of the area above the coop but had run out out netting. Apparently I wasn’t moving fast enough to get some more. It is now 100% covered. I understand the number 1 killer of backyard chickens are dogs. I certainly will do what I can to prevent untimely deaths. Cali, our Chihuahua/Beagle mix, has a very unhealthy interest in the chickens.
I also have a special needs chicken. This is Bea, she is an Ameraucana.
She has developed a scissored beak. If you want more information I am directing you to my favorite chicken blog, The Chicken Chick.
She tells you about this better than I can. But basically so far Bea is doing well. She eats and drinks with the only noticeable problem is she sometimes can’t pick up treats from the ground or my hand. Small things like clovers sprouts can be too small for her to grip. I’m keeping a close eye on her and I always try to hold her for a few minutes to really acclimate her to handling, but she doesn’t love it. I want it to be easy to check her out and if need be give her some help with out her also being afraid to be handled.
This is my Production Black, I think. I have one of these and two Cuckoo Marans, They all look alike. I can’t tell who is who. But they are rather friendly and easy for me to pick up and hold. They are curious little ones and always are right there to see what I might have in my hand. Lately they have been loving sprouts, clover, wheatgrass, alfalfa and such. I started some sunflower and radish sprouts. I’m sure they will be ready to try those, too.
I’m learning a lot about chickens. And there seems to be lots of adjusting as they teach me more and more everyday about what they need. So it’s petty interesting around here. Next on the chicken run agenda is to create a box garden with wire cloth frame over it.
I think we probably need to name our property. You know, like a real homestead. Since we are installing gardens and have chickens and all. I need a clever or witty name. We live on Horseshoe Dr so maybe the Hretz Horseshoe Homestead. Have and ideas?