Monday, 29 June 2009

A Birthday Party & A Sneek Peek

It's been REALLY hot and sticky here in Middle Tennessee. Too hot and sticky to do a lot of outdoor things, but perfect for a swimming party for this cute guy! This is my oldest grandchild and the only boy of the group of 5 (so far). He turned 7!-I can't believe it! and had his party at his "other" grandmother's house because she has a nice big pool and her house isn't "WAY OUT IN THE COUNTRY" like mine!

This is the awesome cake that his mother made for him. It's hard to tell from this picture, but its a sand castle. Some little hands and a lot of heat got to it before I was able to get the picture. It had shells on either side of the popsicle stick draw bridge before the little hands found them. The "sand" was actually brown sugar and yes, those are real shells, which were removed before serving. It was delish! I was really impressed that his Mom made it. Clever girl, that daughter-in-law of mine!

We really enjoyed sitting by the pool and watching the children swim and jump and splash. I don't own a swim suit, so I just dangled my legs in the water and watched the birthday boy, his cute little sister and his cousins have a big ole time! Even my 22 month old granddaughter got in on the action. I think she is part fish!

My handyman found himself a chair in the shade and got as many wet hugs as the grand kids would allow. It was a great way to spend a HOT Saturday afternoon.

Despite the heat we got the bantam chickens moved to their own new-to-them coop. Here's a sneak peek of what my clever handyman built for them:

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Tennessee's Most Spoiled Chickens

Last year (2008) was the beginning of our effort to populate our "farm" with some barn yard animals. Our (my) thought was that we have 11 1/2 acres of beautiful, Middle Tennessee land that we need to do something with, other than just keep it mowed and look at it. Of course we have enjoyed watching the wildlife as it passes through and there has been a fair share of that to enjoy.

Keep in mind that approximately 2 acres of our property is water. What my husband and I call a "our lake" and others refer to as "the pond" (See the photo on the right of the blog). It is what actually sold us on buying the property 7 years ago. By definition, it is a lake because it is fed by several springs and a pond is technically fed only by run-off. At least that's how my handyman explained it to me. We have enjoyed many hours of fishing from it and many meals provided by it. My handyman says it's his "fish farm"!

And, about an acre of it is located across the creek and near the interstate, on a rocky slope. So we don't even mow that part and hardly ever go over there, except in the Fall when there isn't much undergrowth to contend with. It's really kinda cool and gives a whole different perspective on the overall look of the place.

So, back to 2008, when we (I) decided to start with chickens, we investigated chicken coops and building plans and opted to build our own. We built the cute little brown log coop that can be seen at the end of my previous post, built the pen in front and set up to locate some potential residents.

After checking around we found a young lady who raises chickens for 4H. She was recommended to us by the man who owns the Farm Depot in our community. So in late September/October I called her up and told her what we wanted. She named her price, gave us directions to her house and we were off - dog kennel in hand, or should I say in vehicle, to put them in. I negotiated for 5 young hens that she said were all born in April or May. She told me that 3 were already laying, with the last 2 on course to start in about a month. I'm sure she and her mother laughed about the whole experience after we left.

Long story short - yeah, I guess it's a little late for that! Allow me to introduce the girls we purchased in 2008:

This is Barbara. She is usually a pretty sweet girl and will let me pick her up and pet her most days. This picture was taken on June 17th. She is a little over a year old.
This is what she looked like when we first brought her home:Notice the difference in her comb and wattles (the red things on her head and face). She has really matured into a beautiful bird. I was told when I bought her that she was a Barred Plymouth Rock. I have a great suspicion that she is a mix. But, I don't care. She lays beautiful brown, delicious eggs and that's what I wanted her for.

This is Goldie. Named because of the golden feathers around her neck. She is a black sex-link. She is also usually sweet and will let me pick her up and pet her. She lays brown eggs too.

This is one of the "twins". I think this is "Regular". Her "twins" name is "Extra Crispy". I'd show her picture too, but they look just alike. My handyman gave them their names. I call them Reggie and Crispy. This one has some scaring on her head that I haven't been able to figure out. I don't know if she has gotten her head stuck in the fence at some point or if the other chickens have picked on her. I have a feeling she got her head stuck and then pulled it out because she has sort of a ring around her whole head. She and her twin are also black sex-links.And this fat chic is Buffy. She is at least part Buff Orpington. She is the B____h of the group. She has always been a little "off". My handyman says she is a bit psychotic! I tend to agree.

The first picture is what she looked like when we first brought her home. Sweet and cute and shy.
This is what she looks like now. She is fat and sassy and b---tchy and looks like an old fashioned lady with a bunch of petticoats on when she runs. She is also the one who is terrorizing my new babies. I'm gonna give her a little while to settle down, but if she continues to give them a hard time, she may become dinner!
That's the 5 one year olds. I'll introduce you to the new babies next time. They are a little harder to get pictures of.

The 2009 Chicken Coop is Done

Well, almost! I still have a little painting of trim to do, but that will have to wait until it quits raining for longer than a minute. And speaking of all the rain, we have had an abundance of mushrooms and fungi because of all the moisture. Case in point:
This is growing out back. It started off really white and is now turning sort of golden colored. I kid you not, it is at least 18" from left to right! and stands about 10" tall. It could feed a family of 4 easily, if it were edible. And it may be, but I'M NOT GONNA TRY IT!

Here are the latest pictures of the coop:

Front with new pop door and ramp. I need to paint the trim around the door. We added 3 foot tall, 2x4 welded wire to the bottom of the pen to help deter any would be predators. After doing a lot of reading on my favorite chicken sites, Backyard Chickens, I decided chicken wire wasn't enough protection.

This is the back side from one angle:

And from the other. Notice the ramp and pop door and the white door between the two sides of the pen. This was done so that we can eventually rotate the chickens from one side of the pen to the other, to allow grass and clover to grow so they can have some greens to eat. I'll let you know how that works out.

So far we've had to put the little ones on one side and the big girls on the other to keep the peace. You see, the big girls were keeping the little ones from getting to their food and water, chasing them around and generally terrorizing the whole group. It was REALLY STRESSFUL. And the chickens didn't like it either! So I had to seperate them. I even strung some chicken wire up on the inside to maintain the separation. You can see it in the picture of the inside roost.

I'll give them a few weeks and try it again. By that time the little ones will be a bit bigger and better able to protect themselves. I HOPE!

We added some 2x4s to the top of a couple of saw-horses to give the girls (and boys) a place to roost outside and away from the edges of the pen. I'm worried that something will sneak up and grab them from outside the pen if they sleep too close to the edges. I use the yellow crate to sit and commune with the girls (and boys). The little ones like to jump up in my lap. The big ones, not so much.

These are the nesting boxes where the older girls can lay their eggs. The younger ones too, when they are old enough.We moved these from the old coop instead of building new ones in hopes that the older girls would feel more comfortable. They were originally given to my son by one of his teachers when he was little and had a few chickens of his own. We retrieved them from my father's shed, fixed them up and painted them and put them to use. They are mounted about 18" off the floor. We added the little step up in the front so the heavier girls would have an easier time getting in and out.

This is the inside roost that my handyman built to make sure everyone had a roomy place to roost at night. See the chicken wire I told you about? The little ones stay on the roost side and the big girls stay on the nesting box side. We moved another saw-horse in for the big girls to roost on. So far it's working out.

This is Bonnie Blue demonstrating the proper use of the front ramp. I think she is a Blue Old English Game Bird. She and her mate, Blue Roo aka Baby Blue, only stand about 5" tall. They will eventually move into the old coop and be allowed to reproduce. I haven't told them that yet. They are a little too young for that sort of news.

And here is a picture of the new coop next to the old one. As you can see, we are framing out the addition to the pen on the old one. Raising the roof, so to speak, so I can get in to keep it clean.

I'll post pictures of that project as it moves along. And . . . I'm gonna introduce you to the rest of the chickens. Aren't you excited?!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Chicken Coop Update - As promised yesterday!

These pictures were taken at about 6 this morning, so they are a little dark and there are some water spots on them. It was raining - AGAIN!

This is the front of the coop and pen (in progress). I am really pleased with how it is turning out. The pen is large enough that we will probably divide it up to allow us to move the chickens from one side to the other and hopefully keep it from becoming a mud pit. We still need to dig the trench around the pen to bury the 12 plus inches of wire that we left on the bottom. This should help prevent any digging predators from getting to my babies.

This is the back. The door on the building leads to the storage area where we keep the feed, straw and other items that we need to care for the chickens. The storage area is divided from the chicken area by a wall of chicken wire with a screen door, so that we can get in to clean, change the feed and water and collect eggs. We may still alter the plan and make the nesting boxes accessible from the outside of the coop, but we have a little while before we have to make that decision. The door into the pen is made from a wooden pallet covered with chicken wire.

All of the windows have hardware cloth over the openings with old window sashes attached on the inside so that we can open and close them as the weather allows. The small rectangles are automatic foundation vents that my handyman said would help with ventilation.

This is the pop door, or chicken door where the chickens can get from the coop into the outside pen via the clever ramp/ladder that my handy man built. I still have to paint the trim and the chickens are going to have to get used to using it. The last 2 nights we've had to pick some of them up and put them through the door. It may take a few days before they get the idea.
I'll get some pictures of the inside in the next few days. If the weather clears up for the weekend we should get the thing finished so we can move on to the next project. It has been a lot of work, but well worth it.

Now to check on the cute little pygmy goats I saw on Craigslist for $10 each!

This last picture is of the gate we have had to put up across our driveway to keep out sight seers. Our driveway runs between 2 other houses and we have a small lake, which can be seen from the street. The house is through the gate, around the corner and up the hill. Every year we have people drive up the driveway to "see what is back here", even though we have had a PRIVATE PROPERTY sign posted next to the driveway. It can be quite unnerving because our house is right smack in the middle of our property and no neighbors can see the house and immediately surrounding area without a lot of effort. Which means that we are not always ready to receive visitors! One day we came home to a group of construction workers who were building homes in the subdivision down the street, having a picnic and fishing (yes-there is a NO FISHING sign too). It's not that we mind sharing our blessings, we invite friends, family and co-workers out all the time. But we do have a dog and animals that wander the property and the dog is pretty good at guarding the place, so we really don't want anyone to get bitten and we really don't want to be caught unprepared. Would you really want someone driving all over your property checking things out?!? (Sorry for the rant)!

Come back and check on the completed coop next week-I'm sure it will be that long until we get it finished!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

I Was Tagged!

Teresa over at Cherry Checkers tagged me more than a few days ago! If you haven't checked out her amazing creative talents, you MUST check out her blog!

But, I'm not sure about this tagging thing - my understanding is that I have to tell you 6 things about myself (that's scary) and pick several others to tag, who then have to do the same thing. I'm just a simple country girl, so I'm not sure I can come up with anything too interesting, but here goes:

1. I was born in Louisiana, raised in Texas and now live in Tennessee. I guess that makes me a Southern girl!

2. I was a tomboy. I climbed trees, played army and kick-ball and walked the top rail of an 8 foot, wooden privacy fence and sometimes played outside without a shirt, just like the boys - until a neighbor dragged me by the arm and told me I was a girl and girls aren't supposed to act that way!

3. When I was in Junior High School (middle school), the boy I had a crush on humiliated me by pointing out that he knew I wasn't wearing a slip because he could see straight through my skirt! To this day I always check by standing in the light, to make sure that it doesn't happen again, and that was over 40 years ago.

4. I used to be absolutely OCD about the way my house looked, to the point where I could be in the middle of conversation with someone, notice dust on something, and have to get up and take care of it RIGHT THEN! If you saw my house now, you'd know that is no longer the case.

5. We have been in the process of remodeling our home for the last 7 years! I'm not kidding-I'm not sure we will EVER be through. We do all of the work ourselves, well most of it, so we only really have the weekends to get much done. I enjoy the process, but I am SO READY TO BE DONE! See #4 above.

6. I love Mexican food. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner 24/7/365. I think I'll go eat some for lunch today.

Well, that about does it. Whew! Glad that's over with!

This is where I get to be a spoil-sport! My blogging time has become very limited and I am unable to keep up with all of my favorite blogs to tell if they have been through the tagging process already. I don't want to tag someone who has already been tagged. Sorry. While some of you may think me a scrooge, others will thank me. You know who you are.

Updated pics of the 2009 Chicken Coop coming soon!