Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Chicks

The power outage from the ice storm stretched into day 5 on Tuesday and we were a bit worried about the 130 baby chicks due to arrive the next morning.  Baby chicks need 95 degree temperatures for the first week and, without power, we had no way to provide it. Fortunately, our electricity was restored late on Tuesday and we were able to plug in the heat lamps and prepare for the chicks.
Our newest flock of layers is a breed called New Hampshire Reds. They hatched on Monday at Meyer Hatchery in Ohio and very soon were packaged for shipment to us via the US Postal System.  Our post office called at 5:30 Wednesday morning to announce the chicks arrival. Jan went to get them while Charlie did the morning chores with the other critters.  The chicks are thirsty when they arrive.  Teaching them to drink is our first task. Quickly they found water without help.

Some felt a little chilly and huddled together under the heat lamps for warmth. Chickens naturally cuddle together in a group effort to keep everyone warm.  It was a cool, rainy and windy day.  

Some were hungry and made use of the feeders filled with organic chick starter from our local feed mill, Reedy Fork Organic Farm. This batch of chicks is alert, active and healthy.  We anticipate them growing quickly and becoming reliable providers of delicious and healthy eggs.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ice Storm, part 1

The skies began spitting icy rain about 5 p.m. yesterday and during the night we lost power (and sleep) while listening to trees (or parts of them) crash to the ground under the weight of the frozen precipitation which pounded the roof all night, coating everything with ice.

Morning chores were to begin early so we could catch the train to DC for a weekend with family but in dawn's dim light it became obvious we could not go anywhere.

The view from the back door shows one pine that fell during the night and another atop the first one which uprooted early in the day when the  over-saturated ground could no longer hold it and the weight of the ice coating its limbs and needles. The small oak tree, bending under the ice's weight on the right of the picture, has since been uprooted and fallen to the ground also. The two white horizontal lines are the ice-coated clothes line.  Not a good drying day today!

We moved the vehicles to an area out of reach of falling trees.  The ice on the branches is lovely, but treacherous.  The chickens' feather net fencing is so coated with ice it has fallen under the weight and our multiple attempts to upright it are futile as the precipitation continues.  So many tree tops have come down since this picture was taken this morning that the skyline is less full now.  The white on the walk is slush from accumulated sleet and freezing rain.  We haven't had snow, yet, though we do have 2 1/2" of precipitation in the rain gauge.

A tree line runs along our property line on the north side of pasture one.  As you can see the trees are literally on the line, the fence line.  They have taken down part of the 6-strand high tensile fence and just missed the flexible feather netting.  They also just missed the cedar fence post buried under the branches.

We'll be cleaning up from this storm for a long time.  More pictures are coming so you'll see additional posts as I get out and about to take pictures.  We, and all our neighbors, have lost power.  We're using a generator right now, until the gas runs out!  Tomorrow our forecast is for sunshine and a high of 65!  What a difference a day makes!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


This winter has been unusually cold but until yesterday we hadn't had any snow accumulation.  With this storm (named Pax) we've experienced rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain.

The chickens don't seem to like cold feet.  Here's one barred rock who braved the elements and  is heading back to the shelter of the hen-a-bago.

The view from our front door the morning after the storm began.

None of the chickens would go outside this morning. I had to move a feeder closer to the hen-a-bago, rake a path through the snow, and cover a small area of ground with straw to entice them to come out for food and water. Apparently hunger and thirst were not sufficient motivators.

The snow stopped late in the afternoon and the sun finally came out just in time to set in a blaze of color.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Feeding the hungry

We are blessed with an enormous amount of bok choy (aka pak choi) this fall.  Last week we harvested a lot, filled bags with it, loaded it on our "donkey" (aka electric cart) and then drove it to a friend who transported it to a local food bank. A community effort to feed the hungry in our greater community. When we finished harvesting, the row still looked full. Guess we'll do it all again this week.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Susan and Lloyd Lee have been working hard to cultivate mushrooms and one day, after months and months of waiting, the logs erupted with shiitake!  Yum!

Weighing some of the shiitake Susan harvested.

The shiitake are growing on oak logs harvested from the farm and  left to rest before drilling holes to place the spore.

The oak logs must be freshly cut during their dormant period to assure a fully hydrated log and to prevent the natural infection of fungi other than the implanted shiittake spores.

Growing mushrooms as naturally as possible means they decide when to "flush" or burst forth.  Without controlling their environment we cannot control the precise time they will bear a crop.  Commercial growers use climate-controlled buildings.  We use a shady place in the yard.

Shade and moisture in the form of high humidity and rain help shiitake grow.  They also prefer cooler weather so  we look forward to having more soon.  They were delicious and we're eager for more!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


When I opened the nest boxes to gather eggs at Henabago 3 this afternoon I found a surprise awaiting me.

In the far left box, a shiny black . . .
. . .rat snake was coiled.

I got Charlie's snake catcher and he met me at the henabago.  The snake escaped as Charlie was walking with it to the "donkey" cart and it headed straight back to the chickens and their eggs.  
Charlie caught it again and we set off to a distant part of the farm with the snake along for the ride.  As you might notice, rat snakes are constrictors and this one was wrapping itself around the pole in an effort to get away.

We hadn't gone far when the snake's efforts to free itself worked & it dropped to the ground, trying to pretend it was dead so we'd ignore it.  The chickens were not only unperturbed by the snake in their midst, but they all ran down to stand at the edge of their fenced pasture to watch Charlie capture it. Who knew we were a spectator sport for chickens!
Here we go!  Charlie has got the snake in a tighter grip.  It seems to be getting tired.
This time the snake dangled at the end of the pole where it was held firmly in a rope noose.  Charlie commented on how heavy it was as he held it out of the cart and up in the air so it wouldn't scrape on the ground and be injured.  

Finally we reached our destination and the snake was released.  It slowly glided into some nearby underbrush.  
 Rat snakes are beneficial critters on a farm as they consume a lot of small rodents.  Unfortunately, they also have a taste for eggs and baby chicks so we do try to keep them out of the chickens' spaces.  This one was between 5 and 6 feet long.  They can grow to 8 feet in length. This is the second time in the past 10 days we've found a snake dining on eggs.  The farm has plenty of mice for them to eat and it would be helpful if they do so!.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


We've dug all six varieties of potatoes we planted this spring.  They are delicious!
Laurie planned her visit at just the right time to help us get the potatoes sorted and ready for storage.

Potatoes on "screen" shelves (for air circulation) Charlie built in the root cellar.  We have King Harry, German Butterball, Cranberry Red, Dark Red Norland, and All Blue in this picture. These potatoes were grown from organic seed potatoes purchased from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine.  Another variety called Swedish Fingerling and also grown from organic seed potatoes, is on a set of shelves not visible in the picture and acquired from a different supplier.

We have three varieties planted for fall harvest and winter storage.