April 30, 2013

The Unexpected Break

I'm still here.  Well, sort of.
We've had a busy April filled with field trips, family trips, school fun, and spring sports.  All of which came to a screeching halt about 10 days ago.  I got sick on vacation.
Boo hiss.
I don't know about you, but when I get sick, I want to be in my own bed with all things familiar.  I still tried to make the most of the trip, but the timing was stinky.

Upon returning I tried to rent a substitute teacher for my kids, but the Rent-a-Center was out of that make and model.  So my kids went on without me.  I curled in bed and called out things like, "do your best," and "just do the next page in your workbook, whatever page that is," and "can you help your brother?"  Yeah, sick moms don't mix with homeschooling very well.  My kids are at the age that they can manage without me, if that includes chocolate cake for lunch and extra tv time.

The guilt monster was nibbling away at my conscious, but I realized that sometimes we all need an unexpected break.  I would prefer mine without a sore throat and sprinkles on top.
Now that I have enough energy to type a few lines and make hamburgers for dinner, I just wanted to stop by and say hello.

April 15, 2013

Springtime Chicks Q&A

We are expanding ... again!  The demand for farm fresh eggs has increased and we've been selling out each week. Recently, my husband did the happy dance as he looked at the books and said, "the girls are finally paying for their own feed!"  Now that we are breaking even, it is time to add to our production line.  50 egg layers and 25 meat birds arrived today.
Q: Where do you get your chicks?
A:This is how they arrive at our house:
 Yep!  The friendly people at the local post office call to let us know they are ready to be picked up!  This set came from Mt. Healthy Hatchery. We've also ordered from Murray McMurray Hatchery.  All the chicks arrive healthy and ready for their new home.

Q: Why do you have to order them?  Can't you just let some of your eggs incubate into chicks?
A: We do not have a rooster, so our eggs are never fertilized.  The benefit is that we don't ever have to worry that a customer will get a surprise when they crack open an egg for their omelet.
Q: How can a hen lay an egg if there is no rooster?
A: Good question!  (Probably our most asked question!) Just like humans, the females produce an egg during ovulation.  Humans ovulate once a month but hens produce an egg about once a day.  The eggs (human or chicken) won't produce a baby unless the rooster is there to fertilize it.  Now does the "birds and the bees" phrase make sense?  Check out these amazing books for a beautiful explanation of the process (3 books in the series).  They are also a great resource for laying the groundwork  for THE talk.  ;)

Q: How many eggs can a hen lay in a day?
A: No more than one.  Some birds, depending on their breed will lay only 2-3 per week.  Since we are in the egg business, we choose breeds that are prolific layers; but that still means one per day, max.

Q: How old are the chicks when they arrive?
A: Usually 1-2 days old.  They grow quickly, so we have to capture their cuteness with the camera within a week of their arrival.

Q: What do baby chicks need?
A: A safe place, free from predators.  A heat lamp ... they are still babies!  Fresh water and food designed specifically for their small tummies.

We keep them in these galvanized tubs with a heating lamp for a few weeks.  Then they will be given the freedom of the hen house.  When they are old enough, they will move out into the hen yard.  Soon they will be free range birds enjoying tasty bugs and grass!

Q: What are "free range birds?"
A: That depends.  There is a broad definition of free range birds.  Our birds enjoy a couple of acres of open space that is surrounded by fence.  While the fence provides safety from most predators, hawks have been known to visit the farm.  We have a large area that surrounds the hen house that is covered with bird netting.  This is where we keep their water and food dispensers.  We rotate the birds to fresh grassy areas every few weeks so they can enjoy the bugs and tasty morsels as well as fertilize the grass.  
Q: How do you get the hens into the henhouse each night?
A: They put themselves to bed!  Each night, just before dusk, the birds make their way to the henhouse.  We close the door each night to protect them from nocturnal predators.

Q: Do they sleep in nesting boxes?
A: Not usually.  Chickens prefer roosting poles just as we prefer a mattress.  We use a dowel rod similar to the rod in your closet.  It is the perfect size for their feet.

Q: What do they use the nesting boxes for?
A: Hens like a special place to lay their eggs.  Nesting boxes are just the right place.  When we collect eggs, we usually will find multiple eggs in each box.  This means that the girls are sharing the boxes.  Sometimes the hens will be brooding, meaning sitting on the eggs.  The breeds we choose are gentle, so the girls allow us to slip our hands underneath and collect eggs without pecking us.

Q: Is "pecking order" for real?
A: Yes.  The birds hash it out and decide who is the boss.  The ones lower in the "pecking order" learn to just steer clear of the bossy girls.

Q: How did you learn about chickens?
A: You know how they say the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself into the culture?  Well, that's my story on chicken lingo.  Three years ago I didn't know ANYTHING about chickens.  We've read many books/websites that have been helpful.  We've asked lots of questions; and we've done a little trial and error.

I wrote this post for the normal Joe Shmoe who is either ready to try his hand at backyard chickens or the person a wee bit curious about this crazy adventure we are on.
Have more questions about our farm?  Please ask!  I'd love to do another Q&A!

I'm linking up with Savvy Southern Style

April 8, 2013

Chalkboard Bling

Do you have a chalkboard?  Do you use it practically or decoratively?  We have one that sits on top of the desk in the kitchen.  It is definitely decorative.  I'd love to add one to the mud room that is practical.  Baby steps, right?  

Anyhoo, we made this chalkboard several years ago with a cabinet door and a can of chalkboard spraypaint.  (See the details here.)
While I love using the Bistro Chalk Markers, sometimes my board looks a little bald.  Since Christmas, I've been adding a little bling to the top of the board.  It's like adding the perfect scarf to an outfit.

Over spring break, I stitched this little banner using some fabric scraps.  By the time our spring break rolled around, Easter was already over, so my "He is Risen" theme got skipped.  I decided to write "Served With Joy" to remind myself to serve my family with joy and to let all who visit our kitchen know that we are joyful about serving them.

Sometimes I use the "bling" as part of the message.  For the month of February I used the "Love" sign (found at Hobby Lobby for $2 last March).  The "one another" is written with a red Bistro marker.

Over Christmas, a glittery "JOY" from Target helped create the message.

The possibilities are endless.  No matter the size of your chalkboard, you can add a little bling.  Maybe a flower for summer or a sprig of leaves for the fall.

Since this board sits up so high, I usually only change it seasonally.
 Eventually, I'd love to have a board that we can all write on: love notes, Bible verses, messages, and lists.  And bling!

What's your favorite use of a chalkboard?

I'm linking up with the Shady Porch and Savvy Southern Style

April 5, 2013

Spring Break at the Farm

I can't believe it is Friday.  The weeks have been flying by, but this one takes the cake.  Maybe it's because we are taking a break from school and Monday is just around the corner...

These gorgeous tulips arrived in a box on my front porch on Saturday.  What a sweet Easter surprise from my brother and sister-in-law!  Tulips are such a gentle flower, don't you think?  

Our baby ducks grew up fast.  They have discovered the joy of living on the pond.  I love watching them out there.  Since taking this picture, we've lost one duck.  She completely disappeared one night without leaving a feather.  We are baffled.  We've lost ducks before to a mean weasel, but they usually leave us enough feathers to stuff a pillow.  Not this one.  She just disappeared!

This week, the ducks learned to share the pond with there crazy people.

The kids took advantage of our first beautiful day and pulled out the kayaks.

 Lots of squealing and splashing.  I soaked up the sun and curled up with a good book on the bank.
 And served snacks.

We didn't go anywhere special this week, so I tried to plan alternating days of rest and fun.  On Monday morning I heard "what are we going to do today" 346 times before 10am.  I wanted to poke my eyeballs out  gently explained that this was my break too and that I plan out the other 48 weeks of their school year.  With a little help from Mimi and Papa, we enjoyed a week of fun, rest, relaxation, and catching up on projects.

 Our newest batch of foster pups have kept us busy and happy.

Look at that polka dot tongue!

This girl sure loves the pups.  She cares for them every single day without complaint and loves playing with them.  She has a gift with animals and I love seeing it blossom.

We did the typical staycation thing:
long walks
time with friends
time with grandparents
playing cards
playing outside

Our weather temps were crazy.  Two days after the kids went swimming in the pond, it was sleeting rain.  Variety is the spice of life, right?
What's your favorite thing to do for spring break?  And no, cruising in blue water doesn't count because that would make me jealous. ;)