Change happens.

I can’t even begin to tell all of you how much has changed in my life over the last few months. The people I have met, the food I eat, the way my days unfold and endd, how I push myself, how much Shasta loves the country…..there has been a LOT of change.

I stopped by last weekend to check on my Layers (who used to be Littles but are now Layers) where they have been staying. Thelma and Louise look a bit small up next to some Americauna’s and Lavandar Orphingtons. Yet they are holding there own. Unfortunately Miss Diana met an undetermined demise. She was found dead one morning in the coop. These things happen. She will be missed for her regal presence among the other lovely ladies.

Thelma and Louise

 

My friend at Applegate Valley Lavender Farms https://www.facebook.com/ApplegateValleyLavenderFarm?fref=ts is the one who has been caring for my girls since late winter when I couldn’t provide for them due to my circumstances. Fortunately, plans for a coop have been chosen, the area for the run has been cleared, the wood has been delivered and building should begin this next week for our own coop here on the property where I am living. I can’t wait to wake up to gathering eggs in the morning again.

While I was at my friends farm we enjoyed a visit with the sheep who had given birth to a beautiful black lamb the week before. I also enjoyed the antics of the baby Sebastapol Geese and the three ducklings on site. And of course, there was the Lavender. Some of it is in bloom and the rest is just about ready to unfold it’s lovely fragrance and color for all the world to see.


My newest and dear friends Jess and Gil who were here for about 5 weeks. You can follow them at http://adventuringsouls.com/. I have no doubt in my mind that our friendship has just begun and we will be sharing some adventures of some type in the future. Love these two folks…they are good people.

We welcomed a new comer that was found using the site https://www.helpx.net/ . This newest helper has come to us from Seattle, WA. She has only been here a few days and I am looking forward to getting more acquainted as time goes by. It has become customary for us to take a dinner photo when we welcome someone new or say goodbye, and that is what the last photo is. Goodbyes and Welcomes all in one night!

folks coming and going

I also had my SSDI appeal consultative examination on Tuesday.  It only lasted 30 minutes and I left feeling frustrated that the MD whom I was seen by didn’t really seem interested in anything I said, but rather found delight in probing all my tender spots even after I told her where I hurt the worst. I am doing my best to remain hopeful that with the input from my NP (nurse pratitioner) as well as my counselor that maybe I will be granted my disability and not have to endure any more prodding and probing. God knows I need a break.

I am enjoying the things I am doing for the most part, although I have had to push myself to a much greater degree on a constant basis than I have in a number of years now. How the toll will be weathered over time is yet to be seen. I am trying to keep my faith, do my best and trust that God has me covered no matter what happens.

There is much more to write, but today was my first day off in quite some time and I make a cake, made jelly and dehydrated bananas and I am a bit tired. So….for now that is all. I will be trying to be more consistent in my postings again. It’s just taken me awhile to get settled and get a routine where I have a few extra moments to spare and the energy to walk to the community cabin to make a posting. The next posting will be a compilation of spring photos I’ve shot of nature and flowers and wildlife and the country. I hope you’ll check back for it.

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The year of the chickens.

A year of learning.  About chickens and eggs and what goes with them.

What came first?  For me it was chickens..but for some it's the egg!

What came first? For me it was chickens..but for some it’s the egg!

What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Well, at my house that is an easy question to answer.  The chickens came first. It was a year ago to be exact!  One year ago this week  I went and brought my first flock to live with me on the farm I lived on out in Applegate.

I caught the chicken bug the first month or so of 2012.  I had been told where I had been living that I was going to have to wait at least until spring of 2013 before my desire would come to fruition. Then, the end of the summer of 2012, I moved.  I no longer had any constraints to keep me from getting the object(S) that my heart desired.  My landlord gave me the thumbs up and I went to work cleaning out and renovating an old coop that was next to my barn apartment.

It was my first time doing any construction of any kind.  Fortunately I had a friend who came to help.  He brought his tools and his strength and his knowledge, but the ideas were all mine and I did my fair share of measuring and cutting and hammering and setting screws. Of course I had cleaned the coop out before we started renovations.  There was old straw and chicken poop all over that needed to be shucked out and scrubbed down and disinfected.  That’s right.  I learned you need to disinfect the coop when you are going to be bringing in a new flock.  So…it was sprayed down with Basic G from Shaklee and I let that dry for a couple of days before adding bedding.  I decided to do the deep litter method using straw on the bottom and pine shavings in their nesting boxes.  Every so often I would add more straw and also some shavings to the floor.  I had no smell and didn’t have to clean the coop from October to May.

I had never even held a chicken before the day I went to pick them up.  The gal I bought them from was going through some really rough times and needed to move her kids to California and couldn’t take the girls.  She was so sad about it and I did the best I could to reassure her that they were going to be loved and loved and loved.  And they were.

So, things I had learned before I even retrieved my girls was that they needed to have a place where they were safe from predators, especially at night.  They needed their coop to be dry and not have chilling drafts.  They needed food specific to their age and calling in life (mine were on Layer Pellets) and fresh drinking water.  I had read they needed to have roosts and laying boxes and ladders to get up in the boxes and special treats and lots of other things.  I quickly found out they don’t.  The will find anywhere to roost or sleep if they feel safe and the same can be said with laying eggs.  But I made sure my coop had plenty of laying baskets and they had plenty of roosting space and a locked coop for night-time.

I had decided I wanted my Layers to be free ranged.  That means that they were free to roam as far as they chose to.  Since we lived on a 13 acre piece of property they had quite a wide expanse of territory.  They mostly stayed in the 3 acres close to my barn apartment and the main house.  While letting them free range during the day does increase their risk of being struck by a predator, I felt it was a more natural and kinder life for them.  I did loose one of my hens to a hawk about three months after getting them.  RIP Grace.  I realized that was part of the deal.  Life and death.

So, the chicken came before the egg, but once the eggs started….woah Nellie did I have eggs!  It only took a few days from their relocation before I think each Layer had laid at least one egg.  They do not lay an egg EVERY day.  Each breed has an approximate number of eggs they will lay in a lifetime.  Most of them lay an egg about every 24-30 hours during their peak laying years.  So with a Bakers Dozen girls I would get about 5 dozen eggs a week when they were all in prime laying.  I have learned that their laying habits can vary based on many things.  When they molt (lose their old feathers and grow new ones which occurs once a year) they generally don’t lay.  Some chickens have a hard molt and they look pretty rough.  Miss Donna, my Golden Laced Polish hen, hardly looks any different during her molt, but she hasn’t given me any eggs during her molt.  I’ve also learned that stress will decrease egg production. Decreased light will also cause low productions.  Over the hardest part of the winter I was only getting one egg every other day per hen.  Also, this summer when we were having so much smoke from our fire season and the temperatures were soaring above 90 degrees and into the low 100’s for weeks on end, I did not have good production.  Moving them stresses them.  Adding new chickens to the flock is stressful.  Essentially I have learned that hens like things to be constant and the same and not to be upset if you want to have good output.

My girls and their eggs have brought so many new and wonderful things to my life.  I started my community Facebook page and have met so many interesting and knowledgeable people who enjoy chickens and sustainable living and healthy eating and many things I enjoy also.  I started doing this blog and the Layers and Littles, or their eggs, had a star role often.  I sold some of my eggs, which led me to meet others who sold eggs and had chickens.  And of course…with all those eggs…I did a LOT of egg cooking.  I made stuff for myself and for others.  The eggs became the basis for my Barter Basket that was my payment for my physical therapy once a week.

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About 4 months after becoming known as “that crazy chicken lady” by my friends, I bought some day old chicks.  I decided I wanted to start from scratch.  My first batch was 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes (SLW) and a Welsummer.  The following week in February I bought a pair of Speckled Sussex (SS).  My landlord bought 35 babies and let me tell you..that many babies makes a real racket and a stench if you don’t keep up on them. My five Little’s were kept up in my apartment with me until they were 5 weeks old.  I just used a clear plastic tub and had their food and water and a heat lamp hanging above it.  You have to help keep them warm, so a heat lamp is the easiest and least expensive way to do it.  From the first week of having the SS chicks I knew they were different.   From each other that is.  There was just something about them.  Low and behold, about June, the one that had a bit larger comb began to crow!  I had a pair that I could breed and I was excited to think about hatching eggs.  I had a rooster!  And what a handsome cocky boy he was.

I started introducing the Littles to my Layers when they were about 6 weeks old.  I would take them outdoors and have them in a pen where the big girls could get a look, but not get at them.  Then when they were about 12 weeks old I moved them to the coop, but kept them sequestered in an area of the coop to themselves and only let them out when I was in attendance.  I did this for about a week and then one evening after they had all been outdoors for the late afternoon, I let them all go in to find their spots at bedtime and they all just were together after that.

Then life changed and I needed to move.  To town.  I knew I couldn’t bring a rooster to town and so I relocated Pumpkin and 5 of my older Layers with someone out in the country.  I  packed up the 4 Littles and Miss Donna and Sweetie (she’s an Austrolop) and brought them to town and they joined my boyfriends motley crew of 14 hens.  We ended up rehoming 8 of his and were back down to just a dozen.  They haven’t been as happy here and our production as been down.  They have to be in an enclosed chicken yard and I don’t think they like that as much as running free.

I have learned that chickens LOVE treats.  In the winter I would give them warm oats with apples or raisins in them.  Sometimes I would add some scrambled eggs for extra protein.  Some people think you shouldn’t give chickens eggs or chicken meat.  My girls love both!  They have yet to show any signs of cannibalism, but they love having some warm scrambled eggs on a cold morning.  I also started growing and giving them sprouts when they weren’t getting out to free range.  They also like scratch, sunflower seeds and fruit and veggie scraps.  My girls get a wide variety of diet with their base being Organic Layer Pellets from the Grange.  I love using the bags to decorate their coop as well as I used them to line planter boxes this summer!

A few other things I’ve learned this year about raising chickens.  Sometimes you forget that you’ve put an egg in your pocket and it gets squashed.  Sometimes they don’t have “fluffy butts” but rather have nasty butts and need to get a good washing!  I wasn’t sure, but I found out that they will go out in the snow.  And they LOVE to take dust baths.  Those are just a few things I learned just by watching and enjoying my girls.

We inherited two new pullets a month ago.  My boyfriend’s cousin raises Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes and we are hoping when we are able to move back out to the country that we can start breeding them.  They are a beautifully marked bird and I have read about many  people who are trying to fine tune the breed so it can be added to the American Breed Standard.

Our Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes...all the way from Utah!

Our Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes…all the way from Utah!

So, while the chicken did come first for me, the eggs will be coming for quite some time.  And what does that do for me the most???  It makes me smile.  I love my chickens.  They fill so many areas of my life.  They give me food.  They are one of the things I do in my life towards being self-sufficient.  They are a wonderful conversation topic.  They have brought me new friends which has opened doors for many other new things.

My next post will explain why I need them.  You see…production is at an all time low for me.  And I’m not talking about eggs.  Check back soon and see what I mean about low production!  Thanks for reading friends.  Now go pet a chicken or eat an egg!  It will improve your day…trust me…I know it for a fact!

The last day of May

So much lavender growing around here and I was gifted some so I made lavender sugar!  Easy peezy!

So much lavender growing around here and I was gifted some so I made lavender sugar! Easy peezy!

This last day of May. It was a great day. Time with my chickens, time with my guy, time to socialize, and time to enjoy the gifts of friends and the wonderful life I have here in the Rogue Valley! I am blessed.

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Moving Day!

MOVING is something I have way too much experience at. Seriously. I am not a military brat either. A couple of my moves have been because I was seeking change. But most of them were because of life circumstances deeming it the only option. Let me try to list the various moves I am aware of or can remember:

Hospital
Grandparents house
Duplex on A street
House on Delrose Drive
Duplex on 7th and N or something like that
Apartment in Beaverton by McDonalds
Apartment in Beaverton that were gray
Apartment in Aloha by the train tracks (went to the BEST school there for 3 or 4th grade)
Place in Lincoln city (yuck)
Grandparents
Apartment in Newport
Apartment in Santa Clara
House on 16th street
House on Peidmont
House in The Dalles
Apartment on 16
House in The Dalles
House on 19th in FG
Apartment in FG
House in Hillsboro
Garage in Cornelius
Grandparents
Apartment in Springfield
House at MP 27
House on Partridge Way
Grandparents
House in FG
House on Piedmont (across from house I lived at in middle school)
House on Lawnridge
Apartment on Centennial
House on M st.
Apartment off Harlow
Apartment on Gateway
Duplex in Springfield
Arlington, WA
Centennial apartments (same as before)
Parents
Basement apt off Wilson St.
Apartment in S. Salem
Apartment in W. Salem
At a friends
House at Murphy
Barn apartment where I am now.

Hey…if I didn’t miss any it’s not as bad as I thought. Only 41 moves. The move to House on 19th was my first move as an adult!

What have I learned about moving? Get rid of it if you don’t use it or love it! I have trimmed down what things I MUST have with me to a minimal amount especially in the last 5 moves. I spent years collecting and trying to save or keep. Now, I can look at so many things and so easily say…I don’t need it or love it or want it.

Basics needed: A place to sleep that is comfortable and warm. I am very fussy about my bed. Water and food. Warmth.
Things that make it nice for me: Decor, friends, fresh air, being in the country.

There are various levels of safety in my coop.  The red gate keeps the dogs out, the locked gate keeps the predators out and now there is a wire wall to keep the babies seperated from the big girls.

There are various levels of safety in my coop. The red gate keeps the dogs out, the locked gate keeps the predators out and now there is a wire wall to keep the babies seperated from the big girls.

Today was my girls 4th move in 8 weeks. They started out wherever they were born, then moved to the Farmer’s Coop, then to the little brooder I had for them, then down to the big brooder with M&E’s group. Today, they are moved into the coop! They dont’ have complete freedom in there yet, but it is their new home where they will be for as long as I live here at the barn.

The little girls are safe from the big girls here, but still able to be near enough that the big girls get used to them and vice versa.

The little girls are safe from the big girls here, but still able to be near enough that the big girls get used to them and vice versa.

The babies are now housed under the poop board.  The big girls still can get to their roosts and nests!

The babies are now housed under the poop board. The big girls still can get to their roosts and nests!

Here they are, checking out their new digs!  Eating and drinking are most important, aside from being safe, which they are!

Here they are, checking out their new digs! Eating and drinking are most important, aside from being safe, which they are!

When I moved the girls today, I made sure they had all that they needed as well as a few things to make it nice. The have a clean coop that protects them from the elements. There is a water source and food source available. They have some colorful feed bags to look at. They have one another. They have dry bedding for a place to sleep. They can be entertained by the big girls coming and goings.

I think they have a pretty good situation for their integration with the rest of my flock. For the next few days they will stay in their little place in the coop under the poop board. I will open it up and close the door to the coop and let them run around in there for a couple hours each day, while the big girls are out free ranging.

Checking it out and fluffin it up

Checking it out and fluffin it up

Their move was so easy. I created a safe place, put the waterer and feeder in there and then hauled them in two armfuls of chicken love! I can’t wait for them to have freedom to roam the hills like the big girls do! 🙂 That is where all the best parts of living here are! Moving day was the easiest ever. I sure hope they are happy in their home!

Cleaning the coop and Making Yogurt!!!

ON my motorcycle ride I pulled over and got this lovely shot of Mt. McLoughlin and the valley along Stagecoach Rd.  Such a pretty day.

ON my motorcycle ride I pulled over and got this lovely shot of Mt. McLoughlin and the valley along Stagecoach Rd. Such a pretty day.

Life has been good for me lately. I have been up and able to do some activities every day for a week! I enjoyed a wonderful motorcycle ride last Friday. Nearly 80 miles of beautiful countryside. Lots of blossoms and lovely aromas to enjoy. Spring has definitely SPRUNG!!!

My boyfriend got the “best boyfriend ever” award on saturday. He drove out here to the farm and mucked out 6+ months worth of eww and poo from the chicken coop!!! I don’t know about all of you, but my past has not included many men that would do “crappy” jobs like that for me. Not only did he haul all that out of there, but he did it with a smile and cracking jokes and being attentive to me all at the same time. I am impressed! When he got near to being done, he says “honey, I know I”m not going to get it as well as you would, so I’ll let you do your pretty stuff”. We’ve only been dating for 6 months and he’s already figured out that I am a bit OCD about cleaning. He also made and installed a poop board for me after asking me where and how I wanted it done. Sure am glad I met this guy!

I used the deep litter method with excellent results.  I had not cleaned it since I got the girls in October!

I used the deep litter method with excellent results. I had not cleaned it since I got the girls in October!

My Silver Laced Wyandottes are now 8 weeks old.  Still not sure if both are pullets.

My Silver Laced Wyandottes are now 8 weeks old. Still not sure if both are pullets.

So I got in there with the Basic H, my homemade orange/lemon vinager spray bottle and the hose! I scrubbed and hosed and scraped and scrubbed some more. When it was to my liking I sprayed the whole thing with the Vinegar mix and let it just set. Then, I wallpapered with feed bags. Just to cheer it up a bit! I am hoping to make some privacy curtains soon for the nesting boxes. A bale of straw and some pine shavings in the nests and the girls were happy to get back in there. The babies will be joining them in another week or so. They are 8 weeks old today!

This is Pumpkin and Peggy.  It is very obvious that Pumpkin is a roo!

This is Pumpkin and Peggy. It is very obvious that Pumpkin is a roo!

Sunday I slept in and missed church. It was ok, I just put on some praise and worship music and had my own church right here!!! I am so grateful for my salvation!!!! After I got ready I headed into town for my meeting. The afternoon was spent with my guy and his son doing some shooting up Spencer Creek. Sure is some pretty country up there.033

On Monday we took a road trip to Salem to do some business and I was able to see a friend there, then we stopped in Eugene and had dinner with my brother and his girlfriend on our way home. It was our first road trip together and we both enjoyed one another’s company!

Yesterday I spent some time hauling the last of the wood down from the splitter area and stacking it. I have 1/4 cord left to last. Hoping we have no large dips in temperature. I also started cleaning up a bit of debris that has collected around the barn. I am ready to start getting things looking nice for summer.

I made yogurt today. I had said I would post instructions for making yogurt. I have 2 pints “brewing” in the crock pot right now. Here is how I did it…it is so easy!!!

1. Sterilize jars in the dishwasher or oven. If in the dishwasher, I always run a second rinse when canning or needing sterile jars. In the oven, place the jars on a cookie sheet, not touching each other, in an oven that is preheated to 225 degrees. Leave them there for 10 full minutes. They can stay in longer, but need 10 minutes for certain.

Milk in the saucepan and heated to 110 degrees.

Milk in the saucepan and heated to 110 degrees.

2. Set up a crock pot with about 2 inches of water in the bottom and put it on low.

3. Pour your raw milk into a clean saucepan and heat on low until milk reaches 110 degrees. I sliced a vanilla bean down the center and scraped out the insides into my milk. When milk reaches 110 degrees stir in 1 Tblspn. *yogurt culture per cup of milk used. I use a whisk and try to get the lumps out by stirring well.

Sliced bean down the center and scraped out the insides to put in the milk.  Saved the pods for use later...maybe for cleaner.

Sliced bean down the center and scraped out the insides to put in the milk. Saved the pods for use later…maybe for cleaner.

4. Pour the warm milk into your jars that are fresh out of the oven and then lower them carefully into the water in the crock pot. My water was at 115 from being preheated on LOW. I turned it to the WARM setting and put the lid on. I will check it periodically and if the temperature is much below 90 I will turn the crock pot back up to LOW until it gets back up to 110 degrees. You don’t want it higher than that tho, and don’t let it drop much below 90. Ideally having it stay at 100 degrees for 6-24 hours is best. I will leave mine overnight as I did before. After it is “set” cover and place in the refrigerator to cool.

I saved this starter from my last batch.  The starter MUST have live cultures to be used.  I had originally used Nancy's plain yogurt, but this was from my last batch.  The whey is fine to use!

I saved this starter from my last batch. The starter MUST have live cultures to be used. I had originally used Nancy’s plain yogurt, but this was from my last batch. The whey is fine to use!

The jars filled with the mixture and placed in the crock pot and kept at 100 degrees for 6-24 hours or until set!  Then refridgerate.  Yum

The jars filled with the mixture and placed in the crock pot and kept at 100 degrees for 6-24 hours or until set! Then refridgerate. Yum

I added the vanilla bean because I like it. I did not add any sweetener of any kind because I prefer to drizzle a lil maple syrup over it if I decide that’s what I want, but if I decide to use it with baking I don’t want added sweetener. Use your own discretion. I really think this is a slick method! Easy peezy! I hope it works well for you.

This yogurt was so delicious!  I can't wait for my new batch to be done.

This yogurt was so delicious! I can’t wait for my new batch to be done.