Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our Growing Chickens

Been a while since I sat down and posted pictures of all the chickens, so here's the babies.

These first ones were taken about a month ago, when they moved into the baby's pen.

Shortly after their move to the bigger baby pen, they got moved out into the garage.  Now their pen is right next to the bigger coop where the one year olds live.

Being in the garage is helping the older chickens accept the babies - who are now technically teenagers, and going through their first real molt, losing feathers all over the place, thought you don't really notice on them - the new feathers are growing in that fast.  This is their last step toward adulthood.  

Now, them being mobile and sharing the yard has on occasion caused some issues.  For example, most of the older chickens do NOT want the babies in "their" coop.  One of the babies ran in there one day, and one of the older chickens, Bird Flu, took great exception and attacked her.  A few feathers were lost, no blood, and I was able to climb into the coop and get the baby before any  damage was done.  But since then, Bird Flu will come over hand hang out with the babies, as will Rogue, Baby, Nip, and occasionally Magellan and Road Runner.  The exception is Poppy. She does NOT like the babies, and she will, out of the blue, run up and attack them. Usually it's a bite, pulling out a hunk of feathers, but on occasion she will literally jump on them, attacking with claws.  She has been schooled by all the humans - all of us have thumped her and scolded her.  All this has done is taught her to be more sneaky with her attacks - she runs up when our backs are turned, attacks and runs away rapidly again. Sigh.

We think all issues will be solved when the large coop is built - it will be new and unmarked, so no one set will think of it only as "their" coop.

The babies learn the art of stair sitting.
The rest of these pictures were taken just this afternoon.

I'm really not sure what she was suddenly looking at!

The one in the front is a Barred Rock.   In the back, a Gold Lacewing Wyandotte.

Fluffy Butts!

A very golden Gold Lacewing Wyandotte.

We believe this young lady is a Black Sex Link.

Two of the Three Wyandottes hanging out together.

Both of the Black Sex Links - one has more brown to her; the other has iridescent black feathers like a crow.

See the neat brown tips on her wings?

The elusive Freebie!  This was the chick we got for free, because she was sick at a week old.  She is doing very but is still the smallest, and usually hides when you bring out a camera.  She is likely a Black Copper Marans.

Now these girls baffle us.  The three are white, gold and brown in varying shades - one is more white, one a mix, and the other rather more brown. They are "bearded" in that they have tufts of feathers on their cheeks, giving them a fat cheek look, but they lack feathers on their feet.  Someday, we'll figure out their breed.

Yes, those are a couple of the big girls in the distance.

The browner one.

This is the whiter one, hanging out with a couple Wyandottes under the stairs.

A couple of the big girls came from "their" side of the house - they used to hang out in the front yard when they were babies, but as they got older, they gained a preference for the side yard - more sun, better spots to dust, more room to roam, more ants and bugs.  It's a good thing, since the side yard is where the larger coop is going.   

This is Magellan.

And this is Magellan ( a New Hampshire Red) and Rogue ( a Brown Leghorn), the undisputed flock leader of the older girls.  A few of the babies have decided to challenge her, which is hilarious - she is still twice their size.    Depending on her mood, she will either ignore them completely, puff up and look big to intimidate, or offer up a swift peck on the head to teach them their place.  Rogue likes to go in the garage and look at the babies while they are still in their pen (Big chickens are first out and last in) and they are getting used to her presence amid the flock.  The only chicken who does manage to blend with the babies is the Welsummer named "Baby". She is teaching them, through example, to come when I call for them.

Remember this chicken? This is the chick who, when they were just a couple of weeks old, took it upon herself to defend the rest of the flock from the evil camera.  Similar pose even, though she has figured out that camera is harmless.

She is flock leader of the babies, and is the only other baby besides Freebie who has a name.  She is also the only chicken among the babies who actively seeks out people, wants to sit with or near them. (The only adult chicken who does that is Baby, who was the sickly baby of the first flock and got handled the most.)

Her name is Moaning Myrtle - yes, from the Harry Potter books.  She got this name because one evening she started making this odd moaning noise I've never heard another chicken make. After confirming which chicken it was, and that she was OK, we figured out that she makes that noise when happy and content.  My daughter says she likes to sit next to her and make that noise; she will walk under my husband's chair when he sits out with them and makes that noise, and just in general, when her tummy is full and the sun is warm, she will moan.  It's odd, but cute. Added with her desire to be with people, she earned herself a name.

And thus concludes our baby update.

Now if  we can cure the older flock of feather pulling, all will be good.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Note to a Young Friend

A note to a young friend, who seems to believe that everything is decided in life at age 19 - and thinks if you've not decided what you want to be yet by then, you're not being an adult.

Just so you know, I was out on my own when I was 18 - no military, not in college yet - out there, working, supporting myself.  So yeah, been at it a while.  But there is no need for everything to always stay exactly the same.

At 16, I wanted to run a daycare.  at 19, I wanted to be a photojournalist - and actually did work on a small town newspaper as their photographer and darkroom(and layout, and occasional reporter).  But in college, I found Sociology, and pursued that.  Knowing a BA in that meant I could ask people if they wanted fries with that in a very smart way, I went back to college and got my teaching certification in Sociology and History.  I was a teacher until we moved, and then I became a historical interpreter and taught non traditionally at a rather large museum.  I've owned my own business since 2003, and have nannied and tutored and taught all kinds of classes since I was 19.  Now I've combined it all - I still teach people how to do and make things, both in person and through my blog and FB page.  I'm a photographer, and I write for an online news source on the subject of Colorado History. And I still run my own business as a milliner and textile artist.

Through all that I married at 21, had a child at 23, divorced  and remarried at 26 and had a second child at 27.  I've lived near the area where I live now, as well as the other side of the state, in Illinois and in Iowa.  The children are raised, as you know - both smart and living their lives.  Total of 27 years of marriage so, and I remain on very good terms with my first spouse.

Now, with my children grown - one in the Marines and one graduated from college - I get to reinvent my life again, focusing on homesteading projects and self sufficiency  - growing our own food, raising chickens, all that good stuff - as well as sharing that journey with other people and learning from them as well.  Someday, I may even be a grandma, and that's a whole new place in life as well.

The genetic makeup of my family is such that I likely have another 35- 40 years of life to go- and wouldn't it be boring to never do anything but that one thing I chose to do at 19?

The most interesting people I know have lived full lives and done and seen a great deal during that time.  In a nutshell, what I'm saying - enjoy the ride.  You don't have to take everything in life seriously. And you most certainly don't have to do the same thing, day in and day out, from the time you graduate high school to the time you retire.

So honey, in the future, when an older adult tells you they still haven't figured out what they want to do in life, know that while they may be a little serious, they are also joking with you.  And they are also likely some of the happiest people you will ever know.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Things Seen Out and About

 Things I've seen while out and about during the past month.

Old non electric Ferris Wheel

Old Pulley system

Returning to the land.

I've passed this building many times over the decades, but it wasn't until last week that I realized that the windows on the top floor were not real, instead they contained this:

Opps! Let's get a little closer...

How about closer still?

Household Experiment: Amazingly Fast and Simple Butter Making

A couple months back, on of the other homestead sites posted an article about making butter in a blender.  In our house, the blender is a shelf filler; instead we use this Ninja thing that was bought for my husband a couple years back, mainly for making smoothies.  It has two sets of blades, much sharper than a blender, and to me is superior.

But enough of an ad for the Ninja.

The set comes with a smaller container and shorter set of blades, so I decided to use that for the butter making.

Heavy whipping cream is your product to get butter.  If you are a raw milk person, and your supplier does not skim off the cream, you can use this. Same if you milk your own cows or goats. Note, if you skim your own cream, you will get more buttermilk in the end and less butter than factory removed and packaged cream.   So while a pint of heavy whipping cream will yield about a cup of finished butter, you will likely get about 3/4 a cup of butter.

In goes the cream!

In less than two minutes, I had very thick whipped cream. As you can see, when I took off the top, a bunch stuck to it, and it looks very good. (tasted good too) This is the kind of whipped cream you want to fold in just a bit of powdered sugar and use to frost a cake.  I'm a sucker for whipped cream frosted cakes!

However, this is not the finished state, so you want to keep going until you see liquid starting to separate out and clumps to form.  

This is what butter should look like.  But wait, you are NOT finished!

Whether you do it in a blender, Ninja, or butter churn, butter retains a lot of milk, known as butter milk.  To make your butter right, you need to paddle it.  No, I'm not talking about getting a switch from a tree.  Scoop the butter out of your device and put it in a shallow bowl.  Immediately pour off the visible milk into a glass or jar.

Historically, a wooden bowl was used, and a wooden paddle, and the butter is pressed and folded in on itself, draining off the milk as you go.  I didn't have either, so I used a ceramic dish and a spatula.

You can see the glass of buttermilk in the back,  and some liquid in the dish.  Pressing the butter not only gets the milk out of it, but it helps the butter get the texture we are most used to.  I know I'm not describing this well; I have a quart of whipping cream in the fridge and need to make butter again, so this next time, I will have someone videotape the pressing process.

Most people used to shape their butter into a ball, or use a butter mold to make it into the block shape we are used to seeing. Fanciful molds made of metal and chilled were often used to make creative pats for parties and special events.  I just kind of formed it into a semi ball and put a lid on it and put it in the fridge.

This is the finished result.

Finished butter, and the buttermilk behind.  You can use the buttermilk for all kinds of things - biscuits, fried chicken, any recipe.

This butter was used to bake with; the rest is still in the fridge and good weeks later. The whole process took less than 15 minutes.

This is a winning experiment to me!