Monday, May 31, 2010

Baby sheep still kickin

We went camping for the weekend and had a nephew feed the animals and collect eggs for us.  We came back today to torrential downpours.  Luckily, it only rained the first day for us and was beautiful the other days.  We had a great time camping and catching up with old friends.  I checked on the twin sheep babies when we came home.  The really pretty multicolor one is kinda skinny!  So skinny that Annmarie went in and mixed up a bottle of formula for him.  He didn't want to drink it.  So we will try a couple of times a day for the next two weeks.  He is noticeably skinnier than the other baby.  We also locked the ewe and her two babies up in the loading corral.  That way she cannot run around the whole barn lot.  The babies won't have to burn off so many calories keeping up with her.  She is very flighty.  It is late and I will give the monthly chicken report this week.

They are both boys, but the multicolor one on the right is way cool looking.  He is the bomb!!!  It is really too bad he is related to too many females we currently have, or else I would love to keep him as our new ram.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


This morning I had to go in early to administer an exam for another instructor, so I absolutely had to be out the door no later than 7:30. I was rushing out the door with 15 minutes to spare and happened to glance over at the sheep, and what did I see, but a little sheep standing next to that ewe I thought was ready to deliver about six weeks ago. I was only off by a little (in the grand scheme of things, anyway). Yes, I came back in and threw on some boots so I could check on the lamb. They were fine. Momma had done a good job drying them off, even though they couldn't have been more than a couple of hours hold (their cords were still wet). They were both warm, and had full tummies, so they'd had their first meals too. I tried to entice her into a pen with them, but she wasn't having any of it. I had to go to work, so I changed my shoes (again) and hoped for the best. Of course, it rained cats and dogs all day, and was only in the mid-fifties, so I worried all day long, and immediately went out as soon as I got home. The only thing wrong was that one of the babies had gotten stuck under the barn, probably because Momma had tried to tuck them up next to the barn to stay dry.

I really wanted to get them into the shed and out of the weather, so I had the kids help me with thinking that if we took the lambs, Momma would follow. Not so. She refused to leave the pasture where she had given birth, apparently convinced that her lambs were still there. I tried to encourage her out, but she just got more and more panicked. The lambs are still warm, and are only wet on the topmost layer, so I decided they must be fine, and Momma won. I did move the feeder over so they can't get stuck (hopefully) under the barn again. They are shown in the photo still in their pasture. You can see the little black one laying down. This one looks an awful lot like Hershey. The other one is getting a snack, and is very pretty. I haven't checked gender yet, and haven't even considered names. Momma is very attentive and is doing a great job. I'm sure more photos will come.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fence held

Well, I must be improving on my fence building skills, the sheep were still in the Barn lot this morning.  They stayed there all day.  So no holes so far, they are pretty persistent and I saw two this morning sticking their heads through the woven fence to get to the grass on the other side.  Forget that they were standing in grass 18 inches high, the stuff on the other side of the fence just tastes better!  Here are our sheep in the Barn lot hanging out today.

Yes, there is a creek running through the bottom 1/3 of the picture.  That is the "Front Creek" it is fed from a spring that comes up about 100 yards from here.  It runs year round and is around 40 degrees F all year long also.  It never freezes in the winter.  Need I say, that one of the reasons for getting the sheep was for them to keep the grass short.  Since they feel that the short scrub grass on the hill is more healthful for them, I have had to step up the fence construction.  One down, five to go!! (actually, I think that is an infinite number since fence repair is an ongoing thing)

I also fixed the SE fence yesterday in the Ram pasture.  Added a ton of stays, now I still have to add woven fence to the entire Eastern fence line, a gate and a bunch of stays.  This of course needs to be done yesterday.  The grass is starting to get very tall and needs to be cut or eaten.

This is the Ram pasture, Annmarie's grandparents used to keep the ram sheep in this pasture.  It was smaller then, I have moved the far fence back and moved the fence line up onto the hillside.  If you look closely, at the back fence you will see stays or fence post every five feet.  That is with sheep wire on the bottom half also.  I need to get the sheep in here before the cheat grass dries out or it is gonna be a bugger to walk through.  The colored spots in the foreground are my chickens free ranging.  The grass is so tall that they just disappear.  One of the problems with tall grass like this is ticks.  They climb up on it and attach to everything. We have had to start treating the dogs with tick repellent already this year.  The chickens being unlocked again should help with the tick problem.  The baby chicks are locked up safe in their metal cage enclosure now.  The gully on the upper left corner of the picture is the "Back Creek" (how do you like those names?)  Our house sits between the Front Creek and the Back Creek and to our knowledge has never been flooded. The front and back bridges have floated away, but no damage to the house.

Here is the rug I sprayed down and hung out to dry.  Obviously, the rug is drying.  No cats on it yesterday when it was soaking wet.  Now  you can see one lounging on the right end.  I shooed them off all day long today.  The rug needed another day to dry out, but the weather was turning bad, so Annmarie and I went out and took it down.  We hung it in a "U" shape in the trailer, not 15 minutes later it was raining.  We just pile the rugs on the floor in our medieval pavilion.  It makes it way more cozy and comfortable with the rugs down.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back at that Fence!

I spent the day outside today.  It was a gorgeous day, sun was shining and virtually no wind.  I even opted to not have some form of music playing in my ears while working (unusual for me) so I could listen to the back creek run.  The runoff is very clean and running at a great rate.  We are hopeful the runoff creek will last through June this year.  The longer the better, we can use the water.

I worked on the Barn lot pasture fence today.  I had stretched a 40 foot section this fall but since I did not install sheep fencing the sheep just jumped through it.  So I added a four foot tall woven fence over the barbed wire and tied it all together.  Nice and strong now, the sheep won't get through it.  I took a container of chicken scratch up on the hillside and enticed the sheep off of the rocky hillside down into the barn lot.  They love corn and we have been working on being able to call them and get them to follow us.  It is far easier to catch an animal that will follow you into a small area for food.  A month in the front yard has given us all a lot of time to tame them down.  We were petting them whenever we went in and out of the house.  So far the fence is working, the sheep were still in the Barn lot when the sun went down.  The true test will be if they cannot get out tomorrow.  I am with Annmarie, I think a couple of the ewes are ready to drop babies.
I also restretched one side of the Ram pasture (we use the names for things from when Annmarie was a kid, very confusing if you were not around 30 years ago) and added stays to stiffen the fence and prevent the sheep from squeezing between the wires.  I have stays or posts every five feet on the SE side of the Ram pasture now.

Annmarie and Sarah locked up the baby chickens in their new enclosure over the weekend.  All 11 surviving (out of 24) chickies were out in their new 360 degree wire protected domain, plus one chicken.  They trapped one hen in there with the babies.  So I chased her out and in the process left the door open and now there is a different hen trapped in with the babies.  On the positive side, we thought the first hen was laying white eggs because her mother is a Polish chicken.  Not so, I found a green egg in the baby enclosure.  Not sure who the second white egg layer is at this point.  I had an egg today punctured by a foot.  I need to add some more calcium to the chickens diet.  I keep oyster shells for this and will put some out for the chickens to snack on out in the chicken yard.  In a month or so the babies should be big enough that the cats won't mess with them.  Then I can get more babies!!!  Wooo, hooo!!  I really do want a naked neck chicken.  I also want some more Easter Egger or Aruacana chickens.  Would love to have blue eggs.

I also hosed down a braided rug and hung it over the fence and grape wire tonight.  We are camping for the weekend and use the rugs on the floor of our pavilion tent.  You can never have too many rugs for a medieval tent floor.  So tomorrow I will clean out the pickup and get the trailer ready to go.  We have so much stuff we bought a trailer just for this hobby!  I will get some pictures and post them here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

New Respect

I have a new respect for my ancestors. Particularly the female ancestors whose job it was to keep the house clean, and the people clothed and fed.

The newly dark-stained stairs are lovely to behold. They are also a particularly good backdrop against which to highlight the dog hair and dust bunnies. Now, dust is always and issue out here, and that is nothing new. The naked steps got equally dusty just as quickly, but since the color of the wood was closer to the color of the dust, it wasn't quite so eye-catching. I've come to accept that daily dust-mopping of the stairs is likely to be a constant in my life for a while.

The new-found respect came as I was dusting those stairs and realizing that this would have been a daily chore for my predecessors as well. Along with the floors in the rest of the house. Then I looked up at the highway network of spiderwebs above the stairwell and added that to the list. And dusting all the furniture, and baking, and mending and laundry and ........ It would have been a very full day just to keep the house cleaned. And when you add on gardening and food preservation, well, let's just say that they likely didn't have too much time to twiddle their thumbs.

Some things are streamlined with modern tools and methods, but it is still not a small task to keep ahead of the dust in the middle of a farm. I'm beginning to see another reason for stair runners. We'll see how this plays out.

On the sheep front, it has become painfully clear that I know nothing about how to determine when a ewe is ready to deliver. We've had the sheep in the yard for a month in hopes of not loosing another lamb. Now, the yard is not that big, and it can only support 6 sheep for so long. A month, it turns out, is the limit. And still no lamb. To add insult to injury, one of the other ewes (whose six-month-old lamb is still nursing occasionally) is looking bigger than the one I thought would go first. So, we've turned the sheep back out and are hoping for the best. On a more positive note, Steve finished the baby chicken run before he left for work on Friday, so we should loose no more chicks to the cats.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

baby chicken coop enclosure

Well, I did make some progress today.  I had to dig around the farm and find some more wire.  I found an old roll of chicken wire on the fence supply pile (main pile, I still have 4 piles to consolidate).  It was rusted, but hey, it is free, the best price of all.  I used it to put on a roof.  I used a screw driver to twist the running edges of the pieces together to form one entire roof.  Much better than a plastic wire tire that is going to eventually break.  The chicken wire is formed the exact same way, two strands are just twisted together (I had lots of time to study it today...).  I love my pneumatic stapler, it makes putting up fencing easy.  I went through a bunch of staples but it is possible to do it with one person.  I got the door side all completed and had to cover the door also as it had a huge hole were the screen used to be.  It started raining vertically and Annmarie told me I had to come inside and eat.  I needed to get cleaned up so we could go drop off the hoya plant.  Annmarie is allergic to it and the damn thing will not stop blooming now!  Took it eight years to start and it just won't stop, the smell keeps aggravating her asthma.  She found a gal at work to take it and we delivered it tonight.

Of course, since the chickens are still locked up in the coop yard (except when I am working on the coop), they are eating lots of food!!  I gotta clean up inside the house tomorrow so I will have to get back to the chickens on Monday (paying job over weekend).

On a positive note, we collected 23 eggs today.  The chickens are doing well in that regards.  I have still been lamenting the loss of my Turken (naked neck) chicken.  It was ugly, but I really wanted it to live and had been taming it down.  Luckily, it was fairly cool today and the smell from the dead chickens stashed under the coop wasn't too bad.  Will be glad when the decomposition gets done so they no longer smell.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stairs are DONE!!!!

Woo Hoo!  I put the second coat of polyurethane on today.  It took me five hours for each coat.  I will be officially done with the stairs after I take the painters tape off and tighten the shoes back down.  So here are the stairs in all their glory.  Be glad you didn't have to do the work.

As soon as I got the last of the coat on the stairs I went out to the chicken coop to add my little outside enclosure for the baby chicks.  I got the frame work up and ready for chicken wire.  I ran out of time to get it covered before it got dark.  I just dug through the scrap wood pile to find stuff to use.  Annmarie came out to inspect (talk to me) my work and she noticed a dead chicken under the coop.   The cats had moved a rock skirting the coop and they were dragging my baby chickens they killed under the coop to snack on.  The chickens were under the coop too far to reach.  So I just rocked it over and left it.  When I went inside it was starting to smell in the storage room (dead chickens underneath coop).  So something to look forward to for the next three weeks.  So on Wednesday I will get the enclosure covered up.  I am getting a solid 18 eggs a day now, from about 29 chickens.  After the babies are bigger I will lock up the hens a couple at a time and start thinning out the ones that are not laying.  I only have 11 babies out of the original 24 I started with this Summer.

Above is my new enclosure for the babies.  The section farthest from the window is were the babies are kept inside the coop.  So my door will go in that four foot section of the wall.  You can see the top rails at the top of the picture.  I used an old screen door that was kicking around the farmhouse that I kept (just in case I would need it) for a door into the yard.  I think I will even plant some more grass in here (now if I can just get the chickens to leave it alone).  I just need to hook up the sprinkler system(attach it to an outside hose)  I added to the coop two years ago.  I am going to put a wire roof over the top of the baby enclosure.  NO MORE dead babies.  Fort Knox for the babies.  You can see the rocks I have piled up at the base of the chicken coop.

Here are the lucky survivors checking out their new abode (they don't know it yet).  Eleven babies (did I say that already?  11 out of 24)  I had a Turken (chicken with no feathers on its neck, or naked neck chicken) but it got eaten.  All my other odd random 79 cent chickens survived.  I tried to feather sex the cheap chickens when I picked them up.  We will know in another 3 months if I got it right or not.  The black and white mottled chickens are silver laced wyandotte pullets (baby hens).  The white crested chicken is a Polish.  Three of the multiple color chickens are supposed to be Araucaunas (probably just easter egger chickens).  The little tan chicken is a banty brahma and the Big chicken next to the banty is a surprise.  I don't what it is.

I am gonna sleep well tonight, starting to yawn and crash, later.

Stairs a finishing...

I am actually making progress on the stairs.  Some days it seems like the project will never get done.  On Friday I had to go pick up more stain and polyurethane to finish the floor.  I had used the last of the stain on Tuesday night.  I used the last of the three year old stain.  Which means it came out very dark.  Very dark.  It is having to grow on me.  So on Friday I used some of the stain to spot touch up and get ready for the sealant.  I spent Friday night till 0200 putting clear coat on the hallway and stairs.  Now mind you, Sarah has been sleeping at her Great Grandmother's house all week and Annmarie has been sleeping on the futon in the living room. It is getting old.  The futon is pretty good, but not something I want to sleep on for eternity.  The floor was ready for a second coat of sealant yesterday, but I had told Ruby (Great Grandmother) that I would come down and help plant her garden this weekend.  That translated out to mean Saturday for her, and then my Dad's wheelchair broke and he called Saturday morning.  So I just went over and took the broken part off and fixed the other wheelchair so he could use it temporarily.  Then I went down and helped plant a garden.  Her neighbor had made three elevated beds with rails she could sit on.  Well, we planted all three beds and then I dug four spots for pole beans then we planted three rows of corn, but when she started talking about pumpkins I drew the line!!  Her garden is very large and we planted the hole thing last year.   Ruby is 85 years old and doesn't like weeds.  So she was out there every day last year trying to beat the weeds back.  I went over every week.  We couldn't keep up.  So this year the plan was boxes only, I will weed eat the weeds and throw straw down so the weeds don't get out of control.  So we were not going to plant anything in the ground.  Now we have onions (left over from last year), snow peas (she and Sarah planted 3 weeks ago), four sets of pole beans with poles in ground and three rows of corn.  Plus, she wants me to get pots for her rock garden so she can plant some herbs.  I needed to finish rebuilding the rock garden (we ripped it up last year, was overgrown with weeds and needed a new border) as it is only partially complete.  So I have to add that onto the do soon list.  It was mid afternoon by the time that was done.  

Annmarie and I went to the Live Action Pendleton Underground Tours last night.  They do an annual fundraiser where  volunteers come and play different parts during the tour.  It was good, we enjoyed ourselves.  The tour is fantastic.  I have done the underground tour in Seattle and San Francisco and Pendleton's is hands down the best.  At one point in Pendleton there were over 70 miles of tunnels throughout the city built mostly by the Chinese railroad workers.  We had dinner afterwards and came home.  It was our Anniversary present to ourselves.  I will post pictures of the stairs soon.  

The chickens are still locked up in their chicken yard.  I need to add a pen for the babies before I let them back out.  No more free meals for the cats.  Due to the stair work, my chicken project is on hold.  But this week I will get outside!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stairs Progress Report

So, Steve has made great progress on the upstairs floors. After 1 1/2 full days staining, he has the entire upstairs hallway done, the handrail, both newel posts and half the stairs, and actually, he'll probably be finished the stairs before bedtime tonight. That will just leave the trim in the hallway for Friday. I'm actually very happy with his progress, as I had estimated that this was a 4-6 day project, not including time off for pesky things like paying jobs. That translates into 7-10 calendar days. Steve, however, had estimated that he could have the entire staining process done the first day (that 1/2 day he posted about earlier), and be completely finished with the sealant today. Needless to say, he's not nearly so happy. But really, the stairs are looking great. We had been concerned that the old wood on the kick-boards and risers would take the stain very much differently from the new treads . They are matching very very well. The handrail is a slightly different color, but that's OK too. Steve thinks they are too dark, but I think the bedroom floors started out this color too, and lightened after the sealant was applied. Isn't progress wonderful?

Chicken and cats not so friendly...

Well I found one of my chicken predators this morning.  I went out to get the eggs this morning (too busy yesterday afternoon) and found one of our outside cats snacking on one of my new chicken babies!!  She was in the chicken yard (the door has been open all the time), just snacking away on tender baby chicken breast (must prefer white meat).  So I ran around the coop counting my babies.  I only have 12 out of 24.  Ugh.  So the cats have been eating well.  It doesn't help that the chicken babies are the size of a large quail right now.  Once full grown, the cats leave them alone.  So Annmarie's idea of a separate run (suggested last year when I had this problem last time) is going to have to be implemented.  Of course not until the stairs are finished.  So I verified that the electric fence is working and locked the chickens into the chicken yard.  I am sure I missed a few, but they should show up later today.  Will have to keep the chickens locked up for a few days.  Also, going to have to get a recount on the babies and adults tonight after dark so I know where I am again.  It just never ends.  There is always something.  Now luckily the cats did not kill my daughter's favorite new chicken, a little banty brahma with feathers on her feet.

Floor progress

I came home from work yesterday to stain the floor and stairs.  Now mind you, I had to get right on it, because I had to take the child to the dentist right after school and then take her to swim practice.  So I picked up the plastic got the stain, rags, tack cloth and old work disposable nitrile gloves (in an attempt to keep my hands clean).  I opened the two cans of stain, one was dried out and crusty, so I only had about 1/3 of a gallon.  I started to clean the floor with the tack cloth and in the end now have several splinters in my hand.  I forgot how much stain is used.  I have to fill up the cracks so they stain and give the floor an even color (there are lots of cracks and holes in the floor).  Oh don't forget I had to have the knee pads.  Not as young as I used to be.
As soon as they are done I can go outside!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Life on the Farm

Today, as I was swearing about that necessity of dodging various piles of "fertilizer" in my front yard, I was considering banning all non-pet varieties from the yard. Then, I remembered that bug control is paramount. Unfortunately, bug control requires chickens in the yard. And yes, the chickens are the primary offenders in this instance. That said, though, the sheep were in the yard for 5 days before their "deposits" became so numerous that I got fed up and kicked them back out. Then today, I saw the still-pregnant ewe and thought about the consequences of my frustration. Since I am more unwilling to find another lamb after it is too late than I am to dodge the bombs in my yard, the sheep are once again in our yard. Her bag has been full for almost a week now, so she should deliver soon. Then I can put her and her baby in a small pen for a couple of days and kick everyone else out with a clear conscience. I really really hope the barn does become usable this year, and that the sheep fence really does get put up so the sheep can stay where they belong. Those two things together should give us a system that will help minimize the lamb loss.

On the chicken and cats front, the cats may have finally conceded that the nesting boxes may not be the best place to have their kittens. It sounds great in prinicple (warm and secure), but we've got two hens going broody, and they are very very grumpy about sharing with the cats. Most of the hens just lay in the front of the box and ignore the kittens. But those dang broody hens puff all up and make make all sorts of warning noises, and then they peck. Hard. I don't like it when they get me, and it can't be good for the kittens. Momma cat had gone so far as to get the back of one box open and get into the back room to try and find another way in to her kittens, 'cause the broody hen wouldn't let her get to her kittens. Unfortunately, she had chosen the old cooler for her den, and it was secure enough that she couldn't get in from the back side. I closed up the nest box she had gotten open, and gathered up the kittens to move them to the barn. Momma cat followed me over and laid down to nurse even before I got her kittens set down. I hoped she would stay this time. She was still there when I took her out some food. But, when I went back out about 30 minutes later to get the treat-mix to entice the sheep back into the yard, I heard a tiny little "mew." Sure enough, there she was, back in that nest box with two of her five kittens. And the broody hen was headed in as I was headed out. I figured they would have to work it out. Not too much later, I sent Sarah out to fill feeders, and she said Momma cat was on her way back to the barn with one of the two kittens. Sarah took the other one to the barn for her, and so far, she hasn't tried it again. I really do hope she's given it up. Those broody hens are mean.

Steve may have finally convinces the hens to stop laying in the wood shed. Sarah only found two eggs out there yesterday. Of course, there is no guarantee that they are laying in the coop. Just in case you're wondering, no, that photo has nothing to do with the post. It's just a face in the wood that Steve liked and snapped a photo of. Enjoy.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Closing in on the stairs

I am getting there.  Stairs and upstairs hallway are all sanded now.  I have spent the last two days cleaning up so I can stain the floor.  I tried to wash the walls first, that didn't work out well.  They were covered with so much wood dust I kept having to change out the water.  I then decided that vacuuming the walls was the answer.  That worked out very well.  The only problem with that is when we were building the stairs I opened them up.  At the landing it is 20 feet to the ceiling.  Mind you it looks great.  We even added a second window up high to let in the light... it is very painful to get to the ceiling when there is a 36inch diameter light hanging down in a 48inch wide area.  I was standing on the ladder with our push vacuum jammed in place near the top and me holding it in place with my knees while I used the wand on the vacuum cleaner to suck up dirt off the walls and ceiling.  I also vacuumed off the light (it has been wrapped in plastic for two years, while we textured and painted walls and sanded floor).  Of course now that I am finishing the floors I realize that the walls need to be painted again.  I missed some spots and since there are no lights in the hallway yet, you can't see them.  When I turn on the construction light they are glaringly obvious.  So I get to paint in the evenings after the floor is done (and after it is dark outside).  I have a Gorilla ladder, that lets you adjust its two legs to different heights, so I can work on the stairs.  As I am standing on the top of it, balancing the vacuum cleaner and waving the wand around I realized that this is how people get hurt.  Cause if I fell, it was gonna break something.  Of course, I didn't stop, but I did realize it wasn't a safe (stupid) thing to be doing.  Just think those people at work don't think I have any sympathy for them, if they only knew, I have been there and done that also.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Stupid Problem

I have a stupid problem.  It really shouldn't be a big deal, but it is.  It is not life threatening but is starting to annoy me to no end.  The chickens are laying were they should NOT.  The section of the wood shed that I had blocked off with a tarp had a 1.5 foot gap at the top of the tarp door and there was a back window opening to the outside.  Sarah came in and told me there were a "butt load" of eggs under the tarp covering my old road bicycle.  After lecturing the child about her language I went out to the wood shed.  Twenty Six eggs I had to break against the stump!!  Another 2 dozen!!!  I think the chickens are doing it just so they can have a feeding frenzy when I break the eggs open for them.  Again, this is a stupid problem.  I just want to collect the eggs so I can sell them.  At this rate I am going to have to go back and see how much money I have lost.  The chickens are cheating me out of cash.

I went and got some chicken wire out of the fencing pile (1 of 5 piles on the property) and put wire mesh over the window and more over the door.  The chickens SHOULD not be able to get back there now.  There are a few 6-8inch gaps at the top of the wall, I really hope the chickens don't get in there now.  I also added three more nest boxes (for a total of four now) around the wood shed walls.  I even got some barley hay and lined all the nest boxes.  The momma cat that had her babies in the wood shed had moved hers to the chicken coop and the chicken coop lone cat baby was moved out today by her momma.  So I grabbed the cat carrier, stuffed all the babies, caught momma and took them out to the barn.   I made a tunnel with the hay bales and stuffed the cat carrier in it so she could feel safe.  Informed the child that a new rule was in effect, NO cats or broody hens are allowed in the nesting boxes!!!  Throw those broody hens outside into the weather until they decide to stop being broody and keep moving the kittens out if they come back.

Of course as I type this Annmarie spotted the momma kitty with a kitten in her mouth heading toward the chicken coop!!  I just saw her go by with another kitten.  She will get tired of it after a few days.  I NEED those chickens to lay in their nesting boxes.  Like I said, a stupid problem...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Satisfaction / Monthly egg report

Last week when I sprayed the weeds it was an almost perfect day, cool, cloudy and virtually no wind.  I sprayed that afternoon and it didn't rain until the next morning.  Of course since then it has been raining or the wind is howling and I have not been able to spray the old orchard.  But I did most of the important stuff last week.  I have burned weeds for the last three years and have made great progress, I have also been digging the large weeds by hand, but nothing beats herbicide when it comes to large tracks of land.  It is amazing stuff when used correctly, here is a picture of my thistles going away and the grass just getting greener.

There are literally hundreds of thistles dying at this point just on the hillside.  This is the back creek that runs off of pure snow melt runoff.  It started up this year the first week of April.  We hope it will run until July at least.  A good year is 5 months of running and we did not get that kind of snow this year in the mountains.  I suspect we will only get about 3 months out of the creek this year.

It is another month so time for the monthly egg report, courtesy of Annmarie's spreadsheet she made for me.  If you know anyone that has chickens they can download the excel spreadsheet for free at our website (the link is on our blog homepage).  I love summer.  The chickens always cost less to feed and they lay more eggs.  Now considering I have been negative for the first three months of the year, I figure I need to make all my profit in six months so I can afford to lose money for the other six months.  Not exactly a sound business plan, but unfortunately I cannot control when the chickens lay lots of eggs (I can't even control where they lay eggs!).
 So April was a profitable month.  I made a whopping $40.75 net profit on 33 hens laying (for the year my net income is -$14.27/month.  I had $43 in expenses mostly food (for the year my monthly expenses are $45.72).  We collected a total of 524 usable eggs averaging 16.9 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 8.3, remember I had 20 babies that matured and are now laying, April was their first month of them being solid layers).  The chickens ate 0.48#food/egg (for the year are averaging 0.84#/egg, remember I count my feed expense against the laying hens.  So when I am feeding babies the adults are responsible to make up the difference).  Feed cost was greatly reduced per egg which is why the month was my first profitable month of the year.  In April it cost $0.08/egg (my yearly average is $0.21/egg or $2.52/dozen.  I have been selling my eggs for $2.50 dozen since the beginning of the year.)  I may have to up the price in the winter to $3/dozen.  My production will drop about 60% in the winter.  Hopefully, only 40% during winter but i doubt it.  So I am finally making a profit.  I am -$57.09 for the year so far.

The chickens are definitely not a huge money maker, I am hoping to get them to a place where they bring in around $50-100/month.  There is definitely an economy of scale to chickens.  I think that around 100-200 chickens is probably the most profitable for a small scale operation.  This is around 1500-3000 eggs/month (125-250 dozen/month) or around 31-62 dozen/week or around 4.5-9 dozen/day or 55-110 eggs/day.  Gotta have a full size refrigerator just to hold a few days worth of eggs, better not miss a farmers market or you are gonna be buried in eggs.  All those eggs have to be directly sold to a consumer or else you have to grade them.  Which requires a grading room which requires a sink, running water, sewage, and power = $/expenses.  So we are not going there yet.  Gonna stay at this level for a while.

That was probably more information that most people needed, but it is very interesting.  Remember, my chickens free range so that is why my food expense goes down drastically in the spring/summer and fall.  The chickens eat everything not nailed down.  Here is a picture of some of the brood.  You can see Sprout (small dog), Bailey (chocolate lab), one of the momma cats and lots of chickens (23).  They are all following the golden rule "Comply or die" and getting along famously.  The sheep are currently in our front yard mowing the lawn.  We are going to leave them in for a few days to see if one of the ewes has a baby.  Tired of the coyotes killing the babies.

Egg Hunting

I have been busy, sorry about not posting sooner, will try and catch everyone up.  Sarah injured her left ankle at home on the way to play practice,  so Annmarie had to drive her over to the hospital the next day (she wasn't wanting to bear any weight on it).  She ended up with a bad sprain, took it easy for a couple of days and is now able to walk around with her aircast (ankle splint).  We went and saw her in the play last night.  It was good.  I so would have been in drama class if we had had it available.  It was a cute play, "Til Death Do Us Part".  She has one more weekend of the play then it is back to swim team four nights a week.

I have been having issues with the chickens stashing eggs in unapproved locations.  They are not consulting me before finding a new nest.  I have seven boxes in the coop for 33 hens.  So 5 hens/box, and they are large boxes so more than one hen can fit at a time.  Trouble is the cat took over one to have kittens in.  I thought this was going to be an issue, but not so much.  I find the kitten curled around 2-4 eggs every day!  The chickens just jump in there and lay an egg.  If the momma cat is in there they just lay it near the front.  The real trouble is I have two hens trying to go broody on me.  Annmarie has forbidden me from having any more chicks until I start killing chickens off.  I am up to 54 chickens if you include the babies that are 8 weeks old now.  I am starting to run out of space.  So those two brooders are just like squatters.  They camp out and won't let anyone else use the box.  I had already added a door to the old wood/coal shed.  The chickens were sneaking over to the coal side and laying eggs.  I gated that section temporarily ( hog wire panel and a tarp covering it) until I have time to add a wooden gate (stairs have to be done inside before I can start on the outside again).  So I was out collecting eggs yesterday (child is still on injured duty) in the wood shed (unapproved laying region) and looked over in the far corner and spotted some eggs.

Of course there were not supposed to be any over there.  Their unofficial spot is just across the wire along the back wall so I can just reach through and collect them.  I had to move the fence and collect them.  Of course I don't know how old they are (less than 6 days, probably 4, but not positive) so they get to become chicken food.  I didn't have a basket so I just gathered them up a few at a time and placed them on the ground through the fence.  Sprout and Bailey were running around and Sprout was sniffing the eggs and then he ran outside.  I threw all the eggs at a stump to break them open for the chickens and cats.  Every once in a while the chickens get in the way and get thumped with an egg.  They really don't like that.  I found 13 eggs in that nest.  Last month alone I wasted 48 eggs from the chickens not complying with my plan.  Plus, I don't want to sell eggs that I am not sure of the age.  Scares some of the customers.  So, Sprout ran around the yard for about 10 minutes until Annmarie let him in.  She noticed he had something in his mouth.

It was a whole chicken egg!!  He had been carrying it around the whole time after he snatched it.  He had not broken it.  It had a few teeth marks, but he had not broken the egg.  He is a little thief, you have to be careful with setting down tools when he is around also.  I never would have guessed that he could get an entire egg in his mouth.  He weighs just under 10#.

I did go out and add another temporary nest box in the coop and a semipermanent/temporary one in the wood shed.  I also moved a bunch of stuff in the corner to make it so the chickens won't want to go lay eggs over there.