We now have a facebook page which I’ll be updating a lot more often than this blog! So if you’re interested in seeing what our little homestead is up to, hop on over to https://www.facebook.com/hornespointhomestead. And if you have a facebook page too, let me know and I’ll be sure to meet up with you there!
Waking up early used to be pure torture for me, and by early I mean anytime before 10am. Now I do get up at 5am for work sometimes and if I wasn’t working, I would get up around 9am, but still, I’m a lover of some major sleeping in. That was the Before-Chickens era.
Nowadays the sky begins to lighten before 4:30am, with sunrise before 5:30am, which means I’m mostly up and out at the chicken coop around 5am. Now don’t get me wrong, waking up early everyday hasn’t become an easy thing for me to do, but it hasn’t been as dreadful as I had thought it would be neither. Sometimes I do lie in bed a few extra minutes, debating with myself whether I should just sleep a little more. But knowing how much the chickies love being outside at day break to gobble up insects that have moved into the run during the night, I trudge sleepily out to the coop. I call out to them as I open up the door, and they all come fluttering out, squawking excitedly. Pretty soon, they settle down, chirping contentedly as they scratch and peck and stretch their wings.
Ok so sometimes I actually get up closer to 6am than 5am, and a couple of times I did accidentally sleep in till close to 7am. Another confession, I am still looking forward to the time when the sun will rise at a much later hour.
It has been super busy here in the past month and a half, but finally, here’s an update on my little chickie pies. They now range from 8-11 weeks old, and they have transformed from tiny fluff balls, to awkward scraggly looking teenagers, to mini versions of their future adult selves in about 2 months. I look back on these pictures and am just amazed at how tiny they used to be.
Here they are, tiny and fluffy, playing on a piece of sod and a little roost in their brooder (which they outgrew very quickly).
Another picture of tiny fluffy chicks playing with sod and a little roost. I have a lot of these pictures. I hadn’t realized how many similar pictures I had taken until I tried to pick some out to share with you on this blog. But to a proud chicken mom, each moment and picture is unique!
One of my sweet little speckled Sussex ran out to investigate the camera.
More tiny fluffy chicks warming themselves under the Brinsea EcoGlow 50. We were very happy with it. The chicks were able to have normal wake/sleep cycles without a glaring light over them 24hrs a day. They were very active out and about away from the heat most of the day, and slept soudly at night underneath it. It uses 60 watts and we had it on for 4 weeks before we moved everybody out to the coop.
Here they are starting to turn into awkward teenagers, digging through the dandelions and playing on another roost the husband made for them. Notice the gorgeous feathering on the speckled Sussex’s wing.
Here are the awkward teenagers sunning themselves on the roost. Notice the really awkward looking one standing up.
Awkward teenagers peering at me with their beady eyes. Three in the background taking a dust bath. We had to add another big box to the original brooder box so they don’t drive each other, and me, crazy, hence the square cut-out door.
And this picture is from last week, mini-adults. They grow up so fast, literally.
And here is “my darling” whom I mentioned in the previous post. He was the friendliest chick from the start, was the first to hop onto my hand whenever I reached into the brooder to do anything, and eventhough he’s a much bigger boy now (at least I think it’s a boy), he still wants snuggle time everyday.
3 Fuzzy bums!
I’ve been wanting chickens since last summer, and on May 4th we finally picked up our chicks! We drove about 5.5 hours each way to get them, and it was a long and tiring day, the wonderful husband did all the driving. We ended up getting 25 chicks of various ages from day-olds to maybe 2-3 week-olds. A little white chick died a bit after we got home, it was very weak and couldn’t lift its head, and it was bent backwards. Then a speckled sussex died sometime overnight. The next morning we noticed a black australorp with droopy wings, not eating and drinking, so we quarantined it with a warm oatbag, some water and food, but it died that afternoon. Three deaths in less than 24 hours had us really worried, but we now have 22 very healthy and active chicks.
In total, we have 3 black Australorps, 3 speckled Sussex, and 16 others that are a combination of white Plymouth Rock, Columbian Plymouth Rock, and I think white Phoenix. I can tell which ones are the Phoenix since they have slate coloured legs, and I’m beginning to be able to see which ones are Columbians since their black feathering is starting to show a little. As much as I like baby chicks for their adorableness, I’m really looking forward to when they’re fully grown and their individual personality really shows. Plus taking care of baby chicks is a lot of work! They’re awake from 5am to 8:30pm and other than a couple of short quiet times, they’re constantly on the go, eating, drinking, digging, scratching, fluttering, perching, playing, all the while chattering non-stop.
Here they are eating. We give them non-medicated chick feed which we lacto-ferment. For more on lacto-fermentation of chicken feed, see here. It doesn’t look very appetizing, but it doesn’t smell bad. It smells just like sauerkraut, the real kind that’s made with just cabbage, salt and water. I find using the traditional chicken waterer to give them fermented feed is better than using a big dish, otherwise they like to hop right in and get all wet.
Here they are basking in the sun and playing with a piece of sod. I also dig up whole dandelions for them and they love to scratch and peck at them too.
You can see the chicken nipple waterer we use in this picture. It keeps the water clean and the bedding dry. We also add a bit of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the mother in their water. For the first week, I also put some organic, unpasteurized honey in the water as well.
Here’s a little video of the chicks scratching at the sod and bedding. We use the deep litter method and with 22 chicks in the house, it doesn’t stink! Once in a while you get a whiff of something, but then I just go and aerate the bedding with a garden trowel and add more pine shavings. Plus the chicks are really good at digging and fluffing up the bedding themselves. Now the brooder may not smell like poop, but there is a slight sweet musty smell that’s not unpleasant. The bedding is probably about 5-6 inches deep now.
And here’s a video of them taking a short afternoon siesta. I have come to treasure these short quiet times. We use Brinsea’s EcoGlow 50 instead of a lightbulb to warm the chicks. It’s like a mother hen. If they need warmth they huddle underneath it, but I have to say, the chicks spend the majority of the day running around eating and scratching. The room temperature averages around 21C or 70F and they seem very comfortable and active. It also provides a more natural day/night rhythm instead of having a light on them 24/7. The only downside to the EcoGlow is that the chicks love to perch on top of it and make a poopy mess.
As for naming them, I simply call them all “Chickie Pie”. Except for one Columbian who likes to hop onto my hand and roost on my arm. I call him/her “my darlin”, I don’t know if I’ll be able to eat that one.
I’ll end with this little speckled Sussex, all tuckered out from a very busy morning.
Ok here goes!
Winter Vegetable Garden
Ummm, so I think the last time we really picked any veggies from our winter garden was on New Year’s Eve when the husband cooked an amazing meal for us. There was duck and poached pears involved, among other deliciousness. But we really didn’t shower it with the love and attention it deserved. I think we might have cracked the window covers on the green house boxes once on a sunny day, and cleaned the snow off them once. Also, the husband reported back around January that some moles or voles have been digging under the green house boxes to get at our Endive and our Merveilles de Quatre Saisons (fancy heritage French lettuce). Apparently the little fuzz balls have expensive taste. You can see what the winter vegetable garden looked like in November here. Anyways, pretty much the only one that’s barely hanging on is the frilly kale, everything else has disappeared, leaving behind them nice clean patches of soil. We also experimented with whether we could store carrots in the ground over the winter…we could not, they turned to mush. Perhaps if we had a constant snow cover and did not have so many feeze/thaw cycles it would have worked. But the parsnips seemed to have stored better in the ground, the husband harvested quite a few on Monday.
Hopefully by the end of April we’ll be driving to the mainland to pick up our chicks. I had requested 12 black Australorps and 12 speckled Sussex, but it looks like the speckled Sussex won’t work out and we’ll be picking 12 of whatever else the breeder has hatched at the time. We’re aiming for standard bred, dual purpose heritage chickens that’ll be a pleasure to raise on our homestead, and a pleasure to eat. We’ll have to wait around 5 months to taste our first home-raised chicken and 6 months for eggs. We have spent months researching and preparing, and we’re excited!
We boiled down the last bit of sap we collected a week ago and pulled out the taps. I thought to myself, it’s a good thing it’s still cold outside and we need the heat in the house anyways, but for two days it was over 26C in the livingroom and it was hot!
I never understood why new years start in the winter. For a farmer wannabe, the new year starts when you see your first crocus. But I suppose that doesn’t really work for southern farmers who don’t get to experience all 4 seasons. And for those who know me, yes, I do have some reservations about the upcoming season of black flies, mosquitoes, horseflies, june bugs, earwigs and wasps. Here’s to hoping no wasps inside the house this year, and no black flying beetles that buzz and float into the washroom as I’m sitting on the throne.
Some of the garlic we planted in the fall have sprouted! Did I mention that we’re supposed to get 10-15cm of snow tonight and tomorrow and that I’m a bit worried for them?!
Well I think that’s about it. It has been a quiet winter, yet dotted with some life changing events, the sudden death of a young friend, and some health issues in the family. But in the midst of it all, we could still see how good Jesus is, and we’re so thankful, and we’re filled with hope.
After our two-week whirlwind trip back to my homeland Taiwan, 40 hours of total travelling time back to Canada, and one week of recuperating from jet lag, I’m finally feeling slightly more normal. We had a wonderful time visiting family and sightseeing, and even learned a little bit about farming in Taiwan.
During our trip down the east coast of the island, we ate at this little traditional family restaurant by the road. We learned that all the vegetables we had for supper were grown right behind the restaurant, so after we stuffed ourselves, we went out back and toured the owner’s vegetable garden. The setting was beautiful, nestled among the vast fields of rice paddies with layers of mountains and clouds in the backdrop. He was so gracious and humble about his garden as he showed us around and answered our many questions. He talked about how he tries his best to not use any chemical pesticides and fertilizers, how he ran out of room on the ground for his squash so he had to move them onto the trellis, and his large variety of crops.
What struck me most was that although there may be all sorts of cultural differences between us and this man, when you start talking about growing vegetables in your backyard, those differences disappear.
This is a field of bananas and pineapples further down the east coast.
A young pineapple.
These are Bananas wrapped up in bags. Someone told me that to reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides, bananas, among other fruits in Taiwan are wrapped up by hand, which is partly why organic produce cost more than the conventional ones.
A tea farm. There are tea leaf picking machines, but if you want to enter national and international competitions, you must pick and select the individual leaves by hand.
This is the best picture we have of rice paddies, taken from a moving train. We were told that the rice grown on the east coast of the island is better than the west coast since the east has very little industry and factories, and the water the rice is grown in comes straight from the Central Mountain Range .
After enjoying the warm temperatures of Taiwan for two weeks (27C), we came back to 0C and blustery winds. We also found out that while we were away, a flock of Canada geese has moved in onto our field! I hear geese manure is good for pasture, and they have been so entertaining to watch.
23 more days until the official start of spring! The weather here for the past few days has been beautiful. Clear blue skies, with night time temperatures below 0C and day time temperatures around 7C, perfect for collecting sugar maple sap.
After the husband washed all the buckets, taps and hoses, out we go, traipsing through the snowy fields and into the woods. This year we’re tapping 4 of the larger sugar maples. There are many more, but they’re still too small to tap. The husband knows these woods so well, he knew exactly which trees we were tapping and where they were. It seems so natural to him, but to a city girl, or a new country girl, it just baffles me because everywhere I go in the woods, it all looks the same to me!
Anyways here’s the husband using a brace and bit to drill a hole for the tap or spigot.
Here’s the tap inserted into the sugar maple.
For the larger trees like this one, we can safely put in 3 taps.
Hopefully soon I’ll have pictures for you of the sap we’ve collected, and the boiling process.