The chicks are here!!!!!

Gene’s lucky I only got 8

This time of year is even better than Christmas – all the feed stores are getting their chicks in stock!!! Gene and I agreed that six was a good number, but once I actually gazed upon their cuteness I decided I couldn’t possibly take home less than eight. I got a Wellsummer, a Barred Rock, three Cuckoo Marans and three Silver Laced Wynadottes. I love having a full brooding box again! It looked (and sounded) so sad and empty sitting there unoccupied in the garage. The feed store employee said there’s a 10% chance some of the girls will turn out to be boys, so I hope this batch is more statistically accurate than the batch of four fancy breed chicks we got last year. We were promised they were 75% female, but we ended up with Sean Paul, Marley, and Puff Daddy, and only one Fluff Mama. My next date to look forward to is March 21st – that’s when the ducklings and quails come in! That also means Gene’s got less than a month to build the Quail Sanctuary and the duck’s secure sleeping area. Not that they’ll be ready to leave the brooding box before April, but I like to plan ahead, which is easy given I’m not doing any of the actual work.

Princess Fiona and Jack

In other exciting news our neighbor brought over her two boy goats, a La Mancha named Jack and a pygmy goat named Sam, for a play date. We’re hoping it turns into an actual date for Sam and little Princess Buttercup so I can have baby goats in June! Ironically Sam seems to be quite taken with Princess Fiona, who is like 20 times his size. All four of them are having a grand old time romping around the pasture, and Buttercup is finally warming up to Sam. The two boys are going to stay the weekend, so hopefully by Monday the magic will happen. 

Feeding time has proven particularly interesting with four goats – normally Fiona and Buttercup don’t eat a ton of the orchard grass I put in their feeder, but once they realized Sam and Jack loved it, all four embarked in a straight up eating contest. Fiona had so much orchard grass crammed in her mouth she couldn’t even chew it, and Jack buried his head in the feeder so no one else could get any. Fiona finally got sick of Jack both figuratively and literally hogging the feeder, so she head-butted him halfway across the pen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to do that while in line at a buffet so seeing it actually happen was rather gratifying.

Thanksgiving, contemplating dark thoughts

Against all odds, Thanksgiving is still alive and well. He’s actually lost a bit of weight so he can get around a little better, but anyone looking at him still exclaim, “Wow, that’s a lot of turkey!” He has absolutely perfected the art of mean mugging, and he doesn’t always want to come out of his pen, particularly if it’s raining or muddy outside. Today was one of those days where he was perfectly content to keep his food bowl company, but unfortunately for me his water dispenser was empty. Changing out the water dispenser is tricky, even when Thanksgiving hasn’t plunked his fat butt in front of it. It weighs about thirty pounds full, and since I’m still one-handed, opening and filling it is enough of a challenge without also having to navigate it around fifty pounds of grumpy turkey. Like any other predator, he can smell my fear, and he never fails to slowly sidle over to block the doorway when my back is turned and my attention is occupied with the dispenser. So when I turn around, I realize I’m forced to gingerly step over him to get out of the pen, all the while internally chanting, “please don’t take out a knee cap with your ginormous beak” over and over again. Getting the water dispenser back inside the pen is a similar ordeal, only what I’m carrying is heavier. It’s only a matter of time before I start having nightmares about waking up and seeing him perched at the foot of the bed.

Best Valentine’s Day ever!

For Valentine’s Day Gene got me the best gift ever — a huge indoor/outdoor pop-up plastic greenhouse! Naturally he set it up in our backroom so I can start sprouting all the plant starts I’m going to sell at the Farmer’s Market. It sits over the heating vent so the seedlings will stay warm and have a slight breeze, and most importantly the plastic walls keep hungry kitties out. We are going to build shelves for it and get a hanging light as well; I’m really excited! On a somewhat related note, for those of you who are local and want to buy plant starts, let me know if you have any special requests ( Otherwise check back soon for the availability list!
In other plant starting news Gene also built me a cold frame to harden off all the seedlings. He’s almost done with it, he just has to finish the walls. The back of it is lined with gravel and water filled PVC pipes to help retain heat. I’ve been keeping Gene busy with my incessant requests for new construction projects. He is going to build me a secure sleeping area for the ducks, and he’s also working on a plan to expand the chicken mansion. He already built raised hay storage that runs across the top of the goats’ bedroom; next he will cut a portion out of the back wall and add an extension. With all those projects I’m not sure when he’ll get to the Quail Sanctuary.
I figure he’s got at least a month before the feed stores get in their game birds. I’m going to get some silver-laced Wynadotte chicks next week, but they’ll live in the now-empty brooding box for at least two months.

I haven’t been able to help with the construction projects at all since I’m back down to just one hand for a few weeks. Oddly enough Gene seems to work faster without my input, but I’m sure he misses my supervisory skills. For now I spend most of the day sitting outside with the critters if it’s nice out; I have mastered the art of one-handed photography. The only real challenge I’ve had so far is herding the pesky goats; they outgrew their collars and I kept forgetting to replace them so when Fiona escaped the pasture yesterday hilarity ensued. A fence fell on the gate during the storm, and since then it hasn’t latched properly. She finally figured out how to open it, which I noticed just as I saw her butt disappearing into the chicken coop. Luckily for me she was wholly unprepared for the sheer volume of indignant squawking, and she came barreling back out thirty seconds later. I finally got her back by the gate by luring her with Wheat Thins, but she didn’t want to walk through the mud puddle at the entrance again. The more I pushed her, the higher up in the air her butt went; “You can push me up but you can’t push me forward” is one of her favorite games. She’s also smart enough to only play it when I have an arm in a cast.

I do enjoy the excuse to stay home and spend two weeks of dedicated chicken-watching though. Fluff Mama and Christmas have developed a friendship; they don’t cuddle or anything but Christmas doesn’t actively hunt and try to eat her when she wanders into their pasture. That makes them practically besties. Puff Daddy and the new Golden Sex Link chickens are doing well too; I think he will eventually become the rooster for their flock. They still haven’t ventured outside the coop, but seem happy enough inside. Apparently they’re a touch agoraphobic…I’ll add chicken valium to my list of things I need to invent.

I love Spring! Even when it’s fake!

It’s hard to believe that a mere week ago we had snow on the ground and ice covering everything else. Sure, everything is coated with frost in the morning and when I wake up it’s only 30 degrees, but for the last two days it’s been sunny and fifty degrees in the afternoon! After last week’s craptacular weather, I almost put on shorts today. The farm critters have been ecstatic – everyone was taking naps in the sun beams. I’m sure next week will be back to the normal rainy and miserable, but for now we’re all basking in the sun here at the farm.

Today was a day of many firsts – Fluff Mama laid her first egg, which was cream colored and tiny. The Golden Sex Link chickens spent their first night in the big coop with all the chickens, which appeared to be so traumatic for them that I think I will make millions by inventing chicken Valium.  I guess I can’t blame them for being scared, since up until now their entire world has consisted of a heat lamp and four boring walls. I expected them to be excited to experience the real world, not to cram themselves into a corner and try to hide from it. By the end of the day they were eating and drinking, and even doing a little bit of mingling, although they looked like the most awkward cocktail party guests ever.

Princesses Buttercup and Fiona got their first pedicures today; it was my first real attempt at hoof trimming. It went exactly like I expected it to go. There was lots of chasing, lots of swearing, and lots of narrowly avoided rear kicks, which culminated in me calling my neighbor, who actually knows how to do it.  I provided the Wheat Thin bribes, and she held them steady for me while I administered the trimming. (On a separate note, I’m directing a very obscene gesture toward the lady on YouTube who made the procedure look incredibly easy. She must have made millions off of her goat Valium.)

In other news, the mini-greenhouse I imported from Italy is amazing. After many days of careful deliberation, I chose seeds, planted them, then made up a seating chart. I moved the greenhouse into the backroom, and totally forgot to move the chart with it. On the plus side, I planted beans, which is the one seedling I can identify the moment it sprouts (mostly because it pushes the bean-shaped shell up out of the ground). Four of the eight rows of seeds sprouted within days!!! When I take the cover off, I get a whiff of the Tuscan countryside. Now I just need to order like fifty more mini-greenhouses, and my plan to sell plant starts at the Farmer’s Market in May will be off and running. 

I let Harvey and Claire have some quality time this morning, in order to implement my plan to sell baby bunnies at the Farmer’s Market, right next to my plant starts. If cute fuzzy baby bunnies can’t draw customers into my stall, I don’t know what else will. From what I could tell, mostly all that happened was Harvey chased Claire around the bunny pen and succeeded only in pissing her off mightily, which I expect is similar to dating in the real world. She got so huffy that she went and sulked in her nesting box. Her expression was so vexed-looking that I offered her a lettuce treat by holding it in front of her. Do you all remember that scene from Star Wars where the monster worm erupted out of the asteroid and tried to swallow the Millennium Falcon? Ya, her reaction was like that, but my hand was the space ship. I literally saw the entire thing in slow motion, including the part where she roared and grew fangs. In the future I’ll stick to just putting the treats in her food bowl.