Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Chicks Are Here!

Our new chicks arrived today!  We picked them up at the post office early this afternoon.  I wasn't expecting them until Wednesday or Thursday of this week, but today worked out well because our oldest, C., was home sick. (Probably more like a mental health day, but she complained of tummy issues.  Nothing a delivery of new chicks can't fix!)

But first let's back up a bit and talk about preparations.
This weekend I had my two younger assistants wash out the waterer (above, in two parts) and the chick feeder, which is a metal base that screws onto a quart jar.  I also got out our clip-on lamp with a 100W light bulb (not fluorescent, you want the heat).  We also have on hand a 25 pound bag of food, specifically, medicated chick grower mash (meaning powdery, like corn meal).

Late last week I went to Home Depot and asked the nice greeter there for a BIG box (holding my arms out wide).  He directed me to the moving box department, and I said, "No, bigger, like what a grill comes in."  When he gave me a funny look I had to 'fess up and divulge what I wanted to do with such a big box.  He shrugged when I told him I wanted to start chicks in it.  He's probably heard lots of strange things to do with boxes, this being on the tamer side.  I think it helped my cause that I had my cute youngest assistant with me.  The nice gentleman in receiving hooked me up with a box that is probably 5 feet by two feet and two feet tall with nice flaps.  It is a little narrow, but it will do, especially since it was free!

I taped the bottom up with packing tape and lined the floor of the box with newspapers.  Extra points if you can find a photo of your favorite politician to line the box!  For the first few days we put down a layer of paper towels, because the newspaper can be a little rough for the little chickies' feet.

What you don't hear from these photos is the little "peep-peep-peep" emanating from the box.  It makes you smile.

There are five chicks in this delivery, one is hiding in the back.  The white packs in the front are little heat packs.  Day-old chicks can be shipped in the mail because for the first day or so they live off their yolk sac that they ingest right before they hatch.  These ladies must have hatched out late Sunday and early Monday, checked to make sure they're females (I ordered all females) and popped into the box for overnight delivery.  They just need to be kept warm, and the more the merrier in the box.  Meyer Hatchery, where we got this order, has a minimum order of 3 chicks, and many hatcheries are catering to backyard flocks by facilitating small orders like this.  Murray McMurray Hatchery, where Martha Stewart gets her chicks, has a minimum order of 25.  That's a lot of eggs.  By the way, you don't need a rooster if you want eggs.  If you want chicks, you need a rooster!

All loaded into their new home!  When I first put them in, I dip their beaks into the water so they know where it is.  We got 5 different varieties this time.  It is so hard to choose!  From the top going clockwise, the light yellow chick is a Buff Orpington, the reddish tan one is a Rhode Island Red, the next darker tan is a Partridge Rock, the black one is a Barred Rock (like our first batch in 2007), and the tan striped one is a Ameraucana.  They all lay brown eggs except the Ameraucana, which lays tinted blue, greenish and brown eggs.  They are all supposed to be hardy for our climate and good layers at about 4-6 eggs per week each when they reach egg-laying age at about 5 months.

They found the food pretty quickly and dove in, sometimes literally!  I put some chicken vitamins in the water for the first few days, which is why it looks like Mountain Dew in these photos.  I had to reintroduce them to the water after they found the food, and they caught on to drinking quickly.  Soon the paper towels showed evidence of a working digestive system, a good sign.  It's all very cute now but it gets a little messy for a cardboard box in a few weeks.

Hey chickie!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Awakening

Finally! Some decent spring weather.  The snow has melted (the second snowiest on record in Connecticut this year), and today was the day to get outside and start digging in the dirt.  The four raised bed boxes next to the garage we put in a few years ago, and John "refreshed" them with two tractor-scoops of -ahem- rotted manure we had delivered in the driveway last week.  It was my job today to spread it around to all the boxes. 

 Peter's scarecrow that got 2nd place at the Durham Fair last September kept watch all winter and served as a snow gauge.  At one point his head was buried. 

I'm coooold!
These boxes on the other side of the driveway get lots of sun and usually the tomatoes go here, hence the cages. Finding sunny spots on our property that aren't in the middle of the yard has been surprisingly difficult. But it's a little chilly to plant tomatoes today, so we'll return to this spot later.

So while doing the grocery shopping today I picked up a lovely package of snow peas.  Mmmm.  However, they were something like $5 for 1/2 pound and had come all the way from Guatemala.  Ack!  I can wait for snow peas, so I picked up this package of seeds in the floral department.  The package says I have to wait 68 days.  Early June maybe?  (Like my new gloves?  John ran over my old ones last fall with the mower on the tractor.  Oops.)

In they went, down the line, with a piece of cattle fencing propped against the garage wall for them to climb up.
And look at this!  The garlic I planted last fall survived, doing its thing under all that snow.  I've never planted garlic before, so this is an experiment.  So far, so good.

The last box is the herb box.  Chives, tarragon and oregano are coming up.  There's room for some other things, maybe dill, parsley and what else? The small kitchen garden is my area.  I enjoy having it close to the house so I can run out and pick some veggies for dinner.

John, on the other hand, has had bigger plans.  And of course it involves power tools and a tractor.  And burning stuff.  Last year he cleared some trees on the top of our hill and made the garden behind him here.  We planted pumpkins and gourds last year, which worked well because the vines could spread all over, didn't need irrigation or much attention, and in the fall we had a great harvest:
But despite taking down several trees, the remaining ones made it a little shady.  So over the past few weekends he took down some more trees and made more garden:
Last year's garden has the rows going straight back.  This year's garden addition has rows perpendicular and behind the stakes back there.  I think he doubled the size of last year's. The dirt pile on the right is the remainder of the cow manure pile that was in the driveway last week.  He only put the "good dirt" in the rows where we'll plant stuff, not between the rows where we'll walk.  I've seen a few ideas of what he's going to plant here, and he's bought some seeds, but I'm not sure of the master plan.  There are some raspberries planted in a row left of center, and on the far left I planted about 25 feet of potatoes last week.  Too early?  I hope not.

I was all set to plant the 5 pounds of Red Norland seed potatoes in one of the big garden's 50 foot rows, until I read the directions and realized that they should be cut up into smaller pieces and let the cut pieces dry a few days.  So, planting will be another day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


New design. New projects to document. It's time to dust this thing off and restart. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Smile (Mostly) During the Holiday Rush

It's been crazy around here in advance of Christmas. I hope everyone else is keeping their head on. It's snowing here-- 8 to 10 inches expected -- and my husband is flying back from a week in California today. Right now I think he's sitting on a runway in Houston. Yippee.

Anyway, here is an out-take from our Christmas card photos. This almost made the card, but we decided to go with something a little more traditional.

formatting courtesy of Despair.com

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008: A Somewhat Local Feast

I didn't realize I was so on the cutting edge, but this Thanksgiving I decided to try a heritage breed turkey for Thanksgiving, and when visiting the City Seed Farmer's Market in New Haven in October, I jumped at the chance to order a local turkey from Northfordy Farm in Northford, CT. Peter the farmer said his turkeys were Narragansett. Perfect!

Then, City Seed's weekly email highlighted a recent article in the New York Times about Connecticut eaters flocking to local food sources, especially for Thanksgiving turkeys. I'm glad I got my order in early! Read the article here. (It even lists a farm stand on Daniels Farm Road, the road where my grandfather grew up in Trumbull, CT. The road is all housing developments now, but apparently there's still some farmland. I'll have to check it out soon.)

Last year I ordered a turkey from Gozzi's in Guilford, and their birds are the standard white breed. I didn't notice much difference in taste from a supermarket turkey, but I did take comfort in knowing where my food came from.

Last year's recipe involved brining the bird for a day ahead of time. It was very good, but very involved. First, a turkey wing poked a hole in the brining bag, so I had salty spiced iced water dripping into the cooler I had decided to put the large bird in. Fortunately I had the foresight to figure that a bag with a turkey and a few gallons of salty water would not fit on the bottom shelf of the fridge. But I worried about keeping the turkey cold enough in the cooler in the garage when the outside temperature wasn't very cold. That was last year.

This year, I went with a simpler recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. We picked the 17 pound turkey up on Wednesday, so brining was out of the question. The mustard and brown sugar glazed turkey was moist and delicious!

The heritage breed tasted "turkier" than supermarket turkey--the white meat wasn't as white and the dark meat was pretty dark, but not gamey.

Not everything was local, but we tried:

Pleasant Cow Cheese, Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm, Lyme, CT
Goat Cheese, Northfordy Farm, Northford, CT
Heritage Breed Turkey, Northfordy Farm, Northford, CT
Potatoes, Maine
Apples for homemade apple pie, Lyman Orchards
Rhubarb for homemade rhubarb pie, Olde Gate Farm, Wallingford, CT

We didn't have a big group this year, just my husband's parents and brother, but it was a lovely and relaxing day.

I think a good meal was had by all, from oldest to youngest.

And by 6pm, the guests had left, the dishes were mostly done, and the beginnings of turkey soup were simmering on the stove.

And by the way, the turkey enchiladas we had tonight (with another batch in the freezer for another dinner) were a good way to sneak the leftovers upon those who protest, "Oh yuck! Not turkey AGAIN!!"

How was your Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And Then There Were 4

A hawk got another chicken this morning. I saw it alight on a maple tree branch at about 10 am (and its legs had a pinkish hue), looked at the chicken coop and there were lots of feathers outside the enclosed coop area. There were feathers inside the coop, too, so I think the hawk went in the coop, dragged out the chicken and had a snack. A hawk leaves most of the body alone, preferring the neck.

We've gone 18 months with 6 chickens, but now our neighborhood raptor has learned where and how to snack on them. Our 4 remaining chickens will spend their days in the covered coop for a while. I'm researching baffles and other types of hawk protection. Bummer

Friday, November 14, 2008

And Then There Were 5

Sad news to report--on Thursday morning when Charlotte went to open the chickens, she found one dead under the house part of the coop. This was "Baldy" so named because she was at the bottom of the pecking order and had a bald head from being picked on.

We're not sure what happened. Maybe it was a hawk, or maybe her friends ganged up on her, or maybe she was sick. I was filling their feed hopper on Wednesday afternoon at about 3pm and didn't notice anything unusual, so I was as surprised as Charlotte to see one dead Thursday morning.

Sad, but as our wise blogging friends over at Sugar Creek Farm remind us, "If you're going to have livestock, you're also going to have dead stock."