Resilient Chickens

chicken-coop-on-a-bitter-cold-night

We are starting out the year 2017 with an Artic blast, according to the weatherman. He really would not have had to tell us this fact. A couple steps out of the door this morning and it was very apparent that it was beyond cold outside.

The radio kept telling me all day that is was -2º outside today. I have no idea if we made it above zero because I quit listening, turned some music on and did some baking. I avoided going outside unless it was absolutely necessary. Even my husband did not linger long outdoors today…..then you know it’s cold!

It was necessary to go outdoors again late afternoon to feed the girls and make sure they had all gotten safely back into the coop for the night. The last couple nights I have two birds that do not seem to want to go in for the night. I have to head out, flashlight in hand and go looking for them.

As I was crossing the yard, searching for the two renegade girls, it occurred to me that the birds who live in this part of the country are amazingly resilient.  They have to deal with hot humid weather in the summer and numbing cold in the winter. (I would say finger-numbing cold; but they don’t have fingers and for some reason their scaly little feet don’t seem to be bothered by the cold.)

The chicken coop that my girls sleep in every night, reminds me of their resilience. It is not insulated and is cold during the winter. I am always glad for the sunny winter days that give a little solar heat through the south-facing windows.

Chickens are really pretty smart. (Even with a walnut sized brain.) They have learned the lesson that they can rely on each other to get through cold dark times. It might just be instinct; but when I see them huddled close together on their roost at night I think there is a lesson in there somewhere for all of us.

The cold weather also brings challenges in how to best care for the girls. For years we struggled with how to keep the water thawed in their waterer. I finally turned to Pinterest to see if I could find any good ideas…..I did!

I showed the idea to my husband and he put one together for me last year. (He’s good like that.) I now  have a do-it-yourself heated chicken waterer .  For those of you who own chickens and live in areas that have freezing temperatures you may want to give this a try. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/11/make-cookie-tin-waterer-heater-under-10.html

It always amazes me to realize how many life lessons I can learn if I just open my eyes to the things around me. I have found there is a lot to be learned from chickens. Some of it funny and some of it serious.

Watching my little flock stay warm on a cold winter night has taught me that it is good to rely on those around you. Trying to do life alone is way harder than it has to be……especially when there are others around you just waiting to bless you and be blessed by you.

 

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)

 

 

 

Garage Doors, Woodchucks & Life Lessons

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My husband and I have been attempting to install a garage door these last two days. I am quite proud of the fact that so far it is going quite well and we hope to have it accomplished by tomorrow night. (I realize that a professional would be laughing their backsides off right now over the fact that it is taking us this long.)

These are probably “vintage” garage doors. We purchased two of them over 5 years ago and they have both been neatly stored in the machine shed, waiting for the day we got brave enough to try install them. This week IS the week when we are learning garage door installation as we are putting one of them in. Thank heaven for google and the instructions you can find there.  They do give you an instruction booklet with your garage door kit; but there are not nearly enough pictures and diagrams…..

Getting the doors on the garage, is one of the milestones in our home improvement project. Another milestone, in the garage construction, was laying a cement floor a few years back.  Before that it was a very powdery, uneven dirt floor. It is unreal how dusty your back hallway can get from all that fine powdery dirt when it is hauled in on the bottom of your shoes.

Chuck

While we were still in the dirt floor phase we had a resident
groundhog/woodchuck make our garage his home. We aptly named him “Chuck”. (It could be we also lacked imagination in the name game.)
Chuck had holes dug everywhere in our garage and they all led to his underground home. During that
particular winter he was probably the warmest,hibernating groundhog ever.

He lived in our garage during a previous presidential election season. I found it kind of funny that he decided to line his home with the plastic from the candidate signs that were stored in our garage after that election. I wonder what Chuck would do with the signs from this years’ candidates? I think underground might be the best place for these particular candidates’ signs! He was probably a woodchuck who was way ahead of his time when it comes to discernment during election season.

There are times I think it would be handy to be like Chuck. When it gets below zero in the wintertime I think hibernating would be a fine thing to do. Below zero weather is so over-rated and to sleep through the coldest, snowiest months would not be all bad. I don’t think I would like missing the holidays though; so…… maybe not such a great time to be asleep? Hmmmmmm, I will have to think on that one a bit more.

I do know I will enjoy the garage doors once they are on and operational. The wild critters that have used our garage as a home through the years might not like it; but I will not miss all the chicken feathers (and other chicken “stuff”), the bits of twigs from birds nesting in the rafters, wild critters roaming in and out, and other bits and pieces from the outdoors blowing around in our garage.

I have the feeling that once those doors are on we are going to sit back and wonder why we waited so long. Sometimes life, things and projects can look so intimidating until you actually get started on them. Sometimes I think we just need to open the box, take out the parts, read the manual and get to it.

I am pretty sure Chuck never gave a thought to failure when he decided, those many years ago, to make our garage his winter home. He did not worry about being chased out or if he was welcome. He just came on in and did what he needed to do.

I may have to re-read this post the next time an intimidating project lays too long in the back of the shed. I may have to think like Chuck and just come on in.  I may have to remind myself to “just get to it” the next time life seems overwhelming or just to hard to even get started. I wonder if I am the only one who ever feels this way……I suspect I am not.

 

“We must be willing to fall flat on our faces. Fearlessly putting ourselves out there is simply a required part of the process. At the very least, it results in the gift of humility and, at best, the triumph of our human spirit.”
Jill Badonsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The County Fair

chicken-grandma-at-the-fair

The Chicken Grandma Goes to the Fair.

 

There is a county in our area that has the most amazing county fair. The famous Clay County Fair (or as we used to call it the Spencer Fair – is located in the town of Spencer) is one of the  biggest county fairs I know of.

My husband and I decided we would attend yesterday as it was not raining. It was cold but we decided wearing a coat was better than using an umbrella to stay dry. It was also better than some years when it is so hot you just sit and bake in the sun. At least when it is cold and windy you can add more clothes…..when it is hot there is only so much you can take off before you either scare people or get arrested.

Every day at this county fair they have a special gate admission for various groups.  The day we went was a discount for senior citizens. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) we do not yet qualify for this discount.  The only concern we had was would there be enough benches for us to rest on when we wanted to sit down? Senior day tends to see the benches with lots of white haired (or no haired) people utilizing them.

We found seating was not such a problem this year as a lot of the seniors rented scooters or rode around on golf carts. After walking around the entire day those scooters and carts looked really, really good!

We spent the day wandering the grounds looking at farm machinery, antiques, tractors, and classic cars. Those are my husbands favorite categories. I love to go in the buildings that have the displays of hand-made quilts, cards, scrapbook pages, canned goods, etc.

It was also fun to taste the samples of the products the vendors were trying to sell. There was a booth that had the most amazing fried bacon Wisconsin cheese. I wanted to buy some till I saw the price. I am a little to tight to pay that much for a small square of cheese.

I love to watch the salesmen trying to sell the gadgets and gizmos.  I do have to restrain myself from purchasing these gadgets and gizmos because how many of them do I really need? At least that is what I keep telling myself; as the man is slicing and dicing vegetables and telling me every reason that I should possess that gadget…..and he has some really good reasons.

A day at the fair is not complete without purchasing a 1/2 pound pork tenderloin sandwich basket for our meal. My husband and I usually share a basket because that is a lot of food and we need to save room for important food like nutty bars and/or Tom Thumb donuts.

The Poultry Building is also a big draw for me…….I guess I would not be the Chicken Grandma if I did not like chickens?  My husband just laughed and wondered if I really needed to see them when I could look at chickens any time I want to. I just told him these were different chickens and went on to have a little conversation with someone else’s girls. They were all very attentive when I spoke with them.

One of our favorite buildings is the second oldest one on the fairgrounds…..the Agriculture building. They are going to be taking it down as it is no longer up to code. This made us sad as we like the old buildings and this one always had the farm produce, home-made wines,  4-H exhibits and the mammoth pumpkins.

 

Maybe it made us sad because we really don’t like to see change. There is a comfort in the familiar. There is a comfort in things remaining constant. It is not always possible to keep things as they were; but knowing that fact does not make change any easier to do.

I have a feeling that the older I get, the less I will like change. I totally agree with the old adage, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  Unfortunately the Agriculture building is “broke”. I will get over it (even though I am not sure I want to) eventually.

There is nothing permanent except change.
Heraclitus

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Chicken Bocce Ball?

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Some of my kids were home this past weekend.  It was a great weekend for them to be here. The weather was perfect…..in the 70’s for temperatures and hardly any humidity.

We decided, after Sunday dinner, that we should haul out the Bocce ball set and play a game.  I use the term “play a game” rather loosely as I am not totally sure what scoring is needed to make it an official game of Bocce ball. I was just thrilled to finally use the Bocce ball set that I had purchased at the Goodwill Store for ten bucks!

After playing a couple rounds; my middle son tactfully suggested that perhaps we should have mowed the lawn. We assured him that this just made for a higher level of skill in the game. We also did find out that our lawn is not smooth. (This was really no surprise.)

It took a lot of skill to get the balls anywhere near the little white ball that was our target. About the time we thought we were close we would discover we had been aiming for a blooming white clover. And when we could actually see the little white ball it was on a mound and whenever you got near to it; your ball would just roll on by and pick up speed as it hit the back side of the mound.

My husband did the honors of flinging the little white ball. (He may or may not have a sadistic streak as he usually tried to get it perched on a mound or some other difficult location.) I have since googled Bocce Ball and discovered the little white ball does have an official name — pallino.  I have a feeling we will just continue calling it the “little white ball”.

We also discovered that when you toss that white ball, most of the chickens that roam around here took off after it like it was the last thing they would get to eat in their lifetime.  This made it pretty difficult to throw our colored balls toward the white one.

The kids were worried about hitting one of the girls. My husband cavalierly assured them if they did we would have soup. (I do think he likes the girls more than he lets on!)  I assured the kids that if they rolled the ball instead of throwing it; the chickens would jump out of the way…..which they did….with a lot of wing-flapping and squawking.

Food.JPG

I have no idea what the girls were thinking when they chased down those balls.  Were they thinking it was food rolling by?  Were they wondering if one of them had been an over achiever in the egg laying department? It does make me curious what goes on in that walnut sized brain of theirs.

Eventually they (the chickens) tired of chasing the balls all over the yard and went back to chasing bugs.  This made it a lot easier for us to finish the game. We only played till someone made it to 10….I have since discovered that 16 is the official number that means you have won the game.

It was a great way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon with the family. There was lots of laughter, good-natured ribbing, plenty of sarcasm and plain good fun. Sometimes it is the simple things in life that really are the best…..a good Sunday dinner, good conversation, and a rousing game of Bocce Ball complete with chickens.

I am happy to report that no chickens were harmed during the playing of that Bocce ball game. I cannot vouch for their mental state after that game but physically they are fine and today they seem to have forgotten all about the episode.

Play Bocce Ball
whenever you can.
It’s cheaper than meds!
Unknown

 

 

Tomatoes…..One of the Best Things About Summer

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I journeyed out to my garden today in search of the perfect tomato for a slice of toast. I did find one hanging, beautiful and rose colored, on the vines of one of the Brandywine plants.

There is really nothing better than a tomato, fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun, sliced, salted and put on a piece of hot buttered toast.  Unless it is a slice put on a burger hot off the grill. Or chunks of them in a wonderful lettuce salad…….

As you can tell I really, really like tomatoes. My husband does not share this passion. I cannot believe how misguided he is on this topic. If he does eat them he puts sugar on them! I keep telling him that sugar is for baking and putting on cereal. He is not convinced of that fact or the wonder of tomatoes.

After I had found my perfect tomato I could tell I needed to come back to get the weeds under control……again.  I also noted that everything in the garden looked like it needed a thorough watering. We have not been getting those timely rains the last while.

My tomato plants looked pretty droopy and sad. There are some days I know exactly how those plants felt…..wilted, dry and needing a little TLC.

I picked, weeded and watered those amazing plants today. It was hot, humid work and by the time I was done my husband told me I smelled like a tomato plant. I did not think that was such a bad thing but I am not totally sure that it was a compliment coming from him.

I have a five-gallon bucket half filled with these beautiful red and rose colored beauties. I usually plant Brandywine, Romas, and try one other variety each gardening year. This year my third variety was called Independence Day. It sounds amazingly patriotic but they are kind of a disappointment. They are not small enough to be a cherry tomato but not big enough to slice for sandwiches. On the upside……they are prolific.

I am debating if I have enough for a batch of pizza sauce, salsa or if I should just turn these into tomato juice. There are so many small ones that I am leaning towards the juice just to save my sanity. I like to use the Romas for the pizza sauce and salsa.  Fortunately I have till tomorrow to decide.

When I get down to making pizza sauce and salsa I will be sharing those recipes with you.  They are both family favorites and I usually can enough for us and the kids.

My girls also enjoy this season as they get all the cut off pieces of tomato.

The Girls Enjoying the Tomato Scraps

I still am not sure if I should be spelling the word tomato with or without an “e”.   The word looks fine to me either way. My sister, who as a child was dubbed “spell-check”, would probably not agree with me on that line of thought. I am quite sure the chickens would agree with me on this point.

So…..how do you prefer to eat your tomatoes?  Do you love them?  hate them? or just not really care?

 

It’s difficult to think
anything but pleasant thoughts
while eating a homegrown tomato.
Lewis Grizzard

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