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Settled In

February 1st, 2014

Tara has been here four months now and she finally seems like she’s at home. She’s happy as a clam watching over her ducks/chickens/guineas.
Tara 2
Our electric fences took a beating in the big ice storm so we took them down. Now she’s tethered or leashed to make sure she sticks around. She’s pretty good about staying close, but every now and then the urge to look for coyotes and foxes gets the best of her and she’ll head off into the woods.
Tara (1)
Almost every day I take her on a hike to look for coyotes and fox tracks, she has a blast. Every now and then she spooks the odd squirrel and really wants to chase it. Needless to say, I’m glad I’ve got biceps from gardening so I can keep hold of her leash.
Tara 1
All-in-all she’s doing a great job. She even helped us keep the flock safe from a fox last week. This spring we’re hoping to start installing welded wire and electric perimeter fences around the pasture. Then we’ll let her run freely in that area.

Isn’t she a lovely chiots?

The Daily Walk

January 22nd, 2014

Lately, I’ve been taking The Brown Chiots on a morning walk. We head down the driveway and then we come back up again, nothing too exciting, but it gives us a cleared place to walk. We have a longer driveway, around 1/3 of a mile in length. It’s downhill all the way down and uphill all the way back. This is the perfect walk for Lucy, especially the uphill part. It helps keep her old joints a little less stiff.
Lucy Walking 1
Lucy Walking 2
When we’re proactive about taking her on a short walk every day she definitely gets around much better.  Not to mention, she simply loves to be out and about. I also must say, it’s good for me as well!  Having her around makes me get out and walk, I probably wouldn’t be doing this in the morning if it weren’t for her.  It’s nice to breathe the crisp morning air, look for animals tracks through the woods and to watch the birds about their work.  I’d get physical exercise even if it wasn’t for this walk, but this walk is good for more than just my body!

Do you have a daily activity that’s physical to help keep you active?

Sad Chickens

January 15th, 2014

I must say, a molting chicken is not a beautiful thing. Some chickens molt a little more gracefully than others. I’ve had a few chickens and you can’t even tell when they molt, they must lose their feathers here and there and the new ones grow back quickly. Then there are other chickens, like Sandy, our poor Wyandotte lady.
molting chicken
This poor lady was in the thick of her molt when the weather was dipping down into the negative 20′s. Poor girl, she looked terrible, she hardly had a feather left on her. Luckily, by the time I took this photo her feathers were starting to grow back in. I almost brought her inside, but then I worried that would not be good for her. I did keep a close eye on her to make sure she wasn’t shivering. Lucky for her, she’s the favorite of Mr Rooster and has the prime roost spot right next to him. She snuggles up close to him every night, no doubt this helps keep her warm.
molting chicken (1)
I’m glad her feathers are finally growing back in. She’s the most beautiful chicken in our flock, I’d love to hatch some of her eggs this coming year.

Have you ever seen a chicken in molt?

Nothing Wasted

January 11th, 2014

I mentioned earlier this week that I was going through my seed stash and being ruthless about weeding out old seed.  Last year, I did a few experiments with seed for the same vegetable from differing years (seeds were from the same company).  The fresh seed germinated much quicker and the seedlings were much stronger and were more resistant to stress induced issues (like too much sun, not enough water, etc).  
new seedlings
After my experiments, I decided it was worth it to start each year with seed that is as fresh as possible.  Some seeds stay fresher longer than other, brassicas and tomatoes are among those, thus I’ll keep those seeds for a few years.  Onion seeds on the other hand really shouldn’t be saved from year to year.  I will no longer be pushing the dates for viability of seed, it’s just not worth my time to risk things not germinating or seedlings not thriving.  For a downloadable seed shelf life chart head on over to this post and download the PDF.
sprouts 2
The seeds could have been thrown in the compost pile, but I decided to sprout them for my chickens instead. Of course you could sprout them for yourself if you don’t have chickens. I knew these hard working ladies would appreciate some lovely green sprouts in the middle of the winter, they’re still laying so well, I decided to give the sprouts to them instead of eating them myself. They’ll give them back to me in the form of big, beautiful eggs.
sprouts 1
Sprouting seeds is as easy as can be, and you don’t need any special supplies. A glass jar and a piece of cheesecloth will do. Simply soak seeds for a few hours or overnight, drain out water and set jar upside down, tipped slightly in a bowl to drain excess water. Rinse several times a day when you remember, draining the water each time. Rinsing is important to keep mold away! In a few days sprouts will start to appear, when they are to your liking – enjoy!
What could be easier than that. This is also a good way to watch how seeds germinate and to monitor the different germination times with different vegetables.

What do you do with your old garden seed?

Neglected? I Think Not

January 9th, 2014

It seems everywhere you turn people are upset that some folks have outdoor animals. I’ve seen lots of name calling, confiscation of pets and even in some municipalities people are citing people for having outdoor pets. With proper shelter, warm bedding, water and extra feed, many animals do quite fine outside, even during the winter. We have outdoor animals, chickens, ducks, guineas, cats and even Tara spends most of her time outside. I can guarantee that they’re not being neglected, or abused, in fact they’re all happier for it, much, much happier!  These animals would be absolutely miserable if we tried to keep them inside to stay warm all winter.
animal feed 1
Tara is one happy dog when she’s out in the cold, in fact, she’s much happier the colder the weather gets.  She’s been getting extra bones and lots of the fatty pork trimmings we saved when we slaughtered our pigs. As you can see, she’s happy as a clam out in the cold munching on her goodies. The duck pond that has a stock tank heater in it is close at hand, which means she has delicious ducky water to drink (it’s her favorite kind, so much better than the fresh stuff in her heated dog bowl).
animal feed
The chickens, ducks, and guineas are also getting a nice warm meal before they roost up for the night. Remember all those potatoes I planted this past summer in the garden? I’ve been cooking them up on the wood stove and mixing them with fermented grains, dried herbs and a bit of lard as well for good measure.  Naturally, the fowl are tickled pink with these delicious meals and are rewarding me with loads of eggs.
animal feed 2
The Sweets, which is our little feral garage cat, is also spoiled rotten. We have a heated mat for her in the garage, but she refuses to sleep on it, even when the weather dips down to -20. She does however, relish the warm venison burger with added bacon grease. She gobbles it right up along with chicken necks and wings and anything else I take out to her. In the winter she eats about double what she does in the summer.  Her fur is so thick you can’t get your finger through it down to her skin, it’s amazing how velvety she gets during cold weather.  She also loves to hunt down by the sauna, no doubt there are load of mice down there.
The truth is most animals adapt very well, bringing them into a heated space during a cold snap actually does them more harm than good because it can cause loss of their warm winter coat. If you have stray animals around feel free to provide extra nutrient dense food for them and provide shelter with warm bedding, but please don’t try to put them in a heated space to keep them warm. And please, don’t assume those with outdoor animals are neglecting or abusing their pets, sure there are some people that are, but most are not.

Do you have any outdoor animals? How do you help them in cold weather?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.