You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2012.

Lots of pictures this week.  ‘Twas a busy week!

May 20 – Angel is my Dark Brahma.  David called her a designer chicken.  She is certainly the most intricately patterned of my chickens.  She is also the most tame and the one that consistently gets underfoot – to the point I have stepped on her toes a few times.

I made this sign to go on the garden gate.  It’s painted in glitter paint, so it really shines in the afternoon.  Chickens are no longer allowed in the garden.  I transplanted my strawberries and the chickens decided the freshly tilled earth made good dust bathing.  They tromped on, scratched up and flattened a third of the plants.  Fortunately, I had more to move, but that settled the chickens in the garden question.

May 21 – The very picture of a frustrated dog.  I was on the other side of the fence from her and not allowing her through.  First she went to gap in the fence that I had blocked with a stick because I discovered the chickens can fit through it.  Sadie cannot.  She grabbed the stick and chewed it, pulled it out of the ground.  Then she went to the gap in the gate and chewed on the zip ties and tried to fit through.  Sadie does not handle frustration well.

May 22 – Chick day, as noted in my previous post.  I finally figured out how to get much of the red out of a brooder picture (I use a red heat lamp in my brooders).  In Photoshop, under image>adjustments choose the Photo Filter option and use a green filter at about 50%.  There’s still a reddish tinge, but not the glowing red that the original picture has.  Originally I was going to brood the goslings with the chicks, at least until they got too big.  Then I read some more about geese and learned that they can live upwards of 30+ years!  I wanted them imprinting on me, not chickens, so I moved them to the house and became Mama Goose.  They are very sweet little creatures and I remain smitten.

How could I not?

David was home briefly today and showed me how to run the Roto-tiller.  We’re going to plant this whole back area, which was chicken yard.  It might be a little sandy – I’m not sure yet.  However, I was busy with babies and didn’t get around to doing any more.

May 23 – I don’t know if I posted a picture of the work David did on the mini coop.  It had been sitting on the ground and had developed some rot.  He cut all that out, put in new wood, tar paper,  and then sided three sides (not the front door part) with vinyl siding.  It looks completely different.  I think I may get some of the spray paint that adheres to plastics and paint it red, like it was.  Until then, it’s fine.  For now it’s the home of Baby Mama Chicken and her two charges.  The pen lets them be part of the flock without being subjected to any pecking or chasing.

May 24 – I went outside but didn’t offer any food to the chickens.  These ones followed me all the way back to the front door and waited a bit.  I sense disappointment.

May 25 – I drove up to Benzonia to deliver these fleece monsters to my friend Marcy.  She has a shop and a website.  Her shop always makes me feel at home because there’s so much creativity in it.  The monsters are so there will be something for the kids in her shop.  I had fun making them and she was delighted with them.

On my way home, I ran into this:

I don’t know any details, and haven’t been able to find anything on local websites.  This is one of those instances where I could have been more closely involved, but I had stopped minutes before to get something to drink at the mini mart 1/4 mile up the road.  It was on a bridge, so they weren’t moving traffic.   I called David to see if there was a way around this and he looked it up for me, directed me down some back roads and had me on my way.  As I was hanging up from he call, he said “Thanks for using On-Dave.”  Made me laugh.  An ambulance arrived a minute or so after this photo, and I passed the fire truck heading that way on the back road.

I really love it here.

May 26 – I found this contraption at the thrift store for $1.50.  It mixes and heats up cocoa, and more importantly, chai to a perfect temperature.  I have recently been treating myself to whole milk chai but kept ending up with that milk skin thing on top when I’d heat it on the stovetop or the microwave.  No more!  I also made some cocoa with a tablet of Mexican cocoa, and it melted that tablet and mixed it all perfectly.  Even better, it stayed mixed.  I used the leftovers in my smoothie two days later.  Even chai made from a dry mix is mixed well.

So, today was overcast and cooler.  I decided it was a good day for dog haircuts.  Here’s the before picture:

Fuzzy dogs!

Here’s Sadie after – it looks like I bobbed her tail.  I didn’t realize so much of it was fur!

And here’s Phoebe.  She’s a little rough, but it grows out…

Honestly, I’m just too cheap to take them in to have it done, and I’ve not invested in proper tools.  I was using sewing scissors.  They both seem happier, though, and that’s the important part.

The goslings seemed unhappy in the open so I upended a basket and put it in the cage with them.  They instantly began sleeping under it.  Usually one is in the back with the other two facing in.  They’ve already grown so much they have me wondering where I will keep them in a week or two.

I was trying to figure out the perfect names for them, something I can live with for many years, something that went together.  I was having trouble thinking of anything until today, when I decided upon Henry, Katherine and Anne.  I’ve been interested in Tudor England for quite some time.  With Katherine and Anne, I cover five of Henry’s six wives (Jane is the other), so it seemed like a good fit.  Besides, he looks like a Henry to me.   David, however,  just rolled his eyes at me…


Yesterday was chick day.  I didn’t think anything could be cuter than a box of fuzzy yellow chicks (or red ones or black ones or whatever colors they come in – those guys up there are Cornish cross boyos).  With my chick order, though, came these guys, and let’s just say I am completely smitten with them.

There are three of these little fuzzbutts – Embden goslings.  From my readings online, I learned that the females are a bit smaller and are typically greyer on their bodies.  One (the guy above) is big and bright, nearly fluorescent yellow.  The other two are smaller and have grey bodies.

You can see the grey here.  I like to think the hatchery did it on purpose, knowing that two females and one male is a better group when there are only three.

I took them out to the yard today so they could have some grass and sunshine.  I am planning to bring them into the house in their own box, as I want them to imprint on me and not the chicks.  The box o’ chicks is in the barn in a brooder box.  I want the goslings closer.  I want to hold them a lot.

The geese are to help with protection.  I figure if we had had geese, we wouldn’t have lost so many chickens when the dog came by.  David was home both times and neither he nor the dogs heard a thing.  Geese would’ve kicked up a fuss, probably attacked the dog, let my dogs and David know something was amiss.  I’m also hoping they will help with weeding in the garden since much of my weed is grass.

They are so very cute!


May 13 – I was easing back into being creative – it’s been a spare year for it so far – and, as usually happens, ended up with colorful fingers.  I have gloves but usually forget about them until it’s too late.  Or I believe (as I did this time) that what I was doing wouldn’t get me stained.  This was food color.

May 14 – I was lying in my hammock with the window open, listening to the morning chorus, when I heard someone new.  First I was thinking “strange robin”, then realized it wasn’t robin, but perhaps Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, which sounds similar to robin, but a bit off.  I pulled up my birding app and listened to RBG only to realize that wasn’t it either.  It was off Rose-Breasted Grosbeak the way RBG is off robin.  In hopes of a new bird, I got up, grabbed my binoculars and camera and was rewarded with my first Scarlet Tanager.  Tiny bird high in a tree isn’t easy to get a clear photo of, I discovered.  Here he is, though.  In the early morning light, he just glowed.  Interestingly, when I pulled up Scarlet Tanager on my iBird app, it listed Rose-Breasted Grosbeak as sounding similar, but they didn’t have it cross-referenced the other way, or I’d have known what I was looking for when I got out there.  Thankfully, he was a proud singer and stayed for at least an hour, even with me moving around below him.  Some birds get antsy even when they are 40 feet up a tree!

May 15 – Our final day of riding lessons this spring.  Final day is a trail ride through the woods.  It was a beautiful day for it, if a little buggy.  I generally wear long sleeves, so I escaped unscathed.  Charlie wasn’t really happy with the mosquitoes.  As we were riding, I noticed these lovelies:

Sue called a halt so I could get a good picture.  They stood on the hill and just watched us as we rode past.  Sue explained that they just think we’re part of the horse so we aren’t as scary on horseback.  I loved watching them watch us.  Aren’t the woods a most delicious shade of green?

May 16 – I now call her “Baby Mama” and she has become quite fierce in defense of “her” chicks.  No more stroking under her bill.  If I try to touch her or the wee ones, she growls and pecks.  They are finally going outside into their small pen.  I need to get a good picture of the banties.  The little brown one is  either a Welsummer or a Black-Breasted Red game hen.  I won’t know until she lays a teeny little egg.

May 17 – This is how I got my hands messy earlier this week.  I was making bubble paper.  I plan to post a tutorial on it later.  I realized I could probably use the paper as digital backgrounds so I took pictures of them.

May 18 – Reuben’s eye has healed, but it doesn’t appear that he has any vision from it.  It doesn’t stop him from being quite vigilant as a rooster.  Since the removal of the Busters and the other two, things are much quieter and more peaceful in the chicken yard.  This week I’ll be closing the garden to the chickens as I hope to get out there and get planting on some things.  I thought my asparagus was a bust, until I got out and weeded the plot.  It’s growing but I think the chickens have been scratching it down.  Hopefully it will grow enough to be established next year.  I really want my own asparagus!  I keep trying to get some perennial food sources in, but nature keeps winning – the strawberries aren’t fruiting, the bunnies ate the apple trees, the chickens scratch down the asparagus.  Fortunately, there is time, so I’ll just keep trying.  I want an established strawberry patch, asparagus patch, blackberries (and not the tiny native weed ones that are proliferate her), apples, cherries, peaches, blueberries.  One thing that has actually taken root is Jerusalem Artichokes.  I planted three small pieces and they all grew.  I let them overwinter and now have more than a dozen plants coming up.  Now to see if we like them.  They are supposed to be like potatoes.  They are easier to grow, it seems.

May 19 – Miss Priss, looking in.  Just outside the windows, there is a retaining wall/planter.  It allows the chickens to look in the house if they want.  Priss has the same puffy blue face that Jake does – I look forward to seeing what their chicks will look like when I breed them later this summer.

This week is chick week.  Delivery of 25 (+1) Cornish Cross cockerel chicks and 3 Embden goslings.  I need to get my brooder box down from the loft in the barn and get it set up.  Later in the week will be the arrival of a few fancy egg layer chicks.  Expect cuteness.  🙂

I’m rethinking my meat-bird strategy.  While a young Cornish makes a nice roaster, the other chickens are just as tasty, and they are free.  Jack is a nice big rooster and his chicks have been big birds.  Not as chesty as Cornish, but enough.  Since I’m trying to provide our own food, it seems to make more sense to be providing my own chicks.  When I do a big lot of Cornish, I generally need to have someone else butcher them.  If I raise a batch of chicks here and there, we can do it ourselves as we need them.  This would free up freezer space for local beef and garden produce.  Twenty-five Cornish take up a BUNCH of space in a freezer.

This train of thought was seeded by the book The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery.  I’ve read many of his ideas in various magazines, but to have them all together in one book has been amazing.  He covers so much of what I want to be doing with my chickens.  Our library just got the book in.  I plan on getting my own copy next week.

May 6 – My birthday was a nice day.  We went to see The Avengers in 3D (mostly because 2D was sold out repeatedly – I guess 3D isn’t as big a deal in Cadillac).  We both loved it.  Of course, we’re big Joss Whedon fans here.  Big ol’ geeky Joss Whedon fans.  After the movie we went home where I cooked dinner.  Last week’s over-priced, I could’ve done better night out led me to buy my own ingredients.  Surf & Turf with fresh corn on the cob, followed with my lovely cake and Haagen Dazs Strawberry Sorbet.  Total cost was about one quarter of what we spent last week and the flavors were bold and we both got enough garlicky shrimp goodness.  Lesson learned.

Above photo is of the wild violets growing along our front walk.  I very much would love to make violet jelly because it looks so pretty, but that would mean picking ALL the violets.  I’m not willing to give up the violets.  They make me smile every time I walk outside.  We get more each year, so hopefully someday I will have enough so that I’m willing to pick some.

May 7 – We are having a bumper dandelion year.  This is my small farm.

May 8 – My last blooming daffodils.  I planted these last fall.  They get less sun here, so they bloom later.  I’m pleased by that.  I like the mixed bunch of bulbs.  There are standard daffs, ones with extra petals and ruffles, white with orange and white with yellow.  The white/orange ones remind me of the eggs my hens lay.

I didn’t take a horse picture today, though there is some video.  This little squirrel (13-striped Ground Squirrel) was where I park at the barn.  He kept his head up long enough for a picture.

May 9 – My birthday present arrived.  I put it together.  I love things that need putting together.  I’d have been a great Santa for kids.  Anyways, this is the Garden Tractor Scoot from  It was going to be my gift any way, but then they had it on sale with free shipping!  That made it feel more like a gift.  I’ve wanted something like this for a long time.  It’s very sturdy.  The handle is long enough!  Plus, it locks into position so I can use it to help me up when my knees are bothering me.  I have a bucket in the back now (said bucket flew out of a truck and I ran over it and it got stuck under my truck and dragged a bit – thankfully it did not harm my truck – and was none the worse for the experience.  It fits in that little basket in the back just right).  Let the garden rumpus start!

May 10 – Rooster concentration camp.  These young boys have become most unruly.  They chase the hens, they fight, they peck me!  So I get them locked in the garden together to give everyone else some peace.  Soon it will be freezer camp for them!

One of the frilly daffodils.  I didn’t notice the white points until I was looking at the pictures.

May 11 – Hobie out back on our small pond.  David calls it Lion Country.  Right now the pond is breeding mosquitoes.  I’ve been scooping them out and watering my plants with them.  The larvae die quickly once the water is gone.  I want to keep the water out there because all the critters drink from it and later frogs move in.  I like having my own frog pond.  I’m hoping to find something that won’t harm any drinkers or frogs but will keep mosquitoes from it until the frogs come.  Seems like once the frogs move in, there isn’t such a problem.

I cut up my seed potatoes to plant tomorrow.  I didn’t want any chickens tasting them, so I put a cage over the top.

May 12 – My potato farm.  I’m going to try raising them in feed sacks.  I have 18 sacks with 2 potatoes per sack.  I finally found something that told me I could expect 3-5 lbs per potato plant.  Generally I buy 100 lbs of potatoes (Yukon Golds) at the Farmers Market in October.  That will last us all winter.  If I get a low yield, I should still hopefully get enough potatoes.  I was able to put them up on a sunny hill that is mostly sandy soil, using space that normally won’t grow anything and I didn’t have to use garden space.

While I was planting, David was removing the rooster menace.  The six rowdy roosters are now in the freezer.  Jake here is the only one left.  I kept him because of his breeding – Ameraucana x Blue Maran.  If things go right with him and my Easter Eggers will let him mate, his female chicks *should* lay olive-colored eggs.  Of the two Blues Brothers, he was the prettiest and the least annoying.  I believe he was at the bottom rung of the rooster pecking order.

April 29 – I had to add some wire fencing to the gate.  The ladies thought the grass was greener and would walk through the gate, negating its protective qualities against critters that might want to eat chickens.  We love zip ties here.

April 30 – I love the various chicken bottom shapes.  I’m rather fond of rounded chickens, like my Orpingtons, but the occasional pointy one is fun, too.

Chickens have no sense of irony, as this next photo will show.

Of course, the block is used for firewood.  Still…

May 1 – Watching Baby Chicken be alone was making me a little sad.  The feed store had a few 5-week old bantam chicks left, so it was possible to tell pullet from cockerel.  I decided to bring these two home and force a tiny flock upon Baby Chicken.  This little one may be a bantam Welsummer (fingers crossed!!  Tiny terra cotta speckled eggs!) and the other is a little mottled Buff something.

Baby Chicken says “DO NOT WANT!” and was hiding in the nest box, under the nest boxes, where ever she could squeeze herself.  The littles were unconcerned.  They could walk under Baby Chicken without touching her, they are so small.  I had forgotten how tiny bantam chicks can be.  I have them all set up in the little coop with a pen in front so they can go outside if they want and be unmolested by the big chickens.

May 2 – I had truly forgotten I planted daffodils by my big rock.  That slope of the rock is perfect for sitting on, as long as I prop my feet on the stump.  It’s a pleasant place to sit and listen to chickens being contented.

May 3 – What a day of storms it was!  I was awakened at 3 a.m. to thunder and lightning.  Just as I’d finally drift back to sleep, another round would come through.  The weather map for the morning reminded me of an EKG, with blips of red for the big thunder cells.  It turned to rain for awhile, then more big cells came through.  It was Severe Thunderstorm Warning and the weather guy interrupting tv shows every 20 minutes or so to show the latest radar map.  I wanted to be able to show David, who was up in Canada, so I took a picture of the tv and it worked pretty well…

We are just below Cadillac, so you can see what we were in for.  It was quite the day.  We got at least 2 inches of rain.

May 4 – It’s working!  This is what greeted me when I opened the little coop.  Isn’t the size difference funny?   I love tiny chickens!  So happy to have a couple more bantams in my flock.

Also, I love my husband.  He wished me Happy Star Wars day today (for those who don’t know – May the Fourth…).  I think geeks marrying geeks is an important thing.

Hobie, apres walk.  The dogs and I took a nice walk, and Hobie followed along, as he most always does.  This makes him tired and he flops down to rest.

May 5 – I baked my birthday cake today, since tomorrow we’ll be going kayaking and to the movies (Avengers, ho!).  I made the Old-Fashioned Birthday Cake from my Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, which is one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever had (thanks, Gen!)  The cake is amazingly delicious and has the most incredible texture.  I still need a good frosting recipe since I won’t use the stuff in a tub anymore (trans fats, ho!) but this one tastes good.  I didn’t have cream, so I used whole milk mixed with sour cream.  It’s a bit gooey, but it’s yummy.  It was a toss up between orange cake and white cake with chocolate frosting. Those are my two favorites.  I couldn’t find a recipe I wanted to try for orange, so I went with this.  (Hobie just sniffed.  He doesn’t like cake, but he does love sourdough bread.)  While I have made some cakes from scratch before, I’ve not been truly impressed until this one.

I’m loving David all the more because he just quoted Bill Cosby at me upon seeing the cake on the counter first thing in the morning.  And he’s having cake for breakfast.  So shall I!  Happy Birthday to me!!!

I put together this digital collage today.  I was inspired by the girl with her chicken, which is an old photo from the USDA.


Monday night the dogs and I went out after dark to close up the chickens.  As we were coming back to the house, they shot off for the front field in such a way that I knew a critter was involved.  Barking ensued, and it sounded like the dogs were on one side of the fence and the critter was on the other.  The barking wasn’t frantic or anything so I walked up the hill to see what was going on.  When I got close I could see the dark shape of a critter running towards me.  “Leave it, leave it, leave it!” I told the dogs, backing up.  Sadie rushed forward and that’s when we had a problem.

Sadie ran for the house and was pawing at her face frantically.  I realized then it was a porcupine.  Ironically, just that afternoon I had heard someone talking about his dog getting whacked by a porcupine and mentally sighed in relief that my dogs had learned that lesson.  I got to Sadie and saw she had bit the porcupine.  I honestly believe she was trying to protect me from it as it ran towards me because until that point she had just been barking.

Biting a porcupine means that she had quills in the roof of her mouth, her tongue, her lips.  She was panicking and for just a bit, so did I.  The other times porcupines were involved, only muzzles had quills and it took two of us to pull them out.  I didn’t think I could handle this by myself.  I picked her up (she weighs 70 lbs) and carried her into the kitchen, where there is good lighting and open space.   She would lie still for a bit, panting, then panic again when she would try to close her mouth and the quills would poke in further.  I got her to lie still while I got the phone and called the vet’s office.  A message was left for the on-call doctor.  While we waited for the doctor to call, I pulled myself together and pulled out a couple quills.  She let me.  I pulled out the longest of the quills, which I could tell were what panicked her.  Once those quills were out, the panic stopped because she could close her mouth into a pant.  Our vet called and told me I could pull the quills or else he could meet me at the clinic, though if that happened she would have to be sedated.  Since she was already letting me pull quills without fighting, I chose to do it myself.  That’s when I knew just how much this dog loves and trusts me.  It took a little while (there were a lot of quills) but we were finally done and she gave me a big doggie grin and kisses.

Sadie’s paws after.  The blood is mostly from her muzzle, when she was pawing it so frantically.

Yesterday we went to the vet so he could check her.   I had removed all the quills.  He checked up her nose, which I hadn’t thought to do, but Sadie’s body language told me we were done the night before.  We got her some prophylactic antibiotics because a mouthful of porcupine can be nasty.  She has to be the easiest dog in the world to give pills to.  I loosely wrap a liver treat around even a big capsule and she’ll take the whole thing.  She watches me do it.  Phoebe can not be tricked with food wrappings.   Even if I wrap a tiny pill securely, out of her line of sight, she will nibble the pill out and ptoo, it goes to the floor.