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.

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