Sunday, July 20, 2014

Will summer ever slow down? {{another update - LONG}}

Truly, no complaints about the long FILLLLLLED days of summer around here, but I'm really wondering if I'll allow myself to just SIT and relax for more than one day!

The highlight of this past week was some quilting-skyping time with Nancy, albeit, we had to pencil it into the schedule a few days prior!!!
But, OH so productive!!!!
I finished off the yellow June RSC14 block and managed to cut up and piece the July red RSC14 block.  I thought for sure I'd taken a picture of them, but nope.... not on my phone.  I guess I'll have to lay out all the blocks later on and get a picture of all 7 so far.  Between all the giggling conversation, I'm surprised I didn't make a mistake on the July block;  thankfully it was pretty mindless piecing.

With oodles of WIPs scattered around the room, I wasn't sure what to work on (mindlessly) while chatting away with Nancy.  I had started cleaning/organizing the room the other day (HA!!!! right?!?!?), so I simply grabbed some bonus HSTs that were scattered on a shelf to piece up some bonus pinwheels.  Trimmed to 3.5" unfinished.

Then I finished piecing up some stored 4-patches and 9-patches

And while searching around for the next mindless tidying task, I started sorting through a pile of scraps at the edge of my cutting table.......

LOOOOOOK what was buried!!!!!!
FIVE blades!!!!! Holy moly!   LOL.  

So, here's the BEFORE picture of the sewing room --- there simply isn't an AFTER (yet).
But while reorganizing, I saw piles of fabric that I simply was NEVER going to use in a quilt -- they just aren't quilt-worthy;  slippery, heavy, ... just not nice for quilts. 

They worked PERFECTLY for a rag rug, though.  So, Angela..... the entire time I was working on this rug, I was thinking......."this should world for the RSC14, right??  I certainly burned through a fair amount of scrap fabrics with this!" ;)

And then I got into a rug obsession...

This one was created with some garage sale yarns that my mother gifted to me.  Candace is grabbing this one for hers and Caitlyn's room.

But my FAVORITE is this gem.  While out on Ravelry the other day (Wednesday), I saw this pattern [Mandala Rug] and was instantly motivated and inspired.   That afternoon, I picked up some yarns before heading to and appointment for Cassie.  That night, in front of the TV with the family, I started it.  I finished it the next morning and blocked it to a 32" diameter.  I used 2 strands of Red Heart Super Saver on each rounds; different combinations of colors for various rounds too.  VERY happy with this finish!!!

And Caitlyn was/IS determined to learn how to knit!!!  Last week, she had asked me about knitting;  I know nothing!  One morning a few days later, I walked into the living room to find her watching YouTube videos, and using some brand new sharpened PENCILS as her knitting needles.  I think it's time to go shopping for her, huh?  ;)

And, as always.... the life of this hobby farm keeps us busy!

Big Mama was walking the tightrope.  I'm so partial to her;  she's MOST DEFINITELY my favorite!  I can't wait to see what her three chicks (of the 13 hatchlings) end up looking like.  

The incubator was started up again;  Pekin duck eggs this time.  I've learned NOT to wash the eggs prior to setting them because of the protective coating.  They were set on Wednesday (7/16);  their due date is Wednesday, August 13.  

Our lawn mower was on the repair list for a few weeks.  In the meantime, we were tying out the goats from time to time.  These girls USED to roam freely on the property, BUT they started eating our berry bushes, which is NOT okay.  They are now kept in the enlarged (former) pig pen, and they spend their days roaming with the two Pekin ducks.  

The mower was FINALLY fixed this past week, so Cassie spent much of the next day mowing the lawn.  She and I took turns raking the yarn with our Lawn Sweeper....

And we started stacking, and stacking, and stacking the grass into a huge mound.  Good golly!  The goats will have food to come for the next few months!  This was the mound about halfway through the 'sweeping' process.  In the end, we guesstimated we had enough grass in our pile(s!) that would equate to 2-3 big roundbales of hay.  With a little bit of math, we determined we saved about $40-60 by doing this, rather than searching out hay from local farmers for the winter months.  The piles have been reshaped, remounded, and tarped off for the time-being.  

And now, Paul and I are starting to talk about a POTENTIAL future purchase to add to our lil' hobby farm.....

OMGoodness!  It's so tiny and CUTE!  I didn't realize there were MINI hay balers out there!!!! HA!

So, the lawn is finished.  And the strawberries have tapered off.  And the garden is mostly tidied and weeded and mulched, and..... just waiting to get the growin' goin' on!  You'd think I'd have some down time....but...

Now the raspberries are in full swing!  We have 7 lonnnnng rows of berries

and the berries have grown to awesome sizes!!!

This is the result of TWO of our 7 rows, and there's only so much jam a person can make!  We still have a whole case+ of raspberry jelly and syrup from the harvest last summer, so....
The berries (at this point) are being bagged up and placed in the freezer.  Plan:  WINE!  

The weather truly has been AMAZING this summer.  The temps are quite low, on average, from a typical summer (so far).  Gardening has been very enjoyable.  The tomatoes are finally taking off;  I think we only have 25 plants this year.

So there ya have it.  Another week of highlights around the Skattebo Ranch.

Today, I THINK I want to actually relax!  That's what Sundays are meant for after all, right?

Happy Sunday!!!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chickens keeping me away; Fall Ripple and Celtic Solstice updates [LONG!]

Life with the family and animals continue to fill the days...
we're working hard
{{Cassie and I stacked another couple dozen loads of wood}}

playing hard
{{Caitlyn and Candace --moreso Candace-- were enjoying some mud created when watering the garden}}

and stealing time for a mid-day nap whenever downtime happens!
{{Cassie SHOULD have been cleaning her room!}} LOL

and enjoying some evening s'mores around our little rock fire ring.

BUT, life also was offering up frustrations!
Truly, part of the reason I've been so quiet in blog land was part depression due to our chickens.  Yah, yah... sounds stupid, but...

Two weeks ago Wednesday (July 2), I went out for my morning walk about the yard.  My first stop is ALWAYS the chickens to see how the two flocks are gettin' along.  As I approached the south chicken-run, I saw one of the new chickens, dead in the corner of the run.  Uh... not a good feeling.  And I knew INSTANTLY who the predator was.  THE OWL IS BACK!!!!  Two years or so ago, we ended up putting a trail-camera out when we were losing chickens on a nightly basis.  I haven't done research at all to know why owls prey on chickens the way they do;  I only have my hunches.  Ya see, owls don't carry chickens off {I think they are too big to fly away with}.  So, owls essentially eat on the spot, starting with the head/neck and then help themselves to the 'goodstuff' inside.  It was clear to see that Pepper (chicken) perished at the hands/talons of an owl, just as our chickens in the past had.

The new chickens had been living in a tarped-off, makeshift coop in the south chicken-run while they waited until the new coop was finished.  Our 5 original chickens were in the old/established coop.  Combining two groups of chickens isn't as easy as putting everyone together in a room and saying "be nice to each other."  However, that day -- I opened up all the access doors to allow them to mingle at their leisure.  I was hoping that after a 1 1/2 weeks of being in each others' presence, albeit separated by a chicken fence, that they would have become acquainted enough to get along together.  For much of the day, the two groups kept their distances from each other.  Steve (our rooster) and Rex (the new group rooster) came within feet of each other without any scuffle.  Cassie and I kept a tight eye on the chickens all day since we were working out in the garden for much of the day.  As we saw the roosters edge closer and closer, we thought that combining the two groups may be easier than expected.

LOL.  And then, they close the gap and held their lil' scuffle!  It lasted all of 30 seconds, and Steve scurried away with Rex standing tall-n-proud as the dominate rooster.  Recall that Steve was new to us just a few short weeks before receiving the new flock;  he came to us from a farm that had 4 other roosters.   I think he's always been the lil' rooster that scurries away!  
Anyway, despite really really really wanting to house both groups of chickens in the safety of the chicken coop that night, Cassie and I set out to problem-solve the makeshift tarped area as best we could to keep the owl out;  Paul was working night shift.  

The next morning, bright -n- early at 6AM, I took my morning walk.


...... :( :( :(

Rex, the new rooster, had been the newest victim of that owl.

Losing Pepper the day before was saddening, but I hadn't attached myself all that much to her;  she was one of the crowd.
But Rex!  **sigh**
I was mad.  I was frustrated.  I truly was fighting off the first stage of depression probably.   I.  Was.  Bummed!
So, I texted Paul right away.
"Rex is dead.  Owl.  It's a done deal.  The two groups are being combined tonight!"

And that's what Cassie and I did.  As soon as all the chickens were starting to settle in for the night, Cassie and I wrangled up the 12 remaining hens from the new group and shooshed them into the chicken coop.  Some needed a lil' persuading, and there was a small amount of scuttle-butt pecking between some of the hens, but..... the chickens were ALL going to safe from mean Mr. Owl that night. 

And the coop has been put on lock-down everynight since then.  The access doors are closed once all the hens are safely in the coop.  And I've been setting my alarm for 5AM every morning to let them all out.  The things we do for our pets, right? :)
By the second night, most of the new hens had made their own way into the chicken coop without any persuasion needed;  and by the 4th night, all of them were in the coop on their own freewill by the time I ventured out to close up the coop.

The new coop is nearly completed now.  In fact, Paul plans to move it into place tomorrow!
However, there is a new plan in the works for this new coop.
Since the two flocks (our 5 original chickens and the 12 new {remaining} hens) have been mingling on a daily basis for over a week, we are going to keep them all in the old coop to continue to establish their routine.

The NEW coop is going to be the new Skattebo's Chicken Sanctuary for our 9 adolescent chicks that have been growing up in one of the 8'x8' temporary chicken-tractor-style rearing boxes.

AND..............
... for these guys!!!!!

Last Monday (7/7), I was ACTUALLLLLY working on my Celtic Solstice.  And making GREAT progress too!  The final borders were in the works when I happened to peek into the incubator that was sitting on table next to my layout area.

OoooooohhhH!!!!!!  The EXCITEMENT was simply too MUCH when I saw those lil' peck holes!!!!!
It was only Day #19;  I truly wasn't expecting anything until Tuesday (day 20).  {{Chickens have a 21 day incubation period -- Interesting Fact #1 for the day}}

ANYWAY... for the rest of the day, I was sitting at the computer, researching endless topics on chicken growth, chick hatchings, time from peck to hatch, etc, etc, etc....

And then on Tuesday (day #20), 10 of them hatched safely...
On Wednesday (day #21), three more hatched.
We lost two who were fully grown and were even able to make a peck hole, but weren't able to make a zip line to get out.  By the time they were checked on Wednesday, they were no longer moving or breathing.  Four others, for one reason or another, were also not able to hatch despite giving them 2 more days of incubation time.  So, 13 of the 19 hatched.  And we are more than okay with that.

Stinkin' CUTIES!!!!!!
I have been asked what breed they are.
Ha......that's a good giggle.  Steve is part Ameraucana;  Big Mama is Ameraucana (she lays the green-blue eggs).  Three of her seven eggs hatched, and all of hers are bleach white chicks.  The other hens we have -- ??? I'm not really certain of their breeds;  I think some truly are mutts.  Therefore, these chicks----- they're kind of like a lot of us.  Part Ameraucana, part this, part that... ??
We really don't have a care in the world what kind they are.  We enjoy their eggs.  We enjoy them as pets.  Names are already being given.  We have a Bear (the only black one), Rapunzel (or Eugene/Flynn if she ends up being a rooster), Blondie (the lightest of Big Mama's), Chipmunk (for obvious reasons), Chubby Cheeks (another of Big Mama's -- classic sign of an Ameraucana, I think :)), and that's it for now.  The rest will be named as their personalities start to show.

So, now... with these 13 new hatchlings, we have 38 chickens on the property (not including the 4 meat-bred birds (Cornish Rocks) that are still awaiting their time in the chicken plucking machine.  They are bred for meat.  Fat, big chickens! 

So, back to the new coop.  Once it's placed into its new location tomorrow, the 9 adolescents will move into it, and will have access to the north chicken run.  Eventually, the 13 new hatchlings will be incorporated with them;  that'll be another interesting week or two when that happens.


Hair?  Or paint brush?


 
The other animals are enjoying the days of summer with all the extra attention from me and the girls.  

I'm not saying that coffee is going to remain on Tristen's breakfast menu, but she certainly was persistent at licking the lil' bit of coffee that was still in my cup.

The nest of duck eggs has a Mama Mallard sitting diligently.  She started sitting on July 1st, so it'll be easy to keep track of when these lil' guys should hatch.  {{Ducks have a 28 days incubation period -- Interesting Fact #2 for the day}}.

Amidst all of the animals and gardening (oh lord!  I haven't even started on the gardening yet!  Strawberries and raspberries gaLORE!), I have been sprinkling in some crochet and quilting projects.  Celtic Solstice remains on the basement floor, with all borders attached and backing fabrics beings auditioned.

My Fall Ripple was worked on heavily on Wednesday (July 2) with hopes of seeing a finish.
Sadly, with all of the chicken fiasco and gardening that happened later that afternoon, it didn't.

But, it's getting closer.  I predict another 5-6 hours.  It should be a good Twin-sized afghan once finished.
My ADHD is starting to affect my crochet world as well as my quilting world!  I was enticed to start a Summer crochet challenge sponsored by the Crochet Crowd -- the blame will go completely to Judy.  Paul and I had stopped at a local ReStore store (a local donation place).  There was a small bin of yarn that I emptied;  some classic vintage yarns came home with me.  Together with some scrap yarns, the challenge is underway!


Hopefully, I won't be away from the blog for so long again.  But truly, losing the chickens was enough to have me not caring about blogging.  Yeah, go ahead.... call me crazy chicken lady.  It's okay.   {{I actually prefer Crazy Chicken Guardian, though.}}   I've really been working on the challenge of trying to get everyone to get along ... and be happy.

To close:

Caitlyn is taking a Science/Nature Photography class in summer school.  I'm simply amazed that my camera has the capabilities of producing such a COOOOOOL picture!  Look at the COLORS on this guy!  And having the background blurred like that....so cool!  That lil' girl is simply going to have to show me how to do this. ;)

And of course, how could I forget to mention Friday, July 11?
Paul and I celebrated 16 years.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Nesting boxes & Duck update

You know how humans (MOST humans) would rather have a quiet, secluded place when it comes time to go to the bathroom?  
Hens (MOST hens) are quite similar when it comes time for them to lay eggs.  

Our established coop has four nesting boxes; and for whatever reason, our 4 hens favor the back corner box;  it's the box that typically has all of the eggs.

If you've been following all of the chickens-goings-on at our place for the past couple of weeks, you're already informed a little bit of the slight chaos going on.    Big Mama has been laying out in the wide-open north chicken run (although, the past 2 days, her eggs have shown back up in the nesting box -- a different one though);  and some of the new-comers have been escaping their south chicken run and getting up in the established coop's nesting boxes.  I would really be a happy Chicken-mama if those escapees would incorporate themselves with our established flock.  Every night, I've been making certain that any escapees are back in the south chicken-run to be with their flock;  one of these nights, I may not be able to!  The two black ones (no names given yet) were out-n-about in the yard today, venturing a little further from the safety of the chicken-run fence line.  They even appeared to be 'accepted' by Steve, the rooster. 

The other day when I was reading up on incubating chicken eggs (online), I started following some YouTube detours, and was a bit impressed with the simplicity of some DIY nesting boxes.    Here's the one I saw first:  Simple Tote nesting boxes.

Last night, after Paul left for work, I hemmed and hawed and finally just made one to put in the makeshift/temporary home for the new chickens.  I had a spare tote that had just been sitting unused anyway, and knowing that the new coop is on hold for at least another 3 days (until Paul is done working), I just wanted to give the new 13 hens a place to call their own.  For now anyway.
This morning, I set it out on the makeshift roosting bars/perch with a platform underneath.
I checked back 2 hours later....
HA!  It's amazing how quick and easy it was for them to figure it out!!!!  AND, the eggs are safe, and clean!
Knowing the nesting box-to-hen ratio is approximately 1 box-to-3/4 hens.... I wanted to get at LEAST one more box made for them.   I did a little searching downstairs in the basement and actually found another EMPTY tote!  It simply was meant to be.

The set up isn't going to win any awards, BUT it is only temporary.

And this afternoon, three more eggs showed up in the box I first set out!  It's just fun, exciting and simply neato that they figured it out so quickly.

Ruby was hanging out in the other tote-nesting box.  
The new coop, once finished, has 5 nesting boxes built into it, with an access door-lift on the outside for us to easily collect the eggs.  

SO, the new action plan:
I have stopped opening the main established coop door.  One of these nights, I'm going to forget to close it, and I would feel terrible if any of our hens are harmed due to forgetting that the door is open!  Our established flock has figured out to use the east access door to get in/out of the coop.  Life is good.
IF any of the new flock continue escaping the south run.......... I think I'm simply going to let them figure things out!  All of the escapees have made their way into the coop via the east access door and have been using the nesting boxes at various times of the day.  If they can't figure out how to get back into the south chicken-run, I'm hoping they'll be welcomed into our established flock in the coop.  There is PLENTY of space in the coop -- but that darned pecking order. 

On the topic of pecking order...
Our two big Pekin ducks have been banned out of the Quonset shelter.  
Sadly, our makeshift duckling shelter left us with only 1 of the 6 ducklings Paul brought home last week.  :{  We don't know what predator(s) may have gotten to the ducklings, or if some escaped and wandered off, but... we placed the remaining duckling into the Quonset with our two Peking (1 hen, 1 drake), two Mallard hens, Mutter and Baby duckling.   And those big Pekins kept picking on Big Baby (the name of the remaining duckling).  OUT they go.

However, Mutter has adopted Big Baby as part of her tiny lil' army; an army that will not be growing any larger than the one lil' hatchling from Sunday.   Yesterday (Monday), one of the eggs under Mutter was kicked off the nest, partially hatched.... but no sign of life :(  Then, this morning, the other 2 eggs were kicked off the nest;  no cracks, no sounds, and after a candling session, I elected to carefully crack open the eggs to give them a check.  Sadly, they both were developed, but no sign of life.  :{  {{and stinky!!!}}

Mutter is protecting both Big Baby and Baby.  Baby will be a mix-breed:  Mallard and Pekin; just like Mutter.  Actually, Big Baby is too.  Hm......now that we have the Pekin separated, it would be nice to get a Mallard drake into the quonset to 'mingle' with our Mallard hens.  Some purebred mallards would be lovely to have :)!

And look!  Another nest!
LOL!  ALL mallard eggs!  BUT, only having a Pekin drake available, all of the eggs would/will result in mixed breeds.  And those mallard hens are quite skittish!  This nest is close to the door to the quonset.   I've witnessed one of the mallard hens sitting on the nest twice now, but every time I've opened the door to replenish water and food, she's gone a'scootin' across the quonset for safely.  I HOPEFULLY have eliminated this problem by moving the feeder and waterer closer to the door where we can simply fill both by using the upper access-door (the door is split to a lower and upper door).
Tonight, while heading out to pick strawberries, I peeked into the quonset, and GUESS who I saw sitting on the nest!?!?!?!?!?!?

MUTTER!!!!!!
Silly girl!  I guess having only one hatchling may not have been enough for her.  I'm not sure she has it in her to sit for another 28 days.  **shrug**  We'll keep y'all posted on that story! ;)


Nope.  No toad-rearing going on here, but this little guy enjoyed a swim for most of the day.  He was in there in the morning when I checked on Mutter's nest.  He was in there in the afternoon when I checked in on Big Baby.  And he was still in there tonight when I wanted to change out the water.

On the crafting front...!
I DID do quite a bit of crochet today!  A few hours worth was done, actually.  More progress has been made on the Lazy Ripple "Fall/Asics" afghan, but no pictures of that progress.

Is it okay to say that I'm a bit excited to see how the chickens behave tomorrow?  The new chickens have two nesting boxes now;  will that be enough to keep some from escaping?  If they escape, will they figure out to roost in the coop tomorrow night (if I truly truly don't gather them back up into their run?)  How many eggs will be get tomorrow?  Today, we had 11.  

Happy July 1st everyone!

Monday, June 30, 2014

A break from chickens -- how about ducks?

Mutter duck has been sitting and sitting and sitting on eggs.  Throughout the past week, every now and then, an egg would be found next to the nest; sometimes cracked open, other times not.  Being the analyzers that we are, we tried to hypothesize what was going on.
At first, once the 28-day incubation period passed, we were worried that she sat on the nest of eggs too late and many of them were "dead"  :(   However, the three eggs we've found cracked open, off the nest (one as recent as three days ago), all showed signs of a developing duckling.  Did Mutter sense it had died and kicked it out of the nest?  Maybe.  I'm wondering though....... she would often leave the nest very early in the morning for a short water break.  I'm wondering if the Drake was raiding her nest during that time, cracking open eggs and kicking them out... ????  Would a Drake do that?  Would another female duck do that???  I really am a bit confused.  AND worried (at the time).

But not so worried any more!
FINALLLLY, the day has arrived that we've been pacing back-n-forth for!

One of the lil' ducklings has been hatched!!!  Mutter was being super motherly and extremely protective!  I was trying my darndest to get a picture of the duckling when I checked her during feeding time.  My goodness!  I couldn't get a picture!  She had the duckling tucked well under her (the top picture was the best I could get at that time.)  BUT, when I went out about 15 minutes later to show to girls..... the lil' guy was sitting, as cute as can BE, right next to Mutter!  She has three more eggs left under her;  naturally we're hoping all of them hatch out :)

In the afternoon, I did take about an hour to sit and relax with some new yarn I wanted to try.  We are in need of some new dishcloths, and ladies talk up about using cotton yarn for that purpose.  I've never used cotton.  It's definitely a different feel in the hands;  stiffer.  
The cloth ended up getting about 1/3 of the way done before my eyelids simply wanted a rest!  Paul and I were both up at 5AM and were starting our activities by 7AM.  A lil' rest at 2PM was an okay thing.

It was finished later on as I was sitting around our campfire.  It's stiff and the jury is still out about how good the yarn works for dishcloths.  Dare I say that I actually need to do dishes now in order to try it out???

There simply is no such thing as too many pictures of campfires!  And there is NEVER any such thing as eating too many marshmallows and/or s'mores!  ;D

Okay...10 more minutes, and then Paul and I are heading out to start our Monday!  Today's task:  butchering chickens!   The MEAT birds -- not any of our layer 'pets.'  The meat birds are bred and raised for the sole purpose of ending up in the chest freezer.  They are NEVER named in this household.  They have been at the stage of "barely able to walk" for the past week.  Truly; that's how they're bred!  They are fast growers (10-14 weeks) and BIG!  We'll be sure to weigh on of the breasts again.  Last year (if I remember correctly), we had one that weighed just over 2 pounds!  That's ONE side; ONE breast!   Thankfully, I'm merely Paul's helper assistant;  I don't get very hands-on with the butchering task. 

So, the chicken coop is being put on hold so that Paul can check the butchering task off of his list.  And then Paul heads back off to his shift work tonight, so the coop will, in fact, be set aside for a few more days :\  
Patience, dear grasshopper.  Right?