Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweet Day on the Farm

Some days are just more relaxed and easy-breezy.  We had a day like that today.  Even with a lovely group of first graders from Faith Lutheran School, and my last class with Spinning Student Meg, it felt more like the Saturday of a three-day weekend, rather than the Tuesday after one.

The kids today were a blast.  My own daughter went to Faith in the first grade and it was so fun to see her teacher, Mrs. Kueck again.  As I expected, the kids were respectful, well behaved, and curious.  They loved all the critters.

And Meg finished her spinning series with a bang.  She told me about the moment last week when the light bulb went on, and it all suddenly made sense.  Don't you just love that part?  I remember that moment in my spinning life, too.  Magical.  Now we're looking out for a wheel for her.  If you know of a used Ashford Traddy or something similar, please let me know.

I spent the afternoon shopping at my favorite little feed store for some stuff like sheep feed and hay, and then Tractor Supply for other stuff.  Bought chicken feeders and chick starter, and felt like an excited new farmer all over again.  The folks behind the counter know me by name, and the congenial relationships are their own special kind of comfort.

Also contributing to my ebullient sense of well-being is that the yard is still looking freshly mowed, and the chicken coops are spick and span.  Tidy makes me happy.  It's getting hot again, but not hot enough to steal my joy while working on the farm.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rub a Dub Dub

Today was Critter Spa Day at the farm.  Gail spent the morning with me bathing the chickens who had poopy butts and the beginnings of mite issues.  Best to nip it early and keep the ladies healthy.

Unfortunately for some of them, that meant a full-on bath.  I guess I don't need to explain to you that chickens don't really like being wet up to their necks.  So you can imagine the ruffled feathers, and the full incarnation of the term "mad as a wet hen."  We made no friends today.

Then, of course, it doesn't do any good to scrub the chickens without also scrubbing the coop.  That's where the nasty bugs live that can make our chickens miserable.  We scrubbed down all the wooden surfaces with a light bleach water, raked out most of the old bedding, and dusted the place with DE.

DE, or diatomacious earth, will keep the bug population down, and will help keep the girls safe from parasites.  Fresh shavings will go down over the DE and will get another sprinkle on top.  As you can see, we were getting a little punchy by the end of this process.

Miss Ruthie, now assigned to the alpaca pasture, also got a lot of attention.  We trimmed her nails, trimmed the matts in her tail and britches, and raked out undercoat by the pound.  She was the perfect spa client - dozing on her side while we worked, hardly lifting her eyelids except when she heard the other dogs bark across the property.   Tomorrow, I have to get her to lay down on the other side so that I can finish the job.  And by finish, I mean, finish until next week when I could spend another two hours raking out undercoat.  She is one fluffy puppy.  I have to keep her cool, and I'd rather not shave her if I can avoid it.

I need to thank my friend Dina for coming over this afternoon to help me work on the big Barn Sale coming up Saturday.  Dina helped me stay on track, bagging yarn, marking bags, sorting and pricing books, etc.  (No photos - terribly top secret, you know.)  I really appreciated her company today, and her friendly nudges when I found myself hopelessly distracted by the fibery landscape.  Thank you, Dina!  Good stuff to be had on Saturday, 10 AM, here at the farm.  Hope you can come by!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weasel, the Rock Star Chicken

Today, Gail did a fantastic job teaching a group of newbie chicken owners about basic poultry care in our Backyard Chickens 101 seminar, but she was completely upstaged by her own chicken.

Weasel came along with Gail because she's such a great PR chicken.  The pretty black sex-link hen had had a stroke a while back, and so she drags one leg and doesn't try to run away.  She has a very friendly, inquisitive personality, so she's perfect to take along to help people get used to the idea of touching chickens and working with them.

First of all, she showed up in her chauffeured limo, eating oatmeal out of a spoon.  That kind of set the tone.  Then she showed off by hopping into her portable hen house and laying an egg.

While Gail lectured, Weasel ate mulberries off the ground, and investigated all the painted toenails in the crowd.

Everyone had to have their picture taken holding her.  She's going to be hard to live with for a while.

Meanwhile, away from the chicken folks, the sweet LRB knitters and spinners were working away, glad to be in the air conditioning, out of the hot sun and summer heat.  What a great day...

Next week it's Barn Sale Day - come at about 10 AM or so and choose from a delicious variety of yarns, books, magazines, and decorative items for sale, and spinning wheels, etc. on the (silent) auction block.  The weather looks good so far.  We'd love to see you...

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Chicks in Town

We're back in the egg business.  Today I trucked over to Keller, TX to pick up some new laying hens from our friend Mea Stone of Stony Woods Farm.

Over on the west side of the DFW metroplex, the topography and ecology are very different - Mea's farm is a deeply wooded property, shaded by a forest of oak trees.  She beamed with joy as she showed me around the farm and introduced me to each and every one of her gorgeous colored angora goats, her aloof guard llama and her uber-friendly guard livestock guardian dogs.

Mea's goats have done well in the show ring, and I was completely smitten with their little curly locks, knobby knees and budding horns.  They're like little fairy creatures.

Aren't these faces incredible?

(I had to keep repeating, "I cannot have goats, I cannot have goats, I cannot have goats..." snif.)

Mea has every reason to be proud.

She's moving with her husband to Iowa for his new job, and most of the farm's residents are coming with them.  Some goats will be sold before the move, and we're buying some of her experienced laying hens.  This time of year it's hard to find hens already laying, so this was a big blessing for us.

We loaded them into transport crates and I took off back to my side of town - about an hour and a half away, with traffic.  The ladies arrived no worse for the wear.  You'll notice that one was content enough to lay and egg on the way.

As a treat, we got a pretty Rhode Island Red hen with her four chicks!  This will be our first batch of momma-raised babies.  A nice relief from the more labor intensive "brooding" process we've been through several times in the past.  It's so fun to have babies...

The new girls easily installed in the trusty chicken tractors, and began the introductions with our resident hens.  They'll live in the tractors for a few days to make sure they know where to come home to, once they are allowed to free-range.

If you haven't signed up for the Backyard Poultry 101 course Gail is teaching tomorrow here at the farm, drop me a note... we'd love to have you.  Come see the new ladies!

Or come and knit and spin in the Little Red Barn - it should be a lovely day...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Raising Backyard Chickens 101

 Farmhand Gail is working overtime to prepare a wonderful workshop this Saturday here at the farm for folks interested in raising their own laying hens for fabulously fresh eggs.  Participants will leave with a bunch of resources for getting off to a good start with their own flocks.  We've had great response from the public, through our Local Harvest page, and we will have a really fun day, meeting new friends.  Instead of a fee, I'll put out a donation jar to help Gail offset some of her expenses in sharing all this great information.

If you'd like a spot at the workshop, and a copy of all the materials, please let me know either in the comments below, or in an e-mail (jacobsreward at juno dot com), and we'll be happy to have you with us.  This workshop will be part discussion, part coop tour, and maybe a little chicken-handling for the newbies.

Our regular spinning/knitting time will still go on in the LRB, so please come for that, even if you don't need to know how to raise chickens. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sorting the Booty

Ted and I went to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean installment the other night, and it put me in a treasure-hunting mood.  So today, I began pulling lovely yarn booty from all the nooks and crannies where it had settled in and gotten comfortable.

Our sale on June 4 at 10 AM will get all this good stuff out into the sunlight again, and hopefully, into happy stashes of knitters, spinners and weavers all around us--maybe yours...  We'll make a party out of it - I hope you can come.  Bring a boatload of swabbies, keen on hunting elusive yarn treasure.  Arrrrg.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lights! Camera! Action!

The critters got their big break into show business today.  New friend David Birch came with his high-powered microphone to pick up animals sounds, particularly chickens, for his biology project at Collin College today.  The alpacas, usually unrepentant hams, clammed up when faced with a high-tech piece of equipment.

The chickens, on the other hand, were full of things to say, keeping up a steady chatter for the mic.  Can't wait to see how David's project comes out.  Hope the chickens don't hit me up for union scale.

We also welcomed our friend Stephanie's Sunday school class to the farm today.  What a lovely group of many ages of people, out to learn about the farm and fiber.

The little bit of mud didn't deter them from tromping through the pasture, trying to coax the alpacas up for a closer look.

Thanks, you all, for coming by.  Hope to see you again soon.

Meanwhile in the LRB, a diligent group of spinners, crocheters and knitters worked away on their projects.  Dawn, Catherine and Peggy made steady progress.  Virginia (not pictured - drat!) was the first one here and the first one to have to leave, but she finished a crocheted shawl before she left!  Way to go, Virginia!

Tutu's socks marched on...

Rita's secret gift project unfolded...

Karen's pretty little Holiday wheel was as cute as a bug, but was having some mechanical issues...

Ms. Maryann came by to try out the wheels which will be auctioned off on June 4 and helped us identify some areas that need a bit of  tweaking on each one.  Rita gave the Finnish wheel a spin to see what needs attention.

So lovely to see everyone today.  Thanks to the folks who served as an impromptu focus group for some projects I have up my sleeve.  They'll be revealed when more of the details are worked out. 

In the meantime, have a happy weekend, all...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Happy Third Saturday

Looks like it will be a nice day after all for our regular Knit/Spin-In at the Little Red Barn.  Come gather with your friends and work on some great fiber projects.  The spinning wheels, etc that will be for sale on June 4 are here and available to test drive, if you'd like.

We're expecting some special guests today - I'll report later on how that goes.  But in the meantime, have a lovely Saturday, setting aside some time to follow your fiber Muse.

(Happy Anniversary to my DH of 22 years... the adventure continues... )