Updates from the Homestead

Long overdue updates that is!  In the two years (ahem!) since we last posted, there have been lots of changes around NOBO homestead.  My grand garden plans for 2015 fell very short because other developments popped up and took our attentions elsewhere over the summer.  Namely I spent the summer cooking this little dish which left my energy a bit zapped.

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As a brief update, we did expand our chicken flock in 2015, with 9 new laying hens (8 as one turned out to be a rooster) and an experiment of 4 meat birds that went well (if a bit of an emotional learning curve).  In the late summer of 2015 a hungry bear also found our beehive when we had the electric fence turned off for mowing (rats!).  Joe bravely tried to put back the remains of the hive but it was too late in the season and too much damage for them to make it through our New England winter.  The bees also weren’t very appreciative of Joe’s heroic efforts!

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Somehow he got through it and even managed to build this beautiful woodshed before the snow flew.

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We did get a decent vegetable garden going in 2016 thanks to Joe who did the bulk of the work both with the garden and the chickens.  And now that our baby is more mobile, we’re hoping to both spend a lot more time out there this year. Especially as we are both really enthusiastic about gardening.  ‘Big plans’, as Joe says. We will probably add a few more new chickens to add some younger birds to our flock.  If anyone is wondering, our rescue rooster from a few years back is still going strong!  Though he is a bit temperamental with me, so Joe mostly deals with him.  The newer rooster is a lot more chilled out.  And we still are lucky enough have one of our original ladies (Bobby Sixkiller) with the flock.  In other 2016 homestead news, Joe also built this beauty for drying diapers and laundry in the sunshine out back!

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And an epic garden fence, with room to grow, in order to keep the chickens/critters out of the garden (lesson learned 2015) since we let them free range all day now.

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That’s most of the updates for now.  The moral of the story is that Joe has taken on a bulk of the homesteading duties while we’ve adjusted to life with the little one so hopefully I’ll make more of a contribution this year!  At the end of 2016, I dusted off my sewing machine that I had intended to learn garment making on a few years back, and was suddenly inspired to pick it up and start learning.  I’ve made a few clothes and a Christmas quilt for the little one and some gifts for friends/family.  Now onto attempting to make some grown up clothes for yours truly.  First completed attempt: Margot Pajama bottoms from the book ‘Love at First Stitch’.  I’m pretty please with how they can out and they sure are cozy. (Please ignore the messy hair and dark lighting- still getting used to this smart phone thing)  Feels good to be creative again after a bit of a break!

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Well that’s all for now.  Will try to update this more as they year goes on so when we look back we can see that we actually DID accomplish more than we remember!

A New Gardening Season Begins

Yes, we are still underneath about 4 feet of snow with sub zero temperatures outside and trying to keep positive thoughts that the part of our roof we weren’t able to clear remains strong and steady under the massive pile of snow and ice that has accumulated.  And yes, we did spend a good portion of last week with hair dryers to pipes trying to thaw out our frozen heating pipes.  But it’s nearly March, and since the temperatures are still too cold to tap our maple trees, I’m celebrating the upcoming thaw (I hope!) by planting our first seeds indoors for the garden this year- some onions, leeks and celery.  My little seeds of hope that this frigid weather will come to a close at some point!

While I haven’t done the best job at keeping notes on the garden in the past, I’m really going to make an effort to use this space to keep track of our progress with projects as we attempt to grow our gardens and edible landscape around the house this year.  We did pretty well last year even though we are still expanding our growing area and my eyes are often bigger than my stomach, so to speak, so I am rarely (never) able to accomplish all I dream up in my head.  In any case, here a photo from warmer times looking at one of the first flowers to pop up in our front garden here- the hellebore.  It didn’t peak it’s head up until late April last year so I’m expecting similar timing this year. Just 2 months to go!

Hellebore - Front Garden

Hellebore – Front Garden

Holy Crow

How quickly things change.  A couple days after writing that last post, I was feeling pretty happy in our adventures in keeping chickens.  Their coop has been much improved since last year with a new roof and coat of paint, we seemed to be doing a better job with the deep litter method and all then hens appeared happy and laying.  We had even come through the few VERY cold days (-20 F anyone?!) after the new year and temps were beginning to warm up.

So imagine my surprise, when Joe and I opened the coop up on a sunny Sunday morning to find our rooster, Pru, a little out of sorts.  He’d been getting bits of frostbite on his comb/waddles from the cold but we’d been occasionally putting Bag Balm on to try and help curb it.  But this morning, we took one look at his waddles which were massively swollen and knew something was very, very wrong.  I said to Joe, “This can’t be normal!  He looks like the elephant man!” so we immediately brought him indoors and set him up in a crate in our basement to warm up.

pru_sickLong story short, his condition went from bad to worse.  The swelling hadn’t really improved, he was just sleeping on his face the whole time and was very off balance and not able to stand up.  We were attempting to spoon feed him anything he would take every few hours (mushed up food mixed with water, yogurt, water) but he wasn’t really taking much in.  By Monday, his breathing was labored, his ears were almost purple and SO swollen they looked like they might pop, and he was barely opening his eyes.  Obviously rest wasn’t doing the trick and this was becoming a matter of life and death for him so I called our (dog) vet to see if they had any ideas for us.

As it turns out, there is an avian vet in the office and he would be in on Tuesday so we dropped Pru off first thing in the morning and waited for our appointment later that afternoon.  With some antibiotics, steroids and about a 5 second tutorial on how to IV hydrate and tube feed a chicken we brought Pru home later Tuesday afternoon.  Joe and I had a big learning curve on taking care of a sick bird and forcing food and water into him (I was so nervous about putting the tube down the wrong way!), but we managed it in the end.  His condition did finally begin to improve after a couple of days of care and when I heard him attempting a stifled crow one afternoon, things were looking up.  I’ve never been so happy to hear that sound (though I always enjoy the sound of crowing regardless).

So our little guy has made a great recovery in the couple weeks since all this drama unfurled and we’re sure he’s looking forward to getting out of the basement and back with his ladies.  If only this polar vortex would shift away and spring arrive!pru

I guess the lesson here is never to get too comfortable, the next challenge is just around the corner!

Roosters and Laying Hens

Happy New Year!  Well the new year has certainly kicked off with frigid temperatures and snow!  Winter is a particularly tough time of year to take care of chickens.  Nevermind dealing with snow wind and below freezing temperatures, as I remember last year with the 3 girls, there were bouts of boredom and feather pecking as well. Attempting to deal with the plucking was brutal and didn’t really stop until we finally separated the culprit- Reno Raines.  Reno is still separated from the flock (and as a note she doesn’t appear to mind in the least) as she started picking a fight with the new rooster (through a fence I might add). And since everyone else was getting along so well already, it just made sense.

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It’s hard to write Reno off completely though- she not aggressive towards people (though skittish) and for some reason she has never stopped laying eggs since she started last fall- even through winter and a molt. So separated from the others and in the comfort of her own enclosure she remains.

Reno (left) and Little Sister when the feather plucking all began last fall.  Note the bluekote on Little Sister while we tried (unsuccessfully) to save her tail feathers

Reno (left) and Little Sister (right) when the feather plucking all began last fall. Note the bluekote on Little Sister while we tried (unsuccessfully) to save her tail feathers

And speaking of winter and egg laying, something slightly strange has happened recently.  I don’t supplement light or heat for my chickens as I figure it is better for them to go through a cycle of not laying during the winter if that’s what happens naturally.  But then beginning in December, our new Orphington started laying.  Then shortly after Bobby Sixkiller has started laying as well (note- she did not lay at all last winter). I thought it was a strange coincidence that these two chickens are the only two I’ve actually seen our new rooster (Pru) trying to mate with.

And sure enough, in the last week we’ve started getting some green eggs from our little Ameraucauna as well.  Since we now have at least 4 hens laying during the coldest and darkest part of the year, it makes me wonder- does having a rooster around increase egg production in the winter months?  In the meantime, we’re happy to have our omelets in this cold weather!

Lessons

Life is full of lessons learned- some good and some not so good.  Some lessons help you to move forward, change direction or stop you in your tracks and re-evaluate why you are doing something.  One lesson I’ve learned about myself is that I’m pretty crap with this blogging business – inconsistent with my writing (hello random post a year ago!), terrified of a blank page and generally not sure why I’m doing this in the first place.

Looking back as to why I created this website, I wanted to document all the fun events and changes that are happening at this point in life for personal reasons.  Lord knows I’m not organized enough to keep a written diary (after dozens of abandoned attempts!).  And although I have not followed through with writing about all the changes that have taken place these last couple years, the changes they are a-happening!  I’ve really enjoyed looking back over the meager entries I’ve written in the past and realized how much has changed since then.  So I’m freshly inspired to really dedicate more of an effort to this online journal.

There have been several new additions to the homestead over the years that I haven’t written about – new chickens, new hive a bees, a husband, our dog Rosey and most recently (as in yesterday!!) an adopted rooster.  Since the intention of this space is to chronicle our day-to-day adventures (and no one aside from my husband knows of the website’s existence- Hi Joe!), I think over the next few posts I’ll provide some introductions of the critters and places of the NOBO homestead.  After all, where have my manners been?

In the meantime, enjoy a photo of our stunning new rooster Pru (or Bradley Cooper as he’s more affectionately called).  This is our first time with a rooster so it is sure to be an adventure indeed!

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winter’s a-buzzz….

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It’s the middle of winter… which naturally gets me thinking about spring! Seed orders, chick orders and bee orders- oh my! With beekeeping to become more active within the next couple months (and multiple message from members in my bee club finding their hives dead as doornails this week..), I’ve been thinking a lot about my bees lately.  And I’ve been suspecting my ladies might not have survived the winter this far.  These past few days as temps have warmed, I’ve been walking over to my hive to see if there’s anything happening but have noticed no activity.

Since the temps were over 40 today (!! highest for a while I’d say..) up here in New Hampshire, I decided to pay my ladies a cordial visit (still too early to let myself in, just drop by to see if anything is going on).  I went into the bee yard and knocked a few times on the hive and listened closely…. Nothing.  Then I notice a dead bee on the ground in the snow in front of the hive.  Then another…  and another.  They were everywhere once I began to see them. It was beginning to get heartbreaking when all of a sudden I thought I heard a bee.  I went back over to the hive and sure enough there was a dull noise to be heard inside. Survivors!!  I’m not sure how many, or what state they are in but some bees are still living so that was encouraging.  When the sun finally peaked it’s head out, I even saw one bee flying out carrying a dead bee (bring out your dead…).

In honor of my happy news, had a lunch of fresh baked bread smothered in honey. Some day in the not too distant future (I hope!) I’ll be using my own honey!

 ** photo from http://pioneer.utah.gov/research/utah_symbols/insect.html

autumn

Someone recently told me that you could judge how harsh a winter would be by the number of acorns that fall to the ground at the end of the summer.  I’m not sure how accurate or true this is, but I love this little theory.  It’s almost like nature is preparing all these little critters who store and feast on these acorns food enough to survive the long, cold winter.

I find this theory more interesting still as I had read in the Boston Globe last year about the lack of acorns fallen to the ground that year and thought that the rodents might not have enough to eat to make it through the cold months (thereby affecting the populations that feed on them, etc etc).  After that article, we then ended up having one of the mildest winters on record in the Northeast…

Well one month ago walking down this road near my home was like being attacked with acorns by the trees (a bit like the trees throwing apples from the wizard of oz) and now nothing.  They’ve all but disappeared so the little guys living around here must have been pretty busy.  I wonder what this says about the winter ahead…