We are still very much in the throws of cold, snowy/icy/wet winter weather, and I don’t mean to get too ahead of myself because I know March always feels like the coldest month to me here in New Hampshire (ready for spring and chomping at the bit, but the landscape is still very much frozen over), but there are little signs of spring beginning to pop up here and there. A couple weeks ago, we had an unseasonably warm day of almost 60 degrees and the daffodil shoots were already trying to make an appearance at L’s preschool (since then of course, it’s been back to snow and ice). And our baby chicks from last year have started laying some eggs which is exciting!
Speaking of the chickens, it’s pretty amazing how genetics work. We have always had a mixed flock of cold hearty birds, and our first birds born on the homestead have a father Araucana (our “Roo”) and the mother for all three must have been one (or several) of our Buff Brahmas since a couple of them have the feathery feet and general body shape of the Brahma’s. The third is slightly more body shaped like the Araucana but they all still look very similar and strangely all have the coloring of Light Brahma chickens even though we don’t have that breed. The Broody hen that hatched them was a Buff Orphington and so far they have all been laying green eggs.
It’s such a treat to see the wild birds at the feeders again too! Not that they shouldn’t have been here more but we had a problem in the late fall with flying squirrels getting into our home (yikes!) so while we were sorting that out we didn’t start out with our feeders up so the birds obviously went elsewhere and when we finally put them up in January, it took weeks for the birds to find them. But anyways, they are back and I love to watch them while working in the kitchen.
Pretty soon, it will be time to tap our trees and have a few syrup boiling days! Last year we invested in an old oil drum set up to boil syrup outdoors and only got around to having one boiling day. Hopefully we’ll have a couple more this year as it’s always a nice excuse to get outdoors in the last of the wintry weather before everything turns to mud.
Well since my last update nearly two (gulp! appears to be my current rate of posting..) years ago, there’s been a few things happening around the homestead. Much of the reason for the lack of updates is we had baby #2 about 11 months ago. So in my usual fashion, was more focused on other things than keeping up with the homestead while I cooked another baby and recovered from child birth.
Because this ‘blog’ is really just an online journal of the happenings in our home, it’s important to mention that we were thrown a bit of a loop this year as well when a few months ago I was diagnosed with melanoma and had to undergo a lot of testing and surgery. Luckily the prognosis is good, but am still working on healing both physically and emotionally.
In news around the homestead since out last update, we actually havent gotten any new chicks since the last order in 2015. We have meant to a couple times but with one thing or another we never got around to it. And the girls (and one rooster that came out of the last batch) have had a happy healthy life running around outside, scratching up our yard and eating bugs. We had lots a few to old age /illness / predators but overall things were pretty good. And we had the exciting surprise this year that one of our hens actually hatched a few eggs so we had 3 new homegrown baby chicks (who so far all appear to be female… is it possible…?!). But luck doesn’t always go on forever and one day a month or so ago when I was at the Dr’s to get some stitches out, there was a snowstorm and a fox attack wiped out almost out entire flock of chickens… the only ones to survive were (surprisingly) the babies that hatched this summer and the rooster “Roo” (side note, Pru passed away just over a year ago of natural causes and our young rooster who was accidentally a boy from our shipment has been wonderful. Never people aggressive at all and pretty mild mannered… of course all his ladies were slaughtered by the fox while he survived so pluses and minuses I suppose). We plan on definitely ordering a new batch of chickens this spring so hopefully we can sell some eggs again in 2020.
As far as the beehives go, we haven’t started that back up yet but plan to in the future when the children are a little bit older.
As far as the garden goes, it’s been coming along nicely! I was fairly useless last year (but had expected I wouldn’t get anything done post baby so no surprise there) but Joe worked really hard and really kept things going and made an irrigation system and long rows for our vegetable garden (with a row of flowers for me to have a cutting garden). So things are coming along and we’re already in the planning stages for our garden this upcoming year. In addition to my row for the cutting garden I am also hoping to help revive some of the neglected beds I’ve made around the yard and generally try to care more for things already planted around the yard. I think we will be able to take out first small harvest from out asparagus beds this year (year 3) and last summer we finally were treating to several peaches from the fruit trees we planted 5 years ago. Still no apples or pears, but maybe this year.
As far as sewing and knitting goes, I have been fairly active since the last post and made and learned a lot of new things (aside from the slow pace of things post baby) particularly with sewing. But I’ve decided to just write about that side of things on a separate blog I’ve started with my friend Betsy. In any case, sorry for the incoherent ramblings but just wanted to throw something of an update there to get this up and running again.
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.
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!
Somehow he got through it and even managed to build this beautiful woodshed before the snow flew.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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 (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!
Nope, no roosters yet thankfully! I got a little surprise this morning as I was doing my morning chicken chores of feeding and watering the girls. When I open up the hatch/floor of the coop in the mornings to let the girls out, we have gotten into a bit of a routine lately. Immediately as the door opens, Reno Raines is sitting there on the edge and hops out onto the ground, followed a few seconds later by Bobby Sixkiller who bombs out of there like her life depended on it and likes to land on top of Reno Raines for a bit of fun. Then several minutes later Little Sister makes her way down in her own sweet time.
Well I’ve noticed the last few days Reno Raines seems to be having a change of voice- she is making more clucking noises than the ‘peeping’ noises that baby chicks make (which they have all pretty much still been doing). Well this morning, as Bobby Sixkiller barreled out of the hen house and landed on top of her, she made a very loud ‘buck-BUUCCCK’ sound. The kind of sound you’d imagine chickens would make, it just caught me off gaurd. Hoping that this is a sign she is growing to be a lovely young lady-layer and not going through some sort of male puberty voice-changing phase.. hmmm..
It’s occurred to me that I’ve never properly introduced my lovely ladies. If you were wondering about their strange names, we chose them as a theme and it all has to do with an awesomely bad (so bad, it’s hilarious!) TV show from the 90s that my brother and I randomly came across while road tripping across the US a few years back. (any show who’s opening credits include a topless man pouring a gallon of water over his hair while leaning up against his motorcycle is bound to be a classic – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103524/) LJ has been the only person I’ve met who actually remembers this show being on the air. In any case, I’m not sure why they were the inspiration for our chicken names, but there you go..
First up we’ve got Reno Raines (aka Renegade), our Golden Laced Wyandotte, who was very bold as a chick and even though she’s chilled out a lot, will still be the first one to timidly try out some new food or toy I give to them. Bobby Sixkiller, our Rhode Island Red, will hopefully be a great layer one day. Her comb may be a little crocked and she shakes her head a lot, but she’s a feisty young thing who was always timid but I think is finally coming into her own. And last (but certainly not least) is Little Sister (aka Cheyenne), our Dark Brahma, who is the biggest of the bunch. She’s got lovely feathery feet and loves nothing more than to sit in your arms and have a good cuddle. She also ducks her body and runs back and forth along the run (out of excitement?) to greet you when you come out. A real sweetie, but a sweetie that can hold her own with the others. Well, there you have it- those are our girls!
It was the first weekend in probably a month that I was able to spend at my parent’s house so figured since the weather has been so nice, I’d get to work on their garden a little bit. I have great plans of gardens I plan to build at my new house but seeing as there is already so much going on this spring, realistically I know that I definitely won’t have beds ready for spring crops. I’m hopefully shooting for summer!
Didn’t get to too much, just a bit of cleaning up old beds (have some garlic and onions that I left over from last year I figure I would leave and see if anything happened – ie bulbs forming). LJ and I had planted some lettuce and spinach there in the fall (trying to see if we could grow cool weather vegetables) but nothing came in and I just left the garden to do it’s thing over the winter. So imagine my surprise to see that one lettuce and three spinach plants made it through the winter and are actually growing. (We did have an EXTREMELY mild winter though so that could be the exception).
So I just cleaned up those growing plants, threw in some compost from my heap I began last year (not completely decomposed, but hopefully it will help!), and planted a few news seeds- some peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes. So we’ll see how it grows! Also still no sign of any asparagus spears shooting up this year…. I still have hope as the fonds came up pretty well last year!