No I am not lounging around the house drinking tea this morning....I have actually been quite busy here. Chores are done, the bread dough is rising, house is tidy...well as tidy as it gets with three kids trailing all that mud outside behind them...I even decided to make Spring official and hang a load of laundry on the clothesline this morning.
It was during all this activity that I just happened to notice this....
One very bright green patch of grass in the middle of the front pasture. Now you need to remember that this is the first Spring owning our boys and although the breeder had told us the benefits of alpaca manure, we have never really seen it first hand....until today. Yes that's right, that bright green patch just happens to be the exact same spot our boys chose as their 'honey pot' last year.
This of course got my curiosity up as to the best ways to use our supply....can you imagine making tea from alpaca poop? Well you can! A bucket as your 'tea pot', water and alpaca poop, let steep and VOILA!!! You have yourself a wonderful spot of tea that your garden will love! I even found this wonderful link that better explains the process. Better stock up on some buckets to brew some tea for Andy's veggies this year.
FINALLY!! Mother nature gave us milder temperatures yesterday. What to do? Play outside? No... Clean up the yard? No... Oh that's right....a good Spring cleaning of the old chicken coop! After all, now that those ladies are laying eggs on a regular basis it is especially important to keep them healthy and happy.
Now, with the enclosure finally cleared of snow, the little chickens would finally travel further than the ramp leading from the coop. They spent the day happily picking and scratching at the mud left behind. Laverne, Shirley and Betty even dedicated some time to picking the ice off of the chicken wire...their version of cleaning the windows I guess??
They were all quite willing to spend the day out in the enclosure until we decided it was time to give the interior of the coop a good Spring cleaning...then the all pushed and shoved at the door fighting over who was going to get in there first to see what was going on. Luckily I managed to get my little digital camera switched to video in time to catch Jack's fancy footwork...no wonder the ladies are so impressed with him!
They love their freshly cleaned quarters so much, they actually started laying eggs this morning instead of their usual afternoon schedule. There is no other feeling like reaching in and finding that egg so fresh that it is actually still warm! It's going to taste mighty yummy on that freshly baked bread sitting in the kitchen.
I have always said that unexpected things happen on a farm....problem is, some of the unexpected isn't always appreciated or wanted! As I said in an earlier post, the boys stall has flooded this spring (very unappreciated) and our poor boys have been relocated to the center open area of our barn which seems to qualify as 'higher ground'. We have a man-door that leads directly from their stall to a covered outdoor storage area. We had screened off this door from the outside so that we have a door we can open for ventilation but still allows us to keep the boys safe inside the barn. Perfect for those warm rainy days. My thought, with these warmer temps, was to open up the door in the hopes that some air flow would help dry out their stall. That plan was cancelled due to an unexpected and very UNWANTED visitor!
VERY UNWANTED VISITOR
I was very happy for that unexpectedly flooded stall yesterday! If it wasn't for that flood, all that gorgeous fleece I have been waiting all winter to get my hands on would have been just inches from our stinky little visitor! Needless to say, we took the LONG WAY around to the barn door yesterday! We were very happy to see that the little guy had vacated this morning.
For those of you who know us or who have followed this blog from the start, you know that our dream was to have a small place where we could learn the ropes of farming. A few chickens, a garden, the simple quiet lifestyle. You probably also know that nothing ever goes EXACTLY according to our plan. For instance, we planned on getting one cat as a pet for the kids and to keep the field mice away. So off Andy and I went to the local Humane Society and home we came with Leroy and Levi...wait that's two....I thought we said one cat??
Since their homecoming we have also inherited a barn cat who surprised us with a litter of four kittens (who unfortunately did not make it) and who has now become part of the family. Smokey follows the kids around outside looking for attention and is constantly trying to become an 'indoor' cat. Not exactly what we planned.
Then there was our little garden, which somehow became two raised garden boxes and a larger garden outside the kitchen window just for the squash and zucchini. The chickens finally just finished off the last squash from last year's harvest.
Speaking of chickens, those couple of chickens we wanted...well they came home last summer...right after the alpacas...wait alpacas...when did they become part of the plan? OH YA..that's a different story. Andy took me to see the three boys (Windsor, Usairus and Vincent) after he had already been to the breeders for the first time. It took about two seconds of Vincent's nose rubbing against my cheek for me to fall in love and before we knew it, we were learning about fencing, repairing the barn and getting things ready for our boys to come home. It wasn't long before the end of June arrived and our boys were moving in. Imagine the surprise on the kids' faces when Windsor, Usairus, Vincent, Parnell, Wellington and Tyrone came bounding out of the trailer....wait that's six...we only went to buy three. Once again, three beautiful boys who became our rescues were not part of the original plan...but we love them just the same.
So back to those chickens....
Last summer, we finally decided it was time to get back to our original plan and we started researching breeds, learning to care for chickens and building a coop. After a couple weekends of building and with the coop almost completed we decided to take a trip to the local farmers' market about 10 minutes from our house....you know...to take a look. Look, the plan was to look, JUST LOOK. Yep you got it, an hour later we were heading back home with Wilma, Betty, Thelma and Louise. Remember I said the coop was ALMOST finished...hmmmm 4 chickens and an unfinished coop? Now I know that wasn't the way we planned it!
The rest of the day was a rush to get the coop itself done and get the ladies moved in. Now to complete the enclosure so that they could spend some time outside but still be safe. That's where Andy's sister got dragged into this. Her plan was to come out to the farm and see the new additions to JADA Farms...no where in the plan was she supposed to spend her afternoon outside in the rain with Andy and I trying to finish the enclosure for a bunch of chickens. But the three of us got it done, plan or no plan. Now all we had to do was wait for the eggs...and wait we did, even after the addition of Laverne and Shirley.
Later in the summer, driven by the fact that our egg production still wasn't quite where we wanted it to be, Andy went off and purchased two more hens who were still too young but should start laying soon. Welcome home Cagney and Lacey! Now, I spent a lot of time at my uncle's farms when I was a kid. He had horses, cows and chickens and the rule was always that everyone helped out with chores. Although I do not claim to know everything about farming, I did learn a little bit on that farm. One of those things was the difference between a rooster and a hen. So imagine how surprised I was that very early morning, walking past the chicken coop in the dark...listening to crowing....wait crowing? We have eight hens...where the heck is the crowing coming from?? Yes that is when I learned another lesson....a rooster does NOT look like a rooster from the time he is little.
However, when those big red crowns start appearing and your 'hen' starts to stick his chest out and 'strut' around the coop...plan or no plan you have yourself a rooster! Unless you are us...in which case you have TWO roosters! That's right, we planned for two more hens and ended up with Cagney and Lacey....I mean Carl and Larry. Two roosters + one tiny coop = FIGHTS That was definitely not what we planned. Now Carl has actually been renamed Jack and although he may have lost the first battle, he won the war. As per the circle of life on a farm, Andy found poor Larry's lifeless body during early morning chores. That's life on a farm, birth, growth and death....
It's not all bad though...you see, turns out Larry was rather nasty to the hens and now, since his death, things are a whole lot calmer around the coop. So much so that Jack seems to be exactly what those hens needed and we are happy to say that egg production is not only picking up but actually becoming quite regular. Good man Jack!
Guess that no matter how much you plan....there is always the uexpected when you live on a farm.