Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Goodbye November

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 Last year at this time we had snow, cold weather, power outages and I gave up posting for a while. I remember not having the internet, the cold and being thankful that there were people who liked to read chicken blogs.

Peek at the Past: November 24th, 2010

Now it is only in the 30's but it is very windy. I can hear things falling and crashing outside. The wind is coming in heavy gusts. Sometimes it sounds like a train going past the house.

My Christmas decorating is pretty simple and consists of things I really like that I've saved over the years. After Christmas when I take the decorations down, I get rid of some of them and pack the keepers.

1950's Tray
I found the missing Christmas wreaths on the very top storage shelf. Some helpful nameless person had put them up there.

While looking around I found Thanksgiving decorations I haven't seen for years and some old Christmas stuff.

I found an old Advent Wreath frame... surprise... I think I'll decorate it tomorrow and hunt up some candles. And I'll ask Kristine to pick up some beeswax candles. I love burning candles, especially bayberry during the holidays.

This snowman tray is from the 1970's and still looks as good as new. I love the happy snowman!

Buff Orpington
Kristine took the tray full of Christmas cookies to her kindergarten class.

Putting up wreaths led to washing windows and making room for the Christmas tree led to washing floors and moving furniture.

Good things all considered... I like the house all dressed up for the Season. I still have to find the Christmas house flags. I remember washing them and putting them away... in a closet?

I took this photo of the chickens yesterday. This hen came right up to examine the camera and stood still while I was trying to take a picture of the fluffy butt hen behind her.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Food Forest Gardening And Chickens

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I'm unpacking Christmas decorations today and finding out that some of them are missing. So, instead of posting photos of my finished Christmas decor, I'm going to share and put up some YouTube videos about Food Forest Gardening and chickens.

I found the first video by accident when I was looking for more videos like Victorian Farm. I'm going to watch these videos again just because I enjoy seeing the beautiful farm land and animals, but they also have good ideas for the future.

There are 5 parts to this video. I just watched them all again and was impressed once more by the lovely British country side.

Chickens and gardening seem to belong together... at least some of the time. This last short video shows chickens doing exactly what our chickens do in the forest and in their pen. I wish we had a food forest. Well, we kind of do... acorns! I should learn how and when to collect them, wash the tannin out, store, grind and cook them and take advantage of all the oak trees around here. 

I searched around a bit looking for mature Food Forests and found a few commercial sites. I think the term permaculture is used here more than food forest. It will be interesting to see how things develop. I really need to get back to working on my garden.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Feathers After Molt

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The hens are so pretty in their fancy new fluffy feather outfits after molting
even on this grey overcast day.

Buff Orpington
I think this is the hen we call the house chicken. She is the one who survived the predator attack. She had two good sized wounds and spent a lot of time inside in a pen and got used to all the special care. I haven't noticed it, but Kristine says she has a very slight limp. She is a big Buff.
Buff Brahma & Buff
I cut up some cabbage and kale and scattered it on the porch so I would have a fairly good chance of getting some decent photos. The chickens do not stand still for picture taking.
Two Light Brahmas & Buff
After I took a few photos, all of a sudden all but 3 hens took off in a big hurry around the side of the house? Morgan looked... I looked... ?

Australorp, Light Brahma, Buff Brahma,
Australorp, Buff
Then they came scurrying back. I think one of the hens picked up something and ran away with it and the other hens ran after her to get a share. I don't know what happened because I didn't go look. I was busy taking photos of the hens that stayed... evidently those 3 are the smart ones.

I gave Morgan a few small pieces of cabbage before I gave the rest to the chickens. She really likes cabbage and would like to give the hens some competition in the scramble for the greens.

Wyandotte, Buff, Buff Brahma
Here is how I tell who is who in the flock:
Australorps - Black
Cochin - Buff color, feathers on feet
Golden Lace Wyandottes - brown & gold
Light Brahmas - White
Buff Brahmas - Buff color, dark tail/neck, feathers on feet
Buff Orpingtons - Buff color, no feathers on feet

No eggs yesterday. We don't use any extra lighting to force eggs laying. In fact, since I covered the pen there is way less light in the coop so that may have contributed to the low egg production. We want the hens to lay naturally and stay healthy. They have a cold winter to get through and they are getting to be old chickens. I think they are around 6 years old and even though their life span is said to be up to around 10 years with even 15+ being reached, still I would rather have healthy non-stressed chickens. They will lay when they are ready. That's a lot of work making all new feathers!

Last night I was talking about getting a rooster, but we decided only if we could get another one like we had. He was docile, quiet (he crowed once or twice in the morning) and he didn't drive the hens nuts or mess up their feathers. A coyote got him. Our roosters never seem to last very long.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quilting Tangram

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These cut up pieces of colored printer paper are not really tangram pieces.

Tangram is a fun game. I wonder if anyone has ever made quilt blocks using the puzzle pieces as a guide?

 There are tangram chickens, birds, cats, people, etc. I bet I could come up with some fun quilt blocks.

Wow! I put quilt tangram in the google image search and there are thousands of images.

I was using these pieces to give me a fun way to play with devising simple geometric quilt block patterns. I think I will cut out more light and dark pieces. That would help with making up layouts.

Yes, I know there are computer programs to do this and there is always graph paper, but moving pieces of paper around is a lot more fun.

I could cut up fabric pieces, but I thought that would be a waste because I might never sew the pieces into a block. But then again, it would be a great way to use up fabric scraps.

The Thanksgiving decorations are all packed away which means tomorrow is the day I get out all the Christmas stuff and get it all put in place. I don't have any of the Christmasy feeling yet... maybe when I get outside cutting pine branches and making decorations I will get the spirit?

No eggs today, but the chickens are looking so pretty and fluffy in their new feather outfits! I'll try and get some photos of them tomorrow. I forgot my camera this morning.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chickens Want Food And I Want Real Tea

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Light Brahma and Buff Orpington.
After I let the hens out of the coop, they race over to the shed to beg for a handout of scratch.

Then they head for the porch where they line up in front of the slider.

Once there they stare inside in hope someone will toss out a treat for them to scarf down.

Some of the bolder hens will tap on the glass. On cold days they stand next to the slider closest to the wood stove. The slider is double pane, but there must be heat transferred through the glass that the chickens appreciate.

The photo shows the Light Brahma's neck feathers are still growing out. The Buff looks pretty good. In fact they are all looking much better than they did. I hope they are warmer because it is getting colder.

Winter begins December 22, but it already feels like winter. The wood stove is burning 24/7 to keep the house warm and I have my little heater switched on all the time to fight off the damp.

Tonight I made some Golden Tip Assam tea (it tastes great with milk, some teas don't) and got into a discussion with Kristine about why some people say to add milk to the cup before the tea and some say adding it after is correct.

My thoughts on the matter were that, in the days before dishwasher and microwave proof china, people added the milk first to regulate the temperature and keep the cups from cracking.

Kristine said that this meant that at some point in time, the rich didn't have enough money to buy china that didn't crack under stress.

I love her reasoning process. Makes sense. Most people can only absorb so much cracked china before the cost and the annoyance adds up to change... a new tea rule?... milk first or you are not posh?
Sneaky way to save their china.

I don't remember being told to add milk first, but I do remember being told by Tom's grandmother to always put a spoon in the cup before pouring in the tea, because having the spoon in the cup would keep it from cracking.

Two pots of loose tea under tea cozies.
I suppose the spoon would serve the same function as the milk by regulating the heat of the tea and saving the cup.

Here is how I make my tea... the heart cozy is covering Kristine's Winter Solstice tea.

My flying hen cozy is keeping my Assam tea warm.

How to make loose tea in a tea pot:
I only use a tea bag if I run out of loose tea... I keep some around for emergencies. I think I really can taste the bag and for sure the taste of the tea bag tea is terrible compared to a real pot of tea brewed correctly.

History of tea?
There's a wealth of tea information on the internet... I'm captivated...

When I'm writing a post, I find, like tonight that I start writing about something and then begin making searches and become absorbed in the subject.

News article about tea in Britain:
Who knew that 90% of people in Britain make tea using a tea bag. Ugh! My image of the British afternoon tea has been squashed.

I always envied the Brits their civilized tea breaks and wished that we had such a force for good in this country. I think I had an idealized view of the custom and thought that both countries would benefit from people taking the time to be together in such a relaxed and sharing way.

Tea bags have their place, but I think that we would all benefit from at least the occasional brewed loose tea and afternoon tea with those we love. I think it comes down to the time we give to each other... a most precious gift.

Besides the loose tea tastes so very much superior.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hello Christmas...

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Seems that the Thanksgiving holiday quickly becomes a memory what with the Christmas sales, etc... well, maybe not, because there will be lots of reminders of the day as the leftovers in the fridge will provide meals for days to come.

My thoughts have turned to the Christmas season and decorations. I think I will make a spray wreath this year. Haven't made one of those for a long time. Time to pack up the Thanksgiving decorations and get out the Christmas stuff. I would like to have the Christmas decorations up before dec. 1st. so I can enjoy them all month.

Kristine made these two cute snow creatures (a snowlady and a snowman) as craft idea samples. I love the hat, with a feather, she made for the snow lady. The snowman has a jaunty hat made with a pipe cleaner.

Today, I enjoyed watching several old british tv shows called Pie In The Sky. The policeman is also a chef and I found myself getting hungrier and hungrier as I watched all that delicious food go by on the screen. Wish we had a restaurant like that around here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Don't talk to me of solemn days
In autumn's time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.

Why, it's the climax of the year, --
The highest time of living! --
Till naturally its bursting cheer
Just melts into thanksgiving.
~ Paul Laurence Dunbar - Merry Autumn

Chickens and their Thanksgiving pumpkin.
The chickens have finished their
Halloween pumpkin.
The other 11 chickens are busy
out in the forest
and didn't come when I called.
Morgan likes veggies and would like to try some pumpkin.
The barrel is full of paper kindling.

After Thanksgiving, I plan to get back to blogging everyday.
I'm enjoying my blogging vacation.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Collecting Kindling Before The Rains

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Four empty feed bags meant I needed to fill them with dry kindling before the rain got all the fallen dry branches wet.

 After walking Morgan and feeding the chickens I went back in the house and put on my muck boots and headed out to pick up sticks.

I like to wear my boots because I stomp on the bigger branches to break them up into 6 to 8 inch pieces. It doesn't take long to fill a bag.

The forest still looks green because of all the fir trees, but the forest floor is deep in oak leaves. About half the leaves have fallen and I'm in hopes the two storms will knock the rest of the leaves down.

I love being outside in the cool weather and will like it even better after the rains have soaked the leaves.

Raking leaves and trimming trees of dead branches is much nicer when I don't have to deal with clouds of dirt I rake up with the leaves and stuff falling off branches all over me when I cut down a branch.

I'm looking forward to cool days and cold nights with the wood stove warming the house.