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Posts Tagged ‘barn’

We really enjoy our chickens.  Roasted, barbequed, or in soups…and sometimes their personalities are cute, too.

 

Two years ago, we ordered fifty chickens, without quite knowing where we would put them.  We built a coop in one corner of the barn, but we discovered (the day we brought those chicks home) that it was drafty when it was six degrees outside and raining sideways.  So, we ended up with fifty chicks taking up residence in our bathtub for a week or so, until we could make alternate arrangements.

 

2013 chicks

 

This year, we ordered 25 more chicks, to replace the hens that the fox got last summer, and also with the intent of boosting our egg production, as we’ve found it astonishingly easy to unload eggs, even at a slightly profitable price.  There are other folks around here selling eggs for less than we charge, but we have an advantage:  one of our ‘bonus’ chickens that the hatchery included in our order lays green eggs.  Apparently a green egg or two is worth at least a dollar a dozen!

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

With that in mind, we ordered ten straight run Americaunas, the breed that lays the green eggs.  Apparently they can also lay blue, brown, and pink eggs, depending, so I’m hoping that we get at least five hens, and that at least a couple of them lay colored eggs.

 

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

We also got 15 Black Sex Link hen chicks.  We’ve never had them before, but I really liked the idea of minimizing the number of new roosters around here.  We still have plenty from the 25 or so we butchered in 2011; apparently we don’t eat chicken as often as I thought.  These BSL girls are supposed to be good layers, and very hardy in cold weather.  Hopefully this is true, as our winters are very long and cold.

 

 

2013 Black Sex Link chick

 

Knowing we had chickens coming, we had a plan, and even a place to put them.  The weather had been quite nice for several weeks, and there is a reasonably protected corner of the barn we thought we could reclaim; the coop we built for the 2011 chicks is, of course, occupied by the 2011 chickens, so that wasn’t an option.   Then, of course (of course!), it got chilly, and the rain came.  Great for my garden; not so great for day-old chicks.   At least this time we didn’t have to scramble to put a hook in over the bathtub to hang the heat lamp on…

 

 

2013 Americauna chick

 

Those chicks will be evicted as soon as the weather turns, though…

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Operator Error.

Well, I’m long since back from Alberta, but having the odd struggle with getting back into the routine.

 

Yesterday, I went out to do the evening goat chores, and the girls managed to bust out of their yard while I was over feeding the boys.  The hook-and-fencing-staple system which had been a ‘good enough’ gate latch for almost two years…suddenly wasn’t.  We have known for ages that the staple had been slowly working its way out of the post, and had even pounded it back in a few times.  We even had an eye bolt that we could have installed weeks (or more) ago, but we got lazy.  Operator error.

 

Tonight, again doing evening chores, there was another goat escape.   We tie the girls up to feed them their grain, as everyone is on a different feeding program, depending on age and pregnancy/lactation status.  We’ve rigged up a system of leashes on the posts in the girls’ yard, where each doe can be tied out of reach of the others, and I can put down individual buckets for them.  The girls are used to the routine, and it takes about a minute to tie them all up, as long as you do it in the right order.

 

Well, tonight, I had tied up the girls as usual, and served up their grain.  While they were eating, I filled their water bucket as I always do, and was just going through the stall door to put hay in their stall when they all started kicking up a huge fuss.  Missy and Saffron, in particular, were lunging about so violently that they were choking themselves.  I dropped the hay and ran out into the yard, thinking that huge coyote was back.  Looking in the direction that all the goats were facing, I saw…

 

…two white bunnies, running back and forth.  Frolicking, even.

 

“But they could have had teeth, Mom”, six sets of wide goaty eyes said to me.  “Big, sharp, pointy teeth…”

 

Bleh.  I checked the buckets, and everyone was already finished their grain, so I unhooked them all to chase them into the stall for the night.  Of course, being flighty creatures, nobody would go into the stall – when I chased them, they shied away from the barn door, and looped back around to the far end of their yard, where they stopped dead and stared, quivering, at the last point where the rabbits had been spotted.  Stupid goats.

 

I grabbed them one by one, and shoved them into the stall, latching the barn door behind me each time.  However, seconds after I shoved the last goat into the stall, a couple of goat faces popped out the other barn door.  The one that their inside stall door should have prevented them from getting to.  Oh, yeah.  That stall door that was hanging open when I dropped the hay to rescue the stupid goats who were trying to hang themselves over a couple of frolicking bunnies.

 

Operator error, again.

 

Maybe tomorrow night will go a little more smoothly…

 

 

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…Yeah, what can I say.  The strawberry plants are up and filling out, but it will be a while yet before we have any strawberries.  Same deal with the rhubarb.  Our early peas are up, but only a couple of inches, so I won’t be snacking on them anytime soon, either.   The lettuce and spinach and radishes I planted a while back are growing, but are a long ways from being big enough to harvest.  Even the dandelions are just beginning to flower, now (I’ve been waiting – if I can find enough dandelions, and enough energy to pick a couple of gallons of them, I might make wine…)

 

The tomatoes and other plant starts are getting leggy in the window, but we’re still a couple of weeks from last frost date for this area.  We’re zone 2, and I believe June 1 is considered the “safe” date.  We may push that a bit, as the weather has been very nice, and really, we have lots of sheets to cover the tender stuff if we need to.  Having said that, though, we’re still just too early.   Hubby has been out turning garden beds and getting everything ready; with all that prep work out of the way, planting should be a breeze, once we decide it’s time.  Maybe, maybe, we can get away with it by the middle of next week, but not a whole lot sooner…

 

I got a call from one of the tree nurseries that one of our tree orders shipped yesterday.  If I remember correctly, that one was a couple of pear trees, plus a plum, I think, and maybe some raspberries.  I started out with the intention of getting a single pear tree to replace the pollenator that never did grow last summer…I should have known better!  I will have to figure out where to put the extras, and also I will have to run to town to pick the trees up from the bus station when they get in, which makes it hard to plan my day for today and maybe tomorrow.  We have another order coming sometime soon, from another place, that is mostly berry bushes; again, we will need to decide where to put everything.

 

Baby is due in just four weeks, now.  We had an ultrasound yesterday, and baby is in excellent health, though measuring quite large.  The doctor estimated he was just over 8 pounds already, even with a month left to go.  Now, I am not a little lady, and Hubby is also a tall guy, so I was not expecting a petite 5-pounder, but I was sort of hoping baby wouldn’t be too big…I may be completely out of luck with that.  We still have a lot to do before I will feel ‘ready’ for baby to arrive – finish the painting in the house, clean carpets, get all the furniture back into its designated rooms, assemble baby furniture, plant the garden and the trees, plus some routine stuff in the barn like trimming hooves and such; I don’t know if we’ll get it all done or not.   We might, if baby does not come early; I sure hope he sticks to his due date, though I know better than to hold my breath on that, too.

 

Between trees and seeds and things I’ve ordered and packages people are sending, I am checking for the mailman every hour, almost.  We only get mail twice a week – Tuesdays and Fridays – but our mailbox is big enough that the mailman often brings smaller packages right out, instead of just leaving us a pickup notice.  Hopefully he’ll be early today, but he usually does not get here until the afternoon.  It would be good if he came before I had to run into town for those trees – then I could collect any other packages that happen to arrive.  It’s a little early for the things I have ordered, but a girl can hope…

 

We have company coming all summer – new babies make a family popular, I guess, and a number of people were planning to come out and see the place anyhow, so now we’re doubly so.  Our first guests will be arriving in about three weeks – just before the baby does.  Hubby’s brother and sister in law are coming up from the States with their three kids, and we’re excited to see them.   The house is nowhere near ready for company, though, so we’ve got some work to do – the aforementioned painting and furniture re-arranging, in particular.  We’re working in the master bedroom, right now, so our bed is in the livingroom, while the dressers and shelves are in the nursery…certainly, there is no space for five extra people until we get that sorted out!  Hubby is working like a madman, though, and plans to have the bedroom done by the end of this weekend, so we can start getting organized after that, which should go fairly quickly.

 

With the plants and the trees and the packages and the baby, it feels a little like a waiting game, even though we’re plenty busy.  I do stop frequently to put my feet up and rest, which gives me entirely too much time to think and fuss, but if I open a book to distract myself, I tend to get a little too distracted, and finish the thing before I get up again.  This has led to yet another amazon order, as I started two different fiction series that I did not have all the books for, and they’ve both turned out to be very engaging, but they’re not available at the bookstore in town.  So now I’m waiting (impatiently) for books, too…

 

 

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Winter has finally arrived in Saskatchewan.  The other day, Hubby went out to do morning chores, and a frozen chicken fell out of the rafters at him.  She must have been hiding when Hubby rounded everyone up for the night, and gone up to roost in the barn rafter, and not been able to stay warm enough out there by herself.  You’d think she’d have let herself in with the other chickens (the same way she’d let herself out – flying over the stall door), but they don’t really tend to move once it’s dark.  She was apparently frozen quite solid.  It was only minus twenty-something that night. 

 

Only.

 

Last night, the forecast was for -40.  We finally broke down and ran an extension cord out to the barn, to plug in a heat lamp.  Up until now, we had not done any additional heating or lighting in the barn – we’re trying to be as off-grid as possible.  Instead, we laid down extra bedding, and piled bales of straw up against the doors where the drafts come in.  The barn itself is not really insulated, except for the hay, which is piled in one half of the barn, and the straw bales we’ve added.  There is an inside layer of wooden siding, which cuts the draft, but not much else. The roof is not insulated at all – no hayloft or anything, as the building originally stored grain, rather than being designed as a northern barn.  We also take the water buckets out steaming hot, but they freeze solid in an hour or two.  The critters have learned to drink right away when we water them, and don’t seem to be too phased by the whole thing.

 

Up until the frozen chicken attack, we hadn’t had any real issues with the cold.  Of course, it hadn’t really been all that cold until recently, but even the nights that reached -25, the barn has consistently stayed substantially warmer than outdoor temperatures, so we hadn’t worried much.  With five goats, two alpacas, however many chickens, and three cats, there are lots of bodies throwing heat.   However, we’re getting down to those frostbite-in-fifteen-seconds sorts of temperatures, where I bundle up like a snowman just to walk across the parking lot at work, and we don’t want the critters to suffer.  That heat lamp isn’t going to raise the temperatures to tropical or anything, but it should mitigate the risk of frostbitten ears and combs.

 

Our next barn is going to have a hayloft, and some sort of interior insulation.  Or maybe just a couple of horses and a cow (for the body heat, of course).  We’re certain it is possible to get our livestock through a northern winter without electricity – lights or heat – but we’ll need a proper building to do it in…

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The two baby goats are growing up quick…physically.  They are still playful babies, but big enough now to do some real damage.  Silly, the baby girl, had taken to playing a game of running into the stall from outside, then ramping off the stall door.  We had anticipated those sorts of baby goat antics, and built the door plenty heavy, then attached it with long screws and heavy hinges.  Unfortunately, all of that just meant that Silly just broke the door framing, instead.

 

We don’t have a truck, of course, and so there is no way to get materials here to repair the stall door.  The remaining stall is far too small to accommodate four goats and two alpacas.  Since we’ve been working on fencing another yard with a convenient little old empty square granary (for the buckling and the alpacas), we decided to separate everyone at night, with all of the girls in the remaining stall, and the buckling and alpacas outside in the yard.

 

The alpacas are impressive mosquito magnets, crawling with them even when there are only one or two on the goats, and none bothering me.   They really like the chickens being in the yard, and even tolerate the birds hopping on them to pick at bugs when they are lying down.   They had become quite accustomed to going into the barn at night, where the chickens keep the mosquitoes down, and they have not been terribly impressed at us chasing them back out into the yard when we close up at night.

 

Silly, the instigator in this whole mess, has been a real pain about matters.  She and Tuscan (the buck) have been together since birth, and she is not taking the separation well.  She bleats and bleats, making the most pitiful (and annoying) noise for hours each night.  She has been jumping at the door of the stall that leads to the yard, too, and it is only a matter of time before she breaks that, as well.

 

Tuscan, for his part, makes a fair bit of noise for a few minutes after the stall door is closed, but settles down fairly quickly.  He was a damp, bedraggled goat this morning, though, as a flash thunderstorm rolled through last night, dumping an inch or two of rain in under half an hour, sometime between 11 and midnight.  I think the poor boy was probably pretty cold.  It’s really too bad, as this is not his fault, but hopefully we can get the boys’ yard done soon…

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There is a concept in permaculture, in which you re-frame a pest or a nuisance into a resource to be used.  As in, here at the Acreage, we don’t have too many mosquitoes…we have not enough chickens.  Or, rather, chickens in the wrong places.  After thinking for awhile about the million billion trillion mosquitoes in the barn, we decided to try putting some chickens in with the goats.

 

After milking and feeding were done, Hubby guarded the chicken coop door, while I grabbed ten chickens at random, and heaved them over the Ladies’ stall door.  The goats immediately started following the chickens around, wanting to check out these new creatures, chasing them all over the stall.  We had ten very put out chickens for about five minutes, but once the goats were over their curiosity, the chickens got down to mosquito eating.  They were very efficient – so efficient that they cleared the stall of mosquitoes, including pecking several right off the goats!

 

We opened the Ladies’ door to the goat yard, admitting another flood of bugs, and retreated to the house to deal with the milk.  By evening chores, we had two goats and ten chickens, all bunched together in the yard, hanging out.  Milking was much less of an ordeal than it has been recently – I only got bit twice, and Saffron was hardly bothered at all.  Now, we are trying to figure out how to give the chickens access to the rest of the barn without letting them up on the hay stack – goats are extremely picky eaters, and I don’t want to run the risk of the chickens pooping on the goat hay and ruining it.  What I would really like to do is free-range the lot of them, but we’ve seen a red fox in the yard, within twenty feet of the house, twice in the last three days, so I somehow doubt the chickens would last long outside of the fence.  Oh, well, at least the bug problem is somewhat solved…

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The Great Goat Escape

Well, maybe not the Great Goat Escape. More like the Mediocre Goat Escape.  There was no car chase, nor guns or explosions; no James Bond stunts or underwater scenes with a shark.  What there was, however, was a large-ish goat eight feet up on the hay pile, pooping everywhere, and another large-ish goat with her innocent who-me face stuck deep in a grain bucket, also pooping everywhere, and a stall door hanging open, creaking slightly for effect.

 

Thankfully, we have most of the critter food in galvanized garbage cans with snug lids – originally to keep out the mice, but apparently also effective for goats.  They can kill themselves by over-indulging in grain, or at the very least get extremely upset tummies and nasty vet bills.  We used to set out the morning’s grain ration in the buckets the evening before, to save on under-caffeinated stumbling around at 6am, but no longer.

 

We still have not quite figured out how they managed to open the public-bathroom-type latch that holds their stall door shut.  You know, the kind you have to lift, then slide.  Must have been operator error, but out of two operators, two claim absolute innocence.  I am certain it wasn’t me!

 

Now we do an extra round in the evening, just to make sure everyone is securely locked up.  A goat looking down on you from ten feet, at six am, after only one cup of coffee, is just too disconcerting for words.

 

Stupid goats.

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