Sunday, May 15, 2011

the sale barn experience

Yesterday I told you we’ve added animals to the menagerie. Here’s how we added these guys. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the idea of a sale barn, but let me enlighten those who aren’t really sure. A sale barn is where small town farmers go to sell and buy livestock. There’s different sales on different days for what you’re looking for. Monday is cattle, Tuesday is horses, and every third Thursday is small livestock. Small livestock is either chicken, turkeys (let’s just say any poultry kept in a backyard and move on), pigs, goats, rabbits, and the occasional guinea pig. (This includes potbelly pigs and pygmy goats.)

First they do poultry and I was looking for a few laying hens to add to the flock. (Because how many eggs can you really expect from one hen and two roosters anyways?) In the middle of the gated arena are boxes and crates filled with fowl and three guys holding boxes as the auctioneer does his thing. Sometimes (read as always) it’s hard to understand the auctioneer, and you’re never really sure which box is getting bid on.

Take for example I thought I was bidding on a box of six barred rock hens. I won the bid only to discover I was bidding on five battery hens. (Battery hens are commercial birds that have been kept in deplorable conditions, had half their beaks cut off, and tend to be severely underweight, and unhealthy.) Now after that description you’re probably thinking what the heck. But they are rather young since a chicken’s most productive the first year of laying then they molt (that means they lose feathers and grow new ones-makes them ugly little buggers too) and stop laying for about two months. And this is when most replace their birds with younger layers.

With a little love and good food- they plump up, get happy and are productive layers for several more years. Ours are already gaining color in their combs and wattles, enjoying grass and corn and scraps, are generally learning to act like real chickens. They even started learning to scratch again. They’re extremely docile and can be picked up and hand fed easily. That leads to walking around the yard looking like a mama goose as they follow behind in a line waiting for their daily treats.

After that successful purchase (*rolls eyes) they were selling a pair of silkies. Since there was a cage of birds that had escaped their temopary holdings only one box was being held up. Success was imminent everyone was enthralled with the capture of the escapees and I won the bid at two dollars a piece, can’t even buy babies for that price. Now as soon as the girls grow their feathers back they too will be gorgeous birds.

Right about then I got distracted by my girls jumping up and down and climbing around the seats. It wasn’t until my neighbor tapped my shoulder that I realized all eyes were on me. Apparently while I was gesturing at my kids to sit down and behave the auctioneer was taking that as a bid. I won a large buff orphington hen (now named orphan annie) for fifteen dollars. FIFTEEN DOLLARS! For one hen, I was unsure what to do so I took the girls outside and called Honeybear-he said tell the ring guys. When I went back in they had moved on to rabbits, being the wimp I am I just let it slide. And now I have one huge hen that does nothing more than boss everyone else around and gives no eggs. Back to the sale barn with her.

That’s it for the poultry part I’ll tell ya about the pigs and goats some other time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Year’s Addition

So this year we expanded our homesteading boundaries and added more animals. This year we have four piglets, only three of which will meet the freezer, the third being a gilt (hillbilly for a female pig that you breed. We hope.) And more chickens of course. But my favorite addition is the goats. That’s right I said goats.

These are very interesting goats too. We have a trio one nanny (already kidded before female), one billy or buck, and one juvenile doe (unbred female under a year of age.) The nanny and buck don’t have ears to really speak of. They’re a breed of dairy goats called LaMancha. Supposedly the most docile of all dairy breeds…whoever said that obviously hasn’t met our Nanny McPhee. She’s about to kid and just not very nice to anyone-except Ramsey (that’s our buck.) She believes we were put here just to annoy her, and is worse about hollering “labor” than I was when pregnant.

Ramsey is the sweetest baby ever. Loves his treats, a little to much actually. He has had his problems from previous owners neglect. His poor feet are just terrible. Honeybear and I literally have to take him down and clean and trim his feet-twice. Quite the experience for us. But I think the absolute worst part is he thinks I’m part of his harem. He’s extremely jealous of Honeybear near me. He scents me. A LOT!

What’s scenting? You’ll regret asking that. (Science lesson coming up.) You see billies (most goat farmers disdain this old label-of course I prefer it.) will urinate on their beards, faces, legs, and sides to have their pheromones available. Pheromones attract girls, and mark their “territory”. When one of their girls is in season they will rub their heads all over them, this also helps the female become more receptive to mating and ovulation. So what’s that got to do with me? He rubs his pheromone infested head all over me. And when Honeybear is close by it gets worse.

Then there’s Little Bit, she’s a breed called Alpine-sweet thing. Huge ears ,spindly legs, and jumps like a gazelle. Trust me-we tested it. Not necessarily on purpose but we’ve tested it. Her name was supposedly undetermined and we just kept calling her little bit till we thought of a good one. After a while no name fit except little bit. She’s not sure bout humans-no qualms about treats-but really not sure bout humans. For some reason Nanny has taken an intense dislike to Little Bit and seeks her out just to butt her. Finally Little Bit has started meeting these challenges with lowered head. She’s at a disadvantage at half the weight and disbudded (they killed her horn buds as a baby) but she’s not just laying down and taking it anymore.

There are several stories about these three even though we’ve owned them for a relatively short amount of time but more about them later. Tomorrow I’ll tell ya about the sale barn.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


So we’ve been homeschooling for a complete year. Our children have progressed beyond expectations. And my sanity is still in tack. How I’m not sure, but I managed-barely. Just don’t ask anyone I know they’d probably have a different opinion.

We officially have three in grades now. I started with a first grader and kindergartener. Now we have a third grader and two first graders. No we didn’t trade or kidnap children. We were just overly achieving to prove everyone wrong. Martin has overcome the diffuculty of reading with dyslexia. And Madison and Degan are over achievers. Bella of course has picked up some things but she is to little to do all of our activities.

I think the break through came when we shaving creamed the house. That was a sensory activity that got way out of hand. Since we have huge mirrors in the living room and dining room I gave each child a mirror to practice on. The mistake came from letting them add more shaving cream themselves while working with a single child at a time. By the time we were done Buck Blaster had a shaving cream mohawk, and Gypsy Rose looked like Santa.

Ummmm….it obviously didn’t sink in ‘cause then we had the paper mache massacre. That was six months ago and I just pulled a piece off the ceiling fan blades last week. Still not sure how it got up there, but even more curious how who ever did it got the gum up there first.

Has it all been chaos? Well…….YES. Does anyone realize how much work teachers go to for one class? I have different grades with different strengths and goals for each child. That means two to three different math, English, social studies, and extracurricular activities per day! Think about that then send your kids’ teacher a fruit basket or something. Do I spend more time doing school stuff than every other thing in my life combined? Oh yeah and sometimes I just want to pull my hair out.

(Ignore the bald spots.)

Have I read more Dr. Suess than any normal adult should? Did the cat in the hat eat green eggs in ham in a peoples house while Horton hatched the egg in the town of Who on Wacky Wednesday? Sam-I-am and I are off with the fox in socks to lick lakes with Luke Luck and his duck talk to you later.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Today is my mother’s birthday. I will refrain from telling you her actual age since I like breathing so everyone say happy 29th birthday Annie. But it made me think of how once again things change through the years for mothers.

You get the cute scribbled cards with the peanut butter and jelly smudges. Breakfast served in bed with the scrambled eggs with that added crunch, the blackened and lumpy pancakes, and the bacon that crumbles when you look at it. With several pairs of eager and anticipating eyes looking at you from the foot of the bed. The clay handprints lovingly wrapped in hand drawn paper with way to much tape for as little of the present that is actually hidden from view.

Gradually it changes now you’re taken out to lunch and the cards are store bought, the eagerness is slowly starting to wane. The present is a somewhat thoughtful sweater in your favorite color found on the clearance rack in the wrong size. Would be more thoughtful if your birthday wasn’t in the summer. This is the standard for several years until your child hits puberty.

Now you’re reduced to nothing more than a card left on the table sometime during the right month. A somber question of whether you’ve prepared your will…just in case mom. And as you decide there’s no hope left the day of your birthday your teenager stops on their way out. As they turn the flame of your hope is ignited and you’re now the one looking with eager anticipation. Right up until your son asks for money for gas and a movie, and decides he just might want to eat dinner with his date somewhere nice. You sigh and resigned hand him the money that came from your mother in your birthday card, so much for those gorgeous pumps you’ve been eyeing.

At some point this downhill slide starts to climb uphill. Maybe it’s the child you’ve bore that makes you realize how much you’ve under appreciated your own mother. Maybe one day you look at your mother and realize she has laugh lines and worry lines both your doing.

All the sudden you realize your mother isn’t the eternal person you always believed her to be. There’s no super cape, or magic powers there. Just the woman you were ecstatic to wake up and run to, the woman you hung your head in front of when caught, the one you thought just didn’t understand what being a teenager about, the one you called in the middle of the night when the baby just wouldn’t sleep. The one you realize you wouldn’t be the person you are today without her…her encouragement, her discipline, her boundries, her love. Thank you Mama and Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

our kind of excitement

Nothing unusual has been going on really unless you count not living in the hospital this winter. Yay for Bella. More chickens have arrived…hopefully we can keep them away from owls and pigs this year. Shouldn’t be to hard we went through several dozen perfecting how not to do things with them.

That’s about it for excitement around here. Although at one point when I was telling my mother what chickens we got this year it caused some interesting miscommunication moments between her and I. I won’t elaborate in detail so as to not embarrass my mother. I’ll just tell you the breed and let you use your imagination… Black Sex Links. Enough said I believe. And yes that is the actual breed name.

Of course-there’s always the turkeys to laugh at too. They are where the phrase bird brain came from I truly believe. These things are so stupid that if you don’t about drown them by continually dipping their beaks in water the first couple days they’ll die of dehydration with water right in front of them. Same with the food, you have to keep shoving their heads in the feeder. But thankfully once one finally picks it up the others follow suit. (No turkeys were harmed in the making of this blog.)

There’s also the set up of brooder boxes. Keeping them all nice and cozy as their cute little fluff falls out and their gangly juvenile forms take shape. The kids magically disappear when it’s time to change hay or heaven forbid have to deal with mushy butts. (You’re probably wondering about that last part. Trust me you’re better off not knowing, you’d never look at a chicken nugget the same.)

The worst would have to be when they tried to escape. The two foot drop doesn’t seem to bother them nearly as much as you would think. (Not suprising if you ever look into a hatchery they use conveyor belts to move the fuzz balls along!) But they always seem to be startled when confronted by the giant gate keepers and four legged furry things who seem to think they’re the original squeaky toy. Thank goodness the furry things are never far from the gate keepers.

The look on D’s face the other day when he encountered a fuzzy butt-priceless. The small puddle that formed under the chick pretty much told us what she thought of running into the giant white furry thing. Luckily for the chick we were counting chicks before shutting up the brooders after changing hay. If we hadn’t been looking for her she would have been a little rough around the edges before she was discovered.

At least I didn’t aggravate my carpal tunnel syndrome by having to turn them three times a day. Cheaper too. At least we knew that we were getting two dozen cause they were already hatched. Instead of half that from unviable eggs.

Well now I’m off to knit little cozies for the eggs we will be incubating later.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

competitive nature

Here I sit listening to music waiting for the kids to get their test pads for spelling… This could be a long wait. Not that they don’t want to take their spelling test or anything as drastic as that. No I’m waiting cause I can hear them argueing over whose the better speller. Ummmm one is in first grade and one is in second I know who the best speller here is…me.

What is the deal with competition between children? It doesn’t matter what they’re doing! Drinking milk: First child “I can blow more bubbles than you.” Second child “So I can make more come out my nose.” Mother “Please just drink your milk.” Then the children exchange THE LOOK. More snot and bubble are followed by the milk getting spilled and then the arguments turn to whose puddle is bigger. No one notices the mother trying to count to ten and having to start over repeatedly as the argument gets louder.

Don’t they worry about the consequences of making Mommy lose her sanity? I’m sure someone else can figure out how to use the stove…dishwasher…washer and dryer. “Where’s dinner, we’re hungry” “Mama is still sitting in the corner rocking we have to wait a little longer.”

Are these competition really that important? No one is going to remember whose room was cleaner, or who had more snot. Heck I’ve heard arguments about who had more pudding on their spoon and whose dog ate more trash. But they weren’t so excited to clean up the aftermath later.

I know, I know-competition is necessary in life. And in the right arena it can be a boon, such as when it comes to schooling. I have to force the kids to quit reading over each other. Martin read for two hours the other day just to out do Madison. But in the big picture I can think of only a handful of times the competition has been of any use.

Oh well, now I’m off to measure the chicken thighs, got to make sure I get the biggest.