Monday, September 18, 2017

Menu plan for the week of September 18

Hi everyone.

Here's what's on the menu this week:


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

18 weeks

Remember when I said I was ready to deal with all of the stuff that goes along with owning chickens?

It turns out I was wrong.  

A week ago, the girls were out free ranging.  Two of our chickens didn't come home that evening, and they are presumed dead.

I am distraught.  It's not like I didn't know that things like this might happen, but still, I feel sad, and guilty, and like I failed my girls.  This is definitely my fault.  I still get teary when I think about it.  Those poor, sweet chickens...  

We don't even know what happened to them, although that's probably a blessing, because having the image of their torn-apart bodies in my brain would make this even worse.  It seems very strange for two of them to go missing together--chickens are so skittish, there's no way a single predator would be able to get two of them.  Nevertheless, they are gone.  I'm trying to take comfort in the fact that they had a good life.  It's not working very well.  It's the guilt.

The other chickens seem to be adjusting to their new normal.  Here they are eating some fermented feed.  Well, two of them were--Esther kept pecking at the bowl--it was the first time I used a yellow bowl for their feed, and she wasn't quite sure what was happening.

Esther, Rocky, and Toasty Crunch

I don't think I can let the girls free range anymore, and they really, really want to...

Before the tradgedy, the girls introduced themselves to the family of deer that frequents our back yard.

In other news, we found something eggstra in the nest box on Saturday.

It was pretty eggsciting.  We think that part of the yolk didn't make it into the egg (here's how an egg forms)--we're postulating that's what the yellow stuff is to the left of the egg (the "egg" on the right is a nest egg).

I'm amazed and impressed that this egg appeared in the nest box.  I mean, we put the ceramic eggs in there to show the girls where eggs go, but if they've never laid an egg before, how do they know that there's an egg coming out?  Such clever girls.

It was a cute little egg, as first eggs often are.

We think Rocky laid this egg, because her comb and wattles are the reddest and she was the only one who had been doing the submissive squat, but since we didn't catch her in the act, we're not sure.

 Rocky.  That chair in the background is where I sit to watch the girls (it's usually on the other side of the coop, but I move it around to get the best view).  I've heard of chickens being used as therapy animals and I can understand why.

 Poor Esther--the confinement is taking its worst toll on her.  She paces frantically back and forth in front of (or is that behind?) the door whenever I approach the coop.  Makes sense, since she's descended from jungle fowl.  Esther kept wanting to photobomb with her fluffy cheeks.  No wattles and her pea comb is still pink. 

 Toasty Crunch, looking prehistoric.  Just in the past week her wattles have gotten bigger and her comb has gotten redder.  She did the submissive squat for the first time on Sunday.

On Tuesday morning, Toasty greeted me with a loud bok, bok, bok-bok, baaaaaawk, as I walked out to the coop.  It seemed like she was trying to tell me something.  Turns out she was.

Now these are the weird, misshapen, thin-shelled eggs I was eggspecting for the girls' first eggs.  I think Toasty's is the oblong one, for various reasons.

Two chickens laying, one to go!  We're crossing our fingers for blue or green eggs from Esther.

Red and Austro <3
Miss them.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Menu plan for the week of September 11

Things are about to get even more complicated at supper time, friends.  AKD begins working two evenings a week this week, and Cub Scouts starts up next week.  Will we ever eat supper as a family again?  Sure.  As soon as bike season is over.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Menu plan for the week of September 4

Welcome to actual September, my friends.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sixteen week chicken update

Inquiring minds want to know: got eggs, Scarlet?  Nope.  No eggs.  But I'm sure they'll come any day now.  Yup.  Any day.

Here's what the girls are looking like these days:

Austro.  I really wish I could get my camera to capture the green/blue sheen in her feathers.  You can see it just a little bit here.  By the way, those are the nest boxes in the background that the girls are so interested in.  For some reason, they compulsively eat the wood shavings.

Esther is just SO FLUFFY!  Don't you just want to squeeze those cheeks?!

Red, looking at me like whatchu lookin' at chicken lady?  Red is definitely the leader of this crew and she's taken to following me around.  Which means they all follow me around.  I'm so flattered that they want to be with me.  Red still has the reddest comb and wattles.

Rocky, with fermented feed on her beak.  AKD thought she looked like a grumpy old grandpa in the picture from the last update, and I have to admit, she kind of does here, too.

Toasty Crunch, looking somewhat confused.  She's always the first to follow Red's lead, which is funny, because she was always the first to join in with Rocky's antics as a chick.  I guess she's a good follower.

 Here's a picture of the roost in the run.  It was naptime for everybody...

 Except Toasty.

I thought that since our first 50 lb bag of chick food lasted for a little more than 10 weeks, that the 40 lb bag I bought subsequently would last for 8 weeks.  I was wrong, and since the recommendations are to feed chick food until the girls lay their first egg or are 18 weeks old (whichever comes first), I bought an additional 25 lb bag this weekend.  At the same time I picked up some oyster shell to provide supplemental calcium.  Just in case someone wants to lay an egg before the chick food is gone (chick feed has less calcium and a little more protein than layer feed).

In line with my cheap and lazy chicken directives, I used a repurposed cool whip container, attached with pipe cleaners to the wall of the run (I would have used zip ties, but I couldn't find where Hubby is hiding them).  Supposedly, chickens are self-regulating, and will only eat the oyster shell if they actually need more calcium, so it's recommended that one leave supplemental calcium out all the time.

Once the girls are laying, I can save, dry, and grind up their own egg shells to use for supplemental calcium, but I guess they could pick up microorganisms their bodies aren't used to if they eat eggshells from another source, so that will have to wait (I was disappointed that I actually had to buy oyster shell, when I had a source of calcium already, but the girls' health comes first).

 The other day, Red climbed up into this tree.

Of course, once she got up there, she wasn't quite sure how to get down.  It doesn't look like it, but she was about 6 feet up from the ground on the side she was trying to get down to.  She eventually managed a glide/flight to the ground to rejoin her sisters.

And I will leave you, once again, with fluffy chicken butts.  Here are the girls settling in for a preening session on the hen house roost.

I think they need a mirror.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Menu plan for the week of September -4

Y'all.  I realized something last week.

I think it's September.

You know how sometimes you go through a whole day thinking it's a different day than it is? If you don't, please don't tell me.  I need to think I'm not the only crazy one.  Well, I've been going through weeks of thinking it's a different month than it is.  Someone will tell me something is happening in September, and I'll think to myself, well, that's just a few days from now.  Even if it's something that is happening September 15.  September 15 is any day now, because it's been September for two and a half weeks.

And yes, I know that if it's been September for two and half weeks, it is at least September 17, which is two days after September 15, but since whoever is telling me the thing is speaking about it in the future, it can't have happened yet.

I'm serious, y'all.  I keep thinking September is almost over and anything that is happening in September is happening within 2 days from now.  This is going to be the longest September ever.

The reason, of course, is because in the state which the Bluefield family currently calls home, schools have to get special permission to begin before September 1.  There's a law.  Which our school system, of course, did.  But the fact remains: the kiddos have never started school in August (except for one kid, one year).  That's right, folks, every school year, for the past 12 years, except this one, has begun in September.

(omygosh, y'all, I just checked the website for the school AKD attended for the first half of kindergarten to see when they started this year (September -11, or as you all probably refer to it, August 21), and there's a blurb on the website about their asbestos management plan!  Yikes!  They also publish their bus schedules online, with addresses.  Yup, sex offenders, here's where the kids will be and what time)

Anyway, I think it's September.  In four days I will be right.  On to the menu.


I had an "other" breakdown this week, because the grocery store with the sale on chicken was out of stock when I got there (and I didn't bother to go back), and I opened up my bean storage bin to find that I didn't have any dry pinto beans.  I didn't make the yogurt because I was specifically making it for the avocado chicken salad, which I couldn't make because we have no chicken.  And...I just realized I'm not going to be able to make Chicken Broccoli Braid on Monday... 

So, although I did make Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies and Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins, I did not make any of the things that were actually on my "other" list last week.  I'm making a trip to the warehouse store early in the week, and hopefully we'll be back in business.  

Let's try this again.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Menu plan for the week of August 21

This is so weird, y'all.  The kids being back in school so early.  Just...weird.

So they've had two days of school, and we're waiting for the schedule to settle.  As I've mentioned, the reason school started so early this year is because the high school is undergoing some improvements.  We started early this year, and will start late next year, to allow a longer summer period without students in the building.  As a result of the ongoing construction, bus schedules have been completely reimagined, and busses have been running late.  So late.  Which means that this year, it'll take longer to fall back into "normal."  In fact, we might not get back to "normal" until the kiddos are done with their fall sports.

In the meantime, I'm doing my best with the menu plan.  Here's what we're planning on eating this week, and I'm gonna do my best to make it actually happen.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

I survived...and updates

Are y'all familiar with the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis?  I think my first exposure was when AKD read I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912.  He went through a Titanic phase, as many boys do, during which he read pretty much every Titanic book ever written.

The books are historical fiction, aimed at about a 2nd-5th grade level, and they focus on disasters and wars and other terrifying events in history.

I was thinking we needed to add a new book to the series last weekend:
I Survived 48 Hours Without Internet, 2017!

Yeah.  It was touch and go there for a while, but we made it through.  Turns out a family of wasps had taken up residence in our junction box, and they chewed through the fiber optic cables.  What?  How is that even a thing?  And why don't they protect those things better if they're that fragile?

Anyway...that's the excuse I'm giving for not getting a menu post up this week.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I also did not get a chicken update up this week.  The excuse I'm giving for that is I was involved in a focus group.  It was interesting and rewarding, but I can't tell you any more about it (except that if you want to be involved in a focus group, too, you can sign up for the company I work for here).

So the girls are 14 weeks now.
Toasty Crunch

Esther--look how long her neck is

Austro has the most gorgeous feathers.  They're black, of course, but in certain light, they're green/blue iridescent

Red has the biggest and reddest comb and wattles.  They're still not very big or red, though.

We raised the roost to its final height of about 2 feet above the hen house floor last week, opened the nest boxes, and installed some ceramic eggs.  The idea is that the eggs will show the girls where they're supposed to lay their eggs, and if they do happen to peck at them, they will quickly learn that eggs are not worth pecking at.  Because chickens are cannibals.  And we don't want any of that egg-eating nonsense going on around here.

We also put together a dust bath, and installed a roost in the run.  So far, the girls seem more interested in eating the contents of the dust bath than bathing in it.  And I don't have pictures of any of those things, because I forget to bring a camera out with me when I visit the girls.  So...I'll just leave you with this picture of a fluffy chicken butt.

That's Red, in case you were wondering.

And, my excuse for not giving you a garden update is...well, there's not much to share.  I never did get any tomatoes in the ground, although I finally planted the corn, about 6 weeks later than intended.  Whoops.  It's taller than me, but probably not as tall as it should be.  Despite all that, there are some ears growing.  I guess we'll just see what happens.  And, I have more corn seeds for next year.

Tried to get all artsy and take this photo on an angle.  Turns out it just looks weird. 

The strawberries have done well this year, and what I'm most excited about in the strawberry realm (beside that fact that we figured out how to keep rodents from eating them) is the plants sent out runners this year that took root.  Pretty soon our 4x4' bed will be full of strawberry plants.

Our zucchini plants are finally producing.  This is the zucchini that's been selected to stay on the plant to see how big it will get.  Yeah.  Because we need to know.

Also in the bed with the strawberries and zucchini, I planted four onions.  'Cause my sis sent them to me.  I think they're done, but it's kind of hard to tell with root veggies.  And since we don't need them for anything right now, they're staying in the ground.

I planted carrots, and a grand total of three of them sprouted.  Again, root veggies, so I'm not sure how I'll know they're ready.  I planted to rest of my carrot seeds today.  There's definitely not enough time for them to mature before we get frost, but they're in a pot, so I can easily cover them or bring them inside.  I also began a new succession planting (that's where I plant some each week for a staggered harvest) of radishes today.  They mature in about 30 days, so we should be able to get a few groups of them before frost.

And finally, as of now, we have apples on our trees.  I feel like we had apples on our trees last year at this time, too, but somehow they all disappeared before harvest.  Hopefully we'll get something this year, because we're down to our last 8 or 9 jars of applesauce.

And that leaves me with the final update.  The kiddos started school today.  And we got pictures.  Before school.  Whoohoo!

Last first day of high school

First first day of high school

Fourth grade
I blinked, y'all.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Menu plan for the week of August 7

As you know, school starts for the kiddos in about a week and a half.  What you may not know is that football practice starts today.  MC has 6.5 hours of football practice today.  That's pretty much the same as a school day.  And this is why I feel like the school year snuck up on us.  Because while I was fixated on the date of the first day of school, football practice was lurking ever closer, until BoOm.  It's over, friends.  Summer is over.

Four nights this week at least one kid has practice scheduled during the dinner hour--on Tuesday, everybody's got something--so here come the slow cooker and can-be-eaten-in-shifts meals.  If you have any suggestions for me, leave them in the comments.  I need all the help I can get.  And pray for us, friends.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Persistent Chickens

Oh, those silly chickens!  We've had them for 12 weeks now, and my google chicken obsession of the week is "when will my chickens begin to lay?"  Answers vary widely, probably because chickens vary widely, but the general consensus seems to be: when they're ready.  Or in my mind: any day now.

OK, not really.  I can tell my chickens are not yet ready because there are some physical changes that occur before chickens begin to lay, and those changes have not happened yet.  It sounds like Toasty Crunch, Red, and Austro will probably lay before Rocky and Esther, but I guess we'll find out.  And I do mean "we", because you know I'm going to tell y'all.

Last week, the chickens were ranging outside while I was in the kitchen making supper.  For my family, not for the chickens.  I looked out the window to see if I could see the girls, and I couldn't, so I walked over to our glass slider to see if I could see them from a slightly different angle.

I could see them all right.  All five of them were on our back deck, just looking at me through the door.  It was very cute, but I shooed them off the deck immediately, and erected a barrier.

The reason we don't want the chickens on our porch or decks is because of this (warning: graphic content):

They poop.  Everywhere.

I knew it was only a matter of time before they realized that they could jump/fly up onto the barricade, and I was right.

I guess the good news is, they stayed contained to the railings because the railings are higher than the deck itself.

At this point, I decided more drastic measures were called for.  So I lured them back to their coop with an apple.


They're pretty fast when they're chasing food.


Tetherapple.  I gave them a tetherbroccoli last night, and for some reason, they weren't quite as enthusiastic about it (they still liked it, just not as much as the apple).

Amazingly enough, during all of this excitement, only one of the birds pooped on the deck, and that was on a step--easily washed away with the hose.  Whew.  Also amazing: they haven't gone on the deck since.  Whew again.

This week, the girls are looking close to fully grown.  I think they'll get a little bigger, but not much.  Austro still has the most developed wattles, and her comb is a lovely rose color.

We raised the roost this week, and are planning to raise it one more time in the next couple of weeks.  We'll also open the nest boxes in the next couple of weeks--I'd like them to be open before the girls are 16 weeks.

Even though I haven't made any efforts toward training the girls to come to my voice (this is a useful skill to teach, so if I see danger in the yard, I can get them quickly back to the safety of the coop), they do answer me when I call, and in general, when they're out ranging, and I step into their coop and call, they come.

Chicken butts are so, so fluffy.  Either I forgot, or somehow I didn't notice when I was taking care of friends' chickens.  I love the fluffy.

That's all for now.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Some things we're going to eat in the next couple of weeks

It's a menu plan, yes, but not for this week necessarily.  Because of people traveling and other people having evening activities, supper as a family is going to be a little hit and miss in the next couple of weeks.  So instead of pretending, I decided to just put it out there.  Into the universe.  Do with it what you will.

This free-form menu plan feels appropriate for what I consider to be our last few weeks of summer (defining summer as it's hot and the kids are not in school for an extended period of time).  We actually have about 3 1/2 weeks before the kiddos head back to school... So I guess we just have to repeat once?  Or eat a lot of leftovers?



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ten week chick update

Hey y'all.  The chicks are 10 weeks old, and possibly halfway to laying!  Here are some pictures taken during the past couple of weeks:

Austro looking all fluffy.

Rocky preparing to roost.

Esther with #fluffycheeks

Austro and Esther chasing the worm in Red's mouth.



Toasty Crunch



We got the larger feeder and waterer made and installed.  They'll have to be moved up a bit as the girls grow, but they're good for now.

We used food grade 5 gallon buckets.  We bought these for a few dollars at a home improvement store, but to make this project even lower cost, ask at restaurants, school cafeterias, or even the bakery at your grocery store to see if they'd be willing to set aside a few buckets for you.

We used horizontal chicken nipples again, because they worked so well on the smaller waterer.  We used nipples because they keep the water cleaner, and we used horizontal (as opposed to vertical, which are cheaper) nipples so the bucket could be set on the ground for cleaning and filling.

For the feeder, we used 3 inch diameter PVC 45° elbows, which cost a couple of dollars each from our local hardware store.  They're installed so that the lowest part is 3/4 inch above the bottom of the bucket.  The idea is to make it difficult for the girls to spill their food.  They have to put their whole heads inside, and when they try to beak the food out to the side, it just stays right there in the elbow.  For my five chicks, the feeder holds enough food for at least a month, and the waterer would hold enough for about 3 months (we will be cleaning it out and refilling it much more frequently than that, though).

Just in the past week or so I've noticed increased wattle (the red hangy downy things) development, which, of course set me to googling 10 week old black australorp hen and rooster images (Austro's are the most developed, but not anywhere near the 10 week roosters that google showed me).

The girls live for going outside.  It's just so much more interesting, I guess.  Yesterday for the first time, I left them outside for about an hour while I was inside.  They all survived the experience, and it even looked like some wild turkeys were checking them out while I was inside.


As I said, the girls are halfway to laying.  Maybe.  Most chickens could possibly start to lay at around 18-20 weeks, but that can vary widely depending on many factors.  I read somewhere that Silkies (fluffy-head chickens) might take a year or longer before laying their first eggs.  Toasty Crunch is bred for early lay, so she might be ready at around 16 weeks.  What all this means is we need to start getting serious about finishing the nest boxes.  It's a lot easier to train chickens to lay where they're supposed to from the start, than it is to retrain them after they've gotten into a bad habit.

That's all for now.  Until next time...
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