The Hens of Pumpkin Hollow

20180214_152811They, too, wait for spring when fresh greenery pushes through to be pecked at and enjoyed by the hens of Pumpkin Hollow Farm.  I love chickens.  And the thing we missed most when we were away from a farm was having chickens.  They make a farm a home anywhere you can keep them.  Their colorful feathers, changing in the sun, their strut through high weeds and the way they tilt their head to look at you with one eye.  They are hilarious in demeanor and each one is as different as my cats.

Yogi and Hindi are Jersey Giants and we refer to them as the Jersey girls.  They tend to stick together.  Their large black feathers sparkle emerald in the sunlight.  They lay large brown eggs.  They were late bloomers but seem to be catching up with others.

20180214_152820

Eloise was supposed to be a Marans but she lacks speckles and I think she is actually an Australorpe.  She lays small tan eggs wherever she pleases; outside the coop door, near the chicken food-as if the egg popping out surprises her.  She wants to be pet but then changes her mind.  She sleeps by herself and is a little…um…special.  But she is very sweet.

20180214_152857

Buttercup is the tiny queen here.  A clean, white egg can be found each day.  Her breed is Buttercup which is what led to her name.  She looks like a miniature leopard with a rose shaped crown.  She wants nothing to do with us.  Unless we have a bit of cracked corn.

Owlette is an Auracana.  This lovely breed looks like an owl and lays blue-green eggs.  I would like a few more of these ladies.  They are sassy and good layers.

20180214_152835

We have fallen for Salmon Favorelles.  These girls are beautiful in their French finest and petticoats.  They lay pink eggs regularly and are very friendly.  Bubba is especially sweet.  Our granddaughter named our chickens.  Bubba and Chichi are cute names indeed.

20180214_152902

We feed organic layer feed and organic scratch.  They eat scraps from the kitchen as well.  They have a large fenced in area that was likely a dog run in the past with seven foot fencing.  They live in an adobe house with trumpet vine that climbs prettily up the side in the summer.  We are all ready for a little color and for winter to pass!  They are able to wander the yard on the days the puppy goes to the shop with me.  I don’t trust his puppyness quite yet.  Chickens are very easy to keep.  They require little more than a straw strewn shed or chicken coop, fresh water, scratch, oyster shells, scraps, and feed.  They love dirt baths and bugs and sunlight.  They put themselves to bed in the evening at last light.  All you have to do is open the door in the morning and close the door at night.

chick

We are vegan but we do eat the eggs from our own chickens.  Our chickens lead a very nice life with pets, treats, and lots of wandering adventures.  They will live here their entire life and so in that way they are lucky.  No factory farms, cages, enclosed barns, or slaughter for them.

So now as spring approaches we have the question to answer; do we “adopt” five more chicks even though the hatcheries are horrific and provide five chickens with a beautiful future or do we wait and see if we are sent five chickens that need rescuing?  There are many moral decisions to be made on a small hobby farm.  We do know that chickens make this mini-farm a happier place to live.  A farm without chickens is not quite a home.

When Chickens Get Grounded

We have our hussies around here.  The white one I have been writing about since the beginning, as she is my oldest chicken, is the worst.  Ethel.  Always flying the coop (and then the fence).  Sophia and Yetta, the Araucanas followed and pretty soon I had a regular runway of chickens dancing up my driveway,  laying eggs under pumpkin leaves, and singing opera in the front yard.  Leo always coming over to tell me my chicken is out as nonchalant as if one of the kids were in trouble.  Then we found out our sweet neighbors next door have recently been shooing them out of the street.  Time for a change.

IMG_1754

We live on a major thoroughfare.  Constant traffic and even though the sign says 20 miles an hour, 50 is often the new 20.  We started looking to see how to clip their wings.  Their vagabond days are done.

IMG_0223

We spread Sophia’s wings which naturally extended the lower flight feathers which are longer.  A pair of sharp kitchen scissors easily cut through the lower half of those feathers.  Much like a craft project with feathers, it did not feel strange to cut them and Sophia didn’t flinch.  Then it was Yetta’s turn.  We could not catch Ethel to save our life.  Fast little bugger.  She spent yesterday in the front yard.  Sophia joined her.

IMG_0224

So this morning, before they could get their breakfast, we went into the coop and kidnapped Ethel, snipping both wings of flight feathers and Sophia’s other wing.  It didn’t hurt them and we have more fear of them getting hit by an oil truck then a coyote coming into the back yard.

We shall see today if all eighteen chickens in the back yard remain in the back yard!

Araucana Gift

IMG_0771

Our nine teenaged girls are becoming old enough to join the ranks of the other six as layers.  We got our first egg from the new set of chickens the other day.  It does look like a robin snuck into the coop and laid an egg.  So adorable and precious.  I would have never guessed that an egg could fit that description!  Thank you, Sophia!

SAM_0534

Homestead Spring

SAM_0532

The first day of spring might have been in March but around here the first day of spring was yesterday.  The sun shone gloriously from its perch, the air was warm, the lilac and choke cherry leaves are stretching their arms out of their winter cocoons.  It even rained instead of snowed!  Of course I have four loads of wet laundry draped on the clothes line now, but just imagine how fresh they will be when they dry!  Nature’s fabric softener.

I could hardly get myself to stay inside.  I cleaned quickly and spent most of my day outdoors basking in vitamin d. I seem to be sun operated, it charged my batteries after a long, cold winter, and I got ever so much done!

SAM_0534

The big chickies enjoyed their romp around the yard.  I locked them out of their own pen to allow the chicken pen door to remain open and inspire the little ones to take in a little sun.  Nala and Sophia, our fabulous Araucanas in their fashionable leopard coats, remind me of those girls in school who were so much prettier than everyone else and so much bitchier.  They tell everyone what they may and may not do.  They chased any curious chick away from the doors.  A few times Gretel was able to spread out in the sun, her wings spread wide, in a lounging position until one of the Araucanas decided that she had enough.  A few snuck out for a few minutes but the guard girls shooed them back in.  Poor Henry Higgins.  He spends most of his time in the dog kennel out there hiding from the increasing estrogen levels of the female teens.  Brigitta is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  She runs and stands on our foot when we arrive.  And she felt safe to venture outside if I could stand with her.  She is the goof ball looking at the camera when I was taking a picture of Sophia.  Who’d a thought that chickens would have so much personality?

SAM_0536

Out in the garden, I transplanted the oregano and cilantro, planted six more rows of greens, and watered well (before the rain storm…).  It felt good to get my hands dirty.  The seeds are germinating and shoots of promising food are slowly popping up here and there.  The carrots are the last to come up.  I was hoping this would be my first year successfully growing carrots!  The herbs are taking off and look wonderful.  The bees came to visit and I enjoyed their gentle buzzing.  I will not have my own bees this year.  I recognized that I had taken on a bit more than I could handle.  Not knowing where we will be, not having any of the equipment to prevent stings, and a general nervousness about 10,000 bees coming over for dinner, I decided to see if someone else would take them when they arrived.  My young bee mentor was hoping for another group of bees but the company had sold out.  So, mine are living happily at his house.  Farmgirls have lofty goals, but sometimes they have to be spread out a bit.  There is always next year.

SAM_0538

Speaking of lofty goals, I sat there shaking my head at my garden plot.  I have six beds that are 10×3, three beds that 5×3, and two beds that are 3×3.  It may seem like a lot compared to what I could do in an apartment, but the square footage gets used up pretty quick once you plant three kinds of corn, squash, zucchini, watermelons, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, grapevines, radishes, lettuce, collard greens, kale, potatoes, peas, carrots (come up already!), cauliflower, cabbage, soybeans, three kinds of cooking beans, medicinal herbs, and culinary herbs…..yikes.  My main goal is to grow enough to substantially help feed my family.  Add to that market growing and I need a bigger plot!  Even though Nancy will be doing the bulk of the market growing, I wouldn’t mind helping out a little and I am growing a lot of the herbs.

SAM_0537

Then I started to see it.  Look at that space just to the left of the peas….or in between lettuce plants….or in that pot over there…or…there are a lot of spaces that can be filled.  I placed the oregano in the potato bed.  I placed the greens where I will add tomatoes and peppers in a few weeks.  Everyone will like each other.  I can see what doesn’t make it, replant.  Or find a foot here and there.  It is doable.  No long rows of the same thing.  Lots of interplanting (making sure they all get a long of course) and space making!  If the water wasn’t so exorbitant in this town, I would have already plowed the front yard and made a giant corn field and pumpkin patch.  Our space is as limitless as our imagination.

I wanted to attack the crabgrass before it grew up to high and we got a notice from the town.  But in my quest for all things non-electric, I bought a push mower last year.  It is a nifty little thing, just doesn’t cut grass.  I took my kitchen knife sharpener out and worked on the blades.  Had the whole front yard mowed in no time!

SAM_0539

My indoor garden survived their indoor recesses, and like me, were anxious to get a smidge more sunshine.  They are enjoying their stay on the porches looking out for possible freezes, but I think they can spend the majority of their time out there now.  Just as I will.

The sure sign of spring for me yesterday was the familiar whistling moped sound from the sky.  And there she was.  Our beautiful hummingbird has returned.  Welcome, welcome Spring.