Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 2014 - February Tales

                              Photo by Susan Krupke

February Tales

As usual, life has been busy. Throwing it's winter weather curve balls at us..or is that snowballs? Either way, like most of the country, we have been cold. We did get a reprieve and had a few days where the temps briefly touch 40's, and what a glorious time. Winter does make you appreciate your OTHER seasons. Especially when it's 30 degrees below and it's time to plan a garden. Ordering seeds, taking measurements of the garden in frigid temps. {I have a new appreciation for Photographers that brave the elements for that perfect shot.} I should knit a pair of photographers gloves....with the tip of one finger (trigger finger) that can be removed, so the whole hand doesn't get frostbite.  
But its all good, there's so much to be thankful for that gratitude is the general sentiment, nor resentment or struggles. 
Our daughter Lizzy was here for a visit. She is full of love and has so much positive energy and is a joy to be around.  We are thankful that we had a few days with her, here in Iowa. 

She was determined to spin up some fiber that she bought last summer at Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival. She spun all 8 oz. of it beautifully, even though she hasn't touched a spinning wheel in nearly two years. She made this 'spinning mama' proud!
And then she knitted herself a headband. Crafty young lady!

We received word that our son Scott Jr. (that is deployed in Afghanistan) will be returning to the United States in a few short weeks. A big sigh of relief for the whole family. We look forward to his return, but not more than his Newlywed Bride Stephanie. They can now begin their lives together.

Ashley Allene Rider's photo.

Just last week we had a visit from KWQC's News Station here in Quad Cities Area. Fran Riley did an interview on our family. It was a lot of fun. Fran is very personable and friendly. I didn't feel like we were interviewed, it felt more like chatting with a friend. Fran and his Cameraman Greg are always welcome here and we hope they will return this summer.

Fran Riley had a go at the wheel.

Our chicken count is down to around 24 now, we lost of few this winter and are currently making plans for a larger and more functional coop. Most of our weather problems have been solved and we will be better prepared for next year.
I believe our water issues have been solved, inside the house (water softener installed, cleared the water lines, new washing machine ) . 
The pond is leaking at the dam, and a new septic has to be put in in the spring. But that's another tale for another day.
I have been spinning Angora fiber from Pebbles for a friend in Alaska, we are doing a trade and I can't wait to show the results....that's another tale as well!

Scott and I had our first wedding Anniversary, same day at the reporter did the interview. It wasn't planned that way, in fact the initial interview was suppose to be in December, but was rescheduled by Fran on the same day as our Anniversary. It was perfectly fine, what a great way to celebrate....we are an odd couple anyway!!! Happy Anniversary Scott ! It has been another wonderful year with you!

<-----spring flowers="" nbsp="" p="">
   (sending those positive thoughts out to Mother Nature)
Our new (as in, new to IOWA)  family members are due to arrive in a few weeks....I will announce their arrival....when they get here...it's an exciting time for all of us...and a wonderful journey is about to begin. Good Wonderful things are about to happen and for all of this, and so much more, I am thankful!
We are blessed. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter Blues - January & February 2014

There comes a point when I feel enough is enough. Trudging through the snow, slipping on ice (numerous times) [Bringing a new concept to real "Planking"]. Overall, missing the sunshine on my exposed shoulders (without fear of frostbite). 
Yes, wintertime is beautiful and picturesque. I have taken my share of photos and shared them on facebook, taken some for my own collection. But I am done! D O N E . The Chickens have also voted on this agenda and they agreed. Yes, Mr. Winter it is time for you to leave, so that we can get on with our plans for a Herb Garden, Flower Garden and Vegetable Garden. 

Our chickens have done well, considering the occasional - 50 Windchill and brutal nightime temps. We have treated them for minor frostbite, with Vetericyn and using vaseline for a preventative. Also removing the water at 8pm each night to keep the moisture down to a minimum. We had to add 2 Heat Lamps for the Negative temps after several roosters and a few hens got frostbite. Changing the water a few times a day, because the water freezes in the coop, even with the heat lamps. And cleaning the coop during a fairly mild -20 day with winds around 10-15 mph. Its only one chicken coop but there have been several days that it has consumed all our energy and attention.

One particularily bad afternoon with winds howling over 25 mph.  One of our roosters had to be removed and brought into the house.  He was in terrible condition, incredibly weak and could not stand. Chanteclair (as Scott named him, was a bloody mess). He had one eye swollen shut and his whole left face was bloody. We put him in a small cat carrier with heat lamps, hand fed him water, cleaned him with Disinfectant and kept him in the bathroom upstairs. One hour later after a second chicken coop check, Mr. Bill had to join him. Mr Bill was weak from frostbite and bloody, just not as much as Chanteclair. Our belief is that Mr. Bill attacked Chanteclair and once we removed Chanteclair, Mr. Bill got attacked by the others. We had too many roosters in the coop, but they had all grown up together and never challenged ranks. Until now. In the middle of a snow storm. Of Course. 

So once they made it through the night, they received more tending to in the morning and an apartment of their own in a dog crate, divided and visually not able to see each other. And there they lived for four long weeks in our bathroom, next to the bedroom.

 Now, before everyone goes , "AWWWW"....the story just gets more difficult. The beautiful thing was, they recovered, received lots of attention and a clean cage. Jon, our son, built mini roosts for them to be up off the cage floor. They had individual little feeding dishes and water dishes. They got used to our coming and going out of that room, which the laundry room is attached to. We used our other bathrooms for our personal bathroom activities. Except on a few occasions of emergency use. Like, when all the bathrooms are being used....sigh...yes we had to use the 'privy' with them watching. Very Weird. But not as weird as, when I did my great planking event on 2 inches of ice, and had to soak my bruised body, in the only tub in this house, (you guessed right) in the "Chicken Bathroom". 

Now, my idea of a bubble bath, Epsom Salt Soak with Lavendar Essential Oils DOES NOT include ROOSTERS Nearby ....and it took this City Girl all day to Muster Up the "I CAN DO THIS" attitude. That and lots of cleaning the room top to bottom beforehand. And surprisingly enough once I got in the tub, looking over at Chanteclair (in his cage) I thought, I think he is more perplexed than I am. I got over it, and soaked away. Thinking quietly to myself..." Can I call myself a homesteader now?"  

'Cock A Doodle Doo' crowing occurs at all hours of the day, and night, for two inside roosters with heatlamps. Once the heat lamps were removed and they were well on their way to recovery the crowing continued. This made for some interesting background noise on the phone, but we took it in stride.

When we agreed to have chickens, we knew the purpose of the chickens was to provide our family with safe to eat meat and eggs. Also to provide all of our animals with lots of sunshine and a quality of life. But at the same time, I was gearing myself up to mentally prepare for the butchering in the spring. And this is where it gets difficult. 

We tried to reintroduce Mr. Bill to the flock, letting him stay in the coop within the safe confines of a cage so that the others can adjust. It didn't work. Now, to our credit, we have read up on ways to do this, and scoured our favorite chicken sites for tips and tricks. And yet, he was attacked by the NOW Head Rooster in the coop. We promptly removed him and returned completely defeated with Mr. Bill in tow, back to the house. We knew that we would have to butcher both of our roosters. With a heavy heart over the following weekend. We did just that. 

Scott has butchered chickens in the past and we were able to get them processed in a short amount of time. Scott, Jon and I did the plucking. And we soaked the chicken in salt water overnight and made chicken soup in the morning. Now remember, I WAS a city girl and this was way out of my comfort zone. We non-vegetarians will go to the grocery store and pick up a cellophane covered package of chicken breast to bring home and make dinner for our families without guilt, hate mail or nasty comments sent to us. And our families will give us Kudos for a meal well prepared. And this is how I have to look at this, it is part of providing for our family. A natural more humane way to eat meat. I just have to swallow my emotional side. And I did. And so did Jon. And Scott. 

I made the most amazing Chicken Soup I have ever made. And we ate it. For three nights in a row. The first night, I won't kid you, was difficult and I had to put my mind in a better place in order to eat. But the second night, I fully enjoyed the meal. 

I have learned a few lessons. 1.) Do not NAME your food.
2.) Remember the purpose of the animals. 

And with this in mind...we will always remember to give 100% in their care, even if they are part of our food chain. 

This is the real reason we decided to homestead.

                            I believe we have now earned the title "Homesteaders".