New Babies!

Baby Buffs, one week old

Last Saturday, I got four new baby Buff Orpingtons as the feed store in town. They are adorable!!! They have been healthy and active all week, and seem very happy in their temporary brooder which I have set up in the guest room bathroom so I can keep a close eye on them. They seem more active than the others I have raised in the past. Three years ago I was not so lucky. One ended up being a rooster, and one died last summer, so of that little flock, I have only one left (Buttercup) besides my Big Girls, who are six. I need to make them a birthday cake! Maybe tomorrow. Anyhow, these new little ones are already adept at flying out of the brooder if the screened top is off. I do not use a heat lamp. I use a heating plate that I got from Premier 1. http://www.premier1supplies.com

This creates an environment very similar to a mother hen, and the chicks adapt to it nicely. It is also less costly and not dangerous as a heat lamp. The chicks get natural daylight from the window and when it is dark they go under their little heat plate and sleep.

These chicks are supposed to be all pullets (female). The girl at the feed store also knew how to check their wing feathers and assured me that they are all pullets. We shall see! There is one little baby who has a more brown tint to her down and she is a feisty one. She is also the best and most daring flyer.

My little brownie on top the feed jar

I have not named them yet. I want to be able to tell them apart, and give them names that will go with their different personalities. But I have a list: Mayzie, Marigold, Nellie, Hermione, Rosie Mae, Hazel, SunDrop, Nellie, Daisy, Clover, Angel, Peaches, Goldie, Ginger. Which ones do you vote for? Tell me in a comment below!

I will keep you updated on the adventures of these four little girls. They are two weeks old today, and already are sprouting tail feathers as you can perhaps see in the photo below.

Spring has Sprung!

Spring unlocks the flowers to paint the laughing soil.

Bishop Reginald Heber
Fresh daffodils and migas courtesy of the Feathered Ladies

It has been a LONG LONG winter hasn’t it folks? I honestly did not know if I could make it through all those gloomy rainy days. I took advantage of the drier weather this past week to plant spinach and peas (sugar snap and snow) in the garden. They are not up yet but my hopes are high.

I’ve never planted peas before St. Pat’s Day but I just couldn’t stop myself!

I had great plans to create a St. Patrick’s Day post, but fate intervened. St. Patrick’s Day is one of our favorite holidays on the farm. We make a guinness stew with herbed dumplings which is to die for, colcannon, and Irish soda bread. I decorate a beautiful table and we dine in front of a fireplace fire. I have posted photos on Instagram of previous celebrations. Our St. Pat’s Day this year, however was waylaid by a seriously ill chicken. Feeling carefree, I went out to do morning flock care and noticed a suspicious looking dropping under the roost. Time for fluffy butt checks. Sure enough, I found dear Buffy Orpington had a prolapsed vent. I will not gross you out with descriptions or photos. Google it if you want to know what that looks like. It is a life threatening condition because the protruding tissue can easily get infected and there is a chance other flock members will peck at the tissue, causing bleeding and death.

So first order of the day is to bring the chicken in, bathe her, dry her, and attempt to reinsert the prolapsed tissue. I have done this successfully before on Henrietta, but this time I was not successful. So an emergency trip to the vet was needed. Luckily (the luck of the Irish was with us that weekend) we have a chicken friendly vet and she was on emergency call that weekend. She had to put sutures in Buffy’s vent to keep the tissue in, and sent me home with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicine, and instructions to keep her isolated and in the dark for the next several days. I tell you, one has not lived until one has to give a chicken liquid medicine with a syringe. Buffy and I were both miserable for days. Also, all my plans completely fell by the wayside as caring for her took up most of my time. There went St. Patrick’s Day, dinner and all! Poor Patrick. He has been such a trooper and a great help to me. Of course at this same time, my bum knee gave out and I had to hobble around doing all these chicken nurse chores.

Buffy was such a good patient. She did not struggle and let me care for her. She did cry for her flock mates though.

The story has a happy ending though. Today Buffy went to the vet to have the sutures out, and she was pronounced healthy and healed. She is back with the flock this afternoon, happily scratching around and dust bathing. Please keep us in your prayers and good thoughts as we hope this does not happen again!

Sick bay in the laundry room! I am well prepared because I have a Chicken First Aid Kit!

Happy March 1st

Happy St. David’s Day! That is the Welsh holiday for March first. David was the patron saint of Wales. St. David was a sixth century missionary and ascetic who once raised a hill from the ground in Wales. (Does this count as everyday magic???) To celebrate, I brought in a small bouquet of unopened daffodils and some branches of unopened forsythia from my yard. I put away my pine wreaths (these were placed around my blueberry bushes to mulch them and provide acid), valentine hearts and anything red. I am embracing yellows and greens this month! The weather is turning cooler with more freezing temperatures to come. This morning was foggy after a late night icy rain. Droplets hung like diamonds from every branch and woven wire fencing around the garden. The feathered ladies ignored their breakfast and freshly filled waterers. They clamored to go out early this morning eager to drink the droplets from the fence. Magic!!

I wanted to add a short video of my hens sipping the droplets but it would not upload. Perhaps I can add it later. Happy Day!

Goodbye February!

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

As I behold the nakedness of the trees I am reminded that even in their barrenness they still know how to dance.

A Winter Prayer Reflection, Kathy Sherman, CSJ

Its funny how old February gets when it is the shortest month. I think by this time everyone in the Northeast is truly sick of winter. The above quote reminds me to be grateful for the beauty which exists even in the barrenness of late winter. Believe me, the trees certainly danced earlier this week as we endured high winds which brought in a period of high pressure and put a stop to what was a seemingly endless spell of rainy weather. Now the skies are sunny but it is still very cold.

I have been longing for spring! I just can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt again. My old Felco pruners are repaired and sharpened, and I have ordered a new pair too. I have walked out shivering to inspect the buds on trees and count my emerging primroses. I note each day how much more the daffodils have risen. I mentally note where I will plant the rose bushes I ordered earlier this month. I have started my seeds and they are up! Each morning I mist the tiny plants and feel a tiny spark of hope burn a little brighter in my heart. After all, to garden is to nurture hope.

Baby tomato seedlings

My seeds have all arrived and are waiting to be tucked into my garden tote. I order seeds from the following sources, and I also shop locally: http://www.highmowingseeds.com and http://www.botanicalinterests.com

My colorful array of seeds.

Even the chickens are getting a bit of spring fever. Miss Henrietta’s new favorite spot is atop a stump in the big run where she can catch a glimpse of the green paddock and catch a few fresh breezes above the protective plastic covering. My old girls are starting to show their age. They will be six in April. Buffy and Henrietta prefer long dust baths in the afternoons while Yellow Feet (forever young) and Buttercup forage outside the coop in the greening grass. I plan to get a few new chicks in April and am almost losing sleep over whether to order from a hatchery or pick them up at the local farm store. If I order chicks I have to have a minimum number for them to ship, which is more than I can house. If I take my luck at the local store I might miss a chance to get my preferred breed, Buff Orpingtons. Oh well, the best advice is not to overthink it, I guess.

So here’s to the end of February and welcome March! I hope everyone has a chance to bask in some sunshine soon, pick a bouquet of daffodils (I promise I will show you mine) and maybe even fly a kite!

Poem

Eating a Yellow Feet Egg in My New Egg Cup

Permit me to wax sloppily grateful
on this grey late winter morning,
my heart as glad 
as the lone redbird bloom
on the evergreen outside my kitchen window.
I dip my slanted spoon
into yellow richness,
having cracked and peeled away
the top of an egg newly laid 
by my sweet little hen.
Those handfuls of sunflower seeds
I offered you as you stood on the roost,
singing,
translated into liquid sun,
and I own more gold than kings.

Love

It is Valentine’s Day and I wish everyone a day filled with love. One tends to usually think of romantic love on this day, but love comes in many forms. Think of all the moments which take our breath away, or cause us to pause -just for a second- and think how wonderful it is to be alive. Think of the times when one feels a deep connection with the earth itself, and all the beings which inhabit it, all sharing the energy of life. Today while stopped at a traffic light, I was charmed to witness a group of young schoolchildren playing outside at recess time. They were racing to and fro, which caused the hearts attached by pipe cleaners to their valentine headbands to sway wildly. It seemed to me like the hearts were dancing with joy. When I taught school, Valentine’s Day was my favorite holiday because it did not involve gift giving, but the giving of gaily decorated tokens of friendship and affection.

Two years ago today, my husband surprised me with a tiny tuxedo kitten. I named him Valentine, of course. He has grown into a gallant little gentleman, always mischievious and ever affectionately grateful that he was saved from certain death at the pound. We celebrate today as his birthday. We will treat him to a special can of cat food which he will share with his kitty sisters. My husband made Sadie, our golden retriever, her own heart shaped cake. Lucky girl!

Happy Birthday, Valentine!

My feathered ladies also get a special treat today. I made them a special kale salad with sliced strawberries for hearts and served it in a heart shaped pan. We also opened a box I had ordered from Henny and Roo http://hennyandroo.com I think my girls were very appreciative!

In these waning days of winter, it is always good to look for ways to celebrate life, no matter how small they are. It can be as simple as giving the people you pass at the grocery store a genuine smile. Little signs of appreciation and affection just may kindle a spark which keeps goodness alive in this world.

Mid-Winter Light

We have passed the mid-winter mark last week as Groundhog Day, Imbolc, the Feast of St. Brigid, and/or Candlemas are all celebrated on February 1-2 in different cultures and faith traditions.  Common to our area, the groundhog, celebrated on February second for his ability to predict the seasons, saw his shadow in some places and in other places did not, insuring that the debate about how many more weeks of winter we must endure will continue on.  The fact is Spring will return with the equinox.  Meanwhile these old bones feel a returning strength in the sunlight which pours forth from the blessing of pristine blue skies these past few days.

I for one am not a huge fan of groundhog traditions no matter how much a part of our Appalachian culture they may be.  I prefer to mark the mid-winter celebration with the Irish tradition of setting out a cloth for St. Brigid to bless as folk tradition says she treads lightly on the earth come January’s end to promise the return of warmth and light.  I also set new white candles in our holders on the kitchen and dining room tables, while I whisper a quiet blessing on hearth and home. 

Each year at Candlemas I recall a story I read once about prisoners in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II who craved and treasured candles, not as a source  of light, but as a source of food, to be nibbled one small bit at a time, thus numbing the ache of starvation.  Finally, on Christmas Eve, one tiny remaining candle was brought forth by one starving prisoner and lit.  Reminding everyone in that dark, cramped cell that Light had come into the world, and that hope can be rekindled. 

I light two candles as evening falls, and the sky turns that lovely color of pale blue before fading into deeper indigo, in hope that light will return both in this season and in our darkened, fear-filled world.  May I be light.  May YOU be light.  May WE ALL be light for each other and for the world.

(One can find the candle story in an online search as it appeared in an issue of Reader’s Digest, December 1990.)