Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kids, Chickens, coops, spring!

Tomorrow I am leaving for a trip to Seattle for Toby and Shannon's wedding. In the past two weeks, a few things have been happening that are pretty exciting, and I'm just trying to get them all down here before I take off tomorrow.

The previously mentioned chickens: I haven't killed any of them! We'll see if my dad can keep that trend going when I'm gone for a week an a half. I'm absolutely shocked at how fast they're growing. Most of them have great looking wing feathers already, and are trying to fly (!) (?)..... (:-/). I keep telling them in my sad and lonely old chicken-man way (yes, I'm talking to the chickens, its perfectly healthy) that they're chickens and they'll never be able to fly. The optimistic young rebellious side of me hopes that they won't listen, to me or to nature, and they'll fly away forever free. The old chicken man (Kinda like the crazy cat lady, but with chickens. Go with it) part of me wants their eggs. I think the chickens will listen to reason and stop all their jibber-jabbin'.

Proud and, relatively, free. They just can't get out.

They're friggin' chickens, man! Such Proud, Independent Women.
 Today I moved the chickens out of the small 3' diameter brooding tank I had them in and put them into the newly enclosed coop that got, kinda, finished! It has a nice coat of Boring White Primer on it (Thanks to Gina for help with the coop and the painting!), and I'll decide on a color once I get back from my trip. I attempted to go to a hardware store and buy some mistakenly made paint off them for cheap.... the one problem I now see is that it was just winter, and nobody buys exterior grade paint in winter. There was no messup colors available to buy. Guess I'll try later! I also need to put in roosts as soon as the chickens are big enough to roost, but for the time being, that point is moot.

Moot. Coop. Moot Coop. Now say it out loud. Enunciate. Now you sound incredibly silly.

Chicken Viewing Window from the outside of the coop!

This is apparently the only picture I took of the "finished" coop. I am an imbecile. LOOK A WHITE BOX! The other angles are better, I promise.
In non-chicken related news and similarly super-cute baby news, those of you who do not see my facebook posts will be happy to hear that we have baby goats now! Kids! Unfortunately, one of them didn't make it, but we are proud to introduce the newest members of our goat herd, no-names #1-3 and June Carter! The boys don't get names, for they are destined for either a gruesome, bloody, delicious end or someone's field who is not us. Either way, we prefer to not associate names and get emotionally attached (yeah right, like that's not going to happen).

No name #1 (Con-Tron's First)

No Name #2 (con-tron's Second)

Our little Ghost Goat. Sadface. :-( (Rosie's Third)

JUNE CARTER GOAT (Thanks for the Name Britt) (Rosie's Second)

No Name #3 (Rosie's First)
Ghostie didn't make it, we think, because it wasn't pushy enough to get fed. The big goats tend to walk away from the little kids when they're trying to feed. Unfortunately, it happens more often than I had previously read about; one goat out of a set of triplets gets ostracized and underfed. She would have made 2 beautiful little girls to raise with their mommas. Now we have 3 Billies and 1 girl. The girl is named June Carter. Britt requested we name one of the goats this. I think it is great. And Devon and Elsa, if you're reading this, I'm really not trying to copycat June Carter Cat, because that three-legged bundle of energy is in a class of its own. I wouldn't want to impose.

They are so much fun to watch play. It is ridiculously cute. Here's some pictures of goatplay, really cute. Best joke of birthing day goes to my friend Sean, who, when he saw the pictures, commented "Baby goats!? They've got to be kidding!" Bucketuhfish. Click on the images if you want to see any bigger.


June Carter goat in the wild.

lookit the little goat feeding!!!!

If you're wondering, yes, I'm getting pretty good at milking the big goats. Connie's got a lopsided udder that the kids won't feed from if not explicitly made to. So we milk it down, then get a kid on the teat with Connie locked in the goat stand so she can't run away. Which she loves doing. She also loves resisting any attempt to get her into the goats stand. Its a nice morning wakeup to hoist her up onto the stand and push her head through the restraining boards so she can't run away. And just our luck, Rosie would love to get up on the stand because we give Raisins as treats, however, she doesn't need to get up there yet. one interesting and kind of adorable thing that they do is that they'll feed each others' babies. Not something I expected. Also, the kids headbutt the udders pretty hard when they're trying to get the last drops out. Not something I would think these stubborn goats would allow, but it doesn't seem to faze them.

So, now that all the kids are kidded and chickens are chicked, I have only to get the plants planted. No small task. I'm still behind on getting my greenhouse/cold frame built (PVC structure with plastic sheeting for solar energy intensification). I also need to get a big ol' pile of my dirt ready and mixed, and jerry-rig some kind of a hot house/heated starting structure in the attic of the barn. Sheesh.

I visited Ladybird Farms' headquarters (their garage) to see how their seed starting operation was conducted, and to interact with some other local growers. Sufficed to say, they're far ahead of any progress (or lack thereof) I have made. However, they've been doing this a couple years longer than NEVER BEFORE and have a little better idea how things work in our local climate. I also didn't want to start any seeds then leave for a week and half. I'll start stuff when I get back. However, I suggest, if you are reading this and are in the Southeast Idaho area, and like vegetables, or think you need to eat more vegetables, subscribe to Ladybird Farms' CSA. I was a member of a CSA in Seattle, and I have to admit that the benefits of getting locally produced, fresh produce in abundance during to the summer is well worth the price they are asking. Whats more, I found that it more or less forced me to eat more veggies, or they would go bad and I would feed stupid for wasting my valuable vegetables that had already been paid for. Anyway, check it out if you're interested (though I don't know how many people in SE Idaho actually read this).

I went to Craters of the Moon with Gina when she was out here last week. It was fun to have a friend around for once. It was good to kind of shake me out of my day-to-day existence, too. Craters of the Moon was too snowy for us to really enjoy any "craters" or have it look like a "moon", but I wore my astronaut helmet anyway. I made sure to sing "Ziggy stardust" and "Rocketman" to the aether of the craters of the moon, and even came back with a mission patch bought for me by Gina. We then stopped in the town of Arco for a (gutbomb) Atomic Burger, so named because of the SL-1 nuclear reactor facility in the area that melted down in 1961, a somewhat poignant landmark to pass considering the recent disasters in Japan reactors. The Wikipedia article about the meltdown is fascinating to read. In lighter news, the high school local to Arco, Named after the local county of "Butte", has the unfortunate mascot of Pirates. They are the Butte Pirates. I have picture proof taken by my crappy cellphone camera. I think everybody in the Pickle Place restaurant where I snapped this photo was glaring at me and hated me as I walked out the door.

Most Unfortunate. I'm sorry, high school kids that have to go to this high school.
EDIT: After having to explain why I find "Butte Pirates" slightly humorous to my parents (awkward!), I realize that this might not translate well to people who read "butte" with a long "u". While there is no offense meant by posting this, I do, however, sometimes have a juvenile sense of humor. A Butt Pirate is something that I would have called a friend jokingly in middle school. I thought it was funny at the time, and unfortunate for any students of the school to have to be branded under the moniker. All guys are stupid 12 year olds at heart sometimes. Here is evidence.

Anything else? No? Okay, meeting adjourned.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's up, Chickens?

So I got some chickens today.

Scratchin' at the ground
Chicken Brooder... I am the mother hen.
They have discovered.... WATER!
Aww look she's standing in her food....and probably pooping in it too...

Yes I got chickens... though that is not to say that I am completely prepared for these chickens. However, they are awesome. I am not completely prepared in the idea that I don't have a coop built. Not all the way. But, it is partially built! Check out the progress:

Initial frame for the bottom, using salvaged Axle and wheels
These are the joints I used for stability: cut away a 2x4" sized notch in a 4x4, then drilled through both and cinched a carriage bolt to hold it all together. In 12 different places. There is no torsion going on in the frame
base with floor and initial walls
With framing
Close-up of beginnings of nesting box, where eggs will be laid.

If that's not a good start, I don't know what is! I have decided I'm going to be using plywood to complete the sides and use see-through corrugated roofing, and some windows we have laying around for additional light. I WAS going to be using salvage wood from around the farm. I'm concerned that: 1) the wood is not of high enough quality to last that long and 2) It would make the whole structure too heavy to move, and the salvaged tires would buckle under the weight.

So I'm using plywood Sheeting (Actually Oriented Strand Board, it's cheaper, for now, at home depot) and going to paint it for weathering purposes. The nesting box will be completed with a hinged top to allow access from the outside, so that I can snatch them without having to duck into a 4' high coop. With any luck, I'll only have to go into the thing to give them water and food and clean it. So pretty much all the time anyway. However, being able to sneak in and swipe the eggs from outside is going to help, because chickens, as I've read and not experienced, can get a little protective of the eggs and not want you to take them. Its called getting broody, which is a natural process and makes their biological laying mechanism shut off, which we don't want. Cause we want EGGS! Glorious, nutritious, delicious EGGS! Blue Eggs! Brown Eggs! White Eggs! Eggs of all color and creed! Momma didn't raise no Eggist! Judge not by the color of the shell, but by the contents of the albumen!

Anyway, where was I going with this? Ah, yes, that's right, other things around the farm. Well, today I woke up to another wonderful snowfall. No folks,  Idaho didn't listen to Punxsutawney Phil, Buckeye Chuck, or Susquehanna Sherman for the prediction of an early spring in 2011. Idaho is bending its superstitiously meteorological ear more in the direction of Balzac Billy. I promise that link is safe for work...

As it turns out, I took some time clearing out the back of the barn so I would have room to build the chicken coop, which meant taking scrap metal to the recycling center and getting paid for it. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me! So here are some pics of what the barn looks like now in certain places. comparisons:

So, I put up wall board on that wall (after the "Middle" Picture), and stacked all of the things that were obviously painted International Harvester Red, John Deere Green, Ford Blue, or CAT yellow against the wall... turns out there are a lot of tractor parts in my shop. Hopefully we find somebody who knows what they're supposed to be used for, and maybe we can sell them to somebody who can use them. Lots of Packrattin' going on at the farm. So with the pile of scrap metal gone, I had room for a lounge:

Before, not so lounge-y
TOTAL LOUNGE FEST! check out that sweet overstuffed chair...

I ordered my seed for planting, and got that in the mail last week. I'm still getting together my starting materials, like soil and blockers and stuff. oh! Blockers! That's right. They're this cool little thing. You don't need any peat pots or any plastic trays, the soil holds together by itself in a "block" of "soil" if composed correctly. I'll be using my own compost for part of the starter soil mix, so I'm excited to try them out. I figured I had to spend the money on either trays or these blockers, and so I decided on the soil blockers. I got them from Johnny's Selected Seeds, recommended in Eliot Coleman's book the New Organic Grower. We'll see how it works out.

The goats have still not had babies. Their bags are all bagged up (Can I even SAY that on national internet??), and they are GRUNTING. My goodness, these goats need to just get it over with. I'm sure they would if they could. I'm just ready to have goats to do this:

In other exciting news, I went to a beerfest with my cousin in Pocatello (First year ever! First thing I've done off the farm in about a month and a half!) and completely ruined myself (oh yeah, Josh, you still owe me $25!). With all this weight loss and NOT drinking beer regularly, I couldn't handle it. Buzzkill when I have to go to bed at 9PM because I get home and can't stay awake. No joke. It was nice to have a Manny's though. Georgetown was the only WA brewer to make an appearance, I appreciate that.

So I'm looking forward to a few things happening in the next few weeks. Friend Gina is coming over from Portland, Oregon to visit during her spring break from Nursing, we'll have plenty of fun, cold, wet, farm activities to do. Plus chickens! And at the end of March, I'm heading over to Seattle for another trip to act as a pretty good guy in friends Toby and Shannon's wedding! Wheeeeee! (They're buying me a tie, I'm excited). Some things I'm expecting to do while over in Seattle; cabin time. One of my favorite places to be. I'll be visiting my former co-workers still desk jockeying it up at the computer place. Also, any and all friends I can possibly see. Its been too long, I hope you all know that I miss you dearly.

-Jon E