Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chickens and the Chicken McMasion

We have a silly song at our house now.  It goes:  Baby Batam Chicken McMasion, Chicken McMansion, bok, bok, bok, bok, bok.   Back in the early spring of this year (when it was still snowing... might have even been winter), my hubby had already decided that we were going to try chicken farming.  We signed up with the local Extension/4H office for chickens in the classroom.  Hubby had a plan for a chicken coop based on our little white shed in the back of the house & a bunch of coops we've looked at the past couple of years.  He told his design idea to his friend, John G., and they got to building.  This is a mobile coop, currently being moved by our neighbor, who has a small tractor (but could be moved by our pick up).  You can see the door for people to go in on this end.  The dark door-looking space is actually for a window & there is an identical space on the other side.  This is before windows and painting.  You can't see in this picture, but there are three "doors" on the outsides to collect eggs from nesting boxes on the inside.  The whole thing was so fancy to me, and I would like a little shed like that for my own, that I dubbed the coop the "Chicken McMansion."
Not long after the coop was complete, the boys couldn't stand it any longer... they went to Tractor Supply Company and picked up some baby chicks.  We also got given some meat birds, from someone else hatching chickens in the classroom.  These are Cornish Crosses, and they grow very big, very fast.

These are white pullets.  All turned out to be girls, as they were supposed to be.  Pullets are full size birds (as opposed to bantams), and sexed, so that you know you are getting laying hens.  It was cold, and they still had their baby down, so they had to have heat lamps on almost all the time.
This batch got picked up the next day... at a different Tractor Supply store.  Over in the corner, you can see a couple of black birds.  They are our bantams, which are not sexed.  One turned out to be Wyatt's rooster, whose name is Rotisserie (just in case Daddy made him kill the rooster).  The other has a little bit of white and blackish gray.  That one is Ellie's bantam, her name is Tris (after the character in the book Divergent... because she was a little daredevil when she started flying.  The littlest chicken, and she was flying the highest!).  The other birds are red pullets, mixes with Rhode Island Reds (high production layers).

Here is the completed coop, with the chicken run and windows in the backyard.  The red glow is from the heat lamps for the little ones inside.  They got really stinky in the garage, so we were all ready to have some go out to the coop.  We wound up bringing them in and out because of the weather.

You can see the nesting boxes here with the nice plastic mats, that would be so great... in theory, because you can rinse them off when they get poopy.  Only, when our chickens started laying, they did not like the mats.  The boxes are now filled with hay from our land.
You can see the view from this side of the people door to get into the run. The kids and I painted the run. The coop was built with a lot of scrap wood from our old deck, so it was a lot cheaper to make than it would have been, had we used all brand new wood.

The little white pullets were the oldest.  We had to keep them separate, because they wanted to pick on the littler chickens.

You can see the hanging food and water.  We have larger food and water holders in the coop now.  These are in our second coop (a smaller A-frame style)... yes, we now have TWO chicken coops!

I got this last picture from my Hubby's phone, taken May 19th.  The chickens are about the same age as our new "babies" are now (yes, the kids got 3 more chickens and 2 guineas September 10th).  You can see the extra layer of wire that had to be added to the chicken run.  The little ones could fit through the chicken wire, so that is rabbit wire added to the bottom, to keep them safe.  We mostly kept them in the coop until they got to be full sized.  Once they got their adult feathers, they could keep themselves warm enough outside.  But we wanted to make sure they were safe from predators.  Now that they are grown, they get to free range all day long, from sun-up till sun-down.  

On the right, you can see Wyatt's black bantam rooster, Rotisserie.  Wyatt is thee Chicken Farmer now.  He researches them every day, cares for them diligently, and collects eggs.  He has figured out that Rotisserie is a Black Cochin Bantam.  Being a bantam to a chicken is like being a pony to a horse (it's all about size).  We weren't necessarily going to have a rooster, but our neighbors didn't mind, and we all fell in love with Rotisserie.  He is so unique and a handsome rooster.  The next one from the right is Tris, who Wyatt has determined is a Columbian Wyandotte Bantam (acutally with more research, we have decided she is a Light Brahma).  Tris is a champion layer!  Though her eggs are about half the size of a regular ones; once she layed 9 days in a row.  Then, you can see two reds...Wyatt might know who they are, but I can't tell you for sure (he says Fried Chicken is the one standing on the wood).  Wyatt has a red named Fried Chicken, and a white named Fried Rotisserie. Fried Rotisserie is the littlest of the whites, and she lays eggs almost as small as Tris does.  Wyatt has handled Tris and Rotisserie so much that they are very tame.
In total, we have 20 laying hens, including Tris, and one rooster.  That doesn't include the new chickens and guineas.  We have lost one meat bird to an animal that ate it's head off, a white chicken to a heart attack (?... not sure), and another white that a neighbor's dog killed, and a red bird that ran off with a flock of turkeys.

I teased my husband that my cousin knew she was marrying a pig farmer, but I didn't know I was marrying a chicken farmer.  Wyatt corrected me though... Wyatt is the chicken farmer.  The chickens have been a great experience in responsibility for Wyatt.  He knows so much about chickens now, and I am so proud of how he takes care of them.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

This has to be my favorite crock-pot meal right now! These are pics of the gorgeous chicken tacos my hubby put together.
Crock-pot Chicken Tacos
5 to 8 frozen chicken breasts
1/2 cup water

Add all ingredients to crock-pot, or slow cooker. 
(You can use whatever taco seasoning you like, but the link sends you to my homemade recipe... I go with less cumin for this recipe, because cumin is really spicy).
Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or high for 3 to 4 hours.
When cooked, shred meat with a large fork (see my cool plastic-y one that my sister-in-law got me in a package for Christmas last year?).

This is a great, fast, meal.  All the rest of the ingredients are dry or refrigerated:
cheese, tomatoes (and/or salsa), lettuce, taco shells (or chips, for taco salad), or soft taco shells, and maybe some guacamole.
My hubby like his taco shells warmed in the oven, but that only takes 10 mins.  While they are warming, I can get out all the rest of the taco pieces, and shred the meat.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In Memory of our Libby Puppy

We moved into our house in June of 2000.  We celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary the next month.  We were expecting our first child (born November 2000).  We were not looking for a dog to add to all our 1sts, but on August 25, 2000, we stopped at Walmart and someone had these adorable puppies in the back of their pick up truck, giving them away.
I gave her a pair of Thomas's underwear, so she would know her master's scent.

They said she was 3/4 lab and 1/4 chow.  Thomas watched them and this one was smart!  She went in a corner to pee, away from everyone, and away from where she was posing her cuteness.  I looked inside her mouth.  My Dad always said that good dogs, smart dogs, have black on the roof of their mouths.  Oh, we fell in love.  Our sweet Libby came home with us.
This is me with Libby, in our garage, on a scrap from our new bedroom carpet.
There was just a small dog pen at the house we bought.  Later that fall, Thomas (with help) built a larger fenced yard on our acreage for Libby to have as her own space.  The first night she slept in the dog pen, she found the little holes and escaped.  In the morning, we woke to her her whining under our bedroom window, clear on the other side of the house!  How did she know where we were?
Libby sat on my lap, and snuggled my growing stomach when she was so little and new.
The same morning, I put Libby back in her pen, but I accidentally locked myself out of the house.  We had no hide-a-key, or keyed entry.  I had to carry the puppy down to the neighbors in my pajamas, and ask to use the phone.  My brother came down and got me back in the house.  I can't remember if my parents had a key at the time, or he used his locksmithing skills.  He also helped me cover up the holes in the fence, so the puppy would not escape so easily the next time.
This is Ellie at age 1 year old with our Libby.
Libby was a wonderful dog!  She was so friendly, loving, gentle, and protective of her family.  You can see her licking Ellie in the above picture.  This was before we knew that Ellie was allergic to dogs.  When we found out that Ellie was allergic, Libby knew, too. She never tried to lick Ellie anymore.  She stayed a distance away from Ellie at all times, but she would follow her and lay at a distance watching the children play.  I knew she would never let anyone, or any animal near the kids.  She was the best babysitter (I watched them from the window in the kitchen while I did dishes).

This is Libby with Thomas and Ellie in June of 2002, we were expecting Wyatt at this time.
She was on the small side of large dogs, but I loved having her around.  I felt very safe with her here.
This is a little out of order, we rescued these kittens in  August of 2001.
These kittens were a challenge.  We rescued them from the local tennis courts.  Someone had dumped them off.  The yellow one, we named Butter, and the white and gray one was named Spider.  At first, Libby thought that she needed to kill them, tree them... they were not supposed to be in her territory.  I think that more than a year passed before we did not have to watch carefully.  Spider cat disappeared, but Butter is still with us.  The dog and cat eventually became the best of friends.  We often found them snuggled together, as you will see in the pictures to come.
This is a picture we took for Wyatt to send to his pen pals.  I couldn't find any old pictures with Wyatt and Libby, but this is a nice one.
Wyatt was kind of afraid of Libby when he was little.  He grew up with a sister allergic to dogs, so any dogs were a little bit scary for him.  He knew that Sister could not be around them, so the whole thing was a bit strange to him.  When the kids got older, I assigned them chores, Ellie had to feed and water the cat, Wyatt had to feed and water the dog.  That is when Libby really came to be his dog (still the family's, but he came to like to pet her, and love on her).  Wyatt got over his fear of dogs, with my help, and he really came to love Libby.

After we got the pony, we would check on Libby on our way back from putting the pony in her stall for the night.  If she needed food, or water, we would get her some. Whether she needed food or water, we would pet her and tell her what a good dog she was, how we loved her, and get her a treat.

Butter (the cat) is curled up on Libby's back.  I have pictures somewhere of Butter  kneading  Libby's back. Libby also learned to clean her face with her paws like a cat.

Our poor old girl in the snow that didn't want to quit this winter.
Thomas found tumors growing on Libby's throat this last year.  She got very thin this last winter.
Thomas made Libby come inside when the weather was really bad.  Butter curled up with his longtime friend.
When the snow was at it's worst, Thomas made Libby come and stay in the garage.  She was part Chow, so she used to love to play in the snow, and even lay in the snow.  Her winter coat would get so thick and warm.  She just really enjoyed the cold weather.  We used to say we'd brush a whole dog off of her once warm weather came and she was shedding.  Libby just didn't feel so well this winter.  I prayed that God let her live until the ground was not frozen and we could bury her on our land.
Two old friends.  The last week together.
Libby was with us until Monday, April 29, 2013.  Thomas knew she wasn't doing very well that weekend before. He considered having her put down, but then prayed that God give us however much time he wanted us to have with Libby.  He told Libby that it was okay for her to leave us.  She got up and barked off the neighbor's dogs one last time while Thomas was working in the front yard.

That Monday, Thomas came home early from work to do some work at the house.  As he drove up our gravel road, he saw Libby lift up her head from the ditch across from our driveway.  One of our neighbors came up to help Thomas with his project.  When the neighbor left, Thomas went over to check on Libby, she was still there.  Well, her body was there.  Whatever spirit a dog has, was gone.  

Thomas came in the house to tell us.  He said, that we all had to hurry, there was something he needed to show us.  I was expecting to see a snake, or some other animal.  The Wyatt and I were not expecting to see our dog dead.  Ellie had a feeling that Libby was dead.

Wyatt helped Thomas and I dig her grave.  The ground was so wet and muddy, the going was slow and difficult, but the ground was not frozen, like I prayed.  We got her body buried.  The same helpful neighbor's dog died a week later.  He made a really neat sign with his dog's name on it. Thomas asked him to make us one, too, and he did.

Libby was such a good dog.  We are thankful for the time God gave us with her. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Harley Horse and Stitches

I really didn't want to see the vet again so soon....

Wyatt was riding the go-cart.  I was trying to plant potatoes.  I only had about one row of potatoes in when Wyatt comes hollering, "Mom, Mom, Harley's hurt!!!"

I didn't think he was going to be hurt bad.  I was thinking a scratch, or something.  So I asked calmly, "What's wrong?  Where is he hurt?  Is he bleeding?"

Wyatt was almost in tears, practically hyperventilating.  "He's bleeding!  You can see it from here!"

I looked, and I couldn't tell how bad it was, but I could see blood, and I was not near the horse at all.

I told Wyatt to go get his Dad and I would try to get Harley.

I think I had my phone, because I had double checked with my Dad how deep I was supposed to plant the potatoes.  Thomas came out and I got Harley's lead rope.  We got him to the barn.  Thomas sent Wyatt to the house to to get a towel full of ice.  I got to hold the ice on Harley, after we closed him in his stall.  Thomas called the vet.  Wyatt kept me company.

Wyatt felt so bad.  The kids had ridden the go-cart out in the pasture with horse and pony before with no trouble.  This time, Wyatt wanted to be with the animals.  He rode the go cart back and forth with them, as they ran up and down the fence.  Harley nearly ran into the pony when they were turning one time.  Wyatt thinks that was when Harley caught his side on the fence.

I sent pictures and called a friend who has horses.  She didn't think the cut was too bad... but that was tiny pictures on a phone.  Thomas called our "new" vet's office, and the vet was there in record time, especially considering he had other stops that he was supposed to be making before us.  We got to meet the only other vet at that office that makes house calls.

The wound was so deep, that it took the vet three layers of stitches to close the wound up.  The time was evening, and there wasn't much light left.  We had to lead Harley up to the front of the house, where the vet's truck was parked.  Thomas held a light for the vet.  I held Harley's head.  The vet gave him a shot to make him sleepy.  Part way through the stitching, I nearly passed out. Wyatt was hanging around, doing whatever we asked.  I had to tell him to get me a chair quickly!  Hurry!  I was feeling so light headed... a combination of a long day, heat, and probably just a little stress.  Wyatt made it just in time with the chair.  Ellie came out of the house and went right back in.  She couldn't look at Harley like that.
So, here is the wound, all stitched up and healing.  I had many mornings of going out to put antibiotic cream on Harley, and fly spray.

And here is the wound, stitches removed, and healing nicely.
I took this picture to show the size difference between Harley and Toy Pony, but I took the picture right after the one above. 

Hopefully there won't be any more vet calls in the near future.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Toy Pony and Colic

In February, I was at the annual Homeschool Mom's Retreat.  One of the rare things I do just for me.  I don't like being away from my family, but this is just a Saturday thing.  We have chocolates, water, and soda pops all day long.  There are yummy homemade muffins for as long as they last.  We are also served a catered lunch!  Every year, and this was my 6th year going, there is an amazing speaker that just speaks God's love and encouragement to the heart of a weary homeschool mom.  I know that the experience is different for everyone there, but we all leave refreshed.

My family usually doesn't call, or even text much, when I go to the retreat, but this year was different.  I got a text to pray for Toy Pony because "she is sick, sick, sick."  My husband is a joker, so I wasn't sure if he was serious, but I soon found out that she was indeed sick.

The night before was one of those rare nights that we left the pony out in the pasture, instead of locking her up in her barn stall (to keep her from getting foundered).  We had a snowy winter this year, though, so we figured she couldn't dig up enough green grass to make her sick.  When Thomas went out that morning (after I left) to give the animals food, Toy Pony did not come to the barn.  He made all kids of noise and called her.   He looked all over for her to come running, she is usually beats the human to the barn, and she always beats the horse.  He considered getting on the 4-wheeler to go look for her, until he thought he saw her head pop up in the snow in the treed area of the pasture.  She still did not come, so he went to her.

When Thomas went out to the pony, she was laying in the snow.  She was wet, cold, shaking and have enough strength get up on her own.  He went back to the barn for her lead rope, and brought her back to the barn.  The going was extremely slow at first, but he didn't have to pull her as much when they got half-way across the pasture.

We he got the pony back to the barn, she would not eat, which is not normal for her.  Then she collapsed, and began shaking again.  Thomas went into the house and woke up Wyatt. He sent Wyatt out to warm the pony up with a blanket, and stay with her while he called the vet.

Thomas called one of large animal vets in our town.  They wanted pre-payment since we were new customers and could not commit to any certain that they could be at our house.  The secretary would not make any commitments for that day.  So, he called our neighbor's daughter who is finishing vet school and interned with a vet clinic in the area.  The vet clinic she interned with is in the town north of us, so Thomas put a call in to them. The second clinic put him through to the actual vet right away so that they could figure out how urgent the call was.  They diagnosed it as colic over the phone, but would be out to see her in person asap.  What confused Thomas was the additional shaking she had, but later found out that was due to Toy being wet and cold from laying in the snow.

Wyatt and Toy Pony are the best of friends.  Having the pony has been a great experience in responsibility for Wyatt.  He happily mucks out the barn and feeds the pony and horse.  He enjoys training the pony and learning about the animals.  He has even studied the Shetland Isles, because Toy Pony is a Shetland Pony.

So, Wyatt went out to the barn and put the blanket on the pony and prayed for her to be able to breath easier.  Thomas saw her take a deep breath right away, and the boys were sure she would be okay. We still needed the vet though.

Colic was the confirmed, which the vet said lots of horses had gotten this winter.  When they don't drink enough water, they get constipation which can be deadly.  We had also changed her diet, because of the weather, which did not help things.  The vet had to give her a shot to relax her, pump some stuff out of her stomach, fill her stomach with water and mineral oil.

We all prayed hard.  I knew that Wyatt was be devastated if the pony died.  I would be pretty upset myself. Prayer and the work of the vet gave us a healthy pony.  We never so thankful for pony poop!

Here's are a couple of pictures from this last winter, before and after colic:
This is our  muddy, furry pony before colic.

This is Wyatt out in even deeper snow feeding the pony in the garden area after colic.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our Continuing Equine Adventures

We got a horse!  Actually, we got a horse back in October of 2012! I never dreamed that we would own anything beyond a dog and a cat.

After my Uncle gave us the pony, Thomas told stories and showed pictures of our little pony at his work.  He ended up having a couple of people wanting to know if he was interested in housing another equine.  I really didn't want another animal, but Thomas finally convinced me to go see Harley.

He was a rescue horse (who we were led to believe was a pony).  His last owner was the daughter of  Thomas's co-worker.  The daughter has now graduated college and doesn't live at home.  Which left Harley the horse needing someone to care for and love him.  He was whipped as a young horse.  You can still see the scars up close.  He is a sweet gentle horse, a bit more skittish than even a horse should be.

The last owner (aforementioned daughter) explained to us that he a half of a hand more than a pony, which means he is a horse.  He was quite a bit larger than what we were expecting.  The owner was concerned about how Harley would react to Thomas, because he is afraid of most men.  Harley thought Thomas was just fine.  Wyatt went for a ride on Harley bareback that night.  He was so excited, because Toy Pony is a lot of work to train.

You can see how much bigger Harley is than Toy.

Ellie with Harley.  Ellie is 12 years old now!

I told my mother that I was a sucker for brown eyes. Thomas, the kids, and Harley Horse all have brown eyes (mine are green).

Wyatt with Harley.  Wyatt is 10 years old now.

Harley Horse is over 20 years old (actually they thought he was about 25 years old).  I think he has filled out a bit since we got him.  The property he lived on before was mostly trees and a stream, not a lot of grass.  You can see his ribs in this picture.

Ellie likes to talk to Harley.  Wyatt likes to ride him, when we are able to get him all saddled up.  Wyatt does not like that Harley stands up for himself to Toy sometimes.  Toy is his little Princess Pony.

We had no idea that Toy Pony would be the dominate herd animal.  You should see her bossing Harley around!  The sight is pretty funny.  Harley sometimes gets fed up and will kick at her though.  We enjoy watching them out the patio door when we are eating, or cleaning up.  I like to watch them out the window over my kitchen sink.  

I see Toy running across the yard a full gallop and then she will slow down and wait for Harley to begin to catch up.  Harley stays close to the barn when Toy is locked up at night (we have to watch the little pony's diet carefully, so that she does not get foundered).  They remind me of a brother and a sister.

They make me smile, they make me laugh, and sometimes they make me cry.  Crying is a story for another post.

P.S.-I'm glad to be blogging again.  I have SO missed this.  And my family has been complaining that I didn't have a post on Harley yet.  So, I'm back in the saddle, so to speak.  :)