Friday, June 28, 2013

Will The Roosters Please Step Forward? (Critters & More)

Leo our resident Fatty

Welp, we have had a few busy weeks and it looks like I need to play catch up.  I think I will break it down into three separate blogs to make it a little more reader friendly.  I'll call this one: Critters & More. 
Part 1: Critters & More

Well, we had our first rooster crow on Father's day.  I like to tell Nate that the rooster was wishing him a  Happy Father's Day. I am guessing we have 7 hens and 6 roosters, but this is based off of comb & waddle formation. Not the best way to determine sex, but I am not going to look at their tushies anytime soon. So this is the method we have.  They are growing quickly, so hopefully this guessing game will be over and we can start guessing how many eggs we will collect instead.

As mentioned, they are getting very big and fat. We decided we should expand their coop area a bit so they can run and fly around.  Our goal is to free range during the day and coop at night.  This will protect them from the beasties that like to feed at night on juicy plump chickens and such.  We have been pretty lucky with the chickens as far as training them to roost in the coop at night.  I was reading up on how to train them and all prepared with my special treats to lure them into the coop the first night we let them out.  Well, Nate informed me that they already went to the second floor of their coop and put themselves to bed once the sun went down.  Woo - well that was easy! No need to play the tricky "chicken chasing" game.

I think a lot of our success in raising the chickens so far is that we have taken the time to create a consistent feeding/caring schedule and of course Nate's awesome chicken tractor.  They love it and feel safe there. They love spending the day lounging in the 1st floor screened-in level and scratching for bugs outside. At night they always find their favorite corner on the second floor and zonk out for the night, knowing they are safe and sound. Of course we have to do a little work too.  Every morning Agatha starts to crow (oops Agatha may be a he after all) and requests I get outside and do my job.  I let them out into the chicken run and give them fresh food, dirt, and water.  They like to follow me around and peck at my rings if I let them.  Of course they come running full speed if they see corn in my hand. Apparently this is their favorite treat and it causes quite a chicken free for all when we throw them a cob.  Then about once a week I scrunch up my nose and it is time to clean the coop. Fortunately, I have years experience shoveling poop thanks to Skeeter and Darling, the horses I had growing up.  Chicken poo is a bit easier than horse manure, so I can't complain too much.  Plus we are happy that the chickens seem to do well with hay as bedding. We have plenty for free!  We are collecting the poo and adding it to our compost pile for next year's garden.  Oh and trust me...the chicken's have been doing their best to provide us with plenty of fertilizer.

I know Nate and I have really enjoyed watching our little chickens grow and interact.  So much so, that somehow we ended up with 16 new feathered friends to add to our 13 chicken crew. Wait...did you read that right...we now have 29 birds?!?!   

Turkeys can fly at one week old!
Yup, we decided we should add a few Guinea Hens to our crew to help with the ticks (ugh ticks).  We referred to our favorite resource, Craigslist, and found our new guineas.  What we didn't know was we were about to encounter a cute Vietnamese couple, a retired doctor and his wife, with an interesting hobby.  In order to keep busy in retirement, the husband decided to build this amazing house landscaped with citrus trees and exotic plants.  As we looked towards the back of the property, we noticed that the plants were not the only exotic features to the property.  They had an aviary full of exotic birds.  Our guinea trip just expanded into baby bird trip.  In the end, we ended up with 6 guineas, 2 turkeys, 2 Phoenix chickens (fancy chickens), 2 black pheasants, 2 red pheasants, and 2 Lady Amherst pheasants.  We cannot wait to see the pheasants and chickens feather because they have the coolest coloring as adults.  Anyway, one of my favorite parts of the guinea trip was when Nate asked the wife if they ate any of the birds.  She gave him a look and said, "NO!! They are just for fun!" Lol, that is my kind of lady!!!

Nate and I discussed on the way home, that we would like the birds to hatch some of the eggs in the future.  So we referred to one of Nate's favorite sayings, "Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance" or the 7 P's.  It was time to build a more permanent brooder than just a cardboard box. We let our new additions rest in our transfer plastic box as we built (Nate built & I helped) our wooden brooder box.  Again, we are happy we picked up all that free scrap wood we found on Craigslist because the box frame was already built for us.  We just needed to add sides, and the inside features.  With our brooder built, red light in place, we released our new birdie friends to their home.  They love it so far!  Important note: baby pheasants, turkeys and guineas can fly!!!  So make sure you put a wire cover on top of the brooder or you are going to take "chicken chasing" to a whole new level!

Besides being able to fly, I was a little more nervous about this group of birds because they ranged from 2 days old to a week old.  The turkeys are like awkward teenage dinosaurs compared to the little pheasants and have a habit of stepping on the other birds' heads. Ack!!!  Fortunately the little guys are quick and learned that the turkeys are a bit dopey (like Truman).  It has also been a little more challenging managing the heat and red light this time because it is already so hot out.  We have to really watch the clues they give us and adjust the light accordingly.  If they are panting, raise or turn off the light. If they huddle together, turn the light on.  I have noticed that since the turkeys are much larger, the little guys seem to mimic them and treat them a little like a mother figure. It is pretty cute. 

Somebody is watching me watch him.
Here is what we have learned about raising baby birds: Buy a red brooder light (red keeps them from pecking each other to death), give them two types of water for about 3 or so weeks. One water should have antibiotic in it and one should be plain water.  Give them dirt or sand...they will eat it up fast.  It helps them poop.  Without it their poor little gizzards don't have much to work with to get the food through.  Also, give them little box shelters, sticks, and rocks to explore.  It helps them develop life skills in a safe environment. Plus it is way more fun for them.  Finally, always count your birds when you move them to the cleaning box.  Poor Nate found out the hard way on that one. We  moved the birds to their cleaning box so we could clean the brooder.  Then we pulled out the rocks, logs, and dishes to wash them (birds poop on everything).  We emptied the shavings (we use non cedar shavings in the brooder because the hay can sometimes have mold and make them sick when they are little and not fully developed) and washed the plastic barrier.  As Nate was pressure washing the log, a big dust ball popped out of a hole in the log.  He was surprised at the gunk in the log, when he noticed it started to move!!!  Poor little guinea got his little booty pressure washed because he was hiding in the hole. OUCH!!!  Nate collected him, rinsed him off in the sink, and we returned him to his friends.  Poor little guy kind of sat in shock for a bit.  He eventually dried off and is happily trying to catch flies now.  

Someone is in catnip heaven!!!
So as you can see the domesticated critters are happy and flourishing here.  Edgar has taken well to his new outside kitty role...and even found the catnip in the garden!!!  The dogs are being dogs.  They happily reminded me, much to my chagrin, that country dogs like to catch and kill things.  Ugh...Simon and Truman, our resident hunters, found a baby bunny nest and let's just say it did not end well.  I confess I was a bit devastated seeing the poor baby bunnies meet their end.  I had to readjust my view and remember that I am back in the country.  I can't save all the animals.  Although, there are a few animals here I am not inclined to save...ticks, flies, and snakes to name a few.  Hopefully, the birds will help keep the ticks at bay.  We have fly tape that is keeping the flies in check.  I have been experimenting with a natural coffee, basil, jalapeno pepper spray to keep the bugs and caterpillars from eating the plants in the garden.  We are preparing ourselves for the invasion of the grasshoppers...that are everywhere you walk now.  Again the birds will hopefully help there too.  If only I could figure out how to get rid of those snakes!!!

Nate and I have been working away on the tractor and like to go down to the creek to cool off after a hard day's work.  Well, turns out we are not the only ones who like to go for a dip in the cool water.  As I was floating in the creek, I looked up and saw what I thought was a turtle head and then I noticed it was a bit long.  Ack!!! SNAKE!!!!  Nate and I were on dry land in seconds.  Simon had a moment where he was face to face with the slithering beast and even Simon opted to leave the snake alone.  Fortunately, we scared the snake as much as he scared us...and this time he was a harmless water snake.  We do have to watch it...because there are some less friendly snakes around...yuck!

Inside...who me?
Don't worry...we aren't "afraid of no stinkin' snakes!"  We still visit the creek everyday.  Now that it so hot outside, I take Xander down for a daily dip in the creek. It is hard being the resident old guy in dog days of summer.  I hope my favorite little German Shepherd will continue to surprise us and keep on living it up, but the heat does take a toll on his old man body.  We gave him a bit of a hair cut and make sure we hose him off throughout the day.  He has slowed down a bit, but he still enjoys his daily Simon chase around the hay fields.  So don't count him out just yet! that  you have had your fill of critter stories...I have to get to work on the hay equipment blog.  Yup we have a tractor, baler, and mower now.  Can't wait to share our hay equipment adventures.  Check back in the next day or so to see my part II- Tractor Tales.  Oh and I added some pictures of our progress on the tractor and a tour of the house to our website. Enjoy!

Thanks for joining us on the farm.

Nate, Lily, and the critter crew

Monday, June 10, 2013

Discount Days Here on SweetWater

Take a break and see what we have been up to on SweetWater this week.

Nate and I have been combining our strengths lately: shopping and fixing stuff! Farming life can be expensive if you are not willing to do a little discount shopping and get your hands dirty. So we have been slowly adding to our farming tools.  Remember that trailer we bought for about $900.00

Well for about a hundred bucks we will have it on the road in no time. Painting is done and now we are waiting on new brakes to arrive.  Our new Super Bumblebee is almost ready for future shopping - think hot tub! -err I mean farm work.

With the trailer almost ready, Nathan and I have been continuing our quest to find farm equipment we will need in the near future.  Sure we can run to Tractor Supply and pick up the newest John Deere, but that would be cheating.  Remember the chickens haven't produced any golden eggs just yet, so it is all about the discount shopping.  Of course we continue to partake in our daily ritual of searching Craigslist and other internet discount, trade, and online auction sites. So far Craigslist seems to be the best way to find great deals and free items, but we wanted to broaden our resources so to auction we went.

Last Saturday, we hopped in the truck for "date day" and headed to a local farm auction. It might not sound like a glamorous date, but it is fun to get out and explore new parts of the country.  Besides being beautiful countryside, there are lots of local attractions you can see on the way.

The first ever Wal-Mart is about 20 minutes from SweetWater

Anyway, the auction was a new experience for both of us.  I must confess it was fun for the first half hour and then it got a bit old.  It is one thing to hear the auctioneer belting out bids on TV, but in person it begins to feel like you have buzzing bees stuck in each ear.  I still am not exactly sure why they speak that way.  It actually makes it harder to hear the bids.  Nate and I had our eyes on a few tractors and were hopeful we would leave with a tractor in tow. We realized after the first one we had on our list went for over $6000.00, this was not going to be the best route for getting our tractor. Especially, since the tractor was not worth that much considering its condition.  So we left the auction to the regulars and went on our way.  What was interesting was that a lot of the old timers came to the auction mainly for the social component.  They would stand around look at the equipment and talk with no intention on buying anything.  Anyway as I said, we left the auctioning to them and went back to Craigslist.

Although the auction did not yield success this time, Nate and I found a tractor after many days of searching. Not just any tractor, a Super Dexta! Right now it might have the frame only a new farmer can love, but we hope to work our magic and give this tractor a second life on SweetWater. She is already looking a little better after only one day of work.  Plus maybe her story can be a precautionary tale for others.  Simple moral: 5th graders should not be asked to drive the truck.  As Super Dexta tells it: her previous owner thought he could take her in all her two wheel drive glory up a steep, steep hill.  Surprisingly she got stuck, so of course he called for help. With his trusty pickup truck and his 5th grade son at his side, he hooked Super Dexta up to the back of the truck.  His son took control of the truck and he took his place on the Dexta prepared to steer her out of her predicament.  He gave his son the command to put the truck in drive and give it some gas.  Oops in neutral it went and poor Super Dexta and the farmer ended this story with broken pieces.  The farmer hobbled to Craigslist and sent the Super Dexta to SweetWater.  Lucky for Ms. Super Dexta, Nate and I are a lot like Herbie the Elf. We love those misfits and know with a little work they too can find there place, especially for $800.00.

 Speaking of misfits, SweetWater seems to be a fountain of youth for the critters.  Xander continues to follow me everywhere and keep that young pup Simon in line.  If you saw how fast he runs these days, you would not know that I thought I was going to have to send him to the great dog farm in the sky a few months ago.  He may be 14, but he is living like he is a young pup. Edgar, our resident cat, is happily expanding his reign of power.  After 14 years of being an indoor cat, he is now allowed to be a daytime outdoor cat. He is taking advantage of every minute and even trying to trick Nate into letting him out at night too. Of course he has not ventured too far from the house because the "white dragon" (Simon) still thinks it funny to chase him.  Let's just say...we are working on that.  Simon loves having the menagerie of animals here.  For a puppy, playtime is important.  If he wants to explore, get Truman. If he wants to play chase, get Xander.  If he wants to get me riled up, chase Edgar and the chickens.  It is hard to be bored on the farm now. 
Sir Simon with the "Goose of All Seasons" after learning it is not a chew toy. (nom, nom)

 The chickens are getting bigger and fatter. I find myself reminding Nate more frequently of our deal when he stares a little too long at their big fat juicy legs. "These 13 chickens are for eggs only...our next batch...that is a different story."  Anyway, they are growing nicely and we still are playing the rooster guessing game.  We did have two escape chickens, but they were easy to catch. They don't like to leave the others so they just hang around the gate.  The first time it happened, Poe (one of the black ones) walked right up to me, let me pick her up and put her back in the coop.  The second time, Brinkley (one of the brown ones) played "Duck, Duck, Goose" with Nathan. Xander tried to help, but I think he was just trying to help it into his we suggested he not help.   After a few laps around the coop, I heard a squawk and Nathan had sweet Brinkley in hand. Long story short...I have to keep reminding Nathan, these ones are for eggs only.

But what about Truman?

As you can see we are all finding our place on the farm...even Truman. Truman and I seem to enjoy the big machines.  You can usually find me on the riding mower cutting the walking paths and around the house. Plus "Truman the Tractor Dog" and I like to sneak off in the Case 580 Super E (big tractor) when Nate is not looking and look for logs and sand.  As long as I pet his head, Truman is happy as a clam being copilot on our farming adventures.

 I have also become quite good at hooking up the water tank trailer and refilling the tank by myself.  I am quite happy having that responsibility because it means I don't feel so guilty about taking long hot showers.  We still have to have our creature comforts after all, especially after a long day on the farm. Plus I am not really doing it all by myself because you guessed it, I have three little shadows who come help me set up the pump and explore the spring while I work. 

 Well that is it for now. Thanks for stopping by our blog.  I hope to get more pictures up soon.  I took some pictures of the inside of the house because I know our moms will love to see them.   So now that I posted it here...I better get to it. Check back in a day or two on the photo page.  Time for dinner now. For some reason, Nathan's famous chicken wings sound so good right now.  Don't even think it...I was thinking of the store bought chicken wings...not the ones outside.

Thanks for visiting, but now it's time to play!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

“What’s New On the Farm?” you ask. - Friday, May 31, 2013

Well despite the thunderblasters that have made their way through the area, I am happy to report we have been able to get a lot done here on the farm and still find time for fun.  We are currently in the middle of the 1st hay cutting of the season. Nate and I have been taking notes on how to cut the hay and look forward to eventually getting the equipment and be part of the process.  Believe it or not, despite it being hard work it looks like a lot of fun.  I’ll let you know if I change my mind after I have a go at it.

Part of our daily ritual is to wake up, enjoy a good breakfast, and hit up craigslist for good deals on things we need to make this a working farm.  We have managed to get free wood that helped build the chicken tractor and the garden boxes. Well after many days of searching we finally found a great deal on a new trailer we have been looking for in order to help us move items on the farm and to be able to pick up items we need for future projects.  We are pretty excited about this find and are looking forward to painting it & doing some minor fixes to make it perfect.

We realized that in order to really get started on some of the bigger projects on our list we needed to stop and take a moment to organize inside and outside a bit first.  Nate spent a few days cleaning out the shop and the sea crate.  It looks amazing now. I will post some pictures in an album soon.  I have been busy cleaning and organizing the inside.  I now have a second shelf for canned goods and pantry items thanks to Nate. It is nice to go through and get a handle on what we have, what we need, and know where it will be in the future.

Life on the farm usually involves establishing routines.  Routines are a good thing,especially with animals.  For example, every morning I get up, feed the dogs, feed the cat, and feed the chickens. Well a few weeks ago I added another routine to our schedule and some how acquired 3 trainers in the process.  
    I decided to cut a path around the outside of the lower hay field so I could start running again.  Well, those dogs learned that routine quickly.  It has become a favorite part of their day. Simon loves to run down to the stream and catch fish, Truman (who avoids water as much as possible) runs down to the patch of trees by the river and chases rabbits & turtles, and of course Xander stays by my side the whole time but is ready to chase Simon if he tries to dive bomb us at full speed (which he does A LOT). 
    It is a beautiful view and great for running (minus the occasional tick), but boy do I get in trouble if I try to skip a day.  Those dogs have grown to expect that daily run, rain or shine.  Truman has taken to barking at me and running to the path if I dilly dally too much.  Looks like they will make sure I get my daily dose of cardio in whether I like it or not.  Fortunately, I think I was able to convince Nate to start joining me.  It will be all the more fun that way, plus maybe the dogs will throw some of the dirty looks his way on those rainy cold days where the couch looks just too comfy to leave.

Of course we make sure we have some play time too. At least once a week Nate and I leave the farm and explore the area. I call it “Date Day.”  We have gone to a couple amazing restaurants, checked out some great shopping areas, and of course seen a movie or two. We had the neighbors over for Memorial day and got the scoop on some other places to visit.  We plan on checking out three neighboring lakes, some hot springs, Branson, go-carts and a diamond mine south of Little Rock.  We also are looking forward to some good yard sales this coming weekend.! Plus we have fun exploring the river, caves, and woods on the property. When the weather holds, we light up a great big bon fire and enjoy happy hour under the stars at our favorite little watering hole. Life is good on SweetWater!

Hope you are enjoying the site.  We are working to make it better. I would like to add a guestbook or comment section.  Nate is working on adding a way to donate to projects.  Otherwise, Nate is finishing getting some items ready to sell on ebay, clearing the area for the second sea crate, and getting the sono tubes in place.  I am cooking new recipes, playing with our new juicer so I can find tasty ways to use our growing garden, getting ready to prepare our big garden, keeping the place mowed and maintained so Nate can focus on the big projects, tending to the beasties, and helping where I can on the big projects.
    ~Adios for now. Always, Nate, Lily & the critter crew.

Welcome to SweetWater Blog - Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hopefully today we will have our website up and running.  Poor Nate spent most of the afternoon wading through FTPs, Domains, URLs, and other computer speak trying to upload the site.  I guess that is why we have rainy get all the busy work done. We had a pretty successful day and still managed to enjoy the quick sunburst by taking a walk around the hayfield with three very happy dogs leading the way. 
    We have been pretty busy here.  Nate finished the chicken tractor a few days ago & now the chicks are happily causing trouble in their new double decker condo. They are getting very big and starting to develop little personalities.  Nate and I have set up two chairs just to watch them. Believe it or not they can be more entertaining than satellite TV.  We play “How many roosters do we have?”

Oh we have upgraded our water pump by the spring and now we can fill the tank in about 5 minutes. Nate showed me how to hook up and drive the water tank trailer so we can work together and that has helped cut down our overall time of refilling the tank to 15 minutes from start to finish.  Besides upgrading the water pump, we have upgraded internet, added satellite TV and improved our cell phone reception.  It is nice to stay connected. 
    Now that the chicken tractor & garden boxes are done, we are taking time to organize the house and garage.  Oh did I mention we finished the garden boxes a few weeks ago.  Nate worked hard using lumber we were able to get for free and built two large garden boxes.  While he was working on that I was planting seedling and buckets of various fruits and vegetables.  At present, we have are seeing the fruits of our labor (pun intended).  We have plants growing and they are loving the rain and sun combo we have been having.  We just made fresh pesto with our basil and have been sneaking our fresh cilantro in all the meals we can.
    We have been snapping pictures of our various tasks.  I plan on uploading them soon.  After we get the house and garage organized, Nate will be starting the foundation for the sea crate house & I will start tilling the land for the big garden.  More to come, so keep checking back...

Nate, Lily, & our ever growing critter crew.