Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Farm Funny Photo Shoot

Last weekend, Sean and I spent some time working on a photo shoot for a project that some of the "Farm Chicks" from Farm Chick Chit Chat are putting together. It is much more difficult to be on the front side of the camera since I am so much more often behind it, capturing the shots. But, in the end, we put on some good dancing music and just went with it. We wanted to share some of our favorite pictures from the shoot.

Miss Niecy is a born model. Each morning when I enter the chicken yard, she flies up to my shoulder and hangs out there while I scoop feed and collect eggs. She was much more comfortable having her pictures taken. So much so that I began wondering if I was, in fact, her prop. Don't tell the others, but she is one of my very favorite hens.

Miss Buff Cochin allowed me to hold her, but she clucked her concern the whole time. I can't swear that she was trying to direct the shoot, but it sure sounded like that to me.

Of course, not every picture was usable. Some of them cut out my fabulous, rubber wellies. In others, my companions attempted to take flight or otherwise escape the limelight. Still others had such undesirable problems as poor lighting, crossed-eyes, or mouth hanging unbecomingly open. In all, Sean took almost 400 images. We kept less than 20. He is a very good sport. I thought I would, also, include some of our photo "out-takes". They made me smile. I hope they make you smile, too.

In other news, the below freezing temperatures have subsided for a couple days and the warm rain is melting our snow and making the animal yards all sorts of muddy. But, it is a sure sign that spring is getting ever closer. The days of relative rest and planning will become long days of seemingly endless chores before we know it. I am just itching for it, truth be told, but I am biding my time creating more items to sell at our farm stand, etsy store, and perhaps, in area gift shops. Besides our homemade goat's milk soaps, I think I may start to also offer note card sets designed with my original watercolored art work. This is a scene from a beach Sean and I visited on our honeymoon in Cape Breton Island.

It has been some time since I have updated you on the different animals, but I plan on finding some time this weekend to do just that.

Thanks for visiting tonight, friends. We're glad you came by.

Sean and Sonja ♥

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Hobby Hill Farm

Look what came in today's mail for us! Meaghan claimed the cap while I was looking through the catalog. I have my eye on several items that would be useful around here. Remember, our friends at Hobby Hill Farm have offered you all a 15% discount when you use the code LBF at checkout.

Sonja ♥

Monday, January 28, 2013

Miss Orpington: Day 5

I have not been updating Miss Orpington's progress every day. She is recovering from her injuries, but wounds take time to heal. I wanted to wait until there was some change to report. Happily that change, is all positive.

Three days after the attack, Miss Orpington was still not eating. I tried offering favorite treats; scratch, apples, cantaloupe, scrambled eggs, even bread, all to no avail. She drank water with vigor 4+ times each day. We received many caring suggestions from readers and personal friends, but these failed to pique Miss O.'s interest. As the days passed, we began worrying less that she might die from her wounds and more that she might starve. Since she was drinking, we decided to offer some raw egg in a shallow dish. Miss O. took a couple of sips of the egg. That was something, anyway.

Sean suggested bringing in another hen to keep her company. He thought that if she saw another hen eating, she might become interested and eat something, herself. It is a sound theory. We've spent many an afternoon watching "Chicken TV" episodes of hens chasing each other for spaghetti, fruit slices, and other edible treats. It was worth a try. We needed to keep a good eye on the interaction, though. Another peculiar trait of chicken behavior is, when they see an injured chicken, often that triggers more attacks, especially where there is blood showing. One of our Wyandotte hens had some missing feathers near her tail from our ever-attentive roosters, so we decided that she would be an excellent candidate for this trial. We added Miss Wyandotte on day 4. It worked just as we hoped. Miss O. began eating almost immediately. And, today, Miss O. turned the tables and tried to steal Miss W.'s treats! A good sign of her returning appetite and vitality.

Even with the roosters needing new homes removed from the main coop yard, it will be several days still before the hens can be re-introduced to their flock. We want to make sure both hens are fully recuperated and ready before we return them.

Additionally, I ordered 2 new chicken saddles from Louise's Country Closet. The good folks there have been a sponsor of some of my favorite blogs for a long time. I had seen the advertisements for chicken saddles before, but Sean and I had never seriously discussed purchasing them until now. I was really pleased with the selection they offered and the price was really reasonable. I used fellow "Farm Chick" Lisa's Fresh Eggs Daily code: FRESH to get 15% off my purchase. As a small family farm business just starting out, we have to watch every penny, but at less than $6.00 for both saddles and free shipping, this was a purchase I felt good about all the way around.

I took some pictures this evening to share Miss O.'s recovery progress with you.

First, a reminder of what she looked like the day after her attack.

Right side view.
Left side view.

Today, most of the black and blues are fading. Miss O's right eye is open and more alert; her left eye has begun to open, too. The damage to her comb is less pronounced and beginning to heal.

I have to end the post with one last picture. I placed Miss O. on a clean towel on the kitchen table to snap these photographs of her. I have gotten lax in many areas of our life, but I draw the line at allowing the animals to walk on the table we eat on. No sooner did I have the protective towel spread out and turned my back to collect Miss O., than did THIS happen:

Neither the hen nor the cat minded one another's presence. I minded Machias's determination to be in every shot!

We have lots more to share with you in this coming week including: a sneak peek at the photo shoot from last weekend, more soap making, and some surprises in our mailbox. But, it is very nearly midnight and this farm chick is tired.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit tonight, friends. I am glad for your company.
Sonja ♥
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Birds and The Bees... Chicken-Style

I think it is time we had "The Talk". You've kept chickens for a while. You know that the roosters fertilize the hens. You know that when a hen goes broody, those fertilized eggs might just hatch out into little fluffy chicks if you let her set on them a while. Perhaps, you have even hatched chicks yourself in an incubator environment. But, have you ever wondered how that process takes place? If you were one of my children, this talk would start with, "When a Mommy and a Daddy love each other very much..." but, I think we'll skip that part and begin with some important definitions for you to know. Pay close attention, there might be a quiz later.

Definitions You Should Know:

Ovary: is a cluster of developing yolks. It is fully formed at hatching, but it remains very small until the hen reaches maturity at about 5 months of age. Hens are hatched with all the potential yolks of the eggs she will ever produce during her life time.

Oviduct: is the long tube that is divided into 5 major sections: infundibulum, magnum, isthmus, shell gland, and vagina.

Infundibulum: is the first part of the oviduct. The yolk is enveloped by the muscular infundibulum for about 15 minutes. Fertilization takes place here.

Magnum: is the second part of the oviduct. The yolk stays in the magnum for about 3 hours while the thick white albumen is attached to the yolk.

Isthmus: is the third part of the oviduct. It is here that the inner and outer shell membranes are added to the yolk. This takes about 75 minutes.

Shell Gland (Uterus): is the fourth section of the oviduct. The shell is placed around the egg here and pigment is applied. The egg remains in here for about 20 hours.

Vagina: this last section of the oviduct does not really play a part in creating the egg, but it hosts the muscles responsible for pushing the egg out of the hen's body.

Sperm Host Glands: These are located near the junction of the vagina and the shell gland. Sperm can be held alive for up to 2 weeks in this gland. When an egg is laid, if there is sperm stored, some of it will be squeezed out of the gland into the oviduct. From there, the sperm "swim" towards the infundibulum where fertilization takes place.

Albumen: is the "white of the egg". It's full of protein and provides nutrition for an embryo.

Shell Membranes: a pair of membranes lining the inner surface of an egg shell. They are designed to allow easy entry of oxygen but to prevent evaporation.

All put together, it looks like this:
Image used from site.
Original image from John Anderson, Dept. of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

If you have a rooster in your flock, chances are you have seen them perform their mating dance for the hens. If the hen is willing, she will crouch down and allow the rooster to mate. It is common for roosters to bite a hen's comb or neck feathers to maintain his balance during this momentary balancing act. This does not usually injure a hen, though multiple matings in a short period of time can cause problems. Our rooster, Sebastian, will also fan out his feathers like a cape around the hen he is courting. Sometimes, the hen is not willing. I have seen my hens chase off a rejected rooster, occasionally puffing up and going toe to toe with the lad she has deemed undesirable until he gets the point and retreats. I have also seen roosters unwilling to accept rejection, sneak up on an unsuspecting hen and have his way, regardless of her preference.

However the mating occurs, the rooster's sperm remains in the hen's sperm host gland, alive and viable for up to 2 weeks. If sperm is stored here, any eggs produced will most likely become fertile. When a fertile egg is laid, if it is kept warm, it will begin its development into a chick. If an unfertilized egg is laid, it will never develop into a chick. Hens lay eggs approximately every 26 hours. In this way, a typical hen will lay an egg every day for about 6 consecutive days and then skip a day, laying the eggs later and later in the day, as the cycle progresses. 
How does an egg develop inside the hen?

First, a yolk is released from the hen's Ovary. It travels through the Oviduct. The first stop is in the muscular Infundibulum where it is surrounded and any fertilization takes place. Next, the yolk moves on into the Magnum, where the white albumen is attached to it. The inner and outer shell membranes are attached in the Isthmus. This takes about 75 minutes to occur. Then, the egg travels to the Shell Gland (Uterus) where the shell is placed around the egg and any pigment (the coloration of the egg) is applied. The egg remains there for about 20 hours until the Vagina contracts and expels the egg out of the hen's body.
I found tons of useful information for writing this post from the University of Kentucky Fact Sheet. It is a very informative 5-page document with excellent pictures. I highly recommend it to chicken- keepers, home-schoolers, and 4-H clubs. You might also be interested in this post: Marvelous Creation, which discusses the process of how fertilized eggs develop into chicks.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit with us today.
Sean and Sonja ♥

Check out the Hops: Home Acre Hop #5 and Farm Girl Farm Fest #19

Winter Feeding and Eggs

I have been asked by a couple of readers in the last month about increasing egg production. I am not a veterinary doctor. I possess no degrees in this field, nor do I pretend to be an expert in this subject. But, I am willing to share what we do here at our homestead with you. This is only based on our experiences. Your mileage may vary. ♥

Most recently, Danetta Cates from Dexter wrote: "please share the secret of getting your hens to lay. We have been crippling along on about 1-2 eggs every other day with 25 plus hens."

Here you are!

Our set up is simple. We have an uninsulated 8ft x 8ft x 8ft hen house and a 3ft x 4ft x 4ft attached duck/goose house. There is a solid glass door. The next boxes run along the outside of the coop 1ft x 1ft x 8ft and is separated into 7 nest boxes, full of hay. We use wood chips as litter on the floor and on really frigid days, we'll spread some hay around, too. We do not use the deep litter method. We "muck" the coop each week and compost the old litter. (Sometimes when we have a cold snap like we've been experiencing, the clean out can't be completed as thoroughly as we'd want it to be, but as soon as it breaks into the 30's you can bet we are out there cleaning.) The coop door is opened enough to let the chickens, geese, and ducks to come and go as they please, but not wide open to avoid the rushing winds. They have a 40 ft long by 60 ft yard to walk about in, protected with a 6 foot high chain link fence, though they haven't moved more than 20 ft from the coop since the snow covered the ground. We do have an regular 40 watt light in the coop. It gives off very minimal heat, but it does provide some. It is on a timer to go on at 3pm and dims to off at 8pm. The flocks get shoo-ed into the houses after dark and the doors are closed in the winter time.

In the morning, we open the doors to let anyone come out as they wish. We feed them a good quality layer crumble. This is available all day long. As is water, which might mean thawing their container several times each day. Chickens will eat snow, but that only serves to lower their body temperature, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Additionally, on any morning that it is below 30 degrees, we supplement their breakfast with 6 cups of warm oatmeal. If I am out of real oats for them, I heat 6 cups of water and add about 10 cups of layer crumble to it, making it into a very suitable "chicken porridge" (I got that idea recently from my friend Tammy at Our Neck of the Woods.) I add raisins or apple slices if I have it available. Do not feed citrus fruits, though as I have heard that it can actually decrease egg production. (I don't know if that is true, but I am unwilling to test it out for myself.) I also mix in cooked scrambled eggs (made without milk) some days. In the afternoon, I spread a couple of large scoops of scratch for them or I set out some scratch/lard treats for them to pick at. (I made some HERE.) These high caloric foods are not suitable as a main diet, but they help to increase the flock's body temperatures. There is a combination of things at work here. I feel that if our chickens are spending their body's energy to keep themselves warm, to produce and regrow feathers, or to heal from stress or injuries, they have less energy available to put into making eggs. If I can help to keep them warm with food, hay, and activity, it is my experience that they lay more eggs.

That being said, I do not try to force our chickens to lay at peak levels all year round. We keep around 50 hens most of the time. During peak periods, we'll collect about 25 dozen eggs each week. Last week, we collected 8 dozen eggs. The week before that, we collected 4 dozen eggs. When the girls were molting, we collected none for 2 weeks straight. There is a natural cycle to their laying and they naturally lay less frequently in the winter months. We try to keep a balance with our hen's laying. We need them to lay some eggs, if they will- because it helps to offset the higher cost of feed during the winter when we have to supply 100% of their diet for them. Some people also use heat lamps and lighting to their coops. As I mentioned earlier, we have a low watt light bulb that we use most of the winter months. We do not use heating elements because of the great potential for a fire to occur. If you are going to add lighting, add the light to your coop during the morning hours, unless you can attach your lighting to a dimmer. This will avoid your chickens from being suddenly plunged into the dark, risking their not being able to find a safe roost spot. I know many people swear by having 14 hours of daylight in their coops for optimal laying. And, that may work for them. It is just not how we do things here.

I hope that answers the question for you. Thank you for asking! And, if you have a question about homesteading or animal care, post it on our facebook page. If I don't have an answer for you, I'll try to find out.

Sonja ♥

Visit these blog hops for more great tips, recipes, farm house style and more!
The Home Acre Hop #5

Miss Orpington's Update: Day One

The house dropped to 40 degrees overnight, but Miss Orpington did not seem to mind. Compared to the forecast of negative 30 degrees with the wind chill outside, I am sure it seemed a bargain to her. She was alert when Sean awoke the girls for school this morning at 5am and stoked the coals back to life. He offered her water and she drank a good amount before she decided that she'd had enough.

After this morning's chore of feeding the animals- as quickly as our frozen fingers would work- was completed, Sean dragged the frozen water containers into the bathroom to begin the hour long process of thawing them. I know it is necessary, but it seems so futile in the light of how quickly they refreeze upon going back outdoors. I spread some extra hay around the inside of the coop and outside along the ground. The silly, impervious ducks still insist on laying outside, despite the frigid air. I suppose if I had a down covering nearly head to toe, I would have minded the temperatures better, myself.

The goats did not budge from snuggling together in the corners of their stalls and even Jasmine decided to stay inside for the morning. The barn is notably warmer than the air outside, but without heat, it cannot be called warm by any stretch of the imagination. We decided to leave the doors to their stalls closed today and fed them their hay inside, instead.

Back inside, while the water containers were thawing, Sean and I offered Miss O. more water and some pieces of apple. She declined to eat, but drank with some appetite. Her eyes were still gummed closed, so we took her back into the bathroom and I dripped drops of warm water over them to help to loosen the dried crust of blood. I do not want to pick it off in the fear that the crust is not simply dried blood from her comb injuries. I don't think that she has damage to her eyes, themselves, but I don't want to take the chance of opening up any wound that has begun healing. After a few minutes of soaking the skin and gentle blotting and wiping, one eye was freed and opened slightly. I worked on the other for a few minutes, but it did not open, yet. We'll repeat wetting the area and wiping gently again this evening. At least, she can see out of one eye. We rinsed the healing cuts on her neck near her ear and her damaged comb with more topical antibiotic solution. Miss O. was not as stoic with our vetting today, but she did not appear to be in pain, either. She clucked at us and moved her head away from my fingers, but she did not thrash about or cry out in alarm. We are trying to be as gentle about helping her as we can. It would be so convenient if she could speak and tell us how she is feeling and where it hurts.

I took some pictures of the injuries when we had finished with this morning's ministrations. And, since so many of you have commented asking about an update on facebook, I took video, too. I will post more pictures as she heals, but probably not every day- only as there are noticeable changes.

I took this video this morning... Machias and Tasmanian wanted their 15 seconds of fame, too.

By lunch time, Miss O. had settled in for a nap. I am sure that she is not pleased with her small pen, but we feel that it is best to keep her confined to a small area to avoid lots of moving around on her part. I am not keeping food or water inside the pen, but am offering it to her every few hours. I think that since she is not able to see very well, she'd most likely dump it and make a wasteful mess right now. As she recovers and can see better, I will have dishes of both available. Miss O. won't be returning outside until she heals. Chickens will cannibalize one another, especially when they see bloody bits.

At least, she'll have some company in the form of lazy cats. When we first brought her inside, smelling of blood, all the kitties contemplated whether she'd make a fine meal or not. Now, they have taken to napping beside her. I'd rather think of it as "them keeping her company" instead of "them guarding their dinner". As long as she stays on the inside of the pen and they remain on the outside, I think it will work out just fine.
Despite the temperatures, Sean got an idea while he was carrying the ice pieces freed from inside the water buckets. I thought it was interesting enough to brave going outside again to take a few pictures of it. What do you think?


I think they look really cool.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit today. I'm glad you did. Sonja ♥

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Miss Orpington Falls Victim: WARNING GRAPHIC PHOTOS

It is cold outside. And, it looks like that cold is staying for a little spell. On days like this, I sometimes question our choice to live in Maine. When the snow melts and our rainy mud season begins, I question anew our residency. But, then summer comes and for about 2 weeks, the sun turns its face towards us and I forget all about the cold and mud. Born and bred in Maine, one would think a person would get used to the weather, but somehow I find myself always caught in surprised amazement that it is THAT COLD outside... again.

It is hard to be in a good mood with the wind howling in an arctic fury and worry for the animals facing it's bitterness in their barn stalls, hijacking my thoughts. It is difficult to keep the house warm in this kind of weather, even with the wood stove pumping out heat full tilt. The unheated barns provide some relief for the animals, but not enough to ease my thoughts. And, if dealing with prolonged cold snaps were not enough to contend with, we've had a bit of a terror this morning.

While freeing the chickens from their house and feeding them their warm breakfast, I discovered the huddled mass of a cold and bloody Buff Orpington hen laying, barely breathing, in the corner of the hen house floor. I called Sean to scoop her into his arms and carry her into the kitchen. While he headed that direction, I made a bee-line for an empty metal crate folded and tucked away in the barn. It didn't look good for Miss Orpington. Her head was covered with blood. Her eyes were crusted closed with it and she was having difficulty breathing through the blood in her nostrils and throat. It was hard to tell if she was coughing up blood or trying to clear her nasal passages of blood that had run down her beak and clotted around her nostrils from her mangled comb. I wanted to clean her off to assess the damage, but my first priority was to staunch the flow of blood so she wouldn't bleed to death on us before we could even get her warmed up. Sean went to finish the morning chores, while I held her in my lap and carefully used a clean cloth to put pressure on her comb areas until they clotted and stopped bleeding. With her head and shoulder feathers soaked in blood, I was uncertain that Miss Orpington could live through this and considered for a moment whether we should try. If it wouldn't be the kinder course to end it and be done. But, that thought was fleeting. Miss O. may yet die of her wounds, but it won't be because we didn't, at least, try to save her.

Sean returned from feeding the other animals and we discussed what to do. Topical and oral antibiotics were going to be a MUST- thankfully we had some on hand. But, the immediate needs of getting her body temperature up and assisting her ability to breathe came first. Antibiotics to fight any infection that might start are sorely wasted on a chicken what cannot breathe. I swabbed away the blood from inside her mouth and around her nostrils and Miss O. began breathing more regularly from her nose. She also stopped shaking violently as I held her. We decided to settle her in a nest of hay beside the wood stove to warm up. Now that she was breathing more normally and the bleeding had stopped, we thought it best to allow her some rest before we cleaned her up and attempted to bandage her properly. Miss O. slept a while. Around noon, she stirred, stood and gingerly poked her beak about in the hay some. I offered her some water by dipping just the tip of her beak into a cup of warmed water. She drank a few drops, but not much. She remained standing for some time and was alert to my movements around the kitchen and she slept off and on through the afternoon.

It is 3 o'clock as I write this. Miss O. swallowed a few drops more of water and she walked a few steps around the inside of her pen. I just took her out and held her gently in one arm while I dripped a few drops of water over her eyes and softly blotted the area. I am hoping to soften some of the caked on mess, so she might be able to open her eyes to see. I am leery of prying them apart and won't do that. The drops did clean away some of the dried blood, but not enough for her to open them. Or, at least, she didn't open them- so I assume that she cannot yet. I don't want to stress her more than necessary, so after a few minutes of gentle cleaning around her eyes, I stopped to allow her to rest more. When Sean gets home from work tonight, together, we'll work on cleaning her wounds properly.

So what caused this? I am certain that it was the simultaneous attention of several roosters. It looks as if they ripped her comb open, grabbing it to hold her steady. With 10 randy roosters strutting about, this conclusion seems the most probable. I have been looking for good homes for our lads, but the time has just run short for them. We CANNOT and WILL NOT allow them to reign terror over the hens, injuring our young layers. So, they will be going- one way or another. I hate to see them end up as dinner. Mating with the hens is what roosters instinctively do. But, when you have a young group of them, fighting over mating rights happens more frequently and when they start causing injury, enough is enough.

I did not pause to snap pictures of Miss Orpington when we first found her or while we were working on her for obvious reasons. I did capture a few shots of how she looked at mid-afternoon before I cleaned her up a little and after that, while she was resting. I will update on her progress later tonight and through her hopeful recovery. But, it is now time for afternoon meals and to thaw the water for the chickens, piggies and goats for the 4th time today. Sometimes, I don't think I will ever be truly warm again.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit today, friends.
Sonja ♥

Friday, January 18, 2013

Baskets & Eggs

I got a very nice surprise earlier this week. I'd asked my Mother to keep an eye out at the auction she and Dad visit each week, for some baskets for our farm stand this summer. Yard sales, auctions, and flea markets are great places to find nifty items that can be repurposed without breaking the bank. I want to use them to hold the fruits and veggies we'll have to sell. Mom found several baskets for me. Overall, the ones she chose were all suitable and nice, but a couple of them really stood out as something special.

I knew immediately that I had found a fantastic new egg basket, when she showed this one to me. A little paint (left over from last summer) and less than an hour's time invested, and I ended up with this! Usually, I leave items "as is" because I think it adds some character. This basket had had its nail holes covered over with white putty, but it's creator had not finished it beyond that. I know how much use this little basket is going to get, coming with me each day, rain, snow, or shine to collect our hen's eggs. I thought finishing it would be the best option towards keeping it intact for a long time. And, I must confess, I love how it came out!

I was easily able to carry more than 3 dozen eggs at one time. When the hens are at full production this summer, that will certainly be handy!

The weather has returned to near and/or below zero temperatures, which means extra hay and warm breakfast and mid-day meals for everyone. The animals are bearing the cold well, but I know we will all be much happier when the warm days return. We are counting down; 62 days until Spring officially returns to the north.

While we are waiting, we are making good use of our time. Today, I made 2 new batches of soap: Maine woods and a new scent I am trying Apple Rose. Tomorrow, Sean and I are making 4 more batches: Lavender, Cinnamon, Vanilla, and Citrus-Mint. These will all be cured and ready for use in about 4-5 weeks (Mid-February 2013). I, also, spent some time designing labels for our egg cartons. According to the MOFGA website, in Maine, we do not need to register with the state to sell our hen's eggs if we raise less than 3,000 laying hens. Our 50 hens falls significantly short of that level, but our labels do need to contain information detailing: our name and address, the grade, size, weight and count, and safe handling instructions.

This is what we came up with:

I'll probably fiddle with it some more, but it will do for now.

Lastly, I had mentioned a while ago about us ordering our non-hybrid, non GMO, organic seeds for this year's garden. We are combining orders with some local friends in order to enjoy a discounted price. For any of our local friends who want in on this deal, the order is going to be placed on January 26th. You can browse the Fedco online catalog. Please, contact me with your order and payment. We anticipate our seeds should be received approximately 2 weeks after the order is placed. I think it is time for us to review our garden plans to make sure we are ready for the upcoming growing season!

Thanks for stopping in to keep us company on this cold January night. I hope you are toasty warm wherever you are. ♥

Sonja ♥

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Our First Sponsor Means Discounts for YOU!

Sean and I have debated adding sponsors and ads to our web page for a while. On one hand, we are trying to build our family farm and hosting sponsors would be a giant step in that favor. On the other hand, we don't want our page to become busy with advertisements. And, certainly, any sponsor we'd agree to place an advertisement for would have to be one that we could endorse honestly and without reservation. With these thoughts in mind, lots of discussions, and many prayers, we decided to be open to the possibility and added a "disclosure page" to our blog page.

Little did we know that we would find a perfect partnership so quickly! We are very pleased to share Hobby Hill Farms and their quality gifts with you. You can browse their extensive collection HERE. Check out their BLOG to follow activities at their barn, in their garden or in their kitchen. Don't forget to stop by on FACEBOOK to share some love.

Not only do they have some great products, but they offered you all a great discount.

15% off ANYTHING, including sale items when you use my code LBF. I am definitely ordering this pink "Farm Chick" hoodie. And, my ball cap is already on it's way! They have so many great products in their shop I know you'll just love!!

Thanks for visiting with us today. We're glad you stopped by.
Sean and Sonja ♥

PS- If you haven't checked out the Farm Chick Bread Recipes Button I put up earlier today, I can't stress enough how you... really... should. The Farm Chicks from Farm Chick Chit Chat put together a collection of our favorite bread recipes. Renee's recipe for Classic White Bread looks as easy as it does delicious. And for those of you trying to cut carbs, you'll want to check out Becky's 30 minute 1-2-3 Spinach Bread. I think I am going to begin with Farmhouse 38's Cheddar Beer Bread.

*Please see our Disclosure Policy for Complete Details.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The January Thaw

50 degrees today felt soooo good, even if it means that the snow is melting quickly, causing the lawn to flood and the animal yards to be covered in mud. Everyone seemed to be in good cheer, regardless.

The chickens laid us a total of 7 eggs today to go with the 8 eggs from yesterday. We have collected a total of 80 eggs so far this year, giving us an average of 5.7 eggs each day. Not too bad. Since the day was so mild and the sky full of bright fluffy clouds, I spent some time playing with my camera. These are two of my favorite pictures from today. I don't know what I'll use them for, but I'll think of something!


Once Sean got home from work, we decided to make use of the pond developing on what should be our front lawn. Sean carried the geese to the front yard one at a time. Caitlin first. She was not pleased at all about being without Justin and honked madly until he was retrieved. Justin did not appreciate being carried, but was more stoic about being moved to the front yard. It took him only a few minutes to decide an opportunity to swim and play was worth the affront of being carried.

I enjoyed watching them play, but I was a little worried that they would not return to their pen easily. Mostly because I knew how badly I would feel for poor Sean to get drenched while I filmed his efforts. I need not have worried. These geese have been hand raised since they were just a day old. They spent many an evening curled into the neck of one of my sweaters. Long gone are the days where they would fit, but they still prefer to be near us.

I had to include these shots of our geese, too.

I like this action shot. You can see water droplets flying off of Caitlin's head.

Once a goose is wet enough, what is left to do? Flap, Flap, Flap!!!
The next few days are supposed to return to the mid-thirties then, drop lower in the days that follow. I am certainly going to enjoy the warm days while they last.

Thanks for stopping in to visit with us today. We're glad you came.
Sean & Sonja ♥

Also shared with: The Back Yard Connection Hop

Saturday, January 12, 2013


The Winner of the Lally Broch Farm Soap Give-Away is Dawn who wrote:

I would love to win. I love that the soaps are not very scented as I have a sensitivity to strong scents! Best way to contact me is my email. Looking forward to following the blog.
I am so excited for you to try our hand-made soaps. Made with a blend of organic coconut, olive, safflower, and flax-seed oils, we think you will really love how well they lather and moisturize. They work the best with a bath sponge, but they can be used without one, too.

The scents I am sending you are lavender and cucumber-melon. We'll have more scents available in February once our next batches finish curing. These will include: lavender, citrus-mint, cinnamon, vanilla, and Maine woods. And, in the spring, we'll again offer our own goat's milk soap made with the milk from our beloved dairy goats.

You'll be able to see what we have to offer on our etsy store, HERE.

I hope you'll let us know your opinion of Lally Broch Soap after you have an opportunity to try them for yourself.

Thank you to all of you who participated in this give-away. It was so encouraging to our family to see all the new faces of new friends joining us on our journey!

Sean & Sonja ♥

Friday, January 11, 2013

Recycling Canning Supplies...

I have been trying to create some hanging chicken scratch feeders for a little while. I started out HERE and then, followed the perfect recipe HERE with better results. It still didn't work the way I pictured it in my head. I am not the sort to give up. I am also not the sort to continue working past usefulness. Instead, I tucked the idea away into the recesses of my mind to let it process. While sorting through my canning supplies today, the planets aligned and an idea clicked into place.

I came across about 15 rings that had started to show their age. Normally, I stick these into the metal recycling bin and when it is full, Sean takes the bin to our local scrap yard and brings me home cash monies. I had anticipated that fate for these. Then, it came to me that I could perhaps use these...

I grabbed a roll of jute twine from my garden supplies and cut it into pieces roughly a 16 inches long.  I passed the jute twine through the ring and placed the it with the lip side down. To protect my table from the greasy mess I anticipated this project could become, I lined my largest cookie pan with a piece of parchment paper.

I melted a pound of lard in the microwave and mixed it with some reserved bacon grease. (You do not need to use bacon grease, but I had some from our breakfast and it won't harm the chickens, so I added it to mine.)

I mixed approximately 6 cups of chicken scratch into the melted lard.

It should look something like this:

I began scooping the mixture into the rings with a spoon to start with, but then, I abandoned that and just pressed it firmly into the rings with my fingers. Be sure to compact it as much as you can. I even rounded mine a little over the top.

This project started to set up almost immediately and it held together beautifully.

I like several things about this project.

1. It is a good use of a material that would otherwise go to the scrap yard. And, I can reuse the rings repeatedly as the chickens empty them.

2. They are a good size for several chickens to peck at simultaneously. And, the scratch mixture can be eaten from both sides.

3. The feeders swing easily when the chickens peck them which provides more exercise and play for them than a stationary feeder would.

4. Once my chickens figured out what this new toy was, they loved it.

One of the Red Stars came to check out my tray of goodies before I even had a chance to begin tying them to the fencing.

It didn't take long for the interest of the other chickens to be piqued and try it out for themselves.

I purposefully tied them farther in the yard than our feathered friends usually prefer to travel. They'd much rather stay on the hay. I wanted to have the chance to hang them all before they were eaten and gone. Once they were secured, I spread some hay on the snow to make getting to them and eating from the rings more pleasant.

Unfamiliar as the rings were, at first, there was no mad rush to eat them up. That changed in a hurry.

I secured 6 of the rings to the fencing tonight. I'll check them in the morning to see if any survived to see the sunrise. I doubt it, though. Finally! I have succeeded in making a chicken scratch feeder that I really like! It is not very pretty, perhaps, but it is definitely functional!

Thanks for stopping in for a visit tonight. I hope you'll come again soon.

Sonja ♥

Pin It  Check out other great recipes at Farm Girl Blog Fest #19

Reminder: We're drawing for our Lally Broch Farm Soap in less than an hour! It's not too late to enter!