Friday, December 23, 2011

Guineas - Part I

One of the biggest things we first noticed after moving out to the woods is how bad ticks are out here. We figured we'd just be vigilant about checking ourselves after going into the woods and might find a tick every now and again. No big deal.

Well, as it turns out, just about every time we walked outside the door, we'd have ticks to pull out of our skin (several in not so fun places!). That was unpleasant enough, but then David developed a bull's-eye rash after being bitten by a tick. We looked up info online and what we found was pretty scary, so we high-tailed it to the doctor. David's doctor said that anyone who presents with the bull's-eye rash should immediately begin taking antibiotics (doxycycline) to prevent Lyme Disease from developing. In most cases if caught early and treated with antibiotics, Lyme Disease is curable. So we let out a big sigh of relief and went straight to the pharmacy. 

After that scare we started seriously thinking about how to deal with all these ticks. One option was to stockpile tick repellent, but we wanted to find a way to protect ourselves without having to be drenched in spray every time we stepped outside. We started researching ways to reduce the tick population and stumbled upon guinea fowl. Apparently guineas loooove to eat ticks and many people say they have practically no ticks at all if they have guineas. This seemed like the best option for us, so we went online and ordered 15 of them!

They came in this box, just like when we ordered our chickens.

Of course they were adorable, and I spent the whole first day playing with them and watching them run around.

Almost all my pictures turned out blurry because they move so fast!

The next morning I excitedly went to check on them. I put my hand inside their pen to pet one of them, and they all freaked out and ran in the corner furthest away from me!

I read that guineas are wild, but thought ours would be different. And I was very wrong! Some people say it is possible to tame them so they will let you pick them up and cuddle, but you have to spend hours with them EVERY day. We couldn't commit to that, so we just came to accept the fact that they are wild and won't be pets like our chickens.

They grew really fast (and started to get stinky in the garage), so after a few weeks we moved them to their outside brooder.

Once they outgrew the brooder, we let them out to explore their new coop.

After a few more weeks, we let them out to their enclosed run.

We kept them separated from the chickens and Duchess so they could all get used to each other.

We decided that we would keep them enclosed until they were fully grown. We would then let them out to free range and hopefully gobble up all the ticks. Also, since guineas aren't very smart, they need to be enclosed for a while to learn their coop is their home so they will stick around the area once they are let out to free range. They are fully grown at about six months old, and they hit that mark last weekend. It was time to let them out to do their job!

However, things didn't go exactly as planned, and now we have some decisions to make...

Stay tuned for Part II of the guinea saga!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Traditions

I love me some Christmas traditions. It just makes this time of year that much more fun and brings up happy memories of years past.

One of my newer traditions is watching David's intermediate band play at the mall on a weekday morning. They played this past Wednesday morning at 10:30 and were great as usual!

Christmas just isn't Christmas without some good music! This year I've been listening to the holiday pop channel on DISH nonstop. The first thing I do when I get home from work is turn on this channel. It puts me in such a great mood and makes cooking dinner so much more fun!

Bonus points if it's playing She and Him.

I can always expect something Santa or Snowman themed from my mom before Christmas. Usually it's a pair of festive socks; this year it was this cute dishtowel.

Somehow every year without fail those yummy butter cookies show up in a very Christmasy tin.

I may or may not have eaten one of these after I opened the tin
to take this picture. Ok, I did. Can't resist that buttery smell.

Shortbread cookies are also a usual suspect. Just like the butter cookies they usually come in a festive tin.

Wanted to eat one of these as well, but decided not to spoil my dinner!

And of course it just ain't Christmas without Mom's famous peanut brittle!!!

She's been cranking out batches of this brittle to give to friends and family for as long as I can remember. She cooks it up in the microwave then pours it onto a baking sheet set outside to cool before breaking it up into pieces. Check out all that brittle-y goodness.

Yes, I ate some of this after taking the picture. I couldn't help myself. Dinner can wait.

This was my third year of packing food for Feed My Starving Children. It is a really great organization that provides food to starving children all around the world. This year at our location there were a total of 2,712 volunteers and we packed 632,016 meals of a dried rice, vegetable, and bean mix (called a Manna Pack). This is enough to feed 1,730 children one good meal a day for a whole year! We learned that the food we packed is going to feed children in Haiti, just like this sweetie.

This weekend I'm going to a cookie exchange with some wonderful bakers. I hope that becomes a tradition as well!

What Christmas traditions do you hold dear?


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Clearing the Camera

I thought David brought home a lot of bananas this time. But last week I came home to find this.

Just under $8 for all these.

I let them sit for a few days because they weren't too overripe (and honestly, I didn't want to peel and chop them all). But last night I got to work and filled up 5 gallon size freezer bags of future ice cream. Took me over an hour but now we'll have plenty of ice cream in the future. In the meantime, I told David not to bring home any more bananas!


We got our Christmas tree up and decorated last week, and I had to bring some of the Christmas cheer into other rooms of the house.

If I can't see her, she can't see me!

This was the first tree we ever had as a married couple five Christmases ago. We lived in a small apartment in St. Louis and couldn't fit a big tree in our living room. I saw this little silver tree at Garden Ridge and had to have it. I love the retro feel!


Cleo (she's an Easter Egger) is looking much better than she did here. Her feathers are all back in and still growing and getting longer every day.

Jobin's (she's a Delaware) new feathers are still pretty short (you can see the tiny feathers on her wings). You can see the black part of her new tail feathers though!

Penguin (she's an Australorp) is pretty much in the same boat Jobin is in at the moment. Feathers back in, but some really short still. New feathers are unbelievably soft!

Tubs (she's a Speckled Sussex) is looking pretty good. Her tail feathers are still pretty short, though.

Buttercup (she's a Golden-Laced Wyandotte) is gorgeous! She may still have a little more feather growth, but she's in good shape.

Chickabod (she's a white leghorn) is looking good, too. So fluffy and white!

Our rooster, Cam, didn't molt this year since he was just born in April (chickens usually won't molt unless they are over 12-18 months old). But his wattles (those crazy red things hanging from his chin) are getting longer every day! Such a heart breaker!

Of course Duchess is getting a crazy thick winter coat as well.

Hard to believe less than five months ago this is what she looked like!


David will be home soon and no doubt starving, so I better get dinner started. Tonight we're having this soup with scallion pancakes. Yum!