Friday, June 28, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Chicken Saddles

Have you ever heard of chicken saddles? About four years ago when I was a fairly new chicken keeper, I heard of them but had no clue what they would be used for. Surely nothing was going to be hitching a ride on my hen, right? Eventually I figured it all out and have found saddles to be very useful in my flock!

The saddle is made from is a piece of fabric that rests on the hen's back for protection with two elastic loops fitted over the wings to hold the fabric in place. We put this saddle on Lucy because our head rooster, Cam, is very fond of her and mates with her quite often. Roosters can be rough with hens during mating and actually pull out some back feathers while positioning or "treading" on the hen. Poor Lucy's back was getting pretty bare so we put a saddle on her to protect her skin from Cam's nails. With no feathers for protection, Lucy's skin could easily be cut open by Cam's nails resulting in a very serious wound - this has actually happened a couple times with our other hens and it is quite traumatic.

The saddle will keep Lucy's back safe while allowing for feather re-growth. The saddles are fairly easy to put on and my girls don't seem to mind them at all after they get used to them. For a few minutes they usually fidget around, but soon enough they seem to forget the saddle is even there.

Even if you don't have a rooster, saddles are great to have on hand. Back when I just had my first flock of pullets, someone developed a bad habit of feather picking and lots of the girls' backs were totally bare. Saddles would be great in this situation to prevent any injuries from pecking (and cannibalism - it happens in rare occasions - yikes!). Also, if a hen is broody and sitting in the favorite nesting box, other hens may peck at her to try to get her off the nest so they can lay their eggs in the box. A saddle would protect the hen's back if you are unable to move her to a separate enclosure with her clutch of eggs (which is recommended in the case of broody hens).

If you have chickens, have you ever used saddles on any of your hens?


Shared with Backyard Farming Connection 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Introducing Gizmo

On Saturday morning, I went out to tend to the chickens and got quite a surprise. Just as I was opening the door to Ellie's brooder area, I saw a tiny kitten bolt out the door and run for the carport. I was pretty stunned, wondering if I really saw what I thought I saw. As I was trying to process it, I saw the kitten sprint back into the run and land in a five gallon bucket turned on its side. I was able to grab the bucket with the kitten still inside and bring him (or her, not totally sure) up to the house for inspection.

Just the other day I was telling David that I was getting the itch for a new kitten or puppy, and this little guy magically lands in my chicken coop! I've also spotted another kitten hanging around the coop area over the past few days. I can't get to it, but I have been feeding it and the kitten is slowly warming up to me. Sadly, I think these babies were most likely dumped on my county road. Unfortunately I've seen it happen before and the lack of personal responsibility just astounds me. Whatever happened in their past history, they somehow made their way to me and I am thankful for that.

I figured the little guy was probably hungry, so I gave him a small container of wet food and he gobbled it down. I knew I couldn't leave him outside, so I brought him into our guest bathroom to stay until we figured out what to do with him.

He was so scared at first; hissing and scratching at me if I tried to come near him. For a tiny little kitten, he was actually quite scary and intimidating! But I knew once I worked my cat magic on him that wouldn't last for long. David jokes that I am the cat whisperer because any cat I meet seems to quickly warm up to me. I think I must have been a cat in a past life or something! I went slow at first, but before I knew it the little guy was purring loudly in my lap and following me everywhere I went. The first time David played with him, he called him Gizmo and the name stuck.

We are keeping him away from our other indoor cats right now because Fitz doesn't like him at all and Jasper seems to be bothered by his presence. David wants to make him an outdoor cat once he is bigger, but I really want to keep him inside. We'll see what happens :)

Have you ever had any animals show up on your doorstep?


Shared with Tuesday Muse, Down Home Blog HopFrom The Farm Blog Hop   

Monday, June 24, 2013

Perennial Seed Giveaway

Earlier this spring, we teamed up with Plantation Products to give away some seed starter kits and I am thrilled to say that they have provided me with another starter kit along with some awesome perennial seeds to give away!

Included in the prize package is one Jiffy seed starter tray with 25 peat pellets, one set of plant labels with a Ferry-Morse marking pen, and six packets of Lilly Miller perennial flower seeds. The Lilly Miller brand, established in 1885, is a subcategory of Ferry-Morse Seeds and is a proven premium line guaranteed to grow. The products are mostly carried in stores west of the Mississippi for the home gardener, but no matter where you live you can go to the Lilly Miller website here, type in your zip code, and all the vendors in your area that carry Lilly Miller products will be displayed.

My favorite thing about the Lilly Miller seeds is the one-of-a-kind illustration on each packet. They are all so beautiful! I also love the fact that they are perennial seeds. As long as you get them started and in the ground by late summer this year, they should come in wonderfully for you next summer and every year thereafter. We've really come to love perennials and I can't wait to add more to my own garden!

Entry Rules
To enter the perennial seed giveaway, please head over to Ferry-Morse's Facebook page here and give them a like (if you're not following my page on Facebook yet, feel free to click here and give me a like as well).  Leave a comment below to let me know you'd like to be entered in the drawing (US residents only). Don't forget to leave your contact information so I can get a hold of you if you are a winner.

Plantation Products was kind enough to send me two sets of perennial seed packets, so in addition to the grand prize winner, a runner-up will also receive six seed packets! I will use the random number generator to pick the winners at 11:59pm Central Time on Thursday, June 27th and will announce them here on Friday the 28th. You have two chances to win, so go ahead and comment below to let me know you want to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!

1st winner - Amanda from Wildly Simple 
2nd winner - Misty


Disclaimer: I was provided with the items for the giveaway, but no other compensation was received for this post.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: The Escape Artist

Yesterday I was sitting at the computer when I heard David come in the back door. He said, "Look what I found running around in the garage." Before looking I asked, "Did you bring it inside the house?" because I was thinking it would be some kind of critter I didn't want in the house! He said yes and told me he was holding it, so I figured I'd go take a look.

One of Ellie's chicks escaped! We had been keeping them with Ellie in the brooder, but they've been really wanting to get out and run around a bit. Yesterday I let them out into the enclosed room their brooder is in and apparently one of the chicks found her way out somehow. But that was only the beginning of her antics.

Just before all hell broke loose.

David put her back in the run with Ellie and the other chicks and since it was getting close to dusk, I tried to round them all up to place in the brooder overnight. If you've never tried to corral five one-month old super fast chicks just let me tell you - they are nearly impossible to catch. Really, it could be an Olympic event. In my attempts to grab Feather Legs (the one who had escaped earlier), she somehow made her way out of the brooder room into the big run where all the chickens and guineas were. Uh oh. So I chased her around there for a while with no luck and was starting to get really frustrated and hot and sweaty (it was a very muggy 90 degrees). But that still was only the beginning of her antics.

As if it wasn't bad enough that I was running after a tiny chick in a big run, she managed to find a hole in the fence she could fit through and was sprinting through the open woods across the creek! Good lord, I just about lost it. After a few tense minutes, David and I somehow got her back through her escape hatch into the big run and chased her into an enclosed area where I was able to snatch her up. Phew. I put her in the brooder and shut the door. But I still had four more chicks to catch and Feather Legs got everyone riled up so much that one of her sisters decided she'd escape into the big run as well, just to test me I'm sure.

I managed to outsmart this one quicker than Feather Legs, so I caught her and returned her to the brooder. I was able to grab the other chicks fairly easily (in comparison) and locked everyone up along with Ellie for the night. Needless to say, they are not coming out of that brooder until they are much bigger.

~Tammy, chicken wrangler extraordinaire

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Clearing The Camera

Here are some recent photos I've taken that I wanted to share. Go here if you'd like to see more photo posts.

Some of the gorgeous lettuce we've been harvesting lately.

Water droplets on our Lily of the Valley.

Fern transplanted from my grandma's garden.

The first strawberry we harvested this season. It was really delicious!

A beautiful Asiatic Lily just opened up.

Sunlight streaming through the trees during an evening walk.

Super tiny, fuzzy headed baby bird just hatched in a nest by our garage.

Hope you've enjoyed a slice of our homestead.


Shared with Rurality Blog Hop 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer's First Bouquet

Last year I wrote about our first cutting garden and how amazed I was at the flowers we grew from one $0.20 packet of wildflower mix seeds. This year, a lot of those flowers have come back up volunteer, so we have been watching them grow every day while anxiously awaiting our first blooms of the summer.

One morning late last week, I went out to tend to the animals while David checked on the progress of the garden. When I got back up to the house, he presented me with our first bouquet! 

Such pretty purple flowers all tied up with a ribbon just for me. Also tied up with the wildflowers was a little bit of flowering thyme so the bouquet would smell nice as well as being beautiful.

I never tire of fresh flowers! What flowers are in your favorite summer bouquet?


Friday, June 14, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Chickens and Wildflowers

This year we have begun to think differently about the landscaping on our property. For the past couple years, David mowed quite a bit of the area around our house. It looked really nice, but he was mowing all the time to try to keep up. This summer we decided to just cut a small area around the house and leave the rest to grow wild. The bees love this, and I love it too because we get lots of colorful wildflowers growing up behind the house. Recently I let the chickens out to free range and Red found her way to the wildflower patch. I had to take some photos because she looked so gorgeous amongst all the flowers!

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't include a full on, glorious fluffy butt shot!

After a while some of the other chickens came over to see what Red was up to, and David came out to see what I was up to. I love seeing my pretty chickens in the wildflowers, but even more I love seeing my handsome sweetheart holding one of our pretty chickens in the wildflowers.

Aren't they just the cutest? I guess I may be a little biased :)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How We Homestead: Our Future Goals

It's hard to believe, but this is the final installment in our five-week series called How We Homestead. I have really enjoyed writing each post for this series and I hope you have enjoyed reading! For the final installment, I'd like to talk about our future plans and goals we have for the homestead. Looking back on the past two years, I've realized that we have accomplished a lot so far, but of course we still have more we'd like to achieve. Here is our vision for the future.

I am a huge animal lover, and that was a big part of our reason for moving out to the country. I didn't want to be restricted by city ordinances on the types of livestock I could keep, and I also wanted plenty of room for my animals to roam and enjoy their lives. I told David a while back that one of my goals was to have some of each type of fowl, and so far we only have chickens and guineas, so we have a ways to go! Our next addition will be ducks to help with garden pests, and we are hoping to add them next year.

A little further out into the future, we want to get some sheep or goats. To me, there are few things cuter than a tiny goat kid jumping and bouncing around, so I really want to experience that firsthand. And of course it would be wonderful to have goat milk to make my own goat cheese. Yum!

Just visiting with this sweetie, but hopefully I can have one of my own in the future!

We have adopted a "learn as we go" mentality with gardening, and we still have so much to learn! Each year we are discovering more about our land and soil to help us maximize the efficiency and productivity of our garden. We recently expanded the garden and added lots of raised beds, and we are still working on enclosing the entire area to keep thieves from our harvest.

Gathering fresh lettuce for a salad.

In the future, I hope to keep adding new veggies to our garden each year and grow as much as I can from seed. One of our big long-term goals is to grow enough food each summer to last us year round. I think we are quite a few years out from realizing that goal, but we are working towards it. I need to learn more about food preservation as well so that we can safely store food to get us through the winter months.

We love houses with lots of charm (like our first home, a 1914 bungalow in the city) but our current house is really lacking. It is a newer house which is wonderful, but there isn't much in the way of the architectural detail or character we typically go for. We have been saving up our money for a while now, and today just purchased new flooring to go down in our living room and kitchen area (currently there is a commercial style carpet and linoleum). In July, David's mom and stepdad are coming to help us install the floor so we are very excited for that! We want to build bookshelves and make a new mantle for the electric fireplace as well to give the living room some more interest and charm.

A few more years down the road after we have saved up enough money, we'd like to change the outside of the house a bit. On the bottom part, we want to add a natural stone facade to make it look a little more cozy and woodsy. The previous owner was a big John Deere fan, so everything is green! It does fit in well with the landscape of the property, but we prefer brown tones, so we may also look into painting the roof to fit in with the stone on the bottom of the house.

The thing we wish for the most on our property is to have a pond dug behind the house. So far, we've had local conservation agents come out to map and flag the best location for a pond and got several quotes for the work ($18,000 - yikes!). Since it is so pricey, we are looking at other options and trying to figure out how to best make this become a reality.

Back here is where the pond will go (looking out from our back porch).

We had the property logged last summer and it is still a mess (the photo above is pre-logging). Shortly after we moved out here, David made several trails in the woods and we really enjoyed walking on them with Duchess whenever we could. Logging destroyed our trails, so over the next several years we hope to clean some of it up and make some new trails. Right now it seems daunting to tackle a 20 acre pile of sticks and downed trees, but somehow we will make it work!

Of course all of these goals require money, so we would like to be able to do something from the homestead to earn some extra income. Not sure what that will be just yet, but we are always thinking and open to new ideas. In our ultimate dream, we would both be working on the homestead each day and making a living somehow off our land. For now we still have our day jobs, but we are always dreaming for the future.

Four other awesome bloggers are participating in this series as well, so don't forget to check out their posts to read more about where they are in their homesteading journey. You can find them here -

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm
Meg at Little Homestead
Daisy at Maple Hill 101
Amber at Making A Home

Thanks so much for reading and please do let me know if you have any questions or comments. I'd love to hear from you!


Monday, June 10, 2013

A Faithful Companion

One of my favorite things that came out of our move to the country was crossing paths with Sylvester. He started coming around pretty soon after we moved to the house but he was so very shy. I thought he looked hungry so I tried feeding him, but he ran away as soon as I got close. Eventually I was able to coax him onto the back porch for some food, and he hasn't left since.

Up until just a couple months ago, we thought he was the neighbor's cat. She told us they had a black and white cat so we just figured he was coming to our place for a visit and a second helping of dinner. But we recently learned that their cat is a female, and Sylvester is definitely a boy. I was secretly thrilled to discover that he is all mine!

Sylvester always follows me everywhere I go. He waits for me in the mornings to go down to the chicken coop (and he has to get in cuddles with Duchess - he loves her so much!) and follows me back up to the house when the morning chores are done. In the evening he hangs out with us while we work in the garden and he helps Duchess protect the chickens when they are out free ranging.

But one of my favorite things about Sylvester is our walks in the woods. Last night after the rain ended I was itching to get down to the creek and splash around in the water. He followed me all the way and waited patiently beside the creek until I was ready to move on.

During our expeditions through the woods, he prefers to walk behind me. I just love looking back and seeing him following close behind.

He really is such a great companion with a laid back, cool attitude. Occasionally he does like to make his presence known and can meow louder than any cat I've ever met! Of course when I hear his cries I come running. I guess I am a faithful companion to him as well.

Do you have any faithful animal companions?


Shared with Tuesday Muse 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: More Chick Cuteness!

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here

Ellie's chicks are starting to really show their personalities now! They are getting a bit bigger and finding their wings, so they have learned to fly up on the perches in their brooder. It's really funny to see a tiny chick flapping her tiny wings and jumping around like crazy! But they all still love to be close to their mama and I often find them all cuddling when I stop in for a visit. The chicks will poke their heads out to see what's going on before leaving the safety and warmth of Ellie's feathers.

"Mama, is it ok if I go visit with the crazy chicken lady?"

They've also taken a liking to walking all over her, which she doesn't seem to mind.

And recently they got to try out a new treat!

Once Ellie tells them play time is over (she has a specific chirp that calls them back) they obey and settle back in for a nap.

Sometimes I see Ellie trying to get a couple moments of shut eye here and there whenever she can. Apparently being a mom to five active babies is hard work! Nap when the babies nap, right? :)


Shared with From The Farm Blog Hop, Rurality Blog Hop  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How We Homestead: Our Daily Life

Welcome to the fourth installment of our new five-week series, How We Homestead. Each Wednesday I write a post about a different homesteading topic to shed more light on where we are on our path to self-sufficiency and what homesteading looks like for us.
Ever wondered what a day in the life of a homesteader looks like? Here is a typical day for me.

I wake at dawn to let the chickens out of their coop and feed all the animals. This time of year, that means the alarm goes off at 5:45 each morning. I usually try to snooze a few times before getting out of bed, but Jasper won't have any of that and he climbs all over me until I get up to feed him and Fitz.

By this time, Sylvester (one of our outdoor cats) is sitting right outside the back door waiting to accompany me down to the chicken coop. I fill up a bucket of fresh water for the chickens and head down the hill with Sylvester by my side. Duchess is happy to see me emerge from the house because she knows I'll give her a few treats when I get down to the chicken coop.

The chickens are usually screaming at me to make sure I know they are in the coop and I need to let them out, so I open up the coop door and get out of the way because they all come flying out like they've been locked up for years. They follow me around until I throw them a handful of treats (scratch in the winter time, black oil sunflower seeds in the summer). I fill up the chickens' food and water, let the "pre-teens" out of their coop, then tend to Ellie and her chicks and make sure they have plenty of food and water.

After everyone has been fed and watered, it's inside to feed and water myself and get ready for work. During the school year, I also fix David's lunch and help him get out the door on time, but right now he's on summer break so he's been catching up on sleep! I pack up my lunch (usually leftovers from the previous night's dinner) and drive 35 miles to work where all day I dream of being back on the homestead.

Once the work day is over, I run any errands that I need to in town (like grocery shopping) then drive 35 miles back home. When I arrive home, I greet David and tell him about my day and ask about his, then it's outside for the rest of the evening. First I go down to check on the chickens and see how they're doing, then David and I walk the property and gardens to see how all of our plants are growing and changing. We do a little bit of work in the garden if need be and beg our plants to grow faster.

Usually I head back over to spend more time with the chickens. I make sure to hang out with the "pre-teens" as much as possible so they continue to feel comfortable around me and let me pet and hold them.

Ellie and her chicks are irresistible, so I usually spend a good chunk of time just sitting and watching.

I like to walk Duchess and let the chickens out for some supervised free ranging if there's enough daylight.

Once the light begins to fade, the chickens head back to the coop on their own and settle in for the night.

I gather eggs, lock the chickens up in the coop, lock the pre-teens back up in their coop, check on Ellie and her chicks one last time, and feed Duchess. I usually play with Sylvester for a bit, then if I'm lucky and the cows across the street are out by the fence, I go visit them and hope they don't run away at the sight of a crazy lading mooing at them with a camera pointing in their direction.

David is usually still tending to the garden at this point (he usually handles the flora department while I cover the fauna), so I head inside to get started on dinner. I try to fit in a little bit of exercise just before dinner (I really like my mini trampoline and free weights) since I really slacked on that over the winter.

This time of year we like to stay outside for as long as possible, so dinner is quite late; sometimes 8:30 or 9:00. We watch a little tv while eating dinner to unwind, then clean up and do any other inside chores that need to be done (like laundry). Lately we've been doing a little bit of reading at the end of the night just before heading to bed, and I usually end up falling asleep on the couch with a book in my hands. David wakes me up and tells me it's time to go to bed, so I groggily head towards the bedroom and pass out until my alarm goes off at 5:45 the next day and I start all over again.

Other than when I'm at work, basically my day consists of tending to the chickens, gardening, cooking, playing with the animals, and spending as much time as possible with David. We have really worked hard to get to this point and have the lifestyle that we have dreamed about, so right now we are enjoying the fruits of our labor. I recently heard someone say, "Think about how you would spend your day if you knew this was your last. If it looks completely different from your typical day now, then you need to make some big changes." I can honestly say if I knew today would be my last day, there is nowhere else I'd rather be than on my homestead surrounded by God's beauty, my animals, and my precious husband. Maybe I'd call in sick to work that day, but otherwise, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I'm right where I'd want to be.

Four other awesome bloggers are participating in this series as well, so don't forget to check out their posts to read more about where they are in their homesteading journey. You can find them here -

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm
Meg at Little Homestead
Daisy at Maple Hill 101
Amber at Making A Home

Thanks so much for reading and please do let me know if you have any questions or comments. I'd love to hear from you! Don't forget to check back next Wednesday for the final installment in the series where I will be focusing on future plans and goals we have for our homestead.


Shared with Rural Blog Hop, Down Home Blog HopFrom The Farm Blog Hop