Friday, August 30, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Random 5

I've always wanted to join in with my friend Nancy for her fun Random 5 Friday series, but since I always do a feathered friend post on Fridays I figured I wouldn't be able to submit anything. Then I realized I could write five random feathered friend facts, so here we go!

1. Roosters don't only crow in the mornings. They crow ALL DAY LONG. Sometimes I hear Cam crowing in the middle of the night! Most people who visit the homestead are surprised when they hear our roosters crowing loudly in the afternoon or evening.

2. You probably know by now that I love me a fluffy chicken butt. I try not to discriminate, but I have to say, Buff Orpingtons have some glorious fluff.

3. I love the colorful eggs my current layers give me, but I'm really excited for our Welsummer pullet to start laying. She will lay a dark brown, almost terra cotta colored egg!

4. Our coop kitty, Emma, is learning from Sylvester to watch over the chickens while they're out free ranging. I'm not sure what kind of damage she could do to a predator, but it's cute that she stands guard.

5. It seems like the chickens are always on the go and scratching for treats, but occasionally they take breaks. It always makes me laugh when I see them sitting down like this because they look like living versions of hens on nests!


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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reclaimed Wood Farmhouse Table

Over the past couple months, David and I have been working on redoing our kitchen and living room area to make the space feel more like us and reflect our style. Previously, there was an island in the kitchen which I really liked for the storage and counter space, but over time I realized it wasn't functioning well for us. We don't have a dining room, so when we had friends and family over for dinner we all were forced to cram around the island. When time came to rework the kitchen, I knew I wanted to replace the island with a table.

I've always loved the look of a dining table in the kitchen because I think it gives the room such a cozy, inviting, casual feel. I had in mind exactly the kind of table I wanted - a distressed farmhouse table. I shared my idea with David, and thankfully he liked it and agreed to build one for me.

The coolest thing about this table is the wood that we used for the top - it was salvaged from David's old band room! A couple years ago they were remodeling the floor and decided to remove the risers. The risers were framed with this beautiful cedar and David was able to bring the wood home in exchange for his labor in helping to tear apart the old floor.

The wood is full of character, but we decided to distress it just a little bit further and hit it randomly with a hammer and some chains (which turned out to be a lot of fun!). When we put the polyurethane on top to seal the wood, it brought out the imperfections that much more and really enhanced the character of the wood.

For the legs and support beams, we painted them white then distressed them a bit using sandpaper along the edges and other places that would normally show wear over time. I'm really thrilled with how it turned out and now I love my kitchen so much more. We are big fans of old farmhouses, but our house is new construction so we are working on adding in elements of the farmhouse style. This table totally fits the bill!

Since we already had the wood for the table top and supports, we only had to buy four legs which cost us $60. We had the polyurethane and paint on hand as well, so the legs were the only thing we had to shell out some money for. I've seen tables like this sell for well over $300, so I was more than happy it only set us back $60. Especially when the table means more since we worked on it together and it has a personal history. We plan to make a bench with the same wood used on the table top for extra seating as well.

We had some family over last weekend for a birthday party, and the new table worked out really well. We just need to get going on that bench so we have some more seating!


This week in the Homemade Living series, I am joined by Daisy and Mary in posting about how we incorporate homemade items into our lives. Next week Meg, Staci, and Amber will be up. If you have some free time, please check out the other posts in this weekly series!

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Finding Flow

Do you remember the last time you lost yourself in an activity? Perhaps you were so involved in what you were doing that time slipped away and you were completely engaged and focused on the task at hand. You had no distractions; you forgot about yourself and the world around you. Complete and total immersion in your work resulted in a creation that brought you pure joy. What caused you to feel this way?

I recently read an article discussing the psychology of flow and how it was a key to happiness. The concept of flow was first proposed by psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and he describes it as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

My flow activity is photography, specifically taking photos of my animals. Over the past year I have been learning more about photography and feel like I am finally at the level where I have enough technical knowledge to focus on my subject and getting a good shot instead of fumbling with the settings. There's something about the elusive "perfect shot" that I strive for and want to capture.

I love that feedback is immediate. I know right then and there if I've managed to get the shot that I wanted. And it is challenging, because I can't tell the animals how to pose or where to look. Or in Gizmo's case, I can't tell him to stop moving! That's why I'm overjoyed when I finally get a decent shot of him. Nothing else brings me pride and satisfaction like getting good photos of my animals to treasure for the rest of my life.

What is your flow activity?


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Friday, August 23, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Pullet Pals

Welcome to our "Feathered Friend Friday" series. Each 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   

Since we integrated our five spring chicks into the main flock a couple months ago, they have found their place in the pecking order - at the bottom! For the most part, the new girls just stay away from the big girls, which has made their merger surprisingly smooth. Within the group of new girls, I have noticed that Summer and Goldie seem to have formed a special and very sweet friendship.

When they are in the run, I always see them together. Even when they are out free ranging and wander off from the flock in search of treats, they stick together; never straying too far from one another and alerting each other when they find an extra special bug or other tasty treat.

Each of my chickens has a different personality, and some tend to be loners whereas others prefer the company of certain girls. It really is sweet to watch Summer and Goldie's blossoming friendship. I'm sure in their clucks and chirps there is a lot of gossip going on about the big girls and the handsome head rooster!

Goldie close behind - her legs just barely visible at the top of the photo.

Have you noticed any special relationships within your flock?


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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Early Pumpkin Harvest

It seems that fall has decided to make an appearance a little early here on our homestead because we are already harvesting pumpkins!

We've never grown pumpkins before so we were really excited to have a little pumpkin patch this year. And it was totally free! Last fall, one of David's students gave him a pumpkin and we saved the seeds and planted them in our garden this spring. The vines have been spreading like crazy over the past couple months and it has been so much fun to watch the pumpkins grow.

I really couldn't believe how the pumpkins were growing so rapidly. In just a few short weeks they reached full size and the color began to morph from green to orange. It was so amazing to watch the tiny specks of orange grow day by day until the pumpkins were ripe. And I'm not sure how the one got all the warts, but I think it is so cool! We have some more pumpkins ripening on the vine at the moment, so I can't wait to see what they look like when they're ready to pick.

Have you ever grown pumpkins?


PS - Don't forget to visit Meg and Staci today for their posts in the Homemade Living series. Next week I will share my post along with Daisy and Mary.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunflower Patch

When I was a pre-teen, sunflowers were my absolute favorite flower of all time. I had a matching sunflower necklace and earring set that I wore religiously and one of my favorite birthday gifts was a pillow my grandma made for me with a cheery sunflower motif. Today my love of sunflowers is manifested in a more natural form in my small sunflower patch in the middle of the back yard.

These couldn't have been easier to grow - we simply planted the seeds early this spring and let mother nature take care of the rest. We have had a lot of rain over the past month, and just recently the sunflowers have gone through a major growth spurt! I'm just over five feet tall and many of these are already way above my head. Their quick growth has been amazing to witness.

I smile whenever I see the bright yellow blooms popping up from a sea of green in the back yard. It's a little unexpected burst of color that really makes me happy.

Do you grow sunflowers in your garden?


Shared with Tuesday Muse, From the Farm Blog HopOur Beautiful World   

Friday, August 16, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Spotlight on Gold Sex-Link Chickens

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   

I remember not too long ago hearing about sex-link breeds and wondering what the heck they were. When we got our spring chicks this year, one of my selections was a Gold Sex-Link pullet, so I researched the topic a bit more to figure it out once and for all.

It turns out that these chickens are bred so that they can be sexed immediately after hatching simply by observing the color of the chick's fluff. In the case of the Gold Sex-Link breed (GSL), female chicks are yellowish white with streaks of gold or red in their fluff whereas male chicks are solid yellow. To get GSL chickens, breeders match up a Rhode Island White female with a Rhode Island Red male. When they are mature, GSL roosters are solid white and the hens are gold with white trimming.

Our GSL, Penelope (aka "Penny"), in the background.

Penelope has such beautiful golden feathers with a little white scattered about and just peeking through in spots. The white is more prominent in her glorious fluffy bottom and in the pointy feathers around her neck.

Penny is the friendliest of all the spring chicks and always runs up to me when I go to the chicken coop. If I bend down and call her, she will come right over for a little back rub. She is the most outgoing and adventurous of the spring chicks as well and has been getting herself into trouble lately by flying out of the run! We have clipped her wings so that should keep her safe inside the run from now on. When we are home we do like to let the chickens out for supervised free ranging, but to make sure they are safe while we're gone during the day they stay inside a large fenced run with Duchess.

Exploring the woods.

Penny hasn't started laying yet, but hopefully soon she will begin laying her large brown eggs. GSL hens are known for their good egg production, so we should see lots of gorgeous eggs from her anytime now.

Do you have any sex-link breeds in your flock?


Shared with From the Farm Blog Hop, Backyard Farming Connection Hop  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Homemade Living: Late Summer Bouquet

Early this morning before leaving for work, David cut some flowers to take for displaying in his new office at school. Since moving into the school's new band room this summer, he has been working on adding personal touches to the space to make it feel more inviting.

David puts together gorgeous bouquets effortlessly and seems to really have an eye for color. He inspired me to make my own bouquet this morning before heading off to work.

This morning was quite a bit cooler than what we're used to this time of year and it almost felt like early fall. I lost myself in walking around the garden and collecting blooms for my bouquet. The sun was shining and the birds were singing and I think I could have stayed outside meandering in the garden all day long. It was truly one of those mornings that just makes you want to linger a little longer than you should.

I proudly displayed my bright bouquet in the kitchen and I know I will enjoy the pop of color every time I enter the room. Who needs pricey store bought bouquets when nature provides so much beauty right outside your door?


This week in the Homemade Living series, I am joined by Daisy and Mary in posting about how we incorporate homemade items into our lives. Next week Meg, Staci, and Amber will be up. If you have some free time, please check out the other posts in this weekly series!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

They Grow Up Too Fast!

We took the kitties in for another round of shots over the weekend, and they are now both over four pounds! It seems like each time we take them in they double in size (right now they get a set of shots every three weeks). Gizmo is done with his shots, but we have to take Emma in one more time. The vet said since their baby teeth had already fallen out, she estimates they are both around 13 weeks old. We are definitely going to get them fixed, but we have to wait until they are about six months old.

They were both ready to get back home and out of those carriers! Emma handles it better than Gizmo - he was constantly sticking his legs out the holes in the front of the carrier and desperately trying to escape (he scratched up his nose pretty good as a result).

As we arrived home, I noticed Sylvester patiently waiting for his friend Emma to return (we keep Emma outside and Gizmo stays inside).

Reunited and it feels so good.

They love to play together and Sylvester takes such good care of her. He used to be gone all day long and just came home to eat, but now he hangs out by the chicken coop with Emma all day and keeps an eye on her. It's the sweetest thing! As soon as we got Gizmo back to the house, he ran for cover in his cozy spot under the bed and napped most of the day. I guess the visit really took a lot out of him!


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Friday, August 9, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: 3 Subtle Signs Your Hen Is Molting

Over the past couple weeks, I have noticed a dramatic decrease in the number of eggs I've been collecting from my chickens each day. We have ten hens currently laying (our spring chicks aren't laying yet) and had been used to collecting at least six eggs per day, but lately I've only been getting two or three if I'm lucky.

Only got one egg yesterday! The fact that it was so pretty made me feel a bit better.

I kept waiting to see if the egg production would ramp back up, but no such luck. I checked each hen over and there was no sign of injury or illness in any of them, so I was desperate to get to the bottom of this mystery. Last night I think I finally figured it out - several of them seem to be molting! Hens will cease egg production during their molt to focus on making new feathers, so this was my first big clue. I hadn't noticed any major feather loss, so I decided to look for more subtle hints that some of they may be molting to confirm my theory.

3 Subtle Signs Your Hen is Molting
1) Comb Shrinkage and/or Color Change
I can always tell when our White Leghorn hen, Chickabod, is molting because her comb starts to shrink. Leghorns have big combs that flop over, and when Chickabod's comb begins to stand up straight, I know it's shrinking and she is beginning the molting cycle. When chickens are in the middle of their molt, their combs may also appear dry and quite pale in color. For hens with smaller combs, the color and texture change is easier to detect than shrinkage.

2) Light Feather Loss
Molting can look different from chicken to chicken, and sometimes it is very apparent by dramatic feather loss. It's pretty shocking when you open up the coop in the morning to let your chickens out and you see a giant pile of feathers under the perch where one of your hens was roosting! In this case it is quite obvious, but sometimes their molt is so light that it's hard to detect. For example, our Production Red hen has the most beautiful, full feathers. However, recently I've noticed her feathers seem a little thinner than normal. I've been keeping an eye on her and last night noticed she only has a couple of tail feathers left. It doesn't seem to be a case of feather picking, so I believe that she is molting as well.

Hint: I find that light feather loss can be more easily detected if you observe your chicken shaking out her feathers or flying up to the roost at night. With slight movement like this, any loose feathers will come out. Last night when Chickabod jumped up to roost, I noticed a few fluffy feathers float to the ground. In addition to her shrinking comb, this led me to believe she really is starting to molt.

3) Lethargic or Unusual Behavior
One of the tell-tale signs of molting that can be the most subtle is a difference in your chicken's behavior. I spend some time with my chickens in the morning and the evening each day just observing their behavior, so even slight differences are easy for me to detect. I have noticed lately that Chickabod has been going in at night to roost earlier than all the other chickens, and she doesn't seem to be her usual outgoing, spry self. Of course this could be a sign of all sorts of things (including illness), but this symptom along with her comb shrinkage and light feather loss definitely hints at molting to me.

The past few years, our chickens have molted later in the fall so initially it wasn't really on my radar to think that they may be molting. However, we have had a relatively cool summer overall, and especially the past few weeks our temperatures have been well below normal (it has rained a lot as well). I think this may have signaled to their systems that fall is on the way and triggered their molting a little bit earlier than in previous years. It's so fascinating to see how the weather plays a part in chicken keeping. No two years are exactly the same, especially here in Missouri, and this always keeps me on my toes!

Have you noticed any subtle signs of molting in your flock yet?


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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Etsy Shop Grand Opening & Giveaway!

I am very happy to announce that I have created an Etsy shop to sell my prints online! I have really been getting into photography over the last year since venturing into the world of DSLR cameras, and it is now one of my favorite hobbies. I love to take photos of anything and everything around our homestead, but my favorite subjects are animals (if you've been keeping up with this blog, you probably already know that!). I've received positive feedback on my photos, so I thought I would give the option for others to purchase prints of my favorite shots.

To celebrate my shop's grand opening, I'd like to give away one 5x7" print to a reader (open to residents of the US and Canada). To enter, all you have to do is visit my shop here and leave a comment below, letting me know which photo you would like if you win the giveaway. The drawing will be open until midnight CST next Wednesday, August 14. I will contact the winner via email so please be sure to leave your contact information in your comment (if you'd like to enter without posting your email publicly in a comment, feel free to enter by sending me an email at

I will also be giving away one 5x7" print on my Facebook page, so if you'd like another chance to win head over there and comment on my giveaway post. You can find the Facebook page here.

Good luck and thanks so much for your support!


PS - Don't forget today is another installment of the Homemade Living series I'm participating in with five other bloggers. Meg, Staci, and Amber are up today sharing their posts. Next week I will share a post for the series along with Daisy and Mary.

*****GIVEAWAY CLOSED***** The winner is Heather. Thanks to everyone for entering!

Monday, August 5, 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.

Gorgeous lily bouquet David picked for me.

Sylvester always wants to play with Duchess. It's the sweetest thing.

Been drinking so much of this lately! Go here for the recipe.

Sweet sentiment drawn by David on the concrete before installing our new floors (more on that to come!).

Our black-eyed Susans are blooming like crazy!

Gizmo is into everything lately. I forgot how curious and crazy kittens are.

We've been having lots of rainy days lately. Good for napping :)

We watched my grandma's dog while she was on vacation. Roxy quickly worked her way into our hearts!

Hope you've enjoyed a slice of our homestead.


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Friday, August 2, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Getting Ellie's Chicks To Warm Up To Me

Ellie's chicks are growing up! They are in their own separate coop and run right now and Ellie has rejoined the adult flock. The chicks can see the adults through their enclosed run, so this will help when we eventually integrate them with the other flock (at least a couple more months).

One of the chicks checking out an older hen.

I let Ellie raise these chicks on her own and I didn't interfere too much, so they are definitely more wild than the chicks I have raised myself from just a few days old. I want Ellie's chicks to be more comfortable around me, so I decided to bribe them with some black oil sunflower seeds - their favorite treat! At first I threw the seeds away from me and as soon as they hit the ground, the chicks were all over them, scrambling and jumping over each other to get a bite.

I threw a couple very small handfuls to them this way until they got comfortable enough to come a little bit closer, then I put some seeds in my hand to see what they'd do.

They were wary at first, so I let some seeds slip through my fingers to land on the ground right below me and they came up to eat those seeds. Eventually, they realized my hand was full of goodies and dug in.

I think they are a little too smart for their own good, because once they were eating out of my hand, they realized instead they could just go straight to the source.

Smart chickies going right for the bucket! Now that they're eating out of my hand, the next step is petting them. I hope I can make some progress on that soon.

How do you get your chicks to warm up to you?


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