Archive for March, 2011

Out Like a Lion – Update

Well, we haven’t floated away yet! I have a few doom and gloom friends (the doomies) who predicted this past week would bring earth shattering quakes and comets that would hit the earth with the super moon and equinox together. I bet them all dinner that this would not come to pass- needless to say I have not heard from any of them since. Hey, you guys still owe me!

Monday was spent moving the turkeys to a dry enclosure in the pouring rain and buying a trunk load of tarps. Tuesday we were blessed with Christy’s brother Tim and friend Daniel who drove all the way up from Pasadena to help put the fences back together and move the turkey pen to higher ground. Thanks guys, you rock! Also, a guy from the fence company came out to measure the fence lines and is still working on some numbers for us for the replacement of the back and side fences.

Somewhere in the middle of all the chaos of the past few days I remember going into the garage for something. I was soaked to the bone and chilly and glad to be out of the driving rain and wind for a moment. As I flipped the light on and went to the tool bench, I heard a familiar sound coming from one of the incubators. I stopped what I was doing and went over to check. Sure enough, there was a fuzzy little chick sitting in the hatching tray looking out at me. I pulled back the wet hood from my soaked jacket and pushed up my soaked sleeves, and unlatched the incubator door. I picked up the warm, brand new little fluffy ball of life, and pressed it against my cold cheek. I felt myself smile for the first time all day. It cooed softly and cuddled down in my hands, and closed its eyes. I could hear the storm raging all around us outside trying to destroy everything in its path, yet in here there was peace. In this small protected place new life was able to emerge, safe and warm. I stood humbled in this moment thinking of a scripture that I could not remember exactly, but it is something about being under the pinion of God’s wings. Being tucked up close to him under his wings, safe even in the worst of storms. I think he was trying to tell me in that moment that if we just learn to stay there, close to his heart, we too will be safe and warm, even in the worst of life’s storms. All we need is to come to him with childlike faith and he will keep us in the midst of the storms that seem to hit us from all sides. I placed the sleepy little newborn chick up into the nice warm brooder above the incubator. As I stood in the doorway on my way back out into the storm, I reminded myself once again that Scripture always tells us that these storms come to pass, they do not come to stay. We just have to learn to work through them, no matter how bad they seem at the time or what is going on around us in the world.
I just have to remind myself this storm will be over soon, and spring is already here- even if it does happen that it will be going out like a lion this year.

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The First Day of Spring – Out Like a Lion

Sunday, March 20th brought us the spring equinox. I always heard the saying for March was “in like a lion, out like a lamb”, but where we are it can still be a decidedly harsh month. The fruit blossoms have been out for a week, and some of the roses have even put out their first blooms, but as of last night a heavy rain storm and a strong wind have been pummeling us non-stop. The storm keeps changing direction and seems to have blown at us from all sides now. I fear for the safety of some of the young rose clones, and tender blossoms, as this wind is strong enough to rip the heads right off of anything that has flowered in the last week or so. The animal pens have once again been turned to molten mud, and it has been necessary to put on the high rubber boots to go slogging through the muck. We lost some birds in the mud, and sections of the  fences have fallen over from the high winds. Parts of the solar panels were torn from the roof, and tree branches are coming down around us, and the septic tank in the back yard is slowly collapsing from the weight of the mud. To top off the high winds we received 5.2″ of rain in 14 hours. I am keeping my eye on a couple of trees that look like they might want to topple over. They said it will rain all week.

About a dozen water-soaked hens ended up being put in the greenhouse over night and my office had a Cuckoo Maran hen that picked the wrong day to be egg bound and two crates of unhappy pheasants pitching a fit most of the night – not understanding that they were in there for their own safety and protection. Try telling that to a pheasant who has been stuffed into a crate. Needless to say I did not get much writing done.

Yes, I know full well complaining about the weather will not make it stop raining, and yes I also know that compared to what other parts of the world just went through, I should feel lucky. I’m not really complaining, just stating the facts.

The e-book- dreams, hard work, and much gratitude

Click image for more information.

Today we launched The Blue Hill Farms Guide to Basic Chicken Keeping (for now as an e-book, we will most likely get it out in hard copy as well.) I like that it is called a “guide,” as I really don’t like telling anybody what to do. I would rather teach people what to expect, and then let them do things their own way, at their own pace, in their own time. I would like the seekers of this knowledge to be able to plan ahead, to avoid common problems, to be able to tell when everything is going along as it should be and to know what to do when plan A does not always work out (and the first rule of farming is – plan A does not always work out.) It is best to be prepared.

The guide is taken from the class we teach here in the spring – Poultry Keeping 101. This class is for anyone new to chicken keeping and/or people who are thinking about chicken keeping and would first like to see what they are getting themselves into. We bring them to our “outdoor classroom” on the farm where they can experience for themselves the sights, sounds, and feel of this new adventure they are undertaking. They get to see the chickens in action – see a hen taking a dust bath, touch a fluffy little hatchling, or even watch an egg pipping in an incubator for the very first time. We teach them the beginning basics of what it will take to keep their new charges happy, safe and healthy.

We like our classes to feel like people are sitting down and talking with a good neighbor or friend so that they feel comfortable to ask any kind of questions, even if they think the questions seem dumb. My grandfather always used to say that the only dumb questions in the world are the ones people don’t ask. Hey, if you don’t know something – ask. Better to find something out ahead of time than after it has become a issue. In fact, a lot of what is included in this guide is what our students have taught us with their questions. We have heard a lot of frequently asked questions from our beginners and it has helped us to help them learn the basics and dispel much misinformation that is floating around out there about poultry keeping.

We only teach these classes in the late spring/early summer months, but found that we were getting many inquires year round about many of the same issues. So it was time to write it all down, get it in a format that is easy to understand and use, and make it available everyone who needs it year round. It is truly my sincere hope that this guide becomes a useful reference and source of information for everyone who reads it. It always makes my heart glad to be able to pass on my experiences to others with the hopes that it will benefit and reward both the new keepers, and their chickens.

As with anything of this nature, this guide took a lot of time, effort and some plain old-fashioned hard work to bring into fruition, so I would like to take this moment in time to thank the two people without whom this guide would never have happened.

First, my thanks to Christy Shay, Editor, co-worker and good friend, who took all of my random e-mails of information and put them into a useable format. She put hours of time into this guide and has corrected miles of my horrific spelling and errors in grammar along the way. She has put up with my stories, endless questions and my fear of modern technology with patience and grace. I could have never done this without you Christy, you are truly a blessing in my life.

Also my thanks to Meredith Newcom, Illustrator, co-worker and friend, who brought color and life to these written words with her beautiful artwork. I watched in awe as she took her brushes and colors and blended them into these beautiful illustrations and whimsical portrayals of chickens. The illustrations and layout of the guide exceeded my wildest dreams for this piece, and her talent is a true gift, as is her friendship. Thank you Meredith.

I find it very apropos that the first chicks of spring hatched today; on the very same day we launched this guide.

New life and new beginnings in a new season. It just does not get any better than that!

Dreams realized, hard work paying off and recognizing their value is great way to start a project! I wish everyone success in their chicken keeping adventures, and welcome all of the farm’s new friends in poultry!

Coming soon!