52 Weeks of Homegrown and Handmade--week 11
We're gonna give this weekly update a different feel, since I'm 10 weeks behind!! My time, like everyone's time, is super limited, and I'm not the best manager of it. I'm a little scatterbrained. I make lots of lists, but I lose them. I put reminders in my phone--but I have so many that I tune out the reminders. I have sticky notes on my mirror. Lots of them. So now they get ignored. *Sigh* My progress--from trying to manage my time to managing the many facets of farm and homeschool life--is 2 steps forward and 1 step back. It often feels like 1 step forward and 2 steps back. But when I take a step back and look at things objectively, with no emotion, I can see that we're making quite a bit of progress, regardless of how slow that progress might be. The balancing act often feels like a struggle, but progress is still progress!
My photos and videos auto-upload to Google Photos. I am so grateful for this!!! A huge part of why I do the videos and take a billion photos--most of which you'll never see--are for my own documentation purposes. When I go back to find videos to edit, and photos to add to a slideshow or blog post, our progress becomes so much more apparent!! The downside of these auto uploads, though, is getting them from Google photos to another location, so I can upload them to my video editing program on the go, while I'm getting my oil changed, or--like today--sitting in a parking lot while my kiddos are in some extracurricular activity or another. I have it set to only upload when I'm on the home wifi network, so I don't chew through data like I did last month. 😮. There's a solution in here--I just haven't taken the time yet to figure it out.
In the meantime, I can organize my thoughts better in writing than in video anyway. That's why most of my videos are maybe snippets of me talking, and the rest is just fast-forwarded. Verbally, I'm a little disjointed and chaotic. You think my blog posts are long? You should hear me speak off the cuff!! 😂😂
Sunday is pasture-rotation day. At least for the goats. Chickens and turkeys, I can manage by myself. Moving goats involves moving a horse trailer that is their shelter from heat and rain, multiple troughs for water, feed, and minerals, and of course, the goats themselves. I need help with all these moving parts. There's always one baby that gets separated from their momma, and it can take some cajoling to herd it back with the rest of the herd. They always try to return to the paddock we are moving them off of, to hide under the trailer that has already been moved. 😂. I love pasture rotation day! It is so cool to see where the goats were last week, what the paddock they're moving off of looks like, and comparing both of those to the new paddock. It's amazing to watch the transformation of the grasses. I can't wait to see what it looks like year over year!!
Sunday evening, the 13 year old and 6 year old tried on their costumes. Our community development board puts on a free theater camp each summer. This summer, the kiddos are doing The Little Mermaid. It's our 6 yr old's first camp and first theater experience. I'm so excited for her! She's going to be a stingray. I can't share the pictures yet--y'all will have to wait until after the performance to see. But of course, she's the cutest little stingray ever!! Our 13 yr old is going to be a jellyfish, and Carlotta, the maid. 😂. I can't wait!! And the 17 yr old will be assisting the youngers the whole week with their lines, blocking, etc. Maybe next summer, I can convince the boys to give it a go, too, and have a whole week to be super duper productive! Or...take a nap! Who knows??! The possibilities seem endless, and end with seeing my sweet babies hopefully enjoying themselves on stage, while growing in confidence in themselves, and developing new friendships. ❤️
Monday.... Oh, Monday... Monday morning, the 17yo got dropped off at work, and the 13yo was dropped off with her youth group, as they headed down to San Antonio for the week for a mission trip. The 2 youngest kids passed out all the way on the way home!
When I returned, I let the turkeys out of their chicken tractor coop, where they've been for the last couple of weeks. It's too small for them. I am behind on building a couple different structures.... Between weather, the little pockets of time I have here and there, and an explosion of hatchlings, compliments of the sweet 13 yr old..., we've had to do a bit of a switcheroo on spaces. So the turkeys are in a much-needed chicken tractor. The turkeys are supposed to be in a 100 square foot chicken tractor, but that one is currently sheltering our "pasture posse" chickens. We bought an ugly trailer that needs to be gutted--that will be become the "eggmobile" or the "eggspedition"--basically our mobile chicken coop for the pasture. Weather sidelined us from having that completed already, and now other things have taken priority.
Anyway, the turkeys are NOT where they are supposed to be. But as long as the tractor is just for sleeping, it is sufficient. With that in mind, we moved them out to pasture a couple weeks ago. Over the weekend, we started letting them out a little bit each day. They have been amazingly easy to herd back into the tractor each evening. Mostly!
So with that in mind, we checked on the turkeys before we left the house Monday evening, and headed out to our American Heritage Girls/Trail Life troops' joint Recycled Raingutter Regatta. We also didn't plan on staying for too terribly long at the park. Time flies when you're having fun, though!! The Raingutter Regatta itself was a complete flop. I made the race gutters out of 6" PVC pipe cut in half. I can't cut a straight line to save my life. My wood ends were not caulked properly (by me). The "gutters" did not hold water well. One of the wood ends in one of the gutters popped out when the gutter fell over. So instead of 2 raceways, we had 1. No problem--we thought we'd time the kiddos and see who won that way. Except that the gutter wouldn't hold water.... The kids were sorely disappointed. So I guess I need to secure some actual raingutters!! Aside from that, though, I think everyone had fun. Lots of fellowship, laughter, and food. The kids got to run around and splash in the water. Overall, it was a good time.
That evening when we returned, Darrin went out to check on the turkeys. He couldn't find them!!! 😱. They're all black and white, so we figured they were under the trees, and we'd just check on them in the morning.
Tuesday a.m., Darrin woke me up at 6:20 as he was leaving to take the 17 yr old to work, to tell me our livestock guardian puppy was chasing a turkey!! Out I ran, in my pj's, and found the puppy, and the turkey. Little Miss Halley, the puppy, is in trouble. Turkey #1 went back into the chicken tractor. I spent basically the next 5-6 hours looking for--and trying to catch-- turkeys. We have 14. By noon, I'd found 11 of them. Eventually, I had to pause to pick up the 17 yr old from work, and tend to other household needs--like the other 4 children!
In searching for turkeys, I noticed quite a few sunflowers growing in the "sacrifice area" by the barn, where the goats hang out all winter. I also saw a couple gigantic squash-family plants growing--probably pumpkins. I give the goats pumpkins in November, after Halloween, and it got me thinking!! From April until Dec, that area will be completely unused. What if I use that area to grow crops that need maybe more room than I want to give them in my designated garden space? What if we intentionally grew pumpkins and zucchini or something in this space?
This is something I'm mulling over. Gonna keep an eye out on how that plant grows and see what happens!!
Tuesday evening, I searched again for the last 3 turkeys. The 6 yr old went with me on the side-by-side. While we were out, we stopped to pick wild blackberries and plums. Sooooo tasty.... But no dice on finding the missing 3 turkeys. The 11 that were in the tractor are back to being rotated daily this week, just like the meat chickens, in their confined space. Clearly this is not a long-term solution. Turkeys need a minimum of 8 square feet per turkey, if they are confined, and I have 14 of them in a 60 square-foot space. Yikes.....
Wednesday morning, I set out for morning chores, and guess what I found?? THE OTHER 3 TURKEYS!!! They were chillin' with the backyard chicken posse!! I rounded them up and put them back in their tractor. They are way tight on space, but it's safer than them being out. I haven't set up their paddock yet. There is so much new stuff this season that it takes a bit to figure out exactly where I want everyone, how I want paddocks set up, how can I still get from point A to point F, etc. Being a tactile learner, it's not sufficient for me to put it to paper. I need to be IN the space. I've been watching and observing their behavior, and our pasture posse chickens' behavior, to determine how I want nets set up. And I ordered additional nets because I think I have a solution--which requires more nets. But for now, the turkeys are in TIME-OUT, back in their tractor.
After chores, I loaded up the little ones, and headed out to Windy Meadows Hatchery to pick up this month's chick order--to be processed in August, and placed my last chick order for this year, for pick up in July and processing in September! I cannot believe the year is already almost over!! Anyway, due to poor math on my part, the chicks ended up hanging out in a box in the house for a few days because the brooder is full! All of the chicks in the brooder are being evicted on Friday!
This week is chicken processing week, so Wednesday evening, the meat chickens' feeders were removed. Most people restrict their chickens' feed for 12 hours each day, so their chickens don't grow so fast that they can't move, or grow so fast that they have heart attacks and die. We haven't restricted feed overnight yet. It hasn't been necessary. Since they are checked on at least every day, and many times twice a day, we are able to observe them and can switch our course of action quickly, if needed. And since we're new to all of this, we're still figuring out what works for us and our farm, and what doesn't. Since it is so hot, each evening, the chickens are checked on. Water is refilled, but not their feed--because they always still have feed left in the evenings. But Wednesday before processing day, however, we take away their feed that evening, and they are processed about 36 hours later. It makes for a cleaner, more sanitary process, if you catch my drift!!
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Thursday was preparation day for Friday. I'm drawing a blank now on where we went, but Darrin and I went somewhere Thursday mid-morning, and ran over a nail on our way home, maybe a mile from the house. So we limped home slowly on a flat tire. Darrin put on the spare, and off I went to the local tire shop to get it patched. The owner told me I had maybe 1,000 miles left on my tires, maybe. If I'm lucky. I told him I'd see him Monday for brand new tires. Such fun, buying new tires! To be fair, my 2018 full-size van still has the original tires on it--with around 83,000 miles on 'em. I'd say those tires have been beaten up and are ready to retire!
Friday was processing day, and I needed another container for chilling chickens. After they are gutted, they go in different bins of water to bring down their internal body temperatures in stages to a cool enough temperature to bag them up. We've used 2-3 different bins--we're still refining our process, and this is part of it. The first bin has just plain cool potable water, straight outta the (suitable for drinking) hose. The 2nd and 3rd bins have ice. Traditionally, we've been using just the sterilite or rubbermaid-type storage bins, but they're not very deep, nor are they sturdy enough to hold that much water without bowing out in the middle. We find ourselves having to continuously push the chickens under water to fit more on top, or fishing out the colder ones on the bottom and transferring them to a 3rd bin. I was going to buy a larger 3rd bin--one with a lid, so we could put the lids on the containers while the chickens finished cooling off. But then scrolling through Facebook Thursday morning, I came across a post about using stock tanks as backyard pools--something that is on our probably-will-do list. Somebody mentioned that they use their stock tank as a kiddie pool in the summer, then they use it as a chill bath for chicken processing in the fall and spring. GENIUS!! So off I went to my local tractor supply, and picked up a 110-gallon tank. It will NOT be used as a pool. But it CAN be used to store all the chicken processing gear in one place. I also can't put a lid on it. But I can fit SO MUCH ICE that, when used as the 2nd container, the chickens will cool off much faster, and be ready to bag quicker.
Check out those gorgeous white legs I have there, hahaha!!! Thursday evening, I finished up setting up tables, the canopy, cleaning and disinfecting everything (round 1), and generally getting ready for Friday's work. One of the things we do to reduce stress for the chickens is taking the transport crates out to the chickens the night before. That way, when we show up in the morning, the crates themselves are not new. They've had all night to see the crates. It sounds silly to many, but we try to keep the chickens as happy and healthy as we can for the duration of time that they are here. Fresh grass, daily exercise, new bugs, plenty of sunshine, clean water, and gentle handling every day is what we want for our birds. We reduce stress where we can.
Friday morning was spent on final preparations--getting water heated up, sanitizing the tables one more time, making sure everything we need is on the tables, and then filling up the water chilling bins. The last thing we do is load up the chickens in the crates--this is always a stressful experience for them, and one that cannot be avoided. The crates are then brought up to the processing area, which is fully shaded. We give the chickens some time in the crates, in the shade, on grass, to settle down and relax before we start processing. We process in the morning while it is still cool outside, and we get it done as quickly as we can, for everyone's sake.
Darrin was off work Friday, and one of my friends came over to help. Just the 3 of us this time! The process went smoothly and quickly, and as weird as it sounds, it's nice to have someone to chat with while you're scooping out chicken guts. And as gross as THAT sounds, believe it or not, there are things that are way grosser, in my opinion! I hate touching raw meat. So processing chickens is not my favorite activity in the world. But cleaning up child vomit, blow-out diapers with poop up to the neck, diarrhea in general, and cleaning deep wounds are all things that, for me, are worse than sticking my hand up a chicken butt!! Anyway, the new tank/chill tank worked fantastically.
By noon on Friday, all the chickens were processed, chilled, bagged, weighed, recorded, sorted, and that was it! Afterwards, I moved the chicks in the brooder out to the chicken tractor. Baby chicks sat in my house for one more day, stinking up the place. I have come to really dislike having chickens in the house!!
Friday afternoon, a sweet friend of mine from high school and her sweet babies came to the farm to pick up her order. I was so excited to give them a tour of the farm, but as I looked around, I felt like everything was in a state of disarray. Processing week diverts a lot of my time and attention away from tasks I normally do to curtail the chaos, and processing day, in particular, ends up being all around extra messy. The 17 yr old was at work, the 13 yr old was on a mission trip, and the 7, 6, and 5 year olds were basically on their own all morning. I mean, I'm right on the other side of the backyard's chainlink fence, so it's not like I'm far! I just can't sit there with them and make sure they are cleaning up after themselves. It was the first farm tour I've given/visitors I've had that I felt embarrassed by the lack of progress, the current in-process state that everything was in, and the general disarray that comes with having 5, 6, and 7 year old kiddos basically free-ranging for a good chunk of the week. Anyone who has been around my crew knows how quickly things can go from being semi-orderly to complete chaos. It was processing day, so all of the processing equipment was still set up. It was all hosed down and sprayed with disinfectant, but the dogs and cats were busy eating unwanted chicken parts. There were some flies buzzing around, because...death. There were feed bags stacked up in front of the garage. Stuff that had been stacked up last night in the garage had become unstacked as the kiddos dug out the kittens that are hiding in the garage. There was a box that had gotten rained on that needs to go in the dumpster--but it was just in the driveway, all willy nilly. There are always legos, mismatched socks, and toys in the driveway and the yard. There are usually also clothes and the occasional fork and/or cup, plate, etc in the yard. Oy vey... And routinely, since our house is situated near a highway, there is trash in our yard from trash trucks and other passing vehicles that blow out and find its way up by the house. Sometimes, there is trash in our driveway from the van--straws, cups, Sunday School drawings... I'm always picking up trash, and most of it is not even ours. But it's there for visitors to see... Baby chicks were in the house, in a box, that was a mess because chicks poop a lot. The brooder was a mess because I had just moved the 3.5 week old babies out, and hadn't added new shavings yet. They needed new shavings, and were getting new shavings every few days, as needed. But since they were about to go out, I didn't add a whole bale of new shavings for one day, then have to add another whole bale of shavings to make things clean for the new chicks. The turkeys--well, we've discussed the turkeys. Where they are is not suitable for them. The turkeys can come out of time-out over the weekend, when I have time to set up their paddock. The pasture posse is in the tractor that was going to be for the turkeys, because the pasture posse housing is not yet complete. So the poor 3.5 week old chicks--all 58 of them--are in not 2, but 1, chicken tractor designed to hold up to 30 birds. They are fine for now, but they already look a bit crowded--very unlike the photos and videos I've shared so far. The goats looked great, but the particular paddock that they were on was looking tired--by design. It was lush and green when we put them on it. Their job is to graze all the tall stuff down, then work on the rest of it until the paddock is done--typically by Sundays, which is how this week started off. I could show my friend the pretty green of the paddock that they just came off of (on the right in the picture), and she could see that it was already rebounding. And she could see the next thick, green paddock that they would be moved to in 2 more days. But on Friday, where they were looked tired.
We don't have goats the kids can pet. We don't have chickens that kids can hold. Well, we do, but it was very hot, and the kids didn't get a chance to go actually see and be around the chickens. They did get to hold baby chicks--in my messy garage... My garden is still not in. Not even close. All my starts are struggling because they've outgrown their space. My friend was hoping for eggs, and I had none for her, because I didn't know which ones were too far developed, and which ones were ok. We candled a bunch of eggs, but apparently I'm really bad at determining ok and not ok. Ones I thought were ok were NOT ok when I tried to make breakfast one morning!! So I gave up and tossed the eggs. All 15 dozen..... Even the guest bathroom/oldest kiddo's bathroom was a disaster. She picked up the floor Thursday evening, but that was it. EVERYONE uses that bathroom, and little kids, particularly boys, can be straight-up gross sometimes. I hadn't bothered to check to make sure the bathroom was actually cleaned. Normally, my big kids do as they're told, at least sufficiently enough for me to be satisfied. So I don't always bother to check to make sure they did it WELL. Ugh.... I felt very...disappointed. I felt like maybe the kids didn't have fun because they didn't get to "do" farm stuff, and that the house was messy and the bathroom was gross--things that are not typical. Well, the house being messy is typical. But messy and dirty are different. And the bathroom was dirty. And the lack of eggs. And the animals being in cramped quarters. NOTHING was how it normally is--I have, like, 10,000 pictures to prove it!! Remember the mention at the beginning about feeling like progress being one step forward and 2 steps back? Friday was such a day..... Fortunately, there is too much to do to be able to focus on the negative for very long. Juggling homeschooling and household chores and the farm is a challenge--just like juggling a full-time job and kids, or being a stay-at-home parent, or any other juggling act. It's the same as anyone else. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. We all have days where we feel like rock stars, and can look around and see the fruits of our hard work. And we all have days where we look around and wonder "how in the h-e-double hockey sticks did things get like this??!"
Saturday was a bit more of a redeeming day--and relatively relaxing for me. I got the baby chicks moved into the brooder, made a plan for the turkeys' paddock, then packed up and headed out to deliver chickens and pick up the 13 yo from a friend's house.
After picking up the kiddo, I headed to my parents' house to give them their chickens. In general, customers either meet me on-farm, or I have a designated location/date/time to meet up. But my parents, of course, are a different story!! I hadn't seen my parents in a few weeks, since the 13 yo's birthday, so it was nice to be able to just sit and chat for a bit. But Sunday is coming! Which means church, Father's Day, and moving animals!