That’s a lot of chickens.

Day Old Dark Cornish Chicks

Destined for the dinner plate.

Yesterday morning we got the call that our new chicks were at the post office.  There are twenty-four of them as one didn’t make the trip.  These are the newest order of Frank’s meat birds.  It’s hard to think about eating them at this point because they are so stinking cute.

Luckily, the night before they arrived we hurriedly finished the laying hens coop and only emptied the brooder before we went to bed.  Just in time!

Newly finished hen house and run.

Here is the coop  and run we’ve been working on for about the last month.  This is for my egg hens.  We go the plans here.  Most of the supplies we used were reclaimed from around the farm.  You can see the old yurt deck behind the coop.  Much of the lumber you see came from there.  When the weather improves, I’ll finish staining everything.  Overall, I’m extremely happy with how it turned out.  We learned a great deal from making the coop.  I think the most important lesson that we learned is that everything takes twice as long as we think it will.   Thank you, Frank you for working so hard on this.  I know it wasn’t always fun.

Through the egg door. Bjork (front) and Florence the Machine.

The tiny chicks on the left are Silver Laced Wyandottes. I had them all named, but they look the same to me so I'm going to have to rename them, I think. They are hiding behind Bjork (who may or may not be a Roo). Bjork also may or may not be a Dominique. There is a lot about Bjork that we don't know.

Joan Jett our Barred Rock in front of Bjork the mystery chicken. Layer Gaga is in the very back. She didn't want her picture taken today, I guess.

Left to right: Florence the Machine's tail, 3 Silver Laced Wyandottes, Joan Jett, and the last Silver Laced Wyandotte.

Lastly, we have Frank’s chicken tractor and his teenager Dark Cornish chickens.  He wanted to make them a cool tractor and one day I had this thought that it could look like an old truck with a covered wagon back.  I told Frank about it and this is what he came up with.

Chicken tractor built by Frank.

We’ve talked about painting it to look like a truck with windows and a windshield and all that.  That will have to wait until the weather improves (this is the PNW, so it might be a while).  It also needs wheels in the front and possibly the back.  It is very hard to move as it is and needs two people minimum to pull it along.    I think there are going to be two more of these.  I think it would be funny to stage a race and have the trucks move slowly across the yard day by day.

Some of Frank's Dark Cornish chickens.

These are what the baby chicks will look like in a couple of months.  They aren’t nearly as beautiful as the laying birds, and I think they have weird mannerisms.  Apparently, this is a breed that some use as fighting birds by some people because they are easily provoked.  We absolutely will not be doing that as we think that is a horrible practice.  Frank chose this breed because they are good foragers and are reported to taste good.  They just get their knickers in a bunch frequently.  We are still on the fence if this is the breed we want to keep raising.  We would like to have some birds that don’t squabble so much.

The kids love checking in on the birds and petting the babies.  It’s been a family project getting ready for the birds and caring for them.   Carter, our homeschooling eight year old, did a two-week long unit on chickens and learned a ton.  He’s been educating us on a few things we didn’t know (and I’m pretty sure a few things that aren’t technically true).  I’m glad he knows so much.  He’s been a great asset and is very passionate about helping animals.

I’m reasonably certain that we won’t be adding to the chicken flocks for a while.  We have a lot of birds and need to make to make a few more tractors to accommodate all of them.

Next, I need to get ready for the bees that are on their way.  There is always so much to do.


The Yurt Story

She needs a bath and to get finished, but we are getting there.

Everyone wants to know how I came to own a yurt and why I want to live in one.  It’s a fairly long story, but I’ll blaze through the highlights so you get where I’m coming from.

  • Roughly five years ago my husband (now ex) and I bought a darling farmhouse on 11 acres.  A short while later we decided that our marriage wasn’t long for this world and thanks to the economy we were unable to sell the property.  At the time our two children were young and neither of us wanted to live without them, so we shared the farm-house.  I like my own space so I started looking into options for myself and the kids.  I really liked yurts so that’s what I picked.  (Side note:  The ex and I are very good friends, in fact he’s more like a brother to me.  He is  Uncle to my daughter and good friends with my husband.  It sounds weird to the rest of the world, but it is completely normal to us.  This is our family.)
  • The yurt deck building four and a half years ago was filled with errors and misfortune.  We got it done just before winter, there was no power, no insulation and we had made some critical mistakes while building the deck that we didn’t realize at the time.  The kids and I stayed out there for a while, but not very long.  It was cold and dark and I had the distinct feeling that it wasn’t safe.
  • The yurt sat empty for years while I was busy remarrying, having a baby and living life in a condo.  We took a road trip down to see my in-laws and on the way home stayed in a campground yurt.  Staying in the yurt reminded us how much we loved our yurt and were inspired to try yurt living again.  Immediately after coming home we looked into getting a contractor to fix the existing yurt deck (it was sinking) or to build a new one.  After laughing ourselves silly over the estimates we decided to build a new deck ourselves.
  • About mid May 2011 we started working on the deck and proceeded to work on it all summer.  We hand an enormous amount of help from friends and family and we will forever be grateful for all of the assistance.  It was fun and hard work most of the time.  I got into better shape and learned to use a lot of tools.  I even planed 500 sq feet of reclaimed cherry wood flooring with an electric hand planer, it took forever.  We had learned a lot from doing this the first time around and now we have a much stronger non-sinking deck and yurt.
  • The first weekend in September 2011 we took down the yurt.  It took all weekend and many hands.  It was a beautiful sunny weekend, we barbecued and had a great time with our friends.
  • Two weeks later we put up the yurt.  It was cold, windy and raining.  The mood was much less jovial.  It wasn’t the party from two weeks before.  Our crew was mostly women (Woot!  Woot!).  Totally strong and kick ass women plus my husband, Frank and my ex husband.  We got the yurt up.  It was a relief.  We were so very tired.
  • For the next six or so weeks we worked on finishing the yurt.  Hindered by my husband’s bothersome full-time job (only kind of kidding), a toddler and terrible weather we did what we could.  I was bound and determined to sleep in the yurt for my birthday in the first week of November.  Sleep in the yurt we did.  We even stayed out there for a couple of weeks but it was cold, unfinished and we only had an extension cord for power (notice a pattern?)  There was a part of me that wanted to be successful so bad that I was really trying to make it through the winter, but I was miserable and I absolutely hate to be cold.  We moved back into the farmhouse  a week before Thanksgiving.  We were disappointed and frustrated that we weren’t living the dream… but hey.  At least we were warm.

Photo by Tina Louise

We’ve had the winter to think about what needs to get done, make plans and rest.  There is much to be accomplished to make the yurt a cozy place to be this coming winter.  We need insulation, power, to finish the floors, some sort of bathroom, a sink and I’ m pretty sure we are going to put some skirting around the deck to keep the wind out.

I also need to do some mental shifting.  I need to make peace with the wind and learn to live a more minimalistic life.  After all, there is only 706 sq ft and there are five of us.  It never once dawned on me how much different it would be to live in a yurt instead a stick built house.  Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable thinking that it’s not a proper house.  Then I remember that people do this all the time.  I imagine the plains of Mongolia are awfully windy.  I suppose that families living in a yurts in Alaska or Colorado have more cold to deal with than I do.  In my head I know that I can do this.  I guess I just need to convince my heart.

A new beginning.

The sun is shining and spring is digging in her toes.  It seems like all the world around me is sprouting and coming to life in so many ways.  I can’t help but be inspired by the newness of everything around me to take up some new ventures myself.

What We’ve got going on around here:

1.  The YURT!!! – We moved our 30 foot yurt to a more stable foundation last summer (sadly it was sinking where it was previously and sat unused for a few years).  It’s 706 sq feet of round perfection!  We plan on living in it, which is exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time.   I figure we have nine months to finish it up, make it warm, figure out lights, a sink and a bathroom.  That should be enough to keep us busy, right?  Well obviously not enough because I have other things in the works.

2.  The keeping of bees – A while back Mother Earth News posted an article on their facebook page about keeping bees in a top bar hive.  Not more than a few sentences into the article I determined that this was for me and currently I have two swarms of bees on order.  They should be arriving in a few weeks and I need to get ready for them ASAP!  I’m sure that the adventures in beekeeping from a complete novice’s standpoint should be chuckle worthy from time to time.

3.   Chickens, chickens and more chickens –  Oh man.. do we have chickens coming out our ears or what?  I personally, am in charge of the egg laying chickens.  For the moment we have either seven or eight.  Bjork our free chicken from the hatchery is a mystery to us and we won’t know for a bit longer if she’s a hen or a roo.  If a hen, she’s a layer.. if roo then he’s dinner.  Heck, we can’t even fully determine what breed of chicken he/she is yet.

My ever industrious husband is in charge of the meat chickens.  At the moment we have I think 23 Dark Cornish teenagers and on Wednesday 25 day old Dark Cornish will be sent to us.  He is completely in charge of all things meat chicken.  I do hope to help him out with it, but my only experience plucking a turkey was so gross that I may be scarred for life.  Time will tell.

4.  Gardening with kids and fighting the weeds – I’ve never once in my life been accused of having a green thumb.  In fact the only thing that I’ve been able to grow in my time on this land with any reasonable success is grass (not the fun kind) and weeds (also not the fun kind).  Everything else has been choked out by grass and weeds and died a horrible death.  My plan this year is to change all of that and have a reasonably successful garden.

Part of me dreams of growing all of the produce that my family eats for at least part of the year, but that is the same person that I imagine is working out daily and gets done everything that she sets out to do on a daily basis.  I have not met that woman yet, but I suspect that I will one day.

5.   Outdoor kitchen with a cob oven and bench ~I dream of having a grand bee hive shaped cob oven that has a few benches attached to it that have different views and windbreaks and allow for leisurely sitting and viewing as we do our weekly baking no matter the weather.  We’ll have a covered table to eat our meals al fresco, do our canning and brewing at, I can use this space for dyeing when the mood suits me.  It’s going to be amazing.   I have the most sincerest hopes that we can at least get it started this summer, but the main priority is getting the yurt snug and warm for winter so the cob oven and outdoor kitchen may have to wait.

That’s what is going on here amid the busy daily life of homeschooling one awesome eight year old, releasing the very cool ten-year old out into the world of public school and trying to keep up with an extremely opinionated and sneaky two and a half-year old.   We have our hands full and we wouldn’t have it any other way.