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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adjusting to the Chickens

This is the first time I have lived with chickens.  And they are shocking. A number of things have happened with the chickens.
This is one of the more dramatic chicken experiences:
When we first got the chickens, we mixed two flocks, and there where two little ones that didn't fit in. They got attacked and hassled all the time, so, as their guardian, I decided to keep them outside of the hen yard. I fed and watered them, seperatly, and made a little home for them in buckets placed on the side, filled with hay.  But, it didn't take....after about two weeks, one of them wandered off. They next day the other one did too. After two nights of them missing,  I enlisted Jim to help me find these missing chickens and bring them home.
Zeus, who is a sheepdog and a very good one at that took off on his own way.

We checked the neighbors chickens, and they weren't there.  So we mosied back over to the house and something obviously had gone awry.
Zeus was all worked up, and in the neighbors yard running around their porch.  When we had gone off to look for the chickens, Zeus did the same, but he had found them.
I went and got some food figuring I could coax them with some food and some nice cooing sounds.
When I arrived, with my plan and materials, I saw the situation had gotten completely out of control.
Zeus took it very seriously to get the chickens. So seriously he had bitten both of the chickens in the butt trying to get them to come out from under the porch.  The severity of the damages was not yet assessed , however, I feared the worse.
Jim pulled out the first chicken.......its was all bitten up, muscles showing, and real quiet, not even fighting.  I held that one while Jim pulled the next one out. She put up a little more of a fight, but was also really torn up and hurt.
I never had chickens before, but I knew these two were not going to make it.  You can imagine the rest- we killed them respectfully and quickly.
The next day, we had company, and cooked them up with some root vegetables. The meal came out very well.

I realized that being respectful of chickens is important, however, they are not puppies with feathers. I love caring for them, building a relationship with them. Killing  them is hard, but, in order for anyone to
eat meat, something has to die.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adjusting to the Chickens Part 2: Chicken Medic

A few days ago some very alarming screeching and general panic and commotion erupted from the hen yard.  We let Zeus out, and he tore after whatever was causing all the trouble. After inspection of the hen yard, a hen was found with her neck pulled through the fencing. There is a fox that lives near by, and he had grabbed her by the neck and torn it up pretty badly.
She certainly looked dead, but when we went back out to go gather  her up, she wasn't there. Taken by the fox? There was no way for him to get her through the netting. She was alive and back in the hen house, nestled down in the corner. She was certainly hurt, but seemed alright.  I decided to keep an eye on her, and see if she would heal up.
Day 2:  I went in to the hen house to check on her. She is up and about, looking all right.
Day 3:  The chickens are pecking at her! I am disgusted and outraged at they they could do that to her. I talk with Jim about it, and he assures me that they are just chickens. However, I assure him that they may be chickens but they are, without a doubt a bunch of bastards.  She may have been doing allright, but now that the other chickens have been pecking at her, I  change into full on chicken medic and start setting up. She has her own recovery box, a dog create on the porch. The floor has a thick layer of wood shavings. I have a blanket to cover up the crate at night.  The crate is pointed south, so she has ample sunlight for healing up.
For eating she has: chicken feed, a rotten apple, turnip greens.  One of the most amazing mushrooms that grows wild here is called Chaga. It seems to cure people of cancer and all sorts of aliments, so I decided that it can't hurt her. I poured some warm tea on her neck, and mixed some into her water.

Things were rocky for the first day or two. She wasn't eating much. After about four days, she started looking good. I took her out to check her neck and it was all healed up! She was active and would try to get out of the dog crate when I opened it to check on her. That night I put her back in the hen house and she is doing great. A little strange looking with her neck feathers missing, but, healthy otherwise.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sumac Tea.....who knew.

Today, I learned something very interesting.  The little, dried up clusters of sumac berries make a wonderful tea.
I always related to them as ornamental type berries,  and in my youthful foolishness, I may or may not have used them as artillery for imaginary battles with my loved ones.

 However, they make wonderful tea.

Strain the tea,
Then make kombutcha!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lessons from Wild Harvesting

Like most every delightful gift of the earth, harvesting wild mushrooms is something that really can't be rushed. Here is an example of lessons learned mushrooming:

I am walking, walking...... off to find some mushrooms. I can do it!.....walking walking, looking, looking looking...walking, walking faster......getting impatient. "Where are they? Are any mushrooms even around here?"  Then, I  put pressure on myself, thinking, "Just look harder. Try harder at it." And I feel all freaking constrained and uptight.  This sort of nonsense could be carried on for a while. Then, finally, the culmination of my 21st century  pace:  "Screw this. I am a terrible mushroomer!"   I stop  looking, and divert my attentions elsewhere.
The sounds of fall, the movement of the leaves in this forest, the new cool feeling of the wind as New England leans into winter, there is a very large bird that flew up from the underbrush,  my boots are sinking in this mud, a stream that I might jump over, or maybe I'll walk on the log to get over it, walk, walk, walk, jump off...and MUSHROOMS! They just popped right out at me as soon as I got over myself.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Cornbread.

I don't know if anyone is harboring any feelings one way or the other about corn bread. I really hadn't until recently. Cornmeal ground fresh from kernels of corn is delightful. The corn stays very sweet and tastes just like corn, however I think it looses some of its sweetness when its ground up and sits for a while.

Cornmeal, if you think about it, has no reason not to taste like corn, and it is kind of strange to be amazed at the fact that it does taste like corn.....all that aside, I do want to add that last night, I made green bean casserole, with canned soup and canned fried onions.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Harvesting Root Vegetables

Root vegetables can stay in the ground for a while after its gotten too cold for other plants. But we harvested today and ended up with
  • 2 bushels of carrots
  • 1/2  bushel of beets
  •  1 1/2 bushels of rutabagas and yellow turnip
 We snapped the tops off all the roots and gave the tops to the chickens to eat. Some of the smaller carrots where fed to the horses Molly, Gus, and Marcus.Overall, Marcus tried to hog them all, but thankfully Molly doesn't put up with that kind of crap.