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Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Regular readers, you have been so patient to wait for new posts here during my long hiatus.  For those of you who have checked in with me via email and posts here, I am grateful.  I’m still here.  There’s been a lot of good in the past several months but also a great deal of sadness, and as time has gone on I’ve been overwhelmed with how to begin.

First, let me say that no humans to which I’m deeply attached are gone.  Mr. Homesteader had a little cancer scare that lasted for three months, but it was mostly scary because his doctor hyped his reaction to a test result and because I was so worn out from the summer.  I did spend most of the summer, from late May onward, in and out of hospitals with a dear relative, who has made a near miraculous recovery through his sheer will (and a really good orthopedic doctor who did emergency spine surgery over Memorial Day weekend and then helped get the patient into one of the best rehab centers in the region).  I have a lot to say about how a family member can survive in such situations, and in time I’ll say it.

I also more recently had experience caring for a relative whose dementia–probably Alzheimer’s–was much more advanced than we realized when we scheduled her visit.  My beloved grandfather died from complications of Alzheimer’s, so I knew what to do, but the time involved in caring for her during her visit was not something I anticipated.  I’ll need to do a post on that as well, because dementia care can be fraught with danger and frustration, if you aren’t prepared for it.

As for the animals, well, those are the longer stories.  We have more chickens than we had when I last posted–a net gain of two–only when I say net gain, I mean that some are gone.  I’ve learned hard lessons in chicken raising.  I’ve done a lot of things right.  I built a gorgeous chicken tractor myself that I can’t wait to show you.  And I and Mr. Homesteader made one big mistake with buying chicks.  I’ll give you a clue. Go look back at my chick pictures.  Look closely.  Do you see what’s wrong?  It’s okay; this story has (mostly) a good ending.

The last story that will unfold here has to do with my beloved male barn cat, Tucker.  Tucker is gone.  He died much too young.  I’ve spent countless hours second guessing everything I did that day, what I might have done differently to prevent his untimely death.  He knew so much about surviving in the woods, and he was really good at exploring the places he loved most and coming home safely.  He also knew that he wasn’t supposed to cross the road–yet it was there that he met his maker.  I do not want to revisit my grief, but I will post a tribute to the biggest, best barn cat ever–not counting his sister, who, thank goodness, still lives, albeit a much sadder cat than before.

Of course, through all of these events, life has gone on.  I or Mr. Homesteader has still cooked from scratch almost every day.  We had a really tasty pizza tonight with kale, roasted butternut squash, and turkey kielbasa, for instance.  We’ve planted things.  We’ve canned.  We’ve prepared new land.  Life has gone on, and I’ll have plenty to share that way too, and I promise what I share will be happy and tasty and, I hope, creative and helpful.

No pictures tonight, just stories to come.  And you’ve been forewarned.

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Friday and Saturday nights, I put the chickens on their roosts, knowing that they are a bit high for pullets but still hoping to train them.  Imagine my surprise last night when I went to close the pop hole and discovered all five pullets roosting on their own!  I’m so proud of them.

Why is she opening the big door and flashing us with that bright light?

 
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The chicks arrived a week ago.  My first opportunity to take pictures came on Friday, when the chicks graduated to being pullets.  I had some old kale in the garden that was infested with caterpillars, so I cut and gave it to my pullets as a graduation present.  They loved it.

Okay, gals, it's time for your group shot.


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Life has kept me from blogging lately. A relative had some emergency orthopedic surgery that kept me away from home. I’m headed back there on Wednesday, but meanwhile I’m desperately trying to get caught up on planting. Mr. Homesteader has been keeping himself busy too. Take a look. Can you guess who’s coming to breakfast soon?
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My “track”:

Look closely; it’s there!  Yes, I ran yesterday.  Actually, I ran until the snow got too deep and I had to walk.  I got in 30 laps, until I looked like the Abominable Snowman.

My running buddy:

In fact, she shows up from the neighbors’ house, runs circles around me, begs to be petted, and then races off to chase deer, cats, birds . . . and then she catches back up with me and does it all over again.

The creek in snow:

Cold frames seems a particularly appropriate name today:

I’m not sure there’s still something growing under all that snow!

Is it delivery?

No, of course it isn’t delivery.  We can’t get delivery here in normal weather, much less when there’s almost a foot of snow on the ground.  If you missed the recipe earlier, it’s here.

So, the NWS claims we got 9-12 inches of snow.  Our thermometer read 1 degree F above zero this morning.  How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

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Hibernating

Oat and Wheat Bread

A nearby bluff

First, for my regular readers, let me say a belated merry Christmas and a blessed new year.  I have no good explanation for my long absence, short of too much off-homestead work followed by hibernation.  Yep, you read that right.  My best explanation for my failure to post is that I’ve been hibernating.  Oh, sure, I’ve kept cooking and baking and even doing winter gardening and taking long walks or jogs outside, but those things have mostly happened on the bright sunny days, and generally my days are measured by the sunlight.  When the sun goes down, I’m ready for bed.  And I don’t want to get up again until the sun rises.

Thursday the Ozarks were hit by a slick mess of ice and snow.  I was sixty miles from home when the storm changed from rain to snow, but I had the luck to make it home safely.  All the while, as the slushy mess swirled around me, I kept wishing for a place to hibernate.  When I got home, I curled up with the “barn cats” on the sofa and settled in for the rest of the winter.

Snow-Swept Ozarks Field at Dusk

 

Truth is, when I lived up north, our quick-moving snow storm would have shut down nothing.  I would have bravely ventured out, walking a bit more carefully or driving a bit more slowly but gone on with my business.  Still, I think that slowing down and re-charging during the winter is an idea from nature that most of us could use.

Cold Frames . . . . Brrrrr

Do you know the best time to plant most trees?  Autumn.  Plant in the autumn, and the tree will establish itself through its roots, growing strong while appearing dormant above ground.  Winter is important for tree growth, even if we can’t see it happen.

Miss C., cozy for winter

I’m not sure if I’m most like a tree or a bear or a ground squirrel or even one of the cats (who seem determined to teach me how to enjoy winter), but I know sometimes I just need to step back, snuggle up in a comfy chair, and re-establish my roots.  Winter is a great time to do just that.  Now, though, as the days get longer and brighter, even though it’s colder, I’m starting to feel like a tree, prepping its buds for blooming.

Copyright 2011 Ozarkhomesteader, including images.

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A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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