Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring is here..and so are 10 baby chicks!

On April 12th, I became a chicken mommy again to these precious barred rock chicks! We got a straight run of 10 chicks from a local feed store so we can add more laying hens to our flock. I think we've probably got at least 3 roosters in the bunch from what I can tell by looking at the markings on their heads, so we'll wait and see as they get a little older if I was right! We have absolutely loved our Rhode Island Reds and will surely purchase more of them in the future, but we wanted to add a little variety to the flock with these guys :) 

Precious little peeps! I look forward to posting about these guys as they grow and as I get to know their little personalities.

One month update on Big Red!

Click to read the one month update on Big Red's progress after having his wing torn off by our dog!
 Big Red's progress-Wing torn off by a dog

The latest update is at the bottom of the page.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Console TV Dog Bed for Ella, Queen of the farm :)

A loooong looooong time ago on Pinterest, I saw a pretty awesome/hilarious photo of a pug in an old console TV that had been converted into a dog bed. I posted it below for your viewing pleasure :)

When I see images like this that make an impression on me, I make a point of "saving" them in the file in my noggin' that I go to when I frequent my favorite thrift stores. I try and look at every ugly old piece of furniture or lamp as if it already had a fresh new coat of paint on it and been repurposed into something useful again. To find these ideas, I flip through those "saved" images to help me imagine what the item could be, not what it is in its present state. 

With that being said, a few weeks ago I noticed an old TV console in a pile of trash and yard debris that someone had dumped on the side of the road near my Mom's house. Every time I drove past it I was in my car (Honda Civic) with nowhere to put it, but I told my Mom that I wanted it and I was going to make it into something awesome again! (She thought I was kidding) It just so happened that I was driving Dustin's truck this past weekend doing farm chores (picking up hay, sand for the chicken coop, new chicks, etc.), and Mom was riding with me, so when we rode by the console again, I hopped out and she helped me load it into the back of the truck. Score! Even luckier for me, the TV screen and insides just fell right out when we picked up the console, so I didn't have to worry with taking that part out. It was perfect (It even has wheels!!). Perfect, but ugly..

The first step was to sand it down. It had been out in the rain and elements for a few weeks, so there was some water damage and other issues that we fixed with the help of an electric sander. This could have been accomplished with a sanding block, it would have just taken much longer. I had to get into the small spaces by hand, but after a good sanding and blowing away dust with the air hose, it was already looking much better!

 In these photos I had already taped off the parts I wanted to keep original with blue painter's tape after it was sanded. My Mom and I set it on top of the sawhorses to make it easier to paint and so we could be sure and get all the edges. 

The next step was spraypaint! I've used many different kinds of spray paint on projects over the last few years, but in my experience you can't buy anything better than Krylon's Color Master spray paint. It works on virtually any surface, dries fast, and has a nifty nozzle that lets you have control over the direction of your spray. And for around $3 a can at WalMart, you definitely can't beat the price! For this project I used three cans of the Blue Ocean Breeze color. 

Here it is all painted! (It was almost dark at this point, so we had to move the project into the garage to finish)

While the paint was drying, we started working on the back of the console. I bought some really cute black and white damask fabric at WalMart when I bought my spray paint, and the plan was just to staple it with a staple gun across the back of the console. However, Mom and I decided it was a much better idea to mount it on a piece of cardboard first, then staple it to the back. Putting it on the cardboard was way easier than buying and cutting a piece of wood, and it would make it easier to change out decorations on the inside of the bed since I could just use push pins instead of nails. We used a cheap bottle of tacky glue we found in the craft section to glue it to the cardboard. We then glued fabric on the inside walls of the console using the same tacky glue. It went up easily, similar to hanging wallpaper. 

For the inside decorations, I bought these two cheap 4x6in. photo frames in a 2-pack at WalMart for $2, and I already had the little plaque at home packed away in a box. (I'll have to get into my tales of being a hoarder from working at Hallmark for the last 7 years! lol..I'll save that for another day) 

For the bottom of the bed, I used a queen sized pillow with a plain white pillow case for the bedding. To add light, I bought a tap light (I got that at WalMart also for around $5..those things are way more fancy than they used to be-it has LED bulbs and a timer..lol) I used velcro dots to secure it to the top and make it easy to change out the batteries. Here's the final product with Miss Ella herself checking it out! 

She'll do anything for a treat :) 

The before and after..what a transformation! Big thanks to my mom on this one for being such a big help! We had a lot of fun on this project and spending time together, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out!

Even more impressive, my total cost for this project with fabric, glue, spray paint, light, and photo frames was around $20! 

If you read my update post, you saw that our Blue Heeler Zoe was rehomed. With Zoe being deaf, she had many issues with aggression with things like food, being scared when she was approached since she didn't hear you coming, and trouble communicating with other dogs which often led to fights. We did the best we knew to do with her and kept her separated from our animals, but the final straw with that situation was when she got loose and attacked our rooster Big Red. Big Red is extra special to us since he was the very first animal we purchased when we decided we wanted to start the farm. He's also a super laid back rooster who doesn't mind being petted and never causes any trouble..just the type of guy you want watching over your hens! During the attack, Zoe tore his entire right wing off! It was such a horrible injury, and when we first found him he was bleeding out so fast that I thought the only option we had was to put him down. Thanks to quick thinking Dustin, Big Red was saved and has made it! It's been three weeks since his attack, and you can read all about his injury and how we treated him on the thread I started on backyardchickens.com when he was first hurt to get advice and suggestions on future care for our now one-winged rooster! Read all about him here: Big Red's wing torn off! Initial injury, treatment, and progress.

Below is a current picture of Big Red showing off his new one-wing physique-there's tons more posted on the link above. 

Almost a year since my last post?! Farm Updates

     It's so sad that my last post (almost a year ago-what a slacker!!) was where we got Quinn, and my next is to tell about what we learned from her passing away.

I found our precious little Quinn in the barn on the afternoon of March 13th when I went out to feed everyone lying on her side unable to stand or support her own weight, with no muscle control at all. She had been seemingly 100% healthy and happy the day before, so I was so shocked and worried that her health had gone downhill so fast. Within an hour and a half of when I first found her, she passed away. My only comfort in her passing is knowing that I was there with her right up until the end and she didn't have to go alone. After researching her symptoms, she most likely died from what is referred to as Goat Polio, which is technically a Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency that affects the brain cells and shows up as neurological symptoms (the loss of muscle control and rigidity that Quinn had). The deficiency is a result of an imbalance in the bacteria found naturally in the goat's rumen, so it literally could have been anything that she was eating that could have been the cause, and sadly we'll never know exactly what it was. RIP Quinn..she was such a sweet girl!

Here is a really great link that describes in more detail just what Goat Polio is, along with more about the symptoms and treatment. http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com/articles2/listeriosis.html

In addition to Quinn, we've unfortunately lost other animals over the last year as well. It never gets any easier to lose an animal, but I've had to accept that it just comes with the territory of having a farm. Every single little life that lives here with us is so very special to me, and I think of every life lost is a learning experience on how to better protect and take care of our animals going forward. For example, I had never even heard of Goat Polio before Quinn got sick, but you best believe I've got a bottle of injectable vitamin B in my refrigerator now ready to go at the first sign of any symptoms similar to hers. 

Over the last year we have also lost all 6 of our Silver Appleyard ducks, and three out of our six Rhode Island Red Hens to coyotes. As response to that, we've recently spent many hundreds of dollars completely fencing in our back yard with concreted wooden fence posts, 4ft tall 2in.x4in. square wire fencing, and a strand of barbed wire across the bottom to boot. This is to help keep any potential predators out and away from our birds, as well as keeping them inside the fence, but still allowing them to free range without the threat of becoming lunch. 

The last animal we lost was our Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) Zoe. Her story has a much happier ending than the others that have left us thankfully! She has now been rehomed with a family in Wisconsin that adopts and trains deaf animals! I'm so excited for her to have been placed in such a great home where she has a family better suited to work with her difficulties that stemmed from her being deaf. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Meet Miss Quinn

Today was an exciting day on the farm! We brought home a beautiful, sweet baby female goat we named Quinn. Just look at those long eyelashes and big bright eyes!

Dustin and I have searched  a while now for a female goat to join our males Ricky and Bobby. I wanted a goat that was purebred, and young so I could take the time to socialize her with people and our other animals to help ensure that she would turn out as friendly and well tempered as Ricky and Bobby are. (They were 5 and 6 weeks old respectively when we got them.)

It seemed like every female Nubian we would find was a mixed breed, was already several years old, a few hours drive from us, or way out of our price range. (Registered purebred Nubians from known bloodlines can run several hundred dollars and up!)                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Miss Quinn here however was just what I had been looking for and we got her at a bargain from a family about twenty minutes away! She was born March 28, 2013 (just a few days over two months old) and is a female purebred unregistered Nubian.

Our goal, and the reason why we chose to raise Nubian goats in particular has been to eventually get to the point where we have a couple of females where we can get fresh goat milk daily, and make products from the excess milk. Nubians are known for being excellent milk producers and good meat goats (even though we're not eating them). Quinn's mom and older female siblings were giving 3/4 to a whole gallon of milk per day according to her previous owner. That's amazing for me to think that much milk can come from one goat! Their milk is also said to have a higher butterfat content and is more nutritious and flavorful than even whole cow's milk. I am excited to hopefully be at a point next year where we can try our hand at making cheese, lotions, soaps, etc with our excess milk!

When we first unloaded her from the truck and put her in the barn stall with Ricky and Bobby, they ran right up to see what kind of critter mom and dad had brought home this time. (Last time it was Napoleon the pig!) I really could not ask for goats any better behaved (when it comes to meeting new animals) than Ricky and Bobby. They sniffed her gently, then just went about their business as if they weren't all too impressed. The rooster, (as you can see in the pic below) seemed much more interested.

We bought Quinn her own feed bucket and placed it in a corner of the barn away from the boys, and I really expected them to be aggressive at feeding time (they can be really pushy with each other over dinner!) but before I could get feed put in her bowl, she ran over to theirs and Bobby just moved to the side to let her have some. What a gentleman! He's the one who has shown the most interest in her as the day went on, and seems to have taken her under his wing. So far she has seemed to fit right in on the farm, and I'm looking forward to getting to know her personality and watching her grow!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Five farm updates

I finally got a day off when it's not raining, so naturally I spent part of the afternoon outside with my camera. Here's five things going on around the farm:

#1 is the chicken coop expansion! :) We started with 9 chickens in a 10x10 coop last February. Three of those tuned out to be roosters (we sold one, kept the other two), and the other six were hens. The 10x10 space we had prepared was just perfect for them. But... since we decided to let Miss Loretta hatch some chicks to increase our number of laying hens, the space we started out with will just not be big enough in a few more weeks when the chicks are grown and eventually move in with their aunts. So, we decided to expand to a coop that is now 10x30, and my chickens officially have a larger room than I do! We came up with a pretty neat solution that allowed us to keep the 10x10 structure we already had, and just made a trap door that can be raised and closed from outside the coop to allow the hens into their new yard. This lets us to still keep the hens really penned up in their fully enclosed coop if we need them to be (to let the grass grow back in the yard, or keep them safe from predators at night), and still gives them much more space to scratch around and really feel the sun on their backs since their coop is in the shade most of the day, and their new yard is full sun. We added field rocks around the bottom all the way around to help keep the girls from becoming something else's dinner, and still have a few other minor things to do like cut the tops off the posts before it's completely finished. The first photo below is the barn with the coop when we first built everything last year just so you can see the comparison. The rest of the photos are how it looks with the expanded coop! 

 The door into their new yard is on a neat little pulley we just had laying around, and allows them to let them in and out.

#2 is our new and improved feed station. I am one of the most organized people you will find, and had to come up with a solution for the feed bags we originally had just sitting in the floor of the barn. I knew that was just a free for all for mice (there's only so many mice a one-eyed barn cat can catch) and other bugs, so I bought rubbermaid style tubs with snap lids and Dustin got the shelf system from his work. It was an old plant merchandiser they were just throwing away! Nothing like getting something for free that we could really use. I labeled everything with what it was, and also who gets that food. These labels really satisfy my OCD for labeling things mainly, but will also aid whoever is helping out in feeding the animals when I have my surgery in a little over a month. Another important item on the top shelf (those big blue containers) is enough water to last the animals several days without power (since we have a well and no power = no water). 

#3 is an update on Miss Loretta's chicks. They are growing up so fast, with almost all their feathers in now, and are just a few days shy of 8 weeks old. These little guys have learned to roost and are super sweet and climb all over you any time you go into their coop, wanting to get close and see what they can eat off your clothes (they think Dustin's pearl snap buttons are the coolest things!). 

#4 is ducklings are on the way! We thought we got rid of our male duck so that we would not have anymore ducklings.. but, one of our last set of ducklings turned out to be a male before we realized it, and we now have two broody mama ducks on nests! Each has a nest of about 10-15 eggs that they are sitting on and fussing over 24/7. I am pretty excited to see how many ducklings we end up with, and we have plans to sell them because our duck enclosure is full. If you know anyone needing/ wanting a great breed of duck send them our way! 
 Mama #1 on her nest.
A rare glimpse of nest #2 I got when she finally left to go eat her dinner. 

#5 is a healed up Beyonce! If you read her bio, you know that Beyonce is our one-eyed barn cat. Back a few months ago, I went outside to leave for work and saw a horrifying sight. She was sleeping on top of Dustin's truck like always, but all I could see was a horrible black hole on her face. I screamed for Dustin to come out and go look at her because I was truly scared that she was disfigured and hurt beyond repair. Luckily, and grotesque as it was, it was only her eyeball that was injured, and after a costly trip to the emergency vet (of course this happened on a Sunday) and surgery to remove the eye, she was as good as new! We never will know what really caused the injury since we didn't see it happen, but the vet assured us it was not a puncture wound from a chicken which made me feel some better. She truly is a tough kitty cat, and the reason she was given the name Beyonce in the first place was because she came here with a sister cat that was unfortunately killed in a car engine :( So, with her being the only survivor (title of that Destiny's Child song) she became Beyonce! 

This has shaped up to be a pretty eventful spring so far, and with starting our garden, ducklings on the way, and more projects than we can keep up with in the works, I'll be updating soon!