Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hummingbird Farm becomes official

I should be doing some work right now, but instead, I'm going to write about our weekend.

Genevieve has been pretty sick, as well as half the kids in her daycare. As a result, the kids were home since Tuesday. On Thursday afternoon, I ventured out with the kids to get a few new chickens. A local feed store had pullets (young hens - about a month out from laying) available. Ghon and I argued back and forth about the quantity. We currently have 4 hens and one rooster, Bullseye, aside from the chicks. He wanted 12 pullets. I wanted no more than 8. Ya know, because 4 + 8 makes a dozen and I like even numbers and symmetry.

The kids and I loaded up into Ghon's truck, and headed to the feed store. This in itself was an adventure, as Farmer Ghon told me it was on Route 11. Well, acually, it was on a side road off of Route 11. I drove until I knew I'd gone too far (West Virginia line!!) and turned around with the GPS going. Still, no luck. I drove down the side road that the GPS told me I should be on. No luck. I drive around this little shopping area, no luck. Jonathan begins telling me that we are lost. Told him, nope, we aren't lost, I know exactly where I am, I just don't know where this store is!! I resorted to calling, and low and behold, we were almost in the parking lot. There was no signage out front and I completely missed it. Didn't even look like a feed store at first. Oh well...

While one of the men in the store loaded up our 8 pullets and a bag of feed, the kids and I loved on some bunnies in the store. Having a pet rabbit as a child, I'm a sucker for bunnies. Not a fan of rodents; and that includes mice, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs. But I love bunnies.

Once we were loaded up, we headed home, and Genevieve promptly fell asleep. Jonathan helped me release the new chickens into the coop. One had a lot of white on her tail feathers, so since the kids named their chicks, I named this pullet Snowflake.

My handsome little chicken catcher.

Friday, the weather absolutely stunk. It rained almost all day. In the afternoon, I took Jonathan to the open house at his elementary school. Monday, he starts kindergarten. He's getting so big!

When we got home, I let the kids do a little painting. Jonathan was first charged with creating a sign for his lemonade stand at our yard sale. We decided he would offer lemonade and water, but he was desperate to add coffee and tea. He painted his own lemon, added some blue water, black for tea and brown for coffee. Genevieve created her own masterpiece along side him.

Preparing for our first lemonade stand - fun with paint!

Saturday we were up crazy early and headed to the farm with two somewhat cranky and impatient children. Ghon built some tables for me with cinder blocks and plywood and I lugged all of our stuff out. Jonathan was desperate to set up his stand, starting at about 6:30am. Then he begged to know when it would start and when all the people would come.

One trade newspaper, one highway sign, and four local Facebook yard sale sites. That's how much advertising I did for this yard sale.

Most of what we had for sale came from the great attic clean out this spring. Some from our house and a ton of kid stuff.

We had maybe 10 people show up.

Jonathan was nearly devastated. I am thankful for the first couple that came bought a lemonade from him, even if they didn't want any of our stuff. A few more people bought his lemonade and we even made a home delivery to his daycare family this weekend. In the end, he made $4 in lemonade sales. Not bad for 25 cents a cup.

While I was manning the yard sale (ha!) I also reorganized all of Ghon's chili gear stored on our porch. The kids alternated between hanging out with their old toys on the front lawn, running through the yard, watching a movie in the house, or tractor rides.

Jonathan takes Pop on his first tractor ride.

Jonathan loves taking pictures with my camera. At one point, he snatched my camera from me and ran around taking pictures of all of our yard sale items, the sky, his feet, and an awesome selfie.

Our yard sale spread, Jonathan's selfie, old bottles, and my goofball.

At one point, Genevieve started yelling, "A snake! A snake!" Thankfully, Ghon was close by and went to investigate, as I became cemented to the ground. After he leaned down and announced it wasn't a snake, I was able to breath and ask what it was. Proclaimed as a salamander, I think a little research has proven it to be a juvenile Eastern newt, called an eft.

Fun with creepy crawlies.

Ghon offered me a chance to hold it, but I declined. I am so proud of the kids for being willing to hold them. Genevieve thought it was so cute...

While the kids did their thing, and I did mine, Ghon worked on hanging up our farm sign. The sign was a gift from my Dad last Christmas. The view getting in and out of the driveway is a little difficult, so we've fretted over where and how to hang it. Something got into Ghon this weekend, and he decided to get the sign hung. Once he built the post, I helped him secure it in place. Quite a few of the farms on our road have signs up with their names, and Ghon has always wanted to have his own farm. He had such a look of accomplishment on his face when we were done. He's waited a long time to see his name like that. Sort of made being a farm; our farm; official, well, except from a tax perspective. We haven't gotten that far yet.

Finally hanging our sign. Jonathan gets photo credits for the pic of Ghon and I.

Oh, and he also killed an opossum that was in our trap. Too many corpses around. The farm is getting a little smelly in spots...

While I was on the street with the camera, I snapped a few pics of the flowers by the mailbox. I also caught some cute pictures of Genevieve, who had come to watch Ghon and I work.

The flowers by the mailbox are doing great!

Genevieve stopping to smell the flowers.

Ghon had to leave for work after our picnic lunch of the front lawn. My Dad and his friend BJ came to help me pack back up once my official sale hours were over. I've managed to set up a few meetings via the Facebook yard sale sites to get rid of a few other items. Ghon wants to try again another weekend, so despite my initial insistence that all the junk doesn't come back into the house, it came back in. I think our little farmhouse is just too far off the beaten path to do well at a yard sale.

Once we were all packed up, the kids and I climbed into the truck to head home to wash up before going out to dinner. Genevieve barely made it out the driveway before she fell asleep. Jonathan fell asleep about halfway to the restaurant once we left our house. They were two tired kiddos. Jonathan rode home with Pop after dinner, so Genevieve and I had to stop at the farm to take care of the chickens on our way back home.

If the thought of video of me trying to release trapped animals wasn't enough, the scene Saturday was a riot. The coop door is working well, however, some chickens seem to be early birds and other night owls. A handful of the new gals keep getting stuck on the wrong side of the door. I opened the door, then Genevieve and I went into their run and either chased to or picked up and tossed into the general direction of the coop door roughly 6 chickens, all while she yelled "go to bed chickens!" Once we thought we had them all in, Bullseye comes out, followed by three hens. We put them to bed, and I scurry out the run, around the coop, and into the coop to shut the door. Of course, my presence spooks them, and they run out the damn door.

I grabbed a plastic crate liner and head back to the run. Genevieve is squatting about 2 feet from the door screaming "NO CHICKENS! GO. TO. BED!" We get the chickens into the coop, again, I close it up with the liner, back to the coop, close the door, back to the run, remove the liner and we get the hell home. Ghon changed the timer this morning, so I hope they all made it in - I didn't check this evening.

Mr. Bullesye and Genevieve helping fill the water cans.

Another busy day Saturday. Sunday we had a big family breakfast before the kids and I headed out to get my truck washed and vacuumed,complete another Build and Grow project at Lowes then finally go grocery shopping. I had to do my first school homework tonight, and tomorrow morning, I help pack Jonathan's first lunch and take him to the school bus. Big things are happening around here. Big things.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Telescope Head, Bullseye, and Flower

The kids have named three of the chickens.

Our oldest rooster, a Buff Orpington, Jonathan has named Bullseye. Ghon had both kids with him Tuesday while I was at work, and after the lucky ducks slept in and had breakfast, they headed to the farm.

Ghon finished installing the gate to the chicken run. We were given some dog kennels, so he used a panel with a swing door as the gate to the run. After installing it, Ghon dismantled the smaller enclosures the chickens were using as their run. Once done, the 5 remaining adult chickens, four hens and the rooster Bullseye, were set loose in their new run. They had plenty of grass, clover, turnips and other greenery to chow down on. All that vegetation gave them some yummy bugs as well. Apparently, the rooster was running pretty fast, so Jonathan named him Bullseye after the horse in Toy Story 2.

This past Sunday night, the kids named two of the chicks. It looks like we have one, maybe two roosters. The largest chick is a rooster, and Jonathan has named him Telescope Head. He had some other random name for him, but as we left the farm, he spotted his telescope on the front porch and changed the rooster's name.

Genevieve named a chick Flower. Surprisingly, she has remembered the name, but still hasn't quite figured out which one is Flower. She just points at all of them and says "that one." She loves watching the chicks. When I came home from work Tuesday, I met them at the farm for dinner. Before we left, she helped me feed the chicks and sat in the coop watching them - and trying to pet them.

The brown one looking at us on the left - that's Telescope Head. Pick a chick, that's Flower.
The gold guy on the right, he's Bullseye.

The coop door has been in place for six nights now - and we have no chicken loss. I am almost ready to call it a complete success. Kinda wish we'd taken the advice of our friends the Kropps about a year ago.

Once I had dinner started, Jonathan took me for a ride on the tractor. He knows how to start it up, put it in gear, and go... Genevieve and I rode in the trailer while Jonathan drove us out the orchard and made a few laps before bringing us back to the side yard. He did a really good job driving - and he's not even five yet! He is so proud of himself every time he drives it.

After dinner, Ghon set a leg trap in the garden. Jonathan and I watched and learned about how to set the trap (we even helped), how and why to cover it with dirt - not mud, and why it's important to hide the trap in a funnel. I demonstrated how a trap works with my hands - grabbing Jonathan's hand over and over. I want him to understand how important it is to pay attention to where you walk - and how dangerous the traps are. Jonathan acted pretty excited with the prospect of catching more raccoons and other creatures. Between that and his obsession with shooting a bow and arrow, I don't think Daddy will have a hard time turning him into a hunter.

Wednesday I headed to the farm to meet the propane company. I had them remove one of three propane tanks. This tank feed into the dryer and the stove. The plan is to move from having three tanks to one large tank in the future, and removing this tank allows us to demo the mud/laundry room whenever we decide we are ready!

Rolling the tank out. Goodbye propane tank!

After the propane company finished up, one of the guys asked me if I was Ghon's daughter or daughter in law. I hesitated a second, then responded daughter in law. Both of the guys knew Ghon's father, and that the house was his. Small world...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Progress is made

Saturday was sort of an amazing day.

A little sleeping in, grab some breakfast and in two different trucks, Ghon and I headed to town. First things first, he needed an oil change, and we needed a new battery pack with air compressor. Off to Pep Boys we went.

Why Pep Boys? Because I had coupons of course!

While Ghon waited at the service counter, I went off in search of battery packs. They had several in one style that I liked. The features varied slightly, but the amp support came in 600, 700, or 900. I liked the features on the 700, but couldn't find a price. I grabbed it up regardless, found the other things we needed, and after Ghon's approval on my selections, headed to check out.

Look at all those amazing features!
Scribbled on the top of the box was $45.00.  Now, I don't know if it was legit or not, but that's what it said. There were no price tags on the shelf. Want to guess the price it rung in at?


That's a lot more than $45.00. Like, more than twice that amount. After pointing this difference out the the cashier, he calls for a manager, they check the sale ad, ask the guy in that department if he wrote it on there, then actually asked me if I did.

The 600 amp version was on sale this week for $69.99. The manager said she couldn't honor the written price of $45.00, so I asked if she would give it to me for the sale price on the 600, and she agreed.

Yep, I saved $30 then handed over my $5 coupon.

We left Ghon's truck there for an oil change. After stopping at Southern States to buy some fencing, we headed back to the farm to get to work. This, is where it gets exciting.

Right after we arrived, Ghon took a quick walk toward the garden then calls me over - he saw several deer, including some fawn still in spots. He meets me halfway across the field as I grab my camera and the deer head into the woods.

After eating some corn.

About the same time, we spot something else walking through the garden. Just as I was about to say "Is that a groundhog?" I realized it wasn't and we both just sort of point and say look at that. A raccoon.

In broad daylight.

Ghon runs, and I mean runs, to the house to get his shotgun. Jonathan is chasing after him, wondering what is going on. Angry farmer comes charging the field. Can you see the determination and anger on his face below? That was no reenactment - I got that shot live.

He takes off toward the field, where the raccoon is no longer in sight. Jonathan asks me what Daddy is doing, and I tell him that he is going to try to kill the raccoon. He replies, "The one that keeps eating our chickens?" When I tell him yes, he does a happy dance and cheer. I did have to make him repose for the picture below, but the original face was just the same.

Ghon approached the corn field from the side and I was so shocked when he took aim. I couldn't believe he found the raccoon!

Determined farmer. Excited boy. Skilled marksman.

One shot and the chicken killing, corn stealing, why in the world was he day-walking varmint was down.

One shot success.
I used to think raccoons were so cute. I guess they still kind of are, but now, they are chicken killers, and I'm tired of our hard work and money feeding them, not us. Doesn't bother me anymore to see a dead one.

Is that another sign of being countryfried?

After that exciting start to the day, it was time to fence the chicken run. Finally. It's been way too long. Before we could get too far, we had to remove a small tree that was in the way.

Ghon taking the chainsaw to the "junk tree."

No more tree.

The fence plan has taken on a variety of forms. The current plan is to work the chicken wire all the way around. Next will be adding two rows of fencing boards between the posts to help stabilize the fencing. Finally, we are going to run a edging timber or another fence board along the bottom to help hold the wire in place and prevent digging in - or out. The new automatic door seems to be working well. Between the door, the sealed up gables, and the fencing, we are hoping we will be all set.

We had bought two rolls of six foot tall chicken wire. Ghon manned the roll of wire while I manned the staple gun. Stretch the wire, staple the wire. Unroll, stretch, staple, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Crud. Out of staples. We only made it a quarter of the way around.

Once we ran out of staples, Ghon started to mow the front yard with Jonathan in tow while Genevieve and I headed back into town. We paid for Ghon's truck repairs so we could pick it up later, then headed to Lowes to buy staples, hose clamps and 36 -72 fence boards.

Yes, 36 if they were more money than we thought, 72 if they were cheap.

I found a cart, found the boards and started loading up.

I got 30 boards.

There were plenty more boards and reasonable enough in price, but they were still bound or too high for me to reach. Any remaining loose boards were split. I asked at the register for help, and no one came. For ten minutes.

I told Genevieve we were going to leave soon if no one came. She said, "Oh, let's just go Mom." When did she get so big??

Dirty girl helping Mom at Lowes.

So we bought our 30 boards, our staples, and hose clamps and left.

After I loaded my truck, I received a text message from Ghon. Seems the boys were back at the farm having their own fun.

The boy was singing while driving, drinking juice and driving, and having a grand time. He was so proud of himself. When Genevieve and I came back, they boys were not in sight, so we started walking toward the far field where the tractor was. We were about to head into the woods to look for them when Genevieve yelled, "I hear Jonafin!" Seriously, she can't say Jonathan right, so it comes out Jonafin.Which is how he got the nickname Fin, but way before G was born. I predicted the 'Fin' part.

The boys went for a walk into the woods and along the power lines.

Jonathan demonstrated his driving abilities by making a loop around the orchard, drinking his juice box and driving all the way back to the yard by the house.

This video was shot by Ghon while Genevieve and I were shopping. It's early in Jonathan's driving experience. Excuse the quick language upfront.

After all that craziness, Ghon and I got back to work. I asked Jonathan to take a picture of me working. I don't particularly like having my picture taken, but sometimes, I feel it sounds like I don't really do any work at the farm, so I wanted to have some documentation that I do work! He loves taking pictures, so he was happy to oblige.
That's me. Working.
Just before dark, we made it all the way around the run. It was a big accomplishment. Ghon especially has been wanting to get this done. Running the fencing is a two person job, but he should be able to hang the boards by himself on his day off this week. We have a section of fence with a gate that he was able to install for us to enter the run. All that's left is to cut out the chicken wire and hang the door to the frame.
Before and after...or before and more in progress.
We have a bunch of baby chicks in the mobile pen we had for the meat chickens. We've lost a few of them, and we think it's due to the cooler nights we've had, not predators. When we moved them out last weekend, it was quite warm. Today, our rainy Sunday high was 65! In the middle of August! Before we left last night, we moved a dog crate that we use for transporting into the big chicken coop, redirected the light toward their pen, and hoped for the best. All of the remaining adult chickens watched us from their perches. Jonathan was excited to watch the door close on the coop. It was a long but very productive day. Sunday, Ghon was off to work and I had a slew of running to do with two semi-sick kids. The plan was for me to use his truck to go back to Lowes and try again with the lumber. Unfortunately, my car wouldn't start, so he jetted off to work in his truck. This changed my plans a bit, making our first stop Walmart for a new battery and groceries, back home for lunch, then moving car seats into my Dad's truck to get lumber. Ha, Lowes still hadn't cut the straps. I asked for help again, and this time, they were cut right away. Jonathan was a big help, loading boards onto the cart with me and counting the stacks. Thirty-four boards this time and we were done. The hole in my glove was getting bigger, so I picked up a new pair. The cashier was nice enough to cut the tags off so I could wear them to load the boards. She asked if I wanted help, and I accepted, thinking it would make the process a lot faster. As instructed, I drove the truck up to the door, and started loading - but no one showed up to help. Glad I had new gloves - my hands still hurt from yesterday! And this weekend, Lowes customer service kind of sucked.
Let's hope these don't rip as fast as the last pair!
Another whirlwind weekend. Ghon has off the next two days, so I'm hoping he makes good progress on the final stages of the fencing. We grew some tasty feed for the chickens in their run, and can't wait for them to be able to roam about. Next weekend Ghon works and I am having a yard sale! If you need any kid toys or stuff from the attic, Saturday is the day!

Friday, August 16, 2013

No Tresspassing

As you know, we've had a bit of a predator problem in the chicken coop. The obvious culprit was the raccoon, who left his prints at the scene of the crime. Despite trapping a coon, and closing up the gable where it was getting in, we still lost hens.

However, the last few kills appear to have been from something else. The raccoons would take the chickens with them, but lately, we've found bodies in the coop. That means something is coming in for a midnight snack then getting out of dodge before daylight. And small enough to get through the tiny spot at the top of the coop or through the wire without destroying it. New suspect...weasel.

Thursday before work, Ghon was able to install the new chicken coop door. Rather, it's a motor that raises and lowers the coop door. Combined with a timer, the theory is that the chickens will put themselves to bed around 7:30PM and the door will close automatically at about 8:30PM. Approximately 9AM, the door opens and the chickens are free to roam about their run. Ghon needed a lightweight door, and chose to use a metal no trespassing sign that we found in the workshop.

Chickens coming through!

Last weekend Ghon nailed a thin board across the top to close the gap between the roof and the wall - Thursday, he removed it and nailed in something a bit larger.

Take that you chicken killers. Nothing is getting in here!

When I went to the farm today and took these pictures, I panicked at first when I didn't see any chickens in the run. Would could be worse than the predator getting locked INTO the coop with the chickens? Fortunately, they were just in the coop...and we didn't loose any over night. Hopefully, it will stay that way.

In addition to the chicken feed we buy, we supplement the chickens with fresh fruit and vegetables. We often get veggies from a local market when they are just starting to turn and are no longer good for sale. Sometime this spring, we fed the chickens a variety of squash and melons. Then it rained for days. And then we fed them some more. Low and behold, we have at least two different plants taking over this old chicken run. I had to leave up part of the fence since the plant was growing through it.

Renegade garden...of who knows what.

Acorn squash perhaps? Anyone?

While checking out the free range garden, I spotted some morning glory. I was pretty excited about these. Butterflies and hummingbirds like morning glory, and I have a tattoo of them for the kids (September birth flower).

Pretty wild flowers

Tomorrow is Saturday. Family work day at the farm. Grass mowing, chicken run work, and yard sale prep is in store!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Six square feet

Six square feet. That is roughly how much kitchen floor space 651 pennies will cover. Thanks for cleaning out your change jar Dad!

Monday, August 12, 2013

New wheels and farm fresh dinner

This week's adventure started on Friday night. Without kids!

Last weekend we went tractor shopping at the local John Deere dealer. In the end, the amount of tractor we wanted and the amount of tractor John Deere wanted to finance didn't quite match up. It was a little disappointing, but sometimes, things just happen for a reason.

Like a better deal around the corner.

Friday night, Ghon and I were able to secure a little alone time. At Lowes. I know, right? You're jealous aren't you?

After getting the kids to bed, Pop agreed to keep an ear out for them and let us do a little lawn tractor shopping without kids. Thanks, Pop! We headed out and checked out a row of tractors. Ghon found one he liked then we went inside to compare. Then back outside to compare again, when I spotted the clearance row of tractors.

I LOVE a bargain. I price shop. I clip coupons. I make Wal-Mart price match. And yes, I LOVE Black Friday shopping. But I digress...

Bargain tractors!

I'm back.

We found a Husqvarna tractor that retailed for $2200, on clearance for $1609. Only a tick smaller than the one Ghon picked out inside. After debating the merit of an extra 4 inches of mower deck for $600, we agreed on the Husqvarna.

Next, was to see how much tractor Lowes was going to let us buy. We don't have that kind of cash floating around nor do we have perfect credit. Off to customer service and....we don't get enough. But close enough that we can supplement with a little cash and have ourselves a new lawn tractor, that our lawn desperately needs to become intimate with quickly.

But, I press my luck. I head back over to lawn and garden and talk to the man in charge while Ghon hides and looks at accessories. I let him know we didn't get approved for as much as the tractor was selling for, any way we could knock a $100 or so off to help us out. He pauses and says, "How about I sell it to you for $1200?" My reply? "Sold."

Hells yeah. Got us a tractor at $1000 off retail. Anyone want to go car shopping? I kid, I kid.

That was the easy part, but the checkout was a bit of a nightmare. Took three tries to get the sale logged correctly so we could pick up the next day, then a checkout screw up that ended up giving us another $60 off! (It was legit, no worries...)

We did cap off the experience with milkshakes from Chick-fil-a. Now I know you are jealous.

Here's the new lawn tractor leaving Lowes. Thanks again Pop for hauling it home!

Last week I talked a bit about my hypothesis for the raccoon entry into the chicken coop. Here's a picture of those little footprints - at the TOP of the coop wall.

Damn raccoon.

Ghon installed a board over the opening on Saturday.

Take that you stupid raccoon.

Things seemed to go OK until Sunday night, when we lost another. Thank goodness the motor came so we can have an automatic door for the coop. That should stop the chicken insanity. Can't wait until Ghon can get it installed.

Ghon has had off the last few Saturdays which has been nice, but will be coming to an end soon. This past Saturday, he spent the morning at a local farm learning about chicken processing, raising pigs and rabbits and a bit about running a farm. He took the chickens we had been raising solely to be "meat" chickens along with him for processing and to serve as part of the education.

Eight birds shrink wrapped for the freezer, two for Sunday dinner!

While Ghon learned more about how to be a farmer, the kids and I picked up the tractor with Pop, built airplanes at Lowes, had lunch, picked apples and peaches at a local orchard then went grocery shopping. What a morning/afternoon! Once we were finished all that running, I dropped the kids off at the farm where Ghon was starting to mow with his new wheels.

Jonathan was ready to ride the new tractor.

The tractor can travel up to 7 mph and has a 54" mower deck. It has cut our mowing time in half, which is pretty amazing. It even has a cup holder and headlights. What's not to love?

While mowing, Ghon found a creature. I saw him stop the tractor, jump off show Jonathan something then he yells across the field "Look what we found Mom!" I knew it wasn't going to be good. Snake.

Yes, I did scurry along and proclaim that dinner was ready. Then told Ghon, "Please don't." You know what I mean. He knew what I meant. Do you think he listened?

Ghon showing the kids the garter snake.
The picture on the right was taken right before he tried to attack me with it.

I really do try to be brave in front of the kids. However when Ghon tried telling Jonathan (who is not even five yet) and Genevieve (who still can't get her colors straight) that because this snake was black with white stripes running down it's body, it was OK to pick up, yeah, I had to draw the line. No snakes are safe to pick up unless Daddy is with us and if Daddy does it first. Having poisonous snakes on the property, I don't want to take any chances. And yes, when Ghon held the snake up and barely shook it at me, I did jump. Backward.

Jonathan petting the snake.
Releasing the snake in the garden.

Jonathan attempting to kiss the snake.
Slither away little snake.

Unfortunately, after dinner, we had to go pick corn. To get to the corn field, we had to walk through the garden area where the snake was released. You know where my mind was the entire time!

For some reason, I thought harvesting corn was going to be difficult. I thought we would need a knife or something to remove the ears, but it was surprisingly easy. The worst part was that some of the corn had gone bad, or the deer had gotten into it. We harvested 6 1/2 dozen ears Saturday night.
Kids helping with the first corn harvest.

Can you find Ghon in the corn?

After the kids got to bed Saturday, I shucked all of the corn and Ghon helped me rinse and clean it off. The corn didn't yield as much as we would have liked, as some had started to go bad and I had to cut ears in half. Regardless, it is ours and damn tasty. We hope to harvest a bit more, as long as the deer don't get it first. They've already taken way too much.

Ghon worked Sunday, and after the kids and I slept in a bit, we were back off and running. We hit the park, the farm to grab a few trash bags, our transfer station, back to the store to grab a few forgotten items from the day before, lunch, then back to the farm so I could finally move all the rocks that I had dug out of the rose garden. I wanted to get them all moved so Ghon could mow around the area.

I had found this picture on Friday afternoon.

March 1988: Ghon's Dad creating the rose garden.

So I tried to replicate the angle on Sunday evening.

25 years later, the rocks are gone and only a few small bushes remain. It's amazing how much the shrubs have grown along the street and driveway.

After all that running and work, the kids got a bubble bath and snuggled into their new pajamas to watch a movie while I got to work! Pop and his friend BJ helped me process the corn; I boiled and cooled, Pop cut it off the cob and BJ bagged. While I had the water going, I also processed the last two yellow squash we had.

Turned 6.5 dozen ears into 4-5 meals!

Once the cooking was done, I had to do a little house cleaning. Two bathrooms scrubbed, last of 4 loads of laundry folded, and the floors vacuumed. I was pooped! Ghon was in charge of making dinner, fried chicken, or as Jonathan calls it, "chicken on a bone."

Ghon's fried chicken.

Farm fresh - chicken and corn from the farm!

It was a great dinner. I am amazed that the kids haven't figured out yet that chicken is chicken. They know the eggs we eat come from chickens and that chicks come from eggs. I just don't know if they have connected all the dots yet, and I'm not ready to clue them in.

Shhhh, don't tell her that chicken is well, chicken.

I was pretty exhausted from this weekend and couldn't get myself motivated to go to work today. Guess I needed the sleep, after trying to get up at a respectable time, I slept until almost 9am. After dropping the kids off at daycare, Ghon and I headed to the farm to work. He went off to finish mowing the yard and I started cleaning and pricing items for a yard sale. I did take a quick break to head home for a call/meeting I couldn't miss, then headed back to the farm. Ghon was able to mow all of the yard, including some spots that haven't been mowed in quite a while. Not sure I've seen this much of the yard mowed in a long time. I was able to get a lot sorted for the yard sale, and priced. Next step is to bring kid toys down and advertise. Anyone want to come to Hummingbird Farm to buy some stuff??

That's it for this week. Ghon will hopefully installed the new coop door on Thursday morning, and I'm hoping to do more yardsale prep this weekend. Always busy around here!

And if you are still reading this post, and have been reading along, this is my 50th post! Never thought I would have blogged so much! Thanks for reading and sharing the experience with us. Please, leave comments below. I love reading new comments!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Week in review & Trappin' Update

Last Friday, August 2, we went to the Frederick County (VA) fair.  The kids and I met Ghon in a shopping center near the fairgrounds and we headed out together in Ghon's truck. The kids had a good time seeing the goats, sheep, cows, a few pigs, and of course, the rabbits and chickens.

The grandstand was featuring a rodeo, so after Ghon and I grabbed dinner, we sat in the stands to watch a bit of the rodeo. We were able to watch a few rounds of steer roping and goat tying. The kids were a little restless, and all Jonathan cared about was getting to the rides. Fortunately, it was ride all night for one price. For the first time, I bought the kids wrist bands to do just that. There were a few things Genevieve was still too small to do, but she still had a good time. Jonathan had a blast, and rode his first roller coaster. When he came off the ride, he told me it was "Fantastic!" After trying out a few more rides, he was able to take a second turn.

It was a late night; we just about closed down the fair. Saturday was coming way too quickly and ended up being way to rainy. Genevieve still woke up early, and Jonathan slept in. Aly came over to watch the kids while Ghon and I headed out to tractor shop.

When we got home, Ghon headed right back out to work at the farm with our friend Tim. They did some tree work at the far end of the property along the power lines. Since it was raining so hard, the kids and I did our usual grocery shopping before heading to the farm. We decided to have lunch there, then while the kids watched a movie, I would work on cleaning up the dining room.

Since it was raining, I decided to let the kids to have lunch in the "safe room" while they watched a movie. When I went upstairs, I was angry...the kids left a juice pouch in the room the last time they were there. There were a few tiny holes the juice pouch and mouse droppings all over their blanket and around the pouch. I hate mice! After I cleaned that up, I had lunch with the kids and headed downstairs to work.

The dining room was getting difficult to navigate from furniture here, there, and everywhere. There were nails and screws on the floor, and plenty of drywall and insulation. Just like the kitchen, I made it my mission to clean up the mess and make it easier to navigate and remove the dirt and trash.

It may not look like a huge improvement, but believe me, it is. There was drywall and insulation hidden in spots the camera couldn't reach - but my hands and vacuum did! The left view is from the living room to the kitchen, the right view from the corner by the fireplace, where the door leads to the stairs for the upper level.

Ghon and Tim came in from the rain and tried to plan next attacks for making progress at the house and finally had their lunch. Once I had the floor cleaned up, Ghon grabbed a small hand sander he found and tried sanding the dining room floor with minimal success. Didn't take long before we headed home after that. Rain stinks. I did have to laugh; Jonathan is always bugging us to do inside work, and now that we were inside, all he asked for was to work outside.

Ghon had off work on Monday (8/5/13) and spent some time reinforcing the chicken coop and constructing a new run. We had lost a few more chickens Sunday night. After attempting to further secure the run, and ordering a motor to automatically close the coop door at night, he also set a number of traps in the yard, one right by the coop. Tuesday before work, he stopped by and found success! He caught a raccoon in one of the leg traps. That makes two raccoons and a fox that we've removed from the situation. Unfortunately, there must be more in the area, as we had a few more casualties Wednesday night.

On my way home from work, I stopped to buy more raccoon bait, also known as chicken flavored cat food. I set three of the live traps. One by our meat birds, that should be leaving this weekend, one by the spot we caught the last raccoon, and one in the tall grass. I tried to think like Ghon, and looked for tracks. I couldn't find any, but thought the grass looked a little matted down. I'm hoping it's the path the suckers take to the coop, so I set another trap there.

When we've lost chickens, we've usually LOST them. Like, they are completely GONE. The last few times, we've found some parts, mainly a wing or a foot, left behind in the coop. I had been thinking about how anything could be getting into the coop. We don't have a door on the coop from the run, but Monday, Ghon had really secured the opening and the run. It looks kind of ridiculous, but we thought would do the trick. Somehow, they still got in.

Tonight, I think I figured it out. Raccoons can climb. I tried to figure out if there was a way that they could be climbing INTO the coop. On the sides of the coop, between the roof and two sides, there is an opening in the rafters. I wondered if that was how they were getting in. I did a little more investigation, and sure enough. I found foot prints. Foot prints. On the SIDE of the coop. It had to be how they were coming out - through the opening in the rafters, then down the side before jumping the rest of the way.

I must say, I am a little shocked and impressed with myself that I figured this out. Ghon is working a closing shift tonight, so I sent him a message to let him know what I thought - and he agrees. My fear now, is that he removed a lot of loose lumber from the inside of the coop - that I fear the raccoons may have used to climb up on their way out. If so, and they get in, I'm not sure how they will get out - or how many chickens they will eliminate while stuck inside.

Say a little prayer for the hens....

A Short History of Hummingbird Farm

For this post, we have a guest author - Ghon!

Since Kim has been after me about documenting the farm, I have a moment to lay out a time line. So if this doesn't bore you to tears here we go.....

October  2012: Ghon and Kimberly Eckley purchased the home and acreage from Charles Caswell

July 2010/October 2012: Property is split by the estate of Betty Ann Eckley (Caswell). Ghon inherits 9 acres of land, stepbrother Charles Caswell inherits the home and remaining acreage.

March 2010: Betty Ann Eckley assumed possession from the estate of Thomas Ghon Eckley

September 11, 1985: Thomas and Katie Eckley purchased the farm from Cleveland and Mary Smedley

September 11, 1961: Cleveland Smedley purchased farm from Leola Mae Crabill

April 3, 1954: Leola Crabill purchased farm from Asa and Ada Smoke

February 24, 1954: Asa and Ada smoke purchased farm from 8 separate Smokes. (Obviously estate settlement)

December 4, 1926:  A.L and J.W Smoke purchased farm from  Trustee M.M. Lynch

March 1, 1922: Jacob I Crabill purchased farm from Cora B. and P.F. Snapp

December 15, 1882: George W. Crabill purchased farm from Sheriff C.B. Hancock at auction on the court house steps in Winchester Virginia

It appears that there was a heated dispute over the property between interested parties in an Estate settlement.

Interesting fact about our boy George W. Crabill.  George Crabill was born January 28th 1839 and died April 18 1905. Enlisted into the Confederate Army June 18 1861 where he was in Company B of the 33rd Virginia Infantry. The 33rd Virginia was the core of the famous Stonewall Brigade.  The 33rd Virginia fought in every major engagement from 1st Bull Run in July 1861 to Spotsylvania courthouse where on May 12th 1864 the 33rd Virginia was capture almost in it entirety.

Mr Crabill was held in a Delaware POW camp until June 19th 1865.

The lineage of the home before this is very blurred.  But this is purely speculation with a hint of fact and a little evidence.  General Issac Zane, a Quaker (I know, a Quaker General) from Philadelphia Pennsylvania was looking for property in the Shenandoah Valley.  All along the western mountains of the valley are healthy deposits of iron ore. I found a deed from 1767 that describes a tract of land that from every indication had a small home and shared some of the same neighbors as our little home.  Also several people in the deed are buried in the cemetery across the street from the house at the church.  A little to coincidental if you ask me.  So if I get anymore information of course I will up date.  This is my raw attempt.  I'm sure my wife will "color it up a bit."

You did good, babe. Minor editing and I left your "rawness."  Thanks for writing a post!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Baking with Hummingbird Farm

I still have some unused squash that I need to use soon. Today though, I took advantage of a massive zucchini to do a little baking. I love baking. And if I can find a way to hide a veggie my kids otherwise won't eat, even if it is chocolate cake, I'll take it.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake and Zucchini Walnut Bread
Made with Hummingbird Farm zucchini and eggs!

The bread recipe makes two loaves, but calls for 1 cup of oil. I substituted applesauce in that recipe to make it a little bit healthier. Veggies, fruit, and nuts - what's not to love?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Trappin' 3.0

Got another critter. When I got to the farm this evening, the coop door was wide open. Chickens were walking around until they heard my car. The rooster came running at me, hens in tow. Unfortunately, it looks like we lost a few more hens.

Without my chicken catcher, I was wondering how I was going to catch all the chickens. Fortunately they were hungry enough and smart enough to follow my lead. I left the coop door open and entered the run through the gate, and filled their food container up. Suddenly, chicken after chicken came running through the coop to the run to eat! I only had to catch two, and the last one I was able to coax through the gate. Success!

After the chicken round up, I took a peek in the live trap in the field. Caught ourselves another chicken predator! This time, it was an opossum.

Shhhh. I'm sleeping!

When I took care of the chickens in the mobile pen, I found one was missing quite a few feathers and had been bleeding. There was a small gap in the wire on one side. Looks like there may have been another raccoon trying to break in, and this poor hen was caught up in the attack, but survived. I need Ghon to remove the opossum so we can try to catch the raccoon.

I removed the opossum. I was more nervous dealing with him than the groundhog. Ghon told me to walk him to the woods, and just like the groundhog, open the trap and run.  This time I did that. I got the trap open enough that he squeezed his way out, then stopped and spun around and stared at me. So, yeah, I ran down the hill before I stopped to see what it was doing. It took it's time moseying into the brush and toward the creek.

Ghon felt we could let this guy go since opossum apparently prey more on the eggs than the chickens. Hope he's right...