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Thursday, January 26, 2012

State of the Homestead

I started reading blogs again only to discover several old friends decided to call it quits and go on to other pursuits. Two other friends simply stopped blogging without public explanation. It almost felt like an epidemic. All told, eight friends have either given up writing or put it on a permanent back-burner. I know it's crossed my mind a time or two. There's so much I want to do now that I have the time.

The homestead has been busy. We burned a couple of big brush piles, tilled and fertilized the garden, and started a big bed of onions and garlic. We culled the rest of the roosters, and now the hens are producing eggs like crazy.

I don't mean to sound sexist, but I'm always surprised how much calmer the hens are when we get rid of most of the roosters. Those bullies just agitate everyone.

My big surprise this week is that we FINALLY got a green egg. I was so disappointed because my Americaunas (known as the Easter egg chickens) hadn't produced any green or blue eggs. They were all brown. But at least one hen from our new batch of layers is laying green eggs. Now to find out which one because I want more of her babies.

Outside: I started my seedlings for the spring. I'm trying to hide them from Iko because he loves to pull out the tender plants and carry them around like limp trophies. I have no idea why he enjoys pulling them out. It's not like they fight back.

Inside: We'll be spending a good chunk of change this year. I painted two of the guest rooms and the carpeting guys are coming in a couple of weeks to lay carpet. We're also replacing our Corian kitchen counter top with granite. I just left the showroom and picked out my stone.

The kitchen cabinets are still in great shape, but I'm going to sand them down and give them a fresh coat of white enamel. That should make them pop against the new counters. The only other thing I need in the kitchen is for Greg to tear out the built-in wood wine rack and replace it with a wine cooler. I never liked that wine rack. It's almost impossible to clean. The cooler will be more practical.

Plant futures: The seed catalogs have arrived and I've been plotting the new gardens. This year I'm going to raise a separate garden strictly for the animals. I'm planting corn, soybeans, and mangels. Mangels will be new for us. It's a kind of sugar beet that's supposed to be nutritious for animals (and humans).

I also want to expand my blackberry brambles. Because they're such tender fruits, blackberries are very expensive at the store. I thought it might make a good farmer's market product in a couple of years.

Animals: Goats are still on the agenda and we'll be looking for stock in March. The one activity that's got me both apprehensive and intrigued is milking. I want to learn how to make cheese.

Dogs: Tank is ten years old. It seemed just yesterday when he joined the family. We rescued him when he was two-years-old. He was found wandering the roads. When they caught him, he escaped his pen only to be found the next day sleeping on the office couch. They warned us he was an escape artist but in truth he was just looking for a comfortable place to sleep. He's no dumb bunny. Tank never met a couch he didn't like.

The vet gave him a clean bill of health despite all his lumps. With any luck he should make it to twelve. That's a pretty good run for a rottie his size. He's a giant dog.

Poor old boy is all gray around the muzzle, but he can still give Iko a run for his money. Iko idolizes him. That goofy dog will surely miss him when he's gone. Despite being polar opposites, they've been good friends from the start.

Me: Since you guys have asked, I'm okay. I'm still very sad, but we had some closure when we made Murray a nice grave lined with stone and brick. In the spring I'm going to plant some rosemary there. For some reason, Murray really liked the smell of that herb. Rosemary is the symbol of remembrance and it seems apropos to plant him a little cutting for his grave.

My spring comes early so I'm trying to get my plans in place. Is there anything special you're looking forward to in the spring? Books, movies, gardening?

When Greg gets back we want to catch Red Tails. Greg's a big WWII buff. He's hoping the movie will be historically accurate. If it's not I'll never hear the end of it. :)  Has anyone seen this yet? Any good?

**Has anyone ever try different sorts of eggs? Duck? Quail? Ostrich? Have you ever seen green or blue chicken eggs?


Marianne Arkins said...

Our Americaunas only laid green eggs. We never got blue -- I was always disappointed, lol.

Milking goats is very easy, provided you have strong hands. It's MUCH easier than milking cows. Plus goats are smaller and a little easier to manhandle (despite being MUCH smarter than cows ... and sneakier). Do you know what kind you'll get? We had Nubians and Alpines. Nubians have richer milk with more butter fat, if that matters.

I have garden envy. I won't be able to even THINK about planting for another 2 - 3 months.

Wishing Tank many more years with you.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: The americaunas we had 20 years ago only gave us green and blue eggs. But we got stiffed with this batch. LOL. That's why I was so excited when one of the hens started laying green eggs.

Ref: goats
We're planning on Boer and Boer-cross since we want to raise them specifically for meat. We're not big milk drinkers here, but we do like cheese. I'm sorry to hear milking requires a lot of hand strength. That might be a problem for me down the road.

Tank sends you kisses. :)

Angelina Rain said...

Looks like you've been busy lately.

I've never seen any green eggs, but let us know if they taste any different then regular chicken eggs.

Have fun with the indoor remodeling. I always repaint rooms every couple of years just because I get bored of the came colors for too long.

Ref: Tank - Wishing him many more years with you.

Sarah Ahiers said...

AHH! I want chickens so bad!!! And goats! I just really, really want a little farm.
I'm so jealous you're planning the gardens already. We can't even begin to think about it until March.
Though we do have plans to expand the garden again this year. Firts week in May. Hopefully it won't be too cold then, so we can plant seeds and seedling then as well.

L.G.Smith said...

I had no idea you had goats. I love seeing the little ones jump around in the spring.

Spring for me this year means travel. I go to the UK at the end of March and I'm beyond excited. I get to see all the places I've been writing about for the last two years.

Mike Keyton said...

Iko loves to pull out the tender plants and carry them around like limp trophies. I have no idea why he enjoys pulling them out. It's not like they fight back.

Dog's got brains

Scarlett said...

Collecting dozens of our warm, fresh-laid brown and green eggs from the hen house takes me back to my childhood. It's one of my most favorite, favorite chores here at Barefoot Acres.

I remember my heart racing in my chest, as my grandmother explained how to take charge of those hens. Our hens today are so much more calm and manageable.

Our Ameraucanas lay only green. Perhaps the blue eggs originated with the Auraucana hens, but was bred out.

I'm also envious of your garden going in already! It will be Mother's Day before I get anything in here in Missouri. I've had a run of bad luck and timing the last couple of years. Should have followed that Farmer's Almanac!

I have a friend who raised goats, Nubians mostly, I think. She made soap as Christmas gifts, which were amazing! She gave them all away last year, after the coldest night of the year took too many babies in one night. Heartbreaking.

We tried fostering twins for her two summers ago, so she could wean them. Two days of incessant crying! Bout lost our minds. *grin*

All of your planning has me thinking about mine this morning. It's raining here ~ no snow yet! Wrens are checking out an old nest here on the front porch and Juncos are popping up all over the yard with their grey coats and white bellies. Love Spring, but Winter has a ways to go yet.

Lovely reading your post this morning before I head out. Thank you!

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: All chicken eggs taste the same. Duck eggs have a slightly richer flavor. There is a definite taste difference between store eggs and yard eggs though.
Ref: Tank
From your lips to God's ear. Thanks.

Sarah: Ooh, I hope you'll post pictures on your expanded garden. I love to see other people's yards.

LG: No goats yet. But soon, I hope. We built I ginormous pen for them last year.

Mike: Stop defending him! He drives me crazy with how delicately he pulls them out of their pots. I barely notice they're gone until I find their wilted carcasses in another room.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Scarlett and welcome! According to the Americauna Org, 99% of Americauna and Auraucana chickens are mongrels--which probably accounts for all my brown egg layers. But at least I have one who has the green egg gene.

Tending the chickens is the most relaxing part of my day. I love to watch them.

You got me a little nervous about fostering baby goats. I hope I won't have to do that any time soon. But I'm excited too. We've never raised goats before.

Ref: soap
Yes! I read about that the other day. I want to try that too.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stacy McKitrick said...

Never knew there were green & blue eggs. Learn something new everyday, I suppose.

My mother used to buy eggs from the farm - would go out of her way and do it, too. Me, I'm lucky I use eggs up before they go bad. And that's not because I don't eat them. I just don't cook a lot!

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Do green eggs taste any different? Are they different colored inside or just the shell? Did you already answer this and I'm just lazy?

I'm looking forward to everything. It's a very forward looking year.

Shelley Munro said...

That green egg is very cool. I haven't seen one before. My mother used to use duck eggs in baking. I don't remember much about the taste though. All I know is that they're meant to be good for baking.

It sounds as if your spring will be very busy. I had to grin about Iko and the plants. Bella does the same thing and is always running around with cuttings she's acquired.

Goats are so cute. A neighbor has a kid tethered in their lawn. It's the cutest little thing - all black - and they take it for walks. Bella always wants to play with it. I'm sure she thinks it's another puppy.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: I'm beginning to think you cook less than I do. LOL. My parents used to drive to Indiana and buy 30 dozen eggs from a farmer. With six kids they went through a lot of eggs.

Barbara: Green eggs taste the same as any other chicken eggs. Only the shell is colored.

Shelley: When we had ducks, Greg would insist on having the duck eggs for breakfast. We don't have a lot of pasture, but I plan to use the goats to clear out a lot of our woods. You need to post more pictures of Bella. It's been too long.

Angela Brown said...

As an apartment dweller, I always love hearing about the goings on at your homestead. It gives me a brief moment to feel I've entered open spaces, even if only for a moment.

The only eggs I've ever had are chicken eggs. Until I learned of what they looked like from a couple of ranch owners, I thought they all came in white only.

I know...just slap my poor hand.

Sending a big hug to you and the boys. Glad you're doing well and it's good to hear Tank is going along quite well.

Lots happening at the homestead. I look forward to hearing more about your progress.

Rosie Lane said...

You can get green and blue chicken eggs? How very bizarre.

I was so sorry to hear about Murray. Rosemary sounds like a wonderful idea.

jackie b central texas said...

Maria, welcome back and your plans for little Murray's grave is sweet. Way to go Tank, keep up the good work!

Excited to say we put in a few of my salvaged Lillie's from our old property and picking up our new tiller tomorrow so my Husband can get his plot worked up and his onions in this weekend.

Eggs have always eaten white, my mother had some hens growing up that layed green and blue Ans she loves Duck Eggs.

Darke Conteur said...

I'm sitting here reading about how you're starting to plant things, and I look out the window, and it's snowing. Yeah. Won't be planting anything here for a few more months. :(

AS for the eggs, that picture is just awesome!

Sarita said...

I have missed you, my friend. It sounds like life is finding a rhythm again for you and I am so glad to hear it. Please, give Tank hugs for me. I wish him many happy, healthy days rambling about your homestead.

Oh, I love it that you are already planting! I can't even begin to think about that for at least two months. I may begin some things in the greenhouse, but then again I might just buy a few plants since I plan to keep the garden very small this year. Last year was monstrous, and there are still freezers and pantries full so this season I will cut back.

Your green egg is gorgeous! Looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book! (I love Dr. Seuss)

Jenny Schwartz said...

I loved the mental vision of Iko with the seedlings as trophies :)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: You live too close not to visit the farm. Surely you can find a reason to visit Dallas, and places north. If you ever find yourself up in this direction, you let me know.

Rosie: The green eggs are such a conversation starter. Everyone expects them to be green all the way through. :)

Jackie: We got a good soaking rain, didn't we? And it sounds like the weather is going to remain mild. Keeping fingers crossed we won't have a repeat of 2011.

Darke: You're in Canada, aren't you? You guys have had some wicked weather lately. I hope at least the snow subsides for you soon. And kudos for taking in that little stray kitty. She's adorable!

Sarita: That's it exactly. I was missing my rhythm. It takes time, doesn't it? And it only goes on its own schedule. I didn't know you had a greenhouse. That's great. Have you ever thought about growing some veggies or flowers for the farmer's market?

Jenny: You too? That kind of talk just encourages him. :O

Dru said...

Hi Maria,

Wow, wow, and wow. I love what you are doing.

Susan Roebuck said...

Lovely post - green eggs, how the hens are better off without the roosters, your heart-break over your pets, and your future plans. This is a perfect blog post. And I just read your post on Monday and I'm afraid I'm guilty, guilty, guilty. Thanks for putting this into perspective for me. Now I'm going to get on the right track, I hope. Thank you :-)

Rula Sinara said...

You're busy! But spring does come a lot sooner in TX than here in VA. The idea of planting rosemary is so beautiful. And very cool about the green eggs.

I love granite showrooms. I could spend an entire day there just looking at the gorgeous variety. Have fun with your renovations. My next project is to paint the master bedroom, which is still drab with builder issue paint.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: The $64,000 question is how long can I keep it up. :)

Susan: Aw, thanks, Susan. I try to write the kind of things I'd like to know of the people I follow.

Rula: I was drooling in that showroom. And then I made the poor salesman give me a tour of the cutting and polishing areas. He even had somebody with boom pole pull out several pieces of stone so I could make up my mind. They had to work for their money. LOL. But they were nice about it.

Clarissa Draper said...

I have never seen a green egg before. Is that where green eggs and ham comes from? I wonder...

Lots of things happening with you. You sound so busy. I'm still really sad about Murray. I'm glad he had a decent burial.

Peggy Eddleman said...

So sad when people call it quits. :(

But home improvements make me so excited! Especially getting new carpet. How fun! I hope you love it!

Lady Gwen said...

You are one busy lady! I wanted to stop by and say thanks for your kind words on my blog re: the loss of Nina. You are obviously a pet lover, too. I'm sorry about Murray - rosemary sounds like a lovely tribute. P.S. I had a 150 lb rottie once - he was so awesome - very protective.

Maria Zannini said...

Clarissa: That would make sense if it did.

Peggy: I don't know that I'd call it sad. It's sad if you stick with something that's no longer fulfilling.

Lady Gwen: All in a week's work. :) It was so nice of you to drop by. I know your heart is still heavy.

Raelyn Barclay said...

Oh my, so many plans! Of course you're living my dream :) I'm not sure a garden is going to happen this year, sadly I'm not coordinated or overly motivated for some reason.

I love the rosemary for Murray, it's perfect. Wishing Tank many, many more years with you.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: It's a dream with blisters and sore muscles, but I don't care.

Tank sends you a sweet kiss--and one for Roxie too. (He's always been a ladies' man.)

Nadja Notariani said...

I have an 'easter-egg-layer', but she's been on strike for about 6 weeks...not laying a single egg! Congrats...I've heard that you can get anywhere from an army-green to a teal shade from their eggs. We get a pale green from our girl, whom the boys call 'Owl-lette'.