Saturday, September 4, 2010


Whoo knows what evils lurk?

9 pm. After playing 20 questions with a toddler who didn't care that it was bedtime or that her sister was trying to nurse and sleep, everyone is finally tucked in.
Outside, Alaska makes it's presence known. Night is returning. The 9 pm sky was dusky enough to cause the shadows to play tricks on me. Every dark patch is a potential moose, bear, or wolf. Simple things like a chicken squawking because it was locked out of the coop make you jump out of your skin. I hurried through outside evening chores. Didn't pet chickens or talk to the turkeys as usual. Wanted to get back to the house before the shadows ate me. With the chickens locked up in their coop, I scurried up the path to the house, a watchful eye on the treeline, a skittish glance around the corner of the house to make sure the water was turned off.

Only once I was safely on the front porch did I pause to really survey the scenery. The dark of twilight gave sharp contrast to the yellow hues of the birch and cottonwood trees. Details like peeling bark stand out against those same spooky shadows. A glint of light off an owl feather high in the spruce trees makes me glad the chickens are tucked away. "That's MY dinner" I say out loud to the night predator.
Smoke curls from the neighbor's chimney. Wood smoke is carried through the damp chill of the autumn-like night. I take a deep breath of it. Damp, smoke, rotting leaves, wet dirt, and even yucky chicken yard... I love this season.
I survey the 2.65 acre homestead and think about tomorrow's work. Much to do.
Meanwhile, I should head in and build a fire. It was 36F this morning when I let the chickens out. There was ICE in their waterer. No doubt now. Summer days, driftin' away. That's okay by me. I'm ready to settle down for the big chill.

Farm work is calling this week! We'll begin by butchering a few chickens tomorrow. By Tuesday evening, we'll be eating from our own stock. (For farm rookies, "resting" the meat after butchering makes it more tender. I could tell you the science of that but don't want to offend anyone's taste for meat.) It's a bittersweet occassion for me. I tried hard, but I admit that I love all my little birds. Even the surly rooster that really needs to be butchered because he's come after me twice. He has a name, but I can't print it. Poor guy. He's first on the chopping block.
*Ricky Bobby might be spared. He's a good rooster. It's a toss up between him and another really good fellow. *

We'll only be butchering a few birds- mostly roosters and the Cornish Rocks that were selected as meat birds from the start. We'll do the major culling and butchering once we establish a good laying flock. Still waiting for eggs from the freeloading hens.

Once butchering is done, we'll finish clearing off a portion of the land and try to get a bulldozer in here to level it off. Once that is done, we may be able to get the flock to higher ground.

The potatoes will be harvested this week. The rest of the garden was ripped out and will be tilled under, along with a blend of poo to fester under the snow all winter long. Maybe then we'll get a better garden. If I can get them in time, I'll try to put in garlic starts.

Then, the task that will continue until it's too cold to be outside (because it will neve be "done")- splitting and stacking wood. And even when it's too cold to be outside, J will likely continue to split and stack wood, because it will still need to be done. Me? I'll be knitting by the fire, or homeschooling at the kitchen table, or watching reruns of my favorite Little House episodes on DVD.

I should be reviewing butchering instructions in our poultry raising library.
Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wood Rich

Some years ago, a song called "Hood Rich" was a big 'thang'. Not my particular genre, but it was popular during my paramedic days. In Montgomery, AL. So of course, my work partner and I knew all the words.
This song randomly came up in my head today while stacking firewood. That's the only reason I mention it.

Sometimes, when performing an otherwise mundane chore (like stacking firewood), I amuse myself by doing random calculations in my head. I stacked 2 cords of wood today. Going rate for firewood is $250/cord. Between J cutting, hauling, and splitting and me splitting (or splintering) and stacking, we saved ourselves $500. And that's just the first pile of wood we put up.
We are hoping to hav 10-12 cords of wood set up before winter hits.
And we have a head start on next year's wood. All the trees we cut down while clearing land this year has been cut and stacked on the side of the property, creating a wall of wood along the property line.

Other calculations for the day (interpretation: more mundane tasks):
- clean chicken coop: priceless. Seriously.
We built the coop in spring. We covered the roof with plastic until we had time to shingle it. That project fell to the wayside. A recent wind storm (which rivals a few of the tropical storms we experienced in the south) tore the plasic all to bits. We removed the remaining plastic and planned to put up shingles on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the rainy season started on Sunday. Translation: water filled chicken coop.
Anyone who has experince with chickens knows that a chicken coop doesn't smell pretty even at it's very best. Add water, wet hay, wet feathers, mud, and wet manure... Oh my. Disgusting.
We spent the morning tacking up new plastic (in the rain). Then we finally decided we needed to expand the chicken run, because, well, the yard was also flooded. In fact, the yard was essentially mud, straw, and poop. Lots of poop. Chicken yard expanded (in the rain). The chickens are eternally grateful. They ran for higher ground and cackle ridiculously at me until their coop was shoveled and dried out and reparations made. Translation: fresh grain of their choosing and lots of salad greens from the fridge. The roosters also demanded a romp with the hens through the potato patch. Poor potatoes!
I spent the afternoon continuing to muck the coop and find suitable dry bedding. Also fancied up the nest boxes in an attempt to make the hens find it desirable to lay some eggs. Dang freeloading hens. J laughed at me for hanging curtains in the nest boxes. For the record, I have read an heard on good authority that the hens like some privacy for laying. And the darker, cozier environment should keep potential egg eaters out of the nest. J still laughed at the fact that the chickens have curtains and our cabin doesn't. I told him to go be productive. (Or something to that effect.)
J decided to till up the muddy chicken yard. For the record, um, yuck.
The chicken yard is now tilled up mud, straw, and poop. We desperately searched our resources for absorbent materials. We made a haybale walkway surrounding the coop. We dumped sawdust into the soggiest spots. I suggested digging a pond. My suggestion was not well received from the guy cleaning chicken manure and mud off his brand new tiller.
I decided NOT to mention that I had requested a different location for the coop when we built it. I decided NOT to mention that I had pointed out the extremely wet mud pit (the kind that sucks your boot off your foot) right in front of the coop when "they" decided to build it there anyway. I'm not sure the poop covered guy would have been thrilled about a poorly timed "I told you so".
I finished the coop decor and went back to stacking wood.
In the rain.
Priceless. Though I'll be happy to have shingles on the roof as soon as we hit a dry spell.

Land clearing continues. J and the chainsaw are good pals. Rumor has it that he may be ready to rent a 'dozer next week. IF he's not moose hunting instead.

Today is Open Season (moose). Delta Junction is one happening place. Hunters from all over AK are in our woods, trying their luck.

I pulled a 2 gallon pail worth of potatoes out of two rows today. Time to try some
of those recipes.

Jack's Daddy: I liked the 'recipe' you posted, but did you know that McDonald's lists "dairy" and "wheat" (gluten) as INGREDIENTS in their French fries? How weird is that?!? Silly me. I thought French fries were potatoes, oil, and salt.

Oh! Anyone who wants a dog but isn't allowed to have one because your husband doesn't want one (or anyone who just likes
dogs, especially labs) should check out
I confess to shamelessly using Jack as my virtual dog.

Mis Liz: if I could get my hens to lay me eight eggs, your breakfast casserole would be at the top of my list! I might halve the recipe an give it a try, because it sounds so yummy!

Ok. Time's up! Time to tuck babies and birds into their nests for night-night. Then some sleep for this coop muckin', curtain hanging, poop tilling, potato digging, wood stacking TIRED woman!

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails