Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

Living in the sticks is challenging.  We have no cell reception. If the power goes out it can stay off for days and days while PG&E search the hills for the fault.  Our cars need new tires… a lot.

BUT we also have found ourselves in an amazing community.  We know every one of our neighbors and if we need some support (or they do) then there is always someone who has the knowledge or time that can help.  One of our neighbors used his tractor to plow our field the first year we were here; in turn when they were away and a tree fell on their drive M. went up and cut it up and moved it off the drive so when they got home late they would come home to a clear road.  We Llama-sit occasionally for another neighbor and in turn they chicken-sit for us. Equally one of our neighbors give E. a lift to her volunteer program in Boonville and we have yet to find something that can repay that generosity.

The Chicks: Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

The Chicks: Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

So last week when we got the call from  one neighbor about another who had been bereaved in January and just desperately needed to be rid of a Bantam hen and her chick to ease her worries: of course we said yes.  We really aren’t Bantam people (useless pet chicken anyone?) but the need was there and we had the space and time to help.

Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

So it is that Olive and little Pit joined our farm.  She is a masterful escape artist and a little firecracker with other chickens but she is sweet and placid with us.  We are having to keep her in a separate enclosure as one of the white Delaware took an instant dislike to Olive and while she has that little chick Olive has no intention of making peace.  The younger chickens are still in the broody-hen hutch so Olive and Pit are in a rabbit cage adapted slightly for her needs.

The Chicks: Pigwidgen, Baby, Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

The Chicks: Pigwidgen, Baby, Stupid, Dash, and Nutmeg

I know she adds to our daily chore list but really that’s what living in the country is about: we look after each-other and in the end our lives are all the richer for it.

xx Jo

A Worrier Justified

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

 M. and I had a fantastic time away while our children learned the value of having an unpaid slave about the house who does 90% of the house work without being asked… yeah it feels great to have your 16 year old admit she is so glad your back because being Mom is not as easy as it looks!

I would like to say that my worrying was totally justified!  I am not kidding that I got 2 out of 5… almost:  First of all a man DID break down and knock at our door while we were away… fortunately he wasn’t a psychopath… he just wanted to call AAA… unfortunately K. E. and J. didn’t do the things we had prearranged in case a random stranger showed up at the door.  SIGH.

And second: one of our chickens was taken.  We don’t know when but we suspect it was at night as one of the Delaware hens was particularly stupid (for a chicken): she would sit on the roosting bar all day and then get stuck outside the hutch when the automatic door closed at night.  The girls forgot to check and didn’t do a count in the evening… anyhow we found a mess of feather’s outside the hutch door and a path to where the varmint dug under the enclosure leaving some of it’s fur behind on the barbed wire.  So one stupid hen down and one coyote/fox/raccoon/bobcat well fed.

On the bright side we came home to find the baby rabbits had opened their eyes  and are so adorable!

New Zealand Rabbit kit, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

They are starting to get out of their nest which makes Champagne a very grumpy Mamma Rabbit!

New Zealand Rabbit kits, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

Sleepy Bunnies. So sweet!

M. and I went to Chico.  Its a beautiful town (in the middle) and a bog standard San Joaquin town on the outskirts.  M. and I were pretty happy to enjoy the time we had and explore some of the green (and sometimes not green) spaces.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Lower Bidwell Park. Bidwell is the largest municipal park in CA.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

The only proof I have that I was even there!

 

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

A potentially grungy Highway 99 underpass painted to look like a forest was unexpectedly charming.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Little Owl. x

Sadly Bidwell Mansion was not open when I was there but I enjoyed looking around the grounds none the less.

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Afterwards we drove out to Oroville and visited the lake and dam.  The situation in Lake Oroville is pretty horrifying: so little water! So take note LA county… your water supply is low… stop watering those darn lawns!

Lake Oroville, California

Look at the huge swathe of dry bank… at the end of winter with a 6% snow pack in the Sierras!!

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En-route home we stopped of at an awesome little flea-market where I picked up a collection of  Spode Fairy Dell china:  $20.  I am so thrilled!

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

I was happy to be home and in my own bed but I do miss being away  just a little:  the hotel room had the most enormous bath in the main bedroom suite without any children knocking to use the restroom, and I didn’t have to think about feeding anyone for awhile.  Oh well, back to being the unpaid house slave.

xx Joanna

Bunny Watch: Champagne’s Kittens

4 day old kits, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1Sunday night/ Monday morning Champagne had her litter.  The clever girl had 8 largish kittens all in her box and all alive and well. We thought she was done but 24 hours later I went out to check the kits and found a dead one about twice the size of the others on top of her nesting materials.  This is a pretty common thing when a doe has bigger kits. They can get stuck and then they die in the birth canal.  Sometimes a dead kit can kill a doe if she never manages to birth it. I think Champagne is in the clear now as she is feeding the kittens and eating and drinking happily.

1 day old bunny, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

I have managed to misplace my camera-computer port link (it does sometimes get hijacked by K. so I am not entirely certain I misplaced it but it does seem likely I’m the culprit) so there are no photos with this post… but I will add them in when I find the port!  My port finally showed up… I was totally the culprit who didn’t put it away properly.  🙂

Newborn kittens are hairless, soft as suede and their eyes are closed.  They look kind of like little tiny Bull Terriers!  Champagne’s litter is a mix of black and broken (black and white spotted).  When you pick them up they squeak and nudge your fingers looking for milk and if they just want to be somewhere warmer and quieter they dig with their tiny little soft claws against your fingers trying to get covered again… so adorable!

4 day old bunny, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

There is an old wives tale that you should never handle kittens when they are young because the doe will reject them.  Any rabbit breeder will tell you differently.  You MUST handle your kits even if just to check they are all alive and not rotting in the nest passing on infections etc.  If  you have handled your doe enough she should be rather disinterested in you handling the kits.  Champagne is interested enough to sniff around where the nest should be when we take it out every day to check on the bunnies but she is totally laid back about our handling the kits.

4 day old kit, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

I sincerely don’t know where this week has gone but I wish it would come back so I could get more jobs done!  For now… I’ve gotta get myself back to doing all the millions of things that need done around an old farmhouse.

Take care my lovelies. xx

Joanna

Bunny Watch: Champagne

Champagne (our biggest New Zealand doe) is going to kit this week.

Champagne, New Zealand doe

A few facts:

30 days = a rabbit’s gestation

once in 24 hours= the frequency of the doe feeding her kits

3 to 5 days= about how long before the babies get fur

10 days= the time the bunnies will open their eyes

2 weeks= about the time before the babies are ready to leave the nest and begin hopping about the cage

Champagne is a lovely doe, and currently very docile.  She is happy to be stroked and likes her nose scratched but this is our first litter from her so until we see her caring for them appropriately we don’t know what sort of breeder she will make.

Champagne, New Zealand doe

I promise pictures of tiny baby bunnies when we start to see them!  Welcome to bunny watch 2015! 🙂

xx

Joanna

Even The Chickens Know It

Everything is looking particularly luscious in northern CA.

Spring blossom @ Sweet Little Wood

Plum blossom by the chicken hutch.

It won’t last but for now we are enjoying laying in fresh green grass (without stickers stuck all over our bodies), admiring the flowers dotting the hillsides (before the heat scorches them away) and enjoying the warmth of the sun sinking into our bones (without being boiled in our own juices).  It may not officially be spring, but spring has definitely hit us.  A friend who has lived in the area her whole life has been insisting that this isn’t spring because there are still some frosts to come but what she doesn’t realize is that in England (even on the south coast) we sometimes had frosts in June which would by no means negate the fact that we felt summer had already started! It’s spring in California regardless of the date of the Vernal Equinox.

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Even the chickens know it: they started laying eggs this weekend.  Tiny little eggs which they announce by kicking up an almighty ruckus out in the field every single time one of them lays.

First Eggs

A hen's first egg vs full grown  hen's eggs

A hen’s first egg vs full grown hen’s eggs.

We also have the next flush of little hens who are starting to look a little less fluffy as their feathers grow in.  I always think they look a little like punks at this stage with feathers at awkward angles and a bit of a martial glint entering their eye!

2 week old chick @ Sweet Little Wood

I’ve gotten a lot of the early planting done: potatoes are in the ground, as well as peas, onions and garlic.  Soon the herbs will be sprouting up and the process of blanching, chopping and freezing them in cubes will begin so we can enjoy fresh basil, mint and cilantro all year round.

Salad Table @ Sweet Little Wood

Little Gem Romaine lettuce.

M. built a salad table this winter which is so great.  It’s such a simple thing (a box with wire base- raised up to waist level) but makes keeping lettuce and spinach pest free and looked after very easy.  We have a wooden frame over the top for deer netting lest all my work becomes a snack for the local wild life. The best thing about growing lettuce this way is that right now the salad table is in a position to soak in plenty of sun but as the temperatures rise and the lettuce needs a more sheltered position we can move it to the cooler side of the house, extending  the lettuce growing season (hopefully) by about a month.

Salad Table @ Sweet Little Wood

A raised Salad table. Early plantings of lettuce and spinach.

So for all you poor folks still under snow: spring is coming! Fear not!

2 week old chick @ Sweet Little Wood

xx

Joanna

Time and Quiescence

Hello there!

I have had an upsetting week since my last post.  Our landlord had decided he isn’t happy about the goats and has demanded they go.  I am so sad and I need to try to focus on making sure they have a good home so I’m going to have to take a short break- about a week- from the blog.  I haven’t the heart to be cheery about it all yet and we have a lot of small things to do which may help us find them a herd to join or a good home to go to.

I will be back in just in a little bit.  Maybe a little heart-sore but smiling again.

xx

Jo

Brown, Yellow and Cheep

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

This week we were thrilled to get to welcome our new little flock of chicks! In every single way this has been our best experience getting new chickens.

Unless you are lucky enough to live near a good breeder chicks usually have to arrive by mail which is always nerve wracking: knowing that these tiny little creatures have endured a rather traumatic first experience always gives me regret.  We have received a few mail-order chick/duckling deliveries and always when the box arrives a few chicks have died en-route, usually the hatchery provides a few extra to make up for the loss.  Our worst experience (when half of them died) the chicks were clearly more than a few days old; the delivery was expected to be 30 chicks what arrived was only 18 and then a further three died and we just managed to save a little Easter-egger we named Pig-widgen who never quite recovered her full wits but was very sweet regardless.  After that we had decided not to order chicks by post because opening the box and not knowing what we would find felt too traumatic.  However we realized that the chicks we could buy at the farm stores in town were delivered by mail and basically you were being buffered from the chicks trauma but not in fact preventing it.

As M. feels quite passionate about the welfare of his animals and believes that for a chicken to be in its best condition it needs as little change in habitat as possible so buying a chick which has been shipped to a third party just for us to collect it from them at a later date did not seem to suit the animal’s (or M.’s) needs.  He researched the best possible breed for our needs- dual purpose birds (good for eggs and meat), who give a good number of eggs a year and pure-bred so that we could breed our own flock  further down the line with good results maintaining the breed characteristics.

The Tiny Red Chicken Barn: Sweet Little Wood

M.’s design Red Barn Chicken Hutch is big enough to house 30 chickens who free-range during the day. The barn is equipped with a solar-powered door which opens on a set timer- best small farm product EVER!

He found Whitmore Farm.  They are a heritage breeds farm with a strong emphasis on animal welfare without antibiotics or hormones.  Our experience with Whitmore has been beyond brilliant.  They have such a genuine concern for the chicks they ship M. and I have been thrilled with the service, communication but especially the birds.  The chicks all arrived alive and energetic with plenty of vim.  They were clearly shipped within the first day of life as the box they traveled in had tiny spots of the green poop that chicken’s pass soon after hatching- just like human babies pass meconium.   Early shipping is important because they have a little bit of the egg-yolk sack left inside their body after hatching to help them adapt and if shipped later than a day that yolk sack can be too depleted to help them.  They all responded to the food a water enthusiastically and immediately began exploring their enclosure in the barn.  Usually chicks are quite skittish of humans but these little balls of fluff are insatiably curious without any fear and have been chasing my hand around their box to get a closer look. We haven’t lost a single chick even three days later when it would be usual for the weakest to have shown the stress of shipping.

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

We ordered a mix box of breeds. We did pay more money per bird (for the purebred breeding and ethos of the farm) from Whitmore Farm than we have previously from other “big box” breeders.  We specifically requested half Delaware which are dual purpose and the other half were to be whatever was hatching at the right time: which happened to be Welsummer.  So the little cream-yellow chicks are Delaware and probably about half of them will end up in our freezer.  We intend to keep one male but the rest of the males will be reared for meat.  The adorable little Chipmunk striped chicks are the Welsummer.   Welsummer have sex-linked features so we can tell already which are male and which are female.  For those of you who are curious the female Welsummer have a thicker eyeliner and more distinctive stripe on their head than the less strongly marked males.

Like so:

Welsummer chick- sex-linked, female on left. male on right: Sweet Little Wood

Female on the left, Male on the right.

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

Welsummer and Delaware chicks from Whitmore Farm: Sweet Little Wood

 They are such beautiful little creatures and for once I feel that we made the perfectly right decision with our breed suppler.

Welsummer chick- sex-linked, female: Sweet Little Wood

So what’s Brown,Yellow and Cheep?

xx

Jo