Poultry in Summertime

Our chickens and ducks have been enjoying this summer. We let them free range when we are home, and they love to wander around our yard, looking for yummy things to eat. We currently have 4 ducks and 29 chickens (14 adults, 15 chicks/almost adults). Here are some updated pictures of the flock:

older ducks
Here are our older lady ducks. These two and the new ducks still hang out in two pairs, mostly. We can tell them apart because these ladies have dark-stained bills, the newbies have orange bills.
newbie ducks
Here are the new ducks, they were running away when I tried to take their picture. Another way to tell the pairs apart is that the male (in back, here) quacks softly, all the time. So you always know where he is in the yard.
Esky
Here is Esky (short for Escape Artist). She is one of our oldest hens, and the only one who lays white eggs.
esky daughter
Here is Esky’s daughter – she has the same comb as her mom, and was born the next year (so is about 3 years old)
brahmas
Here are our two Buff Brahmas, they were enjoying a dust bath. They along with Esky make up our 4 year old hens.
bertram
Here is our older (2 years old?) rooster Bertram, patrolling the yard.
food
Here are a bunch of chickens coming for treats. The black hen at the front is an older lady, and most of the rest are chicks from this year. You can see some of the coloring now – some of the chicks have really amazing feather patterns.
orloff son
I believe this is a young rooster, and he looks like a young Bertram.
chicks
Here are more chicks – they are all different – some light, some bright orange, some black and gray. We have a lot of muff-necked chickens now.
red and brown
Here is one of the really cool looking ones – orange and black with a muff neck.
white roo
Here is one of our young roosters. If you look back at our chick pics, this one was the one with little cat-eye eyeliner. He likes to come out of the coop each morning and crow before Bertram does. Bertram doesn’t seem to mind just yet.
buff hen
Here is a Buff-Orpington looking hen (she seems docile like a hen, anyway) as well as the back of our older Brahma’s head.

 

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The Farm in early July

This summer’s garden is going well.  We have had a weirdly dry year, compared to the last few. I have had to water things to make sure my seeds sprout. (I’ve had seeds drown and wash away in previous years). Everything seems to be growing pretty well though.  The chickens and ducks are doing well too, and seem to be happy with the summer weather. Here is a photo tour of our little farm:

roses
The roses are blooming. My parents planted these many years ago.
roses 2
Here is a better view of the roses.
peonies
Peonies. These smell really nice.
columbine
Here is the columbine I found in the roadside ditch last year and transplanted to my front flower bed. It grew back this summer and bloomed, so it must like its new spot.
bleeding hearts
Bleeding hearts (this photo is catching the end of the bloom for this year).
hens
Some of my older hens hanging out near the shady side of the house.
chicks
Here are the chicks – they are doing well although we lost another one about a week after my last post. (I was on vacation, my husband said that he counted at night and one was missing, with no trace). We have luckily not lost any more since then. So we now have 15 chicks (29 total chickens). They are almost full sized so hopefully that will deter whatever took the two we lost. They free range in our yard, so they were behind the chicken coop here.
bright chick
This is one of the chicks. Possibly a hen, we are just starting to figure out who is what. We have at least three young roosters, based on them crowing. We’ll have to decide what to do with them later this year.
comfrey
My Comfrey is doing well. I put in 3 plants a few years ago and they keep coming back and spreading a bit. They are pretty and the bees like them.
strawberries
Some of our strawberry harvest! My patch did really well this year, I got at least 6 cups of strawberries.
potatoes and squash
Here is a side view of my back garden – the potatoes are on the left, summer squash on the right in the middle of this picture. Strawberry patch is behind the summer squash.
cauliflower and brussels
My cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and lettuce on the right.
butternut
Butternut squash plants. I put in a fence trellis for them to climb – the trellis is resting on the main outside fence of the garden, with enough room for us to go in and grab fruit if it ends up hanging under the trellis.
garlic
The garlic are doing really well. I harvested some scapes the other day.
corn
Here are some of our corn. I have two patches, two different kinds – these are a Golden Bantam variety.
peanuts
Peanuts! These are growing well, as far as I can see. Our summer has become hot and humid lately, and they seem to like that.
onions
My onions. These are doing nice.
main garden
Here is a picture of the right side of the main garden – the other corn patch is in the background. Then coming forward there are peanuts, peppers/green onions, and cucumbers/shallots.
tomato fencing
Here you can see my tomato trellises. I set it up right this year (instead of using sticks like last year). I just used welded wire fence sections, and pounded some stakes in and attached the fence with wire. I tied the tomatoes up after I took this pic – most of my tomatoes are determinate varieties but they still get pretty big, and droopy when the fruit comes in. Some are indeterminate though. They are starting to get flowers now. I can’t wait for tomatoes!
grape vine
A grape vine my uncle gave me last year. I had it in a pot until late fall and I realized “oh, I’d better get that in the ground before it snows.” – I put it in not knowing if it would come back, but it did. It’s in a good spot too, right at the fence at the northern side of the main garden, so it can grow there and not be in the way.
sunflower
Here is my tallest sunflower so far – it’s about 3.5 feet tall currently. I have 14 or 15 sunflowers coming up that I’ve found so far.  I planted several seeds, but I have some rogues coming up as well.

More Ducks!

My ducks have been seeming to want male attention. They keep bugging my rooster; they will bob their heads and quack while surrounding him. He has not seemed interested at all, so I figured I should try to find an adult male duck to add to the flock. I put an ad out on Craigslist, and was contacted by someone who needed a home for his pair of Pekins – a male and a female. So we now have two more ducks. Pictures are below of the ducks together, and some updated chick pics:

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Here are all four together.
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The orange-billed ducks in the middle here are the newbies, they are about a year old.
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My older girls have the darker bills – they are about 3.
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Everyone has been getting along well. Yesterday they went in their pool, taking turns – the new ducks went in first, swam a bit, and then the older ladies went and took their turn – the pool only fits two of them at a time. But I thought it was cute that they are taking turns.
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Here they were hanging out their first full day here. We got them over the weekend.
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The chickens were hanging around them as well.
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Here are the chicks – they are getting very big. They are about half the size of the adults now.
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You can see Atat in the background – the chicks were investigating him a little. (The dogs are separated from the chickens by a fence).
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Here is one of the chicks.
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Here they are hanging out on some boards at the edge of the woods.
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Another picture of them in the woods.
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This orange one (I believe a Buff Orpington, but they are all mixes of breeds). 

Everyone is doing well.  We did have an unfortunate event happen with the chicks.  I typically count everyone when I put them to bed.  We put everyone away on Friday night and found that one chick was missing. We counted and re-counted several times, and looked all over. They usually hang out together.  I figured if someone was stuck somewhere they would have been chirping – they are not quiet at all when they are unhappy. We think something, possibly a hawk, came in and got one.  There is no sign of that chick.  So now we have 16 chicks. In my 5 years of owning chickens, this is the first time that I’ve lost any to a predator,  so we’ve been pretty lucky.

Chick and Garden Updates, mid May 2019

Our spring finally seems to be in full swing – we kept getting unseasonably cold weather for a bit – they were calling for 6 inches of snow last week but we didn’t get any, luckily. The temperatures are starting to warm enough that I put in a bunch of the garden this past weekend (the stuff that can tolerate frost, anyway).  I heard the frogs chirping the last few evenings –  it’s finally been warm enough for them.

The chicks are growing up really fast. I gave them a larger box from their original brooder box. I think I have mostly females but there are at least a couple of roosters in there – someone has been attempting to crow, but it’s not very developed yet. Below are some new pictures of the chicks and the rest of the farm:

two weeks old
Here are the chicks today – they are just over 2 weeks old now.
penguin
Here is one of the penguin-looking chicks. I’m hoping it’s a girl but with that comb it doesn’t look promising. I do have some adult hens with large combs, so we’ll have to wait to find out.
gray
Here is one of the gray chicks.
brown
A couple of brown/red chicks. They were not happy that I had moved them, they were ducking down a little scared.
yellow
Here is one of the blonde chicks.
yellow two
Here are two of our blonde chicks – the one with the orange head is on the left, the one with the cat-eye-eyeliner is on the right. (From individual pics in the last post)
yellow 3
Here is another pic – you can see the wing feather coloration change on the right. It’s cool when their feathers come in – chicks’ coloring can completely change as they grow.
potato bags
We are growing potatoes in feed bags again this year – we have 20 bags planted – I put in about 11.5 pounds of potatoes, three different types. We had really good luck last year growing them in bags. They are in the garden fence to keep them from the chickens.
strawberries
Here is our Strawberry patch. It is also a mint patch (they are both taking over this area). Hopefully they can grow together and keep the other weeds out but let each other grow. There may be a fight. Even though I love mint, I would still let the strawberries win.
back garden
Here is my back garden that I took from the chicken coop – last year we grew squash and tomatoes here but it doesn’t get enough sun later in the season. I am putting a lot of shade tolerant things in here, lettuce, peas, and other things. I planted everything yesterday that can go in already. Peas, spinach, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, chard, kale, and brocollini. I have some other stuff started inside, and I will direct sow beans in June.
onions
Here are my onions! I have a full bed of yellow and a half bed of red that I planted this past weekend. The red onions will be sharing a bed with radishes for this month and then peanuts in the summer. The radishes should be ready before I put the peanuts in.
garlic
Here you can see the garlic starting to come up through the straw – this was planted in October.
garden preseason
Here is my garden as of today. There are only a couple of beds ready – this is the double-dug French Intensive garden. I have 12 beds in here, but the weeds are trying to take over. Most of this garden will go in next month, so I have some time to get the beds weeded and ready.
daffodils
Our daffodils are finally blooming!
purple
Here are some purple flowers we have growing in our yard. I’m not sure what these are called.

Double the Trouble

We have doubled our flock (plus one) – We already had 16 adults, and we just hatched 18 chicks – we sadly lost one chick today so we are at 17.  We had about a 69% hatch rate (from 26 after candling). All the chicks remaining are healthy and alert, and running around in their box.  Here are some pictures of our new additions:

chicks 2
The chicks in their brooder box.
chicks
More chicks in the brooder – we are using a chick heater platform that I borrowed from a friend, instead of a heat lamp – it works really nicely. I may need to buy one for the future. The chicks huddle underneath and it doesn’t get too hot so it can’t cause a fire.

A few years ago I did individual chick pictures – at a day or two, then progression pics as they aged. I was thinking I would do that this time, but then I went to do photos and realized that may be too difficult – it’s hard to tell everyone apart and there are just too many.  I decided to do groups of colors instead, with a few individual pics of chicks with distinctive markings.  See below:

blondes
Here are the blondes and strawberry blondes. I think some chicks may have some buff Orpington in them – otherwise no idea.
tiny penguins
Here are the penguins: The black / gray / really dark brown chicks. Most of these are black with white (hence penguins) but there is one that is a light blondie-gray – maybe they’ll have some kind of splash / blue coloring when they mature – we’ll have to wait and find out.
brunettes
Here are the reds and browns. There are some partridge Chanteclers and possibly Russian Orloff mixed ones.
eyeliner
This little chick has a brown mark on her head and a bit of cat-eye eyeliner. And 5 toes.
orange head
This blondie has orange on her head.
new hairy
Here is one of the gray ones – this is the only feathered leg chick we have.
grey
Here is the blue / splash colored chick – I had a splash once that was yellow with dingy gray – this is gray with dingy yellow – so we’ll see how this one turns out.

It’s very exciting. I hope they are mostly girls, but we’ll have to wait to find out.

Early Arrivals

I have eggs in the incubator, due to hatch this Saturday. I started with 32 eggs; when I candled at 10 days I took six eggs out, leaving 26 in the incubator.  Last night I went to take them out of the automatic egg turner, because you are supposed to remove that about 3 days before hatching, so that the chicks can orient themselves for hatching, and because the turner could hurt them if they hatched in it.

incubator eggs
Here they are after taking them out of the automatic turner. I tried to put them in groups based on where the eggs came from. They are marked as well so I can keep track of which eggs hatched.

As I was moving the eggs, I heard “Cheep Cheep!” I thought that was a little early, but I was excited to hear that at least someone was on their way.

This morning, I heard a really loud peep from the next room, and went to check. I found a chick had hatched! On day 19! Here is a really bad picture (the flash went off and shined on the top of the incubator):

new hatchee
Here was the chick that I found this morning

I’ve never had chicks hatch early – I’ve only hatched chicks a few times, and it’s been awhile, but I didn’t realize they could come that early.  I came home and found that the one had brought a friend; we now have two chicks. They are both comfortable in the brooder, waiting for more friends to arrive.

penguin
Here is one – a little penguin-looking chick.
redhead
Here is one that is a little red and brown. I believe this is the first one that hatched this morning.

I haven’t heard any other pips yet, but they aren’t actually due for two more days. So we’ll see what happens. I’m glad that two hatched so the chicks aren’t lonely. There are still 24 eggs in the incubator, so we should get some more soon.

Maple Syrup, and new friends on the way

We made maple syrup this year.  We started collecting at the end of March, when we still had a bunch of snow. We ended our collection after a couple of weeks because we had run out of room in our freezer and fridge for gallon jugs of sap.  The snow had been melting but then this last Thursday we got hit by the end of the Bomb-Cyclone storm that came up through the middle of the country – we only got 5 inches of snow here at the house though, but it made it look like winter again.  Below are some pictures from before that snow hit us.

trees tapped
Here are some of the trees tapped this year. We only tapped three right at the edge of the yard, because there was a foot of snow around the trees when we first started. We collected sap for about 2 weeks. This picture was from right at the end of that time.
wizard
Here is our cat Wizard, venturing outside on a nice day last week.

I planned on cooking the sap outside this year. I bought a big steam-table pan (I just searched for “maple syrup pan” on amazon) that would hold 22 quarts. We have a firepit already set up that I was going to set the pan over to cook the sap on; but then the day I planned on cooking everything up, it was pouring rain.  I ended up just doing it on the stove using two big canning pots. It took a full day on Sunday and then the evening Monday after work, but it is now complete.

sap on the stove
Sap on the stove.
sap
A close up of the maple sap steam.
syrup
Syrup! We got 6 pint jars.

I also have some exciting news about chickens! Last April we got Bertram, our Russian Orloff rooster, from an ad on Craigslist. I was planning on ordering some chicks this year, but then I was contacted on Facebook by the lady I got Bertram from – she found me through this blog. She asked if I was interested in trading hatching eggs, since she still has another Russian Orloff and then we both get chicks from these roosters.  So we traded eggs – I saved pretty much all our eggs for a week, and gave her 1.5 dozen, and saved 11 for us. I received a dozen from her chickens, as well as nine eggs for Partridge Chanteclers that she got from another lady. So I have 32 eggs in the incubator, they started on 4/6.  I’m possibly going to end up with way too many chickens, but I didn’t want to waste any of the eggs I’d saved, or the ones I had gotten either.  I looked at the 3 previous hatches I did with this incubator in 2016, and we usually get about a 50% hatch rate from the original set put in – typically I candle and end up taking out about 25%, and then at the end another 25% don’t make it, so I’m figuring that is about what we’ll end up with – approximately 15 or 16. We’ll have to figure out what to do with any extra roosters, but I’ll worry about that later this summer.   We do need more hens since mine are becoming slackers – the youngest of my hens are 3 years old, from our 2016 hatches. From 16 hens currently, we are getting about 5 eggs per day if we are lucky.   I am excited for new chicken friends – Fingers crossed we don’t get mostly roosters.

incubator 4.6
Here are the new chicks on the way! We have 32 eggs in here – I expect after candling we’ll have 20-25, maybe. I will candle the eggs this coming week (after 10 days in the incubator). The left 2 columns are Partridge Chanteclers, the middle two columns are mixed eggs from Bertram’s old home, and the 2 right columns are from my hens.

Our ducks are excited that it is finally spring – they’ve been searching for snow-melt puddles:

ducks in a puddle
Our ducks wandered to the puddle at the edge of our property last week – you can kind of see them in the middle of this picture here – (the houses are our neighbors behind us). This area is low and it tends to fill up in spring. The ducks love it.
ducks in woods 2
Here they are heading back through the woods to the coop. They didn’t like that I came to take their picture.

New rooster, and more snow.

We got hit with a big snowstorm yesterday (as did most of the upper Midwest, and other parts of the country).  We probably got somewhere over 10 inches of snow, but it was very windy so it settled in drifts – some spots had no snow but in other spots there were swaths of snow that were over 3.5 feet tall.  Because of the way it settled I really am not sure exactly how much we got, but it was a lot.  And in mid April it is definitely unwelcome. I was looking back at old notes and realized that at this time a couple years ago I was putting my ducks in the pool outside to swim –  it was 70 degrees that day.  Last year I was putting in the onions. THIS year, I haven’t even seen my yard yet – there was a small bit of driveway exposed for awhile but that is all so far.  This coming weekend we’re supposed to be up in the upper 40s, so this snow is all going to melt and become a big mudpile. What fun!

We also added a new rooster the other day, since my old roosters both are gone.  The hens need someone to watch out for them, so I decided to look for a new one. I found him on Craigslist.  He’s a Russian Orloff, and I’ve named him Bertram. The name stuck in my head when I got him, so that’s his name. It fits pretty well, actually.  Here are some pics of the new rooster, and our yucky new snow:

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Here is Bertram, the Russian Orloff rooster. They are a very very cold hardy breed, and he doesn’t have much in the way of waddles or comb to get frostbit.
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As you can see here, he’s quite large. The hen next to him is a Copper Maran, so she’s a standard size hen. He’s probably about the size of a Brahma rooster, at least height wise. I have not weighed him so I don’t know how heavy he is. But he’s tall.
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He’s very nice to the hens, and they are getting along well with him. He’s ok with me too – he keeps an eye out to make sure of what I’m doing in there, but he has realized I’m the food-bringer, so I think that helps.
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Another picture of him in the coop.
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I got this cute pic of two of the ducks last week as well.
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Here are some deer out near the chicken fence. They cross through behind our property every evening, and they’ll come close to the fence sometimes looking for treats. They get the occasional apple or carrot thrown over and left for them to find.
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Here is the snow bank the other day. It was down a bit – this is the driveway-plow snowbank (created from plowing our driveway)- in winter, we can’t really get behind the chicken house. My son climbs this though and creates forts in it. Here it was on its way to sort-of melting…
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And here it is today. It is taller than my son with his arms outstretched. He’s just over 4 feet tall.
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Here is what the driveway looked like before we tried to plow/dig out cars this morning. I was worried the plow wouldn’t cut through that (where you can see to the right of the car, toward the road), but it did. The snow was really tall in spots but our plow handled it.
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Here was the swath of snow next to the truck – where I was standing there wasn’t any snow, because the wind had pushed it all up to the truck.
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Our back porch is now exactly level with the snow. The dogs walk right off the top step into the snow, as if we just have a patio out there.

Oh, so an update on my last post about syrup.  I was still cooking it down when I posted that day; right after posting, I decided to put the sap into a smaller pan to finish the cooking.  I chose too small of a pan, and ended up making maple sugar instead! The temperature got too high with the small pan. I thought I had made hard candy, but over a day or so it ended up crumbling. It’s quite nice in tea, but it was not what I was going for. After that day, we had some cold temps, so we didn’t get any sap for about a week.  This past week (before the storm) was really decent – we were getting 1/2 gallon per day from some trees, and one tree actually gave almost a gallon per day for a few days. Temperatures dipped Saturday when the storm was heading this way, so I just pulled the taps in for this year.  I ended up with about 9.5-10 gallons of sap through the week, and cooked them down yesterday:

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Here is the syrup!! Just about one quart (4 cups) total. 

I made sure to check the temperature this time and didn’t cook it to candy / sugar stage.

 

Coming out of winter into spring

It’s officially spring, but here in the U.P. we are just starting to come out of winter.  We still have a lot of snow, although this week we’ve had decent temperatures during the day (above freezing) so the snow is melting and turning driveways into mud. They freeze at night, luckily, so I was able to go to work this morning – my car wasn’t stuck in my muddy driveway. We are supposed to get a little bit of snow this week (3 inches, I heard) which is typical. Spring is usually like this.

This winter has been really hard – we lost both roosters. Big Red died in January, and The General died just a couple days ago. They both got really bad frostbite this winter – Red had it so bad his waddles got really swollen.  General’s toes got it really bad. I’m not sure if they eventually both died because of frostbite complications, but it’s possible. They both seemed to recover (and be feeling better) before they died, so I’m not sure. With chickens it’s sometimes hard to tell.    The frostbite came when we had a really bad cold spell in January.  The ducks sometimes make it hard to keep the moisture out of the coop as well, which can contribute to frostbite in the chickens. Roosters with larger combs/waddles are really susceptible, and both of our boys had them. We are very sad about losing our roosters.  Now we have 19 chickens (all hens), and three ducks.

chickens_dorko and brown hen resized
Here is General on the right, with one of our hens a couple years ago.
copper-maran-roo
Big Red – our Black Copper Maran rooster, this picture was from last year.

Today we let the chickens out into the yard for the first time this year – there is actually a bit of grass/muddy driveway for them to hang out in, instead of just snow. The ducks found a big icy puddle to dabble in – they loved that. Here are a few pictures from today:

happy hens
Here are some of the hens out in the yard today.
chickens spring
There was really only a little bit of yard and the driveway for them to go in, but they enjoyed it.
chickens driveway 2
Another picture of hens in the driveway.
remaining pile
This is what remains of our snowbank in front of the coop.
ducks heading home
Here are the ducks heading back home.
sap buckets
We also tapped trees this week! Usually maple syrup time is earlier in March, but we didn’t have the necessary warm daytime temperatures till this week.
sap buckets 2
We’ve been getting just under a gallon a day of sap, with 8 buckets out.

Spring is on its way, luckily. I’m glad to see this winter mostly behind us.

 

December on the farm…

I haven’t posted in awhile – we’ve been really busy this fall.  Here are some updates:

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Here is our snowy yard today.  It took awhile to get this much – most of November we didn’t have any snow.  The chickens haven’t been coming out of the coop building much. I left the run open on days I was home until we got snow. Now the chickens don’t want to come outside anyway, and our white ducks might get lost if we let them out! They like the snow though.
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Here is Marigold, one of our female bunnies.
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Here is Petunia, Marigold’s sister. They were born this year in March.
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Here is Buddy, our male.
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The garden in winter. bleh. I’m already starting to plan next year’s garden!
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The back yard. The snow is pretty, but it gets to be tiresome after awhile. It’s nice through the Holidays and then I wish it would leave (it won’t for several months after, though).
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Our bird feeder is up, so the chickadees are happy. We kept it down in the summer, to prevent bears coming to our porch. The bears should be hibernating now.
specs resized
We lost our hen Specks a week or so ago. I thought she was egg bound or something (she was lethargic but still eating), so I treated her for that, but it didn’t seem to matter. We were very sad to lose her. She was a big personality in the flock. Very vocal about us coming in to get eggs. And very friendly -she liked being petted. We’ll miss her.
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This is a little older – here are a couple of pumpkins I ended up roasting. I made some pumpkin bread with the flesh, and froze some for later this winter.
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Here are all the tomatoes I canned this fall.