Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Chicken Chronicles

I just now answered everyone's comments on my last posting. Forgive the delay, but we were suddenly deluged (and not with rain) around here. Several days of picture perfect weather prompted a flurry of outdoor activity. I haven't even been cooking indoors!

The chicks have been growing at an alarming rate. In two weeks they have progressed from adorable toddler to gawky adolescent. And I do mean gawky in every sense of the word. I almost expect them to break out in a rash of acne and ask for the keys to the car.
This gal was mighty proud of herself. As I was cleaning out the litter this morning she hopped up onto the roosting stick and, with a great leap and flapping of wings, launched herself upward onto the top of the food container. Thought she was hot stuff until she glanced down and became a little bewildered looking at everyone else still standing below her. I think they were a bit bewildered as well. She's the fasting growing and most athletic of the bunch, and the first to actually earn a name. I found myself calling her Madame Marie after a nickname the Terrorist Baby anointed me with when she was much younger. No idea why, just a four-year-old's whimsy of the moment I suppose. I have learned not to question the machinations of her extremely imaginative thought life!
I promise not to even mention chickens in my next posting! I am overdue with a review of Herrick Kimball's precious new book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, so I will be devoting an entire post to that......see you next time!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Babies Are Growing Up!

The chicks are doing great......thanks to all who offered their advice! I think I got an especially healthy batch here, and God willing, we won't have any losses. Here are some recent pictures. (Excuse me if I sound like a proud momma!)

Look at them.....roosting like the big girls! I put a stick in the bin a couple inches off the floor the other day and they hopped right up there. I've even caught them sleeping on it. It amazes me to witness their God-given instincts.

Nobody told me how fast baby chicks grow. They are only a week old and they can FLY to the top of the bin! I had to put a gate on top or they'd be all over the dining room. A week ago they just had this little nub peeking out from the fuzz and now look at that wingspan. And tailfeathers, too!

Nobody told me what a sheep mentality baby chicks have. If someone does something, they all have to do it. One pecks on the side of the bin, they all come trotting over and peck. One starts chirping, they all have to chirp. One tries to fly, they all have to try. One goes to eat, they all have to eat. And so on and so on.

They get so excited when I come into the room.....first the peeps increase, then they start running around, then one of them flaps her wings, and of course everyone has to get into the act and pretty soon there's a riot going on. If I put my hand down inside the bin, there's a shoving match to see who can get up my arm the fastest. These little buggers are feisty!

Most hilarious of all is what happens when we dangle a worm overhead. One of the more aggresive chicks will grab it and take off around the perimeter of the bin with the rest of the brood in hot pursuit, cheeping frantically. Honestly, it looks like a football game the way they block and tackle as they scramble around. One will steal the worm and they'll have a tug of war over it. Or - even funnier - one (usually a cockerel for some reason) will snatch up a piece of the litter and start the "I've got something, come get me" cheeping, and start racing around until he has the whole gang after him, then he'll suddenly drop the litter and stand there innocently while everyone else is milling around wondering what happened. I knew I'd have lots of dumb chick stories but that sounds pretty smart to me! Is that how they get the ladies to chase them?

My other little chickie is growing up fast, too. She's lost her first two teeth within the last month. Next thing you know she'll have a family of her own. In between those two milestones, I hope to enjoy her every precious moment she's around!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I'm A New Momma!!!

Lookee lookee!!! We got chicks!!! They came two days early! You should have seen the panicked scrambling around here as I ran around (like a chicken with its head cut off) trying to set up the brooder before I went and picked them up. Nobody told me they might come before they were scheduled to!
I got the phone call Tuesday afternoon. "Your chicks arrived two days early. We'd like you to come get them as soon as possible." Whaaaaat?!! Hyperventilating began in earnest as I realized I was not ready for this. I felt like I was in labor. Breathe, breathe. We made a mad dash to the feed store and brought them home in a cardboard box cozily ensconced on Isaac's lap, the heater in the car roaring, chicks chirping merrily - while we were all suffocating. Gasp. Breathe. Breathe. Back at the house finally.
I had set the bin up with pine shavings on the bottom, a layer of newspaper, and a layer of paper towels on top of that. Hey why not try all three? One of them should work, right? Light was clamped to a chair next to the box rather than hanging (because I wasn't ready, remember?). Waterer was full.....water plus some apple cider vinegar (thank you, Christina!) and a dose of probiotics.
Okay, deep breath.......taking the chicks out of the box (oh no, what if I squish one?), I gently tipped each ones beak into the water and set it loose in the bin. Hey! It worked! So far so good. (They must have read the same books I did.) They were so lively, peeping and running about. It seemed as though they were more curious than frightened. As soon as I scattered some feed on the paper they dove onto it, pecking madly. At the food rather than each other, thankfully. Good chickies! Are they not the cutest things you've ever seen? I know they're dense as a tree stump, but for cuteness, you have to give them an A+!
So here we are....and our adventure begins. Today I still have a dozen happy chicks. No casualties so I can't help getting my hopes up despite all the information I've received to the contrary. Honestly, I feel like a new mother. I keep running in to peek at them. Are they poopy? Are they hungry? Are they thirsty? Are they BREATHING? Well, you know the way they flop down to sleep....it looks like they're dead, so I keep checking. Oh, and I think they recognize me. At least when I show my presence they come running to me peeping their little hearts out. Awww.......they think I'm their mommy. This is fun!

Flood Update

Isaac took this picture of the bridge-covered stream out back beyond our property boundaries which connects to a pond. It is normally a small bubbly brook, about ankle deep, but the heavy rains and flooding have turned it into a dangerous waterway.
One casualty was reported in MA of a NH man who apparently attempted to drive through a flooded street and was overcome in his vehicle. So sad. Many areas continue to be covered by water, some streets remain impassable, and hundreds of homes and business have sustained serious damage. May God help them.
Our basement is still wet, one of the pitfalls of owning an older home. The walls in the cellar are made of stones, not very well mortared, which makes it like a giant sieve. Leaks in the porch roof, leaks in our bedroom ceiling. Lots of repairs to make. Thankfully it is not the middle of winter and we will have many months in which to work on restoration before the cold weather hits again.
We woke to the first sunshine in over a week this morning. What a blessing to view a blue rather than steel gray sky overhead for a change. The lilacs are blooming profusely now and I'm happy for a day in which I can finally venture outdoors to stand in silent meditation while inhaling their heavenly aroma. Ecstasy. I bring armfuls in to arrange in vases around the house along with smaller bouquets of lily-of-the-valley. Purple violets blanket the lawn punctuated by the bright yellow heads of dandelions in a delightful array of color. The Lord is glorified within the power and beauty of His creation, whether it be a rushing river or a delicate flower, and as always, the sights and smells of spring lift my spirits and renew hope in my heart!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Rain Rain Go Away

Have you been watching the weather reports for the Northeast?

Rising waters. Roads underwater everywhere. Streets closed. Ponds overflowing. Rivers raging. School and business cancellations. Flooding. Cars submerged. Dams on the verge of bursting. Evacuations. Mudslides. Fear.

This is our news today here in southern NH. We've gotten anywhere from 5-15 inches of rain in the past few days. Thanks be to God no one has gotten hurt in this deluge and hopefully people will continue to be cautious as the waters begin to subside later in the week. I think everyone remembers what happened in the western part of our state last year when there were several tragedies due to flood conditions.

I've never seen anything like this. Many towns are in a state of emergency. Hundreds of roads around the state have been shut down. Several roads in our own town are closed off this morning, including ours. We have a couple of streams that run through the upper and lower sections of the road. Both have risen up over the street. I hope the homes in the immediate area are safe. Our basement is wet with about a half an inch of water but thankfully our sump pump is working constantly, and I do mean constantly, to keep it at a low level. I'm grateful that our electricity has not gone out since we have no means of backup power like a generator.

The worst we've experienced is the water in the basement but as I watch the scenes displayed on the news of our little corner of the world, I see loss and heartbreak as people leave their homes and most of their worldly possessions at the mercy of the elements. Please pray for this area as you are led. I will post later with updates and hopefully some photos.

Sunday, May 14, 2006



The bravest battle that ever was fought!
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of the world you will find it not;
'Twas fought by the mothers of men.

Nay not with the cannon of battle-shot,
With a sword or noble pen;
Nay, not with eloquent words or thought
From mouth of wonderful men!

But deep in a walled-up woman's heart -
Of a woman that would not yield,
But bravely, silently bore her part -
Lo, there is the battlefield!

No marshalling troops, no bivouac song,
No banner to gleam and wave;
But oh! those battles, they last so long -
From babyhood to the grave.

Yet, faithful still as a bridge of stars,
She fights in her walled-up town -
Fights on and on in her endless wars,
Then silent, unseen, goes down.

Oh, ye with banners and battle-shot,
And soldiers to shout and praise!
I tell you the kingliest victories fought
Were fought in those silent ways.

O spotless woman in a world of shame,
With splendid and silent scorn,
Go back to God as white as you came -
The Kingliest warrior born!

- Joaquin Miller (1839-1913)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Goodbye Old Friend

We didn't know this tree for very long but there’s an ache in my throat as I watch it come down, and I wonder about the families who grew up in its shadow. Did they ever picnic beneath its gracious boughs on a warm Sunday afternoon? Did children swing daringly from its outstretched limbs, or climb it to snuggle intimately within its sturdy arms, perhaps with a favorite book in hand?

No, we did not know this tree for long, but we had grown to love and appreciate its beauty and stature. It has served to refresh our eyes as we passed by or gazed out of our windows. A multitude of birds have rested in its branches, waking us with their songs each morning. Woodpeckers have drilled for tidbits beneath its bark, raccoon babies have chattered shrilly for their dinner from way on high, squirrels have hurried and scurried playfully in its leafy labyrinth of branches. Its leaves turned golden in the fall and, as they fell, created a glowing blanket on the lawn. In wintertime it became a monument against the gray skies, its dark rustic branches lifted in mute testimony to its Creator. And now, in the spring of the year, with new life emerging from its fingertips, this dear tree - which has served as haven and shelter to so many - has been sentenced to die.

Our tree had been condemned before we moved in. We were warned that its trunk had become hollow; its elderly support system was giving way, and our home was in danger. We knew its time was short but it hurts to see it go. Today a team of men came with their big noisy machines and ropes and power tools. Soon our tree will be no more. Limb by limb, they sever the branches, feed them into a chipper and spit the remains into a truck that will carry them off. We never knew the age of our tree....perhaps as old as, if not older than, our house, which would make it almost 200 years old. Oh the silent witness it has borne through countless seasons. Imagine the tales it could tell. Goodbye old friend. We will miss you.


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

--- Joyce Kilmer

Friday, May 05, 2006

Dazed and Confused

My perfectionist nature makes it difficult for me to make important decisions. After all, what if I'm........WRONG?!!!! I dillied and dallied for weeks over ordering chickens......what kind? how many? etc etc etc........until finally we just went into the local feed store, grabbed some supplies off the shelves and placed and filled out an order form for ten pullets and two cockerels. Not much of a choice either. You either got Rhode Island Reds or some kind of hybrid with a weird name.........or the broilers which we decided to wait on for now. Hm. Decisions, decisions. This one took me about two seconds. We went with the Rhode Island Reds. I understand them to be a decent dual-purpose breed. Dwayne is not exactly enthusiastic about having roosters around but gee, if we want to have a sustainable flock, I'm pretty sure the eggs need to be fertilized. :) I think he'll get used to the crowing......it's all part of the farm atmosphere, right? Anyway, they will be here on May 18, and I expect to be on here in a panic groveling and begging for advice from every agrarian who is more experienced in raising chicks than I. (That should cover just about every single person reading this.)

As the next two weeks progress, I know I will find myself tossing and turning at night, my head in a spin. What I'm most confused about is the information I've been reading. It seems to be so conflicting. This does not help my decision-making skills! Even the lady in the feed store gave me some different sets of instructions. And she was very cruel. She wouldn't even sell me a thermometer for the brooder. "Oh, you just watch how they act.....if they huddle in the middle it's too cold, if they scatter around the edges it's too hot." Aaargh! Isn't there a Chickens for Dummies book?