New Years…

Meet Fye.   Miss Julia’s daughter in law Jess, found him at a gas station near here, where a motorist had found him near the highway just wandering lost.  He’s a super nice bun bun and she called us to see if we might be able to take him in and see about finding a home.  We had an empty spot in our bunny condo, so we said sure.

He’s a real sweetie and is playful.  He likes to grab our Jessy’s mitten and shake it, and comes right up to the door to greet you.  He was a food bowl tipper until Jessy made him a little wire thingy that holds his bowl in place!  Haha… no more wasting chow!    He’s a sweetie and we hope to find someone that needs a sweet bunny for a pet.  If not, he’s got a spot here with us.

While working in the poultry barn, the kids found this old hubcap off a Packard!  How cool is that…  we’re going to hang it on the garage wall with the old license plates once we get it cleaned up.  Just love all the little odds and ends that we find here.  Like a treasure hunt!


Got my first load of straw for my raised garden beds!  Yah!  Eight bales.  It’s all I can fit in the car at a time and I figure it’s a good start.  I can have the girls help me lay them out and tie they up a bit and then start filling it up with good farm compost, see how it goes.  The weather has been positively weird of late, so I figure any time I can sneak in now, gives me a little head start in the spring!  I just can’t wait to get gardening.  It was so fun last year, moving and rehabing and all the livestock additions, but we’re done with that now, so 2012 will be GARDEN YEAR at Windhaven!  I can’t wait.   I just ordered some American bittersweet vine seeds off Ebay yesterday…  I want to grown bittersweet for decoration, broom corn to learn how to make brooms and lavender for well, everything lavender!  And garlic too…  6 or 7 varieties!    Those are going to be my four specialty crops.

And of course, bunches of yummy veggies!  And some fruit vines if I can get them going.  Raspberries and strawberries and hopefully a few more fruit trees.  A little at a time, just keep getting, planting and growing!

I just can’t get enough chicken pictures.  I know, I know, it’s a sickness.  But I just ADORE our chickens!  I think they are fantastic.  I love their colors and their personalities and all that makes them chickenish!  Maureen, here, is checking me and the camera out.  She’s surely trying to decide if I am going to give her goodies or just snap pics.

It was very windy here on New Years Day… and the girls are all hanging with me as I let loose the sheep.  I love how they are all puffed up in the wind, trying to stay warm.  They all look fluffy and fat to me…  silly old hens.   They are really starting to lay a lot more, we are seeing about 2 dozen a day now.    One day we had 29 eggs!  That was pretty nifty.  Maggie needs to make us an egg sign soon!  We are starting to fill up the frig!

I just love all the colors of our free range flock, just a beautiful display of chicken breeds.  I would like to go up to Hillsdale livestock auction in the early spring and pick up a few new girls, perhaps some more gold and red colors!  We do have a higher concentration of black and dark color hens, with all the Marans.  But I just adore Goldie, and Elizabeth, the white one in the front with the dark feathers around her neck.  All our babies we just hatched are dark ones, except one golden fuzzy chick.  Not sure if that chick will stay yellow or go to white.. we’ll just have to wait and see!  The chicken catalog came from the hatchery and I think I might order a few fun chicks with our spring broiler order!

A funny thing happened when I brought the camera in and looked at the pictures I had shot this lovely day.  I noticed that Iris’s left eye was cloudy.  I’ve never noticed it before.  I checked back through some pictures and it’s always been that way.  I went back out and checked her out closely and found that she has no jerk reflex on that side of her face.  I believe she is blind in that eye.  I imagine it’s been that way forever, she’s only a year old.  You wouldn’t know it from watching her, but then a sheep is such a herd oriented animal, I’m sure she would be fine without the sight in that eye.  I always sort of wondered why her sister Ivy was the herd leader, well, I think it’s because Iris is a little blindsided.  Now that Noel is here, she is the herd queen, but Ivy is a close second in command.  Iris is a real sweetie and is learning to come up and get ear scratchies and pets.  She has a super cute baaa in the evening, and head bumps the back of my leg if I don’t get a move on it with the supper pail.

Look at the beautiful crimp and texture of the flock… it’s simply beautiful!  I can’t wait till the spring and shearing time!  I think we should have a shearing party and invite folk out to watch.  That would be fun.  They have another 3 or 4 months to grow it out even longer, but it’s a nice good 3 inches already.  Jessy got a nice pair of hand carders for Christmas and a drop spindle!  And I got some lovely lavender wool wash so our Windhaven fleeces will have a lovely light scent of lavender when finished.  Just a little.  I want to order this way cool wool picker box, to make it easier for us to pick the wool and make it into nice roving for spinning.  Just can’t wait!

Momma Noel has a weird white/gray spot on her side.  I’m really curious to see if she actually has a spot on her coat, and we’ll see it during shearing.  She’s letting me get pretty close and I can even pat her head a wee bit, but she’s still leary of that whole wheelbarrow ride and all.  Haha… can’t say I blame her.  I wish I could find a treat she likes but so far, she is not into treats.  No thank you.  Not from me at least.  Holly, her yearling girl, she is my buddy already, but not Momma.  She’s giving me the evil sheep eye from here.  Apparently, she thinks I am CLOSE enough, thank you very much.  They have beautiful wool as well, and I want to make a lovely snuggy warm hat out of my Christmas sheepies…

That was the Windhaven Rush Hour.

Everyone is in a hurry to get out and attack the yard.

The sheep, tired of eating hay in the paddock, will rush out to eat hay in the yard.  Apparently there is a big difference.  Haha… I don’t know.  I guess it’s different scenery.  Our grass, even though it seems green is pretty much dead at this point and I suspect it’s got little true nutritional value but they do still spend some time grazing it.  But mostly, they head off to the hay manager to eat the same hay that is in their shack.  The hens all follow, hoping to score some sheep raisins to scratch through.  Believe it or not, we really don’t have any manure issues in the middle yard.  There is two spots that Cody will deposit a load, but the sheep just sprinkle little pellets all over and the chickens scratch them up and distribute all over neatly.  Once a week, I gather up the pony poop and it goes to the compost pile but the rest, well, it’s just natural fertilizer for the yard.  The chickens add their deposits all over as well, but I’m really thankful that it’s really not overwhelming at all.  In fact, it’s fairly rare to see very much of any manure in the yard.  I guess we have the right combination, livestock to space.  If I had to guess, that middle fenced yard is nearly a acre.  It’s really pretty big.

Our goal is to have that back pasture fenced in for rotational grazing.  It’s a super lovely pasture out there and I can let Cody out to graze but I have to watch him pretty closely.  It’s not totally enclosed and I really don’t want him loose on the side access road to the fields, that’s where the first ewes escaped from.  Just as soon as we can swing it, we will pallet fence or wire fence that weak area.  I know the sheep would LOVE to be out there, but I just don’t want a repeat performance of angst over loosing them…  so they have to just wait.  Soon… sooooon…..

The wind was blowing Cody’s mane all over and I just loved it!  I like seeing his beautiful little horse head.  He doesn’t have the dainty little American Shetland pony head, he’s got a big thick horsey head on his little body.  He’s much more like the true traditional Shetland Isle pony stock.  Still, I just love to see his pretty eyes and face.  He’s such a handsome boy!

No matter where I go, I always have Bucka and his peeps to follow me around.  There is at least 10 to 15 birds that keep tabs on me.  And usually Jack.  It’s rather funny, if you ask me.  They just follow along like little feathered dogs, and make these little conversational clucks and coos, just interested in what I’m doing.  They love when I open up the pony barn because they just love to scratch through his morning offerings.  It’s my little composting squad.  They break up clumps and make it easier to spread about!  They are rather annoyed that they don’t get many fly larvae and other little insects in the cold, but they keep hoping.  And in the meanwhile, they help break it all down.  Manure is black gold on a farm.  Goooood stuff.  Properly maintained, it doesn’t smell bad at all.  Can’t wait to see how it all works in the garden this year…

Did I mention that I’m excited to get gardening?  I figure only about 80 to 90 more days.  Yep.  90 days….  it should go by pretty quick, right?  Please?

Wile Jessy worked on her bunnies and got them all tidy and cleaned up, Maggie and I were creating this new hay manger for the yard! We were ground feeding but that is rather wasteful.  We had an idea… to create a hay rack that would be free from found materials.  We love using free materials!  We had three smallish pallets and two solid panels from shipping crates and we knew they would be perfect!  One pallet was very open, the one you see in this shot, up front.  So we didn’t have to do anything to it.

The two others were more solid, so we went and cut out the middle boards so that the flock can just stick their noses in and get a bite full.  The integrity of the pallet is still in place and strong with the cross pieces.  We used a solid piece as the top, and put some hay for Cody up there.  Everyone can reach their spots.  Low for the lambs, medium for the ewes and higher for Cody.

We oriented the solid side to the incoming wind and it will help to keep the hay dry and also shelter the animals as they eat.  I think we have one more modification to the feeder to make…  I watched the herd as a snow squall came up and they all huddled on the back side of the feeder.  I have two old doors that I think we will attach to the solid side, and extend out, like wings, to give them a nice little wind block while they eat.   I watched Noel and Holly seek shelter by the courtyard gate and the little shed, so I know that they will appreciate a little wind break by their lunch.

Cody shows them how it’s done, Shetland Isle style…  you park your butt in the wind and let it blow by you.  He looks so wild and wooly with his winter coat!  He’s going to turn into a little wooly bear!  I think he might need to be sheared in the spring as well!

We;ve had 6 chicks hatch from our winter brood…  three are purebred Marans and one is a crossbred Maran and two of them are actually our second generation chicks, with Copper as their daddy!  Hard to believe, but our very first hatchling roo here at the farm is now a daddy!  We named his little chicks, Penny and Lincoln.  And the four French Marans are Pierre, Marie, Louis and Alix.  The Marans hatched before Christmas and the Copper babies hatched the day after Christmas!

We didn’t have good hatching luck this time.  Out of 40 eggs, we got 6.  Ugh.  But I have been reading and I believe that I have learned some interesting facts.

1.)  Winter eggs are generally of poor stock/breeding.  The hens are spent and coming into molt.  They are getting far less protein from grazing and free ranging then in the summer and spring.

2.) You must harvest your eggs quickly so they don’t get frozen.  If an egg gets too cold from laying to entering the incubator, your success percentage can really get hit hard.  I’m reading that the best way to do it, is to gather all your eggs at say, noon.  Put those in the frig to eat.  And then go back out every half hour and any new eggs you find, directly add them to the incubator.  This way you can insure that only the freshest, just laid eggs are in there.

3.)  The inexpensive styrofoam incubators are great for a time or two, but then their success rate plummets.  From what I read, it’s due to contamination of the foam.  I will admit, I cleaned it, but not super good.  Eggs are very porous and can easily be contaminated by germs and such.  I think that it would be a good idea to really soak and clean the whole incubator with a hot water and bleach soak, and then a good hot rinse.  And then run the incubator for a few hours on the hottest setting to kill any nasties.  Then drop it down to the normal temp and let it run for 24 hours to stabilize well.

4.) Run the humidity a bit dryer.  I realized too late that some of my eggs were too humid and wet.  The air space didn’t grow as it should and some of the chicks drowned.  The correct humidity in the winter is around 55%, not higher on the range at 70 or 75%.  In fact, some breeders even suggest running it a little dry, llike 45 to 50% humidity.  You should raise it a bit for the last 3 to 4 days to help the chicks crack the eggs a little easier.

5.)  Try and keep the eggs about the same age.  This blew my mind!  I wondered, how does a hen hatch out eggs when she might lay her clutch over 4 or 5 days, even more!  Well, there is this weird thing that happens.  The first couple eggs actually go into a sort of waiting slumber and do not start to really grow until there are enough eggs.  Apparently, the chicks know and can sense each others heartbeat and will all synchronize to each other in the nest!  This is why they all hatch within 24 hours or so.  Otherwise the first laid would hatch and the hen might abandon the late laid eggs to go and feed and rejoin the flock.

So…  putting eggs in the incubator every day can mess with all the babies!  It was suggested that you put in eggs on say, Monday.  And then wait a week to add more eggs on the next Monday, on the separate side of the incubator.  And then on week three, you can add more, to the other side and move the week one eggs to the middle to hatch.  Apparently the week apart is enough for them not to synch up.

6.)  Don’t open the incubator much at all.  If you have a egg turner, then use it and don’t keep opening and checking the eggs.  I will admit, I checked them too much.  Everytime you open the thing, especially in the winter, you loose a ton of heat.  And touching and moving them can let germs invade the eggs.   It is suggested that you candle them at one week and two weeks, when you are adding other eggs.  And then leave them alone.  And be careful of where you have the incubator.  Believe it or not, I had it too close to a window and a draft.  Silly me.  So, every evening the temps dropped and then every time I opened it, cool air rushed in.  In the spring and summer, it’s much more mild out and not as big a problem.

So.. sigh…. I guess I learned my lesson… Winter hatching is a little tougher than it looks.  I’m going to wait a week or two and then give it another try.  Following all these good suggestions that I found in my chicken books.  I’d really like to be able to offer nearly started pullets in the springtime for folks to get started in chickens…  and to do so, I need to be hatching soon.  By end of February for sure.  I think I’ll probably start on the last week of January and do the weekly add thing.  See how that affects my hatch success.


Well, that is how our New Year’s Day went and today was a get to work and back on track day for us!  Time to hunker down in the coldest part of winter for us and get some work and special projects done.  Stay warm and get a little rest before the spring frenzy!  We will be sure watching for those nice sunny winter days that we can go and get an hour or two of yard cleanup in and work on laying out the raised beds and such, to get a hand up on the spring chores.  The last three months flew by!  The next three will as well if we just stay busy and get our indoor projects all done up and finished!  I want to be able to really enjoy this coming spring and summer, here on our little homestead!  

Happy New Year to all!   We hope that your new year will be filled with blessings plenty!!! 


Related Posts with ThumbnailsPin It

About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.

Comments are closed.