Archive for July, 2011

Winter

It is really cold here today and I am feeling miserable and hating winter, so I thought rather than just sit here with cold feet lamenting that none of the chickens are laying, I would make a list of things I actually like about winter.  Power of positive thinking and all that…

1. Winter is perfect knitting weather.

2. I love the way the house smells when I have a load of woolen washing drying inside over the air vents.

3. I can wear my hair out (it hangs about half way down my back) without my neck feeling sticky and hot.

4. Scarves and hats are fun.

4. And big coats.

5. Mulled wine…. mmmm…

6. Hot chocolate with marshmallows.

7. Baking so you can hang out next the oven.  (When we had one)

8. Reading curled up under a blanket.

9. Oranges are in season and cheap.

10. Sunny morning bike rides around the lake when everything is still covered in frost.

11. The cats seem to like me (or possibly just my warm lap) a lot more when it is cold.

12. I don’t have to worry (as much) about snakes when I take the toddler for a walk.

13. Sitting around a fire with friends.

14. Winter stews and soups cooked in the slow-cooker.

15. The roosters only start crowing around 6.30.

16. Preserves made in the Autumn are ready to eat.

17. The shortest day comes so early in the season.  (I’ve added this to the list because it means even when it gets colder you can still say “it’s all good, the shortest day has been so we are on the way back to spring”.)

18. Frosty but sunny mornings are really pretty.

19. Flannelette sheets, flannelette pyjamas, wool blankets and a wool quilt.

20. Jumping in the car and turning the heat up high on my feet.

A round number, that seems like a good place to stop!

Feel free to add other things you can think of…

In the meantime, here is an enormous picture of some sunflowers from last summer to remind us that spring will come back.

Another boy

We ate a relatively mature boy last weekend.  He was given to us by a friend and was a beautiful colour, but something about him was setting off our other roosters – they were constantly crowing and we think his presence caused a fight between two of our other boys.

As he had been crowing for quite a while, he was way past the ideal eating age.  This consigned him to the stewing pot, with celery, onions, capsicum, carrot and plenty of herbs.  He was delicious, but despite the 7 hours of gentle cooking, quite stringy.

Like I said last chicken, when we eat a chicken we’ve known, I feel like we should try for something special, so I baked some bread too.  Still no oven, so it’s the pan/grill version still (which is working better and better!).  This uses the recipe from the paneer page.

Mmmmm chicken

Chicken swap

Following the death of Juliet, I had a friend who keeps chickens offer me one of her Araucanas.  (This is the very same super-generous friend, in fact, who has been giving us all her excess boys.)

So we have done a chicken swap!  Paprika (one of our Wyandottes) has gone to live with my friend, and we have taken one of her lavender Araucanas.

We shuffled the pens around (again…) moving a new pen I picked up 2nd hand on ebay down next to the little pen to give us more options for that whole area.

New fabulous set up

So our new girl, Lavinia, has moved down to the little pen (or pens I guess) with Craig, Thyme and Imogen (Juliet’s sister).

Lavinia

Lavinia is about 31 weeks, so right on the point of lay.  Hopefully now that the winter solstice has passed she will begin the lay once she has settled in.  One of her sisters at my friends place just began laying last week.

Checking out the nesting box (woohoo!)

I've trimmed her face and hair feathers back a bit since this photo so she can see!

This is great for genetic diversity too – Craig and Lavinia aren’t related as far as we know.  Chickens will tolerate some inbreeding, but genetic diversity means stronger chickens.  And Lavinia and Craig both being lavender (which is recessive) means we will definitely get some lavender chicks.

I cannot express how grateful I am for all the wonderful new friends I have met through keeping chickens.

Winter Solstice

This post is a bit late, but we celebrated the Winter Solstice this year.  The solstice was June 22.  Now that we are trying to grow food seasonally, it feels fitting to mark the passing of the seasons of the year and to celebrate the return of the longer sunlight hours.  This should also mean that our chickens start to come back on the lay, or for those who haven’t laid yet, come into lay.  Laying is linked to sunlight exposure, so the return of longer sunlight hours is definitely cause to celebrate.  We have not had one single egg since the end of May!  We have had to go back to buying supermarket eggs!

We had some friends over for dinner and cooked up some goat in the weberate and ate food from our gardens.  We exchanged preserves from our Autumn harvest – pickled green tomatoes, pickled chillies, lemon butter mmm… And it seemed very fitting!

The younger kids had fun roasting marshmallows over a fire, while the adults (and nearly adults) mulled wine (here is a link to the recipe – it was just stunning).

Apparently I was having too much fun to take photos on the night but here are a few of the preparations – making the lemon butter, lemon candles and the the yule log themed table centerpiece.

All the ingredients for the lemon butter

Simmering and thickening the lemon butter

Liquid sunshine

Lemon candle - made from the left over lemon skins

And a couple of the Yule log. I know traditionally you are supposed to burn the Yule log, but I liked this idea better.

Winter colourful greenery from the hedge trees between us and a neighbour

Sad farewell

Our lovely littlest Araucana, Juliet, died on Saturday.  She’d had rattly breathing the week before and was a bit underweight so we’d been keeping her inside for most of last week in the warm and dosing her with some medicine to cover off the most common chicken sicknesses.  She seemed much better by Thursday so I put her back outside.  On Friday she seemed fine too, but Saturday I found her dead in the henhouse.  Chickens are very good at hiding their symptoms – being flock animals, they try to hide any malady for as long as possible so as not to get picked on by the others or kicked out and then become vulnerable to predators.  So if a chicken is symptomatic, they have likely had a problem for a while.

I felt quite sad when I found her, but in a different way to the sadness I have felt when we have killed the boys for eating.  Part of it is the unexpectedness of it – even though she had been sick, I did not realise quite how sick she was.  She had also become very friendly while she was inside last week as she had been handled a lot more than she was previously used to.  The main reason I feel sad though is because I am sure she was in pain until she died.  If she was sick enough to die, she must have been in pain.  I don’t even know exactly when she died – she was cold when I found her – so I feel sad that her death was no doubt drawn out and painful.  Even though I think it is sad that they all can’t live out long happy lives, at least I know when we kill a boy to eat the death is as quick and stress-free as possible and they have had a good life until then.

I am well aware that sickness and death is a part of chicken keeping.  Even though it is sad, I feel it is only right that I am aware of what eating eggs and meat really means.  Our society is so disconnected from the source of our food that we forget that these things do happen and some animals suffer and die even before they reach productivity (Juliet was about 20 weeks old, and not yet laying).  As sad as this experience was (and the first of many such experiences I am sure), it has only strengthened my resolve to ensure that the animals that provide our family with sustenance have as good a life and death as possible.

Juliet inside last Monday

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