Chooks Big Day

…well, sort of.

We always meant to have these new chickens be free range during the day. The question was – when?

They arrived in July of 2016 and started laying mid-December. Someone suggested they should be laying well before free-ranging so they knew where to go home to. Then came the rains. And more rain. And more rain – even through last week. So, we waited.

We finally decided it was time to give it a try. As with our previous chickens, we started gradually. There is always a trade-off. They are safe in their house and run and it is a pretty nice run.

But we feel the other chickens really enjoy that time out which has grown from just a couple hours at the end of the day to all day, getting put away at night. The trade-off is that they are less safe out in the world. The two chickens we have lost from the old group that were not natural causes were to predators during the daytime. One possibly a raccoon or possum and the other one probably a hawk.

Weighing these options we let them out, putting them away at night. And so it came the day to try a brief outing. With the door open, one Buff is willing to try the grass. And then another sticks her head through the fence, perhaps inspired by her friend.

They venture out further, as far as we are willing to let them go on their first outing.

Then, with the encouragement provided by a little scratch grain, they were back in. Will do longer gradually!

Published in: on April 10, 2017 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

First Shearing of the Year

At the end of January I headed to Barinaga Ranch with a couple friends to gather fleeces fresh from the East Friesian Sheep. Now, if you remember from an earlier blog this year, I do have a whole small room dedicated to the fleeces of East Friesian Sheep. However, it is such a great wool for the type of products that I make that I want to make sure I always have enough. I keep finding new things to make with it so it is important to keep this room full. It looked pretty full before the shearing….


…but there usually seems to be room for more!

Our favorite shearer, John, is the shearer here, too.


These sheep have the most beautiful heads!


And they have several guardian dogs, always watchful.


The fleeces, as usual, were gorgeous.


Some fit in my van and the rest in my friend, Carol’s.


and they all fit into the East Friesian room!


Published in: on February 27, 2017 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Deep Litter

I was reading a book about life in the Scottish Highlands in the 1950s and 1960s and the author (Katherine Stewart) mentioned using the deep litter system for their chickens. Of course, I had to look it up, thinking it was only a Scottish system. Not true – I found current Google links to people using this system in the U.S as well. You rake up the floor of bedding and add fresh bedding – wood chips in our case – letting the chickens mix it up scratching for grain. A way to keep things fresh and then clean out when it gets quite deep.

Sounded good to me. Here is the process:

  1. Buy wood chips


2. Survey current floor. Yup, needs fresh bedding.


3. Gather equipment, which, of course, attract helpers.




Hazel, “Does this involve food for us?”

4. Spread wood chips.


5. A Buff checks it out a little tentatively.


6. Elizabeth is glad I put her swing back down!


7. Chooks do their scratching and nicely mix and spread the bedding,

Teamwork – Makes it all work!


Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 5:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Hay Delivery

It had been so wet and muddy lately (yes, a common refrain here!) that we were close to running out of hay.


Finally, we decided a delivery could be made. The sheep were happy to hear that, even though I made them stay in the upper pasture to avoid their “help”.


New alfalfa on right and new mountain grass on left, all neatly stacked.


The only casualty, the truck got stuck in the mud on the way out and needed a little tow. I guess it still was a little too muddy!


The flock didn’t really care about that. They just wanted to come down for supper!

"If we had metal utensils we would be banging them on this gate!"

“If we had metal utensils we would be banging them on this gate!”





Published in: on January 30, 2017 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  

A True and Very Wooly Adventure

I may take some kidding for going public with this, but here goes.


Last week six VERY good friends came over for a planned fleece sorting day. Not sure how I convinced all of them to do this but I think some of them may have offered! The goal – take all of my fleeces out of the wool shed, storage shed, back patio and front porch and sort them by breed before replacing all in the wool shed (used to be the garage).


Colleen brought us all some very colorful gloves. Dona suggested a pool to guess how many fleeces there were.


And we got to work. There was no clear and consistent labelling system for fleeces collected over several years so my job was to listen for people calling out sheep names or other codes to determine in which pile on the drive way to place the bags and boxes. “Kate?” “Karakul”. “Ingrid?” “Churro”. “JF” “Joshua Farm which means it goes in the Shetland pile!” And so forth. Breed names were placed in spots for sorting purposes.




Some additional sorting was sometimes required and Krystle was also able to collect some samples for some upcoming Fibershed related events.



People hand carried or used whatever they could find to move all these fleeces around.




At last – everything out. Empty shelves – a rare sighting here!


After lunch and some chatting, we reversed the process and everything went back in, only in better order! Turns out the East Friesians needed their own room. Everything else fit on shelves, sometimes high on shelves. (Well, ok, there are still a few on the back patio but they are organized!)

Doesn't Dona look happy that we are on the putting away part?!

Doesn’t Dona look happy that we are on the putting away part?!

East Friesian room

East Friesian room



And the answer to how many fleeces? 457!!! And Dona won the pool with her closest guess of over 500. I think she is pretty good at guessing!


Five hours and six friends to organize all this wool so that I can more easily find it when planning projects and preparing orders. Many, many thanks to Carol, Colleen, Dona, Krystle, Mary and Robin for all their help.

Hazel, "Hey, I eat all this good food and it just keeps growing!"

Hazel, “Hey, I eat all this good food and the wool just keeps growing!”

Published in: on January 26, 2017 at 12:04 am  Comments (2)  

Chook Coop Improvements

There is always more you can do for the animals and their surroundings. I never seem to get to all of it. However, these were a couple of things that needed doing and didn’t require me to climb on a ladder!

What  do you think these are for?!


Chickens need calcium to help strengthen their shells. We tried just putting out a bowl of oyster shells for the new chickens like we have done in the past but they just kept spilling them and making more of a mess than usual. So, I thought maybe a wall-mounted container would help.

I discovered that this group of chickens is super curious and really want to supervise things.


Elizabeth continues to supervise and gives the pencil a peck.


A Buff decides to check out the shells once container is mounted. Curious but not very brave initially.


They quickly decide they are ok to sample.


Another improvement was to secure the swing. The chickens love it but we have just missed hitting our heads on it many times. I thought getting it out of the way for cleaning and egg collection might be a good idea. First, I need to put in a screw eye. Elizabeth (I think) has to inspect my work.

Elizabeth, "Not sure I like the look of this!"

Elizabeth, “Not sure I like the look of this!”

A bungee cord through the screw eye works well. No more near misses! Of course, it goes back for their roosting. They really love jumping on it.


It is definitely worth all we put into the chickens when they provide us with such nice eggs!




Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 2:49 am  Comments (4)  

A Good Use for Mud

All of this rain has given us lots of mud here. It proves treacherous to move through, even with my boots on. I find if I stand in one place too long I am almost unable to move (probably a good reminder to not stand still!)

However, when doing chores yesterday I found that the mud does have some value – a replacement for the old plaster of Paris. The animals have left some endearing histories of their travels through it. I think it needs to be just the right thickness/density to achieve these looks.





It really is a privilege to have the stewardship of these animals (and the chickens who did not get into mud today!)



Published in: on January 12, 2017 at 5:43 pm  Comments (2)  

And the rain continues….

We have not had this much rain in quite a few years so we are constantly checking that things are draining well – at least the places that we really need to drain well. So far, so good.

According to the weather service, we are in for several storms (coming from the Midwest I had a different interpretation of the words “winter storm” but have acclimated to the definition out here!) They call these ones “pineapple express” as they originate near Hawaii.

The guinea fowl do not find this amusing, whatever we call it. We put their food under cover outside and they are eating but also getting drenched.

“Who keeps throwing water on us?!”

We fed the young chickens indoors this morning but opened their door so they can go out if they want to.

Just getting to the door to open it for the sheep was a challenge!


Diamond and Paridot are not even sure if they are coming out. Paridot stretched out his neck to take his morning cookie without even stepping outside.


But, with the knowledge that her morning bread was waiting for her, Diamond got a lot braver and ventured out. The rest of the sheep who get bread (a blog post for another time) insisted on being fed inside. Eventually we saw some sheep out and both camelids.


Diamond, “Bread, please.”

Our seasonal creek is almost over its banks so we are hoping for a break in the rain to let things drain a bit before the next onslaught.


Using one of my newly acquired Scottish words, I am going to call this day “dreich”. I think it mean dreary, dark, rainy, and dismal all at the same time. My friend, Jonathan, can please correct me or elaborate on this in a comment!


Published in: on January 7, 2017 at 10:56 pm  Comments (3)  

A Wet Start to the New Year

We are fortunate to have a lot of rain to begin the new year. Well, fortunate for those of us not flooding. We have minor accumulations but everything important is draining well.

The animals are less cheerful about it than we are as they don’t see the connection between water and good eating in the pastures. They prefer grazing to eating dry stuff so, I suppose, they do appreciate the rain in their own way.

The guineas yell a lot when it is wet. Of course, they yell a lot when it is dry so not sure if they know what they are complaining about!


The barnyard is pretty wet and muddy now, which the sheep and camelids really do not like. There is a corner of the doorway where they exit that they prefer as it is the least muddy spot and they all find it.




Rocki, “Seriously, Diamond, does she expect us to exit this way?!”

They lose no time heading up to their favorite grazing hill once they make it through the doorway!


The chickens needed some straw in their run today as it was getting very squishy in there. They love throwing it around. I figure it is mud abatement and entertainment at the same time!


The rain is not affecting their interest in laying eggs. They began mid December and we are now finally getting enough eggs for a meal! They are starting at different times, as we guess by the range of sizes, even though they are all the same age. I think that middle one may be a double yoke – it is even bigger than the occasional egg we get from our older chickens!


So, grateful for the rain – and the eggs!

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 10:09 pm  Comments (3)  

Happy New Year – belated!

Hello and Happy New Year – only a couple days late. One of my resolutions is to do more blog posts in 2017!

In the meantime, although there have been some additions to flock and fowl, for now a simple greeting from most of the flock and some of the fowl. Wishes to all for a healthy, happy and productive new year!


Most of the flock managed to get into this photo - we are at 21 sheep now.

Most of the flock managed to get into this photo – we are at 21 sheep now.

Their guardians - who always come in last

Their guardians – who always come in last

The chickens who were babies in the last post. Not quite free-ranging yet.

The chickens who were babies in the last post. Not quite free-ranging yet.

And the guinea fowl. The 6 babies have joined the four older ones to free-range, although they seem to be hanging around for now!

And the guinea fowl. The 6 babies have joined the four older ones to free-range, although they seem to be hanging around for now!

Published in: on January 3, 2017 at 11:37 pm  Comments (4)