Homesteading is all about decisions. What to grow, who to eat, how to provide, why do something a certain way, and when do you call it a day.
As much as I would love to say that these decisions are easy, many of them are not, especially when it comes to the animals on the homestead. In the picture above is our White Lady, Alice by name. She is a Leghorn/Aracuana mix who is sneaking up on five years old. Alice has had a rough life. She was stolen by neighbourhood hooligans and brought back by their sisters. She has been eggbound previously. She lost her sister to a coyote attack.
Unfortunately, age and life seem to be sneaking up on her. She has stopped laying entirely. At first we thought maybe Alice was eggbound, as that’s been an issue for her before. When a hen is eggbound everything slows to a stop – eating, defecating, and laying. The egg does what the name of the issue says: it binds everything up. If not caught, it is fatal. Some hens can have repetitious issues with eggbinding and then the homesteader needs to make the decision to cull or not. Alice is not eggbound. We’ve checked that and it’s not the culprit to her illness.
Neither does it seems to be respiratory nor diet.
No lash eggs have been found in the coop, either.
So….what to do? Without a clean cut diagnosis, there are only two options. We can either cull poor Alice or hospice her to the end. We’ve never had to cull a chicken from our flock as nature and predators normally do it for us, and I’ll be honest and say I hope that ends up being the case here. For the meanwhile, we’ll hospice Alice. She’ll continue to roam and room with her flock as we keep an extra sharp eye on her.
Perhaps our biggest goal this year is replacing both gardens. What fence there is started as pulpwood loss cut in half and two inch poultry netting stapled to that. As we ended up with increasingly daring chickens and determined deer, the height of the fence increased in a very hodge-podged manner. Wooded fence posts, branches, yarn, and scraps of extra poultry netting were added in an attempt to keep out critters. Wood cribbing was placed along one side to keep out the groundhog.
The hodge-podge fence has worked for six seasons, but as we stare down the barrel of become a two-income homestead, we’re looking at projects that will save us time and make life easier. A more properly done fence, with removable gates, means a substantially smaller amount of time spent doing spring repairs. It also means a garden set up so that the kids can actually coffee in and help.
For materials, well, we lucked out. One of Hubster’s co-workers isgiving us a dream of a deal on cedar posts, including delivery. We’ll be going with welded wire fencing. I’ll be making removable 3′ wide panel gates – wide enough to get a wheelbarrow through comfortably.
To prep for the fencing, the first step is obviously to remove the old. The process started last night and I removed all of the larger garden. We kept as many pulpwood pieces up that would remain standing so that we have hole markers. I’m planning on tackling the smaller garden today.
Roughly three years ago we used the money we got from selling an old chicken coop to pick up five blueberry plants. I planted them in a horseshoe around the antenna and planted rhubarb between them. The flower bed beneath the antenna is home to daylilies, tulips, and chive, making the little area a cute spot to sit and enjoy. Unfortunately the chickens have stripped the plants of foliage and mulch every year.
I’ve had it. I demand blueberries from my plants. This year we’ve decided to put up a temporary fence. The green garden fencing is new, but the posts are reused from another garden bed, one which will be seeing new fencing this year.
All the plants – rhubarb and blueberries alike – were treated with 3-4″ of aged chicken compost. The blueberries also recieved about 4-6″ of pine mulch. I’m hoping, between the mulching and fencing, we’ll finally see something from our bushes. There’s still some cleaning up to do, and I doubt the little flower bed will get much attention this year, but it’s a start!
The kicker is that I’ll have a poop-free spot to sut abd read this summer.
Last night, when Hubster went to count chickens, he only counted 23. I went out to do a double count – standard practice when one is missing – and sure enough, Wafflette was no where to be found. We did a precursory look, but had to tend to another chicken’s injured toe.
While we were bummed that one of the hens might have become fox fodder, we knew there was a chance that she might have headed out somewhere to brood up. For the time being, I wrote her in the ledger as deceased.
This afternoon, I stepped out to collect eggs. Waking towards the barn, I saw a junked tote that I had set aside to bring to recycling. It had been flipped upside down.
“Might as well snag it to load up singe stuff from the basement for a dump troll this weekend.”
Imagine my surprise when I listed the thing up to find none other than Wafflette and two eggs! She looked up at me, stretched a wing, and then walked off for a drink like nothing had happened.
I’m starting to think she rather enjoyed her night of solitude.
I had a very plesant surprise the other day: my apple jelly set up great! It was the first time I had ever tried making jelly and I’m proud of how it came out. It may be a little on the runnier side, but it’s jelly!
The apricot/apple jelly from the picture, my second batch, is another story. It didn’t even thicken into a syrup. After much angst and research, I went back to the store to pick up a second box of pectin to have a go at it. The plan was to rectify things by re-boiling the jelly, cooking it longer and testing it in a multitude of ways.
Initially I started with nine jars worth of syrup. After cooking it longer, I ended up with seven and a smidge. Things looked to be testing well; even the rest batch in the looked to be jelling up. I went ahead and processed the seven jars in the water bath.
I opened up the test jar this morning. Looks can most definitely be deceiving. While the apricot/apple acts like a jelly from the outside, its still a syrup on the spoon. Granted, it’s a super thick syrup, but it’s still a syrup.
The plus side? It tastes just like the duck sauce from the local American-Chinese restaurant we order take-out from. So, while we don’t have apricot/apple jelly, we do have seven jars of duck sauce.