preserving backyard farms, chickens, & the farmgal in each of us
Feeding the Birds...
I have been confined to the sofa a lot the past few weeks. Just before Christmas we were "blessed" with an ice storm. Curious as to whether it was really slick (duh), I stepped out onto my front porch to see if the carpool drive to school would really be treacherous and slipped off the porch. I landed on the concrete steps and gave myself a great Christmas preset: a minor concussion, whiplash, and I messed up my back in three places. Oh crap... I guess I didn't fall gracefully.
Going from being an overly active person to a mere heap piled on the couch has been a rough transition. I can't lift anything and I spend three days a week in therapy which feels like a huge waste of time even though I can see it helping. I would rather be doing something else. One very unexpected thing that has helped cheer me up while being flat on my back is my bird feeders. I have a few in my front yard. I moved one a few months ago to a sheltered spot under my front porch, right in view of the couch. I thought it would drive my cats wild, and it has. Lou La Belle took a flying leap into the window one morning, thinking that breakfast was just a leap away, she got more than she bargained for: a big headache and no bird.
Watching the flocks of birds come and go throughout the day has been amusing. They all have such personalities. The jays are bossy, the finches and the chickadees fight like tiny dragons, the woodpeckers are curious, and the robins sit idly by eating crabapples and rolling their eyes at all the drama. I keep the feeder piled high with seed. It can be horribly cold in Utah, and with the snow cover, available food can get scarce for the birds. I make sure I have a mix that everyone likes. Black sunflower seeds for the finches, peanuts to fight over for the jays, lots of little seeds for chickadees. I have recently been seeing red striped black birds stopping by. We have a downy woodpecker and a northern flicker that get curious and come to join in the fun. They like to peck at the tree while watching the others squabble and fight. We get a good variety of birds.
If you are not feeding the birds, you should consider giving it a try. You don't even have to be confined to the couch to enjoy it. Just make sure the feeder is in a place where the birds will find it. Once one or two find the food, the word gets out fast; you will soon have piles of birds if you keep the feeder well stocked. I get about 30 birds each morning and several surges throughout the day. If you have kids, they will love identifying your visitors. We have a backyard bird book that my little farmhands use to quickly ID the birds. They love keeping track of who is stopping by. If you have cats, they are in for a show that they hopefully won't have a chance to eat. Both of my cats sit at the window all day long. They get all twitchy when a bird gets close, it is a riot to watch and has given me hours of much needed entertainment and a good giggle here and there.
Give our feathered friends a leg up and start feeding them. They will thank you with lots of laughter and a few good stories to share.
Raspberries, creamy filling, crumble topping, and delicate pie crust. Can you handle this? Wow! This is one of those fantastic recipes that I will make each year during the height of raspberry season, yep, it's that good. I am completely in love!
I have to say that the raspberries are the most important piece of this puzzle, it requires very fresh, ripe, and sweet raspberries. A farmer friend of mine was able to get some glorious little jewels from a farmer friend of his in Oregon yesterday. These berries are divine, ripened in the sun and carefully picked. I know that they are not local, but really, they are from a friend of a friend and a small sustainable organic berry farm. It doesn't get much better than that! Make sure you get berries grown on a farm that were picked a day or two ago at their peak. You will have an amazing tasting pie if you do!
I switched the original recipe just a bit. The crust was made with shortening and egg; I am not a fan of shortening…
With all of this snow and cold temperatures I have been concerned about our bees. This is our third year keeping bees, and we have not been successful through the winter. Our first year, we got a swarm very late in the season, and they were not well established when winter hit. The second year, the hive was blown over in a horrible wind storm with 103 mile-per-hour winds.
This year, so far, so good. We knocked on the side of the hive this morning and the bees buzzed back. I am so hopeful.
I wanted to share what we did to improve the chances of survival for our hive. People say that you don't need to do anything for them in the winter, but with the luck we have had, we decided it was better to be safe than sorry. We put three bales of straw around the hive with a gap between the bales and the hive to promote air flow. We get so much snow at the farm (we usually have at least 3-feet before the winter is over), we thought it would be better to create some kind of roof over …
How many of you have heard about a chicken tractor? If you are not in the know, it is a marvelous idea: a mobile home for chickens that you can move around a yard (large or small), giving your chickens opportunity to range without wandering far off.
We have seventy chickens at the farm. With so many girls, we occasionally get an injured or picked on bird. These girls need a sanctuary away from the pecking order that can become vicious and eventually deadly for a chicken that isn't quite normal. These girls that need a little extra TLC end up in my backyard. If they can rehabilitate they are eventually moved back to the farm. We have a few that can't go back, and they become permanent residents. We have a blind chicken named Helen and a chick with hip dysplasia named Dot. These two girls will stay here forever. I have a small yard, 0.25-acre, and these rehab girls make a marvelous mess of my little plot. We also have a border collie that loves to herd the girls. This …