Monday, September 12, 2011
This Morning's Chores
I thought I'd share my morning with you so far. I tried to sleep in a bit, and managed to stay in bed until 7:15, which is a pretty big feat for someone usually up by 6.
Unfortunately, the addition of our second duck coop, right beneath our bedroom window beside the first coop, makes it pretty difficult to sleep in. The young ducks are used to sleeping all in one coop, and they're a little nervous about not being able to see each other at all times. I like to imagine the ducks in one coop whispering "I can't seeeee you!" and then the ducks in the other whisper back "I can't seeeeee you eeeeeither!" and of course then the first coop says it a little louder "Quack quack quaaaaaack quack!" and the next, and so on and so on until they break into full alert, panicking because they can't see each other. Inevitably one of the mama ducks will put an end to the ruckus with a very loud lady-duck call in her loud trumpeting voice and it becomes quiet for a few minutes... until... "I can't seeeeee you!"
Now, while this is going on, the sheep like to start chiming in. When the ducks get to their full volume, the sheep will run to the fence closest to the duck coops and Baaaa towards our bedroom window. They know that the ducks make a lot of noise when I come out to feed in the morning, so they want to express their need to be fed as well...
So the first thing I did this morning was let the ducks out of their coops (directly below the window of my sleeping husband - I'm sure he appreciates it.) They get a bit of organic, locally grown grain each morning more-so to shut them up than because they need it. This time of year they spend almost the entire rest of their day out in the orchard cleaning up windfall apples and eating various buzzing insects.
After the ducks, I let the chickens out of their coop. I have two coops for them, the large coop and the nursery coop. For now the Ameraucanas are the only ones laying, and they live in the large coop with the accidental Cochins. What's left of the Buckeyes and Welsummers (after the mink invasion) stay in the smaller nursery coop. I let everybody out together and normally if the big rooster seems like he's going to be quiet he gets to stay out. If he's trumpeting and being aggressive with the girls he gets to be out for a few minutes and then I chase him back into the large coop where he spends his morning attempting to crow through the barn window. Once the afternoon hits, he's a little less feisty and he can come out and be with the other chickens. Mind you, this rooster's name is Dinner. He's particularly rough with the too-young hens, so we're not on the best of terms these days. This morning he immediately jumped on three different hens and then paraded around screaming his head off so I chased him back into the barn. ... Boys..
I fed the chickens who also get a bit of organic, locally grown grain (I love our local grain mill!) and tossed the sheep some grain as well. I really don't like the idea of graining livestock, but I do like the idea of happy (quiet) animals in the morning, so everybody gets just enough to make them complacent. Ha.
There is always a little bit of a scramble between the sheep and some of the Ameraucanas because apparently fighting off animals 10 times their weight is more fun than crowding the chicken feeders. What weirdos. The sheep like to head-butt the chickens across the barn, too, so it's not like it's an easy breakfast!
After I fed the sheep some alfalfa and mixed grass hay I figured it was time to collect eggs. I'm getting 4-5 eggs a day now, and I hadn't pulled them in three days so I picked up fourteen eggs this morning! They're beautiful shades of olive green and pale blue, and they're organic which is obviously a bonus. Gosh, I keep thinking I could do some sort of fantastic sculpture or installation with these beautiful, natural colors. They're such calming and gentle colors. I could stare at them for hours.
The Buckeyes, Cochins and Welsummers will all have varying shades of brown eggs. Supposedly the Buckys will lay a chocolate brown egg, but that's one of those make-or-break breeding characteristics that doesn't always get passed along. My guess is that only one of my Buckeyes is a hen anyway, since the other two are getting green tail feathers. Ah well. They're supposed to be tasty little boogers anyway, so it's not a waste to raise them, I just wish the mink had taken out the young roosters rather than some of the hens.
After counting my eggs I came outside to check water levels and found two of the Ameraucanas having a discussion on the fence. They like to sit on the fence because that's the first place the sun lands in the morning. This is "Dracula" on the left and "Caliophelia"on the right. Dracula is the most spastic of all of our chickens. She (yes she - Jeremy named her) acts completely normal when you approach her, but as soon as you lift her off the ground she screams like she is being eaten alive. Ah well. She also has the creepiest face of all of the chickens. She looks like she's constantly glaring and plotting against you. Hence the fact that she got the name Dracula.
The last thing that I did this morning before I came inside to feed the dogs and cat was take a quick glance around the garden. I've been reeeeally slacking in the garden this past month. The mosquitoes are worse than I have ever seen them and I've been so busy with other things that I've let the weeds go completely mad. I don't really mind having a weedy garden though. By this time of year pretty much everything is established and the weeds don't stand much of a chance anywhere but in the walkways between beds.
Anyway, while walking back up to the house I happened to glance down at my Mara des Bois strawberry patch. They're covered in blossoms and half-ripe berries! I've been missing these little guys because I took the fence down earlier this year, after the first crop, to use elsewhere. Because there is no fence around them, the ducks have been helping themselves! As of today, however, the fencing goes back up and the ducks can just deal. Strawberry shortcake in October will be a fantastic treat. I just have to remember to mulch and put row covers before the nights get cold!
I know what I'll be doing the rest of this busy late summer day, do you?