April 9, 2013

My son, my brother, and I took a walk at a marsh this past Saturday to see what ducks were migrating through. The spring waterfowl migration is an event I try to view a couple of times every spring, as most of the male ducks are getting their breeding plumage going, and there seems to be more of a variety of species coming through in the spring than during the fall hunting season.

My walking companions were taken aback a little bit by the variety : bluebills, ringnecks, northern shovelers, pintails, mallards, blue-wing teals, wood ducks…it was a wonderful walk. My photos turned out terrible, so sorry there aren’t any of the waterfowl.

crocuses

I’ve been reading The Christian World of The Hobbit by Devin Brown, and in it I find a section that I can really relate to – Tolkien’s Antidote To Greed : Sacramental Ordinary.

It’s just a section explaining how J.R.R. Tolkien found the extraordinary in the ordinary, a path I have been on for some time and try to express to those around me. A small excerpt I like :

Growing grass, fluttering leaves, flowing water, singing, green meadows, favorite trees, familiar hills – these ordinary things, Tolkien suggests, have something extraordinary about them.

I feel the same way.

chicken eggs

We have had two days since my last letter that we have gathered three eggs a day instead of two. Slowly ramping up! The hens are just coming of age, really, so I’m not expecting eight a day yet.

Take care –

Casey

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April 6, 2013

the chickens

Two of my kids have been out to check for eggs this week and have found a clutch of two, which is where we are at right now – two a day. I know we could do better if we simulated sunlight and all that, but that’s just not in the cards right now. Anyway, back to the kids and eggs. The expressions on my kids’ faces when they come in with eggs : THAT is the way a kid is supposed to feel on most occasions. They LOVE finding eggs and it gets me to wondering about kids and Easter egg hunting.

Is the wonder of kids finding eggs a base human trait or do we condition kids to the wonderment through hunting for Easter eggs? Is there something in it that makes kids feel like they are helping provide for others, or is it that eggs are a universal symbol for life and kids just know it?

Just some thoughts I’ve been pondering when I’ve had a few minutes. Some more chicken pics, because chickens are cool :

the chickens

the chickens

the chickens

I’ve also been filling spare minutes watching The Hobbit – the new version. In the course of a week, I have not been able to watch it all the way through….The kids and I went to see it when it came out in the theaters, but being a fan of Tolkien, I had to buy the DVD as soon as it came out. And yes, I adore the book and no movie will ever be made to match it, we all know that. I find the movie pretty good, but I am really disappointed in this one aspect : Radagast The Brown.

Tolkien didn’t include Radagast much in the affairs of his fiction, but did he really intend for us to think that a wizard would walk around with bird shit caked to his face? I can let the chickadee nest in his hair under his hat, but the poo? Very disappointing. My interpretation of Radagast through my readings went NOWHERE near this.

radagast

It’s like they went with Saruman’s interpretation of him. Oh well, I still have MY interpretation, which is better.

Take care –

Casey

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April 3, 2013

Black sex-link hens

Man, there was a racket out in the chicken coop yesterday. It kind of startled my wife, but I had a pretty good feeling what was going on. And I guessed right. There were two eggs in one of the boxes which confirmed my thought that at least one more hen was getting ready to start laying eggs. It must have been a proud mama out there raising a ruckus! Hopefully we’ll start getting two a day (or more) from here out. It’s a good feeling making omelettes from your own brown eggs.

crocuses

Take care –

Casey

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April 1, 2013

Spring seems to be coming on strong here in my part of the world. The lawns are chock full of robins and killdeer are peeping in the waterways. Haven’t heard a sound out of the spring peepers or chorus frogs yet. The ground is still freezing at night, giving me brief relief while doing the morning chores outside.

the creek

I decided I needed to hit the hills and see how spring is progressing away from town. There is still plenty of snow on the ground of the north facing hills. The melt off has been nice and slow compared to the last few years, just giving the creek a touch of dingy-ness. My mood took a real good jump for the better when I unknowingly happened upon a hen wood duck, sending her squealing downstream. It’s nice to know they are back and now I’m wondering how the spring waterfowl migration is coming along.

The Department of Natural Resources were supposed to start stocking the stream I visited today with catchable rainbow trout, but they didn’t make it as the roads are too mushy for their stock trucks. That was perfectly fine with me, though – I had the stream and it’s population of wild brown trout all to myself, and was even able to bring one to hand. Had a few chasers, too, but just the one hookup.

brown trout

I had planned to get a project or two done this weekend, but with everything that was going on, nothing much got done. Better luck next weekend, I guess. I did put down a thin layer of straw for the chickens to walk on around their enclosure, which they really seem to enjoy. Now and then we’ll look out there and see a group of three or four of them laying huddled together in the sun. I haven’t been able to catch a photo of them all together because the second I open the back door they get up and run to the fence wondering if I have a treat for them.

the chickens

Still only getting one egg a day and am waiting for my daughter to get herself set-up so she can take two of the hens. But I think I am going to start getting more eggs, because all three nest boxes have been having indentations from a setting hen in them, which happened a few times before our first egg. Fingers crossed. Thinking about giving away another one or two of the hens, also. Four sounds like a comfortable number.

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March 27, 2013

It sure has been refreshing doing the chores outside under skies that are finally looking like spring skies, with the fresher vivid blue and pillowy clouds here and there. The male sparrows are chasing down the females, though now and then a female will instigate trouble. A male cardinal has been using the taller maple and basswood trees in my backyard to call out to any prospective mates. Through that music and the racket the blue jays are making chickadees can sometimes be heard with their “reeetin”, talking amongst themselves. On the drives into work, farmsteads that still let their birds have run of the countryside have their chickens, ducks and guineas taking in the weather by grazing through the water-filled ditches with their slowly greening grass. Spring seems to be slowly creeping in.

crocuses

As much as I appreciate the change into spring, I have to say that after all these years, I am getting tired of mud. It seemed it wouldn’t be so bad this year, but we got a lot of snow late, and it’s taking it’s time melting. The dogs and the chickens are excellent at moving along the mud making processes.

The dogs playing in the snow

We’re starting to eat our homegrown eggs now, and that is a good feeling, though my son said this morning that one of the hens laid an egg outside under the coop and they were all pecking at it and broke it. I’ll have to look into that problem and come up with a prevention plan, along with rethinking where the run is located. Seems runoff from the neighbor’s yard is running right down to the chickens, dammit. A new rabbit hutch needs built and the old one burned up – that will get me out to buy a buck to go with the one doe I have left.

Spring…Lots to do.

the chickens

Take care –

Casey

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March 25, 2013

It brings a smile to my face and a sense of accomplishment, this last venture I’ve tried. It started all the way back in August when I was looking for some laying hens to put in the coop I finally finished building. I found it hard to find anyone that wanted give up a full-grown laying hen. They are precious, after all. So I went and did a first – I bought day-old chicks from the hatchery about 15 miles away and then rushed to get all I would need to raise them.

black sex-link chicks

I wanted to raise six hens, so I bought eight figuring I would lose a couple. But I didn’t lose any – chicks and chickens are absolutely amazingly tough. That, or I did everything right. I read a ton of material to hopefully do it right.

The transformation from chick to hen was one of the most beautiful things I have ever watched. Again, amazing comes close to describing the process, but still falls short. Close to a miracle I would call it.

Black sex link hens

And now, I’m starting to get eggs. This has been one of the most satisfying things I have ever done, and can’t wait to raise some more. As a matter of fact, one of my daughters is taking two of them shortly, and I plan on giving away a couple this fall so I can raise more chicks. These hens are Black Sex-links. I want to raise a Barred Rock or Rhode Island Red this fall, or whatever chicks I can get my hands on. This is too cool.

eggs

Take care –

Casey

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March 24, 2013

It is time for a change. It’s kinda funny how this feeling is running right alongside with the approaching spring, but with the new arrivals from the south – the robins, grackles, and red-wing blackbirds ( who really gave me a surprise yesterday) – change is bound to happen one way or another to the fabric of my being. Change is all I seem to constantly notice.

English house sparrow

There’s good excuse for my need to make constant changes. The kids have turned into teenagers (one has left the nest already) and will be leaving the house very soon. My wife’s rhuematory arthritis is crippling her up pretty good, so my need to hang around the house a lot more is dramatically increasing. It seems I’ve been preparing for this change for awhile, as we’re raising laying hens now and I knew all along that Rhonda wasn’t going to be able to participate much in caring for them. Same with the rabbits I’ll be starting up this spring. And the gardens.

English house sparrow

My move from a constant wanderer of the hills is happening right before my eyes before I wanted, or anticipated.  Hmm. Something different and new. Sort of like traveling. This shouldn’t be so bad and I’m pretty good at making the best of things, finding the brighter side.

I’ll write again soon. Take care –

Casey

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