Thursday, June 30, 2011

More On Chickens

the littlest chicken farmer

Our chickens have been exploring the world outside their run in the last month. I was so nervous about it at first because I wasn't sure how far they would range and how difficult it would be to get them back into the run. We have neighbors (and no fences), not to mention animal predators so at this point we aren't comfortable letting them go entirely free range. In the beginning it was quite an ordeal to either catch or herd all the chickens back into the coop, but they seem to be figuring things out these days. They are staying out longer and longer and I don't feel the need to hover over them constantly like I did the first few times (yep, first time chicken mom). We have two trees very close to the coop that they love to hide under, scratching through the dense leaf layer and hunting for bugs (yes, eat the bugs! eat the ticks!). They don't seem to venture out too far, which is good since my vegetable garden on the other side of the yard doesn't have the gate up yet. I love knowing that all of their time foraging means healthier yummier eggs for us in the near future. Of course they are fun to watch and I like having happy chickens, so there are other great reasons to let those chickens roam.

Bob

This is Bob. Yes, I think it is funny to give the hens typically male names.

outside the coop and run

This photo is about a month old and our chickens are so much bigger than this. I think it is time for another photo op with the hens.

chicken book!

Lucy loved "The Chicky Book" by Ashley English (Homemade Living: Keeping Chickens). It is a great guide for anyone who is new to caring for chickens, and Lucy really enjoys all the photos throughout the book (I would guess the rest of her homemade living series is equally beautiful and helpful). It was nice to have a reference in the beginning, though we seem to be settling in with our chickens and I was able to relinquish this book back into the library's care. If I ever have questions there is always the internet (and yes, I have looked up photos of chicken poo to make sure my hens are healthy and normal--chicken poo pics).

chicken!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Josh and his Paper Princess

The Paper Princess

Josh really enjoyed The Paper Princess Finds Her Way by Elisa Kleven. We've read other books in this series and they always inspire him to make some creations of his own. I think Lyle still has a few Paper Princesses from last summer hanging up in his office.

The Paper Princess

You can download some free printable paper dolls from many places online, like Sarah Jane Studios. Small Magazine printed this in their online magazine, and I think it would be fun to make paper dolls featuring your own kids. Time to get more ink for the printer!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sheep and Wool

cosymakes farm wool fiber club

I spent most of my last Sunday at the Taylor Bray Farm Sheep Festival. I brought my wheel and hung out with our local spinning guild, putting in a lot of spinning hours. Some of our guild members brought handspun yarn and handknit items to sell, but there were a few of us that were just there to spin and chat. It was fun to answer questions, especially from people who had never seen someone spinning before. Kids would come by and just stare at the wheel and watch what I was doing. I would stop for a moment and ask if they wanted to feel the wool or touch the yarn. A few times parents came by with kids and told them not to touch, but I said it was okay with me and assured them that there was nothing they could do to my wheel or wool that my own two children hadn't already tried! In fact, one girl walked by and stuck her finger right into my flyer (the part with the bobbin and the hooks) while I was spinning. I was scared for a moment because she really could have been hurt, but she was fine and I invited her to go ahead and feel that part of the wheel while it wasn't in motion.

This sounds a little cheesy, but each time a child stopped to watch me or feel the wool, I felt this bit of excitement in me, thinking maybe someday this child would grow to love knitting and spinning the way I do. I have just found it to be a wonderful thing in my life so I love seeing other people take up the craft. I pictured the event as planting seeds in the minds and hearts of people who were there and interested in what was happening. And even if they don't take up the craft on their own, I know through the conversations I had that some people definitely left the event with a new appreciation for these kinds of handcrafts.

sheep shearing

We went to the festival last year as spectators and the same guy was there for the sheep shearing demonstration. He not only described and demonstrated the process of shearing a sheep, but talks all about sheep and wool. I could hear most of it from my spot across the tent and I heard new facts throughout the day (his jokes were the same all day long and many of them I recognized from last year, it made me smile to hear them over and over). At the end of the demo he would pass around bits of the freshly shorn fleece and spin some of it on a simple drop spindle. I remember Josh bringing home a bit of that fleece like a little treasure last year, and this year was no different as many children came by my wheel with a piece of wool clutched in their hands.

sheepherding

I took a break from my spinning a few times to watch the sheep-herding demonstration. I missed this part last year, so it was completely new to me and I was just amazed. I always had this image of sheepdogs working alone, running through fields herding sheep to greener pastures, but that is not how it goes at all. There were always multiple dogs at work, placed by the handler in specific spots in order to guide the sheep just where he wanted them. They were up and down and moving around the field, quick to reply to the handlers commands. They could separate the goats from the sheep, or separate a certain number of sheep from the herd. They put them in the pen and took them out of the pen. The handler would place dogs all along the path where he wanted the sheep to go, putting a dog near the corner to keep the sheep from huddling there instead of heading toward the pen. I never realized how much thinking went into getting a group of sheep to go in one direction.

herding dogs at work (border collies)

Every dog in this photo is at work, even those who are laying down. They worked all day long giving demonstrations at the festival, and the handler said they would go home that afternoon and work more. He said that if anyone is thinking about getting a Border Collie as a pet, they should think twice about it because they really need all that physical activity. 

This guy makes it look easy too

These sheep farmers make it look so easy!

You can see more photos from the festival over on my flickr.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Mud Kitchen

mud kitchen

Lyle built our mud kitchen out of bricks and boards that were left in our yard by the previous owners. Not only did he rid the yard of another pile of "junk", but he made something that the kids have been crazy about in all this hot weather. Any excuse to turn on the hose, right?

mud kitchen

All the pots, dishes, and utensils are things we found at thrift stores or items that would usually be dropped off at the recycling center.

into the oven

Fun doesn't have to cost money!

mud? Yum!

Mudpies? Yum!

Here is a fun book to inspire your own mud kitchen adventures: