Happy Birthday, BiL!

For maybe as long as he’s been able to talk, BiL has been wanting snow on his birthday.

Today he turns 14, and he got his wish!

Not a bad thing, getting a snow day on your 14th Birthday, huh?!

Happy Birthday, kid. You make me proud.

Love, Mom.

It’s January, right?!

A little over a week ago as I was driving out of the parking lot that one of my favorite Local Yarn Stores (The Knitting Bee) I stopped at the stop light and looked to my left and there, in the little median was a shrub – with little flower buds a blooming.

January!

A little trip out into my own yard revealed this craziness:

Yes, my hydrangea is putting out leaves.

Lots of leaves.

My garlic bed is pushing up shoots like crazy.

Daffodils are convinced it’s their time to do their thing.

The tulip tree is putting forth buds galore.

…as is the Lilac tree.

The willow is acting like it’s getting ready to send forth leaves in short order.

And I have violets in bloom.

Here’s the forecast for the week:

It was 51 degrees yesterday on Mt. Hood.

It was in the 60’s yesterday at the Coast.

I don’t want to jinx it or anything – but I really want to hope that it’s going to really and truly be the end of Winter here. Please, Spring – come to stay!

I know that’s very whiny of me to say. (Blame it on the head cold.)

Especially when my daughter sent me this picture from Boston yesterday:

Sorry honey, I’m so past Winter.

Come on, Spring! I’m rooting for you!

Wowza!

When you first get chicks you think about how precious they are, and how fun it will be to take care of them, and how thrilling it will be to collect eggs from them.

All of that is absolutely spot on and valid.

But I’m not going to lie to you.

STINK!

It’s cold out there!

Like 30 degrees, with a wind chill of 20-something, and freezing rain just started when I was heading home after picking William up from play auditions at school. (I know – I’m a weather wimp compared to most of the rest of you people who live in much more frigid climes!)

Brrr!

But – doesn’t matter.

The girls gotta get tucked in and put to bed.

The rounds have to be made.

Gotta count heads, make sure there’s food, water, and that everyone is a-okay.

Thankfully, this is the time of year that the girls realize that sleeping up in the willow is a tad bit foolhardy.

But I still gotta go out and make sure everyone made it inside okay.

It’s always nice to get out there – step out of the icy wind into the protection of the coop and hear clucks of welcome.

Not gonna be sad when winter gives way to Spring, though! 🙂

Just NOT Okay

I can and will admit it.

I am cold intolerant.

I hate the cold.

I hate being cold.

I am happiest when it’s about 80 to 85 degrees out, with a slight breeze, and a lounge chair with a good hour in the sun!

Yes, I’m a weenie!

Not pretty, is it?

What makes it even more of a challenge for me is the fact that when it’s THIS cold, the girls’ water freezes up solid!

Requiring me to do stuff like this:

Shhh…. Don’t tell my husband I borrowed his hammer to do this!

As you can see – not terribly effective when you’ve got a good 5 inches thick of ice. So then I get out my gallon pitcher – fill it with boiling water, and trek it out to melt some of the water.

The girls get really happy when they see that blue gallon pitcher coming!

When it’s this cold out – I gotta go melt the water at least once an hour.

BRRRRR……….

I do feel sorta sorry for the girls, though. So I make them oatmeal – everyone should have a hot breakfast when it’s cold like this!

These are happy chickens!

And the really SMART girls are hanging out inside the coop – where the heat lamps went up last night!

The bottom number here – how warm it is INSIDE the coop WITH the heat lamps going:

Yes, that says 22 degrees.

Brrr….

Smart girls!

OH – and we had another first time egg from someone on Sunday…

It was so tiny and cute!

I guess I knew not all of the Cuckoo Marans were laying yet on some level or the other – but here’s proof that someone else has just come into lay! I gotta say – I adore the Cuckoo Maran eggs – they’re so beautiful. But more than that – you want to make chocolate chip cookies with them – they turn out so much richer and – well, almost toffee-ish. Totally yummy. Yes, that’s why I have SIX Cuckoo Marans!

That’s a teensy tiny egg! We decided to break it open and see if it was just egg white – as is sometimes the case with new egg layers. Nope – it had the cutest little perfect yolk AND white inside. Pepper thought it was a lovely little snack!

So – I’ll sit here, finish reading my email, sipping my hot cup of tea, and then will add a few more layers of clothes before I have to head out and deal with the chicken water again.

I’m ready for summer!

We’ve got a broody girl!

If you’re not familiar with chicken type stuff, you may not know what broodiness is…

Here’s a decent explanation: http://www.animalloversweb.com/article_chicken_broody.html

In short, what it means is that a chicken has decided she wants to be a mommy! Many modern breeds of chickens have had that tendancy actually bred out of them. Most chicks are hatched after being incubated in a mechanical incubator – not under a Mommy Chicken! (Although our Welsumers were hatched under a Mom – and had decidedly different behavior patterns as baby chicks compared to their incubated peers!)

Typically, broodiness comes on in the spring of a chick’s 2nd year of life. So imagine our surprise to find that Shelly is broody! She’s only 8 months old, and it’s as wintery as wintery comes! (We’ve got about a foot of snow on the ground! The wind chill is below freezing!)

The first couple of days I thought it was just a coincidence that every time I went to collect eggs that she was on a nest – I figured she was just taking her time laying. But it soon became obvious that she was more than just taking her time. She actually started to hoard eggs! Then she started to fight back if you went to collect the eggs she was hoarding!

The problem, of course, with Shelly’s broodiness being that we have no rooster – so obviously, we have no fertilized eggs – which means – no babies possible! Bummer!

To be honest, William has been talking about wanting to start an egg business in the Spring. He really wants some Americauna’s to round out the flock so that we’ve got some really colorful eggs to offer. We’ve debated buying chicks in the fall, or hoping for a broody hen to be able to try and hatch some eggs. We just didn’t know to think that we’d have a girl go broody this soon!

So… tonight – after checking on the girls as they were getting tucked in for the night, we realized that right in the nest box – next to the door that is certainly not weather tight – poor Shelly was covered with a dusting of snow. (There are 50 mph winds tonight – I guess it makes sense that some would get blown in!) So we decided we had to get her moved.

John and I rigged up a temporary home for Shelly in the pantry and moved her in. We’ll see what the plan will evolve to be. If we can get our hands on some fertilized Americauna eggs, then we may well be trying to hatch some chicks way sooner than anticipated!

They got cold feet!

When I went to check the temperature in the coop this morning it was all the way up to 30 degrees! Woo Hoo! A veritible heat wave!

So I dressed up in my long johns and jeans and warm socks and sweater and coat and hat and scarf and mittens and went out to get them some clean warm water and check the food and gather eggs.

Yesterday when I went out they wanted NOTHING to do with coming outdoors. Today, however, they seemed somewhat interested in doing some exploration. So I decided to let them out.

I got the water out, scattered some corn, and let them out to explore. The California Whites were the most adventurous – they made it all the way to the big run – and then stood there on one foot looking like they didn’t know why the other foot was so stinking cold!

A couple of the Welsumers decided to follow the California Whites on the corp of discovery. They weren’t amused. It didn’t take them long to figure out that they could get a LOT further if they would fly places – keeping their cold little tootsies out of the cold, cold snow!

So, as I went about my business, checking on everyone, bringing out scratch, etc. I failed to realize that the girls were way not amused any longer. In fact, they were shivering like crazy!

So I quickly herded them back up, carried them one by one back into the coop, and then transferred the water to the interior of the coop.

They were so happy to be back in their little warm coop! I’m thinking they won’t be venturing out into the snow again in the near future!

Oh! Interesting note. In all of the days preceding this weather event the 14 girls had been laying between 10 and 13 eggs a day. The day it snowed – 10 eggs. Yesterday – 9 eggs. So far this morning – 6 eggs (and it’s still fairly early). It will be interesting to see if their production is impacted by the weather.

How cold is too cold?

In most people’s homes the temperature gague below would read:

Time

Indoor Temperature

Outdoor Temperature

In our home, the temperature gague reads:

Time (an hour off because we couldn’t figure out how to change it after the end of Daylight Savings time!)

Indoor Temperature

Chicken Coop Temperature!

John has not only set up the temperature gauge so that we can see that it’s 25 stinking degrees in the coop this morning….

But he’s also stapled up old towels over the vents in the coop to keep the snow from blowing in (as you can see below). Weeks and weeks ago he put two heat lamps out there connected to a temperature sensitive plug in thingey that turns on when the temperature dips down below 37 degrees. Smart, huh? Especially since it’s like 23 degrees outside right now, and with the wind chill – more like 8 degrees!

Brrrr!!!!!

This morning when I went out to check on the girls and take them some warm water (’cause everything had frozen over, of course!) – and I was surprised at how much warmer it seemed in the coop – well, you know, compared to being outside in the wicked winter weather!

And the girls seemed quite content to stay in their coop and just hang out! They didn’t even make a run for the open door – like normal – in fact, they just kinda looked at me with disdain for letting the draft in!

You gotta admit, though – it’s pretty!

The kids are thrilled, of course, that school is cancelled today. There is even rumor among the masses that this may be an early start to Christmas Break. I’ll believe that when I see it!
But there are a couple of bummers associated with the disruption in life as we know it – because, if you know anything about this part of the country in winter time, you may well know that when we see the first snowflake the world comes to a screeching halt…
First, a certain 16 year old who had an appointment to take her driver’s test on Thursday will have to reschedule. (An ice storm is predicted for mid-week.)
And second, the girls’ weekend away in Seattle may have to be disrupted as well… they’re saying massive snow storm over the weekend.
We’ll see, though. Afterall, the track record of our weather forecasters is far from perfect!

I guess this means it’s winter….

We were given the forecast on Saturday evening that Sunday we’d wake up to snow. As is often the case here in the lovely Pacific Northwest – there are dire warnings of “wicked winter weather” (one news station in particular has an affinity for this phrase!). More often than not, however, it turns out to be nothing – a total bust – much to the kids’ disgust.

So we awakened Sunday morning and rushed to the window…. Would there be the 1 to 3 inches of snow predicted?

Nope.

Nada. Nothin. It was stinking cold. But no snow. Bummer.

But as we were getting ready for church one of the kids yelled (it must have been William), “I see snow flakes!” And sure enough there were a few tiny little flakes descending from the sky.

Well – isn’t that nice?! A few flakes to five the kids their snow fix! Thought I as I went on my way getting ready for church.

Yeah – didn’t stay just a few courtesy flakes. It actually started to accumulate! Wow! Maybe they got the forecast right afterall!

By the time we left for church there was a decent smattering of snow on the ground.
The girls seemed a little puzzled by it, but didn’t pay it much mind.
The yard even took on that lovely wintry look with a dusting!
And it certainly didn’t detain the girls from their warm oatmeal and berries treat for the morning!
Pepper – on the other hand – was over the moon about the snow! She wanted out to run and play and jump and bark at the snowflakes!

She was definitely in her element! Jessica even went out and tried to put together snowballs to throw to the dog to catch – but the snow was very powdery and that didn’t work so well!

Caleb, as it turned out, had other plans for the day. He went and settled himself on top of my sewing “basket” (which is actually just a plastic bin with a lid full of projects that I think I ought to do) to do a little bird watching…


You gotta admit – it is lovely to watch them! And there were so many that came to feed – a much wider variety than we might normally expect.

Caleb did have his moments of excitement – where he tried to climb the window sill to try and reach a bird or two out in the dogwood!

But the birdies were safe!

I think this one might be a towhee… But we even saw a few robins trying to get to the feeders yesterday! Wild!

All in all – we had quite a little bit of accumulation before the day was done. Something in the 3 to 4 inches of snow range. We are up the hill a bit with a little more elevation, so that makes sense.

We’re not the only ones in the neighborhood…

The funniest thing happened the other day. We were on our way back from the airport – having met our niece who was going to be staying with us for nearly a week – hooray! (She was in town interviewing for a medical residency program at OHSU – we’re so proud of her!)

Anyway… we were nearly home – just about four or five houses down the street from ours – I glance over at the newly cleared lot that someone has purchased and I would assume will build on before long – and lo and behold! What do I see?

“OH MY WORD!” I announce.

“What?!” Dawn, Jess, and William ask in unison.

“Look! It’s one of the girls!” I pointed to said cleared lot.

“OH MY GOSH!” the kids responded. Dawn wasn’t quite sure what we were talking about, I’d think.

There was a line of traffic behind me, so we formulated a plan as we headed home to turn around. “Okay, Jess, William – I’ll turn around, we’ll go back to the lot, and I’ll drop you and you’ll have to catch her. Do you think it’s Millie?” I asked, knowing it was a dark colored chicken I’d spied.

Both kids seemed sure it was either Ducky or BB. So turn around we did, headed down the street, and I let the kids out. Dawn and I watched for a moment, but again traffic was building so we headed home.

A few minutes later Jessica and William returned – panting and laughing.

“Did you catch her?” I asked.

“Nope!” They responded and laughed. “It wasn’t our chicken!”

How hilarious is that?

So… we aren’t alone in our chicken ways! Of course, we hear the rooster a couple of blocks over like clockwork… But I hadn’t realized there were other chickens so close!

And, speaking of chickens… I was gone for several hours this morning and when I came home and collected eggs – here’s what I came away with:
Yes! I have a LOT of eggs in my refrigerator!

While it’s a little sad that it’s not Spring or Summer and our garden filled to overflowing with potential – there’s something just – well, right about this season where the yard’s leaves are raked up and piled on… And the chickens may scratch about in without fear of what burgeoning plant they might decimate!
I wondered how they’d act during the wintertime… and you know what? Pretty much exactly the same as in the Spring and Summer. They still love the yard. They still love worms. They still come running whenever I step out the door.
They don’t get to free range as much as they did during the summer months, but the girls would still rather be out and in the yard than anywhere else – no matter what the weather.

Ever vigilent – Pepper, the wonder chicken dog – watches the girls carefully as they free range in the yard.

I once had a lovely, prepared flower bed…. then I got chickens. LOL!

And I know – it’s just fungi – but really – isn’t it pretty?

Okay – I’m willing to admit it now. Winter isn’t so bad. Especially the part where the seed catalogs start showing up again! 🙂