OKAY. NEW PLAN.
THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF LECHAT NOIR FARM
OKAY. NEW PLAN.
THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF LECHAT NOIR FARM
Fourteen days ago, on July 16th we began construction of our new chicken grow-out pen using a framing kit we bought online at EZ Frame Structures. First, anyone with critical thinking skills should be skeptical of products with 'EASY' in the name... and downright dismissive of products which abbreviate it to 'EZ'. It was not easy (or EZ) at all. But more on that later.
Right now I would like to revel in the fact that we are finally done! Or.. done enough. There are a few details we still have to work out... But.. done enough to move the monster chicks out of the brooder and into their new and spacious outdoor enclosure.
Why we took our time.
This project took more time and more materials than most of those we have taken on in the past, but there were a couple of factors which made this so. First, the memory of losing goslings in a less fortified grow-out pen was fresh on our minds. We were wanting this pen to be solid, heavy, and safe. Also, we are moving past the stage of homesteading where we are content throwing up temporary structures that are heavy on utility but light on aesthetics. It has taken years to figure out what we need as well as what we want. It's an ongoing learning process.. and it's very hands on. No matter how many pins I saved on Pinterest - they never really helped us figure out what would work for us.
A short update.
Earlier this week Dave put in a full day's work in Tulsa and then came home to get the roof put on the coop side of the grow-out pen. Then there were two after-work trips to buy materials. And Yvonne and I (with the assistance of Emily who continuously provides us with water so that we will not die of dehydration) have gotten a lot done today.
We are hopeful that we can have this thing chicken-ready by the end of the weekend. And just in time - my brooder chicks are out of head-room.
I guess it seems a little weird for me to say that, writing for our farm blog that is hosted on our farm website while quite literally being on our farm. I expect much of this blog post to be just as confusing as I am also writing from a place in my head that does not always make the most sense. But that is exactly why I feel compelled to write about this today -- I am hoping for some sanity-saving clarity.
When we pulled up stakes and moved, I had one very clear idea in my head: we had to move out of the suburbs and live on the land. There were no real specifics there in the plan. We had been doing what we could where we were for several year: learning how to can our own food, figuring out the ends and outs of composting, raising rabbits, growing fruits and vegetables in our flower gardens. At the time we were striving to learn valuable skills and become a little more self-sufficient so that in the event of a major catastrophe (such as the one we had already lived through), we would stand a better chance at survival.
That's what we had been doing before the sudden decision to move. It is not that that mindset was not at all involved in making the move, it just is that it was not the primary reason at the time. Instead, my determination was based on a growing sense that my children (as they also grew) were not living life fully. I wanted them to see meadows and play in streams, learn bird songs, and experience nature as an everyday reality rather than an occasional trip to the park.
As a homeschool mother, I was primary educator and curriculum advisor. And I had come to the realization that something very important was missing from the curriculum: real life.
I mean real life as opposed to the inherent artificiality of our modern lives. I mean sunrises and sunsets rather than incandescent or halogen bulbs. I mean taking the rocky path through the underbrush rather than staying on the sidewalk. I mean where things get dirty and stay dirty and a little rust adds charm. I mean the entire cycle of life from birth to death - played out day after day before our eyes without filters or apologies. Where respect for nature would come naturally - while at the same time stripping away any desire to worship it as some mysterious god. This often-idolized false god that they could learn to see for what it really is - only a fellow creature, but one worthy of our care and attention because there is an order to things... (an order which, out here, we have to learn to live with each and every day as our ancestors had done) and, ultimately, that there is a True God who made it that way.
Being human, I often lose sight of the goal. Especially after two years of Dave having to live away from us for his job while we simply worked to hold things together, I lost direction. If we were totally self-sufficient by now, Dave would not have to work away from home. Nevermind that that sort of self-sufficiency was never our goal... we had only wanted to learn and pass on skills that would make us less dependent on modern technology in the event that we did not have access to it at some point. We were not going off-grid. If you could make some real money at this, this will never happen again. Nevermind that we never intended to make money at this. Making it into a business enterprise would put our entire endeavor in danger of becoming artificial. If you could just increase production and advertise you could make a good profit. Nevermind that increased production would mean throwing out all of our kinder, gentler methods of raising animals. Nevermind that increased production would displace me from my full time job as mother and teacher. Direction lost.
We are in the middle of an extreme heat wave that started early in the week. Every day for the last seven days has given us temperatures in excess of 95F degrees. The meteorologists tell us that the heat index has been hovering between 105 and 110F each day. It feels a lot hotter.
It isn't like the heatwave took us by surprise, so we all voted last night to wake up early this morning and get as much done as possible on the grow-out pen before it got too hot. I had realized earlier in the week during solo attempts at putting this thing together that every step of the process - excluding pre-cutting lumber - requires at least four hands (ideally six or so) and we only have so many chances for all of us to work together. Despite our early start, it was really hot. My phone camera had overheated by 8:30 am so the pictures from the day are not the best. Apologies both to you and to my camera.
Because it is just how we roll, we were sure from the start to make the entire project more challenging by assembling the frame on un-level rocky ground. Actually, I'm just kidding. It isn't how we roll. We would much prefer to forego a challenge or two every now and then. However, all of our ground is un-level and rocky. We could, I concede, go through the time, expense, and trouble of laying a level concrete pad every time we build something. But... nah...
Homesteading is not our sole occupation. Dave still commutes to work in Tulsa every day and works long hours at his job. I still have homeschooling to oversee and house-keeping duties in addition to all of the day-to-day farm-related chores. There is dinner to cook sometimes because we cannot live off of sandwiches and coffee. Although we have tried. It doesn't work. Being barely alive does not provide the energy needed to actually function in our lives. All of that is to say that time is always at a premium.
So when it comes to the more involved projects around the farm - such as building things - we are constantly looking for ways to save that precious time. Our last effort involves the purchase of a chicken coop kit from a place called EZ Frame Structures online. (I am not going to provide a link here. At least not at this point - as we have not gotten very far using their product and a link would be something of an endorsement.) I will say that ordering anything from them at all seemed like a huge risk at the time as the internet was flooded with terrible reviews regarding shipping - from extremely slow shipping with no contact from the seller to people claiming to never having received their kit... I failed to find a single decent review. That's normally more than enough to put me off from ordering from a company, but I really, really, really wanted this to work. Thankfully, we had no problem with shipping. Yes, it was slower than a lot of shipped items these days - but the seller provided tracking numbers and updates along the way and I have no complaints. About that.
I am working on putting together a chicken coop kit today (there will be blog posts to come on that topic) to serve as a new and inevitably great grow-out pen for our young chickens, but it's too hot to stay out there the whole time uninterrupted. I decided that while I am here in the air conditioning with a laptop in front of me, this would be a good time to introduce our readers to our donkey, Fatima.
I have mentioned it before - maybe here on the blog - but I always wanted a donkey. I have no idea why. I had absolutely no experience with donkeys. I am not even sure that I had ever even seen one in person before the day we brought our first donkey home. The only childhood donkey memory I have is that there was a book called "Donkey Donkey' among those in my book collection. I believe it had belonged to my sisters before me, as it was missing pages and had scribble marks. I don't recall ever having read it as, even as a child, I was a bit of a stickler and the missing pages rendered the book unappealing. I remember the cover pretty well though. So maybe that was all it took to leave me with a lifelong desire to own a donkey? Are we humans really so simple?
Once in Oklahoma permanently, we immediately began our search for a donkey. We scoured Craigslist daily and I even checked newspaper classifieds. At that point, we had no idea how to find what we were looking for. It isn't like you can head on down to the donkey department in Target or order one on Amazon. We slowly learned about small animal swaps and auctions and began attending the ones we discovered just to get a feel for the area and how things worked. Of course, there are not any donkeys at small animal swaps, but there are people. Dave managed to get a number from a nice stranger at a swap for a man in Inola who sold mini-donkeys... and we were finally off.
It was October, 2015 when we finally made the trip to Inola to meet some donkeys. We were led to a pasture around the back of the house that seemed to be full - at least to my memory - of little donkeys in an assortment of colors. They all pushed in close and crowded around us, sniffing our pockets and our hands looking for a treat or a pat. All of them except one, that is. There was a young spotted donkey, smaller than the rest, who spent her time maneuvering around the edge of the pasture in such a way as to always be at least 300 feet from us and the rest of the donkeys.
I had already told Dave on the drive home that he could pick our donkey for us. And so I knew what was going to happen. Scratching a fluffy, friendly baby donkey under the chin, Dave signaled with his other hand toward the wild donkey and said: "I want that one." The nice man with the donkeys took care to inform both of us that the little spotted donkey had not been handled at all and would take some time to tame down. This seemed only to encourage Dave. And so it began.
Last month I had written about the predator attack on a temporary pen where we were housing goslings overnight in much grim detail. I am relieved to report that we have had no predator losses since and have started sleeping a little easier at night again.
There was one gosling who had survived that terrible night while sustaining some gruesome injuries. In my emotional state at the time, I could not bring myself to put him down despite the fact that I was sure he could not make it.
I was apparently wrong all around.
The kids affectionately dubbed the little thing Nick Fury - for reasons which should be obvious to Marvel fans.
It turns out that Nick Fury is actually a girl goose, but we are keeping the name anyway. Yes, I have considered fabricating a goose-sized eye patch for the sake of dramatic effect.
All of her other injuries have completely healed and she gets around fine although she has to rely on her hearing when her little flock is off to her right. As for the flock, they have never so much as looked at her funny this whole time. She's the same gosling they have known since hatch day.
So.. it looks like someday we will be saying: And that's how we came to have a one-eyed goose. Here's hoping to happy adventures for Miss Nick Fury.
Posted by Anita
Needs goose eye-patch ideas.
When we acquired our first substantial number of goslings we did what most people do these days: We went to the internet and searched for basic care information. Most of what we found assured us that geese and other waterfowl have higher protein feed requirements than chickens and it was suggested that we feed either a game bird feed or a feed specially formulated for waterfowl. Easy enough. We knew that we would be free-ranging our adult flock on grass someday, but our young birds would need supplemental feed until they were grown. There were plenty of formulated feeds in the feed store with pictures of geese and ducks on the package.
What we did not find during that initial search was information on Angel Wing Syndrome - and so, as with most things out here, we had to learn the hard way.
Then you obviously have never followed us when we are working on one of our projects before. Just so you know what to expect from now on, I shall provide a sort of flowchart of steps that we go through whenever we are working on anything.
We have laid tile before so we were pretty confident going into this last weekend. We were both slow to realize that something was wrong, however. I guess both of us were thinking that it had been a while and we were rusty at the mechanics of mortar and tile. I admit that I complained a lot more than Dave. Mostly I wanted to know why the pre-mixed mortar we were using had the consistency of hot toothpaste. I was not polite about it at all. It was sticky, messy, and impossible to spread with the trowel. It was on my shoes and in my hair... It made me cranky. But we used it anyway. A whole bucket of it... and then a little more.
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