Rosey the Riveter

Friday, March 22, 2013

Learning Something New

One of my goals for 2013 was to learn something new... cheesemaking tops the list, but last weekend I hosted a Penny Rug making class at my house and we had so much fun!

For a long while, I wanted to learn how to make them.  Originating back in the Civil War, women would use pennies and other coins as templates to cut scraps of wool.  They would then sew them together to make mats to protect their furniture.
I was ecstatic when I located a local teacher who was willing to teach a class!  Her name is Abby Geddes and she is a delight.
We all got a good jump start on our own mats, and enjoyed visiting while we stitched.
I've since been buying wool clothes at the thrift stores, deconstructing them, and then washing and drying to 'felt' it so that I can make more penny rugs!

Here's my first finished project:
Future projects involving chickens and bees are in the works!!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm a Chicken Mama!

Last Saturday, while Stephen was at home finishing up the chicken tractor, the girls and I trucked it down to Currituck to get ourselves some hens.  Lets just say there were a LOT of chickens in dozens of different tractors.  And the farmer didn't really know what he had.  So it took us awhile.  We finally ended up with a Rhode Island Red who is about a year old, a Blue Wheaten Ameraucana who is about 6 months, and a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte and a Lavender Orpington who are 4-5 months old.
This one is Rosie, the Lavender Orp.  They are kind of rare chickens, so I'm looking forward to watching her grow and fill out.  Orps have great personalities, and she is already showing that she is a people person.
This is Clara Belle, the Blue Laced Red Wyandotte.  She is always the first to find the treats I bring out for them.  She's also going to be the beauty of the bunch.
This is Scarlett, the Rhode Island Red, who is definitely top of the pecking order.  She picks on the others when she's bored, so I have to make sure they have lots of weeds or treats to keep her occupied.
And this is Extra Crispy, the Blue Wheaten Ameraucana.  She's a sweetheart, but definitely an introvert.

We got them home with no problems, and they spent their first night in the chicken tractor in the garage, since the wheels weren't yet attached.  On Sunday afternoon, they were wheeled out into the backyard and immediately started pecking and scratching.  I don't think any of them had ever seen a single blade of grass in their short lifetimes.

Within a short time, the girls came running in with an egg from Scarlett.  They were so excited!
A few minutes later, they came running in shouting "there's something wrong with Extra Crispy!"  So I headed out to the coop and sure enough, the poor thing was straining to lay an egg, which she finally did.  It was a huge blue one which, we later discovered, was a double yolker.

On Monday, I spent way too much time watching them.  We got another egg very late in the afternoon from Scarlett and another one today from Extra Crispy.  Look at the difference in size between the first one and this one:
I am very interested to see the changes in their eggs now that their diets have been drastically changed for the better.  Their first were very thin-shelled and yellow.  Now that they have oyster shells, lots of chlorophyll, and a nice compost bin of worms, the egg quality should dramatically increase.
Here's the finished chicken tractor.  I wanted to paint a barn quilt on it, so I chose the "Hens and Chicks" pattern.  I love the way it turned out and all the credit goes to my wonderful husband who built it mostly from plans that can be found HERE.  He added his own little touches here and there, including ventilation windows on the front and back that can be closed up in really cold weather.  The heat is more of an issue here, which is why we chose to add them.

We have a garden, we have bees, and now we have chickens.  I think I'm officially an urban homesteader!

Monday, March 4, 2013


Last fall, while we were in the throes of getting hens legalized, I was fortunate enough to hear Pat Foreman speak at the local library.  She is the author of "City Chicks" and a very entertaining speaker. 
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This is a picture of us, along with "Oprah Henfrey" taken a few weeks before that talk, at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello.  If you click on the picture, it'll enlarge and you can see the precious look on Oprah's face!
When I heard that Pat would be returning to the area to do a 2-day Intensive Workshop once the hens were legalized, I knew I had to attend.  Normally, I'm a cheapskate and don't part easily with my money, but having heard Pat speak and after reading the book, I knew I had to go.  Not only did I want to learn how to care for chickens before we got our micro-flock, I also knew it would be a blast to spend the weekend with Pat and her 'side-kick' Lisa.

And a blast it was.

We all met bright and early Saturday Morning at the conference center at First Landing State Park.
 It was a hands-on class.  From the get-go, we were immersed in hens!
Pat attempts to make a hen smile while teaching us Anatomy 101.
 The food was amazing... freshly prepared by "The Local Agrarian"
... featuring the only gluten-free dessert I've ever eaten that didn't taste like it was Gluten Free (they were some delicious brownies!)
We got to learn about raising chicks and their special needs.  It was also fun to play with them.  Notice how geeked out I am, in my chicken shirt and chicken hair accessory!
We also learned (and practiced) how to properly handle chickens and "Chicken Whispering" to calm them.  This was the most beautiful and laid back Rooster I've ever met.  He's a Dominique, which is a heritage breed featured at Colonial Williamsburg as well as my beloved Old Sturbridge Village.
Here he is perched on my shoulder.  We matched real well!

We learned about using chickens in the garden and composting.  We learned how to treat common health problems.  An umbrella theme to the class was how important backyard flocks are... they provide wholesome food and healthy soil while reducing dependence on oil and ensuring a local source of food in times of crisis. 

Overall, I am much more prepared to 'mother' our hens and I am very excited to get them.  It'll be another month before we are ready, but I'll be spending the day making calls to local Feed stores to see what breeds they'll have available to order.  (I don't want to start from chicks, or we could have had them by now!)

In addition, I met some new friends and that's always a good thing!

The coop is coming along nicely... it's almost all painted, so hubby will just have to put the roof on, attach the doors, and put up the protective screening.  Then I will add some curtains to the nest boxes to provide some privacy and we'll be good to go!
We are well on our way to achieving the first of my Homesteading Goals of 2013!