Today was just another day on the farm. Saturdays and Sundays tend to be our major work days, since Alex's other job often takes him away from the farm during the week. While we are both here, we usually take advantage of it and tackle the larger jobs. Today was Chicken Coop Clean-Up.
Chicken Coop Clean-up is not a fun job. But where there's a coop, there's poop. I originally called my local feed store to ask how often we needed to clean out the coop when we first got our chickies. I had wondered if once a week was needed. He laughed. He told me that when he was growing up, his family raised 14,000 chickens in a very large barn (we now have 10). They cleaned it out 2 or 3 times a year (by the way, yuck! that barn must have stunk!). He said that basically, once it bothered us, it was time to clean. So we relaxed about our lack of cleaning the first month, and procrastinated.
Well, it's now been over 2 months since we brought the chicks home, and basically, they were getting stinky as can be. It was actually a bit repulsive to go in there and feed them, so I decided that must be the "sign" the local feed guy was talking about.
We grabbed a rake, a pitchfork, a flat shovel, and, because the dried chicken poop had turned to dust, some dust masks so we weren't breathing poop (again, yucko!). We raked the straw from the floor into a huge pile, pitchforked it into a wheelbarrow, and dumped it all in back by the woods to compost. Should be great fertilizer by next summer!
After everything had been scooped out, we hosed down the inside. Now we are waiting for everything to dry before we lay down the pine bedding and straw to cover the floor. The chickens do not like a change of scenery and grunted meanly at us as we scooted them first outside, then inside, then outside again while we cleaned the various sectors of the coop and yard. But I would think that chickens would be happy not to have to lie in their own poop anymore (though in all honesty, they really didn't seem to mind much at all). I like to pretend I don't see them picking at their poop every now and then. Maybe that's a good reason to clean the coop more often... we decided to put ourselves on a once-a-month cleaning routine. Hopefully it won't be as yucky then....
I also did a number of loads of laundry today, and line dried them. I love living out in the country and being able to line dry my clothes.... they smell so good. And our rain is so clean that when I occasionally forget to take the clothes down, they still smell clean and fresh, even after a good soaking. When I lived in Japan, no one there used dryers, we just line dried all our clothes. The only thing is the pollution and smog where I lived was awful, so if I hung my clothes outside they got stinky. And many of my neighbors burned their garbage (an acceptable practice, apparently), so I constantly had to be on the lookout. I usually just opted to dry them indoors, with only mediocre results at best.
Then we went for a hike in the woods with the dogs and the cats. That's our new thing, the cats like to go on hikes with us. The trail is about 3/4 of a mile each way, and they are pretty tired by the time we get back. They keep trying to rest along the path. I think they are great at short sprints, but not really cut out for the long haul. We make a funny little entourage through the woods!
In the evening, I sprayed the garden plants with Neem Oil, which now needs to be applied once every week or two as we head full-on into summer. The time for disease and insect infestations is quickly approaching, and it's much easier to use preventative care then to try and treat a full-blown disease or insect problem. We're keeping our fingers crossed. Last year we had a major leaf spot problem.... I discovered today that a lot of our tomato plants have some of the older, lower leaves curling. I panicked. Could it be the start of some sort of blight or fungus? An insect infestation? A deficiency? Fortunately, after a little research, it turns out this is common (though it never happened to us before), and may be caused by either excessive rainfall (which we've had lately) or excessive sunlight (which, interestingly, we've also had), and should not affect yield or ultimately harm the plants in any way. Let's hope.
Yesterday I did some major mulch application. We are covering the entire growing area with a hay mulch, which is actually just our grass clippings. Every time we mow, I get to do a little more. I was able to lay down about 10 wheelbarrow loads full of hay. But before I did, I had to weed the area, which had become extremely weedy. My fingers, hands, arms, back, and legs are reminding me today of all the bending, pulling, digging, pushing, spreading, and lifting I did yesterday. I need a hot shower badly. How wonderful it will be... sometimes it's the little things that make our day!
And finally, please say a quiet prayer for our new little nephew, Nick, who was born on the 24th, but is still in the neo-natal intensive care unit. He has some swelling in his brain, and so they are monitoring him closely. He has my husband's family line in him, so he must be a fighter! He really is loved so much! And we are just thrilled to be an aunt and uncle for the first time. Isn't he just adorable???!
We are learning one of the harsh realities of farming. It is getting very difficult for us both to leave the farm at the same time (and we only have a small farm- imagine the care required for large farms!!). Someone needs to be here to feed, water, and let out the cats (3), dogs (2), and chickens (10); monitor the greenhouse (open it, mist it, water twice a day, and close in the evening or during a storm); and take care of our 4 garden plots, which we are relying on for part of our sustenance. That being said, we are leaving to go visit our nephew in shifts- not the ideal way, but it's just how we have to do it until we can find a "farm-sitter".... anyone interested?
And with that, it's off to my much-deserved hot shower, taco dinner, and a movie rental (10,000 BC). I can't remember the last time I got to sit down and watch a movie, so it's my Saturday night treat. Enjoy your evening, wherever you may be!