Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hello May Babies!

Many of you know that we had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new baby. Although the baby wasn't due until May 24th, all three of our little ones arrived around the 37 week mark. Thankfully E2 did not disappoint and arrived at 37 1/2 weeks with a quick but incredibly intense labor.

So where have I been the last five weeks if E2 isn't even 3 weeks old?
Well, first I was gearing up for E2 i.e. too exhausted to do anything but go to bed at the same time as the kids (by 8 pm!). Then I was going to bed with E2 at the same time as the kids, some times a little before.

Thankfully we finished up the beekeeping classes with our local apiary a few days before E2 was born. We should be getting our bees in a couple of weeks. I am so excited! And really nervous.

The day after I got home from the hospital, our piglets arrived! Hooray! My dad drove and picked them up from a farmer a friend had recommended. Last year we got two Tamworth/Old Spot mixes. This year we got three (two for us and one for my father) Tamworth/Berkshire mixes. We put them into our first garden until this weekend when we got the electric fence set up and tested.

To move the piglets, we moved their food bowl in the garden every feeding. When it was time to move them, I carried the bucket of food and walked into the garden, picked up their food bowl and walked to the new pen. Whenever the piglets got distracted, I would bang on the food bowl a little with my hand and keep walking. We lifted two of the electric fence posts (we have temporary, movable fencing) and they walked right under it. Don't they look delicious?



When E2 was about a week old, our almost 3 week old chicks (my dad hatched them for us in the incubator) arrived as well. As many of you know, last year I bought quite a few Black Cooper Maran eggs and we ended up with one chicken. It is a very expensive chicken!

Last fall I read about the Icelandic breed and was very intrigued. I was even more excited to learn that there was a breeder, Mack Hill Farm, less than 5 minutes from my grandmother's house. I talked to her and she was willing to pick up in the spring. After last year, I won't ever buy eggs and have them shipped again. I quickly mailed a check and got on the list for 20 eggs.

Needless to say, things did not go as planned. (Do they ever? Isn't that part of the fun of homesteading?) I had been speaking with Lisa from Mack Hill Farm, however her husband Frank was filling egg orders and the eggs got mailed. Not only did they get mailed but the post office messed up. Frank paid for 2-day priority shipping in order to get them to me as a Saturday delivery, however according to my post office, there is no guaranteed 2 day delivery any more so the eggs did not arrive on Saturday. On Monday, they were still stuck in Albany so my post office worker, who has performed miracles for me in the past, put a call into Albany, trying to find out what the hold up was. Thinking that I would get the eggs that day or at the latest, the next, I picked up 22 Black Cooper Maran (BCM) eggs from a breeder in Agawam, MA when I went to Cream of the Crop farm to pick up our raw milk.

On Tuesday morning, instead of Albany sending them to our small post office, they sent them to Springfield, MA, an hour away. The eggs arrived a day or two later. Eggs that have been bounced around in trucks for a week do not usually produce good results. With 24 Icelandic eggs and 22 Black Cooper Maran eggs, I wasn't too hopefully. I spoke with Frank on the phone about whether I should get more eggs however they ended up having a great opportunity and were moving a week or two later so my chance of getting more eggs was really limited. Did I toss the ones already in the incubator (we were out of space!) and get a few more or wait it out and hope for the best. In the end I bought a purebred Icelandic rooster from them that my uncle pick up for me the day of my sister's party and decided to hope that the eggs would hatch.


In the end only three Icelandic chickens hatched. There were two more that were fully formed in their shells but they never piped so we didn't know until it was too late. We had eight of the Black Cooper Marans hatch but one needed help to get out of the shell and even then he didn't make it. So we had a total of 10 chicks from 46 eggs. A horrible hatch rate but still we got some chickens. And having spent $50 on the eggs total, that is $5 a chick, not a bad price, especially considering the specialty breeds.


One of the chicks that hatched from the BCM was completely white with feathered legs. So I am not sure if it is really a BCM or a mix. As you can see, it is also a bit camera shy and has a nervous tummy.


Five of the remaining six BCMs all have feathered feet.



The three Icelandic chicks all look different and are much smaller than the BCM. It is kind of hard to tell but they are all different colors, although they are all beautiful.




Pretty different than the rooster huh? According to Lisa, the black is a dominant color and she doesn't tend to keep the black ones because she personally prefers the many different colors. I cannot wait to see what kind of chicks these produce next year!

Right after I got home from the hospital, I checked the coop and imagine my surprise to find a broody meat hen.


I gave her one egg to sit on and took the rest. Unfortunately last Monday, another meat hen took it and ate it (I think). So I gave her three eggs. The next day, I found Brown Mama in the nesting box, refusing to leave except when I brought the food out. Yep, another broody mama. 


I gave her only three eggs too. Then Sunday I went out to collect the eggs and found a chicken on a different nesting box. It wasn't until yesterday when I saw her still there and getting all protective when I removed her that I knew we had another broody hen. A Sumatra this time. As of this morning I have no idea how many days in she is but I do know that Sumatras tend to be good mamas so we will see what happens. I did check one of the meat hen's eggs and it appears to be developing so we might have more babies coming! In two weeks we will see what hatches.


There are babies everywhere on this homestead. May is also the time of year we start planting. This year we planted pine trees, a mulberry tree, some honeyberry trees and two grape plants. With the lack of rain, the honeyberry plants aren't looking too good but hopefully they will pull through.

Our strawberries are looking great. My mother-in-law weeded them out before the baby came. Then my husband made these metal hoops and covered them with netting to keep the chickens and other birds out this year. They are looking good. We already have some green berries. Here's hoping for red, juicy strawberries.


I want to try planting grains this year as well as the regular garden. Right now I have seeds and dreams, now we will see if we get rain and time to plant everything we need (tomatoes, beets, lettuce, etc.) and want (corn for polenta, wheat, buckwheat, dry beans, etc.).

I am hoping to return to regular articles twice a week, however I cannot promise anything until after the summer months. This is most likely our last baby so I am trying to cuddle him and soak up all those newborn moments. 


Happy planting!

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