Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Green Barn

The green barn was built in 1901. It may have been a Sears Bank Barn kit that cost $600.00 at the time. The write-up in the catalogue states: "it will cost you more for labor than the price of this barn." The sears barns were shipped via railroad and customers had to pick them up at the station. I can imagine a few farmers gathering together with their wagons to help out. The nearest rail station was probably in Jackson, or maybe Lansing.

We have a photo taken 50+ years ago that shows the green barn painted white. I can also see traces of red as well.

The green barn used to have a silo. You can see its old concrete foundation in the photo below. Over the years, it fell down, or was torn down. In this photo, you can see where the right side of the concrete chute, which allowed the farmer to send grain into the barn basement, has broken free, and slid through the rock wall. Someone started to rebuild the wall, and I continued it. Next summer, I plan on having this completely closed in and patched up. I will also have to put gutters on the eaves to keep the water from pouring onto the foundation. (I want to capture that water into a cistern system, but that's another post!).

Barn Photos

Pitchfork looking for work

Big fella 14" pillar and 12" beam

Every barn has dirty light bulbs (how did it get dirty?)

Nice curves

Gate looking for work

Gate chewed artistically by horses

Ladder to nowhere (except up)
Chicken Photos

Khan, glowing in the midday sun

Honey following Bishop the Barncat

This Thanksgiving weekend has made me realize how thankful I am for all the good things in my life. I know that is a cliché, but it rings true for me today.
Life is good

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Planning Ahead

This is my first winter with chickens here at the Green Barn. With each passing and progressively colder day and night, I am more and more impressed with the builder of this barn. I am glad I followed in the footsteps of a previous poultry farmer in using the barn chicken coop. (There are two other possible coops).

First off, it is in the basement of the barn. As you can see in the photo below, the entire western wall of the coop is underground and made of stone. My flock won't have any cold wind blowing through the coop, or blowing on a wall. The only exposed wall is the southern wall, and if the wind is from the south, it is usually warmer. This will keep the coop warmer! I can't help but think the designer did this on purpose to help keep his livestock warmer during the cold months. The window is sealed shut, waiting for spring.

This is the southern exposure of the coop. There are two windows on this wall that allows some nice sunshine in. Note that there is only about three feet of wall exposed to the elements and it is a foot and a half thick.

The other two walls are inside the barn. I insulated the northern wall with one inch foam insulation, and the eastern wall is insulated by a four foot hallway. I have the ceiling of the coop covered with a tarp to keep the heat in and water out, (the barn roof leaks).

I hung a red heat lamp over the roosting area to keep the edge off the cold and use it only at night. It was in the teens last night and this morning, it was 36 degrees F in the coop when I turned their lights on.

Four of my hens are really getting torn up by the roosters, so today I did the deed: three fat roosters are in the deep freeze. I watched all three of them raping and pillaging today and decided that it was time. Khan, the Cuckoo Maran pictured below, is a gentle giant, so he lives on. He does a great job of looking out for the flock and is always the last one in at night.

I love this picture Ruth took of our bottom porch step.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Snow Birds

You may know what I am talking about when I mention snow birds. Snow birds are people who are fortunate enough to have the option of spending the warmer months in Michigan and the colder months someplace warm. They either have second homes in Florida or the Carolinas, or they have an RV and they drive until they can take off their jackets.

Mother Nature gave all of the local deer hunters a big present today: 2" of nice, packy, perfect-for-making-a-snowman, snow. My chickens came flooding outside today, like they usually do, only to discover that the ground was covered with a mysterious white substance that wasn't all that tasty. Today, they weren't much in the mood to play in the snow. I think they were talking about joining the snow birds.

Cuckoo Maran keeping her toes dry.

Cool and the gang hanging out, reminiscing about the good old days of foraging. (Yes, the gold one in front is one of my Buff Orpington roosters)

Japanese Bantams: A study in white

This was a challenge for Ruth to get a clear photo with so much white to get washed out. She tried several different settings and settled on this one, which shut down the aperture and allowed the camera to decide on the shutter speed. If you can click on the photo below, check out the amazing feathers on these chickens. They are less than half the size of my regular chickens! I think I need to find them a girlfriend. Maybe someone will trade me a bantam hen for one of these roosters?

You can see the electric poultry mesh behind the bantams. I have grown extremely fond of this method of keeping the chickens in and keeping predators out. I haven't lost a single chicken to a predator. It delivers a nice jolt, and keeps working away 24/7. I am thinking about dismantling it soon for the winter and making the chickens stay indoors except for the times when I am home.

So far, they seem to be plenty warm! I am planning to apply vaseline to all of their combs next weekend. Vaseline helps insulate their combs from the cold. Want to join me for that???!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Path

Which way shall we go? The path wanders around through our five acres and gives us a view of several different ecosystems.

If we go straight, we go into the woods. It is lovely, dark and deep.

If we go to the right, we walk through the field.

All paths lead to the bench. A nice place to watch bluebirds feed their babies, or catch praying mantises snatching unwary insects amid the goldenrod and queen anne's lace.

Buck Rub
This is a 3' high rub on a sapling where white-tailed bucks have rubbed the velvet off their antlers and also serve notice to other bucks in the neighborhood. The bucks also make "scrapes" which are bare spots where they and does deposit scents to let each other know of intimate intentions.
The rut is in full swing in Michigan. Does will give birth to twins (usually) in the spring.

Egg Side Note
I like the variety of eggs I get from my flock. Today, I made a little breakfast of poached eggs on toast.
The wood stove acting like a stove.

I like this. A lot. C'mon over and I'll make one for you.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Woodland Pond

One of these days, I'm going to do something with this cute little pond. Right now, I mosey around it, looking at the tracks in the mud, startling hundreds of frogs, stepping over the poison ivy and in the spring, I search for (and find!!!) morel mushrooms.

When it gets dry in August, it is the only water I know of around here and the loads of wildlife take their turns drinking. Right now, they can do that in secret, because the pond is completely surrounded by brush and little trees. Maybe it should just stay our secret.

I have had thoughts that range from clearing most of the small trees and brush from around it, to building a little summer screened house (more like a deck with a roof and screening) so we can sit/eat/sleep out here without a gazillion mosquitoes constantly fighting over drilling rights.

I also have had thoughts of cutting a path that winds around the pond and allows us a nice little walk through this woods. This means a "to the death" battle with poison ivy. I actually have a little patch of poison ivy on my foot right now!

This is prime morel territory. By spring, the leaves will be packed down and more deteriorated, and the morels will push their way through this clutter so we can see them! MMMMMMM, yum!

If you look closely in the middle of this path, you can see a deer trail heading to the water. I basically followed their path to the pond and I mow this regularly.

Speaking of poison ivy, take a look at this thick vine growing up a large poplar. It is a poison ivy vine. It is over an inch across and you can tell by the hairy look that it is poison ivy. It goes up the tree about thirty feet and has its own branches sticking out. I'll probably take my saw and cut through this sometime this winter.

Do you have any poison ivy stories?
My dad tells a story about one of his employees, who was a botanist by training. Apparently, my dad and this botanist, let's call him Tim, were walking through a potential building site and my dad pointed at a vine and said, "Watch it, that's poison ivy!" Tim, said, "Nah," "poison ivy doesn't have berries. I think it is a winterberry." My dad, who knows just about everything, stood his ground and said, "I know poison ivy when I see it and that is poison ivy!" Tim said "bah" and picked a berry and popped it into his mouth and began chewing. He immediately spit it out and said "It isn't winterberry." About ten minutes later, Tim began complaining about his throat and after a few more minutes, my dad was rushing him to a hospital for treatment of a severe case of poison ivy that almost closed his entire throat down!