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Monday, September 15, 2014

Seeing Old Friends Again


When and where I grew up, it was commonplace to have seasonal wardrobes. Northern latitudes, when you dress for the seasons, kind of call for it. The lengthening nights and falling temperatures evoke desires for wooly sweaters and cozy flannel, even in the absence of store displays (which stupidly begin pushing the season in the heat of August.) And later, along with the rivulets of melting snow and ice, the dawn of mud season brings a longing for fewer layers, summer colors and a return to the feel of crisp cottons and linen.

Just like in "the old days," when clothing was expected to last for years, the choices in one's closet and bureau were fewer and new clothes came only as replacements for garments that were used up, worn out, re-made for a smaller family member and ultimately relegated to the rag bag (remember those??), my seasonal clothing swap involves taking out and putting away, a much larger laundry day and plans for winter sewing sessions, not a trip to the store. When the urge and need for different duds strikes each fall, it's an emotionally rich chore, as I bid seasonal farewell to my summer favorites and rekindle the acquaintance of my fall and winter "friends."

"Old clothes" -- those that have been around the familiar cycle many times -- truly feel like old friends to me. They bring back memories of when and why they were bought or made, the years of intervening wear, the seasons when certain items were relegated to the back of the closet because of living in a different climate and sometimes even a single event that caused the garment to move from the "good" to "everyday" pile.

This year I did it all a bit differently. Rather than just going through the boxes that were labeled for fall and winter, we brought every clothing storage box into the house for a thorough going through, sorting and re-labeling. Now that I am no longer working, clothes fit into one of two use categories: town or farm. And rather than trying to keep them sorted by type of garment (shirts in this box, skirts in that, pants in another) I am simplifying only by season: spring/cool summer, summer, warm fall (short sleeve fall theme or color shirts, dresses, etc.) and winter. Winter is by far the bulkiest category, of course, so there are many empty boxes at present. I was able to let go of a good size pile of things that have not seen use in the last few years, as well as a few things that don't fit or that I have never really liked.

I know I need to look for fabric and make a new robe. In the winter, with my hang to dry obsession, I really need one to wear when the other is not quite dry yet, and one of the old ones has been relegated to the rags. I may need a coat for going to town; when I did the spring shuffle, I sent my old jackets off to charity as one didn't fit well and the other, a huge puffy short jacket, left my lower parts cold and made my torso feel like I was channeling the Michelin man. I do have my wonderful wool cape with the waterproof lining (it's reversable) so I may not need a coat, but it is in my awareness should the right material and pattern present themselves.

One thing about knowing your "old friends" well, is that you miss them when they don't come to the party! One box, apparently, remains hidden... it contains some good, heavy weight turtleneck shirts and my long johns. I remember these going out together rather later than some of the other stuff, so when do chores today I will look for them. Bringing in boxes last night, in the gathering twilight, it would have been easy to over look a box or a bag in the back corner of the garage.

Each of the newly filled boxes currently contains a 2x5 card contents label, which I will tape to the end of the box as I complete the filling later this week once the laundry is done and in, and they can go back to their resting place in the garage. For now, I am glad to have my flannel nightgowns and a robe, more long sleeve shirts and my old chore coat for the gathering chill. We have predicted lows in the 30s this week... last year our first frost came with the Equinox weekend... and have not yet cleaned and refilled the space heater, so warm duds are most welcome. And old friends warm me in more than one way.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Fowl Post

"Birds of a feather?"
Our first year with guinea fowl continues. The babies have been living in the tent, right, with a couple of broad breasted turkey poults,  though since they are supposed to be on bug patrol once they learned where home was, we lifted up the front of the containment poultry wire sufficiently for the little guys to walk out while the larger turkeys remained inside. They have been regularly exploring and, of late, have been finding their wings. Every afternoon now the flock takes flight and spends time perched on the support "towers," left, of the chicken and duck pen. Then they fly back in the direction of their tent and some attempt to perch on top of the slippery tarp fabric. Watching them trying to stay up there, some sliding down and having to flap and run to try to get back, reminds me of online videos of goats playing on teeter totters and arches of flexible metal.  More recently I let the turkeys loose as well, and they have been flocking with the guineas, including one of them taking a stab at roosting, overnight, on the top of a chicken tower! That only lasted one night, though. Now the guineas roost on high and the turks tuck in on the stack of wood next to the current chicken run.

Turkey and guineas "visiting"
The Hussy and her brood
Dawn found the turkey still on high
...only for one night, though.
Recently two of them got down IN one of the chicken towers; I think they either lost their balance or their perch. I had to cut a hole in the chicken wire so they could escape and will have to patch the hole when the  towers get turned back into regular fence panels.

The Hussy, our mama hen, and her babies continue to thrive. All of the babies are growing like weeds and the one that was originally light colored is losing it's color to brown feathers.

We have transitioned the first 4 that were hatched from our eggs into the general population of chickens. At least one, likely two -- of course the most colorful ones -- appear to be roos so they will be stew pot bound before winter. they have settled in, though.

The banding of current layers from the general population has also commenced and the non-layers... as soon as they are found... will be processed into the stew pot. Thus far, everyone who has actually spent time in the confinement tent has produced an egg, most well before the three day limit. However, I had to switch confinement tents as the last few hens, Americanasa, who were confined managed to escape. I though I had blocked all egress, but apparently not. Last night we swapped the meat birds, who only overnight in confinement anyway, into the "leaky" tent and I was able to grab the supposedly confined bird and put her into their now vacant abode. Hope this works. I do not want to carry "liars" through the winter.

Hens and ducks in their new digs.
Next fowl project on tap was the construction of a temporary shelter and erection of the new fence panels that I completed yesterday. It was a several day project. I just don't have the stamina that I used to, it seems. First I hauled the panels around to the back of the house and selected and hauled 6 pallets. Then the fence got mostly erected. It zig zags a bit to help support it and the panels are just tied together with twine for now. Between the zigs, the tying and the uneven ground, there is not a straight line or plumb section anywhere!  LOL

The pallet assembly continued the "redneck engineering" theme, though they do have some screws holding them together... two for the back, one on each end and two, supported by a 2x3 across the front, on top.  After getting the coop structure up, I completed the erection of the fence. Coop extends outside the fence, with abuts it on either side. Two old tarps, almost doubled up, wrap the sides and another very large one, also folded, covers the back, top and hangs down in front. I have secured one corner of the front section of tarp to the pallet roof, to give then chickens a triangular door, a random pole of some sort or another is secured across near the back for a roost and their feeder hangs from the pallet roof, finally out of the rain!  I have a cement block holding the front tarp down to keep it from flapping and I can easily roll it off the tarp to collect eggs. I have stapled and tied the tarps down around the coop but still need to drag a few heavy pieces of wood around to help secure the bottom. I had planned to tie it in place, but getting the twine under the pallets is much harder than repurposing a few pieces of wood.  Before winter, I plan to give them a proper wooden coop, which will likely be positioned in place of the next fence panel to the east of the current coop, as it will separate this pen and a second one so that the fowl can be rotated during the garden season. That location will give the best access to the remainder of the back field for the tractor, so says Tractor Guy.

We will also be putting a motion light in the back, to help illuminate the pen and coop if a predator comes by again.  We had a skunk raid early this morning, which was likely at least partly my fault. I had left eggs in the first nest the hens made, so they would continue to lay there and we got back home after dark last night, in the rain, so I did not go bring the eggs in.  Fortunately, Tractor Guy has been awakening well before dawn to hear and investigate a ruckus. He got off a couple of bb shots and then came to wake me. Skunk had gone by the time I got out but had not been annoyed enough to spray.  I have a feeling that the little critter may have been "scared shitless" by being shot at though, as I found skunk droppings in the grass when I fed the fowl this morning!  LOL

We called her "The Hussy" because we though she just wanted
to be with our roo-at-large, but she had other ideas!
 And on another, more happy, note... this has definitely been the year of  "money for nothing (well, sort of... social security) and chicks for free" to borrow a line from a song. We have not only had a friend willing to hatch eggs from our hens, but The Hussy successfully hatched and brooded a dozen little chicks.

Then the turkey hen the we got in trade from a friend who needed a tom decided to brood some eggs as well! Lady Grey hatched out her babies yesterday. 
One of the babies came to see Tractor Guy.
Mom did not approve.
Seven little turkeys!