a homestead morning
I wake up at 5:30 to a rooster. Outside my bedroom window is a little ramshackle of a chicken coop I’ve taken to calling the “East Tennessee House”. It’s part barrel, part apple crate, and covered in old metal roof shingles. It’s a sad site, but it works. The five Japanese black silkie bantam chickens that call it home have yet to complain. I don’t know what it is about crowing proximity but when you wake up six feet from a loud bird, you tend to stay up. I am awake but crunch my body under the quilt and pretend Gertrude is the nice quiet hen I thought he was and not a moody cockerel.
The morning’s cold. Late August in Idaho means mornings in the high 30’s or low 40’s. Next to my bed is a hand knit cap, a fleece jacket, and some thick mukluk knit booties with leather soles. I armor up and step over the still sleeping dogs around the foot of the bed. Annie follows me into the kitchen, tail high. Jazz rolls over to his left. He can wait till 6Am to pee.
In the kitchen I go about the normal routine. I dump coffee beans into the grinder and crank away while looking out the window to see how much water is in the chicken font. When the percolator is loaded up I grab the sealed jar of heavy cream that’s been sitting out all night and throw it in my big side pocket. While I walk around doing chores it’ll bump and churn slowly into butter. With the coffee growling into perk, I slide into my wellies, grab the chicken feed bucket and step outside.
The grass is slightly crunchy, like it considered frosting over but thought better of it. Outside the four large hens I have are scampering around and when I call them “Chick chick chick CHICKKKKKEEENNNNN!” they come running. A running chicken might be the funniest thing you can observe before coffee. After I throw them a few scoops of feed I walk over to the hutch to collect eggs and check to see who’s nesting. Usually it’s one of the red gals, Mary Todd Lincoln or Mindy. This morning it’s empty but two giant brown eggs are in their stead, still warm.
Aside the Laying coop is the silkie pen. They are all out in the grass, hopping on a log and picking through their area for bugs. I drop into the netting fresh feed. The silkies used to have free range all day, but the wandering roosters were going into the neighbor’s property, which brought complaints. Now they are let out from about 4pm till dark to wander and scratch closer to home. (Chickens are rarely so adventurous after lunchtime)
I then start the business of the rabbitry. The butter is still bouncing around in the jar at my side while I replacing rabbit water bottles, cleaning out cages, and giving the three does new pellets and timothy hay. The contrast of these silent, calm animals and the frenzy that is laying hens is a good balance.
The gardens are watered, the paths are swept, outside the sunrise is pink and purple and the morning. It feels like early fall. I am happy.
Walking into the house large dogs greet me, they bury their noses into my chest and arms. The joint smells like coffee, and breakfast is going to be following shortly. Fresh eggs, homemade bread for toast with farm-canned spreads and fluffy butter. Breakfast fills me up for the whole day. It’s my favorite meal because I have so much time for it, and because its all from the farm. There is an intense sense of satisfaction in that. You just can’t know.
Actually. You can.
The point of this blog, and the book I'm writing, is to encourage people interested in a homestead-type lifestyle to start working toward it now. Regardless of your location, age, lease, or employment there are ways to start becoming the farmer you've always secretly wished to be. Keep checking back here for recipes, stories, tips, memoir and other such bits if it suits you.