Sunday, January 1, 2012

a new year, a new coop

I'm enjoying this long weekend, spending a lot of time catching up on rest and working on the farm. I finished the Dulcimer Webinar, and soon as I can upload the whole 34 minutes of it, I will email it to the entire list. I tried today, twice, and either I exported the video too high of a resolution, or I need to take it on a DVD to a friend's computer and upload it from there. Either way, the latest you will get it is Tuesday night, dear subscribers, and I think it's a heck of a way to welcome 2012. The video will also come with emailed links to PDFs for the song taught, and other resources you can use as beginner strummers. Let me know what you think of it!

I got a local farmer to deliver a truckload of hay yesterday and it was enough to build the Freedom Ranger's winter Oasis. Friends Steve and Molly came by to help build it, as the birds were ordered by them in our joint-deal. (They order the chicks, I raise them, and I get to keep half for my own freezer.) It took longer than I thought it would, than any of us did. But the final design was safe, warm, and predator proof as possible. Soon as the birds are a little older and this coming week's lows (hanging around zero degrees!) warm up, I can move a trial group outside. I'm pretty confident they will be comfortable. I sure would be! That thing is like a heat igloo.

On a more personal note, five times this weekend I started, and then deleted, long posts about how in just a few years of farming I have experienced such a change of spirit and heart. I kept falling into lists and examples though, saying things like "I can't imagine buying gravy at the grocery store!" or "I'll never not own a pickup truck." While these things are certainly true, that's not the change I am talking about. Learning skills, getting used to chores, owning 4x4 vehicles does not reflect what I was trying to convey. So I will work on it, and hopefully explain what goes on in a woman's mind 5 years into farming solo. The security and insecurities of it. How I see friends, people, experiences, morals, so many things differently. If this sounds vague, well, that's because it is for me too. But I think when I figure out how to communicate this baling twineline of mental evolution towards the authentic self I strive for (not there yet), it will resonate with many of you on the same path, or who yearn to be. That is my writer's challenge of 2012. To tell the story of how a person grows when they plant themselves on 6.5 acres.

I hope you all had a safe and grateful New Years, and will have an amazing 2012. Bring it on.

P.S. The television and microwave got the boot yesterday.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna I'd love to see more photos of your hay bale brooder. I'd like to get some winter chicks to add to our flock this spring/summer and this sounds like fantastic temporary housing that I can re-purpose later when it's no longer needed. How many hay bales did it take?

January 1, 2012 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

I would cover the whole thing with a tarp. That way the hay will be useable after the winter and will be warmer for the chickens. You never revealed how many you have of if you did I missed it. I hope you left a way to hoe out the yuck every few days.

January 1, 2012 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

I just reread what you wrote. You said you would move a trial group outside. You really need all of them to go to keep each other warm.

January 1, 2012 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

I'd also love to hear more about the coop! I need a non-electrical way to keep my chickens a little warmer in the coming months...

Happy New Year, Jenna!

January 1, 2012 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I'll post more when it is up and running. I don't want to take the 3-week-olds out when they want it 0 degrees tomorrow. They can make it a few more days.

By trial group I meant my half!

I am putting a thermometer in there tonight though to see how it goes, and yes, there is room to get in and clean it out. When it is done I plan on covering the top with plastic and filling it with compost and soil for winter veggies early this spring (late feb early march) while snow is still on the ground!

January 1, 2012 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I think we used 35 bales?

January 1, 2012 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Misty said...

Straw, not hay.

January 1, 2012 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Lee Ann said...

Jenna - I read and loved Barn Heart last week. So, so good. And so very inspiring. And, as a Vermonter, I loved hearing about places we know...I am hoping another book is in the works, and look forward to your pending essay.

Many, many thanks for sharing with us,
Lee Ann

January 1, 2012 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Margie said...

Girl, you're gonna miss that microwave. Know I wouldn't want to manage without one.
Happy New Year!

January 1, 2012 at 8:09 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

It's hay, no straw around here, No one grows wheat. It's just very poor quality

January 1, 2012 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thank you lee Ann!

January 1, 2012 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger littlegreengardengal said...

I got rid of my microwave a year or so ago and have never regretted it. Why did I even want it to begin with? Good for you for doing what you want and not worrying what people say about it. Some people think I'm odd because I don't own a microwave or a clothes dryer, but really there are more people in the whole world who don't own those than who do!

By the way, it would be great if you could make a subscribe option on your FB page.

January 1, 2012 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger kristen said...

Good riddance to the tv and microwave! We have a TV, but it's not connected to anything but the DVD player. The microwave left 10 years ago and I haven't missed it once. Good luck with the broilers!

January 1, 2012 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

Jenna, I understand the tv, but why the microwave?

January 1, 2012 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Turtle Mom said...

For those wondering what the difference between straw and hay is: Straw comes from cereals, mainly wheat, barley, oats, and rye, and consists of the stalks of the plants that remain after the seed is harvested. Straw has little to no nutritive value and is generally used as bedding for animals. Hay is comprised primarily of grasses and is used for feed.

Straw is the better choice (if available) for building purposes as it doesn't mold as easily as hay.

January 2, 2012 at 12:51 AM  
Blogger Heather Ann said...

I love not having a microwave. I never noticed a difference, but I took some of my own home made fodder to a friends house because I was running too heat up my leftovers before it was time to leave and I used her microwave - man! that food tasted so totally different (and kind of gross in comparison) and I couldn't figure it out for like a day - then I realized, I used a microwave! I burned a lot of leftovers my first few months without one, good luck with that part - hope you learn a bit faster than I did :)
And we are sans TV too, and it's awesome. I have no idea now how I had time to watch it!

January 2, 2012 at 12:57 AM  
Blogger Misty said...

We had a microwave at our previous house, but left it attached to the kitchen wall when we moved. The "new" old house also had a microwave attached to the wall that we took down while doing renovations. Now it sits on the floor in the dining room (still under construction). To be honest, I don't miss it all all. Life got simpler somehow. Funny, though, people keep trying to give us more microwaves--my husband brought another one home the other day and it's sitting on the living room floor now. Must be a decorating theme that I'm not aware of.

January 2, 2012 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Sounds good Jenna. Did you make some $$ on the tv/microwave?

January 2, 2012 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

Bales on the left look yellow, like straw while those on the right look green like hay. Odd no one beds/mulches with straw in your area, I had no idea.

What do horse farms use for begging in their stalls, are shavings the only option?

January 2, 2012 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

Bales on the left look yellow, like straw while those on the right look green like hay. Odd no one beds/mulches with straw in your area, I had no idea.

What do horse farms use for begging in their stalls, are shavings the only option?

January 2, 2012 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger downeast becka said...

Don't beat yourself up too much, hay and straw is a big distinction and part of our job as farmers in this day and age is to help folx remember their agrarian past, no? this links to your above post but i think sharing that you have a working dog is significant could think of a good spin when you correct someone so it is joyful "Gibson is actually a border collie that protects my flock of sheep" cue childs' eyes widen and then he asks dad lots of questions...:) Maybe it's just cuz i'm a brash farmgirl, but i hate to see you beat yourself up. Cheers!

January 2, 2012 at 7:28 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Genna- I've got a very good source for hay if you want some.

January 2, 2012 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Der, I mean STRAW!

January 2, 2012 at 7:49 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Julie, we are so low up here because of Irene, my guy will be sold out. This hay/straw stuff i used for the barn building, but my hay from Nelson is 60lb bales and GREEN! he is just selling out so fast.

I might need a source soon though

January 2, 2012 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Sraw is only sold at garden centers around here, for like 8-11 bucks a bale! most people call mulch hay straw around here! "straw" ususally means for bedding/mulch regardless of what it was grown as

January 2, 2012 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

deep reason for ditching microwave: I needed the book shelf space!

I never use the thing, ever. Only to make cheese! So it sits there taking up the place of 40 books. If you ever come to this place there are no shelves for books, they are stacked all over on tables, in cupboards, everywhere!

January 2, 2012 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

I hope I have enough hay for the winter... It was such a bad year for hay... But, I know they have pristine straw, but it is not cheap. I may go with shavings covered by cheap hay for my bedding.

January 2, 2012 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

I have to say, I would have corrected him too. How else do people learn? Must be the teacher in me!

January 2, 2012 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

I've never had a microwave -I just don't see the use of them - plus I like an old-fashioned heat up on the stove. Your post regarding letting go of the tv was inspirational. I've been on the best vacation the last week (11 days to be exact) and have made a concerted effort to keep the tv off more and the music on more - it feels good. Happy 2012!

January 2, 2012 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

I bought 2 bales of STRAW at the feed store for $5.00 a piece a few weeks ago. I wanted to use them to put down on the muddy paths from the gate to the sheep stalls and chicken coop. It is so muddy here. So I laid out nice pretty paths and it looked so nice. And was nice and dry to walk on. Then I let the chickens out. Hah! That did not last long at all. The straw is all over the place. Also used about a half bale for bedding in the stall and the sheep lay outside on the wet grass. And the chickens promptly scratched that all over the place too. I can't afford $5.00 a bale chicken scratch.

35 bales of hay is alot of hay. How big is that making the shelter? I bet they will be nice and warm. What did the temp read so far?

January 2, 2012 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger karen said...

Happy New Year Jenna! My son gave me your autographed book for Christmas and I am so enjoying it. May this year be awesome for all of us! Karen from CT

January 2, 2012 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Jenna is right about straw - it costs about $8 per bale around here. Luckily, I have goats and they provide plenty of waste hay for bedding because they won't eat it once it has fallen on the floor, so I use that in the chicken and sheep sheds for bedding. I used it for garden mulch exactly one time and discovered that using hay as mulch is a great way to grow hay in your vegetable garden!

January 2, 2012 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Straw and hay are both equally expensive here. :( And hard to come by. Boo.

As for the microwave debate, we have a different sort of motivation for keeping ours. We never cook in it (only reheat and defrost), but in a mostly hot climate, any food warming thing that doesn't heat up your house is your friend. We use microwave, crock pot, rice cooker/steamer and sun oven as much as possible for about nine months out of the year. There's about a three month span when I'd rather shoot myself in the face than turn the stove on. :)

January 2, 2012 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Geeka said...

I've got a random question that might be a good blog fodder for you: Is there anything that you have modified to do around your farm because you're female? I work in a lab, and there's a few things that have been modified (as well as step stools everywhere) because I'm 5'2". I was just wondering if you've done anything to make life easier for you (especially if you're short like me). I'm always interested in modifications that people have done to conventional things.

I need a running start to get into a pickup!

January 2, 2012 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Is the dishwasher next? Bet you do not have one and neither do I. Never regretted that decision.

January 2, 2012 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger Hughes ap Williams said...

I could do without the TV, but the microwave is an absolute necessity in our two-person household.

Over the last ten days we scored a turkey carcass and a chicken carcass. We now have two large batches of soup divided into 4-cup containers in the freezer just waiting to be microwaved for a quick, healthy, and cheap dinner. We also make batches of chile, spaghetti sauce, etc. and freeze them for future microwaving.

Our microwaved veggies are always colorful and crisp. I have never tried it, but I understand there is a way to "put up" produce using a microwave and a freezer.

When we make a pot of fresh coffee we use two cups and then refridgerate the rest to be zapped for a hot cuppa over the next two days or so. Same for oatmeal - a pot of it can be refridgerated for quick zapping (maybe 45-55 seconds)for another breakfast or even a snack - and without babysitting it so it doesn't stick.

And I love an office lunchroom with a microwave! A fresh hot lunch made from my own leftovers beats anything that I could buy - and saves money.

I also agree with the previous poster that there are times when you just don't want to heat up the kitchen.

I don't understand the comment about a funny flavor in microwave-reheated food unless it was the container or something previously cooked in the appliance.

Also, with medical and allergy considerations we know exactly what is in our food and can still have healthy "pre-packaged" meals.

January 2, 2012 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger downeast becka said...

haven't had a microwave since i left my childhood home, haven't missed it, never trusted them, never will...more books instead sounds great!

January 2, 2012 at 7:35 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I could never live without a microwave. Well, I could, but it wouldn't be fun. Same with my dishwasher. I can do other important things in the time I would spend washing a dishwasher load of dishes by hand. They're so efficient too. Same with the microwave. I hate using our electric stove to heat up stuff (including the kitchen) when a short time in the microwave will do. :-) My time is valuable to me, so I try to use it wisely.

Good luck with the hay shelter. Hope it works.

January 2, 2012 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

Funny, on New Years Day, I also moved my microwave to a pile of long forgotten appliances in the basement. I'm enjoying the extra counter space, as well as the additional time spent around the stove and oven.

January 3, 2012 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Catcoco said...

We do not have a microwave. Never had one. My MIL got us a couple of second hand ones over the years. She probably thought we could not afford one. She finally understood that is was a choice, not an obligation. Our dishwasher died on us last summer and we have still not decided if we should replace it or not. Our dryer caught fire this Fall. We had a spare one from when my mother moved to a furnished house. Both washing machines broke during the last month. One is dead and the other one does everything but spin. We still use that one... I too long for a simpler life but I am not willing to go without a washing machine. Not with a small farm and four kids (the human kind) !
That being said, I wish we would go TV free too, but my husband and children strongly disagree. I will be putting forward my plan of "screen time money" in 2012. The kids can earn "money" and spend it as they wish. I am hoping they will, in time, become more creative and not feel punished by the limitations I put on time spent in front of a screen...

January 3, 2012 at 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenna, what a genius idea that chicken coop! I try to keep them warm with a red light but that's expensive. I'd love to hear more about it... What is the plan with covering the top and filling it with compost and earth for winter veggies? Sounds very interesting.

January 3, 2012 at 10:22 PM  
Blogger Pam R. said...

We've been TV free for 28 years. Our addiction is books, we have thousands.

I grew up in the 60's and my mom had a fancy Tappan cooking unit. One of the fancies was a tiny oven about 12" x 16". We used that all the time to heat things up.

We had a microwave for several years. But I decided I didn't like what it did to food and found a free convection oven on Freecycle. That was many years ago.

That little convection oven is used several times a day for many things: thawing, heating up, cooking, broiling. It's been repaired a couple times and I don't know what I will do when it finally dies. I've been looking for years for a similar replacement and not found one.

And it's used year round, and no, we don't have air conditioning, and yes, it gets hot here, as we are open land.

Regarding hay in new England: The weather we've seen this year is pretty much what we can expect in the future. This means good hay is going to be hard to find and expensive. I've used waste hay for veg garden mulch since 1993 but am now looking into alternatives as finding the volume I need will be hard.

There are more farmers raising grains now in this area. How long they will continue, given the weather, is anyone's guess. But this means there is a bit more straw around, for now.

I used straw exactly once in the garden, as it was free. I was very disappointed with it. It rotted far faster than hay, when wet it was VERY slippery to walk on, and I had to replace it halfway through the season with hay. I also found it very hard to use in mulching small areas, like between plants.

Regarding dishwashers:

No, I have one, had always had one and would not get rid of it. With all the food preservation we do here, having really clean utensils is important. Plus they claim they use less water than hand washing.

January 5, 2012 at 7:10 AM  

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