It’s been a rough few days! I have been trying to work out my fundraising platform and create donation prizes but life keeps getting in the way. This time around it was a familiar nemesis- snow.
This winter has been freakishly warm, with freezing rain and almost no snow, which has been great for me since the snow blower is on strike and has been all season. God forbid you expect a thirteen hundred dollar machine to work more than once (it ran for one storm last winter.) All I can get out of it are increasingly weak sounding sick gurgles. I have tried everything from the rudimentary cussing it out, to adding fuel stabilizer, to adding oil, to cussing it out and giving it a gentle kick again but it’s been a fruitless effort. We have a double wide driveway, no plow, and a barn that’s down a steep hill nowhere near the house which I have to get to because three wussy goats and sixty or so chickens still live there, being taken care of by me for the remainder of the time I am here. Being alone here and having no money to hire a plow I have been reduced to shovelling everything…. Every two hours to keep up. That last big storm dumped over a foot of snow. It took me two days to dig out both the driveway and a path to the barn. Last night the weather reports made no mention of the three inches that fell last night…. And so I got up this morning to a very angry back and more shovelling. Tomorrow it will be snowing again, and the day after…. Looks like another foot, which will make it a full week of doing little else but shovelling!! I fear the remainder of winter will be like this. This is sucking the life out of me, killing my back, and ensuring I have no energy to get anything else done. This isn’t good.
In the meanwhile I have been trying to work on my campaign. I have decided that giving donation prizes to everyone who donates in a $100,000 drive is a hell of a task. That’s a lot of donation prizes!! Because of this I have decided to streamline the process and sadly cut out the choice aspect of it. I wanted each doner to have a choice of five prize designs but alas, that’s just too complicated. Instead I will be offering one prize for every level….
$1.00 – A name and/or website mention on my blog
$5.00 – A small leaping bunny magnet
$10.00 – A signed 8 X 11 inch print of this photo (Which happens to depict my favorite rooster Rags looking suspicious.) This might end up being a different photo but for now this is my pick….
$25.00 – A large clay mushroom magnet – each one hand made
$50.00 – A set of alpaca light switch covers, resin copies of plates I sculpted myself. (Photo shows unpainted prototype)
$100.00 – A resin copy of a hand sculpted tea candle holder. I am working on this now and I am trying to make it look like a baby goat… Will take photos when I complete the prototype.
$500.00 – All the above! Plus up to an hour Skype chat with me, if wanted.
$Highest bidder$ (providing it’s more than $500) – All the prizes plus one large (probably 3 foot long, two feet tall) sculpture, signed, and if you live local you can exchange the web interview with a face-to-face meeting if you want to! I do not know what the sculpture will be but I will be blogging about it as I make it…. It’s going to take me a while!
Well it’s been a little bit since I announced my plans to try and do a crowdsourcing campaign for my next big project. I have been wandering around in deep reflection trying to figure out what I was going to use as donation prizes. Could I use some of my old art work? I thought I could at first until I realized everything should be pastoral and farm related so I started from scratch. I decided to make all new items and figure out how to make multiple copies of the same thing. I also wrote out what I was going to offer…
$1.00 – a mention on my blog of your name or website.
$5.00 – A small simple clay magnet. (Five to choose from: teddy bear, sitting bunny, hopping bunny, dog biscuit, or heart.)
$10.00 – A signed print of one of my chicken photos. I will be figuring out which five I’d like to offer a choice of soon.
$25.00 – A complex large clay magnet. (Chick, owl, mushroom, cat, or sheep – will take a photo soon!)
$50.00 – A matching set of light switches, one single switch and one double switch. (Sheep, Alpaca, Cow, Flower, Dog Biscuit.) I have sculpted the prototypes of these and will be buying supplies to make molds from them so I can make resin copies which I will paint and sign myself.
$100.00 – A signed resin copy of a hand sculpted tea candle holder. (chicken, Pig, Goat, ?, ? – will be working on creating this week.)
$500.00 – All the above.
Higest donation – an original sculpture, likely three feet long and two feet tall. This is going to take me two or three weeks to complete and I am breaking from the pastoral theme to make a gryphon in devastating pose. This will be exquisitely detailed and I will be taking photos at every stage of its creation.
The death of Rindle Ridge Farm beckons the birth of a new larger idea – and a request for help.
Sometimes when you volunteer to do a good deed you end up with a coop full of roosters…
I have a hen who every once in a while gives me a green egg. Now I don’t mean the shell is green, which would be totally normal of an Easter Egger or something like that, no I mean the whites of the egg are green! At first I thought I was boiling up bad eggs but the more it happened the more I knew I wasn’t picking up and boiling bad eggs! Worse still I am pretty sure one of my regular customers got one because just as I was having one a day he suddenly stopped showing up… and even if he did confront me about it what could I possibly say?? I didn’t have any answers!
Some time has passed, the green eggs disappeared, and then today I got another one! But this time I might know what’s causing it. Another customer of mine, one who came to buy chickens not eggs, told me he had a hen doing the same thing and he was told that it was because she was eating too many acorns. Acorns. Acorns are nasty things… they’re highly toxic to most livestock and I couldn’t imagine my chickens eating them but now that he mentioned it the piles that used to be around the barn are in fact gone. Had my girls eaten them??
I took a photo of my green egg juxtaposed next to a fresh boiled egg and just for comparison a bad boiled egg (which is brownish and gross… and is the top one in the second photo)
Well, we went back to our continued public town meeting to ask for approval to run our farm as a business and after reading a glowing review from the dog officer and setting some very reasonable restrictions they decided to approve our request. Now we have one more step before we have all our bureaucratic homework done and that is have an NPIP inspector in to test our birds for diseases. I am going to try and haul out the barn and make everything picture perfect and then give them a call. I realize they’re already clean by most people’s standards but I like to give a good impression. I have about five hens out there that still need saddles. There’s at least thirty that are already wearing saddles – all made in outrageous colors and patterns. It’s quite a sight. Since I stated using the side pasture (which borders the road) I have seen people looking out there and enjoying them as they walk or drive by. Perhaps they’re wondering about the saddles or maybe they just like seeing the chickens. One guy, a big burly heavily tattooed motorcyclist with a huge white beard, drives by frequently and I always see him turn his head towards the chickens – but if he notices I see him he turns right back and pretends he wasn’t looking! Cracks me right up. Perhaps watching chickens destroys his tough guy image. I don’t know but I enjoy the people watching. But anyway… we’re so excited to be registered as a business! Now we can really promote our name and make a go of it.
It took me over two years to find a wife for Max, the Belgian Hare I sort of ended up with out of freakish happenstance. I had no idea they were so hard to find! Or that they were nearly extinct… or that the show breeders who maintained the last ones were fiercely hard to find and even fiercely harder to convince you needed another Belgian Hare.
Freya, the wife in question, literally traveled from CA to a breeder in DC and then came up here to lovable New England after said breeder decided to lessen her herd. She was in the van that was supposed to deliver for for over a week past the point she was supposed to be. As I pulled out hair and bit my nails hoping that she wasn’t just an imaginary bunny she eventually showed up in a van which billowed with a funny smelling smoke when the doors flung open. She was in a cat carrier, driven mad by confinement, and I was given a pair of leather gloves to get her out – the sort of leather gloves you’d use to wrangle a rabid badger.
We took things slowly… really slowly… but within a couple weeks Freya settled in and became a total diva, just loving her new home, and to a lesser extent myself (she adores my dearest far more than me but that’s OK!) So we started building a nursery cage upstairs, where Max runs free, and we were excited to let them meet. The cage is currently only one tier but we’re planning on adding a second tier soon and perhaps even a third someday. Below are photos of its construction…
So what did Max do when I brought him the wife I’d promised him for two years? Nothing! Not a thing! He seemed more concerned with pretending the new cage wasn’t in the room! Eventually I was able to get him to sit next to the cage where he shook like a chihuahua before skittering away. Currently he’s hiding in the other bedroom, peering across the hallway at the cage. Apparently Freya is terrifying. Sigh. Guess we’ll keep taking it slow… and maybe someday… someday in the future… we can have little Maxlettes running around…
We continue to play with the game camera and it seems every time I get more disturbing results. First it was just feral cats, possums, blue jays, mice, and one very large and very old groundhog. I was perfectly content with these but when the dozens of raccoon photos started to pour in – on our very own porch. Well that wasn’t great but I’d just stop leaving cat food out at night and it’d be OK…
But then we put the game camera on the back of our property and found…. coyotes…
Several hundred more raccoon shots and then a sight that will fill any chicken owner with terror picking in our compost pit far closer to our barn…. a Fisher Cat…. at 8:30 PM!!
Well our incubator spiked at 103 for six hours… Was sure that the whole incubator got fried, and two and a half of the drawers indeed did (we lost half the bantams we were incubating as a favor, the Dorking, and the Brabanter drawer.) Despite this over 30 Marans hatched! I will be keeping them all and accessing who is worthy of breeding more Marans and taking the culls to breed Olive Eggers with.
We’ve since re-loaded the incubator and were expecting around 200 chicks in a little over a week. When I candled them I took out the duds and left 47 dual purpose sex-links, 45 barnyard mixes, 37 Silver Penciled Rocks, 35 Dorkings, 24 Seramas, and 15 Brabanters developing.
Even more exciting the Marraduna Basque Hen (AKA Euskal Aoila) eggs I ordered last fall came in! Two dozen! They’re in my incubator now and I am deliriously happy about it. I hope they hatch well! I intend to breed more Marradunas and cross some with a legbar to get a theoretically auto sexing Easter Egger out of them.
Starting a proper poultry farm is a bit of a bumpy road. Most probably start with someone wanting fresh eggs for breakfast getting a few chickens and over the years deciding they might need a few more chickens… until the town starts asking questions about all those chickens…
Our beginning was a little less subtle. We bought this property, and the a whole bunch of chicks and eggs, and for a little over a year we’ve been building feeders, nest boxes, breeding pens, barn doors, an incubator… and it never stops… and we keep adding on as much as we can. We’re getting so close to this actually being worth our time and effort! But alas…. taxes and laws and such need consideration too.
My dearest wanted to file as a business with the town. We’d already met the dog officer last Autumn, not knowing the property had changed hands he was all the happier to add us to his “Farm Book” during a surprise visit. Not to worry, all was well, and he enjoyed chatting to my dearest as I was oddly absent dealing with family business that day… In any event, although we were registered as a property in the town’s farm log this did not mean we were also a business, just that we had enough animals to need periodic supervision. That’s fine but we waned that glorious business certificate as we make a real go of it. So we asked the town. The town gave all sorts of paperwork to do and told us we needed to attend a public hearing where eight of our neighbors would be invited to express their concerns. If they had any there would need to be a judgement made, if no one shows up we’ll get a certificate and go on our merry way. I am nervous… I hate forced community involvement, in the past it’s never gone well… but I don’t think any of my neighbors are displeased and I will have to keep optimistic!
In any event this whole process ground to a halt when the woman dealing with us quit and no one knew what was going on. After a bit of a clusterfuck they figured it out and now we are set to have a hearing in May.
In the meanwhile I have tried my hardest to make the animal side of this business as legal and ethical as possible. Although I have no obligation to I have started to vaccinate my chicks for Marek’s. It is a surprisingly easy thing to do – yes, it costs me a little money but in the long run it makes me feel a lot safer. If any chicks are kept here they are safe in a vaccinated flock and if they’re sold they’re not going to spread this heinous disease to anyone as a silent carrier. It’s just good practice.
We’re also planning to get an NPIP inspector in here to get tested and certified. This will make it legal for me to sell eggs, chicks, juveniles, and adult birds across state lines and will open up our customer base to also include other NPIP tested farms. This is also good practice — that comes with some pretty nasty risks (including the destruction of the whole flock if they do turn up with a disease) but I think it’s the right thing to do.