I could learn a lot from a chicken

It’s not uncommon to hear a cackle here, a cackle there, a cackling throughout the day as our free range flock visits the coop to lay an egg. I love to hear them gently announcing the prize for their hard work. Often times, Elvis, our kind-hearted and only free-ranging rooster, will lead a few hens in a chorus of support for the happy egg layer. The egg song is heard often and unobtrusively. Until tonight.

In one of our smaller coops is a very special flock. It’s a coop full of 9 silkies. They are fluffy, they are docile, and they are the teddy bears and lap dogs of chickendom.  They cuddle by day and huddle by night, confined to the safety of their coop and run. These young pullets and cockerels are the highlight of my flock and my friends and family love to gander at these lovely little puff balls. These puffy fluffy little sweethearts often don’t lay until at least a year, according to my research. So they’ve got a ways to go, or so I thought.

Suddenly, in an instant, an absolute ruckus rang across the chicken yard from the cozy coop just out the back door to the free range flock’s house on the other side of the goat pen. I flew to the window to see every chicken in sight had joined in this very egcited egg song. The breeding coops were singing their hearts out, the bantams and the cochins, the speckled sussex and the Easter Eggers, all singing along while the free rangers were crooning at the top of the their beaks. Every chicken near and far rejoicing because 1 small silkie laid an egg.

I could learn a lot from a chicken. Romans 12:15 (NLT) says be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Yeah, on Facebook, it’s easy to show happy and easy to shop weeping, but what about those real days where your friend is giddy over her promotion – the one you didn’t get? Or when my child excitedly built their 457th lego castle that day? Or the friend that is still sighing over the breakup or the loss?

We could learn a lot from a chicken. 

We need to learn to celebrate, even when we don’t feel like it. We need to learn to show empathy, even when our heart isn’t on straight. So we swallow and choke down that pride of ours, and we set aside our broken dreams or our elated hopes and we sing that egg song or we sing that song of mourning. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. It isn’t always easy, but it is always the loving thing to do.

Cackle along, my friends. Cackle along.

Homestead Happenings

Grab your coffee and find out what’s happening on the homestead.

With daylight stretching longer and longer, and the sun beginning to warm the soil, I cannot wait for spring planting. My fingers itch to get in the dirt and I am already craving fresh summer squash and tomatoes still warm on the vines. I keep reminding myself it’s not really safe to plant for another 6 weeks! But it is time to be working on spring preparations, starting seeds, and getting organized.

Captain Jack II, Blue Andalusian

As our homestead grows, we are working on implementing some permaculture models. The

idea with permaculture is that you work with nature, not against her. Rather than spending hours tilling up so for our new pumpkin patch and in the garden, we put our chickens to work. Operation chicken tractor is in full swing! Ok, we don’t have real chicken tractors, just small coops that we got for a great deal at our local Tractor Supply. We plunked one small farmhouse coop in our garden, which we’ve mulched with old straw bedding from the goat shed. And it’s new residents are the offering of my original 6 Tractor Supply silkie mixes. These white fluffies are having a blast digging up bits of kale and carrot that overwintered and digging for grubs. When it’s time to plant, they will have turned the soil, fertilized, and debugged the garden. It’s a win-win!

Betty the Barred Rock

Up on the hill, we placed our other farmhouse coop with the first 5 chickens I hatched from my Brinsea Octagon Eco Incubator. They hatched from a mix of eggs from Meyer Hatchery: a blue andalusian cockerel, a Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Buff Brahma, and and a slightly peckish barred rock hen. They’re still on the young side, but they should have our pumpkin patch free of weeds and bugs in a month or two. Hubby carries out food and water every morning! Of course, we still have our main coop with a mix of hens – silver laced Wyandottes, EE’s, RIRs, astralorps, and a beautiful splash Ameraucauna rooster. Egg production is picking up, and I’m hoping for a broody mama hen or two! We have one more coop of chickens – they’re extra special. I have a tiny coop in my home office with 9 various silkies – beautiful month old babies that I hatched from eggs from Wright Fancy Feet Farm. I love watching them feather out and they are getting so fluffy and beautiful!
We’ve had a problem with hawks, which is a sad reality of free ranging. A good rooster is a great help to the flock, of course, but we also have some surprising new guard dogs. A couple of crows have taken up residence in our trees. I thought they were just a creepy nuisance until I heard them, angrily chasing off a hawk circling our chicken yard. Somebody give those crows a great big hug!

We’re also looking at new greenhouse plastic for our hoophouse, an additional hoop house, an looking for perennials to add to our garden. I can’t wait to plant sunchokes, heirloom beans, and all kinds of squash. We’re hoping to add a Nigerian Dwarf doe to our herd and look into breeding our sweet Maisy as soon as she is old enough. Maisy and Jasper are enjoying the sun and love frisking and frolicking! We are searching for a good goat fence to give them room to forage and to pasture our chickens, and I can’t wait to sell our extra produce this summer. We love our fresh, chemical free veggies!

Since I couldn’t wait any longer to get my fingers in the dirt, I had to bring

Elvis, the silkie roo

some dirt into my kitchen. I planted some 21 day radishes, a pot full of lettuce, started some sweet potatoes for slips, and sprouted a handful of soup beans. It amazes me every time that a tiny seed can become a plant that provides food for my family. Only God’s creative nature could have come up with that plan! Every time a seed sprouts, I see God’s hand at work. If God can bring about delicious fruit from a meager seed, how much more can He do in our lives when we just open up to Him. I can’t wait to see what He and our garden will be up to this spring!

What are you doing new (or old) in your garden this year?

Little blessings, great big grace

IMG_0987It’s easy to forget, isn’t it? Easy to forget just how we have it so good. And it’s hard to remember all the things that we have, and it’s easier to overlook the blessings we didn’t take the time to count up. It’s easy to think about how hard this life is and harder to think about the good this life gives. Because this life is hard and this life is tiring and this life can make you so very very weary and the weight of the world gets heavier each day you and you think you carry it, just you, own your own. And don’t we we cry and complain when things aren’t going straight the way we want them to go, and its heavy and tired and just seems to get worse? And days upon days are ruined, we think, and where on this earth can we find some relief for this hurt and this heavy and this complaint in our hearts that won’t go away?

And then somewhere on our day, we forget how good it is to have fresh clean water every time we turn the handle of the faucet. Some people, some people have no water at all. Some people have water, but it isn’t safe to drink. But we, we have water. What did we do to deserve fresh clean water any time we want it? Nothing, really. We were just born here, where these is fresh clean water for just about anyone, just about anytime. All we have to do is turn it on.

But, we, or was it just me, who forgot to say thanks because I have water, all the water I need?

Sometime this morning, I turned on the light switch to see in my closet at the clothes that I own. I opened my chilly-IMG_0934cold fridge. And fried up a few delicious warm eggs. I turned on the water and let it get hot, and I washed my face and it felt so good to wash off the dirt of sleeping last night. And I must have forgot to be thankful for my lights and my cold fridge and my deliciously fried up eggs and the hot water I used to wash off my face. Until that little text this morning, from a friend a ways away.  “My power is out. And I need to call.” And we don’t realize how much we love our lights until we flip that little switch and those lights don’t go on. And what did we do to live in a place where there is power, so much power, that we only notice it when it’s gone?

Did we forget to say thank you, for lights? And thank you for chilly-cold fridges and thank you for warm, fried up eggs and the hot water to wash off our tired dirty face?

IMG_4025And right there, out that window, some bunnies scatter off into the weeds, and a fox yipping distantly, there – right there, a blue bird perched up high with lazy swings dangling below. And a couple of yellow finches, flitting and bobbing among the dandelion heads, and some too tall grass, and a few toys strewn about, and a robin or two listening hard for their plumpy worms, and that pesky wood pecker who loves all my trees. And right there, out that window, did I look and be thankful for those little blessings I count on so much?

And there, on my porch, some plants in their pots waiting to be snuggled down in the tilled up earth, where the worms get to play and the plants get to grow and give us vegetables, delicious, and filling, and so good for tiny tummies, but did I forget to be thankful for those little plants, just waiting in their pots? And there in the patchy sun, a wise old kitty who dozes away her days.

And I forget to count those tiny little blessings that every day should fill my heart with blessingsoverflowing thankfulness, like great big hugs from tiny tots, and kissing faces dripping with crumbs, and well-fed tummies, and chilly-cold milk, and chickens, so many chickens that give us their eggs, and lovely, loved people reading these words, and leftover pizza from friends that come play, and bananas and coffee, and a place to call home, with a pillow, and a bed, and a sofa, and a Bible to read, and a home that is cozy and plenty warm enough, that keeps out the rain and the snow and the cold, and a van that goes, and see? All these blessings that we just forgot. Real riches are found when our blessings are counted and maybe, just maybe, if I stopped just to count and say thanks for these gifts I’d know just how giving and good our God is.

And today, I will change my life, if just a little bit, and I will change my heart, if ever so slight, and I will give thanks and I will know that we our so blessed and our God is a good, good God.

Like a chicken led to safety

Psalm 91:1-4, NIV from www.biblegateway.com

 

I never intended to become the crazy chicken lady.

I just wanted a few chickens to run around my yard and lay a few eggs for breakfast. Honest. But somehow I ended up with 24 Silver Laced Wyandotte hens and 1 chicken of a rooster named Captain Jack. And that’s when the ‘addiction’ began.

There is a never ending supply of chicken pics on my Facebook page. I post far more chicken pics than pics of my kids. I sent my poor hubby out to the coop in the middle of a blizzard with cracked corn – because digesting cracked corn makes the chickens warmer. The chickens know my voice. And when I pull my big white van up next to the chicken run, they all come running to see what I’m up to.

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Lucky for us, the rooster mostly crows from inside the coop. But I love seeing my chickens dig around the chicken run, winging flight as high as the hardware cloth allows. I love bringing them my kids’ leftover Mac N Cheese, peanut butter and jelly sand which crusts, and the leafy celery ends that no one wants to nosh. They are happy, well-fed chickens, for sure.

But my chickens are stubborn and they don’t head to safety on their own. Our yard is not a safe haven for chickens – there are hawks soaring overhead, ready to swoop up a wayward chick. There are bobcats, and coyote, foxes, and raccoons, all waiting at edge of the tree line, salivating for a tasty chicken wing. One snowy evening, the wind howling, snow spinning around the yard, and the chickens huddled up against the side of the coop. It wouldn’t take much for them to go in – they could fly, hop, walk, and bob the few steps up the ramp and into the coop to safety. But they refused. They refused to be tempted by treats, by light, and warmth. Those ridiculous chickens just wouldn’t head for safety from the storm and hungry predators. Instead, they waited, cold, scared, and without protection.

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I don’t know what was wrong with those chickens – maybe they’re just stubborn. Like me. I had to pick up each and every chicken in that freezing snow squall and move it inside to the safety and warmth of the coop.  God is our shelter and our safety. He’s waiting to spread his wings over us when He seek our haven in Him. We, stubborn at times, look for safety in all kinds of places – homes, alarm systems, guns, family, church, work. I get it, because I seek comfort and safety in those kinds of things, too. But our ultimate place of shelter is in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.  This is what I need to remember when the storms come. And they will come, just like they already have come – in the form of snow squalls or hurricanes, financial difficulties or the stormy days of bad health, family dramas, or lost jobs – God is the shelter I need to seek.

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Where are you seeking shelter? Are you huddled up on the outside, getting battered by the winds and the storms, quaking from those that would devour you? God has spread His wings and all you have to do is go in.  I still don’t mean to be the crazy chicken lady, but if it helps me learn about God’s loving kindness for each of us, well, then, just maybe it’s worth it…

Psalm 91