Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baby Days!

Chicks came yesterday. I love chick days! We already have some babies here - these are mutt chickens; mixed breed chicks from our own farm. We have given hatching eggs to a local elementary school for the last two years. This year the teacher set 2 dozen eggs in the incubator, turning them carefully every day until hatch day. Nineteen chicks hatched. They are a week old now, and very adorable. I have fun guessing which chick came from which parent.
They are used to being alone, a little flock by themselves. But, with 50 meat birds coming next week, and only 2 stock tanks available to house them in until they get bigger, they had to share their space. I like to keep the meat birds separate from the layers so that there is no confusion.

Chicks come through the mail in boxes, just like a book or a new pair of shoes, except that the chick boxes have holes and make a lot more noise. We order all of our chicks straight run, which means that we get a mix of boys and girls. Some hatcheries call this "as-hatched". You can assume you will get about 50% boys and 50% girls in an order. The girls, if they are layer chicks, grow up to lay eggs. The boys, well, they end up in my freezer mostly. We do keep a couple of roosters for breeding stock and for security. A good rooster can help to cut down on predator loss be alerting the hens to danger or by taking the hit himself when Mr. Coyote comes to call.

This year we ordered our laying birds from Meyer Hatchery. Normally all of our birds come from Sandhill Preservation, so this was a change for me. Meyer does not offer Express shipping, which I prefer - less time in transit means healthier chicks. When the post office posted tracking information was posted, it indicated that the chicks would not arrive until April 21, although they were received by the post office on the 18th. For me that's a bit too long, much too long, and I was VERY worried. Would any of the chicks even make it after four days in transit? Well, yesterday evening the phone rang and a worker from the local postal distribution center called to say that our chicks were here, and he would be delivering them to us. No one has ever delivered chicks before - usually I run to fetch them at 7AM from the local post office. Such service!

The box contained 52 live, healthy, peeping chicks, about twenty five on each side of a cardboard divider.
The chicks on the side are a mix of Welsumers, Ameraucanas and Silkies. Welsumers lay a rich, dark brown egg. Ameraucanas lay the blue and green eggs everyone loves. Silkies, well, they lay teeny itty bitty eggs that are a little silly, but the birds themselves are fluffy and sweet, make excellent mothers, and are prized by Asian cultures as a gourmet meat bird - we will see about that!
The chicks on the left are Buckeyes. Buckeyes are the only American breed developed solely by a woman, and the only pea-combed bird bred in the United States. They are currently listed as "threatened" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. When I ordered them they were "critical", so the good news is that I am not the only person interested in this dual purpose breed!
Ideally we will be able to hatch all of the birds we need in the future, both for meat and eggs, right here on the farm. I spend a lot of time sighing over a certain incubator. (Go look. Isn't it a thing of beauty? Thermostatic controls. Egg turner. SO lovely. A farmer can dream, can't she?) It is important to me that we produce as much of what we eat as possible right here on the farm. Although the chicks do well flying across the country, I'd prefer it if they didn't have to.

This is one of the Silkie chicks. Meg has a Silkie hen named Celia. Celia has been with us for a very long time. She is about 11 years old now, which is very old for a chicken. She is now the oldest hen in the yard. I decided it was time to order some new Silkie babies to take her place.
This little guy is fitting right in already! I love the silkies puffy heads and fluffy feet.

Here is everyone all together; the new kids and the slightly bigger kids. The adjustment went better than I expected.
I think the sheer numbers of new kids made such an impression on the bigger kids that they just sighed and adapted. Seventy baby chicks, all ready to begin their lives here at Ridge Brook Farm! I can't wait to see how they grow!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sporadic? Nonexistent?

That would probably define my blogging of late, right? Well, there is a reason. When things happening directly to and around me are personal and chaotic and are not things I can discuss publicly, I find it hard to come here and put on a happy face and talk about knitting or farming or much of anything really. It's easier for me to manage Yoshi's blog. He's a dog. Family drama and "situations" all go right over his fuzzy little head. Sometimes helping him with his blog reminds me very clearly that simple is good and small is important. For a while I can forget about the big, real-life human drama stuff. I like it.
Am I knitting? Of course! I am knitting around the drama and the chaos and the decisions I am making about how far from home I can go right now, balancing what I can and can't say yes to work and travel wise, I am always knitting, mostly for pleasure and sanity. So please bear with me during this time. I'm here, I'll be back. I may pop in randomly from time to time. I'll definitely be around in the middle of May to introduce my new baby book with lots of giveaways.
Thanks for understanding!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Sliding into Monday - Meet the New Lexie Barnes "Libby" Clutch

Life here has been nutty, from last-minute book stuff to chickens to travel and teaching to designing and writing patterns and back again. Boxes of samples from the book came back and were finally organized into boxes this weekend. The new chicks - meat birds - are growing like weeds. I finally have a minute to sit down and talk about something that doesn't involve farming or authoring. And it's one of my favorite things - BAGS! And not just any bags. Lexie bags, for which I am a total sucker and huge fangirl.

I recently got to spend some up close and personal time with Lexie Barnes' new Libby in the color Raven (a color I adore both for it's iconic black birds and it's lovely shade of pink). Other print options include Fanfare (spring green with fan motif) and Fishnet (blue with - you guessed it - an all-over fishnet print). I am in love with this bag.
For those of you who may not know, Ms. Barnes is the mind behind Lexie Barnes bags, author of Sew What! Bags and the forthcoming Sew Up a Home Makeover (available August 2011), a gifted designer, businesswoman and entrepreneur, creator of Twist, an eclectic and off-beat but thoroughly awesome craft fair (words like "fresh" and "original" apply), and mother of a small herd of boys - nearly enough for her own sports team. But enough about her - let's get to the bag!

First, it is padded to protect the contents, be it a digital reader, your latest knitting project, or both. There is one roomy zippered pocket under the flap perfect for housing essentials in relative security; cords, cards, cash etc . There's an additional smaller pocket on the back which I will likely use for keys and phone or anything else I want to get at quickly, without diving into the main part of the bag. I love little perks like pockets! The size is perfect for a netbook or iPad as well.
The fabric is, according to the Lexie Barnes website, "water-resistant eco-laminated canvas". I am not sure what eco-laminated is (maybe I'll ask...) but for me it means that the outside of the bag is waterproof - I find this an invaluable trait during spring and fall when going out often means getting rained on. I LOVE the magnetic closure. It's enough security that the bag won't be flapping in the wind, but easy enough to access that you don't need a physics degree to get at your stuff. The bag can be carried under the arm or in the hand in true clutch fashion, but also boasts a removable wrist strap for hands-free carrying.
Yoshi approves, which is, of course, critical! I haven't had the heart to tell him it's not his.

Oh, and I did I ask Lexie about the "water-resistant eco-laminated canvas" situation and here's what she said:

"We've recently switched from regular PVC laminate to a newer, more eco-friendly one that is compliant with the CPSA and safer for our customers and the environment. It's a really big first step toward making our products greener, which is something we're very passionate about."

Works for my tree-hugging self! I suspect Libby will become my go-to bag for "travel light" days. It's also just about the perfect addition to my carry-on; my big bag can stow in an overhead of a train or plane and Libby can come along on my lap with knitting and anything I need to occupy myself during the flight/ride.

Other bags of note in the Lexie Barnes collection include the Lady B - perfect for knitters, in my opinion, and Pearl which has a multiple personality - it's the perfect make up bag, notions bag, catch-all bag; you name it bag.
Special thanks to my model Kristen for the use of her freshly pedicured paw, her Nook and her iPad. Mel enjoys her visits, and spent much of this one purring loudly and dripping drool onto her neck while I took pictures. He just can't control himself.