Bed and Breakfast for Small Birds

Bird house for small birds Nov 2017.jpg

 

Farmer Man is building nest boxes for small birds. The opening is wide enough for our small birds — chickadees,  tufted titmice, bluebirds, wrens — but not large enough for the house sparrow or other larger birds.

The diet for a small bird like a chickadee and tufted titmouse is 80-90% insects, spiders, ants, wasps, stink bugs, and caterpillars. And the acorns are the other 20%. Our yard is a regular smorgasbord for our visitors.

Our nest boxes are an open invitation to our fine Bed and Breakfast establishment —complete with an all-you-can-eat spider buffet.

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Little Chicken with a Lot of Spunk

Donna October 2017

Every evening, Donna sits in the doorway, watching the sunset.

One afternoon about a year ago, the rooster chased and attacked her. The rest of the hens surrounded Donna, trying to fight the rooster off. Her back was raked, her tail feathers were gone, there was a large laceration on her head, and she couldn’t walk. She looked and acted like her leg or hip was broken. We had two other hens, Delawares just like Donna, die suddenly. We realized after we saw the rooster attack Donna that he must have attacked them too, and they died of internal injuries. Rooster was dispatched.

We put Donna into Sick Bay, treated her wounds, and made her as comfortable as possible. She moved around her crate using her wings to push herself. She ate baby chick crumbles and applesauce. We thought she would succumb from her injuries, but she kept eating and drinking water and scooting so she could see us.

After a month of baby crumbles, she graduated to chicken pellets. We moved her into the ‘Castle Annex’ when we partitioned part of the Castle off for her because the weather was getting too cold for her to stay outside in the crate that was exposed to the elements.

Even though she couldn’t walk, she would scoot over to the doorway in the evening to watch the sunset.

She’s just a chicken – a bird. But every evening she watches the sun go down. It’s almost like she’s thanking God for giving her another day.

She can walk now. She’s a little shaky, but the other three chickens who decided to join her in the Annex look after her. Annie, Molly, and Emily – each one of them left the West Coop during free-range time at the end of last year and walked around the corner of the Castle to be with Donna in the Annex.

And in the evening when my Farmer Man goes out to close up the coops for the night, he sits on the steps to talk to Donna. And they watch the sunset together, thanking God for giving them another day and another beautiful sunset.

 

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Not Store Bought Eggs

Sweet potato egg Oct 2017.jpg

We love our chickens, our farm eggs, and our gardens. Our chickens are hard workers – in addition to laying eggs for our breakfast, they also turn over the compost pile. They dig for protein treats (bugs) and fight over their favorite kitchen scraps, especially pieces of fresh tomato.

We had an amazing harvest of sweet potatoes a week or so ago. We dug up 30 pounds of sweet potatoes from our 4-foot by 8-foot raised garden bed. I peeled the sweet potatoes and canned them. The peelings, of course, went into the compost.

One of the young Buff Orpingtons, and I think it was Emma, grabbed a peel and ran. Six other young Buff Orpingtons chased after her. The older Buff Orpingtons stayed behind at the compost, feasting on sweet potato peels, even though Emma must have taken the best one.

Don’t know who, but one of the hens definitely enjoyed the sweet potatoes. Do you see the difference in the color of the two eggs?

If we are what we eat, then one of our chickens is a Sweet Potato!

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Three-Day Brisket

Brisket Sept 2017

Wait for it…wait for it. That’s the motto for our famous Farm Three-Day Brisket.

Day One

I give the slab of brisket a nice olive oil massage. After it’s feeling nice and relaxed, I follow up with an invigorating After Five Dry Rub. I double-wrap the meat in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to allow the oil and spices to fuse into the meat.

Day Two

The aluminum foil-covered brisket looks like a misshapen cake that fell on one side.  It takes up a whole rack in the refrigerator. It sits. And fuses.

Day Three

He starts the fire early in the morning. After about an hour, the smoker is ready for the brisket. He mops the brisket every 45 minutes with the After Five Smoker Mop – a thin sauce that keeps the meat from drying out.

After about five or six or eight hours – it all depends – the meat reaches a temperature of 185° F.  He wraps the brisket in aluminum foil and puts in a cooler with a tight lid for two hours. The last two hours allow the brisket to finish cooking, or soak up all the sauces, or just relax after the day in the After Five Sauna.

And finally – ready to slice. We enjoy our brisket with After Five Sweet and Spicy BBQ sauce, After Five Beans, and a fresh salad. Yum.

It was well worth the three days’ wait. Why famous? See that classic smoke ring? It’s the favorite of everyone who has tried it! Even the dogs get a taste or two. After all, they spent three days supervising the prep and smoking.

 

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Magical Farm

Morning Spider jpg Sept 2017

Every fall, our large spiders magically appear. They do a wonderful job of making all the excess flies and any other unaware bugs left over from summer disappear. They spin their huge webs overnight. Every morning there are new spiders with new webs in new locations everywhere. It’s magical.

That isn’t the only magic at the farm. We always walk using the farm shuffle to watch each step to be sure a stick doesn’t magically slink away or rear its head to warn us away.

In the fall, especially in the mornings, we also wave a wand – cleverly disguised as a stick – in front of our faces. We mumble incantations that might sound like spider curses while we shuffle through our morning chores. It’s a magical mix of Spidey and Harry Potter with a tip of the farm hat to Ron Weasley.

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Two Striped Walking Stick

Twostriped Walking Stick Sept 2017

This is a two striped walking stick. The female is over two inches long, and the male is one inch long. The male attaches to a female, and they stay together until one of them dies. In fact, a mature male will attach to an immature female to ensure he has a mate.

Besides being a “until-death-do-us-part” bug, the two striped walking stick has quite a potent defense mechanism. It has the ability to spray a smelly, irritating liquid from its abdomen. The irritant is discharged up to 12 to 15 inches with uncanny accuracy when threatened or disturbed, and the walking stick aims for the eyes. People who have been sprayed described it as feeling like “burning, molten lead” in the eyes.

Evidently, they weren’t threatened with having their picture taken. I wasn’t sprayed.

Living in the country is educational!

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Hickory Horned Devil

Hickory Horned Devil Aug 2017

This beautiful, five-inch-long decked-out caterpillar was strolling through the yard when we let the princesses out for free-ranging. Several of them checked it out and moved on. It is completely harmless but evidently a bit larger than our chickens wanted to take on.  It’s the larva of the Regal (or Royal Walnut) Moth. The Regal Moth is the largest moth north of Mexico.

I love the markings that look like sunglasses. This is one caterpillar that is ready for the bright Florida sun or even an eclipse!

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