Counting on the Unexpected
I was never a fan of math. Words have always been so much more of a pleasure. But here on the farm I regularly count my way through the days. I start my morning with two cups of locally roasted coffee (thank you Blue River Roasters). When I do my morning rounds, I collect and count eggs. In the afternoon, I head outside to count the goats--to make sure they haven't gone rogue. (They've been jumping the fences a lot lately.) I fill water bowls and buckets--about 12 of them a day. We feed 13 cats. I clean litter boxes--19 of them are spread out throughout the house, the basement, and Randy's shop. Each evening, Randy and I do a head count of the chickens to make sure all have made their ways safely back into the coop. And, lastly, I do a lot of math to figure out where the money is going to come from for all that we hope to do here this year. Next up: We're having approximately 1,000 feet of fencing installed, and next week we should hear back about whether we can get a high tunnel through the high tunnel initiative offered by NRCS. (If you're interested in growing food on a fairly large scale, definitely look into this program.)
The Ladies: -1?
When I talk about our small farm, I regularly say we have 32 chickens. We actually have 30 chickens and two Guinea fowl. On Wednesday evening, I headed out to put the chickens up and found one little lady on the floor of the coop; she was unable to walk. There's a nasty chicken disease called Marek's that can wipe out a coop quickly. Caused by a virus, Marek's Disease is extremely contagious and leads to paralysis in most chickens, among many other afflictions. There is no cure for it, and the disease is usually fatal. When I found her, I quickly scooped her up, Randy grabbed some straw, and we brought her inside where we made a new little bed for her in a cat carrier. Three times a day, I sit down with her to feed her by hand, counting out each pellet to around 85 or so, before calling it a meal and giving her some water. Randy and I are also giving her supplements, a product called Kickin' Chicken, as well as antibiotics. Randy handles the injections. Nothing seems to be helping. Her breathing is labored, and besides keeping her comfortable, we don't know much else to do. So many chicken illnesses look alike. She might have Marek's, or she could have one of any number of problems. We're waiting it out to see whether she makes it through the weekend or whether my 32 chicken count gets cut by one. In the meantime, Adelle, our Australian Shepherd who is obsessed with the chickens, won't leave her side; Adelle spends all day next to the cage, whimpering with worry for her sick little friend.
Speaking of Chickens: 44
That's how many eggs I found in a secret hiding place inside the goat barn the other day. Occasionally, we discover a new spot where the chickens have decided to lay. This was the biggest--and most unfortunate--discovery yet. Because I didn't know how old these eggs were, they got thrown out.
The Bees: 5 1/2
We've been collecting a lot of swarms lately. If a hive makes it through the winter, it's usually very strong and very large come spring. Oftentimes, the queen of a strong hive will decide she's feeling too crowded and will leave. When she does that, a large group of her workers follow. We came out of the winter with one working hive--a big one. The hive chambers are loaded with honey, comb, and thousands of bees. So many that our queen decided to move.
Luckily, we were outside the day she left, and we were able to capture her and her crew and get them into a new home. That left us with two hives (the bees remaining in the first hive will hatch a new queen). We've captured a couple other swarms since, purchased a package of bees, and started this past week with five working hives. We came home one day this week to see the first hive we had split again. A new small swarm was forming. Randy placed that group of ladies into a half-sized box (until we get another full-sized brood chamber where they can live), and now we're heading into next week with 5 1/2 hives. Plus thousands, upon thousands, of bees.
We keep bees for no other reason but to give them homes and provide them with water and sugar water for when they need extra food. We don't sell their honey, but if you're looking for local honey, we offer Bastin Honey Bee Farm honey products, among others, in our farm store.
An update: As of Monday morning, the little chicken lady is still hanging in there, and we have yet to figure out what's wrong with her. Despite the feedings, she's really thin. I'm not able to sit there all day and feed her as much as she would eat on her own. Randy and I have read up on about every chicken disease we can find without reading anything that matches what's going on with her exactly.
This is life on the farm. Every day is different. Each day promises the unexpected. We can count on it.