The hens were ecstatic, escaping the confines of their run. I open the run door every day now, but I do chase them back in when we are going out and there will be no one hear to keep an ear out. My friend Kath had quite a misadventure with a hawk, so I’m cautious.

All nine hens are healthy. One day I had nine eggs, which is the best way to tell.

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Don’t try to eat something on the patio when the chickens are around! They’ll want some of what you’re having.

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We set up the temporary fence/gate between the chicken yard and the patio/backyard. Now only Oreo, the most adventurous and acrobatic, can get in. As long as she stays out of the veg garden, I don’t mind one chicken underfoot.

A friend found a dead sparrow and brought it to us for our home school. It resided in our freezer for a couple of weeks until today we remembered it.
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We unwrapped it and studied it for a bit, which wasn’t easy as it was frozen stiff. Then Amie suggested a funeral. We brought it outside to the compost bin. I put it in there, and Amie said some words. She had no connection with this individual bird, so it was a different, exploring kind of speech. She tried “Have fun in heaven” and “You flew so high”. Then she remarked that we all have to die, “like Gilgamesh learned”. (I had told her the story of Gilgamesh yesterday evening.) That was fitting. She poured some “happy sand” (yellow sand) on the little corpse. Then we turned the compost over it so it can feed new life.
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After that we visited the chickens, which were yelling for us. They are such complainers, but they’re very generous: in the nest boxes we found eight eggs.
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Our last stop outside was also with a bird. This was a chicken Amie made in summer out of clay. This is what it looks like after a winter on the porch:
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Amie knew exactly what had happened. It had been wet and then frozen, so it exploded from the inside.

After a month of consistently, sometimes brutally freezing temperatures, we had a thaw today. It reached 40 degrees! I dumped all indoor plans and got suited up – necessary because the snow is still above my knees, and up to my waist in certain places. I slipped into the trusty muck boots and the thick gloves, but skipped the hat after a while, for the sun beat hard and warm, and there was no wind.

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First up: a trip to the compost bin. We had been collecting our food scraps in buckets on the porch – which is fine as long as they’re frozen, but not so good when they defrost. I plowed my way over there, then dug out the top of the bin. In the image I’m standing on top of the snow. The black rim behind me is my Earth Machine. Looking down into it afforded a new point of view. 2 five gallon buckets of food scraps went in. I didn’t close up the bin just yet.
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Next up, the coop. I took the picture above standing on top of the snow again. Those first layers really pack down. The heat in the deep bedding that worked so well last year could not keep up with the bitter cold, so all the chicken poop sat piled up in stalacmites, frozen. I opened the back of the coop, hacked away at the mess, collected four 5 gallon buckets. These too had to be dragged to the compost pile. Then I had to play some heavy tetris with chairs and tables and bikes and the lawn mower in my shed, all to get to the bag with clean wood shavings. But the hens can be happy with their clean coop. They’re laying about three eggs a day now. Thank you, Ladies! As soon as I can conceivable get to the snowed-in hay, I’ll spread it over the muck and mud in your run!
Here’s some of our fire wood:
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It’ll be for spring.

Andrea asked for a chicken update. The nine ladies are all doing well, looking only somewhat worse for wear. It’s been really cold but that’s not as much a problem as is the state of their run. It’s impossible to shovel the snow out of there. So they have only a small area (under the coop, and the small part of the run that is covered) to scratch around and be in each other’s company.

But with the return of daylight they’ve started laying more egg, about 3 a day now. Oreo, the Amerecauna who stopped laying about six months ago, has returned to her usual self, laying one every day now – we know because she’s the only blue egg layer. She is the chicken who sometimes laid two eggs a day.

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Another foot (or more, yikes) has started to come down but Amie couldn’t wait to go try her home-made chicken harness. She brought Jenny into the porch to “walk her”. I don’t know if Jenny enjoyed that…

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Winter, winter… you’re still here. How can we miss you when you won’t even leave? It snowed some more, a lot more. See Amie and DH in the previous post, posing in the path, barely ankle deep? We got over two feet after that and were happy that blizzard (Juno, they called it?) did not turn into a historic one.

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But the snow was again light and fluffy, so no trees came down and we didn’t lose power, and it wasn’t a big deal to shovel another path down the driveway, at the bottom of which we carved out space for the two cars parked there. A path to the coop and dig out the poor hens, and rake the snow off the porch roof, which isn’t all that strong, and we are all set for the next batch of snow, due Sunday evening.

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Another good thing that came out of the blizzard warning was that we got all our bug-out bags restocked, stashed some more drinking water, and recharged all the batteries and emergency radios in the house.

Today we restock our art/media room. Yesterday at the art museum homeschool program Amie had a blast making a Holy Chicken Holding the Cosmic Egg.

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May it bring luck and a fortune in eggs to our household!

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Homeschooling is going even better than I had expected. We are sticking to a strict schedule in the mornings, with a steady core curriculum in math and language arts. In the afternoons we do Latin and, after that, we launch into our history/science module. I’d say the last one is our favorite along with logic, Latin and word roots. This is the pile of books accumulating in the subjects we’ve chosen for our science/history module:
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Yes, I know. But Amie and I both agreed we couldn’t start “History” with written history, or with the first humans, or the first life, or even the formation of our planet and so… we began with the Big Bang. And obviously we can’t do history apart from science. So: wonderful stuff!

Our first home school field trip was to the NOFA Mass Winter Conference. During lunch Amie went shopping at the stalls, all by herself. She had $5. After chatting with each farmer and herbalist and activist and whatnot, she got some fancy lip balm. We also bought bumper stickers. This one is her favorite and ended up on her cello case:

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On Friday we had our next field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, which has a great homeschool program. I got to walk the halls for an hour and a half, and located this poster:

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Soon we’ll have to open those seed catalogs and start planning the garden. At the NOFA conference I picked up a lot of information on trace minerals. We went with a group and divvied up the workshops among us. Next week we meet to discuss the many gardens now in play: our personal gardens (about four, some of them quite large), three large Community Garden Plots, and some School Gardens as well. These come with town-wide compost systems that take in scraps from the schools’ lunchrooms, pounds and pounds of coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, and now, also, kitchen scraps from the local Whole Foods. Lastly, the surplus goes to Food Pantries and shelters in the neighborhood.

I’ve not had time to write much here, but please stay tuned!

It’s been a while since I blogged. The reasons were house guests over the holidays with whom we gladly dug in like hermits, eating wonderful home-cooked meals, playing board games with the kids when we could locate them, and reading books by the fire. Also, we watched Sharknado 2: The Second One together. It’s a ritual, better not to ask any further. And we played with Google Cardboard.

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I also prepared a lot for homeschooling, which started yesterday. Here we are at the beginning of our first day:

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That’s my newest excuse (for not cleaning too): homeschooling is taking up a lot of time, but it’s a blast and both Amie and I have taken to it. We go from 9 to 3, learning awesome stuff – as you can see, I’m also adopting nine-year-old vocab. We started a home school blog where both of us post every day (so far), but because Amie is also writing there we decided to keep it private to those whom she knows personally. As a long-time blogger I know how fraught with difficulties public blogging is, One of the issues is not knowing who one’s audience is and, this way, she can picture her readers which makes it easier for her to write.

I’ll be sure to write about homeschooling here (the homestead-related angle) as I slowly get my head above water. Scheduling is a challenge, also creating pockets of time when Amie can work by herself so I can do “my own” things, like blogging and Transition work (and cleaning). Though, admittedly, a lot of what I teach in home school is also “my thing”. For instance, I’m revisiting my beloved Latin and learning about the Big Bang and first life and the evolution of humans, with my daughter. How awesome is that? Ha.

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One more thing I love about homeschooling is that there is no rushing out the door, waiting in line, etc. We keep a tight schedule (start at 9 sharp), but our first day, for instance, we remained in PJs.

During our hour of lunch and recess we visit the chickens, feed them, collect eggs. Today we did so in gently falling snow. It’s good to be out in the fresh air, and the hens are so happy to see us with warm water and kitchen scraps.

I just went to check on them. Our chicken coop door opener is a fantastic little machine and ultra convenient, especially in the mornings. But we do check on it every evening after dark to make sure it closed and that all the hens made it inside before it did.

The moon is just over the cusp of full, very bright still, high in the black, naked sky. The Pleiades twinkled through her light, though not so much the Milky Way (which we learned about today). The shadows were very crisp on the fresh blanket of snow, creaking under my boots. It is 8 F (-13 C), and falling, falling to a predicted -5 F tomorrow night (that’s – 20.5 C).

There’s only one chicken I’m worried about: one of the Buff Orpingtons. She looks scruffy and her comb and wattles are pale. The bees I worry about constantly. I’ll check on them after this cold snap.

Happy New Year, everyone.

A couple of days ago Amie and her friends ran inside in a panic: there’s blood, blood! I ran out with them and found a crazy chicken yard with screaming chickens and screaming children. Also a broad streak of blood on the roost. Imagine my relief when I found it was just one of the pullets who had broken off a toe nail. But so much blood! They say chickens bleed heavily, even if the wound is small, and now I know it’s true.

I pulled Jenny out of the coop and brought her inside. I washed and disinfected the toe, bandaged it, and gave her a night in the dog crate in our warm kitchen. In the morning she went straight back into the coop, though.

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The most interesting part was the kids’ reactions. They’re 9, 9 and 13. Amie was crying, her friends were intrigued, but when asked what they’d do if their pet was bleeding, they said they’d panic and then call the vet. I brought up scenarios of the vet not being open, the wound not being that serious, etc. I didn’t say they too should be prepared to stay calm and treat a wound, that they shouldn’t push all responsibilities onto a “specialist,” but become specialists themselves, but I sure did model it.

For weeks Ive been looking out for more tiny pullet eggs. Not a one. I thought the older hens had stopped laying and the pullets had immediately skipped to the big egg scale. Then today Amie was trying to round up all the escaped hens and ended up missing one. Where was Lucy? We looked and looked with the ominous sound of either a jay or a hawk above us. Then Amie laughed out loud and yelled “Mama, Mama, come see what Lucy is sitting on!”

I came running and there they were, in a hollow in a little side yard, not even within the confines of the chicken yard fence: TWENTY-ONE pullet eggs:

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They’re definitely pullet eggs. Compare to the big egg:

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So, we have a nest box situation. I’ve two boxes for nine hens, which the books says is sufficient, but not for my flock. Also, these pullets seem to like a leafy, grassy nest, while the older hens always make it a point to clear out the boxes to the bare wood. I’ll need to make a special box for the pullets, preferably somewhere inside the coop…

I’ll have to chuck all these eggs. Who knows how old the oldest one is, and it’s been pretty hot (75F) these last couple of days. Amazing, though, they are all intact, even though they were just out there, unprotected.