Our Visit to Oates Acres

Last Summer we had a chance to visit Oates Acres.  It is beautiful little homestead in northern Utah in a small little town.  It doesn’t take long to walk from the beginning of the town to the end.  Devin and Lexie have really created a beautiful haven.  They have dogs, cats, three goats, and chickens.  Devin is a master gardener and he had rows and rows of good things growing.  At harvest time they generously gave us butternut and spaghetti squash.  I wish I had loaded up on more because I ate them quickly and it will take hours for me to get back to them to get more.

During our visit my girls loved visiting with the goats and chickens.  They have a few exotic chicken breeds with fluffy, feathered heads.  We enjoyed sitting outside in the warm summer air, roasting marshmallows and chatting.  It made me wish we could move to a little town too, but with my husband and I attending college we need to stay where we are for now.  I can’t wait to see what unfolds at Oates Acres as time goes by.  I know they have a lot of ideas and adventures planned.

 

Grazing on Grapes and Head of the Pecking Order

DSCF8445

I just love days off from work.  I have a great job, but I’d rather be enjoying time with family, especially during the summer.  I also love holidays and I’m grateful to celebrate the 4th of July today.  My husband, little farm chick and I set out early to walk to the parade route for out local parade.  With chairs slung over our shoulders we enjoyed a morning stroll to find the perfect spot in the shade. When I got back I let the chickens free range for a bit.  They found my veggie garden so I shooed them out and followed behind for a bit watching their route.  They came to the bottom of the yard and found the overgrown herb/grape box.  I was fine with them doing a bit of digging and pruning.  They reveled in the shade and munched on the unripe grapes.

DSCF8447

DSCF8449

After a little while they all bolted back to their run, except one chicken.  Rose hung behind not noticing her other sisters were gone.  DSCF8450

Suddenly Zebra stood right at the entrance to the run and made the funniest noise.  Not quite a bock or a squeak, but a call for Rose to get her butt home.  It really makes me think that Zebra has now become the head of the pecking order.  I was impressed that she was looking out for everyone.  Hopefully she will do a great job.

DSCF8452

Growing up with Chickens

Little Farm Chick snapped this picture of her older sister hugging her chicken, Snow.  Each of the girls named their own chick and have watched them grow.  We all feared that snow would be a rooster.  Early on she had a very bright red comb and wattles.  As time went by though they didn’t grow to rooster proportions, even though her wattles sure do waggle when she walks.  She is one of the prettiest hens in the bunch with her silver lacing and can be very friendly once she is placed on your lap.  Remember this is the chicken that scratched my cornea with her curious beak.

DSCF8418

I made the decision two years ago to raise chickens and one of the best things about raising hens is getting my girls involved.  Last night as a rough wind was coming in my middle daughter raced outside in her pajamas to see that all of the chickens were safely locked in their coop.  My oldest daughter regularly goes out on hot days to put some sort of frozen fruit in the hens’ water to cool them down.  Little farm chick is often close behind when chicken chores are involved.

I won’t deny that I am still the one doing most of the chicken chores, but my daughter’s have learned to care for something outside themselves, something that needs their loving attention.  There is an excitement that comes as well when their hen lays their first egg.  They really come to understand that eggs don’t just come from a store, but from a living, feeling animal.  There is nothing like finding a warm, freshly laid egg from your hen.

One of the most important lessons they’ve learned is loss.  When we lost our chickens last year to dogs we were all deeply saddened, the girls especially because they had done so much to raise and care for them.  We aren’t strangers to death especially since we’ve lost my parents and other extended family members, but to lose something you’ve raised and watched mature can bring its own type of heartbreak.

Children and chickens just seem to go together.  As they are raised together something wonderful happens.  Something I wouldn’t give up for the world.

Friendly Bee Spaces and Being Heard

I had some alone time with my camera tonight.  Even though the night is so hot and dry I enjoyed exploring through my lens.  As I snapped pictures I loved looking at this garden box that has gone somewhat wild.  The grapevine is grasping onto anything it can find, the sage is putting out purple flowers, and the parsley has bolted and has tiny little flowers. It may be your first instinct to rip out the offending herb or lettuce that has stopped putting its energy into producing food and has moved onto flowering, but you may want to think again.   Last year I let my Kale go to seed, mostly due to my laziness, and the most beautiful yellow flowers emerged.  I was pleasantly surprised at how pretty they were and enjoyed looking at them from my kitchen window.  Every day bees would visit the kale, flying from blossom to blossom, collecting the pollen.  The bees never harassed us when we went outside, the simply went on with their work.  Another benefit to letting plant flower is you can collect seeds from the plant.  The kale growing in my garden this year is from seeds harvested from last year.  Since it isn’t a hybrid plant the Kale is doing wonderfully and is even more heat-resistant because only the most resilient plants survived last year.

DSCF8405

The parsley flowers aren’t as flashy as the kale, but the bees still enjoy them.  I was fascinated by this worker bee.  It was so determined to collect all the pollen it could.

DSCF8398DSCF8400

When I took up gardening I really began to understand how important bees are for the growth of our food and the health of our environment. I wish there were more of them around.  Last year I saw tomato blossoms shrivel up and die because they weren’t pollinated.  It can be very frustrating.  At one point I began pollinating by hand.  I know the hot weather was also a factor leading the blossoms to be dry, but it was rare to see bees around my plants.  I have planted some flowers in the garden to try to help this year, but what I would really like is a beehive of my own.  I know there can be fear surrounding bees, but I think if more people understood why we need bees they wouldn’t be so hesitant to welcome hives into their neighborhoods.  Currently in my area the only people who can have beehives are those zoned for agriculture.  My lot size is much too small to be considered eligible for that.

Recently a new invention came out, the flow hive!  Have you seen it?  As I watched videos of the golden honey coming out on tap, and the window allowing you to view your bees working I absolutely knew I wanted bees.  I decided to be bold and contact the Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office to see if the zoning could change.  I got a few emails, but the last one was 2 months ago, even though they said they’d get back to me in a few days.  I am happy they responded, but I’m worried the issue may fizzle out, especially if I’m the only one who is reaching out on this issue.  The most recent email said:

Based on our previous experience with domestic fowl (backyard chickens), accommodating your request would require changes to the zoning and animal services ordinances.  In order to facilitate the needed changes, questions would need to be answered about the level of regulation (for example, how many hives can be on a residential lot, how close to property lines can they be, etc.).  When the domestic fowl ordinance was developed, a “committee” of sorts worked together over a period of several months to discuss and develop the ordinances.  The committee had representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Animal Services, the Health Department, and Planning who met on a regular basis to discuss their issues and concerns as the ordinances were drafted.  The fact that public interest in raising chickens in a residential area was very high at that time led the Mayor’s Office and the directors of the various agencies to agree on the initiation of the ordinance drafting process.  Because I could see an effort to allow beekeeping in residential zones going through a similar process, I had asked my director, Rolen Yoshinaga to find out whether we had that kind of support from the other directors and the Mayor’s Office.   I followed up with him this morning to see what he found out, and I have a feeling he hasn’t heard back yet.  I am hoping to hear something back within the next day or two.

I have decided it is time for me to reach out again.  I really should have much sooner, but life got in the way.  Seeing this little bee working so hard tonight brought the issue to the forefront of my mind again.  Do you want to help the bees and those who want to keep them?  I’d love for you to reach out to the mayor!  You can contact his office here.  Thank you in advance from this farm dreamer!

Did you know Beets can rock your world?

So I had pretty lovely weekend.  My husband helped me deep clean the house, we watched fun movies, and went on a driving adventure yesterday and ended up in a canyon we’d never explored before.  When the road became a rocky dirt path I was grateful we’d recently bought a 4-wheel drive car.  We couldn’t go as far as we’d like because our car doesn’t have a lot of clearance.  The air sure smelled wonderful up in the mountains.  Before we headed out for our adventure I put together a lovely Father’s Day dinner.  I used a lot of veggies from the garden including these beautiful, little beets.

DSCF8388

When I was a child I absolutely didn’t care for beets.  I only knew their gelatinous form in salad bars.  There is nothing like a roasted beet.  It is savory and sweet at the same time.  I am growing golden and red beets this year and I love the diversity they provide on a plate.  The easiest way to cook beets is to chop off the root and tops, wrap them individually in foil with a little olive oil and cook for 45-60 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Then the skin easily comes off when you rub them with a paper towel leaving the beautiful, tender flesh.

I read that the beet greens can be eaten as well.  I first tried them raw and instantly disliked the strong acidic bitterness.  I couldn’t give up though.  I chopped the stalk up, shredded the greens, and warmed some olive oil in a pan.  I cooked the chopped stalk until tender and then added the greens to quickly cook. I topped with Italian dressing and mixed in some blue cheese.  I then placed the sliced beets on top and gave them a quick stir.

My husband is not a beet fan, and when he saw me cooking them I know he was worried that he was going to have to eat the putrid vegetable on his special day.  He was pleasantly surprised at how good it all tasted and even went back or the last helping, which is a testament to him liking a food.

I was so pleased the greens were edible since they are so nutrient packed.  It really is so much produce to waste.  Now I can’t wait for more of the beets to ripen.  It is fun to grow new things and I’m grateful I have a family that is willing to go along for the ride.

When was the last time you tried something new?

Last Minute Dust Bath and Ungrateful Chickens

We have suddenly been in a heat wave this week. The chickens spend most of the day under the coop, laying in the shade panting.  Even though I worked 10 hours today I took a few breaks to spray down the run and exterior of the coop to hopefully bring the temperature down a little. After I was finally done I thought the chickens might enjoy some free range time.  I tried to pick them up one by one and take them out into the cool grass of the yard.  They would scatter from me and squawk as if to say “Ahhhh, it is the crazy lady”.  When I finally would get one onto the grass they’d look around and then bolt straight back into their run.  I don’t know if I try too hard with them or if they have come to dislike me because of the occasional health checks where I flip them onto their backs and inspect them.  Zebra spent some time with me this morning as I attended to her feet and I know that didn’t help things.  She has something odd going on with them.  It is a small thing but I want to be sure it doesn’t develop into and infection.

microSaltlake_new

So for now, I am not their favorite person, which is a little disheartening after all the time and energy I’ve put into them.  I am not the chicken whisperer.  I’m hoping as time goes on that it will change.  When I was a kid I loved things too much.  My dog would squirm away from me as I’d try to snuggle him excessively.  I tried to teach grasshoppers to swim and I’d be left with just a leg in my hand as the green insect hopped off into the wild.

Anyway, for a while I’ve wanted to create a space where the chickens could dust bathe.  Most of the dirt in the run is so compacted that it would be near impossible to lounge in loose dirt.  As I sat there, stewing about the chickens, I decided I’d finally create that space. I ignored the temperature and started dragging huge rocks to the corner of the run.  As I removed a giant rock I found a cluster of snails.  I tried to get the chickens to come over with their treat call.  “Chick, chick, chickies”  I sang out.  I looked over to them grouped in the corner.  They didn’t budge, indifferent to my pleading.  Ungrateful little snots I thought.  I continued to drag the rocks over until I created an enclosure that would keep the dirt in.

Next I pushed a wheelbarrow to the top of our property to a dirt pile. Everyone has a dirt pile, right?  I grabbed a shovel and began filling the wheelbarrow, sweat starting to run down my neck. Once that was done I tried to push the wheelbarrow down the hill.  Right away I could tell something wasn’t right.  At that moment my husband came out of the garage.

“You know the tire is flat right?”  he calls up to me.

“That makes sense now” I call back.

“You can change it” he says.

“I’ve already filled it up”.  I begin stubbornly pulling the wheelbarrow down the hill as it gets lower and lower to the ground.  The chickens flutter as I enter their run, the rim now scraping on the compacted earth.  I almost make it to the rock ring when  the wheelbarrow gives out, the rubber squashed and falling off the rim.  Determined I get the shovel and begin moving the dirt into the rock ring.  Finally it is filled up.  I stand back.

“Eh, it will do”.

I go over to the chickens, again they run away from me.  Like a wild dance I corner one, pick her up, and plop her into the soft, cool dirt.  She looks sideways at me and makes a mad dash back to her sisters.

“Monkeys!” I call out in desperation.

I know they’ll use it eventually, and they’ll love it.  They just won’t appreciate it came from me.

DSCF8385

Soothing the Sick

Well I’ve complained about it enough, but I’ve been sick for about a week now.  I haven’t rested as I should because work has been so busy and we are so behind.  Luckily I had already scheduled tomorrow off so I’m hoping that some rest will get this body feeling better again.  It was supposed to be a day of fun with the littlest one while her sisters are out-of-town.  I may have to settle for a Netflix marathon.  When I’m really feeling under the weather I brew some herbal tea.  Lately I’ve been throwing in some Emergen-C and some wild mint.  The mint has always been on our property. I don’t use it as much as I should. It tastes so lovely in the warm concoction. I’ve also learned over the years that we have wild garlic and onions.  I digress though.  Even though it is warm and it’s summer, perhaps I need to drink more of it.  I wish I had lemongrass.  It is great in tea.  I only drink herbal because of my religion. Here’s hoping I can kick this stupid summer cold.  There is just too much to do and see.  I’d love to hear from my readers.  What helps you beat a cold?

DSCF8365

The One Who Does the Garden Chores Gets First Pick

After the chicken chores this morning I started watering the garden, when I saw this little red strawberry.  It is nearly impossible to see under the overgrown grape and the sage bush.  I’ve never had much success with strawberries, probably because they are in this bed which is overrun already.  There is one little luscious strawberry that has been produced this year.  I didn’t hesitate when I saw it.  I immediately popped it in my mouth.  It was so sweet and delicious, and a bit crunchy, since I’d forgotten to spray the dirt off it.  Little farm chick came right out and asked if I’d eaten the strawberry.  I had to confess that I had.  She searched in vain for another one, but had no luck.  Luckily I had other garden goodies to share.

DSCF8359

Snow Peas!  I’ve never had much luck with peas.  I usually have planted them too late, or didn’t give them support, but this year they have been very happy.  I usually don’t care for pea pods, but these are pretty good just off the vine.  They are loving their vertical support, and all the rain.  They actually took off when we starting getting some really warm, sunny days.  Little farm chick loves to nibble the sides and then open up the pod.  She thinks the little baby peas inside are just so cute.

DSCF8361

The cherry tree is covered in fruit.  I have yet to have a ripe one though.  Some of them are so close.  Almost every time I look outside there are two to three birds munching happily away at the cherries.  Anyone have ideas on how to keep birds away?  I used to have a fake owl, but I think the neighbor kids may have run off with it. This is what I get for not having a fenced in backyard.

DSCF8360

I’m pretty sure birds may be the culprit for these nibbled radish sprouts as well.  Sigh.  There are some pretty large trees in our neighborhood since all the houses were built in the 1950’s.  I love the trees, and I like birds, but I wish they wouldn’t treat my garden like an all you can eat buffet.

DSCF8364

The marigolds are starting to bloom.  Flowers are a first in my vegetable garden this year.  I am hoping it will not only add beauty but keep bugs away as well.  You can see my tomato plants need some pruning and training if they are going to climb the vertical fencing.  I really need to start feeling better.  Darn zombie cold.

DSCF8362

The amaranth is really taking off, in fact I think I may have a volunteer one a few squares over.  It will be interesting if they try to take over the bed.  I’ve sowed some amaranth in the chicken run and I’m really hoping that it will take off there as well.  With the ground being so compacted though I think we’ll be lucky.  I have seen some little sprouts so maybe it will work.  Here’s hoping.

DSCF8363

Halfway to Eggs

The pullets are about 10 weeks old today.  It amazing how fast they grow.  In about 10 more weeks we may see our first eggs.  Even though I’m still under the weather I took a moment to snap a few pictures of our pretty, feathered girls.

Snow stretching her legs.

DSCF8353

Luna and Cleo.  I love that Cleo’s feathers now have a green sheen.

DSCF8357

Sweet Pea.  She’s the first to run for treats.

DSCF8356

Rose and Zebra.  I love their feather patterns.

DSCF8358