Ward House

Of coops and snakes

IMG_1449This weekend was eventful.  Construction of the coop is complete … except for the ‘roof’ of the coop.  My  question is what is the best way to cover this coop?  It measures roughly 20’x15’; the current wire stands 4’ tall.  My concern at the moment is feral cats climbing into the run during the day.  The chickens will be locked into the coop in the evenings.  This is a wIMG_1456ooded run so the ‘ceiling’ will be challenging.  Thoughts?

The excitement from today was the neighbor had a snake in her shop.  Freaked her out.  At the time we were unsure of what type of snake this was.  It coiled up as much as it could on the sill and it’s little tail sounded like a rattle, though there were no rattles on it (odd, yes).  We ended up having to kill it so it would leave the chickens alone.  As it turns out this was a black rat snake.  *sighs*  Wish I could have let it live; keeps the mice and poisonous snakes away.


I feel bad.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Chickens, self sufficiency | , , , | 2 Comments

A visit

I was so excited about this afternoon;  the granddaughter of Mrs. Ward was to stop by for a visit.  I was hopeful to hear some of her growing up stories, memories of her Grandmother, etc.  The neighbor just emailed to say that the Granddaughter had stopped by her shop (that avatar is on the right side bar) to say they were heading home early.  I am sad to have missed her visit.  =(  Please come back soon!!

In other news, my friend over at Howling Hill is now writing for The Greenists; her first post is about one of my

favorite animals – CHICKENS!  Stop for a visit.

A sweet giveaway from Phat Fiber – these too cute stitch markers.

And, since some of us need a ‘gloom & doom’ fix (not really G&D), the partial lunar eclipse this Saturday portents some interesting social upheavals, amongst other things.  Serenity posted the details here. Current events seem to be right on.

Since we will not have guests this eve, work will continue and hopefully finish on the coop.  I also hope to stitch a few more envelopes and a skirt! *crosses fingers*

June 24, 2010 Posted by | Chickens, family, repurpose, sewing | | 1 Comment

Of eggs, seasons, and walipini

Deborah, over at Antiquity Oaks, just posted about Winter: the egg-free season.  This post is too well written and has too much information for me to butcher by trying to summarize – definately worth the read.  What really stood out to me was this > 

I’ve grown to love eating seasonally, and I find a lot of wisdom in it. When we’re not doing much physically, we probably shouldn’t be eating a lot of eggs. We probably should be eating more dried beans, cabbage, squash and root vegetables that store well for winter consumption and are low in fat and calories.

Intense.  Thought provoking.  Makes me think/wonder about the milk cow or dairy goats.  Their production/dry periods are less in line with day light and more synch’d with a hormonal schedule.  We try to stick with what we have canned/put away for when fruits & veggies are not in season – a goal that I continually try to meet.  Stitching to fruits that are considered local is a bit more of a challenge.  That would leave us with no citrus.  =(  and I do love clementines.  What’s a girl to do?  My indoor gardening skills are not what I wish they were (due to a too busy schedule) otherwise I would grow some fruit trees indoors.  What do you do?

While I am on the egg thing, Es*sence posted about her experiment of long term egg storage without refrigeration.   The first link is the beginning and then this one is at the 90 day mark.  Looks to be the answer of how to get through the no egg times.

And then I find this project from Phelan; a walipini.  Oooh, I want one!

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Chickens, economy, greenhouse, self sufficiency, tutorials | Leave a comment

Gardens, chickens and knitting, oh my!

Kathie, over at Two Frog Home, has posted about upcycled jar lids – this is how I am going to mark the garden this year!  

 And while I am on the gardening topic, Matron of Husbandry, in her Grow a Pair post, talks about how male pullets are killed at the hatcheries because backyard flock people only want the girls and no boys (city ordinance thing).  Since the roo’s do not begin crowing until 15-20 weeks of age, you can definately raise them for the crock pot.  Young chicken is tender and tastey!  I originally was not going to post about this since the blog publishes to Facebook and yes, Sherry, I know you read it.  =)  And while I am on this rant, did you know that in Bath County gardens are illegal?  So here is how it reads: gardens are illegal, then they post that an exception is made, then at the end they say if there is a conflict the harsher rule applies.  Hmmm.  An attorney really needs to read these prior to publishing.  I’ve posted both below, in case your up for a fun read. 
Bath County Comprehensive Plan 2007-2012
Bath County Adopted Land Use

*whew*  ranting does feel good.  Now, off to some crafting love; my love of knitting/crocheting is no secret.  Phat Fiber is hosting a giveaway from Twice Sheered for this shawl pin with stitch markers.  Love me some Twice Sheered. 

Ok, I believe I am done for the day.  It iced last night and another ice storm is supposed to come through about noon.  Time to break back out the woolen mittens!

Stay warm.

January 21, 2010 Posted by | Chickens, economy | Leave a comment


Creative Juice Studios is hosting a giveaway for this reminder – wouldn’t you love to own this?  I know I do so I’m blogging about the giveaway.  This would definately hang in the kitchen. Or the bedroom.  Or the living room.  Hmm.  Maybe I need more than one!

Ronnie and I have talked of building a tiny house on his Mom’s three acres; we would be close by to help her yet off the grid.  These three acres are zoned agriculture so no fighting the counsel about chickens, or pigs, or a Gernsey.  The garden shed Ronnie is building for me (no a pictures is not yet posted) is 8x6x12- almost the size of a tiny house!  I could sooo live in one of these.  

and then there is the ‘hobbit house.  Use the link to see pictures of the inside.  Hey Ronnie, think you could create this?  How ’bout a Tumbleweed home?
You know, if I did not have my house, lived off the grid (at least have solar for my computer), then the only payment I’d have would be student loans. Or auto insurance – that’s if I kept the car.  I could walk from where we would build to the Warm Spirit Spa (where I will work). Hmmm.  I could make that $$ with massage therapy.  How tempting!  And yes, I am dreaming for the moment.  =)

Oh, and I won this cool scarf (1x1ribbed knitted Noro) over at the Treasure Goddess.  Yipee!

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Chickens, economy, family, self sufficiency | 3 Comments

Animal Additions

We are always looking at methods that will help to increase our food security and two of those include the addition of chickens and rabbits to our homestead; chickens for eggs and rabbits for meat and possible yarn (shear and such). Instead of building a green house, Ronnie is going to put together a coop, and we are looking at this one; ‘easy’ to move around in the garden and yard.

Coop Plans
From what I have read, additional ventilation needs to be added to this coop, though it is not included in these plans. Ventilation not only for the summer but also for the winter (sounds contrary, yes?). Humid air in the roosting/nest box area can lead to frostbite on combs and toes – anyone experience this? With their chickens, I mean, not on your person. Does anyone use a tractor like the one pictured? Where did you add ventilation? I am thinking that louvered ventilation in the top of the triangular end pieces? From what I’ve read, it needs to be above the chickens.

The other possible addition would be rabbits for eating and shearing. I’ve butchered chickens before (or helped with it) but have not actually gutted anything. Rolf would need to come back over and show me, since he has experience.

Who here has rabbits for fur? Meat? The Ward House, historically, has had chickens and hogs. Hogs may be a stretch at this point, rabbits and chickens easier to slip under the radar. Some day I’d like a few pigs and a dairy goat or two. That is SOOO in the future.

So many plans, so little patience!

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October 12, 2009 Posted by | Chickens, economy | Leave a comment

Hairy chickens?

Yes, chickens seem to have wispy hair. How do I know this? This morning, bright and early, I helped some friends butcher chickens. No pictures or anything but if you find the topic worrisome, just stop here. =)

(elevator music is playing)

Today was not a day off for Ronnie nor I so I called work to say I’d be a little late, donned jeans and headed next door. As it turns out peeps were needed in the plucking brigade and from this table I watched the beheading. Using a wicked sharp knife is really important for this part. Once beheaded, the birds were dunked twice in boiling hot water, quick plucked (just the big feathers) and then given to me for the fine plucking. *whew* I have never seen such a sight!

After plucking, the birds are singed, to remove the long hairs and any little feather bits I may have missed, and then taken to the other table to be dressed. Yes, back to the title, chickens have long fine hairs that stick out. The dressing was interesting! I got to see what eggs look like before the shell is formed and the egg laid. This particular bird had one hard shell and four unshelled. Wow is all I can say about the process.

Why participate? I believe it is important to know where one’s food comes from and help in its preparation. This has renewed Ronnie’s and my desire to have cluckers for not only eggs but meat as well. There was also talk of rabbits – good eating from what I have heard.

I do have one question, though, to those who frequently dress birds – what is the best way to begin the dress. Phelan, I remember reading your entries on dressing pigs and how you got the ‘anus tying’ job. Not sure that a chicken is as complicated; wanted to know how you did it.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Chickens, Cooking, self sufficiency | 1 Comment

A cause for Cluckers

Good news! As some of you may know, I am not ‘allowed’ to have chickens where I live (not that this will stop me). There are several back yard chicken owners in R1 areas of the county and I plan to become one of those sometime this year. Neighbors are cool with this and I will definately share eggs. The City of Harrisonburg is voting on back yard chickens in the near future and that article can be found here. I am glad to see a close community finally address this issue. Here is a picture to give you a sense of where I live; the red me marks the spot.

In the meantime, our County has published a comprehensive plan and in several pages they unwittingly make a cause for backyard chickens. On page 38, under housing goals, the County wants to:

Ensure that the County’s natural beauty, environmental quality, and rural character are not sacrificed when planning for future housing opportunities.

Then we move to the Economy objective section:

Revitalize the farming community in Bath County

And then on pg 81 under Land Use:

Since development can either enhance or distract from a community, land use policies must reflect local cultural, natural and historic attributes. They must also provide for fair and equitable treatment of all landowners.

There are additional places within the Land Use section that continue along the protection of the rural flavor of our county. To respond to the above highlighted sentence, my home originally had both chickens and hogs, which satisfies the cultural, historic and natural ‘requirements’. I spoke with our local environmental advisor and he said that a penned or chained dog does more environmental damage than chickens; he is willing to put this into writing. As for fair and equitable treatment of all landowners, you cannot deny someone chickens in an R1 when you spot zone to allow horses. See, it is all about who has the money and who does not. I fall under the ‘has not’ (in case that was ever a question).

Today has been an incredible day for posts – not from me but from other amazing ladies. Matron posted this amazing recipe – easy enough to cook, simple ingredients. I will prepare it this weekend and hopefully have enough for lunch the next day. Now our garden is just getting started so my ingredients will need to come from the store instead of the back yard =( so when we had out, I will grab a few extra items to start towards our food pantry. Sharon makes an excellent point in her post, Friday Food Storage – and Food Pantry – Quickie; pick up just one or two additional items for the pantry on each trip you make to the store. Lastly is Rhonda’s Just do it. She says it so succinctly,

Deliberate living is deciding what you want your life to become, working out the steps you need to take to make that happen, then, as Elizabeth said, just do it. You will still get life throwing the unexpected at you, but when it happens, you work to solve the problem, then you get back on track.


April 17, 2009 Posted by | Chickens, economy, politics, recipes, self sufficiency | 3 Comments

Ok, so

After careful review, I believe that Blogger is a better option for me than WordPress so I am making the move back. Video and pictures are both easier to place and there is a greater selection of eyecandy. =) You know me, it is all about the candy! Blogger appears to be easier to use. I promise to not make a move again. =)

Anyway, we sent to see some friends this weekend; they have chickens and a new heifer calf by the name of Bella. Here are some pictures of our visit. Ashley fell in love with the chickens and Bella stole the show (of course). Her mom, Maybelle, would not come in to be milked if Bella was in the field with her. Bella has not been eating well, so they had to separate the two of them. Our friends bought these chickens from a commercial hatchery (I may not remember this correctly) and when their hens arrived they had been de-beaked! Now keep in mind that de-beaking does mean that the beaks have been removed. The tips have been cut off so they cannot hurt each other. This does, though, make pecking a challenge. I enjoyed the hens scratch around – very soothing.

April 7, 2009 Posted by | Chickens | Leave a comment

Fire bug

The kitchen is very cold in the morning; like 56 degrees cold.  This morning I padded through the house, let the dog out and set the fire in the cook stove.  It would appear that without a little helper a.k.a. lighter fluid, the fire does not start without much smoke.

I have not yet googled homemade fire starters – I’ve seen these used to start camp fires, something with cotton, wax and something else.  Do you have a recipe or method for laying kindling and such that will give a better chance of success?  I’d like to be able to lay a fire without using liquid assistance, will still have matches though!  =)

Mother Earth News has an article entitled The Art of the Wood Cookstove.  In this article the author speaks on the importance of learning how to use the oven bypass damper.  Now that is a tricky little lever!

When open, the bypass damper allows the exhaust to pass directly from the firebox into the flue when starting and loading the stove. When closed, it forces the hot exhaust across the top of the oven, down the far side and then under the oven into the flue. Smoke-free operation and successful baking both depend on the correct use of the damper.

I believe this explains some of my early morning challenges.  This is how I currently lay a fire:  one nice large dry piece of wood on the very bottom with lightly crinkled newspaper on the top and on each side of the bottom ‘log’, a few kindling pieces on top then two more larger pieces of wood on top of that.  A quick squirt of lighter fluid then a lighter and voila!  We have fire.  A quick note: we do not use pine in this stove, only seasoned hardwood.


And now for my fav topic from the above site (becoming one of my fav as well); Homestead chickens!

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Chickens, Cooking | , | 3 Comments