Amazing things are happening this early part of winter on the farm. 4 of our hens have been sitting on eggs and our first new chicks have hatched! Hopefully, over the next 2 weeks, I will be up to my elbows in little chicks.
Sadly, the daddy of these chicks is no longer with us. The most gentlemanly rooster I have met so far, had a tennis ball-sized cancerous growth on his neck and so we had to say goodbye. After the previous week’s attack and the loss of my most beautiful, fattest, double-yolk egg laying hen – Hope – to a hawk, the loss of Rocky was a severe blow.
2 of the chicks also did not make it. When a chick hatches, it has 3 days until it must eat and drink water and if not, death is very swift. The nutrients from the egg will last those 3 days. It seems this new mother would not leave her nest of another 9 eggs (communal nesting is a problem!), to sort out these early hatchlings. She would essentially have had to abandon the other eggs to raise the 2 babies. She was not willing and in my inexperience, I did not help the 2 chicks, putting their beaks into the water bowl and showing them how to peck for food, while mom was still busy. I did better on the next one!
Wonderful news though: the hen who had had no eggs hatch yet (a white hen appropriately named Blanche Devereaux), had a chick hatch this afternoon. What a wonderful, first-hand education my child is getting. We had almost given up on the viability of the rest of the eggs but now there is hope for the last 9.
Snow and firewood a snuggly combo
We have also had some volunteers from the UK and they have been most helpful doing a lot of weeding, compost making etc. Their next job with be fence repairs. As an added bonus, 2 young American girls will join us for a week. 4 sets of hands will be wonderful. I think we’ll get some wattle clearing done and in the process, our winter stash of firewood too. With the potential snow this weekend, it couldn’t be timelier.
We are not the only ones looking for warmth. We have found many baby puff adders around the house lately and, lucky us, 2 rather large ones too. The first was in the workshop where Dad was working on furniture and the second was under the sewing table where Granny & I sit almost daily to sew. Granny is never impressed on finding a snake and especially one this large in her territory. Luckily we were there to relocate instead of Granny re-incarnating it!
The new skill we are learning is beekeeping. We went on a crash course at Farmer Redbeard near Ashton.
Borrowing from the bees
There was an old broken hive on the farm when we moved here and we put up 6 new hives to catch the many swarms we see flying by. We needed some wax to help set up the new hives and so my trusty tractor driving, gasifier developing, furniture making -um- bee keeper, got up before the birds, suited up and harvested the small amount we needed from the old hive. (He hates the term robbed which most beekeepers use) We also set up a new hive right next to the old one. The position is good even though the hive was in bad shape.
Hopefully, some bees will swarm off and form a new colony in the new hive. There has been a lot of interest in the new hives but I can’t say for sure they are inhabited yet. Apparently, bees like the smell of lemongrass and spearmint, so we made a mist spray of these 2 essential oils and sprayed the inside of the hive before setting it up. Wish us luck. By the way, we did get 1 jar of honey from the pieces we harvested and it is delicious.
By Sue Vingerhoets