Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chicken farming and another chapter of raising a backyard flock

Eleven weeks ago, we started our next generation of chicks. I'm not sure if I think they are the second or third generation. Or maybe it is actually our 4th, since we started with 3 "adults, 4 "teenagers", and 2 "babies". I had always thought that would be enough but I joined a Facebook group (OK, multiple Facebook groups) all about raising chickens and many of them were hatching eggs in incubators and I caught the bug. Our results were not nearly as good as theirs and ended up with only 1 out of a dozen eggs. But because chickens are a flock animals, our poor little Cinnamon Queen needed some siblings. A quick trip to the feed store and we came home with 1 Aracauna and 1 White Plymouth Rock, now known as Biscuit, Gravy, and Honey.

We kept the three, first in a small bird cage, then moved to a plastic storage box, and finally into our good sized gerbil/hamster cage. Although a dining room should be for dining, it soon felt more like a nursery. Little baby chicks are fine in your house but once they get up to more of a teen age, they soon wear out their welcome. As soon as it was past the risk of a freeze, the whole kit and caboodle of them were moved outside with their bigger sisters. Within a short time, we took them out of the cage and let them mix in the rest, all of which seemed much larger than them. It's still about 4 weeks until they will get full size, so in the meantime they keep to themselves but have learned to race in when treats are given in an attempt to grab their fair share.

Annabel is the primary caregiver of their chickens and a little over a week ago she came in telling that Pollo, one of the original "teens" was holed up in the dog house, which is their favored nesting box. She had thrown her out but pretty quickly, Pollo ran back in. This went on for several days and during that time, I read a book, "Once Upon a Flock", a story about another person who caught chicken fever.

Reading about her flock, I recognized that Pollo was broody, in other words, she was sure that she had a "clutch" of eggs and would stay on them until they hatched, and she would have babies. There are plenty of resources that tell you how to break a broody hen out of her broodiness, but after reading that book, where she put fertile eggs under her broody hen, and she actually stuck with it until they hatched, made me wonder if Pollo would want to give it a real try.

So I posted in my Facebook chicken group about my broody hen and a friend who has roosters, offered me a few fertile eggs to put under her. After meeting up, I came home with a half dozen eggs of various colors, which may or may not be fertile.

Annabel and I cleaned out the dog house, after throwing Pollo out, and loaded it up with fresh straw, and put the eggs in. At first we were sure she had decided she was through with being broody but eventually she made her way back in and took a seat, adjusting the straw and eggs to her liking.

Tonight marks the 6th day, a day before you are supposed to "candle" them, but we were really anxious to check to see if any of the eggs showed signs of developing. We weren't quite the experts when we did the incubator eggs and skipped this step until much later. By then, we weren't sure what to look for but knew that most of the eggs looked alike and only 1 looked different, and of course, that was the only one to hatch.

Tonight we borrowed Dad's high powered Maglite and went to "candle" our eggs. Woo! Hoo! Right now, quite a few look like something is beginning to develop. Pollo is doing a great job and we hope she will stick with it. Only 15 more days and we will see!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pictures from Jerri's Day Care

Note the oreo beard and mustache!

Dunking her crackers in water rather than eating

Safe with their Mimi

Trying out a DumDum

Mimi's ice cream was the best, chocolate!

Jerri's Day Care Center

Ten years ago, I made a visit to an adoption agency to ask a few questions about adopting from China. I was very disappointed when they tried to talk me into adopting a baby from another country. This really was not what I was interested in but wasn't sure how to say it without seeming offensive or ruining my chances for adopting. As a last minute thought, the case worker casually mentioned a waiting child program from China. She wasn't sure of any of the details but suggested I might call this other agency for more information. Before I left that parking lot, I had the other agency on the phone and the case worker was telling me about their program for older children to be adopted. I knew that sounded just right for me, as I was unprepared to adopt a baby.

Flash forward to last Friday and I found myself face to face with what I knew I was unprepared for ten years earlier, taking care of babies! My niece needed some help and I volunteered to take care of her two daughters for the day. I admitted to my daughters that I was quite nervous about the prospects and if they had not been taking end of course exams, I think I would have agreed to them staying home for the day.

At drop off time, I had only had 1 cup of coffee and was pretty sure I needed more, but I did not want to risk any tears when they mom left, so I quickly turned all my attention to them. My mom came over to lend a hand and while she was here, I decided we would do the craft I had bought - a garden stepping stone with their hand prints in it to present to their mother for Mother's Day. I scanned the directions, which I should have done the night before, and we moved into the kitchen so I could mix up the ingredients. Olivia, who is 1, decided to explore the work area of my girls and Isabel, who is 2, just asked me questions. I mixed up the first batch and poured it into the mold and even though the directions said to work quickly, I didn't know they meant lightening speed! And as I mixed up the second batch, I realized the first batch had already set! The stuff was as hard as a rock! There was no time to press their sweet little hands into the plaster before it was too late. And while I was checking on the first one, the second one set! Only this time in the bowl I was mixing it in! Now I had used both packets and did not have the wonderful gift planned for their mother. Not to be outdone, I resorted to plaster of paris and thought it would have to do, only it was too mushy and I decided it should set a little or their hands would be a huge mess.

We moved back to the newspaper covered area to paint the first solid undecorated block of cement while waiting on the third attempt to be ready to receive their precious hand prints. Five minutes passed way too quickly and when I looked at our third try, it was also solid as a rock. And when I looked back at my charges, they were covered with paint, from between their nose to Olivia's entire nose! I am still intent on making Marcie a present so I run back to the kitchen for an apron to decorate with their painted hand prints. When I tried to get them to put their hands on the apron, they looked at me like I was trying to cut off their hands, panic! They knew they weren't supposed to be wiping their hands on things like that! Four failed craft projects were not enough to slow us down, so we went outside.

We tried coloring with chalk on the sidewalk but opted instead for a walk. Iz decided she did not want to ride in the stroller and would just walk instead, which was not my first choice, but we forged ahead. Pretty quickly I asked her if she wanted to hold my hand and she said, "Thank you Jerri" like I had done her a favor. So sweet.

We saw the block, lots of flowers, some big trucks, and heard lots of dogs bark. When we got home, I knew I was a failure as a day care center because I turned the TV on for a little quiet time. Quiet time quickly turned to snack time which at the end of it, I realized should have been lunch time, so we just went straight into lunch. I opened up their Lunchables and they went straight for the oreos, bypassing the turkey, cheese, and crackers. Oh dear! Mom dropped back by in time to find me with two children with chocolate crumbs covering their faces and most of the rest of the lunchable on the floor!

We took a break outside and I knew we needed a nap instead.

Nap time turned into exercise time when it was discovered that my bed could double as a bounce house. I tried all the secrets I could think of to get them to both lay down at once, even laying still with my own eyes closed. This must have made my face very interesting and Olivia started sticking her finger into my nose, then around my eye, and then into my mouth. All I could do was laugh.

We were all to tired to sit still in the house so we loaded up the stroller one more time and took a much longer walk with both girls riding this time. I told them we would have a picnic and I really meant to but they ate all the snacks in the bag before we got to the end of the block! We ended up at the dollar store and stocked up on more snacks, bubble wands, and ice cream. I knew Iz had an odor emanating from her but earlier Olivia had tricked me with what I thought was just a wet diaper and ended up changing my first poopy diaper in years, so I wasn't brave enough to do that again.

We only had about 30 minutes before their mom would be back so we sampled the ice cream, the dum dum suckers, and the bubbles. By the time Marcie got there, both girls looked like they had been wrestling hogs in a mud pit! And Iz still had that odor! I'm not sure which of us was the most glad to see her! I helped her pack up her two and went to get my two.

I was sure glad that night that I had two 15 year olds rather than a 1 and a 2 year old to get to bed! God knew what he was doing when he blessed with my girls!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The long road back

I've been more than distracted lately. You see my brother had back surgery over three weeks ago. He had been having problems with his back for a while but in the last few years, his spine began to deteriorate. The pain has been excruciating and even with an almost lethal dose of pain killers, he could not get relief. The pain, the pain killers, and the depression made quality of life as non-existent.

He had 2 different surgeries, but the relief was only short term. He had high hopes that the previous one would allow him to pick up his granddaughters, but it wasn't enough.

Eventually a doctor was found who looked at the problems and felt he had a treatment plan that would finally provide relief, but the surgery would be extensive and the recovery would be intense.

Right after the surgery began, the doctor called for the family and explained that things were even worse than the tests had shown and it would be impossible to do all that was needed in one surgery. The surgery lasted more than 8 hours and plenty quickly things began to digress. I was not able to visit until several days after the surgery but the reports had been bad. He was in such distress that he was kept fairly well sedated. By the time I arrived, there was still little response, and inability to follow orders. The therapists came in and tried to manipulate his arms and legs some. His nurse came in and announced to the therapists that they needed to get him up, that he had to progress enough to have the second half of the surgery by the next week. I never would have thought it was possible, but they did get him up, which really started the recovery needed for the next surgery.

Just before he had the second surgery, the therapists had him walking up and down the halls, something that had been impossible before the surgery, and he was cracking jokes with all the nurses and techs.

The second surgery was considerably more aggressive and included the insertion of a titanium rod and 28 screws. The doctor expected it to take 8 - 10 hours but finally after 12 hours, the doctor finally came in to say they were through. We knew the doctor had to be exhausted, but he took the time to sit with us and explain the answers to any and all of our questions. I could see why they trusted him.

The rest of that week was grueling, the doctor knew he was in considerable pain, so there was considerable care to keep him as immobile as possible and unaware as they could, but when it was time for all of that to wear off and begin rehab, he could not wake up. Day after day he laid there with very little if any response to anyone. Talk began of sending him to a skilled nursing center until he could respond and begin rehab. Prayers were requested and within hours, he began to respond and before the end of the day, the therapists had him up again.

Of course as all of this is happening, life continued and it proved difficult to make the long trip to the hospital but a few times. Each time I left, I increased my prayers because I could not imagine his ability to recover.

He was finally able to reach the goals set for him at the hospital, much to everyone's surprise, everyone except those of who had prayed, and moved to a rehab hospital.

Today was the first time I had seen him since he was moved and when I walked into his hospital room, I wanted to shout out loud with joy! For the first time since this had started, he actually looked like himself. But it was even more than that, he looked like he had before all the pain had robbed his life of anything other than just trying to exist. He could carry on a conversation and was trying to feed himself. He even asked us questions and wanted to hear about what was going on. By the time we left, with help from his ever patient wife, Martha, he was able to stand up and even turn to tell us bye.

I know there is still a long way to life pre-back injury. There is a lot of hard work to be done so that he is able to get out of the bed on his own and stand, but for the first time, I felt like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

I truly believe the only way any of this has been accomplished though is due to the prayers of so many, who have answered our requests, and continue to. Thank you for taking the time to include my brother and his family in your prayers and I ask that you continue until you receive the "all clear" signal.