Crowing Hour

IMG_6086[1]Dude (our rooster) used to start crowing at 4:30AM. It was my internal alert that the alarm was going off in a half hour. These days my alarm prompts me awake at 5, and I snooze twice before I hear our backyard buddy make his inaugural morning call.

The days are getting shorter.

Time to get going with this paint. (good news…scraping is done!)

8:37 PM, Wednesday, June 10

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I snapped this photo at 8:37 last evening. It is so light out still we can hardly believe it. The chickens can’t either…they don’t put themselves to bed until nearly nine o’clock these days! I love seeing them come out in the dusk light. During the day they take shelter along the edges of our property, foraging under bushes and trees out of the heat and sightline of predators. But, when the glorious time between full sun and sunset comes they wander the lawn; picking up spiders and worms and crane flies as they go. Nine fat, funny, colorful ground birds on patrol. I love this sight.

Poor Dude Man Roo

Our poor rooster, Dude. His job just got a whole lot harder.

Back in the days of 4 hens, he was clearly in charge. The ladies came when he called them over for food, followed him around, and basically did whatever he said. He would make awesome dinosaur sounds whenever a threatening creature (hawk, eagle, raven, raccoon, etc) would come by…and yes, sometimes when his ladies were threatened by the ominous robin flying by. He was really good at his job.

Then we added two young birds, Dee Dee and Baja. These two really want nothing to do with him or the older gals and stick to themselves. You can tell that Dude still feels responsible for them because he wanders between the two groups and tries to call them all together.

Of course, it did not stop there. The final straw was this weekend when we brought home yet another two young hens, Lemon and Penny. Dude man does not know what to make of this. These two girls also just want to stick to themselves. Again, basically ignore him. But he is the Dude Man Roo! He is in charge gosh darn it! It is up to him to protect these fine ladies! Poor guy is struggling with his job. The hens are scattered in 3 little flocks, he is patrolling the center of the yard in the hot sunshine.

Thankfully, we think things will settle down for him. The young hens are getting bigger (which is important if they are going to stand up to Mary the moody bully) and more comfortable in their new home. The coop is pretty calm at night and there have been no significant scuffles. I think Dude man will regain his reign soon, and have those hens in line my mid-summer. After all, it is his job. In the meantime, he gets extra treats to get him through the transition.IMG_4543[1]

10 Years

This past weekend we celebrated 10 years of life since high school. Can it have really been that long ago? We had an informal meet up at Boundary Bay in Bellingham on Friday night, and then the official reunion Saturday. It was wonderful to see and catch up with so many people in person. I’ll admit, I was skeptical on how much I would enjoy the reunion. With Facebook and Instagram I have a pretty good idea of what everyone is up to. What I did not expect was how much fun it would be to reconnect with those people that I actually don’t talk with much. Friends, well, maybe not even, but rather classmates that are only on the fringe of my social spectrum now were so much fun to get to know as adults! Our lives are different, the social groups from Ferndale High are gone, and it was just plain fun.

Matt and I got many comments on our homesteading life on Vashon (made me question if I over-Instagram things!) We talked to friends that single and married, with and without kids, living far away or still in Ferndale. It was great to see people and reconnect in person. The class of 2005 really was a wonderful group of people.IMG_4538[1]

So a trip to Ferndale for the class reunion also meant visiting my family, and the slew of activity that those usually entail. This time the focus was deck demo. Their 17ish year old cedar deck has finally been given the boot to make way for maintenance free composite. Dad and Matt were crowbarring, unscrewing and sawing away for two days, and have the blisters to prove it. I helped by trimming and moving boards, planting tomatoes, and delivering lemonade.

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Speaking of lemons, we brought home two new hens: Lemon and Penny! My mom found them from the kids of a friend that needed to rehome school-project chicks. We happily added these two ladies to our flock and are now up to 8 + Dude rooster. They were very patient in the hot (super packed!) car ride back to Vashon.IMG_4536[1]IMG_4537[1]

We also adopted a sea kayak! A family friend was looking to rehome one of their singles and we happily took it off their hands. (Bonus: it matches the mini!) Unfortunately it is still in Ferndale since we were not quite set up to bring it home with our current roof rack setup. Hopefully we can bring it down soon though and get her in the water!

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We also picked strawberries. And went to the dairy for ice cream. Busy enough?IMG_4526[1]IMG_4525[1]

Sunday night we pulled into the ferry line just as a boat was pulling up. I swear, living on the island gives you magical ferry timing (knock on wood). 30 minutes later we pulled up to our little house, let the chickens out, pet the cats, unloaded 17 lbs of strawberries, watered the garden, made dinner, ate while we watched an episode of Parenthood on Netflix, and finally collapsed into bed. And you know what? It was one of the most rejuvenating weekends I have had in a long time.

Growing

Planting has slowed and the garden is in growing stage. Matt waters each morning and checks for signs of new sprouting veggies. The tomatoes produced their first phase of flowers which have since been plucked to conserve energy for roots and height. A final bed was formed on the southern side of the garden for pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and broccoli. Now we wait.

Well, not quite. Now we focus attention on finishing the cedar edge to the garden and removing paint in preparation for a new house color. We never seem to get as much done as we expect to in a day or week.The list continues to loom.

Our homestead is a bit more fun with the addition of two new young hens. Dee Dee (or if you ask Matt, Didi) and Baja are our two newbies from another island farm. Baja is some sort of Easter egger and Dee Dee a barred rock. Both are very sweet, but too small to add into the “big girl” flock. They are content to be in a playpen eating treats while the big girls roam the yard. Little Baja was obviously picked on in her old flock…she has some injured tail feathers (they should replace just fine in a molt) and some crooked toes. We are splinting the toes to (we hope) straighten them out, but she may already be too old. She sure is cute! In two more weeks we adopt 2 more young hens from a friend of a friend and those 4 can grow bigger together. It is fun to add more hens, but also stressful. There are always fears of health issues and conflict, but that is also just part of the reality. Our older hens are laying less often so we need some young birds to pick up the slack.

Life on the island. Busy, busy busy, and good. We are going to take one day this long Memorial Day weekend to step back from projects and just have fun.

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A Third Summer

This marks our third summer on the island. Our third planting season, our third garden, a third string of dinner and breakfasts outdoors in the yard.

It also means that we are more settled in, and making long term plans when we approach a project. The biggest change in our summer this year is the garden. We replaced the old 20×20 foot garden with a 65×45 foot massive sun filled one! Our summer now includes planning for and cultivating 3000 square feet of growing space! So far we have put in 12 blueberry bushes (5 varieties), 18 tomato starts, rhubarb and are waiting to transplant our strawberry patch. There are 4 fig trees waiting in pots, red currants and a huge pile of seeds just itching to go in. Right now we have two priorities: ripping up sod to make room  for planting and making the fence chicken/cat proof. We used remesh panels for the deer fence because we liked the look and cost, but little critters can still get under the bottom bar and through the 6 inch holes. The old fencing material from the previous garden is small mesh so we are re-purposing it for the lower 2 feet of the new garden and attaching it with tiny zip ties. Perfect!

There is another big project on the summer to-do list: prep and paint the house. I know we keep talking about this, and you are probably tired of hearing about without seeing progress…but it is a big job to tackle! We have scaffolding ready to go, a paint color preliminary picked (but have not settled on a brand yet)…we just need to get started. We finally decided on what paint prep tool we are going to invest in for removing the old paint, and just that decision alone was hours of research and conversation weighing pros and cons. What was the decision? The Speedheater. Factoring in time, safety (ie: lead), effectivness, cleanliness, etc. it won against the other options. So much to do in just 24 hours a day!

Ideally we will also take a few weekends to hike, go surf at the coast, maybe go camping? Hard to say at this point. What we can say: we are thrilled to have another summer in this house!

Farm Weekend: Fry Jack and Chicken Surgery

While the rest of the country is getting pounded with cold weather, here in the PNW we are basking in a very early Spring! 55 degrees, sunshine and everything is popping up in the garden. Our hens are laying much faster…today was our second three egg day! One dark brown, one light brown and a very pretty pale blue. We are so curious what color Mary (our youngest, not yet laying) will add to the collection.

This weekend we made another batch of fry jack. Wow, this Belize breakfast is going to be added to our normal weekend rotation of special feasts. The goal for this batch was to taste our honey. We brought back 3 different types of honey from Belize, and added one from a past trip to Grenada to round out the Caribbean taste test. Each one was so unique! Not at all like what you find in a traditional American grocery store. And all really good. The fry jack was beyond amazing.

How could we top that morning! Surgery!

This poor adopted flock of chickens has had it’s share of challenges. I keep trying to tell Matt that raising chickens is not usually this challenging. They were just not well taken care of at their past home and we are dealing with the consequences. This time around it was our head hen, Helen. We noticed a lump on the side of her toe, and did the obvious: Google search. We came to two conclusions: it was bumblefoot (worst case) or just an infection (possibly better). Either way, it needed to be taken out. I will spare you the details, but the rest of our Sunday involved watching YouTube videos of chicken foot surgery, sanitizing a bunch of tools, and team Frugé getting the job done. Matt was the official doctor while I was on patient holding duty. Good thing…I nearly passed out mid-surgery. Lukily I knew it was coming and lay on the floor to recover before it getting bad.

I am happy to report that Helen is back with her flock, looking happy as always, and cleanly re-bandaged with clean dressings as of this afternoon. She has even laid an egg! What a trooper.

It was a long, exhausting day, but we feel really good about how we are caring for our chickens. It has been quite the learning curve, and we have had to really test our comfort zones, but in the end it is all worth it.

Those 3 eggs we collected today were like thank you prizes.