Friday, September 16, 2016

Our Eight-Day Hatch


On the farm, from day to day, you are truly never for certain what events will take place like this incident.  Back in the spring I purchased five barred rock chickens for my Outdoor Classroom kids to view. For those unfamiliar with the term, “barred rock, ” it is a breed that resembles a piece of black and white checked gingham fabric.
A box-full of chicks. 

 In that purchase, I bought four pullets—a   young hen just starting to lay  eggs. Their eggs, initially, are significantly smaller than the older hens. And this breed lays brown ones.  And though I had no plans to have baby chicks, I got a rooster, meaning…. well everyone knows what that means, right? It means at daybreak I will hear the familiar,  "Cock-a-doodle-do. It’s a new day, time to get up,” crow. For that reason, and only, that reason, I got a rooster with my girls, but what follows I totally wasn’t expecting.  

On the farm, chickens and eggs go hand in hand. I love gathering eggs and so does Avah, my granddaughter, a carbon copy of myself—lover of farm animals and Nature. Much to my surprise, one day, in August, as we opened the nesting box door to gather the eggs, one of the hens was still on the nest, puffed up and purring when I started to reach under her for the eggs. “Oh my goodness,” I said to Avah. “Want to know what that means?” Of course she said with enthusiasm, “What?”  I smiled, “It means she wants to set on these eggs and hatch baby chicks.” Of course, those who have raised chickens know I could have easily foiled her plan by taking the eggs away and removing her from the nest until she gave up on the idea. After all, spring was well past when most hens hatch baby chicks.  
Truly,  it was so cool every morning to look in on these chicks, in a box on my counter top.
That I do believe means you are a true farm girl! 

But for Nature’s sake and especially for my granddaughter’s education, I decided to let Nature take its course. When the hen had eight eggs under her, I marked the calendar “setting.” Counted forward 21 days and wrote, “hatch.” As instructed, Avah   put an “X” on each egg so if the other hens rooted her from her nest, we could remove their new egg.


When the first hatch occurred, (go figure, two days prior than my calendar entry,) she tried to corral it back to the nest, but it kept wandering off. Knowing her job of keeping it warm as well as the nest of eggs she must have been torn as to what to do. I could see how those other eggs would soon chill and the eight-egg hatch would become a one-egg hatch if I didn’t intervene.

 In the kitchen, (where everything cool happens in a farmhouse) I made a make shift brooder with a cardboard box lined with newspaper with a small light bulb for heat. I stole the chick and brought it to the house. Every morning, even before I had my coffee, I scurried to the hen house to check for more chicks. “We have another one,” became the phrase of the day.  All told, one-by-one it took eight days for all the chicks to hatch. (Go figure!)  By the time the last one hatched the older ones had little checkered tail and wing feathers growing in such a short time.
Absolutely Amazing. I held it to my ear before it hatched and I could hear it chirping. 

Some would have said, “I have no time for this, let alone maintaining a make shift brooder, or having    it on my kitchen counter top!” But I tell you, “What an education you would miss out on.  I wasn’t doing it for me…I was doing it for the poor hen and the grandchildren's  education, and for Nature’s sake.”
  
Now, that we had a successful hatch with no casualties, it was time to return them to their momma. We made a special nursery box from a large dog kennel box. At first she pecked at her babies, especially the older ones, but soon became welcoming by puffing up, walking gingerly trying to gather them with a low, continuous clucking.

That evening, before bed, I dashed out to check on them, one more time. I couldn’t see any chicks since she was nestled in the straw and puffed up twice her size in the back corner, where they were keeping warm. “Good girl,” I told her. And as I closed the door I marveled,  And no one had to tell her how to do it. She just knew!”

So Here's the Thing...I don’t know why the hen went broody in the Fall as opposed to the Spring as usual, but I couldn’t be any happier for the education it bestowed upon us and to have been an instrument in the miracle of birth (or hatch in this instance.) The miracle of life, to this farm girl, always is, absolutely amazing! In all things...Take Joy!




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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Birth-Date August 28th Tasha Tudor

Remembering the life of Tasha Tudor with Tea Time

I have been fortunate enough to have visited the Tasha Tudor home two times.  Each visit was a wish come true. 

The first time, we made the trip, we didn't get to go inside her home, but no matter, just being there was a wish come true. Sadly, though, I didn't get to see Tasha  Tudor on my first tour, nor my second. She had passed away before  I could make arrangements to schedule a garden tour. 

On our second tour, we were blessed to be able  to go inside  her home.  Inside, it is  just as you see  in her  paintings. Seeing her small painting table (left just as if she had walked away for a cup of tea) was worth the price of admission. The family, you know,  does us a wonderful favor in keeping her place "alive" and open for all of us fans to visit. The money for admission helps with the upkeep of her home.  

Because I love her work and the Corgi dogs, my husband saw my love for them and blessed me with my first Corgi on  a surprise road trip with grandchildren in tow eight years ago.  We named our first   Howard Lee Blue. We went on to raise many litters of Corgis since then, giving many families the "gift of Corgi."  Howard  and his mate are now enjoying their retirement   on the  farm, enjoying our front porch ramblings here at Cherry Ridge.

Just the other day, my seven year old granddaughter  gave our two Corgis a much needed  bath. It delighted me  to no end when she said, "I used the tub in the Tasha Tudor bathroom."  For those who follow me, you know I did a total bathroom makeover using fabric, prints  and photos from Tasha's world. It's my daily dose of inspiration! 

A Corgi Puppy 



So Here's the Thing...If you love Tasha, her life  and her picture books, give yourself the best gift of all––visit Boston, go to the ocean and drive to Marlboro, Vermont  to take a tour. (Tickets usually go on sale in February and sell out quickly.) You will thoroughly enjoy it, but should  you want to go and not find a way to make it happen, then you  will regret living your whole life, never fulfill your dream of doing so. 

Thank you for the gift of Tasha Tudor.  May we all aspire to follow our dreams like Tasha did. 

Visit their newly renovated website for Tasha Tudor
 





Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Living in the Moment




Have you ever ridden a cow?  I thought I might have been the only kid to give it a try until I saw a video of a girl riding a cow like I used to do when I was a kid. I watched the short Facebook video a time or two. This girl had perfected a childhood game of ours and it stirred up many memories of days gone by.

 I loved our new home on the farm and especially the animals and nature. I still do.     I remember I much more preferred the white-faced Hereford cows to the Holstein.  There’s something about those all white faces with big blue eyes and their remarkably, long eyelashes that I adore. Still do.  We visited our small herd daily. Often times we would greet each other by   touching noses and inhaling and exhaling, as they paused a moment from grazing or chewing their cud.  

 One day, seeking entertainment we found it in the cow pasture.   My older sister Debbie and I decided to try and ride a cow. We didn’t have a pony any more; she was too ornery, so why not ride a cow.    "You go first," I told her. "No you first," she insisted.   She was a bit scared to go first not knowing what might happen.  I could tell, so me being a tad more daring than her, decided to give it a go, after all, I fell off that trickster, Shetland pony of ours many times when she would run off with me then throw her head down and put on her brakes at Mom’s garbage burn pile (no Rumpke back then) and over the top I flew. So I said I’d do it.  


 Debbie helped me up by creating a stirrup with her hands. I don’t know how she knew all these cool tricks.  It was a whole lot higher up than on our pony. But the cows didn’t mind much at all once they knew what we were trying to do and that we weren’t giving up getting on top. They didn’t mind me kicking to go either, because they wouldn’t go.  We tried several others but they, like the first one, all just contentedly continued grazing.  A step here or there which was a little scary sine there wasn’t anything to hold on to like our pony’s mane. “Well, this is boring,” I told sister. We had one left to try, but she was huge with calf and being kids we felt that we shouldn’t try her.   

Then we talked it over and decided to try Big Red anyway since we were small little girls.   She moved more than the other as I struggled to get up that high.  Then she walked off without a nudge. Stopped to graze.   Then her steps became fast, and when she looked back at me, seeming a bit agitated with me for still being on her, she began trotting a little, I was all smiles, until her trot got faster and her head swung around in a mad circle.    I decided right then and there that I’d had enough fun for the afternoon and I slid off before I got bucked off like in the rodeo. “Wow, did you see that? She was about to buck me off,” I shared my wisdom of getting off before that happened. What would we tell Mom if I came in with a broken arm?   

As we tried to head for the house, more fun was created when the cows kept following us around like we were their leader.  When we would run ahead, they would run too. When we stopped, they would stop and graze some more. Our herd was very friendly and curious. It really was quite fun.  Who needed toys? In fact we had few toys. A bike and a baby doll. We didn’t need toys to entertain us.   We had the best fun that warm afternoon in the pasture field of our youth with a herd of cows. Only a few weeks later, sure enough, Big Red gave birth to a darling baby calf with a snow-white face and big blue eyes and long curly eyelashes.


In the girl’s video clip I mentioned, she actually used a saddle, a halter bridle and has a jump set up. Sure enough, she trotted that cow toward the jump and would you believe, it jumped it. Wow! Why didn’t we think of that?  Probably, because we didn’t have a saddle or a girth large enough to fasten to one of them, other wise, we probably would have.
  
Living in the moment, like a curious kid, and sucking up all the details with no distractions, are the best moments, equaling the best days of our lives.  Pause soon and suck up one of those "living in the moment, moments." If you decide your moment is to try and ride a cow, do share the moment with me.  Lol.  sherryphillipsmitchell@yahoo.com

Thanks Lisa Estep for the lovely photos of your grandparents cattle.  

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