Archive for October, 2016

Regaining My Power: Day 365

Today is Day 365 on my 1,000 day challenge. It’s a really cool idea that you can change your life in 1,000 days (or less) but if you find out that you’ve changed it all in the wrong way? Well, write that one off and try again- it wasn’t that long, after all! It ends up being less than three years, all told.

My first 1,000 days was started on July 14, 2016. It was 1,000 Days to a Viable Farm. It didn’t work. There was no way I could believe in a viable farm when I was renting a room from someone who didn’t want me to dig holes in her yard and I didn’t have the income to support living anywhere else.

By October 15, 2016 (no, the math doesn’t work, but I’m rolling with it!) I was ready to do a reboot and actually log each day. I had managed to buy and move into an RV, and I had come to terms with the fact that life wasn’t working in Colorado and I needed to do something different. I also realized that a viable farm couldn’t be my first goal. The current challenge is actually a dual challenge: 500 Days to a Life Worth Living and 1,000 Days to a Functional Farm. After all, a farm can’t function if its farmer can’t manage to roll herself out of bed in the morning.

I have been almost completely consistent in noting each day, and I think that alone is helpful. The three things I’ve noted each day is whether I took my supplements (they have varied some), what I did for my job (“went” is a common entry), and my movement that day. Commentary has moved from evening to first thing in the morning for the sake of consistency. Currently the common theme is “I hate 5 am.”

The negative, because that’s always the first thing I see: I weigh more (five or nine pounds, depending on where you count from), I’m further in debt, I no longer have any idea when I can live on my own again, and I still don’t have a “real” job.

I weigh more because when things don’t go well, I gain weight. That “real” job that I thought I’d snagged when I got here? Very bad for my waistline. I am currently employed, more or less gainfully, as a temp, though, and it’s mostly covering the bills without driving me ’round the bend. The additional debt is because my car bit the dust in the last year. After 12 years of me as the owner, Io did deserve her rest, and she did wait to die until I was in a place that I had access to help and a reliable replacement car. She did well by me all the way until the end. As far as living on my own goes, that won’t happen until I have the kind of job that will support enough space that I can take my chickens with me. After, of course, I’ve made a dent in my debt with that income.

The positive, because I need to remember that it happens, too: I have chickens, I can think again more often than not, the food is really good here, I’m slowly thinking through the farm thing again, and I have a truck!

Ok, so the truck isn’t a “real” truck by my definition. There’s no way it could pull a horse trailer. On the other hand, it’s supposed to be darn near indestructible, and I need that in a vehicle. It also gave me a truck bed for hauling the turkeys I’d raised off to be butchered. Five of my hens are laying, and all six are healthy. This is all giving me numbers and actual experience to extrapolate from. Things like- make the coop bigger the first time! I’m currently reading and thinking through a book on farm finance. It’s actually quite interesting, now that I have the brain power to apply to it. As for the food, nothing beats garden veggies at every meal. Particularly when I don’t have to cook them!

After 365(ish) days, it’s a mixed bag. Maybe I would have done better if I’d set more concrete, measurable goals, maybe not. “A life worth living” is a very slippery thing to define, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m closer to yes on that than I was when I started. As for the functional farm? According to the book on farm finance I’m solvent! Just don’t ask to see the profit and loss statement . . .

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Chicken Update!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my adorable little fluffballs. They are now somewhat less adorable, but still pretty entertaining, featherheads. This is a bit before I put them in their outside coop- two turkey poults and three chicks in that group.

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I did not lose any birds in the early, fluffy days when it’s pretty easy to get them too hot, too cold, too crowded- too anything, really. I had read about this heating plan where instead of lights, you make a “hen” from a seedling heating pad, some sort of arch to hold it up, and towels so they don’t interact with it directly. It gives them a warm cave to retreat into, just like Mama’s wings would be, but without light that can mess up their clock. It worked for me!

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Clearly, they also thought it was a good foot-warmer. I didn’t lose anybody until I put them in their coop outside. It was kind of early, but I was flat out of room in these containers and the little buggers were starting fly out when I opened it up to do anything. I shifted the seedling heaters into the nest boxes for a couple of weeks to give them a little extra heat, and it doesn’t appear to have caused any bad habits. No one died of chill or illness. However, the ducklings didn’t like the ramp so they chose to sleep outside. They were big enough to stay warm, but not too big to be pulled through a gap between the bottom of the fencing and the ground. It happened a couple of nights apart, and I only ended up finding one of the carcasses. The predator, still not sure what it was, had the same idea I did. I bet the ducks tasted good.

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According to my notes, I picked everyone up on May 5. This is one of the two that didn’t match each other. I ordered Araucanas, but apparently you only get real, honest to goodness Araucanas or Amaraucanas from breeders. What you get from a big hatchery is a mutt that should have a blue-egg gene, but isn’t pure anything. So she’s one of my two Easter Eggers. You never know quite what you’re going to get. On August 28 I found three eggs- white, from a Leghorn, and they were expected to be the first ones to start.

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The first eggs are always small- but check out that healthy orange yolk! The Leghorns have been fairly steady- and did somewhat redeem themselves when I found the 17 eggs one of them laid out in the yard. At least she was laying, even if she wasn’t sharing.

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My first thought on seeing this was, “This is why I need a pig. I don’t need to know the egg age to give to a pig!” The next layer started on September 1- one of the Golden Comets with brown eggs. At first I was wondering if the two of them were tag-teaming perfectly since I was getting a brown egg every single day. Nope. The second one started laying on the 18th and they have both been absolute machines. I can pretty much always count on my two brown eggs. The two white layers are fairly consistent, but not like the browns. I didn’t get anything from an Easter Egger until October 8, but they are bigger than the other two and probably took longer to mature. Tragically, it’s a nice, medium, pinkish-beige. I’m still holding out hope that my last hen might decide to lay a green egg, but I’m not holding my breath at this point.

From my first egg until October 20, I have gotten an average of 3.17 eggs per day. However, if I count from when hen #5 started until the 20th, my average is 4.5 eggs per day or 5.25 eggs per hen, per week. Not bad, since one of them is a free-loader!

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My third kind of poultry, of course, were the poults. Didn’t they grow up into a handsome couple! And a very large couple. After quickly outgrowing the chicken coop, as expected, I cobbled together their own cage with parts of the winter garden skeleton. They really outgrew that, too, but Mom was keeping them very well supplied with weeds and garden leftovers, so they were doing ok.

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So ok, in fact, that the little one, Hen, weighed in at 22#. That’s her being “vacuum packed” before freezing. We had to scramble for something to pack them in since I did find someone to butcher them, but he didn’t have any bags that were big enough!

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Tom, however, was so big that he broke the rope the butcher was using to hold him up for plucking. At a healthy 32#, we determined he’d never fit in the grill to live up to his other name- Thanksgiving. Dad dismembered him for me so he should thaw faster when it’s time to get him out of the freezer. Imagine how big they’d be if I figured out a month earlier that I was underfeeding them on protein . . .

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At this point in the poultry experiment, I’ve gotten 180 eggs, 54# of meat/bones, and have had to deal with unintentional loss. I’m about to build coop number two for the winter, since the original chicken coop really isn’t big enough for six hens in a Maine winter. It will be cobbled together temporarily in the garden shed, so coops number three and four will be built next spring/summer. I’m glad I sent the turkeys out this year, but learning how to butcher them myself is still the plan. I also plan to expand the egg operation next year to sell some and I’m considering meat turkeys and/or chickens for the house and possibly for sale. I need to run the numbers. I might also start breeding on farm. Everyone who can really should help to keep heritage breeds around until the rest of America figures out that having one breed of cow, one breed of chicken, and one breed of pig is a poor idea. So far, this experiment is enough of a success to continue it for another year- provided I do a little more planning on the housing first!

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Regaining My Power: Thinking-Thoughts

I’ve been slowly coming to this idea that I have “thinking-thoughts” again. For a long time I have been trapped by “bramble-thoughts,” or thoughts that are the mental equivalent to the blackberry problem in the north west. Due to the nature of bramble-thoughts, I’m not even sure how long they’ve been dominant. What I do know is that for what felt like a long time, I knew my brain wasn’t working the way it was supposed to, I just couldn’t for the life of me remember how it used to work.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I deal with depression. I haven’t said “suffer from” for, well, I’m not sure I ever really did. It’s part of who I am and just something to work with. Kind of like shopping for pants with my big butt. I can’t wear wicked low-cut jeans and I don’t get to know what it’s like to wish for immortality. It’s just how I roll.

The bramble-thoughts are part of my depression. They start out innocently enough with a cane or two. They even offer berries in the form of writing ideas. Ok, so I get scratched reaching past the thorns for the berries, but it’s a great idea! But they grow. And as they grow the berries get harder and more sour. Instead of what I can write about, they become why my writing is stupid. Then the surrounding thorns of why I shouldn’t even try to write- not that I can by that point. But I keep reaching through the thorns and eating the berries because by then, that’s all I’ve got. The bramble-thoughts have managed to out-compete anything else in my head that might offer a different opinion.

Eventually, if the bramble gets dense enough, I lose the ability to move. I’m so hemmed in by the thorns of what I’ve done wrong, why I’m stupid, and what I’ll never be able to do- not to mention knowing that everyone is aware of every single short-coming and only spends time with me out of obligation or pity- that I can’t even look up to see if the sky is blue because I know I’ll just get stabbed by something else. And it’s probably overcast anyway.

Lots of things feed the brambles. I always have a cane or three in my head, poking me when they can and just waiting for the environment to shift a bit in their favor. More than one job has nurtured this latest crop, particularly encouraging the “you can’t do anything right” thorns. The general economic climate and my insufficient income in the last few years managed to clearcut swathes of healthy shade trees of possibilities, leaving that lovely empty space to be grown in. My current debt situation and erratic employment has made any ideas about my future weak, anemic things that can’t shoulder aside the brambles to make their own space.

Luckily, my current job is helping me start to smother the brambles. I’ve been temping at a couple of different places doing the sort of jobs that don’t require a whole lot of thought. I’m good at the jobs, much to the bramble-thoughts’ dismay, and not needing to think too hard means that I get to listen to books on tape. I hate being read to, so they’re non-fiction. It’s like listening to a lecture. At about a book per day, it doesn’t even really matter what the book is, since it’s not a huge commitment.

Between the work that’s keeping my hands and a small slice of my mind busy, and the books that are occupying the rest of my mind, there isn’t anything for the brambles to feed on. Praise from coworkers has even been scything them back just a little. When I started I was mostly just listening. I was picking up the odd idea here and there, but not so much thinking. Now I’m finding myself taking the ideas I listen to during the day and actually having thinking-thoughts about them on the drive home. How do these ideas apply to me? How can I use them toward my own goals? What does this mean for me in the greater scheme of things? What other books should I find to flesh out these ideas?

Thinking-thoughts come with their own drawbacks. After all, I simply don’t have the energy to explain to everyone how a cap on CEO salaries and reasonable wages for the rest of us will help businesses, and come up with a start-up company so that I can have passive income so I can afford to do everything that I want to do, and actually write in this blog, and start a locally-focused blog, AND figure out how to expand my chickens and turkeys, AND, by the way, get my turkeys butchered and in the freezer, AND work up numbers on beekeeping in Maine, AND . . . Also, I want to do it all right now!

Now that I think about it, those bramble-thoughts are some really nasty invasives if they managed to snuff all that out! And I’ve only just scratched the surface. I’m starting to remember how my brain is supposed to work. The thoughts are getting stronger in the places where the bramble-thoughts have been smothered back, but they aren’t going full-bore yet.

Thinking-thoughts are showing up just in time, too. On top of everything else, NaNoWriMo is coming, and I really need to beat last year’s numbers!