Saturday, November 10, 2012

The chickens, the "stick of death," and Rocky, the flying squirrel

I have had to put my chickens on restriction, because they keep getting in my neighbor's yard.  I don't want a ticket for roaming livestock, so I only let them out when I can be with them, which is usually between three and six pm.  In order to keep them in line, I have "the stick of death," which is actually a garden fork:

All I have to do is swish it, and they move into the back yard.

And here is Rocky.  He's doing quite well!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Heavy Rain!

This is what happens when we have a heavy rain for an hour or two.

I have a ditch on the side of my house, and, when we have a hard, strong rain, this is what happens.

The water rose to the property line, but, once the heavy rain stopped, the water began receding.

Below, one of my Leghorns laid an egg in the fire pit and sat there for about 20 minutes, keeping it dry.

We've had a worrisome morning.  I'm afraid the girls are going to be swept away by the water, since they love to go down in the ditch to forage.  Henry the roo has been keeping an eye on them, though.

Really, I don't know of anything more contrary than a wet hen.  They've been fussy for two days!

Hope you stay high and dry!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chickens in the Driveway...

I have a Barred Rock hen, one of the Henriettas, who likes to walk on the wild side.  I constantly have to chase her from the front yard to the back, so I've named her "Miss Adventure" for her tendency to wander off in search of new pastures. At least I'm exercising more!  Wrangling chickens is a demanding job!

Yesterday, while I was reading drafts from several of my classes, I heard something--not loud, but rather metallic.  I thought, perhaps, the acorns were falling on the roof of the shed, which makes a nice pinging sound.  I looked out and discovered that several limbs had fallen from the Oak tree in the middle of the yard.  Not that unusual--limbs fall all the time.  But these limbs fell on the Henriettas' chicken run, flattening it to the ground.

Poor Henry the Roo was in the run by himself, but he's okay.  He did manage, though, to make it out into the  yard with ALL the hens!  He's having a great time chasing them.  And he's awfully proud of his prowess, too, judging by all the crowing he's doing.

This is Lydia, a Barred Rock mix.  Barred Rocks lay brown eggs, but Lydia's eggs are white.

Mrs. Bennet.  She's a Red Sex Link.  She lays brown eggs.

The Brahmas, aka The Dashwoods, Marianne and Elinor.  They lay brown eggs.

One of the Henriettas--this one is a Buff Orpington.  She lays brown eggs.

 A view of the collapsed run and some of the limbs that brought it down.

Another view.  You really can't see all the limbs in this, but I figure three large limbs came down, as well as a few smaller ones.

And yet another view. All in all, a mess, and a time-consuming repair.

Even my best-laid plans go awry.  But, in the midst of reading/grading, I need a break.  This wasn't quite the break I was looking for!

All's well, though.  The run is functional, though they don't usually spend much time in it, except when I go the the University to teach.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A New Post, Finally!

Since FB came on the scene, I've been terrible at keeping up with my blog.  FB is too easy; keeping a blog is difficult, and I've become accustomed to short, pithy posts, as opposed to long, considered ones.  But I shall try to post once a week for my students' benefit.

Aside from the weather, I like summer.  I usually teach one course online, so I can legitimately stay home all summer, interact with the chickens, and just generally do whatever I want.  I drive when I want to, which amounts to maybe a trip into Shreveport to see my parents, or have lunch with a friend, or maybe I'll drive down to the Brookshire's in Natchitoches. I don't use up much gas during the summer; I've been known to fill up my car maybe three times in two months.  Works for me.

Then comes the fall semester, and, depending on how many trips I have to make into Shreveport, I fill up my car twice a week.  I have a seven-year-old Mazda, which gets decent gas mileage on long trips, but these weekly forays to teach my class seem to drink more gas than I like.  I use three gallons of gas, at least, to make my round-trip each time I go into town.  It seems excessive, and, considering gas prices, I tend to not drive any more than I need to.

I plant gardens in all seasons.  The summer garden did well until the heat of August.  I had a nice crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, and pumpkins, but the squash and beans withered, thanks to squash bugs.  The eggplant is just now starting to bloom.  The same thing happened with the eggplant last year--in September and October, I had more than I could reasonably eat, so I gave a bunch of it away.

I try to garden organically. I don't use chemical sprays on anything I'm going to eat, and I expect some attrition--I don't mind sharing with the bugs, to an extent.  When I do spray, I usually use a spray I've mixed myself from natural ingredients--apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, and castile soap.  It works, most of the time. If it doesn't, I use Neem oil-based sprays.  Again, organic.

In addition to the eggplant, I still have some greens and (mangled) brussels sprouts (the chickens like to peck at them), and I've planted some fall tomatoes, cabbage, and broccoli. A few of the watermelon vines are hanging on with blooms, but I don't think they'll produce anything. I have a number of herbs growing, as well.

The chickens have been laying fairly well, producing usually 5 - 8 eggs a day.  From 10 hens, that's not bad. I'm glad I have family and friends who like eggs!

That's about it for this post.  This tells you most about what occupies my time and my thoughts--though I didn't include all the grading I do.  With three writing classes and a fiction class, I spend a great deal of time grading/reading.

It's a life!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pictures of My Chickens

The Buff Orpington hen. 

My Light Brahmas.

Three of the five "Bennets"--two of the three Leghorns, and Mrs. Bennet, a Red Sex Link.

I have eleven chickens--10 hens and a rooster.  I had 12, but one died over the summer. In addition to those pictured, I have a Barred Rock/Leghorn mix, and two Barred Plymouth Rocks. Henry, the rooster, is an Orpington.

You will hear a great deal about these over the semester.  They are fun to watch and interact with, and they lay delicious eggs!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Facebook Page for Students

If you can't reach me by any of the other ways I've given you, try, which I set up today.  I also have a  twitter account that I don't use much, dotsmom1.  I have no idea how to use twitter, so I'll have to find some instructions. 

Home email:
Skype: dotsmom
Yahoo IM:
Twitter: dotsmom1
Facebook: see link above

For my English 226 students--post critiques as soon as Moodle comes back up.  If you need to send something to me before Monday, attach it to a message to my home email account. Go ahead and post to your blogs, but I won't be able to read them until the system comes back up.

I know the current power outage at LSUS has thrown many people into confusion, but it's not a crisis.  Just think through it, and, if you have questions and concerns, contact me.  Also, keep an eye on LSUS's Facebook page for updates.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Caved!

I saw the baby chicks at the Feed and Seed store the other day, but resisted the temptation to buy them.  Then I read up on caring for them.  On my second trip to the S&F, I bought four--two Buff Orpingtons (the golden ones) and two Barred Rocks (the black ones).

I'm waiting for the temps to warm up today to put them in the movable coop for a while.  I want them to become used to seeing the big chickens before I put them in the coop.  They need to grow, as well, since they are only about three weeks old.

Cute, huh? Like I needed more chickens.  That brings my total count to 10.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New Garden Box...

It's not finished yet, but it will be as soon as I buy more dirt.

I had the hairbrained idea to create another garden box.  I went out, looking for pallets to make a vertical garden, but couldn't find any.  So, I went to the hardware store and bought 12 cinder blocks.

Here's what I made:

I'll post another pic as soon as I plant the "holes."  I plan to alternate flowers and herbs.  So far, I've planted two holes of marigolds and a cinnamon basil.

Inside the garden, I've planted corn and bean seeds, squash and cucumber plants, and I stuck in a couple of rununculus bulbs.  I want to make it friendly to the bees to encourage them to hang around.  They swarmed the Mayhaws when those bloomed, so I'm hoping they've stuck around.

This is so much better than whining about car repairs.  Now, if I could just get my iPad back up and running, the world will be a better place!

Friday, March 09, 2012

If It's Not One Thing...

I took my car, my dirty, seven-year-old Mazda to a local garage on Thursday to have it inspected--yes, March is the inspection month for me.  I had noticed some oil stains on my carport--I haven't ever had oil stains before--so I asked the guys at the garage to take a look.

I had a cracked oil filter housing.  I don't know how long it had been cracked.  My last oil change was 2 1/2 months ago; my next oil change was scheduled for March 19.  Good thing I had it checked.  I was down two quarts.

So the old guy at the garage said he'd call Mazda and get the part and fix it today, Friday.  Except he couldn't get the part today.  Mazda had to order the part--overnight it--but it wouldn't get to Mazda until 10am today.  The truck that comes to Coushatta from Shreveport leaves S'port at 7:30am.  The soonest they could have the part here would be Monday.

No good for me.  I could have cancelled class on Monday--I'm sure my students would have been thrilled.  But I wouldn't.  So I drove to the dealership today and sat there for1 1/2 hours and spent over two hundred dollars for a $17 part.  Because they couldn't just replace the part.  They had to do the 105,000 mile maintenance on my car (which actually has about 108,000 miles on it).

Again, this stiffens my resolve to NEVER take my car back to the dealership.  Even if they had just replaced the $17 part, they would have also charged me for an oil change and labor--to the tune of nearly $100.  I can have my oil changed for about $35 at other places.

I can't understand the shipping schedules.  Wouldn't it be better to expedite the shipping to have the part arrive before the truck leaves every morning?  It doesn't seem to be that difficult.  Planes fly all the time.  Trucks trundle up and down the highways. But maybe I'm missing something.

Coushatta isn't the end of the earth. But I'm amused, and a bit put off, when companies act as though we're a thousand miles away from civilization.  Gasoline is at least 20 cents higher here.  Don't those trucks have to come down the highways to deliver gasoline to other places along the road?  Do they increase the price of gas by every extra mile they have to drive?  I don't know.  It doesn't make sense.

What makes less sense to me is that my family members say they don't come to my house because it's "too far to drive."  I tell them, "I drive it to come see you."  "Yeah," they say, "but you have to come to Shreveport to work. You're coming this way, so you can come see us."

I think my friends think I live down some unpaved, muddy road.  I live, actually, two doors away from the town hall and the police station. I do have nearly an acre, but I'm not out in the woods.  A highway runs in front of my mailbox. It's a paved highway, too.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

If it's sunny, I'm outside...

Apologies to all students whose papers I haven't graded/read yet.  The sun is out, the temp is good, and my garden and the chickens are calling my name!

Today, I turned a tire into an herb garden; I need to figure out how to cut the rim to open it up more, though.  I planted cilantro, dill, and parsley I wintersowed, then bought some English thyme at the Ace Hardware store.  I planted eggplant, some Dragon carrot seeds, sowed more cabbage in some of the other beds after I pulled up greens that were going to seed.  I've made a spring soup of greens, squash, and carrots.  I just want to dig in the dirt.

 I took this pic before I planted the thyme.

I've collected four eggs today, but I had to eat one because it had a small dent in it.

This my newest garden box; mostly tomatoes.  If all of these produce, I'll be canning tomatoes all summer! I've also planted basil, yellow squash, acorn squash, and a few pumpkin seeds in here.

Mrs. Bennet says "Hi!"

The sun is still out, and I just want to be out in it.  Sigh.  I must read drafts and grade papers.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Instead of grading papers...

I'm adding a picture to my blog and trying to motivate myself...I don't think the personal pep talk is working, though.  I just want to nap.

I spent the day in Shreveport, helping Dr. DuBose with his talk, then went to a looooong lunch with two favorite frends.  And, of course, I had to go to World Market and spend some the time I came home, I was tired and too relaxed to give serious thought to anything.

Except...the hens are digging in the new run, so I need to "plant" some wire around the bottom, and I need to do that tomorrow.  I also need to fence the new garden box to try to keep the cats out.  They decimated two eggplants.

I received my "Farmgirl Sisterhood" badge from MaryJane's Farm.  MJF is one of my most favorite magazines, so joining wasn't a hard decision.  It's a great way to connect with other women who are interested in self-sufficiency; I learn a great deal from reading their stories.

Here's the badge, sewn on my bluejean jacket:

And, for fun, here's a picture of a cat in a cube:

That's Ginger Baker enjoying her new toy!

Hope you're having a great week.  I think I'm going to bed early.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Addition to the Chicken Coop

Yes, I should be reading drafts and otherwise grading assignments for my students.  Instead, I added a run to the chicken coop.

I ordered this one instead of building it myself, and, while I'm pleased with it, I think I'll just stick to making my own.  The hardware cloth really is much bigger than I like, so I need to add some with a tighter weave to the bottom--and, of course, dig a trench to bury said wire.

For the time being, though, it will work.  When the ground dries out a bit, I'll finish it off.

The girls like it, and that's what counts!

They didn't even wait for me to exit after I cut the wire that divided the bottom of the hen house from the new run. I was cutting wire while they were trying to eat the buttons on my jacket!

I need to make this more raccoon-proof, but I'll do that over the next couple of days.  I can still reach the nesting box to gather eggs, and I have a small door where I can reach in to close the hatch at night.

It gives them more space, and they need that.
The chicken yard looks a bit like an airport, with its various terminals!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Egg count to date...

about four dozen eggs.  I gathered four today.  Here is the egg basket--minus one brown egg I gave to my mother and a white egg I ate for breakfast!

These are the eggs (minus the two I've mentioned) that I have collected since Monday.

Rain sometimes affects the laying, but not today.  I covered part of the run with a vinyl tablecloth to help keep the rain off the girls.  The run was still muddy, but at least the rain wasn't falling on their heads.

I've been experimenting with treats.  So far, they like seedless grapes, cooked oatmeal (I'll cook it for them, but I hate cooked oatmeal!), all kinds of greens, apple bits, bananas, wild bird seed, hot dog buns, lasagna, cornbread, pinto beans, and lentils.  One of the great things about having chickens is that they will eat my leftovers.  But I don't feed them meat of any kind.  I do feed them eggshells, but I wash and dry them, then pulverize them with one of my food choppers.  I don't want them to start eating their eggs.

In addition to layer pellets and treats, they receive grit (for digestion) and oyster shells (for calcium).  I make sure they eat most of their pellets before I give treats, but I give treats two or three times a day.  It gives them something to do--they chase each other all over the run, trying to steal the treats from another hen!

I pulled up a few carrots, cut some collards and bok choy yesterday and threw it all in a pot for soup.  I love being able to walk into the garden and pick up what I need for dinner!

I cut the broccoli because it was beginning to flower.  The weather's been a bit too hot for broccoli.

I have tomato, pumpkin, and herb seeds germinating, so I should be able to get a head start on my spring garden.  Let's hope Punxatawny Phil was wrong about six more weeks of winter--though we really haven't had one yet!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not About Chickens!

As a college professor, one thing I've learned is that I need clearly stated policies regarding every aspect of my classes.  This applies to grades, especially.  My policy, I think, is simple.  Any assignment past due by three days receives an automatic zero.  Students can contact me for permission to turn in late work, but that doesn't mean I have to grade it.  I also tell students in my syllabus that they need to remind me--before dead week--of any assignments they submitted that I agreed to grade. 

I have a freshman from last semester who contacted me after final exams about her grade.  I have been going back and forth with her--though, again, my syllabus says that I will not discuss grades when dead week begins.  I have reminded her of my policies, but she persists.  Perhaps she thinks that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease"--that if she bugs me enough, I will relent. 

What generally happens is this--I go to the chair of my department and the dean of the college and explain what's going on.  My policies are clear. I remind students about them constantly, especially at the end of the semester. Students must submit all assignments to keep from making an automatic F in the class.  That still doesn't mean I'll grade the late assignment.

I have to jump through hoops to change a final grade in a class.  That's why it's important for students to read and understand my policies.  If I make one exception, then any student who didn't submit work and wants to do so now can use this one case as justification.  I like to be consistent.

I don't know how this will resolve, but it's something that won't go away until I hand it over to my bosses.  I hate dealing with this kind of stuff.  It detracts from the work I need to do now.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Chicken Obsession...

At some point, I'm sure I'll write about something else. But, for now, my chickens absorb quite a bit of my time.

I picked up four eggs today.  Since Monday, I've collected 15 eggs, all white.  I've found one broken brown egg, but I think Mrs. Bennet and Lydia, the two non-white hens, are low on the pecking order and are feeling a bit stressed about it.  I hope they'll lay soon, but they are older hens and might be at the end of their laying time.  Still, I'm not willing to slaughter them yet, especially since they are new to me.  They might just need a bit more time, and I'm not in any hurry.  To me, this is a long-term investment.

And what an investment!  I bought a 50-lb bag of feed today, as well as some grit.  Together, these cost me about $20, which I don't consider expensive.  That's about what I spend on cat food, cat litter, and wild bird food. I've also purchased wood shavings for the coop, but a bag of that isn't expensive either.  A bale of wheat straw costs about $4-$5; that's not expensive either.  They eat practically any cooked leftovers, which reduces the waste that goes into my garbage.  I'll also get some great compost for my gardens. And they are fun to watch and to talk to.  They know when they see the "blue bucket" that I'm bringing them some treats.  All in all, it's a mutually beneficial relationship.  And I love the eggs.

I also enjoy watching my cats as they watch the chickens.  It's great "cat TV"!

The hens don't need much prompting going in to the hen house at night, and, as soon as they hear me in the morning, they start making soft clucking noises. I've seen the sunrise every morning since they arrived; I'm usually a late riser.  Plus, I've been going to bed earlier and sleeping better.  Maybe my circadian rhythms are finally resetting.

I'm excited mostly because this is one more step towards self-sufficiency.  Now, if I could just figure out how to get my gardens to grow in 115-degree summers, everything would be great!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rain and More Rain!

My poor chickens!  They spent yesterday huddled under the hen house for most of the day.  The yard was a lake. Their food stayed mostly dry, but they didn't eat much.  I did get two eggs last night before I closed them up for the evening, and I had two eggs this morning.  I've filled their feeder up twice today; they are obviously hungry!  Plus, I've given them some treats to make them happy.  Since they moved in, I've gathered 11 eggs; they've broken three!  But that's not bad for five days!

The broccoli is finally producing.  I have four plants; this one was the largest, and it has a bunch of small florets growing up the side of the stalk.  The others are doing fine, but not producing any side growths yet, so I'll let those go a bit longer.

I have a bunch of paperwhites and daffodils growing in the side of my yard.  I love when they bloom--I can have fresh flowers for days!  I picked these this morning when I went out to retrieve the garbage can.  Plus, they smell divine!

I was up last night until nearly midnight, and I got up at 6:30 this morning to tend to the chickens.  I stayed up for a couple of hours, then went back to bed to take a nap.  I guess I need to start working now!

Monday, January 23, 2012


I came home this afternoon and found three eggs in the nest box! Someone laid an egg last night, but she dropped it from the roost.  It busted on the floor of the coop.  I went to clean it this afternoon, but I think they managed to push it out with some of the wood shavings.

Last night, one of the leghorns refused to go into the henhouse. I have a light on right now in hopes that they all will go in so I can shut the hatch to keep them safe.

A good second day of chicken owning!

My cat, Boudreaux, spent some time checking them out this afternoon.

I finally had to remove him from the top of the pen.  The chickens were as curious about him as he was about them!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Chickens Have Arrived....

These are the Bennets.  If you've read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, you know their names.  The red one is Mrs. Bennet; the four white Leghorns are Jane, Lizzy, Mary, and Kitty; the black and white is Lydia--the troublemaker!  She escaped when Julie was trying to unload them into the coop, and Julie and Randy, her husband, had to retrieve her from some brush in the ditch!  In the book, Lydia runs away with Mr. Wickham.  Ironic that the first thing she did when she got here is run away!

I'll post more pics--I've taken so many already.  The girls are settling in.  This will be a great adventure for all of us!

Friday, January 20, 2012

What I do when I'm not grading papers...

A finished tea towel apron.
A tea towel apron in progress...
I make aprons.  Or knit.  Or crochet.  Or quilt.

I add extensions to the chicken coop.  This was my project today.  I hope it will be inhabited soon!

I'm tired now, and every bone in my hands hurts.  I also gouged my thumb with the drill.  I probably should have gone for stitches!  I'll check it later.

Sometimes I read or play solitare Scrabble.  Sometimes I just sit and stare into space.  I think I'll do that now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Joy of Working From Home...Mostly!

Most semesters, I teach two courses on line and two courses on campus. As the university has restructured class times/days, teaching two classes on campus has become difficult.  I want to minimize the 90-mile roundtrip as much as possible, so I try to limit my time on campus to two days per week.  That means I usually end up teaching 1 1/2-hour courses, but those slots don't begin until noon on Monday/Wednesday.  The last time I did that (last spring), I ended up teaching one class from noon until 1:15, then another from 2pm until 3:15.  That made for a long day.

This semester, I'm teaching three courses on line (all writing courses--gah!) and one class on campus at noon on M/W.  I will have my four-day weekends back, but will still need to get up on Monday mornings.  Hey, everything's a trade-off!

Since I became one of those intrepid souls who teach college courses on line, my life has expanded in unforeseen ways.  I can spend more time at home--five days a week.  My students have multiple ways to contact me, via Skype, IM, two email addresses and my office phone (messages go to my email inbox, and I can listen to them).  So I'm still accessible, but I have time at home for baking, cooking, gardening...reading, even!  I love it.

I blundered into teaching much the way I blunder into the rest of my life.  I have a degree in secondary education, but I kept trying to find jobs that paid well that weren't primarily teaching.  I should have just been a teacher. This lifestyle suits me well. 

Most people think teachers have cushy lives.  Hah, I say.  I teach year-round; I have to design my courses with the course management software, monitor those courses, and constantly find ways to make them interesting and helpful.  Plus, I grade papers.  Oy, do I grade papers--some weeks, I have 90 or more essays and/or other assignments to grade.  I spend anywhere from four to 10 hours a day reading/grading/returning emails, etc.  Anyone who tells you that teachers have it easy obviously hasn't ever taught. 

In spite of the grading, I wouldn't trade this career for any other.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

What I Did on My Winter Break...

My son came in from Austin and helped me build a chicken coop:

I plan to get the chickens as soon as it warms up a bit, though I think now would be okay.  So far, the winter has been mild, but we haven't had February yet!

I took Daniel, my son, back to Austin after Christmas, and I spent about four days there.  Did a bit of shopping for plants.  We went to The Great Outdoors--they were having a plant sale, half-off everything--and I bought more stuff to plant.  They gave us a flat of Asian vegetables, bok choy, etc.  So I had to plant those when I arrived home.  Here's a pic of one of the beds:

Right now, I have broccoli, collards, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, spinach and other assorted greens.  The winter garden seems to be about green vegetables!  Oh, and I've planted an artichoke.  I haven't grown those before, so we'll see how that works.

Mostly, I've been baking, cooking, planting, and working on my spring courses.  I've had an excellent break--and now, I have only a little more than a week before spring semester begins!