Unique Creations by Shari Denise

From Writing to Chickens with lots in-between, Creativity Abounds!

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Brave Little White Cloud

Little White CloudLittle White Cloud has proven her bravery before. You may have remembered her from last spring when her gentle but independent personality began to emerge (Read about that here). You will see her little white dot of a body stepping the beat of her own little drum in many of the photos I post around Cackleberry Lane.

Little White Cloud is so independent that she prefers not to roost with the rest of the flock. She hops up onto her perch in the eave of the rafters inside the Cackleberry Inn. Little White Cloud, to say the least, has a lone heart. She cares nothing about visiting with the rest of the flock. She avoids them as much as possible but when necessary, should one of the other hens decide to pick on her, she stands her ground. She is indeed not a bully, but she will not tolerate BEING bullied either. As I watch this tiny life go about her normal day I find myself admiring her self-governing attitude. As independent as she is, one might find it unbelievable that she eagerly allows me to pick her up and stroke her soft feathered body. She is indeed an amazing addition to the critters around here.

Last evening when it was time to feed the Coffee Cats, I opened their usual cans of gravy coated shreds. I couldn’t help but find myself clicking on my phone video camera when I saw who had decided to dine with them. Of course, Roxi and Ivy were nearby as well and Roxi even offered to narrate the video that I filmed.

Keep in mind that the five Coffee Cats are mousers. DAILY we find the trophies they leave at our back door. Mice, moles, rats, weasels, and BIRDS!! To be honest, I held my breath as I videoed because I knew how successful these cats are with their daily hunts. I have never seen any aggression towards the chickens from any of the Coffee Cats but, just knowing that the birds they hunt and kill are not much different in size than Little White Cloud, it indeed makes me pause with concern.

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And the Goats Still Graze

andthegoatsstilgrazeIt had been an exhausting day at the office. Workload was akin to an avalanche. Every few years new programs with new regulations hit with way too much to absorb, comprehend, and administer to those who walk through the door. It boggles the minds of those well seasoned to this system and blows the minds of the newly hired.

In amongst the chaos of phone calls, customers, emails, reports, notices, amendments, computer challenges and policy interpretations I look up and see my supervisor walking through the office. His face taunt. With cell phone to his ear he exits the building. I watch as he paces the sidewalk in front of the office, deep in his phone conversation. I immediately tense. It’s been about 18 months since the news broke of his wife’s cancer. Inoperable, rare, debilitating. On top of that, his dad passed away last year and he, being the oldest son now has more responsibilities concerning his mother and the family farm operation. I could go on with his concerns for his two grown sons as well as his college enrolled daughter.

I turn from the window to see one of my best friends (and coworker) sitting at her desk staring at her computer with a tear trickling down her cheek. My heart ached. A loved one had just received some bad news. I’ve been there; trying to work and push on to make deadlines with a mind swirling with emotional thoughts. I look away for we’ve already discussed this and I know the best thing I can do is give her some space so she can regain her composure and accomplish the tasks she has upon her keyboard.

As I return to my own responsibilities, I hear the voice of another coworker and true friend. I slowly close my eyes and take a deep breath and send up a prayer. Next week it will be 20 years since her daughter passed away. Rare incident took the life of the barely teen girl. I worry about my friend. I don’t think there is any deeper pain than that of a mother who has buried her child. It haunts her to this day. As I’m sitting there thinking of all this, she comes out and breaks the news that a family member “back home” of which she is extremely close to has been hospitalized.

I take a breath. Phone rings and I’m back in the business world of addressing policy and upcoming programs to someone who these programs were created for. As the day continues, all three of my coworkers forge on, pushing aside best they can the things that attempt to capsize their world. And in the midst of it all we find things to laugh about to ease the tension. We know we will get through this, we know we can rely on each other for support as we muddle through each work day.

Pulling out of the office parking lot at the end of the work day I pick up my cell phone and call my mom. She and dad are now in their elder years and each day is a challenge for them. Growing old is not for the weak. It’s hard each and every day as physical limitations increase. Thankfully, my son has taken up the challenge to assist them full time. Some 350 miles away, I listen as Mom shares how she enjoys him pampering her and daddy, cooking their meals, keeping up the homestead, inside and out, and tending to their physical needs like keeping dad’s blood sugar within his diabetic limits.

Mom tells me of her latest outing. She and my sister, (who takes our parents to most of their Doctor appointments) had just returned from a consultation about mom’s upcoming surgery. Details and considering all things for a successful recovery season must be considered.

20140727_163530_FotorWith my mind unwinding from the office day and my phone call with my mom, I pull my car into the garage. Shutting my car door and reaching for the garage door I already hear them. My two pygmy goats know I’m home. I smile. With all five of my “Coffee Cats” joining my walk to the house I laugh at my little welcoming committee. Loving Latte‘ rubs against my leg and then runs ahead a few steps and drops to the walk, sprawled out in front of me wanting belly rubs immediately. Java is just one of the crowd, joining all the rest as we make our way to the back door. Espresso (named appropriately) pounces upon the concrete picnic table as we pass for a better position to get my attention. Momma Kitty, Folgers is always leading the band and waiting for me at the back door. My sweet shy Maxwell takes every step with me, rubbing up against my leg but never allowing me to love on him. Much can be learned from Maxwell I think. Giving love, but not interested in getting love. Hmmm… now there’s a thought.

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A quick change of clothes and shoes and I’m back out the door to my favorite time of the day. Critter Time!  My phone chirps with a text but I delay reading it for I’m scooping up chicken feed and pouring it into the feeders. I giggle at the crowd below. My chickens. Oh, they’re just a mixture of a few different breeds. Not to bore you with details, I’ll settle to describe them as a Heniz 57 flock. HitchCock is the large black rooster that is large and in charge. We have serious control battles from time to time but there’s just something about him that keeps him in my flock. One of which is he was one of the first little chicks that first spring I went to Tractor Supply and bought myself 8 little chicks because I wanted me some chickens.

A half dozen red hens (awesome brown egg layers they are!), some white hens with speckles of black (thanks HitchCock) here and there in their feathers deemed names like Oreo and Blizz. A couple of black hens, Chickory and Hanna. Then there’s my feather-legged puff of feathers, Emily. On to some of the wee ones. In my childhood we called them Banny chickens. No bigger than a dove. Tiny little chickens that bring such variety to my flock in the Cackleberry Inn. Biscuit, named for the color of her feathers, likes to lay eggs AND crow. Little White Cloud is so independent and a true adventurer. Although I can’t name each of my little flock here, I cannot leave out my banny roosters. Colorful Chick Sparrow, ChickaSaw, Daniel and the newest boy on the block, Shorty July.

20140727_165514_FotorShorty July has been having transition issues. Being the only baby chick since his birth (hatching) on July 1st. I’ve had to keep the tiny little chick in a bird cage for his safety. There’s a strong “pecking order” within each flock and to incorporate any new birds, one must upset that pecking order. So, to begin the process, I introduced Shorty July to two other banny hens so they could get to know each other. That went fairly well. Then I guess I moved too fast and opened up the suite and invited them to join the rest of the flock. This did not go well. As most of the flock filled their bellies from the freshly filled feeders, I cast my eyes across the flock taking note of this chicken and that… Looking for Shorty July, I couldn’t find him. Then I saw the poor little thing. He had flown up and out of the patio outdoor room and escaped through the small area just under the rafters. He was on the outside!!

I ran outside and attempted to go catch Shorty July but he was too scared to be “caught”. So, I just sat down on the grass and called to him like I’ve done so many times as I held him in my hands while walking the goats. Shorty July walked right into my outstretched hands. I cannot express the feeling of having such a tiny little being trust you so much. My Shorty July has stolen my heart. As I held him in the safety of my hands, stroking his soft feathery body, I thought how this is how God reaches out to us. We race away from Him in our fear, but when we trust Him totally, he scoops us up in His safe hands and comforts us and calms our troubled and frightened souls.

Taking Shorty July back into the Cackleberry Inn, I began the transition once again. Placing him in a wire coop with fresh water and feed. He scooped up beak full after beak full. Then I gathered up Little Miss Gray Dove and placed her in the coop with Shorty July. Transition is hard, but important.

With Shorty July settled in with Little Miss Gray Dove (feathers soft gray splattered with white dots) I was finally ready to let the impatient goats out. Having their own suite at the back of the Cackleberry Inn, they are safe during the day and are always ready to venture out for our evening stroll and graze. This is my down time. The time of the day that I unwind and let the days worries fall away. Wherever I walk, Roxi & Ivy walk with me. If they venture too far, just a slight rattle of their pellet feed in the coffee can I hold, brings them bouncing back. It’s been a while since I used their leashes. They don’t like to be far from me or each other.

IMG_20140810_184829As I walk down Cackleberry Lane with my little girls sniffing and snipping this blade of grass or that weed, I find a calmness to the world’s chaos. God’s creations doing what they’ve been doing since the beginning of time. Most days it seems like life changes way faster than I can keep up. From technology inventions to changes that come as we, and our loved ones mature and grow from one season of life to another… some days it nearly overwhelms me. But as I stand there watching those little goats nibble and graze, I see it’s all part of God’s ultimate plan. God’s timing is so totally different than ours. We want everything NOW, yet God has no problem with waiting. We have trouble comprehending the constant chaos of so much activity, yet God takes it in stride. I see this as the goats graze and the chickens scratch and peck.

LemonBalm.08.02.2014Walking back up to the lane toward the grain bins, I can see my little flock of chickens that I let out earlier to free range for a little while. They stick near their Cackleberry Inn home, scratching and pecking in the fresh, green, lush grass. So busy, yet so content. I smile. I remember the text chirp from earlier. A loved one having to deal with a very turbulent issue right now. My heart aches. I’m frustrated as to why my loved one is having to deal with this. So many things are forced upon us that we have no control over. It might be health issues, or someone who makes selfish decisions that affect us. Either way, it’s a battle for the fittest. I reply to the text and receive another almost immediately. Is there a solution? No option available is acceptable. Frustration rises…

20140817_173936And the goats still graze…

Calmness overcomes me and I know God is here and He is with my loved one. In the scheme of things, this in merely a moment. In the scheme of things, God shows us how we must take the little things and the big things in stride. Just like those little goats standing there leisurely nibbling as we wander around on the farm. Just like those chickens scratching and pecking, just like this band of cats lovingly wrapping themselves around my legs.

Phone rings just as the grazing girls and I round the grain bins and start up the driveway towards the woodpile they love to jump up on. Another loved one needs to talk. Another survival of the fittest in the waves of life’s storms. As I become the sounding board for my dear one, pouring out a heart of despair and attempting to makes sense of it all so a solution can be found, I turn…

20140822_171955and the goats still graze….

 

 

 

 

 

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Shorty July

Came Home from work on July 1st, heard the chirp of a tiny thing. Upon investigating, found a banny hen had a hidden nest up in the rafters. One tiny little puff of a chick was up there, then before I could get to it, it fell. Appearing unharmed from it’s tumble, I made it a new home in the nursery cage. Such a tiny little thing!

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A few days later, my 7 year old grandson, Brycen came for a visit. Of course, he had to name the tiny puff. And so it is, Shorty July. Shorty, because it’s so tiny and July because it got this month started with a bang!

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Today, Shorty July is 18 days old and growing! Real feathers are replacing the baby fuzz.

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CritterCation

Recently my mom had surgery and a trip back home (6 hour drive) was on the agenda. Not knowing how long I’d be staying (depending on her progress) I had to consider the care and needs of my Cackleberry Lane Critters. IMG_5374Currently I had a fresh batch of baby chicks that was the result of two hens determined to stay broody and after growing weary of removing them from the community nests, I gave up and just let them do what nature prompts them to do; reproduce. Those little chicks enjoyed staying with their mommas in the nursery ward but a couple of days before I was to leave, one of the little chicks “escaped” into the area the rest of the flock had access to. I found the poor little thing with a bloody neck from being pecked by some of the bullies of the flock. My efforts of nursing it through it’s injury was unsuccessful and the poor chick died.So, what was I to do with the other 5 chicks? Solution: take them with me! Using a bird cage as their new home, they were a delight to travel with. Low peep, peep, peeps came from the back of the car throughout the 6-hour trip… well, that is until they ran out of feed, then it was “PEEP! PEEP! PEEP!!!” I’d stop for gas or a potty break, feed the chicks and they’d return to their happy little peeps. It was hilarious!!

My flock had resources of plenty feed and water so generally speaking, they’d be fine. Eggs could be gathered every few days if need be. It’s planting season here and Mr. Incredible was spending way too many hours in the fields, adding more tasks to his day just didn’t seem right. The Coffee Cats always have access to dry cat food in their suite of the Cackleberry Inn. They still love to be pampered with a supper of canned cat food. Mr. Incredible has a soft spot for these silly “barn cats” and enjoys spoiling them as much as I do. Its common for him to beat me to feeding the feast to the felines. So, in going through the list of critters, this only leaves the goats. *Sigh…

Roxi and Ivy are my babies. They make me smile even when I’m having a bad day. Their sweet faces and playful personalities can’t help but raise one’s spirits. Of all my critters, my two pygmy goats would be the ones I’d miss the most. Bummer.

Mom’s surgery activated the “Tag Team” that has evolved within our little family when it comes to our parents health issues. The game plan was for my sister & brother to be with mom at the hospital while my son & I stayed with Dad at their home and kept his health issues stable. We were all concerned about Dad being upset or depressed about Mom’s surgery and we’ve all learned that a sad day needs to be brightened. That’s when the idea hit me. Roxi & Ivy sure brighten my day, Dad would get a kick out of them as well! And the decision was made. Roxi & Ivy were going on a Vacation!!

The popup pet carrier that I’d actually bought in haste when I went to pick up Roxi & Ivy last year seemed to be the best option. It molded easily to the confines of the the Mustang back seat area. Taking precautions of laying down water proof covering, and using the heavy duty plastic tray that served as the base of their large wire cage (currently collapsed and folded for travel) was a great catch all for any droppings or drippings they might expel during the trip. Filling the the canvas popup carrier with fresh hay and fresh snips of lemon balm, the car smelled delightful.

I had only gotten about 10 miles from home when the mustang began to run rough. First time in 209,000 miles (I love that car!) I knew immediately the risk was too great of making a 350+ mile trip. So, I turned around and headed back home to transport luggage, chicks and goats into my “critter car” Maggie the magnum.

IMG_5419Roxi & Ivy refused to get out of the Mustang. No, they wanted to ride! They wanted to stay! *sigh.. it was a task. Beads of sweat assaulted my brow as I encouraged the two kids out – of – the – CAR! Humph! Loading them all back up was a much easier task. I kid you not (no pun intended) these two little kids are ROAD HOGS!!! They LOVED riding! Not one bleat during the entire trip! They watched the traffic, the passing lights (after dark), they were content and fascinated. I admit, I was thankful for the tinted windows and wondered what the cars behind me thought when they saw the outline of Roxi’s horns in my rear glass. 🙂

IMG_5371Arriving at my parents’ home, yes, there was surprise that I brought company. But, my family knows me well and with shaking their heads, they just chalked up to their unique black sheep (or should we say black goat?) of the family. 🙂 IMG_5418In no time we had a cozy little bed & breakfast room ready for them in Dad’s barn. Dad, having suffered with a severe case of vertigo for over a week, could not leave his chair without his head spinning horribly. News of arrival of goats, his eyes perked up with interest and suggestions of where and how to tend to them. I smiled.

IMG_5417Mom’s surgery went fine and Dad was happy. The following day news came that Mom’s return home might be delayed due to minor complications. Dad’s spirits plummeted. Ok, he became down right ill. Stress, worried concern. My heart ached. Michelle, my sister-in-law was checking the weather and told me of a thunderstorm that looked to be heading our way. She knew I had the goats tied out on the bank where they could enjoy a full salad bar of weeds and twiggy bark. Then the idea hit me. Telling Dad to watch the security monitor where he could observe the yard and drive, I headed out to get the goats. Roxi and Ivy love their pellet feed. Put a handful in a plastic coffee can and they will follow you anywhere if you shake it. Unleashed from their yard chains, they eagerly bow sideways, run, jump, buck, and kick up their heals as they follow me wherever I lead them. I led them back and forth across the area that the security system monitored for a while. After getting them settled in the “crib” I returned to the house and found dad still laughing so hard at how my goats had played in front of him. Ok, that right there made bringing the goats worth it all. Mission accomplished.

IMG_5416Mom came home and my daughter and grandchildren came in for a few days to help. Memories were made as Mom recovered. IMG_5415

 

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Roxi & Ivy were right in the middle of things, keeping us all entertained and lightening our moods.

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IMG_5436_Fotor_CollageIt was such a delight to walk out of my parents home and find my two grandchildren sitting so sweetly on the carport, playing with the baby chicks.

 

addicted2chixBrycen; “I’m all about the chicks!”

 

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R.I.vacation.cackleberryA walk around the pond was a must!

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IMG_5446When it came time to leave, my brother asked if the chicks could stay. I had already offered them to anyone who might want them. I’d confessed I had not become “attached” to them yet. I’m told the chicks have been quite an addition to my parents homestead. Mom has enjoyed one hen and one rooster for a long while now. The young chicks should feel right at home.

 

Roxi, Ivy and I returned home with a calm six hour drive back across the state. Roxi & Ivy watched the lights of the traveling traffic with their horns nodding up and down with the ride. As we drove in peaceful silence, car slicing through the night, I wondered if the two little goats were reflecting on all their adventures.

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Back at home, the next day was back to normal. Roxi & Ivy continue their silly, funny antics that make me grin, giggle and laugh out loud. Yes, it was an unusual week. I mean, not everyone gets to go on a “CritterCation”!!

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Cackleberry Neonatal Unit

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It all began when one of my little hens decided to go broody. She sat on her clutch of eggs and as much as I discouraged her, she was persistent. It was a community nest. Others hopped in, laid their eggs and hopped out. She stayed. Then one day another hen decided SHE wanted to go broody and weaseled herself in on top of the warm eggs and insisted on staying. Hen # 1 just took up sitting in the adjoining nest, it too was a community nest and filled up with eggs quickly.

There they sat, and with each day that passed, my frown increased, realizing their due date was going to be approximately when I was scheduled to be out of town for a few days. Good grief! I was not excited at all about their broody timing.

IMG_5242In preparation for their pending hatchlings, knowing I might not be present, I set out to make up a little nursery wing out of one of the suites in the Cackleberry Inn. And then, it happened. Peeping out from under their mommies, one baby chick per mommy looked up at me. I admit, I was excited! It never gets old! I mean, my little flock surrounds my legs each day and are my trouble sponges, soaking up the days issues and problems. They scratch, peck, and provide lots of amusing antics constantly. And then for them to actually hatch new life out of their daily eggs… why, it is most amazing!

IMG_5044The next evening I was greeted by Four tiny chicks.  Three pale yellow and one black. Since all four were hopping and scurrying all over both momma hens, I had no idea who hatched who. Guess it didn’t matter, Mommas and babies were content. I was thrilled! A couple of days later I was to leave for my out of town trip and I was so hoping the hatching would complete before I left. Four, yes, that’s a nice number of babes from this setting.

IMG_5316I left for my trip and arrived home a few days later to find the chick number had risen by two! Six chicks!! four pale yellow, two black. And all happily playing. These were some mighty healthy chicks and their speed was proof of it! Mommas and babies were content still. It was exciting to see that they had faired well during my absence and the mommas remained diligent of their chicks well being.

Walking into the Nursery Wing of the Cackleberry Inn this evening, I noticed my two new momma hens had begun scratching around in the straw, covering up or rolling out the unhatched eggs. I guess they decided six was enough for this batch. Just as I was about to step in, something moved in the straw. A closer look, it was a tiny black baby chick. It looked freshly hatched and still damp. I searched for the other chicks and sure enough, the two oth

er black baby chicks were scampering here and there with bursts of energy along with their four pale yellow siblings. Oh MY! This was a new hatchling! But it didn’t look so good. From what I could tell, one of the Momma’s had been scratching in the straw and rolling unhatched eggs out of her nest. She was through with them, so she was doing a little housekeeping. Evidently this little chick was on the verge of hatching and the movement of the eggs, it just popped out.

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I picked the frail little body up. It was cool to the touch. Hmmm… not good I thought. I attempted to place it under the momma hen that was sitting on her eggs but she wanted nothing to do with this little chick. The other momma showed even less interest. What was I going to do? was I to just let the little thing lie there and die, cold and abandoned? I couldn’t do that!

So, I grabbed an egg basket, scooped up some nest straw and placed the little creature in the middle of it. Hauling it into our house, I set the egg basket inside a Weigel’s crate and placed a drop light above the chick. Our own neonatal unit.

Since chicks do not require food or water for a day or two after hatching, I did not worry too much about getting that set up. My main priority was just to get the wee thing warm and snuggly.

The odds are against this little baby, but as I sit here typing, it is chirping from time to time and holding its head up a bit better. Odds appear to be improving.

* Update:

Sadly, although the precious little chick hung for a long while, and even chirping from time to time throughout the night… this morning life had escaped it tiny body.  Life on the farm is as much about death as it is life. Life is a most precious blessing, and should be appreciated for ever how brief or long it lasts.

Night, Night sweet little one…

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Gardening, Tis The Season…

IMG_5149Busy Days have filled my world lately. The sunshine is beautiful and the temperatures near perfect. It’s May and the season for gardening is here. From enjoying perennial flowers that make their way into a fabulous array of beauty, to planting the annuals that we must work harder to enjoy each year.  It’s been a busy month already! Roxi & Ivy are always curious to find out what is going to be the activity for the day. When I’m in the yard, they are content as long as they see me. Once I slip out of their view, EVERYBODY knows I’ve left their eyesight for their cries for me to come back are constant until I return.

IMG_5146After the long, cold winter we just had it is so refreshing that Spring is finally here and in full swing. Grass is growing, as well as WEEDS!! Since Roxi & Ivy love weeds better than grass, I want to stick them here and there and everywhere I see a little patch of weeds!

RoxiIvyMorningAs you may have seen in prior posts, I have different pens for different needs concerning my two little pygmy goats. Their “bedroom” (of which they are standing in the doorway of in the above photo) is their main stay. It is their safe place, located in the back of the Cackleberry Inn chicken house. A hanging dining table that holds a bale of hay keeps constant food available, especially when a couple of rainy, stormy days keeps them there more than out in one of their other pens.

IMG_5174Roxi & Ivy love to romp and play. so, they have their own play pen. I constructed it out of PVC pipe and wire. Their “mobile home” as well as their toys of barrels and crates keep them entertained. You will find my snapshots with this “corral” in several locations around the yard. I usually move it a few inches at a time, maneuvering it along easily. Roxi & Ivy have come to be very content in the corral and feel that is “their’ space. They LOVE to observe activity on the farm from their blue barrels!

IMG_4622With weeds popping up here and there and everywhere, and with Roxi & Ivy loving them so much, I wanted a way to move them around to little patches of weeds easier than in the corral. I mean let’s face it, the corral is for the large parts of the yard. So, the Weedeater’s Cube was created. Yes, they enjoy having free reign within the little cube and the bonnet gives them brief relief from the sun or a mid-day shower.

IMG_4886Our wood pile is always full of grass and weeds. They tend to find an easy place to grow around and through the chunks of wood. I built a temporary fence around the pile and let the girls have it. Their delight! Also, since they, as goats, are a cousin to deer, they need nutrition that they find in twigs, bark, and wooded leaves. The wood pile is one of their fun places since they can jump and climb all over the logs.

IMG_5148Lately I’ve been enjoying some time in the yard, cleaning out flower beds and pulling weeds. Sometimes, I’ll tie the girls to the area I’m working in and let them help me clean out the weeds. As I pull weeds and they pull weeds, I wondered if they think I, too eat the green leafy plants, or if they wonder why I DON’T eat such luscious greens. 🙂

IMG_4699Incorporating herbs into the lives of my goats and poultry has become rather important to me. I want to take as any measures for their health as I can. The more I read, the more I learn and become more fascinated in the benefits of herbs. Poultry and Goats both really benefit from adding fresh herbs like garlic and oregano into their diet. So, I planted lavender, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage and lemon balm around the Cackleberry Inn. I also created the Climb & Dine which puts a vertical twist to offering herbs to my little flocks day.

We love home grown tomatoes. a few years ago I began canning tomatoes and it’s a sad day when I go to my pantry and there’s no canned tomatoes to cook with. We also like a jalapeño relish I began making and canning a while back. The pantry bounty has about run out so, growing tomatoes and peppers are a priority for us this year. Then I learned about companion planting. How one plant assists another if planted near each other. Well, how cool!! Roses love garlic (who knew?!)

As I continued nestling plants and seedlings into soil, I came across a great idea on Pinterest. I now call it my Italian basket. An upside down tomato in the bottom with Italian herbs on top. italian.herb.baskets

Rest assured the tomato plants look tiny and weird hanging upside down, but let’s give the little things a chance in their new environment.  Now, the rest of my “Crop” is strategically placed within our old Mercury garden. It is surrounded by old tires which are awesome “homes” for plants since the tires hold water like a well during dry times. Originally, this area was the chicken lot to the old chicken house. Then it became the Mercury garden. As my love of chickens was renewed, I fenced it in again for chickens, using the old Mercury as a shelter. Later, I used this area as a place to keep Roxi & Ivy. Now, the fencing has come down, Roxi & Ivy helped me remove the weeds, and now tomatoes, peppers and herbs adorned this little garden.

My Blackberry bushes are planted just to the side of this vintage garden. My blackberry bushes, *sigh… well, I got a little too excited about pruning a while back and I think I may have pruned too much. This did not kill my blackberries, however, we may not have much of a berry harvest this year. See, i’ve learned that Blackberries grow “canes” one year and then berries grow on those canes the next year. When pruning, one should only cut off old canes, and leave the new canes since they are the ones that will bare the fruit. Lesson learned a  bit to late for this season. However, in preparing for said new canes to grow (for possibly next year’s berries) I have started a wooden fence that would provide a strong resting place for the upcoming cane filled bushes. With the help of my fella and his grandsons posts were set properly with the intention of wooden rails to follow in the future. Well, this weekend the future became present. It was time to install the rails. Always eager to use my handy, dandy screw gun, I jumped to the challenge. In my excitement of getting the board positioned at the height I wanted it, and then assuring it was level, I incorporated the assistance of some old saw horses. As I stood back for a view of my handiwork, I suddenly realized, something was wrong. IMG_5203

Before panicking, I sighed and put my screw gun in reverse mode, removed the screws on one end of the board and released the saw horse from it’s captivity.  IMG_5204

As you can see in these photos, the reclaimed, rustic garden in the background is ready for sunshine and rain as it prepares to produce wonderful veggies and herbs to delight our taste buds.

Meanwhile, the Coffee Cats hang out with the chickens as they enjoy a perfect evening of free range pecking and scratching before it’s time to turn in to the roost for the evening. IMG_5171

No, not all mulching is done, not all garden grooming is complete, Roxi found a way out of the corral so it now must be reinforced, and we won’t even think of the chores that await inside the Cackleberry Inn, much less inside our own home. But today, all is calm and I love Spring.

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Climb & Dine Phase 2; SUCCESS!!

Climb & Dine Gutter Garden

Climb & Dine Gutter Garden

You may have read my earlier posts about the idea I had to incorporate Herbs and more activity options to the Cackleberry Inn Patio. With such wonderful, sturdy rafters I wanted to make use of the “dead space” above my little chickens heads. So, let’s go vertical! And we did. 🙂 Designing and then constructing a collection of wire shelves into stairs (phase 1), I gave more space and activity to my little flock of chickens and guineas. Next (phase 2) was to construct a salad bar for them to munch from. Hanging a Gutter Garden was the perfect solution.

Morning sunlight glistens on tender herbs growing in the Gutter Garden.

Morning sunlight glistens on tender herbs in the Gutter Garden.

Seedlings were started inside, then transplanted to the PVC gutter pipes, still remaining inside while threats of frost continued outdoors. Now it’s time to bring the Gutter Garden PVC pipes out for REAL Sunshine. My little herb seedlings are still small and tender but big enough to grow outside. It was exciting to actually hang the plant filled pipes from the sturdy rafter. Currently the plants are out of reach of the Cackleberry Flock, however, as the herbs grow and overflow, I will adjust the hanging chains for easier access from the “stairs” of the Climb & Dine.  I truly had the attention of all the birds as I hung the Gutter Garden. They observed with fascination.

IMG_4881Oh, and see that lemon balm in the flower bed below it? That’s there for a reason. Read more on why I planted lemon balm around the Cackleberry Inn.

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Mid-April and Snow

IMG_4674Can’t believe we had snow today. Yes, April 15th and snow. Glad it didn’t stick. Just big, wet snowflakes… Tonight they are giving a hard freeze warning. Spent the evening covering up what blooms and tender plants (aka freshly planted herbs). Then there was the bedding down all the critters…  Roxi and Ivy are out of the corral and back in their bedroom suite of the Cackleberry Inn. The 6 wee pullets are growing so quickly! I began integrating them today, moving them into a suite with a few of the banny hens. Time to shake up the pecking order.

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Spring Evening

IMG_4681Yesterday evening was such a delight to enjoy. Perfect temperatures laced with a sweet breeze. As the shadows lengthened I gave the Cackleberry Flock a treat. I opened the door of the Patio and let them out to scratch and peck in the fresh, lush, green grass.

IMG_4682I admit, I’m always cautious about the Coffee Cats around the chickens & guineas since they are such skilled hunters, killing mice, rats, weasels, and birds. Some of my little bantams are not much bigger than a little bird. The Chickens scratched and pecked the fresh grass as the Coffee Cats crouched and watched. My heart just about stopped when Maxwell crouched and then charged toward Little White Cloud, my solid white little banny hen. What happened next surprised me as well as Maxwell. Little White Cloud went on the defense and charged toward Maxwell! Maxwell was unaccustomed to such action thus making an immediate retreat. I watched this play out time and time again.

IMG_4688It was such a pleasant evening, watching the cats crouch and watch as the chickens and guineas scratched and pecked. The guineas wanted to roam and I had to encourage them to return to their little area, but otherwise, all was wonderful.

These sweet little critters never cease to make the world’s troubles melt away.

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Size Irrelevant to Bravery and Adventure

When we think of the brave-hearted or the most adventurous we automatically visualize the strongest or the biggest of the bunch. This is not so and was proven this weekend within the confines of my little flock on Cackleberry Lane.

white cloudMeet Little White Cloud. You may remember Little White Cloud from back in the winter, during that polar Vortex we were having, She and Biscuit, another Bantam, had Dirt Ball Toes and special care had to be given the two little hens to remove the mud-caked build up on their feet. I’m not sure if it is her appreciation for the relief or just her own sweet personality, but each time I’m inside with the flock I find this little puff at my feet. Although some of the birds prefer to keep their distance, Little White Cloud doesn’t mind being scooped up and pampered, in fact I’ve come to think she’s expects it.

IMG_4556As you may have read previously here, I’m building a Climb & Dine for the Cackleberry flock. This is a collection of wire shelves strategically hung from the roof rafters with chains and linked together for sturdiness. Members of the flock can easily step from one “shelf limb” to another providing not only more area to “Be” in the Patio outdoor room, but it will also make the upcoming Gutter garden (the Dine part of the Climb & Dine) easily accessible.

So, this weekend, as I pulled weeds from flowerbeds and worked in the gardens I just had to share the fresh, tender plants with my flock. I got the idea that I could hang one of the wire hanging baskets (that I use to offer treats to the flock) in the middle of the shelf limbs it would inspire the chickens to venture on up more and they would become more accustomed to being on the shelves. So, that’s what I did. I knew it would take them a bit to adjust and “figure it out” so I went back to my weed pulling and the goats munched on fresh weeds on the other side of the Cackleberry Inn Patio.

When I rounded the corner of the house returning with more weeds, this is what I found.collage Little White Cloud was the ONLY one that had braved the shelf limbs and was picking the delicious morsels from the hanging treat basket. Where was the rest of the flock? Underneath her, still on the ground, gobbling down and fighting over the bits that fell as she pulled from the full basket. A giggle escaped my lips as I saw what was happening and my first reaction was to call out “Chicken!” Oh.. no pun intended. 😉

The early bird gets the worm, but the brave bird doesn’t have to fight for crumbs. She gets to enjoy the entire delightful basket, eating to her heart’s content!

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