Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hickory Chickens

I had never heard of Hickory Chickens before we moved to Tennessee. They are odd little things. They don't cackle or crow and you don't have to feed them like traditional chickens. They live in the woods and you hunt them.

More sophisticated folks call them Morel Mushrooms. I've been told that this has been a banner year for them. Our friends, Steve & Rhonda, gave us some because they had found more they could eat.

We had them for dinner tonight. We almost tricked Ryan into thinking it was fried chicken, but he was too smart. Brett and I were finished eating by the time he took one bite. He liked it.

We sliced them in half lengthwise, breaded them with flour and a little seasoning, and fried them in a pan of oil. Ryan and I both thought that they would be rubbery, but they were crispy on the outside and a little mushy on the inside. They were good, but we didn't think that they tasted like chicken.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Last year we purchased our first chicks. We wanted to try out several different heritage breeds so we bought 2 or 3 each of a number of breeds.

If you are going to buy a large number of chicks, you can order them via a catalog or internet and choose whether you want males, females, or straight run (a mix). We did not want a large quantity so we bought our chicks locally, straight run. Of the 16 we purchased, we now have 9 left – all roosters.

That would be OK, but we really wanted laying hens.

Much to my delight, the farm store had Black Sex-Link chicks this morning. They are a cross between a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire rooster and a Barred Rock hen. They hatch out black, but the males have a white dot on their heads and the females do not.

I purchased 10 female chicks (pullets). No roosters in our future this time! We will keep them in a brooder in the house until they start to develop feathers and it gets a little warmer outside. Then we will move them to the chicken coop and in about 6 months they will start laying wonderfully delicious eggs.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Simple Life

Our Sunday School teacher read a verse from the Bible yesterday that really struck a chord with me: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands... Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12 (NLT)

I think this verse captures the essence of living a simple life. But our lives are far from simple. We live in a fixer-upper house, we have started a farm, Brett has a full time job off the farm, and we have a son in college and one in high school. We have enough farm and house projects to keep us busy for a very long time.

Operating a profitable farm requires more than just building fences and taking care of the livestock. It also requires recordkeeping, financial projections, product development, research on animal care, market research, advertising and marketing, networking, attending conferences and shows, educating potential buyers, etc, etc…

Despite all that, I think the simple life is worth striving for. We are in a busy season of our lives right now but I envision a day when we transition from building our farm to running our farm. A day when we will still be busy but there will be more order. A day when life will be simpler.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Rabbit Hutch

NOTE: If you don't like the way we keep our rabbits, that's OK. However, don't bother leaving a nasty comment because I am just going to delete it. I've done quite a bit of research on how to keep angora rabbits and this is the best accomodation I found. If you have a better idea, PLEASE leave a comment with a link to the resource(s). I am always looking for better ways to do things. I'm just tired of all the unhelpful nasty-grams. Thanks!

After a week of feeling like I couldn’t get a project done, it was nice to actually finish one today. Nothing glamorous, but satisfying nonetheless. We sheared the last of our 4 rabbits and cleaned the rabbit hutch.

The rabbit hutch consists of 4 wire rabbit cages (which we made) and a shelter to keep the rain off of the rabbits. They don’t need much protection from the cold – they have angora – but they do need protection from the rain, wind and scorching sun. We positioned our hutch right outside our backdoor in a nice shady spot.

The plastic all around it is to help keep it from getting too cold in the winter. We’ll take it down for the warmer months to allow the breeze to help cool them down.

Cleaning the hutch is pretty easy. Most of the droppings land on the ground since the cages are made of wire. However, some get caught so we use a small shovel or hand trowel to clean them out. Then the fun begins. We use a propane torch to burn the shedded hair off the cages. Ryan was more than happy to do that job. After the cages are clean, we scoop the poop and put it in the garden.

Rabbit poop is great fertilizer and it’s not “hot” so it does not need to be composted like manure. It can go straight into the garden. Now if only the garden fairy would come and dig up our garden so we can plant our carrots…

Friday, April 3, 2009

What do Sheep and Baseballs Have in Common?

Wool, of course!

A baseball has three basic parts: the round cushioned cork pill at its core, the wool and poly/cotton windings in its midsection, and the cowhide covering.

Wool was selected as the primary material for the baseball's windings because its natural resiliency and "memory" allow it to compress when pressure is applied, then rapidly return to its original shape. This property makes it possible for the baseball to retain its perfect roundness despite being hit repeatedly during a game. A poly/cotton blend was selected for the outer winding to provide added strength and reduce the risk of tears when the ball's cowhide cover is applied.

The wool yarn is wound so tightly that it has the appearance of thread when a baseball is dissected. Three layers of wool are wound around the baseball: the first, 121 yards of four-ply gray yarn; the second, 45 yards of three-ply white; and the third, 53 yards of three-ply gray.

A layer of 150 yards of fine poly/cotton finishing yarn is wrapped around the ball to protect the wool yarn and hold it in place. The wound ball is then trimmed of any excess fabric and prepared for the application of the external cowhide covering by being dipped in an adhesive solution.

The cover of an official baseball is made of white Number One Grade, alum-tanned full-grained cowhide, and it must be stitched together with 88 inches of waxed red thread.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

In Full Swing

This is Ryan's first time on a baseball team and he is loving it. After weeks of practice, the J. Frank White Academy had its season opener this week on the field of Lincoln Memorial University.

Ryan did great. He had one of the few hits of the game and is enjoying his perfect batting average. Unfortunately, he was marooned on first base since the next 3 batters struck out. They have a young, inexperienced team so this might be a tough year BUT the future looks good. The kids have great attitudes and a lot of potential, and they are working hard to improve. GO KNIGHTS!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Playing with Angora

Finally, after all the work of shearing our Angora rabbits, I get a reward! The photo above is a basketful of their wonderfully soft fiber; 1.9 ounces to be exact. Our best producer this quarter was Jamie. She gave us 5 ounces of Angora.

Last night while we were watching the new James Bond movie, Quantam of Solace, I had the opportunity to play with some of it. I spun a 2-ply 100% Angora yarn and knit a small swatch (photo below). That swatch was made from 0.2 ounces of fiber.

Angora is very lightweight, amazingly soft, 7 times warmer than wool, and it has a halo (which is a fancy way of saying that it is fuzzy or fluffy).

I will probably combine most of our Angora fiber with a very soft wool like Merino or Corriedale to reduce the halo and give the yarn memory. Memory is an important characteristic in yarn because it keeps garments from losing their shape. Wool has memory, Angora does not. But what it lacks in memory it makes up for in luxuriousness.