Twelve Days of Christmas at Glean Acres

I must admit, December 25th came and went in our home without much hullaballoo. In fact, I just finished wrapping presents today. With our parents in other countries and other relatives in other states, and without a T.V. and trips through cities and malls, we find ourselves blessedly removed from holiday madness. That, and because the Orthodox church celebrates the nativity of Christ on January 7th, so we’re still looking forward to our holy day. That  usually involves a midnight mass the night before, followed by a day with family and rich food, maybe a few small gifts. Nevertheless, on December 25th, Amir and I exchanged cards and cookies and what not with our neighbors and friends, and set up a little Christmas display and gave each other token presents lest we be accused of being scrooge-like.

The 2011 Christmas Display at Glean Acres. That's Father Charlie Brown, with Farmer Santa, adoring Mother and Child along with the other critters from the farm.

Amir gave me a state-of-the-art compost pail for the kitchen counter. It has DOUBLE charcoal filters and is stainless steel (See I finally have a stainless steel appliance!) and EXTRA large! But I’m too frugal to part with my old standby jumbo Maxwell House coffee container. It will now serve to hold scraps for the chickens, while the refuse unworthy of the chickens, such as eggshells and coffee grounds and hot pepper seeds, will be relegated to the new pail.

Old Maxwell House composter has turned to the wall, feeling humiliated by its designer replacement. I'm just too sentimental to let it go, so will keep it around for chicken scraps.

Last year, I got a big pressure canner from my beloved, in anticipation of all the abundant produce from our yet-to-be-determined farm we would need to put up. Optimists to the end, and we did in fact put up 20 quarts of green beans and quite a few jars of jams and relish and tomatoes and even some okra! I got him a pair of heavy duty BOGS muck boots. We didn’t even know what county our farm would be in, but we knew it would probably have mud and chores.

This year I got him a bag of birdseed. You see, I figure he’s part of God’s plan in looking after the birds, who afterall, don’t hoard their food in barns.

Come cardinals, come finches, come bluebirds and sparrows!

Other than that and a few phone calls, it was just another day around the farm. Around this time of year that involves doing some of the fall chores that didn’t get done in the fall. Good thing we’re having a mild December! Still time to transplant those remaining blueberries and peonies.

Maybe the row of blueberries will straighten out once they grow.

We got the hen house winterized last week, thank goodness. Amir did his part by installing a solid wood floor, roof, and wall. It was up to me to fill in the irregularly shaped spaces. Which I did with bubble wrap. Hey, it makes for insulation, right? And it’s so stylish.

Bubble wrap walls! Let's the light in, keeps the wind out.

There is still a small problem to be solved with our chickens, however. See, we have about one too many roosters in with our hens. Two roosters to our six hens.  Well, old Roo has a bad limp and at the tender age of eight month isn’t much of a ladies man anymore. Back in his adolescent days, Roo used to have the ladies lined up for him. Now he’s enough of a gentleman to delegate the deed to six-month-old Buddy, who was only too happy to take over.  Too happy, perhaps. The problem is that Buddy has a couple of favorite ladies. Marilyn, of course, with her long legs, ample cleavage, and platinum feathers, is his number one gal. Followed by Dottie, the other blondie in the flock. It’s not easy being a beautiful chicken. Sure, you may get top pecking order, but you pay for it with a bare back from that randy rooster jumping on it all day. Poor Marilyn and Dottie are getting scratched up to the point where we have to intervene.

Marilyn shows the scars from being Buddy's favorite.

Buddy and his harem, with Roo relegated to the second fiddle in the back row.

We knew Buddy as a lovable little companion to little Angel, the runt. They never left each others’ sides for the first three months of their lives. Then Buddy discovered other hens. And Angel read “The Daring Book for Hens” and embarked on a life of independent exploring, returning to the flock only for meal times and lights out. It seems like only yesterday that they were fluffy little things.

Buddy and Angel in June of this year. They grow up so quickly!

So now we have another project on our hands, one we will have to enlist our sewing friends to help with. See, seems like our beautiful hens aren’t the only ones being worn down by randy roosters. It’s such a widespread problem that there are special products to buy to ease their suffering and let their feathers heal. They’re called Chicken Saddles. Get it?

Here's a hen with her saddle. Festively designed to resemble a cute country apron! Maybe I can make a matching one for me! Not that I'm missing any feathers or anything like that. I also saw some chicken saddles in camouflage patterns for sale online. For those times when love is war, I suppose.

But since we aim to be as self-sufficient as possible, I’m gonna see about making one, with a little help of some friends with sewing machines, that is.

When I’m done with that, I’m gonna see about clearing some vegetable beds of their summer plantings. Ahem. Like the towering forest of okra. We finally wrested them out of the ground, but they still have to be hauled away. Somewhere.

The felled okra forest awaits clean up.

And meanwhile, there are turnips to harvest. Or is it Raab? So far, the books can’t tell us for sure, nor can the seed supplier.

Is it a turnip? Is it Raab? Nevermind, it's good eating!

And arugula to enjoy fresh from the cold earth, along with carrots and cabbage.

Arugula keeps going through the freezing nights.

Little upstarty garlic! They came up before the carrots were all harvested! Time to mulch.

Then there’s the 1000 onion sets we planted a couple of weeks ago. I carefully laid down a thick layer of straw mulch, which was quickly and gleefully discovered by our free-range laying flock! They set about scratching and nesting and leaving bare patches in the straw. I pile it back together. They tear it apart. We have an understanding. I’m not sure what it is, but they seem content with the arrangement.

All that straw... The chickens must think it's a giant nest box/buffet!

We’re hoping that by the time the 12 days of Western Christmas are over, and by the time ours has just begun, we’ll have figured out all the pieces that will add up to a 2012 Glean Acres business plan. For now, we’re just trying to wrap up 2011. I wish all we needed were ribbons and shiny bows.

And hopefully, thankfully, in the midst of this life that makes it so easy to be grateful, we’ll focus on the work of Christmas, so eloquently stated by one of my father’s heroes, the theologian/activist Howard Thurman:

The Work Of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way,
in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.

This entry was posted in Christian Agrarian, Farming, Free range chicken, free range eggs, New Farmers, Organic, pastured poultry, Small Farms, Uncategorized, Virginia Farms and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Twelve Days of Christmas at Glean Acres

  1. vgambrell says:

    Hen saddles?! Brilliant!

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