Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spring Is All About Babies

Our ranch has been a nursery since mid-April...baby chicks, baby horses and new seedlings! There is no season like Spring! Especially in the country.

We received our 96 baby chicks, yes I said 96, via U.S. Postal Service. We received an early morning call to pick them up and once there we could hear the peeps echoing throughout the Post Office. They were in two boxes, very hungry and ready to get out to start their life.

Why 96 chicks, you're thinking, right? It's crazy but we decided to increase the number of chicks for selling. I plan to still have my standard number that will fit in the Dot House and will furnish us and our friends with eggs; but, Mark has seen many ads searching for laying hens and/or unusual chickens.

So I ordered 14 different breeds which should be lovely to see as they grow into their fine fancy colorful feathers and hopefully we will be sending them off to new homes around Nebraska after I select the ones I want for our home flock at the Dot House.

Once we got home from the Post Office, before we could put them into the nursery, each chick had to have its beak dipped into water so it would drink for the first time. It takes quite a while to dip 96 little beaks!

After dipping the beak, I then placed them into their special nursery. It's a big, round, plastic tank with wooden chips bedding, feeders, waterers and heat lamps.

You'll notice the pictures have a red tint and that is because we use red heat lamps that help prevent the chicks from picking on one another. We placed the nursery in the back of the barn that is secure and out of the weather.

Obviously I couldn't have the nursery in the laundry room this year! The chicks got the hang of eating and drinking and were actively checking out their new digs in no time. What a sight!

The day after the chicks arrived, we hosted two 4-H clubs at our ranch. The kids held the baby chicks and identified each breed against the guides I taped to the wall. It was fun for the kids to look closely at each little fluffy ball and check out its identifying marks and identify the specific breed.
We then went to the Dot House where the 4-H kids gathered eggs, and discussed the needs of laying hens. If you recall, we got several hens from neighbors last fall and the young girls who showed those hens at the Country Fair last year were in the 4-H club visiting, so they got to hold their favorite hens. It was a sweet reunion. We then toured my garden and talked about the compost pile, the mulched beds and succession planting. After the educational part of the program, we had a hot dog and s'mores cookout in the yard.

4-H is such an excellent and worthwhile program for children to learn about nature, becoming responsible for animal care and showing animals, growing things to make the connection of where our food comes from, and making things from scratch by hand like woodworking, sewing, cooking, art etc. I encourage you to check it out for your kids or grandkids because in this day and age, our children, especially from urban areas, are so far removed from these things. It is a solid foundation for life.

As of today, we have 6 baby horses and counting. I'm in heaven this year. We not only have our mares, but our friend's mares are here too due to a breeding program Mark has setup with our friends. We won't have them here long, but I get to have all the babies born here and can see the first few hours and days which are spectacular. Spring is so full of HOPE.

The tomatoes seeds are started inside and should be ready for the garden in late May or early June once the soil is warm and ready for them. The radishes, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, beets and peas are all in the ground and coming up. In fact for lunch today we enjoyed the first radishes, lettuce and asparagus - delish! I've done at least two succession plantings of each with one more planned. That should keep us in greens for quite some time.  I feel I've finally gotten the garden structure just as I want it ideally. I can easily rotate crops for maximum health of the plants and the soil in the tanks is just luscious with the good top soil with which we started and the compost that I've added this spring. The soybean mulch is working wonderfully keeping the soil moist and almost weed free. It all feels so manageable this year. I'm happy.

We're lucky I like to mow because that is the big "job" (read Work) that needs to be done weekly. The yard looks so park-like when it's done. Mowing is one of those jobs that gives instant gratification. Plus I get in a minimum of 10,000 steps on the days I mow. Good for the old heart and lungs I'd say.
I hope you are enjoying your spring wherever you are...


No comments: