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Category: Backyard Poultry

Snuggles With Chicks






Mama Hen


Lately, I’ve been feeling pulled and pushed and torn and beaten in a million different directions. Personally, professionally, emotionally, physically. There’s just a lot of, well, stuff. Life. Things sitting on TO DO lists and dates marked in red on the calendar. And when I give myself enough time to pause and take it all in, to contemplate what it means to have such fullness, such richness, in my life, I am grateful and humbled and all the mush-gushy happy stuff. But when I’m in the midst of trying to tackle bed time routine with the kids at some ridiculous hour (how is it that they are never asleep before 9?) while sending invitations to my sister’s 30th birthday party while shopping for Father’s Day surprises while responding to a never-ending unread mess in my inbox while booking tickets for a wedding in Chicago while transplanting the tomatoes to the garden while preparing to welcome 3,000 people back to town for a work event all the while just trying to eat a decent meal, squeeze in some exercise, finish my book club read, have sex with my husband, play with my children, and maybe enjoy fifteen minutes of peace and quiet, I often feel like I am falling short on all fronts. Never enough bandwidth to do any one thing fully, instead I’m managing many many things half-assedly. (That’s totally a word.)

I also recognize that every single one of us, at one time or another, feels busy and harried and that none of these feelings are unique. I’ve been rather fixated on my own current state of madness, knowing full well that there are many others far busier and spread even more thin than I. And yes, that is strangely comforting, because misery and company, y’all.

Fortunately, last week was begun with the simplicity and beauty of new life in the form of two peeping baby chicks that eventually hatched to four. We let one of our broody hens hatch her own babies, and the wonder and awesomeness that has hit Cartwheel Farm has provided a necessary and welcomed dose of perspective. To see nature play out without interruption or aid. To see maternal instinct transform a living creature. To stop everything to hold an egg to your ear and hear the peeping of life within. To watch your child hold emerging life in her own two hands. To witness your other child’s humanity as she rescues struggling life with positivity and action. Well, it’s enough to make all those feelings of “busy-ness” and stress melt away.

If you follow along on social media then you’ve caught glimpses of these moments that have transformed the atmosphere of life in our home.

Because the chicks hatched over a four day period up in our barn in the chicken coop, the last chick got the short-end of Mama Hen’s attention. Her other babies were up and out of the nest, blithely endangering their lives by confronting the other full-grown coop mates and venturing into the great wide open. Mama had to choose between sticking with and defending her idiot babes running amuck, or staying with her freshly-hatched chick.

Sophie’s choice in the coop.

Mama chose the three maniacs, and so we discovered a wet, barely alive, baby chick left lying in the nest on Thursday afternoon. James tried to tuck it back under mom to dry off and warm up, while creating a barrier between the other hens and the new babies, but a few hours later, not much had improved. The poor thing couldn’t even lift its head. I was not managing the sight of a struggling baby very well, while Sunny informed me that “Mom, we need to make her as strong as we can. That’s the best we can do. Let’s help her, and if it doesn’t work, then she might die. And that’s sadly just what happens sometimes.”

Life raised on a farm = healthy perspective on life cycles. Something I am still working on.

And so Sunny marched a blow dryer and her tiny stool from the bathroom up to the coop and spent an hour blow-drying that baby chick back to life in the middle of the chicken coop. Lucky, as she’s been aptly named, was still pretty wobbly and unstable that evening, but slowly improved as time went on. Mama Hen was able to teach her how to eat and drink and gain further strength. And I was laid bare witnessing the impact of this experience on both kids.

While insecurities about our tiny home, our humble salaries and our measured careers often creep in and tease me at my most vulnerable moments, experiences like this turn them all on their head. I’m left feeling secured and overjoyed at the life we live and are providing to our children. It’s certainly not for everyone, and there’s no one way to do this crazy thing called parenthood, but this just feels so right for us. Right now. And at the end of the day, that is all we have.











“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.”

Sunny: Our chick whisperer is delighting in the four new babes on Cartwheel Farm.
Kaki: While still a bit nervous, she’s eager to try to hold the chicks. Her favorite is “Lucky,” the youngest of the clutch that nearly didn’t survive, but thanks to a blow dryer and a committed six year old and supportive preschooler, was nursed back to health. She’s the mellowest of the four and thus Kaki’s favorite.

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series visit here.

Around the Farm // May II


Updated with a few more snaps from life on Cartwheel Farm of late. Fairies and flowering picking. Egg sales with Kinder Egg Surprise payment. Penny and Gladdy love affairs. A girl and her pig. And lots of lazy swine lounging in the yard. It’s been a beautiful May.










Around the Farm // May 2015


Life lately has been blissfully spent outdoors. Grass under bare feet. Coloring en plein aire. Swinging high as the sky. Flower picking. Sand between fingers. Grass stained. Giggle-saturated. Life is good-ness.

James and I have been steeped in yard work, and while during said clean up I often find myself grumbling and wondering why on earth I spend my time in this way, the satisfaction I feel afterward? The way I lounge in the kitchen gazing out on our property? Or drive backward up our road to leisurely survey last years plantings (hooray for perennial flowers bursting to life, and blueberries and strawberries and raspberries and ASPARAGUS! that survived their first hard winter)? Or spend my morning walk with the dogs breathing in the tranquility and beauty and budding life? Or sway in the hammock under flower petal flurries? Well, it makes all the sweat and mess well worth the effort.

I do so love our little piece of the world.



^^Penelope pig turning our garden clean up efforts into a cozy bed.^^








^^Frisbee and smoothies and swinging, oh my! And bologna tongues. Lots of pink bologna tongues.^^










^^Inspired by a recent heat wave, all of the flowering trees blossomed en masse. It has definitely been the most beautiful spring in recent memory. This weekend, it was literally raining flower petals all Sunday and I couldn’t get over how surreal and dream-like our lives felt on account of the scenery.^^


^^And lots of napping in the sunshine. Penny is an expert.^^

Around the Farm // 22


Last Monday, Sunny had the day off from school, so I took a day off from work and we had a simple, sunny, relaxed morning together. Walking the dogs. Collecting eggs. Picking flowers. Dancing in leaves. Living a life that sometimes feels like the stuff of a fairy tale. (That dress from Momar sure helped set the stage.) If her childhood teaches her nothing else, I hope that she’ll always look for the joy and peace in everyday moments.













The Chicken Formerly Known as Mohawk Baby


Earlier this week, our flock of 5 roosters staged a coup and dispatched of Rufio.

At least that’s what we think went down.

The coop has been a bit Lord of the Flies of late with all that masculine energy running amuck. Now that the hens are laying, it’s exacerbated the situation. During daylight hours, there isn’t a moment that goes by that a rooster isn’t crowing. And Rufio was the worst offender. In all honesty, besides looking really really ridiculously cool, he was a pain in the butt. Flighty yet aggressive, noisy yet skittish. I’m not surprised the other roosters were none too pleased with his behavior.

But that in no way means we’re thrilled that a chicken was likely killed by a fellow coop-mate. I am not entirely convinced that that is what went down, as I feel that we would have heard such horror. James and the girls ventured up to the coop on Wednesday to do the nightly egg collection, and discovered Rufio dead in the coop. While there was some blood on the scene, it wasn’t a blood bath. In fact, Kaki informed me that Rufio was sleeping because he had a boo boo. Had it been death by hawk or other predator, there would be no body (just a mess of feathers), and we think it may have been a much more dramatic affair had it truly been another rooster. Ultimately, we don’t have a great explanation. Chickens are not terribly bright, and so he very well could have gotten himself in a bad situation (stuck  in the fence? a branch?) and that could have caused the damage that led to his demise.

The kids requested to learn how to pluck a chicken, so Rufio is currently in a brown paper bag in our chest freezer, so that he can still be a part of our chicken harvest, which has been accelerated to this weekend to avoid any future rooster catastrophes. (You see, Rufio’s fate was sealed long before Wednesday). We will be keeping only 1 rooster (sweet sweet fluffy Ferdinand) and the rest have got to go. They’ll make for some fresh chicken stock and meals this winter, and continue to teach our girls about the circle of life and the realities and responsibilities of a life eating meat.

While I still cringe and squirm at the thought of processing my own animal meat despite understanding the correlation to my food, I am grateful to be raising people who will be less hysterical and more rational about the whole process. Kaki was holding the brown paper bag carrying Rufio’s body when the girls relayed the story of his death. “MAMA! DO YOU WANT TO SEE?! LOOK! Rufio is dead. He has a boo boo. That’s sad, but now I can have one of his pretty feathers.”

Yep.  Meanwhile, I was slowly creeping further and further away from my preschooler clutching a bag of dead chicken to avoid having to look at the situation.

Admittedly, he was a ridiculously adorable chick. And inspired our initial #dailydoseofchick photo that was featured in The Huffington Post. Thanks for that, ya wacky bird.

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Meet Henrietta. She briefly visited our flock up at the barn before heading to the home of one beloved one year old (Kaki’s FGP’s 2nd daughter, Lila). We celebrated Lila’s 1st birthday on Sunday, and I realized that I had yet to gift that sweet child something handmade from her Auntie Ashley (whereas her older sister, Brie, has received a number of hand knit sweaters from your truly). It was time for Lila Bean to have something especially made for her. I decided to avoid a sized item, as I know she’ll get to wear the hand-me-down sweaters I made for Brie, so I thought a barnyard plush with love from the critters of Cartwheel Farm might be an appropriate (albeit ridiculous) choice.

One of my wedding clients this summer gifted me this amazing Barnyard Knit pattern book, and so Henrietta was a great excuse to dive into that book and give one of the patterns a try. Admittedly, it does appear that Henrietta is sporting testicles on her face, but when taken on the whole, it is a fairly accurate representation of a chicken’s wattle. I’m looking forward to creating a whole flock of silly knit farm animals to compliment our live brood.





For more details on the project visit my Ravelry page here

July on the Farm


We spent the majority of this weekend outside – weeding the garden, walking the dogs, harvesting veggies, doing arts and crafts, feeding the chickens, and brushing slash olive oiling Penelope (she’s shedding her coat, which apparently happens twice a year, and is looking like she is suffering from male-patterned baldness. The olive oil is a safe way to moisturize her skin as the new hair grows in).



We harvested our basil and made nearly a year’s worth of pesto. We froze it in our old baby food ice cube trays (these are our favorite) and stored the cubes in freezer bags for quick dinners this winter. Great tip: Pour some olive oil on top of the pesto in the ice cube trays before freezing to prevent browning.


We also harvested our crop of garlic and laid it out in our basement for curing. In a month or so it’ll be ready for braiding.




As much work as it is to keep up all the gardens, there is something so satisfying about having a household full of food (and flowers!) grown in our backyard!


We also fit in some family movie watching and relaxing before Sunny headed off on Sunday night for a week of summer camp at our Hunting and Fishing Club. This week I’ll focus on much picture processing and spending some quality time with our second born.










Meet Ru-fi-OOoOOoOOoOOO! The Chicken Formally Known as Mohawk Baby. He is an ode to “Hook” and awesome mohawks everywhere.


He is proof that saying ‘yes’ to offerings of a random, free exotic chicken breed is absolutely the right choice. Turns out he is a Golden Polish. And yes, he is one of the more ridiculous creatures that I’ve ever seen.

We are assuming he is male because he is so dang ostentatious and fancy as male birds are wont to be.

James has some competition for best flow on the farm thanks to this guy.



In related news, the chicks are nearly full grown and our coop is a noisy, messy, furtive affair. Penelope keeps ’em in line, and we all delight on daily trips up to the barn to play with our growing array of farm critters. Even Kaki is coming around to holding the chickens. Namely Elsa, because well, is there a more honored name that my preschoolers could give their favorite hen?