A Free Range Fall.

Howdy friends!

Fall is in full swing here on the homestead and the seasonal color parade is finally marching its way into southeastern Virginia! Too many years have passed since I’ve been able to sit outside of my very own country home, sipping dark roast, besieged by the rich hues and warm beauty of an autumn forest. To say this simple joy satiates my soul is an absolute understatement. I am blessed beyond words to be here, right now. We are once again home among the trees. Right where we belong.
With the arrival of the fall season comes plenty of chores. Josh & a friend spent all of Sunday splitting firewood & stacking it along the back fence. There are still several cords worth of tree trunk left to split back there. Without a doubt, we will stay good & toasty warm this winter. I scavenge through the pile every so often, squirreling away my own stash of gnarly, knobby chunks. I have so many little artistic endeavors in mind. Josh just shakes his head & says things like, “Are we still planning to heat the house with this wood or are you starting your very own stump collection these days?” He likes to tease me. Thank God for a man who encourages my creative mind’s eye.
We now have 3 chicken coops in service, so Jasper & I stay busy feeding & watering each morning & fluffing the pine shavings to keep everyone warm & cozy upon nightfall. We’ll do a good coop cleanout before winter & then revert back to the deep litter method. For all of you non-chicken keeping folks out there, the deep litter method basically means that we will refrain from removing any waste from the coop all winter long & instead, we’ll just keep layering on fresh bedding. This might sound gross, but it actually doesn’t get funkified like one would assume. The good microbes make their home in the litter & breakdown the feces while consuming the unhealthy bacteria, leaving the good bacteria behind. It’s a great little system! Not only does it help keep the coop warm in the winter, it also helps prevent infestations of lice & mites. It has worked well for us this summer, although I think a decent fall & spring cleanout is probably a solid idea. The best part is that all of the poop scooping before winter will be a wonderful addition to the compost garden project!
So I’ve been trying to integrate our new, younger hens into the flock with our two bossy roos – Mr. Darcy, Vince & their lone layer, Shanti. Things haven’t been going as smoothly as I hoped they would. The newbies free-range with Shanti & the roos during the day – albeit from a distance – but getting the younger ladies to retire to the communal coop in the evening is not happening yet. Each time I force them into the coop, Mr. Darcy, Shanti & Vince sit on the roof & refuse to go inside, or the newbies immediately jump out and hide beneath the coop. These stinkers are hard to figure out sometimes! So for now, the little ladies head to their own coop each night, while the elders snooze away in their own peaceful space. It will all work itself out over time. It has taken a while, but I’ve quickly learned that trying to figure out a chicken’s brain is not exactly the best use of my time.
This place comes alive around 4 am. Between the roosters crowing up at the night sky & the gobblers singing to the stars, our little hobby farm is inundated with clucks, putts, purrs, cackles & kee-kees long before & after the sun pulls up high on the horizon.  It is all wild & wonderful & basically the soundtrack to our lives!  Our meat birds are messy little buggers, but Jasper & I enjoy them so much. By the time we roll out the feed wagon each morning the birds are up & at’em acting as ravenous as ever. If you can picture 6 turkeys & 14 roosters flocking to our feet, stepping on one another, spazzing out & chattering up nineteen to the dozen, then you can imagine the chaos. It’s hilarious! They love to eat & I love to feed them. They’re all growing so quickly & I believe they are happy & healthy. This is so important to me. So much of the drastic life changes we’ve made over the past 6 months are centered around the belief that we alone, must identify & create opportunities to nourish our family with more homegrown, local, nutritional & peacefully processed food sources. It’s more than comforting, to know what is going into these birds & how well they are being treated. It won’t be easy to harvest them, but my anxiety level decreases as I consider the freedom & pleasures they will have experienced in their lives.
In other news, we’re finally making fall salads from the garden & my carrots are almost ready to harvest. So on we go, embracing the season with bonfires, homemade cookies, fresh baked breads, warm cider and lots of canning – especially apples! OH! And quite a few badminton games with our girls… PS… I have zero athletic ability, but MAN do we laugh… And laughing with the ‘tween & teen is WAY important these days.
From our family to yours, HAPPY FALL!
ABOVE: I know it was a productive day at the homestead when I find my hunk’s beat up boots outside the door.
 ABOVE: Helping Dad.
 ABOVE: Just like his sisters, he loves watching the baked goods rise!
 ABOVE: Some of the roosters & turkeys enjoying the morning shine.


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