Goats, rabbits, chickens (pages)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Twelve Mables

For many, many years I have wanted a little red hen named Mable. When my husband surprised me with six baby chicks a few months ago, I promptly named the prettiest red one Mable. Unfortunately, Mable met an untimely end. Then my daughter-in-law and granddaughter brought me a red hen in the dead of night (well, not really, but I go to bed early!). They had been at some friends house and the dog brought home a chicken. She wasn't feeling very well; I tucked her in for the night and went back to bed hoping my new Mable would recover. The next morning I mixed up an herbal potion, cleaned her wounds and hoped for the best. Her wounds were extensive; she didn't make it through the day. Another Mable in my chicken grave yard.

I always look forward to our weekly paper. I snatch it up almost before it hits the driveway. FOR SALE - laying hens. Well, I already had a chicken coop and yard all fixed and waiting. When I arrived at the farm, there were hundreds of red hens along with geese, ducks, pigeons and numerous other animals. I took three boxes with air holes; I planned on five hens per box. When I stepped into the chicken yard my stomach did a little lurch. All the hens had had their beaks clipped. Their little tongues stuck out and in addition they were moulting so they had large bare patches of skin showing. Not exactly show hens. I felt queasy. Now, I know that beak clipping is a common solution to chickens pecking each other, especially when there are a large number in an enclosed area. But, that didn't make me feel any better. I had hoped to pick out the ones I wanted, but once the owner started catching hens, chaos ensued and I saw that would not be an option. As I took them home I was smiling and wondering which one I would name Mable.

The weather turned bitter cold and unfortunately the ones at the low end of the pecking order were miserable. I lost three hens. I was glad I hadn't chosen a Mable yet. From that low point I ascended into chicken nirvana. The weather warmed up, and the hens decided not to fight among themselves. They are very tame and will let you pick them up for petting. I sat in the barn yard watching them scratch the dirt and sing their little chicken songs. The first egg was a red-letter day.

My husband came home from a loooong business trip and I commiserated that I could not decide on which one should be Mable. In his calm matter-of-fact manner he said "why don't you call all of them Mable? After all, George Foreman named all his sons George!" I remembered Grandma Lizzy named two of her sons William. What a great idea! I loved it. Mable they are! They all come when called and it's hard to keep from stepping on their little toes. Their feathers have all grown in, they free-range and eat a good diet; they're beautiful. Their eggs are beautiful and yummy.

A couple of weeks ago we acquired a lovely colorful cocky banty rooster, Jack. He came to us bloody and battered; apparently he was no match for the other larger rooster. Jack now struts his stuff and stands on top the chicken coop crowing and standing proud. He's cock of the walk and he has twelve Mables. Life is good.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Home On The Range

WHAT A SUMMER and fall!!! Making gardens out of hayfields, planting, weeding, harvesting and making herbal product for four farmers markets, walking and re-walking the forty acres, practicing beekeeping, planning future gardens, moving into the Herb Cottage temporarily (more on that later), welcoming one of my children and his family back to his home state, setting up the mobile home, selling at Holiday Craft shows, reveling in the arrival of a new grandchild (#9)...Beautiful little Elli, watching all my grandchildren climb our "mountain" (sorry Dorothy, I just gotta call it a mountain!)tending my new flock of hens (two eggs so far), deciding to get a milk cow, preparing for the goats, tweaking barn plans, loving the barn kittens who somehow never made it out to the barn, disconnecting the automatic electric light pole so we can better view the stars and generally living the country life. We were without TV and internet for MONTHS, but are now re-connected to the world. Even though it was a major inconvenience not to have web access, I have enjoyed my summer being so CONNECTED to the Earth and have reached the conclusion that most folks are DISCONNECTED. Regardless of where you live take a moment to go outside if possible, close your eyes and travel into the earth. Feel the solidness, the security, the safety of the earth. Ground yourself and you will feel more happiness, more joy, more peace. I love my farm. I can't believe it has taken me all these years to finally get here. Life is good.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bee Story Two

I was driving down the highway and Shonna, my daughter-in-law, was driving behind me. She called on the cell and Honnah, my granddaughter, answered. "Did you see that? BEES! In the middle of the road!" A swarm of bees had landed on the yellow line and settled in. A huge swarm of bees. By the time I completed my mission of picking up my other granddaughter, Lucy, from school and Shonna went home to don anti-sting apparel and get a bucket and scoop the bees were gone. Who could blame them, vehicles kept running them over.

The next night Shonna's brother called and said "BEES, I found bees!" Being natural born farm girls, Shonna and Honnah did not hesitate to go out at midnight and capture the swarm off a tree limb. We are assuming it was the swarm from the highway as it was only about a mile away. And, in my heart, I am assuming that they are part of my original two families of bees that flew my hives a few weeks before.

So yesterday my plans did not involve bees, but the farm has a way of doing its own thing. So Gary and I went up on Bee mountain and proceeded to take care of the ornery and stubborn hive.... you know, the ones that attacked us the day before. A group of them had decided to stay in the nuc box instead of going into the hive so my bee counselor told me to turn the nuc upside down and pound it on the ground emptying out the bees. He said don't worry, they'll go into the hive eventually. Keep in mind that these are the same bees who took issue with being moved in the first place. The ones who stung my hands, my dog and my husband's eye. This time we used the smoker and it did mollify them to some extent. So, we managed to get them all out on the ground and they commenced to fly around looking for something to sting. We had the upper hand this time: we purchased two real bee hats with veils...no more tulle for us.

Then we set to work setting up another hive for the wild swarm Shonna had sitting in a bucket in her kitchen. When we finished that we looked in on the ornery hive and they had all congregated on the OUTSIDE of the hive. You can see them in this photo. Hello...GO INSIDE!

Later we installed the wild bee swarm and it was almost anticlimactic. (Second photo)

Now I'm certain they are my original hive because they are so sweet and docile. I shook them off the little branch and off the iris Shonna had given them and they acted like it had been their idea all along to move to this hive.

So, now we have three hives. Stay tuned for continuing bee saga....

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bee Story

I've never had bees. We eat a lot of honey and no sugar so it made sense to me to get bees, plus it's good for the garden. And, they are very interesting. All that buzzing and busy-ness! About a month ago we received our first bees. They came in two small screened boxes. The book said to spray them with sugar water and they will calm down and you can just "dump" them into the hives, put in the "queen cage", put sugar water in the top feeder, put on the lid and there you are. In theory the workers will make friends with the queen, she will eventually get out of the queen cage and get on with bee life in the hive. But, when I checked on them a few days later, they were gone. Flew the coop. So, I talked it over with some bee folks, adjusted my protocol and ordered some more bees. This time I got "nucs". Nucs are different in that it's a small colony already started on frames and the queen is already friends with her workers and they are on big happy family. All you have to do is remove the frames from the box and install them in your hive. Sounds simple.

When I picked the bee nucs, they were "leaking" bees. In other words the bees were getting out various holes in the boxes. So, I wrapped them in tulle (It's what I have on hand in abundance.) and loaded them in the car for the hour drive to the farm. It was alternately pouring and sprinkling rain but the bees had to be installed. So, I geared up: cap, tulle, white coat, white gloves. OK I don't have traditional bee gear yet and yes, it does look a little strange. The trick is keeping the tulle tucked into the coat and the sleeves gathered tightly around the wrist to prevent fly-ins. Gary (my husband) made disparaging remarks about the tulle, so naturally, karma caught up to him-more about that later. I didn't fire up my smoker because, well, my first bees were so calm I was lulled into a false sense of security.

Several of the excapees were flying around inside the tulle; I untied it (remember, I used tulle to wrap the boxes and am also using it as a bee veil around my head--we looked like a wedding gone wrong) and Gary, with no protective gear, (can't imagine why he didn't wear tulle) pried open the lid. When I removed it, OH MY GOSH. It wasn't at all like my first bees in their little box just waiting for their new home. These bees were EVERYWHERE, busy making comb and they were happy to stay where they were...they didn't want a new home! They completely covered the tops of the frames and were beginning to fly around. I sprayed my sugar water, swallowed a couple of times, gathered my courage and moved a few out of the way so I could grab hold of the first frame. OK, that wasn't too bad..now for another and then last one. The bees are flying everywhere and I'm hoping the queen is on one of the frames. I put on the inner cover, Gary helped me get the two quarts of sugar water adjusted, I popped on the lid...all is well.

Alright then, this won't be(e) too bad; I went to the second hive. This one sounded different. Louder. More buzzing. Lots more buzzing. I untied the tulle, Gary pried off the lid and I removed it. There was a mass of honey-making machines and they didn't want to be bothered. Almost immediately they took to the air totally ignoring my attempts to calm them with sugar water. I had little time to worry about poor Gary with no protection or about our dog, Cassie, who insisted on being right under my feet. I knew I had to get those frames into the hive but honestly, the bees were so thick on them there was no place to put my fingers. So, I just bit the bullet and weasled my fingers right in among them. My heart was pounding, there were so many flying in my face I couldn't see very well. They were all over my hands; my wrist "guards" had failed miserably and I could feel them crawling on my arm. Then they started stinging my hand and I felt my glove "vibrating" from the ones who were trying to sting but couldn't quite get through to my skin. I wanted to run and jump in the pond; I had visions of Winnie The Pooh swatting bees. But, I put the frames into the hive one by one and Gary and I hurriedly put in the sugar water and I slapped the lid on.

I lost all track of Gary and Cassie and immediately went toward ZuZu (our little ATV). I tried to sweep them off my hands but they kept on stinging through the cloth and by now they were caught in the knit fabric of the gloves. As I walked away from the hive I tried to get my veil off but the tulle was twisted and still tucked into my jacket. I couldn't tell if the bees were inside it or out, but they were buzzing all around me. I jerked off my gloves and finally wrangled out of the tulle. About this time Gary said he'd been stung. I looked over and he had his glasses off..it had crawled up under them and stung him right on the eyelash line. Gary jumped into the atv, I grabbed Cassie and we got in then I quickly rolled up the window. The bees were bashing themselves against the glass in a last attempt to show us who's in charge. Gary gunned it and we barreled down the mountain. I heard buzzing and thought they were in my hair; after a few moments of searching I found them in Cassie's hair, stinging away.

When we got to the farmhouse I realized I had lost my glasses when I yanked off the veil, but I could still see that the stinger was still in Gary's eyelid. I'm sure it pumped out every bit of venom before I pulled it out. My stings all disappeard within 30 minutes but Gary's is still swollen and red this morning. We drove back up the mountain for my glasses and the bees had calmed somewhat. There is still a bunch of bees in that 2nd nuc box and I hope they find their way into the hive; we can't check on them until tomorrow. They say the hive takes on the personality of the queen...that 2nd box must have a type A queen!

I'll keep you posted on our bee progress! Today I'll be searching the internet for true bee gear.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mission Statement

Rocky Creek Valley Farm

Last fall we purchased 40 acres of possibilities and this statement represents where we are going. We are just beginning to implement our plans and dreams. Join us on this adventure:

Mission Statement

Rocky Creek Valley Farm is committed to sustainable agriculture, environmental preservation, and consumer education. When we read reports of schoolchildren not being able to identify simple farm animals and classifying potatoes only as French fries from a cardboard container we decided to share our farm-life with others.

Rocky Creek is an agricultural and educational center that promotes environmentally friendly systems such as solar heating and sustainable farming with various methods that enrich the overall experience of farm-life. We have realigned our values to preserve and re-establish the rich vitality and viability of living soil to produce nutrient dense vegetables, berries, culinary and medicinal herbs. Rocky Creek increases production of the land with innovative crop rotation and winter harvests. We are dedicated to preserving heritage and heirloom plants, increasing awareness of endangered indigenous plant species; exploring traditional techniques that have been obscured and vilified by modern technology by employing deep-composting, vermiculture (the raising and production of earthworms to use their castings for compost) and natural weed and pest control. Rocky Creek uses no chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. We conduct controlled test gardening with moveable unheated high-tunnels, various styles of raised-beds and fish-agro hydroponics and provide documentation of these trials to other not-for-profit organizations and state and federal partners such as local Universities and the USDA.

Rocky Creek’s scenic paths through gardens, forest and hills, beehives and barnyard with free-range chickens and goats will re-educate children and adults, urban or rural, that animal husbandry and connecting with the land is paramount to our well-being. Our goal is to present in a positive way farm life and other lost arts that have died and been buried under the laptop computer in our educational system. Rocky Creek will remind you of the beauty of the farm, past and present with tours, lectures and classes that teach how our ancestors made soap, washed clothes, preserved food by canning, drying, culturing and using a root cellar.

Gary and Elizabeth Wenig
37009 W. 156th Street
Rayville, MO 64084
Gary cell: 816-853-0196 gary@RCVfarm.com
Elizabeth cell: 816-853- 0440 lizzy@RCVfarm.com

New Gardens and Bad Plastics

Meet "Bob"...the real workhorse of Rocky Creek.

Here's Bob plowing that first row of our first garden...with a little help from Farmer Gary.

TADA...a garden! Let the planting begin!

Speaking of beginnings, it's Farmers Market time. Visit us at Parkville on Saturday mornings--6:30 am for you early birds till 11:30. And, Lawson afternoons 4 pm till 6:30 pm or so. This year I cut down on the variety of products...all that loading and unloading got to me. I just have my best-selling salves, tinctures & teas, also a couple of new things and as always, potted herbs.

Here is a great article from Rodale about plastics and other toxic chemicals in our lives. Uncle Sam is finally on board. It's worth the trouble to copy and paste--I can't seem to get the auto link to work.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Breast Cancer...Bra or No Bra

The link between wearing a bra and breast cancer may be suspect in some circles, but studies continue to support it (no pun intended) and more studies are being conducted. In any case, it merits your consideration. For an interesting article on Bras and Breast Cancer at All-Natural.com, copy this into your browser:


Aren't we willing to do just about anything to cut our chances of getting of breast cancer? What if all it took was cutting the hours per day you wear a bra...or change the style of bra...would you be willing? What if "jiggling" was actually helping keep cancer at bay, would you try it? It all has to do with our lymph glands ladies. (See How and Why To Take A Shower on my November 8 blog) Gotta keep that lymph flowing. No jiggle, no flow. So, come on, take it off. OK, so maybe you HAVE to wear one during the day when you are out and about; heck, it may even be company policy at your work. Come to think of it, that might be sexual harassment! But what about TV time? Evening-at-home time? Nap time? Week-ends? Housecleaning time? Long-trips-in-the-car time? Curled-up-with-a-book time? It's especially easy to hide during winter...layer ladies, layer!

Check out this book at www.all-natural/dressed.html
Dressed To Kill
The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras
by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer

Another interesting link by Susun Weed, renown herbalist:


Wednesday, January 6, 2010


OMGsh.....OH MY GOSH. How far will the food industry go to make a dollar?? How much information does the public need to stop eating food that goes to war with your body the instant you put it into your mouth? Every year more of us become sick with any number of illnesses. We are miserable, our families are miserable. We clamor for health care. We line up for government assistance. We scream in indignation for government intervention. Folks, the government isn't going to help put good food into your mouth. The government has sanctioned the food you get at the supermarket and restaurants and my New Year's Wish is for you to read about that food. Read about what the government agencies have approved. PLEASE, give yourself the gift of health this year. Eat local. Buy organic. The good food movement is growing (no pun intended) in your area...FIND IT. Give your body a fighting chance.

This link talks about ammonia in your fast food burgers...yes, ammonia. As reported in the New York Times. Conceived in the board rooms of McDonalds, Burger King and others; sanctioned by the government. Why? To fatten their bottom line. Ammonia is added to kill E. Coli. Sounds like they are protecting us? No. They HAVE to add something because the "beef" they are adding it to is not fit for human consumption. It takes three minutes to read it...you have three minutes!

This year I pledge to do more to spread the word, to help you eat your way to health.

Window cleaning chemical injected into fast food hamburger meat
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