Unseasonably warm crochet cardigan

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This was my last winter project for this year – a top down raglan cardigan made from alpaca yarn. I love the satisfaction of throwing something over me that feels almost like a blanket – but I suppose I will get to enjoy it next season, as it’s already getting too warm here for stuff like that. I’ll probably attach a couple of nice big buttons.

Now on to summer projects – lacy tops, table runners, baskets, bags, and more. Always more ideas than time!

On another note, we are doing OK in the midst of all the craziness that is taking over the world. We are, of course, privileged to have a house with a private yard and a nice balcony with a beautiful view, so despite the lockdown we never really feel confined. There’s always plenty of outdoor work going on, whether it’s hanging out the washing, weeding, or mucking up the chicken coop.

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One of our recent projects has been raising a pair of Japanese quail Shira got for her birthday. The female just laid her first egg a couple of days ago. Japanese quail rarely go broody, but we’ll probably try to incubate once we gather enough eggs.

Stay safe, everyone. These are scary times we live in, but I have never felt so connected to friends all over the world. We are truly all in this together, and I am optimistic that it shall pass and we’ll emerge on the other side stronger and more resilient than before.

Finally, warmer weather

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We’re finally enjoying some fine, warmer and drier weather, and I’m taking advantage of it to clear the yard, plant some seeds, and hang out with our chickens (the wooden bed frame you see in the picture is supposed to be used as part of a fence eventually).

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We’re also being spoiled by lots of beautiful, delicious colorful eggs (collected a great many more since this picture was taken).

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I made another dragonfly crochet pullover. These are so easy and fun to make that I might try another one in toddler size too.

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A beautiful rose. I love the hues. Wish I could plant a bush like that around here.

In between, I’m also getting addicted to this YouTube channel. The unique and beautiful tiny houses are so inspiring. Not sure I’d agree to live full-time in some of those, but as retreats they would be charming. Pop over to have a look if you have some spare time.

The predators are still around

It has been a while since I’ve last written for Mother Earth News, but here is my latest post about the predators we are still dealing with, despite having moved to a different area:

“When we moved from out in the boonies to a small town and started our new little flock of urban chickens, I thought we’d have an easier life where predators were concerned. Foxes, the bane of our chicken’s existence for years, were left behind, as were hawks and owls.”

Meanwhile, we are still in floods of rain, with my poor little garden quite floated and us cooped up inside – comfortably enough, thankfully, with lots of cozy snuggle-and-read time, crafts, and tea.

Chick (and fox) season

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The little hen in the photo above is my champion broody. It seems that she only ever lays a batch of eggs with the view of sitting to hatch some chicks, and she takes care of her brood for many months, keeping them under her wing until they are almost fully grown. Here you see her with part of her latest brood – six multicolored chicks from an assortment of eggs.

Not all is calm and peaceful in the chicken kingdom, however. Today at 4 A.M. we had a visit from an especially cunning fox who managed to dig under the coop and carry off another one of our hens. Foxes are about the meanest and sneakiest enemy a chicken owner can have – once they have set an eye on your coop, they will keep visiting with amazing persistence until they pick off all your chickens one by one… or learn that free meals are not to be had around your place. That’s why, even if a chicken is already killed, you should do your best to stop a fox from carrying it off – once they get one prize, odds are much higher that they will keep coming back for more.

I spent part of the morning reinforcing the coop, and will probably keep mama hen and her chicks inside overnight.

When your neighbors hate your rooster

As difficult as it is for me to understand, some people actually have an aversion to chickens. If these people happen to be your neighbors, while you are a poultry lover, it has the potential to create some very unpleasant clashes, in particular over one issue – the crow of a rooster.

It can seem very unfair, especially if your neighbors have a noisy dog, a habit of loud music or smoking, or give you a headache by using their lawnmower every other day – but the fact is, they have the upper hand, because once local authorities hear the scary word “livestock”, your poor little chickens might be the target of an eviction order.

Read on how to evade these unpleasant situations in my latest MEN post:

“My last suggestion is broader and less technical; try to cultivate a closer and friendlier relationship with your neighbors. Give them a few fresh eggs when you can, invite their children to feed your chickens or see baby chicks when you have them. Usually, after people have been your guests, tasted your home-grown omelet, and played with your cute fluffy newly-hatched chicks, they are unlikely to complain over something that isn’t absolutely disruptive.”

The champions of the chicken world

Some chickens are the ultimate layers, others are champs at meat production, but which breed would be the best choice for your backyard? This depends on your preferences, climate, space and, of course, budget. Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post, also featuring the smallest, largest and rarest chicken breeds in the world:

“Many breeds traditionally chosen by homesteaders are actually dual-purpose, such as Rhode Islands, Plymouth Rocks, Orpingtons and Wyandottes. These breeds are fairly large, hardy, decent to good layers, and will supply you with both eggs and meat, though not as efficiently as industrial single-purpose lines. They will roam your land, getting much of their food on their own if you let them free range, and provide organic pest control. They will naturally go broody, and renew your flock year after year by hatching and bringing up chicks, so that you need not be dependent on hatcheries after you purchase your starting stock.”

The chickens in the photo above are Fayoumis belonging to a good friend of mine. The Fayoumi is a traditional Egyptian breed very well-suited to a hot climate. These medium-sized chickens are good layers, excellent foragers, and hardy, independent birds largely resistant to the fatal Marek’s disease. Overall they seem like an excellent choice for a homestead in a Mediterranean to desert climate, and I hope to obtain some hatching eggs when the laying season begins.

Garlic: a wonderful natural remedy

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The anti-inflammatory and health-promoting qualities of garlic have been known for thousands of years, and we include fresh crushed garlic in many sauces, spreads, dips and salads that are served around here. Recently, I have taken this a step further and began using garlic to promote the health of my poultry.

Read more here:

“It’s surprising that I didn’t think twice before giving my young peafowl antibiotics in increasingly strong doses for persistent respiratory symptoms. The birds, however, not only didn’t get better, but appeared weaker. An experienced friend whom I consulted recommended that I discontinue the antibiotics as they most likely have compromised the immune system of my peafowl, regardless of the initial complaint, try giving my birds fresh garlic, and observe the effects. Anxious to strengthen their immune system before the winter, and not seeing much to lose, I decided to give it a shot.”