Gavilan Trading Post

Valley of the Moon Ranch, NM
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Spams and such

Chris's picture

New anti-spam measures mean that comments should be possible again. We'll see how that works out...

Of fine feathered friends

Danielle's picture

In February we acquired seventy five Australorp chicks. These chicks are to serve as laying hens in the future. We are hopeful they will produce enough eggs for not only us but for any of our neighbors whom would like to eat good locally produced eggs. But it will be quite a while until we see any eggs, as these ladies are still young, small baby birds.

Those chicks fill my heart with joy as I have always taken a particular liking to “the flock”. Our family has always had chickens and we have always raised them from a few days old. I had taken a special interest in the chick rearing from a young age and because of that, the chick rearing has been “my job” since I was about eight years old.
I am of the opinion that chickens are pretty cool creatures. Besides the obvious benefits of leaving us with fresh eggs, good manure, and aerated soil. They also possess creepy dinosaur like qualities. At least how I picture dinosaurs which has been greatly shaped by an obsession with the movie “Jurassic Park”, an obsession that started at an early age and has now extended into adult hood. The chickens, much like my perception of the Dino's, look at you like they are always figuring out if there is any possible way they could consume your delicious flesh but so far none of my hens have succeeded in figuring out a way to accomplish that tasty possibility.
When the hens aren't trying to figure out a way to eat you, they usually spend their time chasing smaller things that they can consume, such as bugs and defenseless blades of grass. They also partake in non eating activities, like, taking dirt baths in the sun, roaming around in groups talking with each other in their eerie chicken language (Chickens are very social animals) and sometimes they even spend some time laying an egg. On top of all this, they are also extremely aesthetically pleasing.

Although these Chicken-ey qualities I do find very entertaining, the birds themselves aren't always the most personable creatures. There are exceptions though, like “Red” a hen that made a habit of following Marcus around because he was always working on projects around the farm that would reveal juicy grubs, red worms and the like. He knew what she was after and he obliged his chicken friend by throwing her any bugs he came upon. It's been a few years since Marcus and Red have had their daily bonding activities, as Marcus moved away some time ago. But Red has not forgotten about her special snack time with Marcus and so she stalks around projects to this very day. Unfortunately for Red, most of the farm interns have no idea what she wants and so they don't throw her any scrumptious bugs, and so, she is left to forage for herself. “Keep trying Red. One of these days someone will understand you again”.

The chicks too, lack a bit in the “personable critter department” yet are often times captivating to watch. Not because they do anything all that interesting but there is something about the hypnotic sound of so many creatures peeping and chirping on that is amazingly hard to break away from. You just end up staring at them almost in a trance, as they peck around their litter, lay around and generally do nothing all too interesting. But you just can't look away.
That being said, today the chicks did the most endearing thing I have ever witnessed any chicks do.
I was squatting down in their pen, scooping them feed as I do every morning. A few of the most brazen chicks always come over to me during this activity, so that they can get the first “peckins” of feed when I set the freshly renewed feeders down.
But today was different for these brave little hens, because today I was wearing pants that had loose draw strings on them. One of the chicks spotted the dangling string while I was scooping feed and this particular little chick latched on to that string and pulled as hard as she could. She held on tight and relentlessly. It was adorable. Soon, a few other chicks caught on to what was going on and wanted in on this delectable looking string.
The first chick now growing weary of pulling, let go. Sending the string flying. The other chicks rushed in to grab the now loose and bouncing string. The few chicks fought over the string in a sort of tug o' war and finally a “winner” emerged. The winner, now had her turn at doing the exact same thing as the first chick which was steadily pulling back and hoping that the string would give-in so that she could consume her well earned prize.
Well, this exact same exchange went on for a few minutes and finally it was time for me to move on to the goat barn to check for new baby goats. Before I could leave, I had to pick up the latched on chick and remove the cord from said chick's mouth, which was really more difficult then I could have imagined. Finally after chick was removed, I stood up. But this particular chick was not so ready to give up the fight. She watched that string rise and than made a mighty leap to grab the string in mid air. She missed it and tried again but alas the cord was out of her reach and she went back to pecking at her chick feed.

Often I find most people aren't too interested in Chickens, but I for one do not believe I will ever grow tired of the antics and benefits of the flock and I can not imagine a life without my feathered friends.

HARVEST MOON: The story of how a video game cultivated a garden.

Danielle's picture

My young life was spent in the rural northern outskirts of Santa Fe, NM. Our family of seven had chickens, cats, dogs and some horses. My younger brother Ben and I were quite a bit younger then the rest of our siblings, only a year a part in age and were homeschooled (Actually, Unschooled). This amounted to the two of us running around together and doing what we wanted, nothing short of all of the time.

Ben and I would wander the country side, play with dogs, make forts, build things out of Legos, and what have you. One of our favorite activities was playing video games. Many of the games were not note worthy but among my favorite games, was a game called “Harvest Moon”, it was a rather deep farming simulation/role-playing game. You, a young single farm boy, are set on the task of taking Grandpa's rundown old farm and turning it back into a productive family farm, you clear land, grow crops, raise milk cows, win the love of one of the town's girls so that you can take her home and get her preggers, commune with Imps and win the favor of that hot green haired Goddess that lived in the mountain pond (Meeow). At the end of the game you were judged on how much your cows and wife loved you, how many veggies you sold, and generally how awesome you were as a farmer and person. This game was hard, rather tedious and many a fine days of mine were wasted playing it, but something interesting started to happen...

I was about nine years old and this game had really moved me. When I would feed my real life chickens in the morning, I fed them with more purpose and pride. And on one fine day I picked up a hoe, went outside and started breaking ground much like I had seen in the game (Not unusual unschooler behavior). I had hoed a 6' by 6' patch of dirt, I then put up a small fence made out of tent stakes and scrap wire to keep dogs and chickens away from my soil. And then planted Corn, Peas and Beans. I watered them with a watering can every day, just like I had done in the game so many times. Before I knew it, I had four pea plants, three bean plants and three corn plants!
By no means were these stunted little plants impressive by anyone's standards but never the less I was proud and made prouder every time I harvested a pea or bean pod (always inserted directly into the mouth). I learned so much from this experience and I was able to practice observation skills on the way the plants grew. For instance, I noticed that my peas suffered under the hot New Mexican sun while the corn looked rather sad in the shade, and this led to placement planning for a more successful garden in the future. Yes, my little plants brought joy and purpose to my life and at some point during that garden's life, I declared that I wanted to be a real farmer.

Harvest Moon did not make me a farmer but it certainly inspired me to follow an already existing passion and provided some of my first farm related education, even if the information was mostly inaccurate it still held some farming principals; work hard, water your crops, love your chickens, don't leave your cows outside during a typhoon.
And It's safe to say video games inspired Ben's passions as well, which turns out is playing video games!

For the record, I don't play video games anymore... Well, not usually. I mean sometimes a girl just needs a little 'Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney', ya know? And no, I have not discovered any secret desire to become an Attorney from such activities, but you never know.

Hurry up little garden

Jacob's picture

It seems the growing season will be cut very short this year. The last spring frost was June 12th, and now in late August the temperature is already dropping to around 46 deg. at night. I can only hope to get another 5 weeks before the first frost hits. With the corn starting to pollinate a week ago, the tomatoes still forming, no capsicums or eggplant fruits to speak of, small flowers on the broccoli, and one melon ripening, I can only hope that the weather will be kind enough to let me get some seed for next year. I have at least managed to establish a few good perennials in the flower bed and throughout the garden, with some care and a bit of luck they should make it through what looks to be a very cold winter. Now I can only set up some meager defenses against the cold and pray that Jack Frost stays on vacation just a few weeks longer.

Testing the water

Danielle's picture

Chris told me to write something... It's raining, and the fall grass is growing. Where will this end up? I sure hope I can delete this later.



Chris's picture

A large trailer showed up today and demanded that it's hay be placed in the barn. Now I have hay in my socks, hair, ears, nose, throat, and shoes.