I love rain. I love the smell of it, the feel of it before it even begins to drop from the sky, and the awesome view of how it looks as it rolls in with the clouds.
Wednesday morning, I was running late doing my chores. So, after I dropped off my youngest at school, I headed out to the barn. It hadn't begun raining yet, but I could tell it was comin'! It slowly began to sprinkle, but before I could get everything done, it began pouring. As I watched the animals, I laughed at how different each of the species are. The ducks were playing joyfully in the puddles and thoroughly enjoying the rain and all it brings. The alpacas made themselves comfortable under the protection of the barn while all of the chickens slowly walked around hunting for any left over feed that may have fallen out of the alpaca food bowls. Only the ducks ventured out into the rain to enjoy themselves.
As I headed out to the chicken tractor, the rain really began coming down hard. I'm sure my neighbors got a chuckle out of me going from a slow walk, to a faster walk, to a trot, and finally and all out run! I proceeded to enter the chicken tractor and get the chicks fed. Their chicken tractor stayed nice and dry, despite the downpour going on all around them. So, I sat down on the feed bucket and began to pass the time until the rain let up.
It only took 5-10 minutes before the rain let up. As I sat there in the tractor, I realized how very, very fortunate I am. Years ago, I spent my days as a systems engineer working day in and day out in an office, working at a computer. Don't get me wrong! I LOVED my job! I worked with some incredibly nice and talented people. However, I'm so blessed to be able to work from home, taking care of all of these critters. I love spending my time outdoors...even when it's raining. :) I love the sound of the chickens clucking, as if bragging when they finish laying their eggs. I love the sounds of the roosters crowing all day while there is sunlight (yeah, they don't just crow in the morning). I love the sounds of the ducks quacking at the joy of splashing in the water. I love the sound of my alpacas humming to each other while they enjoy hanging out under the protection of the barn during the storm. I love knowing that all of my animals are happy, healthy, and living life well on lush green pasture and healthy foods. BEST DAY JOB EVER. Yep, blessed indeed.
This year was incredibly fast and easy! Mind you, it would have been WAY, WAY more easy if we had a 3rd person helping us (next year, we wake the kids up!). Three up, three done! One by one, we captured, cleaned (by air blowing), and sheared each alpaca. We didn't trim nails or trim teeth. We simply sheared. It was over super quick! Why didn't we reduce our herd down to this size YEARS ago!?! Here is a picture of Dolly, before having her fleece removed.
And here is a picture of Isabella (pictured top) and her mom, Charlene (pictured bottom). Charlene is laying down, ready to be shorn.
And here is a picture of Charlene shorn (pictured above) and Isabella (pictured below).
We don't have very good pictures (again, three is better than two people!), but you get the idea!
I hope everyone is having a super Monday! Have a great week!
I have a handful of customers who have come to me stating their children are allergic to chicken eggs and their pediatricians have recommended trying duck eggs. That's how we got started raising ducks. We have many families with auto-immune issues that come for our farm-fresh chicken eggs. Many are allergic to soy and many are very, very weary of GMO products. So, many years ago, we began feeding a non-soy, non-GMO feed (called Texas Natural Feed). So, naturally, when their friends began asking us for duck eggs for their children, who were allergic to chicken eggs, we purchased some ducklings and began raising ducks. I never really understood the science behind all of it, though.
So, I began doing Google searches with regard to chicken versus duck eggs. I found all kinds of nutritional information, including the following:
But, WHY can people who are allergic to chicken eggs, able to eat duck eggs? What is the big difference? A friend of mine, Mira, is a nurse. She has a son who is allergic to chicken eggs. She had never heard of people being allergic to chicken eggs, being able to eat duck eggs. So, she researched it. And, she had her son try the duck eggs. He had no allergic reaction! Her research showed her that the protein structure in duck eggs is slightly different that the protein structure in chicken eggs. Apparently, it is the protein in the chicken eggs that people are allergic to. Who knew? http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1432-1033.1967.tb00079.x/pdf and http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/duck-eggs-less-allergenic-more-nutritious/
And, here is a recipe I found for duck eggs. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks simple and yummy. Let me know what you think! I'm going to keep on using my ducks eggs in my cheesecakes and cakes, too. They are the best!
Sheryl’s Cream Puffs
These are excellent with duck eggs, but chicken eggs can be used as well. Be sure to keep the dollops small. They fluff up in the oven.
1 Stick Butter
Heat oven to 375°F. Bring the water and butter to a boil in a saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir until a ball is formed. Continue to stir the flour mixture until slightly cooled. Add eggs, one at a time, until each egg is fully incorporated into the mixture. Place teaspoon-sized dollops onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in oven 30 to 45 minutes. Remove and slit immediately to release steam. Serve with whipped cream.
May you be blessed today!
Woo hoo! We finally got our insurance switched and are able to sell our eggs again! We have PLENTY of duck eggs available for $6/ dozen and chicken eggs available for $5 / dozen. We feed a non-SOY, non-GMO feed called "Texas Natural Feed", made here in Texas. Come on over and support a local farm by purchasing some delicious farm, fresh eggs! You WILL taste the difference!
Last Friday morning, we headed off to the post office to pick up our latest addition to our egg layers. We purchased 35 Naked Neck and 10 Polish chicks. They arrived super happy and ready to get something to eat!
I had decided I didn't want the chicks in the barn this time. I wanted them closer to the house where I could monitor them and check on the water / feed status throughout the day, easily. So, we took a dog run and wrapped chicken netting all around the base (later we moved the chicken netting to the inside of the run) and added a tarp and tent over the top.
It worked GREAT! I am so very pleased with this setup! It's right off the deck of our pool and close to the back door, so it is very handy for getting to and from. The chicks really seem to like the setup well, too!
The wind was whipping up and knocking chairs and all kinds of items in the pool! It looked like someone was reaching up for help!
The chick "coop" was setup fairly well to keep the rain out, however, I hadn't taken into account for heavy winds. Do you remember the storm that came through on Sunday morning, 9/18? I woke up to the "noise" around 6am in the morning. I could hear things banging around outside and the wind whipping up items all over my back patio. I jumped out of bed and ran to check on the chicks. They were running around in a panic, as their heat lamps swayed back and forth in their coop. I just knew they were going to trample each other to death!
Here is a picture of my solution. It worked quite well! I tied all of our chair cushions to the sides of the dog run to block the wind. Perfect! The heat lamps stopped swaying and everything calmed down inside the coop. Whew! A narrow escape from disaster! Bruno, our puppy, seemed to approve of the additions.
The rains came, but all was well underneath the safety of the tarp and tent. Not a single chick was hurt. Yay!! I absolutely LOVE this design and think we will be using this for all future additions of chicks. It's got a nice gate to walk in through, it's tall enough that I can stand inside it, and it makes filling waterers and feeders very easy.
Update: Egg production is way down, due to the reduction in daylight hours and we are FINALLY scheduling our roof to be replaced. So, our insurance policy should be adjusted soon to allow us to begin selling eggs again. However, due to the reduction of eggs, we won't be ready to sell again until spring. Chickens need a "resting" period, where they lose their feathers and give their bodies a rest from laying eggs all summer. This usually takes 8-10 weeks. Large commercial producers "trick" the chickens into continuing to lay eggs by keeping lights on them. With the lighting system, the chickens "think" it is still summer time and keep laying eggs.
Hens only have so many "eggs" in their body, and under normal circumstances, can normally lay between 2-3 years. However, if their bodies are not given a chance to rest and recover every fall/winter, that time will be drastically reduced. We try to be the best stewards of our animals, as possible. We believe they deserve a break. So, please pardon us during the fall/winter months when we don't have many eggs. Our chickens are getting a much deserved break!
Due to insurance questions, we are needing to temporarily halt the sales of all chicken and duck eggs, as well as place farm tours on hold. We will keep you posted when we get the issues resolved and are able to begin selling again! Thanks for your understanding and patience!
It's been a long haul. Our lovable, Nathan, was diagnosed with cancer back in September 2015. We loved him very, VERY much! On Martin Luther King Day, January 18, he left us. We were absolutely heartbroken. Nathan was a rescue, who became a part of our family seven years ago. Thanks to Dr. Miller, at Breckenridge Animal Hospital in Richardson, who helped keep Nathan with us as long as possible. She was absolutely wonderful! The whole family misses Nathan. He was truly loved be everyone he met. Rest in peace, our beloved friend. We miss you to the moon and back.
We had a LOT of people asking us about duck eggs last year. So, we ordered 30 ducks! Fast forward, now we have grown ducks who are laying eggs. Yay! Oh my goodness, they are so cute and fun to watch! They LOVE the pool! We just have the one pool and every, stinkin' one of them tries to get in it at the same time! Anyway, we now have PLENTY of duck eggs for sale! Give us a call and we'll help you out!
This year, I celebrated a milestone birthday, too. Plans fell apart at the last minute for a Top Golf excursion, so my best friend, Joyce Jackson, put together a get away weekend for me. My good friends, Stacy and Marie joined us, too, as well as my new friend, Lora. We chatted for hours and hours, played board games, took a hike, ate a delicious dinner and had cupcakes, too. It was wonderful! Thanks to my great friends for taking time out of their schedule to come out and spend the weekend with me! I love y'all!
Joyce and I have been putting on retreats for three years now. The group is called, Chix Packin' Stix, because it started off as a knitting group (get it? Stix, as in knitting needles?)
Our latest retreat was last month. We had 37 ladies attend the retreat! We always have a beginner knitting and crochet class, but then branch out into SO MUCH MORE! This last retreat, we made bracelets / necklaces using a Japanese method called Kumihimo braiding. We also crocheted scrubbies using a tulle like yarn (I use it in my shower and it's AWESOME!). There were creative art journals made using scrapbooking, painting, and/or stamping. The ladies LOVED it! We made french seam, pillowcases with embroidery and so much more! Check the group out on Facebook under Chix Packin Stix. Better yet, JOIN US!
Another exciting thing that happened in late January is that we adopted another dog. However, no dog will every replace our dear Nathan. We needed a distraction from our grieving process, so we adopted this little guy. He has won his way into our hearts already! We love this little guy! He's not so little anymore, though. We don't know what breed he is a mix of, but it is BIG!!!
Another funny thing happened, too. Jim McGuire, from Global Heart Ministries, called me about a t.v. program called "Animals Around the World". So, Lucy, one of our alpacas, was loaded up into my F350 pickup truck, in the passenger seat, and taken out to the movie studio in Addison. As you can see by the pictures, she was fantastic! What fun!
Well, I'm hoping it isn't another six months before I post here and let you know what's going on around the ranch! I pray you have a blessed day! Happy trails, my friends!
So how many of you remember the song, "East Bound and Down", from Smokey and the Bandit? That brings back memories! Well, last Friday, I was loaded up and trucking, on my way to our first ever Chix Packin' Stix Spinning Retreat, held at the Lone Oak Ranch and Retreat Center in Gainesville, Texas. Seventeen ladies made it out for a weekend of spinning, creating art batts and yarn, and some core yarn, art spinning! We had a fantastic time!
There were plenty of colorful rovings and fibers to excite all! Sara even likes to smell the stuff! Ha ha! Or is she a Santa in training? Hmmm... I'm not sure about that one.
We made beautiful art batts ready for spinning! Mitchie started off by creating a batt with a lot of pinks, reds, and yellows. When she picked up the colors, I thought, "I'm not sure about those colors." Well, as you can see, it turned out beautiful! Each woman tried their hands at creating an art batts out of colors that spoke to them. It was exciting to see all of the creativity going on in the room and even more exciting to see how each of them spun up into yarn!
One of the most incredible parts of the weekend was that we had SIX (yes, count them!), new spinners! It was amazing to watch each of these ladies pick up the art of spinning so quickly! They are extremely talented women! Yay to each of them! It was suggested that they spend 15 minutes per day continuing to spend time at their wheels. What a great idea! I need to do that! Surely I can find 15 minutes per day to work that in... I hope!
If any of you have ever been to a retreat before, you know that the food usually lacks taste and appeal. Take a look at this! We were fed delicious food that was incredibly beautiful and worthy of a 5 star restaurant! That's because Lone Oak Ranch recently (within the past year) acquired a 5 star chef! His name is Chef Randy.
I can't tell you how excited the ladies were to have Chef Randy creating these incredibly, scrumptious meals for us! Randy got tired of the long hours working at a restaurant and decided to leave to spend more time with his family. Wow! We can't tell you how happy we are he decided to do that! It's so exciting to see someone realize there is more to life than accolades and money. Way to go, Randy! We sure hope you stay for a very, VERY long time! Oh and by the way, Randy, you are a Chef Rock Star!!!!!
Shown here is some beautifully spun, art yarn, around a core yarn. This was done by one of our brand new spinners, Cheryl. The yarn turned out gorgeous! Don't you agree? The finished yarn is supposed to be lumpy and colorful. I wonder what she'll make out of this? Cheryl, bring your creation to the next retreat so we can see it, please!
We had a great time! Many surveys indicate how important it is to have friends to share "life" with. Life gets crazy and the first thing to go is our "girl time". Joyce Jackson and I began these retreats because we realized we wanted more time with our friends. Little did we know, two years later, how many new friends we would make! Each of these ladies has touched our lives. We've found out from many of them that these retreats have touched their lives, too!
We have a retreat planned for March 2016 and it is already full. God is great, all the time! So, one word to describe the retreat for me would be... BLESSED. I am blessed indeed. I am blessed to have met so many incredible women on so many walks of life. I am grateful to be able to spend, if only one weekend, with them on this journey. Thank you, ladies. You have and continue to enrich my life.
Philippians 1:3 says, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy..."
It's been a crazy few weeks! A lot of our aging chickens have stopped laying eggs, we've had some killed by coyotes and even a neighbor dog (don't even ask!). So, we went ahead and began looking to purchase some new chicks for our laying flock. Also, due to so many families who have come to us wanting duck eggs for their children, who are allergic to chicken eggs, we decided we needed to add some more ducklings to our purchase. The breeds of ducklings had different ship dates, so we tried to get some as close together as possible and placed our order from the hatchery. Our ducklings were supposed to ship on Monday, November 12th., with delivery on Wednesday, November 14th. If you remember correctly, that Monday was Columbus day. Well, neither the hatchery's ship-date calendar or my brain took that into consideration. So, Wednesday morning, 2 of my children and I woke up extra early to get chores done and to get ready for school, anticipating a call from the post office at 6 am (the normal time you get called when you have live animals shipped through the post office). No phone call, no ducklings. You know what happens. I get up the next morning and do the same thing. No phone call, no ducklings. The hatchery says they should be there. The post office knows nothing. There is a tracking number on the ducklings, but the post office hasn't bothered to update it. I head to the post office to speak with a human. They have no idea and say to give it another day. The next morning (I'm exhausted at this point...You people who get up at 5am every morning are incredible. I don't know how you do it.), I finally get my phone call at 6am. And voila! We finally have our first batch of ducklings! Yay! 9 Blue Sweedish ducklings (One, a runt, didn't make it).
A week later, the chick hatchery calls and says they have had a low hatch rate. I would need to wait an additional week for the delivery of my chicks. They are supposed to be shipped on Tuesday, October 27th and be delivered on Thursday, October 29th. I think, "Cool! That is 24 hours before I leave for my spinning retreat! I can do that!". Well, they don't ship on Tuesday, and instead ship on Wednesday. You guessed it. They were delivered Friday morning at 6am, the morning I was leaving for my retreat. It was a fairly eventful morning. If you recall, it was raining that morning. I had to load all of my goodies for the weekend, in the pouring rain. Lovely. Then, I needed to go and pick up the chicks. Not a problem. I allowed time for that. Then, things began to change when I got home. While feeding the chickens that morning (the older, laying hens), one of them decided to drop a bomb (aka poop) on me while I headed through the coop. It landed right in my hair and down my back! Oh joy. Now, I'm going to need to find time to take a shower before I leave. You get the idea. It was one comical event after another that morning. I still made it out on time for my weekend, which was incredible, btw! Yay!
On Wednesday, November 4th, we had the 2nd batch of ducklings arrive. Aren't they ADORABLE!?! We've had so much fun with these newest additions to our flock! Babies are always so cute and cuddly! Give 'em another 5 months and we should be back in business on our egg production. I just love living on a ranch!!!!
I took some time this past weekend to spend at a retreat with some other art lovers! I cannot tell you how blessed I was! Every now and then, it is great to slow down, take time away from the rat race, and focus on friendships and things you enjoy doing. That's exactly what I did this past Friday through Sunday. Twice a year, my best friend, Joyce Jackson and I, coordinate a retreat for women to get away from the hustle and bustles of life, to grow friendships and enjoy the arts. We share our knowledge of knitting, crocheting, sewing, weaving, making jewelry, pine needle baskets, and other "Pinterest" type of things. It's always a blast! Every single time I go to this thing, I come back with new friends.
We spent the weekend learning how to make baskets out of pine needles and sinew thread. It was amazing! We also made these gorgeous shawl pins out of wire using just some pliers.
Another craft we learned was how to rug hook, not to be confused with rug latching! It was quite fun! I'm working on a cow for my daughter.
The last thing we did was to make crochet flowers with felted centers. These are a few of the beautiful creations.
A few of us get together on Sunday at every retreat to worship and praise our Savior, Jesus Christ. It was a beautiful morning with a gentle breeze. We had a wonderful time.
The property at the Lone Oak Ranch and Retreat Center is so beautiful! The meals were prepared by a wonderful chef, named Randy, who used to work at the Omni Hotel as a chef. He got tired of the long hours and decided to move out to the country to spend more time with his family. I was so thankful he did! The food was absolutely delicious!
It was a fantastic weekend. I'm still on a high from so much fun! If you are interested in more information on this retreat or future retreats, check out the "Chix Packin Stix" page on Facebook. Maybe, just maybe, it's time for you to get away and make some new friends!
I'm Cyndi and I LOVE the farm life! I went from being a systems programmer to a stay at home mom taking care of the kids and animals. I couldn't think of a better life!