I was excited to have four eggs for breakfast today. They were smaller than usual because they are pullet eggs and came from our young hens. Yes, the chicks we got the first week in June are now beginning to lay eggs. Now they can earn their keep and pay me back for their feed by feeding me.
(In the photo above, the larger egg on the right is a commercial egg. The other four smaller eggs are our home grown eggs.)
I look at it as being one step closer to being food independent. Are we going to live on eggs and honey? Of course not. But the price of eggs had increased by 12 percent in the past year, so producing them on-site will help our grocery bill. As I have stated before, having eggs will allow us to help neighbors and give us something to barter with. As the chickens get older, the eggs will get bigger. I expect our daily harvest will increase as well.
What’s funny about the eggs is that the chickens are not laying them in the nesting boxes we installed for them. They are laying them in the wheelbarrow full of hay that we store under the chicken coop. I pulled it out today to throw more hay into the coop, and two eggs stared up at me. I searched through the hay and found two more.
Even funnier is that I woke up early to the sound of the dog barking and the chickens making some very unusual noises. The combination was enough for me to throw on pants, grab the 10/22 I keep in the bedroom for chicken defense, and run out on to the deck. I could see no reason for the excitement. No raccoons, no skunks, and definitely no bears.
We are used to the roosters crowing and I can sleep through it. I guess I will learn to ignore the racket the hens make when they lay their eggs.
More Animal News
In the past 10 days, I have seen three black snakes. One was pretty big, about 5 feet long. It was early enough in the morning that the chill air had not burned off yet, so he was moving slowly. Another was tiny, just a foot long or so. Both were on our property. We saw a third snake on our neighbor’s lawn. This one was medium sized, probably 30 or 36 inches. My guess is that they are out and about looking for a place to den up before the cold air sets in.
There are plenty of chipmunk holes around. If I were a snake, I would check them out. Might end up with a full belly as well as a snug place to over-winter.
The black snakes are good to have around. They help keep the number of local mice and other small critters down. If they are king snakes instead of black rat snakes, they will keep rattlesnakes away. I am not expert enough to tell what kind of black snake we have.
My dog is intensely attracted by the scurrying chipmunks that we occasionally spot dashing from point A to point B. It is enough to make me wonder if ate lots of them while she was a stray. If we see one run across the driveway or road, she won’t rest until we get to that area to explore it. She also will dig after them. We have more chipmunks this fall than we did last year. I am blaming the increase on chipmunks to our dog driving away the local population of coyotes. Gotta take the bad with the good.
Speaking of over wintering, the weather is turning colder with nights in the 30s and the threat of frost. Friday was our last warm day, and the house reached 78 degrees. It is in the low 70s now and will probably be 68 by morning. Both the wood stove and the fireplace insert have a stack of dry wood by them. I expect we will need it soon. As much as I am looking forward to nice warmth they provide, I admit I have enjoyed not having to mind the fire for six months.
The bees are still flying on the warm days, but there is not much for them to harvest. The leaves are falling, the goldenrod is on its last legs and the asters have stopped producing new buds. I have been feeding the bees every second or third day, and have almost finished my second bag of sugar.
To help bees prepare for winter, you feed them a two-to-one sugar water mixture, which is much thicker than the one-to-one you feed them in the spring. Of course, it has to be in or close to the 60s for them to turn it into winter stores. We may be nearing the end of that timeframe, but I’m holding for a brief Indian summer.
Dark Winter Threatens
The people who bought our old house will pay at least $5,000 for propane this winter. I will spend about a quarter of that on firewood, and I already have five cords on hand drying and seasoning. When I read what the “average” heating bill is in the U.S., the number is so low, it makes me laugh. I can only assume the government includes people from Florida and Hawaii who have a $0 heating bill to make the average look low. But no matter how expensive it becomes, the real danger is a shortage that causes utilities to run out, like they are in China.
It would be interesting to know who makes the triage decision if we, as a country, run low on natural gas. Do electric utilities get precedence over homeowners? Will our government shut down business (adding to other shortages)? Do they rotate supply between neighborhoods? Or does gas just go to the highest bidder?
Is “dark winter” coming? I don’t know, but I feel reasonably well prepared. We will be warm. We will be fed. We will have water. We may or may not have electricity, but I recently added a bunch of 18650 batteries to my stash. (Fodder for a future article.) If we have to stay home for weeks or months at a time because of a lack of gasoline or a world gone mad, we can do that, too.
I hope you are prepared. Just in case.