Homestead Update

Well, things have been certifiably nuts around here of late. I have been sick and fatigued off and on as I try to figure out what food or foods are causing me issues. That is making it difficult to get things done and it seems time is whizzing by while I’m scrambling to get a grip. On top of that, I am looking to go back to the workforce soon, which is not something I was planning to do just yet. And as a last kick in the pants our only car suddenly became in need of major work, which isn’t worth it, so we have been trying to get our heads and pockets around acquiring a new car. Here are some updates on different things going on at Twiglet Homestead.

The Chickens

The first thing of note is that Lydia is no longer with us. She was my second egg eater. I tried to retrain her and had some success while she was in the big cage, but as soon as I put her back with the main flock, she went feral with her laying and wouldn’t lay in the coop. She laid under the shelter, ate her egg then alerted everyone else, including me, to what was going on. When I ran over some other hens were pecking around in Lydia’s hole, but, fortunately, Lydia appeared to have eaten the whole egg, as she was wont to do, so the others didn’t cotton on. But that was it. No more time and effort trying to win a losing battle with this determined egg eater. No more endangering my other hens with that habit. I could not keep her somewhere all alone. A couple of people offered to re-home her but they were too far away. There was no place for her here. I had to get The Husband to do the deed. I just couldn’t face culling Lydia. I did, however, manage to add one more chicken to our freezer collection… It is sad. Lydia was my good little layer, full of character, loud announcements and cheekiness. I had been through a lot with her: bumblefoot ops, making foam shoes, doing many, many foot dressings, watching her get demoted from top hen spot for being over-dramatic and having her pout at my feet, seeing how nutty her offspring could be (ahem, Mr Collins…). She was the only hen I’ve taken to the vet, where I learned some excellent information. She recovered so well. She was great entertainment. She was my most consistent layer. Unfortunately, she just became consistent with egg eating too. She will be missed.

Farewell, Lydia, you crazy, cheeky chicken.

I’d like to say onward and upward, but, with our above issues, the flock is going to see some more changes. I need to cut costs and there are tough decisions going on, especially if I am to hatch some eggs in spring. Who will stay and who will go? It is a harsh decision-making process. We shall have to wait and see.

Chickens at the fence
Don’t look at me like that, chickies, I have tough decisions to make.

Ok, enough bad news already! One good thing is that the hens are still laying, some of them just a tad less frequently as the daylight hours decrease. They’ve laid 5-7 eggs in the last week. Some people’s hens are off the lay for winter so I’m totally stoked to still have some eggs! Lizzie has become almost as a good a layer as Lydia and her eggs are bigger. Kitty is a good, sensible layer, Mary has become a sensible layer too and Frodo is an awesome layer when she’s not being broody. Also, PB is doing well. He is 13 weeks old now and hasn’t succumbed to Mareks as yet, so things are looking good. The thing is, although he is big, I’m really not sure about his maleness once again. If he is a boy he has an extremely pale and small comb and wattles for his age. I have been watching him a lot and I really don’t know what to think right now! Maybe in another week I’ll know. Georgiana is PB’s buddy but PB sometimes gets to hang out with the others too. The new girls are doing well and getting handled while they’re easier to catch in their temp ‘quarantine’ pen, which has now been moved right next to the main pen so everyone can get to know each other before the great integration. The little silver-laced Wyandotte is my favourite, with a chilled out, friendly nature and lively foraging abilities. At first I was a little worried about how she would cope being the smallest, but she is a goer! She is actually the dominant one. It is funny to watch the wee thing dominate a big Orpington, however, I’m now concerned that she may be a boy. Blagh. Not another mind-battle! My suspicions are due to curly tail feathers, slow-developing rear-end feathers and upright posture. If she is a he I can swap her for another pullet but that would be a shame and it would mean more quarantine. Since Wyandottes are a new breed for me I will just have to wait and see.

Getting to know each other
“Stop digging, the human’s looking!” “No, human, we are definitely not digging a tunnel to the other side… La la la…”
New girls looking
Hello, other chickens!


The Garden

Much of the vege garden has been put to bed for the winter. I have been putting used chicken bedding on top of the empty beds to help suppress the weeds, protect the soil and add some organic matter for next season’s crops. There are still some crops slowly chugging along. Growth has slowed down a lot as the cold finally hit and the wet weather has continued to give little time for the soil to dry out. Just when things get sunny, the rain bounds back in again with complete disregard for my gardening needs.

Vege garden 1
The parts of the vege garden not containing crops have had used chicken bedding (wood shavings and poop) tipped on top. I will see how this works out.
Vege garden 2
There is actually still some green stuff in there! The kale is getting rather stripped as I keep feeding it to the chickens – they love it. We still have kale in the freezer from the season before when I whizzed and froze HEAPS. I put kale flakes in my scrambled eggs and we chuck it in mince dishes, rice, curries and fritters, among other things.

So, what’s still growing? There are a few carrots left. There is beetroot, which I have grown for the first time. I’ve never been a beetroot fan but in the last couple of years I’ve tasted some nice dishes with fresh beetroot in them. There are leeks. Huge leeks. A leek can go a long way so we’ve been putting them into all sorts of things: fritters, patties, various meat dishes, soup… There are still spring onions and lettuces. There is still a swathe of parsley. And there are the brassicas: bok choy, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. Annoying critters are still eating some holes in them so we obviously haven’t had enough cold weather yet. The first few frosts took down my capsicums though. And guess what? I bought my seed garlic early this year! I got some Printanor, the main good culinary variety grown here and some elephant garlic, which I haven’t grown before. It is bigger and milder than normal garlic and is actually a different species. I need to figure out when to plant them. After last season’s rust disaster I’ve been thinking an earlier planting might give them more time to get growing well, but I can’t plant them if the ground is too soggy.

I have been slowly picking away at the weeding around the garden but haven’t had much time for more exciting things like planting. The Plum Tree Garden has been weeded and is looking tidy, if a little plant-bare. The Maple Garden has a downright terrible population of weeds. It looks pretty good at a glance, thanks to the ridiculously well-growing native sedges and other plants in there, but a closer look reveals swathes of weeds lurking underneath and swamping the ground covers in there. I have started picking away at it, even though I’d rather walk past with a hand shielding my eyes saying, “La, la, la…”

Plum Tree Garden
The Plum Tree garden looks tidy, because I’ve just finished weeding it. It just needs more plants. And we need to finish chopping down the unproductive yellow-fleshed plum tree on the right. And plant the almond tree. After we dig out the blackcurrant planter box which has become rooted into the soil. Oops!

Wood Projects

We bought a ‘new’ dining table a little while back and need to sell our old drop-leaf table. The top of it was really looking worse for wear so I have been resurfacing it, just casually, as if I’ve actually done anything like that before. It may not be perfect, but it’s been a good learning experience and it looks heaps better than it did before, which will hopefully be reflected in a better price when I sell it. I have a lot of other projects to do around the house but it’s one day at a time at the moment. I will post about some smaller projects later. Meanwhile, an exciting trailer load has appeared in our yard. The Parents’-in-law found a bunch of wood framing instead of the usual pallets, and I have great visions of using them for a chicken pen, perhaps even a chicken tractor…

Dining table
The old dining table has been getting some attention.


I am working on The Little Fulla’s green knitted jersey at the moment. Progress is very slow due to lack of time sitting still. And the fact that I chose a cabled pattern, so knitting it requires concentration and peering at a chart. Concentration is not one of my strong points at this current point in time. Let’s just say there have been more than a few re-done rows. Meanwhile, the great knitting and crocheting women of The Husband’s family have been yarning up a storm with all sorts of lovely projects popping out.

The Little Fulla’s snail-paced jersey. The colour in this photo really isn’t right but it shows the cabling pattern well. I may or may not be about to undo a row that I did slightly wrong…

Let’s hope the madness dies down soon. Tomorrow we go car hunting…

9 thoughts on “Homestead Update

  1. I was wondering why you’ve been silent. Sorry to hear you’ve been ill and hope you’re feeling better now. It’s hard enough taking care of yourself you you don’t feel well, let alone a toddler, garden and flock. Sending good vibes and prayers your way, for all the issues.

    We had car troubles last year, too. It is no fun all the way around. 😦

    Sorry to hear about Lydia, but I am not surprised. Still, she will be missed.

    I think PB is a hen. By 13 weeks, we should be seeing the beginnings of sickle feathers and saddle feathers. And that comb is too pale and small to be a cockerel.

    The Wyandottes are pretty. Little Dude’s eggs hatched but it looks like the hatchery mislabeled them. I don’t know what we have now and only one of them MIGHT be a barred rock. They are cute and precious but also a bit of a minor disappointment at the same time. I’m waiting on the hatchery to identify them for me. I sent pictures of each chick.

    I haven’t even planted our garden yet. It’s been too rainy. Am jealous of your beets. I love them! We have a good family recipe for pickled beets if you’re interested. It’s been passed down for generations and they are yummy that way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, yeah, it’s just been one of those hard slog patches. I suppose at least all these things make it somewhat easier to make tough chicken decisions. Might as well keep the tough calls coming while I’m on a roll!

      PB has been such a mystery. My gut did say female a lot of the time but she really has had more of a boyish frame all along. Ah well, I am happy to add a nice-natured purebred hen to my collection. It just means I will have to buy fertile eggs for hatching in spring instead of being able to breed some of my own. The good side is that I should be able to get more choice out of a hatch for later breeding adventures.

      That’s annoying that the hatchery messed up your eggs. I hope they turn out to be something interesting. Can you get replacements if you’re not happy with them?

      I would love to have your picked beets recipe. I’ve only ever had pickled ones from a can so I’m curious to try some ‘proper’ ones. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sometimes we make decisions we don’t really want to make, but it all works out in the end. You can always get more chickens at a later date, or hatch more of your own eggs.

        I know it will be hard saying good-bye, but maybe you will find homes for some of them instead of culling?

        For a while there, I didn’t see much difference between Mr, Collins and PB, but now it really looks like PB is a hen.

        It is annoying that the hatchery messed them up. We really wanted the Barred Rocks and I chose “assortment” for the other six, so we could be surprised with new and different varieties. I guess we’re getting that.

        They did give us a $10 credit on my next order of hatching eggs. I have a discount code to use. So if anyone else goes broody, I might try to get the barred rocks after all.

        I will did out the pickled beets recipe and scan it for you to print out. It’s really good. I can’t eat beets any other way, to be honest. So much better than what comes from the store.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think all the trouble I had with my first few chickens lulled me into a state of needing to keep all the chickens I got. Losing the first few precious chickens to illness was really tough and my mindset was that I had to save them all or fix them all. Now, I’m starting to relax more in that I have developed some good chicken husbandry skills and have raised chickens who are more hardy and do well in my environment, so they aren’t all going to randomly cark it! With this comes a realisation that I can cull or rehome chickens that have issues or just aren’t quite what I want and hatch or buy more in as required. It is still really hard saying goodbye to beloved chickens though, either way.

          I am hoping not to cull any more for a wee while. I sold two chickens today and am hoping to sell one or two more, but it is a bit up in the air with the sudden realisation that PB is not actually a boy! PB is still a little confusing though, as I have seen her do what looked like tid-bitting, once to me and today to one of the newbies who were being integrated. If she ends up being a weird gender-confused chicken I will be curiously mortified!

          Ah, so a bit more of an assortment than you asked for. It’s good that they’ve given you a credit. Hope you can get some Barred Rocks at some point as they are lovely. You’re going to have a very colourful bunch of feather children. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah. I know what you mean. I don’t like losing my chickens but we long ago established Rules for keeping or culling. If they’re mean, to either humans or flock mates, they can’t stay. Luke is ‘on probation’ right now. He’s not mean, but he is very forceful with the hens. I think he will learn tenderness but he is at that awkward ‘does not know how to talk to girls’ stage of life. Padme is the only hen who understands him and that is because she is his sister. I see him trying to dance and tidbit and the hens rebuff him. Other times. He just runs up and grabs by the neck and mates quick and rough. So I watch and if he hasn’t learned more gentle tactics at some point this summer, I’ll be sending him to Freezer Camp no matter how much I personally like him, and we’ll be looking at the boys from this bunch of hatches (I’m sure there are boys, there always are) to fill a need. It’s tough. I’d rather see them fall to predator or illness than cull sometimes, but you do what the flock needs, not what we want.

            Curious who you got rid of but I suspect a post about that soon.

            I am pleased about the store credit. I like that My Pet Chicken sends hatching eggs. Not a lot places do because they want you to buy their chicks.

            Yeah, they are turning into a diverse flock. The ‘next gen’ will be interesting in a couple of years.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Oh, that awkward young rooster stage is hard. I do hope Luke learns some more manners soon. It is hard culling a healthy chicken, as you do feel guilty, but you’re right, we do what’s best for our flock and for our household as well.

            A post about the chickens is coming soon, I’ll just say no-one else has been culled, so that’s good news!

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Yeah. And people keep forgetting that Pip went through an awkward rooster phase, too. Just, he would run away from the hens because the Aunties were scary to him!


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