Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chickens, Chickens Everywhere!!

I have fallen behind on my weekly pictures of the chickens. I can't imagine why?? Especially now that we have 800 of the little peeps! I guess you could say that we are in full swing with the chicken business. I took pictures of all the "groups" that we have. We have four groups of 200 chickens and this is how it will be all summer since we get a new group of 200 every two weeks. We process 200 every two weeks as well.

When the chicks first get here, they spend two weeks in the nursery (brooder) where the temperature is kept around 90 degrees the first week and then is gradually decreased as the chicks get older.

The Nursery (Brooder)

Who wants to have a painting party??
My coops WILL get painted this summer, even if I have to make the cats do it.



One week old chicks in the nursery.




After two weeks in the nursery, they move over to the preschool. I know, it needs painted too.

The Preschool


Three week old chicks and the new egg layers.





They are starting get all their feathers! Very cute and curious at this age!





When they are four weeks old and have most all their feathers, they move out into the real world. They are protected from predators with an electrified poultry netting fence and have a movable shelter which we move to new pasture every other day. They are free to do what ever they want, whether it be a game of "keep away" with a grasshopper or simply taking a nap in the cool grass.





Front of movable shelter.


Resting inside shelter.




The chickens stay out on pasture until it is time to process them. We process part of each batch at seven weeks and the rest at eight weeks.










Two girlfriends enjoying each others company and the comfort of the cool grass.



Yummy alfalfa!



We have four of these movable pens. 100 chickens are in each pen.



The chickens are fed twice a day and supplied with fresh water twice a day, sometimes three times a day if it is a hot day. Now that we are in full swing, we feed approximately 420 lbs of feed a day and go through approximately 500 gallons of water!!


Whew, no wonder I am so tired!

So there you go folks, a day in the life of a farm fresh pastured chicken at the Open A Bar 2 Ranch.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mtn. Lions, Hail Storms and Battered Truck

What an incredibly crazy day in the life of this little ol' Country Chicken Girl.

It all started late last night when we had a very loud thunderstorm and rain. The thunder was so loud it shook the house. Dan the Man was having a hard time sleeping because he was worrying about his cows and calves.

Just as we were starting to fall into a deep sleep around 12:30 am, Dan the Man bolted out of bed because the cows were running around in the pen in front of the house making all kinds of commotion! Last time we were woke up by the cows like this, was when one of the neighbors had 50 calves get out of his corral in the middle of the night and caused all kinds of trouble.

If you you missed that story, here it is... CRAZINESS


Well, this time it was different because one of the mother cows was throwing a complete conniption fit and the rest of the cows and calves were running around in the pasture! For those of you who don't know cattle, let me just tell you that mother cows can be very protective of their young. When a cow is mad, she'll let you know by making a wildly weird sound know as a "beller" or "bellering." I don't think that is how you spell "beller" but then again I was not an English major and don't proclaim to be one! Anyway a "beller" is an unmistakable sound that can set your hairs on end and make you cry for your mommy. Well, that is exactly what one of our mother cows were doing.

I'll let Dan the Man tell the story this time. This is what he wrote to his cow talkin' buddies in his email group.

"Last night (Sunday night) a thunder storm started to roll through at about 10:30 pm and quit at about 12:00 am we got .40 inches of rain and a lot of lightening that made the house shake. We are currently dry lotting our cattle, waiting to get our pasture set up to start grazing, about 100 yards south of our house. At about 12:30 am I woke (I sleep very lightly the boys were never able to sneak home late) to a commotion going on outside with the cows.

I got up and ran out on our front deck in my underwear and I could see the silhouette of the cows running around in the pen and one cow I could not see was madder than a wet hornet and sounded like she was going to stomp something in the mud. I yelled a couple of times hoping if there was a predator out there my big scary voice would chase it off and then I started back in to get dressed and head out to see what was going on. Meanwhile my wife was up by now and asking "why is that cow going ballistic?"

Well we got out there and the cows were settled back down other than breathing hard and coughing from running. We didn't find anything so we headed back in thinking we may never know what was going on."

We have never lost a calf to any predator before and Dan the Man wasn't about to let it happen last night!

Seeing the best as we could concerning it was pitch black outside and convinced that the cows and calves were okay, we continued our romantic (ha, ha) midnight stroll and checked on the bulls, steers and the chickens. Everything seemed to be in order. Not knowing what else to do, we walked back to the house (holding hands, ya right!) and tried to go back to sleep. Sleep eluded Dan the Man because he was still trying to figure out what had possibly gotten those cows so worked up.

When morning came, I awoke, fixed my coffee and headed for the computer (my morning ritual.) As I was scanning Facebook I noticed a post from one of my friends who lives about 4 miles from our place. They had lost a calf the morning before to a mountain lion.

A mountain lion! Holy moly, maybe that was what was in with our cows last night! I ran into the bedroom to let Dan the Man know and he said we would have to be sure to look for tracks and see if we could find any. When we went out to do our chores, we did just exactly that, but the only tracks we could find were coyote and raccoon. No mountain lion that we could see.

After chores were done, we needed to take Skyler into Scottsbluff. He was going to fly to Phoenix to visit his aunt, cousins and grandparents for a couple of weeks. The weather looked as if it might rain, but the skies didn't look too threatening. When we got to the airport we discovered that Skyler's flight has been delayed for 35 minutes and he wouldn't be able to make his connecting flight in Denver, so they booked him on the next flight out of Denver, which meant that he would have to sit at DIA for about 5 hours.

Since we had a list of things to get while we were in town, we left Skyler at the airport and went on our way to get our list and things so we could get back to the ranch and start on the day's projects.

First stop was Menards (save big money at Menards!) Do you have the song stuck in your head now? You can thank me later. Anyway, Dan the Man and Chris went to the hardware part of the store while I went to the garden part. I noticed the skies turning a little black to the south but didn't think that it was really suppose to storm. Then I noticed that there were several employees covering all the plants with huge tarps. I thought to my self, "Well, they must think it is really going to storm. Seems like they are going to extremes here!" Since I felt like I was in their way trying to look at the plants while they were trying to cover them up, I went to find the men.

After they had all there stuff, Dan the Man had one last thing to get. He needed some gravel which was in the garden center, so off we went back to the garden center. As we were loading the bags of gravel on the flatbed, it started to rain. Not wanting to get wet, we stepped up our pace and tried to hurry so we could pay for our stuff and get back to the truck before it really started to rain.

As we were paying, it started to rain a little harder and Dan the Man ran out to the parking lot and got the truck. As he pulled up to the loading area, it started to hail. I thought the logical thing to do was just wait inside the store until the hail was over, but not Dan the Man. He just wanted to get the stuff loaded and get out of there. All of the sudden the skies opened and the hail was golf ball sized and coming down like crazy.

We got back into the store and waited in the garden area part that was covered. Pretty soon, it was hailing with such force that the hail was coming inside the store and the automatic doors would not close. It was getting a little crazy for me so I went into the main part of the store. Soon Dan the Man and Chris followed. It was so incredibly crazy loud in the store because of the metal roof and the hail that although Dan the Man and I were standing face to face, we could not hear what each other were saying. Then the skylights above us starting breaking and falling down because of the hail! I tell you, it was crazy.

I don't know how long it hailed for because I lost track of time due to the fact that it was one of the craziest, scariest hail storms I have ever been in. I was also concerned about Skyler and what it was doing at the airport. After the hail stopped we headed outside to find our truck and several other vehicles with broken windshields. Ours just wasn't broken, it was literally shattered over the whole thing. We also had some pretty major hail damage to the body. Some of the cars had their entire back windows broken out.

Then the tornado warning siren started blowing. Not really knowing what to do, we headed back to the store. We were informed at the door that if we were coming in, we would have to go straight to the bathrooms. So that's what we did. I texted Skyler and he said that it had only hailed at the airport for a bout 20 seconds. His flight had been delayed again.

After we were released from the bathroom at Menards, we headed to the truck once again and decided that we had to get the windshield fixed before we could do anything else. Skyler was content waiting for his plane while we got the windshield fixed. On the way to the windshield repair place, Skyler texted me again saying that they were headed for the bathrooms because of the tornado warning. A few minutes later he texted again saying that they were not in the bathrooms anymore and he was going to get something to eat at the restaurant at the airport.

We were lucky and one of the first to arrive at the windshield place, but the phones were ringing off the hook and total chaos was about to break out because several people had lost windows in their vehicles during the storm.

Well, to wrap the story up, it took 3 hours to get the windshield fixed and all of the flights out of the airport were canceled. We had to pickup Skyler and finally headed home sometime around 3:30 pm. We were just praying that all would be okay when we got back home. Thank God, everything was fine back here on the ranch.

What a day! Wish I could have gotten more pictures, but I only had my camera phone. We saw several vehicles with major damage and several hotels, especially the Super 8, that had nearly all the south facing windows of the property broken or cracked. The stucco walls of the hotel had huge pits in it because of the hail. While we were waiting for the windshield I over heard the guy talking to someone with the State of NE and they had 28 vehicles that needed new windshields.


Hail that come out of the downspout at Mernards.



Notice the big hail stones in the bottom right hand corner of the picture.
This is under an overhang at Mernards.



Wish I had something in the picture as a size reference for the hail stones.
They don't look as big as they actually were.


Our windshield, totally shattered.



Our windshield.


Not a fun day, but we feel very blessed to not have been harmed!

Now we are praying for a nice day tomorrow. Skyler will try again to get to Phoenix and we will try again to get the supplies we need from town!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

RECIPE: Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Chicken

It's been a while since I have posted a chicken recipe, so here is a new one for you.

But first I should tell you this little side story...

I would have posted this sooner but... a couple of nights ago I was going to make this recipe, but, uh... well, let's just say it didn't quite turn out like I had planned it.

I put the chicken in the oven and then went out in the rain to take care of the chickens, all 800 of them mind you. I THOUGHT that Dan the Man was coming out shortly to help me haul the approximate 175 lbs of feed and 30 gallons of water that is now required at each feeding. We feed once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. It generally takes about an hour for one person to do it, that is if the weather is cooperating.

Well, to make a long story short, let's just say that Dan the Man never showed up to help his little Country Chicken girl so by the time she make it back into the house, close to an hour later than she had originally planned, smoke was pouring out of the kitchen and the chicken was closely resembling burnt toast! Meanwhile, Dan the Man was sitting with his feet up on the couch watching Wheel of Fortune and Country Chicken Girl was standing there soaking wet from the rain asking him if he had noticed that tonight's dinner was in the oven burning while he was trying to figure out the latest prize puzzle that Pat and Vanna were showing on the television.

"Burning?" says Dan the Man.

"Yes, BURNING!!" says the Country Chicken Girl. "Didn't you notice? Why didn't you take it out of the oven? This isn't quite what I had planned and now it's ruined."

The Country Chicken Girl took the roasting pan out of the oven, convinced that her favorite roast pan of all time was ruined because all the liquid that was in the pan was now burnt to a crisp, it certainly could have been classified as a bad carcinogen. She actually had never seen chicken that WELL DONE before! So the Country Chicken simply announced that it was "get-your-own-dinner night" and that Dan the Man was in charge of clean up.

Dan the Man tried to make light of the whole horror show as it unfolded my saying, "But that's how I like my chicken, with the skin really crisp and crunchy!"

Well, that's all behind us, thank heavens and I am so happy to announce that Dan the Man cleaned the Country Chicken Girl's favorite roasting pan and it is fine and so is their marriage!

So here's the recipe. Just make sure you don't leave the house to feed the chickens while it is roasting.




Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Chicken

Ingredients

One Whole Chicken
Bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce




Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Butterfly the chicken.
Watch this link of you don't know how to butterfly a chicken. Trust me, this is easy and you will fall in love with this technique. It is great for roasting chickens!!

How to Butterfly a Chicken

3. Place chicken in large roasting pan and fill with 2 cups chicken broth or you can use water if you don't have chicken broth. This will insure that your chicken is juicy and not dry! I hate dry chicken, don't you?
4. Place pan in oven for 45 to 60 minutes depending on how large your chicken is. Mine was 6 lbs, so I roasted it for 60 minutes or a little longer. Sorry, I didn't really time it. Just roast it until it is done, internal temp of 175 degrees and the juices run clear.
5. Brush on the barbecue sauce during the last 15 minutes of roasting.
6. Take out of oven and place the chicken on a cutting board, let the chicken rest for at least 15 minutes. This allows the delicious juices to settle back into the meat.
7. Serve with additional barbecue sauce on the side.


Oh my goodness, this is so delicious! Seriously...


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mr. Lineman

The makings of a Lineman.



Today, May 15, 2010 (yesterday by the time I got this posted) our third eldest son, Chris, graduates from Western Nebraska Community College with an Associate of Occupational Studies in Powerline Construction and Maintenance. We are so proud and excited for him. Chris has always been an "outside" kind of guy and I think this will be a good fit for him.

So, does anyone know of any Lineman jobs? Not too far away, mind you! His mother doesn't want him too many miles away, not just yet.

Here is for all friends and family who couldn't make the graduation ceremony!

A little blurry, but here he is in the Processional!




He is somewhere in that group!


video

Had to video tape him getting his diploma because the pictures were not turning out so great.


Afterward with diploma in hand!


Chris and me!


My sister Lori and my niece Morgan. They love getting their picture taken.
Thanks for the beautiful memory you two!


Danny, Chris and Skyler
(Skyler plans on having the same expression for every picture I take of him for the rest of my life!)



Don't know who this guy is, but doesn't it just make you want to say "awwww, how sweet!"

Let's hear it, every one together...

awwwwwwwww...





2010 Class of Linemen


That's Chris, 3rd from the top, left side




Mr. Lineman 2010


Look Mom, No hands!





Putting on his gafs.




One time when Chris was home on the weekend, he brought his climbing gear home. I thought I would give it a try after he showed us how easy it was.

It's easy mom, just put one foot in front of each other.


Like this?


I don't want to get too high or I might not be able to get down.



Okay, now how do I get down? This is high enough!!


Well it certainly felt like I was MUCH higher!



Then Chris showed us how fast he could do a free climb. He can probably go much faster now, this was taken shortly after he began to climb.


video

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Beautiful Blue Robin Eggs



The other day Dan the Man went to put the loader on his tractor and found this beautiful Robin's nest with three eggs in it. The Robin had built the nest right on top of one of the lift cylinders of the loader. It was built beautifully and Dan the Man was deeply saddened that the Robin had chosen such a foolish place to build their home and lay their eggs. Not knowing what else to do with the nest, Dan the Man carefully removed it and placed it on the next piece of machinery in hopes that the Robin would come back.

We watched the nest for several days and never saw the Robin near it. I finally decided to claim it and use it for a photography subject and will also use it as a decoration in my home. There were only two eggs in it. I wonder what happened to the third egg? I looked all over on the ground for it or any signs of it, but didn't see any.









Isn't this picture cool? I absolutely love it!






Poor, poor Robin. I feel so terrible about the whole situation. I am so saddened that since we had to disturb the nest, that the nest and little eggs were abandoned. I would have left it alone if I thought that the Robin would claim it once again, but I really don't think there was much chance for that. Too bad the Robin that made this nest didn't read this poem!


What Robin Told

by George Cooper

How do robins build their nests?
Robin Redbreast told me
First a wisp of yellow hay
In a pretty round they lay;
Then some shreds of downy floss,
Feather, too, and bits of moss,
Woven with a sweet, sweet song,
This way, that way, and across;
That's what Robin told me.

Where do robins hide their nests?
Robin Redbreast told me
Up among the leaves so deep,
Where the sunbeams rarely creep,
Long before the winds are cold,
Long before the leaves are gold,
Bright-eyed stars will peep and see
Baby robins--one, two, three;
That's what Robin told me.


I love this shot too!





Then Camille had to come check out the photo shoot!


"What do we have here?"


"Can I smell it?"


"Very interesting! Are they alive?"


"They smell delicious."


"Why aren't they moving?"


Little Robin Red breast sat upon a tree,
Up went pussy cat and down went he;
Down came pussy, and away Robin ran;
Says little Robin Red breast, "Catch me if you can".
Little Robin Red breast jumped upon a wall,
Pussy cat jumped after him and almost got a fall;
Little Robin chirped and sang, and what did pussy say?
Pussy cat said, "Meeow!" and Robin jumped away.


"Camille, don't touch!!" says the Country Chicken Girl.


"I won't touch, I just want to smell them again! I promise they will still be there after I get done smelling them one last time."


The End



PS I think I might make blank note cards from some of these photos. I'm thinking of doing a set with four of the pictures. I'll let you know. They will be for sale in my Ebay store.