A New Door Has Opened

About a week ago I walked through a new door to a new chapter in my life – raising chickens. So far five days in all seems to be doing well. I had four Rhode Island Red pullets which are 18 weeks old. I am told they could be laying eggs sometime in the next couple of weeks.

The first few days in their new hen house, they have spent getting to know the place. The weather has been cold for May as we have had snow and two freeze warnings in the last week and it’s been windy, blowing the dogs off the chain for days making the temperatures feel like it was mid-February. Every morning around 5am I head out to the hen house to check on the ladies and open their door to the outside run which is enclosed with chicken wire and hardware cloth.

On Tuesday, I was sitting on the blue painter’s bucket I had flipped over to use as my perch so that I could spend some time getting to know my chickens. I sat in the corner watching and photographing them as they pecked around at the food and jumped on the roost. Then there was a moment when they were all down by the food near the door to their run when two of them poked their heads out and walked down the plank to the grass. The third one quickly followed suit and then the fourth. The fourth one who is the only one to have a nickname so far of Khaleesi/White Pants. She gained the nickname Khaleesi after having been pushed on the swing and held on for dear life as my friend’s seven year old rocked the swing wildly back and forth. They had been the ones to get the pullets and were dropping off the four we wanted and they were keeping another 8.

I’ve never been around chickens but I figure like any animal they need some time to acclimate to their new environment. On the other side of the door to the hen house are our dogs. They stare through the glass door to the hen house which depending on the time of day and lighting, reflects back their own images. They can smell them though and unbelievably one curious girl came out to check the dogs out.

The morning that they all four walked out the door of the hen house and into their backyard enclosed run, I was so happy. New doors were opening up for all of us and we just have to trust our instincts about when it is the right time for to walk through those doors.

Leaving the Hen House

This post is my Wednesday Challenge – The Door.

I Became a Chicken Mama Today!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there! Today I became a chicken mama of four Rhode Island Reds. I’m so excited and a little nervous too as I’ve never raised chickens before. So this is completely uncharted waters for me. But I’m psyched to learn.

Next Chapter in Life: Chicken Farming

So we are getting chickens today! We have been thinking about raising chickens for a little while now. Our house came with a chicken coop/goat shed which we have been using as a garden shed these last four years.

About three weeks ago a good friend of ours, Dennis told us he was getting 12 chickens and wanted to know if we’d want four of them. “Absolutely!“ came out of my mouth quicker than my brain registered what I was saying. “Great, I have to go pick them up sometime mid-May.” Two days ago we ALL found out mid-May actually meant Mother’s Day weekend, including Dennis who is still has to build his entire coop for the 8 chickens he’s holding on to!

When Mark told me the chickens were coming this weekend, my mind instantly flashed to the I Love Lucy episode when Lucy and Ricky had moved out to Connecticut and became chicken farmers. I remember Lucy and Ethel running around with all those hundreds of baby chicks. Luckily, I’m only starting off with four chickens.

Luckily, three days ago we started to clean our garden shed out. I needed to get the Tower Gardens (aeroponic systems) set up anyway and the shed needed to be completely emptied out. Mark is ‘spatial man’ so the goat shed is now the garden shed and the Tower Gardens will have to find a new home for winter. Right this second, they are being snowed on as we are having an unseasonal snowstorm that has dumped about three inches so far.

Mark working on the outside run for the chickens

Thankfully yesterday was a beautiful day to work outside. The temperatures were cool at first but once you got working, vests and jackets were shed. I was so impressed with my daughter, Samantha yesterday. She’s such a good worker and since she’s been recovering from a concussion she sustained three months ago now, it was even better that she had no symptoms reappear. Fingers crossed, since it’s been a rollercoaster.

Mark and Sam working on the frame for the run

Sam helped Mark with constructing the outdoor chicken run. We have dogs so I wanted to make sure that the chickens have their own area to hangout during the day where they will be safe from our dogs and other predators like hawks. The chicken coop was already positioned inside our already chain link fenced area which should help keep them safer as well. Eventually, I’ll gate off the side yard so they can free-range a little more but be safe from the dogs.

Sam attaching the chicken wire to the frame

Since Dennis first mentioned the chickens, I have been all over Pinterest, joined every chicken raising group on Facebook and Instagram so that I can educate myself on what exactly is needed to raise chickens. A poop board was something I quickly saw was highly recommended to have. Chickens shit a lot and that poop is awesome to add to our garden compost. I knew I would have to deal with this, so I built a poop board for the roost. I’m learning all sorts of new vocabulary in this endeavor. Roost, poop board, layers… Thankfully I found a guide to help me get up to speed.

Everything we used to build the coop with the exception of the two post holders and the chicken wire was lumber we had here at Marleywood. That’s what we named our little piece of paradise here on the mountain four years ago when we move up here. It’s also the name of our company that we named after our dog, Marley.

I’m excited and nervous at the same time about getting the chickens. We’ll be receiving four Rhode Island Reds which from my limited reading I understand to be a good breed of layers and should expect 150-250 eggs per year each hen! Plus we aren’t getting chicks, Dennis said they’d be laying eggs in a couple of weeks, so they’re not babies. But from what I understand their not hens yet, since hens officially are over a year old. So I’m not really sure what their called – pullets I think, since that’s the term for a chicken under 1 years old.

I know I have a lot to learn and I’m excited about it! Who thought at the age of 55 years old I’d be entering this new world?! I know my 3 siblings are all probably shaking their heads. Our Nana grew up on a chicken farm in Georgia; her spirit is probably laughing right now. I just hope my ancestors passed a little of their chicken farming blood down to me. And if anybody reading this has any advice, I’m open to hearing about your experiences and what you’ve learned about the do’s and don’ts of raising chickens. I’m going to need all the help I can get.

Meet The Pack

I just realized this but I haven’t had a post about the actual pack which makes up Xine’s Pack. Although, I’ve had many dogs throughout my life, I currently have three of my own dogs in the pack as well as 2 grand-dogs. The grand-dogs come visit enough and spend so much time here (especially being quarantined together, but even before that) that they are definitely considered a part of #Xinespack. I have used that hashtag for about ten years now so if you ever check it out on Instagram, you will also see some of the previous incarnations of the pack.

Currently, the self appointed alpha, besides myself, is Marley. Marley Sage Mulch is her full name since as a pup she had a habit of chewing on the sage and the mulch out in the garden. 6 years later, she still seeks out the mulch. Marley is a mutt in every sense of the word. We did two different DNA test kits on her from two different companies since we had adopted her from a shelter at the age of 9 weeks. The DNA tests were inconclusive as they came up with different answers. One kit said she was 50% Jack Russell Terrier with a blend of brittany, golden retriever, australian shepherd and shetland sheepdog. The other had everything from Norwegian Elkhound to Australian cattle dog. When I first saw Marley and her little freckled nose, it instantly reminded me of our brittanies who also had freckles. Plus she has the same coloring as the Brittanys except she is mostly reddish-brown and they were white with reddish brown markings She’s an awesome dog – she loves to go for rides in the gator and hike around in the woods.

Marley Sage Mulch

My other two are my doodles, Boomer and Gunner. They are littermates, mini goldendoodles that weigh 48 lbs and 52 lbs, respectively. At first I was nervous about having two puppies to train at the same time but I had dealt with so many dogs at that point in my life it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and a lot of the time they would simply either copy the other or Marley. They are some of the best companion dogs I could have ever hoped for and they are so affectionate. It’s hard to believe they will turn 3 years old in a couple of weeks. Gunner has always been a pup who plays hard and sleeps harder. When he passes out, he’s out. There were many nights when he was younger where either Mark or I had to carry him upstairs to put him in his overnight crate where he used to sleep. He prefers to sleep now on the ottoman I have pulled up next to my side of the bed and stretch out though. But he loves using the crate during the day to go and hang out in and take a nap.

Gunner and Boomer

Boomer is my shadow, following me pretty much everywhere. He’s learned in time to sometimes wait at my desk if I head out to the kitchen for another cup of coffee or something but for the most part he walks right be me. Mark has given him the nickname CB – Charley Bravo since Boomer likes to plant himself at night right between Mark and I. It’s his polite way of saying he is a cock block. He will move reluctantly when told, however. Boomer that is, of course. Boomer is a happy dog, he loves going on the boat or the gator and getting up on the seat, feeling the breeze in his fur as ears flap in the wind. He also smiles. I’ve never had a dog that actually will smile at you. It was a little strange at first since we all weren’t sure if he was doing it on purpose, a friend at first thought it was him snarling but he’s not snarling. He very clearly is showing you his teeth and smiling.

Kona Athena, my first grand dog

Then we have Kona. Where to start, where to start with this one. I’ll tell you living with Kona is like living with blonde Elmo, or what I imagine living with Elmo would be like if you could live with a live muppet who is so living but acts a little (a lot) crazy at times. Kona Athena is my son’s 4-1/2 year old standard goldendoodle and she is the most loving and affectionate dog I’ve ever known. Kona will crawl in your lap while you are working at your desk so nonchalantly with her long legs and slinky body that you can’t help but just hug her back. If you are upset she senses it immediately and will come over to make you feel better. All the doodles are really good at sensing when you are upset or anxious and come cuddle with you immediately.

But this sweet little blonde has the stomach of I don’t know what. Since being in quarantine she has managed to eat 5 loaves of freshly baked bread (1 loaf Easter bread, 1 loaf sourdough, 3 loaves French bread), a dozen English muffins, 3 hard boiled eggs and a pound and half of Amaretto cookies. Her farts were bad before quarantine and have become so much more toxic since her bread addiction started in quarantine.

Blue, my second grand dog

Then there is Blue, my daughter’s 2 year old red merle mini Aussie Shepherd. Blue is definitely the smartest of the pack. Samantha’s done a great job training him. He loves running on the beach and going for hikes with his human and friends. Thankfully Blue grew up to be on the larger size of mini and weighs about 35lbs. By far the lightest in the pack but by the far the fastest. When Blue gets the zoomies and the others dogs are in pursuit, all you see is a light streak breeze by.

Morning treats at coffeetime

We’ve all been up here on the mountain together since mid-March and the pack has settled into a routine, although we need to break Kona of her counter surfing somehow. The weird thing is she was doing this initially, but then again Mark wasn’t baking delicious loaves of homemade bread a few weeks ago. Hopefully the weather will start warming up and we can get outside more. It has still been on the chillier side and wet and windy making being outside for too long still a bit challenging. We’ve learned after 4-1/2 years up here that you have to take advantage of the nice and mostly nice days up here when you get them.

One of the things I was able to accomplish during these last few months though is I finally started and am about to finish writing my book. It’s a book about all of the dogs that have touched my life basically. I don’t yet have a title for my book, the working title on my spiral notebooks that I have handwritten it all in simply says The Dog Book #1, #2 and #3. The other day I finally got to the point where I think I’m done with the first draft and now need to sit down at the computer and type and edit it. I’m sort of in disbelief that I have written it finally – I’ve thought about it for so long and was scared to start it. Actually I had no idea how to start it and after talking to some friends of mine who are authors they simply said “just start writing”. Sounds simple but it wasn’t for me. I had been writing notes over the years of stories I wanted to remember to tell but that’s as far as I ever got. It took me reading another book about dogs and their stories to get me going, this time I just started to write.

Three Things Challenge: Anniversary, Divorce, Bitter

I hope that we can be together on our upcoming anniversary. It will be 9 years. I’m sorry I couldn’t say yes to him five years ago when he asked. I told him I’d love him forever, just never ask me to get married. But he did. I said yes because I truly do want to marry him but– he knows I can’t.

It’s because I never wanted to get divorced again. I didn’t want it the first time – even though I asked for it. I knew by then it was over and the only thing to do. We had been friends then, my ex and I, not wanting the bitter divorces we saw around us. We had two kids to raise, albeit now from separate homes. It didn’t matter in the long run though as the rancor rose up between us anyway.

Life is difficult to navigate on one’s own. It can be scary, so very scary. I miss his laughter, the songs he fills the house with and the aromas that waffed from the kitchen when he cooks. It’s only been 5 days but it will be at least another two weeks before we can be reunited. The pandemic – the virus making its way through society. We got seperated – everyday family challenges tearing us apart. Figuratively and literally. We were supposed to be together – safe on our mountain like we have been living for the last four years. We weren’t supposed to be apart right now.

When we said goodbye, I knew there could be a chance that was the last time I would feel his touch, smell his scent. I pray not. I pray everyday that he remains healthy. This invisible killer amongst us and he is so far away right now. Out in the Petri dish. I’ll make it through by myself but I hope he is able to come back to me, to come back to our home. Our story isn’t over.

This my entry for the Pensivity 101 3 Things Challenge writing prompt.

A Letter to Myself

Dear Christine,

Today you stepped up to the plate when you had to and overcame a fear. You learned a new skill that will serve you well in the future. Proving to yourself that you can keep on learning new things no matter your age – you just have to want to learn. You knew if was a possibility, even before Mark left. You finally got behind the wheel of the truck and learned to plow. You had to, no one else was going to do it and deliveries were on the way. And if you are going to live up here on this mountain for a good long time, you can’t depend on someone else to always be there to do certain things, like plow.

our double black diamond driveway

These days have been so difficult and trying on everyone. Just processing the pandemic and what these means for our world, our country, our family, the kids, Mark and I. Everything will change. You know that — just like you did the morning of September 11th. You watched the people come off the train, covered in ash, looking like zombies. Shock. We were all in shock. Your birth home – the place where you were born and raised – attacked. Life would never be the same. Just like now.

Looking back – hindsight 20-20 – you see the evolution of how how your journey to New Hampshire evolved. Two pivotal moments that lead you to your change in life and career and eventual move to new Hampshire: 9/11 and Shannon’s death. You are forever changed when you watch a young, smart, beautiful 21 year old girl die before your eyes. The memory branded into your memory, your heart and soul forever. Rocking you off your axis.

Your days as a research analyst, all those years ago when you covered food, agribusiness and water sectors taught you so much. It made you think twice about what was actually important. Lately you been having flashbacks to the days of SARS when you kept tallies on the victims and the survivors. You put Clorox into the portfolio then and kept it there – knowing that there would be another virus that would possibly occur and go global. Bleach is good – everyone uses bleach during a pandemic outbreak. You always loved their commercials too with that comedian lady that you never remember her name – so funny.

But those days back in the office – oh so long ago, was not your dream but someone else’s. Thank you Dennis Hopper. Thank you for helping me reach that epiphany. Check out my past blog post Dennis Hopper Kick off My Mid-Life Crisis – part 1 which explains this more in detail.

You started growing your own food. You started your business with Homegrown Harvest because of what you learned all those years reading about Monsanto and syngenta and others and decided to help other people learn to grow their own food. Learned how we destroyed our farmlands and use water so inefficiently. You know how important it is to have food security especially in this ever evolving world where food contamination has become a regular occurrence. Romaine and spinach pulled from grocery store shelves.

Right now it’s another one of those watershed moments in history. You know it’s time to readjust – adapt to the new reality, the new normal whatever that may be. You know you need to be flexible and bob and weave hen you need to. You will get through this. We will get through this. The greens are growing in the Tower Gardens and their are crops growing under the cold frames. Now if the snow would melt and the sun warm the earth we can continue to start growing more. For now, we will just work with the Tower Gardens.

Our Tower Garden

Enjoy your day. Relax now and sit back and look at the pretty snow. Winter’s last hurrah. Your back hurts a little, probably from the bumpy road and your nerves. But your did it! So you can relax – or what passes for relaxing during a pandemic. Put some CBD on your back.

We’ve started our self quarantine. Yesterday the last day going to the post office or grocery store. no need to go out any more. You have what you need for more than a month if you had to. Benefits of being on the mountain, you’ve been in training for this for four years now. Thank god you got the side of beef in the freezer back in January. Now all you have to do is manage the multiple personalities in the house. Can’t I go back and just do the driveway?

We haven’t all lived together under the same roof in 8 years. And never in this house. This wasn’t set up for that sort of close living – weekends sure, holidays – ok. Pandemics. Umm, not so much. Especially when everyone is used to having their own space. It’s not easy listening to two grown adult children snipe at one another like when they were teenagers. Funny how families fall back into old roles despite years of personal growth on their own. But they are working on bettering their communication, trying to use the period of quarantine to better themselves. Break old habits and form new ones.

Pour yourself a tall one, you deserve it, now go rest. There will be more to deal with – like everyday life which keeps moving on.

Your very best friend, Christine

This is my letter to myself for the writing prompt – Let’s Write Letters

Wordless Wednesday 3-18-2020 — Xine Segalas Creative Arts

A sunset sequence Hebron, New Hampshire July 4, 2018

Wordless Wednesday 3-18-2020 — Xine Segalas Creative Arts

My other blog Xine Segalas Creatives is the place where I focus on my art and photography, so please follow me on that blog as well.

Morning Chore

Every morning and sometimes evening for the last four months I have gone out to our wood furnace to add wood to the fire. This is the last of our wood supplies for the season before we kick back to our oil furnace. Somewhere between 4 am and 6am every morning, I make my way outside with the dogs to our furnace. Some mornings it’s snowing, some mornings it’s below zero with gale force winds. It may sound crazy but I love going out to the wood furnace.

Early in the season we retrieve the wood that’s stacked around the shed and chicken coop to feed into the fire. This season since November I would pull wood from the stacks sometimes covered in snow and load into either the wheel barrow or sled depending on how deep the snow. Inside the woodshed, four cords plus cords of wood are stacked up next to the wood furnace for later in the winter. We use all the wood on the outside first this year since we had a stack of seasoned wood outside leftover from last year among the green wood that we needed to use to initially get the fire started. We use green wood so that it burned slowly. You don’t want dry wood like you would use in your fireplace. If you used that all the time you’d be loading it all the time and burn through more wood overall.

We harvest some of the wood we use from our own property – a mixture of downed trees from storms to a tree that needs to be moved so we can get the gator through our trails we have on the homestead.

The smell of the smoke billowing from the chimney fills the air with scents of rock maple, ash, beech and oak. I breathe it in – I love the smell of a campfire and it initially filled me with memories of childhood camp outs but now that is mixed with newer memories of living in New Hampshire and being out with the dogs. I find it cathartic in ways – going through the routine of feeding the dogs in the morning, donning my purple work overalls, followed by Sorrels which have cramp-ons attached which I never remove. I have found having boots with cramp-ons to be a necessity to get through the rough New Hampshire winters. After the boots, I put on my purple Carhartt work jacket zipping it up before putting on my leather work gloves and heading out the door into the elements.

Despite some of the harsh conditions I have never once thought, “Ugh, I have to do out and deal with the fire.” I look forward to breathing in the cold, crisp air; listen to the wind blow through the trees, or the dogs barking at who knows what. My morning exercise bending to pick up to 20 pieces of wood, weighing anywhere from 5 lbs. to 25 lbs. ,throwing them into the firebox of our wood furnace. My upper arms have firmed up over the last four years between what we do to prepare for the winter in harvesting our wood, splitting and stacking 9-10 full cords of wood and my morning chore.

The coming weeks my morning routine will be in transition as I wait for the warming of my raised garden beds to that I can begin the spring/summer morning garden chores where the dogs and I with coffee in hand patrol the garden. Today, however was the last of our wood and I am always a little saddened by the day the wood runs out. No more evenings, after he does his fire check before crawling into bed will Mark smell like smoke – mmmm…. And even though it signals the end of the rough cold winter and the approaching days of spring and increasing light, I will miss the routine which has become so rote four months in. Until next season, just 8 months away.

 This is journal entry is also my entry for Lillie-Put blog 2020 Home Photo Challenge.