What’s going on at our place this January: the skinny on the farm

This Icelandic hen, Emma, is one of my especial favorites. Isn’t she pretty? I love the way she coordinated her stockings with her tail feathers.

It has been a few months since I’ve written a What’s Going On post and, as usual, there’s plenty going on around here. I can’t possibly do justice to All The Things in this one post, so I’ll plan a second update post sometime within the next week or two, okay? PINKY-PROMISE.

First: I feel incredibly grateful to be able to take part in this sort of busy-ness. Sometimes I moan about being overbusy, but I grow bored when things stay the same, and with a garden and livestock and a big family, nothing ever stays the same for more than a second or two, don’tcha know? And I am incredibly grateful for my friends and family who take an interest in the things that are important to me, helping me and teaching me and checking up on us regularly.

I am blessed, through no doing of my own. God is good to me. And this is something that is important to remember in this–the longest, grayest, coldest month in our Nebraska calendar.

Now, without further ado . . . wanna see what’s going on?

This is Beacon. She is a pig. I mean, in the fullest sense of the word: she is a bossy, pushy, piggish pig. I still like her. She does have a single-minded purpose, though: to eat as much and as quickly as possible.

The piggies are still growin’, bless ’em

From what I’ve read and heard, it’s best to have your piggies ready to go to freezer camp before winter sets in. It makes sense. It’s harder to keep animals during the winter, of course. Drinking water freezes and snow and ice and cold must be dealt with on a daily basis. But my piggies weren’t ready for freezer camp before winter came, so we made them as comfy as possible out in their yard for the colder months. Bryan built a lean-to (out of a piece of our last year’s melodrama set) and I stuffed it full of hay. You’d be surprised at how cozy the gilts say in that little space. I see them at night scootching the hay around with their snouts to make it just as comfy as possible.

Guess what: piggies snore when they sleep heavily. It’s true!

My piggy consultants express concern over the fact that Chinwigchinpig is so much smaller than Beacon. They did, after all, start out about the same size. I patiently point out that

  • Sheesh, Chinwigchinpig (CWCP for short) fell off a truck. LITERALLY fell off a truck. Naturally she’s not as vigorous as Beacon.
  • Beacon is obviously Top Pig and takes an aggressive tack when food is proffered. To put it mildly.
  • Maybe, just maybe, CWCP–despite appearances–is the smarter of the two and she knows where piggies go when they get fat!

This is how Chinwigchinpig eats breakfast: she grabs a mouthful, then runs to the piggy hut and eats it quickly, before Beacon notices. Then she shyly returns for more. Is it any wonder that she’s a skinny thing?

One more thing: I guess I must wear my heart on my sleeve overmuch, because everybody who knows about my piggies express (privately to others, or publicly to me) their doubt that I will, in fact, have the gumption to send these gilts to the butcher, when the time comes. This is a sensitive issue for me.

While it’s true that I thoroughly enjoy raising animals, I also am pragmatic enough to know that you simply can’t raise a pig forever (with the exception of the potbelly pigs that are kept for pets, I suppose). According to my dear dad, pigs never stop growing. They just keep getting bigger and bigger. So if I don’t want to keep hauling feed and schlepping after pigs that will eventually be as big as our house, I will have to say good-bye to Chinwigchinpig and Beacon, at sometime in the not-too-distant future.

And yes, that does make me sad. I’ve grown to love these piggies, it’s true. They are a fun and interesting part of my day. But I won’t keep them forever, and I’ve known that since Day One (click here to see cutie baby piggy pictures!)

In the chook yard

From left: Boudeica, Astrid, Brynhilde, Babes, Maybelle, Duchess, Freydis, Snow White, Lady Sybil, and Butterscotch, with handsome white rooster Amund in the background, looking on.  A good rooster, he did not settle to breakfast himself, but called the hens to it first.

We have seen a unusually large number of falcons, eagles, and hawks* preying on our chickens this winter. I don’t keep an exact count, so I don’t know how many unwitting hens they might have carried off. I confess that I was so swept up by the grandeur of seeing several bald eagles soar (very low!) over our place a few weeks ago that it just made my day. Never mind that they were probably just scoping out their next meal. #mixedfeelings #naturelover

I have an uncomfortable decision to make–one that I had to put off because of most of my family getting sick after Christmas week. (That event does relate to the problem, I assure you!) I’ve got to choose only two roosters to keep for breeding purposes, and put the rest into the freezer–and soon.

And I tell you. There is just not an ugly one in the bunch this year. Well. Maybe there’s one ugly one.

My parameters for rooster selection:

  • He’s gotta be sexy, i.e. at least not repulsive to the hens.
  • He’s gotta be pleasant in temperament. #aggressiveroostersneednotapply!
  • A rose comb, or at least a smaller comb, I prefer. The big floppy combs (though beautiful and eye-catching) just get frozen off, anyway, during our cold winters. Sadly. Because I think they are quite sexy, indeed.
  • He must be utterly gorgeous, because you know I’m all about pretty, folks. And I do have a definite preference for lighter colors and the blue-grey color of a few of my flock.
  • Healthy, of course, and with a well-shaped body and head. Those who spend a little time watching their chooks will know what I’m talking about here: some birds are just nicer shaped than others. I could draw a human parallel here, but I’ll (uncharacteristically) use some restraint!

That is Amund, the beautiful pure white Icelandic roo, in the back. Isn’t he stunning?

That’s it! One thing I’ve got to decide: is it worth the risk (you know, the lighter colors have got to be more visible to predators, especially the ones that *swoop down from above) to encourage light-colored and white chook breeding? I have a bee-au-tiful pure white Icelandic rooster right now. And a pure white hen. But I don’t know if it would be folly to encourage that line or not, or if it would be best to just go with the multi-colored Icelandics, which surely are better camouflaged in their usual habitat.

I’d like to just go with both . . . and I just might. Bryan has been (amazingly!) mulling over the idea of building a bigger chicken coop . . . !! But it is definitely just in the thinking stage, so I dare not start counting my bigger chicken flock before the coop is built.


Our beautiful puppy is no longer a puppy, although she quite often–mostly, in fact–still acts like one! In fact, we’ve learned that if she is not on a leash, attached one of our belts (whoever is available), she is:

  • roaming around the house, plucking used tissues, butter wrappers, candy wrappers and toilet paper tubes out of trash cans and chewing them up into little sodden messes, which she then drops randomly;
  • chewing up library books; (gaaaaaah$!)
  • pinching scraps, loaves of bread, anything edible (or, non-edible!) that she can reach, from tabletops and counters;
  • making mysterious puddles in the caboose;
  • chasing any cat she might find, through the house at breakneck speed;
  • jumping on Malachi and wrestling with him like he’s another puppy that must. be. dominated.

Yes! Can you believe it, that such a lovely dog could be so, so naughty? And yet, she is.


Scout at a recent drama rehearsal: “I’m good. See me? See me be good. I’m always good.”

The key seems to be the leash.

In the house, if she’s on the leash, attached to my belt, she is much more relaxed. She does not have so many choices. She is a good dog. She looks up at me adoringly; she relaxes and flops down at my feet and naps. She enjoys accompanying me as I cook, clean, teach the kids, answer the phone, etc.

Off the leash, she. goes. nuts.

So. Scout is on the leash, most of the time. When we step outside, I let her off the leash and she runs like sixty! When we step inside the house, she goes on her leash, attached to a belt loop. We are getting very close, Scout and me. 🙂


It never gets old.

Oh, Gentle Reader. It just never gets old. I’ve got a garden plan ready for the next few months of growing, blissfully pleased that every week gets closer and closer to when I can dig my old(ish! oldish!!) hands back down into our wonderful soil and enjoy being part of a growing world again. I am trying quite a few new varieties in my garden this year, including the following from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds:

And I’m putting in a few beds of cutting flowers, just to see how they do in our soil. I’d love to be able to offer cut flowers with my edible flowers to local restaurants with good taste. 😉 I’m really excited about growing the following from Johnny’s

I am trying to be more deliberate and diligent about planning out my garden this year. To that effect, I already have several trays of seeds germinating on my sunporch and in the basement. I add to them nearly every day. I no longer have time for my soap operas (joking) or window-shopping (again, a joke, I never really did). I wake up thinking about my garden. I go to sleep thinking about my garden.

This morning (I am not kidding) I woke up at 4:30, wondering if I should learn how to graft tomatoes. Cray-cray, baby.

Okay, you dear gentle reader, look, you hung in there to the end, kudos to you! Next week (I will!) I’ll write a catch-up post and include news about the kiddos and the kitchen and . . . let’s see . . . whatever occurs to me before then.

Did you enjoy this post? If you have a friend or relation who might also enjoy it, you’d be doing me a very sweet favor by sharing it with them. Thank you. Good gentle reader. Sit. Stay. Share. Also! You can’t imagine how much I enjoy your comments, so if you have ten or twenty seconds to leave one for me below, well. That would be icing on the proverbial cake, baby.

I love ya, I really do.






24 thoughts on “What’s going on at our place this January: the skinny on the farm

  1. rita

    I love these types of posts! It’s like I’m visiting and you’re catching me up on what’s happened since last time, over tea and a biscuit. sigh. No, I absolutely can’t believer Scout does these things. Collies are born well-behaved and mannerly! smile

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Scout is like the little girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead, Rita—when she is good, she is very very good. When she is bad, she is horrid! But we love her enormously. She is a wonderful companion. (More tea?)

  2. Lampbearerj

    Can’t help but feel we are very dear friends and we are catching up when I read your blog. I am very new to vomitingchicken and already look forward to hearing what is happening with you! I too am a homeschooling momma, the administrative director for our homeschool group’s drama, raising chickens, gardening, and living life to the fullest with a family at home. (Hubby is a missionary and we “work” from home.) Thank you to being so faithful to us readers who gain inspiration and encouragement (and a few giggles) along the way.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh my! We must be kindred spirits, down to the homeschool drama group! That is amazing! Thanks so much for your kind words. Thank you for reading my blog. I’d love to hear more about your drama group and what you do.

  3. Mary Clouse

    So wonderful to read many thoughts that mirror my goals or life and loves. Funny I was googling chicken information, found you, read and loves and appreciated your words only to find we have some connections. Gave me hope the I can leave behind my hesitation and jump into the life I wish…thank you

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I hope you get to jump into it sooner rather than later, Mary! I always wanted to live in the country and do exactly what I’m doing right now, but we didn’t get out here until we were into our 40s. Better late than never!

  4. Michele

    Those Icelandics are beautiful! Thanks for sharing. ‘Looking forward to the kitchen update and especially seeing that grand stove you found. I am on the hunt for an old sink with a drainboard, alas. Cheers

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Michele, shoot, I looked for one of those old sinks, too, but never found one. Good luck with your hunt! (And I loooove the Flair stove!)

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Okay, here’s the short version of the story of why Amalia named that piggy Beacon, Knnuki, and thank you for noting because now I get to relay this story. We frequent a very good Mexican restaurant not far from our place. The make the BEST fajitas, all sizzling and hot and oniony. Amalia and I nearly always split the Chicken and Bacon fajitas. Only in the description in the menu, it is written “chicken and beacon.” The first time we noticed this typo (Amalia and I are horrendous grammar and spelling and punctuation geeks) we snorted and laughed for days. “Care for some eggs and beacon????HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!????” etc. So it was only natural that when we got piggies, Amalia asked to name one, and she named hers Beacon. Beacon, of course, doesn’t know this. We keep it carefully quiet around her.

  5. Chef William Chaney

    Busy is the best life. Of course in the next article you might show a picture of the fireplace and the tile behind it while you share with us what great books you are reading as you sit next to that fire after the sun goes down…just saying
    Nice looking pig pad by the way. Bryan does nice work.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Bryan does do good work, doesn’t he? (I really need two of him!) And I’m way ahead of you, Chef. Working on a reading post right now!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh, dear Anne MArie, it’s anything but peaceful. But I do love it, and am grateful for all the opportunities God blesses me with.

  6. Jan Kyle

    Your Icelandic’s are beautiful! Your white roo and pullet would make a great breeding pair. It pains me to confirm what you already suspect, white chickens odds against predators aren’t good, especially as free range chickens. They almost glow in the dark and shine like a beacon in the day. I’m beginning to order my Spring garden seeds and need to revamp my set up for my seedlings. How do you grow your seedlings?

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      JAn, how do I grow my seedlings . . I’ll tell you—in the most hokey way you can imagine. I guess i ought to write a post about this. It’s about as low-tech as you can imagine. I plant my seeds in plug trays (this I learned from my farming mentor), in starting medium (not potting soil), and put them on heat pads made for this. After they germinate, I move them to the basement under fluorescent shop lights (one cool, one warm is ideal). When they are big enough, I pot them up into small plastic pots. When it’s warm enough, they go to a sunny porch or outside during the day. Eventually I move them out to my hoop house and install them into a large cold frame, until they are ready to plant. This makes nice strong seedlings. unless a sharp freeze is forecasted, in which I move them back to the house. Etc. Dizzying, eh? I have hopes and dreams for a small greenhouse addition on the front of our house (which points south). Stay posted on that. *fingers crossed*

  7. Heather D.

    I sent my seed order in last week. That’s a bit early around here – Manitoba – zone 3 – I won’t even start seeds indoors for another month and a half, but I had to control myself for several weeks to keep from ordering in December. I added Watermelon Radishes since I saw them in one of your blogs, showed them to my radish eaters, and got the approval.

    Improvements for this year’s garden? (Gardeners are always improving.) We’re planning to plant more tomatoes (60-70 plants), more beans for drying, and more herbs for tea and spice blends. I also want to get some fruit bushes in and plant more flowers. Would love to get the new asters and cosmos you’re ordering, but I doubt they’re available up here.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      70 tomato plants! Wow, that’s quite a bunch. You will LOVE the watermelon radishes and (word to the wise) I’ve found that you can raise them in the spring, but they actually have done better for me in the fall. I plant them in a empty bed in early August or so, and they do quite well until the first hard frost nips them back. I think they are sweeter in the fall. OH! One more thing–this year I harvested some of them as babies (golf ball size) and they were wonderful, tender and sweet. Happy gardening!

  8. Liz

    Seeds packets make my little heart practically giddy. (I love gardens..and nature…and pretty much all things that smell like dirt.) This is the very first year we will live somewhere with enough space and I will not be approximately 10.5 months pregnant. (I also really love babies.) I cannot wait to start my little seedlings and show them to my children (who also really love all things dirt ). Chickens is on the list of dreams too. Although my husband is convinced that if I get chickens I would name them and call them beautiful and hold their sweet little puff ball babies( I love little puff ball chicken babies) and then never eat chicken again haha! I do believe the current problem is I love many things and I am simply unable to do all the things I come up with to love at 4:40 in the morning 🙂 Keep on living the dream! I so enjoy your little corner of internet land.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Liz, whooo boy it’s probably a mercy that we aren’t next-door neighbors. We’d surely dream up all sorts of schemes that would keep our husbys working long hours on the weekends! And neither one of us would ever eat chicken! And I would probably have a dozen children instead of “just” 6.

  9. Kay

    By now, mid-late January, I’m assuming Beacon is bacon? You will not regret the decision. I love our funny little calves every spring & especially when we had to have bucket calves, but I love beef meat more. (I’m sorry.) (not.)

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Nope, Beacon is still, as we say, on the hoof. Also Chinwigchinpig. They will go to freezer camp together, and we want CWCP to do a little more growing before that day.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Dave, this is how you do that–go to my home page and you’ll see a little box up to the right, underneath the picture of me. Enter your email into that little box, and you are subscribed. Thank you, and welcome!!

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