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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Baby Chick Theme Unit

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but Monday morning I realized we needed to started getting ready for our baby chicks, and hey! why not learn about chicks for school too?!  So that morning I scrambled about for a few minutes (thanks Google and Pinterest!) and came up with this baby chick theme unit!

The best resource I found was this one from Missouri Farm Bureau.  It is an online Egg to Chick Web Quest which shows pictures of chicks developing in the egg!  It also had a chart to fill out, which Brett loved doing since we printed pics from one of their links instead of drawing.  He loves glue, drawing– not so much.

baby chick theme unit worksheet

The Web Quest also provided an egg to print and label, which Brett did with a bit of help.

Baby Chick theme unit worksheet baby chick theme unit worksheet

Sorry about that last photo.  Please excuse the mom in me…

We also made chick cookies.

baby chick theme unit

We discussed “habitat” and what a baby chick needed to survive.  We set up a real brooder, but you could easily make a “brooder” in a shoebox!

Caring for Baby chicks, day 1

We watched many YouTube videos of chicks, chicks hatching, eggs incubating, and whatever else YouTube provided.  Seriously though, who videos some of this stuff?  You can watch OUR chick video we made last year– it really is stupendous 😉

I found this pic on Pinterest with no valid link, so if it belongs to you let me know and I’ll give credit where credit is due :-).  We haven’t made ours yet; hopefully we’ll get it done today!

Baby chick theme unit life cycle

This baby chick craft from Rockabye Butterfly also looks like fun, but alas, Brett isn’t into art and doesn’t want to make crafts.  But I’ll post it cause I really want to make one!

baby chick theme unit craft

We also wrote in our journal, checked out chick books from the library, colored a Little Red Hen page, and welcomed real baby chicks!  So overall the thrown together baby chick theme unit turned out to be one of Brett’s favorites.  Go figure, right?!

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Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Caring for Baby Chicks, Day 1

Caring for baby chicks, day 1

The baby chicks are here!  (Obviously!) Wednesday we spent several hours setting up the cattle feeder we are using for a brooder this year.  We lined the bottom with paper towels and pine shavings, cleaned up our waterer, and most importantly, set up the heat lamp.  It took several tries to get the brooder to stay at a comfy 98 degrees; we had to adjust the lamp, let it set for  while, check the temp and try again, but we were ready this morning when the call came from the post master!  Daddy pulled on his coveralls and braved a path to town through the snow that came down in buckets yesterday.  He came back with this!

Baby Chicks, Day 1

Caring for Baby chicks, day 1

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Oh my!  I had forgotten how tiny they are!  I wasn’t able to get the bantams I wanted, but when I saw these it was hard to imagine a smaller chick.  They are just SO little!!!

Well, anyway, the first order of business was to get them warm and teach them to drink!  Just after Daddy left for the post office the kiddos and I turned on the brooders lamp.  Then we heated water to about 90-100 degrees as well.  Since the chicks are SO TINY (did I mention that?) the water they drink can actually change their body temperature enough to make them sick or even die.  But first they have to be shown how to drink!  It’s quite simple, actually.  You hold the chick like a baseball,

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then dunk its little beak into the waterer.

Caring for baby chicks, day 1

They were so thirsty!  Usually our chicks come in 24 hours, but this year it took 48 (snow storm?) so I was surprised to see how they went after the water.  Poor things!  I should add that I am very pleased someone obviously took care of my chickies as they were traveling in the horrible weather.  All arrived alive and seem healthy!  So if you work for the post office, Thanks!

When everyone had water I added a paper towel with a small amount of chick starter feed.  They went after this with a vengeance as well!

Caring for Baby Chicks, day 1

And then the really difficult part.  If anybody asks we were observing them to make sure they were comfortable and everyone was eating and drinking, but really we were just having so much fun watching the funny things they do!  My favorite is when one of them is running around, eating or drinking or whatever, and then decides she is tired.  They pretty much just fall down where they are, head out, sometimes wings out, and fall asleep!  They also scratch and peck just like the big birds do, but its hilarious to watch these itty, bitty girls trying it out!

Caring for baby chicks, day 1

I didn’t let the kids hold them today, too much stress for day 1!  Finally they got tired of “observing” so we shut the door and left the chicks in peace.  The cheeps have died down and I imagine they are all snoozing in the warmth with full tummies :-).

Caring for Baby chicks, day 1

Sleep tight little girls!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Off the Farm Fun

Whew!  What a great weekend!  We just got back from one of our favorite farm family events, the Missouri Farm Bureau Young Farm and Rancher conference.  Its held in south Missouri at a resort on the Lake of the Ozarks, with classes for mom and dad, pool and activities for the kids, AND… moving stairs.  Or electric stairs.  Call them what you’d like, just as long as you let the kids go up them.  And down them.  And up them.  And down them…  It was the highlight of their week.  Maybe their year.

For the last few years Brian and I have served on the committee in charge of putting the conference together.  But we retired from that position in December and this year we just got to ENJOY!  It was lots of fun, especially the part about going up the escalator attending with our close friends!   We came home with too many great ideas, bit of popcorn in with the dirty laundry, and even a 1st place ribbon from the children’s tractor pull!

Young Farmer and Rancher

Brett in the tractor pull at YF&R

tractor pull 2

Tractor pull 3

He worked really hard and didn’t give up, even though he didn’t understand why the tractor was so hard to pedal.  Brett wasn’t alone in this confusion.  My favorite moment (maybe of the entire weekend) was a little boy in the four year old division who grew frustrated and complained loudly that the John Deere tractor wasn’t working right.  They needed to go home and get his International tractor, which worked much better!  Go Big Red! And just to even things out a bit, here’s Anna viewing one of the many babies who attended the conference.Young Farmer and Rancher

Babies are almost as much fun as escalators.

I hope to go through our stuff today and prepare a post with the lessons and activities the Promotion and Education department did with the kiddos.  Brett had a blast, so you know it was great stuff!  Coming soon!

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In other news, our baby chicks should arrive this week.  They ship Wednesday, so I’m hoping Thursday but certainly by Friday anyhow.  I’ll be posting pics as soon as I get them settled.  Love this part!!

 

 

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

What I’ve Learned about Gardening with a Busy Family

Trial and error, what one busy mom has learned about gardening with a busy family!

I love feeding my family wholesome, fresh foods.  Of course, boxed macaroni is still one of my kids favorite treats.  If I can just balance it with meals such as from-the-garden stir-fry, well, the occasional Girl Scout cookie isn’t the end of the world.  But gardening was always so time intensive!  I would start with great intentions, but inevitably the whole garden plot would end in ruins by the middle of July.  And then, quite by accident, I learned gardening with a busy family can actually be simpler than I had ever dreamed!

It all started with decorative raised beds I spotted online.  Spring time is a farmer’s busiest time of year, so I knew better than to ask Daddy to stop putting on fertilizer or planting corn to build me garden boxes.  So I printed off the plans, drove to Lowes, and built my own raised beds.  They were FANTASTIC!  I actually harvested something more than zucchini for almost the first time ever.

What I've learned aout gardening with a busy family

The next year my mom gave me The Square Foot Gardener for Christmas and I was hooked.  I build more beds, tried new plants, canned lots for later.  And I realized I’d gone from gardening because I wanted the end product to gardening because I loved the process.  Instead of fighting weeds I was growing food!

So here’s what I learned:

  • Use raised beds!  Planting  in rows is what my husband does with a tractor.  I am not doing that much work by hand!
  • Buy seedlings from a greenhouse.  As a beginner starting with seeds that can be sown into the raised beds after last frost or buying plants can be the difference between success and burnout.
  • Plant what your family already eats.  Okay, if you find something you just have to try, sure, have fun. But don’t plant a bunch of kale or broccoli in your garden if you’ve never cooked with them.  I grew eggplant two summers in a row before I realized all my beautiful purple veggies molded in the fridge ’cause I had no idea what to do with them!
  • Plant the amount your family will eat.  Two vines of acorn squash is more than enough for my family.  Even if they store well.  Even if the plants are cheaper than squash from the store.  Even if I like sausage stuffed acorn squash.  We just don’t need a whole row.
  • Place your garden beds near a water source.  If you have to stretch a hose over the driveway and so must wind it each morning you will NOT water your garden daily.  Rain barrels are on my list for this spring.  I’ll keep you up to date on how those work out for me!
  • Place your beds where you notice them.  Out of sight means out of mind.
  • Involve your kids.  Maybe not every day, but their fresh perspective keeps you fresh as well.
  • Error on the side of smaller.  You can always get more sweet corn from a pickup on the side of the road.  Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Do small the first year and add more next year.

And there you have it– everything I’ve learned about gardening with a busy family!  What’s your best tip?

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

You Can Raise Your Own Fresh Eggs

What you need to know if you are thinking about raising your own fresh eggs

I’ve wanted to raise my own farm-fresh eggs for years now, but the hens on our farm (and the delicious eggs we get from them!) are a relatively new addition.  Why?  Because I was not sure about actually keeping chickens!  Would I have time?  Would I get tired of them?  Would it be worth I?  So if you’ve ever wondered if you could raise your own fresh eggs, read on!

Photo of farm fresh chicken eggsAs it turns out, I LOVE having chickens!  Odd as it seemed at first, they are fun.  AND they provide wholesome food you can feel good about feeding your family :-).  Totally worth it!  Plus raising chicks was an amazing learning experience for my kids.  Still on the fence?  Let’s talk logistics!

To begin I’d say that having chickens is about as much work as having a dog.  Of course, if you are like my sister who spends hours each day with her spoiled well-loved golden retrievers, then chickens will be way less work!  Daily they will need food and fresh water.  You will check for eggs and scan to see that all is well.  You may open their door in the morning and shut it again at night.  Pretty doable really.

My best tip for quick care is to purchase two watering containers so you can fill one up in the house before you head out and bring the empty back in for next time.

Weekly I clean the coop a bit.  I use the deep litter method, meaning that by adding clean bedding over the soiled stuff, the decomposing straw adds heat to the coop.  How cool is that?!  Not everyone likes this method, so if cleaning out the coop is your thing, go for it.

Seasonally you will have other chores.  The down-side to deep litter is clearing it out in the spring and fall.  I winter-proofed my coop for cold weather and I don’t have electricity so when temps are below freezing I supply the girls with water often.  In the summer I fill a plastic pool for them.  Some people spend lots of time babying their hens– me, not so much!You can raise your own eggs

(Warning: once you have the chickens you will inevitably spend more time just watching them.  They. are. hilarious.)

The biggest investment in time and money is setting up.  If you can afford a pre-made chicken coop, that’s the route I’d take.  I spent a LOT of time making a cheap coop because I wasn’t sure of the whole thing just yet.  My project was more than I expected because I needed to rethink the design to thwart predators.  Still, it was fine for starting.

In the beginning you’ll also need to acquire and set up feeders, water dishes, bedding, feed, grit, calcium, scratch grains, and nesting boxes if they aren’t included in the coop.  Now that my flock is established all I really do is stop by the farm store once every couple of months and get a few bags of feed.

If you chose chicks instead of full grown hens there will also be several weeks of taking care of the fragile babies!  You can order chicks online and they come in the mail for you to pick up at the post office.  They need somewhat intensive care for a few weeks, but they are SO cute you won’t mind ;-).  Setting up a brooder in the house cuts down on work too.  Unless you have to send all your time guarding your chicks from the kids that is…

I’m hoping this break-down of the time and effort it takes assures you that you CAN raise your own fresh eggs.  Start by getting a how-to book from the library, or try this guide from Orscheln’s Farm and Home store.  After that the internet provides all the info you’ll ever want to wade through.  Or leave me a comment or question and I’ll be sure to answer!

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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