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Okay, I know that I am terribly late in blogging about Christmas.  As a result, you will probably not be surprised that I didn’t get organized enough to send out Christmas cards this year either 😉

But, we did have a wonderful Christmas.  Much of Christmas day was spent at Double S Farms, where my mother, my sister and her family live.  

It was a beautiful day and I stole out into the garden to take photos of all that is growing….

My mother’s vegetable garden is growing like crazy….
We always enjoy fresh broccoli from her garden in winter.  We all love it….even the kids.
Curly Parsley with Marigolds planted nearby to discourage pests.
My mother makes a delicious salad using her Romaine lettuce.  I promise to share our family’s special salad dressing recipe sometime soon.
Lemons are ready for picking at Christmas time.
So are the grapefruit…
The apple trees are almost bare.
The chickens are oblivious to all the festivities.
Although their coop is decorated with a Christmas wreath 😉
My mother’s beautifully decorated table.  Notice the table gifts are decorated with a feather from the chickens.
We had a wonderful day and a delicious dinner.  It was so much fun enjoying each others company and the fact that now we all live within 20 minutes of each other.
This Christmas was extra special to me because of my new granddaughter, Lily….
She is just so darling and makes me so happy.
Not so special was turning 46 the day after Christmas…
My nephew, Finley getting ready to help me blow out my candle 🙂
Although, I must say that I was so grateful to have my family all around to spend my birthday with.
I must say, that I feel pretty good being 46….so far 😉

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We are finishing up our special project that I mentioned earlier.  This project is for my mother’s 70th birthday, which is coming up this week.  I can’t wait to share it with you all once we are done!

I hope you are having a good week.
I hope you have all had a good week.  I must apologize for not getting my act together enough to write any blog posts.  But thankfully, my sister ‘Chicken Farmer’ and resident of Double S Farms has given us an update on her new baby chicks and their new home….
We’ve been going back and forth trying to decide whether to build a new coop for the chicks or to put together something smaller and temporary until they are old enough to move in with the big girls. I figure the lumber and time alone would get a little pricey so I scoured Craigslist last weekend and found what we thought was a pretty cool coop at a steal of a price. We could tell by the picture that it was a pretty wonky coop but we loved the character.
Once we got it home and had a closer look, I could tell that we overpaid for this coop. It was literally staple gunned together! A strong gust of wind would have taken this thing down. Lucky for me I have a very handy husband who was able to give it a little TLC.

It’s a lot smaller than our existing coop so it fits nicely in the chicken yard. Once we got it to a state where we felt it was livable, we moved the chicks out and they have been in heaven ever since. The coop has three levels, four levels, and all kinds of little ramps up and down for them to run across. It reminds me of a dollhouse (I’m not sure how functional it will be for full grown hens though). 
The boys literally spend hours each day sitting next to the coop and watching the chicks.

The older hens didn’t notice the new girls at first but once they finally did, they’ve been keeping a close eye on them. 
We will keep them in their new coop until they are big enough to meet the older girls. At that time, they’ll be able to free range during the day and go in to roost at night. Until then, they seem perfectly content in their new, if a little awkward, digs.
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Seriously, these chicks are so much fun to watch and they are growing so fast.  They are getting along with the older chickens who aren’t quite sure what to make of the little ones.
You can read more about the chickens in my sister’s blog – Finley and Oliver.
I apologize for not writing more posts this past week.  But as I mentioned before it has been a busy time filled with landscape consults, a speaking engagement, helping my mother-in-law with her landscape (who is doing pretty well since my father-in-law passed away 2 months ago).
This week I did spend lots of time visiting my new granddaughter.  She is just darling and I love to hold her.
I hope you all have a great weekend and week ahead.  I promise to start writing more 🙂

This past weekend, the entire family was able to gather together at Double S Farms.

As I mentioned before, my brother-in-law was in town for final interviews for a new job.  Although he was busy with meetings, we were all able to meet for Saturday breakfast on the farm.

I baked my Irish soda bread for the occasion and the kids couldn’t wait to eat eggs and sausage.

It was also time to check up on the new baby chicks and their new chicken coop….

Their new coop has three levels and the girls really seem to like it.
One of the kids discovered an egg, from one of the older chickens…
The kids spent much of their time running around and wrestling in the shade of the apple trees…
 My mother showed me the progress of her fall vegetable garden…


We have already enjoyed salad made from her romaine lettuce…
We visited with my twin nephews…
Dean, being held by my brother, is recovering well from his surgery, where he had a lobe of his lung removed.
My visiting sister, took her turn holding Danny.
 
Soda pop tried to find someone to throw her ball for her.
The ‘senior’ chickens, Effie, Ramona and Lucy, did their best to stay out of everyone’s way.
Indoors, my nephew, Oliver, showed off his ‘zombie’ makeup and did his best to scare us, but then he reassured us that it was really him behind the make-up.
Lastly, my daughter, Gracie, spent time with her Uncle Scott…
I love them time that we all spend together and we received great news yesterday – my brother-in-law was hired as the new children’s pastor of a local church.  So they will be moving here next month.
I will be so blessed to not only have my mother, brother and youngest sister living nearby, but also my other younger sister 🙂
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Baby countdown is down to 7 days…..

All three of these items played a part in how I spent my Saturday.  As I mentioned in previous posts, I spent Saturday over at Double S Farms which was one of the stops featured in the second annual Tour de Coops, which is a tour of chicken coops along with some vegetable gardens.

Okay, for the first item on my list – blue booties.  As you drove up to Double S Farms, you were greeted by the following sign…..

All visitors had to put on blue booties and clean their hands before entering.  This was because it is easy to accidentally carry diseases from one farm to the other.

As you can see, there were quite a few booties ready for visitors to put on.

There were so many visitors that day.  Well over 100 people came throughout the day.  Most were considering raising chickens and asked my sister, Chicken Farmer, many questions.

Some visitors already had chickens but were interested in seeing how others raised theirs.  I was so impressed about how much my sister knew about raising chickens in such a short amount of time.  It was just this past February that her chicks arrived in the mail.

**The pine cones were left there by some little visitors.

I don’t think that the chickens were too excited about all of the extra attention though.

 

Flo took longer than usual to lay her egg because people kept looking in at her.

The other chickens came up to visit us on the patio where we were sitting.



Lucy was looking around for some crumbs to eat while Effie was interested in the camera on the table…..

Both Lucy and Effie are ‘Easter-Eggers’ which means that they lay light blue eggs.  Flo lays brown eggs.  Effie was not looking her best that day because she was molting.

As the day went on, the second item in my list came into play – Hot Wheels.  While my sister and brother-in-law were kept busy answering questions about raising chickens, I had fun playing with my nephews.  

Little Farmer absolutely LOVES playing with his Hot Wheels cars.  He carries some of them around in a plastic toolbox.  He was kind enough to lend me some so that I could play with both him and Littlest Farmer…..

**By the way….a great Christmas gift for the little boy on your list would be an inexpensive plastic toolbox with some Hot Wheels inside 🙂

**Note to self…..do not leave your knitting out around a darling two-old…..they like to pull out your knitting needles 😉

I had a great time playing with the boys but I did have the chance to answer some questions about the vegetable garden….

 

The garden is covered in bird netting to help keep the chickens out – they love vegetables.  The garden is full of all different types of lettuce right now.

**Notice Little Farmer is holding a piece of wood he found on the ground?  Why is it that boys love to find bits of wood and carry them around?  It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, I was just wondering 🙂

Among the lettuce and young broccoli plants were Marigolds which drew quite a bit of attention from the visitors.  I explained that the flowers were not planted for looks, but actually help to keep harmful insects away from the vegetables.

So far, we were all having a great day, except for Soda….



She was not allowed outside to visit.  I’m sure she would have loved to and was thinking that she could persuade some of the visitors to throw her a ball.

 Some smaller people came over to visit the chickens as well along with their parents…..



My mother, Pastor Farmer, had fun showing these boys the chickens inside of the coop.  The boys were dying to collect some eggs and so she sent them each home with an egg.

The boys also spent a little time playing with my nephews…..



You know what?  There is just something so cute about a little boy in a cowboy hat and blue booties.

 Some of the neighbors were also interested in what was going on….





The chickens were a bit shy at times being the center of attention, choosing to hide behind the Texas Sage shrubs…..

 
 
I had a wonderful time on Saturday and after I left, I spent some time finishing decorating my house for Christmas.  Which leads me to the last item:
Have you finished decorating your house for Christmas?
 
 
The chickens have…..
I hope you all have a wonderful week and hopefully you have finished your decorating for the holidays 🙂

Guess what came in the mail today?  Believe me, you’ll never guess…

 
Baby Chicks!
Isn’t amazing that they send them in the mail?
These baby chicks are only 3 days old.  They can live for up to two days without food or water since they continue to live off the nutrition received from the yolk.  So, that makes it feasible to send them in the mail.
These baby chicks are the newest residents of Double S Farms.  Chicken Farmer, my sister, has everything all ready for them.

She wrote about her preparations in an earlier post “A Pair of Boots and an Empty Chicken Coop”.

 
Buff Orpington chick 
 
Barred Plymouth Rock chick
 
Their names are Flo, Effie, Ramona and Lucy.
The chicks will spend the next 6 weeks in their brooder, above.
But soon, they will be moving into their new custom made chicken coop.
 

We are all looking forward to fresh eggs…

Our guest blogger for today is my youngest sister, Chicken Farmer, who is one of the residents of Double S Farms.  Guess what!?  They are ready for chickens!

Many of you have read Noelle’s post, (A Small House, Transplants and Chickens), about our plans to bring some chickens to Double S Farms.  Well, the time has almost come and our little chicks should be arriving in the mail next week.  We are beyond excited.
 
We have lived at Double S Farms for just about a year now and have been toying around with the chicken idea ever since we moved in.  This past October, we went on a self-guided tour of the Valley’s coolest urban poultry set-ups (The Phoenix Tour de Coops).  Talking with the chicken owners, seeing their chickens and coop setups, and learning about the benefits of having our own backyard flock sealed the deal.

Since I don’t do much of the gardening at Double S Farms, I have volunteered myself to be the “Chicken Farmer” and have jumped into the role wholeheartedly.  There are several things I have done to get us ready for our new adventure.
First and foremost, I had to get a pair of boots.  I have always loved and adored boots of all kinds so getting my very own pair of Hunter Wellingtons, was a top priority (well, top priority to me).  I know, I know….seriously, if I have to scoop chicken poop, I’d like to look stylish while doing so.
 
 
In addition, I’ve read countless books on raising chickens and have spent hours gleaning information from websites like The City Chicken and The Backyard Chicken.  I’ve even joined the Phoenix Permaculture Guild and taken some local classes on raising hens.
The next thing on the agenda was to design the coop.  We explored several different coop setups on the “Tour de Coops” and the coop we liked the best was made from a converted shed.  So we converted an 8′ x 10′ shed of our own.  The chickens will have plenty of room to roam in their 25′ x 20′ fenced in yard around the coop.  We are hoping to let them out into the larger yard a few hours each day to do some “hunting”.  We have a lot of scorpions around Double S Farms and chickens love to snack on them.
 
The coop is just about finished.  We still need to paint the exterior, finish some work on the fence, and build up a berm around the fence to protect them from the flood irrigation.
Once we finished the majority of the coop, we started on our brooder.  A brooder is a box or cage of some sort where you can raise young chicks and keep them warm until they are fully feathered and ready to move into their coop.  Baby chicks can’t regulate their body temperatures so a heated brooder is essential.  Fortunately, brooders don’t need to be too fancy so a giant Rubbermaid box, some pine shavings, a feeder, waterer, heat lamp and thermometer are all we need.
Once we had all of those preparations in order, we sat down and decided how many and what types of chickens we would order.  Overall, we’d like to have a flock of 8 hens.  Since egg laying productivity starts to decline after a year and a half or so, we decided to order 4 chicks now and then another 4 or 5 chicks next year.  That way, we’ll always have a few hens that are in their egg-laying “prime”.

I have boys that are 2 and 3 years old.  they will be very involved in helping me with the hens so it is essential that we have breeds that are a bit more friendly and social, which is why we chose to order two Easter Eggers (mixed breed), a Barred Plymouth Rock, and a Buff Orpington.  Not only are they better “pets” than some other breeds, they are also hardier to our summer heat (although precautions still need to be taken when it gets extreme).
 
Buff Orpington Chicken
(Wikepedia photo)
About a week ago, we ordered our four chicks from MyPetChicken.comSometime next week, they will express mail our little day-old chicks to us.  I’m still baffled about receiving live animals in the mail, but apparently it is very common.  Chicks can live for 2-3 days without any additional food or water since they are still receiving nourishment from their yolk so they should be fine in transport.
I’m sure  Noelle will keep you all posted on our chicken raising adventures and I always appreciate any advice or tips that anyone has to offer a novice like me.
*Noelle here….I will keep you updated as to when the chicks arrive next week.  I will be going with my sister to pick them up at the post office because I am sure you all will be waiting with baited breath to see photos of their arrival 😉
The newest addition to Double S Farms is rapidly coming together in preparation for their newest residents…..chickens.

                                  Little Farmers #1 & 2 are having fun as the chicken coop is being built.
Little Farmer #2 loves to play in the dirt….can you tell?
The chicken coop is being put together by Farmer #1, with some help from family members.
I think Little Farmer #2 (on the right side) thinks the chicken coop is his own little fort.
The residents of Double S Farms, my mother, sister and brother-in-law, are transplanted Californians like myself.  They moved to Arizona a few years ago and just love it here.  According to my sister, if you had told her 5 years ago that she would be living in Arizona, away from Southern California and the ocean, and be living on a small ranchette, raising fruit trees, vegetables and getting ready for chickens AND loving it….she would have said you were crazy.  But they do love living in Arizona and all that it has to offer.
Future Nesting Boxes
The chicken coop is almost finished.  My husband is going over today to help them finish up the coop.  You can see the ramp that the chickens will climb up and the nesting boxes.
Little Farmer #2 is ready for the chickens.
In a couple of weeks, six chicks will take up residence.  There will be no rooster since the family already have their own alarm clocks and don’t want to irritate the neighbors.
I can hardly wait for fresh eggs…
I will post more as the chicken coop is painted and finished and of course, when the chickens arrive.
*I am spending today at a community Green Fair as part of a  landscape discussion panel.  I am excited to post about it next week.