Spring Chickens

Our Cochin named "Salad"

Bellina and Fluffy were my first experience of parental responsibility. I had raised them from eggs in an incubator at school, waiting impatiently for the first cracks to appear on the shells and the little beaks to bust out. My heart was bursting as they blinked up at me for the first time, and my devotion to their safety ran deep as I transferred them home. My parents had agreed to my request for two, one more chick than most of my classmates, and I was proud to be accountable for the extra responsibility. That spring I may have been the luckiest kid on Earth, having two baby chicks and two baby kittens at the same time, hopping around in bliss on a sunny Easter sunday. That single holiday might be the sole reason I continue to like Easter (being Jewish it doesn’t really hold much significance for me besides an excuse to eat candy).

But the joy began to fade as we discovered that Fluffy was a rooster. Instead of snuggling and petting and laying eggs for the family, he tore around the yard, puffing up his wings and charging like a bull at anything that moved. My brother instilled the strategy of going out the door first, distracting Fluffy by running around and waving his arms as I darted to the car, avoiding the violent pecks and gouges that would ensue if my bare little legs were otherwise discovered. My brother’s courage still envokes in me deep gratitude for this valiant and protective daily deed.

"Red" perched for first time.

Things got even worse. Bellina, who consistently displayed a rare mix of patience, sweetness, and prolific egg laying as she grew into a plump hen, was discovered late one night by the neighbor’s dogs. There was no saving her. I still remember a fleeting, teary glimpse of bright red blood on pure white feathers as my dad quickly removed the evidence. Fluffy on the other had, survived with might. Not only did he receive the same treatment from the pack of dogs that delivered Bellina’s demise, but he uncannily displayed little if any residual harm or torment from the literally scarring event. He went on to live an unusually long life, surviving two more attacks, one of which was a coyote bite that left him barely hanging on.

The babies getting used to their new home.

And so it is with a combination of excitement and trepidation that I enter into parenthood once again. Our ten little chicks arrived almost three weeks ago, small, fragile and chirping with need. We have since gone through the scares of pasty butt, the thrills of a first perch, and the pride of aphid eating. All ten are still holding strong, spreading out into their expanded three room cardboard suite. Our living room glows demon red day and night and our electric bill is most likely growing just as rapidly as the chicks are. A deluxe coop, crafted of scavenged wood and repurposed materials from our property, is in the works. And it will be a fortress, double dug and fenced to fend off the array of mountain preditors waiting in the wings. Soon the day will come for the babies to venture out into the wide world, and I am trying my hardest to imagine the task of letting go and accepting what fate will provide for them.

"Red" might be the next Fluffy...we are hoping she's just a really big hen.

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Vines

Roots

We just started a vineyard.  Or what might become a vineyard, a micro vineyard at best. Closer to reality is that we just dug up eleven dormant Syrah grapevines and transferred them to a small patch of our garden for the next several months, ultimately hoping their roots will develop enough to transplant into a row at the edge of our property. A mountain neighbor and fellow wannabe homesteader contacted me after reading one of my articles on Civil Eats. His garden gets too much shade and he was looking for a good home for these grapevines. Of course, we couldn’t say no to the prospect of home-crushed projects and proceeded to traipse up the road to his place.

 

Contrary to how most of these manual labor undertakings pan out, the grapes took much less time than expected to give up their hold on the earth and uproot. We rolled them up in burlap and hurried home to soak them down and snuggle them back up into soil at their new, yet temporary, plot.

Syrah

After lots of recent rain and wind, they remain perky and secure, giving me hope that one day we will harvest their bounty. Year number one may only result in juice running down our faces from fresh picked clusters…the wine might take a bit longer to deliver.

Bonanza Springs Farm


So here it is everyone, a blog to capture the layers of what makes Bonanza Springs Farm a real place in time.  This piece of land, blurred a bit around the actual property lines into about two acres, holds a rich history.  A woman named Margaret moved here in the 1940’s all by herself, working as a sculptor within the art colony on this mountain.  She was a Jane of all trades, building by hand a ten by ten adobe structure in which she lived for eight years before expanding into a “modern” 400 square foot home built a few feet away.  She paid an extra $50 because of the flat and sunny plot down below, now a jungle of an orchard and our little farm.  Her days were spent making stained glass, harvesting, preserving, and tending the natural world around her.  The remnants of her cultivations are seen in the sixty year old Japanese Maple tree, the hundreds of varieties of plants and flowers, and flocks of birds that came to know this piece of land as a welcoming habitat.  She is known on the mountain as a legend, stories told as if she were a myth, all of which infuse this land, our home, with a sense of magic and reverence for what grows and lives here.  The homesteading shoes are big ones to fill, and in our bumbling, aching, and oft ill-tempered way we are trying our hardest to do her proud.  And so, this blog is an attempt to catalog our successes and failures, to document the projects, meals, celebrations, and defeats that continue to transform our lives.