Monday, July 9, 2012


The Summer has been brutal, so far.  We have had weeks of record-breaking temperatures, no rain and an incredible storm called a Derecho. The Derecho gave us very little rain, but delivered extremely damaging winds. We lost about 40 trees here at Hunter's Grove.

The huge Pecan tree in our yard went down and we are feeling the loss acutely.  This tree provided shade for much of our yard, and for our chickens.  In the 100+ degree weather, with no shade, the chickens have really suffered.  We actually have one in the house right now.  I was surprised that she was still alive this morning.



The chicks we hatched back in late February are doing great!  They should start laying any time now.  We ended up with 26 out of 50 hatching. 7 were male, 19 were female (those were great numbers!).  8 (5 pullets and 3 cockerels) went to live with our friends the Eastwoods.  The rest stayed here.  We lost one to a fox (or maybe a hawk).  We have 3 cockerels we are going to have to cull soon since we just put everyone in the same coop.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 3/ Day 4 Candling

Today is day 4 of our chicken's development.  This was one of the days we had slated for candling our eggs.  Candling is a way you can study the embryonic development of an egg.  It is done by placing a bright light source of light behind the egg.  If you do it right (and your eggshells aren't too dark- the "chocolate" colored Maran eggs were extremely difficult to see through), you can see right into the egg!  In the olden days, eggs were candled using a candle.  Eden thinks that might be how they came up with the name.  ;)
Here is another fun blog post about candling.

Eden and I built a candling box and it worked okay, but we had way better results with Brandon's LED Maglite.  I cupped my hands over the light in a dark room and left a small space for light to escape from my hands.  I set the egg there and voila!  It worked like a charm!

I did a couple of eggs from each incubator yesterday and I could make out very distinct (and wiggling) embryo and blood vessels!

Easter Egger blue egg with embryo and blood vessels visible.  Day 3.
This morning I did the entire bunch.  This is how that went...

Of 52 eggs, 25 had clearly visible, viable embryos.  

12 had good looking air sacs and looked like they would probably end up being viable, but I either couldn't see through the dark shells (9 of these were from the Marans with the chocolate eggs) or the embryo was hiding.
Air space is visible at the bottom of the pic.

11 looked completely clear (I kept them in the incubator for now and will recheck them in a couple of days).

Looks clear to me.

1 had 2 cracks in the egg that were not visible until I candled it.  It looked clear and I removed this one from the incubator.

2 had what I considered to be very distinct blood rings (based on photos I found on the internet- this is my first actual experience with this) and I saw no embryo or vasculature.  I also removed these 2 from the incubator.

I wanted to reconcile what I was seeing by candling with what was actually in the egg so I opened the 3 "bad eggs".  I tried to get photos, but I couldn't get the camera to focus at all on what I was seeing. 

The egg with the cracks that looked clear to me had a nice little embryo and lots of good blood vessels.  If the cracks hadn't been there, it would have likely been a lovely little chicken!  

The 2 with the "blood rings" made me a little bit sad.  Both of them, when opened, looked healthy and viable!  The blood rings were actually a circle of blood vessels and in the center of it was heavy vasculature and an embryo.  All I could see when I candled them was the ring.  It was a dark, heavy line of red and no other blood vessels were visible.  I will not be so quick to toss eggs with blood rings next time!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homeschool Science Is Cool!

I confess, I am currently very bored with homeschooling.  We took the month of December off and I have had a hard time getting back into the swing of things.

But... perhaps there is a chance the excitement could come back!

When we went to the VA State Fair this past year, Eden and I both had such a good time watching the baby chicks hatch.  We already know what to do with chicks.  We know we love chickens.   I really wanted some more.  Brandon was on board with that!  Watching the babies made me really want to hatch some of our own (especially since our roo is so beautiful and has such a good personality)!  Brandon was also on board with that!

So, I decided that we would turn this hatching chicks thing into a science project.  What a fun way to breathe life (literally) back into our school year!

We borrowed an incubator from our neighbor.  It is a Little Giant still-air incubator with an automatic egg turner.  They have had some pretty good results hatching with this incubator.  Because I like to make things difficult, I decided that we would build an incubator, as well.

Little Giant- holds 41 eggs

The homemade incubator is made from a styrofoam shipping container.  I got instructions from various websites and YouTube videos, but it all boiled down to 2 things, Temperature and Humidity.  Here is what we did.

Shipping container minus lid.

I cut a hole in the lid to make a window.  This is essential to view the thermometer/ hygrometer
and for watching chicks hatch!

A friend gave me a plastic lid to some discarded appliance and I duct taped it in place. 

We added a light fixture (also with duct tape) and put a 25 watt bulb in it.  The wire is to keep anything from touching the bulb.  It also forms a raised floor so that nothing touches the water in the bottom of the box.

We added a thermometer/ hygrometer to keep track of the temperature and humidity. 

We decided to collect some of our own eggs for hatching, but there are some fun breeds out there and I couldn't resist buying a few (26 is a few, right?) hatchery eggs, too!

Today we set all of the eggs (52 total) and now we wait!  21 days until fluffy cuteness descends on the Rollogas house!  I am alternating between excitement and sheer terror when I think that it is possible that *all* of these eggs may hatch.  We are hoping that half of them will hatch.

Loaded up!

Loaded up!
Eden has had a hand in building the incubator, loading it up, monitoring temperatures and turning eggs.  I'll carry you with us through the next 3 weeks as we learn about chick development and such!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Garden Planning!!

In all of my reflection and looking forward that January inevitably brings for me, I have been thinking through my garden goals for 2012.

I started by looking back at my notes on last year (yes, I keep a garden journal).  Last year I wanted to grow enough produce for our family and one share for a friend's family.  I learned a lot from that.

I learned that I should have planned for the unexpected.  I had a total crop failure of all 8 squash and pumpkin varieties planted.  I had a terrible time trying to keep up with the squash bugs while using only organic methods to deter them (hand-picking thousands of bugs and scraping eggs from the bottom of leaves every day).  I have learned a little more about the pest this season and will hopefully be able to stay on top of them this year.  Having something ready to put in the spot that was suddenly empty would have been wise.

I learned that I need to figure out what I am doing wrong with root vegetables.  I cannot get radishes or beets to set fruit at all.  They have lots of lovely leaves and no bulb at all.

I learned that digging potatoes is a lot of fun and fresh from the ground potatoes are far superior to any at the store.  They taste like they already have butter on them!  I should have planted WAY more!!

I learned which things our family loves the most and how much we will actually eat of any given item.  I learned that more of something that we love is a waste of space if we can't actually eat that much of it.

I learned that growing some of the food items that your family loves is a great way to save a little money.  I also learned that my kids are more likely to eat food that they grew themselves!

So what does that mean for this year?  Well, there is no CSA.  My focus this year will be growing enough for our family and putting up as much as possible.  I hope to stay on top of the pests and get rid of some things that either didn't work or didn't yield enough for the amount of space they took.  I plan to continue composting because it has worked out beautifully!

I had planned on expanding the space again this year, but I need to have another year of working this space before I make that happen.

Here is the early plan for my space.
What ambitious plans do you have in the garden this year?

I am sharing today at The Thrifty Home.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I have been thinking about a verse of Scripture to take me through 2012.  I think I have found the perfect one.

Every wise woman builds her house, 
but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands.
Proverbs 14:1

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reflection on 2011

I love looking back at the old year and seeing what was accomplished, what wasn't and planning some goals for the new year!

Last year was such an amazing year!  I won't link to all my posts, but here is a recap.
-We figured out Theo's SPD issues and got him the therapy he needed.
-I talked about my postpartum depression and enjoyed Theo so much.
-I grew a winter garden, expanded my garden space, began using a 3 bin composting system and added a cold frame to my garden.
-I shared my garden's bounty weekly with a friend and periodically with Brandon's coworkers.
-We cleared a spot and built a chicken coop.  We got day-old chicks and watched them grow into lovely hens and now eat eggs from our own flock!  We added a rooster this year, too.
-We concentrated on living a rich life while trimming some of our excesses.  We continued to live debt-free.
-We made the decision to homeschool Eden for Kindergarten and then did it!
-We celebrated 9 years of marriage, 5 years with Eden, 2 years with Theo and Brandon and I both turned (GASP!) 34.
-I made fig newtons.  I am now seriously looking forward to summer!!!!
-I revamped the look of my blog... by myself!! ;)
-We hosted Cousin's Camp for the second year.  One week later, we lived through an earthquake, a hurricane and a 20 hour power outage all in the same week.
-I learned to knit.
-I concentrated on feeding my family real, local, and in season.
-We nearly completed the kitchen.  It is painted and half of the cabinetry is in.
-We also made the decision to begin looking for a church closer to home.  This involves leaving the church we have been a part of for 25 years!  Sad but necessary for our family.

This year I hope to:
-Complete the kitchen.
-Paint the rest of the interior of the house.
-Create a beautiful bedroom for us.
-Hatch some of our eggs.
-Raise a flock of meat chickens.
-Cultivate another great garden!
-Blog at least once per week.
-Take an anniversary vacation with Brandon (10 years in June).
-Find a new church home.

What do you hope to accomplish this year?