After what has been literally months of solid work and upheaval, the dust is beginning to settle on our move to West Virginia. With boxes half unpacked, updates half finished, and prospects for employments still a bit hazy, it’s a busy time to say the least. However, our new home does make it all worth it.
(Our house in Virginia is officially for sale, should anyone be interested in a rural 2-bedroom home with an updated kitchen and bath on 3+ acres with great views, apple trees and wild raspberries, and a spring box as well as all of the city conveniences such as high speed cable internet and city water and sewer! Spread the word! )
The flock is settling in very well. In fact, they feel so comfortable in their new home that two of the hens have snuck off to sit on eggs in hidden nests. Well, not so hidden – they are underneath the 4×4 coop. They have been sitting for about three weeks. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to reach them under there, so I haven’t monitored them as much as I would like. I did candle their eggs this weekend only to discover eggs at all stages of development, from what looks like about 4 days into incubation to about 14 days, although there were a number of eggs I could not reach from any side of the coop. I also found a few bits of egg and dried yolk on some of the eggs, so I suspect the girls have been shoving each other around under there and breaking a few eggs in the process. I’m considering giving the sitting hens a few more days to see if they hatch anything before trading out their eggs for wooden ones and sticking the real eggs into an incubator. Maybe I can salvage some of the hatch and have a few new layers for next year.
This will be the first time that I may keep any of the cross-bred chicks from my flock. It will be interesting to see how they turn out because it will reveal with of my two roosters the hens prefer. My dominant rooster is Mr. Pink (unfortunately named after his leg band as a chick), a Basque Hen rooster. He carries two genes for barring, a dominant trait, so all of his chicks will be barred. (You can read about barred gene genetics here.) Mr. Red, my German New Hampshire rooster, is not barred and so would not pass on that trait to his chicks. As none of my hens are barred, I can be assured that all barred chicks are Mr. Pink’s progeny and all unbarred chicks respectively Mr. Red’s. It will be quite a statement on their relative popularity with the hens.
They are currently living in the 8×8 hoop coop and the 4×4 small coop right next to the house, which is a bit more than an annoyance. It feels like living in a barnyard, and I will be glad to see the new coop built in the pasture set aside for that purpose. Why in the world would we put them next to the house? In a word, bears. Ah, yes, we have had about a half-dozen run-ins with a local black bear or two who think that chickens would be tasty. We haven’t lost anyone yet, but one of the bears did try to scratch his way into the coop, unsuccessfully, thank goodness. He tried the side of the coop furthest from the house which leads us to believe that he might be more bold if the coop was further from our human habitation. Thus, the front-yard barnyard. But – the new coop is now under construction! The ground has been leveled and seven of nine main posts are in.
We’ve enjoyed taking time off from painting and repairing the house to work on creating some trails around our property which is 14 acres. We’re lucky to adjoin timber company tracts which allow us to walk or hunt on their land as well which gives us a huge area to range. The timber company select cuts the land periodically, the last time about 15 years ago, which creates land that looks pretty normal.
Most of the apple trees aren’t producing much this year owing to a late frost, but about a third of the trees look pretty good. The wild blackberries are ripening, and the pear trees my husband planted for my birthday are a mixed bag – the “deluxe” tree which was bigger and older is flourishing while the smaller tree looks like it may have died. We’ll see – I’m not calling it one way or another until next spring. It may surprise us yet!
I still need to move both functional and decorative plantings from the old place over to the new. As far as functional plants, I want to bring our wild red and black raspberries, the comfrey, and our grape vine. I have many more decorative plants I need to divide or dig and bring: irises, daylilies, lilacs, double-flowered tiger lilies that once grew at my childhood home in central New Jersey, and rose of sharons that once grew in my grandmother’s garden in north Jersey.
What’s Going on with Us
Our new home is between Snowshoe Mountain Resort and Elkins, West Virginia. The area is a really interesting mix of Northern and Southern cultures, which is a great fit for my husband and me as I was raised in New Jersey and he was raised in Virginia. We can go to Elkins and get a ruben at a regular café, not even a specialty restaurant, which seems quite familiar and northern, but in the surrounding country, people speak with what I consider to be a southern accent. In addition to the National Parks, the nearby Elk River has fantastic fishing, and Cranberry Glades is excellent for hiking. There is also a lot Civil War and Native American history in the area. We have been impressed with our area.
Elkins is a small town of just 7,000 people as well as Davis and Elkins College. Despite its small size, there is a bustling little downtown with charming, non-chain stores: a home improvement store, an office supply store, a bookstore, a sewing supply store, all ‘mom and pop’ style, which I love. The little things like this make me really feel like we’re here: These places help me to imagine how we will create a life in this new place and even become part of a community.
I’ve been pretty much incommunicado because we did not have any form of internet until this weekend – and now we have dial-up. We have spent at least ten hours on the phone with our local provider going round in circles to try to get DSL service, but it’s a no-go. Needless to say, we are thrilled to discover that the local library has high-speed wireless internet which we can use on the few days a week that they are open. With the limited internet access, I’ve decided to use desktop blogging software so that I can draft on my computer and upload my posts later. It’s this software which sent out the ‘blogging theme’ post which my subscribers may have received. In case you noticed that this post is pretty light on pertinent photos, it’s because I can’t find my camera charger in all of the boxes!
Slowly, we are getting things straightened out and settling into our new home. I am so happy to be here and to be beginning this adventure. There is so much to do and so much to still figure out that my head is spinning most of the time, but it is worth it!
Thank you to everyone who has left such kind and supportive comments over the past few months. I appreciate your experience and advice.