Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pullet eggs

The Americauna pullets are finally starting to lay.  Found these cute little blue beauties earlier this afternoon (Buckeye pullet egg for comparison).  They seemed a bit surprised to see an egg (wow!  look at this!  I had a little tummy ache, sat down to rest a minute, and look what happened!  I feel better now.  How 'bout some snacks?)

Monday, October 27, 2014

What to do with all those apples

This has been a really good year for apples.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Not too wet.  Not too dry.  Pest management was minimal.  Trees grew strong and healthy.  This is the kind of year that orchardists and tree managers look forward to.

So what to do with all those apples:
Before immediately making pies, what kind of apple are you comtemplating?  Put simply, some apples are better suited to cooking than others.  Braeburn, for example, makes a wonderful apple butter.  As this apple cooks, it easily breaks apart creating a delicious sauce and, with a little effort, makes a lovely apple butter.
Other apples such as Fuji or Jonagold hold their shape making them perfect for pies or baked apples.  When peeling and prepping pie filling, don't worry if you get a little carried away.  After making the first pie, put just enough filling for another in a press and seal (Ziplock type) freezer bag.  After removing the air, lay the sealed bag in foil pie tin, and freeze.  The pie filling will freeze in the shape of the pie tin.  When ready to use, remove the pie tin shaped filling and place in a prepared pin pan, covering with pie dough, finishing normally.   Easy-peasie.

Another good idea is a nice alternative to snack chips: dried apples.  Peel and slice the apples about 1/4" thick, then soak for about 2 minutes in a citric acid solution (2 T citric acid to 1 quart water).  Available at most health food stores, citric acid is a nice alternative to sulfur and will keep the fruit from turning dark while adding Vitamin C.  Place treated slices in the dehydrator for about 10 hours (135 F degrees).   I like dried apples crisp and slightly tart, so this is perfect.  When ready, place the apple slices into a air tight container and seal.
As you're enjoying these, remember: as good as these are, whether you are eating an apple straight off the tree or nibbling at them one slice at a time: ten apple slices can equal an entire apple.  Moderation is the clue.  (I know: no fun.)

For ideas and more info: read here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Too cute

Dropped by a friend's barn earlier today.  Last weekend her does were having babies.  She's now knee deep in bouncy kids.
Have you ever seen anything more adorable than those sweet little faces?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Buckeyes on the move, part 2

The good news is that at the end of the day, the Buckeyes did indeed go home to the chicken tractor.  The next morning it became clear that we were going to have to put a wee bit of plastic chicken wire across the bottom of the back gate to discourage our little wanderers from coming into the main yard.  Aside from digging up flower beds, rearranging bark mulch, and coming up on the deck to peck at the patio window (which drove the dog nuts) it was entertaining to see them running about.
Hey!  I can see Mom in there!
The Buckeyes are feeling like big chickies, willing to brave the world and go exploring.  On the upside that means that they don't tend to over graze the area where the tractor is parked.  On the down side is that sometimes they get lost and need mom to guide them home again.  Much to the amusement of our neighbor, when I spotted the gang heading for the goat barn, I walked over to Bucky and Rudy to ask where they were going.
After a bit of fluffing and stomping of feet (that's rooster for 'We're in charge here'), the girls gathered together and slowly followed me back within eye sight of the tractor.  It was funny to watch everyone drop her head and run for the house.  Guess that 500 foot adventure was enough.  Today, everyone seems content to stay well within eye sight of home.
There was a little surprise waiting for us this morning at Buckeye manor.  That wee little egg on the left, which is about half the size of a normal hen's egg, is a pullet egg.  When young hens start laying they produce very small eggs.  The buckeyes are of age to start laying so we're expecting to find more of these soft tan nuggets.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Buckeyes on the move

Although it's only mid-October, it's time to think about where the Buckeyes will be spending the Winter.  To make it easier to get to them and the Americaunas in Chickenland, the tractor has been moved to be closer to the back gate.  On the one hand, when the snow is blowing, this will make it easier to take care of everyone at once.  On the other hand, because the chicken door now faces the main house's back yard, a whole new world has openned up to Bucky and company.
Just because a closed gate is between the tractor and the backyard, doesn't mean one can't squeeze under it.  From there, all bets are off.  There's a few remaining blackberries on the wild brambles.  There are grapes that haven't been harvested.  There are bugs, lots of bugs, hiding down in the nice thick lawn.
Oh, yes.  Did I mention that the old chick house had been repurposed for a dog house?
Bucky and Rudy make sure the girls are safe, keeping an eye out for curious puppies or strangers.
It's going to be interesting to see if everyone goes back to tractor at the end of the day, or if the pup will have room mates this evening...
looks like it's been repainted.  wow! it's really clean in there!  Are you sure this is our old place?  I don't remember there being a porch.  shouldn't there be hay in here?  It kinda smells like puppy...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Just take the picture

Thought I would share this with you for a moment:  anyone who has a family, knows how hard it is to get everyone in the picture looking good.  Just as the picture is about to snap someone is going to tug, push, or put a finger some place you don't want saved for history.  Taking pictures about the farm is no different.
Look!  A helicopter!
Just as you think everyone is lined up and looking good, a distraction appears.
Is that a bunny?  I think I saw a bunny!  I don't know, bunnies are kinda scary.  Did that bucket just move?
and, of course, there are other distractions:
OW!  don't pull my tail!
It's not just getting the kids lined up, sometimes the photographer has an issue.  Such as backing into a hole.
Let's not forget the little show offs, that want to be in every picture and have mom's undivided attention:
Look Mom!  Look how high I am!  Wanna see me jump off?  Are you looking?  Mom? MMAAAAA!
One of the nice things about digital cameras is that one can take lots of pictures and immediately see, who's been good and who's been busy.  Just keep snapping and maybe by the end of the day, you too will have one or two to share...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Portable fences and graze rotations

To keep the goats healthy and reduce the need to worm them, aside from periodic Famacha exams, every five to seven days the girls are migrated to a new pasture.  On the surface this seems simple enough: select an area where they haven't grazed in a month or two, set up the portable fence, move the girls into the new space.  Easy-peasie.
So it doesn't turn into a goat rodeo, fence moving is best done when curious noses have gone to bed.  "Whacha doing?  What's that?  I wanna help!  Hey this fence isn't hot!  Look at me!  WEEEEEEEE!"  No, we're not going there.
Electric fences serve two purposes: keeping the bad stuff out (think: coyotes, dogs, and deer) and keep the good stuff in (goats, chickens).  Touch an electric fence and you learn very quickly what not to do.  Unfortunately doesn't mean that I've only been zapped once (try carrying a rolled up fence and bump into the live one: that's a sensation one doesn't readily forget).
Although we have permanent fencing around the pasture, for ease of rotation, mowing, and maintenance the temporary electronet type fencing works best for the internal paddocks.
Before the season, we did an estimate of how much pasture the girls would need and how to subdivide the area to best suit those needs.  As a work in progress, there are times that we are much more successful at this than others.
"You know you could utilize your pasture much more effectively if your fence lines were straighter."   This is a comment that one probably wants to keep to ones self, especially after ones neighbor has spent the better part of the morning trying to put the fence line in.  Why does it take so long?  Rocks.
One could spend weeks clearing a pasture of rock yet lurking just a few inches below the soil will be a stony foe.  Nothing makes a better rock divining rod than a temporary fence post.  The step on prong makes it easy to install and remove provided that the way it clear.  Minutes turn to hours as one positions, steps, then repositions and tries again.  One of the advantages to doing this task after a rain is that the rocks and soil are more forgiving and will gently yield to pressure.  Dryer days, though more pleasant to be outside, have the potential to add a challenge.  Like everything else on the farm: move slow and steady; don't get in a hurry; take your time; don't forget to breathe.
When its all said and done, moving the fence can be a meditative moment.  One is outside.  You feel the sun and wind.   You hear the birds and animals.  The repetition while installing it can be very relaxing.
 And those cute little busy noses, coming out to play.  It's a good feeling to know everyone is safe.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Getting ready for Winter

There is so much to be done on the farm to get ready for Winter.  Aside from making sure that all the snow removal equipment is tuned up and ready, fences need to be checked and animal housing needs to have a good going over to ensure that everything is ship-shape.
While DH takes care of that end of the business, the garden needs to be readied for winter and all the birds and animals will also need to be checked.
Chickenland has looked like a giant pillow fight has taken place.  The girls molt twice a year, more heavily in fall than spring.  This leaves some looking a bit disheveled (does anyone ever look "sheveled"?).  We make sure that they get a balanced diet with a little extra protein (yummy! meal worms!) mix in.  Scratch feed is also increased a wee bit to ensure those tummies stay warm over night.
who you callin' scruffy?
To ensure that the chicken houses are warm, extra straw is laid down, forming a nice cushy floor to hold in the heat or provide a snuggly area to wiggle down into.  The hay works just like a down comforter: the air spaces in the down or straw slow the heat dissipation.  This makes those little burrows nice and warm when the winter winds blow outside.
Most of the day, Saturday, was spent clearing out the animal barn.  Once the paddock is clean of old straw, layers of stall treatment, wood shavings, and new straw are put it.  This lays down the beginnings of a deep bed which will help keep the girls warm in the winter.  Boers are cold hardy provided that one allows them to get plenty of pasture time while the seasons change.  While they don't stay outside in the cold rain (who likes to get wet and chilled?), they do go out to play while things are dry. 
 Everyone seems happy despite the chill in the air.  Winter is coming.  Another new adventure.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Harvest time 2014

Patiently we watched and waited.  Every few days, we walked the orchard, monitoring the baby trees for signs of growth and possible pests.  With sharpened tools, we selectively pruned, gently spreading limbs to uncross and grow healthy.  First year fruits were removed to allow the baby trees to put their energy into growing strong.  This year we allowed some of the little trees to produce fruit.
Gala, Fuji, and Cortlands were very productive, resulting in large, lovely apples, beckoning to be eaten straight off the tree.  The Honey Crisp trees produced apples, however perhaps need another year or two to mature before they will be a marketable size.
Helper puppy guarding the pick sack

As far as I'm concerned, they were all perfect size for making apple butter and, above all,
mmmmmmmmmm, pie...
apple pie.  If you're looking for some good recipes to use your apples in, < click here>.  Remember, keep it simple.  Enjoy a fresh fall apple today!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

At home with the Buckeyes

I'm happy to report that the Buckeyes finally settled into the new chicken tractor.  By placing their food and water inside the tractor, encouraged them to go inside it to explore.  Once they had determined that it was a safe place, it only took a few more days before they started spending the night there.
Sidebar: the chicks had been taught to go to bed at the words: 'Bed-bye'.  In the beginning it didn't occur to me that 'Bed-bye' to the chicks would mean for them to go to bed in their chick house.  They made this association clear to me the first night when all were in bed in the big house except one.  I said, 'Bed-bye' and they all came flooding out of the house to stand by the chick house door, waiting for me to open it up.  Sorry, kids.  My bad.
A day or two after that, after tucking them in for the night in the tractor, we moved the chick house out to repurpose it for other things.
I'm now wondering how long is it going to take before they start using their roost at night.  Currently, when they go to bed, they nest up together like they did when they were chicks: in a tight chicken nest in a corner of the house.  All in good time, I guess.