Thursday, March 31, 2011

Murder by Agua - A Poultry Tragedy

This morning while tending to the baby chicks, I noted the absence of Peanut, our little Silver-Spangled Hamburg hen. Our only Silver Spangled Hamburg hen. Well I found her, and as I'm sure you've guessed, the outcome was not good.

Poor sweet little Peanut was under the waterer. Under it. A one-gallon waterer, which, when full, weighs in the neighborhood of 8 pounds, versus an 8-ounce chicken. :(

There is no point in assigning blame for the tragedy. We all make mistakes and even though this was a serious one, what can be gained by from knowing the dirty details of Peanut's demise?

So I'm going to tell the kiddos that Peanut passed away, and leave it at that for now. I picked up a few Barred Rock chicks to replace Peanut & Mrs. Floopy, which will hopefully give the girls something to focus on besides the all too short life of dear Peanut.

At the end of this year, when I tally up our gains and losses, monetary and animal, well... it's going to be a rough day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Empty Bucket Blues

This evening, after much forestalling and many false starts, Billy and I officially tried our hands (pun completely intended!) at milking the goats. Ugh!

We'd been waiting to start for a few reasons; we didn't want to take milk away from the babies, we didn't want to have to learn to milk in the dark, and we were hoping to not have to milk out in the rain. Well, the babies are beginning to wean, daylight savings has given us more light to milk by, and the rain/wet goat issue won't be resolving itself anytime soon, as this is March in the Pacific Northwest, so we bit the bullet and forged ahead.

The fellow that we bought our mama goats from had given us a few tips about milking these gals. Firstly, that Blue was a sitter, which of course turned out to be absolutely true. This girl is maybe eighteen inches tall at her highest point. Getting even a teeny-weeny bucket under her is a challenge. Throw in the sitting down nonsense and you've got a very weird geometry problem. If Bill holds her butt up, and I angle the bucket just so and only use two fingers to milk her bitty little teats... I'm questioning whether or not she's going to be worth the trouble of milking.

Then there's Fritzen, the diva. She had no patience for our fiddling about whatsoever. She's kicky and as hairy as a Sasquatch to boot, which means you get 10 drops of hairy milk for every turd-caked hoof that you dodge. Lovely.

Lastly, there's our Chardy. Her former owner had gone on and on about how great she was to milk. Big "channels" in the teats, lots of milk per squeeze, yada yada. Did he mention that she needs approximately 20 minutes of bribery and massage to let her milk down? Nope. She was actually probably the most patient with our bumbling efforts, but still got pretty ticked by the end of it all. To make amends, in addition to the grain that we fed the ladies during the "milking", we also took each of them for a short walkabout on the leash to nibble on some of the fresh grass that all of this month's rain has given us. I hope that there were no hard feelings.

I'm a little disappointed about today's crash and burn. The amount of milk that we got barely covered the bottom of the bucket, and keep in mind that that is three goats' worth in a wee little quart-sized bucket. Not good! It's time to call for reinforcements. My cousin's eldest daughter is a goat whiz, so I'm going to beg and bribe her to come over and show me the way of things. I'm also going to look into trimming/shaving the ladies' udder areas because HAIRY MILK IS GNARLY. And I need to find a very gentle way to break it to my farmer/foreman/Chief Goat Officer, Billy, that we need a pallet shed or a lean-to of some kind to milk the goats in, out of the elements, sooner rather than later. But he's still eyeball-deep in chicken coop construction, so for the sake of his mental health and by extension, mine, I do not dare even suggest such a thing.

Like everything else about this venture, we'll fumble our way through milking one way or another. Or else we'll sell the farm and move to Spain. You know, one or the other. Here's hoping that we'll get our milk eventually... o necesito estudiar espaƱol mucho, mucho mas. Mucho mas.

Monday, March 28, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/28/11

Happiness is... a 90% successful germination rate! My inner-statistician (Wait, I have one of those?!?) is doing a happy dance right now. :)

Peas, peas, peas! Mammoth Melting, Oregon Sugar Snap & Lincoln Homesteader

Friday, March 25, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/25/11

The new coop, in progress. Keep chipping away at it, Farmer Bill, those babies chickies are growing fast!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Planted so far...

...some of it outside, and some of it still inside on seedling heat mats and under grow lights -

*Rhubarb, Victoria (planted out)
*Rhubarb, Cherry (planted out)
*Potatoes, Blue (planted out, in a big old pot)
*Potatoes, Russet ("")
*Cilantro, 8 cells indoors
*Thai Holy Basil, 8 cells indoors
*Arugula, 8 cells ""
*Lettuce, Red Romaine/Mesclun mix, 1 flat ""
*Nasturtiums, 1 flat ""
*Pole Beans, Kentucky Wonder, 1/2 flat ""
*Celery, Golden self-blanching, 1/2 flat - germinated, then croaked immediately! :(
*Peas, Mammoth Melting, Oregon Sugar Snap, Lincoln Homesteader, 72 cells total ""
*Pumpkin, Cinderella, 6 seeds, indoors

I think that that is it! I'll be starting a few more every few days. I'm probably going to plant out some kale & Chinese cabbage seeds in the next few days. They tolerate the cold well enough that they don't really need a jump start inside. I'm going to sort of wedge them in here and there in the flower beds, since the garden plot is still WAY too wet to work with yet. My chief concern is that the deer will harvest them before I get a chance to!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The ol' Goat Switcharoo

Our baby boy, Blackjack has entered adolescence, physically. Emotionally, he is still THE biggest mama's boy on the planet.

Wherever you find Blue, you are likely to find Blackjack, cowering behind.

Well, because of his err... coming of age, young Mr. Blackjack needed to be moved to the boys' pen, lest we have a repeat of the surprise baby bunnies incident, featuring Blackjack and his mom. EW.

So Blackjack joined the boys, and Gertie (our former herd queen) left her brothers and joined the mamas and babies. We're still not 100% sure that she is pregnant, but she has definitely filled out, so, come May, I guess we'll see.

Gert is adjusting ok to her new home. She and Blue are jostling for third in the pecking order, with Fritzen as the undisputed new Queen of the herd. Blackjack's transition has not been as smooth. He can see his Mama, just 5 feet away, he just can't get to her and he bawls about it night and day. And it's the most pathetic sounding cry you've ever heard. A warbling, high pitched, MAAAAAAAAAAH! Blue still sticks her head through the fence once in a while in an effort to edge closer to her boy, but has mostly fulfilled her need to mother by looking after Chardy and Fritzen's bouncing brood. She is an excellent foster mom, so even though she's probably too old to be bred again herself, she's definitely going to be with us for the long haul.

By the way - we've decided to sell our two wethers, Archie & Spike, and two of our baby mini Lamanchas, Hop (a doe) and Buckley (a buckling). Drop me a line if you or anyone you know might be interested!

The only constant here is that things are always changing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/20/11

Some funky freaky fungi that I found in two out of three of our compost bins. Does anyone recognize it?

Friday, March 18, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/18/11

Do not adjust your monitors! This is what good, home grown, organic egg yolks look like.

These beauties became part of the Guinness Chocolate Ice Cream that I made for my husbands birthday. Not to toot my own horn, but that stuff was AMAZING. Check out the recipe over on Girl Gone Granola. :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/17/11

In lieu of shamrocks...

A Kentucky Wonder pole bean sprout, stretching toward the light. Happy St. Patty's Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/16/11

Best. Coffee cup. EVER. Thanks, Lib!

The Spring Warm Up

Unfortunately I'm not talking about the weather - yet. I'm talking about these old bones of mine, and more pressingly, my mental organizational abilities. Time to dust off my gardening tools and bust out my treasured seed packets and get this farm a-rollin'!

It'll still be a while before I can put anything in the soon-to-be garden plot, as most of it is still under and inch or so of water, but I can and have started a few flats of starts inside and am chomping at the bit to start some more. There is something so incredibly gratifying about watching new life unfold - whether it be in the form of a sprouting seed or a wobbly newborn kid - that feeds me at least as much energy as it requires of me to sustain. And with the coming of Spring, sooner or later I will be immersed in it.

What's growing/producing this week:

*We're averaging 3 eggs per day now since Gracie started laying - finally.

*Seedlings - 1/2 flat of "Golden Self-Blanching Celery"; 1/2 flat of "Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans"; a whole flat of Nasturtiums; 8 cells each of cilantro, arugula and Thai basil; a flat of lettuces including red romaine, mesclun mix and rouge d'hiver. (Most of these seedlings will be for the school plant sale next month. I will keep a few of the herbs and some lettuce in my windowsill though. Can't beat the homegrown!) :)

*Mama goats are all still in milk, and we're 90% sure that Gertie is pregnant after all, so she should be kidding in early May.

*We are 99% sure that Cinderella bunny is pregnant again, with a new litter due within the next week or so. Papa Prince Charming was neutered, but not before he snuck in one last hurrah, the stinker.

*Narcissus, Snowdrops, Crocus, Daffodils, and Forsythia are all popping up and open. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/14/11

The new coop, she rises! Thank you for all of your hard work in the rain, Bill, Mom & Dad!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/13/11

Two of Fritzen's triplets, Buckley and Oreo. They're going to be a month old tomorrow! I can hardly believe it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/12/11

This is an old fireplace that sits just off of back porch under some very old cedar trees, slowly being consumed by runaway English ivy. I have dreams of cleaning it up and turning it into a bread oven. :)


I'm fiddling around with a new look for the blog. The text still isn't right and I'm not sure what else need tweaking. Your thoughts?


Friday, March 11, 2011

My Nemesis Returns

This smug little turkey was back today. Today was the first time in about a week that I turned the hens out to free range, having been playing it safe since last weekend when we saw a pair of Red Tails over the chicken yard. As soon as we saw this dude perched on his favorite post, just behind the bog, we sent the girls out to round up the hens and put them in the run. At least they got a little bit of out-of-coop time today!

The Great Horned Owl that lives in our neighbor's back forty has also recently returned from wherever she wintered, but I don't mind her so much. She can have all of the field mice and voles that her little belly can handle, just as long as she continues to ignore my chicky-birds.

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 3/11/11

Our visiting Great Blue Heron, "Wilma", snacking on frogs in our bog.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's Happenin' - 3/8/11

Forgive me if I ramble a bit here and jump topics. I am both sleep deprived and massively over-caffeinated which results in herky-jerky thinking. I've also been wiping chicken butts all morning which is maybe not the finest way to start your day. Anyway, I'm a goofy, babbling dork and I know it. :p

The new chicks arrived yesterday, and all but one survived the journey and transition. We lost a little silver-laced Polish pullet, Mrs. Floopy, due to a bad case of pasted butt which rendered her too weak to stand, eat or drink. I kept her close to my skin and tried to feed her sugar water, drop by drop, but she didn't seem to have the knack of swallowing. Poor baby. The hatchery was kind enough to refund me for her, but now we're down to just one silver laced Polish, darn it, and I really wanted a pair.

A few of the other babies' tushies got a bit pasted overnight, but I gave them my standard treatment of a warm water wash-up, followed by a drop of olive oil rubbed into the feathers around the bum-bum to help prevent further sticking or build up. Oh the glamor! ;)

We've made some adjustments recently with the kids and their critter patrol duties. Up until a week ago, I'd had them doing critter chores both morning and night. Nothing major, just feeding and watering everybody and turning the chickens out. But I started to notice an increase in the amount of stress in the girls, building and occasionally interfering with school and sleep, so I relieved them both of critter patrol duties for a week and took them on myself. I lost 5 pounds doing what they used to do every day, so I know that I made the right call for them and for me. We're trying to strike a delicate balance between home life, school, extra curricular activities and educational opportunities/teachable moments without over scheduling them and slurping up all of their free time. It's a struggle, but we're working through it. Anyway, the girls have resumed their evening critter patrols, which is a significantly lighter duty than morning patrols, and does not have the added stress of trying to get everything done in time to catch the bus. So far so good. Unfortunately for me and my gigantic lazy-streak, this also means that I am on morning critter patrol for the foreseeable future. Have I ever mentioned how much of a morning person I am not? ;)

The hens are enjoying the increase in sunlight, filtered through the grey clouds though it be, and giving us about 2 eggs per day now. Gracie has yet to lay at all. I hope she steps up soon because we have lots of folks who'd like to buy our eggs and can't meet the demand. Hopefully our babies will be laying by the end of summer/beginning of fall and we'll be overwhelmed with eggs.

The goats are all looking pretty good, except for young Mr. Blackjack. He's got a very snotty nose, which I have not seen before, so I'll need to scour my books and the interwebs to see what it is he might have, and go about treating him for it. I had really wanted our farm and all of its critters to be 100% organic, antibiotic free, etc., etc., but when this baby, or any of my other critters need intervention to live a happy and whole life, who am I to deny them that? I wouldn't hesitate to give my children antibiotics if I knew they needed it. It pretty much follows my philosophy about vaccinations. I don't love the idea of shooting mostly dead bacteria/viruses and lord knows what kind of chemicals into my little ones, but having seen some suffer and die from something horrific and preventable, like Bird Pox, I begrudgingly give in and vaccinate everybody.

That being said, I am very much against the non-organic standard procedure of feeding or otherwise administering antibiotics, hormones and stimulants routinely. It's a very short-sighted "solution" that will eventually have some pretty dire results for the critters that are being treated (and who's bugs are building immunity against one antibiotic after another) and for the people consuming those animals.

I'm going to do the best that I can by the animals and humans that are in my care. I'll keep on feeding them the best food that I can find, tend to their illness and injuries, provide them with a safe place to lay their heads and stay warm, and shower them with love and snuggles and hope for the best. I feel the weight of each of these lives on my back, but I also feel a joyfulness and depth of love in excess of anything else I have ever known. As much as I whine and as hard as this life we've chosen can be, I am thankful for it every day.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I was just updating the critter stats in the sidebar, and had blazing, spooky moment of clarity. We aren't just outnumbered by critters now, we are buried in critters. 33 chickens + 7 Bunnies + 12 goats + 2 parakeets + a turtle = 55 animals! We moved into this house with 17. Maybe it's time for us slow the acquisition/breeding down just a touch?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

For Your Viewing Pleasure...

...spazzy baby goats!

If you listen closely, you can also hear my nemisises(? nemisi?), the crows and the red-tailed hawk in the background. Shoo devil birds!

Buckley using his mother as a balance board. The things we moms put up with, I tell ya...

What's on the menu today, you ask? Why, it's Mom's shirt! Don't forget to include a side of camera strap. ;)