Friday, November 16, 2012

Wintertime Do's and Don'ts for Chickens

This article brought to mind that, with the temperatures falling fast, it's officially time to go into Winter mode with the chickens. Around here, that means-

*Carbs, and lots of them. We very rarely give our chickies corn or bread products during the rest of the year, as warm/hot weather and excessive sugar/carb intake are the perfect storm for chicken diarrhea (ew). However, during the cooler months (in Western Washington, this is, at a minimum, November-March) we like to feed a carbohydrate-intensive food at least once per day, to help the birds maintain their fat/muscle while still managing to keep themselves warm.

*Grit, just a little extra. I worry that downpours that keep the chickens inside, or snow that blankets the ground could keep our chooks from getting necessary grit. So, we add just a little extra to the scratch/pellet mix that we feed, just for insurance.

*Out early, in early. We are back on Standard Time, so it's getting light a little earlier, and getting dark way earlier. We have to adjust out chicken liberation/round up times accordingly. Otherwise Mr. Fox will catch us out and remind us that laziness is not a virtue.

*Diatomaceous Earth. We add DE to the chickens' rations in small amounts all the time, but when the guys and gals are going to be spending a little more time inside the coop, it'd be a very easy thing for a parasite (mites,worms) to run riot through our flock, and so we add just a little extra to their food. Lots of folks also throw a very light dusting on the bedding material to deter things like mites, but as we have two asthmatics in the family, and DE is essentially microscopic glass, we don't use it in a way that could likely render it airborne and inhalable.

In the midst of all of this suddenly cold weather, naturally, the chickens have decided to throw a molt in the mix, because apparently things weren't interesting enough. So I'm really ramping up the carbs right now, because it's cold and they're all half naked. And on top of that, no eggs for a week now. :( These stinkers should be glad that I love them all so much, because a meaner farmer would start making soup when hens started eating double and laying nada.

Oy, I say.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Today's Take & Booze News - 9/23/12

Today's take isn't really much to speak of, except to mention that Sidney's milk production seems to finally have begun its decline. We "only" got about a quart and a half from her for the past few days, instead of the usual half gallon. Drying off time is approaching.

Drying the girls off to give their little bodies a break, and, to prepare them for breeding back, is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the milk will definitely be missed for the 6+ months that we won't have it. On the other hand, milking during a cold, wet, dark Washington Winter is zero percent fun for the farmer and the goat both, so it makes sense to take a break then.

The hens have been laying a bit less too, not on account of the weather, as we have a pleasant Indian Summer going - for now. Most likely, it is because some of the gals have begun their molt. Molting is the yearly bad-haircut-grow-out phase of chicken adulthood. In years past, the gals have left it 'til much later in the season, counter-intuitively commencing their feather loss just when the temperatures take their great initial dips. This year, it seems that the hennies & roos are slightly ahead of the game.

The real news for today is the booze. ;) Bill and I did our first racking of this year's ciders. My batch is about 2 gallons of blackberry apple cider, made from the juice of 30 pounds of apples and 6 pounds of wild blackberries, and using a packet of Lalvin V-1116 Montpellier cider yeast. Bill's is  nearer to 3 gallons of all-apple cider, made from 70 pounds worth of homegrown apples, and a packet of Nottingham ale yeast. Both tasted very promising, with mine having a very full body, sort of the cider-y answer to a Merlot, and Bill's being very light and crisp, reminding me a bit of champagne on my tongue.

I can't wait to see how these babies finish out!

*Eggs - 4
*Goats Milk- 1 1/2 quarts

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Apples & Pears

Today's and yesterday's combined take from our tiny "orchard" -

*Apples - 141 1/2 pounds! (Our previous record was 50 pounds.)
*Windfall Apples for critters - 13 pounds
*Pears - 20 pounds, 6 ounces (Our previous best was exactly one pear.)

Cider Futures :)

We also got -

*Eggs - 10
*Blackberries - 10 ounces

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Today's Take - 9/6/12

The Fruitapalooza continues. Which means that the juicing/cider-making palooza is up next. Hooboy!

*Eggs - 11
*Blackberries - 14 ounces
*Apples - 3 pounds

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Update: Annabel

As you know if you've been reading this blog long, we recently lost a hen who was very dear to us, sweet Miss Annabel.

She took ill rather suddenly, and over the course of the next four days, continued to steadily decline and was in such obvious discomfort that we felt it necessary to take her to the vet. Setting aside financial and logical issues (we had pretty much accepted that she could not, at this point, be saved), we took her to the one critter clinic in town that even sees chickens, South Bay Veterinary Hospital.

I can't say enough about how sweet they were to us and our chickie.

After making the difficult decision to let Anna pass away in comfort, we discussed what her illness might mean for the rest of our flock. The doctor recommended having Anna undergo a necropsy.

Within a few days, we heard the initial findings - it appeared that whatever illness or disease had killed her had done so via her kidneys and liver, both of which looked abnormal. Today we received the final word on the pathology studies, Annie appears to have had either chronic kidney disease or kidney cancer, which in turn spread to/effected her liver. It sounds like toward the end that she was experiencing multiple organ failure.

It's terrible to think about how much pain Anna may have been in, for God knows how long, before we finally noticed that she was not herself. But at the same time, knowing what we do now, it is also comforting and somewhat reassuring to know that we could not have done anything more to save her, and that what took her from us was not something that the rest of our flock was in danger of also catching.

So, there you have it. Answers that both trouble and comfort us at the same time. We were so lucky to have such a beautiful and sweet girl as long as we did.

Fly home, sweet Annie. xo

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Manly Art of Preserving Fish Eggs

It's not often, or actually ever, that I do much preserving (because this is Billy and not Chelle writing this post, she also writes more than me) but I put my hand to it today. Chelle was kind enough to post the brace of Chinook that I caught yesterday. I was free drifting eggs to catch them, fish roe and they cost me $11.00 for a small plastic container. I've only had some luck with commercial eggs and almost everyone else on the river are using ones that they have cured themselves so noting that I was lucky enough to have caught two hens I set to the task today.

I cured eggs once before from some pink salmon that Chelle and I caught in the salt at Redondo back in 2009. I used a commercial "shaker cure", basically a large plastic parmesan cheese container that was chock full of who knows what but the instructions have you shake it on the eggs and then let them drain. The hot pink dye sticks to everything and is very very strong so the materials you use get used once. I went downstairs to find my shaker cure and it was a solid block of crumbly rock. I resigned myself to going out to buy more until Chelle mentioned that we had borax, and we do, and I remembered that in the days of yore nobody used "shaker" cures.

So off to the interweb I went and found a good bunch of articles. There were those espousing a bed of Borax until the eggs became firmer, those that espoused using a dry mixture of salt, sugar, borax and dyes and even others that used scents like shrimp oil. But the old school cures that I found made a brine from sugar, salt and borax that was brought to a boil before soaking the eggs for about 20 minutes and straining. I like old school so I ran with that. The steps are pictorially shown below.....

First, you butterfly them without cutting the membrane that holds the skeins together and lay them out to dry....

These are the eggs from two King hens, a 9lber and a 12 lber.... Next you prepare a solution of 2 quarts water, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups non-iodized salt and two cups of 20 mule team borax...

After dissolving all of the solids and bringing the whole thing to a boil you take it off the heat and wait patiently for it to come back down to room temperature. After that you place the eggs, cut into smaller clusters, membrane down in the water. They will float. Soak for 18 minutes making sure to stop and "dunk" the eggs three times as you go.

The eggs will firm up (which is what you want so that they stay on a hook long enough to catch fish). After that you remove them from the brine and place in a strainer waiting for a majority of the brine and water to drip off of the eggs....

Then you take them out of the strainer and put them back out on clean paper towels and pat them dry....

Finally, take a one gallon ziplock, add about 1/2 cup of Borax to it and place the egg clusters in then bag. Close securely and "shake and bake" to coat them liberally with the borax. Squeeze all of the air out and place in the fridge for 12 - 24 hours. The borax in the bag will finish the job. Then you can freeze them (if you use a good seal-a-meal the eggs can last up to 2 years).

Finished product, ready for the fridge....

And there you have it... No need for a "shaker cure". Just a simple old school brining that could serve as the basis for fancier cures with different proportions of salt, sugar and other scents added if needed. Best of all, all of these ingredients were in the house saving me the cost of a commercial cure AND I have half a gallon of eggs! That's at least $35 worth of bait at the sportsman's store in town.

Thank you Chelle! Both for the day of fishing and for inspiring me!

Billy Lee

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Today's Take - 9/2/12

Though I wouldn't necessarily consider it part of today's take, I think that it is definitely worth noting here that between my friend Jen & I, we put up 78 jars of jam today. Whew!

Our fruit of choice this year was a case of lovely "Mountain Jewel" peaches. We turned them in to Spiced Peach, Raspberry Peach and Earl Grey infused Peach jams. Not to toot my own horn here, but our jam came out amazing, especially the Earl Grey.

While I was busy jamming away with Jen, Bill was out at the river, landing two King salmon!

Not bad for a day's work! :)

*Eggs - 7
*Salmon - 21 pounds (9 & 12 pounds, respectively)

Friday, August 31, 2012


I'm back to knitting fairly regularly again, finally. Since the accident, I didn't often have either the energy or the dexterity to work with my hands, so easing back in to knitting has been slow, but nice.

I'm hoping to do another bazaar or two again this Christmas, so I'm working on building up a good and diverse inventory. Right now, I'm focusing on washcloths, since those were my best seller last year, followed by my bike helmet earmuffs. I'll be making heaps of both this time, so as not to run out again.

About 3/4 of my project yarns were gifted to me, so they cost me nada out of pocket, which means that if/when I'm able to sell what I make from them, it'll be mostly straight profit. Yay!

I did need some more kitchen cotton though, so I spent $30 on quite a bit of yarn at Michaels, which I have (so far) turned into 3 3/4 dishcloths which will, in theory, sell for $5 each. Here's hoping that I make enough to cover my expenses at least!

I also recently picked up a few clearance herbs at Bark & Garden, several of which look like they are prime for dividing. I spent $33 there, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to make a good chunk of that back selling live plants (started from these) at our farm stand in the future. Even if I don't (but I hope I do), I will have spent $2 each on some really interesting herbs that would cost at least that much for a cut bunch in the produce section of the grocery store.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Today's Take - 8/31/12

*Eggs - 6
*Apples - 4 pounds for us, 3 pounds of windfalls for the critters
*Blackberries - 1 pound

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Today's Take - 8/29/12

Froo-its! We have all manner of pie and jam fixin's busting out all over just now. :)

This is just the tip of the apple iceberg, and the blackberries don't show any signs of abating soon either. Yay for free fruit!

*Eggs- 5
*Apples - 10 1/2 pounds
*Blackberries - 1 pound, 10 ounces

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Today's Take - 8/23/12

More of the same - it's high blackberry season, which will soon give way to apple-mania.

*Eggs - 4 (What's up with that, laydies?)
*Wild Blackberries - 1 pound, 1 ounce
*Windfall apples - 8 or 9 (unweighed) that went straight to the goaties, who appreciated their under-ripe yet bruised texture very much. ;)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Today's Take - 8/17/12

Well, it seems like our extended, super wet Spring, followed by these past two weeks of miserable heat may have finally paid dividends in the form of a berry landslide.

Today the girls, some friends and I went back to the u-pick blueberry farm just up the street and managed to pick 2 pounds of berries from just 5 or 6 bushes. They were chock full! We'll try to get back and pick a few more once or twice at least before the season wraps up, because at $2.25 per pound for organic, I intend to fill up on berries for eating fresh, making jam and freezing for use in baked goods and breakfasts throughout the next year.

The marionberries and blackberries are also pretty epic this year. Just today I picked a pound of berries from a bush that grows in the chickens' yard. I also got a lot of unwanted attention from the cluckers while picking, and so shared a berry with them for every 4 or so that I picked for myself. They would scramble and race each other to every berry that dropped with the winner then high-tailing it away to a secluded place in which to snarf down their prize. They haven't been waiting on my kindness though - they've been helping themselves to all of the berries that they can reach. You can definitely tell how high they are able to jump, based upon the total absence of berries below about 18 inches off of the ground. ;)

As much as I whine and complain about this crazy weather, I sure am thankful that it has provided us with so much beautiful food.

P.S. - The apple trees and pear tree are loaded too! YAY!

*Goat Milk - 1/2 gallon
*Eggs - 15!
*Marionberries/blackberries - 1 pound
*Blueberries (u-pick) - 2 pounds
*Garlic (from Lisa) - 28 heads!
*Potatoes, squash, basil & beans (also from Lisa) - Lots!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Today's Take - 8/12/12

If you count the blueberries from the organic u-pick berry farm down the road, today's take has berry buttermilk waffles written all over it. :)

*Goats milk - 1/2 gallon
*Eggs - 9
*Blueberries - 1 pound, 6 ounces
*Wild blackberries - 10 ounces

Friday, August 10, 2012


My Annabel, my very first hennie, is dying.

There isn't much to be done for seriously ill chicken, and so I feel helpless just seeing her decline day by day. I could take her to the vet, but being honest, I know that it'd be a pointless exercise. We've taken chickens to the vet in the past, we've never taken a chicken home from the vet.

If anybody has any suggestions, I'm willing to try them. She has been losing strength over the past few days and eats very, very little. Her comb has a grayish-blue cast that scares me. She doesn't look to be in pain, just very tired.

I'm wringing my hands. I don't know what I should do for her.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Today's Take - 8/8/12

Bill & I are doing a little garden-sitting for a friend, so today when we stopped by to water and pick, we scored BIG on the veggies.


I'm going to have to find out exactly what variety of beans these are, because they're insanely huge. Seriously, some were a good nine inches long! We chopped up a handful of them and one of the zucchinis and added them to our chicken & dumplings tonight. Delicious!

I think I'm going to use the cukes (pickling and slicing varieties) to make a jar of bread and butter pickles. As for the mountain of beans, we will probably blanch and stir-fry them with dinner for at least the next few days. *stomach grumbling* :)

*Goats Milk - 1/2 gallon
*Eggs - ?
*Cucumbers - 1 pound, 9 ounces
*Zucchini - 1 pound, 3 ounces
*Beans/Haricots - 2 pounds, 6 ounces
*Handful of Red Romaine lettuce, peas and cherry tomatoes

Monday, August 6, 2012

Today's Take - 8/5/12

*Goats milk - 1/2 gallon
*Eggs - None collected :(
*Chicken harvested- 1, about 6 pounds, "King Kong", 17 month old Austalorp rooster

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Today's Take - 8/4/12

Oh the heat! If only we had plants that would thrive in it, instead of only having critters who suffer on account of it. :( Today's high was 94, which is misery to a PNW girl like me.

We helped the pup keep cool by giving him ice cubes, which he loves to crunch, as well as a container of homemade chicken stock, straight out of the freezer. Rexy licked that thing down to a nub, grateful for the relief.

The goats did a lot of lounging in the shade to beat the heat, while the chickens walked around with their wings out, airing their armpits (wingpits?) in an attempt to shed a little heat. We all made it, but we're all a little worse for the wear. ;P

*Goats milk - 1/2 gallon
*Eggs - 2 :(
*Raspberries (from Lisa's garden)- 14 ounces

Friday, August 3, 2012

Today's Take - 8/3/12

Pretty much the same as usual, for this week, anyway. ;)

*Goats milk - 1/2 gallon
*Eggs - 7
*Marion berries - 6 ounces
*Blackberries - 6 ounces

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Today's Take - 8/1/12

Oops - forgot to post this last night!

*Goat milk - 1/2 gallon
*Eggs- 13
*Marion Berries - 14 ounces

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Today's Take - 7/29/12

It was weirdly hot today. In spite of our better intentions to bushwhack the Alder saplings and blackberry bushes in the chicken yard into submission, we mostly ended up vegging out.

We did manage to bring in the following, though, in spite of our lazy -

*Goat Milk, 1/2 gallon
*Eggs - 7
*Lavender flowers (about 1/4 of what is ripe for the taking)

I'm going to hang these flowers upside down to dry, later, I'll cut some more to try extracting a little essential oil from with the steam juicer. Both the flowers and the oil will eventually find their way into our homemade soaps. :)

Today's Take - 7/28/12

I know it's been like, forever, since I've posted a "Today's Take", but I'm finally getting up and around enough again to finally go outside and actually see what there is for the taking.

Not a ton today, but Summer is late in coming this year, and we never got our garden up and running, so the pickins are slim yet. The next few weeks should pick up a lot, between the Himalayan (wild) blackberries finally ripening, the u-pick blueberry farm opening for the season, and the garden-sitting that Bill and I are doing for our friend, Lisa. Happy Chelle. :)

*Goat Milk - 1/2 gallon
*Eggs - 7
*Marion berries - 4 ounces

Look how big these puppies are! :)

In the next day or two, we'll also be harvesting some rose petals and lavender flowers to throw in the dehydrator and/or steam juicer for adding to our homemade soap, someday. ;)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weird Bugs!

Scarlet and her buddy, Sanne, found this pair of beetles with a recently deceased shrew in our bottomland today.

A little googling and picking the brain of my entomologist friend, Glenn, tells me that these are carrion beetles, but exactly what sort, we're not quite sure.

Regardless, the way that carrion beetles work is pretty fascinating, if you have the stomach for that sort of thing.

A male scopes out a "good" corpse, then sets about advertising the fact via pheromones. Eventually, if he's lucky, a lady beetle is thus wooed, and together they work to move and bury the carrion, preventing this tempting treat from being stolen by another carrion fan.

The new couple either bury the body where they find it, or transport it a short distance away (usually about a meter) by crawling under the carrion, flipping themselves upside down and "walking" the corpse (picture a bucket brigade handing buckets of water on down the line) forward a smidge, then either passing the load on to their partner, or repeating the whole exhausting process themselves. From what I've read, these beetles can lift something like 200 times their own body weight! This shrew must have been easy-peasy for them.

After burying their find, the female lays eggs in a chamber just above the burial site. The eggs hatch into larvae, which are then fed the carrion by their parents, via regurgitation, until they are able to go and dine on their own. Some bug sites suggest that the number of eggs laid by the female is proportionate to the size of their "meal".

I find their whole life cycle nasty, yet fascinating. The most unique characteristic though, is the fact that a mated pair stays together to prepare for and raise the young. That's pretty uncommon in most wild animals, and, I'm told, is extremely uncommon in insects of any kind.

So there you go - gross yet informative Boggy Hollow factoid of the day.

Carrion, my wayward bug! ;)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cheese n' Stuff

Miss Sidney has been keeping us in the milk, big time lately. That, and life is getting closer and closer to normal with each passing week, post car accident, which means that it's time to find my groove again.

I busted out my handy-dandy copy of Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carroll, and found a few recipes that I'm keen to try.

Always at the top of our list is feta. I'm a huge Mediterranean food nut, which means that we go through epic amounts of feta. I also want to try some paneer or queso blanco, the non-melty variety of cheese that texturally works a lot like tofu. I'd like to try it in a stir fry or maybe in an egg roll. And then, the hands-down most popular incarnation of my goat milk - cajeta. I'll be interested to try a batch with Sid's milk, as it seems to have a higher butterfat content than Chardonnay & Fritzen's did, and according to a few folks who have tried it, tastes more "grassy". I'm not sure how that'll translate to caramel, but I volunteer as test subject! ;)

Livy & I are also studying up on making goats milk soap. We are trying to find our necessary supplies on the cheap at thrift stores and whatnot, and will be cutting and drying some lavender and rose petals soon that will eventually end up in our soaps. With raw milk, it's use it or lose it, hence the grand plans.

Boy it feels good to be getting back to "normal"! ;)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Homemade essential oils?

Has anyone tried using a steam juicer to extract essential oils from plants, etc.? I'm presently doing a LOT of research on homemade goats milk soaps and lotions, and would love to use as much homemade product as possible from our little farm. Help?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Today's Take 4/9/12

Hooray for the return of the sunshine!

*Dandelion Greens - 4 ounces
*Dandelion petals - 1 ounce
*Eggs - 21!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Today's Take 4/3/12

Scarlet and I did a little foraging in the yard today. Hooray for Spring!

I was actually a little disappointed with the number of dandelions that I was able to get. I was hoping for a lot more. I guess that this extended Winter has everything behind schedule, including the weeds.

We did, however, find a new patch of nettles growing on the south side of the property. I don't mind having to go and find my food in the woods, but there is definitely something to be said for being able to forage in your own yard!

As for what I'm going to do with these gathered greens, I'm going to use the dandy petals for wine, the greens for salad, and Bill will use the roots for home brewing. I'll also be splitting my nettle haul 50/50 with him, as dried nettles are apparently good for bittering a beer. Who'd have thought?

I had to cut my expedition to the back yard short today, but I plan to go grab up some more nettles tomorrow. You have to strike while the iron is hot! :)

*Dandelions (flowers, greens & roots) - 8 ounces
*Stinging Nettles - 8 ounces
*Eggs - 12

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today's Take 3/14/12

You know your life has become a little odd when you have the following exchange with an otherwise friendly barista-

Barista: So what are you up to today?
Me: I'm finally going to pick up my goat...
Barista: Awwww!
Me: ...from the butcher.
Barista: *stunned blank stare*

Yep, today was the day to pick up our goat meat from the butcher shop. For a 70 pound goat, our guy dressed out to a somewhat disappointing 37 pounds. We did not keep the entrails, hide or horns, just the meat and a few bones for bone broth and dog treats.

Here's how our 37 pounds broke down-

*3 pkgs Sirloin Steaks, 1 lb, 13 oz total weight
*7 pkgs Loin Chops, 3 lbs, 5 oz total weight
*2 Leg Roasts, 7 lbs ""
*2 pkgs Ribs, 2 lbs, 14 oz ""
*2 Shanks, 2 lbs ""
*5 pkgs Shoulder Steaks, 4 lbs, 12 oz ""
*6 pkgs Rib Chops - 3lbs, 3 oz ""
*10 pkgs Ground - 11 lbs ""

As I was putting the meat in our chest freezer, I also noticed the pheasant that my husband took last November/December(?) that were never weighed and logged. There was a total of 7 1/2 lbs of meat, which it takes God knows how many pheasants to make.

So our freezer is bulking up again, with some 45 pounds of goat & bird. I've never cooked either goat or pheasant, so dinners around here might be a little interesting during my learning curve. ;)

Today's Take-

*Goat meat, 37 pounds
*Pheasant, 7 1/2 lbs
*Eggs, not yet collected

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More Snow!

Good gravy, really?

We're 8 days from Spring and we woke up to snow coming down fast and furious. C'mon!

I was supposed to go pick up our goat ("chevon" makes it sound fancier) from the butcher today, but their area has more snow than we do. ARRRG! I also have some really nice looking bean and tomato starts that are not going to take kindly to this ongoing white stuff.

Andrea! Come and take your snow back to Colorado! ;)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Today's Take 3/9/12

*Stinging Nettles, 18 ounces
*Eggs, 7

Not much, but the bounty of Spring isn't far off now. :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Germination & Propagation Situation

On behalf of my own little self, and my daughter's elementary school, I have planted/set to root:

*5 Forsythia cuttings (Which incidentally look really gorgeous just sitting there doing their thing in one of my old mason jars.)
*5 Japanese Willow cuttings
*3 Naked Seed Pumpkins
*16 Libby's Pride Tomatoes
*1 Burgess Buttercup Squash (so far - it just popped up today)
*Innumerable Buttercrunch and Cimmaron lettuce starts, a dozen or so Red Russian Kale starts.

My lofty, highly unlikely goal is to be able to grow/root/divide 100 plants for our school plants sale, in addition to starting many of the veggies and herbs that I will eventually plant out for myself, with my deadline being mid-May or thereabouts. Can I do it? Well, as of this morning, I'm about 30+ little starts closer to my goal. :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our First Livestock Harvest

We decided some time ago that we were going to harvest Spike. It wasn't an easy choice. We did not get into goats for the meat, but for the milk, fertilizer, shrub-trimming and companion aspects of livestock ownership. That being said, Spike wasn't really helpful in any of those areas except for the pooping. He was ornery, mean to the little goats, constantly escaping and destroying his pen, his house, bins and cans of various critter foods, etc. He was a sneaky little tornado of smash. And so, it was decided that we would harvest Spike, rather than pass him and his many issues on to a new owner. It wasn't a decision undertaken lightly. We've been seriously contemplating it for the better part of 6 months now.

After Spike's last escape, during which he went on a tear smashing feed cans, binging on and spoiling the girls' grain (and in the process giving himself a wicked case of the trots) and just generally destroying everything that held still, we decided with absolute certainty that the time had come. The arrangements were made with the kill guy and the butcher, and today was the day.

Fortunately, the man who dispatched and field dressed Spike was an absolute pro and did a mercifully quick and clean job of it, which is a great comfort to me, knowing that Spike did not suffer unduly and was treated with skill and dignity to the very last.

Unfortunately, the job had to be done early in the morning, and near the front of our property, lest our other goats see/smell the goings-on and become unsettled.

This meant that everything took place within view of the road, and may have been witnessed by some unsuspecting passersby.

Having been in this very same situation myself as a child, I can't help but feel badly for anyone having to see that first thing in the morning.

In spite of us having formed something of a callus when it comes to the less pleasant aspects of farming, like culling, harvesting and euthanizing our animals, chalking it up to being part of the reality of growing-your-own, it is still hard when that moment comes that you must make the final call about whether an animal lives or dies. We never take it lightly, and we never feel good about it, but we recognize that as stewards of livestock, whatever their intended function may be, end-of-life decisions are part of the package.

And so we said goodbye to Spike today. We pray that his spirit is free and at peace, that what remains of him here on earth will nourish the families that it feeds, and that my children will take from this experience an appreciation for the circle of life and the sacrifices made along the way.

Sometimes navigating this simple life feels extraordinarily complicated.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The seeds that I started a week ago tomorrow have finally begun popping up! Well, some of them have. About 50% of the tomatoes have sprouted, and a handful of each of the red kale and buttercrunch lettuce. The Cimmaron lettuce and naked-seed pumpkins have yet to do a thing.

I've also been underwhelmed by the progress of my eggs in the incubator. Having lost the incubator's thermometer, I feel like I may have erred too far on the side of caution in keeping the eggs from being overheated. I keep nudging the temp up in tiny increments, lest I go to far and kill the potentially developing embryos. Uhg! I popped an unused kitchen thermometer in the incubator today and am checking it every few hours to see if I can get the eggs up to their magic number of 99.5 degrees. Still not quite there yet. I'm wondering then, if these eggs are still viable? I guess I'll keep candling them and keep my fingers crossed for any signs of progress.

Once the 'maters and lettuces are sprouted and no longer in need of the seedling heat mat, I think that I'll be starting more pumpkins and possibly some beans as well. I'm shooting for a very lofty goal of donating 100 plants to our school plant sale! Only time will tell if I can pull it off.

Spring does seem to be creeping in, as the chorus frogs and woolly bears foretold last week. The temps are slightly up, no hard frosts overnight, but still a fair bit of rain. C'mon sunshine - we need you bad right about now.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ramping Up for Spring!

It was a very productive 4-day weekend for us. Lots of downed trees cut and stacked, more goat fencing put in, chicken coops cleaned, 3 trays of veggies started and 42 eggs put in the incubator. And I am POOPED!

We also carved out a few hours this morning to go birding with our friends J & F for the Great Backyard Bird Count. We saw a whole mess of water birds, as we did this year's count at Capitol Lake. Our stats, per Liv's notes-

*Scoter - 1
*Seagulls (Glaucous Winged?) - 22
*Song Sparrow - 2
*Mallard Ducks - 8
*Bufflehead Ducks - 6
*American Crows - 19
*Grebe - 1
*Red-breasted Merganser - 1
*Belted Kingfisher - 1
*Robins - 9
*Gadwalls - 2
*Great Blue Heron - 1
*European Starlings - 5
*Greater Scaup - 1
*Lesser Scaup - 8

We also saw some Cormorants fly over, but couldn't i.d. the type against the bright sky. Livy girl was in bird nerd heaven!

It was a nice end to a crazy-busy 4 days. :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trees Without End... oy!

We are still cleaning up from the MLK Day snow & ice storm. We had limbs and branches come down from our apple & plum trees that we dealt with right away, but it was the few dozen Alder trees up in the pasture that made the biggest mess - the one we're still cleaning up.

On the up side, we all got a decent little bit of exercise today stooping, slogging and chucking wood around. We'll also have enough firewood for next Winter and then some, which is always nice.

I'm so proud of my Livy-doo, who is growing up to be a very considerate and hard working girl. She helped her Papa load and haul firewood for close to 7 hours today! For her, getting to drive the tractor is the main attraction to working with her Pop. Anything to gets the kids out there and helping out is worth it's weight in gold to me. ;)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Better late than Never

I finally started some seeds, about 2 weeks later than I'd planned. I'm starting some for us, of course, and as is becoming my norm, starting some to donate to our school plant sale as well.

As I only have three seedling heat mats, I was only able to start three flats today, one of lettuces & kale, one of tomatoes and one of "naked seeded" pumpkins. Next week I'll start some beans and squashes, I think.

It's been a little frustrating figuring out what to start now and what to wait on. I started the lettuce & kale now because I can set it out just as soon as it becomes established. The 'maters and pumpkins are supposed to take 3-4 months from sowing to harvest, which would put them at the blooming phase when the May plant sale rolls around, if I manage to keep them alive in the ensuing 12 weeks.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tomorrow's Agenda 2-2-12

Even as we are still recovering from this Winters big snow and ice storm, my mind has already made the leap to Springtime things. I saw a planning guide for zone 7 gardeners today that said that this month I should be setting out my lettuces and cabbage. WHAT?!? When was I supposed to have started these things if they're supposed to be going out already?

So I'll just roll with the punches and pretend that starting my seeds tomorrow was my plan all along.

As the raised beds have not yet been built, the only place that I can plant my seeds is indoors, on heat mats and under grow lights. This is how I start the majority of my garden plants anyway, but the option of direct-sowing would've been nice. Next year...

As for tomorrow, the plan is-

*Locate and collect as many seedling trays/flats as possible
*Wash the holy bejeebus out of them
*Locate my seedling heat mats
*Sow seeds in trays and flats, as many as I can find heat mats for
*Document the whole shebang, so I remember what the heck is what 3 months from now.

That's about it! I really look forward to getting my hands good and dirty again, and to see those tender little sprouts push their way up through the soil. My fingers are crossed and my hopes are high, as ever, that we'll get our dream garden started this Spring. :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Oreo comes a-courting

Our sweet Miss Oreo and her Mama, the feisty Fritzen, moved on to a new home together a few months ago. At the time we were all but certain that both girls were pregnant. However, as time has gone by, it looks more and more like we were mistaken.

Fritzen has a history of quadruplets, so when she's pregnant, she is PREGNANT. If she was bred when we had our initial billy-goat jailbreak, as we suspected that she was, she'd be about a month away from kidding. Her "figure" and the softness of her belly have lead me to the unfortunate conclusion that she is either a) not bred or b) not as far along in her pregnancy as we had thought.

And so, her new Mama is keeping an eye on her for signs of either pregnancy or coming into heat, so we can try and get her with a buck ASAP if she's still open.

Meanwhile, her daughter, the sweet yearling, Oreo, has very definitely gone into heat, and was therefore promptly trucked back to our place from her new home for a little overnight rendezvous with our yearling buck, Barley. We observed them for a little while and saw a lot of interest & flirting between them, but don't know for sure if they sealed the deal. While young Oreo was away on her lovers tryst, poor Fritzen bawled for her baby and had to literally be lulled to sleep by her loving new owner.

Bill brought Oreo back home to Fritzen tonight and said that Fritzy was very joyful and sproingy upon her baby's return. It was nice to have our little Orrie back for a little while. I sure hope that this breeding takes! Can you imagine how cute the babies from these two will be?

Young Miss Oreo

And our dear little Barley boy

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Today's Agenda

Since I've put down my knitting (with the help of a certain mischievous muncher), I've picked up my books and magazines again, and have had a chance to catch up on all of my favorite blogs, which has left me chock full of inspiration and ideas for our garden this year. Now comes the bit where I need to sit down and organize my swirling thoughts into a cohesive plan. Oof!

So today I'll be poring over seed packets and sketching the first of many drafts of our garden layout. Then the Rexinator and I will go up the hill and see what's to do with the soil in our new garden spot. We'll also be spending a bit of time turning and mixing compost today, for which I may enlist the help of 3 or 4 of our elder hens, who like nothing more than scratching and flinging through straw and rotted kitchen scraps for grubs and red worms.

Beyond that, it's housework and more housework, as ever; and the beginning of my annual freezer-raid, which I'll get into over on Girl Gone Granola.

May you have a productive and fulfilling day as well! :) Chelle

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Chicken ROI Calculator

Thanks to Gavin over at The Greening of Gavin for the link to this handy little tool!

Click here to run your numbers through the calculator to get a rough idea of how much your poultry are making or costing you to keep.

My numbers-

Poultry ROI Calculator

Your Poultry cost per year is $ 19.00 (per bird)

Housing cost per year is $ 79.57

Feed quantity required per year is 763 Kg for 19 Large Fowl (**They do not let you adjust the amount of feed given per bird in this calculator. I feed about half of the pellets, crumbles and corn that other "operators" of our size do because we free range the chickens and feed them supplemental foods like commercial waste produce and day-old bakery breads for free or at very low cost.**)

Cost of all feed products per year is $ 1154.50 (My number is waaaaaay lower - about half!)

Consumables / other cost per year is $ 195.00 (Supplemental grit, diatomacious earth, vitamins, oyster shell, etc.)

Total Cost per year is $ 1448.07

Your eggs sold value per year is $ 665.28
Hatching eggs sold value per year is $ 0.00

The remaining eggs valued at shop prices $ 692.00 for your own use. (That's an eye popping number! That of course includes dozens and dozens that we give away.)

Your POL sold value per year is $ 72.00

Total Return value per year is $ 1529.28

Your Total Profit is $ 81.21 per year. (This includes the value of the manure, estimated at $100/year.)

Well done. Of course this profit calculation does not include your labour costs.

Good to know that we're not just spinning our wheels with this chicken thing. Of course, once the cost of the coops are amortized, and if/when we're able to sell more hatching eggs or chicks, our profit margin will grow. Still - 2016 eggs sold per year - wow!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wearing my Housewifey Hat

I've been thoroughly domestic today. It's raining buckets outside, so it's not as if I had much of a choice whether to work inside or out, so I've stayed in and fiddled away.

I'm making 2 loaves of applesauce cake, one with raisins and one without; and using up the last bit of pureed apples that were left over from making my "Apple Pie in a Jar" schnapps experiment. It really is the best applesauce cake ever. Who says that vodka has no place in baking? ;)

I've also been running laundry 24/7. I am stunned anew each time I get this far behind, to see, all in one pile, the absurd amount of clothing we own and manage to dirty up.

I'd like to have been able to add knitting to this list of things I'd been pecking away at today, alas, our newest household member, a Great Pyrenees mix named Rex, seems to have a propensity for shoes, computer cords and yarn of all things. He has straight-up chewed to shreds two skeins of yarn and one knitting project, needles and all!

The tragic sight that greeted me the first morning after Rex came home with us. Who ever heard of a dog with a thing for yarn?!?

So instead of knitting, I've been reading and snuggling this big, white bear of a dog, and listening to the rain pound down between rotating loads of laundry a trying to keep half an eye on the pooch at all times, lest he eat every last shoe in the house.

It's never boring here and never too easy, but always, always different.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Seeds for 2012

Things are running a little lean for us this year, with so many high-priority (and high cost) projects pressing down on us, we're trying to minimize costs in other areas as much as we can. This includes our seed purchases for the new (and hopefully VASTLY improved) garden.

We had quite a few leftover seeds from last year, which I know aren't exactly an ideal way to go, but have rarely failed me in the past, and so we pin this Spring's hopes on their continued fertility and vigor. Here is what we have on hand from last year-

*Lettuces - Gourmet Blend, Rouge d'hiver, Red Romaine, Mervielle de Quatre Saisons, Buttercrunch & Cimmaron
*Kale - Russian Red & Chinese
*Pak Choy (Chinese cabbage)
*Peas - Lincoln Homesteader & Mammoth Melting
*Celery - Golden Self Blanching
*Beans - Kentucky Wonder & Golden Wax
*Dill - Mammoth & Bouquet
*Cauliflower - Romanesco
*Basil - Thai Holy
*Radishes - French Breakfast & Cherry Belle
*Carrots - Red-Cored Chantenay & Little Fingers
*Beets - Cylindrical & Sugar
*Zucchini - Lemon & Cocozelle
*Squash - Yellow Striaghtneck & Burgess Buttercup
*Pumpkins - Small Sugar & Cinderella
*Cucumbers - Homemade Pickles
*Sunflowers - Giant Greystripe
*Sweet Corn - Yukon Chief
*Job's Tears

Stuff that my limited means allowed me to purchase to round out our little Eden -
*Carrots - Atomic Red (The girls go bananas for the colorful carrots!)
*Pumpkin - Williams Naked Seeded
*Tomato - Libby's Pride (a sauce tomato)
*Beans - Cannellini Bush Dry Bean
*Squash - Early White Bush Scallop Summer Squash

It sure was hard narrowing it down to just a few choices! I opted to order the "odder" varieties and can hopefully get the more mundane stuff (lemon balm, basil, cherry tomatoes, etc.) as starts at our Farmer's Market when it opens in April.

I really hope that we can make a go of the garden this year. It sure would be nice to actually get to make all of the lovely meals and preserves that I envisioned when ordering these seeds. Fingers firmly crossed that this year we nail it. ;)