Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Weekend Cowgirl, Its Not A Pie - Its A Work of Art!

WOW!  Weekend Cowgirl....that buttermilk pie recipe you posted... its not a pie, its a work of art!

Behold....


It has to cool or I'd be eating it right now... honestly, its a vision. With pies like this its no wonder you are still married! That Cowboy is the (second) luckiest man on earth. Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary!

Here is the best part about the pie.... the main ingredients are from our barnyard! The eggs (combination of 2 duck and one chicken egg), the buttermilk (the original culture from last week was used to make buttermilk with fresh milk from Little Nibbles this week ), and the lard in the crust came from right outside. If I had a cow the butter would be from her... but instead I just silently pine away and use what I get from the store. I'll sulk about not having a cow right after I have a big ol' slice of this for dinner.

And now if you will excuse me, I'm going to go and salt my cheese.....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Creepy Meat - Tastes Like Chicken!

The verdict is in.... those creepy meat birds tastes like chicken!  Our experiment with the dinner chickens had come to an end with.. dinner.

It seems like it was longer but we got the Cornish X "meat chickens" on March 24th. We started with 10, lost two for no apparent reason (other than, well, the creepiness)...and dressed the remaining 8 on Monday May 24. So at 9 weeks we had a big heap of creepy meat:
After a day of parting up the birds.. we got a huge amount of meat!

The birds were huge.. we had one roaster that filled the pan and easily was 10 pounds. To put it in perspective, Runner hatched her chicken chicks on April 3rd.. about 10 days later. The largest of her brood of "normal" chicks is the size of a pigeon. One of them is still feathering in..... wow what a difference! See the one whole bird (top right) fills a normal sized dinner plate.

As advertised they were meaty. The breasts are huge, as are the leg quarters.
Just three breasts filled my 9x13 pan

As you can see I parted the birds up. Aside from the one roaster and one full breast, its easier for us to have "ready to eat" portions that thaw quickly and are more manageable for just two. I used the same process to cut up these chickens as I did with the turkeys. 

The work went really fast. It took me less than 2 hours to part up 7 birds (we roasted one whole) and thats with me being swarmed by very interested house cats. After I took off the choice cuts I put the rest in stockpots to simmer for about 24 hours. So far, two of the three stock pots produced 7 quarts of stock, six containers of leavin's for the house cats, and one big bowl of the best meat for us to use in quick pasta tosses and chicken salad. Tomorrow I'll can the rest of the stock and meat for us.

The gladlock containers are filled with leavin's for the house cats.Teddi Grumpkins, will be one happy girl. She loves the necks the best. The glass bowl has the meat for us.

So the question is... are we going to get them again?  The answer is... the jury is still out.

Here are our thoughts...as a reminder, a lot of folks love meat chickens and they work out for many, many people as well as a huge industry.  But we don't think they worked out for us.

This is the last picture we have of the meaties... about 10 days before we dressed them. I couldn't bring myself to take a "one last look" picture. Mostly because they were so gross.

We have had extraordinary rain and since these chickens aren't very lively, they were muddy. They just looked ratty. They smelled bad (we had been warned), and they were starting to get aggressive. We think we let them go just a bit too long as the males were starting to 'mature' and had started to fight each other.. but only for like 8 seconds at a time. Then they had to sit down. In the mud. Creepy factor: High.  "F-"

The butchering went very smoothly. We have our processing process down pretty well so no problems there. Unfortunately we are still the worst pluckers EVER but we did OK with these. These meaties don't have a lot of feathers so there wasn't much mess. So " A+" on that.

We chilled them in the beer fridge for several days. We keep that 'extra' fridge extra cold - almost freezing which quickly chills the meat. Resting it in this manner helps with the texture. We just wrap them loosely and let set. Most poultry benefits from this short aging. Folks who complain that their chickens are tough generally rush this and put them birds in the freezer too soon. Ease of handling: A+

To be truthful as I was parting them up I was wow'd by how meaty they were. It was a little weird how easy it was to cut them up, tho.  Almost like they don't have the same strength in their joints and tendons as a normal chicken. At one point I put down my knife and could disjoint them barehanded (points off for the ick factor, even tho it was easier). Processing process: B-

I was almost convinced to get these again when.... I found this:
"F-"

This, friends, is green muscle disease. I had no idea what it was and ran and hid under a table until the dogs talked me out. Then after a quick check with someone in-the-know...and some research... and I came to understand this affects meat variety chickens and turkeys. If they get too much exercise, or grow to fast, the blood flow to these muscles is cut off and this is what happens. Apparently you can trim around it and its just fine. I'm still ick-ed out so we used the leg quarters and tossed the rest. So in addition to the 2 we lost growing them out...and we had to chuck a third.. Losses were 3 of 10... "D+" at best.

Especially since we still have 3 of the 15 Red Broilers we got last summer. The Red Broilers weren't as fast growing but they were more "normal."

If the cost of raising these birds is about $10 each (depending), we definitely got our money's worth. And it does taste like chicken. "B+"

But.

We compared this experiment to when we got the meat variety of turkeys. Sure it tasted like turkey, there was a lot of meat.... and nothing special. However, when we dressed and cooked up one of the Bourbon Red turkeys... our socks were knocked completely off. While these meaties were good and tasted like chicken... they are not extraordinary. We were more impressed with the Red Broilers from Ideal... even if we didn't get the huge breasts like we did with these meaties.

Based on our results my recommendation is... go with turkeys. Turkeys are easy and fun, the heritage breeds reproduce naturally, and they generally can fend for themselves. Once the turks get past the "danger zone" as poults, they are hardy, free range like pros, and don't need much from us. In about the same amount of time it takes us to process one chicken we can do one turkey...and we get 5 times the meat. But since sometimes all you want is fried chicken.... go ahead and get some "meaties" and see for yourself.

As for us... we don't think we will get them again. But if you'll pardon me, I'm going to look up the website for Ideal and see when they have shipping dates later in the summer. I"m thinking we may just need some more of those Red Broilers.

p.s. I'm having chicken for dinner!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Little and Big

I still get a lot of folks asking me about the differences between a full sized and a mini goat... and some are still not convinced.  But I tell you the truth... for about the same money and space and feed....a full sized goat is soooooooo much more efficient than a mini.

But for the unconvinced I'll let the pictures tell the story. I'll even be arty.

One of my favorite photo blogs is The Blue Hour by Brian Ferry. He's a photographer living in London and I'm totally hooked on his work. Mostly because he takes pix of the fabulous restaurants where he eats..and lots of coffee shops...and cappuccinos.... Right now he's doing a series on diptychs where he is displaying two images side by side. Since Brian is everything refined, dignified, and classy, and I'm all...well.. farm... I'm sure he'll be horrified (or laugh) at my series below.

Let's call this "Little and Big":

On the milk stand:
                                                         










Over a bucket:










 

By the way - yes I'm using a plastic bucket. Don't worry all of this milk went directly to the chickens. And yes, you should always use a stainless bucket when you milk for the house. Always. 

Givin' the squeeze












I don't know about you, but after 20 years of typing every thought I ever had in my career (well, not ALL of my thoughts...)... I just can't milk Little Nibbles and her dang tiny teats twice a day..the tendinitis is just killing me.  I can only use my thumb and forefinger without grabbing her udder so its kind of a weird strain as I have to keep my pinkies up like I'm having high tea. So I'm only milking her once a day. With Evita I could use both hands on one side!

Also

In the 8 minutes it takes me to milk Nibbles for the quart of (oh so rich and frothy) milk I can get over half a gallon from Vita... that's over a gallon a day! On her best day Nibbles could only give 2 quarts if I milked her twice a day.. maybe 3 if I gave her hay thru an IV drip and fanned her with palm leaves as she reclined on a chaise (and no, I'm not doing that).

Honestly, just get the full sized dairy gals.

With apologies and regards to Brian.. I really do love your work. And if you post pix of the Roman ruins I swear I'll stop putting your link in my farm posts. *Hogs-n-kisses from the heartland*

Wormer Wednesday and Farm Notes

It's Wednesday so it must be......

Wormer Wednesday!

I know.. I know.. technically you DE-worm goats...but for heaven's sakes there is no reason to be so particular. Wormer.. Dewormer... Whatever.

With the exception of once a year, right after the goats have their babies, we use Hoegger Supply's Herbal Wormer found here. Using a non-chemical method is in keeping with our "let's not dose 'em unless we have to" method of stock keeping... and frankly, I'm not sure I want all those chemicals swimming around in the milk I give to the hens, dogs, and also.. us.

When we use a chemical wormer we don't drink the milk for a while.. but we give it to the dogs and it actually seems to help them out. But with this product, there is no milk "withholding" period. So we can just go on about our business.

(And pssst.... if you look into it, you'll find that the same stuff you worm your dogs with is the same thing you worm your goats with! Shhhh! Its a secret! But everyone knows! Make sure you do your research tho... some dogs cannot tolerate some of the chemicals.)

Its easy-peasy to use. When you first start out you need to give it twice a day for three days.. then once ever week. I just sprinkle the recommended amount on a bit of sweet feed, sprinkle on a little water so it will stick, then feed it to the goats while they are on the milk stand. Easy, quick, and I do it on Wednesday so I'll remember. So far we've had great success.

Farm Notes:
* Big News! Cindy Lou the goose is down! Finally she is setting a nest! This will be Day 3 for her - yay!
* I put Raspberry my lovely French Hen on 5 turkey eggs 2 nites ago, she won't be moved
* Planted a couple rows of sweet corn (Silver Queen) behind the sunflowers and the 3 sisters in all gardens
* Planted some of the front garden: beans, carrots, chard, kale on the south side between the walk ways
* Shoveled out and re-created pathways for the new front garden.

But (one of the most exciting) bits of info is that Tilda the wild turkey has been out and about! She's been saucing all around the jakes and was up by the gate, right by the back deck! She doesn't run when I call to her and I've been leaving food out for her.  She stayed in the shade so this was the best picture I got of her

She was talking to the ducks about where to get the best treats.

Happy Planting everyone!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Baby! You're EARLY!

Either I am a goose or these Bourbon Red Turkey Hens are like convection ovens and get the job done faster. I went out to let Turkey Momma, one of our best turkey hens, up from her nest and I saw an egg shell out of the nest! An EMPTY egg shell - it wasn't a bad egg that she kicked out.

So I gingerly lifted up her wing and saw...... turkey butts.  A big ol' tumble of little fluffy turkey babies, called poults. They are just the dickens.

I have to revise my earlier statement.... the only thing cuter than baby ducks are.. baby turkeys.
Fresh turkey.. right form the shell. And yes Dog 1 wants to sniff the new arrival

Seriously.. look at this little lumpkins.... he looks like a trickster for sure. You can tell because he's already giving me the stink eye.


Since they were early we now have a storage problem.. um.. we need a safe coop for her and we were supposed to have "thinned the ranks" by the time they were due (later this week). She is in a safe brooder box but there isn't enough room for the babies to run around.. and we can't let the poults be in with the adults (who might kill them). So we need some clever ideas for where to put these jakes until they come to dinner. Talk about out with the old and in with the new!

Oh geez... I had better go and check on our second setting turkey hen! She might be early too!

Gotta go....yikes!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Whatcha Readin?

I love that some of the folks who visit here have book lists on their blogs... or like The D Family.. they have their reading list on the front page. I guess I should start a booklist somewhere but I'm too busy reading to do it! (just kidding)

One of the magazines I love but don't always see on the "usual suspect lists" (Hobby Farms, Mother Earth News, etc)  is The Small Farmer's Journal. They've started an online publication, but there's nothing like getting that big, brown paper covered magazine in the mail to make your day.

It may be over-looked because its not flashy like some of the others, and they do cater to some specific folks (those who farm exclusively with horses) and also to the Amish, but wow - so much good information. And lots to think about. I have to admit I don't subscribe to all of their political views... but Lynn, the editor, is a very knowledgeable man. And very thoughtful. I also likes that he, and the other writers, tend toward the "old timey" way of doing things.

Sometimes they publish old agricultural journal articles where I learned, for instance, that everyone used to finish their dual purpose chickens on milk and corn before butchering...and not the high-protein-who-knows-exactly-whats-in-it-but-more-than-likely-its-soy-bagged food that the creepy meat chickens require.

They also publish success stories and how folks got started. And heck, they like to refer to themselves as farm pirates and how cool is that?  Arrrrrggggg... give me an eye patch and slap a chicken on my shoulder and I'm in, maties!

To be sure, its a pricey subscription but you just might want to check it out.

I'm also about to order "How To Grow More Vegetables...." by John Jeavons. As usual, I checked it out from the library before I bought it to make sure it was something that I'd really use. I really liked it. He has great info and even better yet, garden plans that considers crop rotations and companion planting strategies.

What else you readin'?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Beez, Planting, and 4:35am....and Farm Notes

I need to get caught up on my farm notes as the likelyhood that I'll remember any of this is well... zero.

But first... need to get a head start on your planting but you may still have frost (northern friends....)??... here is a cheap and easy way to get started. I call it the hillbilly green house:

Cost of goods: $0 + materials on hand

Take two bales of straw, put them up against a structure (or more straw bales) facing the morning sun (south, south east), grab whatever windows, storm doors, or what have you (as long as they are plastic or glass) and set them up to capture as much sun as possible. Easy-peasy. Done. Just don't forget to "open" the greenhouse by moving the glass on warmer days so you don't cook your seedlings. 

Beez! 
We got a swarm of beez from the old farm! The Big Man went over on Wednesday and came home with a box of angry bees in the back of this truck. We got them set up and they are a-buzzin'!  Normally a hive of bees costs about $100... but we got "local" bees for free! He already had a hive built, and he installed them near the upper garden. What a find! They had broken off from the swarm that had been at the old farm for years.

4:35am
More shenanigans from the bad neighbors. They started playing their radio - it was outside on their deck by the pond - on Friday the 14th. And kept it on. And on. So I neighborly put a note in their box on the 19th asking them to turn it down/off.  They didn't.

The thing about farming is that 4:35 in the AM is a fine time to be awake and standing on your front porch calling the sheriff and telling him those sons-a-golly-what's have still got that damn thing on. That was the 20th. Its been quiet now.

Of course the guineas where out there screaming like they were being murdered that night so we had to run out there and shut them up! Yikes! However, I'd laugh my tuckus off if the sheriff showed up and told us to turn our guineas down. Then I'd give him some pie and we'd all have a good laugh.

Farm Notes: (A reminder this is the boring part ... its part of my journal keeping....)
* Planted dahlias and some squash in the front garden..waiting on more compost/soil
* I got a lot of the hillside garden planted - mostly seeds:
- peas on the perimeter
- north side close to roses: BOSS, 3 sisters, red corn, and empty row, straw walkway
- south side starting from roses: Dahlia, Italian green beans, underplanted with radishes; Sweet 100 tomato,  carrot/cabbage, eggplants under covers, Dahlia, carrots
GATE
- north side closest to hen house: blue corn, half runner beans, empty row, walkway (board)
- west side: sunflowers, white pattypan squash
- south side: 1 row of hot peppers, 2 rows of zucchini, 2 empty rows, walkway; radishes, peas, carrots (from above)
* I'm not sure I' had complete success with the buckwheat as a green manure experiment. It had not flowered but I had to chop it up with the hoe to make sure it will be composted down for planting after the 8th of June (gives it time to mulch into the soil). However the winter wheat grew like gangbusters. I cut it down before the seed heads fully matured and gave it to the goats and hens as fresh hay. They loved it.
* Its been ridiculously wet -- too much to do anything at all with the square garden which is basically still a puddle. At this point I'm almost going to let the ducks swim in it, for heavens sakes.
* Cindy Lou the goose might actually be setting....

And did I mention I'm making cheese today? Feta to be exact... let the brine begin!

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Of course I made pie... Apple Rhubarb Crumble pie

Just in case you are wondering what I made with the rhubarb....



Of course I made pie! And the only thing better than a tiny pie is a full-sized pie!

Easy-peasy.... I had a 2 cup bag of frozen baked applesauce in the freezer, plus two cups of chopped fresh rhubarb, cinnamon, brown sugar, tapioca and flour to thicken... poured into a crust made with butter and lard.

Don't forget the crumble topping!  Equal parts of flour, brown sugar, oatmeal, chopped nuts, cut in butter and voila! 

Baked at 400* for 10 minutes then turn the oven down to 350* and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until browned and bubbling.

Any guesses what I'm having for breakfast?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Three Things

Due to mature content, tender viewers may choose to turn aside...

Here are three things I thought I'd never witness in my lifetime:

1.  The late night, behind closed doors sale of Washington Mutual Bank (rest in peace, old girl).

2. Me, laying awake at night wondering if it was time to get up yet so I could fry myself up some pork jowl that not only did smoke myself...but I helped butcher the pig it came from.  In my yard.

3. A couple of Amish Girls Gone Wild thumping along in their buggy blaring rap music.

I'm not kidding.

Over the weekend we spent the day in Amish country at a livestock swap and eating as much fried chicken as humanly possible. It was great – both the swap and the chicken.

But when we stopped at a family run, roadside stand to buy some rhubarb I looked up only briefly when I heard the window-shaking rap expecting to find some rural-urban-wannabe's in a rusted out Pinto... but what I saw when I did a double take was an Amish buggy thumpity-thump-thumpin' down the road. Even Ol' GlueFactory, the horse, was bobbin' his head.

I have to confess it wasn't the weirdest thing I saw that day, but I just never expected that. Of course, it makes me want to rap myself. Like I did here.


Spin Master Dogg E. Dogg and Bigg E. Ti... spin that turntable and drop that beat....

Hey! Ho!
Any Mennonite in house!?
Hey Ho! Here. We. Go...

So I got in my car and I drove real far
Down thru the hills to the Amish city
I ate a dozen fried pies and my fingers got sticky

(wikiwikiwiki thumpity thump thump...)

I saw a camel for sale
And with out fail
Saw a mullet-wearin' fool
Out there buyin' some tools
The seller got paid
And the Amish gals got....

*edited for explicit content*

A note from the censors: This rap, altho commonly played in Amish country by rebellious little Am-lettes out hot roddin' it around in their buggies, is inappropriate for the family audience frequented by readers of Adventures In The Good Land. We thank you for your sense of humor and promise to provide more family-friendly, farm-oriented programming in the future.
- The Management

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nicholas's Hard Day #2

You'll remember Nicholas, our 17 pounder (Maine Coon x raccoon)  from when he was checking out the mini pop's here....and also from his previous hard day here.

Yesterday he received the crushing news that Law & Order has been canceled. To ease his grief he watched an all day L & O marathon, ate a bowl of popcorn, and cried himself to sleep on the couch. I think I heard him muttering something about "It just wasn't the same without Lenny...."


A hard day indeed, Nicholas...Don't worry pal, you've always got the NCIS franchise to fall back on.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Cuteness of Baby Ducks....

I was going to do a serious post on "how to get started" but I just can't because of the cuteness!

Miss Dash hatched her clutch and they are so cute I can't get a thing done.... And then Runner the Turkey Hen Who Hatched Chicks was out there funny-ing it up.. I just can't think straight....the cuteness! The cuteness! Seriously, how are you supposed to get anything done with these little lumpkins...




I love this little one "talking" to Miss Duck... and the little duck butts sticking out from under her. It looks like the little one is saying:

"And then what happened was..."








Duckling with Dog for scale....and nope. He didn't want to eat her... But she is only as big as he nose!






This looks pretty funny... duckling with dog ears..

 
 

Love the racing stripes on her head... there are two with these same markings










And then there is Runner....

I put the babies out in their "day camp" yard and they loved it! Chasing bugs and playing in the tall grass was a chick's dream come true. Runner was on high-alert tho. She has taken to running off the hens, guineas, AND geese if they get too close. At this point I really don't have to worry about the babies, and aside from rainy days, they will be spending most of the days outside from now on. One of the things we love about the Bourbon Red turkeys is that they are so industrious -- they love to forage so she will teach these little ones how to free range like the pros.

See how she is puffed up on full display? Some folks don't know that this stance is not just for the toms.. the hens do it as well. She is giving me the stink eye and showing who is boss. While the toms will hold this display for most of the day the hens only do it when they are riled up. Runner is a good momma and we are glad she got this clutch right!

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Creepy Meat

One of my new pals was asking me about Freedom (sometimes called Colored) Rangers and Cornish X's which reminded me that I need to give an update on our dinner chickens.

Well. Here they are:

See that they have milk and feed. I tried mixing the feed with the milk but that was too complicated for them and they wouldn't eat it. But they love the fresh goat milk. The Farm Master, known as Bourbon Red, said he grows his dinner chickens out longer, to a larger weight, by feeding milk + hog ration (usually 14%). We are splitting the difference and giving a slightly lower chick ration ("thinned" out a bit with corn to reduce the protein percentage) and milk.

I know that folks swear by them but I have to say...we think they are weird. And stinky. I'm really hoping they are going to be a breeze to dress and taste like chicken heaven. Unless they do we probably won't get them again. They are a bit too creepy for me and right now we aren't seeing a huge benefit from growing out this breed.

Last summer we got Red Broilers from Ideal and we loved them. Well, I loved all of them but one of the roosters. His name was First. And he was.

Red Broilers are along the lines of the Colored/Freedom Rangers... a more "natural" but fast growing meat chicken that can be finished to a six pound broiler in seven weeks (so they advertise). We grew ours out more slowly and wow! When they were done they were really.. meaty. They did not have the huge breast that Cornish X's have - which was my only surprise. But we were wow'd by the overall taste and were finally sold on thigh meat (never a fan of purchased chicken thighs).

Freedom Rangers, different from Red Broilers, are from JM Hatchery are are advertised to be dressed at 9 or 11 weeks. Like the Red Broilers they are supposed to be more of a 'natural' chicken - one that likes to be out and about doing chicken things and not sleeping with its face in the feed trough.

One of the drawbacks of the Cornish X's is that they grow so fast, if you don't regulate their feed they will flop over dead before they are ready to dress. Out of the original 10 we've lost two so far - one recently and only a few weeks old.

Unlike the current creepy meats, we didn't have any losses with the Red Broilers. Only one of 15 had the weird leg thing. But he (we named him 'Legs' and yes we know that is mean) was too creepy to eat so he's still out there along with 2 of the hens - both of whom laid. No word on if they eggs will hatch. By my count we could be past due so the eggs may not be fertile. I may have counted wrong tho, so we'll see.

We are coming up on our dinner date with our meat chickens...and I can't wait. First I need their brooder space and also.. who doesn't love fried chicken?

Anyone else have experience with Freedom Rangers? Thoughts on creepy meat chickens?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Brother, Can You Spare A Pullet?

“Brother, can you spare a pullet?”  Or “Chickens are the new wealth”


Hey buddy - got any spare chicks?

Someone I know likes to (smugly) tell me how poor we are because we “have” to grow our own food. Most times I just laugh off these kinds of comments – generally because most of the time we feel pretty “rich.”  Nah, we don't have luxury cars or big vacations.. but we don't have any debt, we buy most things cash, and we are confident we can keep fending for ourselves, such as it is.

But some days I can't figure out why someone would throw that stick at me – that we are so poor we “have” to grow our own food and how awful it was that we “had” to eat a turkey from our yard.

Maybe we're too caught up in what we're doing, or not watching enough cable TV...but I don't feel poor at all.

Even when I made big money at my corporate job I never felt “rich” - mostly I just felt used. I had to work at lot to make all that money to buy all that stuff. I ended up feeling tired, drained, and hoping to just get thru the work week so I could go and spend some of that money to make myself feel better for having to work so much.

I didn't own the house that I lived in (the bank did) and it cost a lot in taxes to live close to the city where I worked...so I could earn the money at the job to pay the taxes so I could live close to the city so I could go to the job to pay the taxes... you get the picture.

Anyway.

The shame of it is, we eat better than most folks and that turkey was delicious. Yesterday we made a huge pot of turkey-n-noodles and drove that carb-loaded bus home with dressing on the side made from our own bread.  Then we had apple pie. I didn't feel poor at all and I felt much better than if I had eaten a Lean Cuisine at my desk.  I'm still in a food coma if you want the truth.  And the entire meal – which turned out to be more like 3 meals – cost us less than if we had bought just one of those frozen dinners, even if it was on sale!

It got me to thinking about why we are doing this and how lucky I feel.

Some kids asked me once if I was farming because I was an environmentalist? “Nope,” I told them, “I just want to do it.”

“But isn't it a lot of work? Wouldn't you rather watch TV or something?”

“Yep its a lot of work and nope I wouldn't rather be watching TV..altho I do enjoy Dancing With The Stars.”

Most of these kinds of inquires go like this – followed by a lot of head scratchin' and them wandering away wondering what was the matter with me.

But then you have things in the news like a 1000 point drop in the Dow.

Whether it was angry Greeks in the streets, a fat fingered trader causing a cascade failure, or even aliens that are causing mayhem...those kind of events get even the most skeptical to start circling around wondering if I had any advice for starting a garden? On those bad news days all of a sudden I don't look like that much of a crackpot.

I'm generally not a end-of-the-world-er, but every once in a while, like a teenager wanting to scare myself by watching a horror flick, I like to tune into Aaron Task and Henry Blogget on Tech Ticker just to see how the house of cards is going to come crashing down this week.

Mostly I just like to watch 'em hop around and scream about how bad things are. To be sure the economy is in the toilet, everywhere you look there is a new political crisis, a new natural disaster or heaven help us, a new episode of “Glee” signaling Armageddon.  And certainly we haven't seen hard times like this in a while so I'm not scoffing too badly.

But I can afford to laugh a little.  You see, I'm not worried at all. I tapped into the new wealth – chickens. Yep. You heard it here first, chickens are the new wealth.

Soon, according to the pundits preaching on how its all circling the drain, your money won't be worth the paper its printed on..so I'm believin' that the new currency is gonna be a sack of chickens.

Owe money on your mortgage? Well you'll need a dressed turkey and a couple pounds of bacon to make the payment. Want a sandwich? You'll have to pay 3 pounds of dollar bills to buy a 2 pound loaf of bread... or just bring some carrots.

You won't be hearing “Brother, can you spare a dime?” It will be “Brother, can you spare a pullet?”

All those haters who think not only that we crazy, but that we are dirt poor.. well, they'll be mighty glad we don't have hard feelings when they show up wanting supper. That is for sure. 

Poor? Nope all those hens are like money in the bank if you ask me.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm heading out to check on my latest investments. Miss Duck should be hatching here soon and Miss Dash has got some dinner chickens under her. We've got a while before the turkey hens come due, and unlike interest rates, I can be sure I'll get something from those hard working investments. And I'm not putting all my pullets under one broody either.

Happy Farming everyone, we're all in this together.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Funny Goats

I can't help it... I just think that Evita is funny:



And now that she is a good milker, Nibbles is also just plain cute... I'm showing off her funny no-ear face for a pal..... (hey Sally, look!). And she is starting to look slim(mer) again...


From the other day, our barncat, Shine, hard at work....


Happy rainy day!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How (NOT) to trim hooves and then what to do about it

How I almost killed Nibbles.. Or “How (NOT) to trim hooves and then what to do about it”


Nibbles - before I almost killed her

There are a lot of good resources out there on how to trim your goat's hooves. I am not one of those.

A couple days ago I almost killed Nibbles trying to trim her hooves.  Sometimes I can..(ahem)..wax a bit dramatic.. but when The Big Man starts to get concerned..well, then I'm not really exaggerating.

Here is how I normally trim hooves:
Wait until the 4H kid next door can come over and do it.

I should have done this a couple days ago. But I figured if a 16 year old can do it, so can I. I couldn't have been more wrong. Wow!

Nibbles was in the milk stand and I figured it was high time to get her hooves trimmed up. She was fine for the front hooves but started kicking like a mad fiend when I tried to do her back ones. The Big Man was holding her and I was being jostled around and then she was kicking and I was trying to clip.... and both forces worked against each other and then she was bleeding everywhere. A lot. Like “Holy Goat! Would you look at all that blood!”

I had cut way too far up on her hoof and she was bleeding a lot.

Then there was a lot of drama. Me hopping about, Nibbles hopping about, The Big Man telling me (sternly) to “DO something”, more hopping, Nibbles bleeding, me running, me calling, me running and calling, then we discovered why the goat experts always tell you to have “Blood Stop” powder on hand at all times. Of course we don't ever listen to those experts.. so I had to look up what else you could use and the answer is:

Corn starch.

Yep. Regular old corn starch. I prefer Argo.

I put some good ol' Argo in an empty cat food can, made her step in it and this worked to clot the blood while I ran to the neighbors to get their always-on-hand “Blood Stop.”

By the time I got back most of the gushing blood had stopped. Now there is some contention about whether that was due to the corn starch or The Big Man holding poor Nibbles in a yoga-like position that could only be named “Kicking Jackass.” I returned to find him holding her back foot high above her haunch. But hey, it worked.

Blood Stop is a powder and you just shake it on. You shake on a lot. And it works. Stops the blood just as advertised.

We kept her incarcerated for a day in the garage with its cement floor. The problem with cuts on goat's feet is that it could put them in contact with tetanus (a kind of bacteria) which can be present in the ground...the bacteria gets into the wound, then your goat flops over dead.

After holding her hostage in the garage all day to be sure the bleeding stopped, then putting a LOT of clean straw down in her stall, and keeping her inside another day... we think we are safe. But we'll see. There is conflicting information about whether treating her "just to be safe" will do any good. So we are keeping an eye on her and will watch for any signs of stiffening or convulsions.

In the meantime she is doing great at milking and seems to be back to her own sweet self. Today she was goosin' around and head butting Debbie. In the background little Ginger was skip-popping all over the yard, then took off running after one of the chickens. Provided that Nibbles doesn't flop over dead, I'll give the goats an A+ today.

Now I need to go and order some Blood Stop powder – and so should you.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Radish & Butter Sandwiches, Peeps Outside, and Farm Notes

Our first hot day! Actually it was kind of nice especially since tomorrow will be significantly cooler. The downside is that we have a storm system moving thru. Which reminds me that I need to go outside and make sure the windows are closed in the hen house.

Today we let Runner, our Bourbon Red turkey hen, take "her" chicks outside. She's been a great momma to this motley crew of baby chickens. Altho I think she was surprised they hatched before turkey eggs do... she has really been a winner. She puffed herself up and chased off the geese, the guineas, and the chickens that tried to nose around the little ones. See her upright stance? She is on high alert. The babies are a crazy mix of everything. I love the one with the wild look in his eye in the very front...
Baby's first day out

Tonight I had a treat - fresh radish and butter sandwiches! I know! That's what I thought at first.. (ick) but they were kinda good. Nice and crunchy... snappy and smooth. I think I'm hooked. These were the french breakfast radishes that I planted early in the season...they are kinda small but having that first bite from the garden was heavenly. I also had exactly one pea pod, which I ate standing in the garden. Yum!

Farm Notes: (My own record keeping of activities)
* Nibbles has been incarcerated - I cut her foot yesterday when I was hoof trimming. It was a good "lessons learned" so stay tuned for how we got her fixed up. She hates me now.
* Tons of planting - sweet corn that I started in flats went into hills in the square garden and hillside garden. I include cucumber starts in the square garden as well as sunflowers. The hillside garden corn hills were planted with seeds for the purple beans (whoot!), and butternut squash. This combination is often called The Three Sisters and is a great companion planting strategy. Sunflowers (BOSS) were planted behind them.
* Yesterday I planted the sweet potatoes in the blueberry hill garden.
* Today I tacked up the fence around the new front garden. The fence defeated the chickens except for the littlest hens who just hopped thru. Dang!
* Bee notes: wild flowers are starting to bloom, iris (purple and yellow) are also in bloom.
* We lost that struggling dinner chicken. Unless they are the best dinner we've ever had we probably won't get them again. Honestly I wouldn't even touch her without gloves - and I'm not sure a person should be that grossed out by their food. An interesting question about perception for sure. But that's why our Red Broiler rooster, Legs, is still out there... he was too gross to eat. But he's doing his rooster duties and hopefully Miss Dash will hatch some Red Broiler x mutt "home grown mutt dinner chickens" soon.
* In neighborly news.. they have been as quiet as church mice. Someone turned on a radio but it was quickly turned off. I think they had friends over but they are like a church lady bridge club over there. Quiet and well behaved. Paying all that money for the survey  might just have been worth it. I still haven't ruled out a buffalo. Not yet.

We are calling this little one "The Eagle" -- isn't he a charmer?

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Survey is done and WOW!

I've been off-line for a couple of days – nope the chickens didn't get me. But wow what a fine turn of events...
 What the back of the property looks like

You'll remember my performance with the bad neighbors the other day, right?   Well things have really been hopping around here - we called the survey boys to come on out. Here's the telling of events:

Day one:
We were just cleaned up and headed for town when....the survey guys showed up. And nope they didn't call the day before, just a call that very minute that said they were about here. Yikes!

So we put our work clothes back on and met up with them at the gate. After a lot of fiddling around we went out there and hiked all over with them to find the property marker pins. It was great. At one point I got to run thru the woods with the big hammer in one hand and a machete in the other - it was The Best. Day. Ever.

Then.

It seemed to the survey guys that them bad neighbors may have dug their pond right where the property marker pin was supposed to be...which was why they couldn't find it with the metal detector.

As soon as I heard that I formed a strategy to get back at them bad neighbors that included digging out my scuba gear, running the fence directly to the pin in the pond, and gettin' me a big ol' water buffalo, named Moooo-ssolini, and letting him lay around in our side of that pond. THEN we'd see who the crazy neighbor is! HA!

But.

We had a lot more fiddlin' around to do with the survey equipment and such so I just stood there with my mouth shut. Especially seein' as how The Big Man wouldn't let me talk to the neighbor. Apparently I'm some kind of liability to our diplomatic relations or some such nonsense.

So I just glared meanly at that bad neighbor when he came out to see what's what when them survey boys were out there diggin' around in the yard. That would be my side of the yard.

Standing there quietly with all the pointing and marking and all, I could tell their dang burn pile is on my side too. I furthered my plot to annoy them to include that one nite, after I put up Moooo-ssolini in the barn, I'd have all my rowdy friends over and we'd have our own yuck-it-up burnpile/party until 4am. On a Tuesday. Then we'll just see who was the most obnoxious neighbor. Oh yeah.. they'd be sorry alright.

But just when I got to the point in my revenge fantasy that we'd all be singin' songs out there and hollarin'... the survey guy walked off with the equipment and left me standing there smoldering in my rage. I finally caught up with him but not before he made it all the way up into the drive.

Of course, OD the gander, was there shrieking at that survey guy and nearly got him. I warned him not to walk off without me......But I chased OD off before any damage was done and helped the survey guy load up. They promised to be back soon with the final results.

Day Two
The survey boys made their sudden appearance again (for heavens sakes why not call earlier?!). They came out to put the property marker pins in. We made a big hulabaloo about it to make sure them bad neighbors knew that it was official and all. The big news is that our property does NOT include the bad neighbor's pond... but we are just on the edge of it and in fact, part of their ornamental pond-deck-thingy in on our side.

Just to make things clear we ran a line of hot pink fencing twine and pounded in a huge florescent orange painted t-post where the line is, for their convenience of course. Yep right there just where they can see it.

The Big Man (not me, I'm still forbidden to talk to them) told the neighbor we'd do the fencing soon. But he doesn't know I'm doing it tomorrow!

So no water buffalo for me. For now. But you never know. If they aren't as quiet as church mice I might just get my dander up again and then I'll have to settle for regular buffalo. We'll see how tough that bad neighbor is with 2 tons of anger standin' there stompin' and snortin' at him.

Harrumph.

But we got everything marked on their side and then hiked all the way to the back pin marking the trees and putting up the required signs.

As far as we can tell there are a lot of sad faces over there at the neighbors.  Their lot is just an acre.... and its getting smaller by the day. The electric line guys were out there cutting down the trees in front by the road like they did to us a couple weeks ago. For us it was just irritating, for them, it was half their yard. And then there's us working on the other side. Maybe they'll just go back to town.

We couldn't be sure but we thought we heard them over there taking down their ornamental pond-deck-thingy. I'll see for sure tomorrow when I get my fencing tools together and head out to work. You can imagine my surprise when we saw another puppy over there this morning. Yep. This should be interesting.

Harrumph.

One funny note. I gave the survey guys a couple dozen eggs and showed them they were all colors and such. One was a blue green egg and he actually asked me if the yolk was green. “No honey, just the shell.”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Quick Book Review: The Backyard Homestead

I picked up a book at the library (you all use the library, right?) and thought I'd pass along a good read for folks just getting started, or for those who want to widen their homesteading knowledge base, or just a book to throw at your friends and relatives that think you are nuts for doing your own thing.

The Backyard Homestead, one of the Storey Publishing offerings, by Carleen Madigan is a great overview of manageable homesteading on a smaller property. She claim that on a quarter of an acre you can harvest:

* 1,400 eggs
* 50 pounds of wheat
* 60 pounds of fruit
* 2000 pounds of veggies
* 280 pounds of pork
* and 75 pounds of nuts

Wow!  Those are great goals to work toward, and really - I can see how it could happen. Of course your property would have to be "mature," that is, if all you have is a quarter acre lot and a house you'll have a lot of work ahead of you. But if you have the out buildings, fencing, and an orchard, well you could get down to business. It would be a lot of work, that's for sure, but totally do-able.

For those of us starting from almost nothing tho, that may seem a good ways off. While we don't have the fruit or nuts, I'm sure I got about 1,400 eggs in the last week... so we are close. And we don't use all of our property (still chain sawin'....) so these are some good metrics to work with.

One of the things I like about the Storey's guides is that they are so approachable. They don't over-explain, they use easy illustrations, and they put it in terms that everyday folks can understand. This book takes most of the homesteading/farming tasks and puts them in perspective and lays out a logical progression. For instance you can start with a garden, then work on your orchard, then try growing some grains, add some hens, work your way up to pigs, toss in a goat, and before you know it - you're farming! (Homesteading is kind of a weird word to me.... farming seems more rational for some reason).

Each chapter (The Home Vegetable Garden, Poultry for Eggs and Meat, Homegrown Grains, etc.) gives the basics and some good facts and metrics (for instance how many eggs you can expect from chickens or ducks) and some basic information on critter housing and the tools you will need. She also provides a list of additional resources in the back indexes.

The other thing I liked about the book is that she doesn't spend a lot of time trying to convince you WHY you should try "homesteading" but rather points out all the great benefits. For instance, I'm reading another book on intensive gardening. A lot of the words in the book beat the reader over the head with "the end is near" message about how the planet is about to die and if you don't jump in and use his methods... well, friend, The End is on you. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be encouraged than discouraged so its taking me a while to sift thru that one to get to the really good gardening information.

But The Backyard Homestead is a quick read, an easy over view, has some great stuff, and points you were you can learn more. Check it out - literally! From the library!

Happy rainy day everyone!
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