Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
While the hens are figuring things out, their egg sizes can be quite variable. Both these eggs were laid by pullet hens. The one on the left probably has no yolk or no white, and the egg on the right is a double yolker.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I'm glad I noticed it, b/c this would have seriously tore up my saw. Dang mice.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Looking up hill
You can see the dead lespedeza covering the field in the pics. The green spots are where fescue is coming in. We tried some brushhogging this fall, and knocking the lespedeza out gave the grasses a chance to gain a foothold. The eroded spots are from where I let hunters travel up and down the pasture this fall.
The chickens didn't really seem to mind too much though, some of them looked like drowned rats, but they were content just looking for whatever goodies they could scavange up.
The rain picked up again and the wind shifted from out of the north. Snow is coming. Eventually I got pretty soaked, and I gave up and headed back up to the house.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I took him to the vet the next day. Since our bridge has washed out, I had to carry him across the creek and out of the pasture to the truck. Alfredo has never really known any life other than our woods, fields, and creek - the truck ride and the vet's office (especially the hardwood floors) were really hard on him.
After giving him some anaesthetic and shaving his neck, we had to cut the collar and the ball of flesh that had gotten entangled and started to grow through the collar. I left him at the vets overnight, and picked him up the next day. On the ride home with his giant head in my lap, he would nudge me with a paw or his nose if I stopped scratching behind his ear. It was quite endearing. When we got back to the farm, Fredo didn't want to get out of the truck. Harley jumped in an hung out with him as you can see below.
In addition to Harley, Squirt, our yellow dog showed up as well, followed by two chickens who flew over the pasture fencing, furiously flapped thier way across the creek, all to peer inside the truck cab. Once Fredo was out, he was his old self rompusing self. When he saw his girl, our other Pyr, Feta, it was like nothing had happened at all.
It makes me sick that this happened, and it'll be the last time for sure. It's not just poor husbandry, I see it as betrayal to my animals. These dogs give thier very best to us, stopping all our varmit problems, being gentle with our 1 1/2 yr old, and being great companions. They deserve better from us.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Carla and I got talking about the difference in fat between our birds and what we're used to. The difference can be seen above. The only "hard fat" in the pan is from the butter that we basted the bird with, while the fat from the bird is still liquid at room temperature. The pan fat from supermarket birds solidifies into a chunk. My guess is that the fats will do the same in my arteries as they do in the pans. We'll be raising our own birds from now on.
The pan liquor will make an awesome chickeniness flavor booster to the next pot of chicken and dumplings.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Alfredo found something dead and rolled in it last week. That's that big black spot under his throat. He reeks, and I almost lost it. I feel bad for him, b/c up until today I couldn't get close enough to him to pet - and I have a cast iron stomach. Finally, after a week, the smell is finally diminishing in potency. Yuck!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
The white stuff is ashes from the fireplace. It's good for raising the pH of the soil and getting some Potassium into the soil. Potassium has always been a hard nutrient to come by, and ashes are a good (& free) source. Potash is a traditional fertilizer for potassium, and is called pot-ash because of how it used to be made. Wood fire ashes were leeched in big pots then the liquid boiled down. Potassium carbonate is released. Obviously, I skip the boiling.
I'm aiming at getting a bed completed and covered in wheat straw every 3 days. Our beds are 4 ft wide and anywhere from 50-80 ft long.
Carla's ducks just kind of hang out, here nibbling on the row of broccoli we need to cut and freeze.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
So this morning, I headed down the hill into the holler to put the dogs up and let the hens out. Near the creek, there were these crazy ice formations on the stalks of some of the weeds, mostly asters and ironweed. My guess is that water had gotten into the hollow stems, and then as the temps plunged into the lower twenties, the water froze and blew out of the stem bases. That would explain why the ice was only at the bottom of the plants. Any better guesses?
Here's some by the runoff creek near the pasture. Neat huh?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
These parts are really high in nitrogen, so they need lots of carbon. I use lots of leaves, which I pick up in yards or on the side of the road this time of the year. It would be best if I could shred them, but I can't figure out a cheap way to do it, so I just use the leaves whole. Whole leaves tend to cake, so every week or so I'll go and mix the pile with a pitchfork. The caking leads to anaerobic conditions (stinky), so mixing it up gets oxygen into the mix and fires up the decomposition process. In fact, I've found that when I turn the pile on a cold morning, it will steam, and you can feel the heat radiating out. Next year, I may compare composting with wood chips as opposed to leaves. Right now, though, I don't own a tractor with a front end loader (or without for that matter) so leaves are a lot easier on the back.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Cedars are quite prolific here in NW Arkansas. They play the role of a pioneer species here, and quickly pop up in fields that are neglected. They tolerate xeric (dry) soils well, and if they have a choice, they do well in drier conditions - which means slopes with southern aspects up here, or on the limestone bluffs, where the soils are thin because they're still forming.
I actually like cedars better than the spruces, or whatever it is that people buy for the holidays. The only real drawback for me is that they're so stinkin' prickly. They smell great though, and they definately got the Charlie Brown christmas tree vibe working. Hopefully, we'll go "shopping" for ours this weekend.
One of our friends took some great photos of here cedar tree this year. You can read about it here. I'll leave you with a quote from our friend Josh Spielmaker:
"Everyone knows that the best Christmas trees in Arkansas are found along the interstate."
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Then you add good people, genuine people that are worth thier weight in gold...
Monday, November 23, 2009
The birds were asleep on top of the pen, and I was able to snatch 2 of birds, a bourbon red hen and a then a Narrangasett tom, before the other birds got suspicious. I managed to snatch one more bird, a bronze hen, before the birds flushed. I caught all but two of the turkeys in the dark by flashing my headlamp off and on to steer them into the pen/bushes where I contain a bird long enough to close the gap and snatch em. Rather than scaring the already skittish turkeys into the woods, I herded the two remaining birds into a felled hickory tree near the house where the dogs will make sure they don't become bobcat snacks.
I'm going to butcher 6 of them tommorrow for some of our customers. Unfortunately, I'm still without a turkey plucker, so I'll be hand plucking and dressing 10 birds by myself tommorrow. It's going to be a long day...
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
- Order - a good rooster is the flock leader. Squabbling between hens seems to be much less with a rooster in charge.
- Locating the flock - in our pasture we're restoring, having a crowing rooster helps both me and adventurous hens locate the flock when it's not obvious
- Fertility - you can hatch your own chicks. This is really easy with a broody mama hen.
- I like roosters - they strut, they crow, they tackle hens in torrid spats of (brief) passion
Thier business is the ladies and business is good!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
The low egg production can be pretty depressing, and sometimes it feels like the hens will never start laying. Having extra eggs is always a great thing - they make great holiday gifts. I'm looking forward to Carla's deviled eggs at Thanksgiving...they're so stinkin' good.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
It's just some plastic tubing and baling wire off of a straw bale tied in a loop. That is, I had some hollow plastic tubing which I pushed some wire into. I twisted this into a loop around the hot wire. Then I attatched another piece of wire around a tree and through the loop. The tension on the line keeps the hotwire in place. I can use smaller, scraggly trees as posts this way, and there's no shortage of those downslope. It costs me like 5 cents an insulator this way, if that.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Fossils - the land I love used to be ocean. Most of the fossils we find are crinoid rings and anal spines, shark teeth, various types of corals and today I found my first shell.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Ms Feta, you're healing up quite niceApparently, this was the wrong thing to do. I called a great local vet, and they set me straight. On a wound like this, you actually want it to dry up. I left it alone, and the wound has healed up nicely, aided by the long needed and happily greeted current dry weather we've had this week. Her hair is growing back nicely, and in a couple of weeks, the spot won't even be visible.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tasty big berries this summer!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The chickens were placed upside down in killing cones. Being upside down and being confined in the cones keeps the birds very calm. A quick cut on the side of the neck severs the jugular. The birds don't get very alarmed, looking around clueless until they start nodding off. Then theres a few seconds of spasming as the blood runs out and the heart starts pumping air. It's about as humane as killing animals can be.
The only disappointment of the day was that the motor crapped out on the automatic chicken plucker, so we had to hand pluck the birds. Here's a picture of a Canadian plucking his first hen.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
So this means that the pups get let out during the dark hours when the chickens are roosting for the night and they're pinned up during the day, unless I'm down in the pasture. So a routine has formed:
After sundown, I head down to the pasture. Harley & Squirt usually follow me down the holler. I appreciate them because they flush out and skunks or other critters along the paths.
In the pasture, Alfredo and Feta are excited to see me.