Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blackberries for Firewood

Last night I dropped off a truckload of seasoned unsplit oak and hickory logs in exchange for 60 blackberry plants. The plants are from my friend, Chris, who works in the Horticulture department at the U of A. They're primocane blackberries from Chris's masters thesis, and the plot is being pulled up.

Tasty big berries this summer!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tiny Lumberjack

The tiniest lumberjack in these parts needed some help

So we made it a team effort

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Putting Meat in the Freezer

So we harvested a batch of meat chickens on Sunday morning. An (extremely) rare sunny day and cool temps along with great friends made it a rather pleasant morning. The lure of pancakes and free chickens coupled with poor college student hunger helped draw out the volunteers.

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.

After plucking, it's time to remove the feet, head, neck & innards (in that order). As you can tell from Jeremy's face, it's better than Six Flags.

Then off to the kitchen for some good eatin!

We ate off these birds for over a week!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The power company came up to check the right of ways last week. I asked them to cut back a lot of trees, and they were more than happy to comply. During the ice storm, we were out of power for 13 days. This should help a lot in the future.
They took out several trees that threatened to fall on our shops as well as a group of hickories that blocked out a lot of light to our greenhouses. You can see they've started on the right of way on the left hand side. They knocked a lot more back. I'd like to turn it into pasture in the next couple of years.

Release the Hounds (at Night)

So since our guard dogs have regressed in thier trustworthiness, we're having to keep them away from the chickens when thier not being supervised. Alfredo & Feta are getting better, but they'll still hurt two chickens a day if we don't keep an eye on them. Alfredo will pluck all the feathers off of a hen and Feta will chew on the left wing and tail of another. The problem is that they don't do this while I'm around, so I have to hide in a cedar thicket to catch them in the act.

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.

This is the best time to feed them. My chickens REALLY like the dog food, and will actually get into the pen to get at the dog food. Feeding at night stops any problems. It also lets the pups digest throughout the night, and they'll relieve themselves so they don't mess in thier pens.
These goofballs will spend the night snooping around, barking at any real or imagined threat, and thier presence keeps the predators at bay.
I also pick up any hens in the nesting boxes and stick em back in the coop with thier sisters
Then back up to the house, I've got to put the dogs back up before sunrise, so it's off to bed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No More Flu - Woo Hoo!

I've had the flu for the past couple of days. Shivers, temps over 102 F, aches, nausea, and halluciating - man it was rough.

It's over now, and Carla seems to have made it through both mine and Simmey's (the little guy brought this upon us) sicknesses unscathed.

On top of that, the sun may actually come out this weekend.

Woo hoo!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Snaking Wire through the Woods in a Flood

So to get power down to the pasture, we're snaking a hotwire through the woods. We've went to a really powerful charger, but it needs AC power, so it's going to be up by the house. We're putting it outside of our window so we'll be able to check on it easily

The wire we're running goes down hill through the woods. Then it has to cross Bullard Creek to get to our pasture on the other side.

Thursday night/Friday morning, we had over 6 inches of rain up here in the holler. Massive erosion - the water hurt our bridge and tore up the top part of our driveway. I had to get across to finish running the wire. An old cedar tree provided the way.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Proof Is In The Poop

So I've had some sleuthing to do since I've gotten home. Besides the bobcat troubles up near the house, we lost some hens down in the pasture.
I spent a little time looking around today (I'm back from the Army), and it turns out that A LOT of hens are missing. It was pretty obvious - there was a carpet of feathers all around the coop.

This made absolutlely no sense. Our guard dogs may have let one, or two, critters get a shot at the hens, but we're missing way more than that. Carla caught one of our Pyrennes, Alfredo, chewing on some chicken remains, and this is bad, but not too unreasonable. However, I starting checking around for dog "piles", and sure enough, every turd I found had lots of feathers and various other chicken parts. Yes, our guard dog has been eating chickens whole.
One of the hens had a wounded tail, and I put her in front of him to see his reaction. He looked at her (that's the first time I've seen him intrested in a hen) and went to grab the hen, not chase her, just grab her, and the hen freaked out and ran away. I scolded Alfredo and flipped him over. He yelped like I was beating him, and screamed like a banshee. Apparently, this behavior began right as I left, and instead of me catching it, it went uncaught an blew up into a full blown crisis.

So where does this put us, besides a little lighter on chickens?

I built a pen out of cattle panels and placed Alfredo in it. He can't be trusted anymore and has gone to "jail". Feta, our other Pyrennees, from a different litter, hasn't done anything to deserve being penned up. She'll contiue to keep the critters away.

Alfredo is going to go on probation. I'll start placing chickens in his pen and retraining him. We're thinking about a shock collar so he'll associate trying to mouth his chickens with the worst pain he's ever felt. It seems cruel, but in the long run it'll save a lot of grief for Alfredo, the chickens, us, and our wallets. He's really smart, so I think he can be retrained. He's really headstrong, he's got centuries of independence bred into his spirit, but he aims to please. I willing to work with him.