Monday, November 30, 2009

Cedars for Christmas Trees

Some friends came over this weekend to cut a christmas tree out of our pasture, and by christmas tree, I mean an eastern red cedar. Not typically the first pick on the christmas tree list, but they're free, which is a big plus with most of our friends.

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

Thanksgiving - Turkeys, Feasting, and Friends

So a good Thanksgiving starts with a good turkey, like this 14 lb free range bird off of our farm.

Then you add good people, genuine people that are worth thier weight in gold...

And those great people, of course they're great cooks!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey Jailbreak

Heading out to gather up a few of the heritage birds tonite, I discovered that the lid of the pen had blown off. This is the second time this year it's happened, I've obviously got to do something different for the pasture pen lids.

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

New Roosters

Our hens have been without a rooster for a couple of months, ever since our wonderful rooster, Red, died. I think every flock of range poultry needs a gentlemanly rooster or two. Here are my reasons which are pure opinion based on observation:
  1. Order - a good rooster is the flock leader. Squabbling between hens seems to be much less with a rooster in charge.
  2. 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
  3. Fertility - you can hatch your own chicks. This is really easy with a broody mama hen.
  4. I like roosters - they strut, they crow, they tackle hens in torrid spats of (brief) passion
So some of our friends up the holler raise hens, and had some excess roosters that they begged us to take. I picked them up this morning before work. They are beautiful Rhode Island Reds. When I introduce birds to an existing flock, I always do it at night. From experiance, any sex of chicken introduced during the day ends up getting it's butt kicked by every bird in the flock, or chased into the woods to be a bobcat snack. Introduced at night, the squabbling isn't too bad.

Thier business is the ladies and business is good!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Turkey Dinners Dining

Here are some future Thanksgiving dinners having dinner. I found it ironic.

Here is a young Tom who is doing everything he can to show us that he's much better keeping as breeding stock that as someone's meal. Turkeys are pretty neat.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Molting Chickens

Our egg productionis really, really low still. This is because the hens have taken a break to shed then regrow new feathers, a process called molting, just in time for winter. This can be very awkward looking, like the hens have mange - check out the black hen in the (crappy) pic blow.

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

Cheap Insulator

Part of the hotwire that I'm running down to the pasture from the charger at our house goes through parts of the holler in which there are no good trees to nail insulators on. I talked about this project here. I can't hammer a post or a piece of rebar in the ground to attach an insulator either because much of the sloping hillside is limestone bedrock and outcroppings. So I started making the insulators like the ones above.

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

Fridge Magnets

Our young son Simmey's toy fridge magnets. We noticed that the little guy had put them all in a line. The crazy thing that really suprised us is that all the magnets are the front magnets. We're really wondering where all the back magnets are...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wired Woods

I got some more work done on the hotwire that I'm snaking down the mountains to power up the fence down in the pasture. You can see the line on the right along with the yellow insulator. That's a bench looking up the holler. Most of the going was A LOT steeper.
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.

Here's an old homestead wall down near the creek at the bottom of the holler. Squirt (the Yellow Dart of the Woods) is pretty proud of himself here - between you and me sometimes he acts like he owns the place. You can see the hotwire coming down the center of the pic.
Tommorrow I need to tie into the fence, run a ground wire down to the fence, mount the charger on the cedar log post I put in the ground today, and wire an outside outlet to plug the charger in.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hotspot Healin

Feta, our classy female Pyrennees, developed a hotspot on the back of her neck last week. A hotspot is a topical infection on a dog. A lot of things can start it, usually some type of irritant - a burr, insect bite, cut, or even stress. In Miss Feta's case, it was two ticks that had latched on to the back of her neck. She started scratching, and scratching. The fact that it's rained cats and dogs the past couple of months didn't help.
At first, I noticed a reddish rash one night. By the next morning, it had blown up into a full fledged infection. The spot was large 4x4 inches, and the skin was white, exuding pus (gross). I trimmed all the hair from the area, all the way down to the infected skin. At first, I was washing the site with hydrogen peroxide and covering it with Neosporin.

Ms Feta, you're healing up quite nice

Apparently, 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.