Thursday, November 17, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Did I tell you the one about the bunny?

Well, it seems nobody is immune from downsizing these days, and that even extends to bunnies. One day a month or more ago, the DH mentioned "a rabbit was ranging with the chickens today", and I (of course) assumed he meant a wild rabbit.

So, imagine my surprise when I glanced out the door to see a brown bunny (definitely NOT the wild bunny shade of brown) hopping around with the chickens. Yeah. That's what every farmer needs (in addition to the cats, dogs and chickens that get dropped off...) - a bunny.

So I scooted it into the garage, added a Have-a-heart trap loaded with apple, and shut the door. Two hours later - viola! Bunny-in-a-box.

This was where my bunny smarts ended. I have NO idea about bunnies, so we called out to the 4-H contingent. (Thank goodness we got an answer!)

My daughter's friend came over and showed us all how to handle the bunny, sex the bunny (a girl), put the bunny in show position, and generally confirmed that the bunny was a very tame, gentle, pet bunny.

Meet Simba. Who now resides in a very bunny-friendly home. (Unlike her former home where the human idiots decided it was humane to let a tame bunny "go wild" at our place.)

And apparently, when you show a 4-H rabbit, this is exactly what you do to convince the judge you know your way around a bunny and are deserving of a ribbon. (Who knew?)

Simba did.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Coloring outside the lines

So it appears my Leonidas is more of a Jackson Pollock, than a Michelangelo...
But, ...count the days with me...that's right! Easter lambs!

(There must be an app for that already...)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Bouquet of Flours

My neighbor, Sue, had decided do go gluten-free. Bless her. Couldn't do it, myself. But as a result, she gifted me:

I feel a baking day coming on....

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Strange Bedfellows

They say it's politics that makes that happen. But around here apparently all it takes is a breakdown in fencing...

I went out to do morning chores, and when I walked onto the lower lot, there were two bodies. Lying next to each other. Spooning, actually. I thought they were dead. I made some sort of shocked exclamation, and the pig woke up and jumped up like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The ram did not move. Closer inspection revealed he could not move - he was hopelessly tangled in electronet.

My best guess?

The ram was grazing overnight by himself in the electronet. The Tamworth pig got out of his enclosure. ( In the past when this has happened, the pig runs to "visit" the sheep - he is terribly excited to see them, and makes like he wants to play, or at least be friends. The sheep are mortified, and pretend not to see him, all the time moving quickly and quietly away, as if the pig is carrying the plague... ) As per the usual, the pig tried to "visit" the ram, and the ram panicked and tried to get away. Through the fence. Which was at one point connected to a power source, so this was a painful enterprise. There was MUCH thrashing and rolling about and eventually they pulled the fence out of the battery, but by that time, the ram was rendered practically immobile, what with fence wrapped around his head, horns, and front right leg.

What came next, only those two know, but when I found them, they were sleeping together.

The pig was returned to his enclosure, and I went to free the ram. Unfortunately, Leonidas was much the worse for the experience. The biggest injury was to his neck, mostly the right side. A patch of fleece at least 6 inches in diameter was gone, and there was terrible bruising. Minor scrapes and abrasions, but nothing too deep. He was trembling, obviously in a lot of pain, and exhausted.

Dr. Shelley was dispatched, with CDT boosters, and banamine, and anitbiotics, and we are waiting and watching. Leonidas is eating and drinking, although slowly. The pig seems fine for the encounter.

And nobody's talking.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You're never gonna believe this...

I still can't - and I've seen the whole thing first-hand. The other day when DH shot the skunk in the chicken shed (in the middle of Hurricane Irene) he got off three shots. He was basically shooting at the critter in a somewhat dim area of the shed as the skunk ran along a divider wall looking for a way out.

Here's the weird part - he killed 2 skunks. Yep. Found another body on the far side of that dividing wall today. The round from the .22 went through the thin wall and shot the other one dead.


(And I wondered why the smell didn't seem to be getting any better!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Do we know how to have fun in the rain, or WHAT?

The challenge is finding an activity the whole family can enjoy, preferably one that requires skill, creativity, and a moderate amount of physical activity.
Scrabble? Nope, too sedentary.
Charades? Hard to find categories that are equally meaningful to a 14 yr. old AND a 63 yr. old.
How about farm chores? Too routine you say? Well, how about farm chores with a skunk?
Yep. We might just be on to something here....

Game set-up: Place the animals needing to be fed and watered as far apart as possible on your property. Playing in hurricane style weather preferred.

Each player is only allowed one piece of weather-appropriate gear, because anyone possessing complete, matching and fitting raingear probably can afford to decamp to a theater or friend's house to wait out the storm.

Points are awarded for successful completion of game activities.

Play: Roll the dice to see who gets to stay inside. Lowest roll or busiest person goes first. Start by feeding the flock inside the 12x30 poultry shed on the upper lot. (1 point) Continue to the pig, then the turkey, then the sheep, all on the lower lot. (1 point awarded for each animal fed. Deduct one point for each dish that overturns when the animal steps in it, or if the animal head butts the scoop and spills the food.)

Return to the upper lot to see the flock rapidly departing the food in the (mostly) dry shed.

When you hear the new chickens clucking and carrying on a little too loudly for comfort, enter the poultry shed and discover something screaming and causing a stir behind the gate to the sheep stall.

As soon as you see the skunk locked in a death roll with either the bantam rooster or one of the teenage chickens, throw everything you have in reach at them, and run for the house. (1 point for every object that hits the skunk. Bonus points awarded if the kitchen bowl that held the apple peels for the sheep lands anywhere close. This now becomes a barn bowl.)

Scream at the next player to grab the .22 and meet you in the barn. If the next player is the 63 yr. old with challenged hearing, repeat the instructions several times.

Play resumes in the poultry shed, and the next player has to shoot the skunk dead. (1 point) If Player 2 cannot see the skunk immediately, Player 1 must run back in the shed to point out the skunk and receive the bulk of the Aromatic Bonus Spray (3 points).

Player 3 now joins the game by shouting out the office window, asking what is going on. ( 1 point for every question that receives an answer.)

Other game tasks that earn points: picking up the skunk and placing it in an empty feed bag (1 point), tranferring the dead skunk to the fire pit (1 point), and retrieving the thrown objects and returning them to their proper place (1 point each).

All game points are doubled if the player falls in the mud during execution of a task. Note: chances of falling in the mud are proportional to the degree to which the player desires to stay dry.

Winning the game: Player with the highest point score, gets the first shower.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene prep bonus

Like everyone around us, we are doing a season's worth of tidying chores in a few hours, in anticipation of high winds and lots of rain. We decided it might be timely to deal with a pile of large, loose brush left over from the winter, lest it become airborne and hit something (or someone!) Look what we found!

In all my life, millipedes have never been longer than an inch, and no more than the diameter of pencil lead. This specimen was almost 4 inches!

P.S. Both my DH and I thought it was really cool - the Teenager thought it was disgusting, and only agreed to take the photo so I would go back outside and leave her alone...(sigh)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Older I Get...

...the less I like people.

For example, who dumps 5 chickens by the roadside because they are too lazy/cruel/irresponsible/cheap/simple to care for them??? Were they thinking they would simply "go native", and live off the land??? That they would somehow "enjoy" this return to nature, and frolic in the fields? Did those dolts ever consider coyotes, dogs, cars, or hawks? No, probably not.

Luckily for the remaining 4 (#5 lost a game of chicken with an automobile) my daughter and I chased and wrassled them over the course of two days, pouring rain, prickers and muck and brought them back to our place to see what we could make of them...

Forgive the poor photos - the quarantine coop is kind of dark. Once Irene has passed, we may be able to get much better shots, but we are cleaning up the place and tying down what can't be stored, and getting ready for a whopper.

But we think we have a gorgeous Buff Cochin rooster, a Buff Cochin hen (foreground above), and a Rhode Island Red is hiding in the background.
The one on the perch is possibly a Buff Orpington. The apparent difference in color of plumage is actually different degrees of soaked feathers and poor lighting. But she may be a cross of some kind, as well.

Can't wait to see how they do in the "chicken yard" with the rest of the poultry community. We'll let you know next week after quarantine is over.

Aggravating footnote: If I go back to the quarter mile of country road we traversed to catch these guys and picked up all the beer and soda cans thrown out somebody's windows, I could probably buy a sizeable bag of poultry feed. When did we become a society that simply chucks out a window anything we are too lazy to put where it belongs?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meat Birds (Vegetarians - take 5...)

The raising of meat birds has been well-tried around here, and it's time to share some of the results.

Let's start by saying - we don't raise many. Our consumption of chicken is well below the national average, and so thankfully, meat birds are not a large part of the equation around here. But they are a reality of many small homesteads.

We first tried the classic Cornish cross. A bird bred for nothing other than meat - large breasts, quick to market (just over 6 weeks) and light in color and feathering. (A factor in processing). Besides being freakishly large from the start, they are disturbing for other reasons as well. They don't "act" like chickens. Little to no foraging, almost constant eating if given the opportunity, and quite sedentary. We have raised them in tractors, so they get time outdoors and can at least contribute to the cycle of fertilizer and renewal. The first time we fed them straight grain, the second we tried to force them to forage by scaling back on the quantity of grain fed, and they simply were smaller. Our experience is that these birds basically trample the grass they are on, not eat it. Advantage: ready in 6 or 7 weeks, so your time investment is minimal. With grain available in good quantity, it was pretty easy to get a 5+ lb. bird. The batch we tried to force to forage came in considerably less. Know your market - if you are raising for re-sale, be sure you can recoup the costs of organic grain. Not everyone is ready to pay $18 for the Sunday chicken dinner...

We have tried raising the Cornish X chicks with layer chicks for the first 2-3 weeks, and the result was that the layer chicks were often bullied and didn't get all the food and water they needed for the optimum start. So we recommend separate brooder space and equipment.

We have also tried the Freedom Ranger, or French Red. They advertise as a free-range meat bird that will be ready for market in 12-14 weeks. Attaining a good market size (4-5 lbs.) in that time frame still requires a pretty large grain investment. (Again - think costs!) Yes, these birds will forage. They are more alert, and "act" like chickens. Their tractor needs to be moved daily to new ground, and be careful not to put too many in the tractor you are using, or the forage and grass consumption goes way down. Overall, they are quiet and not flighty. So we give them good grades as far as being less "factory food", and more "slow food." Their breasts are not as large, and their meat is more dark. But the flavor is exceptional...

We had no problem raising these chicks with layer chicks until about the 5th week, but by then, they were feathered out and could weather the out of doors - so into the tractor they went. They seemed to prefer sleeping on the ground to roosting, so make sure the tractor is heavy enough to discourage digging predators and the mesh is small enough to thwart raccoons. We raised 4 lb. birds with a moderate investment of grain and emphasis on foraging in about 16-17 weeks.

Finally, we have tried butchering the occasional "Oops rooster" (You order all pullets, and "oops" get a boy...) as well as those times when we hatch our own eggs and can only use the hens. These chickens are raised along with their peers in the same brooder arrangement and out on farm free-range at 7-8 weeks. In this scenario, they are free to range the property, eat the daily kitchen scraps, and only get grain at night or when we need to put everyone away. This is how we raise our egg-laying flock (read about another good perspective here) and it has worked out quite well. Typically, these males don't get butchered until around 17-20 weeks of age (when they discover they are roosters and either mount everything in sight or try attacking my shins - both decidedly risky behaviors on a farm that loves their laying flock AND doesn't like barnyard bullies) Breeds vary - but we don't raise bantams, so these are all full-size roosters. They don't have an overly large breast, are lankier than the usual roasting chicken, but still fantastic for the soup pot or roasted and the meat used in a casserole or other dish. Typically, they butcher at around 3-4 lbs. carcass weight, and that is plenty for our family. This is the most cost-effective method - minimal time and grain investment beyond what we are already doing for our layers, and we haven't (usually) paid for the chicks.

One more tip - if you order laying chicks in a small quantity (say a dozen or so) many hatcheries will include either extra males or meat birds as "heat insurance" to keep the chicks from chilling during transport. We used to refuse them, but now we welcome the free birds as a cost effective way of raising the few meat chickens we require each year. (Free is good. We have learned to love free.)

I'm still looking for good crock pot recipes for cooking chicken - ones with minimal chopping. Having been a vegetarian most of my life, I utterly suck at cutting up a whole chicken. I apparently missed that day in high school Home Ec...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Turtle rescue

Meet George. (Gender unknown...we just like the name) George now resides in our farm pond. Because crossing busy Rt. 22 was NOT something George was likely to survive. Despite high hopes, I just didn't think the odds were in his/her favor. (Truthfully - WE almost squished the turtle, and the 4 cars that followed before I could run out and save the guy almost squished it too...all in a window of perhaps 2 minutes) And a Painted Turtle is a really nice addition to the farm pond. Don't you think?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What to do with a million garlic scapes

OK, maybe not a million...but when you are harvesting by the garbage bag...that's a lot of scapes.

This year, we are making garlic scape pickles. (A new item.)
We've adapted the Dilly Beans recipe from the Ball Blue Book. We left out the garlic, and exchanged dill seed and dill fronds for the full dill heads, since dill is not currently in season. The pickles use the bottom inches of the scape, (one or two per scape), and we use the remaining curly end and flower for pesto.
Conveniently, four jars of pickle pieces leaves 8 oz. of scapes for the pesto recipe. Perfect.

We are working diligently; but we are still looking for the bottom of the scape bag!

Added Note: For the inexperienced, scapes are the "flower" of the garlic plant. They look like green pigs tails as they emerge and curl around atop the plant. Letting them stay and straighten out to flower only takes away from the formation of the garlic bulb (what most people want). They provide a nice "second crop" if you grow stiff-neck garlic. And we all know farmers can use all the help we can get!
Dilly Beans are a popular, short time pickle that you usually make with green beans. Here, we are substituting pieces of the scapes. Then, the remaining scapes are used to make pesto (an Italian dreamy delicacy usually made with basil) that you can do a million yummy things with beyond just putting it on pasta...

Hopefully, this helps?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


We FINALLY saw an early contraction around dinner Sunday. But Secret held out all evening, and we checked every half hour till bedtime - nothing. I awoke at 2 a.m., but was just too tired to drag out of bed. At 3:30 I caved, and went to check. A small, golf-ball sized bag of fluid was protruding. I stared sleepily at her for 10 more minutes, and went back inside to nap. At 4:30, she had gotten no further, was pushing pretty hard, so I called the vet.

She said I needed to go in and check. Keeping in mind that every minute waiting at this point meant a lessening chance of a live birth. Great.

With enough lube to bury a small pony, I felt inside and just met head. Nope, those sharp edges were teeth, not hooves. Damn. I massaged, coaxed, felt around, tugged - but no feet. Pushed the head back down, and the next contraction brought a hoof forward. Something to grab onto, at least. But no amount of pulling produced any further progress, and still no second hoof.

So, back in it all went. I felt desperately for the second hoof, but nothing. Wait a minute - there it was, at the very tip of my finger, but still out of reach.

And then, a very strange thing happened. Our lambing jug is no more than a corner carved out of a large poultry barn. Basically, one huge chicken coop. And at the moment, we were sharing that morning space with 40 or so chickens, chicks, and roosters. I strained to reach further, the ewe bellowed in discomfort and pushed, and every chicken in the place started simultaneously to cackle. I was surrounded by a chicken cheerleading squad.

Somehow, I managed to hook my finger around the crook of a folded hoof, inched it forward, and I could finally pull on two hooves. Just as suddenly as it had started, the crowing stopped. I pulled, the ewe pushed, and out came a gush of fluid, lamb, and sac. We had been at this for almost an hour. I was sure it was another stillbirth. And then the little thing convulsed. I rubbed it all over, swiped at its mouth, and ran in the house for towels. I grabbed up that limp bundle and began rubbing it vigorously, praying that the ewe would come over and help (or at least show interest) but it was just me and him. Another call to the vet, who recommended swinging him by his hind legs. (That seemed rather insulting to a little fellow who had just been through so much, but I did as I was told.) Wheezing, wobbling, and still pretty limp, he stuck with it. The ewe was in a daze, and completely unable to connect the events of the last few hours to anything I was doing. She sniffed at him once, and sidestepped the whole mess. I propped him up on his chest so his lungs could expand more easily, and watched. It was as if he drew some sort of energy from deep inside, willing himself to pull his floppy muscles and rubber bones into some semblance of a functioning creature.

By this time, the usual morning routines had begun in the house, and DH came out to see what I was up to. He held the ewe's harness, and I propped the little thing up to nurse. A few sips, a few sips more, and lots of protest from the ewe, but we got the baby through a proper breakfast.

Every kitchen towel I owned had been spent in the process, I was out a pair of sandals (believe me, there are some experiences Tevas are NOT made to withstand) and I literally stumbled off to shower, and somehow when I wasn't looking, the teenager named him. She posted on FB, so there was no going back.

Ahh, Mondays.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Breakfast at Susan's

Notice the title does not read, "Breakfast WITH Susan". It was just me and the critters.

Susan called early this morning with an "uh-oh" tone in her voice - she had a very sick lamb. Picturing Sue trying to finish all the morning chores and then hurtle down the highways to the vet's office, I volunteered to handle the feeding and whatnot, so she could go. I took the 10 minute drive south to her place (she shot past me somewhere around halfway, going north at a speed that well exceeds my age - that's all I'm going to say...)

I took care of all the birds (pictures are unnecessary, as a yard full of soaking poultry is not much to look at - did I mention it was pouring??) Checked on Marie Claire (the crazy chicken who is terminally broody), who promptly bit me, and decided to focus on the ruminants. They are much better breakfast companions.

I was forced to eat at the kid's table. (That's at the back of the hay feeder.) Acacia kept me company.
Apparently, the tastiest bits are on the bottom. Because Daddy ate with his face completely buried.
Seriously. Like almost the whole time.

So I took advantage of lambie moments with Juniper.
Lambs are the best part about breakfast at Susan's.

P.S. The sick lamb is better.
P.P.S. I sent Susan home with a waffle, so it really was breakfast for everyone.
P.P.P.S. We might have lamb pictures of our own in a bit; Secret is pregnant!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

With Livestock...

No pictures with this post. Just the facts, ma'am. In case there's ANYTHING to be learned.

I read early on, that if you have livestock, you should expect deadstock. Not meant to be funny, just a blunt reality check for the wanna-be. I have come to accept and appreciate the wisdom of that phrase. Sadly, this year's lambing began with a prime example.

Angel, a first-time Shetland mom, gave birth Sunday night to a stillborn ram lamb. Very large (for her) - at least a 10 lb. baby. We had her jugged, and were watching closely. In the morning, we saw a contraction. They came about every 5 minutes, but she didn't seem to be advancing, or in any discomfort, so we left for Easter dinner. We got back around 5, fully expecting a lamb. Nothing. And the contractions weren't any different. She was nibbling, drinking, and otherwise looked fine. Still, when we had no real action by 6 p.m., I called the vet. I was told she was probably a slow starter, and to be patient. One hour later she had mucus, but no real contractions. The vet said I was welcome to put my hand in and feel around, Angel said otherwise. So I opted to let her be. My hourly check at 10 finally showed some hoof (the lamb's) but the contractions were just not "there". I jumped in to help, and it was clear this guy was stuck. I pulled, massaged, eased, pulled, wriggled, pulled (all while DH was on the cell to the vet) and nothing. It was the hardest birth I could recall - she was just not dilated, and I was worried about prolapse. It took a half hour, but we finally got it out. I knew when the nose had presented that the lamb was stillborn (the tongue was blue and limp, when I reached fingers inside I got no reaction, etc.) I let her lick him off for a bit, since that helps to stimulate uterine contraction and ease passing of the placenta.

Today the vet is coming out to look her over, as she is running a fever. I believe she needs a good boost of penicillin, and perhaps something else - we'll see.

We buried the little guy in the woods, as we do. Luckily, with Spring finally here, it was possible to dig the grave. But I reflected on another important piece of the lesson - be prepared if an animal should die, especially in winter. If you do not have a large piece of property with equipment for heaving lifting/digging, you should plan ahead and have something ready. Just cover it with a piece of plywood. It's not grim - it's just prepared.

Now our hopes turn to our other ewe - who is showing few signs of being pregnant, but I really believe she is just being difficult. After all, who could resist the romantic advances of Barry White?

Update: Dr. Shelly (the good vet) came and administered Banamine (for pain) to be repeated daily for two more days, LA200 to be repeated in 48 hours, and her CDT booster. Temp was 104 degrees. Two small tears in outer muscle wall, nothing notable on internal exam. Udder is still full, but not painful or hot. She is back with the others and seems happier, if a little slow. Will have them all out on pasture today, close by, so I can monitor for behavior, eating, and rumen action.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A little OCD isn't a bad thing...right?

I worked most of my professional career in the Human Services, with the Emotionally Disturbed and Mentally Ill. Believe me, I know EXACTLY how close we all are to sliding into one of those DSM IV classifications...

I routinely find myself knocking on the OCD door. I can get caught up in the minutia and ritual of certain chores. Like picking the garbage pile. Not a garbage pile we started or contribute to - it was part of the package when we bought the place. Apparently, the former owners found it acceptable to toss all sorts of household, automobile, construction and farm trash over the hill. The fact that practically none of it was biodegradeable (forget safe) seemed not to matter.

We hauled 15 huge truckloads out of here when we first moved in. (Back when we had access to a dumpster.) Now, we have to take smaller runs to the local transfer station, or "go commando" and drop off bits and pieces in public trash cans. To mark our achievement and progress, we planted a border of daffodils back there, to mark the "edge" and to put something pretty and growing in a place that used to be dismal and trashy.

That doesn't stop the picking, though. Every few days, I find myself wandering back there to corral wayward chickens or dump some leaves and I catch the glint of metal, the sparkle of glass shards, or the garish color swatch of some plastic jug just peeking out of the soil. I can't leave it alone. I can't return to the homestead side of the daffodils and pretend it's not there. Nope. I'm too compulsive, or the urge to clean too strong, or something. I pick.

Today's haul:
It all started innocently enough with a walk back to take a photo for the header, and that tip of pipe just winked at me...and there you have it.

Better get back to my scheduled project - the one where I can't part with last Fall's decorations, and I sit and hand shuck 40 little ears of Indian corn for turkey feed.

I'm OK, really. I can walk away. Really. Just watch me. Here I go....walking away. Off to weed the potato patch. Or trim the rose briars. Or....pick some more trash?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Breakfast with Alice

We got up early this morning to go visit the latest addition to the local farm family...

We had breakfast with the cutest calf in Rensselaer County.....ALICE!
Don't know which picture is better of the "proud momma"...either Sue, (above) or Jasmine (below).

(Wow! Dairy barns sure are steamy!)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

We're into the B...

By the looks of things, we are into "B" syrup season. Maple syrup is graded on its quality and color; ranging from lightest amber to dark, rich brown. (That's actually density and translucency if you want to get technical) While the tourists seem to gravitate towards the lighter stuff, those of us diehard maple lovers hoard the darker, "B" syrup. It's where the real maple flavor is at...

Can't say as I know all the reasons why late season sap is darker, but it may have something to do with cooking took almost the same amount of sap to produce both jars, so there was more water in the later stuff to be boiled off. Longer boil = longer time = darker color (think of carmelizing sugar when cooking).

There's another quart on the stove finishing right now, so we'll see how permanent this darker phase may be. The forecaster is calling for a foot of snow tomorrow - someone better tell the maples it ain't over yet!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Honey Brunch

What do members of the Mountain Women Beekeepers Guild do with all of these cold weekends? ( Eat, of course!)

Snacking with a purpose, anyway...

We held a Honey Brunch. Everyone had to bring something made with honey, and we also had a honey tasting.
We had 5 different honeys to sample, and it was amazing how different they could actually taste!
From left to right:
a) Honey from Kentucky, b) from our farm-late season honey from the honey super, c) from a farmette about 8 miles south of us, d) from a farm 8 miles to the northeast - locust honey from 4 years ago, and finally, e) a sample of last summer's honey, from the same farm, but a different hive.
When you have them all together like this, you can really notice the nuances - the honey from Kentucky was by far the mildest, the locust honey had very dark, spicy undertones, the honey from e) was so laden with floral tones it was almost like was a really interesting time.
I hope we can make this a yearly event - but that will all depend on the bees! We took heavy losses and all of us are purchasing new bees this year just to maintain the equipment/investment we have.

Anybody have more honey recipes to recommend?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good for the Gander?

...I was doing evening chores.

We feed hay a half bale at a time, which means when I cut the twine, the first half is tight, neat and orderly flakes. The second half is, well, somewhat scattered (due mostly to the rampages of a goose and two dozen something chickens) but I squooge up an armful and manage to get a mostly intact pile down to the waiting diners.

Today was a squooge day, and I wrapped up the largest pile I could from the hay stacks, and deposited it on the sled. (I drag around my feed/hay on a sled for most of the winter). I turned to grab a scoop of grain, and when I looked back, there was an egg on the ground next to the sled.

It hadn't been there before - no one pinched it out when I wasn't looking - the only possibility was that it rolled out from the squooge of hay on the sled. So, someone laid the egg during the day, and here it was.

I was momentarily speechless. The egg was either evidence of a MAJOR case of prolapse for some unfortunate chicken, or...
Candy - the male Canada goose that has been farm greeter, chicken herder, comic relief, and my gardening companion for all these three years - is a girl.

Talk about your "late bloomer..."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tap, tap, tapping..

That time of year again, although late because of the ghastly weather..

Only about a pint cooked off so far...but hoping for much better runs this week. We're going to try birch syrup this year also, as an experiment. Keeping fingers crossed...

Off to check the pails!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Crystalline Misery

My friend, Sue, asked me last night if I had given up on the blog. "No!", I replied, but was forced to admit I had been very quiet. Ridiculously quiet for someone who started a blog to connect with the rest of the world.


It's easy to get quiet and caught up in yourself with the winter we have had. Either that, or scream your head off in frustration as winter pounds away...I just opted for the former.

The latest:

Ice storm #2. ( There was actually another 3rd little one snuck in there, but who's counting?) These storms leave me feeling both awed and very tired. When the sun came out yesterday, the landscape looked as if it had been put together with glass trees and bushes. Brilliant, glittering branches everywhere you looked, and lots of them broken. I can't capture the amazing beauty with my limited camera skills; I don't know if anyone can. It truly might be one of those things you have to see to believe.
Roads were blocked with broken trees, downed power poles, and icy automobile accidents. Power was out for days for many neighbors. (We luckily, won the power lottery and didn't lose ours - for once!) The family down the road actually threw up their hands and went for the Hilton after the second day of no power...

I skated out to take care of the animals, and paused to listen to the whine of chain saws and chopping of logs and branches, and was just overwhelmed with the misery of battling winter yet again...

And then Candy waddled by with a dose of perspective...

"You haven't spent the winter locked in a barn full of spastic chickens!"

(Somedays, it just feels that way.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Winter Conference

Ahhh...the long-awaited conference. Right when you need a boost of motivation, ideas, and farm-people the most. Three days in Saratoga, NY - excellent organization, food, and program. Perhaps the most well organized and diverse conference I have ever attended. (In any subject) They manage dozens of small workshops, intensive long workshops, silent auctions, vendor areas, wonderful meals (all with donated food from participating sponsor farms), child care, music, social events, and networking.

Photos would be pretty uninteresting for the most part, (lots of crunchy-granola types dressed in natural fibers, earthy colors listening to speakers in front of PowerPoint presentations and sipping organic tea or munching on organic peanut butter sandwiches...)

But I can share some of my take-aways:

Friday: Cheese making intensive workshop. Should have been a full-day, limited numbers workshop. But, that said, it was led by an excellent presenter, Cliff Hatch. He led the class through the making of 8 different cheeses, using much the same milk, but varying the process, the enzymes, and the molding. Our group made Brie. I have done this plenty of times; but Cliff did a more thorough job of explaining the process and curd handling than any book (or previous employer), so I was happy with the day. Made some very nice friends in our little group, and we nursed our cheese through the three days of the conference, trying to allow adequate time for the mold to form and ripen, but conditions were less than perfect. In the end, it was still cheese, although more feta than brie. The absolute best temperature for ripening cheese: 72 degrees. Great site for cheese making tips and recipes: here.

Saturday: Introduction to Greenhouse and Transplant production. In the greenhouse: never let the end of your hose touch the ground or it transfers disease agents to the seedlings as you water. Making your own planting mix: look here.

The 1/4 Acre Farm. Lots and lots and lots of food production on small plots. Row cropping is inefficient, go with raised beds. Use a four year rotation with three complementary crops and one year of rest (ex. peas, corn, potatoes ) in your boxes.

Visiting the Trade Show/Vendors. Really wanted a custom-made scythe, but it's not in the budget right now. (Will be drooling frequently here.) We will be applying for certification for our laying flock from Animal Welfare Institute. Make your own hoop houses and secure the plastic sheeting around the poles with PVC cut in 6" lengths and split lengthwise to open it up so it fits around the purlin like a clip.

Raising Heritage Turkeys. Best when done on pasture. Turkeys like shiny and reflective things (might be why ours head for the neighbors to sit on their pool...). Use cardboard, barriers or steeply piled shavings in the brood box to avoid piling in the corners by the skittish poults.

Processing Beeswax for sale. Got a recipe for beeswax salves with herb-infused oils. Can't wait to try it. Running 9 frames in a 10-frame box yields slightly larger amounts of beeswax during honey harvest. Beeswax retains very high levels of toxins, pesticides, etc. so rotate out frames with new foundation within 3-5 years.

Sunday: Growing and Marketing Cut Flowers. The 5 most popular flowers from a U-cut operation were Sunflower, Zinnias, Gomphrena, Rudbeckia and Lisianthus. Cut flowers for the Farmer's Market when they are just barely coming out of bud, not in full bloom.

Beginning Seed Saving. You can make your own equipment for much of the small scale seed saving. Place pads of stair runner material in the pan and on the surface of the paddle to crush seed pods. The small seeds hide in the "valleys" of the runners, and the larger vegetative matter is crushed by the "hills". Make your own winnowing boxes with different sized screens to clean chaff as well as dust and dirt after seeds are released. Good source for seed saving containers here.

I purchased two books: Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman and The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. Now all I want to do is curl up and read. And plan. (When it's almost 20 degrees BELOW zero, that's not a problem.) World go away - I'm busy.

: - )

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Starting to lose it's shine...

This winter is all the usual stuff. Snow, ice, cold, snow, wind, ice, snow and so on. We in Upstate New York are used to this:

and this:We try to do a lot of this:

And we even try to find the beauty where we can:

... I'm tired of shoveling, I've run out of farm porn (seed catalogs), I'm not even marginally entertained by the neighbor's anatomically correct snowmen, and it's not even halfway through January!

Cicero is begging me to take him on vacation to ANYWHERE...
and I'm actually considering long as he shares the driving.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


They said there is even snow in Hawaii. Maybe this is what it looks like on top of the island volcano?

Today, most of the farm looked like this:


But, some chores have to be done, snow or not. Like burning the papers...doesn't it make a neat juxtaposition for our snow day?

(Bet the turkeys would like a little one of their own in the corner of the coop...)
Stay warm, everyone!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


...that the days are getting longer. (In case you didn't notice the extra 8 minutes...)
Egg laying is triggered by day length, so as the daylight increases so does production from the poultry. Yay!

Proof also that I am still playing catch up. The male Tibetan Corturnix quail pair that I am keeping from the summer hatch...are not a pair. Of males, that is.