Sunday, December 28, 2014

Grown up Zoey!

Miss Zoey turned 1 on Xmas day! All grown up...a huge 28 lbs and 19" tall. That's pretty much the same size as Abby, so perfect in my books!

We had a really fun visit with Erika and Loic visiting this weekend. It turns out that running around the farm with a 5 yr old means that not a whole lot of pictures (none) got taken of the farm weekend! Loic was very helpful with feeing everyone, and he thought that almost picking up a rock that was actually chicken poop was probably the funniest thing ever. 

Zoey loves Loic - they played games all weekend.

Chickens in the morning - on the hunt for bugs!

Silver spreading his giant wings. Loic was in charge of naming the black duck. The choices that he came up with were "Do-do" or "Blackie". I'm thinking Dee-dee might work well as a compromise.

Abby: farm lover. Child hater.

Saul, looking gorgeous as usual.

Thomas is some stiff competition for Saul in the handsome department.

Mother Clucker is still cluckin' around!

Intense "throw the ball" Zoey.

Girls eating out of the new feeder.

Sweet Ryan. He is the easiest dog in the world, other than his tendency to bark at every noise that might be someone arriving at the house.

I sometimes forget that he's becoming an old(er) guy! He never used to have grey eyebrows and ear hairs...he turns 8 in March.

The 3 amigos. They are so much fun.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Working Holidays

We've been busy working on winter projects but I finally found my camera charger so I can take some updated photos in the next few days!

Let's see, what have we been up to since the last blog post..

We brought our lambs and turkeys to slaughter. Both were hard - we've been caring for those animals every day for the last 5+ months - but as usual, we take comfort knowing that we did the best job possible in letting our lambs express their 'lamb-ness' and our turkeys express their 'turkey-ness' (as Joel Salatin says). By that, I mean that our lambs were raised outdoors on pasture with their mom, weaned when they were ready and fed hay in their cozy barn for the last few months.  Compared to a feedlot where they're fattened up on grain...these guys had a good life. The turkeys got to range all over our farm in their little group of 9, foraging and racing around as they pleased.

The turkeys, as frustrating as they were at times, were such characters. It really was like every day was brand new and even more exciting than the last for them. Unfortunately, brand new also means that they forgot every day where their food and water was and where they slept at night. That's ok, we needed the exercise of getting them out of trees constantly... I can't remember if I wrote that we ended up clipping their wings, which helped tremendously. I miss their "GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE" whenever a dog barked. They dressed out between 8 (the females) and 14 (the males) lbs. When we picked them up, there were some guys there picking up their broad breasted turkeys - the 'regular' meat turkeys - and they were averaging 30 lbs! They couldn't even fit one 40 lb turkey into the freezer bag. The unfortunate part about the turkey processing was that the local place was completely booked up (we didn't realize how early you have to book for Xmas turkeys - as in probably now, for next year) so we ended up driving the turkeys an hour and a half away to the next closest government inspected facility. When all is said and done, we won't make much profit on the turkeys, but there is still the satisfaction of providing people with quality, happy turkeys for their Xmas dinners.

The lamb that we got back this week was really, really delicious. I wasn't raised eating lamb, so I don't have too much to compare it to - but Nathan says (without bias!) that it's the best lamb he has had, and I find it to be very tasty and mild.

Oh, while on the subject of raising our own meat - we finally processed our 3 young roosters from the summer as well as our extra male ducks. We only want to keep one rooster and one drake - and we could have tried to sell the 'excess' male animals but it just makes more sense to eat them ourselves (and that's most likely what someone we sold them to would do, anyway!). So again - hard to slaughter the animals we take care of - but wow! duck is really really good! It is not like any other meat we've ever tasted. I would say it's actually closest in taste to beef. Apparently muscovy duck meat is one of the leanest there is, and is sometimes compared to veal, so I guess that makes sense. The only drawback to processing ducks is that the feather removal is about 10x harder than it is with chickens. Abby thought slaughter day was the best day ever, as usual...

We now have 4 ducks - Silver is the drake, Victoria, Rosie and no-name-yet are the girls.

We've also been busy working on our new website since we've FINALLY decided on a name for our farm! To be revealed as soon as our site is done...

I've got 20 chicken eggs in the incubator that we found at the house. Apparently incubating eggs can be quite tricky (especially compared to the broody hen method I've used so far!). The temperature and humidity have to be kept pretty constant, and lots of things can lead to a bad hatch rate. I would be happy letting broody hens do all the chick raising but hens don't tend to go broody in the winter and this way, any chicks that hatch will be starting to lay eggs in early summer.

We've also been fixing up our basement to make it a little more hospitable. We laid some floorboards over the concrete temporarily (just to make it brighter and warmer) and painted the cinderblock wall white.

Oh, we finally expanded the chicken coop to double its predator-proof size. Now the girls (and Saul) have their nest boxes and some extra roosts all enclosed. If we want to go away overnight, we now feel like we can leave them locked in without feeling too bad about it.

I think that's about it! We've also been doing lots of little projects like building a better hay feeder for the sheep and installing nipple-waterers in the chicken coop.

Pictures to come soon!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Snow!

We were completely shocked this morning to wake up to this!

My parents are visiting and this sure made it seem like an early Christmas. 

I went out to take some photos but only made it as far as the duck house before my camera battery died!

Victoria wondering whether she needs to give Zoey a good peck on the nose.

Time to come back to the warm hay!

Hay...HEY! Who's that in our house??

Everyone has headed to bed for the 4:30. It's already starting to get dark!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Docks, Ducks, Dogs

Nathan and Brandon built us a dock! Well, technically a wharf since it's on land. It is awesome! It will be nice in the spring when the sun comes out (those are some brilliant dogs walking on the ice) to sit out there. The dogs are going to love jumping off of it, and I'm sure the ducks will hang out up there, too. They built it in one day! Very impressive.

We are still in search of a farm name. We really need to come up with one so we can start marketing our pork, etc. Website, logo, signs...they all hinge on that perfect farm name. I think this is one area where our perfectionism has not gone away. We've both come to terms with the fact that farm buildings, etc., are all about function and not necessarily form. The name, though...that has to be perfect. We keep thinking of a name and then mulling it over and deciding it isn't quite right. We even bought a domain name, then returned it, then bought another, and returned that, too! 

On another note, Nathan was on his way home the other day and when he was about a block away, he thought to himself, "hey, turkeys on the side of the road! funny.". When he got home, he noticed a distinct lack of "GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE" and quickly realized they were our turkeys, out for an adventure. When he ran down the street to get him, they all ran towards him, snoods a swingin'. 

Turkeys vs. Ducks.

Wandering turkeys doesn't work so well with our turkeys for Christmas plan, so this morning we trimmed their flight feathers. No more big adventures, turkeys! In the two days that we had them confined, the males started really going after each other. They seem to do much better out foraging and being turkeys. I did read something interesting, though, while looking up the reason for one of the turkeys' swollen wattles (from fighting another male); one site said "don't worry if you see a male seemingly choking on another male's snood during a fight - this is normal". Errrr. Nobody said turkeys weren't entertaining.

Look at the size of that snood!!

We (well, mostly me) are debating whether to keep a turkey or two longer (they go to the butcher Dec 17th) to eventually turn into a bunch of turkey sausages. Mmmm.

And also mmm, I made this last night. Our butternut squash, roasted and stuffed with pork sausage, apple and chanterelle stuffing (our own pork). It was really tasty.

The dogs have been enjoying the cold fall weather and so have I - there was so much less mud to deal with! Now it's back to the typical wet November.

The puppy is the only smart one, here.


Duck protector:

Duck protector..and duck stalker:

Ten year old Abby is in fine form:

Notice the turkey photo bomb - they follow us all over the farm:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fall Fun

Look at what we found!

All of that mushroom hunting finally paid off with 3 lbs of chanterelles. It was pretty exciting to find so many at once...and I don't even like mushrooms! Actually, I'm starting to like them more and more. Maybe it's because finding them was so damn hard...

We've had a whole lot of rain lately but with a few sunny days thrown in. It has been nice seeing all the grass come back, though. The manure that we spread seems to have done a good job so far and that field is looking particularly improved. 

This photo is from a few weeks ago - those brown spots are all green now.

We moved the sheep and goats to the upper pastures since they are very gravelly and dry. The lower pastures would just become mud pits over winter if the sheep were constantly walking over them. This way we could also easily split Thomas/goats in one area and the ewes/lambs next door. When they share a fence like that, they don't mind being separated. It's nice to be able to walk in amongst the ewes again without worrying about being rammed. It also means we've been able to let the ewes and goats into the driveway to do some tidying up.

Saul strutting around.

That photo was pre Oprah shearing. She still had that woollen toupee that stubbornly wouldn't fall we cut it off.

The driveway! So new and exciting for everyone!

We have to be on constant guard duty...or those strawberries and raspberries would disappear in about 0.01 seconds.

Guard duty. What a hardship.

Yummy fall grass.

Ram lamb back when I could still lift him:

The turkeys are getting so big and hilarious. They "reflex gobble" whenever the dogs bark or if you hit something with a hammer. They also gobbled at every runner who ran by in a recent half marathon along our street. 

I swear I wasn't playing with his snood....

Our friend Brandon came and visited the last two weekends and helped us out a bunch. We moved the greenhouse from over the aquaponics to over one of the garden beds. It was great...until a HUGE windstorm almost flattened it. Luckily Brandon came back the next weekend and helped put it together again.

Greenhouse, version 1.0:

Greenhouse, version 2.0:

I raked our big pile of compost flat and seeded it with rye. It's a bit late to plant the rye, I think, but hopefully it will still germinate and we can till it in before planting in the spring. 

Goat snuggling:

The pond has filled incredibly fast and it's at least 3 feet deep in most places. 

We started letting the ducks out for supervised pond time. They waddle out and head straight for the pond, eat a bunch of duckweed, then waddle back out and come back to their house for some grain. It seems to be working well (so far!). We clipped Victoria's wing so that she can't fly over any fences.

Yup, pond is still full of duckweed:

Dogs have officially discovered the joys of a fire: