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!