Thursday, November 29, 2007

What's that smell?

Went down to the barn this morning to feed the animals as usual... as soon as I entered the door to the barn I could smell it. Skunk! Not overpowering so I don't think it was in the barn. More likely one of the animals got hit out in the pasture overnight and carried the scent into the barn with them. My first guess was the LGDs.. but no, they didn't smell once I got close to them. It seemed to be strongest on the other side of the barn near the cow and donkey pen. After giving everyone a good whiff I determined that it was the donkeys that got hit. And of coarse they just wanted to rub all over me looking for their morning cookies! Yuck! A lovely way to start my day.

Other then a little skunk odder the day was pretty uneventful. Morning chores, cut and stacked a tractor bucket full of wood for the woodstove, cleaned up paca beans, cleaned the kitchen, tended the woodstove, played with the kids, evening chores, made dinner, etc.

The chickens gave 11 eggs today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The woodstove is in!

We finally have heat! Neil and his dad (who was up here for the holiday weekend) got our new wood stove installed today. It was a bit more of a chore then Neil thought it was going to be. We had planned on installing the stove in our fireplace opening and running the smokestack that comes off the top of the stove straight up the flue. Unfortunately, due to the built in smoke chase in the brick chimney everything didn't line up. Neil ended up with a hammer breaking out the bricks at the back of the chimney so the stove could get pushed back into the opening another 6-7 inches. Once that was done both of them had to go up on the roof to drop the new Zero clearance chimney liners down the old brick chimney. Finally, Neil framed in the smoke stack, installed the chimney cap and mortared it all in place to divert the rain. But by late afternoon we had a fire burning in the wood stove! Yeah!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What a feast!

Well, today was our Turkey Day. Neil's parents arrived in town last night and came by to take us out to dinner before heading to the hotel for the night. This morning they arrived back at the farm.

We had a nice visit. The kids were very excited to have company again. I spent most of the morning cooking for our turkey dinner. Good thing I like to cook! This was our meal this year:

Heritage turkey with maple-rosemary glaze
Sausage, apple and cranberry stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Turkey gravy
Rosemary baked onions w/ cream
Cranberry sauce
Sweet dinner rolls
Apple pie for dessert

It was a wonderful day and a wonderful meal!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving! This is my very favorite holiday; family, friends and good food is what it is all about!

Here on the farm we are not celebrating until Saturday when Neil's parents will come up for a few days from SC. So, today, Neil and I were out in the pasture setting new fence posts for the new male alpaca pasture we need to put Finley into. It didn't take too long to get the posts set as we spaced them about 50 feet apart. This will be an interior 3 strand electric fence so we are not too concerned about security. We got all the posts set today and one line of the electric string installed... we ran out of electric string and the store is not open today as it is Thanksgiving!

We will finish it up in the morning hopefully.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Phew... got it done!

I ended up having two of my turkey customers show up in the morning back to back and both wanted tours of the farm. It was fun visiting with them and discussing the proper way to cook a heritage bird (to make sure they enjoyed their bird). But, it was 11:30am by the time everyone left and I still had one more turkey to butcher for my last customer that could be showing up at any momment!

I wasted no time and went down to the barn to get the tom I planned on butchering. About an hour later I was almost done plucking the last of the pin feathers out when the phone rang. It was my last customer. They live in Durham, NC and would be there in 40 minutes! Great... that gave me just enough time to get the turkey done and cooling in an ice bath by the time they arrived. By the time they toured the farm the turkey was cooled down and ready to go. Perfect timing!

Then it was time to rest!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey Butchering

Today was the day I needed to butcher three of our heritage turkeys for customers to pick up tomorrow for their Thanksgiving dinners. I had done my research and read up on butchering turkeys this past weekend. It is pretty much the same as butchering out the chickens I have been doing all summer and fall but the scald time is different and I picked up a few other pointers that I hoped would make things go more smoothly. All the accounts I read said it took about an hour to properly dress out a turkey so I was prepared for a long morning.

Unlike the chickens that were just for us to eat here at the farm these turkeys were for others and I wanted them to be carefully prepared and beautifully presented birds.

Well, first thing I needed to do was to create a larger "killing cone" as these 30lb live weight turkeys were just not going to fit into the cut off gallon milk jug I use for the chickens. I found a 5 gallon bucket and cut a triangular opening in the bottom. I then screwed it the wall behind the tool shed next to the chicken sized cone... but lower so I didn't have to lift the 30lb bird so high to get in into the cone. Once that was done, I went up to the house and got my hot water scalding pot ready on the outside grill burner. Grabbed my knife and headed down to the chicken coop to get the first of the toms. Well, not to give awful details but it took me two hours from start to finish before I was happy enough with it. It dressed out at 13lbs. Phew... only two more to go!

Since I do have two young kids I couldn't go right into the second one plus my feet needed a break. I had to feed the kids and just spend some time with them as they had been really good while I was working. By the time I started on turkey number 2 it was 1pm. This one only took about an hour and a half and dressed out at 12lbs.

Still, my fingers were soar from pulling pin feathers so I took a chance and decided to do the third turkey in the morning. A real risk in case all three customers come first thing in the morning. We will have to see.

10 eggs today.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Farm visitors and frisky alpacas

I met a wonderful couple this morning that came out to the farm to pick out one of our Narragansett turkeys for Thanksgiving. They live local to us on a small farm. I had a very nice visit with them and look forward to chatting more when they come on Wednesday to pick up their dressed turkey.

On that note... I have three turkeys to butcher in the morning for customers to pick up on Wednesday! It should make for a long morning.

Our young male alpaca, Finley, turns a year old this week. He has, up until tonight, been peacefully living in with the girls because the only other pasture right now to put him in would be with our other two intact males that are three years old and I feared he would be picked on too much. Finley has not shown any interest in the girls before.. and I have been watching for it.. but tonight when I was down at the barn he was full of spunk and pronking around the pen. I turned around for a moment to move one of the feed bowls and I could here orgeling! I turned around and there was Finley cushed over our seven month old female cria Celia! She wanted nothing to do with him and popped right up. Male alpacas generally are not able to sucessfully breed until 2-3 years of age but there are more then a few documented cases of juvenile males being fertile. I have three older open girls in that pasture as well that I don't really want him to breed with. So, I moved him into the 10x10 catch pen in the barn for the night. He wasn't very happy about it and started humming right away. I hope he settled down quickly as the catch pen is in the barn loafing area that the girls have access too so he shouldn't feel too isolated from the herd, which includes his mom. I will be curious to check on him in the morning. Then I need to decide what to do with him from now on. I guess it is time for more fencing to go up!

Tonight the kids and I made pumpkin cookies. They helped me measure ingredients and mix the batter. Then they had fun rolling out the dough and then using my many cookie cutters to cut them into shapes. 12 minutes later... yummy!

I got an even dozen eggs from the chickens today. I have started painting another sign to advertise eggs for sale. Hopefully it will be done in a few days as I have about four dozen eggs in the house now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A beautiful Fall day!

What a wonderful day we had here today. Warm with a slight breeze, blue sky and white puffy clouds! With the colors of Fall around me it could stay like this forever!

I went out to do chores this morning and it was so nice out I just kept finding things to do outside. The kids and I worked in the raised garden beds to get the last of the tomato vines out, did some weeding and turned some alpaca pellets into the beds. I also lined some of the walk ways with the paper feed bags and then covered them with some moldy hay to keep the weeds from taking over the garden paths. I also moved the pool off the lawn so the grass could start to green up again under it. Moved some more fence posts we had lying about. Got some bales of hay out of the semi trailer and moved them up to the barn for feeding. I also did a lot of swinging the kids in between all that. When we finally headed up to the house again it was almost 1pm! What a great way to spend the morning!

The chickens are continuing to increase their egg production... with 9 eggs yesterday and 8 today. I think it is time to start selling a few dozen a week!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Daily ramblings.

Today Neil got a chance to build the hay feeder for the alpaca girls. I have been feeding them hay on the ground which isn't good for several reasons; 1. A lot gets wasted from being walked on and 2. It can increase they incidence of parasites from eating soiled hay from the ground. I was thrilled to get the feeder built finally. The girls seem to really like it too and all of them can easily fit around it.

Neil also installed my new solar shed light inside the goat barn as well as another solar motion sensor light over the door to the big barn. Both of these will help out with evening chores as it is pitch dark by 5:30pm this time of year.

Well, I butchered four roosters today, two Turkens, a Barred Rock and my last Dark Brahma (a feather footed breed). This should be the last of the chicken butchering for a while. I still have more roosters then I really need at 8. Those that remain include a Barred Rock, a Cuckoo Maren, a Dominique, a Dark Cornish, the Hill Roamer, two Welsummers, and my mystery rooster. The mystery rooster should go in the pot but I just think he is so handsome he will be able to stick around as long as he behaves himself.

But, as far as butchering goes, I think that doing 3 at one time is really my limit if I have to do them all by myself. My back really gets soar from all the standing in one place during the scalding/plucking/cleaning process. Not to mention almost wearing the skin off the back of my right hand from repeatedly inserting into the cavity of the bird during cleaning. You really do need small hands for that job. I knew that doing all four would be a strain but I wanted to be done with them as next weekend I will be butchering 3 turkeys out for Thanksgiving.

Only 5 eggs today... hmmm... what's up with that?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Preparing to be warm...

Work continues under the house to get more of the floor insulated before it gets too cold outside. It is working pretty well to have me outside cutting the insulation and then sending it into Neil to install. We worked on it for almost two hours until Neil's knees couldn't take much more.

Before Neil crawled out from under the house he took a bit longer and installed the whole house water filter onto the water line. It will be nice to be able to drink water right from the tap finally. We give our Bria water pitcher a real work out around here!

Neil was going to start construction on the hay feeder for the alpacas this afternoon but when we uncovered his table saw the table was completly rusted. Some steel-wool and WD-40 got the worst of it off but by that time it was getting dim and we needed to get cleaned up for a road trip to see about a wood stove that Neil saw in a store in Greensboro, NC yesterday. It was marked as $198.oo. Neil called this morning to confirm the price and to see if they had them in stock before we drove the hour and a half down to get it. We were assured that everything was fine.

We left the house about 4:30pm and arrived just after 6pm to look at the stove. It was excextly what we wanted for our living room. It was a small stove so it would fit snugly into our current fireplace opening, it had a good EPA rating, took 18" logs, had a 6" top mounted smoke pipe and had a glass front so we could enjoy the fire... and it was within our budget! Neil found a clerk and asked to have one brought up to the front so we could buy it. The clerk looked at the SKU# on the tag and said "Oh, this is the wrong tag. Let me go look up the right SKU# for this." Right away Neil and I knew it wasn't going to be good. He came back and said that this stove was a special order stove and it would take 2-3 weeks to get one here... and it was actually $699! What?!

Neil asked to see the manager. When the manager got there Neil told him that he had specifically called earlier to confirm the price of this stove, as the price did seem "to good to be true" to us, and that when told it was right and that there were plenty in stock that we drove 3 hours round trip to come get it. The manager was great! He apoligized for their mistake and said that if we wanted to take the floor model (that had some minor scratches on the glass door) that he could offer it to us for $450. Neil and I discussed it and as it truly was the perfect stove for us and other comp models we had researched were well over $1000 we opted to dig deep into the budget and get it anyway. So, while the stock guys where loading it up for us I milled around the store a bit. I found a great little solar shed light for the goat barn for $40 and the kids picked up a little toy a piece. When we were at the register paying for our items the manager said, "I am going to give you an additional %20 off the full retail value on the stove and your other item as well. Oh, and the toys are on the house too!" WOW! Now this was a manager that respected that his staff messed up and wanted to make it right for us! So, that $699 stove ended up costing us less then $350!

This is a photo from the manufacturer's web site. Interestingly, the stove is listed on their site at $899.50!

There were seven eggs this morning!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's always something around here...

A few days ago I noticed that one of my Easter Egger chickens didn't look right. I was only seeing her from across the chicken yard (as I couldn't get hold of her) but it looked like she was missing a bunch of feathers under her tail around her vent. I couldn't see anything "pasting up" on her and she looked BAR (bright, alert and responsive) so I didn't think much about it. In fact I forgot all about it until this morning when I was in the coop feeding the birds. There she was on one of the roosts with her head down and it looked like someone trimmed a 90 degree angle into her feathers under her tail. I went over and picked her up... which she didn't resist much (never a good sign). I turned her over and could now see a bit of stool pasted to her vent and her vent looked mildly prolapsed. I put her into one of the brooder pens by herself while I finished up with the rest of the chicken chores.

Once I was done with everything else I went back in with her to get her all set up with food and water. I also wanted to clean up her hind end and get a better view of what was going on. The brooder pen is in better light so when I laid her on her back this time and pulled her belly feathers up a bit to get a better view of her vent area did I get a surprise! Maggots!

Now, I have seen more then my share of maggots being a vet tech for over 12 years but still it is never something you want to see. On even closer inspection I could see that she had an open wound about an inch and half long just ventral to her vent. It looked old... and full of maggots. I felt so bad that she had been suffering with this and I didn't know. No wonder she looked so depressed this morning. I had no idea how she got the wound. Was it a laceration, an abscess or had she been egg bound? But what I was looking at was an old wound with dead tissue full of maggots on a depressed chicken that felt thin. I needed to make a desicion about what to do with her. Should I end her suffering and put her down or try to treat it as best I could not knowing how she got it and how extensive the damage may be internally.

Well, I desided I needed to make a strong effort to help her. If she doesn't improve at all over the 24 hours after treatment I will let her go. So, up to the house I went to get supplies. First off, gloves! Then a warm water/betadine flush, a syringe barrel, some 3x3 guaze pads and a topical antibiotic. Back in the coop I flushed the wound until no more maggots emerged from it. Picked of the dirt and scabs and cleaned her up as best I could. Finally, I liberaly applied the topical antibiotic to the wound inside and out. She was so good through the whole ordeal but that could have been that she was so depressed anyway. I set her up on the roost in the brooder pen, gave her some pellets to eat and diluted some powdered antibiotic in her water as well. Time will tell...

Evening Update:

I checked on her several times today and she never seemed worse. This evening at feeding time she was actually preening and it looked as if she had gone through about half the water I had put out for her. I gave the wound a quick look and already it looked much quieter and no sign of any missed maggots either. So, so far so good. In the morning, if she is still with me, I will give the area a good cleaning again and reaply the topical antibiotic. I have seen some of my other birds fully recover from some pretty bad wounds they have gotten from our LGDs so I won't give up hope for her yet.

Got three eggs today.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Daily Musings

During chores this morning I moved the hay feeder Neil built yesterday into the cow/donkey/goat pasture by the barn. I threw in about a half a bale of hay and everyone went crazy. Our Dexter cow Cherry Blossom (who has lost a big chunk of weight this Fall already due to the drought and nursing her calf) was her typical Boss cow self and tried to chase everyone else away from the feeder so she could have it all to herself. Hopefully after a few days of hay she will calm down and let everyone else eat in peace too.

Then this morning a got a call from a gentleman asking if we still had any of the commercial chicken nest boxes I had listed for sale in the NC AgReview in September. In fact I didn't sell a single one from that ad so I still have them all sitting down by the shed. I took some photos and e-mailed them to him. He ended up stopping by this afternoon to pick up the only single unit we had. He is just getting his first chickens and stayed to visit a bit and look at our setup with the birds and ask questions. He seemed like a nice guy and I hope the chickens work out well for him.

I did a bit of cleaning up around the yard, moved a pile of fence posts that has been hanging around since our spring fencing effort. I also finally got around to hanging up the two signs that say "WORKING LIVESTOCK GAURDIAN DOG: PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB". I put one up by the barn and the other on the fence beside the driveway for visitors to see.

Finally, late this afternoon I got a call from a neighbor up the road that we have yet to meet. They must have gotten our phone number off of our farm sign that we just installed yesterday. They said they had an osterich cross the road in front of their house and wanted to see if it was ours. I told them that we had a lot of critters here but large flightless birds were not one of them. :) I least I know that people are seeing the farm sign!

There were four eggs today.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It's the little things that count.

Today was a day full of small projects.

After completing the painting on the farm sign this week, Neil was able to get it installed for me up by the road. Once installed I did have a small amount of touch up painting to do with the white background as the turkeys left foot prints on the first side I painted before we flipped it to paint the second side. Painting the sign was a project that took far longer then originally planned and I am very happy to have it done at last. Yeah!

Then I butchered our three Road Island Red roosters. These three were the hardest of all the birds I have done to pluck! I was very frustrated. What should have been a 5 minutes job for each of them turned into 20 minutes a piece. The feathers just didn't want to come out, especially on the wings. I knew I scalded them for the same time and in my frustration I tore the skin on two of them. Boy, wasn't I happy when that project was over!

Meanwhile, Neil was down working on a hay feeder for the cows and donkeys. Prior to now I had to place to feed them hay except on the ground and there is just so much waste that way. Our hay here is too expensive with our drought to waste any of it so I have been waiting for a hay feeder to start giving the cows any hay. It will be nice to start supplimenting our poor drought damaged pasture with some hay at last. The previous owners had a 2x4 frame they left behind that held three trash cans side by side. Neil simply took that framework and covered the floor and the four sides with plywood, put on two wheels in the front and two wooden handles in the back and it was done. The wheels will make it easy for me to move it around myself. The whole thing is pretty slick and it was all made with stuff we had lying around... which are the best projects when you are a homesteader!

Finally, Neil installed some new locks on the bedroom french doors as the current locks were getting a bit old.

I made a yummy dinner of grilled London Broil, mashed potatoes, green beans and fresh dinner rolls. Everything was so good!

Three eggs today.