Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Ungrateful, Unlucky and Unneeded

There are always two or three chickens that feel they must roost on top of the half-door in the barn instead of going with all their other chicken buddies in the coop at night.   So every night I have to hand carry one or more flapping and squawking birdbrain into the coop.  And last night while clutching one of the hens under my arm, I suddenly felt a warm spot on the side of my leg.  Ungrateful wench.  I should have kept her out of the coop and let the coyotes make a snack out of her.

Earlier in the week I noticed that the lonely chick was wandering around on it's own just before dusk, peeping like mad.  I didn't see the mother hen anywhere so tried to corral him and put him in a pen for the evening as not to become yet another coyote snack.  After about five minutes of fruitless and maddening chasing of the little peckerhead, I asked Paul to help me catch him.  To which his reply was something like, "We want survivalist chickens, if he can't survive, we don't want him".  And I agreed.  The fact that he was more than likely a cockerel made the decision easier.  The next morning after letting out the "good" chickens (i.e. those smart enough to go into the coop at night) I walked around looking for the chick, but didn't find him.  He was neither lucky nor of the "survival" type I guess.  I did, however, spy his mother who either decided to roost with the other good chickens or hid out someplace else without her offspring during the night.

As for the Unneeded?  When I went to shut up the chickens for the night, I opened the door and caught a hen in the act of pecking an egg that was laid in one of the nest boxes and there was fresh yolk on that one which meant she ate at least one other egg.  I immediately grabbed her and flung placed her in the small kidding pen until I decided what to do with her.  And when I say "decided", I mean what type of side dish we will be serving with her.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Almost Forgotten Things

Kristina over at Pioneer Woman at Heart reminded me of something that I've neglected to blog about.  Check out her post from today.

Back in February I asked my readers to partake in a Letter A Month challenge and I haven't reminded any of you about it lately.  And speaking of which, I still have an already written letter sitting in my notebook but keep forgetting to take it to the post office.

Yes, I know, it's gardening season.  Everyone is knee deep in compost.  Fingernails and hands (and maybe even feet) so filthy that no amount of scrubbing or soaking will remove the dirt or vegetation stains from yanking stubborn weeds out of the tomato patch.

But maybe between stints of putting in new plants or planning your Fall garden (like I should be doing), or while relaxing (ha!) at your kitchen table after an afternoon of weed-pulling and squash-bug-squashing, you can manage to crank out a little letter to someone special.  Even if it's just a "Hi!  I'm busy, but still thinking of you!" on a scrap of paper or Post-It note.  Cram that baby in an envelope, slap a stamp on it and send it off to make someone's day a little brighter!

So, now that I've nagged you, I've got something else that I've neglected to finish up and it's much more exciting than the letter writing thing.

I had a book giveaway in the beginning of May and the winner never collected her spoils so I'm going to let you all have another go at it.  My camera is on the fritz so I can't post new pictures of the books, but HERE is a link to the original giveaway post.  I'll draw one name on Saturday night and announce the winner on Sunday morning.  Winner has a choice of one of these books:  Chocolate for a Woman's Blessings, Pearls of Country Wisdom, One Second After or Country Food.

Same rules apply as in the original giveaway (i.e. US residents only, say something nice about cats), except that I can not guarantee the condition of the bar of chocolate as it's pretty much a billion degrees everywhere.  So if you don't mind a bar of melted chocolate (stick it in the freezer & call it good) and if you want another chance at winning a book, just make a comment here and your name will be thrown in the hat.

Good luck.

On winning the book AND trying to find time to write that letter!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Great Expectations

Earlier this spring while dozing the fence line for the future pasture, Paul cleared a garden plot for me near the house, probably 45' x 100'.  And as a bonus, the faucet is located on that side of the house.

I had grand ideas for this garden.  A squash garden, a few rows of corn, tomatoes galore, some pumpkins, maybe even some of those birdhouse and loofa gourds just for fun.  Days and weeks went by without me planting a darned thing.  So my Spring garden became my Fall garden.

Then we needed someplace to plant the four apple trees, two mulberry trees and twelve hazelnut bushes.  So in they went.  Right in my was-supposta-be-a vegetable garden.

But all is for the best.  The plot is really just bare clay & rock studded earth and it desperately needs some amendments.  The holes for the trees & bushes were dug with the help of the auger on the tractor (can you say "crap-load-a-rocks"?) and then filled in with semi-composted mule poop, nice compost from the garden heap, and whatever "soil" that came out of the hole.  The trees / bushes were then planted in those nutrient-filled holes.

So now I have a new plan, and one that doesn't involve me doing it right this second.  Which is good because I'm lazy and tend to procrastinate.  I plan on spreading the wasted hay and mule poop over the area, then I'm going to go to the feed store, buy some sort of green ground cover / green manure kind'a seeds, scatter it and water it.  We'll have some vegetation to help with the soil erosion and then plow it in come spring, thus adding nutrients to the soil.

Since the trees and hazelnut bushes are already in, I'll work around them and make this my "Permaculture Garden".  Actually, I'm not even exactly sure what a permaculture is supposed to be.  I'm thinking a bunch of different plants all living in harmony as opposed to a patch of corn, a plot of squash & a section of peas.

Well, that's what I'm thinking today at least.  Who knows what kind of ideas I'll have concocted come next Spring.....or tomorrow.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The best part of waking up.... not Folgers in your cup.  It would be keeping my lazy backside in bed.  Until, say, Fall.

But with summer here, daylight streaming through the curtains at absurd hours of the morning and Pickles screaming her stupid head off for no apparent reason, there's little rest.

It's been hot the past few weeks.  Like in the mid 90's during the day.  Not suicidal squirrel weather, but hot & humid enough.

I know, I know.  It's Arkansas, what did I expect?  But this is what we have to deal with in exchange for that earlier Spring and later Autumn.  And being able to gloat tell Mama Pea that I just ate my first snow peas before she can even dig through her snow covered beds only feels good until I have to admit that just yesterday I had to rip those same peas out of the garden because they are already starting to wilt and die from this heat.

I have to do my weeding in half-hour spurts, then come inside for a glass of iced tea, wipe the stinging sweat from my eyes and wonder if I should really change into another pair of shorts because I've already got swampass but then figure I'd run out of shorts by the end of the day so just go back outside in sticky, sweaty garments to weed some more.  Thank gawd I don't get many visitors here.

We've had enough rainfall that the first cutting of hay went well for the area, and the goats are able to graze on fresh greenery.  But only in the early morning and late evening.  They are all back in the goat pen by 11 or they start to slow cook, even if they're laying down in the shade of the tree they're tied to.  The rest of the day they hunker down underneath the barn or in one of the numerous goat huts.  And stay there.  I can hardly coax them out with an arm full of fresh weeds or handful of grain.

Even though there is over thirty-five gallons of water in several buckets, I still have to go out there and top them off with cool water.  With the exception of the newly planted fruit trees, I've only had to water the garden every other or third day.  I'm sure in a few weeks I'll be having to do it every day.

My mystery squash is still putting out fruit, but the damned squash bugs are back with reinforcements.  I've been picking them off, shaking them off into a bucket, trying to scrape the eggs off the leaves without tearing huge holes in the leaves.  I'm going to have to dust them with some DE or something before I lose the entire squash section.  Technically, I wasn't going to plant squash there this year (because of the squash bugs), but these were volunteers and I didn't have the heart to pull them up.  So now I get to fight another few generations of squash bugs.

Well, this post has taken me through two outside/inside cycles already and I most definitely need to put on a nonswampass pair of shorts.  Or better yet, I think I deserve a little break.  I'm going put on some sunscreen, hop in the car & join Grandma and Rhiannon who are already down at the beach.

Smell ya all later!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Want to read something REALLY frightening?

Ok, you all know I'm still upset about the Farmers Market thing, but I just had to share this website I came across this morning.

Government is Good

And just so my left wing, pro-government, I "heart" Obama readers (do I actually have any of those?) know, I did read many of the articles this douchebag (Yes, I allow myself to resort to name calling.  Childish, maybe.  But I am nothing if not honest) wrote.

And I'm really not sure if the website is a joke or not.  If you want a good laugh, or a reason to take a few more ibuprofen this morning, check out this website and please tell me that I'm not the only one who is dumbfounded by what is written in there.

He does make some valid observations, such as, "As seen earlier, most of us would like to increase – not cut – spending on social programs like health care and education." (Notice how nothing is mentioned about improving the existing system or making sure it's being run efficiently, just "lets throw more money at it").

Well, as sad a statement as that is, it is partially true.  There are a  LOT of people who would like to increase spending on social programs.  You know.  The ones who would rather sit on their asses instead of working.  Would rather accept food stamps than have to spend their own money on food so they can spend it on cigarettes and flat screen TV's or iphones.  The ones who want the state to take responsibility (both financially and physically) of their children's meals, health, supervision, educations.

What is troubling is the fact that this man does not even consider the fact that all those social programs have to be paid by someone ELSE.  Just because 51% of a group of people demand or vote for more "free stuff" does not make it right.  Mob rule is not right.

Or, how about this?  That maybe those programs and regulations are Un-Stinking-Constitutional in the first place.  By reading some of the articles, I would have to assume that the writer has never even glanced at the Declaration of Independence, The US Constitution or The Bill of Rights.

Government Coercion Can Be Good
Taxes are Good
Why We Need More Government
More Government Does Not Equal Less Freedom

Those are just some of the topics this website has to offer for your reading amusement.  There are people out there like this man, pushing this insane agenda, coddling to the leaches of society and telling them that their vote can be bought for the price of a SNAP card.

I'm not an Anarchist.  I'm well aware that there are valid reasons for the establishment of a government (passing out free cell phones is definitely not one of them).  But this person apparently wants one where we scrap our original document of independence, our original restraints on government and just march all together in ignorant bliss to the drums of the current liberal agenda.

My only regret in having posted this and his website is that I would have contributed to the number of "hits" on his page, thus probably making him erroneously assume that others actually agree with his opinions.

Know thy enemy.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What you've all been waiting for....

...or not.

Caution: Rant Ahead.  

You've been warned.

This morning I went to set up my goodies at the local Farmers Market.  Around 10:30, a lady brandishing a clipboard walks up to one of the first vendors.  Being as there were only six of us there, everyone stops to eavesdrop on what was transpiring.  The woman was from The Arkansas Department of Finance and was here because of a “complaint”.  Not a complaint about the health or safety of the market, but because supposedly some snitch was upset that the vendors weren’t collecting sales tax at the venue.  First of all, I hate a snitch.  I’m not talking about “Oh, I just killed somebody, but don’t you go telling on me” kind’a snitch.  But a busy-body kind’a snitch that has nothing better to do than stir things up or make him/herself feel better because we’re “getting away” with not collecting sales tax.  
And truthfully, I’d bet my best milking doe that it wasn’t really a snitch, I mean, complaint, but the fact that the state has nothing better to do than to squeeze every last stinking penny out of every last citizen.


As soon as I realized who the lady was, I tore down my little display, put away my table and chair and started to put my bread & cookies in the car.  There was no way in hell I was going to even acknowledge this woman’s existence other than removing myself from the immediate area before I blew a gasket.  But then I got to thinking.  Why should I have to “run and hide” from a civil servant?  Remember when that’s what they used to be called.  You know, when we actually thought that they worked for us?
So I took my remaining goodies, went down the aisle of vendors and passed out bags of cookies to customers with a smile.  I also mentioned (so the civil servant could clearly hear) exactly WHY I was giving the cookies away for free.  I told them that because of the woman (and pointed directly at her) from the department of revenue, I would no longer be selling my items at the market.  I told them I refused to charge or collect sales tax for the state and that they could thank the woman over there for effectively running out every vendor at the market.

Four of us have already said we wern’t going to continue the market.  How completely sad is that?  All for the sake of a few dollars of “revenue” for the state.  How’s that for stifling the local economy?  
It’s not like any of us were really making money.  And I’m sure if one actually factored time/labor into the goods being offered for sale, that we were probably losing money.  But this was a nice little venue.  A place where local residents could drive or even walk to, in the middle of a quiet park, and do a little shopping to support their friends and neighbors, buy a cookie for their kids or biscuit for their dog. 

But the state has to stick it’s damned nose in everything and bleed us for everything we do.  The fruit of our labors is no longer our own.  The state comes and picks the ripest, juiciest fruit from our tree of labor and leaves us to gather up the rotten or spoiled fruits for ourselves.  I know, this is nothing new, but I guess it just pisses me off when it comes down to this.  A tiny bunch of retired old folks, selling banana bread, homemade crafts or vegetables from their neighbor’s farm just wanting to do something other than sit at home watching Dancing With the Stars.  A few hours out of the week to socialize and meet new friends or talk with old ones.   How much money does the state collect from this (and even the surrounding) Farmers Market?  Do you want to bet it doesn’t even remotely cover her taxpayer funded salary or all the other government red tape and costs? 
So.  Back to me.  Me, me, me, it’s all about me you know.

Civil Servant Woman did not say a word to me, nor do I think she went out of her way to try.  Lucky her because I REALLY would have given her a piece of my mind.  Now don’t pull the “it’s just her job” crap on me either like I heard her say.  You know what?  Just because your superior tells you it’s in your job description to do X Y or Z does not make it right.  You do NOT have to take employment with entities like that.  Period.  She is carrying out immoral, unethical and downright despicable acts in the name of her superior, in the name of her fancy pants government agency.  Paid for by us, by the way.  She needs to be shunned.  She is taking part of a government supported theft of property, period.  I heard her say things like “I wish I didn’t have to do this” or “I hate to tell you this, but….” several times during conversations with the other vendors.  If she really felt that way, she wouldn’t take a job like that.  Stop blaming The Boss or The State or Gawdknowswho for what YOU are doing.

Ok, back again.

I took the remaining loaves of bread and cookies to the real estate company, bank and water department just down the block from the Market.  And told them the same thing.  That they wouldn’t be seeing me at the market from now on and I thanked them for their past business.  And every single one of them were disgusted at what had happened.  So why is it that one civil servant holds such power over so many others with opposing views?  How have we let our civil servants become our masters?

Ok, back again again.

Once I was in the car, with my pitiful $12 worth of sales (not income, mind you) and on the way home, I got to thinking.  Although I told the other vendors that I refused to come back because of the events that morning, I indeed WAS going to come back next week.  Because I’ve been hatching little plans and ideas in my twisted right-wing-redneck-patriot-homeschooling-raw-milk-drinking head.

I will not be silenced.  I will not bow down to one lady with a clipboard and a fancy title.  I will stand up to this (albeit small and trivial) outrage because if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

You’ll just all have to wait until next Friday to see what “devious” plans I have come up with :)

If ye love wealth better than liberty,
the tranquility of servitude
better than the animating contest of freedom,
go home from us in peace.
We ask not your counsels or your arms.
Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
May your chains set lightly upon you,
and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

-Samuel Adams

Watch Out!!

......because, boy oh boy, do I have a rant brewing.

You've been forewarned.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lambs Quarters Recipes

Since I've been talking about using Lambs Quarters in my cooking, I figured I'd do some of you a favor and give you some of my "recipes" for them.  I say "recipes" as they are the kind that is a pinch of this or a little of that.  Man, did I hate that when people told me "season to taste" or "a bit of this" or "until it looks done" I was younger and now, look what I've of them!


I use Lambs Quarter basically in any dish that you would use spinach in.  The younger leaves can be used fresh in salads, but the older and tougher (not that they are that tough) leaves are best used cooked.  And as a bonus, if you pick just the leaves off, the plant will re-grow more leaves.  I've also noticed if you snap half the plant off, it will bush out with more stalks...more leaves!   When I rip the entire plant off or just a part of the stalk, the goats get the leftovers and they love it.  They also have a longer growing season than spinach so you can be enjoying Lambs Quarters even long after your spinach has bolted!

I use them in quiche and omelets, both raw or sauteed before putting them in the egg mixture.  My favorite way is to sautee them with onions first.

I've made Creamed Lambs Quarters.

And just last night, made Lambs Quarters and Garlic pasta:
The fresh wild greens negate all the carbs in this dish.  Really.
I sauteed the onions & garlic in olive oil a bit first, then added the LQ (I'm getting sick of typing Lambs Quarters out), a bit of salt and some Parmesan cheese.

I've been meaning to make a spinach cheese ball using LQ and some fresh goat cheese, but I've yet to be invited to a party where a cheeseball would seem appropriate.  I suppose I could just make it for us, but it just seem like cheeseballs are a party kind'a thing.  And now that I think about it, I bet a LQ and goat cheese lasagna would be darned tasty; no social gathering required!

So go out there & pick yourself some Lambs Quarters!

EDITED (to add more info.)

Here's a link to a bunch of pictures of LQ.  Occasionally there will be some powdery dust on the underside of the leaves or some purple spots, neither of which will harm you if you eat it.
Also, you'll notice that when you try to wash them off, the water rolls right off the leaves making it a bit tricky to wash although it drains very nicely.

I've also noticed that they are very few insects that bother them so most of the leaves will be darn near perfect.

Size varies from only a few inches tall to over five feet tall:
One of my patches of Lambs Quarters.  The top rail of that fence is 4' tall.
Be warned though; letting them get that tall will result in back breaking
work trying to pull them out of the ground come winter.
And, as usual, PLEASE be 100% sure of what wild plants you are eating!  I am not a botanist, biologist, naturalist nor do I play one on television.  I'm just a woman who goes around my yard, trying to eat stuff that would normally be mowed over or ripped out and given to the goats.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Farmers Market

This Friday will be my fifth week at the farmers market so on Thursdays you'll usually find me in the kitchen....stirring this, mixing that, proofing the other thing.  I'm finally getting a routine for the market; cookie dough during the early afternoon, bread made/risen by the evening & into the oven late that night, cookies cut & popped into the oven early Friday morning.

Grandma took Rhiannon for a while today so I was in the kitchen a day earlier making cookie dough.  Got two batches in the freezer!

Last week at the farmers market was a (very small scale) success.  Every week I make a little more money.  Last Friday my sales totaled a whopping $35!  Yeah, yeah, I know.  But even after material costs, it pays for a bag or two of goat food.

I sold cookies, breads, goat cheese and even a bar of goat milk soap.  And I got a few more milk customers lined up.  I just gott'a figure how I'm going to sell to them as I really don't want everyone coming down to the house.  Probably meet them up at the main road or bring their pre-ordered milk to the market on Fridays.

Honestly, there aren't more than a dozen vendors at the market (me, veggie guy, other veggie lady, honey guy, worm poop guy, plant lady, dog sitting lady, crafty lady, fudge lady, muffin lady) and last Friday there were only seven of us.  And the foot traffic could definitely be increased if the city would actually put in a tiny bit of effort to advertise or actively pursue getting other vendors in there.  But oh well.  Maybe I'll take the initiative and try to round up some people.  Or not.

Oh, and I got a line on some blemished produce!  You know, for when we get a pig to grow out (can you hear Paul screaming?).  I finally got the courage up to ask the veggie guy what he does with his old produce & he said that he gives it to a lady in the other farmers market in the "big city" when he's there (he sells at both markets), but if I wanted the old stuff from our market he would give it to me at the end of the day.  Whoo hooo!  Doesn't hurt to ask!  And doesn't hurt to pass out homemade cookies to the other vendors either :)

He also gave me about a dozen peaches, some sweet potatoes and onions (not yucky, just not "perfect" for selling) to take home so I gott'a make sure to hook him up with more cookies on Friday.  I LOVE bartering & swapping!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bloom where you're (not) planted

Or, if it's green and growing and I can eat it, I'm sure as heck not pulling it up!

Earlier in the year, I noticed several squash-like seedlings come up near the compost heap.  Which is no surprise as there were squash near that area and squash seeds that weren't consumed by the chickens went into the compost heap.  There aren't too many squash bugs on them (yet) and with the exception of the leaves that the goats manage to wrangle their tongues around through the fence, they're doing great.

Patty Pan'ish look'n squash and a Yellow Non-Crookneck squash.
What type are they?  Who knows.  We grew Lemon, Zucchini, Yellow Crookneck and Patty Pan last year.  Only the Patty Pans & Lemon squash were heirloom though, so you got me why the ones that look like fat Patty Pans are not growing true.  So whatever kind of freaky cross some of these may be, we're still eating them.  And if they don't taste good enough for human consumption, they'll just go to the chickens as supplemental feed.

I'm also caring for (in the sense that I haven't let Paul doze them over) several wild grape vines.  I make wild grape jelly every year so it would be nice if I could train them to grow a bit lower to the ground instead of having to use a step stool in the back of the pick up truck in order to harvest the wild ones way up in the trees.

Then there's the patch of Lambs Quarters that just magically come up each year.  I swear I like them better than spinach.  So if they're growing someplace that they're not "supposed" to be growing, too bad, they're staying there until I can harvest them.  If a spinach plant just popped up in your tomato bed, would you rip it out just because it wasn't supposed to be there or would you let it grow to harvesting? That's what I thought.
One of three patches of Lambs Quarters.
Soon to be picked & put in the fridge.
Then there's the brambles.  There were a bunch more, but the bulldozer made quick work of them earlier this spring.  Since the dozer was allowed no where near the fruit trees, these survived and they'll get watered when I water the trees and hopefully get a jar or two of wild raspberry jam out of it.

Of course, there's always the dandelions (fritters, anyone?), wild plums, choke cherry, and about a dozen other wild snackies I've yet to snack on.

What wild munchies or volunteer vegetables do you have on your place?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Breakfast of Champions

Paul went out on the lake last night with a friend.  I crammed a supper of roast chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, fried green beans and corn on the cob down their maws before Rhiannon & I waved them off into the sunset, pulling the fishing boat behind them.

About 6:30 this morning, I hear the distant rumble of a Cummins diesel engine and hurried to put on a pot of coffee.  Paul & friend look happy and friend is lugging out a cooler and it appears to be heavy (a good sign!).

A bucket full o' fish!  Catfish, large mouth bass, crappie,
white bass, and my favorite...walleye!
Friend took two walleye and left the rest for us.  Paul got working on filleting the bounty as soon as he set a table up, got his fillet knife & glove on and we ended up with just under six pounds of super-fresh, right out'ta the lake down the road, good eat'n fish!

Some of which we had for breakfast, not a half hour ago:

Fresh egg from our chickens, homemade whole wheat toast
and pan fried walleye & catfish!
Rhiannon and I are planning our morning & afternoon, but without Paul.  At least for a while.  He's already in bed and snoring away!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Of Chicks and Goslings

Remember how excited I was that one of our "missing" hens was in fact sitting on a clutch of eggs and hatched out six chicks?  Well, she's down to one now.  I tried for over a week to corral her in to a pen or otherwise catch her little chickenbutt, but couldn't manage to do it.  I thought that was the sign of a good chicken momma, but apparently she's not so good at protecting her chicks at night.

I have some idea of the general area of her night time roosting spot, but have not found it.  So several days after first seeing her and her six chicks, I noticed that she only had five chicks following her.  The next day, only three.  Then a few days later, only one.  She and her lone chick have been strutting around the edges of the chicken / goat yard and when I get close, her & her only offspring high tail it out to the woods.

So I'm just writing this batch off as "survival of the smartest / fittest".  It would have been nice to have a few more laying hens (especially ones that I didn't have to care for), but given the track record for free-range, hen-raised chicks around here, they were pretty much doomed from the start.  I just hope that the mother hen doesn't end up dead and if she eventually loses her last chick that she decides that it's much safer to roost in the coop at night rather than start another clutch of eggs out in gawd-knows-where.

As for our little gosling, he (or she?) is putting on some weight.  I've also noticed his feet are getting much bigger and "webbier".  It's been almost-Africa-hot here the past week so Rhiannon has been spending time in the kiddie pool and the sprinkler and the gosling is never far from her.  I finally moved him out of the barn (where he stays when unsupervised) and into the chicken tractor.  Paul moved it out of "storage" (i.e. out in the back 40 leaned up against a tree) to the front yard so now he has sunlight (and shade), breezes and fresh greenery to peck at instead of bring cooped up in the coop.
Outside Kitty watching the gosling.  Now that I think about it,
he may be the reason we are down to only one chick.
Never having been a keeper of geese, I was wondering about a few things and was hoping those of you that have (or had) geese could give me some pointers and answer some questions for me.

Exactly what is meant by the term "Weeder Geese"?  Is it just a generic term for a mutt goose?  Kind'a like when they call a goat a "Brush Goat"?

What do you feed your goslings and older geese?  Our feed store doesn't carry "Goose Food", so right now he's getting Game Bird Grower (21% protein I believe) and he's nibbling on grass/clover/weeds.

When is he going to get "real" feathers?

When are we going to be certain that "he" is a he and not a she?  Not that I care, just curious. Don't want to give him a complex if we give him a masculine name and it turns out he is actually a she.

Is there going to be a problem if he is a he?  I've heard that male ducks will try to do anything that stands still.  Not sure I really want a horny gander hanging around my toddler.

And lastly, if he is a total peckerhead, how do you cook your goose?  I have to admit that the thought of a Christmas Goose is pretty tempting.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another Meat Bird Cost Analysis

Mama Tea over at A Farmish Kind of Life just put up a post, How much does it cost to raise a meat bird?

Which reminded me that I never did my cost analysis for our last batch of Creepy Meats.

I purchased 2 week old Cornish Cross meat birds from the local feed store in March.  I purposely waited as long as I could to buy them, figuring the longer I waited, the less time we had to spend caring / feeding / watering them.  We really didn't need any meat birds in the freezer and normally we don't grow out our birds until the Fall, but I figured if I went into the feed store and there were still a handful left, I'd buy them.  So buy them I did.

I left the feed store with seven birds (at $1.69 each) a bag of chick starter (at $11.95 for 40#'s) and a toddler peeping back at the box of chicks.   As usual, Paul wasn't too keen on the idea (don't we already have a freezer full of chicken?) but he was slightly interested in trying some Cornish Game Hens.

For those not familiar with the nuances of meat bird linguistics, a Cornish Game Hen is just a small Cornish Cross chicken having a dressed weight (i.e. ready to pop in the oven) of 2 pounds or less.  A Cornish Cross refers to a meat type bird that is the love child from a Cornish Game and Plymouth or White Rock chicken breeds.  You may hear them called Cornish Crosses, Cornish X's or, as Ohio Farm Gal so eloquently coined, "Creepy Meats".

The birds were of "game sized" in just a few weeks, but I kept putting off the butchering, because, well, I'm not sure why.  Probably because I wanted a bigger bird.  Yes, the would have looked soooo cute on the supper plate, each with their own tiny chicken next to some new potatoes and green beans.  But I just didn't do it.  Then I had to get another bag of feed.  Which they were out of at the store, so I ended up having to buy Game Bird Grower (i.e. more expensive).  But I figured once this bag of food ran out, it would be butchering time.

Well, that time came and went and at approximately eight weeks of age, they went under the butcher cleaver.  We'd cared for them for six weeks though (remember, they were already two weeks old when I bought them).  It was much, much easier butchering seven birds as opposed to the twenty-five and fifty we normally get.  And there wasn't as much poop, although there weren't as many birds either.

The dressed birds weighed in very small, the lightest at 3 lbs. 4 oz., the heaviest just an ounce under 4 pounds.  I attribute this to the fact that I only feed them the store bought feed and only fed them twice a day.  By all means, they were not starved, but obviously they could have been fed more.  The two years when we had huge birds (6-7 lbs.), they were getting store bought feed, extra milk and even scraps from the fire department annual pork roast.  They were also purchased from McMurry Hatchery whereas the others came from a local hatchery up in Missouri.  I'm not sure if the hatchery made a difference or not, but I may just buy some from one hatchery, some from the other and do an experiment to see if one hatchery's chicks grow out better than another.  Or maybe that would be a good science fair project for Rhiannon down the road.

Anyways, here are the numbers for our Spring 2013 Cornish Cross birds:

7 chicks @ $1.69 each = $11.83
40# bag Chick Starter @ = $11.95
40# bag Game Bird Grower @ = $14.50
Total Cost = $38.38

Total Weight of Dressed Birds = 25 lb. 4 oz.

Total Cost per Pound = $1.51 (although it should have been $1.41 if the feed store wasn't out of chick starter)

So, what did I learn from all of this, besides the monetary cost?  (Remember, there's no labor or infrastructure costs included in this.) Well, that I should have given them food every daylight hour and let them cram their gizzards with as much food as they could get down their beaks.  And that even though I wanted to see what it would cost to feed them strictly store bought feed, I most definitely will supplement future batches with our milk, whey, kitchen scraps and maybe even get them on pasture in order to reduce the feed bill and to plump them up.

But we'll probably have to wait until next Spring or Fall for that, because after I pulled out the birds to weigh them, I noticed several with the date 11-2011 on them at the bottom of the freezer.

Can you guess what we'll be having for supper tonight (and tomorrow, and the next)?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

'Round the Homestead

So, what's so exciting around the homestead that I haven't had time to blog?  Well, nothing really.  Except maybe for the baby goose.  Who is very, VERY needy.  It follows Rhiannon or I around the entire time it's out of the barn (where it stays when not supervised) peeping and fwapping (yes, that's a word, at least for me) it's flappy little feet around.  Over the weekend we broke out the little plastic kiddie pool and Rhiannon & the gosling splashed around.

What else?  Hmmm.  Oh, I got stung by a scorpion.  Went to feed the dogs late one night, stepped out the door and the bugger got me on my big toe.  Hurt worse than any bald faced hornet sting, and it didn't stop hurting for almost a day & a half.  Oh, and did I mention that the poison from it actually made my lips and tongue tingle & feel numb?  There's a bit of scorpion neurotoxin trivia for ya.

We (ok, Paul did most of it) worked on planting the hazelnut bushes and apple trees.  Only two mulberry trees to plant and we're done!  Paul dozed, raked and smoothed out a large area next to the future pasture for me several weeks ago and now we're going to try to make it our permaculture garden area.  I've got plans buzzing around in my head for a peace-love-everybody-gets-along style of symbiotic gardening with fruit trees, nut bushes, berry bushes, vegetable plants and maybe even a little area for a bird bath or something crazy like that.  I can dream, can't I?
Hazelnut bushes (or is it Filbert)?  Whatever.
I'm just glad we'll eventually have some nuts.
The strawberry patch is just about finished.  I'm only picking every other day now.  I've learned a lot in our first season of strawberries: 1) Mulch, mulch, MULCH if you don't want smooshy, half-rotted berries.  2) Don't make the bed too wide or you won't be able to reach all the way in for the berries OR make a space for a large stepping stone (which I will most definitely do this fall).  3) Picking strawberries is back breaking work.  4) Get strawberry recipes in order before harvest time or you'll be sorry.  5) Be prepared to pick EVERY day.  6) You CAN pick them "almost-ripe" and then let them ripen on the counter top.  BUT then you will most likely have to fight fruit flies.

I also picked three of the blueberries.  ALL three of them.  On seven bushes.  Granted, they're still small & several of them had to recuperate from last year's baby goat onslaught before the garden was fenced in.  But three stinking berries?  I gave them all to Rhiannon.

All in all, it's been a typical week/end on the homestead.  What have YOU been up to?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What is it they say...

...about a sucker being born every minute?

I should have known better.  I should have stood my ground.  I should have just kept walking, paid for my goods, and left.

I was running errands in town Saturday afternoon and the last stop was the feed store.  I just wanted to get a bag of sunflower seeds for the goats.  That's it.  And then, she jumped us.

A lady came up to Rhiannon & I and held out a yellow & black, peeping, flappy-footed ball of fuzz, practically begging us to take it from her.  It's all a hazy blur now, but I think she said something about having three goslings and two of them keeling over on her and now she didn't want to keep just one so could I please take him, please, please, PLEASE!  She had the wild eyes like I would imagine a crack dealer would have when he realizes that the cops are about to bust him & he's trying to get rid of the evidence.

Not sure if we were the first or tenth person she tried to pawn him off on.  Maybe I was a good looking candidate since I had a toddler in tow, and what mean Mommy would deny her daughter a little baby goose?  All I know is that as soon as I said the words, "Uh, sure, I guess we could take care of him", she plopped it into Rhiannon's hands and shot out the door like a rocket.  I wouldn't be surprised if she had a still-running getaway vehicle out in the parking lot.

So I just kind'a look at one of the employees at the counter and he just shrugs his shoulders.  I then ask him if they sell goose food.  To which he replies, "Never been asked for it".  Which was pretty much a "No".  I think he felt sorry for me so he scooped out about two pounds of their game bird grower crumbles into a paper bag and just gave it to me and said, "Good luck".

So Krazo Acres is now home to a goose.  Or a gander.  Or some sort of waterfowl.  Not sure if it's a he or a she, not even sure what breed it is.

All I know is that Paul is not happy about it being brought into the house.  At least I've got lots more material for future posts.

And now I kind'a feel like Lamb's husband at the feed store.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Straw(berry) that Broke the Gardener's Back

Mom gave me her "old" strawberry plants last year, which I planted in our berry garden, cared for during the scorching summer, blanketed with leaf mulch over winter, then weeded this spring.  And they have been very, very prolific this year.  I've been picking berries almost every day for the last week and boy, is it back breaking work.  I broke down this morning and took an ibuprofen.

Here are some of the things heard at the house lately:

Come on Rhiannon, have some more strawberries with your hamburger.
Dessert?  Why yes, we have dessert.  It's called cram a bunch of strawberries in your maw.
I'm sure the goats would just love more strawberries.  Chickens too.
Mom, you want some strawberries?
Grandma, you want some strawberries?

Strawberries in the pick'n bucket.  Strawberries in the fridge.  In the freezer.  On the counter top.  In the chicken bucket.  In the dehydrator.  And still more on the plants outside, just waiting to ripen and cause more back pain.

Strawberry muffins, pancakes, smoothies, shortcake, jam.

Is there no end to this madness?!?

I know I shouldn't be complaining.  This has got to be the best harvest of any berry we've ever had, and it only took one year.  My blueberries are still totally pathetic looking, some just barely passing for a living thing.  The blackberries & raspberries died three years ago and although I just bought twelve more canes, I have yet to stick them in the ground.

So although I'll be downing a handful of ibuprofen each morning, I'm thankful for our first real berry harvest.