Saturday, October 22, 2011

Grazing Corn

OMFRA video, about planting corn to have your sheep graze late fall/early winter.
Very interesting, hmmm...

You'll hear a lot from anti factory-farm people about how corn is bad & unnatural for animals. Humans have been feeding corn, and other grains, to farm animals for centuries. It is a good way to keep weight on the animals over winter.

The "problems" with corn are really more related to the factor-farm mentality and feed lots, where the animals are confined in a small area and fed corn to increase their weights right before slaughter. This adds a lot of the lovely fatty marbling that is so popular, but not a lot of nutrients.

Feeding entire stalks like this would be a good way to feed your animals for a few cold months, reducing feed costs (hay) for animals that don't need it (like the horses do) to be healthy. If you watch the video you'll noticed that there is a cow & llama in with these sheep.

Now, we do prefer the taste of grass-finished beef; it is a lot stronger tasting, more beefy, then what you get at the store; there is also some research that shows all that grass puts those good Omega3s into the beef. Something corn-fed cattle definitely don't have.

So, food for thought, either way.

Turkeys on display

All 3 were displaying before I got the camera out there. They are very beautiful birds in their full splendor. Too bad about the missing tail-feathers, that's from living with Lenny-the-Jerk.

Friday, October 21, 2011

KSCC: Victory Barnyard

Okay, seriously, how cute are these patterns!?
I know I've mentioned Purple Kitty before, these are all free vintage patterns. 

Vintage patterns can be a little bit tricky for a new knitter because you need to adjust for gauge and differences in wool. The best way to learn about things like gauge and how to use them is to check out the free Knit Picks podcast. I have to warn you though, they have beautiful yarns and gorgeous needles, all of which are very hard to resist (I didn't last long, Wool of the Andes is what I used on the kids baby blankets, soft and beautiful and it can survive at least one accidental washing).

Unlike trying to adapt a dress or sweater from a vintage pattern, if you mess up your gauge on a toy, it still fits. So they are a great place to start!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Egg Sitting

The great thing about chickens is that they don't care one little bit of the chicks they hatch are their "own" eggs. They are completely blind to size & colour, in fact if you look carefully she's sitting on one green egg, one brown egg & one wooden egg.

The wooden eggs go in the nest boxes to "teach" the young hens where to lay their eggs. I was also hoping it would make it a little uncomfortable for the cockerels to sleep in there with the eggs, but so far that hasn't worked. 

So our little EE here has decided she'd like to raise up a few chicks. Right now she's got one from the other EE, one from the BPR and one from the buff (I think); hoping my Marran girls are going to give me a few to add today.

Not really sure this is the best time of year for chicks, it is getting cold; but momma hens are well equipped to keep their broods nice and warm. Plus we're getting a ton of eggs, but I don't want to start selling until next spring when we've got everything sorted out. By then we'll want to start adding some more chickens & expanding our laying crew, so if we get some babies in now they'll be old enough come spring to start laying.

You've got  to be a little careful of a momma chicken on her nest, she gets very protective and she'll nip you! Chickens really don't bite very hard at all, so far I've only had one give me a really good bite, and it didn't even break the skin, just a pinch and the mark was gone in 20 minutes.

Chicken eggs can remain in their nest until mom is ready to sit them. Actually momma is hoping on & off right now, sitting for an hour or two then going outside to eat, then coming back in. The eggs should be fine like that until incubation starts. If she abandons them after that, the eggs will die. You start the hatch count-down from the time she starts sitting the eggs, not the time the first ones are layed.

She's starting sitting in earnest from last night, although the other EE has stolen her nest a few times, and last night I found her in there with the eggs & the two little cockerel chicks! Hopefully we'll have some new little fuzzy bums in about 21 days!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


This is how his bill lines up, I'm just
holding his jaw up so he'll close
his mouth for the picture.

While some species of finch have actually evolved a cross-bill to eat conifers cones (i.e. pinecones) this is a major disadvantage to a chicken.

This is one of our little EE babies, he was already slated to being culled just because he's a cockerel (yeah, I feel a little bad for the boys, but we've already got 3 roosters waging cockadoodle-doo wars around the yard). Not really sure what you do with a bantam cockerel you have to cull, there isn't much too them.

He does eat just fine, he's definitely smaller & a little lighter then his hatch mate, but watching him run around you'd never notice there was a problem.

My research shows that people keeping adult hens with cross-bills will trim them so that the chicken is able to eat more normally, or provide them with wet food.

The absolute rule with these guys is that you do not allow them to reproduce. In fact I won't be allowing his mom to reproduce because it's a bad genetic flaw. It's quite possible the rooster also carries a recessive gene, and if any other of his chicks show the same problem it'll be a matter of culling the roo.

It is possible that cross-bills can be caused by a spike in incubator temperature, but these guys were hen-hatched so that's not possible & I haven't been able to find any scientific back-up to that claim.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Duck Nest

I wasn't able to find too much information about how to build a Muscovy nest, seems they pretty much just pick a spot somewhere, anywhere, and away they go. But we've got turkey and roosters and lots of other chickens & ducks in the coop so I was worried if they did start laying that the eggs all might be crushed if they did try to rear some young.

So, I came up with this design & my wonderful hand-hubby got straight to work for me. Each box is 12"x12"x18", with the bottom piece being 22". The holes in the front are 8". The top is hinged & I grabbed whatever exterior paint was in the shop to give it a quick coat to protect the plywood. There are stabilizing bars in the corners and on one side and bottom of each divider piece.

So far, the ducks are terrified of the new box...

We went with 4 nests for 3 ducks in case one was being aggressive the other two could move a nest away from her. 

Hopefully they'll move in soon, they are edging on 6-7 months old, with the coop light on 16 hours/day for the chickens, they should start laying soon. So we'll have lots & lots & lots of duck eggs. Apparently they taste just like chicken eggs only bigger, but I've never had one before so should be interesting!

We're also going to let the ducks rears up some babies, but not too many. Muscovy are prolific breeders and it's very easy to find chicks for $5 each (or less) especially during the summer. I've read that muscovy meat also taste fantastic, but our local processor want $13 a bird, and that's just not reasonable (it has to do with the increased difficulty with de-feathering the ducks, obviously they just don't want the work). We were hoping to raise some ducks for meat, but until we find a better price for processing or it's not feasible.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cook: Machine Bread

I love my bread machine! It's nothing fancy, a black & decker I've had it 3 years now, and I think you can get them for around $100. In our house, the thing is a work horse!

Hand made from back at
my old kitchen
There is nothing like home-baked bread, and with the machine it's dead simple. I've made hand-made bread as well, and it does taste even better (probably all the blood, sweat & tears that goes into it!) but machine made is still a hundred times better then store-bought.

I've been too wary of whole wheat to try it yet, but it's something I need to get too.

I use a really simple recipe:
- 3 cups flour*
Oops! The yeast did not activate
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp (- or +) sugar
- 3 tbsp fat (oil, or butter) - I use olive oil most often
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tsp active dry yeast

The trick is to activate the yeast in the water before adding it to the machine. However, if you're distracted by children, and get too busy and the water isn't warm enough, you just end up with a nice treat for the chickens! The bread would also look like this if my yeast was dead.

*In the States you want to use bread flour, in Canada, our flour is different (more coarse) and you can use all purpose or bread. I prefer bread flour.

We also make tons of pizza dough in the machine, which makes mixing dead-easy; plus it's timed to rise in a warm spot away from any bugs, pets or kids.

If you don't have a bread machine, no-knead is a really fun recipe to make. I've done it a few times and it gives you a really nice artisan style bread with little effort, great for a holiday dinner. It's also super cheap to make since you're only using flour, salt & a tiny bit of yeast.

Here is a recipe from the NY Times. I've got one kicking around here that was from the 1800s, but can't seem to find the book I wrote it down in, I don't think it was much different.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Winter Bale Grazing

Check in with me in 6 months to see how stupid an idea this was.

The bales are much farther apart then they are supposed to be but we've got 15 out in the field and we'll have 15 more under a tarp somewhere plus more in the barn; but we're going to start with this and see how quickly all the animals get super fat. The cows look like we blew them up with bicycle pumps!

They didn't have a round bale for 2-3 days (too much rain for delivery) so they were hungry when we put the bales out, but so far so good. They've only taken down one & there is still lots left to it.

I decided to leave the bale strings on for now. The article I cited before even mentioned that strings are a major problem with this system. Either you take them off & the bales are less able to stand up to elements/animals; or you leave them on & now you've got bale strings all over your field. Bale strings get caught up in machinery & animals and trip nice farmers (me!), so they are dangerous. The best option given was to switch to twine which will degrade; we didn't have the option of requesting that this year (barely got our hay as it was - everyone is busy!)

More hay Saturday/Sunday - looking forward to a full barn!