Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beef and Pork

Still snowing. Every ding-dong day!  Night, actually.  It snows every night, and I wake to 2-3 inches of heavy wet snow.  The days warm enough to clear most of it away.

I go for a load of firewood in the afternoons.  I'm trying not to panic.  We still need three more rows in the basement.  Three more rows and it's already snowing!  The forecast claims I still have some better weather coming.  I don't know whether to believe it or not.

My chainsaw broke.  It won't switch gears, so it's in for repairs.  I started using #1's saw.  He forgot to tighten the nuts after tightening the chain.  One went flying.  Now I'm using #2's saw.  It's much heavier than mine.  Oh crappy week.

Things in the butcher shop are coming together.

***  Graphic Images will follow! ***

Inside the smoker- we filled both racks with seasoned strips of beef.
So far we've got about 8 pounds of jerky on the go.  Both the oven and the smoker.  Husband set the smoker up on top of the woodstove in the garage.  We aren't burning (smoking) it, just using it as an oven with the heat from the wood stove.  It works pretty well.  We're using the first recipe from the two I made last year.  I have another 6 pounds or so cut for the next batch.  I think I'll try something new, rather than the second recipe- they didn't like it as well.

Ground beef is coming along nicely.  30 pounds so far.  Husband had to fiddle with the grinder again.  Did I mention last year what a crappy design this meat saw is?  Dad spent a whole day fixing it last year, and Husband still had to make adjustments again this year.  It's just so flimsy!

I was just starting the last quarter yesterday when Husband and the boys went out to dispatch the pigs.

For the first time ever we were actually sad to do the deed.  These were the sweetest pigs we've ever had, so friendly.  More like puppies that piglets.  When we got our first pigs years ago, I thought I might fall in love with 'Wilbur'.  Charlotte's web was my favourite book as a child.  Those pigs were wild and nasty.Mean!  Just mean!  No love lost there.  But this year, our fourth round of pigs, we were all sad to see them go.  They didn't do a great job ripping out the raspberry bushes, but were doing well in the garden.  I opened the gate between the garden and the turkey pen through the day, to let them dig and explore.  The chickens were always hopping in with them, following them around, stealing their food- and they didn't care.
Husband and #2 each dispatched one.  The female would get a little antsy when she lost sight of the male, and we didn't want to stress them out.  Two guns, two shooters, and both were out at the same time.

#2 did the teaching this time, as #1 gutted for the first time by himself.  They brought them back to the garage, hung them up, and skinned them.

According to the weight formula I found online...
heart girth X heart girth X length /400

...they were both under 100 pounds.  I find that hard to believe, especially since they were supposedly 90 pounds when we bought them.  I wonder though, if I'm supposed to include the head in the length.  That would put them over 100.  I think I'll weigh the meat as I butcher.

We're supposed to stay below freezing for a couple of days before it starts to warm up again.  I have a bit of trimming left to do on the beef, and then I'll be starting on the pigs right away.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hydro Free, But Not By Choice

First snow was Saturday, October 19th.  Husband was out all night plowing/salting/sanding.  He came home at 7am.  We woke to three inches of heavy packing snow, but sunny and reasonably warm.  The snow was already melting, and mostly gone by Sunday night.

I had three loads of laundry done- one had been on the line a couple of days already but kept getting rained on, and two more to hang out.  I bought better rubber gloves this year- last year's cheap latex didn't help much.  The new gloves fit much better and don't get stuck in the clothespins, and keeping my fingers dry while hanging out laundry goes a long way toward keeping me motivated in using the clothesline in the winter.

We did chores and a few odd jobs and were planning to get a load of firewood before returning to the butcher shop, when the hydro went out.

This was not a planned hydro free weekend.  Actually, we've already quit 'hydro free weekends' for the time being.  We've played with it enough to know that our battery bank is too small to use if the sun isn't shining.  On sunny days we can run the stereo/satellite all day, and still have enough storage to run the tv/satellite for 3-4 hours at night- so that's what we do.  We have one extension cord running around the edge of the sunroom/kitchen/livingroom that we plug the tv power bar into.  I don't know if it's saving us much money at this point, but it makes me feel better.  At least we're doing something.  Something, which could be very important if the predictions are true about what is going to happen to our hydro bills in the next few years!

So the power went out.  Not too big of a deal.  I kind of figured a tree had hit a line with the extra weight of the snow.  Mom called to make sure it wasn't just out at her place. 

We went and got our load of firewood.  No hydro required.  Back home a couple of hours later- still no hydro.  I decided to call it in- occasionally nobody bothers to let them know that the power is out, so they don't bother to fix it.  I get this guy on the phone and he informs me it was a "planned power outage" for repairs.  Well, gee, thanks for letting us know!  He claims hydro's automated messaging system told everyone last week.  Funny how neither us nor Mom got this message, eh? 

So I'm annoyed.  The power won't be back on until 6pm.  It's cold outside.  No furnace fan.  I have a batch of eggs in the incubator and their temperature is plummeting. And I really want to get back to butchering my beef.  But no power- no meat saw.

Husband got up about 2pm.  No coffee.  Not functional, lol.  Not funny at the time.  He's such a crank without coffee.  Time to try out my new stove top percolator (new to me, bought at the flea market).  The stove did not want to cooperate.  Husband spent almost two hours trying to get it burning well enough to percolate the coffee.  I went and cut another tree.

The power came on just as the coffee started percolating.  Kind of funny, really.

Not so funny- none of my eggs hatched.  I'm still debating on whether to try one more batch or leave it until February. 

The laundry didn't dry completely, but took much less time in the dryer to finish it off.  Yeah. 

No butchering got done, which led to a busy week last week and an even busier weekend this weekend.  Need more solar panels!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Boy Gets Messy

 **Graphic images will follow.**

Plans changed again.  We will have beef this winter.  Perhaps a lot of it.
Sharlotte is making her way to the freezer.

We had initially planned to keep her for future breeding stalk.  She was, after all, the first girl born here on our farm.  However, if you recall, there was some confusion about her birth.  We really don't know who her mother was, Mindy or Dorie.

So, we had a long summer filled with fence repair after fence repair, and we nearly put Mindy in the freezer, because we just could not keep her contained.  And then she calved, buying herself a reprieve.  She still gets out from time to time, though not nearly as often as she used to.  We debated making Mugsy a bottle baby, and butchering Mindy anyway.

But here's the thing- When we got Dorie, she escaped a couple of times.  She went looking for a bull.  She got out a couple of times in the spring when the grass was still short.  We had to trailer her home from a far neighbour's place twice.  And then she calved.  And then she pretty much stayed put.  She was out once, with Majesty and the whole herd this summer, but mostly, so long as she has her calf, her bull, and plenty to eat, she's a good girl.

We bought Mindy and Maddy as yearlings.  They escaped with Dorie a couple of times.  Once they got separated in the woods and Mindy came home on her own.  Maddy went to northern neighbour's with Dorie and spent the summer there.  We ended up trading her for stud fees and summer boarding.  It turned out to be an excellent trade for us.  Dorie came home and delivered Casper the following summer.  Maddy stayed there and stopped growing, and never calved.  Northern neighbour sent her to butcher two years later.

Maddy and Mindy almost definitely came from the same farm.  We waited years for Mindy to calve, breaking fences repeatedly along the way.  If we were real farmers, she would have been out of here long ago.

So, there is a possibility that Sharlotte was Mindy's calf.  Sharlotte is small in stature.  Of course it doesn't help that her daddy (Steaks) was kind of a runt either.  Sharlotte was breaking through the fence all the time.  Our fences do not hold goats or calves- uneven ground, so many weak points- so we were playing a waiting game.  Waiting for her to get too big to squeeze through the bad spots.  However, every time she squeezed through the bad spots, she made the weak points weaker.  She made the small holes bigger.  She stretched the wire looser.  And then Mindy or Nelly would follow her out.  She never really went anywhere on her own, just around the non fenced portion of our land, and in the ditch.  But once Mindy got loose, they'd be off to southern neighbour's causing trouble.

We'd patch the fence.  She'd find a new escape route.  Then she'd be on the wrong side of the fence, calling to the rest of the herd, come out and play with me!

We have five calves this year.  Five little calves who could easily duck under the fence or through one of those bad spots and run around causing trouble.  They choose not to.  They choose to stay with their mamas, their daddy- the herd.  Even Mugsy stays put when Mindy's out gallivanting around.

But what about next spring?  What will happen when the calves are bigger, their mamas are tired of nursing, new calves are arriving, and Sharlotte is still breaking through the fence?  If they followed her, that would be half my herd running loose in the neighbourhood.

Add to that her small stature- how long do we keep her, waiting for her to get big enough to breed?  If she does get pregnant, will she survive? 

We decided that Sharlotte is not the type of cow we want to keep, and we'd rather deal with her now before she leads the new calves off into the woods.

Now if you're squeamish, you should probably stop reading here.

**Graphic images will follow.**

 Husband dispatched her.

#2 took the lead this year, while I stood back and guided him through the process.

The gutting was uneventful.  Things went rather smoothly.

Weight Formula:
heart girth X heart girth X length  / 300
67" X 67" X 61" / 300 = 912.7 pounds

She was apparently slightly heavier than Steaks (830 lbs). 

We hung her in the garage last Monday, and I worked on removing fat and making tallow through the week.  She had more fat by far than any of our previous kills.  Saturday we started butchering.  It's a bit early yet, but the weather was a bit warmer than we'd like it (dropping fast now), and we still have two pigs to butcher, so we're in a bit of a hurry.

 We trimmed some of the flanks for jerky and stewing beef.  Most was cut for ground.  Blurry pictures courtesy of #4, who I believe may have been shivering a bit.

#2 got this brilliant idea to toss a bit of flank onto the wood stove.  It smelled really good, so I tossed a piece on too.  Husband, #1, and #4 thought that was disgusting.  No pan!!  lol.  They ate mine.
 After that little snack though, we decided to toss 5 freshly cut t-bones on.  (#3 was at a friend's).  I melted some of the fat on the stove top, then put the steaks on with just a bit of salt and pepper.  Delicious- and no dishes.

Still lots to do- ribs and more steaks today.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pig Update

We moved the pigs to the turkey pen.  It was much easier than I expected.  We stretched a piece of wire fencing between the pig pen and the turkey pen gate.  Then we stood on the other side of the pig pen gate holding crazy carpets.  The pigs took more convincing to leave their pen than they did to go into the turkey pen once out. 

We had shooed all of the birds out of the turkey pen, opening the greenhouses to them for shelter, but they fly over the fence to get back in when we feed the pigs.

These two pigs are so friendly, good natured and happy I finally understand how people could attached to them.  Nothing at all like the mean pigs we've had before. 

They're slowly working up the raspberry bushes in the turkey pen now.  They've made no attempts to escape, although they did push the fence back a bit in a couple of spots.  If they get the turkey pen dug up well before butchering time, I'm a little tempted to move them into the garden next...  That might be tempting fate though.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!

The new coop is complete and sort of fully inhabited.
The basement shelf converted to nesting boxes.
Pen 5, with another new nesting box.

These are two of my original hatchlings- a rooster and a hen.  The roo is too little to butcher just yet, but the hen makes me so happy!

She started laying about a week ago!  Delicious little mini eggs.  Most days I now find two eggs, one from her and one from one of the old girls. 
It turned out that the hard working hen is a red, with just an occasional egg from somebody else.  So occasional that I still don't know who the layer is! 

The meat hens are five months old now, and I keep hoping to see their first egg any day now.

So far, the chickens are keeping the new coop quite warm on their own.  So warm in fact, that I open the window up every morning to let it cool off a bit.  I'll be aiming for deep bedding for the winter as well.  Right now I stir the bedding up on Monday mornings and then add a bit of fresh bedding on top. 

Then I sprinkle a bit of loose mineral and some sandy/pebbly grit in as well. 

The new coop chickens are now eating sprouts exclusively.  Mostly barley, sometimes wheat when the feed store runs out of whole barley, and occasionally wild bird seed mix.  They all seem quite content and well. 

I don't have my fodder trays set up the way all the 'cool kids' are doing it now.  They all sit flat with multiple wholes for the water to drip through- just seed starting trays.  With our dry climate it grows more evenly this way rather than setting them on an angle.  I use drain (dish) boards below the plant stands, and then my next days' seeds soak in plastic dollar store window boxes as they catch the drips throughout the day.

It is a huge money saver on feed, and I wish that I had done it all summer at this scale, rather than just sprouting seeds as an occasional treat.

What is left of the meat roos get a mix of fodder and whole grain- they fight less when I can spread the feed out more. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hydro Free Weekends

After yet another $300 hydro (power) bill, we decided to take the plunge... and bought our first set of solar panels.It's just a little starter set/ RV kit, but it's a starting point.  Sadly, no, I did not do any research regarding brands/types, etc.  Here in the sticks we can shop at Walmart or Canadian Tire.  Canadian Tire has a wider selection of bits and pieces, and they're probably better quality, definitely higher prices, but no package deal.  I was a bit lost and confused and unsure where to start.  So I bought the Walmart kit, which included the wiring, regulator, adapters and lights.
#2 built a very simple wooden frame over the entrance way roof and mounted them up. Two panels (18 Watts each), plus the mini 'battery charger' we already had went up on the south west side.

And one panel on the south east side.  It's not ideal, as they are stationary at the moment, but we'll need more panels before we bother building a mobile frame.  The single panel catches the morning sun, while the other side doesn't get sun til around noon.

Our current battery bank is an oddball collection from various vehicles, and we're still working out which ones can be recharged and still hold a charge, many having been frozen when not in use.  The inverter is only 400 Watts- a spare I bought when Husband was still driving long haul.  Needless to say, we have a long way to go...

For our first "hydro free weekend", we flipped the main breaker to the house on Friday morning and went cold turkey.  It was a beautiful, sunny weekend, so we figured the odds were in our favour, lol.  Wow- talk about shell shock...

The first issue we had to deal with was one of the batteries was beyond dead, and while it seemed to be charging at first, it wouldn't hold it's charge and started draining off the other batteries.  Things went better after Husband took it out of the system.

Next up- the inverter is just too small.  While it was sufficient to charge cell phones, rechargeable flashlights, my kindle, all four lap tops at once, and run the tv and satellite for about 3.5 hours at night...  400 Watts is far less than the average kitchen appliance.  The coffee pot requires 900W, the toaster 1500W.  Of course the stove, fridge, freezers, washing machine, hot water tank, and well pump were all out of the question.

We ran the generator for about an hour in the evenings to chill the freezers and fridge, as well as light the garage and kitchen while cooking supper.  Everything stayed frozen, despite the warm weather and the extra heat from the woodstoves.  We did lose a jug of milk in the fridge, but everything else was ok.

The third issue- extension cords.  We don't have nearly enough long, heavy duty extension cords, and had to constantly be unplugging this and plugging in that...  And we were constantly tripping over cords sprawled out every where...  Not helpful while stumbling about in the dark.

We used outdoor solar lights for the boys' rooms at night, as well as the living room and sunroom.  We could definitely use more of them, and a back up supply of batteries.  Some of my older lights wouldn't work. 

We burned candles in the kitchen, bathroom and our bedroom.  We went through far more candles than I expected, although most were fat decorative candles which left heavy pools of wax behind.  I took the opportunity to make another batch of candles, combining the leftover wax with beef tallow.  I melted the wax and fat over the fire pit and poured it into a silicone muffin tray.  Simple and functional.  I will need to try my patience with making tapered candles as well- much easier to carry from room to room.

We used the kerosene lamp in the kitchen.  It surprised me how quickly it burned the kerosene.  I was not expecting to have to refill it over three days, but we emptied it twice.  I had to wash the lamp every day- we need practice getting the wick to the right height without blackening the glass.

We used the fire pit to heat water in my 'turkey tub'.  The picture below is actually from when I was butchering chickens.  Scrap wood- long dry branches from the pasture were used for the fire, requiring much less cutting and 'man power' than using proper firewood.  Since many of them have been on the ground for a few years they're super dry and burn hot!  We had sufficient hot water for dishes, cleaning, and sponge baths.  But where did the water come from?

Well, for this experiment we cheated...  We hauled water from Mom's in the barrel we use to haul water for the critters, rather than going to the creek and then filtering it.  For drinking water we used our stored water from the basement, which was well past it's prime for storage.  While it was still 'clean'- no algae, at least, there were some little white floaties in a lot of the bottles.  I poured the water through a coffee filter before using.  I think it's from the pop bottles aging.  We didn't use all of our stored water, but came close.  I'll be adding to my storage.

We cooked on the wood stoves and fire pit.  That went pretty well, since we've cooked on them plenty in the past.  Space was an issue, so I'm pushing Husband to expand the stove top with a sheet of steel.  The pig slop and doggy stew were constantly being pushed out of the way, so took much longer to cook than expected.  I had to start the morning feeds at night to let them simmer overnight, and the evening feeds after breakfast. 

Tea was no problem on the wood stove, but coffee was out.  The glass top of my stove top percolator has gone missing...  That will need to be replaced.  Husband cheated and went to Mom's for coffee, lol.  She even brought over a couple of thermoses full.

We entertained ourselves with cards and board games, and books.  We got up early with the sun, and went to bed early as well. 

Monday after the boys left for school I flipped the main breaker back on, then shut off all of the little ones.  I turned on everything in the house, and plugged things into empty plugs.  Then I started flipping the breakers, one at a time, walking through the house to see what came on.  I only made it about halfway through the fuse panel before I called it quits...  Up the basement stairs, up the upstairs, outside to the garage, back to the basement...  That's hard on these old legs.

I found two breakers that don't appear to be connected to anything.  I left them off.  I figure they might as well stay off until someone discovers that something isn't working.  I don't know if they add to my hydro bill or not, but obviously they aren't really vital...

About the hydro bill...  Just to clarify, we aren't really hydro hogs...  We are using an average of 50 Kwh per day, which is certainly bad enough, but includes the excess water pumping for the critters, heat lamps for chicks, incubator, and power to the outbuildings- expenses that folks in town don't share.  Over a third of the bill is delivery charges, debt retirement (from the old Ontario hydro), and taxes...  Which makes me crazy.  With so few people in our area, they charge through the nose for delivery- someone has to make up the losses on the lines...

So...  the over all plan is to install a second fuse panel in the basement, run the solar power to it, and switch one breaker at a time from hydro to solar.  We'll keep expanding our system as we can afford it, and someday, get off grid.  In the mean time, we'll continue with "hydro free weekends", to improve our awareness of our electrical use, (especially with getting the boys to use one thing at a time, instead of turning on the tv and walking out of the room), to see how many watts which appliances use, and what we can live without, and to test how the solar panels do in various types of weather.  Although next time, I think we'll leave the freezers and the water on.  I know which breakers they're on now...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Keeping Busy

While the boys are at school...

I start every day making coffee for #1 to take in his thermos, then tea for me (my tea 'coffee pot' bit the dust last week), waking kids, packing lunches.  Then I start a pot of pig slop cooking, and enjoy a bit of computer time and drink my tea.

When the pig slop is done, I pour it in their bucket, then refill the pot for the meat birds.  Since the pigs seem so satiated and content, and the volume increases with cooking, I thought I'd try it with the meat birds.  It's a little better, but they're still very, very hungry.  I started letting them back out to free range through the day.

When the bird slop is done, I take both buckets out, turn on the hose, and go feed and water them both. 



I let the birds out, then pick a bucket full of raspberry leaves for the pigs.  I hook the water up to one of the greenhouse hoses, lift the plastic door, and head back to the house.

Next up is Murphy and Mildred.  They spend the nights together in the old chicken pen.  I plug the kettle in and get the powder for Murphy's bottle.  I have just enough time for a second cup of tea before it's done.  I go out with the bottle, milk buckets and teat wash.  Murphy gets fed first, then let loose in the yard.  I get Mildred's grain from the workshop and I milk.

About this time Sharlotte and Mindy return from their nightly wanderings- they're still getting out!!  I open the gate and let them back in the pasture.  I take Mildred out and tie her in the yard.

I get my milk buckets, the bottle, etc., and take them back to the house to strain and wash.  Once the new milk is in the freezer, I skim the cream off the old milk and start the butter in my kitchen aid mixer.
I go out and get my water trailer and start it filling, turn off the water to the greenhouse,
then it's time to feed the dogs. Afterward, I refill the doggy stew pot and set it on to cook.
Cindy enjoying her chow.
The butter is usually close to chunking up by then, so I wait for it to start sloshing.  I strain off the buttermilk into the pig slop pot, to cook into their supper.  I add cold water and turn the butter on again.

Out to the new coop to see my ladies.  They reward me with an egg about every other day.  I have one of the old girls in with Sexy rooster,  and another with White rooster.  No eggs from either of them yet.  I have an old red and the last barred rock in with Spotted rooster, and it's there that I find the eggs.  I believe the barred rock is doing all the work, with an occasional egg from someone else.  The rest of the ladies, in with Original rooster, have not produced an egg since I took the other four hens out.  I feed and water them all, collect the egg, feed and water Mouser, and go back to the house.

I drain the butter water into the pig slop pot, add new, restart.

The egg, if there was one, gets dated and goes to the basement, where they all get a slight turn and continue to await the incubator.

I take the water trailer out to drain into the pasture tub. 

One more butter rinse is usually enough, then I work it over with a spatula to get any remaining water out, then into a container to freeze.  I get the milk from the freezer and put it in the fridge. 

I take the laundry out, remove yesterday's, if dry, and hang it up.  Morning chores complete.

One more cup of tea, and then I find something to do for the day.  Odd jobs I've been working on...

- Finishing the new coop.
- Firewood (just some bits and pieces left in the yard from construction and fence posts, so far)
- Piling firewood in the basement (there's a good pile tossed down that I've been working on piling properly)
- Cleaning out the old coop and chicken pen
- Picking up random stuff, like shoes, scattered across the yard.

- Painting trailers

Our oldest trailer is rotting out badly.  #2 added some supports.
After the first coat of paint.

- Woodshed plastic and strapping
- Pickling cucumbers
- Making snacks for lunches- jello, puddings, macaroni salads, cookies...
- Picking tomatoes
- Tidying up the house
- Washing dishes

I keep a white board on the fridge with a running list of odd jobs for the boys to do or help me with when they get home from school.  #2 added tin to my trailer one night,

both of the Bigs have put in a couple of fence posts, #1 helped with the new coop and adjusted the garden gates, the Littles have unloaded manure onto the garden, and #3 helped with the woodshed plastic and put away the rototiller for winter.  Just little things that they can get done within an hour.  It all adds up, and helps get the fall chores finished and out of the way.

Then supper, homework, tv or computer, then off to bed to start again the next day.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Last night at dusk I looked up to the sound of the geese overhead.  Not a good picture, I know, but there they go, headed south.  I am so NOT ready for winter!

We've had a couple of frost warnings already, but so far we've been lucky.  The city to the north of us had it's first freeze last week, and a heavy frost hit the city to the south east.  It's not a huge concern for me this year, since all I've got growing in the garden are the stunted beets and some potatoes.

Inside the greenhouses, the sunflowers are looking beautiful.

They need more time to set seed though.

The tomato jungle is still growing strong.  With each frost warning I pick the largest and any tomatoes that have started to turn.  They are ripening just fast enough inside to keep us in tomato sandwiches.

The peppers are buried under the tomato plants now, and though they have new flowers, there haven't been any new pepper growth in weeks.  I think the bees are having trouble getting to them.  The Hungarian sweet wax peppers are the right seed- the ones Dad grew when I was a child.  Delicious.  Only one plant survived to the garden, but it produced 7 peppers itself- much higher yield than green peppers.  Next year I'll have to keep them out of the jungle for even higher productivity.

The cucumbers are finally producing, and I've made a dozen quarts of dill pickles, in addition to all of the cukes we're eating fresh.

The radishes and carrots in the greenhouse produced big lovely tops, much like the beets outside, but the roots are all tiny.  It makes me wonder whether the soil was too cold or just too dry this year.  We've had plenty of rain, but it all seems to fall at once, then a week or three with none at all.  I'd lean more toward soil temperature though, since I do water the greenhouses regularly.

I've been cleaning out the old coop this week- heavy with manure from last winter, since there was nothing living in it this summer, and no need to rush.  The milk room was also neglected, since we've been milking outside all summer.  The garden gets a fresh topping of litter and manure, to compost in place over the winter.  The chickens are doing a fine job of spreading it out evenly too.

The weaning of the calves is under way.  We put Maureen and Monsoon in the pasture last week.  Murphy remains in the yard/chicken pen, and still gets two bottles per day.  He is nursing a bit, but not much.  Mildred sleeps in the chicken pen, then spent the day in the pasture last week.  Yesterday we kept her in the yard until 2pm.  The calves were crying in the morning, but she didn't want anything to do with them.  About 1:30pm, she started bawling, so finally, at 2, we put her in the pasture.  The plan for now is to try and keep her in the yard a little longer every day.  I'd prefer to continue once a day milking, and allow her production to drop down.

Meats and Meals are doing well.  They build a little hay nest to sleep in at night.  I give them a bit of fresh hay every morning, and they add it to their little pile.
I don't see any obvious growth, but they seem happy and satiated, so I'm maintaining their feed at 4 Cups cooked scratch, with milk, lentils, and now beets instead of potatoes.  I found a few jars of 2009 beets in the cold room.  They look, smell, and taste fine, but I really don't need them hiding in a corner and taking up space.  After they finish off the jars I'll start picking the beets in the garden for them, then back to potatoes.  They love the raspberry leaves, and happily gobble up a bucket full of them daily.  I'm tempted to move them into the turkey pen for a few days before butchering, to wipe out the plants.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chicks And Eggs

I have an egg! Two, actually. There was one yesterday and the day before. Is it too much to hope for a third today?   The old girls are still laying- or at least one of them is!But not until afternoon...
The third pen is finished in the new coop, and already inhabited.  When I fed the little chicks in the brooder yesterday morning, they weren't in the brooder.  They were all over the workshop and causing trouble!  No time to waste, off to work.
Aren't they cute little trouble makers?

The Littles picked a couple of buckets of grass for bedding for them.  I'm out of shavings and the store is closed until Tuesday.  I banded their little feet with white zip ties.  One of the old girls has a black zip tie- she came that way.  I want to put black zip ties on the rest of the old girls.  I banded the three smaller chicks from the previous batch and moved them in with these six.  The rest of my homegrown chicks have also been banded.  I want to get another colour of zip ties for the meat hens.  Then when I let them out next summer, I'll still know which are which.

The fourth pen is well on the way, and should be finished tomorrow.  The third and fourth pens were supposed to be the turkey pen, but alas, that is not to be.  We're down to two turkeys, and they aren't doing well.  I'm not sure what's wrong with them.

#2 built another closet in the basement, and dragged this old shelf out from where it's been since before we moved in.  I had him bring it out to the new coop.  A couple of dividers and it'll make another set of nesting boxes.

The nesting boxes from the old coop are moved in.  The first two pens have their roosts.  It's all coming together quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

The modified floor plan:

Pen 1 will actually be the fourth pen completed.  3 and 4 were the first two.  5 might not happen.  It was supposed to be a little pen for chicks in front of the window.  Mouser uses the window as a door.  Pen 6 will be big enough for at least 5 turkeys, so maybe next year. 

The chickens seem mostly happy in their new digs, though I feel a bit guilty for locking them up so soon.  Better locked up than hawk food though.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Scratch That Off The To Do List

The pig pen is finished. We altered the original plan of adding wire above the logs, and just added more logs instead. The walls are now almost 4 feet high. 
I did little but watch the Bigs for this phase of construction.  I'm just little, after all.

 Before long, #1 was out of the running too.  #2 is the tallest, but eventually he decided it was easier to climb up the sides to pound in those spikes.

 #1 and I nailed some tin on the side and back corner to create a wind break while #2 finished the roof.

 The front is a bit higher than the back, giving the roof a bit of slope.

 #2 was quite pleased with the final results.

 And the pigs seemed to like it too- once all the noise settled down.

 They're getting along quite well.  They've done some digging, but not too much.  They're eating the grass and weeds slowly.  They like raspberry bushes, and gobble up the branches I break off from the turkey pen.  They don't like celery. 

Their slop is currently 4 cups of scratch grain, 1 cup of milk, 1/4 cup lentils, 2 medium potatoes, boiled in water, twice per day.

They are the calmest pigs we've ever had, and I think that's at least partially diet.  Our previous pigs just seemed hungrier all the time, like they weren't getting enough no matter how much we fed them.  I remember feeding a full coffee can of commercial feed and a full coffee can of corn twice per day, as well as moving their pen every day or two.  Meats and Meals are much more relaxed and content to lay about, and even allow an occasional pat or scratch.