Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sitting Ducks

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed I didn't see a couple of our ducks running around as usual.  But I don't keep tabs on them.  The ducks are known to just jet off down a stream and come back for dinner, so I normally don't worry.  I wasn't worried this time, but I did happen to look in the duck house, just to see.

And there they were.  Sitting on two nests of eggs, one on one side of the house, one on the other.  Well, I got out the candler and took a look to see if they'd just sat down and possibly I could just pull the eggs out and dispose of them.  They were too far gone, however, and there were babies that were visible and kicking.  I have a problem disposing of babies that are that far along, so I had no choice but to leave them under their mamas and see what happens.

The blessed event was this week.  First it started with a mishap that was a duckling who was not quite ready to come out, but did anyway.

The little one's egg was damaged, and I guess that forced him/her out.  The many ducks in the house was not working to ease the little one's emergence, so we brought him/her in and let him/her finish hatching in the incubator.  It was messy, but the little one is now doing very well.  The downside?  We kept him/her in the house too long, figuring that since he/she had a belly button that didn't close, he/she'd be better off protected.  My daughter played with the little one too much and well, you know about imprinting, right?  We've tried to give him/her back to his/her mama twice, but though mama duck would take him/her, he/she wants nothing to do with mama.  So my daughter is the little one's surrogate mama until he/she is old enough to act like a duck.

So there's a duck living in the house in a box.  And we went to a party yesterday, and yep, had the duck in tow.

Typical stuff for us here at Chicken Scratch.

In the meantime, Susie, who is one of the duck mamas to be, has been busy sitting and hatching her own little brood.

When we went out to give Susie back her baby (the one hatched in the incubator) the first time, she had a surprise for us.  A little wet baby of her own, seen here under her wing.

And she's only been busier.  After those two, it was like hatchapalooza out there.  Susie now has her own very fine family of four.


 Plus One

Equals Four!

Yep, Suzie's got her family.  Are any of them hers?  I dunno.  I know some are definitely not, how's that?  She's been taking every egg that she can find, as well as anything else she thinks she can hatch.  Every time I go in there, she tries to steal the egg candler and sit on it, and today she thought she'd hatch my hand.  So she seems to be the adoptive mom.

There are three more to come, if she sticks it out.  Right now I've got to get her some water and food for herself and her babies, as she doesn't get up and lead them outside just yet.  Luckily, Suzie trusts me.  She's the lone survivor of that terrible day back last year when every duck we had was killed.  Save for Suzie, who lost her right eye and made it through.  She's a trooper, that one, and I know she trusts me because she uses her only eye to watch her babies, not me.  I guess that means we're friends.

The other duck, however?

Not so much.

That picture is of a duck giving me the stink eye.  She's got three eggs, two of which are from one of the ducks, one of which is actually a chicken's.  She wants to hatch them, and badly.  But she doesn't want me anywhere near her when she does it.

Fair enough, I let her be.  I just make sure she's not collecting extras (eggstras, get it??) and she stays at the three.  Too much of a good thing is too much, you know?
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Door Swings Both Ways

Well, you know I just finished reading through all the comments on my last post, and I've gotta tell you--I am just tickled!  Thank you all so much for your kind words.  They mean so much.

However, the door swings both ways on this, you know.  I am constantly inspired by all of you, and I am so glad to know you all!  Thank you for coming on over to see what I'm up to, but thank you more for letting me see what you're up to.  I'm glad that, though we all live far apart, and we've never met in person, we all have a common bond.  I think that's wonderful and hard to find in this crazy world.  And you know, we've all got to stick together.  Can't let the menfolk have all the fun!

So thank you all again.  I think you're all wonderful, too, and I'm very glad we met.


I thought I'd share with you a picture of today's harvest.  Not because someone got in there before me and pecked my zucchini, but because of those oddly shaped purple things in the upper righthand corner.  Could those be....................POTATOES????

Oh my gosh, I think they are!!!!

Well, bust my buttons, there are potatoes in thar!  Though it is too early to harvest, I thought I'd dig a little in one corner just to see.  Since my massive potato failure last year, I've been feeling in need of redemption.  Maybe I might--just might--have it?  We'll have to see. 

(Watch, those are the only potatoes in the whole bed.  That'll teach me to shoot my mouth off)
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Creating Food

Well, yesterday was their day.  The meatballs, who were large and roundish, were processed.
The total?  82.28 pounds of clean, fresh, chicken.

15 birds in total, gave us an average of 5.49 pounds a bird.  This is higher than our last average of the 13 we did, which were 69.71 pounds, an average of 5.36 pounds a bird.  It doesn't seem like a huge difference until you take into account that there were 2 more birds this time, and that last time we had 7 come out under 5 pounds.  This time we only had 3 come out under 5 pounds.  Yep, 5 pounds is the number I like to see.  Seems like a good one to me.

Pretty damn good.  Wanna see?

Before shrinking the bags.
It was a long day yesterday, but totally worth it.  We got the processing done in 5 1/2 hours, which is much faster than last time--that took about 8 and change and it was 2 fewer birds.  We once again used the Power Plucker on the electric drill, and our biggest challenge was getting the scald water to the right temp and keeping it there.  And the traffic cones?  They were history.  My mother sent me a gift of two beautiful galvanized cones which we used instead.  They were fantastic, and only one bird threatened to flip his way out of them.  They were fighters, these guys.  It's getting interesting what types of gifts I get now.  I got eviscerating knives from my husband at Christmas, and kill cones from my mother.  Hmmm.....  I'm not sure what that says about me.

My husband did try his hand at the processing, but said it was not for him.  And that's ok.  I got pretty fast.  It still is not the most fun I could have, processing birds, but I have to say that more than once I reflected on the fact that I was glad I knew how to--and could--do it.  Honest food created honestly.   It's a good feeling.

All shrunk and ready for the deep freeze.
Overall, this batch was much better than the last.  Even though it was insanely hot, these guys were troopers.  They gained weight like champs and foraged (as was proven by the contents of their gizzards) a lot of grass and greens.  There was very little grain in them, which makes me happy, and I'm wondering if there will be a difference in the taste.  Though meat birds have to be fed to support their insane metabolism, these guys didn't rely on the grain as heavily as the last batch.  That will cause me to order the last batch of birds from the same hatchery.  Birds that can glean from their surroundings are the type of bird I like to see.

And yep, we fed others with this group aside from ourselves.  We are only keeping 6.  9 will be going to new homes to be enjoyed.  Yesterday my husband and I discussed the number for next time.  We'll probably up it to 30 or 35 birds.  We have orders for several already, and since we're done with birds after this batch, we have to make it all the way to May before the next batch would be ready.  That's a long time, so we need to have enough for winter. 

That'll be a two day processing, though.  No way would I do that in a day.  It would be a VERY long one.

Today, because yesterday I created food kind of destructively, I decided to create food constructively.  I canned.

Pickles, peaches, and mock pineapple.

I love that "ting" noise the tops make!!!
Half of the cucumbers came from the garden, the other half from the farmer's market.  The zucchini came out of the garden, too (for the mock pineapple), but the peaches were completely from the farmer's market.  We got no fruit blossoms at all this year--I blame the crappy winter.

It is getting so that I feel like I'm cheating when I go to the farmer's market to buy produce.  All the farms are local, so I feel good about that, but I didn't grow the food, so it feels like I'm cheating.  It's funny how my attitude towards food production has changed so much over the short time.  I never would have batted an eye at buying from the farmer's market before--in fact, I would have patted myself on the back for it.  But now, I feel like a total cheat, even though I'm still doing all the work.  I know, go ahead and roll your eyes.  It's weird.  I can't help it, though.

I wonder if there's farmer therapy somewhere.  Or maybe I should just grow a larger garden.  That might be cheaper in the long run.

Anywho, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  I hope you all had a fantastic weekend!  Enjoy the rest of your day!
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Linking up to Homestead Barn Hop

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Harbinger (n): 
anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign: Frost is a harbinger of winter.
This little tomato, which I hold in my somewhat beat up palm, is the first of what I hope is a few hundred pounds of tomatoes, growing out there in the garden.
The first.
Woo hoo!!
The zucchini started a week and a half ago, along with the cucumbers.  This week the beans began.  Now I find a tomato.  Can lots of food be far behind?
I guess we'll see!
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meatball Version 2.0

We're on our second batch of meatballs here at Chicken Scratch, and they are doing just fine so far.  This Saturday is the day for them.  The.  Day.  You know what I mean.  We started off with 16, and had one get out of their yard and stuck in some fencing, where it dehydrated and died.  I cursed a blue streak at not finding it in time.

I am so ladylike sometimes. 

But besides that, they've been pretty good.  This batch, which is from a different hatchery, has been far more active than the last.  Unless their weights are low at the end of the day (THE day), I'll be ordering the next-and last- batch from them again.

Round birds=Meatballs
They range far and wide and spend less time at the feeders than their predecessors.  Though they sit down a lot, they actually get around pretty well.  Much less rundling with this batch than the last.  They use their legs much better than the others did.

I sometimes wonder if it's the turkeys influence on them.  They share their pasture with the turkeys, and though the turkeys don't stay in the pasture (they can fly really well, something I did not expect), they do hang out a lot of the day with the meatballs.

Comingling at the feeder, turkey and chicken butts together
I sometimes laugh at the "system" the meatballs have.  They have pasture, but I also throw weeds in the yard, too.  They like the greens, and there are always bugs.  They will dig a little and then sit down.  Then they let the others dig, like this:

And once something is dug up, they move in and gulp it down.

I know, they don't show a lot of action in these pictures.  But I thought it was pretty clever the way they know to wait until the others do the work for them, whether it be an egg layer, or a turkey.

Then they get the good treat at the end.

Not stupid.

Speaking of turkeys, they are gettting l-a-r-g-e. 

This is Gus

Gus likes the camera.
"Well, I'm handsome.  Why shouldn't I?"

Out of the four Naragansetts, we seem to have 3 males and a female.  Gus is the first one I could identify as male.  He LOVES to show off.  Turkey boy, in that picture above, is also male and the one Gus likes to fight with occasionally.  I believe I saw one of the others flaring at me (I'm attractive to turkeys, I guess) a few days back, and it was not Gus (who's banded) or Turkey Boy (who's gigantic and easy to spot).  The last Naragansett hasn't shown off and is a slightly different coloration than the other three, which makes me think "female".  It won't surprise me, however, if I am completely wrong.

And Great White?

Great White is 12 pounds, if she's an ounce, and I believe also a female.  Again, I could be completely wrong.  She doesn't fly well, due to her large stature, but loves to keep up with the littler ones.

At 11 weeks, it is really something to see how big she really is.

Great White is slated to be Thanksgiving dinner, but I will find no pleasure in that.  Not that I do, anyway.  Great White has quite a personality, which I was unprepared for.  The Naragansetts will be sticking around, unless there is one male too many, because though they sit on the roof of the house, and dig in my flowers on the porch, and eat like pigs, they are some of the sweetest animals on the place.

Yep, I was surprised about that as well.

So, it goes as it goes.  I'll let you know how the day turns out on Saturday!  Until then, stay cool!  We've got a scorcher (another one) here!
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Life on the Farm is Kinda WHAT NOW??

John Denver.  Seemed like such a nice man, though I admit I never met him.  He died when I was a kid, but he produced a Christmas album with the Muppets that is a favorite with my kids.  Timeless, that's what that is.

Anyway, it seems obvious to me that Mr. Denver never actually worked on a farm, or he never would have said what he said.  Laid back it ain't.  And though I can't claim that even I work on a farm, since I don't own 40 acres or a tractor, I think I've got a good taste on this little plot.  And I can tell you that I'm busy, busy, busy.

This month, at some point in the middle, marks 2 years of our being here at Chicken Scratch.  We bought the house because we fell in love with the property, it was large, and we couldn't afford a farm around here.  We turned this house from a "suburban" home in kind of suburban-rural area, to a working mini-farm to support ourselves and some others, too.  I was sitting outside the other night as it cooled off, just looking at things, and I thought "what an accomplishment".  Most of what's here I put here with my own two hands, and that's the truth.  Yes, I have help when I need it, I do.  But most of it has been me.  This is my chosen path, and so I leave it to me to make it happen.  And happening it is. 

This movie is a little before and after for you.  What it looked like when we got here to what it looks like now.  You can see how far we've come.  Of course, this isn't a stopping point for us, just a nice time to reflect and take a look and appreciate.  I hope you enjoy it.

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PS--the song's a little skippy, I'm not sure why.  It'll right itself.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Goat House and Yard--Old and New

Well, I promised you some pictures of the goat house, and here I am to show you!  This project was made with mostly new materials, but we did get a little bit of reusing in here, too.  And yes, that makes me very happy.  Last weekend my husband and I roofed it, then I did the painting and all the fancy-schmancy stuff.  Those girls should have some snazzy digs, right?

Ok, ready?  Front shot:

As you can see, I went with yellow.  I love yellow!!  Which is good, since Minerva decided she wanted to wear it.  I had thought to go with green, but husband said yellow, and you know, he gets so little say in things, I just had to give him one.  :)  I love the yellow.  It was a good choice.

Wait, you say?  You can see something written on the front there?  How very observant of you to notice!  Yes, I did pretty it up a bit with some writing.  You know I love that sort of thing.  Would you like to see what it says?

Yes?  Ok then!

Taa daa!

Why yes, that did take a long time to do, standing on a chair with unhelpful goat people trying to knock me off/eat the paint/chew the brush/take my chair.  Thank you for asking!

I had gotten the house (and Minerva) painted yellow and put up the trim, and thought it needed something.  Enter the reused part.  Or part of the reused part.

Shutters!  Made from pallets!  Woot!!  And painted turquoise, of course, the same turquoise I used on the duck house.  So I reused that too! 

But the best reused thing?  The roof.
Can you tell what it is?

How about now? 

I bet not, it's a toughie.  It's an old pool! 

My parents got a new pool installed and were generous and gave us the sides from the old one.  We cut it down to size and put it up there.  Eventually I will paint it.  I used the same pool metal for the roof of the duck house, so it's gotten quite a bit of mileage.  It makes a fabulous roof.  I am thrilled!

Once the house was done, I thought the yard needed something.  The girls already had a play area,

Minerva models and scratches herself at the same time.  How does she do it?
which is the bottom of the old duck house, with a pallet on top to be a step up to the top pallet deck, which is behind Minerva's big head.  Then there's the Leaning Pallet of Scratchability, and the balance beam.  This is all well and good, and we also have this:

Oh, I declare!  I am SOOOOOO lovely!

Which is being demurely modeled by Lilly.  It is, of course, the Mini-Platform-On-A-Stump with tire and platform step up.  Glamor!

But also in the yard were two old chairs that I got from the side of the road last year (yes, I pick things up from the side of the road all the time).  They were in there from when the goat house was built--for people to sit on.  But the goats liked them so much, I left them there.  They were boring and drab and brown, and I thought "You know what those chairs need?  Fuschia".

Turkeys do not model as well as goats.

Could I have been more right?  I don't think so! 

They needed fuschia, so I went out and got a cheapie paint sample and painted them up.  Then I sprayed them with protective spray, and screwed them to the trees, because the girls also enjoy knocking them over.

So now there are the two Standing Chairs in the yard, nicely fuschia-ed up, for me to sit on and get knocked off of because they are, in fact, the Standing Chairs and not the Sitting Chairs, silly human lady. 

But I digress.

The inside of the house remains the same,

Seems I caught Lilly mid-poop.  Sorry.
two hayracks, no waiting.  But I did discover why the hay is always flat on the left side, there.

Minerva will demonstrate for us.

She goes from the mineral tray,

to the hayrack,

and stands in

the hay.

Ah yes, Minerva is a pest.  In fact, she's learned to escape the confines of the yard, so we now have this

AND this

 on the gate.  Clever girl.  So far it seems to be working, but keep your fingers crossed.  She's persistent.

She's ruined escaping for ALL of us!  Selfish!

And there you have it, Goat House Extraordinaire.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.

Stay cool!

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Update on the Visitor

We lost him.  I had noticed that yesterday all he/she did was breathe really heavily all day, which is not good.  Last night, though he'd been acting fairly normal all day, he began to shut down.  He stopped opening his/her eyes, and didn't call to eat.

I noticed a small hole under one wing--seems someone had gotten to him.  The damage was small, which is how I missed it. 

Anyway, he shut down totally this morning, and just lay and got ready to go.  And that was it.

Poor little bubbaloo.  I tried.
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Friday, July 6, 2012

Surprise Guest

I was outside, adjusting the sprinkler when I saw Milo and Sam looking at something between them.  Now Ellie has been on a rampage lately, killing everything in sight and giving the things to Milo, so he can learn.  So I figured that it was something that she'd killed and left and the two of them were like "Huh!  What'a we do with it now, George?"

Ok, maybe not exactly like that, but they were looking puzzled.  So I looked.  And it was not a mouse or mole or vole, and it was not dead.  It was this:


I have no idea where this little bubba came from, and I have no idea how they got it.  I can't put it back for that reason, or I'd do it immediately.  It seems uninjured, just scared (with two cats eying him/her greedily, I'd be scared, too), and probably cold.

So we put it in a little basket, lined with newspaper, and made it a nest out of shredded bills (which is the best use for them that I can think of), and put the heat lamp on him.  And we'll see.

You wouldn't know this, because I've never told you, but the first job I had as a teenager was as a Veterinary Assistant.  I held that job for a long time, and I loved it.  It meant mostly mopping floors and taking temperatures, but I was so good with the animals, eventually it meant I saw surgeries, assisted in minor procedures, developed x-rays, and so on.  That was the best job I ever had, aside from being a mom and farming.  Truly was. 

In the years that I worked in the hospital, people would bring in birds and squirrels and such all the time.  Our advice would always be to put them back where they found them, because most people, believe it or not, would take the birds out of the nest, because mom "abandoned" them.  But when the people would insist that they didn't know where the bird or squirrel or whatever came from, we would take them, and I would volunteer to care for them.  I didn't keep any squirrels, but I brought home many a bird in my day.  Robins, yup, a few sparrows, a blue jay who came back to my house after he was released for a couple of years to yell for food, and a pigeon.  The pigeon came along just as I was about to go on vacation with my then serious boyfriend (now husband).  So yes, the pigeon went on vacation.

And here I am again.  With no way to put this little one back, I am going to brush off my old skills (rusty as they are) and try to keep this little one alive.  I'll let you know how it goes!
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