Tuesday, September 24, 2013

And It Goes Round and Round and Round

Ah, my friends, how I have missed writing for you.  It has been so insane here as of late, I have not had a chance.  Forgive me.  I appreciate all your comments on my bear "mishap".  I have put together one hive, and partly the green hive (ie: the hive of death), but they hate me and stung me and I'm all blown up like an elephant right now, so I can go no further.  They will be put back together, somehow.  In the meantime, and while all this has gone on, it has become fall.  The wheel of the year has turned again, and here she is.  I love fall.  I love the leaves turning, the nip in the air, the smell of the trees.  Maybe not so much getting up in the pitch black, but it's all a trade. 

Many different things have been happening around here lately.  For one, we finally finished processing the meatbirds on Saturday.  At 9 weeks old, the birds we processed were over 6 pounds, with a very few exceptions.  This made up for the processing we did the week before, where all the birds were just over 4 pounds a piece.  Terrible.  But that extra week we waited gave us some gorgeous, meaty birds who were just beautiful when done.  Our tally?  For 23 birds, we "harvested" 122 pounds of meat.  Not too shabby.
Fatty, fatty fat birds
However (and there's always a however, isn't there?), we had more leg problems with this batch than ever before.  I started this batch with 27 birds.  One was lost to a hawk.  Three were lost to leg issues.  They stopped walking and just wasted away, basically.  Very interesting, as I've never had that happen before.  As in, EVER.  I also noticed that when they were butchered, the birds' livers were not the strong blue-red color I am used to.  They were instead a rusty red color.  I have looked into this, and I have found that it means "nothing".  However, I think it must have a significance, and may somehow be related to the fact that a few of them stopped walking at 7 weeks and just died (or got so bad I had to assist).  I don't know.  But I am concerned that perhaps my "go to" hatchery should not be, or possibly my "go to" birds should be different.  Come spring, when I start again, I am going to do an experiment and have partly the Cornish Cross that I'm fond of (they make a delicious bird, no matter what you've heard), and partly another breed, possibly one of those Freedom Ranger breeds.  I will run them together to see how it goes.  Then we'll see what we see. 

In either case, I am going to be running the birds in a sled, and I'm going to be sure that I have 52 birds to eat, no matter what.  We've become a Sunday chicken family, so 52 weeks=52 chickens.  And fat, big chickens=two meals for the price of one, so that's the goal.  Now that I know it, I'm going for it.  Next year will be the year of experimental year, and getting the system down.  It's all so worth it though, because if on Sunday I can see this:

Wackadoodle children are also homegrown.
I've done my job right.  Yes, that there is a completely home grown/homemade meal-except for the butter, as my son likes to point out.  Meals like this are getting to be a more common occurrence here, and it is always a beautiful sight.   THAT means I'm doing my job.  And that feels really good.

Now, oddly enough, I spent the whole morning/early afternoon taking life, but in the afternoon I got to help bring life in.

I have seen the circle turn in this way many times, but not often this fast.  Yes, this is Saracat--AGAIN.  Saracat was scheduled to be spayed, and disappeared on us.  Disappeared for long enough that I cancelled the appointment.  Generally, if our outdoor cats are gone for over a week, they don't come back.  It's the sad truth of the life of the outdoor cat, unfortunately.  Of course, weeks later, Saracat DID come back, and not alone, either.  By that time, it was too late, and I had to wait for nature to take it's course.  It did, on Saturday.  Saracat brought two littles into the world, one grey and white male, and one black female.  I assisted with the births--Saracat is crappy at giving birth--pushing is not her "thing".  The grey and white came normally, but the black came out backwards.  A black female cat, born backwards, on the eve of the Autumn Solstice, on a day of (pretty much) destruction?  That one stays--and comes inside.  I'm not superstitious, but how many more signs do you need?  I know enough to know that's significant in some way.  I'm waiting for her to pick her name.  I'll let you know when she does.

In other news, I am proud to announce the broody coop works beautifully.  Those girls sure can brood!  In fact, a couple of weeks ago, Louise brooded this:

The happy family
Feisty little thing that it is.  Louise continues to be a blue-ribbon mama, even staying outside in downpours with the little one under her wing because the little bit couldn't get up the ramp to go into the coop.  Louise would be soaked, but that baby would be dry as a bone.  Good girl.

And if you remember that I told you a while back that the backyard rabbits did not work into the flow of the homestead, well, I've remedied it.  I gave away Bunnicula and Robert A Cavataugh to a nice girl who had two females who looked almost exactly like these boys.  That was a good thing.  She was thrilled, and they will be well cared for.  Petunia I sold for a pittance to a man who raises rabbits for meat.  She will not be eaten, but bred for babies (who will be eaten).  Petunia is a beautiful girl, and I'm glad to see her come to some use.  We would not eat the rabbits, so she served no purpose here.  I know she will have a good life.  Busy, maybe, but good. 

The man who came to pick her up was very impressed and very complimentary about the homestead.  We had a lovely conversation, and he kept saying "Wow, you guys are doing it!"  Yes, I guess we are.  I never get to see this place through someone else's eyes, so it's nice to, every once in a while.  Or, I should say, when I get to see this place through someone else's eyes, it's usually to hear "Why would you do that?  It's so much WORK!!"  Yeah, let's just agree to disagree.  But when you get to meet someone who gets it--really gets it--it's a treat.  And it helped me to be a little more proud of what I do here and feel good that maybe, in some small way, I can make a difference.  In fact, it helped me see this place a little differently myself, and maybe that's a good thing.

To wrap it up, I'm going to talk about my favorite animals--the goats!  Shocking, right?  Well, I have not had a lot of time to spend with my babies lately, because of work, but I keep on milking, and Lilly keeps on producing, and so I've graduated to hard cheeses.  Voila!

Farmhouse cheddar--possibly.  We'll see.  Anyway, I have jury-rigged a press with some PVC and a whole crapload of bricks, but it's extremely stupid and falls down, which is also stupid.  I'm buying myself a cheese press, folks, watch me.  My intention was to have the goats provide all our milk (check) cheese (almost check-working on it) and butter (not check), so I need the equipment.  It's quite an investment, but I think it's a sound one.

Anyway, concerning the goats....I have been thinking about how to get them to be able to eat more from the land without too much in the way of additional inputs, like hay or grain.  Grain is always going to be a thing, I fear, because if you want milk you need to feed for milk.  Fair enough.  Hay is also a necessity, but it doesn't go as far as it should.  So I have devised a solution of sorts--leaves.  Like this:
The Minerva Family hard at it

The Lilly Family looking for Frosted Mini Wheats---just in case I have any
Dry leaves have many uses on a homestead; as compost, mulch, or to build beds.  However, they can also be used to feed your goats.  Goats LOVE dry leaves, a fact I discovered last year.  So I asked my husband to blow a big pile next to the girls' fence, so they can stick their heads out and eat.  But of course they can't share, so the pile, no matter how big, is not big enough.  Plus, the boys don't get a pile, as they are located in a yard behind the girls' yard.  So I did this in both yards:
Classy, elegant, timeless. That, friends, is a couple of recycled feed bags with a half circle cut out of them, hung from a fence and stuffed with leaves.  Goat sticks head in half circle, goat eats leaves.  That's the idea.  The truth?  One goat sticks head into half circle and eats leaves, another goat sticks head in TOP of bag while standing on the fence (or the other goat) and eats leaves.  Then goats fight over said bag, while mondo PILE of leaves on the other side of the gate sits forgotten.  That's what really happens--don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

I can't take credit for the bag idea--I saw it at the fair, made out of old pillowcases, which the owners had stuffed with hay for their goats and sheep.  But I don't have pillowcases, and in any case did not want them outside to get icky, so I used feedbags.  The goats LOVE it.  If you have goats, trees, and old feedbags, I would recommend this.  Try it.  Your goats will love you for it.  And you'll go through far less hay, promise.

I loves dry leaves!!  If only Minerva the Mean would let me have some...
And that, as they say, is that.  I leave you with this picture of a rose called Koko Loko.  Stupid name, pretty flower.  I hope you all have a great night!

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  1. Doesn't it feel good to be gotten? Great that your goats are gobbling up the leaves! I am glad I didn't have to butcher this year. Someone told me that the Amish will do it for $1.50 a bird. I may have to look into that. Glad the rabbits got good homes and things are more in the direction you would like. Happy harvest!

  2. Joceyln, thank you so much for the great idea about leaves. I'm going to start collecting them from people who don't want theirs... and rake ours up for our goats.
    I'll keep some feed bags back, too.. another great idea. Loved this post, and I love to experiment, too. Brava for doing the meat birds, I could never bring myself after butchering turkeys with a friend one year.

  3. I'm so sorry to hear about your bee mishap, ouch! Very interesting about the meat birds. So far we've stuck with dual purpose, which are only so-so on muscle production. Your cheese looks fantastic, but we really need to get some homegrown goat butter on your Sunday family dinner table!


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