Sunday, March 30, 2014

Gettin' It Done

Yep, it has been quiet around here.  Mainly because now, in addition to working full-time here, I work full time elsewhere.  And it's a lot.  But I know many of you do it as well, so I have faith that I can too. 

But that aside, all that explains is why it takes so long to post.  With the winter just dragging, it was so hard to find any days to do anything.  This weekend, though it was rainy, I got things done...finally!  And did it feel good.  :)

Firstly, the chicks that we incubated in the 4th grade class hatched on Thursday and Friday.  Most of the incubation period went well, however the incubator had hit a high temp of 108 one day and I was unaware that it had happened.  By the time I found out, it had been there all day.  Though the chicks looked unaffected, it absolutely affected the hatch.  Out of the 15 eggs that were left to hatch, only 7 did actually hatch.  Other eggs had chicks that fully developed, but their belly buttons didn't close, which I assume is because of the temperature spike.  Honestly, I HATE losing chicks that far along.  It hurt.  I brought home 5 of the 7, having given 2 to the teacher's son, but one of the ones who did hatch had a belly button issue and did not survive.  The little one died today.  The four remaining are happy and seemingly healthy, and I hope they will be ok. 

This pic was taken yesterday, before the fifth one died.
In here is an Ameraucana cross, 2 Delawares, and 1 Leghorn.  We will see how they turn out.  They are very cute little fuzzybutts.  Curious and funny, I am enjoying them quite a bit.

Rooming with them in separate pens, there are the Cornish Cross
And the Delaware cross

Having them side-by side has been so interesting.  The Delawares are so active and flighty, and the Cornish Cross are so....not.  Though I know how Cornish Cross act, I have enjoyed watching them in relation to a "real" chicken.  So funny.  Whereas if you startle the Delawares they'll jump and flutter away, you can startle the Cornish and they do a whole mob thing and jump on top of one another--if they move at all.  It's really been a kick.  As of tomorrow, both of these groups are 3 weeks old.  I am enjoying this experiment, and hoping for some good results. 
Yesterday, while running around rain drops, I trimmed Max's hooves

One good looking boy!

And Stewart's hooves as well.

Who's a peanut-brain?  Stew's a peanut brain!  Yes he is!!
Trimming my boys' hooves is challenging most of the year, because 1)it's difficult to take them through the girls' pen when they're in rut and not have an "incident" (and they're not in rut now, but Stew went for it anyway) and 2) because of Stewart's sheer size.  Stew has topped out at 180 pounds, and is so strong that he went for the feed in the milking stand and damn near took the milking stand right over--twice.  He's a giant.  A gentle giant, but giant nonetheless.  And he's a peanut brain, so that doesn't help.  But I love that boy--he's a good, good man.  A bit feed-aggressive, but sweet as can be in every other way. 

Max turned 1 on St. Patty's day.  He's still fairly small, which I think has to do with the fact that Stew steals his food a lot of the time.  He could also be a slow-grower, though, only time will tell.  Luckily, the fact that he has horns makes up for his smaller stature.  Stew does bully him quite a bit, but Max has the horns, so he gives it right back.  And Max is as gentle as can be to me, so I have no problem handling him ever.  I got very lucky with both my boys.
In addition, I took pallets and put together another kidding pen...
Scrap wood and pallets--can't go wrong!
 ...for you know who.

Dulcinea is bored.  So, so bored.
She's getting there!  T-minus 8 days and counting, and I'm almost ready.  Hopefully she is, too.  She's pretty big, but Dulci has always been wide, so it's hard to tell in that way.  I can really only say that she's bigger than normal, and that's a good sign.  I believe I have felt the kids kicking once, but she refuses to stand still to really let me feel.  The big giveaways have been her attitude--which sucks more than normal--and the fact that she seems to be developing an udder--but she did that last year as well, and she was a liar.  Yesterday, however, I noticed that her tail  ligaments seem to have dropped.  Dulci is usually flat and broad on the back end, but yesterday I could see that her shape had changed and could feel the end of her spine by her tail.  All good signs.  So here's hoping it's the real thing this time.  It certainly seems that way.
In fact, it was quite a goat-centric weekend.  My husband and I had to replace the doors to the girls' house, as they had eaten the old ones.
New door and a peeking Lilly
Yes, eaten!  I cannot get the girls to stop eating the walls of their house!  It's driving me nuts.  They've made a bunch of holes, and the doors were the worst of all.  Of course, once they make a hole, they just keep working on it to make it bigger and bigger and bigger.  One of the doors had a hole so big, I could have fit Cynthia through it.  It's been a real problem.  I think a lot of it has to do with boredom, since they started doing this during the winter when everything was covered in snow and there was nothing to do.  I think they are bored like little, bored kids.  With nothing to do, they do destructive things.  UGH! 

So the doors have been replaced.  Now I have to find a way to get them to stop eating the walls.  Good luck to me!
And then today I got something done that I have needed to do for a very long time.

I put an addition onto the girls' house.
The three outcasts, happy at last--Dulcinea, Tallulah, and Cynthia the tiny.
Oh yeah!!  Can you tell how happy I am about this???  These three outcasts are constantly excluded from the interior of the big house when it rains or snows, which means they get wet.  This winter, I found myself blow drying all of them several times.  No more! 
 Just a few supplies from the lumberyard, some leftovers from the garage (they have an unplanned skylight, did you notice?), and a few hours, and they have a nice 3foot by 8 foot lean-to that they can run in and stay dry in.  A great thing when Minerva won't let them in the house when it's raining (which she doesn't, because she's horrible) and a place out of the sun in the summer.
It doesn't look like much now, but what a help it is!
Once it's trimmed, roofed and painted, it'll look great.  For now, it'll keep them dry and happy.  I am so pleased with this simple little shed.  It's going to be a huge help. 
Let's see...what else...I lent my mother a rooster, as she was having some problems with her hens.  She's got all girls, and they have taken to suddenly beating up on one of them-a Silkie-just out of the blue.  My mother said that they just go after her all the time.  I know that the boys in my coop tend to keep my girls in line, so I suggested she borrow Elmer, the grey/partridge Silkie roo that Louise hatched last year.  He's not a particularly aggressive roo, and definitely not aggressive to people, but he's a roo, so he should be able to keep the girls in line.  It's been my experience that, though there is definitely a pecking order with chickens, the girls are less vicious about it when there is a rooster to watch over all of them, mainly because the roo always seems to be at the top of the pecking order, no matter what.  I am hoping that my mother will find the same thing and Elmer will solve her problem.  If not, I'll have to lend her one of my "tough guys", and we'll see how that goes!
What else?  Icky did the brave thing and took out an imminent threat the other day.
Yep, he took out these vicious paper towels.  The whole roll.  Because you never know, they may have tried to strangle us all in our sleep.  Thank goodness the boy was there, or this could've ended badly, that's all I'm saying.

And he couldn't care less.
He then went on to "kill" all the throw rugs in the kitchen, and knock the dangerous camera off the counter onto the floor.  Who knows what nefarious deeds that thing was up to!  Just to help him out, Phynn and Charlotte knocked over their waterer, dumping about half a gallon of water onto the floor.  I'm sure it said something rude to them and it was deserved. 

As for me, I'll sleep better at night, knowing these guys are hard at work destroying protecting the house.  Thanks you three!  You are the best! 

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Keeping It Light

Oh, it's been a while, I know.  Things have been going and going here, and not left me much time to sit down and write.  And it's funny, but for all the things that have been happening, there just never seemed to be anything to tell you.  But I would like to catch you all up, so here goes:

  • On the goat front:  Of course I have to start with them!  Dulcinea is still pregnant, but due in 3 short weeks.  I feel like I'm not prepared, largely because I'm not.  But I will absolutely get there, as it's now crunch time.  The temporary kidding pen will be put up in the garage, and I'll get my crap together.  I am excited for her, and worried the same.  She's a first timer, so nerves all around, you know.  And she tricked me last year, so I am half worried this year may be the same.  However, going boldly forward, we've begun to place bets, as Dulci is a LaMancha and therefore "earless", and Stew is a Nubian and therefore "earfull".  So what will it be?  We are all undecided here:

We have yet to decide what the winner will get.  It's usually ice cream or something like that, so we'll probably keep to tradition and do that. 
    • Lilly is also pregnant and getting HUGE, as it's her second go-round, and her body's like "THIS AGAIN???" (....hmmmm....I remember that feeling) and just ballooned.  Unfortunately, it means we're without milk for now, as she was drying up so rapidly, milking her got stupid, so I stopped.  We actually had to buy milk, which made the kids and me very unhappy.  G-ross.  It's obvious to me (which I thought it would be) that more than 2 goats at a time in milk is a necessity, and that if I can stagger them better, then so be it.  I'm going to have to think this through a bit.
  • I spent some time with my boys yesterday, which was nice.  It's so easy to just breeze through their yard, and they really love some good petting.  I skritched my walnut-brained Stewart and my handsome Max for a good long time and gave them lots of love.  They are truly good boys.  Now that they aren't stinky, they are such a pleasure to be around.  We stood in the sun and had skritches for a good long time until Stew decided he was in love with me, or Max, or both, and started blubbering.  That's always a good time to make an exit.  A 175 pound goat who's taller than me is never good to turn down, especially when he's got love on his mind. 

  • On the chicken front, we had some arrivals this past week:

What you're looking at is 42 meatbirds, the first of the year's batch.  In here, however, and differently from other years, are 16 Delawares in addition to 26 Cornish X.  The Cornish have never steered me wrong, and I am very happy with them--they are a nice bird and finish beautifully.  However, in my search for a more sustainable broiler, I am trying the Delaware.  What I would like is to have some chickens from this batch that will be kept long-term to reproduce and continue to make me more meat birds.  The Cornish X will not breed true.  The Delawares should.  All of last year I thought about this problem, and came up with the following:
1.  That I can't breed a Cornish X, because although I may be able to find the "parts" of the cross, the parents of those meaty guys are specially bred to be so, and it's very unlikely that I'll get very good genetics from what I'm sent from the hatchery, and wouldn't get nice chickens like I get directly from the hatchery.  So that idea goes out the window.
2.  Breeding two Cornish X together will result in who-knows-what, so forget that. Plus, keeping them alive for long enough to breed really seems to be about impossible to me.  By the 8 weeks they go to, they seem kinda tired.  I have no belief that I could get them to 5 months of age with them being happy and healthy.  They're just not meant for it. 
3.  In my travels and extensive research (mostly extensive and exhausting research) and reading this opinion and that opinion, I discovered that the Delaware chicken was the meatbird until the Cornish X came and blew it away.  So maybe there's some hope for that. 

However, there's a hinky in the works here.  The Delawares that I ordered didn't hatch well, according to the hatchery.  So they sent me Delaware x Hampshire instead, which the man insisted was a better bird.  They are also called an Indian River chicken.  What I don't get is that the Delaware is a bird that is a New Hampshire cross to begin with.  So did they breed those crosses AGAIN to the New Hampshire, and this is the result?  Or is this just another name for the Delaware?  The dang birds look exactly the same, so how does anyone know?  I have no idea.  I also have no idea whether or not these birds will work out, but I'm hoping so.  Needless to say, they're in there, and the nicest specimens will be afforded luxury accommodations in the coop to live out their long lives.  The others?  Well, hopefully they are delicious.
  • Also on the chicken front, I am incubating eggs with a fourth grade class in my son's elementary school.  This is always so much fun.  In the incubator there are 15 eggs, 6 of which are Leghorns (and spoken for by the teacher's son), 5 are replacement Ameraucanas for me, and 4 of which are Delawares.  Which ones?  I don't know.  Maybe they're "real" Delawares.  Maybe all Delawares are really this Delaware cross chicken, and it's all the same thing.  But they came from a different hatchery, so they may hopefully have different bloodlines.  If they hatch, they will be put in with the meatbirds and I'll watch to see how they do.  All I can say is...I'll let you know!  :)

  • On the homefront, the seeds are going nuts and filling up the seed starting shelves I have like gangbusters.  Luckily, my mother bought me this awesome walk in greenhouse that she saw at Tractor Supply.  It is fantastic, and will be a godsend--when it's warm enough to use it.  I am anxiously awaiting that day, because I'd love to have my dining room back.  Come on, Spring!
  • We celebrated a birthday.  My son turned 10 this past week:

He got Legos and pants.  Pants because he needs them, and Legos because he loves them (can you tell?).  It was a great party. 
  • We finally re-did the kids' bathroom (cross THAT one off the list!) after nearly 4 years of just looking at it and sighing and ignoring it.  Best part?  It cost very little to do, and looks like a million dollars. 

We re-used the major things, got creative with some fence posts, and used things that were given to us from other people's renovations, and it looks like new.  I just love it.
  • There is still too much snow on the ground, but I can see grass in some spots, so I am hopeful that it will eventually warm up.  I need it to--not only do I have clean up and prep to do, but I need to build those chicken sleds!  This cold weather is really cramping my style.  :)
That's all I can think of, though there may be a million other things.  Until next time, my friends, take care!

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