Turkey Tuesday

There’s been so much going on around here!  Which is a good thing, it keeps us busy and out of trouble… well, it keeps us busy.

The kids are back in 4H this year and Nik is raising turkeys to take to market.  He tried Broilers last year.  They were quite tasty but definitely have an expiration date.  We had to take time out during the fair to slaughter because they couldn’t walk anymore.  Not a pleasant thing.  Since he’s planning on raising heritage breed Chocolate Turkeys next year, he figured this would be good practice.

We have heard that turkeys have a high fatality rate and the birds aren’t very bright.  He has to have at least one turkey to sell at auction and he can have two birds in his pen.  So we decided to get 6 turkey poults so that maybe we can have a nice home-raised Thanksgiving turkey on the table this year.  Cover your ears, little turkey babies!!

Nik did some research and learned that if you raise turkey poults with baby chicks that the chicks will teach the poults how to eat and drink on their own.  I thought it made the turkeys sound really dumb, I mean how can a bird not know how to eat or drink?  But we went ahead and bought 6 Partridge Rock chicks to raise along with them.  We’ll be butchering the chickens this fall to put in the freezer.

Turkey Poults

At first the chicks were afraid of the poults, but they all warmed up to each other.  Good thing too.  Turkeys are STUPID.  We brought these cute little yellow balls of fluff home and put them in the brooder and showed them where the water was.  Yep.  Turkeys darn near drowned themselves.  This one little bird ran to the water and stuck his whole head under the water.  Then was sort of sputtering and making weird noises, I thought I was going to have to do turkey CPR.  Then the brain-dead bird did it again and again!  So, we filled the water bowl with small stones (not small enough that they might be able to eat them, cuz they would) so that they could only get little sips of water at a time.  They fared only a little better at the food.  They’d pick up pieces of food and drop them back down.  Pretty soon they were taking after the chickens and learned all they needed to know.  You’d even catch them scratching the ground trying to dig up treats!

Pretty soon they were big enough to move into a larger brooder to give them some running room.

Turkey teens

We ended up losing two turkeys.  One we’re just not quite sure what happened, Nik thinks it might have choked on his food (I can see that happening) and the other broke his legs trying to fly into the side of the metal brooder.  They seem to be getting smarter with age (yay!! still keeping our fingers crossed) and are looking more and more like turkeys.

Turkey teen 2

They are all feathered out now and doing great.  We moved them into the chicken coop with the enclosure since they no longer need a heat lamp for warmth.

Big Turkeys

I know some people say you shouldn’t raise turkeys with chickens because of Black Head and other diseases that can spread between them.  We haven’t had any issues (knocking on wood!) and we supplement them with vitamins and apple cider vinegar.  We give them fresh greens and will eventually move them into the main pasture and yard once they get too big to fit through the coop door.

Big Turkey 2

They are definitely getting smarter (double yay!!) or maybe the chickens are just teaching them a thing or two.  Every evening before nightfall, the chickens and turkeys go into the coop and roost for the night.  And to think that a couple weeks ago they didn’t even know how to get in the door!

Turkey Roosting

Fair isn’t until August, so we’ll see what the summer brings us with the turkeys.  We know that turkeys don’t tolerate the heat well so we put a large tarp over the enclosure to provide them with shade.  Even though there’s a giant fir tree right by the coop, duh. 

Pretty soon they will look like our neighbor’s turkey which we call Tom.  They call him Roger.  Oh well.

Tom Turkey

Advertisements

A Gaggle of Geese and One Lonely Rooster

I’m starting to think that I might have a problem with hoarding.  Not your typical too many shoes, clothes, toys for the kids type stuff (although I suspect I may have tendencies toward this too) but animal hoarding.  Yikes!!  Okay.  It’s really not that bad.  I also have a tendency to be dramatic.  The drama queen in high school?  Yep.  That was me.  Is me…. whatever!  We went on a wee bit of a spree and added 10 (TEN!) new geese to our gaggle of six.  It started out all innocent and actually for a good cause.  But I start to wonder if I can justify everything with my reasoning.  We don’t really need ten more geese.

I’m leaning toward blaming my daughter for this one.  Ever since the county fair and birth of our Toulouse goslings, she has been on this “Saving the Heritage Geese” kick.  I support her all the way.  This girl has set up a website/blog (www.weheartpoultry.wordpress.com) dedicated to saving the geese, passed out flyers, given speeches, made presentations, done an interview with a big magazine (Ducks by Hobby Farms coming out in February), and sent her work in to the local newspaper.  She is passionate about it.  All she wants for her birthday is a Buff Pomeranian Saddleback gosling female that she can name Pumpkin.  Anyway, Todd spotted an ad on Craigslist for heritage geese for sale.  Two days later we were taking a two hour drive to go get them.  Lexie came along, but we didn’t tell her what we were up to.  She thought we were going to pick up duck and chicken feed so she grabbed some of her flyers and joined us for the ride.  She spotted the goose farm right away and off she went!

American Buff, Embden, and Sebastopol geese

New geese on ride home

We put 10 geese in the back of our Ford Expedition.  Todd hung bird netting across the back in case any of the geese had any ideas about trying to escape.  That was a lovely ride home!  Okay, it wasn’t that bad.  A tad smelly but the geese were quiet. They weren’t quite sure what to think.  At all times there was one goose standing watch.           Just in case.

Embden Goose

Embden goose on ride home

  We had to go over a lot of hills and winding roads.  It was cute to hear the pitter patter of goose feet trying to keep their balance in the back!  Occasionally you’d get a single Honk! just to let us know they were still there.

Toulouse, Embden, Sebastopol, African, and American Buff Geese

Toulouse, Embden, Sebastopol, African, and American Buff geese

We released the geese into the pasture and introduced them to the group.  The first thing they did was jump into the baby pool and clean themselves up.  We had one goose that was so excited to have a pool that he didn’t even wait for the water – he saw the other geese splashing around and he copied them – in the dirt!  It was one of those moments when you wish you had a video camera because it was just that funny.  I’m getting the giggles just remembering it!!!  Hhmmm… guess you had to have been there.

Anyway… we now have two Sebastopol geese. A male and female pair that we named Ivan and Olga.  They originate from Russia and are considered rare, which means there are less than 1,000 breeding pairs surviving.  They are still fairly young (born this past summer) and are suffering from angel wing.  Angel wing is pretty common in Sebastopol geese from what I have read.  It can result from a diet that is too high in protein when the feathers are developing and coming in.  It will pull or twist the wings out from their natural placement under the weight of the new feathers.  I’m sure it’s more involved than how I stated it, but you get the gist of the problem.  It looks gnarly.  Hopefully we can correct it so that it doesn’t cause any lasting problems.

Todd and Olga the Sebastopol goose

Todd and Olga the Sebastopol goose

We tried to wrap the wings in the correct position.  We watched videos and read articles to figure out the best way to wrap them.  This is Todd with Olga.  Her wings are worse than Ivan’s.  She wasn’t too happy with the tape on her wings and it wasn’t long before they were out of place again.  So, back to the drawing board (or internet).  We also changed their diet to a lower protein diet with pastures for foraging.

Amy and Ivan the Sebastopol gander

Amy and Ivan the Sebastopol gander

Hopefully they will grow up to be the beautiful birds that they should be.  Adults look like they are wearing feather skirts or suits.  Long twisty feathers that flutter in the breeze.  Like they belong in a Russian ballet doing a swan dance.  I’m holding Ivan – he is actually the smaller of the two.  We vent-sexed them to be sure.  Not quite as gross as it sounds, but unpleasant none the less.  See, the vent is used for multiple purposes – including where they dispose of the unused food products.  Yep.  It’s also the poop hole.  (shudder)

We have 3 American Buff geese (one male and two females).  American Buffs are on the critically endangered list with less than 500 breeding pairs.

Lexie and the American Buff goose

Lexie and the American Buff goose

And a Buff/Sebastopol mix.  Lexie is excited because she wanted a Buff Sebastopol.  Not sure how that works, but I’ll leave the breeding up to her.  She knows her goose business.

American Buff Sebastopol mix goose

American Buff Sebastopol mix goose

And… four Embden geese.  Two of them are younger.  We are pretty sure that we have 3 females and one male.

Embden Geese

Embden Geese

Embden geese are a large heavy breed and they lay the largest eggs of all the goose breeds.

So, now we have a gaggle of 16 heritage breed geese.  Hope you’re happy Lexie!  Such good parents, supporting their daughter’s endeavors! *cough*  Next we need to get Nik his turkeys.  He wants to raise rare breed heritage turkeys.  You should see his heirloom seed collection.  We’ve got totally awesome kids.

Gaggle of Toulouse, Embden, American Buff, Sebastopol, and African Geese

Gaggle of Geese

Just try to come into our poultry yard!  We have a gargantuan gaggle of gawking geese (check out my use of alliteration – my kids will be impressed) that will run after you in the hopes that you will feed them some scratch!!

We met a lady this weekend who came to buy our chicken plucker that informed us about Lucy.  She is our mix breed goose that we rescued and we weren’t really sure what she was a mix of.  Now we know!  She is a Touloose/African mix.  We got her at the same time that we got Desi and we thought they might be a breeding pair since they always stuck close to each other.  Hence, Lucy and Desi (we were on an I love Lucy kick).  Now we also know that Desi is a she.  Yep, checked the vent.  So maybe they are sisters.  All I know is Desi is the peacemaker of the group.  She tries to get everybody to get along.  She’ll be the first to go up and introduce herself and will stand in the middle of the group making peace.  She is really true to the breed – very talkative and calm.  Maybe we’ll have to add a few Africans to our group for her.  See – I’m telling you, I’ve got that hoarder thing going on!

Desi and Lucy the African Geese

Desi, the African goose with Lucy, the African Toulouse mix goose

In other surprising news – it turns out our sweet little Peep is a rooster!!!  Say it isn’t so!  Sigh.  Oh well.  We were going to thin down our flock for the winter and start with a fresh flock of Australorps next year.  We hand-raised Peep so he’s part of the family now.  Unless he attacks the geese again!  He doesn’t seem to like Ivan.  Not sure if it’s because Ivan is a smaller male or new to the group (that stupid pecking order business) or what.  But he put up his hackles and scared the doo-doo out of us when we were trying to wrap angel wings!  He sat right next to Todd and turned into that little dinosaur on Jurassic Park (the one that spits in your face before eating you!).  Creepy chicken!  We try to keep him on his toes and let him know that we are the bosses of the barnyard.  He is a confused chicken.  He was raised mainly by Lexie and sleeps with the ducks.  He tried mating Lexie’s hand and seems to think he’s a duck.  Last chicken in at night, first one out, playing in mud puddles and in the rain.  I might have to get him in to chicken counseling.  Hopefully sooner or later he’ll show an interest in the hens and not hands!

Barred Rock and Black Copper Maran mix rooster

Peep, our Barred Rock and Black Copper Maran mix rooster

A Fairly Good Week

HOORAY!!!!

We actually made it through fair week!  Let me just say to all the parents out there with kids in 4H and jobs to work and homes to keep in order… you amaze me!  Todd took the week off of work so we could both support the kids at the fair for their first year of 4H.  We weren’t sure that we would make it – I had no idea how much work goes into the whole production.  WHEW!  Now that I think that I’ve finally recovered, I’ll fill you in on the highlights.  What a week!

After months of preparation (okay, taking care of little ducks and chickens – we pretty much do that here everyday!) it was time to load up the truck with Lexie’s 2 ducks and Nik’s 4 chickens along with food, bowls, tubs, soap, bedding, and all the other little things that they would need for the week.  Ducks and chickens in truck We delivered the animals on Saturday.  It was a whole day of work.  The kids had to help decorate their 4H group booth, weigh their animals in, get them tagged, and prepare the animal pens.

Sunday was a fairly (hee! hee!) easy day. We checked on the animals in the morning, afternoon, and evening and helped out in the poultry barn by sweeping.  Everyone was getting nervous/excited for the showmanship and poultry judging the next morning.  We bathed the chickens (Chickens do not like baths!) and the ducks so that they would be clean and pretty for the judging.

                 Washing a chicken 

On Monday, we arrived at the fair by 8 in the morning.  Pens needed to be cleaned out and waters filled.  The kids had removed the food from the animals the night before to reduce any chances of “accidents” on the judging tables.  Showmanship was first.  They were called up and quizzed on their knowledge and handling of their animals.  Lexie came in 3rd place and Nik received a ribbon for participation.

Judging was held after showmanship.  This is when the animals are judged for their quality, appearance, and amount of meat on the bird.  The kids were able to help each other out since they had to show all of their animals.  Lexie was up first with her ducks.  She was definitely in her element.  The girl loves ducks.  She ended up winning first place in her class!  Which meant she had to go back in for judging at the end to compete against the other first place winners for the Championship.       

4H poultry judging for ducks

She won Reserve Champion!! Second place out of all the ducks! 

Reserve Champion for 4H Poultry judging

 

4H Reserve Champion duck pen   

 

Which also meant that she got to     move her duck pen into Champion Row!

 

 

 

Nik was up for judging of his chickens and it was Lexie’s turn to help out. 

4H Poultry judging for chickens

Nik won 5th place in his chicken class.  Not bad at all!  Proud Momma Moment!!!

To celebrate, the kids took a ride on “Top Gun”.  It’s one of those rides that spins you upside down and back and forth and has a hose handy for “spills”.  I almost “spilled” watching them!

Richland County Fair ride

Judging/Showmanship Day was an all day affair.  We didn’t get home till almost 10 and then we had to rush to put all our ducks at home away. 

Typical fair days on Tuesday and Wednesday – early morning pen check and feeding, early evening pen check and feeding.  We probably spent a lot of unnecessary time there but we had fun meeting all kinds of new people and checking out all the other exhibits at the fair.

Thursday was Barnyard Olympics and Auction day.  Lexie teamed up with our neighbor and 4H group member to compete against other kids doing things like jumping hay bales, tire rolling, sack races, and an egg toss.  The Olympics started at 1 and we were warned that she would get dirty.  Oh no!  Judging starts at 5 and she has to be presentable!  We brought extra clothes and shower supplies just in case.   

Richland County Fair 2013 Barnyard Olympics

  The auction started at 5 in the evening and we finally finished up around 9.  The kids handled it all very well and will get a nice check each come September.

Richland County Fair 2013 Poultry Auction Richland County Fair 2013Poultry Auction

 

 

 

 

 

   Making big bucks for all their hard work!

 

Friday turned out to be the last day for us.  The animals were sold at auction and the meat processor came to pick them up early on Friday morning.  We slept in (ha ha) and arrived at the fair in the afternoon.  The kids were scheduled to work at the fair Dairy Bar with their 4H group.  They spent 3 hours serving up ice cream (and eating a bit too) while Todd and I went and cleaned up the empty pens in the Poultry Barn.  After their shift was over we stopped in at Family Fun night and socialized with the other 4H families.  Our fair week was over and it was a little sad to see it go.  Just a little, I was overdue for a nap!

We had a fun, busy week and the kids are already making plans for next year.  I wish we had gotten them into 4H a couple of years ago.  They really do learn a lot and meet lots of other kids with similar interests.  By next spring I will be all rested up and ready to do it all over again!  Fairs do kind of make you feel like a kid again… until you get home and chores are waiting, work piling up, and everyone wants to be fed.  Yep.  Counting down until the next one.

Don’t even get me started on fair food.  Maybe somebody should think about starting a smoothie vendor.  Or salad bar.  Or… okay, I give.  A lot of people go to the fair just for the food.  Greasy fries, corn dogs, deep-fried Twinkies and Oreos.  No kidding.  Unfortunately there’s not much food there for someone who is intolerant to corn, soy, sugar, gluten, and artificial colors and flavors.

But that’s a story for a different day!

This Really Stinks.

Our last Momma Muscovy final hatched her eggs a couple of days ago during the storms.  She is now officially known as “Super Mom” because she hatched 23 ducklings.  I think our official count is now standing at 13 adult Pekins, 3 baby Pekins, a Khaki Campbell drake, 4 adult Toulouse geese, 2 goslings, an African goose, a Toulouse-Canadian(?) goose mix, 7 adult Muscovy ducks, 40 Muscovy ducklings, 22 laying hens, 1 rooster, and Lexie’s 8 Pekin ducklings for 4-H.  That’s around 103 feathered friends in our pasture.  Let’s not forget the 20 broiler chicks that will be arriving in 2 days.  Some of the chicks will be sold, some will be bred, and some will be dinner this winter.  This is for the birds. I won’t even talk about the zoo inside!

We spent all day Saturday weeding the garden.  I’m not even posting a picture.  I’m mortified.  We just got it all planted three weeks ago and soo many weeds.  Nik reminds me that they are edible weeds so technically we’re still growing food.  Whatever.  I want my cucumbers and lettuce and snap peas.  Needless to say, we were all sore and tired by the end of the day.  Sad thing is, we didn’t even get it finished.  OOooh, the shame!

We’ve got a couple of houseguests this week.  Jaxson and Jaylee, my parent’s slightly spoiled dogs (with slightly being used very loosely).  dogs Poor little puppies won’t eat unless you hand feed them.  And they totally hog the bed.   Poor Todd is moving to the guest room to try and get some sleep tonight!  Only 6 more days.  Love you dearly guys but these pups are a handful!!!    And do you want to know how to get your parents to call and chat with you on a daily basis – take their dogs!!! *wink*  We’re dog watching while they’re on a family vacation with my aunt at a beach house in Florida.  Wait a minute.  Family vacation.  Aren’t we family??!  Well.  I see where I rank.  It’s totally beside the point that I would have had to graciously decline the invitation due to all the commotion around here.  Never even crossed their minds to ask us.  This really stinks.  Just kidding guys!  Take it all lightly, we love both you and your dogs!  I’m feeling all that love from the deep south!  But really, does Jaylee have to sleep on my desk while I do my work?  Tsk, tsk.

puppy

Father’s Day here was rainy, cloudy, and cool.  Not at all like that sunshine and 90 degree temps in Florida.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself!  We had a “lazy day” and I roasted a chicken with rice stuffing for dinner.  I tried out a new recipe from Simply Living Healthy for some carrot cake bars.  I loved this recipe because it’s one of the few baked goods I can actually enjoy these days.  No corn, soy, canola, eggs, white flour, gluten, sugar… yep, I know, sad, isn’t it?  We all thought it tasted good and I’ll definitely be making it again.

Carrot Cake Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 eggs (I used flax meal)
  • 2 Tbsp butter (I used coconut oil), melted
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cups chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and 8×8 baking pan for bars or a 9×13 pan for cake and line with parchment paper.

In large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, and maple syrup.

carrot cake bars batter

Stir wet ingredients into the dry.

carrot cake bars batter

Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 22 to 25 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.  You can top with frosting and sprinkle on more nuts, but they were yummy as is.  I forgot to take a picture of the end result.  In too much of a hurry to eat a slice!  One of these days I’ll figure out how to make these recipes printable for you.  That would be nice, huh?!

Oh, to  put the cherry on top of our stinky weekend, I’d like for you to meet Daisy.  Our little stinker!  She just finished eating some yogurt so she has a little white nose.

baby skunk

At least Todd got to kick back and catch a little nap on Father’s Day.

napping  baby skunk

Awww.  So cute!  I think I’m liking these stinky days!

It’s a good thing ducks don’t wear diapers.

Yippee!!!  The babies started hatching this morning!  Yesterday we were discussing whether we needed to scoot Momma off her nest to check on the eggs and wahlah! the babies were peaking out of the nest this morning!  I was getting worried that Momma was sitting on a nest of duds and would starve herself to death waiting for them to hatch.  Such a dedicated duck.  Not sure if I would starve myself for my kids, luckily I haven’t had that challenge presented to me.  “Oh yeah, that Mom ate the last chocolate bar while her kids starved to death.” Okay, okay… I’m just kidding!  I would break that chocolate bar into 3 pieces and share!  Of course I would have the biggest piece. 

I have learned to ALWAYS mark the calendar when a duck (or goose for that matter) starts incubating her eggs.  You think that you’ll remember (how could you forget your first nesting duck?) but trust me, you won’t.  So, I wrote down the babies birth date first thing. I won’t make that mistake again!Muscovy ducklings We have three babies that we know of.  We’re waiting to see if more happen to hatch.  Momma has 2 Muscovy babies and a Pekin baby.  When she started getting all broody we decided to put a couple of Pekin eggs in with her to try and hatch some of our other ducks.  At that time we didn’t have any broody Pekins.  Now we have a couple of broody hens and another Muscovy that has planted herself in the Pekin box with a big clutch of eggs.  I’ll try not to worry about having too many babies.  Out of a clutch of 18, only 3 have hatched so far.  Remind me that I said that after the next 4 nests start hatching.  Oh, and let’s not forget the goose nest.  She started incubating her eggs shortly after Momma Muscovy did.  Any day now on her babies!

Our farm has expanded on the chicken front too.  We just added 9 hens and a rooster.  Now we have a total of 23 chickens.    They’re an eclectiRooster and Chickensc bunch – some Barred Rocks, Golden Comets, New Hampshire Reds, Easter Eggers, and Rhode Island Reds.  They are all good girls (and a boy) and produce a lot of eggs for us.  Nothing says you are living on a farm like having a rooster crow at 5:30 in the morning!  His name is Buck.  Not at all mean and nasty like I’ve heard that some roosters (boys) can be.  So far so good!  Aaawww!  Maybe we’ll have little baby chickens!  Great.  You’ll read about the crazy lady in the newspaper that has been hoarding duck, goose, and chicken babies.  That’ll be me. Hand-feeding Chickens Can’t help it – they’re too cute!  And I never knew how friendly chickens can be.   Just ask Lexie.  She goes out to the pasture and all the chickens come running like they are so happy to see her!  Of course she spends all her free time sitting out there and hand feeding them. I think that I’ll start bribing the animals too.  I’ll exert my pecking order.  Yep.  Just kidding!  Our poultry is friendly and happy to see all of us. 

                                                                                                                                                     Except for when you take eggs out of their nests.  Muscovy Duck Poor Molly about had a fit when I emptied her nest.  Sorry girl, but we already have too many Muscovy nests for now!  Maybe we’ll let her hatch a brood later this year.  See?  Here I go again with the babies!  I seem to forget that the kids both have babies coming for 4H next month!

Speaking of babies… our wild Canadian goose babies are all hatched and growing up just fine.  Like we really had anything to do with it!  There are 2 families and 6 babies.  They spend their time in the pond and sometimes wander up into the back yard.  They go right up to the pasture and you have to wonder if they are talking to our geese.Canadian Geese and Babies  

Like “Hey, come on out and play with us!”

“Sorry, I can’t today.  I’m on baby watch.”

And so am I.  Let the baby circus begin.

Geese, Gardening, & Guacamole

There is nothing like springtime on a farm.  The grass is green, birds are chirping, critters are running around, and everyone is in a pleasant mood.  Everyone but Jack.  He is downright cranky.  Jack is our male Toulouse goose.  And Jill (his partner in crime) has been busy laying eggs and now has a clutch of 12.  Jack is a very good protector of Jill.  He doesn’t let anyone or anything near her.  He seems to really butt heads with Todd and Nik.  He starts hissing, flapping, and nipping.  He gives us girls a little break.  At least he has manners.  I just wish Jill was doing her job.  She has a nice nest going but hasn’t quite gotten the idea to stay on it yet. Toulous Geese grazing in garden She goes in periodically throughout the day to check on it, but prefers to spend her time in the garden eating the grass.  I think I’m going to mark each of the eggs with a crayon so we can see if she is turning them or if they are being left to rot.  Our Canadian Mama goose in the pond is glued to her nest.  I wonder if we can sneak a few of our eggs under her?  Any ideas on making a goose tend to her eggs?

The boys have been busy getting the garden ready.  They fenced in the area where the garden will be (a 100’ by 60’ area!) Building a fence around the garden and we are letting the ducks and chicken and geese go in there to start clearing out the grass and weeds while at the same time they are fertilizing it.  My husband is a genius – it was all his idea.  This way we don’t need any chemicals to get rid of the weeds and it’s less work for us.  The animals love it too – lots of extra greens and bugs.  We dumped a large pile of compost in there and pretty soon we will till it all up.  Nik has been doing research to figure out what plants we are growing this year.  I would be out there tossing seeds here and there but he is diligent.  Only three types of beans because otherwise they will cross and we won’t be able to save the seeds for future years.  You have to watch planting different squashes together.  Whew!  Who knew gardening was so complicated?!  Needless to say, we will be able to enjoy lots of veggies this summer, preserve what we can for the winter, and save the seeds for next year.

I wish we could grow avocados around here.  We have been going crazy on avocado dip lately.  So simple to make and soooo good for you!  My favorite way to eat it is with black bean chips.  Yummy!  Avocados are fairly inexpensive and a little bit goes a long way.easy avocado dipEasy Avocado Dip

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp shredded lime peel
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In food processor, combine all ingredients and process until desired consistency.  Serve as is or chill.  Store avocado pits in the dip to help prevent browning.

The avocado dip is also good as a mini-pizza snack.  I spread the dip on a rice cake and top with sliced olives.  Tadaa!  A quick, healthy, and easy snack that even kids will eat.

Guineas Gone Afoul

Okay.  I know it’s been a while.  Okay, a long while!  But now that I have managed to pull myself out of hibernation (I wish!) I’ll get busy posting again.  Daily life seems to take over everything and before you know it, it’s time to crawl back into bed.

I’m trying really really hard to enjoy what I hope is the last snowfall of the winter.  We have been blessed with this winter wonderland that just won’t go away! winter snow picture It starts to melt and you catch a glimpse of green grass trying to peek out and then WHAM!  You get  dumped on all over again.  Sigh.  I’m so looking forward to spring.  But I must admit, it is beautiful.   As long as you can enjoy it from inside the house with a hot cup of tea.  The birds don’t seem to mind the cold weather.  I’ve never seen this many cardinals, bluejays, doves, bluebirds, and all kinds of other little birds.  They have an all-you-can-eat buffet in the pasture.  Whatever the ducks and chickens leave behind, they get to enjoy. Cardinal in snow And the cardinals really like the bush next to my office window.  I get to take pretty pictures of them all day long!  Even when it’s too cold outside for the ducks, the birds are eating away!  Lucky little birds!

 

Aside from the weather, we’ve had some guinea grief.  We bought 6 guinea keets back in September of last year.  They were raised in the chicken coop with our 13 hens.  Everybody got along great, the guineas would even curl up underneath the hens’ wings at night to sleep.  But all good things must come to an end.  One day last month the guineas turned evil.  Really evil.  They would gang up on the Golden Buff hens and attack them.  Not just pecking order, I’m the boss type of attack.  This was fight to the death.  Poor girls!  We tried feeding the guineas more protein (raw deer meat) since they do require a higher percentage of protein than chickens.  No luck.  We started chasing the guineas out of the pasture.  They flew back in.  We separated the chickens and guineas.  The guineas were now sleeping in the barn and the chickens were locked in the coop (fenced in area) all day.  Very unhappy chickens.  I did some research and found out other people have had problems with guineas attacking their hens once they hit the reproductive age.  And they really don’t like red chickens.  Go figure.  I guess they are more “wild” than the other poultry and play by a different set of rules.  They do much better in larger groups of their own kind.  Plus I found out that they can mate with my hens.  Yep, we could have little guickens running around.  They would be sterile, but still.  So we did what we had to do.  At least for us.  We butchered them.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my guineas.  Their obnoxious “buckwheat” all day long, how they would fly out and come up to the porch to stare at themselves in the glassguinea fowl staring in glass (they love to admire themselves, very egotistical birds), how they would follow you around whenever you were out in the yard working.  They were our babies and we raised them into these creatures that they had become.  We could have rehomed them, but there’s a good chance they would have tried to fly back home here.  Or they may have attacked someone else’s hens.  Nope.  They are now in the freezer.  Except one.  We popped him into the smoker and enjoyed some smoked guinea.  Light meat, sort of like a cross between chicken and turkey.  And for all of you out there that think that I’m being cruel… do you really have any idea of where your meat comes from and how it is being raised and treated?  Unless you don’t eat meat.  That chicken sandwich you pick up at the drive-thru used to be a live chicken (at least a small part of it did!) and it wasn’t allowed to run around and pick bugs out of the grass and enjoy the sunshine.  Watch the movie Earthlings.  A very good documentary on Netflix.  You’ll never look at meat the same way.  So anyway.  We gave our birds a good life and they gave us a good meal.  They died humanely and not in vain. 

Okay, so we lost 6 guineas.  But we also gained a dozen (or so)   Muscovy ducks, 2 Toulouse geese (a mating pair), and a couple of parakeets for in the house.  Spring is around the corner – I saw a groundhog playing in the yard!  Time for some ducklings and baby geese?!

Now if only somebody could do something about all this snow……  077

Deer in a Can

I can’t believe that we are into December already.  I swear that we just finished up the turkey a few days ago!  I really love Thanksgiving – 3 days of leftovers and no cooking!!  I hope everybody had a wonderful turkey day.  We had lots of good food and a little bit of down time.  The next day was spent putting up our tree and hanging the stockings with care.  We don’t do Black Friday.  Why would anyone want to start such a wonderful season with all that pushing, hurrying, and downright crankiness?!

033

034

 

 

 

 

 

Tis’ the season for new adventures…..

I decided to go deer hunting for the first time with my husband.  Not exactly a glamorous date.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to sit still and not talk for that long?!  Not to mention, who really likes to get dressed up like a big orange marshmallow!?!  It wasn’t all bad, because I found myself out there again the next day!001

We didn’t get anything that time, but he did get his first deer this year.  Yay!  Not that I’m happy about ending a deer’s life.  But I am grateful for the wonderful meat that is now filling our freezer and I understand that this is how things work.   I would like to say that I’d have been able to pull the trigger if I had a clean shot.  Who knows though.  I still get sad at the thought of butchering the ducks!

009    The whole process of skinning, gutting, butchering, and processing the meat took us 4 days.  I shouldn’t complain too much.  Todd did all the really yucky work.  I got to turn the meat into hamburger011 and vacuum pack everything.  And we found out that chickens and guineas really, really like raw deer meat.  We got fed and so did the animals.  The whole experience made us feel very self-sufficient.  It’s definitely a good feeling!

 

Speaking of self-sufficiency… I finally finished canning all of our pumpkins.  And sweet potatoes.  28 pie pumpkins and 25 pounds of sweet taters.  Kind of killed my pumpkin cravings for now.  I spent 99 cents on each of the pumpkins and was able to get 2 quarts of pumpkin from each one.  I figure a 15 oz can of pumpkin costs almost $2 at the store.  That would be 4 cans of pumpkin for $1.  No BPA in the can linings and I’m guaranteed it’s all pure pumpkin.  It tastes so much better than a store bought can.  Plus we had a ton of pumpkin seeds that we roasted for snacking on and the animals were more than happy to take care of the guts and rinds.  The sweet potatoes were on sale for 17 cents per pound.  I think I got 12 quarts out of them.  It might be easier to pick up a can at the store, but I enjoy being able to can and store food.  Hopefully it will be food that we have grown ourselves next time!

003

We were able to spend some time outside soaking up the sun the past few days.  The chickens came out in the yard to play and forage.  It’s all good!!  I love the farming life!!  The simple little things like watching a chicken scratch in the dirt and come running to you like you are the greatest thing in the world.  I heart chickens!

029

      028

OH, in case you were wondering about the post title.. Lexie asked me what the post was about and I told her deer and canning.  Deer in a can.  She started laughing and begged me to make it my title.  So who am I to say no?  Maybe somebody else will get a little chuckle out of it too!  I didn’t actually put any deer in a can.  I tried, but it just wouldn’t fit!

Getting up to Speed

Whew!!  What a busy couple of months.

Let’s see.  We moved from a small home in a country subdivision to an old farmhouse on 6 acres.  Our only “pets” were 2 ferrets and a house bunny.  Now we have 16 ducks, 13 chickens, 6 guineas, and a Great Pyrenees added to the bunch.  And NO experience.  Lots of good advice from neighbors and plenty of books, but it isn’t the same as actually doing.  It’s kind of ironic that we were looking for a simple way of living; we just wanted simple but here we are doing more now than we ever did!  We were looking to downsize but boy have we upgraded!!  We just didn’t know it at the time.

Anyway, I’m here to fill you in on all of our adventures!  And that’s what life is… one adventure after another.  Not all of them good, but every one a new learning experience.

So, what have we done?  We watched our baby ducks turn into BIG ducks (who knew?!) and the guinea keets get bigger and balder (not so crazy about the bald thing, but you always think your children are beautiful).  The first order of business was to update the chicken coop and expand it a bit.  We were gifted one hen when we moved in (Henrietta, the only chicken with a name) but then after a week (really, one week) of living here, we ended up with a dozen more!  Bring on the eggs, baby!!!  We can so do this!