Country Craziness

Geez!  I just don’t even know where to start.  I suppose if I had been keeping up with this whole blogging thing the whole time that I wouldn’t have this problem!  But, this is me we’re talking about.    So….

I guess the biggest thing is that we are preparing to move.  Not far, actually the next driveway over.  Life is funny the way things work out.  Our landlords finally decided to move back home and we were doing a mad search for another farm so that we wouldn’t lose our animals and this lifestyle that we have grown quite attached to.  Our wonderful neighbors offered us their house that just happens to sit on 200 acres with all kinds of outbuildings and barns with water and electricity for our animals.

Barn and chicken coop on farm

Yes, angels are real.  I won’t get all mushy with details and such but they are truly awesome people that we are blessed to be able to call our friends.  The farm hasn’t had animals on it for around 10 years so there is some serious work to do – all new fencing for the pastures, leaky roofs, stalls, nesting boxes, animal-proofing, yada, yada, yada.  Not to mention the packing, downsizing (the house is half of what we have now so bye-bye shoe collection), and cleaning.  Yikes, the cleaning!  I always thought my house was fairly clean until I started packing things away and uncovered dust bunnies and cobwebs.

To top that off, Nik is away on a farm down in Texas.  A sort of working vacation if you will.  He’s gone for 2 months learning all about animal care and plants from the former personal botanist of Lady Bird Johnson.  Lucky boy, I know.  He’s having all kinds of exciting adventures and making great contacts that he can use in the future.  If you thought he could talk your ear off about seeds and farming before, ya better watch out!  It was really stressful sending him off on a plane by himself halfway across the country.  I keep forgetting that he’s almost 18 and no longer a child.  This summer away is a good step towards him becoming an adult though.

In the midst of getting ready to move we had our first baby goats born!  Thor was born on June 2nd and Athena gave birth to twins 2 days ago.  They are Atlas and Ares.  All males.  Way too much testosterone if you ask me.  But they’re too cute for words.  And thank God for Google.  Why don’t any of the goat books tell you that baby goat poop is going to be a thick yellow pudding for the first week?  I had no clue what-so-ever.

Tennessee Meat goat buckling

Tennessee Meat goat buckling twins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully and regretfully (oxymorons?) we didn’t plant a garden this year.  We weren’t sure when we would be moving and didn’t spend time planting something that we wouldn’t be able to use and enjoy.  So we have a huge wild area that has all kinds of volunteers.

Overgrown garden with volunteers and herbs

And a bunch of beautiful poppies (thank you Nik!).

Poppies in the garden

If you search you’ll be able to find radishes and kale, dill,  lots (seriously LOTS) of chamomile, and a few squash plants.  I even think I’ll be able to see the sunflowers come up before we leave.

Ellie May loves the all-you-can-eat salad buffet that used to be the garden.  Oops.  I don’t think I’ve introduced you yet.  Ellie is our mini potbelly pig.  The one that was guaranteed not to go over 30 pounds.  Dirty breeders.  Or shame on me for not buying one elsewhere.  Anyway, she’s ours and she now weighs a mini 60 pounds.  The vet told me to restrict her food and she wouldn’t grow as large.  I no longer go to that vet.  Ellie also loves to clean up after our guinea keets.  She goes around the brooder and “cleans up” all the food bits that they kick out.

Potbelly pig with guinea keets

We bought a bunch of guineas to help with the ticks around the property.  We used to have 6 but ended up getting rid of them because they attacked our chickens.  Now with a larger property and no more red chickens, hopefully the problems will be over.  We also heard they do better in larger groups.  We have 15.  Keeping our fingers crossed!

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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

Flat Tires and Farm Conferences

Okay.  I know, I know.  It’s been a while and I haven’t been writing like I said I would.  I’ve got a bunch of great excuses (at least to me they’re great) but that’s all they are…  excuses.

If something is truly important to you, you don’t put it last on your list and let everything that comes up get in your way.  It’s called priorities.  And obviously mine are a little skewed.  I’ve always been this way though (yet another excuse).  The house would have to be cleaned, laundry done, bills in order, yada, yada, yada before I’d consider “me” time.  Not today.  Go play little dust bunnies, I have better things to do!

We’ve had a few vehicle fiascos lately.  Luckily at least one truck was running while the other was down.  I think we had a truck down for at least  a week or two.  Stupid sensors go out and your truck quits running.  You have to pay for a computer to tell you what’s wrong.  Gone are the days when you could fix the truck yourself.  Not that I personally ever worked on a truck, but you get my point.  Todd could fix all our old vehicles, but these newer models you need a college education to repair them.  Or that handy dandy computer.  Front ends start shaking and tie-rods and struts need replaced.  Exhausts are due to be replaced.  Does it ever end?  I love the fact that at least one of our trucks is paid off, but it’s starting to get a little old and needing some TLC.  Then one night you are shopping and go out to see your truck leaning heavily to one side.

Flat rear tireFlat front tire     

You have not one, but two flat tires!!!  Not to mention a trunk load full of groceries.  But on the bright side, it was during that polar vortex so the temps were in the negatives.  No chance of thawed ice cream!  So almost a month after we replaced all the tires, we had to replace two of them again.  Argh.

On a brighter note, we attended the OEFFA conference in Granville this year.  Lots of different classes to choose from, lots of networking opportunities, and all kinds of farm stuff. 

OEFFA entry

I was the lucky one who got to attend all the “business” side of stuff workshops.  Agricultural easements, diversification and success of your farm business, marketing your farm, and federal farming programs.  I learned a few things that may help us out.  Nik hung out with me on the second day and attended the federal farming program with me.  It was hosted by Kathleen Merrigan who served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 to 2013.  She was named as one of Time magazines “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010.  While we were in the class, there was a heckler!  At a farming convention, really?  But it made for a little bit of excitement and we both got a laugh out of it.

USDA conference 

Nik was in charge of attending the workshops focused on food production.  He said that he pretty much knew all that the instructors had covered so he figured he’d take my classes with me because that was stuff he didn’t know!  This kid knows his seeds and plants.  Ask him a question, I dare you.  That’s why we’re leaving him in charge of the garden.  It’s in good hands.  But we still have to help with weeding and harvesting.  Although we have to be careful because he’s got it all planned out so that he can save seeds to exchange with other seed savers, preserve some heirlooms, and to create his own seed lines.  Guess that could be a whole story on its own!

Todd and Lexie attended the “fun” classes about heritage poultry and a sustainable flock.  Okay, maybe it was serious business, but anytime you’re dealing with animals, it’s fun!

Todd and Lexie at OEFFA

And of course one of the best things about conventions is the exhibit hall!  All kinds of information, farming books (yes, I’m a non-fiction/documentary geek), t-shirts, tools, food samples, livestock products, and seeds.  You know where Nik was.  Hanging out at the seed booth.  Those ladies were ecstatic to see him coming.  I think he almost bought them out!

OEFFA Exhibition Building

Lexie got to meet Jim Adkins, who started the Sustainable Poultry Network and knows Dave Holderread of Holderread Waterfowl Conservation and Preservation Center in Oregon.  Dave is her hero and she wants to raise poultry like he does when she is out on her own.  But since meeting Jim, she says she’d be good going around and talking to people about preserving the heritage breeds of poultry and being a poultry judge too.  She’s going to be a busy girl! 

Both of my kids are pursuing their dreams.  Makes a momma proud!!!  I guess we are really lucky because all of our dreams seem to tie together.  Which is wonderful for our little family farm!♥♥♥

It’s gonna be a great year….!

Okay, now that I’ve finally come out of hibernation… !  Not really.  Wish I could say that was true, but I’ve actually been very busy.  The good kind of busy.  The kind of busy that lets you know that you’re alive and good things will come of it.  I recently re-entered the work force after a dozen years of being stay-at-home mom.  Part-time, but it still gets me out of the house and feeling like I’m a real person again.  Yay!  So I’ve been working on finding my footing, trying to balance all the things I did before with working a “real” job.  I’m sooo not going there today!

Is it too late to talk about New Years Resolutions and such?  Nope.  This is my blog and I can talk about whatever I want to.  It’s all about me.  Me, Me, Me!!!  If you don’t like it, don’t read it!

Ha! Ha! HA! (my version of an evil laugh)  Where are my minions?!

Ahem!  Now, that I’ve had my little fit…

This year is going to be a great year.  Really!  We are in for a lot of changes.  Good changes.  When we first moved here we weren’t really sure what we were doing and not sure of the path that we were on.  We had a good idea of where we wanted to be.  A year and a half later, we get it.  Really get it.  We moved here taking things as they came along and not planning too far ahead.  We’d had a few setbacks and were a little gun-shy.   We leased this farm for 2 years (which seemed like ages back then!) and were hoping to buy it and make it our home.  We were meant to take a different route.  By September we will have to move again.  I really, really hate moving!  But that’s okay.  Because we are going to find our forever farm.  None of us can imagine life without animals, a large garden, or any of the things a farm has.  Farming is what we were meant to do.  Now that we know this, we know what to do.  Kind of… the path to getting there might be a little tricky, but that’s okay.  Life is an adventure and if you’re bored, you’re not really living.  So, our time has become consumed with researching how to make a living off of a farm.  Todd would love to be able to be a stay-at-home farmer.  Someday.  Both of the kids want to have farms when they grow up (which isn’t far off).  And I want to have my goats, ducks, geese, chickens, and fresh garden goodies.  They say the best job is to get paid doing what you love.  So this year we make it happen!

So that’s kind of the direction that this blog will lean to.  The path to becoming farmers.  But that will still include things like lots of recipes (I hear farmers are really great cooks!), crafty projects like making soap, knitting, quilting (still working on my first quilt Grammy!), health tidbits (one of the reasons we want to grow our own food is to avoid GMO’s and all the bad things they fill up our food with these days – your body only functions as good as the fuel that you put into it), special diet recipes (gluten free, sugar free, corn free, soy free), animal care, and the list goes on.  I love learning and I can’t narrow this blog down to just one topic.  And I certainly don’t have the time to write more than one blog!  So this is just about life as an up and coming farmer.  The good and the bad.  Hopefully more good than bad!

From time to time I’ll pass on the blogging to one of the others (Todd, Nik, or Lexie) and let them tell you things from their perspective.  That should be interesting!!!  I’m really really really going to try to post on a more consistent basis – maybe once or twice a week.  Crud.  Just by posting that it makes me have to do it.  Don’t want to be that person who says one thing and does another.  Must be responsible and reliable!  Set a good example!

Thank you for letting me vent, preach, or whatever you want to call it!  I am stoked, excited, anxious, and all kinds of other adjectives for this year and what it will bring to our family.  And if you want, I’d like to invite you to come along.  Farmers are big on community.  That’s another reason to farm, meeting all kinds of great people with similar interests and cares.  I’ll try to keep the rants to a minimum but I’m making no promises.  I am what I am and that’s all I can be.  Was it Popeye that said that?

Mom&Lexie

Here’s to a fantabulous 2014 and a having a sense of humor!  A little humor is necessary to get through the struggles of life.  That’s a word of wisdom from someone who used to take life waaay too seriously! 

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins and a Batch of Really Bad Beans

Well, the holidays are in full swing now.  I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!  Ours wasn’t too bad.  Except for that about every dish I made turned out grubby!  Really, holidays are not the time to try out new recipes that you’ve never made before!  Luckily it was just the four of us and I didn’t embarrass myself in front of lots of family.  I tried to make homemade baked beans.  I figured I’d get creative and combine 2 different recipes that I had.  The first was for plain ol’ homemade baked beans, the second was for a four bean medley that calls for a big can of baked beans.  How can you possibly mess that up?  Leave it to me.  Not even Nik would eat those beans.  This kid eats EVERYTHING!!!  That was my first clue as to how bad they were.  At least we got some laughs out of it.  I took all the leftovers out for the chickens and ducks. They’re still out there.  Composting.  Chickens won’t touch them.  Ouch!

We also skipped the turkey and roasted a goose.  I’m sorry, but Thanksgiving needs turkey!  The goose wasn’t bad, just not the same.  The rice stuffing was a tad too wet or juicy or whatever you want to call it.  Sweet potato casserole is a no-fail dish so I was spared with that one!  So our feast was a semi-dud but at least we were together and everyone was happy and thankful and healthy!

Sorry, I had to break away and chase the chickens and ducks away from the road.  Trouble makers – the whole lot of them!! The weather is warm (for December anyway) and we let them out to forage for grass and any other goodies they can find.  I wish you could hear them chattering because they are so happy!  There’s a group of Pekins right outside my window making all kinds of happy racket!

I thought I would share a pumpkin recipe with you.  Since I have all this pumpkin to play with.  Don’t worry – this one has been tested and tried many times and it’s a keeper!  Trust me – if you make it and don’t like it, just ship it off to me and I’ll eat it.  No questions asked.

Here is a link to the original recipe.  I made it gluten free so that we could all enjoy it.  And I don’t bother with all that “bowl for wet, bowl for dry” stuff either.  I make things simple – the less dirty dishes, the better!  Dump it all in and mix it up.  They still turn out delicious!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tsp guar gum
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine wet ingredients in large bowl, mixing well.  Add dry ingredients, mixing well.  Fold in pecans.  Fill muffin cups three-fourths full.  Make topping in same bowl.

Crumble Topping

  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

Combine sugar, pecans, and flour.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes before serving.  This will make 12 or 13 regular sized muffins or 6 jumbo.

 

So, anybody have any good recipes for homemade baked beans that are tomato free and low in sugar?  I know, what are baked beans without all the “good stuff” added?  Help!

Annual Pumpkin Canning Fiasco

We finished canning our pumpkin harvest just in time for “everything has to be pumpkin flavored” season.  Actually, we eat pumpkin all year long.  Why should I only enjoy it during the fall and winter months?  I make sure to have plenty stocked up so that we can nosh on pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bars… you get the idea!.. all year long!

Last year we bought all of our pie pumpkins from a local market.  This year we grew all but 10 of the pie pumpkins.  We canned 42 pumpkins and only spent $15.00.  Woohoo!  We’ll be eating extra pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin lattes.. I can go on but I’ll spare you this time!  By growing our own, we know that we’re using heirloom seeds and growing these babies without any pesticides, insecticides, or any other “cides” that aren’t good for us.

Washed Sugar Pie Pumpkins

The first thing you do is wash your pumpkins really well.  You don’t want any dirt or grubbies getting into your hot liquid or pumpkin.

Clean out seeds from pie pumpkin

Cut your pumpkins in half with a sharp knife (cleaver, axe, whatever works – just be careful!) and clean out the seeds.  Save the seeds in a bowl to roast for later.

Cut Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesChop the pumpkin into manageable pieces. 

Boil Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesBoil the cut pieces in water for about 20 minutes until pumpkin is tender but not mushy.  It will be easier to peel the pumpkin rind.

Pumpkin LiquidRemove the pumpkin pieces and allow to cool a bit.  Save the water that you boiled your pumpkin in, you will use this as your “juice” for the canning.  I figure that it’s better than plain water, any of your vitamins and minerals that get cooked out from the pumpkin will be in this water.

Cooked Pumpkin PiecesWhen pieces are cool to the touch, remove the rind, and cut into cubes.  There’s all kinds of warnings about how you should never can pureed pumpkin, it should always be canned in cubes.  You can read what the National Center for Home Food Preservation has to say about it here.  They are funded by the USDA.  I feel much safer now.  (Can you feel the sarcasm?)  Wonder how anybody survived years ago?  I follow their advice for the most part.  Sometimes my pumpkin is a little “mushy” and the cubes fall apart and I really like to stuff that pumpkin in those jars.  Sort of like puree but I’ve never had a problem with any of my pumpkin.  Except for that one time that…. Just kidding!  The pumpkin turns out all good even if it is a little pureed.  Libby’s purees their pumpkin and expects everybody to eat it.  Maybe they don’t like the competition.  Just saying.

Pumpkin in Canning Jars

Fill hot, clean jars with your pumpkin cubes.

Hot liquid in Pumpkin JarsTake your hot pumpkin liquid and fill the jar almost to the top.

Air Bubbles in pumpkin canning jars

Slide a knife or plastic spatula along the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles that may be hiding out in there.  Bubbles not good.

Headspace for pumpkin canningCheck to make sure that you leave 1 inch of headspace in your jars.  You need to leave this room due to expansion of the pumpkin while it is being pressure cooked.  Trust me, I’ve made this mistake before.  All your pumpkin juice from inside the jar makes its way out into the pressure cooker and you’ll get a little bit of dry pumpkin.  Leave the headspace.

Clean Jar rim before pressure cooking Wipe off the rim of the jar to remove any sticky liquid or pumpkin chunks that could interfere with getting a good seal on the lid.

Tighten lid on canning jarTighten the lid onto the canning jar (careful – it will be hot!)

Jars in Pressure CookerPlace a maximum of 7 quarts into your pressure cooker.  You have to use a pressure cooker, not a hot water bath canner.  The pumpkin doesn’t have enough acid in it to kill any little critters that might be in there.  Follow your directions for your pressure cooker.  Make sure that you check the vents to make sure they are clear (tee hee!  Chicken humor – check your vent!  I know, my joke was wearing thin on Lexie too.  She had to hear it every time I started a new batch.  Can’t take me anywhere.)

Process quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure and pints for 55 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  You can fit 10 pints into the canner.  This is the long part.  Waiting for the canner to achieve correct pressure and then waiting and hoping nothing goes wrong.  I’ve heard pressure cookers can be quite dangerous.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Since you have to stay close to your pressure cooker to keep an eye on it, might as well roast all those pumpkin seeds!  I just mix a little sunflower oil and sea salt and pop them into the oven at 250 degrees for about half an hour.  I think we got 2 gallon size bags of pumpkin seeds this year.  Pretty sure they won’t last too long.

Canned Pumpkin Quarts Now you have pumpkin to use for all those yummy treats all year long.  When you open a jar, drain out the water and mush the pumpkin up with a spoon.  Pumpkin puree!  We did pretty good this year.  There are 50 quarts and 27 pints in the pantry.  And it only cost us $15.00!  Hmm.  That would be about 19 cents a jar.  Plus I had a bowl of pumpkin that I just didn’t feel like canning anymore so we ate pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, … yeah, yeah, you get the idea!

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

Ducks and Noodles

Whenever Todd introduces himself to someone  he refers to himself as a “duck farmer”.  Sometimes we get curious looks as to how you can actually “farm” ducks.  I believe it’s an accurate description and one that I’ve taken to using also.  We love ducks.  We’ve grown our flock to over 100.  See, we “grow” our ducks to use for food.  Either by eating eggs from the ducks or the duck itself.  I wish I could say it is an economical alternative, but I’m not sure yet.  We put a lot of our time into the ducks.  And depending on which breed of duck we’re talking about, lots of feed.  Pekin ducks are dependent on you for finding the majority of their food.  Muscovy ducks, on the other hand, are great foragers and they supplement their diet with feed.  All of the ducks look forward to their treats of whole corn and scratch.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

Pekin Duck

Pekin Duck

We’ve been busy “harvesting” ducks for the past month or two.  On my last count we were down to 8 Pekins and … okay, I don’t actually know how many Muscovies are left!  We’re trying to decide how many we want to keep over the winter.  I’m pretty sure we will reduce the Pekins down to 2.  I love the temperament of them, but they eat a lot.  The only reason I want to keep 2 is because the one hen is the “sister” of our hand hatched goose baby (I don’t want him/her to be lonely) and the other is Lexie’s favorite 4H hen, Elizabeth.  We have quite a few Muscovy ducks that we have named and want to keep to breed.  We know we will keep only one drake.

Our harvesting window is slowly closing.  Nobody wants to be slaughtering ducks in the freezing cold.  Heck, nobody wants to slaughter ducks at all!  We’ve been culling around 6 ducks each week.  It’s a family affair.  We all know what our jobs are and we work in a production line.  Warning:  some content may not be suitable for children or those with weak stomachs.  Read at your own discretion.  Lexie and I choose the ducks that are to be slaughtered and deliver them to the boys.  The boys get the awesome job of axing heads.  Okay, I know it’s not awesome – it’s gory, bloody, messy, and downright sucks.  But you suck it up and do what you have to do.  I don’t even cry anymore – I’m a big girl now!  The ducks are hung in a tree to bleed out.  We all start plucking down.  There’s a 55 gallon drum that is full of down and someday we’ll find a use for it.  Lexie and I also choose feathers that are pretty and interesting to save for making earrings with.  The boys finish off plucking feathers and gutting the ducks.  Everything is done by hand.  After the ducks are cleaned and prepped, they are put into the refrigerator for 3 days to “relax”.  When ducks are slaughtered they get stressed and the muscles all tense up.  Letting them set allows the muscles to relax and the meat to be more tender.  At the end of 3 days I do a final cleaning of the ducks and vacuum pack them for the freezer.  We are fortunate, this winter our freezer will be full!  OH, a farmers weather prediction:  the ducks have been packing on insane amounts of fat this year.  And it’s still early.  More fat means colder temps.  Ugh.

Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy Dinner, I mean ducks.

Around here, we eat duck 3 or 4 times a week.  We eat duck like most people eat McDonald’s.  One of our favorite ways to eat it is Duck with Noodles.  Reminds me of those Bertolli frozen meals that I used to eat way back when.  When we weren’t gluten free and worried about what was in the food we were eating.

Duck with Noodles

  • 1 duck
  • spaghetti or fettucini noodles (I use Tinkyada brand gluten-free spaghetti noodles – made with brown rice only!)
  • olive or sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 oz sliced mushrooms
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • Bragg’s nutritional yeast
  • basil or oregano, to taste

Place duck in turkey roaster.  Sprinkle with choice of herbs, salt, and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.  Remove and let cool.  Prepare noodles according to package directions.  While noodles are cooking, saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms in large frying pan until browned.  Place onion mixture in large bowl.  Drain noodles and place in frying pan with a little bit of oil, spices, and nutritional yeast.  Slightly brown or “fry”.  Remove from skillet and add to onion mixture.  When duck has cooled, remove meat from  bones and shred into the noodles and onions.  Sprinkle with spices and additional nutritional yeast.  Mix well. Our family of 4 can get 2 meals out of this.

Duck with noodles

Duck with noodles

The whole meal, hands on, doesn’t take long.  Once the duck is roasted, everything else comes together within 30 minutes.  Which is why it’s one of our favorite go-to meals.  Serve with a side of veggies, some homemade applesauce, and you’re good to go!

Duck with noodles and broccoli

Duck with noodles and broccoli

Farmers do eat well!  We feel really good when we sit down to eat, knowing that we put work into what’s on our plate and that we are capable of providing for ourselves.  It makes you appreciate your food, and a side of appreciation makes anything taste even better!

Pheasant with Homemade Crockpot Applesauce

I love this time of the year.  All the preparations for winter, a myriad of colors, a crispness in the air… and canning.

Fresh garden beets for canning

Beets from our garden

We harvested the remaining beets, tomatillos, and carrots from the garden.  The carrots were juiced for us and the leftovers were fed to Buster Bunny.  Tomatillos were made into salsa verde, which we all agreed wasn’t as good as our friend Dave made it.  I’ll work on it for next year, and maybe steal his recipe.

The beets were washed, boiled, peeled, and cubed in preparation for canning.  They would have to wait until canning day.

We took a day and went to visit my parents.  While we were in the area, we stopped at our favorite apple orchard and loaded up on apples.  We bought 4 overfilled brown paper bags of #2 apples.  These are apples that have fallen off the tree or that have a bruise or other minor flaw.  Perfect for homemade applesauce.  We bought a mixture of Gala, Macintosh, and Jonathon.  And a big bag of Honey Crisp just for munching on.

Peeled apples for applesauce

Large bin full of peeled apples

Super Easy Sugar-Free Crockpot Applesauce

  • peeled, cored, and chopped apples (enough to almost fill your crockpot)
  • lots of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • water
Homemade crockpot applesauce

Crockpots full of homemade applesauce

Put everything in your crockpot, add a little water, and let cook on low for about 6 hours.  Or turn it to high for 4 hours.  You can add more water depending on how thick you like your applesauce.  You can also add a few more apples halfway through so that you get some apple chunks (if you like it chunky) in your applesauce.

Applesauce should be canned using the boiling water method.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace in your jars and process quarts or pints for 20 minutes.

I spent the next day canning beets in the pressure cooker and applesauce in the boiling water canner.  We made 8 batches of applesauce over a 3 day period.  My kitchen smelled like apple pie.  It was also quite messy!

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

I now have 35 quarts of beets and 27 quarts of applesauce.  That doesn’t include the beets and applesauce that we’ve already eaten.  It’s looking to be a good year for canning!  I love the feeling I get from having a well-stocked pantry.

We had a surprise in the poultry pasture.  Nik was collecting eggs and came running back to the house.  I was sure something had happened to one of our ducks.  Instead, we saw this guy standing there…

Pheasant

Pheasant

Not what I expected with the ducks, geese, and chickens!  Nik and I herded him into a corner and he flew out.  I think he probably stopped by for a snack and wasn’t sure which way to go to get out.  Luckily for him, it wasn’t pheasant season!

To top off our day, we were treated with a beautiful sunset.  It makes me think of that old sailor saying:

Red at night, sailor’s delight

Red in morn, sailor’s take warn.

Colorful Sunset

Colorful Sunset

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!