Great Hatch

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

It’s chicken time again. The current flock of birds we have, have not been good birds, they have been egg eaters, not great layers, and they’re not pretty either. I’ve been fighting with these birds ever since we bought the first batch of Black Australorps. If your memory is good, then you might remember that these birds had a cannibalism problem when they were young. So I butchered all the

males, well maybe butchered isn’t the right word, but I got rid of all the males. But the problems with these birds never really stopped. The whole time I’ve had them, they’ve been anti-human. One of those things where you walk into the chicken house and they run like terrorized animals upsetting everybody. In six months, all of the adult birds I have right now will be gone. I use the 6, 12, 18 month rule, and a couple of days back I hatched a batch of baby birds. In about six months, let’s say Christmas, they will start laying. That’s when the adult birds will go in the canner. Then six months later, I will hatch a batch of birds, which will be one year from the time these were born, which was about two days ago, and the cycle continues. When the birds hatched two days ago are one year old, I will hatch their replacements which will start laying in six months, making the birds born two days ago 18 months old. Wa-la! 6, 12, 18 months.

These birds I just hatched got off to an unusual start. I was starting to gather eggs for this hatch, and put them in the little cardboard cartons, then tilt one end up and down. Kind of the poor man’s version of an egg turner. So, I got out one of my egg turners and started using it, just not inside the incubator. A couple of days before I was going to start the eggs

in the incubator, I got out one of the old ones and set it up to try it out. Well, the fan didn’t work. I tried cleaning it, blowing it out, even put some 3-In-One oil on it’s little plastic bearing. Well, it was determined to die, and it did. But, last year I had an incubator, same style, that the heating element went out. No big deal, just take the motor out of it. Well that motor had a missing screw, and at that particular time we were extremely busy. Then I got out my brand spanking new third incubator. I told you about it a while back, it operates off of 12 volts DC. I put the two old incubators back in their boxes, marked on the boxes what was wrong, and maybe someday during the cold of winter I’ll dig those two things out and try to make me one happy incubator. Maybe.

Okay. New incubator, 12 volts DC, new turner, 12 volts AC. Make sure you read the small print. I plugged in the turner and incubator separately to

make sure they both worked. The egg turner did what it’s supposed to do, and so did the incubator. Life is great. I put my brand spanking new turner inside the brand spanking new incubator, filled up the water trough, put the eggs in the turner and set my clock for 21 days. Being the good chicken hatcher I am, I checked the temperature meticulously every time I passed the incubator. This is one of those new fangled type of incubators, electronic. You set the temperature and it does everything else. Well, actually, the temperature was preset, but you can adjust the temperature if your conditions vary. Life’s good.

Three or four days later I notice that eggs are in the same position every time I check the temperature. So, I started checking not just the

temperature, but the egg turner position. Guess what? The turner is not turning. We opened up the incubator, took the turner and eggs out, put the eggs back in the incubator and observed the turner for a couple of days. The turner turned it’s little heart out. Put the turner back in the incubator with the eggs in the turner, watched it again for another day, and you’re right, it’s not turning the eggs. The turner is not a complicated little gizmo. I checked all of the logical reasons why it wouldn’t turn. It wasn’t crimped anywhere. There was nothing blocking it’s movement in any form or fashion. It just wouldn’t turn with eggs in it. Out comes the turner again, the eggs go in the incubator, and we do it the old fashioned way. Took a pencil and marked an ‘x’ on one side of the egg and a ‘0’ on the other. We started turning the eggs by hand.

The problem is we had gone for about seven days not knowing if the eggs had ever been turned. We talked about it. Do we just abandon the 42 eggs we have in there and start over? Or do we let them go for another two weeks and see what we get? We decided to go ahead and let them finish their cycle. We knew that we might get a terrible hatch rate, or deformities, or both. 

The big day comes. Well, actually, the big day came one day early. We heard a cheeping sound, looked in the incubator, and guess what? We had

what would appear to be a nice, healthy, little Buff Orpington. That was Friday morning. Before Saturday morning we had 34 healthy, vigorous baby chicks. That means we only had eight that didn’t hatch. This is the best hatch rate we have had since we have lived here for seven years. They are probably the healthiest birds we have ever hatched. We did all the usual things. We quit turning the eggs three days before the scheduled hatch. We only removed the baby birds from the incubator about twice a day. You don’t want to let out too much of the moisture or heat, you can chill some of the birds that are still wet. But at the same time, we also removed the empty egg shells.

There is a sad part to this story also. Of the eight that didn’t hatch, three had large peck holes, and you could hear cheeping and see movement. It’s real tempting to help these birds out of their shells, and I know some people do. But it’s just not a recommended practice. I took the eggs that didn’t hatch, put them in a plastic bag and put them in the trash. The next morning I took them to the trash dumpsters. I know some will disagree with that. I’ll leave it at that.

Now we have the 34 healthy baby chicks in their temporary brooder, which was very temporary. Baby chickens put off a very fine dust that plugs my head like a stopper. This morning I had a smashing migraine. So the baby chicks are now in their permanent quarters in a secure section of the chicken house. They have heat, they have shelter, food and water. These 34 birds will be part of our replacement flock. We have started gathering eggs for the next hatch, and will probably start them on Wednesday. Three weeks from then, hopefully, we will have another good hatch. This should round out all of the female birds that we will need, and give us another large batch of males to process for the freezer and canner. If we want more meat, then we’ll do one more batch in the incubator for just meat. That’s the plan anyway.

Here in about 10 weeks, we’ll be butchering some friers, and we’ll let you know how things go. I almost forgot something. Last July I had lower back surgery. The surgery went fine and I’m doing well, but I will never in my life tote another 50 lb. bag of chicken feed again. For years we have always mixed our own chicken feed, ingredients were rolled oats, sunflower seeds, sweet feed, and a portion of laying pellets. Those days are over. We have gone to a standard laying pellet that has been formulated by chicken gurus, and this is what our adult chickens will be eating in the future. We do supplement their food daily with greens and other forms of herbs that come from the garden, along with whey from our cheese making. Someday, we will let the birds free range again, but not just yet. 

Sometimes you have to streamline life a little bit. One example, as just mentioned, is going to a standard chicken feed. But we’re also doing the same thing with all of the livestock. The day’s of mixing 500 lbs. of feed are over. Sometimes we just have to accept certain facts of life. But the good news is that I have 34 healthy, baby chicks. For this, I am truly thankful.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

Homestead News, Volume 3

Even with historic rainfall, it seems we have managed to stay busy on our homestead. There are a number of projects that are either ongoing, getting started or waiting in the wings for next week to arrive. Here is a rundown of some of our recent events.

 

Frank has wanted to put another layer of gravel on the road going up to the barn. We had this road constructed when we bought our place, but it was time to increase the gravel depth and width. This should do for this road for years to come.

 

We also wanted a load of gravel placed in the backyard so Frank could spread it out in our parking areas and in a number of other places. Unfortunately, the dump truck got stuck before it could make it down the hill. This necessitated dumping the gravel by the chicken house, which means Frank will have to make many, many trips up and down this hill to place the gravel in the desired place.

The dewberries are ripening, so my friend Grace came over today and between rain showers, we picked a few berries. I hope to pick many more in the next few days. By the way, yesterday and last night we got another 1.4″ of rain, and then today we got another 0.4″. But! This is supposed to be the end of it. There is no rain in the near forecast. Hallelujah!

We have had some issues with the egg turner in our incubator this year and were afraid we would have a very poor hatch rate. Today, the day before our actual hatch date, we already have eleven, no make that sixteen, new baby chicks. We were surprised and pleased with this development. Frank will fill you in on the details in an upcoming chicken story.

Our house was built in 1983 on a stem wall with floor joists. Over time it has settled in the middle and needed to be jacked up and leveled. It was hard to find someone to do this kind of work, but today two of our friends arrived and began this project. After this job is completed, they will be helping us replace some of our 30 year old carpet with new flooring. We are really looking forward to that.

Next week the window company will be here to replace our windows. Many of them are clouded over on the inside, and one on the north side lets the cold air in if it is very windy. This is another project that has been on the drawing board for awhile.

The pigs are growing, and will be given more room sometime in the coming week when we let them out into the larger pig pen. First we need to add a few stock panels up against the barn. The last set of pigs really rooted out a lot of dirt under the edge of the slab the barn is sitting on. We don’t want to allow any more of this dirt to be removed. All of the pigs are becoming tame enough to pat and scratch while they are eating, and occasionally when they are not. They greet me each time they see me, especially if I have a bucket in my hand. 

Easter on top, Bo in the house

Tomorrow our last two kids will be separated from their mothers for weaning. Easter, our Easter Sunday doe, and Bo, our little bowlegged wether will be joining the adult wethers, the teenage wethers, and the billy goat. The teenage wethers and Patch, another young doe, have been separated from their mothers for eight weeks now. One Stripe is Patch’s mom, and she is no longer being milked, so Patch will be rejoining the doe herd tomorrow. I will be glad to have her back with the ‘girls’ so I can give her more attention. She is already a very sweet, tame doe and I look forward to adding her to the milking line up next year.
 

Patch


Tomorrow morning Faith, our friend that bought Penny to milk, is coming over for a cheese making lesson. We will be discussing how to make soft cheese and making a batch of mozzarella. Faith has been reading a lot, but learns best by watching and taking notes. She is just beginning to put together a list of needed equipment and ingredients. We will have a fun time talking goats, milk and cheese.

The garden is growing despite all of the rain. The zinnias we planted in and around some of the vegetables are starting to bloom. And they are beautiful. 

It seems we are busier than ever, with much to do on our plates. Once the few projects I mentioned are complete there are about a half dozen more waiting to be started right behind them. We’ll let you know what they are and how they go. Life on a homestead always gives you many things to do. Some planned. Some not. Either way, you learn, you work, you live. It’s a good life.

Until next time – Fern

Life’s Little Trials

There are times recently that we feel like we’ve been given the chance to practice the future. The future that doesn’t contain all of the wonderful modern conveniences we have grown so fond of and in some cases, dependent upon. There are skills we can practice now, some by choice and some by circumstance, that may increase our success and comfort when the chips are down for good. Here are just a few things we have had the opportunity to experience in the last few weeks and days.

  • How to garden with too much water

 

 

       

      • Preparing to have the water shut off due to flooding or contamination of the public water supply (this ended up being rumor, but was good mental practice) 

       

        • Power outage involving a fire at a regional substation (found out a transformer blew; odd it didn’t happen during one of the major tornadic thunderstorms we had on Monday, it happened in calm weather; we found this strange)

        • The main ham radio repeater in our area was down due to a power outage. A generator that was donated to the radio club has not been installed, and there is limited battery backup to keep the repeater operational. This repeater is the main source of communication for our regional storm spotter and emergency communications hub.

        So, what does all of this teach us? Many, many things, which is good. Let’s start with the garden. We have had historic, record breaking rainfall amounts in this area for the month of May, with this came muddy soil conditions for planting which is far from ideal. A few years back we were in serious drought conditions and when we tilled the garden it was in a cloud of dust, literally. This year, it was really too muddy one time, but we knew our window of opportunity was very narrow, so we took it, and now, I’m glad we did. There are still folks waiting to plant or replant their gardens, and what they did get planted may or may not make it.

        Yesterday, in the beautiful, rare sunshine, we noticed a few of the squash plants were wilting, which immediately made us think of squash vine borers. We have applied two batches of green lacewing eggs and nematodes in hopes of combating the vine borers, among other insects, so we were very disappointed. But upon inspection, we could find no damage from vine borers, so we pulled one small squash plant. The only conclusion we could come to was that it rotted in the ground from all of the rain.

        Slugs. The slugs are proliferating at a phenomenal rate in all this moisture, and eating everything. We are in search of some iron phosphate which is supposed to be deadly for slugs. We are now finding tiny little new slugs everywhere. We have been putting out eggshells and coffee grounds, caffeine is supposed to be fatal to slugs as well, when we have them. We could also apply diatomaceous earth, but with daily rain, it would just wash away again and again. If we get a few days without rain, we will apply it everywhere. The cabbage worms have also showed up in mass, even with the lacewing applications. It has been a tough year for gardening.

        Along with our record rainfall this month there have been a number of days that we spent in very, very stormy weather with too many tornado warnings for comfort. We’ve had neighbors that have been flooded in for days, remember we live in hill country. There are some houses that when you have a heavy rain, you just can’t get out. As of May 20th, we had record rain for the month of May and it has been forecast everyday until the end of the month. Most of the folks we know that have been rained in, or conversely rained out, are doing fine, but not everybody has been so fortunate. We have lost a few rescue workers, and that’s really tough on a community. We’ve had people’s houses washed down rivers, thousands of acres of pasture land and cattle ranches are under water. There are still a handful of people that are unaccounted for. These are just some of the tragic stories. 

        As mentioned earlier, our local ham radio repeater, and every antenna tower on top of a mountain was without power for about two days. Most of the commercial towers had reliable backup power. Somebody made an intelligent decision to shut the repeater down. The reason being, it is the primary radio communications system involving severe weather, and since we have severe weather forecast almost daily, it can be turned back on if needed for severe weather use.


        Other types of communication needs. We were told by a reliable source that our local water treatment plant had been compromised with flood water. Then we started hearing the same thing, via the rumor mill, from multiple sources. The fact is, it never happened. We contacted our local water distributor the next day and they told us to listen to the local country stations for any announcements. Well, we don’t get AM radio where we live, and our main local little town, which is 25 miles away, had a 12 hour power failure. So, how are we supposed to know? 

        Next, we had a power failure in our area. As a general rule, during the worst weather, we seldom lose power, but it does happen. We called a couple of nearby neighbors. No power. We called some neighbors five miles down the road. No power. We called some friends 10 miles away. Get the picture here? This was not just a little power outage, the entire area was black. So, here come the rumors. The good news is, we could get rumors. The bad news is, they were also false. There was a fire at a local transfer station, not sure how it happened, it was not a hot day, there was no bad weather in the area. But we didn’t have a way to communicate, not effectively anyway.


        Before it got dark, we went around and gathered up lanterns. Fortunately, the day before I had charged up the rechargeable batteries and lanterns. By the way, all of our lanterns are battery operated. But the reason they were all charged is because the day before, on Memorial Day, we had four separate tornado warnings one right behind the other in our little neighborhood. Thank the Lord this happened during the daylight hours. But, all of our batteries were charged. 

        We have some interesting pictures for you, of some of our local flooding. This is the highest I have ever seen the water in this area. If it’s a low lying spot, it’s got water sitting in it.


        So, that’s what we’ve been dealing with for the last week. But the whole month has been a down pour almost everyday. We’ve learned a lot. Sometimes people can get a little edgy when they don’t get enough sunlight. In the northern climates they have a condition called SAD, seasonal affective disorder. When we lived in Barrow, Alaska they used a special type of fluorescent tube in the classrooms that provided kids and adults with a broader spectrum of light. We also had a special light in our home, for some people it worked and for some it didn’t. But there’s been a lot of folks in this area that have been a tad bit edgy lately. I guess that lack of natural vitamin D will do that to some folks. 

        We have some eggs in an incubator right now and they’re about four days away from hatching. We’ve had some incubator issues lately, which I’ll discuss more in a chicken post in a couple of days. But when you have eggs in an incubator, and your power goes off, you better act quickly. In this case we grabbed a bunch of blankets, wrapped up the incubator, and hoped for the best. Our power was only off for three or four hours, but if it had been like the little town close to us and it was off for about 12 hours, then that would have been a different story. More on that later.

        And to add to it, we went up to take a peek at how the livestock were doing, and discovered that the pigs were out. At first it was a serious concern, but like most animals that you feed, with a small can of feed, you can easily coax them where you want them to go. That was a great learning experience.


        Part of what we’re talking about here is how you deal with things. When life is great, and everything is going along well, then it’s easy to deal with life. But we all know it’s not like that everyday. We didn’t lose any animals to flooding. Nobody got hurt. Our chicken pen is in sad shape, but someday it will dry. Overall, we are doing pretty good. It’s easy to deal with things. But the last few days have been excellent practice. Today the power is back on, we don’t have any real issues with our drinking water, the stores are still open, my retirement checks are still coming to the bank, and the shelves are still full of items that people need and don’t need. But tomorrow that could all change. One of us could slip and break a leg. We still have severe weather just a hundred miles west of us and it’s got to go somewhere. So, take advantage of the good days, because someday, maybe someday soon, the days are not going to be good. Practice today while you can. Learn your weaknesses and your limitations. And if you’re of this persuasion, then thank God for what you have.

        We’ll talk more later, Frank

        Pictorial & Ponderings

        While we were visiting a 91 year old relative the other day, he made a comment that stuck with me. He is having some health issues that may end up being significant before long, but his take on the state of our country and our world was interesting to me, to say the least. 

        I don’t remember what we were talking about at the time but he said he just didn’t know if he wanted to stick around in this world too much longer. Considering the state of his health, that comment is not too unusual, but it was the reasons he gave that caught my attention. He talked about the rioting, our open borders and the unconstitutional state of our government. He said, “There is just no telling how all of this is going to turn out and I don’t know if I want to be here to see it.” It does make you stop and think.

        Carrots and green beans

        The mustard I planted last fall is blooming. I hope it spreads.

        With all of the rain we have been having there are many wild things on the move. We’ve seen many more snakes on the roads and have heard of people finding them on their porches. The bugs are trying to move indoors and find a dry place to be. The mice are trying to follow them in as well. Since the cats can’t find a dry place out in mother nature to use as a litter box, they’ve decided my dishpans full of seedlings is a great place. Somehow, I don’t agree. I planted our pepper seedlings out in the mud today because the cats had stirred them up like spaghetti. There are still a few tubs out there that we are going to cover with frost cloth in the evenings to see if we can discourage that practice.

        You know, they are kind of cute, aren’t they?

        Easter and Bo, almost ready to wean

        Next Saturday is hatch day

        Cushaw squash

        Cushaw has beautiful leaves

        Flower pot on the porch

        German chamomile in the herb bed

        Wild yarrow by the barn, I hope to harvest these seeds

        We think Pearl likes her haircut.

        There are more and more people talking about things falling apart this fall. It makes me more anxious for this incessant rain to depart and give us some sunshine for the garden. I’m also finding the unusual amount of cloudy, rainy days difficult. If there is even just a little sunshine it makes a difference. The dewberries are turning, but there is little flavor, they need some sunshine to sweeten up. I hope we get some before they are past their prime.

        Muddy footprints

        Coming in from the garden

        Wild dewberries

        Beets

        Luffa squash in a pot on the porch

        Too wet to work on our new garden area in the pasture, it’s growing over

        Stinging nettle in the herb bed

        Stevia

        Frank is giving lots of thought to the radio class that will be coming up at the end of June. There are so many possibilities that can come out of it. We are excited and very hopeful. He has already heard of about 10 people that are interested. We pray for blessings and success with this class.

        The grass in the pasture is as tall as the goats.

        I think some of the parasitic wasps have already hatched.

        Grapes

        They have really grown in just one week.

        Elderberries in bloom

        We have rain forecast for the next seven days. Yippee! I can hardly wait. Sarcasm is in full bloom also, along with a little crankiness. It appears that congress has once again sold us down the river without a paddle with the new ‘secret’ trade deal and Patriot Act Part II. Keep your eyes open and watch your back. Hope all is well with you and yours.

        Until next time – Fern
         

        Homestead News, Volume 2

        I don’t know where the time goes, but lately it has gone flying by. So much so, that I really have to think about everything we’ve been doing. I’m sure I’ll forget some things that I wanted to tell you, but here goes. News from the homestead.

        Before

        It’s easier to remember what happened today first. We started off by taking Pearl to the vet for a haircut. For the past few years, I have been giving her a haircut with scissors, and we were looking into some clippers when we discovered that the vet’s wife gives a ‘country cut’, or that’s what she likes to call it. So this morning Pearl was transformed. And all that hair only weighed two pounds! She will be much cooler with our hot, humid summer weather coming.

        After

         

        The next exciting thing that happened today is that Penny, her two boys, and Buttons moved to Faith’s house. Faith has long wanted to have goats, so today was a dream come true for her. She asked me when they were leaving if I was crying. She knows I have cried before when some of my adult does have left, but not this time. I was excited and happy for Faith. Besides that, we went over and visited them already this afternoon. Faith and her husband have a great place set up in their barn for the goats, as well as lots and lots of pasture/wooded area for them to graze once they get acclimated. That made this a very neat day.

         

        Penny and boys
        Buttons

        At their new home

        The garden is really starting to grow well, and to my eyes gets more beautiful every day. I ran our Mantis tiller around the squash hills and here and there to knock down the weeds before this latest round of rainy weather hit. I also managed to replant the okra and some of the cow peas, cucumbers, carrots, spinach and beets that didn’t make it. The green beans that I replanted last week are doing great. It’s a new variety that we haven’t tried before. I’ll let you know if we like them.

         

        The new section of the garden didn’t grow anything. I’m not sure if the seeds were old or got washed out by the heavy rain we had a few weeks ago. So far the only thing I have replanted there was more pinto beans along the trellis. The rest will have to wait for drier days again.

        We have started eating turnip greens and salad fixings from the garden regularly. Tomorrow I am going to try my hand at freezing turnip greens like you do spinach. I have the directions in Stocking Up, and thought I would give it a try. We don’t expect the actual turnips to make since hot weather is coming, but are very happy to be able to enjoy the greens for now.

         

        We moved the water tanks away from the barn so Frank could brush hog there. Our plan is to put down some heavy plastic, build a base with treated lumber, fill it with sand, allow that to settle in, put guttering on the barn, place the three 1550 gallon tanks on the pads, and run the guttering into the tanks. This will give us water for the animals, as well as the ‘animal feed’ garden we are going to plant in this pasture if it ever dries up enough to really work on the ground.

        We’ve continued to make wheels of cheddar about two days a week and are up to 12 wheels aging in the frig, with 4 more drying on the cabinet. We will make two more wheels tomorrow and wax at least two of those that are drying. 

        We have been saving eggs for the incubator which Frank will fire up tomorrow. This will give us some meat, but the concentration on this first batch will be replacement hens for our current flock. We have a Buff rooster which we like, and he will add some good qualities like size and demeanor, to our next flock of hens. We will probably hatch two more batches through the summer to resupply our freezer and some jars with meat.

        This coming week we have another big event taking place. One week from today, if all goes according to plan, we will be bringing home three piglets, two boars and one gilt. We are beginning a whole new adventure raising American Guinea Hogs. One of the boars will be raised for meat, the other for breeding. We will share our adventures, which we hope will be mostly successful, as we go along. This is something we have never done before. We have fed out a few feeder pigs along the way, but never raised any to breed, so keep your fingers crossed for us. We have chosen this particular breed for very specific reasons, which we will discuss in more detail in another article dedicated specifically to the pigs.

        We continue to make and consume sauerkraut almost everyday. The batch we started on April 22nd was removed from the crock yesterday. We used one whole head of cabbage and it made about a quart and a half of kraut. Instead of removing about a third of it and leaving the rest in the crock, this time I removed all of it and started another batch. The new batch consists of about one and two thirds head of cabbage and about two cups of shredded carrots. Since I have started shredding the cabbage there isn’t any issue with having enough natural juices to cover the vegetables in the crock. I continue to add a good amount of juice from the previous batch to boost the fermentation process. We have really begun to enjoy the kraut and are very glad we have been learning this process.

         

        Each time we walk out the door, if the wind is not blowing too much, we are greeted with the wonderful aroma of honeysuckle. It is blooming in profusion.

        There are also lots of wild privet blooming here and yon around the house and along the fence rows. It is more subtle than the honeysuckle, but smells wonderful all by itself.

        The wild blackberries are growing by the bazillion. I really look forward to picking and picking and picking. Last year I did an article about free food for the picking. I wonder if anyone else around is eyeing all of this free food the way I am.

        We are picking just enough strawberries to have some each morning with our breakfast. There is just no comparison to frozen and fresh. They are a welcome addition to our daily fare.

        Now, it’s time to go feed and milk the goats, gather the eggs, put the chickens to bed, feed the dog and cats, and see if any of the goats laughed at Pearl’s haircut. She does look rather different. Then it’s time to fix supper, finish up this post and wait for the next round of storms to come through. Life is busy and blessed. 

        Until next time – Fern

        Gardening, Chickens, Goats & Organizing

         
        Yesterday before the arrival of yet another week of possible rain showers, we were able to till part of the garden with the tractor. The day before, we went out with a shovel and dug around a little to see if we could possibly till it up. Some of it was still too muddy from the last few weeks of rain. Although this is not best practice, we knew that if we didn’t take advantage of this small window of opportunity, it would be another week or two before the ground would be dry enough to work. 

         Before we tilled the garden I went out to dig up the wandering strawberries that had made it out of their bed and into the garden area last summer. I thought I would order more and use these to start another bed. Little did I realize that there were probably 50 plants that needed to be moved. The more of them I dug up, the more of them I found. Now I don’t need to order any more. I think this is plenty for the new bed I have in mind. They too, will have to wait until the ground is dry enough to work.

        Their new home will be back there by that fence.

         

        I also pulled up the last few turnips that we have been eating on and feeding to the chickens all winter long. I really hated to see the last of them go. Since the place I have planned for a new turnip crop is still very muddy, I sprinkled a bunch of seeds in an area in front of the herb bed. I’m not sure how well they will do in the summer, but it is early enough that I hope to be able to harvest greens both for us and the animals into at least early summer.

        Another turnip patch will be here in front of this shed.

        Cabbage

        Broccoli

        We planned on getting our cole crop seedlings into the ground a couple of weeks ago, but the rain and rain and snow had other plans. The weeks long cloudy weather has also put a damper (pun intended) on the growth rate of the seedlings. They have grown rather leggy, but are still pretty vigorous. Because of that, I planted four or five plants together in the hopes that one or two of them make it. I prefer to have larger plants to transplant, but that just didn’t happen this year. When I

        Spinach

        went out to check on them this morning, they hadn’t disappeared and most of them were upright and looked good, although rather small. A few of them looked a little limp, but that’s to be expected. The carrot and beet seedlings are still quite small, which is okay since the area they are destined for is still very muddy.

        Frank has been working on getting a few things out of the garage and more organized. He came up with this idea for holding some of the extra pvc we keep on hand, as well as some of the extra antenna poles we have here and there. Great idea, and very effective.

        Today while I was dressing out our two extra roosters, he also put up this board to make a place for some of our frequently used tools. This area is under a carport that is attached to the garage. It will keep our tools organized and off of the ground. Once he got the places ready for them to hang, we also cleaned them all very well with the drill with a wire brush. It is simple, effective and looks great.

        Yes, the roosters. We ended up with three roosters and 19 hens from last years young birds. Two of the roosters are Buffs, either Buff Orpington or Buff Rocks. The other is was red, not Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire, but some kind of red. Well, Red matured first, but one of the Buffs had basically taken over the hen house, causing a lot of daily ruckus and much commotion. Time to get down to one rooster. Besides that, we want to make sure that all of our eggs are fertile because come the first of May we will start saving eggs to fill up two or three incubators. This will give us meat for the table and replacement hens for a new flock. The cycle continues.

        Wethers

        So, Eagle Eye Frank dispatched the roosters so we could have them for dinner. They were six months old and a little tough, but pretty tasty, too. I will put all of the left overs into a pot tomorrow and simmer them for most of the day to make broth and soup. That will make for an easy meal, which is good, because tomorrow we plan to butcher two of our wethers. We are out of red meat again, so it’s time to replenish the freezer. Our plans are to dress them out tomorrow, hang the meat overnight, then, besides the hind quarters, we will grind, wrap and freeze the rest the next day.

        This evening when we fed the goats we moved the does to a different pasture that has more new green to eat. Things are starting to grow quickly now, and even with that, the does had really made a dent in the pasture they were in. This will give the young does some good grazing these last two weeks before they kid. We also moved the ‘boys’, the billy and the wethers to a different pasture. The primary motivation for this was to escape the large mud hole that is right in front of the gate of their previous pasture. If we are going to dispatch two of them tomorrow, we don’t want to have to drag the carcasses through a big mud hole to get them out. We will have to watch for a window of opportunity when it is not raining to kill them and bring them down to the garage. Then we will hang them under the carport to dress them out and wrap them in a meat bag so we can leave them hanging overnight in the garage. Once we get them down here, it won’t matter if it is raining, which it probably will be.

        Life’s routines come and go with the seasons and we enjoy them all. Some are a little more work than others. Some make our bones a little more achy than others. Planting time is always a lot of work, sometimes back breaking work. Tending and harvesting, not so much. Raising animals is not generally a lot of work, although we do need to mix feed again. And then again, we would like to raise a whole lot more of our animal feed, which would entail more planting, tending and harvesting. I really admire our forefathers that raised what they ate, year after year. It is a lot of work to do the little we do. We are so much softer, and less skilled at it than they were. They did it out of necessity and we do it out of a desire to be more independent and less dependent. And folks think we’re nuts for living the way we do. But that’s okay. I usually think the same of them.

        Until next time – Fern
         

        Hatch Complete

        Hello, Frank here.

        If you’re still with us, thank you for reading. We have completed the incubation stage of baby chickens. As I mentioned earlier, about two weeks into the cycle I needed to decrease my temperature. That was a normal adjustment. My hatch rate came out to be about 50%. It was 50% of my birds and 50% of my friend’s birds. 50% is not a good hatch rate, by any means, but that’s about what I’ve been getting since I returned to Oklahoma six years ago. This means I had about 20 birds hatch.

        A newborn

        I did make one mistake. Since I only have 20 fingers and toes and it takes 21 days to hatch eggs, I miscounted when I took out the turner. I took it out four days before the hatch and it should have been three. You see, now you have a use for that sixth toe that you never thought would come in handy.

        Another mistake. I normally use cardboard boxes and build a small brooder. But for a multitude of reasons, I was not able to come up with any.

        Another mistake. When my birds started hatching, I looked at Fern and said, “We forgot to get baby chicken feed.” This was Saturday morning. Fortunately, there is a feed store near by.

        These strings come in handy if you can get hold of them.

        Something I learned. A freshly hatched baby chicken is not very hungry, but it is thirsty. My hatchery bought chickens arrived Monday morning, as they were scheduled, and since they had been in the mail for a few days, they were very hungry and thirsty.

        Unfortunately, I received two with stiff legs, and I just went ahead and flushed them. But, overall the chicks came, they’re healthy, and now my big silver Rubbermaid tote, that is currently my brooder, is just about full.

         

        So, tomorrow, I will start putting together a bigger brooder with cardboard boxes that I was able to find today. Some words to the wise. Avoid lifting your water and feed containers by the jar. It’s a whole lot safer to grab the container by the bottom and lift up. I’ve never had a water bottle separate from the water dispenser, but more than once I have had the feeder separate and spill feed everywhere. You might have noticed that the water has a green tint to it. That’s the electrolyte solution that I add to their warm water for the first couple of weeks.

        Now, my job for the next couple of weeks is to keep the birds warm, hopefully, in a draft free environment, fed and watered. I will start looking right now, for birds with a crusted vent. This happens because of too high of a temperature and the birds dehydrate. It’s easy to remedy 

        by lowering the temperature and a bird with a crusted vent can be soaked in warm water. Only the vent portion, though. Most of the time you can clean them with a damp paper towel. But remember, do not pull the little crusty thing off, or you might injure and kill the bird.

        I’ve included a link here as a safety feature about washing your hands and bird diseases that can affect humans. Take it for what it’s worth.

        And don’t forget, everyone needs that first drink. Take them one at a time and dip their little beaks a couple of times. Give them time to drink and they are good to go.

        In the next few days I’m going to build a permanent type brooder, install electricity in my chicken house and upgrade some interior fencing. Well, there goes TV for this week. And that reminds me, I don’t own a television.

         


        Here is another handy link that I borrowed from Murray McMurray hatchery on the care of baby chicks. It has some good advice.

        So, my hatching is over for a while. Later in the summer, if I decide I need to can some more chicken meat, I might hatch another batch.

        We’ll talk more later. Frank