I've been gearing up for winter. I've been cutting firewood, collecting kindling, and thinking about getting our chimney cleaned. :-) Last year we felt winter like never before, but it was nice being so in-touch with the rhythms of nature. (Our wood-burning stove is worth its weight in gold!) I can't believe summer is long gone.
Bouncer gives Brandi "the caring paw," as we like to call it:
Brandi holding Bouncer's neck:
Here's a photo of Brandi learning how to gut a duck. That guy who's with her was our volunteer helper who was learning how to process ducks right along with us. He knew a wee bit more than we did, and that made him very helpful.
Here's a bonus photo of the truck someone in my church gave me. Yes, it was given to me. I'm very thankful.
I can see why some people just abandon their gardens once everything starts to grow up toward the end of the season. This was our rookie effort, and hopefully years from now we won't have so much grass and weed growth after the days of harvest.
I spent a good amount of time pulling out tomato cages (that part took the longest), digging out soaker hoses, and moving various objects out of the garden. Finally, I went in there with my mower and chopped it down. Hopefully next week I can get in there wit a garden tiller. Brandi is hoping to put in some tomatoes for the fall.
Here's before and after:
Our broody hen's eggs are finally hatching! She's sitting on, I think, 13 or 14 of them, and they ought to all hatch by the morning. Here are the first two hatched chicks from a couple of hours ago:
This is a historic moment for our little farm; it's the first time we've been able to help reproduce life (aside from the vegetables that are currently growing, and they're growing alright).
Mr. Smith has been a real blessing to us since we've moved in. He's shredded our field, plowed our garden, and he's given us plenty of homesteading advice. The other day while Brandi was out walking he said, "Come on by sometime and we'll pick y'all a mess of potatoes from my garden." So we took him up on the offer last night ...
On our way out to his place. He lives about a mile away from us.
Showing the monkeys how to pick potatoes.
Going at it.
Part of the haul. We ended getting probably twice that amount along with some onions and squash.
Daniel: "I'm driving a tractor!"
Bird eggs in one of his fields.
Picking wild berries on the way home.
Our berry-stained hands.
We had a busy weekend. On Saturday morning Brandi and I went to some friends' house to use their equipment -- and expertise! -- to slaughter our five egg-eating hens. As we were gutting the chickens we actually recovered two fully formed eggs. Now those chickens are meat and they live inside our deep freezer; they've got a better life in there. ;-)
Brandi and I have recently decided to take the plunge into natural, grass-fed beef. We found a farmer who sells grass-fed beef and he lives only about 10 minutes or so from our place. He invited us out to his acreage for a tour, and we had quite a fun time out there bouncing around on their ATV while we shot the bull about cattle, grass maintenance, and field rotations. "We're not cattle raisers; we're grass farmers," the farmer said jokingly. "If you take care of your grass, the cattle will have no problems." Their operation was awesome, and just what you'd expect: a warm and friendly retired couple living on 50 or 60 acres and making a living off of raising and selling grass-fed beef. The whole atmosphere was very pioneering, very American. And it was nice to see exactly where the meat we're going to eat is coming from. We made our first purchase while we were out there.
Brandi and I finished the day off with a nice dinner at a quaint little Italian place in a quaint little town about 20 miles from Waco. We had a nice time.
Showing up for the slaughter:
Our hostess greets us with a knife:
The Country Mama hostess shows Brandi the gutting ropes:
Brandi and the gals doing the finishing touches:
Later that day, on the cattle tour:
Up close and personal:
"Scratch 'em behind their ears," the farmer said, and I gladly obliged:
Later at the Italian place, Brandi said, "Leave the gun; take the cannoli." At least that's what I wanted her to say:
Bonus shots of our broody duck hen and bantam hen. The duck is sitting on roughly 20 eggs, and the bantam is sitting on around 12 eggs:
Now for a couple of bonus photos that are not for the faint of heart. See below for a couple of photos of chickens about to meet their maker. Viewer discretion is advised:
Read the rest of this entry . . .
We've officially begun the garden ... because there are actually plants in the ground! Most daylight hours both yesterday and today were spent working in the garden or doing various projects outside. Here are a few photos ...
Abigail digging a hole for a tomato plant.
Bouncer checking out the action.
Brandi and Abby, in a state of bliss.
Abigail giving Bouncer a lecture.
Bouncer doesn't receive it in love, so he attacks!
"Woof woof! She's mine," says Bouncer. (Notice his paw; he's claiming his victim.)
Abigail busts out a cool defensive move, going for Bouncer's jugular.
She finishes him off with a tight squeeze, snapping his doggy neck. (Notice her face straining while she sucks the life out of Bouncer. We're going to miss that dog.)
A bonus shot of Nathan showing the difference between a normal egg and a bantam egg.
He hasn't even been with us for 48 hours and he's already made quite an impression. I've started calling him The Perfect Dog. I hope I don't jinx the whole thing.
Up to this point, he's everything we've hoped for. He's quiet, docile, a quick learner, independent, and aloof. That's not to say he doesn't enjoy attention, he most certainly does, but he doesn't seem to need it like most pet breeds do.
He also couldn't care less about the chickens, which is great! They'll run around all around him and he never gives them a second look. I've heard of Labrador owners or Golden Retriever owners whose dogs can't stay away from their chickens -- they constantly harass and, sometimes, kill them. Seeing how Labs and Retrievers are bird dogs, it's not surprising to me that training them to stay away from poultry can be challenging. That's one of the reasons I was so sold on a Pyrenees (Bouncer is 1/2 Pyrenees and 1/2 Anatolian Shepherd; both of those breeds are Livestock Guardian Dogs); I knew they were generally aloof and not interested in killing small animals, but they are supposedly very protective of their owner's property, especially at night when all the critters come out. I've heard that at night they quietly roam around their owner's property, keeping an eye out.
Right now we keep Bouncer in our little fenced yard at bed time, but after a few nights I'm going to allow him to roam freely after hours. I just want to make sure he's completely "imprinted" with our property. I don't think LGDs have a tendency to run away, but I want to give him a little more time to adjust.
When I picked him up from his previous owner yesterday, he said, "He's not leash broken. He's going to fight you on a leash." And boy did that prove true yesterday. I'd try and lead him on a leash and he'd dig his little doggy heels into the ground -- he didn't want to budge! Today, however, he seemed to understand that I wasn't going to let him have his way, and he passively let me walk him around our entire property while on a leash.
So here are some photos:
So about a week ago we lost our drake (our boy duck). When we went to dinner he was out in the pasture, and when we got back about an hour later, he was gone. I should have cooped him, but oh well.
With a missing drake we were down to just one lonely duck hen. Today I finally rectified that and acquired a new drake from an acquaintance of ours. He (the drake) has already gotten to know the hen, if you know what I mean. We clipped both of their wings and we're going to keep them cooped up in our little fenced off yard until they produce some babies. Supposedly, those duck hens are awesome about going broody and we can expect at least a dozen or more duck babies here in a few weeks. We'll see. Our long-term plan for our ducks is to harvest their meat and eat their eggs.
Speaking of harvesting meat, the big slaughter date for our meat birds is this Saturday. Come hell or high water we're going to harvest 17 birds this Saturday and eat a yummy fried chicken meal that evening.
Here are some scenes from the farm this past weekend ...
When I got home from work Friday, this was the scene in the garden:
Our new bantam (miniature) chickens. They're wyandottes, and they're about half the size of a standard chicken. Our plan is to let them live in the garden, once the plants get to a decent size, so they can eat bugs around the clock.
Two of our laying hens, doing their job:
Yep. Those are goat burgers. We bought a pound of ground goat at the World Hunger Relief Farm last week and we cooked it up tonight. Nathan said, "It tastes like regular hamburger. I almost forgot it was goat." Actually, the flavor is slightly different, but it's still great! We're officially sold on getting a goat now and we're actively shopping for one.
Brandi and Abigail, pulling up roots in our garden:
Five hens pulling up roots in our garden:
As far as the photo above, the way it works is the chicken tractor (cage) stays over one patch of the garden for 24 hours and then it's rotated. During those 24 hours the five hens do a bang up job of pulling up roots and fertilizing the ground. Those five hens also lay about three or four eggs a day inside that tractor -- very cool. They're worth their weight in gold.
Some of our Cornish Cross meat birds out free-ranging:
A few photos from the past few days ...
From Daniel and Abigail's shared birthday party last weekend:
Daniel's alligator cake (I'd like to add that my lovely and talented wife made the cakes)
Abigail's princess castle cake
Abigail, half a second before she blew out her candles
Nathan and Abby inspecting the cakes
A family dinner later that weekend
Daniel and Abby, "happily" eating at the bar (they really were happy, despite their droopy faces)
Our meat birds (we have 17 of them and we'll slaughter them in less than three weeks)
Our new-to-us chicken tractor! It's pretty big, roughly 50 square feet, and I plan to put four new laying hens in there this week (notice the cool nesting box on the right side for easy egg collection)
Brandi and I really liked this one. It was taken in the morning hours, after it had snowed most of the night.
The buzz yesterday was about how Dallas (about an hour north of us) had gotten about four-to-six inches of snow, and that the snow was headed toward Waco. Thankfully, we got a nice little snowfall here yesterday evening, and we even had a decent accumulation overnight. Here's a pic from yesterday evening: