Sunday, September 27, 2015

All is Fair in Love and War! [A Ralph Post]

And so it is in the world of children! They just have no respect: for themselves or anything or anyone else. If something is in the way, they will go around it (seldom) or over it or under it or through it (most likely to happen). Children, animal, or fowl, that is the law of the land! And, so it is with our “children”.

Yesterday was a work day. We have five “pens” for poultry. I do need to do some major work in this area!

We had no choice. We had to order turkey poults and have them sent to Virginia. Or, wait and order next year. We ordered from Meyer Hatchery's last poult hatch of the year and had them delivered to our old Virginia address. And then we brought them down here to Kentucky. They have been a source of joy, and wasted hours of fun. They can be downright comical! 

Turkey Teenagers, much bigger than they were when we arrived.

We have two out buildings. The “washroom” is twenty-five feet deep and thirty-five feet long. The previous owners used it as a laundry room, with twelve feet on the end walled off with a door for his trophy room (cougar, bear, turkey, elk, deer, etc. mounts). He is an excellent bow hunter. We used the trophy room as a brood house.

As we brought things in from Virginia, we stored most of it in this laundry room. We want to paint, etc. in the house, so we don't need most of this stuff in the house. We just put what we absolutely need in the house and make do. The workshop is twenty-four feet by thirty-four feet or something close to that. The saws and tools and garden tools, etc. went in there.

So, we made do with what we had. We bought five sheets of half inch plywood and a bunch of two by fours. We went to the corner and ran one sheet of plywood out. We brought boxes from the other side of the wall (in the washroom) and lined them up from the adjacent wall out to the plywood and up to the top of the plywood (four feet). We put another stack on the other side of the plywood to hold the plywood up. And we covered the floor with Koop Clean litter from Southern States. We put in feeders and waterers and the poults. They were happy. A corner pen. We take out boxes for access to the inside of the pen.

And the first order of chicks came in on 9 September. They were one hundred Buckeyes and sixty Black Australorps. These pens are temporary. I didn't want to cut any plywood or two by fours. I'll use them later for something else. We put up a two by four next to the wall and nailed a sheet of plywood to it coming out from the wall. We did the same for the opposite wall. We put up two by fours and a sheet of plywood to connect the previous two sheets of plywood. This formed an eight by eight pen. None of the nails are all the way in. We left a quarter inch of the head sticking out to aid in the removal of the nails. The front outward corner is not nailed. I just slide it out to enter the pen. I close it back as I go in. So far, we haven't had any escapees. We covered the floor with Koop Clean. Added feeders and waterers and the chicks. They sure are happy in there. And trying to outgrow it. We are getting close to needing a chicken/turkey/guinea/duck house. And then we will need to sweep out the trophy room. And it will be as good as new. No damage done. We keep the litter changed and fairly thick. Thicker as they get older. 

The Buff Orpington's came in on 23 September, eighty of them. We basically did the same thing for them. Except we used a lawn mower box (large, heavy duty box for a push mower) and a watering trough. We had to split the order between two pens. They won't be able to stay in there very long (too small an area). We intend to move the poults out to the barn and they will take over the poult pen. Or, we'll do something else. Plans change. We have to be flexible.

Checking the "Buff's" at the post office.

Buff Orpington's...little yellow fluff balls. Some are very dark yellow and some more pale.

And then on 24 September, the keets came in, forty-two of them. They got the same setup in the other water trough, with the exception of adding paper towels on top of the shavings. We had read that they have weak legs and shouldn't be on shavings, etc. for a week or two. They recommended paper towels, hence, we used Viva paper towels. They are cheap and are fuzzy and have a tendency to “stick” together. Wow, are the keets small. And quick and vicious! They are also strong. Keets will lay down with their legs sticking out straight to the back. Another keet will walk up and grab that ones foot and pull on it. They will pull the entire keet backwards. And to make things worse, they will jerk their heads side to side. Vicious things!!! Keets are prone to leg problems. I can see why. We switched to an inline feeder versus a circular feeder for the keets. This is what we read was recommended for more than six keets. 

The keets at the feeder.....lets dive into our dinner is their motto!

On 30 September, the thirty ducklings should come in. That will finish us out until we get the sheep in March. Or there abouts.

The poults go to the barn and the Buffs go in the poult pen. The ducks go into the Buffs pen/pens. The Buckeyes and Australorps go to the barn and the keets and or ducklings go into the chick pen. Because of the water problems with ducklings, I suspect they may stay in the water troughs. And keets are good jumpers. The four foot walls may be needed. Plans are a work in progress and need timing.

Anyway, as I said, yesterday was a workday for the poultry. We try to keep the litter fairly deep and per the age of the poultry and their activity. In other words, we play it by ear. If it needs changed, we change it. We try to insure we don't let it go too far past the due date for changing. And, so far, it has always been good and dry on the bottom, except where water has been spilled. I am sure we could have let it stay a good while longer, but we want to err on the side of caution and not encourage disease any more than necessary. We scoop out wet litter and replace it. We have a heavy duty home dust pan that works great for scooping litter. By the way, we switched to pine shavings for litter. The Koop Clean is not available locally and it was dusty. It was a mix of hay and straw chopped up into small pieces. Dust was bad and I didn't want it for them to breathe.

We had to change the litter for the Buckeyes and the poults. Yesterday was a three hour job. Today was a two hour job. Changing the litter wasn't so bad or long. Just scoop up the old litter and spread out the new litter. Not much to it. Just keep the youngun's out of the scoop and don't bury them under the new litter. The problem and time consumer is pasty butts. We have eighty Buffs and forty-two keets. And we have to pick each one up and check/clean its butt. They have real fine feathers on their butts and when they use the bathroom, it sticks to their hair/feathers. If you don't clean it off, they plug up, and everything backs up and they die. Oh! And did I mention that they are quick, as in fast. Try and catch one! We pick one up (after we catch it) and turn it up (while it is squirming) and check it's butt. If it is clean (most are) we put it in a separate box. If it is pasty, we must clean it. Fiona is the expert here. She uses a bottle with soapy water in it. Take the cap off. Put bottle opening to butt. Turn everything and everyone upside down. Turn back up. Set bottle down. Use toilet paper to gently clean the butt area. When clean, add the abused and upset fowl to the clean box. Fiona took my nose hair scissors (curved eyebrow scissors or whatever) and told me to go buy a new pair for me. She uses them to trim butts of the offending hair/feathers on bad pasty butts. We do a lot that are in the early stages before they get bad. We try to be gentle and calm them as we do this, just s bit of quiet gentle time after the 'procedure'. When we finish, it is time to catch everyone again and put them back into their original box. It isn't too bad of a job, just time consuming. Time that we could use to do other things. And it doesn't last too long. In a week to ten days, they will grow out of the pasty butt stage. With a hen, do they have this problem? I don't remember it. Then, why do we?

This morning, as we were putting the keets back into their trough, we saw that they had found a dry, narrow piece of straw. They were playing “keep away” and “tug of war” with it. One would grab it and run. The others would chase it and try to get it. They would run over, under, and through any one that got in the way. Sooner or later, another keet would get hold of the straw and a tug of war would ensue. And I mean a real tug of war. They are putting their all into it. And they are jerking their heads and pulling. For some reason, one or both will start running. They may be running one after the other or side by side at the ends of the straw. If side by side, inevitably the straw would “clothesline” another keet. That keet would be bowled over head over tea kettle. The two on the straw wouldn't even slow down. They would keep running. And on and on they would run with it. And everyone takes turns trying to get the straw. And we laughed and laughed. People do not realize what fun that there is in livestock. I am sure they consumed more energy with that straw than they took in today. It was a joy to watch. 

Fiona had peeled some potatoes. She asked me if I wanted her to cut them up so I could take them down to the chicks. I did. I dropped some in to the poults. They looked at them, shrugged their shoulders and walked off. So much for that. I went over to the Buckeyes. I dropped a few in for them in the front corner. A couple of Buckeyes wondered what was going on. They came over to investigate. One picked up a piece and dropped it. Another picked up a piece and shook it. This got the attention of others and they came over. They started picking up pieces and running to a secluded place to work with it. But there are no secluded places in there. And then it was the game of “chase”. One would pick up a piece of peel and run with it. They would run along all four walls and past the starting point and still running. With many others chasing at various points in the run. Almost every time, the one that starts with the peel does not end up with it. As he runs by someone, they will grab it out of his mouth. And then it is their turn to run with it. And another has a peel and is running in the opposite direction past each other. Or, into each other. Another will be doing figure eights. There were six or eight running with a peel at any given time. And each will have four or five chasing after it. The pen is full of emotion and everyone is excited. The noise is increasing and reaching a crescendo. And then someone will run into a wall, and instantly, it will go deafening quiet. And it would start again. Smiles all around for everyone. Simple, but so much fun. Children can be such fun! 

Well, I guess this is the end of organic waste. Now all kitchen waste will become walking compost. No more composting by us. We will get compost and laughs! From the chicks! Bio-security aside, is there a market for letting people laugh at the antics of our animals? Food aside, the love and joy and antics of animals is compensation enough for having animals.

When we got the poults, I wasn't around much – always on the road. Fiona and I had talked. We wanted to spend lots of time with the animals so they were used to human interaction. Several times a day, she would go out onto the back porch and talk and handle the poults. When she opened the door, she would start going “turk, turk, turk” to them. They imprinted on that and started coming to her. She would reach her hand in and they would come up to her and lightly pick her fingers. They learned she wasn't a threat. We still do that. The door is right next to their enclosure. As we open the door, we start going “turk, turk, turk” and they start responding right away. They are coming to our side of the enclosure and may fly up onto the top of the plywood. They don't come right up to us, but they do come to us. And they just talk and talk to us. When we enter the pen, they don't really run from us.

With the Buckeyes and Australorps, we were in the process of moving and didn't get to spend much time with them. They are more skittish and run from us. If we lean over the plywood, they run. Our hope is their breed. Black Australorps are friendly and docile and calm. Buckeyes are curious and friendly. They will come up to you to see what you are doing. I am seeing this with both birds. As I enter the pen, they are still running, but not as far. And then they are turning around and coming up to me and climbing onto my feet, pecking my boots. But they are still flighty. If I move too quick, they run. And I can't throw anything or swing anything over their heads without them squawking and running. I think they will come around. And our secret weapon is the Buff Orpington's. They are also calm and docile and friendly. They will end up being housed with the Buckeyes and Australorps. They will lead the others to come forward and to be more friendly.

And now, back to pasty butts. We read that we need to have interaction with the keets to keep them calm and at home as adults. We need to handle them and eventually hand feed them. House them with the chickens to encourage them to enter the chicken house at night. Our pasty butt problem is a blessing in disguise. But, when the problem goes away in a week or so, we need to continue interaction with the Orpingtons and keets. We are looking forward to having a nice flock. And lots of fun. In the main time, we'll continue to work with the Buckeyes and Australorps.

If you have animals or livestock, take the time to make them part of the family and have a few good laughs with them. It's good for the blood pressure. And it uses less energy to laugh than it does to frown! I think Fiona is going to put in some photos and videos. They will give you an idea of what is happening, but won't show the whole picture that we get.

May God put some laughter and joy and blessings into your lives.

Ralph and Fiona

Friday, September 25, 2015

Keets R Us

Where do I start. Perhaps back in July when we walked this farm and both of us got ticks. Each visit saw us doing tick checks of our partners "Parts" for the nasty bugs. I would recommend a good spouse to any one living in an area with ticks. Both for the humor of it and the help!

We knew then we had to look into tick control and the very first natural method mentioned was guinea fowl.

We both liked the idea of having a natural  pest control that was also good for the table, reasonably self sufficient and an alarm service all in one.

There is a lot of good information about guinea fowl online and it seems anyone who has had them will talk about them at great leangth be it good or bad. One property we looked at had three resident guinea hens that were very curious as to why we were tramping about their farm

A friend and her husband had guinea's and they were not impressed...they imprinted with their barn to sleep in but every morning at dawn would hike up the road a half mile to spend the day eating ticks and bugs at their neighbors farm. Then just before dusk they would all troop back to the barn for the night.

A neighbor here has them and swears by the tick control. She said this summer when her flock had reached maturity she had not found a tick on any of them, her children play in the yard continually as they have an above ground pool and lots of lawn, the woods encroach to within 50 feet of the home in some places and no ticks to be found.

So we decided to get these strange looking birds.

Not long after we  made that decision one of my favorite blogs "The Dancing Donkey" published a post about her guinea fowl...we followed avidly  and it was both poignant and sad and made us aware of the risk of any fowl that free ranges and the predators around us in the night. Her posts are well worth the read.

Ralph placed the order with Meyer hatcheries and we got a selection of colors. The tiny keets arrived this Wednesday morning and have been a delight and honestly a bit hard on our blood pressure.
One article stated they sleep flat out with feet stuck out behind them....we shrugged this off as chicks do that on occasion. However when you check your new arrivals and the are flat out with heads at weird angles and feet out behind immediatly think dead!
Thye do better with warm water...I think thats because they like to stand in it when they drink. They reccomend long feeders for more than 8 so we got a lovely yellow one and filled it with high protein starter...the keets are so tiny they can go in the holes on one side and out the holes on the other side.

Then just to make us crazier with dread they fall asleep with their heads draped out on one side and their little orange feet sticking out the other!

When they arrived one was dead in the crate, there was also one little brown one that was pretty weak. Ralph used one of my Vitamin B syringes without the needle and dripped water into its beak, it took right to drinking and perked up in no time so Ralph is now "The Keet Whisperer"!

The other recommendation was to use paper towel for litter. We spread out shavings then covered them with Viva paper towels. They made a lovely and easy to clean cover for the tiny orange feet to run around on. Nothing to catch or slide on and really absorbant.

They took to food and water really quickly with the white keets being the first to both water and food.

We are handling them gently when we change the paper towelling to help imprint them on us and gentle them as much as guineas gentle. They are fast and when they go they go...regardless of anything in their way like the feeder, the water or heaven forbid....another keet!

We are amazed at these tiny velveteen keets, they are such fun and a real delight to have. Of course they have a long way to go to be insect control or watch birds but I know the journey will be full of adventures!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

At long Last

It seemed like it would never get here. The day we would drive into the yard at Cub Run with the last load of furniture from our 'old' life in Virginia.
Well as of 5:30 am CDT we have completely arrived.
There is so much to do and it is all up to us now, with an ear to God's direction. We have been and are so blessed to have this farm.

Now I can get back to blogging on a more regular basis, I can tell you about what we are doing and why. Ralph has much to share about his new equiptment and I am sure there will be both success and failure in our future. Life is like that and I beleive we learn better with adversity thrown at us now and then.

We keep finding out more things we really like about this area and this farm. I think the major concern we had was there was no well, only county water and if things get bad due to treatment failure, weather or social collapse...water would be a huge issue.

The electrician and Ralph were going over the house with a fine tooth comb, trying to find some very elusive electrical issues when they saw an old bucket under the deck, near a plug in....Ralph was going to pick the old bucket up to put in the trash while the electrician checked the plug in. It was part of a cover over the well.
Further searching found the pump carefully wrapped up and clean and dry. The wiring was disconnected and on a shelf in the basement. We have a can see the water and we will be getting it tested and repaired for back up and livestock. We are still amazed at that.

The turkey's are doing very well and can now fly over the 4' plywood of their pen.
The chick's are just so lively and we only had 4 die. The Buckeyes are fascinating with their vitality and curiosity.
Buff Orpington arrive tomorrow.

 Paint colors have been selected for the living room, office and our bedroom. The kitchen, open area is still not quite decided but I do like Butter Tart!

This is not my kitchen but an app that let's you see color on walls.

There are peppers to harvest, tomatoes as well. Floors to install, a new roof has to go on. Proper housing for the chicks and turkey's to design and finish in the big barn. Hay to cut and put up. The winter garden to plant. Final moving into the house when the most crucial work has been done. It is  solid home and other than the wiring there are very few problems. The propane stove is wonderful and the gas lamps are going to be wonderful in winter. They are a very comfortable light to read by but unless it is cold they are quite warm to use!

There has to be wire added to the fences to make them secure for sheep. We have found some very nice Nubian goats, the lady who owns the Blue Holler Cafe has 4 does she does not milk, they are due imminently...she wants to sell the kids as soon as they are weaned and we will get two. They are very nice does with great udders and good attitudes. The Blue Holler needs fresh peppers and eggs and we need goats......

We had to get light fixtures....have I ever mentioned I hate shopping?

Other colors....the blue grey is for the bedroom and the beige (called Corinthian Pillars) is for the office and living room)

We did buy a good sized dry erase board. It is by the door and has items to do listed. Things get added and erased as we get them done. It doesn't seem to ever get empty but has been an enormous help in reminding us what has to be done.

Now I had better call it a night.
The list of things to do is bigger now than this morning and I am painting tomorrow.

Good night and God Bless you all.

Friday, September 11, 2015

At Home

Well I have been home since Tuesday.

It is wonderful. Hot, sweaty days that seem to be none stop running around. No electricity to most of the house. Wonderful gas appliances,  rooms needing new paint, windows needing screens and minor repairs, not the major replacements we feared. The arrival of 160 chicks. 104 Buckeye And 56 Australorpe. Three Buckeyes died, 2 in transit and one shortly after they got here. The trophy room is full of the travelling turkey's who can now perch on the 4' side of their pen, and speeding balls of fluff in various shades of red (Buckeye) and black and cream (Australorpe). The Buckeyes are crazy busy, aggressive and determined, they are smaller than the Australorpe but rule the roost in every way.

Hay is cut, more to do. We are identifying weed problems to be dealt with....Globe Sedge.

Suppers have included our own tomatoes, basil, chives and peppers. Cooking is a delight on the propane stove. Fast and even with no qualms about the weight of the cast iron.

Anyway more to power and my tablet is getting low!

God bless all of you from one happy couple in Kentucky! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Travelling with Turkey's

Today we took the turkey's to Cub Run...A trip of 480 miles. They are 12 days old. How do you haul young turkey's that far....better yet why?

We wanted turkey's as soon as we could get them, however the last hatch was in August so we had to get them before we were really ready. It was a chance we felt we had to take and as we sit in the garage at "home" listening to them peep and chirrup in their new pen we are glad we did.

We hauled them in the lawn mower box, it is big, 40.5 long by 17.5 deep by 27.5 wide and it fit perfectly across the flat area behind the car seat (the seat folds down).

We left at night when it was cool and the poults were sleepy and easy to catch.

We decided not to have feed or water free choice as it would be likely to tip over and be wet or mucky.

The first check was about 3 miles down the road and they were pretty nervous. Then we stopped to top up the vehicles fuel and we checked them again . They were all lying down in a group quiet and still. Not as nervous. At the next fuel stop we took time to give them water and food. They took right to both and ate and drank well. The food and water woke them up! Loud peeping turkey's behind you in a small car is an experience every one should have. We had our cell phones and Ralph called to see how I was doing....I answered: Peep, Peep, Peep!
This peeping behind me went on for almost 200 miles, until our next fuel stop.
There we got a bite to eat ourselves and again fed and watered the poults.
Did they get sleepy......Nope!

When we got to the farm we made a bigger pen for them and unloaded the still chirping turkey's.

It was wonderful to see them run and play, try to fly and to catch up on their food and water.  Now they are sleeping, scattered about the pen, they seem well but we are going to watch them closely for the next while. Time will tell.

Peep peep peep to you all.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Time for Turkey's

Our first 'stock' arrived last Friday...small, feathered and peeping. The turkey poults, 31 of them. Three breeds of heritage turkey's, one on the critical list [Chocolate] and two on the ALBC watch list [Blue Slate and Royal Palm].

We felt that if we were going to have turkey's then we wanted the older breeds and maybe we could do some good for the breed numbers.

 Ralph with the crate of peepers!

They were purchased from Meyer Hatchery and were the last of the 2015 turkey hatching. Shipped from New Mexico USPS, our post master called us as soon as they arrived and Ralph basically stampeded out the door!

 The Cat was mystified, then since there were no treats involved she went and had a nap.

It was like Christmas, it probably seems trivial to anyone who raises large numbers of turkey's but to us it is a part of our future and very exciting. We opened the crate to loud and vigorous poults, all alive.

 Blue Slate

 Royal Palm

You wonder where the photo of the Chocolate poults is?  They had started to jump out of the open box so we decided we had better get them settled. 

Ralph had purchased a bag of Koop Clean for the litter. It spreads well and makes a nice soft but firm bed for the poults. We used a 50 gallon sheep water trough as a brooder box. 

 The Koop Clean

 Spreading out the first layer, Ralph shook it and made sure there were no lumps in it and that it was uniformly spread.

Here is the trough ready for its inhabitants.

 Ralph gently setting the Chocolate poults into the litter. The Chocolate were still trying to jump out of the shipping box.

 Here is a mix of the poults. They were really glad to have room to run.

 Right to the water, as soon as Ralph put the waterer down they were drinking. The Blue Slate were first!

 Humnn....a trend, the Blue Slate started eating first as well.

Here they are just before we added the food and water, we are trying a clear light but after a few days I found it is not as diffuse for heating and the poults are calmer under the red bulb.

We also decided to use non medicated feed but treat the water for the first while. We are in town here and the water is treated heavily so it smells when we turn on the tap. We fill a gallon jug and then let it sit on the counter with the lid off for some of the chemicals to evaporate off. This helps when we water plants with the water so we think it should help with the turkey's.

I am posting this after a week of turkey sitting while Ralph deals with the farm and getting power hooked up, hay cut and all sorts of other things that have to be done.

Not all has gone well. Four poults have died.Two of the Chocolate, one Blue Slate and a very small Royal Palm. No clear reason, which has always frustrated me when something dies. [I was not really surprised at the little Royal Palm, but the Slate was a well grown poult and the entire group has been really vigorous]
Meyer have been very helpful, answering questions about feed and litter.

They can jump out of the water troughs, there are now 2 as they needed more room! 20" up so now I have a barricade around the brooders!

They come right to see me as soon as I open the porch door and they are starting to make turkey noises!

However despite the losses I am so very glad we got them now, having animals die is an unfortunate part of raising them. [I am no where near as hard hearted as I thought, Ralph teases me abot that] So goes the continuing adventure and we so look forward to the day we and our turkey's are settled in at the new digs for good.

Shades of The Beverly Hillbillies as we move lock, stock, turkey's and tomato plants to Kentucky!