Friday, February 26, 2016

Wow, I can use empty feed bags

This is a challenge....I have seen lots of instructions for feed bag totes online. What a good idea! Today I just couldn't face canning or making stock so I goofed off and got out my sewing machine.
Here is my first attempt at a tote. It is 17 inches high and about 14 inches wide, not fancy colors like Purina chow come in but a fun farm theme, it even has a turkey on it!

 I had a blast but now I need to see what other ideas are out there. Have you made a tote today?

Have fun and happy sewing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Chicken Evaluation: Extra Notes

I knew it was going to be a lot of work to get the chickens from the pasture to the pot so to speak and it has been. It is one of the most satisfying thing we have done yet.
The first Buff Orpingtons have made the grade.

Some Notes of Interest:
They may be a loose feathered breed but wow do they have a lot of feathers. One thing I noticed about them was the thicker feathered area on their Butts. The Buckeye had this too. These two breeds have fluffy bottoms that amuse us when the wind blows but when your cleaning them you see just why they are so fluffy and why the cold has almost no impact on them.
The Buff's are very pale skinned, not white like the Australorp but a pale cream.
They have good thighs and drumsticks but the breast area on these [smaller poorer conformation birds] that we butchered is shorter in length than the Australorp and Buckeye. Still they are also younger birds by nearly a month.
They averaged 4 pounds dressed. In fact the 30 birds we have done have averaged 4.75 pounds.
We were very pleased about that.
We can see why the Buff Orpington is so popular, they are beautiful, vigorous birds with a wonderful disposition and great  maternal traits. They will also give you good table birds in cull roosters. They free range exceptionally well. The only drawback we have found is the young roosters when they start to reach puberty are awful, not people aggressive but all the other poultry is terrified of them including the turkeys. They will mount anything.

As to eating quality. We had a stew made with a Buckeye and it was really good. I used a 13 bean soup mix and my slow cooker with home  canned stock and tomatoes. I used my own dehydrated onions, celery, carrots and turnips. Then I added some dehydrated mushrooms we bought at the Amish supermarket.The Chicken was exceptionally tender and had rich flavor.
I have been experimenting with broths and stocks. I learned that your not supposed to stir stock. I followed this guideline for the most part and I have some [well what I think] lovely clear stock from the Buffs. I have been canning the stock in both quarts and pints. I have also made some flavored stock with Mexican Spice I  have for a spicier stock.
The chicken itself is going into quarts and pints as well, more quarts than pints. This  mix  of jar sizes should give us options when we use it.

Yesterdays results

Now back to the sweatshop....Ralph made a tactical error yesterday and lit the woodstove while I was canning......we had windows and doors open and it was still hot in here!

God Bless everyone and remember to learn new things and get your pantry filled with your own home grown goodness. It is good for you on so many levels aside from healthier food.

PS: if you notice in the photo I have an All American Canner. Ralph bought it for me when we were in Virginia. We bought the small one [910- 7 pints,4 quarts] for a number of reasons and I love it. However it is way too small to do this amount of canning and Ralph ordered the 930 [19 pints- 13 quarts] yesterday.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Chicken Evaluation: Meat Birds

Yes it had to come.  We have started to butcher the extra Roosters. 70% of the Buckeyes seem to be roosters, closer to 60% of the Australorps and about 55% of the Buff's.
We butchered 7 roosters two weeks ago to work our new system and it went well. I canned 5 Buckeyes and the 2 Australorpe's went into the deep freeze as roasters. It was experimental all around as I had not canned chicken before.
This post will give you a better evaluation of the bird quality. No Buff's yet, they are just a bit too gangly yet but today's results are a good mix of Buckeye and Australorp.

-Easy to pluck
-White Skin
-Very good breast meat for a Heritage breed.
-Nice sized carcass
-Overall a good bird.

-Not so easy to pluck, More tightly feathered- I had to rescald a couple of them and two had wing feathers that simply refused to come out.
-Nice color to the skin but more orange than white.
-Longer leg bones than the Australorp and a more immature carcass.[ We know they mature physically slower than the Australorp but they mature hormonally about the same]
- More muscle over the back than the Australorp but not quite as balanced a carcass.
- Decent size but the Buckeyes we butchered were the smaller misfits and bad footed roosters.
- Overall decent birds but they do need more time to grow into their legs and bone structure.

These birds have not been pushed with confinement and heavy feed, they run around all over the place and supplement their diet with grass and all sorts of things. We feed them squash and table scraps. Both breeds had a good amount of fat, not globs but enough to show they were healthy and doing well despite not being fed commercial finishing ration. The leg meat is quite dark as they are very active and this may not suit everyone's taste. I do know they are good dual purpose farm chickens but they do NOT look like store chicken with the body builder heavy breast meat.

3 of the Australorp are going to the deep freeze for roasting chicken. The rest of the 15 birds we did have been hot packed into 12 pints of meat. There is a lot of broth/stock in process with the bones. [ I suspect in excess of 12 quarts] and we will have chicken soup for supper.

So the evaluations continue. At this point we still have to butcher some of the Buff roosters, I suspect this will come about  next week. In my honest opinion of these two breeds at this point in time the Australorp are the better farm chicken if you want to butcher them with lower inputs on a quicker time frame.

I am canning and making both bone broth and stock as I write this and the chicken looks good and the smell of stock fills the house.

Oh I also saved the feet, I have never used them for broth but I have read so much about how good broth  made from feet is I have got to try it. I will say the Buckeye have the biggest feet and heaviest legs. They are a bright yellow, the Australorp feet look like they were the inspiration for Dinosaur coloration in Jurassic park....a very interesting black legs with creamy white soles.

Has anyone out there made broth with feet before?

Take care everyone and God Bless you all.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Animals are Hilarious

Animals are hilarious!!! Our black Cayuga ducks are the only ones I've seen do this. They run across the yard at high speed (for them). Then they drop to their keel in the fresh snow and slide for ten feet or so. Get up, and repeat. They are feeling good this morning. How about you? How are your animals? Any morning stories to share? 

 Of course when I got the camera out the ducks got camera shy!

Second story: I've been spreading a line of feed for the poultry out in the yard (for the ones that aren't house queens). The Juncos have been cleaning up behind the poultry. I think I have been adding a little extra for the Juncos. They help clean up. And I feel I am helping them survive the winter. There is a line of Juncos this morning digging down into the snow for food. There is at least forty to fifty of them nose diving out there. I disturbed them and spread another line for the poultry on top of the snow. The Juncos flew off. The poultry will get their fill. The Juncos will come back and clean up on the top of the snow. My good deed for today. Now I can go back to being a grump!

Not a Junco to be seen when I have the camera.

Third story: The turkeys have long legs and just walk on through the snow. The ducks have snowshoes on their feet and walk on top of the snow. The Guineas are lighter and sink some, but get on their way. But the chickens are tweens. They are heavy enough to sink, but don't have the footware to be helpful. I have "rescued" several that are half way between here and there. They just sit there buried up to their tail feathers, waiting for me to walk up and pick them up and and carry them off to somewhere useful. For others, it is time to be self sufficient and employ their wings. I think some of them just have me trained. 

 Waiting for the rescue.....or trainee?
Buff tracks on the deck.....lead to buff butts on the deck!

It is beautiful this morning. Like all mornings. It is one of those mornings to take our lemons and make lemonade. Life is great! Enjoy it! We are looking forward to some more laughs this morning. You have stories. Don't keep them to yourselves. Share them and make us all laugh! God has given us another beautiful day. Enjoy it and be thankful. May God help you see life! And its joys!

Ralph and Fiona

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sneaky Buff's

Well it seems like the hens have beaten us to the nesting boxes. The sneaky Buff Orpington Pullets have started to lay at 4.5  months old!

A brand new, still warm, Pullet egg.

I was doing  laundry and one of the little buff's was hanging around snooping in odd places. I asked Ralph if she could be thinking of laying an egg and he said NAH....she is just looking for bits to eat.
Well I continued to do laundry and the pullet continued to rummage around between crates and feed bags and boxes. Finally after hanging up a load of laundry I had to see what she was doing. Ah Hah! I caught her as she was climbing up from a neat nest she had made behind the extra box spring in some plastic bags. There lay the sweetest little egg ever! [I am sure anyone who ever finds their first pullet egg thinks this!] So we took inventory and checked out several places the buff pullets had been hanging around today. Pay dirt, we totaled three lovely little eggs.

The thing is we had figured 5 and a half to six months of age and the nesting boxes are planned but just not built. The wind damage to the Tobacco barn roof from the last storm has us working on other things. 

Still it is very cool to get our own eggs. Especially since we just bought 3 dozen from our Amish neighbor.

 The Amish Eggs on the left and our new eggs on the right. The Amish eggs are lovely and come from a flock that run all over a wooded horse pasture. The would grade large.

The egg production race has been won by the sweet little yellow chickens that still climb on everything! Now the race is really on to get the roof fixed and the chicken nest boxes in place.

 Humn herb flavored eggs?

Happy homesteading everyone.... 


Friday, February 5, 2016

Fun Fowl Fhotos for February

Yes the crazy weather is getting to me, or is it all the hormonal teenage roosters? I am not sure. Whatever it is I thought is would be fun to do a photo post of everyone and how they are weathering the winter here in Kentucky.

The front step coffee club and welcome wagon.

Red Band the Buff Rooster that follows Ralph everywhere!

A buff hen that knows she is way sweeter than the turkeys! Really!

 One of the Coral Guinea's. We still call them keets although we know they are past that stage and now are young watch birds.

Here are more guinea's, the dark ones are Royal Purple, the photo does not do them justice as they are iridescent almost neon purple. Quite beautiful and we so marvel at their color in the afternoon sun! They look pretty fashionable with the white keets next to them.

Some of the buff's glad to get out after the snowstorm!

Ahh many hands make light work....what about helping hens make light work?  Well entertainment while you try to work. One of the Chocolate hens tries out the new garden cart while Lilac the Slate checks the screw placement...shiny things just fascinate the turkeys!

The palm hens are really friendly and they will sit to have their backs stroked for as long as you can do it. They make happy little faint cooing noises while you pet them.

A Royal Palm in full color as he struts. They really get quite bright colors and it looks even brighter with the white plumage.

Meanwhile  back in the house the cat is absorbing wood heat in her box behind the stove. Okay it is not a fancy cat bed [which she has] but it is a place she  just loves.

And last but not least....we hauled fresh water to the trough in 30 degree weather and the ducks are just so happy!

Be safe and God Bless you all.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Turkey Evaluation Part 3: The Royal Palm

Fancy name and yes fancy turkeys. These birds caught my eye years ago but I could never find poults available anywhere near where I lived. They are simply beautiful birds with their black and white plumage.

The ALBC describes them this way:

"The Royal Palm is a strikingly attractive and small-sized turkey variety. The first birds in America to have the Palm color pattern appeared in a mixed flock of Black, Bronze, Narragansett, and Wild turkeys on the farm of Enoch Carson of Lake Worth, Florida in the 1920s. Further selection has been made since then to stabilize the consistency of color and other characteristics. As an anonymous breeder wrote to Feathered World magazine in 1931, “Turkeys of this type of coloration do crop up by chance where different color varieties are crossed . . . but it takes years to perfect their markings.” The Royal Palm was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1971. It is similar to a European variety called the Pied, Crollwitz, or Black-laced White, which has been known since the 1700s.

Royal Palm turkeys are white with a sharply contrasting, metallic black edging on the feathers. The saddle is black which provides a sharp contrast against the white base color of body plumage. The tail is pure white, with each feather having a band of black and an edge of white. The coverts are white with a band of black, and the wings are white with a narrow edge of black across each feather. The breast is white with the exposed portion of each feather ending in a band of black to form a contrast of black and white similar to the scales of a fish. The turkeys have red to bluish white heads, a light horn beak, light brown eyes, red to bluish white throat and wattles, and deep pink shanks and toes. The beard is black.

Royal Palms are active, thrifty turkeys, excellent foragers, and good flyers. Standard weights are 16 pounds for young toms and 10 pounds for young hens. The Royal Palm has not been purposefully selected for either growth rate or muscling, being used primarily as an exhibition variety.

The Royal Palm lacks the commercial potential of the other varieties, but it has a role to play on small farms, for home production of meat or where its ability to control insect pests would be of value."

The Royal palm poults were the same size as the Slate and Chocolate's when they arrived, but they were just white, no indication of their mature color at all.  They were the most active as well being the very first to jump out of the water trough brooders we were using. I would here loud PEEP PEEP PEEP and know someone was sitting on the door sill wanting back in with their friends.

Again these heritage breeds are fast to learn about food and water and we had no trouble getting the Palms on to our feed regimen.

A Royal Palm Poult just out of the box.

We liked the activity of these poults very much, they were great talkers too and if I make a turk turk turk noise I was sure to get a barrage of cheery noises back from the Palms first, then the other poults.

 They have good appetite and seemed to eat as a group, the other two breeds might mix but the Royal Palms seemed  more likely to be together.

Their slower growth rate did not become apparent until about 3 weeks of age, they are finer boned and overall just a more refined bird. They have continually become more social though and they liked to be held as small poults, often going to sleep in my lap. They grew out of this habit at about 6 weeks. Well the sleeping in my lap part of that habit!

They got their first feathers with no sign of the black bars any where, they were just white turkeys. Then at about two months there was faint barring on the wing feathers that showed a hint of their future color. These are flying birds. They are smaller and that light frame and bone structure makes them extremely athletic. When we first started putting the poultry outside during the day the Royal Palm were the first to fly up on the brace posts of the fence to perch and preen.

 Here you can see and awkward juvenile with the first sign of the Royal Palm coloring.

They are certainly smaller, the difference in size is more apparent with the Tom's though. The Hens are the same size as both the Slate and The Chocolate. The Palm Tom's are as tall as the other two breeds but leggier without the mass the other two breeds are starting to show. They will be very good turkey's for the two of us. However they will not produce the extra meat per bird to make soup, can or make sandwiches out of. 

They do forage though and love to go out and hunt through the tall grass to the west of the barn, they scratch amazing furrows in the old round bales behind the barn [these were left here and we hope to use them for mulch, the turkeys are helping with that process] and are also a bit of a hazard when we chop firewood, they are the only one of the three breeds that actively look for grubs in the wood as we cut and split it.
Now they have matured their color has come in beautifully and they really are stunning. When they display they have bands of Black around their tails and lovely lacing of black faintly edging their neck feathers. They turn incredible blues about the head and snood, we always waste time admiring them. They are snoopy and curious, they just enjoy being around us. They do have a shiny object addiction though and love to peck buttons!

If we have gone inside for lunch we often come out to someone napping on the deck railing waiting for us. 

 Two Royal Palm Tom's standing around as a hen marches by.

Here are two photos of barring patterns on some of the turkey's now they have mature plumage.
 This is on the back of one of the Tom's.

Here is fine pencil barring on the feather edges, it is on the turkey's chest.

Overall these are lovely birds to look at and I believe will be great table birds for us. If we had a family of more than two though I think they would be much too small. They really are not much more than a large chicken despite their Turkey curiosity and friendliness. If you want a bird for two or three people to use and not get overloaded on turkey, if you want a beautiful bird to grace your farmstead, if you want social birds to give you hours of enjoyment....this breed is perfect. They do have the drawback of being excellent fliers and you have to watch them because they WILL follow you into the house. Ralph and I are very glad we tried this breed and are enjoying them very much. Next test of course is the actual taste test followed by their ability to brood and raise their own poults. Now out to admire the Tom's...we have to keep their ego's in good shape.

 This morning's turkey hello!

Take care and be safe out there.