Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Not enough hours in the Day!

We knew we would be busy and we are! Here are some photos of the things going on here at our little piece of heaven in Kentucky!

First of all I had no idea how  much ducks love grass...tall grass, short grass, fresh grass, old grass, green grass, dead grass....just as long as its grass! They still come in at night but also sleep out in the pasture. As the grass grows it gets harder to see them.

They always seem to have at least one lookout who keeps his head above grass and an eye to the sky! (There are about 10 ducks in this photo!) Next to grass ducks like dirt, fresh dirt is best, newly plowed or tilled and they are a real help...just ask Ralph!

I say "Cry Havoc and loose the ducks of War!"

We did not originally buy a roto tiller attachment for the Grillo but decided to after some problems with the 1984 Troy-built. It was not as expensive as we thought and it working out well. Ralph had already got the Hiller/furrower.

Grillo G110 Diesel with 30" tiller attachment

The Hiller/furrower for the Grillo

Tilling the new garden area

 The new furrows.
Ralph tilled the new plowing before furrowing it to plant potatoes. This land has been hay land for years and Ralph went over it just once with the Rotary plow. It does an excellent job of first breaking sod.

The poultry liked the new turned dirt, bugs and grass shoots to nibble on! They all get along quite well. They also all seem to like different things.

The guineas are dangerous and totally oblivious to the Grillo, they will dig and peck in front of it right to the last second before Ralph would have to stop, then they run like crazy and complain as loudly as they can!

When Ralph plowed the sod the ducks found the edge of the plowing addicting and foraged up and back as Ralph worked. They did not get in his way but after about 10 trips back and forth they were so full they waddled out of the plowing to the edge of the grass and plopped down, stuffed and tired. Their crops almost dragged on the ground. We are not sure what they were eating...they were busy though and quite happy with something in the field.

The potatoes, Fava Beans, beets and peas are in the ground and the Garlic is showing up in full force in the section of the house garden we planted it in last fall. The Lilac bush is blooming but looks sickly so I am researching what it needs and our mystery bush that bloomed in December and withstood hard frost is blooming again.

 The Mystery looked like this in December too.

 One of our young Buff Roosters, we kept two, has fallen hard for two flirtatious Buckeye hens...he takes very good care of them!

And then there are the turkeys..wild turkeys everywhere....HEY wait....thats not a wild turkey Tom thats our Bad boy Double Chocolate! He is still trying to win the hearts of the wild turkey hens! They just ignore him!

We are getting a lot done and have more to do, work is endless on a farm but so worth it. We go to sleep at night planning the next days adventures and there is always something new to see and do. Life is wonderful!

God Bless all of you and keep safe.....enjoy life like this Buckeye hen, she is loving the spring dining!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fresh Chicken Drumies and wings

Okay I know this will be dull without photos. I was canning and planning supper all at once and the camera did not come out.
However after we had supper I realized I should have taken photos of the wings and how I used them.
Here is the information in Black and white...

I cut the tips off the wings and they go into the stock pot with the backs and ribs and the bones from the legs and thighs.
Then I cut the wing itself into two parts at the joint so I have the makings of wings and drumies.

I freeze these in packs of 12 so when I cook them we each have 6.

I experimented with an idea I had from a lamb marinade I used at Christmas.
Lime juice is under used and we both Love garlic. So I took a batch of the very fresh cut up wings and made a marinade for them.

1/2 cup lime juice with grated zest from two limes.
1/4 cup extra virgin Olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Garlic flakes or 4 crushed cloves of fresh garlic [this is to your taste]
A sprinkle of Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp ginger powder

Mix the marinade well and pour it into a good heavy ziplock bag and add the chicken. Roll it gently back and forth until the chicken is well covered. Put it in the fridge and turn occasionally through the day. I marinated these "wings" for 6 hours.

To cook pour off the excess marinade and put the wings into a casserole with a lid and bake at 350 F for about  an hour or until well done...about 15 minutes before you take them out sprinkle them with brown sugar and remove the lid of the casserole.

They were sticky and messy to eat but even Ralph who is  not a wing fan liked them very much.

I think you could also bake them but this was the first time I made them so I wanted them moist and tender which they were!

Now we are off to plant potatoes and try to figure out how to get the turkey hens to use their new  nesting box....they are could be a trap!

Be safe and count your blessings.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Turkey Tales

It is a beautiful day here and we are getting a lot done. Ralph has been rotary plowing the hay field that is going to be the potato patch. He finished the extension to the house garden last night with help from the turkey's and ducks and two Buff's.

One of the Royal Palm hens was fascinated with something in the new turned soil.

This morning Ralph got an early start to the huge project of breaking the new garden. The Poultry turned out in full force with the exception of one of the Chocolate Tom's and Fuzzy Face, one of the Chocolate hens. We were not unduly concerned as they spread out and sometimes are off doing other things, like eating or catching a nap.

However as the morning progressed I kept finding Fuzzy in the oddest places, like with the set of hens I have in the Utility building, ones that got hurt when we had too many roosters or my pet Henny Penny who has a bum leg. The turkeys don't usually hang out with the rejects! I though maybe she was thinking of laying when I found her sitting on top of two hens who were in their nesting box! I rescued the hens and rearranged a bigger box in the laying corner and then went back to work canning a batch of Chicken Feet Stock.

Now as lunch time rolled around Ralph came in to eat and I asked him if the missing Chocolate Tom was back....he said come to think of it "No, he is probably in the shade  in Bay 1 of the tobacco barn." I told him Fuzzy was thinking of laying and he said about time, those girls flirt but they are sure not delivering the eggs they should!

After lunch Ralph did a quick walk through of the barn, no sign of the turkey, now we were getting worried. The only good thing was there were no feathers scattered in a pile as there would have been if the wild dog had come back and killed him. Ralph thought he would take one more look out back of the house where they like to lay, no turkey there but he looked south to the sheep pasture and saw and especially fine "Wild" turkey displaying. Humnnnnn.....
Ralph called his turk turk turk call and that "Wild" turkey strutted even more and then headed toward the house.

Yes it was our missing turkey, there were wild turkey's down there but they were giving him a wide berth and he was so glad to be called from home. He hiked up the hill and got back to the farm out of breath and puffing. The first thing he did was  have a big drink and hit the feed trough!

 Gathering around the water for gossip and tales of wild turkey hens and far pastures!

Meanwhile back in the utility building Fuzzy was happily [well maybe not happily] ensconced in the nesting box. She was a bit stressed as it is her first egg and I am sure poor young birds are quite confused by this egg thing!  I filled the water trough for the ducks and saw Fuzzy wander out of the Utility building. I had to check and sure enough we have a beautiful turkey egg! She went to have a big drink too and started to eat grass and relax.

Just glad to have that ordeal over and be able to snack of new shoots of grass!

Turkey egg omelette's were a regular offering at New York’s legendary Delmonico's Restaurant in the late 19th century. Now it is rare to eat them as turkey's are not heavy layers and the eggs are more useful as meat birds.

The eggs are so beautiful! This is a small egg as it is her first but they will get bigger. The white egg is a duck egg, the pale brown a Buff egg and the wonderful speckled egg was just produced by Fuzzy Face! It was still warm when I took this photo.

Here are some interesting nutritional facts about turkey eggs.
A turkey egg is 137 calories
A turkey egg contains 10.7 grams of protein.
A turkey egg contains 9.4 grams of fat
They have less than 1 gram of carbohydrates per egg.
However they also have 737 milligrams of Cholesterol!
1 Turkey egg will provide you with 56% of your daily B-12.

So goes our day, Ralph is still rotary plowing, the stock is cooling on the counter and we have our first turkey egg, seriously what more could we ask for!

God Bless you all and take care!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spring is in the Air

We had a beautiful day here today, I spent time between canning chicken and sneaking outside to putter around with the poultry. They seemed to be just enjoying the sun today and laying around in various places. The turkeys slept in the shade on the east side of the house, the ducks lounged in the shade in the front of the house and the chicken just slept where the urge hit them! (The cat slept inside an empty seed potato bag in the house and nearly scared me to death when I moved it and she fled!}

I thought a simple post to show you a bit of the goings on at our crazy farm.

 Ralph has been reading and researching information about saving old Apple trees. He bit the bullet and took the pruning saw out this week end and worked on our three trees. They have not been pruned in some time and really need proper trimming. He was pretty brutal but they look much better now and a lot of the bug damage is gone. Time will tell how it worked out.

 The Four Musketeer's, Turkey style. Our four Chocolate Tom's coming up from helping Ralph in the orchard. Two of these birds are going to have to be butchered soon. It was never hard for me to Butcher the broad breasted white turkey's I used to raise but these birds are so different, smarter, friendlier and just so nice!

 The ducks on alert...they can spot things way up in the air, this Cayuga was watching an airplane go over and he was quite concerned about it.

 The farmyard in the morning, pretty quiet. The poultry must have been camera shy because I know they were out there!

 Some of our seeds. It is so exciting to have enough room to plant and try the varieties we are interested it. We are learning about the soil here, the climate and the growing conditions as well as new varieties of everything we can think of! I told Ralph next year if we cannot pronounce it we cannot buy it!

Some of the first groundwork. Ralph used the power harrow on this piece, it was part of the garden that was here so it is already broken. He will be rotary plowing the lawn to the right of the broken ground this week.

Here is the power harrow hooked up to the Grillo. It does a beautiful job of working the top of the soil and lightly packing it for a very nice seedbed.

We have so much to do and look forward to the new things ahead. The Tobacco barn roof repair is going to be squeezed in between the last few butchering sessions and all the spring work ahead.

And I still have painting to do!  Now I am off to start the last batch of stock from todays birds. Take care all and keep safe, take the time to look around you and of course count the blessing you have been given.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ducks, Ducks and More Ducks!

I apologize for not posting about our ducks more. However it is most definitely time to let you know about them and how they are doing. The first thing is they are the most trouble free of the poultry, they don't get in near the mischief as the chickens and turkey's do and are well behaved for the most part. They put themselves to bed, they don't climb on things they are not supposed to and they love grass!

We researched duck breeds and came up with 3 we liked very  much. Two heavy breeds, Cayuga and Blue Swedish and a  laying breed Khaki Campbell.

The Blue Swedish are lovely and very quiet placid ducks. They were the friendliest ducklings and learned to come to us calling Duck Duck Go immediately.
The ALBC write up is as follows:
" The Swedish is a medium sized bird that weighs between 6 1/2 and 8 pounds. It has an oval head, medium length bill nearly straight along its top line, and a stocky body with a carriage approximately 20 degrees above horizontal. The plumage of both the duck and drake is a uniform bluish slate, with a white bib. However, the drake's head is a dark blue with a greenish bill while the duck's head and bill are the same blue slate color of the body. The legs of both sexes  are reddish-brown, with irregular markings of greyish-black. The American Standard specifies that the outer two or three wing flight feathers must be white, but this difficult specification has discouraged many breeders, and is unimportant for general use. While Blue is the only Standard variety, Swedish ducks also come in Black, Silver, and Splashed color patterns (Holderread, 2001).

The Swedish is a utility breed which matures fairly slowly and provides well-flavored meat. The Blue Swedish prefers to forage in orchards or paddocks, and grass and natural foods assist in the development of succulent flesh. In confinement they do not thrive as well (Batty, 1985) Swedish will lay 100 to 150 white, green, or blue tinted eggs yearly. Typically they have calm temperaments and make fine pets."

 Our Blue Swedish Ducklings

We loved the large gentle ducklings right from the start, they ate and drank right away and grew so fast. They were the quiet ones of the three and liked to be held for the most part. They have grown fast and steadily. They thrive outside and adapted to going outside almost instantly. I think they would  not do well in confinement but need a good sized pen or paddock.
When they grew in their first feathers and they were an incredible steel blue with penciling along the edges in varying degrees. Some have a pure white patch on the breast and others have a more mottled lacy white area.

 First day out on Grass...they took to it like they were born there, grazing and nibbling seed heads.

The second breed we chose were the Cayuga. Another big breed of startling black ducks. 

The ALBC write up is as follows:

"The Cayuga is recognized as one of the hardiest of the domestic ducks and are easily tamed if hand-raised. They tolerate the harsh winters of the northeast and can produce many offspring. The Cayuga averages 7-8 lbs. and has the ability to obtain much of its diet from foraging, when given appropriate areas to explore for food. The meat of the Cayuga is reputed to be of excellent taste and fine quality but the carcass can be difficult to clean because of their dark feathering. Some resolve this problem by skinning the ducks rather than plucking. Cayuga ducks can lay 100-150 eggs per year that can be used for general eating and baking purposes. Eggs are initially black in color, but as the season progresses egg color lightens to white by the end of the season. The plumage of the Cayuga is uniformly greenish black and may become mottled with white as they age"

This breed was my number 1 choice as I was fascinated with their color,  so black that look green in the right light. They were vigorous ducklings and dark but more of a sooty gray than black. Not really very fancy at all but they were nice and learned to come at our call for food and water. They are quiet and unassuming birds that makes them good to handle. They grew and are still growing well and are a good size. As to the color, startling black with greenish iridescent heads and shades of blue and purple on their wings. They are wonderful to look at on sunny days when they play in their pond with the sheen of their feathers. 

My favorite Cayuga Drake.

The last breed we ordered were Khaki Campbell, a laying breed.  Smaller and from the photos we saw a simple and unassuming brown duck.
The ALBC says:

"The Campbell duck is a light weight bird that on average weighs 4 to 4 1/2 pounds. They are active, streamlined birds with a modestly long head, bill, neck, and body, and a sprightly body carriage of 20 to 40 degrees above horizontal (Holderread, 2001). There are four color varieties of Campbell ducks in North America: Khaki, White, Dark, and Pied, with Khaki being the only one recognized by the APA. The Khaki drake has a green bill, rich dark-orange legs and feet, and dark brown eyes. Its head, upper neck, lower back, and tail culverts are brown-bronze while the rest of the drake's plumage is a warm khaki. The Khaki duck has a green bill and dark brown eyes and its legs and feet are brown. The ducks head, upper neck, and lower back are seal-brown and the rest of the plumage is khaki.

Campbells are prolific layers and active foragers. Most Campbells lay their first eggs when 5-7 months old and will average 250-340 eggs of superb texture and flavor per year. With an age staggered flock, one may have eggs year-round. Campells are high-strung and energetic, and need plenty of space to graze and forage. (Ives, 1947) "If they consume an adequate diet, are kept calm, provided sufficient space, and run in flocks consisting of no more than 50 to 200 birds, Campbells have proven to be amazingly adaptable. They have performed admirably in environments ranging from arid deserts with temperatures of 100°F, to humid tropical rainforests with more than 200 inches of annual precipitation, to cold Northern regions where temperatures can remain below 0°F for weeks at a time." (Holderread, 2001)"

 From the ABC site.

One of our Khaki Ducks.

We were surprised at the color of these ducks, they are far more than brown ducks. The penciling on the hens feathers is striking and they almost glow golden in sunlight. Photos do not do them justice. The Khakis are the movers and shakers of this group of ducks. They explore the most and are by far the fastest on their feet. They can also fly quite well although they do not fly very much. The Ducks are laying really well and are the first to do so, the two bigger breeds are not laying yet but we are enjoying the better baking with the Khakis wonderful eggs. They graze very well and love the hayfield. They also keep the grass in the yard nibbled down. They cover an amazing amount of ground in a day. They are a lot smaller than the Cayuga and Swedish. We love the saucy nature of the Khaki ducks, they keep the drakes in line and the other ducks too! They do talk a lot and we can always tell where the ducks are by the loud QUACK QUACK QUACK of the Khaki's!

Over all we like the ducks a great deal, they are low maintenance and have been no trouble at all, they put themselves to bed and really don't get into things like the chickens. They love grazing and are easy to feed now they get out to grass. 

It will be interesting when the two big breeds start laying eggs. Oh we also sold one of the Cayuga Drakes to a neighbor, his 91 year old mother had two white Pekin ducks on her pond. The drake had died. The neighbor had seen our ducks on the way by our farm. He stopped and asked if we would sell one. Since we only have three Cayuga ducks and 7 Drakes I thought a black duck would be nice with the white one. They had  never seen Cayuga before and were amazed at the myriad of colors on a plain "Black" duck.

If you have the room I would say ducks are a worthwhile investment for grass control and enjoyment. Yes we are putting the eggs to good use and will cull the drakes as needed. We will keep you posted as to how these low profile birds do.

 PS: I forgot to tell you they absolutely love snow and winter weather!

Be safe and count your blessings!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chicken Evaluation: Continuing Observations

By now anyone following this blog will know we have three breeds of chicken we are raising. We were unable to commit to just one as we had questions about each breeds suitability for our farm.

The hens are now laying quite steadily and the eggs are getting to adult size.
We have been butchering roosters and after 70 made their way into our food stores (both Frozen and canned) I have this to say about them.

# 1 Overall Carcass for canning: The Buckeye
# 1 Overall Carcass to pluck and for presentation as a roaster: The Australorps
# 1 Overall Bird for a horrible amount of feathers...yes you guess it the Buff Orpingtons.

The heaviest birds even in the cull roosters were the Buckeyes, they may not have looked as big as the others but they weighed more. They are slower maturing but it does not slow the way they weigh. The one problem with these birds is the length of their leg bones. They are too long for a quart jar. I ended up taking the meat off the legs on these birds or cutting the quarter chicken into legs and thighs, canning the thighs and freezing drumsticks in meal sized  packages.

The Buff's are adequate eating birds but tend to  have a shorter breast and are not as heavy in the leg, but remember these birds excel as mothers, it is okay if the roosters are not so big or meaty.

I like the Australorps, we have roasted two and both were very nice with great flavor and enough meat to make a very nice supper of roast chicken and then chicken salad the next day. They are very white skinned and they plucked easily without massive amounts of butt area feathers like the other two breeds.

On the hen front. I really like the Buckeye hens, they are laying nice dark brown eggs. They are the heaviest hens and surprise us with what they weigh when we pick them up. They do have a "Bird Of Prey" look to them and do not look sweet and delicate like the Australorps. However as they have grown up they have become quite social if you do not pick them up. They are the most talkative of the three breeds.

The Bird of Prey Stare of a Buckeye hen.

The Australorps are harder to judge, they are not uniformly sized with small almost leghorn style hens and some bigger more robust hens. They are laying light brown eggs that are not as round as the Buckeye eggs, more oval and a bit more slender....this may change as they get older.

 A refined style Australorp Hen.

Now the Buff's....what can a person say about these fluffy bundles of hen-ness!
They are the youngest of our chickens and started to lay first. They are still laying the most but the other breeds are catching up. They still ramble around more than the other breeds and they are a tad grumpy if you interrupt their laying cycle...even to walk by! The will climb on you if you sit down, they are always underfoot and are really a delight. Again there is not the uniformity of type in this group of Buff's. In size or color, some pale gold and some deep rich gold.

A Buff hen..doing what Buff's do, snooping and eating!
It is such fun to gather eggs...they are a gift that I think the commercial raising of eggs has taken away from people. Each trip to gather leads to new finds and to get a fresh from the hen warm egg and hold it in your hand is a miracle and delight!
On the left, two Buff eggs, middle is the Australorps and on the right is the Buckeye.
 The evaluation continues and it is not getting easier to pick just one breed. I will say any of these breeds will be great farmstead chickens and because of their dual purpose nature they can supply a family with all things chicken.

Now I have to go and check the hens!

God Bless you all and stay safe.

Monday, March 7, 2016

We're On Our Death Beds ( CAUTION: Proceed at your own risk. Graphic details ahead!)

A Ralph Post:

We can't have much longer left in this world. It is a proven fact that chickens are full of salmonella poisoning, and who knows what else. We have touched raw chicken time and again. I have run my hands inside of a fresh killed, raw, chicken. I have had blood all over my hands. I have had a scratch from a chicken claw on the back of my hand between kills. And I had still more chicken blood mingling with my fresh blood. No time to stop for first aid. The killing must go on. We have more roosters to kill! And what of digestive system breakage? Does that add to the danger? And the bloody nose that came from rubbing that insufferable itch with a bloody hand. We'll worry about washing the old schnauzer later. 

Don't get me wrong, we clean as we butcher and wash everything down with disinfectant when we are done, but we are not fanatical about the entire process, things do splatter.

Enough of the gory details. We have done 64 roosters and have many more to go. Meat and broth canned. The point is: Our chickens are a lot safer than what you buy at the supermarket. 

At daybreak, our flock enters the bright sunshiny world. They reenter the chicken house with the setting sun. All day long, they are roaming Gods world and exploring it's glories! They are free! They have natural dust baths in all sorts of places. They are getting into mischief. They are stopping us from working, just so we can watch their antics. Or, they have an itch that they want us to pick them up and scratch for them. And a little hugging and here and there. Both ways: them to us and us to them. 

Love makes the world go around. They give it and receive it. And we laugh! They make our world a much happier place. And we try to give them the best we can in love and care. And they sing their little songs for us/to us. All that cooing, purring, churdling, etc. They are quite vocal! They must be happy. They are always around us, with us. They go off to eat grass, etc. Then they will come back just to see what we are doing. Some are friendlier than others, just like people we know. 

I am sure they have done lots to boost our immune systems. A little bit of this bug, a little of that germ, some of that disease, here is a bacteria or virus for you. If it was warmer and we were bare footed (like we were as kids), that squishy stuff would be between our toes. It is not a “sanitary” world around here. When you pick someone up, you KNOW that they have just stepped in something and now it is on your hands, clothes. There is no running to the bathroom (while screaming) and getting the sanitizer. It might be hours before that hand gets washed. We might be dead tomorrow, but for now, we're still kicking around (healthy and happy). Our immune systems seem to be working quite well. In large part, thanks to our little friends. We have not had a cold or flu since we got here.

Go back a hundred years. (For me, it is just fifty years – in the hills of West Virginia.) Our forebears had their flocks running the yards and fields. They and their flocks were healthy. “Everyone” had a flock. Everyone had eggs and meat from that flock. 

I am sure it was around, but no one seemed to get salmonella poisoning. Why is it such a problem today? Could it be the way the “flock” is raised? Commercial, caged, anti-biotic fed. No sun light. No freedom. No happiness in their lives. Is this why they get 7 chlorine rinses while getting processed and packaged for the consumer?

Our chickens exercise! They are running everywhere.They don't have the fat like store chickens and what fat they do have is a rich yellow, full of Beta-carotene. 

They are lean. And the meat is much darker. It is muscle, like a muscle is suppose to be. And, I suspect, richer in vitamins and minerals – from their days roaming around and eating from their wild world. They are healthier and, therefore, so are we.