Monday, November 20, 2017

Cutting Flakes and Mixing Dough

Some of us thought this snowflake was the most beautiful of all the snow flakes my nieces and I created yesterday. 

My nieces got to spend the night with us on Saturday.  We made popcorn on the stove top, and settled in to watch Swiss Family Robinson, one of my childhood favorites.   It's been years since I watched it, and I forgot about all those animal scenes.  This movie must have been filmed before the promise that no animals were harmed, because I'm pretty sure two dogs fight a tiger.  For real!  

The kids come with some of their own entertainment.  The eldest is reading The Chamber of Secrets, and youngest had several national geographic books full of interesting facts.  They also have a smart phone, which was very helpful to us when we were trying to learn how to fold paper for our snow flakes.  We had to watch the youtube video very closely, and push the pause often, before we finally figured out what we were doing.  None of our flakes looked much like the video, but they were all pretty when taped to the window. 

Our flakes were even decorated with glitter!  They sparkle, just like real snow. 

We made pizza for lunch too.  We even mixed up a gluten free crust.  Unfortunately, the tomato paste we used for sauce was too tangy for their taste buds so there were lots left over.  I guess that's one way to make sure they don't eat too much pizza, huh?   

Puck wasn't very helpful at making snow flakes, but he was very involved in the pizza making, and diligently patrolled the kitchen licking up any dropped cheese shreds or pepperoni pieces.  Good times were had by all! 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Chicks on Stage

I was thinking about you yesterday.  I was standing in the greenhouse, with my hands in my coat pockets, staring at the baby chicks, like I do, as I pondered two things.  First, what could I take a picture of that would be interesting to the blog, and also, what am I going to do about these meat babies.  

The meat babies are crowded in the brooder now.  Their bodies are big, and their feathers are finally covering their skin.  If they were normal chicks, I would just open the brooder and let them roam the greenhouse at will, because I know they would put themselves back to bed in the brooder at night, and I could shut the lid and they would be safe from predators.  But, these chicks don't seem very mobile, so I'm not sure they would find their way in or out of the brooder.  Maybe they need a ramp...

So, what do I see that might be interesting to someone else, or to Future Rain?  How about the crazy looking interior of the greenhouse!  It doesn't seem that odd to me, but if I look at it through your eyes, I could see how it might be nice to get a little explanation.  The burlap hanging from the roof, for instance.  Why?  Theatrical ambiance?  

Before the days became so cold, the sun would shine down on the baby chicks in the brooder and they would seek shade.  I clipped the burlap in place to shade the baby chicks from the bright hot yellow sun.  It appears that the curtains are always rising.  

These chicks eat a lot.  Which means they poop a lot too.  I collect old hay and straw from the barn in the plastic tub, and add several hand-fulls each day to keep the floor of the brooder dry.  There is about six inches of straw and poo in the bottom of the brooder now.  The chicks are bigger too, so they were hitting their heads on the heat lamp.  Several times I came out to find the bulb knocked loose and the chicks huddled up in the cold.  Since they don't have to be so warm now that they have feathers, I moved the heat lamp so that it rests on the lid of the brooder.  

 MJ, are you squished?  

I fill the black bucket sitting on the ground with water from the hose every other day or so, which allows me to dip fresh water for the meat babies.  This morning, after I refilled the black bucket, I sprayed all the old goat bedding that I spread in the greenhouse with water.  I soaked it good, and mice came running from the piles and darted under the old tomato plants.  I want all that organic matter to start breaking down, so that when I plant in the spring, the soil is nutritious.  If I can figure out how to let those meat babies out into the greenhouse, they can add extra nutrition.  I may have to go out there and ponder that ramp some more...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Welcome Mat Guards Goats

Wendigo makes a good welcome mat as she sleeps just outside the door to the house.  Brandon has been expanding our stone pathway.  Some day we may have enough stones that we could walk to the barn or the car without tip-toeing through the mud puddles.  Some day.  

I think Wendigo's favorite person is our mail lady, Terry.  Terry brings dog biscuits, and she is friends with all the dogs on her route.  Wendigo gets so excited when she spies Terry's jeep, that she shakes all over and drools.  I've seen Terry give Wendigo an entire jar of treats.  Probably because she's afraid to hold any back with such a drooly giant pouncing on her!   

If Wendi is our welcome mat, that must make Puck the entry rug as he lays just inside the door. 


Puck, can I wipe my feet on your fur?  No?  

Sometime during the summer, Brandon and I used four long hog panels, and created a small fence in the brush, for the goats.  I thought that we might be able to move the four panels around and concentrate the goats where we wanted them to eat.  It worked too - for about two hours, then the goats escaped.  Sigh.  Moving the panels was a pain in the neck too, so that experiment didn't last very long.  

The small fenced in area soon grew up in weeds and brush goat food.  I decided to give it another try recently, and used some zip ties to strengthen the corners, then lead the goats, with a promise of sunflower seeds, back inside and tied the panels closed.  

Wendigo patrolled the perimeter of the fence for a while, then left the goats on their own so she could take a nap on her lounge chair.  Shouldn't she be on guard?  It's a good thing she makes a pretty welcome mat. 

The goats were nervous to be left alone out there in the weeds, but stayed busy munching everything in sight.  After about four hours, there was hardly a leaf left!  Their bellies were sticking out so far they looked pregnant as they waddled back to their barn to be put to bed.  I was encouraged, but still not sure that the heavy hog panels are the best thing for me to use.  Walking the goats with Peaches on a leash is the easiest way for me to let them eat some weeds, but I don't have the time or patience to let them eat for hours.  We are years away from having the whole place fenced in with woven wire. My goat day dreams are starting to have multi strands of electric wire.  

We butchered four roosters on Sunday.  Some of these roosters were hatched here, under one of these yellow hens.  They were small, and hardly had any fat on their organs.  It's hard to know if my hens are too fat, so it's nice to get a peak inside some of the flock members.  I don't think I'm feeding them too much.  Those giant meat babies in the brooder are going through bags of chick food faster than any birds I've ever raised.  They better taste delicious!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hot Balls of Flesh

I got to spend a little quality time with my baby meat chicks yesterday.  Not that they have been neglected, as I do visit them at least twice a day to give them food and fresh water.  And I open or close the greenhouse walls and make sure they are warm and cozy in their brooder.  But, yesterday, I really paid attention to their behavior and tried to figure out why they seem so different from the other chicks I've raised.  

I like to place pieces of plexi-glass on the top of the brooder in the evening, to make sure they stay warm through the night.  Their bodies are big, and their feathers are sparse, so they look as though they could get a chill.  I know it's important that they have lots of fresh air too, so I leave some gaps around the edges of the plexi.  

When I look through the top of the brooder, they are almost always lying down.  Some of them are resting near the food, lackadaisically munching chick crumbles.  I'm pretty sure all my other chicks stood up while eating and spent much more time scratching and tussling with each other.  

These babies lounge around stretching their wings and legs, but don't get up to move until there's a disturbance.  I'm usually a disturbance, and MJ, the little bonus heritage breed chick, causes a disturbance when he rockets around the brooder like a tiny bowling ball amidst a bunch of giant white pins.  

I've read other peoples descriptions of these birds and some folks think they are creepy, or unnatural.  I remember from my ornithology class that there are two types of baby birds.  There are the type that get up and walk around right away, like quail, turkey, and chickens, and then there are the other type, that stay in the nest and let their parents bring them food until they are ready to fly.  These giant babies seem like they are somewhere in between.  They aren't as mobile as the hardy heritage birds, but they can move around enough to help themselves to some conveniently placed food.  

They are easier to take care of with my set up, because they don't try to fly out of the brooder every time I open the lid.  They don't seem particularly cuddly though.  When I pick one up for a cuddle, it's surprising how much of their skin is bare.  Usually chicken cuddles are like hugging a feather pillow.  But these are different.  They feel hot!  A chickens body temperature is naturally higher than ours, so holding one of these fat bald babies is like holding a squishy, slightly prickly, hot ball of flesh.  That moves.  It's kind of... disturbing.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Barking, Caulking, and Pear Eating Donkeys

Wendigo was barking last night.  Her furious woofing woke us up in the wee hours, and when I asked Brandon what he thought she was barking at, he just said "who knows" and fell back to sleep!  Wendi barks like that sometimes, and if we make the late night journey outside to see what monster she is holding at bay, we can't find any reason for her agitation.  I imagine that whatever it is that's out there, it hears her booming barks and keeps it's distance.  It's probably nothing.  At least that's what I tell myself as I put a pillow over my ears and go back to sleep.  This morning as the sun was rising, she was resting peacefully on her lounger, despite the frost.  I hope she got some rest today, so she has the energy to bark through the night again.  Doh!     

We had the first fire of the season in our wood-stove this week.  So exciting.  And warm! 

The arrival of the cold weather inspired Brandon do some caulking on the west and north walls of our house.  For the past two winters we have felt a slight breeze from around the windows, doors, and floor boards, and we threatened to caulk all the cracks, but never actually pulled out the furniture and made it happen.  

Some of our cracks were so big they sucked up entire tubes of caulk!  We think it makes a noticeable difference already, and there's still more caulking fun to be had. 

We may be doing winter prep, but inside the greenhouse the tomato plants are blooming! 

I can snack on cherry tomatoes when I visit the chicks in the brooder.  Nice. 

I collected marigold seeds from the still blooming plants in the greenhouse, and zinnia and sunflower seeds from the garden. 

Check out this monster sized swiss chard!  It loves the greenhouse now that the temperatures are cooler.  I'm curious to see how long it will thrive.  Next year I need to plant more greens in the greenhouse late in the summer.  Remind me, would ya?  

I didn't do any food preservation this year.  No canning or drying or freezing.  I may regret that this winter when we dependent on the grocery, but I was glad to give myself a pass this year.  I tried hard to eat as much of the garden's bounty as I could, straight from the garden, although I was happy to have the jars of tomato sauce my brother-in-law shared with me from the family tomato patch.  The old pear tree has fewer pears than ever before, but the pears it has are huge and sweet.  I make it a habit to collect the freshly dropped pears and share them with the donkeys.  They eat their pears fast, and then demand to have my pear core before I'm even finished!  

Rufus and Hattie have grown in thick coats of winter fur.  They look so adorable with their shaggy foreheads.  For some reason the flies love Hattie's eyes, but not Rufus's.  Rufus has beautiful eyes. 

I think Hattie must have blocked tear ducts, because her eyes are often watery, and the flies like to land on her lower lids and drink her tears.  And bite her face.  I've dabbed so many ointments and repellents on her fly bites that when I reach toward her face now, she recoils, like I'm going to do something to her.  By the time I got a fly mask on her, she had sores on her face with bald patches, and she did not enjoy it when I tied her up and cleaned and treated her sore spots.  But now that the flies are gone, and the mask is off, we have a system.  As long as she has a pear to chew on, she doesn't mind if I reach from behind her head and rub an ointment on her bald spots.  She's mostly healed up now, thank goodness.  I'll be ready with the fly mask early next fly season.  

Friday, October 27, 2017

Eyes and Baby Meat

Before the sun was set last evening, the goats and dogs and I took a long walk around the little farm.  The dogs entertained themselves sniffing sniffs, and the goats were happy munching leaves and weeds.  I mostly just admired my goats.  They make such a pretty herd.  

Especially now that we have Little Buck.  His coat is soft and shiny, and he thinks it's fun to let the herd get ahead of him and then pretend he has been left behind, so he can run and jump to catch up.  His ears flop all over the place when he prances.  I can tell he thinks he's cute stuff.  He is. 

His eyes are the color of amber, and the setting sun makes them glow. 

Peaches has yellow eyes, and when she faces the sun her pupils shrink to tiny rectangles inside a shiny yellow marble. 

Dark River has bright blue eyes. 

So does Light River, although sometimes they are so light they look clear, or gray.  Square pupils never cease to be surprising when I notice them.  I think goats might be aliens from another planet. 

Wendigo has pretty brown eyes and always wears dark eyeliner.  Her bottom lids are droopy though, so the pink shows through and makes her look grouchy, even when she isn't.   

When she's getting petted and snuggled, she gets so relaxed that her entire face hangs down.  Her jowls wobble and her forehead droops down and her eyes get lost in her skin.  It's like her skin is too big for her face!  

Puck's skin fits him perfectly.  His chocolate eyes still shine bright, but under certain light I can see a faint transparent haze over this eyes now.  Cataracts, maybe? 

For some reason I counted up how many eyes lives here now.  One hundred and twenty-four!  This includes two for myself and two for Brandon, plus two eyes each on the twenty-five meat chicks that live in the brooder box in the greenhouse.  The picture above is from two weeks ago, when they arrived at the post office in a card board box. 

This is what they look like now.  They grow so fast!  And look at the size of those feet.  These are the bar-b-q special, which are some sort of cornish cross birds bred for their size and speed of growth.  I've never raised this kind of chick before, and I'm already amazed at how fast they grow and how much they eat! 

This is a picture of them all on day one...

 and now here they are after only two weeks.  Of course, they've consumed nearly an entire forty pound bag of food in these two weeks, and they drink the entire bucket of water each day.  It won't be long before they will be too big for the brooder. 

The hatchery routinely gives you an option for a free "bonus" chick, which I said yes to, but I didn't think about it being so much smaller than these meat babies.  It's name is MJ, and I worry that it will be squished by it's giant brooder mates.  So far, he's okay, and he walks on the backs of his big buddies when they crowd him out from the food.  
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