Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two men and some hammers

Today our friend Arthur came out to help Brian on the barn. They spent most of the day tearing down the brace boards we had put up to hold the posts in place while the cement set up. Each board had to be knocked off and then the nails pulled out and put in a can. Losing a nail would mean getting out the giant magnet and spending time finding it. We can't take a chance on someone eating it.

When I left for work they were still at it with about half the boards down. I texted Brian on my break tonite:
"How goes the barn building?"
"We got 2 boards back up where they go."

It's a start!!
"You're my hero. :)" I texted back

Peaches the Pyrenees

In the last six months, Peaches has gone from a ball of white fluff to a beautiful dog who knows her job - mostly. Sometimes Peaches forgets that guarding the animals is her job. She's still a puppy and she wants to play!

Yesterday I looked out the window and caught her chasing the sheep. I watched a minute to see what she was really up to. She would start to run then the sheep would start to run. Before it all got out of hand I opened the window and yelled "Peaches, NO!"

She sat right down where she stopped and looked at me as if to say: AWWW Mom! I was just playing. I wasn't hurting anybody.

I just looked at her and shook my head. I truly believe she wasn't trying to hurt the sheep, but she's getting really big. When she was littler she stayed with the hens and when she was bored she would hold one of the hens down just to here her squawk. She never hurt them. Once they squawked she would let them up. That's why we moved her over with the cows and sheep until she matures a bit. Still it's better to nip that behaviour before it gets out of hand. In the spring there will be tiny lambs and we can't have Peaches getting everybody all upset.

Lately, Mom says she hears Peaches barking at night. If you listen you can hear her go to the 4 corners of the pasture and bark into the night. I told her that is good. Peaches is letting all the night time bad boys know she is on the job and her bite is as big as her bark!

Great Pyrenees tend to patrol at night and sleep during the day. Peaches' favorite sleeping place is with the calves in a hay pile left over from one of the round bales. That is where I find her stretched out with the steers sound asleep when I go out to feed in the morning. She wakes up when the steers get up. Looks around sleepily, then ambles over to get a pet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Meet Matilda

Meet Matilda, she is a Large Black Pig. Large Blacks are even more rare than the RW's. We went in halves with my son to buy Matilda when she was just a weaner pig. I'm not sure which half we own- the one that needs to be fed or the half that needs to be cleaned up after. Hmmm??

Anyway, we bought Matilda because she is an "orchard hog". Large Black hogs were traditional used to clean up the ground in orchards of fruit that dropped off the trees. They have been bred not to root as much as other breeds. Anders wants to raise some pigs on his mostly wooded hilly acreage and he didn't want giant pigs like the RW's or pigs that would root and cause erosion. So Matilda fit the bill.

This spring we will cross her against a young RW boar. We should end up with some "Black Wattle" hogs. We aren't trying to create a new breed with this cross just decrease the amount of fat on the carcass by breeding the leaner RW to the fattier Large Black. We'll have to wait to see how it works out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

They came, they ate, they left dirty dishes. . .

In years past holiday dinners have been pitch in potlucks. Not this year. For some insane reason my daughter and I decided we would cook Thanksgiving dinner for our family - all 28 of them. I think it started with me saying "Wow! I don't have to work Thanksgiving!"

I left the menu up to my daughter, Lydia. She's the family "foodie". After weeks of her planning and shopping and about 3 days of cooking here is what we served:

Garden spinach dip with corn chips, deviled eggs, warm chicken spread on Italian breed rounds and spicy barbeque meatballs

Main Course:
Citrus-herb brined - herb roasted Turkey, Ginger-ale glazed ham, Caesar salad, sliced tomatoes, mashed potatoes (10 pounds- I have some really big nephews who love mashed potatoes), green bean casserole, creamy Mac-n-Cheese (a special request from the littlest neice and nephew), gravy, apple-bacon stuffing, sweet potatoes, homemade dill and whole wheat bread with dairy butter.

Pumpkin Roulade, Apple crisp, Fried fruit pies, Chocolate chiffon pie in Oreo crust.

It was way too much food. We could have fed another 10 people easily!
It was fun to show off some of the things we grow so well on the farm: the ham was from one of our Red Wattles, the eggs from our hens, the sweet potatoes were freshly dug from the little patch of experimental vines Anders had planted. The tomatoes were from the hardy vines hanging on in our greenhouse, and the lettuces were the last hardy survivors of a tiny patch I'd covered with spunbounded row covering.

The after dinner wreckage is prodigeous! It's going to take a couple of days to wash up, sort out Lydia's cooking utensils from ours, get all the furniture put back in place and all the temporary tables and chairs put up.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it! I think I'll go to bed and start on it in the morning.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Post Henge

About 3 weeks ago we started setting the posts for our new barn. Six rows of posts straight and plumb, concreted into holes held steady by a seemingly haphazard array of two by fours and one bys.
We've worked on it in the rain. We've worked on it in the dark. We've worked on it in the cold. And one day we actually worked on it in the sunshine for an hour or two.

My mother refers to it as "Post Henge" a monument to persistence.

It's going to be wonderful when it's done. 56 Ft X 56 Ft with farrowing stalls for 12 Red Wattle Momma's, a feed room, stalls for the Haflingers, a cow stall and a calf stall, a milking parlor, a tack room and a place to park our horse drawn wagon and carts. There will be a nice wide alley down the middle to allow the tractor to pass through, too.

Ahhhh... now if we could get the politicians to stop bickering about insignificant things and concentrating on passing legislation creating a 48 hour day, then we could maybe get it done faster. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buckeyes - the chickens not the nuts!

While at the ALBC conference we had the opportunity to taste Buckeye chicken and to talk with a Buckeye breeder. The material quoted below is from the ALBC website breed discription and history.

"Buckeye Chicken
The Buckeye is a dual-purpose breed of chicken with a deep, lustrous red color of plumage. They have yellow legs and skin, and, thanks to their pea comb, are very cold-weather hardy. While Buckeyes adapt readily to a variety of living conditions, they do best under free-range conditions, or conditions where they have room to move around. Because of their active nature they do not do especially well in small confined spaces. Roosters weigh approximately nine pounds; hens weigh approximately six and a half pounds and lay medium-sized, brown eggs.

Buckeyes were developed by Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio, and appropriately named after the “Buckeye State.” Buckeyes are unique in the American Class of chickens in that it is the only breed created entirely by a woman. Mrs. Metcalf started by breeding a Buff Cochin male to Barred Plymouth Rock females. This produced what she considered a large, lazy fowl. The next year she purchased a Black-Breasted Red Game male and crossed this male over the half cochin pullets. This cross produced several red offspring and from there she developed the breed. It is interesting to note that her creation predated the introduction of Rhode Island Reds into the mid-west.

In 1896 she learned that her idea of red fowls was not new and that a very popular eastern breed had been developed, the Rhode Island Red. After corresponding with several Rhode Island Red breeders, she decided to call her breed Pea Combed Rhode Island Reds (she even traded stock with several of these breeders). Rather than helping to promote her new breed, she found that calling them Pea Combed Rhode Island Reds was in fact limiting its popularity. So in 1902 she exhibited a pair in the Cleveland, Ohio poultry show as Buckeyes. Within a few years Pea Combed Rhode Island Reds began to disappear.

The Buckeye should not be confused with the Rhode Island Red, even though they share some history. Buckeyes are unique in their body shape: slanted, short but broad back, very meaty thighs, powerful wings and breast. They appear very close to the Cornish, as bred in 1905, in body shape. (It should be noted that the originator indicated that she did not use Cornish in their breeding; the Cornish body shape was simply her goal.) In color the Buckeye is also unique. The color of the Buckeye is darker than that of the original Rhode Island Red (later, the Rhode Island Red was bred for a shade of color even darker than the Buckeye). The Buckeye also has a slate colored bar in the undercolor (fluff) of its back; the Rhode Island Red’s feathers should be red to the skin. Both breeds share the trait of tight feathering – unique in the American Class of poultry.

Buckeyes also have a personality all their own. They are a very active fowl and are noted for being especially vigilant in the pursuit of mice, some breeders comparing them to cats in regard to this ability. They tend to have very little fear of humans and are possibly too friendly. In fact, some males may show a little aggression during breeding season. They also seem to lack the tendency to feather-pick each other (this is a trait worthy of further exploration). The males emit a full range of sounds beyond those typical of many other chicken breeds, including a dinosaur-like roar!

Status: Critical"

We are actively looking for Buckeye breeding stock to start a sustainable flock for both meat and eggs. We plan to build our own incubator and hatching cabinet so that we can keep the entire production on the farm from egg to freezer.

"The Ecology of Place"

That was the title of one of the talks we attended at the ALBC Conference. It refers to the fact that most heritage breeds originally developed the traits needed to flourish in a particular location.

For example a goat breed such as the San Clemente, which developed on an island off of California might not do well on a farm in Maine without costly and time consuming heat and special care. In other words, choosing a heritage breed should involve assessing whether the conditions that you will be raising the animal under are going to be the conditions under which the animals will flourish.

We've been doing a lot of talking lately about appropriate livestock for our farm and our family/lifestyle. We have a list of sorts that we are using now to evaluate the appropriateness of a breed or individual animal.

1. Can it be raised sustainabley? Mostly on pasture. Without a lot of outside inputs.

2. Will it need a special worming program or is the breed able to flourish in spite of the parasites that are indigenous to our area?

3. Will it need special housing? We usually (this summer excluded) have hot humid summers and at least some below zero weather in the winter. How will it do with the wind, rain and snow?

4. We consider mothering ability. This is very important as bottle babies take a lot of time.

5. Can we see ourselves with this breed in 5 yrs, 10 yrs? If I can't imagine going out to feed/water it in 5 yrs then I'm not going to spend time developing a sustainable program.

6. And of course there is the consideration of: will Grandma Marilyn approve? LOL This is my 73 yr old mother who lives with us. She has firm opinions on which animals are worth their salt. :) And she won't hesitate to be heard.

7. Does the breed fit with the other animals we have and the direction we are heading with the farm?

8. Do we enjoy the breed? Feel strongly about it's survival and it's value as a farm animal?

With these questions in mind we have been rethinking a few things on the farm.

ALBC Conference

We spent the 12th through the 15th in Raleigh at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Annual Conference. WOW! Great heritage food. An interesting hotel (the rooms were pie shaped and the halls circular). The Maglione's of NC and we both supplied the Red Wattle Pork. We also got a chance to try Buckeye chicken and Devon beef. Yummy! So yummy we are planning on starting our own sustainable flock of Buckeye chickens.

Aside from the food the talks we attended included: Marketing, Incubating, Breed Association discussion, How to work with your processor,"the Ecology of Place", "Pork the other Red Meat".

And in between attending talks we did a lot of talking! We met Red Wattle Association members from across the country. It was nice to put faces with some names.

It was a long drive the Raleigh and we came home tired, but we learned a lot and met some great people who are passionate about saving heritage livestock breeds.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Turning over a new leaf

I haven't been exactly diligent about blogging for several months. So since it's fall I'm going to turn over a new leaf and do better. I am going to blog every day that I'm the chief in charge of farming.

Now that Brian is working 3-4 days a week at the feed mill, I am the chief farmer on his work days. I've been doing all the chores for a couple of weeks now. I have a new found respect for his stamina in getting all the work done around here. And I've lost 10 pounds.

It's really changed my day off. No more sitting around the table drinking tea for hours or sleeping in. My day starts when DH's alarm starts screaming at 7am. He makes the coffee and puts the kettle on for me. We both throw on clothes and I rustle up some breakfast for the 2 of us. At 8 he leaves for work and I head out to do chores.

I tuck Rosy the bottle baby pig's milk under my arm grab the pig treat bucket and head to the garage. Honey and Betty are waiting to be let out of their kennels so they can do their business. I let then run lose while I gather up pails of feed for Rosy and our Large Black hog, Matilda. By now my arms are pretty full.

Out behind the garage, Rosy is grunting and trying to climb our of her brooder and Matilda is running up and down the fence squealing in anticipation of breakfast. Rosy is first. Mix the milk with the feed to make a nice soupy mash and pour in in her dish. Hopefully, without getting too much on her head! Then fill up her water dish.

Next: Matilda. By this time she and my corgi, Honey, have settled into a game of running back and forth along the fence. I sneak her feed into her pan and check to be sure she hasn't dumped her water again. Then I gather up all my feed containers and head back to the garage. Feed containers must be returned to their appropriate place or Brian has a fit when he can't find them on his days. lol

Then it's off to unplug and start the tractor. We keep it on a heater this time of year so that the diesel fuel won't jell. Tractor started. It's time to put Betty in her pen and Honey on her cable. I'd like to take Honey with me while I do chores but I'm afraid she'll get under the tractor.

We have a 55 gallon plastic barrel we put in the bucket of the tractor and secure with cargo straps. I use the garden hose to fill it. It takes a few minutes so I try to use the time tidying up around the yard. There always seems to be something out of place or little messes that need attention. Once the barrel's full, I'm off on the tractor to the yellow garage where we store our feed.

Each pen of pigs needs to be fed. 1 bucket with feed for Samsom and 1 for George. Then a 50 pound bag of feed for Atlas's family and their babies and a 5 gallon bucket of feed for Trailblazer and his girls. Oh and a bucket of chicken feed for the hens and a bucket feed for a cow treat. All of this goes into the tractor bucket with the water barrel.

I always start with Samson and George, because they are bachelors and they get pretty excited when it's time for breakfast! I really don't want them to get out because George is still healing from the last time he got out. He thought it would be a good idea to bother Samson. Samson disagreed.

Feed Atlas's family and then Trailblazer's. The barrel of water will go to the Louisiana hogs in the far paddock. I'll haul another 5 barrels of water during the morning to top off all of the self waterers. In the mean time, I drive on out to the chicken tractor on the far hill and feed the chickens.

I'd like to be able to let the chickens out but we are plagued by hawks right now. They sit and wait in the trees watching to see if they can have a chicken dinner. Not today. I just push the pen forward onto new grass.

Now it's time to tend to the cows and horses. My new skill is being able to fill the barrel with water for the horses and successfully spear a big round bale of hay on the front and one on the back of the tractor. I can even get my whole load out to the field without losing a bale now! I feel so powerful! :)

Drop the bales in the field, give the cows their little grain/beet pulp treat and check on everybody. Water the horses and give them a pat and check their hay. Back to the hose for more water.

When everybody's water is finally full and all the animals have had their breakfast, I sit down for a minute and look at my "TO DO" list. NOW it's time to get some work done!