Homestead Pantry

  (Orrtanna, Pennsylvania)
GrowNaturally with Care,...from our homestead pantry to yours!

Posts tagged [poultry]

Hello again,...

Hello again, it's been a long while.  I notice that I neglected to save and publish my last entry before the Big Backache.  <sigh>  Well, spring was very late this year, having two days back to back in two weeks back to back of freezing weather sure knocked the garden back. Things are so late this year.  I hope we have a late first frost, Our garden looks lovely but when the temps soar, blossoms drop which means no production.  Now that the temps are cooler the summer garden should take off and the fall garden can germinate and take off. 

We're counting down the days to bacon and sausage.  Our gilts farrowed and are raising two litters, with another litter due soon.  We'll be weaning the first litter next week or so.  We're weaning the second litter next month. 

They've been raised on ground feed, pasture, and whey from our cheese making daily or at least every other day.  It's really funny to see how soon after birth they start using their tiny little rooters!  We really love the Berkshires, the moms are gentle even with babies, and the babies are calm and easy to pick up, don't squeal bloody murder and make mom and the whole herd go crazy.  They say the meat tastes better than other breeds, so I wonder if that's the connection.  Calmer animals are said to taste better and be more nutritious.

They sure are good at clearing brush!

Well, I have to get out there in it, and get up from this computer.  I'll take it easy, though, so I don't end up flat on my back again, and come back here sooner next time.

Meantime, well, eat real!



All Cooped Up!

Today we worked on the brooder house/coop.  Again.  This has been an awfully long, ongoing project for the size of coop it is, but that happens when you're training your workforce as you construct, and when those happy hens keep interrupting you!  If they weren't traipsing in to inspect the progress of the construction they were yelling at us from afar, calling us to come hunt eggs!  I have been hearing one somewhere around the landing zone (for those giant sized rolls of hay or straw when winter's grip prevents us from getting them all the way to the barn.)  However, I have some hearing loss in one ear due to an ear infection in '06, and that makes it hard to locate the direction sometimes, particularly when they are far away.  Finally this evening, when the boys were taking off the topper, they found the nest!  There were at least three hens contributing to it and altogether there were 14 eggs!  One egg was a deep dark brick red color.  I'd say we're ready for Easter, since the oldest daughter found green ones in her part of the barnyard.

I'll try to remember to bring the camera with me the next time I visit to blog, so that I can post some of the progress.  We're ready for the siding, trim, and now to find some wheels or a wagon gear suitable for a 6x8 chick coop.  They moved in already today, and they were sure comfortable!  Even this evening as things were cooling down, I looked in and they were sitting all around, ducklings back in the shadowy corner, and only a handful of chicks directly under the brooder light itself.  

This go-round is small thanks to our brooder house blowing away the beginning of the month.  We are feeding this run regular starter for the first bag, but the second bag I made sure to get gamebird feed, which has no antibiotics since they can't handle it.  We're raising ducklings with them so we can't feed the kind that has antibiotics anyway.  However, after we finally gave up and the chicks arrived, we did find a source for organic feed but boy was it expensive! 

 The first garden bed is covered with greenhouse plastic, and we'll begin working on that greenhouse tomorrow, if the rain holds off long enough.  I have to remember to call and make an appointment for the beef as our freezer is running pretty low.

That's all I can stay up to write for now, so until next time, stay healthy, eat fresh!


Goundhog Dodges the BBQ!

We were very cross with Phil and all his relative groundhogs here at the homestead, and vowed to team up with our predator control partner, Gazelle, to wreak vengeance upon Puxatawny Phil and all his kin.  We just did not like the weather that hit us, that's all there was to it.  Luckily for the groundhogs, the bad weather, a couple of other issues, and the two college students' schedules kept us mostly too busy to take time from chores for vengeance-wreaking activities.  Now that spring seems to have sprung, we're all much more cheerful and need I say busy?  However, we do feel it was so beyond unnecessary for that nasty wind of last weekend that blew our brooder house end over end and over the perimeter fence!  Luckily we had not gotten the first chick order of the year in yet so there just wasn't the planned 200 cornish white rocks and 25 layer pullets that would have otherwise been in there and a month along. 

With that in mind, our first pastured poultry run was much smaller than planned so we will have to do another one in about a week to fill all the orders from homestead clients, family, friends and not to mention the egg orders that keep streaming in.  Our cartons of multicolored eggs are gaining a following that is going to require a few more hens to keep them all happy!

Without a brooder house, how do we manage, you might ask?  Well since it's Saturday now, the kids are all out there working to finish the brooder house that was started.  Meanwhile, the F250 seems to be filling in quite nicely.  There is actually plenty of room for a lot more chicks in there and when the brooder house is done we will add chicks but for now I want my wheels back!

The maple sap is running almost faster than two Terrible Teens can keep up, and the smaller wood burner is just not cutting it.  We need a larger wood stove and a larger more shallow pan for boiling maple sap! The yellow bellied sap sucker came along and made a few holes in the maple tree outside my bedroom window.  The hole he left behind allowed sap to run freely, which clued me into the timing for jugging the trees this year.  We've been boiling sap now for over a week.  The waffles are sure special with fresh boiled syrup!  We now cheer when we hear that the night temps are going to be freezing or lower, and the next day over freezing, because we know that the next day will bring a lovely huge surge of sap for our boiler!  Can you even have too much maple syrup?

 We also saw honeybees flying that first day that the temps shot over 50 degrees F so a trip to the orchards' beehives are in order to check on the welfare of the overwintering hives.  They have flown several days now, and with the yellow bellied sap suckers making holes in maples up where terrible teens fear to tap, likely the honeybees are enjoying the largess and will be just fine if they've made it this long. 

Thanks to terrible weather every day we had available to work outside this past fall and winter, our greenhouses are not yet up and running.  That's next on the agenda, along with perimeter fencing.  Anyone out there interested in joining in for a brooder raisin', fence raisin' or a greenhouse raisin' along the lines of an old fashioned barn raisin'?

Until next time, eat fresh, eat well!



Freedom Rangers..Gettin' Acquainted

We had a chance to try out some Freedom Rangers meat chickens.  So this afternoon off we dashed as soon as it cooled a bit, to avoid heat stress since the day was bright and sun shiney.  

 Arriving at the seller's place, we drove right up to the little chicken house to load the chickens.  They are quite large already and will need only two or three weeks to finish them before harvesting.  I have just the grassy plot for them!  They are pretty red mottled, most of them look a lot like a red barred rock.  Most of them are also already big enough to harvest as Cornish 'hens'.

 I was so pleased with them that I also stopped by Lowe's and picked up a couple of Chippewa blue berry bushes in case we needed pollinator varieties for our others.  I couldn't remember what varieties we had already planted, and I know we lost one bush already so I need to check on that variety tomorrow in the daylight. 

 Another item on the schedule for tomorrow is a run for organic raw sugar to make bee feed.  There's a nearby feral colony that is just a true gift!  We moved one colony out of it already this year, and there is another colony worth bearding up on the outside again.  I now have another location far enough away from this house so that they will not try to return like so many did with the last removal.  We will remove a generous number of honey bees to the new location and check on them several times over the next few weeks before moving them to their permanent location in an orchard or garden somewhere.

Also on the schedule for tomorrow is building some raised beds to keep our gardens growing later this fall.  I'm seeing a lot of predictions of a long, cold winter and I've been looking forward to trying out some new structures a la Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest.  Last spring our tunnel cover blew away, and then the wind stopped, and allowed a frost to kill my early tomatoes.  I'm planning to ramp that structure up a few notches this year! 

Until next time...

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