Saturday, July 4, 2015

It's a Girl!

Our royal Majesty has given us the only girl of the season.  She took after her mother and hid in the pines to deliver her calf, the same spot where she was born.  Quietly in the wee hours of the morning, all by herself despite her small size.  Mom and babe are both doing well.

A view of her udder yesterday.  It's a little deceiving, because she has six teats.  She was bagging up really well.  Her udder was smaller than Mildred's, but much larger than the beef cows.  I'm very excited to soon be milking again!

We had not planned to keep this one, but she is oh so cute.  She's about 3/4 holstein, so we'll see how the milking goes with Majesty before we decide for sure.

I love her spots.  She's adorable.

Majesty's not thrilled about all of the attention.  I'm sure she'll be even less thrilled once we try moving them to the milk room pen.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Greenhouse Gardening

I didn't do any soil amendments in the greenhouses this spring, and I think it's really 'showing' in Greenhouse #1 and #3.  I normally add the chicken coop cleanings and sometimes fresh manure, but with the quad broke down, I just went ahead and planted this year.  These two greenhouses are both very dry.  Greenhouse #2 is doing well, but I had added a lot of wood chips and bark to it a couple of years ago, which has mostly broken down now, leaving a rich, moist soil.

Greenhouse #1
The beans are up.  A couple of pumpkins on the left side (new seed).  Corn is very spotty.  Weeds are doing great.

Centre line - watermelons are ok.  I filled a couple of empty spots with extra cucumbers my mother had started.  Radishes and peas doing well.  Nasturtiums and sunflowers small.

Right side- Beans good, corn spotty, no pumpkins (saved seed).  Weeds healthy.

Greenhouse #2

Right side - Brussel sprouts and broccoli both spotty.  I lost quite a few transplants.  I am thinking I will direct sow both next year when I do the companion plants.  Beets, spinach, swiss chard all doing great.  No onions.  I think I need to add them a little later.  I tossed some broccoli seed in last week.  I figure it can't hurt, although it's probably too late in the season to form heads.

Centre line - Radishes are huge.  Still no sign of Far North Melons after second seeding.  Sunflowers, peas ok.

Left side - I may have 'weeded' out some kale when it was little.  I almost pulled some the other day, and then I did an 'oh, wait, what is that...'  and then remembered that I put the kale there.  What's left is doing well.  Cabbage is a bit spotty, but better than the brussels and broccoli.  Companion plants doing really well.  Dill has come up all over the back end.

Greenhouse #3

Tomatoes were doing well but have started yellowing.  I need to do some research and find out what they need.  Peppers are ok.  Carrots are doing really well.  I left the pop bottles full of water in to help keep the plants warm over night.

Centre line - Radishes ok.  Cucumbers, sunflowers, peas all good.  Dill spread along the back.

I still have romaine and a couple of extra tomatoes to transplant.  They were looking pretty dead in the house, but have perked up out in the greenhouse.

I will add the chicken bedding down the centre aisles when I finish cleaning out the coop.  Hopefully it will help with moisture retention, and at least it'll be there to mix into the soil next year.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chicken Update

The first hatch this year, started in April while our temps were still up and down, produced 13 chicks out of 42 eggs.  A 31% hatch rate. 

All of them are doing well.  They're almost completely feathered, and starting to fly up onto the nesting boxes.

They're growing really fast, too, like creepy meats.  Their vitality impresses me.

I discovered after they hatched, when the feed store was closed, that the leftover chick starter I had from last year had gotten wet and molded.  These chicks were started on scratch with no additives.  They're busy little foragers right from the get go.

Hatch #2 yielded 20 healthy chicks out of 24 eggs, for an 83% hatch rate.  I think I hit the sweet spot on the incubator.  One additional chick got stuck on the way out- part of another shell stuck to his egg.  I gave him some help, but I don't expect him to live.

They moved to the coop this morning. 

I'm only feeding this batch scratch as well.  The floor is covered in weeds in both pens, and of course, bugs are readily available.

Both of these batches came from the chantecler mix pen that I hatched last year, with the second smallest combed chantecler mixed rooster.  Most are mainly white, with one red tinted chick in each batch.  A few have a few black wing and tail feathers, and I expect will look more like the Frey's dual purpose rooster I started with last year.

Since egg production is down right now, it'll be about a week before I start batch #3.  That will be a mixed breed hatch with a chantecler cross rooster- the smallest, but pointed combed rooster, and eggs from all hens.

We butchered 8 roosters.  I love the chanteclers.  The white feathers and light coloured body turn out very clean carcasses.  The red roosters have very yellow skin, and their quills leave noticeable marks.  It never bothered me before, but it was somewhat surprising to see the difference.  I didn't weigh them, but I would guess they were all in the 6-8lb range, almost as big as the Frey's roosters.

The red and Frey's roosters also had a lot of fat on them by comparison, leading me to believe the chantecler crosses have a better feed to meat conversion ratio.

We ate one. Delicious.  The meat is so juicy and tender.  The flavour isn't dramatically different from any chickens we've raised ourselves before, but definitely juicier.  I've always preferred dark meat, because I don't care for the dryness of the white.  With these birds the white is as juicy as most dark meat.  The bird easily made three meals for 6.

For the time being, I will continue with my crossbreed experiment, but in the future I plan to add more purebred chanteclers to my flock.  What's not to love?  Heavy meat birds, taste delicious, brown eggs right through the winter, great foragers, good feed conversion, pullets lay early, no frost bite, excellent winter hardiness...  These are the birds I was always meant to have!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Spring Update - Calves

Dorie calved - May 30, 2015.

It's a boy.  Tagged, but not yet castrated.

Nelly calved - June 3, 2015.

Another boy, not yet tagged or castrated.

Mindy calved - June 13, 2015.

Not even a picture.  Not sure if it's even been sexed...

Bugs - Not too bad this year.  Very light on the blackflies.  Mosquitoes heavy in the mornings and early evening.

Weather - Beautiful and warm.  Rain was excellent in early spring, a little scarce now.

Chicks - First hatch - end of May.
            - Second hatch - June 26, 2015

Chickens - all extra roosters butchered.  I bred the first two hatchlings with a roo with a smaller comb and fewer points.  The rooster I kept has the smallest comb, but more points.  I figure I'll have a bit more genetic diversity that way, while keeping in line with my overall goals.

Hens are all moved to the garden pen now, with extra space around the greenhouses.  I bought snow fence for the vines in greenhouse #3, and then decided to section off half the garden for the birds since the weeds were going crazy.

Egg production was amazing in early spring, but dwindling now.  I believe it's insufficient protein for most of the birds, and too hot in the chicken coop for the chanteclers.  Since they have free access to lots of greenery, I'm buying straight black oil sunflower seed for them now, to boost their protein.  Hopefully I'll start seeing the difference soon.

Greenhouses - Lost some brassica transplants, and the pumpkins haven't come up yet.  Otherwise progressing nicely.

Garden - started late and not doing well with lack of rain.  Peas are good, beans are just starting to come up.  Only half the garden has been tilled, so I didn't plant nearly as much as I had planned.  Weeds, of course, are doing fantastic.

Wild Edibles - Lamb's Quarters - Oh My...  Why haven't we been eating these all of our lives?  Delicious! They grow everywhere, so easy.  Tastes like spinach.  I pull them while I'm weeding, pluck off the upper leaves, rinse and cook.  And cooking- so easy.  I just toss them on top of whatever I'm making for supper for the last 5 minutes or so.

Cadets - #2 leaves for camp on Monday.  He'll be gone for 7 weeks as staff, have a blast, and come home with a tidy paycheque.  #3 will be going to the same camp, at Base Borden, for three weeks in July.  #4 will be going to Trenton for two weeks in July.  We have one more cadet night this week, and I have to finish next year's training plan and send it in by Tuesday, and then I am off for the summer.  May and June were much busier for me than I usually allow, which is partly why I'm so behind and disorganized now.

Quads - the other reason I'm so far behind.  Both Husband's and my Quad went in for repairs at the beginning of May.  Husband picked them up yesterday, not fixed, and took them to a different place.  Nothing against the first place, just personal circumstances and he doesn't have time to do the work.  But it's the end of June and I haven't really started on firewood or manure yet, so I really, really, need my baby back.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Even though we had snow on the weekend, I think it's fairly safe to say that spring has finally arrived.  There's a lot of melt going on, so I moved the geese out of the winter coop.
There's a bit of a flood between the raspberries and the 'turkey' pen, so for now I'm leaving the gate open to let them play. 
They were so happy splashing and dunking in the water.
And maybe, if we're lucky, they might decide to give us a few goslings.  There were two eggs in their pen yesterday morning.
We know we have girls, but do we have a boy?  Fingers crossed!

The chickens will be staying in the winter coop for a while yet.  The weather is still pretty cold, I still have too many roosters, and they're laying so well I don't want to disturb them right now.  We still have a fair bit of snow to melt away along the ditches and tree lines, so it won't be too long now until I get started butchering those birds!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Two at a Time

Spring is in the air.  The snow is melting.  The days are getting warmer.  The nights are staying above freezing.  And this is when, not one, but two- TWO!- of my freezers, decide to kick the bucket.  And not just any two, of course, but both of the big freezers. 

If you've been reading here for awhile, you know I usually empty the garage freezer and unplug it in the spring.  Then it gets a good cleaning and sits ready for fall.  I can handle the loss of one freezer.  We've made room in the other two over the course of the winter.  But TWO...

Well, everything had to come in the house.  The little freezer was close to empty.  All of my homemade butter was finished off this winter, we had eaten all of the meat, and only a small box of veggies and assorted breads and buns remained.  I had planned to empty and unplug the little freezer soon.  I thought I could make do with just the large entry way freezer this summer, and cut the hydro bill just a tad.

Breads and buns were thrown out onto the table.  The boys brought in all of the meat from the entry way and garage.  I have a surprising number of roasts and steaks left.  Roasts were piled in the bottom, along with two hams and a turkey, steaks on top, odds and ends all around.  We managed to get almost everything in.

What we didn't manage- several meals worth of ribs that I generally avoid cooking, the doggy stew meat bucket, another small box of fruits and veggies, and some frozen juices.  I am not a rib lover, but they take up a lot of room with all of the bones in them, so they were the first thing to cook.  I've had my two biggest stock pots cooking on the stove, alternating with the pressure canner.

Today I'll also be canning the doggy stew meat.  The boys have been given free range on the juices.  The fruits and veggies- mostly rhubarb, dandelion greens, and bananas- went out to the chickens.  When the 'emergency' items are taken care of, I'll chop, cook and can some of the roasts.  That's partially for 'convenience' summer cooking, partially to make some room in the now overstuffed freezer.  I don't normally can meats, but since I am out of ground beef I figure this will be easier than defrosting and grinding through the summer.  I'll cook very few roasts as roasts in the crockpot through the summer, so most would just sit in the freezer until next fall anyway.

So now I have calves about to calve (milk!), 8 roosters and three hens to butcher, and spring greens to begin foraging, with no freezer to put them into!!

I started checking the local ads last night.  There are a couple of good deals for used freezers, but there's another wee problem.  The trailer is blocked in the second driveway behind 6 feet of snow.  We never plowed it this year.  Do I really need a new to me freezer bad enough to shovel that?  Waiting for the snow to melt seems like a better option for now.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Well, there you go folks, another pro for the Chanteclers. 

I went out to the coop yesterday to do chores and there were NO eggs.  Ah well, with only two old girls laying, every day can not be an egg day. 

As I fed, watered, relocated an ornary rooster who jumped the wire, I noticed two of the younger hens settled into two of the nesting boxes.  I didn't think much of it- I wasn't even hopeful.

And then, as I went about tossing in grit and oyster shell, one of those younger girls hopped out of the nesting box.  Look what she left behind!
Beauty, eh?

The strangest thing is; that's a full sized egg!  So, maybe the two old girls haven't been laying right through the winter.  Maybe some of those younger girls have been laying right along with them.

I did get one small egg back toward the end of January, I think.  I figured it was a 'fart' egg.  I've never had pullets start laying in the middle of winter, regardless of age.  Those chanteclers:  trickster northern hens!

I now have this sudden urge to go out and buy a bantam rooster.  If I could get these girls to set their own eggs, they would be the perfect chickens for a northern farm.