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

Eggs!?

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.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Rest of The Chickens


The older mixed girls- Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, unknown, red, and meat hens- are showing feather loss, frost bite damage, and are definitely stir crazy.  They continued to lay through the winter, so I will keep them for eating eggs.

Frost bite damage was not severe on the wattles and combs this year, but there are three hens with lost toes and lameness.  I'm not sure that there's anything I can do about that, as it probably happens over night on their perches.

I do believe I've achieved the right body count to room size for the hardier birds, so now it's just a matter of weeding out the less hardy birds.

This is one of the lame hens.  The other is a red.  I'll be butchering them before the others go outside.

There are a few younger reds and a black that I will keep for eating eggs this summer.  They seem to have made it through the winter unscathed, they just aren't what I want for breeding.

There are 8 roosters who need to go in the freezer.  Most of them are the same colour and weight as the Frey's special dual purpose roosters that I had last year, and should be good eating.  Three of them are red and lighter (two in the picture above).  They may need a bit more time to bulk up.  I'll move them outside with the eating egg hens once the snow melts.

My plan for now is to have 30 potential chantecler cross hens for next winter, and two roosters.  Of course I'll probably have chicks too small to butcher or sex yet in the fall, but I'll deal with them when the time comes.




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Breeding Stock

We moved all of the whites into one pen.  There were two roosters in with them that I moved out.  One was an original rooster, the other an offspring, both with large combs and wattles.  There are 13 whites total now, including at least two younger roosters with smaller combs and wattles.  There might be a third rooster with even smaller comb, or it might be a hen with a larger comb.  It's still young enough to keep me guessing.

This pen will be my breeding stock, unless or until I can find a nice roo with small comb and wattle.  Hopefully a chantecler rooster unrelated to my girls.
I am very pleased with my cross breeds.  They haven't started laying yet, which is one of the reasons for the move.  They all survived the winter, and compared to the other hens, almost thrived.  They are well feathered and fluffy, and heavier than all of the other hens.  No frost bite damage, which is clearly visible on some of the others, and such a calm demeanour after all of these months of being trapped indoors.  The reds in particular seem to be a little stir crazy.

I have two buff coloured hens from the second batch of chicks.  They're healthy, heavy, and have small combs.  I didn't move them in with the whites, although I am leaning toward including them as breeding stock.  If it weren't for their colour I would have included them as chantecler crosses.  They may be, and just happened to get their colour from their dads.  It is the small combs, heavier weight, heavy feathering that I want in my flock going forward.  If that white that I'm not sure of turns out to be a hen, I may remove her, since her comb is bigger.

For now the whites are being spoiled - all of the scrap buckets with egg shells, sunflower seeds daily, fodder daily, as well as their regular feed.  I want to bring the younger ones in to lay as soon as possible.  The older girls (the moms) continued to lay through the winter.  Once I start getting 5-6 eggs per day from them I will start saving them for the incubator.

I will also split them back into two pens once I deal with the rest of the birds.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Who's Having A Baby?

Dorie most definitely looks like she won't be long now.
She was very cooperative for pictures, too.  Nelly looks bigger, but was less cooperative for pictures.  She calved first last year, on March 30th.
Majesty might be pregnant.  She's still quite small though, just 3 this year, and Toothless was her Daddy, so it would be preferable if she isn't pregnant.

Mindy wouldn't come out of hiding for pictures, though she is looking quite large from a distance.

Patrick, the little porker, looks like he might be due any day...
...except, you know, he's a one year old boy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

FTX - Field Training Exercise

I don't post much about the cadet program, due to my overprotective privacy issues, but as I post less and less through the winter, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into how I spent my weekend.

 Our Air Cadet Squadron, for which I am a Civilian Instructor, did a weekend field training exercise. We went to a summer camp, so there was real shelter, running water, working bathrooms, and a kitchen.  They are kids after all, so we don't throw them to the wolves.  Still, they learn how to set up arctic tents, which the seniors slept in on Saturday night, and how to build improvised shelters with logs, twigs, tarps, and string. 
 There were campfires in the snow, accompanied by songs, scary stories, and jokes.  The cadets learn how to use camp stoves and cook their own breakfast.  They go trekking through the woods on snowshoes, using compasses to guide their way.
 The sunset over the lake was beautiful.
 The cadets learned how to drill holes, built snow block walls for improvised shelter, tie lines, and ice fish.  That's #1 on his very last cadet trip.  He'll be 19 this Friday, and aged out of the program.

 
That's me under the tarp, doing a little fishing.  We never caught anything, but it was fun.

The cadets learned how to build a quinzee during our fall FTX, so were eager to grab shovels and get to work on the huge snow piles the ploughs had built for them through the winter.  That's #4 in the entrance way of one of the tunnels they dug.  This was his first cadet trip, having just turned 12 last week.

They had lessons on stargazing, and the opportunity to see Jupiter and several constellations in the night sky.
A busy, fun filled weekend for everyone.




Sunday, March 22, 2015

Greenhouse #4

Planning Greenhouse #4...  The boys are thrilled, lol...  Actually, #1 thinks it's a good idea.

It's not what most people would consider 'greenhouse' crops, however, it would give the corn the heat required to reach maturity, and the beans the protection they need at the ends of the seasons.

I already have plans for some beans and corn in other greenhouses, this would definitely give the push for those to be dry beans. 

I figure a dedicated bean/corn greenhouse should equal 2 1/2 garden rows of beans.  I started planting 6 rows of beans due to our short seasons, which makes for back breaking work when they're ready, but most years gives me enough beans to last the winter, even if an early frost wipes them out after a couple of weeks.   I'd still plant a couple of rows in the garden, especially to start, but not 6- saving me space and time!

Corn, on the other hand, I only plant every few years when we have an early spring.  It's done well in the greenhouse before, in the shortest of summers, but I'm rarely willing to give it that much space.  3 rows of corn would be more than I've EVER harvested before.  The prospect is rather exciting...

A new area for vines means I can finally plant the Red Seeded Citron.  After reading a bit more, it seems that it's simply the ancestor of the watermelon, basically the white around the rind, except all the way through.  I already make preserves and jam from watermelon rind, and it's not a favourite here.  They may not be worth the effort.  I'll try them this year and see how it goes.

Greenhouse #5 next year?  Hmmm...  More tomatoes?  More beans?  Am I out of crops that require shelter?