Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#1 is off his rocker...

They are both the same.
Yes, Rocky is smaller than Bullwinkle. 

But that's it.  When you check out their private parts, they're mirror images.  So much for being a boob man.
I still don't know what.  But I'm sure they're both the same!

Thanks for your cooperation, Rocky.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Incubation Check In

My little electric frying pan egg incubator experiment continues. 

I've been adding an egg or two almost every day.  I'm aiming for the ones that are still warm when we bring them in from the coop.  I'm not sure how cool an egg can get, and still be viable.  On one side of each egg I write the date.  On the other side, I mark it with an F for fresh, a W for warm, or an X.  All of the eggs are fresh, but the F eggs are picked up on a second or third trip to the coop.  I know they're only an hour or two old, but they've already cooled.  The X eggs are from the morning egg collection.  They're all cooled.  Writing on opposite sides helps me to see which eggs I've rolled over, and which ones still need to rotate.

The temperature in the pan is staying pretty close to 100°F now.  You really do lose a lot of heat when you take the lid off.  The first few days I was constantly fiddling with the temperature.  There was a remarkable difference between the day time and overnight, but not what I expected.  I expected to need to turn the heat up on the pan overnight, as the ambient temperature of the house cooled.  However, since I wasn't lifting the lid at all through the night, I found that by morning the inside of the pan would be closer to 110°F.  Too hot!  I also found by moving my thermometer around in the frying pan, that the area right above the heating element was much higher than the rest of the pan.  I added a second microfiber cloth to compensate.  I think most of the kinks are worked out, and the temperature is more stable, although by morning I'm still finding about a two degree rise.

5 days after I started warming the eggs, I decided to take a peak.  You're supposed to be able to see the blood spot and veins by 4 days if your egg is fertilized and growing.

I tried candling the first egg with a candle.  In addition to burning my finger, I managed to cover the egg with a layer of black smoky soot.  I switched to a lamp.  I can see a dark spot on one of the eggs, and what looks like an air pocket at one end.  I can watch the dark spot move as I tilt the egg.  I don't see anything on the other eggs, just the glow of the lamp through them.  The first egg, by lamp light, doesn't seem transparent at all.  I might have accidentally cooked it.  I really don't know.  I put all of the eggs back in the incubator.  Until I see an egg that I can definitely say looks to be developing, I won't be tossing out any of them.  I'll keep a wait and see approach.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Apple Trees, Part 2

After sorting through my seed collection, I bagged up the apple seeds.

I put two seeds in each bag with a wad of damp toilet paper.

Almost a hundred bags of apple seeds.  Lots of crispin from our old place, some macs and an assortment of unknown varieties.

I tucked them all into an empty cardboard box- they're supposed to stay in the dark- and then down to the cold room.  Now to ignore them until April or so...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Introducing Rocky and Bullwinkle

#1 Came home from school, and went to inspect the new arrivals.  He talked to Mama and looked the kids over, and laughed at us, as we told him our opinions, that we both agreed they were both the same, I thought they were girls and #2 thought they were boys.  He said it was one of each from the size alone.  Then he scooped up the boy, cradled him in his arms and peeked underneath.  "Billy".  I was pretty smug, then, as I was right.

Then he scooped up the girl and peeked underneath.  "Nanny".

#2 says, "How the hell?  They're both the same!"

So #1 flips the little nanny on her side and shows us two tiny little teets.  The girl has an udder.  Go figure.  We were looking for a penis.  Or testicles.  Now we know the secret of how #1 always figures out what's what.  He's a boob man.  (Of course, I don't think to snap a picture of that...)

Later on, I'm throwing names at him...

Gypsy and Jasper.  "Maybe."  He liked Jasper for the girl.

Ziggy and Zoey.  "No."

Dusty and Daisy.  "Hmmm."

#2 asks what I'm talking about.  Names, of course, we need names.  He rattles off a few oddballs.  No, they need to go together.  You know, like...  Patches and Pudge...  Choice and Chance...  Mindy and Maddie...  Rocky and Bullwinkle...

#1 bursts out laughing.  It was supposed to be funny.  But he says that's it!  Rocky and Bullwinkle.  He likes it.  The billy will be Bullwinkle, and the nanny will be Rocky.  And Mom's naming system takes a new turn...  I think, since he's taken this turn, that all of our 2011 kids should be named after cartoons.

Maybe all of the babies.  I'll have to think on it a while.  I get to name my calf, if all goes well.  I have a few months to decide.
Rocky has some interesting markings.  Black stripe down her back, black feet.
Bullwinkle looks like a tiny spotted calf.
Mama is looking much slimmer today, less oozy, more relaxed.
Proud papa? Oscar
Oscar snuck in to the chicken coop while we were watering the cows and Tori.  He was much more interested in all that hay we had dragged in for the girls than in checking out his kids.  He seemed rather insulted when we politely asked him to leave. 

Pop Bottle Greenhouses

I start some of my seedlings in pop bottle greenhouses.  Tomatoes and green peppers are the first.  I'm a little late getting started this year.  Last year I had tomatoes started by January 25th.  I planted more tomatoes every couple of weeks until mid March.  They all ended up producing at pretty much the same time, so I don't think it makes too much of a difference.  Some of the earlier plants may have been a little bigger, but mostly I had to wait for the weather to cooperate and then they all took off with a growth spurt.

To make a pop bottle greenhouse, you need to save empty pop bottles.  Wash them out and remove the labels.  Then, about an inch above the bottom rim, poke through the bottle with a serated knife.

I use scissors after I have the hole started, and cut all the way around the bottle.

Next, cut four evenly spaced slits up from the bottom of the top section, about 2 inches long.

Fill with your dirt/potting soil/starting medium of choice.  I use dirt/compost.  We fill 4 or 5, 5 gallon pails with dirt from a well aged manure pile in the fall, and keep them in the garden shed until spring.  I add some water, coffee grounds and egg shells, then mix it all up.

Since it's not store bought, sterilized potting mix, I will have some weeding to do as my seedlings grow.

I put just over an inch of soil into the bottom of the pop bottles, then poke a hole almost to the bottom with my finger.  I drop in 2 or 3 seeds, and cover them up.  I write the seed type and the date on the top part of the bottle in permanent marker.  Then it's time to reattach.  Hold the bottom part in one hand, and squish the sides in a bit as you work the top into place.  It can be a little tricky.

Once they're all together, I water them with a funnel.  Just a drizzle.  I don't put drainage holes in the pop bottles, because heating with wood is very dry, and my plants tend to dry out too fast.

The pop bottle greenhouses go into the greenhouse shelves to sprout.
Overkill?  Not really.  It's still pretty cold at night, and the temperature in my house can drop by 20 degrees or so, especially in front of the windows.  The pop bottles give each plant it's own micro climate, with less temperature fluctuations as they grow.

I started 4 starfire tomatoes, 2 sweetie (cherry) tomatoes, and 4 green peppers.  If they all do well, that's all I plan to plant this year.  Last year I started I planted a lot of tomatoes, and made a ton of green salsa.  Not too many ripened before the frost.  I think I have enough salsa to last a couple of years, at least.

This year I plan to put one tomato in each corner of the greenhouse, with a cherry tomato in the centre of each side.  Aiming for red tomatoes rather than a million tomatoes.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Checking In

Still only two, still bulging, and afterbirth still hanging from her rear end, though not as chunky as before. 

#2 checked the little ones out this time.  He thinks they're boys, although he admits he doesn't see a penis either.  We're good farmers you see.  We'll just keep everything around for awhile, and see if it lays an egg.  Oh, right.  They aren't chickens!  They are mostly dry now.  #1 will know.  He's good with stuff like that.

Everybody else was milling around the doorway.  I think Dorie filled them all in on last night's activities.

I don't think she got enough sleep last night.  She looks tired.

It's not often that Mindy looks more lively than Dorie, but today is definitely one of those days.  She was much more cow-like today.  Yesterday she was butting #2 while he did chores. 

You see, Nellie STILL thinks she's a goat, even though she's accepted the cows as part of her family, and outgrown Mama.  She's been trying to convince Mindy and Dorie that they're goats too.  Just bigger ones.  Dorie's not falling for it.  She came in to meet her new siblings, and act as the day time heater.

Nanner's looking extra plump today, too.  She's tricked me before, but I do believe she is bagging up. 
We'll attempt to keep her in the coop for awhile and see if there are any changes.  It's harder with her.  Being older, smaller, and more stubborn, she pretty much goes where she pleases.  Which could be dangerous, since as a pygmy, she's the most likely to need help.
Lucy is not nearly as well rounded as Mama was, or as Nanner appears to be.  I think we'll have quite a while before she's ready to kid.  We might even have to wait until spring.

Choice, of course, won't be kidding this year.  She wasn't going to stay outside and not meet her new siblings either though. 

Tori really wasn't impressed with the idea of more goats, but she hung around anyway, 'cause, you know, there might be treats.  There SHOULD be treats.  She was not impressed that I am all kid crazy and dared to go outside without at least one carrot.  I promised to bring her some in a couple of hours.

And the white fluffy horns?  I guess I should take a proper picture of our proud papa on my next trip.  He's being neglected here, you see.  He wasn't even allowed in to see his own offspring, and he agrees with Tori.   There SHOULD be treats.

New Arrivals

Just the other day I read another post in blog land about new kids being born on the farm.  They've been popping up all over the place in the US.  And I thought to myself, that despite her huge width, Mama was not having any part of that.  She wasn't bagging up, filling with milk.  She was just going to stay fat for another month or two, and soak up all the individual attention of being warm and coddled in the chicken coop.  And then, this morning...

What to my wondering eyes should appear?
No miniature sleigh, no tiny reindeer...
Just Mama, her belly still fat and wide,
With two tiny kids standing there by her side!

They're clean, but still wet.  I picked them each up for a quick look, and I think they're both girls.  No guarantees though- I didn't want to keep them up away from Mama too long, since it's a bitter -20°C this morning. 

Once again, she did it all on her own.  Last year I wasn't even home when she kidded, so I'm not really sure how long it took her to slim down and clean herself up.  At the moment she still has afterbirth hanging, and these kids look smaller than Chance and Choice were, so I'm wondering if maybe she might not be done.  Could we possibly have a third on the way?  I'm so excited! 

And red, like Mama.  Still not the traditional Boer pattern for markings, but red and white none the less.
So cute!

#1 is at school, so he won't even know about his new arrivals for hours!  I want to call him and tell him.  How weird would that be?  "Yes, could you just get a message to my son?  Tell him Mama had two kids this morning..."  lol. 

What do you think?  Are the new kids as big as their older siblings were?

That was how I found her last year.  Slimmed down significantly, and everyone clean and dry. 

I'll be checking on them in a couple of hours.  It's hard not to stay out there all day and drive her crazy.  I'll have to contain myself to regular check ups!

And then there was one.

After about two weeks of rummaging through the freezer, looking for something "good" to eat, we finally had a milder day, and I headed out to the garage.  The freezers are now combined into one. 

We still have plenty of food to last the winter, but the rummaging for something "good" isn't likely to stop any time soon.  Well, actually, it won't be rummaging any more- it's all neat and organized now, but yearning for something good to magically appear will continue.

By good, I mean BEEF.  I am grateful for the half a pig or so, still residing in the freezer, as well as the chickens.  The rabbits will feed the kids, but I'm cooking them when I can eat leftovers.  I am sick of rabbit- it's never been one of my favourites.  But I'm pretty much sick of everything, now.  The same thing, over and over- it wears on you.  I want BEEF.

Husband has vetoed the hanging cow in the cold room plan, on the grounds that it will be too heavy and awkward to carry downstairs.  So I have to wait until spring, and then I am once again dependent on the weather cooperating. 

In the meantime, I am going to find out what meatloaf, lasagna, stew, and salisbury steak taste like when made from pork.  The chili was edible, so it can't be that bad, can it?  I want BEEF!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Remember my failed attempt at mung bean sprouts?  Well, the second attempt didn't go much better.

They are still growing massive hairy roots.  I'm thinking that if I keep them shallower, then they won't need the long roots to reach the water.  In the meantime- goats and chickens can feast on these.

The smaller jar is some red lentils, which seem to be very slow getting started.  They are sprouting, but not at all like the mung beans.

One more attempt, this time a smaller amount in a bowl. 

There was a discussion on an email list the other day, about sprouting critter feed.  In particular- for the chickens and the goats.  It's supposed to add more nutrition into their diets.  I haven't done the research yet, I'm just playing with the 'how much of a pain in the ass' versus 'how much money will I save theory'.  I figure it'll be a cash savings, due to the bulk created in sprouting seed.

I bought a bag of scratch grain at the feed store.  It's at least half filled with cracked corn, which doesn't impress me much.  The brand that I normally buy at TSC is all seed and grain.  It works- it is sprouting- but it smells kind of gross.

Then I bought a bag of wild bird feed- which is all grain and seed.  Same principle, and it smells much better so far.
Then I started looking around for more stuff to sprout.  Hmm.  This cantaloupe was destined for chicken feed anyway...

The kids ate a bit around the edges, but most of it was already soft and mushy.  I scooped the seeds, and soaked them overnight.

I'll see if they sprout in a few days.  And maybe if I keep practicing, I'll eventually figure out what I'm doing wrong with the mung beans.  For the moment, the thought of tripling the value of a bag of feed will have to sustain me.

His brother's pretty cute, too

Patches has a stripe down his nose.
The same pudgy face.
The kids like him best,
They're both adorable.  No doubt about it.

The sweetest little thing

We've had a lot of puppies running around here.

They're all so cute.

But this little guy melts my heart.

He has the sweetest, most adorable fat little face.

I'm calling him Pudge.  And I already love him.  He's just a little blob.  Sleeping all the time.  But I can't help it.  I'm attached.