Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Keeping Busy

While the boys are at school...

I start every day making coffee for #1 to take in his thermos, then tea for me (my tea 'coffee pot' bit the dust last week), waking kids, packing lunches.  Then I start a pot of pig slop cooking, and enjoy a bit of computer time and drink my tea.

When the pig slop is done, I pour it in their bucket, then refill the pot for the meat birds.  Since the pigs seem so satiated and content, and the volume increases with cooking, I thought I'd try it with the meat birds.  It's a little better, but they're still very, very hungry.  I started letting them back out to free range through the day.

When the bird slop is done, I take both buckets out, turn on the hose, and go feed and water them both. 



I let the birds out, then pick a bucket full of raspberry leaves for the pigs.  I hook the water up to one of the greenhouse hoses, lift the plastic door, and head back to the house.

Next up is Murphy and Mildred.  They spend the nights together in the old chicken pen.  I plug the kettle in and get the powder for Murphy's bottle.  I have just enough time for a second cup of tea before it's done.  I go out with the bottle, milk buckets and teat wash.  Murphy gets fed first, then let loose in the yard.  I get Mildred's grain from the workshop and I milk.

About this time Sharlotte and Mindy return from their nightly wanderings- they're still getting out!!  I open the gate and let them back in the pasture.  I take Mildred out and tie her in the yard.

I get my milk buckets, the bottle, etc., and take them back to the house to strain and wash.  Once the new milk is in the freezer, I skim the cream off the old milk and start the butter in my kitchen aid mixer.
I go out and get my water trailer and start it filling, turn off the water to the greenhouse,
then it's time to feed the dogs. Afterward, I refill the doggy stew pot and set it on to cook.
Cindy enjoying her chow.
The butter is usually close to chunking up by then, so I wait for it to start sloshing.  I strain off the buttermilk into the pig slop pot, to cook into their supper.  I add cold water and turn the butter on again.

Out to the new coop to see my ladies.  They reward me with an egg about every other day.  I have one of the old girls in with Sexy rooster,  and another with White rooster.  No eggs from either of them yet.  I have an old red and the last barred rock in with Spotted rooster, and it's there that I find the eggs.  I believe the barred rock is doing all the work, with an occasional egg from someone else.  The rest of the ladies, in with Original rooster, have not produced an egg since I took the other four hens out.  I feed and water them all, collect the egg, feed and water Mouser, and go back to the house.

I drain the butter water into the pig slop pot, add new, restart.

The egg, if there was one, gets dated and goes to the basement, where they all get a slight turn and continue to await the incubator.

I take the water trailer out to drain into the pasture tub. 

One more butter rinse is usually enough, then I work it over with a spatula to get any remaining water out, then into a container to freeze.  I get the milk from the freezer and put it in the fridge. 

I take the laundry out, remove yesterday's, if dry, and hang it up.  Morning chores complete.

One more cup of tea, and then I find something to do for the day.  Odd jobs I've been working on...

- Finishing the new coop.
- Firewood (just some bits and pieces left in the yard from construction and fence posts, so far)
- Piling firewood in the basement (there's a good pile tossed down that I've been working on piling properly)
- Cleaning out the old coop and chicken pen
- Picking up random stuff, like shoes, scattered across the yard.

- Painting trailers

Our oldest trailer is rotting out badly.  #2 added some supports.
After the first coat of paint.

- Woodshed plastic and strapping
- Pickling cucumbers
- Making snacks for lunches- jello, puddings, macaroni salads, cookies...
- Picking tomatoes
- Tidying up the house
- Washing dishes

I keep a white board on the fridge with a running list of odd jobs for the boys to do or help me with when they get home from school.  #2 added tin to my trailer one night,

both of the Bigs have put in a couple of fence posts, #1 helped with the new coop and adjusted the garden gates, the Littles have unloaded manure onto the garden, and #3 helped with the woodshed plastic and put away the rototiller for winter.  Just little things that they can get done within an hour.  It all adds up, and helps get the fall chores finished and out of the way.

Then supper, homework, tv or computer, then off to bed to start again the next day.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Last night at dusk I looked up to the sound of the geese overhead.  Not a good picture, I know, but there they go, headed south.  I am so NOT ready for winter!

We've had a couple of frost warnings already, but so far we've been lucky.  The city to the north of us had it's first freeze last week, and a heavy frost hit the city to the south east.  It's not a huge concern for me this year, since all I've got growing in the garden are the stunted beets and some potatoes.

Inside the greenhouses, the sunflowers are looking beautiful.

They need more time to set seed though.

The tomato jungle is still growing strong.  With each frost warning I pick the largest and any tomatoes that have started to turn.  They are ripening just fast enough inside to keep us in tomato sandwiches.

The peppers are buried under the tomato plants now, and though they have new flowers, there haven't been any new pepper growth in weeks.  I think the bees are having trouble getting to them.  The Hungarian sweet wax peppers are the right seed- the ones Dad grew when I was a child.  Delicious.  Only one plant survived to the garden, but it produced 7 peppers itself- much higher yield than green peppers.  Next year I'll have to keep them out of the jungle for even higher productivity.

The cucumbers are finally producing, and I've made a dozen quarts of dill pickles, in addition to all of the cukes we're eating fresh.

The radishes and carrots in the greenhouse produced big lovely tops, much like the beets outside, but the roots are all tiny.  It makes me wonder whether the soil was too cold or just too dry this year.  We've had plenty of rain, but it all seems to fall at once, then a week or three with none at all.  I'd lean more toward soil temperature though, since I do water the greenhouses regularly.

I've been cleaning out the old coop this week- heavy with manure from last winter, since there was nothing living in it this summer, and no need to rush.  The milk room was also neglected, since we've been milking outside all summer.  The garden gets a fresh topping of litter and manure, to compost in place over the winter.  The chickens are doing a fine job of spreading it out evenly too.

The weaning of the calves is under way.  We put Maureen and Monsoon in the pasture last week.  Murphy remains in the yard/chicken pen, and still gets two bottles per day.  He is nursing a bit, but not much.  Mildred sleeps in the chicken pen, then spent the day in the pasture last week.  Yesterday we kept her in the yard until 2pm.  The calves were crying in the morning, but she didn't want anything to do with them.  About 1:30pm, she started bawling, so finally, at 2, we put her in the pasture.  The plan for now is to try and keep her in the yard a little longer every day.  I'd prefer to continue once a day milking, and allow her production to drop down.

Meats and Meals are doing well.  They build a little hay nest to sleep in at night.  I give them a bit of fresh hay every morning, and they add it to their little pile.
I don't see any obvious growth, but they seem happy and satiated, so I'm maintaining their feed at 4 Cups cooked scratch, with milk, lentils, and now beets instead of potatoes.  I found a few jars of 2009 beets in the cold room.  They look, smell, and taste fine, but I really don't need them hiding in a corner and taking up space.  After they finish off the jars I'll start picking the beets in the garden for them, then back to potatoes.  They love the raspberry leaves, and happily gobble up a bucket full of them daily.  I'm tempted to move them into the turkey pen for a few days before butchering, to wipe out the plants.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chicks And Eggs

I have an egg! Two, actually. There was one yesterday and the day before. Is it too much to hope for a third today?   The old girls are still laying- or at least one of them is!But not until afternoon...
The third pen is finished in the new coop, and already inhabited.  When I fed the little chicks in the brooder yesterday morning, they weren't in the brooder.  They were all over the workshop and causing trouble!  No time to waste, off to work.
Aren't they cute little trouble makers?

The Littles picked a couple of buckets of grass for bedding for them.  I'm out of shavings and the store is closed until Tuesday.  I banded their little feet with white zip ties.  One of the old girls has a black zip tie- she came that way.  I want to put black zip ties on the rest of the old girls.  I banded the three smaller chicks from the previous batch and moved them in with these six.  The rest of my homegrown chicks have also been banded.  I want to get another colour of zip ties for the meat hens.  Then when I let them out next summer, I'll still know which are which.

The fourth pen is well on the way, and should be finished tomorrow.  The third and fourth pens were supposed to be the turkey pen, but alas, that is not to be.  We're down to two turkeys, and they aren't doing well.  I'm not sure what's wrong with them.

#2 built another closet in the basement, and dragged this old shelf out from where it's been since before we moved in.  I had him bring it out to the new coop.  A couple of dividers and it'll make another set of nesting boxes.

The nesting boxes from the old coop are moved in.  The first two pens have their roosts.  It's all coming together quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

The modified floor plan:

Pen 1 will actually be the fourth pen completed.  3 and 4 were the first two.  5 might not happen.  It was supposed to be a little pen for chicks in front of the window.  Mouser uses the window as a door.  Pen 6 will be big enough for at least 5 turkeys, so maybe next year. 

The chickens seem mostly happy in their new digs, though I feel a bit guilty for locking them up so soon.  Better locked up than hawk food though.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Scratch That Off The To Do List

The pig pen is finished. We altered the original plan of adding wire above the logs, and just added more logs instead. The walls are now almost 4 feet high. 
I did little but watch the Bigs for this phase of construction.  I'm just little, after all.

 Before long, #1 was out of the running too.  #2 is the tallest, but eventually he decided it was easier to climb up the sides to pound in those spikes.

 #1 and I nailed some tin on the side and back corner to create a wind break while #2 finished the roof.

 The front is a bit higher than the back, giving the roof a bit of slope.

 #2 was quite pleased with the final results.

 And the pigs seemed to like it too- once all the noise settled down.

 They're getting along quite well.  They've done some digging, but not too much.  They're eating the grass and weeds slowly.  They like raspberry bushes, and gobble up the branches I break off from the turkey pen.  They don't like celery. 

Their slop is currently 4 cups of scratch grain, 1 cup of milk, 1/4 cup lentils, 2 medium potatoes, boiled in water, twice per day.

They are the calmest pigs we've ever had, and I think that's at least partially diet.  Our previous pigs just seemed hungrier all the time, like they weren't getting enough no matter how much we fed them.  I remember feeding a full coffee can of commercial feed and a full coffee can of corn twice per day, as well as moving their pen every day or two.  Meats and Meals are much more relaxed and content to lay about, and even allow an occasional pat or scratch.