Friday, July 31, 2015

Hatchery Update

Yes, I do believe my adventures in incubating are now successful enough to call it a hatchery!  Batch #3 started hatching last night, and we are at 10 chicks so far.

We moved the incubator out to the new coop after the last batch because it was too hot in the house.  Not too hot for the chicks - the heat of the incubator and heat lamp was too hot for the people!

It's a more streamlined process now, with new chicks going straight from the incubator onto the floor of the pen.  There's no overcrowding, and lots of noise from all three batches of chicks.

I believe we'll be ok to do one more batch outside this year, then probably back in the house in September.

The first batch is almost big enough to move outside now.  I have a few repairs to do to the greenhouses after a bit of a wind storm the other day, and then I think it will be safe to relocate them.  (It's safe for them now, but not for my veggies!)

The second batch is doing well, although I'm surprised by how much colour their showing.  Most of them have at least some black feathers, and a fair bit of red.  Few are solid white.  These are offspring of my crossbreed chantecler/frey's dual purpose hens, same as the first batch.  I think the younger ones were laying more eggs when I started this batch than the first.

The new batch are from after the chanteclers went outside, using eggs from all of my hens with the alternate rooster.  I'll be keeping the whiter ones and offering the rest for sale.

Egg production is up to at least a dozen per day, sometimes as many as 16. 

The black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are really paying off.  I'm feeding one coffee can of BOSS and one coffee can of scratch grains per night.  They get one 500mL sour cream container scoop of sprouted barley in the morning and forage through the day.  Although the BOSS are more expensive to buy, they don't require as much feed this way, so it actually saves me money.  I plan to continue with it through the winter, which I hope will increase egg production and over all health.

Eggs will be saved for incubating over the next few days, and batch #4 should be started by Monday.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

More Milking Adventures

We've kept up the routine for the past few days, letting Majesty out in the morning, keeping Queenie in the milk room pen.  They don't seem to suffer any kind of separation anxiety, until Majesty returns bellowing around 6pm.  Then she wants in and she wants in NOW.

We've been taking between 3.5- 4 Cups of milk from her, then letting her in with Queenie to finish the job.  After Queenie finishes nursing, I go out to check on Majesty.  Her left side udder is still tight and full. 

Last night #1 let her in to the pen to let Queenie nurse first.  After she finished, he milked Majesty's left side dry.  9.25 Cups of milk!  Half holstein does seem to be plenty of milk for us after all! 

This morning I checked Majesty's udders.  They're no worse for wear, and Queenie does not appear to have suffered from lack of milk through the night.

I think we'll continue this way, draining one side after Queenie nurses unless any problems develop.


One man's weed is another man's herb.

I have been weeding these plants out of my garden for eight years, and it never occurred to me to even try figuring out what it was.  Then it popped up in front of my nose on another blog I read.

Isn't it funny how we don't really know or use the plants that surround us?  I've tried growing black pepper plants, which is truly ridiculous in my climate.  Last year I grew nasturtiums and ground the flowers for spice.  All this time I've had this weed growing in my garden that I could have been using for a peppery spice.  Go figure.

"The young leaves can be added to salads or soups — they are peppery. The seed pods can be used like pepper. The root, ground and mixed with vinegar is a good substitute for horseradish.  The leaves contain protein, vitamin A and are rich in Vitamin C. There are no poisonous look-alikes."

And if you should happen to leave them in your garden over the winter, they're all dried out and crunchy in the spring.

For now, I've been munching on a few seed pods while weeding.  They have a mild black pepper taste.  I pulled a bunch out and started drying them whole for winter.  I'm also tossing a few into meals as I cook.  The roots are very thin and short, and I have more than enough horse radish already, so I won't be trying that part, but as a spice that grows everywhere, and a plant that I don't have to manage, these make the menu.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Return to the Garden

Well, I was caught up in the garden...
This is what I came home to after a week away.  It amazes me how well the weeds grow with so little rain.  #1 says they only got a little sprinkle overnight, once the whole week.

All in all though, the garden is doing well.  There is a definite size difference between the front of the garden, where we unloaded the manure last summer, and the back of the garden, which did not get any soil amendments. 

My quad is supposed to be fixed this weekend, which means we'll finally be able to get the barn cleaned out.  With the snow fence granting the birds access to the far end of the garden we'll be able to unload all of the manure there, amending the soil while giving them access to all of the worms and microorganisms they can handle. 

The trick for next year will be creating a pathway to give the birds access to the front side of the garden.  A new summer hen house and yard on the close end of the garden would simplify things, allowing us to rotate the birds from end to end, year by year.  I can't see fitting construction plans into the schedule this summer though.

Even though I had planned to plant a lot more this spring, I'm finding the garden much easier to deal with in it's smaller size.  I'm not nearly so far behind with the weeds this year, and I think overall production will be higher.  Most of the spring veggies are coming out of the greenhouses as companion plants, as will a fair bit of the fall root crops.  The greenhouses allow me to grow more, in less space, with less weeding, than the garden, while feeding the birds and making the soil amending a much easier task.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

On with the Milking

Day 10 - July 13
Again, a very agreeable cow.  Again, just a drizzle of milk.

I decided to let Majesty out in the yard for the day.  I slipped the cow halter on her like there was nothing to it.  She's so sweet.  Then I tried to lead her out of the milk room.  Ha!  Who was I kidding?  First she stood there looking at me like I was crazy, then she pulled me towards her.  Once I stabilized myself, I braced myself on the door frame and tried again.  This time she nearly ripped my hand off.  Ouch.  She was content to stand there eating with the halter on, but no way was I going to lead her anywhere.  I took the halter off of her with no problem.

Changing tactics, I decided to halter Queenie instead.  Majesty didn't budge as we played ring around the cow.  Once I got her cornered I managed to slip the rope on her without too much trouble.  Leading her over to the post took a bit of muscle.  I tied her up.  Majesty didn't seem at all concerned.

I left the gate open.  After a while Majesty finally went outside and noticed it.  She ate in the yard with Patrick for a while, then let herself into the pasture and went to visit her mom.

Queenie tangled herself up a couple of times, but no harm done.  By the end of the day she had stopped fighting with the rope.

Majesty came and went as she pleased until late afternoon.  Then she paced around the outside of the pen calling Queenie to come to her.  I was willing to let her figure it out on her own, but #1 decided he would push her in.  She gave him a run around for about an hour, but eventually he got her back into the pen and untied Queenie.

Day 11 - July 14
1/4 Cup of milk.  Better, but not much.

Queenie was out in the milk room pen this morning.  I chased her around for a bit, until she bashed head first into the fence, then bellowed.  Majesty ran out of the milk room to see what was going on.  Then we played ring around the cow for a while until I gave up.  Majesty will stay in for now.  I might try again later, or maybe tomorrow.

#1 separated the pair of them and left Queenie in the pen loose.  Majesty came back bellowing in the evening.

Day 12 - July 15

1/2 Cup of milk. Improving slowly.  Majesty was let out again while Queenie stayed in the pen.

The Next Few Days

I left with Husband for our trip south.  #1 got a job.  #4 came home from camp.

#1 let milked Majesty later and later each day, preparing for the switch to night time milking.  Not more than 1/2 Cup.  They were adapting well to being separated. 

And then, #4 went to let Majesty out.  She didn't want to leave right away, so being the impatient 12 year old that he is, he walked away and left the gate OPEN.

The first day after, #1 couldn't catch Queenie, so he haltered Majesty and dragged her back up to the barn.  Majesty went through the fence in the middle of the night.

The second day, he couldn't find Queenie, so he dragged Majesty up again and tied her in the milk room.  He left the gate open for Queenie.

Finally, the third day, Queenie was back in the pen with her mother.

I returned from my trip, and we're back to letting Majesty out in the morning and keeping Queenie penned.

Eager to reunite at the end of the day, Majesty munches some grain outside the gate while we milk.  Queenie waits impatiently inside.  I would like to build a short fence to block off the pen so we can bring Majesty in to the milk room without worrying that Queenie might escape.  This works for now.

We're taking between 2-3 Cups of milk per day now, once again without effort.  Majesty is not quite engorged when she returns to the milk pen at night. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

South Bound

Leaving for our trip south now. Just testing to make sure I can post from the road.

These are the daisies gone wild in the turkey pen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Garden Growth

I'm almost caught up on weeding!  It's raining today though, so I'll have a new batch to get started on by the time I finish these off!

The worst of the remaining weeds are in the peas.  The peas are doing well in spite of them though.  The ones I planted on time are doing great and have reached the top of their fence already.  The rest are halfway there.  Pods are just getting started.

 Potatoes are doing great!  These were all started from small potatoes I saved last year.  Most are Russian Banana, some are Yukon Gold from the bag I got free last year and planted late.

The beans are an odd bunch.  Some are doing really well, starting to bush out, and others are barely more than seedlings.  I think it must be the lack of rain this year.  I have watered a couple of times, but really just enough to keep things alive.

The mangels came in thick this year and appear to be doing well.  I'm kind of surprised, considering what a bum crop I got last year.

Turnips are also doing really well.  It makes me wonder, do root crops like things a little drier? 

But then, the sunflowers and romaine (planted in the same row) are both doing well too.  Is it just the heat?  It has been much warmer this year, even overnight.

'Pumpkin patch' pumpkins are up.  I've had this packet of mixed seed for a few years.  Since I hadn't seen any pumpkins in the greenhouse, I decided to throw these in.  I won't be saving pumpkin or squash seed this year, but at least I might get a few pumpkins to eat this winter.

It's a smaller garden this year, but everything in it seems to be doing well.  I still feel like I'm behind on everything.  I look at the calendar and think, wow it's getting late.  Then I look at the garden and think wow, I need to start pinching off suckers on tomato plants in two weeks, and the biggest plants have just started flowering.  Looking back over previous years' garden posts, it doesn't look too bad.  It seems hard to believe that everything will be going wild and crazy in just a couple more weeks.

Monday, July 13, 2015

First Butter Day

Three days worth of milk hasn't yielded much cream

- or milk for that matter.

Nevertheless, I want to make butter every three days so that it's always cool and fresh.  I had a couple of batches last time with a bit of a sour taste, and I think I may have kept the cream in the fridge too long.  At least I hope that's the case, 'cause the other possible causes would be worse- what she ate or souring in the freezer.  Looking back over old posts it was probably timing.  I wasn't keeping up with things after my Dad died.

I skim the cream off the top of the milk jug with a ladle, just dipping it in enough so that the cream pools itself in.  Then I put the bowl of cream on my stand mixer with a wire whip and let it do it's thing.  It takes a while, but you can hear the difference when it starts to separate, so as long as I stay within earshot, I can keep busy with other things while I wait.

Once separated, I switch the kitchenaid from the wire whip to the porcelain beater.  I drain off the buttermilk through a strainer into a clean jar.  Add cold water to the butter, and beat out any remaining buttermilk.  Repeat until the water remains clear.

Since this is such a small amount of butter, I finished by hand with a rubber spatula.

This batch made about 3 Tbsp of butter.  How sad is that?  Still tastes delicious!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Milking Progress

Day 7 - July 10
Majesty met me at the gate, anxious for her buckets of fresh weeds.  The Milk Room pen is rather small and doesn't allow for much fresh eating.  She has a bale of hay, but much prefers the fresh green weeds I pull from the garden.  I gave her a pet as I walked by and took them in to her feeder.  She stayed outside while I got her grain and added it to the feed box.

She was still outside so I went out to look at the rest of the herd, who were all hiding in the back corner this morning.  A few minutes later I went in the Milk Room where she had started eating.  She backed out and looked me over.  I gave her a pet and told her I was going to wash her teats.  She went back to eating.

I started milking on her right side, which seemed fuller than yesterday, drained the front, and took 100 extra squirts from the rear.  Then I went around to her left side and she moved over for me before I even touched her.  She's a fast learner.  I drained the front and took 100 extra squirts off the rear.  I gave her a good pet and thanked her for the milk.  She was still eating when I left.

In the house, strained and measured - 3 Cups of milk today.

Day 8 - July 11
I was late getting started this morning.  PMSing and not eager to go to the barn.  This week will be a challenge for me, staying motivated while I feel so miserable.

Our little princess took advantage of my tardiness.  While Majesty was still content to comply with being milked, there just wasn't much milk there to get.  1/2 Cup today.  I drained all 4 teats.  (The extra teats at the back don't appear to be functional).  Queenie seemed rather smug about it, standing beside me watching.  She's got personality, lol.

Majesty is hungry.  She emptied her feed box overnight.  She still has hay, but isn't interested in it.  I am thinking about setting electric fence around the pig pen and moving them there while I'm away next week.  I'm not sure how she'll handle the step over the doorway though.

Day 9 - July 12
Majesty came after her buckets right quick again.  Queenie stayed outside.  No milk.  Well, just a drizzle.  Enough for two cups of tea.

I told her to eat up and stay put.  Then I closed the door up, leaving Queenie outside.  I'll go back out and try again in a couple of hours.  Her bag did not seem empty, so maybe she just doesn't want to let her milk down for me.  At any rate, it's time to start separating them for a couple of hours before milking, so now's as good a time to start as any.

Three hours later...

One happy cow, one well fed calf, one broken door.

I needed something to do this afternoon anyway though, right?

I did manage to get another half cup of milk though, and despite the separation, Majesty is still very agreeable.  If she wasn't so agreeable I might be tempted to give up.  Maybe half holstein isn't enough to make a family cow?  Time will tell.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Majestic Milk

Training the Family Milk Cow

Day One - July 4
Majesty delivers Queenie.  That's her 'official' name. She might grow into it.  Or she might be "Our Little Princess" forever.  We moved Queenie into the Milk House (aka 'the old chicken coop').  Majesty abandoned us halfway there and went to tell her mother.

Majesty came up to check on Queenie 3 times, walking over a broken section of fence to come and go as she pleased.  she stayed in the pen with her overnight.

Day Two - July 5
Queenie is extremely well fed, appearing to have doubled in size.  We go shopping for feed and supplies.  Majesty comes and goes as she pleases.

Day Three - July 6
#1 catches Majesty and Queenie in the milk room and locks the door.  We fix the fence and set up electric fence along it.  We let them out of the milk room, and Majesty stays in the pen all day.  She allows a few pets.

Day Four - July 7
#1 manages to squeeze a few squirts from each teat.  Majesty is very full, and so is Queenie.  She calls for Queenie, but Queenie does not want to eat anymore.

Day Five - July 8
Majesty is still very full.  She allows me to slide my hands across her without moving.  Her udder is quite warm.  I get the milk bucket.  She allows me to begin milking one side, until Queenie comes to the other side and begins nursing.  Once the pressure is off, she starts fidgeting and then walks away.

Day Six - July 9
I take my milk buckets and cloth out in the morning.  I feed her.  She doesn't stir when I wash her teats.  I begin milking her left side.  The front teat empties quickly.  I continue with the rear, and reach across to the other side.  It's awkward, so I decide to try moving to her right side.  She is too close to the wall.  I push her over gently, but she doesn't react.  I push her hard, and she moves an inch.  I push her hard again and she pulls her head out of the feed box to look at me.  She repositions herself and I start milking her right side.
Everything is going well, until #1 walks in.  When he opens the door it spooks her.  We then spend 10 minutes waltzing around the milk room, getting the evil eye.  She does not get aggressive at all, never lowering her head or threatening us, just backing away and watching her daughter.  I tell #1 to leave.

Another five minutes and she settles and goes back to eating.  I resume milking and drain the front right side.  I resume cross milking both back teats until she becomes fidgety again.  That's enough for today.
I take the milk bucket in, strain and measure.

1 2/3 Cups of milk with very little effort.  I am very pleased.  I wasn't really expecting to be bringing any milk to the house at this point.

Majesty was raised by her mother, Dorie.  Other than tagging her ear, and the occasional nose pat when she got curious, we have been completely hands off with her.  Last summer I kept asking the boys to catch her and bring her up to the milk pen so I could work on taming, petting, and haltering her while they were gone to camp.  It never happened.

I expected this milking adventure to involve wrangling a halter on her, tying her to a tree, and waiting for her to figure out there was no escape.  Then spending many attempts to milk her getting pushed around and the bucket kicked over.  I am amazed that she is being so agreeable.

We will continue taking things slowly as she learns the routine.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Strawberry Season and Wine

Strawberry season is very short this far north.  In a good year it runs about 2 weeks.  The closest pick your own farm is about an hour south of us.  They do an email info list to announce their picking days as the season progresses.  They're very busy.  I like to go early in the morning on one of the first regular picking days.  I waited once, and completely missed out on berries that year.

This year #1 is home for the summer.  He graduated from Cadets, so no camp for him.  He's been doing odd jobs for friends and family.  He was home the day we went strawberry picking, so he came along.

Strawberries were on sale in the grocery store last week and I went off on a rant about them being picked green and sprayed with chemicals to make them turn red.  And you can't even smell them.

We got to the strawberry field early on a hot sunny day.  I showed the boy what I wanted- red right through from top to bottom.  Ripe berries.  I left him in his row and went about filling my own baskets. 

Later, as we stood in line for our weigh out, he said to me, "You really can smell them."

How sad is that, that my 19 year old has never been around real strawberries before?  Actually, we had a little strawberry patch when he was little, but he doesn't remember it.  I know city kids tend to be disconnected from their food, but it shocked me to realize my farm boy never knew strawberries have their own scent.
We picked 6 baskets, which worked out to a little over 3 pounds each.  2 baskets became jam.  3 small bowls were saved for dessert.  The majority, at #1s request, are fermenting.
Blueberry and Strawberry Wine

I sincerely hope it turns out well.  I might cry if it doesn't.

Most of the wines we've tried so far have turned out tasting very much like the fruit they're made from.  Rosehip tastes like stale beer, and Watermelon is quite bland. 

The Blueberry breaks my heart.  #1 brought one carboy upstairs to rack and hopefully bottle.  We started it 3 years ago in the giant 15 Gallon demi-john.  Buckets and buckets of blueberries went into it.  The yeast went dormant in the basement over the winter, and then started again the following spring.  Last fall we racked and split it into 2 6 Gallon carboys.  Yesterday we racked and taste tested one of them. 

It tastes like wine.  Buckets and buckets of blueberries, hours and hours spent bent over picking those blueberries, fighting the blackflies and mosquitoes, 3 years waiting...  And it just tastes like wine.  Like any cheap grocery store grape would have done the same thing.  I am so incredibly disappointed.  I suppose I can hope that it will improve with age, but I doubt it.

Live and learn.  This year I'll make a 1 gallon batch and fill it completely with blueberries.  That should turn out a strong blueberry flavour!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Canning Meat

Still canning beef.  I like it.  Husband does not.

I am pleasantly surprised when I open each jar.  They smell like roast beef.  Every canned meat I've ever opened in the past - flakes of ham, flakes of chicken, turkey baby food, moose from my Dad's hunting buddies - all smelled like salmon.  I have no idea why, but it just put me off, and was one of the reasons why I didn't want to try canning meat.

The other reason - what was the point?  I've read all kinds of blogs and recipes, and I just didn't understand how or why people would buy roast or steak, cut it into little pieces and can it.  If it's little chunks, it's not a steak, is it?

The ribs, taste like ribs.  They're going to sit down there in the basement for a good long while.  One jar went in a pot of spaghetti.  One went in a pot of chili.  No disguising it, it still tastes like ribs.  I suppose I'll use it up eventually for pulled pork sandwiches or something.  I just don't love it.

The roast beef, however, is much more versatile.  I'm not spicing it at all when I can it, so it just tastes like beef.  It's dryer than ground, with no fat, and a little chunky, so it doesn't feel like ground beef.  That's where Husband has issues.  But it'll take the flavour of whatever spices I use with it - italian, mexican, hot or mild - so it doesn't add anything but beef to the recipe.
I took advantage of the rain (yes, we finally got some rain!) the past few days to do another batch.  From one big stock pot I cooked enough roast to fill 11.5 quarts, plus supper the first night.  I also got enough extra beef stock to fill a coffee pot, which I used to make a big pot of soup last night.  (The other jar is rhubarb juice).

It really is convenient.  Everyone talks about convenience, but I've been cooking frozen ground beef for years.  It doesn't take that long.  If I forget to pull something out of the freezer in the morning, big deal, I make something with frozen ground beef.  How hard is that?

So when the freezers went, and I started canning meat, it was all about storage space.  Until I tried it.  The first batch was still about storage space, and lack of ground beef.  Why buy ground beef when I have roasts to use up?  So I tossed a jar in a pot of spaghetti.  I tossed a jar in a bowl of taco salad.  I tossed a jar in a pot of chili.  Ok, it was a little quicker, but not enough to really go to all that trouble on purpose.

And then, I got a little more creative.  Hoagies, which I love, but almost never make because there's never enough leftover roast beef.  Hash, which we all love, and I kept cutting bigger and bigger roasts, hoping for enough leftovers to make a big batch of hash.  There's never enough hash...  And roast beef.  (Well, duh, right?)  We don't eat much roast beef through the summer, 'cause I don't want to heat the house up.  But heating up a jar, making some mashed potatoes and gravy- easy peasy.  And, oh, we ran out of sandwich meat- well look how quick you can rustle up some roast beef sandwiches with a quart.

It really is so convenient.  It has me rethinking all of those other cuts and meats, too.  I mean, if I want a steak, I still want a steak.  But a few jars for philly steak sandwiches?  Yum.  Pork casserole?  Stir fry?  Soup?  Chicken salads?  So many things I don't make unless I have enough leftovers.  Less dishes - always a good thing.

Canning meats is here to stay. 

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.