Friday, October 24, 2014

It's A Miracle!

We're having a loaves and fishes experience here. Or Ezekiel has stopped by.

We buy our laying chickens' feed from a local feed store. I took in a recipe for chicken feed, and he grinds it for me to order, when I need it. I have to buy 500 pounds at a time. So I plan carefully, watch my supply, and go visit Eddie at the feed store, as needed.

About three weeks ago, I noticed we were getting low. I called Eddie and ordered chicken feed. At the same time, we were low on pig feed. He also mixes this for me, so I ordered 500 pounds of that, too.

A couple of days later, before I could pick up the feed, I opened a can in my chicken house and found it full. This puzzled me, as I hadn't seen it full before. "Oh, well," I thought. "Middle-aged brain, I must have made a mistake." Because our feed cans were full, I called Eddie and told him I would pick up my chicken feed later, but that I still needed the pig feed.

A week after we picked up the pig feed, I went out to feed the chickens and found a bare minimum of feed in the can. That made sense; it had been about two weeks since I saw that full can. I distinctly remember carrying that can into the chicken house so that I could dump every last smackeral into the chicken feeder.

Yesterday, I picked up that 500 pounds of feed. I brought it home, and commenced my weight-lifting routine. One 50-pound bag to the chicken shed, dump it into a can, rinse and repeat. But, this time, I opened the empty can...and it was half full. What? That can, I am sure, was empty last week. I remember carrying it into the chicken house, right?

You don't suppose there's Someone Really Important visiting somewhere around here...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Farm Report

Some years ago, we decided to add some chicken housing. We built 4 huts from plywood and a pressed asphalt roofing called Ondura, and have used those to brood chicks and raise meat birds. The huts have survived much like you'd expect something built pretty cheaply and simply, but they're still functional. The roofs, however, had developed many leaks and were not serving their purpose anymore.
We decided to replace the Ondura with steel roofing. It turned out to be lighter in weight, which was a plus, since those roofs are hinged at the higher end, and we lift them to feed and water the birds. Does wonders for the muscles, but can be difficult, sometimes. The lighter-weight roofing material was also nicer looking, and should be longer-lasting.
But...You KNEW there had to be a "but," right?
The chickens, when things are working correctly, breathe. They breathe hot little puffs of moisture-laden breath into the hut. The metal roofs gets warm. The cool night air, especially in fall, condenses. The condensation
drips into the chickens' litter. The condensation, along with other liquids the chickens produce, made their fluffy, pine-shaving litter into a nasty-smelling, soupy mess. We went looking for some kind of insulation for the roof, and we found these.
4'x8' sheets of foil-backed foam board insulation. (I get no compensation from the manufacturer, even though I kindly included their logo and name in this photo. That's how I roll.) We had some other foam board, which was given to us, that would have been a smart way to go. Cheaper, or free, is smarter, right? But that foil backing, serving as a vapor barrier, clinched it for us. The project began.
There was measuring. There was marking. There was cutting. There was gluing. I condensed that process into this short little paragraph, because I realize this is getting, well, dull.
In the end, we had messy gloves
But the insulation was installed. (Here's a picture of one half of a roof done, so you can see, well, how it was done.)
And one finished roof.
So now, the chickens have soft, fluffy, better-smelling litter again.
Well, they DID. They yucked it up again, after only a couple of days. but, that's OK. They're leaving tomorrow, talking a trailer ride to Freezer Camp. Yes, I called it that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blog Down, Blog Down!

Its sad when I go to visit a blog and find it hasn't been updated in a while. But I've been there. I know how life works, sometimes, and I expect bloggers to take a break.

Today, however, I went to check in on a distant friend, and found her blog is GONE. She has taken it down. Silly me, I should have recorded some contact information, but I did not. So it appears I will lose touch with this one. And that makes me sad.

Unless, New Girl, you read this and let me know where you are! I know Vivi is keeping you busy, so just shout is fine. No need for a long, rambling anything.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Saturday Farm Report, a Day Late and Without Very Many Pictures

I was busy enough on Saturday, that the Farm Report is late.

We have 13 turkeys left of the 20 I bought in the spring. They want to be fewer; they keep escaping their pens. Mostly they roost on top of their huts, but, often, they go walkabout. Henry the corgi found one about two weeks ago, and ate half of it before I could intervene. Poor thing survived, although I had Mary put it out of its misery. They was no way survival would be long term. The little jerk. (Henry, not the turkey. Although he did ask for it.)
Turkeys and chickens go to the butcher on October 19. I have about 45 of the 50 chickens I started with. They're basically too lazy to go walkabout. In fact, they sit as close to the food trough as they can, not even bothering to peck/eat the pen they're allowed. Take that, pastured poultry people!

Renovations to the chicken huts are proceeding. New roofs were installed in the past two weeks. They've been a little disappointing. Metal, they seemed sturdier than the pressed felt/asphalt roofing that had, admittedly, lasted 5 years. They ARE sturdier, and lighter, BUT they chill. This means that the birds' heat and the cold night air conspire to condense on the inside of the hut, causing dripping. The bedding was saturated two days after the first installation. We're going to try some foam insulation today, hoping that will help. Fingers crossed. I am thinking that a roof vent would be a better idea, but we'll do the insulation first.

The steer remains mellow. That is a good thing. He also seems to be gaining again. He had lost some ground in September, when the grass finally gave way in the main pasture. Now that he's on his own, he gets to eat it ALL without sharing with Wakiya, and it shows. Beer, some grain, and a little alfalfa in the hay can't hurt, either.

Pigs are HUGE. They look nothing like the little weaners we brought here in May. In fact, they were so small, then, that I planned to take them to butcher in mid-November, rather than October, which is our usual month. Well, sure enough, I had to call and change that appointment. They'll be going for their trailer ride on October 26. We are going to have freezers FULL of pork!

Dogs are happy. Cats are content. Our ancient cat, Dinah, is being spoiled. Her teeth are finally giving out. Well, after all, she is pushing 18. Funny, considering that, when we got here, we were told that she would only last 2-3 years as an outside cat, and that we were setting her up for poor health/early death. But here I am, buying soft cat food for an ancient cat who has few teeth. Well, she's been a good protector of our grain supply these many years. Time to pay her back, I say!

Next up; a rehab of the chicken coop, some digging in and for the garden, and removal of a few trees. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On Medical Advice

We are finishing a young steer. His previous owners named him Prince Charming, and he does have a high opinion of himself. He recently became such a bother to Mary's horse, Wakiya, that we separated them. This happened about 3 weeks ago, and is akin to weaning him again. He has been walking the fence line, where he can see her across the property, but not get to her, bawling and carrying on as if...well, I don't know what would be traumatic enough. Suffice it to say, it started as humorous, but became something else.

I worry. I worry about some things that are important, and some that are not. In this case, I was worried that Charming's inability to separate from Wakiya would translate into stress that would cause adrenaline to taint his meat. His date with destiny, aka, truck ride to freezer camp, aka, butchering date, is in mid-December. If he continued this until then, would he be tough and tasteless? (Betcha didn't know that could happen!) I talked to a few folks; friends, the butcher, and, then, the vet.

Our vet is terrific about being available for questions. We can call whenever we need information, and he is always cheerful and helpful about giving it. He has even started taking text questions. Sometimes we receive answers via text; this time, however, it was important enough to call me back.

"No," he said, "The meat won't be affected. But three weeks of this is excessive." And he suggested a medicine.

Yes, you do see there what you think you see there. NO, the medicine is not for us humans. The directions are, "Put some in his his feed. It'll mellow him out and quiet him down." (I feed grass and hay when we have a steer, until the last 2-3 months, when I add enough grain to make my grass-feeding-friends think I'm silly, and just enough that my grain-feeding-friends think its not enough to do anything. Yeah, I've only ever really grown one steer, but he tasted wonderful, and I hope this feeding plan will work again.)

So, into the bucket of grain...

Yep, that's my claw-like hand there. I wasn't sure of the amount necessary at that point, (the message with quantity came after the photo was taken) so I actually put 2 cans into the grain.

I took the bucket out to Charming. He was bellowing and calling for his feed, which was all of 15 minutes late at this point. (One thing I've noticed about ruminants is that, if their feed is even 10 minutes late, they believe they will never see feed again, and act accordingly.) I put the bucket on the ground, and he attacked it.

Until he tasted the beer.

He spat the feed back into the bucket. Yes, you read that correctly. An animal who, only minutes before, had come to the realization that he would NEVER EAT AGAIN, and spat the proferred food into the bucket.

--sigh-- Did we have a Baptist steer?

As you can see, he tucked into his hay pile, leaving the bucket untouched. I walked away, hoping that he would go back to the bucket. Did he?

About 20 minutes later, Farmer John arrived home from work. I asked him if he had seen the steer. "Yes," he said, "It's odd, though. He's lying down, eating his hay. I've never seen that before." I explained what had happened that afternoon, and we both got a good belly laugh over the story.

Yep, he's definitely mellower. And quieter. So we'll be following Dr. Bill's instructions; 1-2 cans per day, in his feed. If the Japanese can do, why not us Midwesterners?

Friday, October 3, 2014


Hold your applause. I am blogging today; that does not mean this will be a regular occurrence. I do try...

We have a sergeant in the family again. Oldest son was one, before he left the Guard. Now, youngest has been promoted, all the way on the other side of the world. He was told not to expect this, so he was surprised and is, rightfully, full of himself right now. We're pretty proud of him, too. To literally soldier on when you've been told your efforts will lead nowhere sounds just like every description of the NCO I have ever heard. So he earned this, but he also deserved it.

Congratulations to your command, Ethan! They got it right!