Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I shall name them: Trick and Treat

BB the goose has been diligently sitting in her eggs. She laid ten and she guards them with hisses and bites. I was skeptical that Sue (the male goose) had done what he needed to do, but I was proven wrong this morning.

From the fenceline, I saw a few shell bits in BB's nest and sure enough, upon closer inspection, I found two little baby Brown Chinese geese in there. We'll wait and see if the other eggs hatch. Crossing fingers they all grow up happy and healthy.

I moved another doghouse into the goose pen in case another one wants to be a mama. So far, the other two ladies aren't laying.

BB attempted to be a mama when she had a duck lover, but that never worked out.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What's Happening

Gigantic Garden
Although it's taken far too long to get here, autumn is in. The tiny mesquite leaves are fluttering to the ground. The garden is beginning to go to sleep. Unimpressed with the Gigantic Garden's production this year, I've decided to make some changes which I hope will improve its success come spring.

1. I am slowly removing all the Bermuda grass that has snuck in. I think it overpowered the vegetables and stole all the water. We didn't have any grass like this when we bought the property, so my guess is that when the garden was originally tilled by my handyman, and he added horse manure, the rhyzomes survived the journey through the horses and through the compost process and ended up thriving in my garden the second year.

2. I am adding a thick layer of goat poo mixed with alfalfa leavings from the goat pen. Basically, I'm starting over with heavier layers of organic matter to see if this fixes the problem the grass caused. All the pathways were mulched with an underlayer of cardboard to prevent grass popping up in there.

3. Since the greenhouse was built late last winter, this year will be the real test to see if seedlings can get a headstart on the season. I am planning to start in there in November if the weather truly stays chilly.

4. The sprinkler will be retired and the rows will be watered by hand. The old Test Garden always did well and we watered it by hand with a hose and sprayer. While the sprinkler was nice for convenience I think the rows in the Gigantic Garden weren't getting enough.

5. I had really hoped to have an increase in production to enable the idea of a community supported agriculture farm to become more than just an idea, but it didn't happen. I'd like to get it happneing next year. If at first, you don't succeed...

Goats and Sheep
The goats are great producers of more goats. Since we were not able to sell as many as we would have liked so far, breeding will be limited this time around. Big Momma and Pepper had a visit with Mojo and Tscica had a visit with Jorge. I'm considering sending Ms. Cow to visit Jorge only because she's a good milker.

I'm doubtful Big Momma will have a baby since she didn't last year, but I gave her another chance. I think she may be hormonal or menopausal. She gets an udder and then it goes away and then it comes back. She likes all the man goats and flirts all day long when she seems to be in heat.

Pepper is my best milker so I helped Mojo out again this year since he is so short. I think he was able to put the plug in the outlet. It's difficult to tell when holding a big Alpine goat up so she stands on her hind legs in order to allow her shorter Nigerian lover to do what needs to be done. I couldn't really see what was going on but Pepper seems chunkier already. She's eating like she's got buns in the oven.

The goats are also great producers of milk which results in cheese and soap. Due to low demand we no longer sell raw goat milk. It's just not convenient and with the laws against selling raw milk for human consumption, it's not something we want to pursue. We love our goat milk raw, fresh from the teat and we will continue to use it for ourselves.

Goat milk soap has become a popular selling item here and there for us. I now sell soaps through Tanque Verde Feed across the street from us and am working on an online store for those who don't live nearby but would like to get some.

The sheep are also great producers of more sheep. Everyone had babies last season and we already have two new babies for this season. The Blackbelly sheep go into heat monthly and are able to produce lambs twice a year. We were able to sell three lambs so far, ate two, used one to pay for vet services, and have three ewes left. The three we sold were to muslims who traditionally sacrifice a sheep on certain religious holidays. They favor large breed sheep and/or wool sheep, so we are considering adding a couple more wool sheep to the herd. (Wow. I never thought I'd say that.) We're hoping for a breed that's good for milking, meat and wool.

We had a lot of chicken losses this year due to predation. Therefore all birds are now penned, which goes against my original hope to free range. They are kept in large runs with straw used as thick bedding and fed restaurant scraps, caught grubs, weeds, leftover parrot food from our kind neighbor, and 24% protein grower feed from the feedstore across the street.

We currently get an average of a dozen eggs a day. Most go to the restaurant to be used or sold to customers. We have yet to eat one of our own birds, but those roosters sure do look tasty...

Ducks and Geese
The ducks are penned with a few huge roosters and the peahen. They make five or six eggs a day, every day, rain or shine. They are fairly loud birds, and not keen on being handled.

The geese were moved to a pen in the garden so that the runoff from their pool can go into the garden, but more importantly, so I could feed them the majority of the grassy weeds culled from the garden. To date, they have laid and are incubating ten eggs.

The loss of Gucci was terrible and heartbreaking, making me question everything I do out there and if it's worth the sadness. She was a wonderful cow that made a gorgeous baby and gave us the best tasting milk we have ever had. She gave hugs too.

Karma, her baby, developed bony lump jaw and was treated a month ago. The lump does appear to be diminishing. If we breed Karma it will be when she is one year old next April. She has been trained to eat in the milking area and doesn't mind the stanchion. She gets her teats and udder touched so that she is used to being handled. I've worked on lifting her hooves so she will be used to the idea of getting trimmed when it's time for that too.

BabyCow-Texas-Mr.Sandwich-T-Bone whom we believed to be an Angus mix when we got him is now suspected to be a Dexter. That's what the vet said, unless he is a dwarf Angus. Either way, he's not getting any bigger. He is currently the big bad boss in the cow pen. Jorge the buck goat lives with him and Karma. As his time draws near, we are exploring options for his imminent replacement. Corriente, Angus, Hereford? We just aren't sure yet. We'd like another young steer though. He has been easy to raise up if not a little unruly when he doesn't get his way.

Farmers G and C joined 4H and are doing the poultry project. While we had hoped to use the standard breed birds we have, we succumbed to the realization that with their small hands, they simply can't hold the birds the way they need to in order to show them properly. Therefore we have two new bantam birds, a black silkie and a cream colord cochin. Both pullets are living at home in Farmer G's bedroom.

The 4H meetings have been entertaining and it's nice to see older children teaching the younger ones. The boys practice with their group in the'r leader's garage, holding the birds properly, showing each part of the bird, and trying to answer questions a judge may ask about their birds. We are all very new to this and a little lost, but so far, it's been fun and interesting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Coming in November

Goat milk soap!

These batches have to cure until November
Be ready for some new scents:
Cucumber Melon
Spearmint Eucalyptus

and the old yums:
Oatmeal Milk & Honey

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One Man's Trash...

My mom has gone back to Florida, much to the dismay of the grandkids and me and the sheep--she took charge of feeding the sheepies the whole time she was here.

<-- Pictured is the last project she did before she left us. She finished up a worktable and a shelf in the Creepy Coop.

We found the old tabletop in an alley, left to be tossed in a landfill because it was "Brush and Bulky" pick up time here. The tabletop had no legs and looked like it was near the end of it's useful life. But Mom said it was good enough.

We tossed it in the back of my truck and took it home. After careful measuring, I sawed it into two pieces with a circular saw and toted it out to the coop where Mom fastened it to the wall with two by fours she'd managed to fashion into braces.

There's something satisfying about recycling stuff that was bound to rot in a landfill. So satisfying that we "cruised" several more alleys and found the following useful-at-a-farm-and-ranch items:

-Four large pine stumps for the goats and chickens to play on.
-An extra large doghouse for the ducks to lay in.
-A dog carrier for the hens to lay in.
-An old farm chair for tired farmers to sit in.

And all of those things have been set to good use. I don't take anything I can't use since I have enough of my own junk as it is, and it was sad to drive by so many things that could have been given a second chance by someone who could really use them.

My mom has often said her father was good at scrounging things and making do with what he had. I guess it runs in the family! I am sure we'll get a lot of good use out of this repurposed old tabletop.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Creepy Coop Mostly Done

Here are the most recent pictures of the Creepy Coop, showing a peek from several steps away.

A view from the side with the Veggie Shack in the background.
The Coop still needs a second coat of trim paint.
Here is Mom's chicken wire and framing wall and door.
She added a string pull on the inside to keep the egg
collector from being locked in with the hens.
Here is the tool shed side of the coop. We have scavenged
a used old tabletop which will be installed in place of the
plastic fold up table pictured above.
A handle where there was nothing but a hole before.
The wood backing is a piece of used fencing from my neighbor.
Anyone need a dozen?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Creepy Coop gets a Facelift

The BEFORE Picture
The Creepy Coop was a crooked little building filled with black widow spiders and mysterious heart monitoring medical equipment when we first purchased the property on which it stands. It was likely used as a chicken coop in its youth, indicated by the remains of bricks around the back (which may have been beneath a chicken run fence) and also by the unusual back door panel that had fallen off at some point, but had a handle (it could have been where the chickens went in and out of the run.) It was built reasonably well but had been beaten on by the sun and time. Parts had fallen off or become very loose. And when I say black widows, I'm talking haunted house infestation quantity spiders.

I used it as a coop when my chickens free ranged until the red-tailed hawk came. He figured out how to get in the coop and steal a chicken or two or three.

The coop needed A LOT of work to really make it predator proof. I still wonder if any enclosure is fully predator proof...

Mom in her fancy headgear, painting on the barn red.
Anyways, Mom is visiting. She likes projects as evidenced by the outhouse built last year. She decided to take on the Creepy Coop. We did A LOT of repairs to it using mostly stuff we had strewn around the property in order to save money (not time) <- important point.

We cleaned out all the debris inside and found some usable treasures, like a paint pan, tools, and bits of wood. Next we painted the coop barn red to match the Veggie Shack. Mom admired the craftsmanship on the Veggie Shack and decided to mimic its design by adding some decorative trim and using the same accent color on it (ginger lemon which was leftover from the Veggie Shack).

Nesting areas and perches.
The old screen on the "window" was removed. It was pretty crispy from being out in the weather. The screen was replaced with metal mesh fabric leftover from the chicken tractor project. The empty spots on the door where glass used to be once upon a time was also replaced with the same, tough, leftover metal screening to keep Mr. Hawk from his Kentucky Fried meal.

I installed "natural" perches (defined as tree branches scavenged from local trees) in one corner of the coop. Mom installed shelves (made of scrap wood and fencing) next to my perches. We cleaned up the old nesting boxes and moved them in. We had a couple of old crates lying around too that needed a shelf to sit on.

The Triangle Entry for Chickens Only
I should also mention that the Creepy Coop is located by the buck goats' area. In fact, it adjoined their domain until they beat two huge holes right through the back of the building. It was then that I decided to rennovate their bachelor pad and put up heavy duty horse fencing with a heck of a lot more t-stakes than ever before. I also moved the fenceline way back from the coop so they couldn't beat the heck out of it again. Mom and I patched the two holes with pieces of plywood that were just lying around. We found the old triangle shaped door I had used prior (the bucks had managed to knock that off) and reattached it with nails and screws. The idea of the triangle was to keep the ducks out as they're wider than chickens. It works, but doesn't matter so much now because I am striving to keep my ducks and chickens separate. It's just better that way. Ducks foul the water in seconds.

Anti-Coyote Devices
The chicken run is a dog kennel (which also used to adjoin the buck pen and you can guess how well that went) which I removed the old, beaten chain link from and recovered with 6 foot horse fencing that I had taken down from the rennovated buck area. I covered the top with chicken wire to deter Mr. Hawk. The bottom edge is attached to one or two foot lengths of rusty old horse fencing that is buried beneath heavy gravel to hopefully keep Mr. Coyote from digging in. My wonderful friend Christa and her daughter Tami donated three pieces of corrugated aluminum to keep birds from being pulled through the fencing at night (because when it gets dark, some chickens sleep beside the fence and their brains shut off, making them easy targets).

We moved the hens in before the final touch-ups were in place becasue, let's face it, the chickens could care less what the coop looks like as long as no one is eating or terrorizing them. We also added the two bantam rooster Farmer G and Farmer K intend to show. Almost all the other roosters are on the Dinner Menu...

And the hens are so much happier. They thanked us kindly...