Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Garden (take two) and Other News

We can all agree that last year's garden was an unmitigated flop, yes? And yet, here I am again, feeling that garden fever, brought on by an inundation of seed and nursery catalogs.

I heard it mentioned within the farming community, that a seed catalog received before mid-January or so is considered tacky, bordering on pushy. Our minds and backs have earned the right to a Winter of not even thinking about gardens, fertilizer, seeds and weeds, so what's the hurry?

Well, the hurry is about getting the seeds you want from the supplier you trust before everyone else does. Because once they're out of stock for a season, you have to find a backup source or nix that crop for that year. I buy almost exclusively from Victory Seed Company and have learned the hard way in years past that if you snooze, you lose.

So I did a quick inventory of what we have leftover from last year, and found that we are all set in the greens department, but could stand to stock up on carrots, pumpkins/squashes, sunflowers and herbs. So a-browsing I will go to see which cool old varieties are on offer. This bit of the garden planning is cake. It's figuring out the logistics and layout of the new garden that is going to drive me (but even more so, my poor Billy) completely mad.

We've consulted with an amazing edible landscape designer, and decided on a new, sunnier, less soggy location for the garden. Now we "get to" till fresh ground, slog a couple thousand pounds of compost and critter poo down through the hollow and back up the hill, and disassemble and move our deer fencing. My knees and spine weep at the very thought.

On a completely different subject, which doesn't pain me at all - yay!, is the happy news that we're finally getting a dog!

We found our little fella, Rex, though a Great Pyrenees rescue organization. He is not a purebred Pyr, but does have (according to his foster Mom) all of the friendly and desirable traits that you could want in a livestock guardian and family companion. We are very excited, especially the girls who love dogs. We are going to foster him for a few days in order to make sure that he is good for us, and we are good for him before locking him down as our forever pooch, but we're certainly hoping that that will be the way things work out!

The newest member of the Boggy Hollow crew!

It's shaping up to be a very full 2012 here in the Hollow! ;)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pikshurs of my Baybeez

Sorry, I get all mushy like that when it comes to the little ones. Also, I've been spending maybe a little too much time on the Corel PaintShop software that came with my camera, tinkering with pics of the babies. For your viewing pleasure-

One of the babies (a hen, we think) from the clutch hatched on 10/1/11. Mama was a red/brown Ameracauna and Papa was a White Crested Black Polish Frizzle. We are tentatively calling this mix "Policauna". ;)

I want to go outside, but I'm a little chicken. (BWAHAHA!)

A non-frizzled Policauna. This little dude/dudette is always very curious about visitors.

My Oreo-girl snuggling up to her Mama, Fritzen. It will be hard to see Fritzy move on to her new home, but I know that they are going to treat her like a queen.

Sisters :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Days of our Goats

...or maybe "As the Goat Turns"? "Guiding Goat"?

Well it's a soap opera of some sort up there in goatlandia. Who's pregnant, who's the daddy, is he your brother? - stuff like that.

Using my entirely unscientific method of staring at goat butts and boobies, and visually gauging goat girth, I believe that 5 of our 6 lassies are pregnant.

The one that is most obvious is our dear Blue.

Blue and her steamy goat breath say "Hi".

While our sweet Bluey has always been a low rider of generous proportions, she is now honest to God wider than she is tall. Drink it in, peeps -

Girl knows how to work it!

As a basis for comparison, I snapped a pic of Blue next to our only confirmed non-pregnant goat, a yearling mini-Lamancha named Hop. See the difference for yourselves.

Our other girls are looking pretty rotund as well. Here are Teeny and Oreo, yearling twins who weren't supposed to be bred this year -

Because we didn't get to engineer who was bred to whom and when, we have a whole lot of surprises coming our way. I *think* that Blue will go first, but Chardonnay is looking pretty plump too, so it's hard to say. I'll be keeping an eye on their udders, watching for them to "bag up", as that seems to be the single best way to tell when they're getting close.

The excitement, the drama, the clothes nibbling - are you sure you don't want a goat of your own? 'Cuz I know a lady who might be able to hook you up...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cheddar Check-in

August - Day 1 - Still in the mold

Day 2 - Just turned out of the mold and air drying

September - Just waxed

November - After 12 weeks of aging. It is still "young", quite sharp and definitely goaty. The texture is firm and creamy, and melts nicely.

I only made the one cheddar, as I had no idea what to expect. Cheese making is a lot like wine making in that you don't really know what you've got or if it's even edible until months or years down the line; making it imprudent to spend a heap of time and raw material on a pursuit that may be all for naught.

Anyways - this one turned out! It's too strong for me and the girls, but Bill has been enjoying it, so come Spring, when our does kid and the milk is flowing again, I'll make another one or even two.

By the way - this cheese was made using Ricki Carroll's Farmhouse Cheddar recipe. Everything was by the numbers except for us using goat milk instead of cow's milk, and my improvised cheese press (I have a real one now) meant that this cheddar didn't get pressed with quite as much weight as was recommended in the recipe.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Next Year

I say it pretty much every month, season, year - I'm almost there. The crazy is about to let up and carefree, easy-livin' will reign in the land o' Jackson once again!

So either I'm a hopelessly optimistic simp, or have a heavy case of willful amnesia.

Another farmer chick and bloggy-buddy of mine were just talking about this idea - the mythical "next year" that is the perpetual, elusive finish line and jackpot payoff for this year's (and every one before) efforts, losses, lessons learned. Next year, the soil will finally be *spot on* and my veggies will be EPIC! Next year, we'll have all of our fencing fixed and up and caring for the goats will be practically effortless! Next year, I'll start knitting for my bazaars in the Spring and avoid the crunch!

Ah, "next year", you tease, you! The faster we run, the more we push, the further away you get.

When the frenzy of Spring - planting, planning, births, cleaning - finally gives way to Summer, it's foraging, fishing, fretting over babies, milking, canning that consume our days. Then Fall comes, promising some relief, and delivering some, in addition to harvesting, breeding goats, putting food up, crafting, weatherproofing and putting the farm to bed for the Winter.

Winter is maybe the biggest trickster of all. The season when a farmer/homesteader is supposed to take their ease from a year of laboring and scrambling to keep things running, is instead just as busy. Keeping housing (people and animal alike) warm and dry in a Western Washington winter is job in and of itself. Sump pumps, five-gallon buckets, muck boots and rigging up ratty old tarps are all in a day's work.

Winter is also the traditional time of year to butcher stock. We will be harvesting a rooster or two and goat this Winter, and next year will likely have a pig or two to do as well. The amount of prep and labor that goes into harvesting and butchering might surprise you. It surprised me the first time! Segregating the animal (sometimes the night before), sharpening your tools, boiling water, gathering all of the odds and ends that you'll need for catching and holding "stuff" as you move through the process. And that is just the basic setup.

Then there's the cutting, wrapping, putting up of your harvest after the fact. It makes for one (or several) very long days.

Winter tends to be the time of year that we try to tie up the loose ends on all of our other hobbies and projects - racking wine, bottling vinegar, non-stop knitting, waxing cheese, smoking fish, tying flies, mending and endless planning, plotting and dreaming about next year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches

That's what my husband called the 15 pounds each of Asian pears and pomegranates that we "salvaged" from the free produce haul that we receive each week for our animals.

The content varies widely, so you never know if it's going to be an all cabbage week, or whether it's pumpkins and cantaloupes that will be the fuel for this week's eggs. It is a mystery, and it is incredibly interesting and very revealing of our flawed modern perception of food. We first-worlders expect our food to be impeccable looking, perfectly ripe/prime and always available. And when it's not, it's only fit for lowly animals or worse yet, dumped into a landfill. It is insanity.

My chickens will eat pomegranates, if you cut them in half so that they can get in there and gobble up the juice-filled capsules at lightning speed. And I did give them a few pomegranates to enjoy (they're heart healthy!) before deciding to keep the rest for myself. I opted to juice them, as everyone in the family enjoys pomegranate juice and/or grenadine (which was my back up plan in case the juice was blah).

I found out the hard way that juicing a pomegranate with a citrus juicer is quite a bit of trouble for not a lot of yield. We got about a quart of juice from our 15+/- pounds of pomegranate. Not much, but it was free.

Then I was left to ponder the Asian pears. In case you aren't familiar, these are the little guys that look like an apple and a pear had a baby, and you'll usually see them displayed in their own little styrofoam mesh swaddling. They are that delicate and prized. They also tend to cost upwards of three dollars each. (FYI - and average sized pear in my batch was 6 ounces, which means that these puppies can and do go for about $14 per pound.) And I had 15 pounds to work with.

So I did what I usually do when presented with an ingredient that I'm not used to working with, I googled. Try it for yourself. Google "juicing Asian pears" (quotes and all), and you will get precisely one result. That is how insane the idea of having that quantity of this fruit on hand and not having a plan for it is.

Not having had any help via googling, I made an executive decision to steam juice the majority of my pears. A steam juicer is a marvel. It can coax the juice out of fruits that are otherwise hard or messy to juice, like berries and apples. My kids go nuts for fresh juice, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to taste the nectar of the fruit of Emperors. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quick and Easy Chevre Cheesecake

Things are finally starting to wind down on ye olde farm for the season. Our does are nearly dried off - hallelujah! - but in the mean time, we're still getting a few quarts of milk each week. Between the milk, and eggs that we're getting from our hens (who are all in ultra-high gear and laying like maniacs), I've been desperate to find ways to use my abundance of dairy and eggs. What luck, then, that I should have stumbled upon a recipe for a Fresh Goat Cheese Cake that, in addition to using more than an half-pound of chèvre, also calls for a half-dozen eggs per cake. Bingo!

You can absolutely use store-bought goat cheese for this recipe, but in the event that you, too, are swimming in goat milk, and want to go full-on Martha Stewart about it and make your own goat cheese for your cake, it just so happens that I wrote up a homemade chèvre how-to for just last week. Crazy how these things come together... ;)

Either way - try this cake! It is so much simpler than any other cheesecake that I've ever made and would work equally well as a sweet or savory dish. I'm working on figuring out a spinach, artichoke, tomato version and will post it here if I ever get it hammered out to my liking.

Anyway - get cooking and enjoy!

Fresh Chèvre Cheesecake-

Adapted from Goat Cheese Cake with Mixed Berries by Emily Luchetti

•11 ounces chèvre (or other mild, fresh goat cheese), allowed to come to room temperature
•¾ cup granulated sugar
•1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
•1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
•1 teaspoon real vanilla extract (or as is my preference, vanilla infused bourbon)
•6 large eggs, separated*
•3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch cake pan, then dust with granulated sugar.

In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese with the granulated sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract, and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the egg yolks, 2 at a time, incorporating them completely before adding the next two. Lastly, add the flour, beating it into the cheese mixture at low speed.

In another bowl, and with clean beaters, whip the 6 egg whites until firm, but not dry (firm peaks that are smooth, not lumpy).

Fold 1/3 of the beaten whites into the cheese mixture at a time, taking time to incorporate the eggs well before adding additional whites.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan, and bake for about 40 minutes. (I began checking mine at 3-4 minute intervals after the 32nd minute, just to avoid overcooking.)

Remove after 40 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool, dress with a topping of your choosing and serve. Enjoy!

Instead of the berry topping suggested in the original recipe, I used what I had an abundance of on hand at the time – apples. I peeled, cored and sliced three apples into eighths and stewed them with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and still more of that lovely vanilla infused bourbon. The resulting topping was a little soggier than I’d aimed for, but the taste was pure Autumn apple goodness.

*If you are using homegrown eggs like I do, you may opt to measure your eggs by weight rather than by number. Since they are not cookie-cutter factory farm produced eggs that all look and weigh the same, there will be more variance in size and weight. You should aim for about 2 ounces (in-shell weight) per large egg called for in your recipe.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pictures of a Passel of Peeping Peepers

This is what they look like 80% of the time. Spazzes.

One of our 3 naked neck frizzles (in the middle of the pack).

A Frizzled Polish/Turken and a Polish/Americauna, giving me the eye.

Liza Minnelli and Sir Fluffernutter :)

Twenty-six babies. Twenty-six babies who have just learned that pecking the side of the metal trough that is their home makes an interesting noise. Two and three a.m. are apparently prime time for these contagious experiments, which makes for strange dreams filled with pings and tweets that swell and fall silent in near-perfect unison every 20 minutes to half an hour. Mama bird can't wait until these babies leave her nest.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Critter Chow Heaven

The big girls peck through the heap of yum-yums, two weeks ago.

This last week's batch of free critter produce was interesting - Hot peppers, cantaloupes, bagged salad mix and pomegranates, mostly. The cantaloupe and the croutons from the Caesar salad kits were the biggest hit with the chickens. The Bunzos liked the fennel and the broccoli. The goats are in one of their snobby "hay only" moods, and are therefore turning their noses up at all of the produce except for the occasional sliced apple. Divas.

This landslide of free animal food has been a blessing. Thanks again to the folks at Ralph's Thriftway for sharing it with us.

An Early Frost

This year, it seems that our Western Washington Autumn is as hell bent on fast-forwarding into Winter as our Summer was on skipping straight into Fall.

Now, I'm not one of those Los Angeles, eternal-Summer types, but I am feeling a bit shafted after less than a month of "Summer weather", and now, just 6 weeks into Fall, we're getting hard frosts.

It's not like I'm worried that the frost is going to kill my garden. Poorer than expected soil quality and minimal heat did that a long time ago. It's that, with the return of what I have come to think of as our 6-month long Winter, comes the return of the bog, inches of slicker-than-snot clay mud, and worry - heaps of it.

I was born a worrier, but seemingly incessant darkness, damp and cold compound it. I worry about my animals - are they warm enough, dry enough, safe enough, getting enough vitamins and calories? The long-lasting dark means that the nocturnal critters that'd have my chickens and goats for dinner have extended business hours, keeping us on our toes about getting everyone tucked in for the night, earlier and earlier with each passing day, for the next 6 weeks.

It is joyful and burdensome at the same time to be responsible not only for a life, but for also ensuring happiness and comfort beyond basic needs. Between Bill and I, we now have the keeping of 72 lives besides our own on our backs and minds at all times. And Winter and it's accompanying wet and dark magnify every challenge.

I'd better stock up on my coffee and vitamin D. This season feels like it'll be a long one.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On Deck for this Week -

*Turning some beautiful but mealy apples into "Apple Pie" schnapps :)

*Making more Pumpkin Raviolis

*Finally trying this Chevre Cheesecake recipe with a caramel-apple topping.

*Giving Tetanus booster shots to the goats

*Re-homing the Thunder-bird :(

*Vaccinating our "big birds" for Fowl Pox

So, a lot of cooking and a lot of critter jabbing. Oof. I'm tired already...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Slip-Sliding Away

I fell down twice today while doing critter chores. I'm in my mid-30's, if I haven't outgrown my clumsiness yet, I think it's safe to consider myself officially, permanently gravitationally-challenged. Maybe my next move is to take preventative measures like wearing a helmet at all times, or sewing a hemorrhoid donut pillow into my chore pants?

All I know right now is this - two wipeouts in the mud and all of the animals tucked in for the night means that pajama/cocktail hour has arrived and that soon, all shall be right with the world again. :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Los Bebés

These little fuzzles are now about 4 days old. Most of these pics were taken on days #2 & 3. We ended up with 27 chicks, 10 of whom (by Livy's count) are "naked necks" - potenial frizzled polish-naked neck crosses. :)

A black Australorp chick. These little babies are as hardy as the day is long!

A wider shot of the gang of peepers.

I want to name this bird Liza Minnelli so bad. Seriously - do you see the resemblance too or have I been spending WAY TOO MUCH time around chickens?

Livydoo & "Liza" :)

Mixing two funny looking breeds to make a new and different funny looking breed is pure bird-nerd nirvana. Behold our first Fall hatch of babies, the Americauna/White-crested Black Frizzled Polish crosses -

This little frizzled dude reminds me of what a crow/stellar's jay cross might look like.

I am IN LOVE with this girl's wacky crest. It reminds me of a peahen or a quail of some sort, maybe? I dunno, but I do think she's durn fancy!

The heap o'babies. Suddenly, they are camera-shy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chicken & Egg Trivia

On the eve of yet another, possibly our biggest ever, hatch of baby chicks, I find myself so wound up by the whole process that I have made the executive decision to fly my geek flag and fling some baby chicken trivia your way. Enjoy! ;)

*Chicks start to peep before they even hatch!

Mine have just begun doing so, with less than 24 hours to go in their gestation.

*Hatchlings do not need to eat or drink for as many as 2-3 days after hatching.

The yolk that fueled their development within the egg continues to provide the baby with sustenance until the babes learn to find and consume food and water, with the help of their Mama.

We never wait that long. They get food and water just as soon as they make the move from the incubator to the brooder.

*Baby chickens (and turkeys too) need to be taught how to drink.

The babies are born with a particular attraction to "shiny" things, which helps them seek out water. However, a Mama bird or surrogate Mama like me needs to actually show them how to dip to get a beak full of water, then extend their neck up and back to let the water run down their throat. They don't so much gulp liquid as they do scoop it and "knock it back". ;)

*The nearness of voices (chicken or human) encourage a chick to hatch.

The babies, if sat upon by their Mama hen, would have been listening for her clucks and bocks, as well as those of their fellow nestmates, as a sort of "all's well" sign that encourages them to hatch. In the case of my babies, since they've been hearing human voices for the past three weeks, will go from dead silent to a peeping frenzy upon hearing my greeting - even while still in the egg!

This is also one of the reasons that we leave the hatched babies in the incubator alongside the unhatched eggs for about 24 hours. All eggs that are going to hatch, should do so within that period, and the encouraging peeps of their siblings, as well as the occasional helpful peck, improve the hatch rate of a given clutch, in my experience.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We have a Farrrmerrr doon! (Again)

Last time there was a Farrrrmerrrr doon it was because a single bite of undercooked chicken had it's revenge on me.

This time, it's muh back.

Apparently osteoarthritis wasn't content simply destroying my knees, and so set it's sights on L5-S1 and went to town. And it SUCKS!

Certainly not helping anything is the fact that, while collecting eggs yesterday, I full-on wiped out on the rain-slick clay, jarring my already cranky back and breaking half a dozen eggs in one fell swoop.

So, just the noo, this farrrm lass is a wee bit poorly. And she hasna held back on the pain killers, and may have been reading a wee bit tae much o' the Outlander Series while layin' aboot. Maybeh.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Food For All!

"Food for All" was the mantra of a conference on food quality and equity that I attended this past weekend, the Sustainable South Sound Food Summit.

It was primarily a brainstorming session on the six topics that comprise the "Whole Measures Food Systems" concept. The six core ideas that comprise a Whole Food System are-

*Justice and Fairness
*Thriving Local Economies
*Vibrant Farms
*Healthy People
*Strong Communities
*Sustainable Ecosystems

Before breaking into groups to discuss the specific topics within the whole measures food system, we were provided some statistics about the current state of our county and state as related to family and individuals' access to wholesome food (farmers markets, grocery stores, food banks, meals on wheels, etc.), SNAP benefits (food stamps) and the WIC program. I was surprised and saddened to hear that in my wonderful, progressive community, that 1 in 10 people are still "food insecure", meaning that at any given time, they do not know where their next meal is coming from.

How can this be, in the land of plenty?

The other stat that literally sent gasps up in the room was that more than 50% of SNAP benefits are redeemed at convenience stores. I find that heartbreaking.

It would be a gross oversimplification, and indeed simply unfair to say that these convenience store shoppers are all frittering away their food budget on junk foods. The fact of the matter is, that many of the citizens that qualify for these benefits also face challenges with transportation, and therefore utilize convenience stores more often, simply because of their convenient location and 24/7 accessibility.

It can't be ignored though, that some do choose to use their food dollars on non-nutritive choices like soda, sports drinks and snack foods (as do an alarming number of non-food stamp users), and are thereby really not taking the best advantage of their food dollar.

So the challenge on this particular front is multi-faceted.

1 - How do we make better choices more accessible to everyone - our elderly, shut-ins, latchkey kids, homeless, working parents, students, etc.? Everyone.

2 - How can we make wholesome foods competitive with pre-packaged, ready-to-eat convenience foods like chips, hot dogs, lunchables, candy, etc., as far as ease of preparation, portability, price point and so forth?

3 - How do we cultivate a taste for good food in populations that have grown used to eating substandard, highly processed "foods"?

4 - (And this is one of my major pet peeves) How do we remove the stigma that organic and whole foods are upscale or unattainable luxuries?

Keep in mind that this is just one of many aspects of the emerging food crisis. If Fritos and Twinkies weren't made with federally subsidized GMO crops, they wouldn't be cheaper than their wholesome counterparts. So without going too crazy-political on you, I'd encourage you to think about, and learn more about our country's highly flawed farm bill, and how it has, after starting out with the best of intentions, become one of the smaller-scale, non-"big Ag" farmer's greatest enemies. Boiling it down to bare bones, our tax dollars are helping "Big Ag" turn out soulless, nutritionally inferior, cloned food. :(

I could probably go on forever about my feelings and ideas surrounding farming, food and food policy, but in the interest of getting this post up, after laboring over and pecking at it for nearly a week now, I'm going to hit publish post now, with the promise that I will be back to finish this thought/tirade another time. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Knitting Project: Decreasing Rib Capelet (part deux!)

It isn't hard to tell when I like a pattern, because I make one for everybody and their cousin, whether they like it or not. This ribbed capelet definitely falls into the category of "knit now, figure out who it's going to later" projects. ;)

The first of these capelets was made for my friend, Mrs. P, last winter, and was modeled by my Livy-doo.

My most recent capelet was for young Miss. HB, who was gracious enough to model it for me. :)

I sort of inadvertently made two capelets in my attempt to make Miss. HB's one. Effort #1 was waaaaay to small, but by the time I realized that not even the give of ribbing would make it work, I was already halfway done. So I went ahead and finished it, and gave it to another lil' buddy of mine. Now she & HB are a matched set. :)

I have this project up on Ravelry, if you'd like to read more of my rambling notes or follow the link to the original pattern, check it out here.

Next up is a modified version of this capelet, more of a cape, really, for Miss HB's little brother.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Odd Egg

We've seen a few of these lately. I'm not sure what causes it, but we call these "water balloons".

Looks like a relatively normal egg, right?


No shell at all, only membrane!

I'm going to have to research this phenomenon further, but I suspect that it is just a fluke that occurs now and then, especially with newer layers. Our girls get plenty of calcium in the form of crushed oyster shell and a very complete diet of organic, locally milled pellets, a loaf of bread per day, and all of the fresh grass, plants and bugs that they can eat, so we're not really worried that it's dietary, but can't rule it out altogether either.

To play it safe, we always compost these, though it might be fascinating to try and incubate one one of these times. Hmmm...

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Perils of Fresh Fruit

Today, in spite of my wanky back and the drizzly weather, I decided to pop out to the yard and try to pick some of our apples for canning and juicing this weekend. It did not go great. Learn from my fail(s), friends-

#1 - Buy one of these. You'll be glad you did.

#2 - If your apple trees are very tall, you're going to have to "upgrade" your picker in a method we like to call "Jackson Style". i.e. - Using 9/10ths of a roll of duct tape to affix an addition old broom handle or random stick to the existing handle of your picker, thereby extending its reach. Can you appreciate the advantage gained by Jacksonizing our picker?

#3 - PROTECT YOURSELF. I wore only a hoodie and earphones. This was highly dumb on my part. What you need, my friends, is something more along the lines of a welding helmet, or Major League Baseball catcher's uniform. (I'll betcha the Yankees have one that's not being used right now. ZING!)

I took an 8-ounce apple, which fell from a height of 10 or 12 feet, to the "chest region". Annnd that's when I was done for the day. If there are any mathematically gifted among you who can calculate how hard/at what speed that apple slammed into my lady lumps, I'd love to hear the answer, if for no other reason, than to underscore the great dangers of urban farming on a very small scale.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Last of the Stud Bunnies

Do you all remember the little guy here with Scarlet?

This was "Leap", the last of our litter born this past February, at about 4 or 6 weeks old.

His brothers and sisters all went to new homes in pairs, leaving Mr. Leapy the odd man out. Right up until he successfully knocked up his mother, Cinderella, Leap's gender and sexual prowess were in question. The surprise litter of babies were our "A-Ha! moment" (don't sue me, Oprah!), immediately after which we segregated Leap to a bachelor pad of his own, where he lived a tolerable but somewhat lonesome existence, estranged from his mother/aunt/baby mama.

Well, our young buck has finally moved on to greener pastures. We sold him this past week to our neighbors who are starting to raise meat rabbits, but who's buck wasn't getting the job done. Enter, Leap.

Leap's new Mommy called me today to say that "he's been taking care of business". So much so, that he's been given a new name befitting his take-no-prisoners brand of courtship.

Ladies and gentlemen - Charlie Sheen!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Annnnd back to the bums-bums...

I seriously had thought, nay, prayed, that my days of wrestling kids & critters for the sheer joy of getting to wipe their butts for them were over.

They're not.

We have a couple of pasty-vented babies in the brood, and they are none too pleased with my minstrations, whereas I, of course, am having the time of my life.

If you've got a morbidly curious streak, check out A Posse Ad Esse's entry on dealing with messy bird bums.

And now I must go, and return to my decadent lifestyle. Attempt to contain your jealousy.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Circle of Life


Literally seconds after this pic was snapped, Mr. Meanie came at Livy with spurs up. True to his moniker, he was a butthead to the last.


Moments away from becoming soupy goodness.

Thank you, Mr. Meanie, for being mean, and therefore easing my conscience in deciding to turn you into dinner. You may have been a grumpy little pain in the butt when you were alive, but you sure made a lovely pot of soup, and gave the girls a surprising amount of educational fun time vis-à-vis: your innards. May your days in birdy Heaven be filled with torn up hot dog buns and good lookin' hennies beyond number. ;)

Baby's First Photos

12 out of 20 eggs have hatched so far. 11 of those 12 chicks have survived so far. Not the world's greatest hatch rate, but we have another 24 hours left in our 21 day time frame during which we may get a few more peepers hatched out of the 8 remaining eggs in the incubator. In the mean time, enjoy the pics of the miracle of life, poultry style, as it unfolds on my dining room table.

And last but most definitely not least, is Scarlet, reenacting the hatching process while wearing her sister's old big yellow chicken Halloween costume. She later explained that she was wearing the costume primarily so that the chicks would imprint on her as their Mama Bird, and that her dramatic interpretation of the hatching process was purely for entertainment/educational purposes. I told you my kids were special. ;)

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Early Bird...

...scares the crap out of Mommy!

These little buggers weren't supposed to hatch for another 3 days! I went to take them out of the egg turner and lay them directly on the screen in the incubator, when I saw this jive turkey pipping and peeping away.

Apparently Huckleberry had been sitting on these eggies for 3 days before we found them. Does anything ever go according to plan for us? Yeah, no.

More pics to follow as the babies hatch! :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's a trap!

...a fruit fly trap, that is.

It may look like I'm setting out the good stuff for the bugs (that's what they're supposed to think - bwaha!), but it's actually just a bit of apple cider vinegar in the bottle.

You can buy fruit fly traps for around five to seven bucks that are basically the same setup, or you can just put about a nickel's worth of ACV in a container that has either a neck or steeply sloped sides (impeding escape) and the greedy little buggers will flock to it and drown. I know it's mean, and I don't like killing anything, but between the plague of gnats and crane flies that have engulfed us this year, Mama had enough.

I still don't have a great tip for ridding your home of crane flies, though my chickens have gleefully taken up the cause, chasing them down and snapping them up out of the lawn. I also usually find at least one freshly drowned in my scentsy wax-warmer every morning, so there's that...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

For the Morbidly Curious Only - A firsthand view of goat puberty

Brace yourselves, you've been warned!

We presently have 5 yearling goats on our little farm, a set of triplets and a set of twins. Buckley & Barley are our boys, and Hop, Oreo & Valentina (Teeny) are our girls.

The boys live apart from their mothers and sisters these days, because beginning about a month ago, the bucklings entered their first rut.

Buckley was the first to fall. He found creative ways to escape the pen he shared with his half-brother, and would immediately zoom straight up to visit the ladies (at this time, the doelings were still co-habitating with their Mamas). He couldn't figure out how to get into the pen, so he just paced and loafed around in turns, never stepping more than a few feet away from his paramours, all of whom but one, Chardonnay, are related to him by blood. Blood, schmud. Buck was not about to be dissuaded from courting them, one and all.

Then it was Barley's turn, my sweet, sweet baby boy Barley. I delivered him and warmed him while Chardonnay was still laboring to birth Hop, and our connection was sealed. I know I've said it before, but Barley is seriously more dog than goat, and I have an irrational love for the little bugger. He sits in my lap. He eats my clothes and licks my shins and boots (only my shins and boots - I dunno what's up with that) and gives me nuzzles and soft snorts. I could've hugged him all day. <3

But those days are gone (tears!) because now he is a stinky, horny mess, just like his brother. Oh Lord, the things my eyes have seen!

Warning! It's about to get REAL. If you have a touchy-tummy, I bid you look away now!

I'd been warned about how awful and stinky that buck goats get, but I took it in stride. I have bad sinuses - I can't smell anything! This will be cake, CAKE I TELL YOU.

The smell is the least of it.

The reason that the boys smell so horribly funky is twofold -

1 - They have scent glands near their horns that produce a "musk" that make the nanny goats weak in the knees. I personally don't get it, but male fragrances in general are not my thing. This musk is apparently their answer to Axe body spray, and I enjoy it just as much, which is to say, not at all.

2 - And this is the one that kills me. They pee on their own face. This is the part of the story of bucks that knocks most people out - initially. Yes, they're that limber, and yes, they apparently think that it makes them more attractive to the gals to have a dingy-yellow, toilet-scented face. I can't even pet my baby-boos now or I have to have a bio hazard-style decontamination shower to get the super funk off of me. :(

So there is the funk, explained. Now, the behavior. Hold onto your hats.

If you were impressed by the fact that the boys can manage to bend just so to wiz on their own faces, wait 'til you hear what else they can and do do in that same position. OFTEN.

Yup, I told you it was nasty. The uncastrated male goat is completely capable of self-fellation. AND BOY ARE THEY FANS OF IT. :(

How does this work exactly? Well, let me give you a quick upshot on goat anatomy. The buck's penis retracts like a dog's or a horses, so most of the time you are really only seeing the "sheath". When the buck is frisky, the business comes out. I'd estimate that the penises of my 8 months old (50ish pound) bucklings are about 6+ inches long, and roughly the girth of a pencil or a sharpie. Therefore, the boys can either "get down" while standing up, if they're limber enough, or lay down on their side and do the deed. It is a horrifying sight.

The other thing that I've been seeing a lot of is when the boys are just going about their business, and apparently a oil drum full of testosterone hits their bloodstream all at once. They get an erection, their muscles all tense, and they make the most bizarre teeny little groans and "O" faces. Oh God is it nasty. Wild eyes, quivering lips - YUCK.

These sweet babies have turned into the most base, guttural humping machines that I've ever seen. It is upsetting on many levels.

The doelings' behavior, thank God, is no where near as dramatic or x-rated. They mostly just bawl 24/7. I'd really rather that they had had a whole year and a half to grow before their first breeding, but as the boys have made more than one jailbreak during this rut, that ship may very well have already sailed. I don't think that Hop is pregnant though, because she is acting like she's in heat for the past two days, "vocalizing" (begging for nooky via MEEEEEHHHHHH! every 30 seconds) a lot and is a great deal more affectionate than normal. Hmmm...

I suspect that the big girls, Chardonnay, Frtizen and Blue could be knocked up too, because their behavior (the whining, etc.) has settled down, and I haven't seen any physical signs of heat since last month. Although we did want to breed them this fall, we were hoping to wait until at least October, so that the kids would come in March instead of February, like last year. I'd also like to have engineered who was bred to who, not mating mother to son, for instance, but that too could be out the window. Oy, oy, oy. The things I do for cheese!

I hope that I haven't caused you to fear or dislike goats, or to fear or dislike reading this blog, for that matter. I only wanted to share my "unique" perspective on the whole shebang, the good bad and uggggg-ly that this urban farmer business entails. There's only so much you can get from the books. ;)

P.S. - Spell check really didn't like "fellation" or "uncastrated". I daresay my spell check is one classy lady. ;)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cheesy Suggestions?

I have a few gallons of goats milk in the fridge just waiting to be put to good use, and I'm going to use it to make another cheese. So I thought I'd ask, what kind of cheese should I make?

A) Another Parmesan!
B) FetaFetaFetaFeta
C) Chevre (most of which I'll have to share, because Bill's out of town, and this is not my favorite cheese)
D) Cheddar
E) A metric ton of Mozzarella
F) Something else - you tell me!

And maybe, just maybe, I'll finally document a cheese making from beginning to end this time. Maybe.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bill's Parmesan

This was taken on day #3. It's looking good already, no? Waiting is going to be hard.