Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hatching Plans

The Commander told me to be on the lookout for a special delivery today, this package arrived from Our Flybabies. It seems the Commander had ordered me some fertilized chicken eggs!

Seems the Commander wanted to get some use out of the Brinsea mini incubator that he got me for Christmas last year. This little baby looks to be fantastic! It automatically turns the eggs, maintains the temperature and humidity with accompanying alarms, and even has a countdown timer for the 21 day (for chickens) incubation period.

The Commander ordered six eggs because the mini incubator only has slots for seven chicken eggs.

When I opened the package I found eight baby blue Americana chicken eggs! They are so cute, the color reminds me of Robin egg shells.

I set the incubator up in a corner on the counter, securing the plug with tape over the socket to prevent it from being accidentally unplugged (by humans or felines).

I next selected the seven best eggs, the one I decided against was the smallest. I hope to send that one to my daughters school to be incubated for a class project. The paperwork noted that the extra two eggs were included in case of damage during shipping or to make up for possible non-viable embryos.

Once the incubator was loaded all I had to do was complete the setting for chickens via a handy-dandy flow chart and they were ready to go.

This is the first time I have ever done something like this so it will be exciting to chronicle the progress - only 21 days to go!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Off Like a Shot!

It was nice outside yesterday so I was sitting outside on a lawn chair taking in the sunshine and watching the chickens and guineas free range. I could hear the goats screaming to be let out in the background so I decided to get up and let them play in the yard.

As soon as I opened the door Chip took off like a flash. Sara was right by my side at the time but before I could bark out the command; "Sara, Get Chip!" he was half way to his destination - the Chicken Coop!

When the chickens are out free ranging the door to their coop area is left open so they can come and go, somehow Chip has learned this. To Chip an open coop means chicken feed.

Sara is fast, I mean really fast, but she won't go into the coop. By the time she caught up to Chip he was inside and eating as fast as he could. The Commander was in hot pursuit of both Chip and Sara but in those few seconds Chip managed to choke down a few mouth fulls of chicken grain....that gives him yucky poo....every time!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

CDT Time for the Sheep

About two to four weeks before the sheep are due to lamb is when I give them their CDT shots. This will give the lambs some immunity until they are old enough to get a booster.

I also use this time to trim hooves and give everyone a bit of probiotics. The coffee is critical to the entire evolution. The brown paper bag holds epinephrin in case one of the sheep have a reaction to the shot.

I usually try to give the shot in the loose skin just behind one of the front forelegs. Once the needle is inserted I always pull back a bit on the plunger for the syringe to see if I draw blood. Blood means I have hit a vein, very bad for an injection. If I don't draw blood I continue with the injection. Make sure that the needle doesn't go in and puncture out through the skin further on, this is caused by long needles or not being able to see due to too much wool.

The sheep are easy to catch but hard to hold, especially the Icelandics. The Cascades are so much easier to handle - sheep sized right!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

That's Production!

I have seven hens and I collected seven eggs today - woo whoo! This is the first time I have gotten 100% production since last Summer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Cleaning, Goat Edition

The last post was about cleaning the sheep barn, that didn't go over too well with the goats who always want to come first. To placate the drama queens we cleaned their barn right after we finished up with the sheep.

The waste hay was quite deep in the goat barn too. Note how high the hay comes up to the feed basket.

While the goats may have wanted their barn cleaned they in no way expected to help clean it themselves, that is why they have we human servants around.

At one point during the cleaning process the Commander looked up at me and stated; "You have to feel this waste hay, it is hot to the touch! There must be some type of chemical reaction going on."

As I looked down at him I said to myself; "Self, what in our history together would give the Commander the idea that I would actually take off my gloves to feel the warmth generated by decomposing poo and pee in goat waste hay?" Of course I didn't say that out loud, I just told him I'd take his word for it.

The goats really do waste so much hay, I had no idea how deep it had gotten in there. At least (according the the Commander) they were warm.  I spread a little DE down to keep the vermin out and turned the goats back loose inside there newly clean barn.  I love the sound of their little hooves echoing across the yard as they bounce around inside the barn on its wood floor.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Cleaning, Sheep Barn

Yesterday Duluth set a record for the highest temperature ever on this day at 75 degrees! The Commander and I decided that the time had come to clean out the barns, the sheep barn was first up. Look how deep the waste hay is!

Gardenia was curious about what we were up to.

The middle stall was already cleaned out once this Winter so it shouldn't be too hard to clean. This stall is Lara's favorite so I'm hoping to get her in here to have her lambs.

The end stall was also cleaned but it gets the most use so this one will take a bit more work to get ready.

Once Gardenia and Azalea saw that we were in the stalls they came charging in to see if I was going to dish out any grain.

It took quite a while but we finally got everything cleaned out. The waste hay was relocated by wheel barrow into a marshy area that the Commander cleared out just before the start of Winter. I hope this will serve as my compost area, creating new dirt and filling in the marsh at the same time.

Once everything was cleaned out I put down some diatomaceous earth (DE) to prevent any bugs from settling in. Gardenia and Azalea were curious so I brought everyone in to have a bit of grain.

Unfortunately Lara and Zoe (the two new sheep) didn't like how the barn looked with all the waste hay removed so they were too afraid to go back in with the others.

We tried to lure them in with grain, no luck. We moved the hay bowls into the barn and yet they still stayed outside.

When nightfall came we still couldn't get them to come back in, no amount of attempted herding, chasing, or bribing could get them inside. A few times the sheep would sneak up behind us and stare (laugh) at our pitiful efforts. The Commander finally gave up and closed the barn for the night, Zoe and Lara spent the night outside.

This morning the Commander opened up the barn and fed everyone inside in an attempt to use the girls hunger against them. Once he left they finally went inside to eat so I'll try to put them away tonight using a bit of grain.

Around here it is way to dangerous to overnight outside, especially this close to lambing. If I can't get them to overnight in the barn this is going to end in disaster.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Statistics Page

I enjoy peeking at the statistics page from time to time to see what oddities brings folks to the blog.  This one caught my eye yesterday, it seems someone did a Google search for "Water+Nipple+Picture."

I said to myself, "Self, how in the world did that search direct someone to this blog?"

Follow this link if you are curious.

To say that I am shocked is an understatement.  Chip isn't happy either.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

There Be Monsters.....

Last night 4 Guinea Hens decided to sleep in the pine trees instead of in the safety of the coop. This is not the first time this has happened around here.

When the Commander went outside this morning at 0530 to water the sheep he found the remains of a headless guinea.

For the last week or so in the woods surrounding the house we have been hearing owls calling back and forth to one another, I think that is what got our unfortunate guinea. I found these huge footprints in the snow around the coop area this morning. They look like guinea tracks but these were much larger.

The poor guinea must have put up a pretty good fight as there were feathers everywhere. The Commander spotted one of the surviving guineas by the woodshed this morning while it was still dark but he couldn't catch it. Guineas are horribly night blind and are easy prey once discovered in the dark. The guinea by the woodshed was lucky as it must have flown to the security light by the garage to enable it to see for its escape.

While the Commander was out walking around he heard at least three owls calling each other so I took a flashlight out into the yard and made as much racket with the dogs as I could. I wasn't just concerned about the owls, I was also worried about prowling fox!

Sunday morning I spotted a huge black fox trotting behind the goat barn. I didn't have time to get my trusty 12 gauge but I'll be ready for him next time he is on the prowl around here.

From the looks of the tracks I think more than I owl was tramping around on the ground last night. The other two guineas showed up at dawn and were desperate to get into the coop area. They must have flown blindly from their tree perches and hid in the underbrush. Whatever happened last night caused all Guineas to tuck themselves away safely in the coop tonight well before the chickens retired for the evening. Some lessons are learned the hard way.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Who is Pregnant?

Lara? Definitely, she is huge and I'm expecting at least twins. She is due early April.

Kia (right)? Nope, when she got sick we were lucky to keep her alive let alone maintain her pregnancy.

Ava (left)? I don't think so, but when we give CDT shots next week I'll give her a good once over. Both Ava and her mother Kia were very leery of Ironwood and his mean ways so I think they were able to keep their distance from him.

Gardenia? I think she is sporting a healthy bulge. I was hoping for twins this year but I will be happy with a healthy lamb. Gardenia could be due as early as 28 March but I think she will hold off into April.

Azalea? I thinks so but I will need to check her out once she gets her shots next week. Azalea has always been a bit chubby so she is hard to gauge. Like Gardenia she could give birth this month but if she does lamb I hope it is in April.

We attempted to breed Zoe late in the season and she won't be due until early June if at all - too early to tell now.

Gidget? Yep, she is huge and bursting at the seams. This is her first time and I'm worried at how large she is going to get. She is due the 9th of May, I'm thinking at least twins.

Becca-Boo? Yep. This is her second go round and she doesn't look too big yet (compared to Gidge). I'm hoping she has a single kid and she too should deliver May - I'm thinking the 12th.

Addison? Yep, she hasn't been in heat for months. I thought she would be the first to kid but Gidge may have beat her. Addy is also due May 9th and she hasn't gotten too large as of yet. I'm hoping for a buck and a doe from Addy because she is such a good milker.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Coming Soon - Eggs!

So far in the 68 days of 2012 my 7 laying hens have giving me 110 eggs, just over 1 per day. With Spring right around the corner I was expecting the production to pick up, but yesterday they surprised me with 6 eggs!

I think the little egg is from the lone hatchling from last year, she gave me another one today exactly the same size. With the temperatures set to be in the 50's tomorrow I'm hoping for a big laying weekend!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hauling Hay!

Someone around here has been overfeeding the animals (the Commander)so the hay that was supposed to last until Spring didn't. Fortunately our hay supplier is local, has plenty of bales stored, and most happily he delivers!

Unfortunately the 75 bales of hay in the garage have to now be hauled through the newly fallen 20+ inches of snow to the goat barn.....

...and to the sheep barn, and to the ran barn (not pictured). There is no way the wheel barrow is going to make it through the snow and I last saw the sled BEFORE the most recent blizzard so it looks like the Commander has a lot of hauling in his future.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wandering Guineas

Guinea hens normally live in trees, but since ours have been raised with/as chickens they live in the chicken coop. The first Winter we had the guineas a few started to roost in the trees, unfortunately one night an owl feasted upon all the guineas that were outside the safety of the coop. I woke up to a bitter harvest of headless guinea bodies, not pretty.

Last Summer a few of the guineas began to venture forth and spend time in the trees, a few even spent the night outside. I was happy that once Winter set in they decided to roost with the chickens as it was both safer and warmer.

With the onset of Spring in the air the guineas are once again setting out to explore the property. I have seen them in the trees and in the sheep barn. The other day I watched as a gaggle of eight guineas marched their way into the sheep barn and began to holler and screech. Their cries were amplified by the loft in the barn and the echos of their calls had the sheep totally spooked.

These pictures mark the first time that I have seen the guineas perched on top of the goat barn. I like that they are venturing forth as we will have a lot more cleared land for them to patrol this year. The guineas are great at devouring ticks, and in this role they are worth their weight in gold.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Baking Bread

Friday on his way home from work the Commander decided that he wanted to have some home made bread so he called my mother (1) and asked what ingredients were needed for her bread recipe. Now I'm not sure what he was thinking, because the last time we had home made bread around here was during my mothers last visit. Anyone who knows me understands that I don't cook, in fact I'm required by law to give the Fire Department 15 minutes notification prior to attempting anything in the kitchen.

So after I finished laughing I informed the Commander that if he was looking for volunteers to make bread he needed to go look in the mirror. So he broke out my mom's recipe and got to work:

1 1/2 cups of milk
1/4 cup shortening
3 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 pkg dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
9 cups flour

First he needed to scald the milk (I am and expert at that) so not understanding what that meant he called my mom (2). Once the milk is scalded add the shortening, salt and sugar. While that is going on add the yeast to the 1/4 cup warm water so it can start "yeasting".

Once the yeast is doing its thing add in 2 cups of flour and start mashing. Once you have a good doe going add in the milk mixture and gradually blend in the rest of the flour. The Commander thought that the doe was too dry so he called my mom (3) to ask what to do, she told him to keep working the doe and it will get more moist over time.

Once all the flour is worked in and the doe is moist cover the bowl and place it in a warm area for 1 1/2 hours. The warm area in our house was a coffee table down by the wood stove. Nice and toasty there.

After 1 1/2 hours the doe should have risen to about double its original size. The Commander didn't think the doe had risen enough so he called my mom (4) to ask what to do - she told him to proceed and get on with the next step.

The next step is to rework the doe and divided it into two portions. Each portion needs to be placed into its own greased (the Commander use olive oil) bread pan. The Commander thought that the doe looked clumpy so he called my mom (5) to ask her what to do, she told him to continue on with the recipe. The stress seemed to be getting to the Commander at this point so he needed a bit of "bracing", hence the Mikes Hard Lemonade. The pans were dutifully covered and brought back downstairs to sit by the wood stove.

After an hour the bread was brought back upstairs, it once again didn't seem to double in size so the Commander called my mom (6). As you probably guessed she told him to continue on and follow the instructions. He preheated the over to 400 F and then thought that it may be better to have warm bread in the morning for breakfast - so he called my mom (7) and asked if he could just stick the uncooked loaves in the refrigerator and cook them in the morning. She told him it would be best to cook them now.

After 45 minutes of tense anticipation the Commander pulled the bread out of the oven and rubbed butter across the top of the warm loaves - that isn't in the recipe.

The outside of the loaves is crisp allowing it to set unwrapped if one so chooses. The Commander took the warm bread and sliced each of us a piece and smothered the slices with butter - it was delicious.

The next morning I called my mother and told her that the bread making experiment was a success. She deadpanned that her and the Commander had had a unique bonding experience.