Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Aftermath

So we did it. We process over 40 turkeys. Sold all but the very biggest ones - we ate half a 32 pounder for Thanksgiving, the other half will come out at Christmas. We have 2 more 32 pounders in the freezer and a whopping 35 pounder - I sense a spring barbeque...

Anyhow. We did it. We sold most of the turkeys we processed, and for the first time, we didn't have to turn away any customers. Everyone got a bird (or two). We even have about 18 turkeys left - a few toms and a bunch of hens, so I can breed my own heritage turkeys this year.

As usual, we figure out ways to make adjustments for next year. We may convert part of our shed into a brooder for the turkeys. We plan on raising more, so we can process more. We plan on ordering a similar mix of birds - some heritage, some double breasted. BUT we will NOT order any double breasted toms! No one wants those birds that are 30 pounds and larger! So we will try our luck with more heritage breeds for the smaller sizes, and double breasted hens for the larger bird, but none of those gigantic birds!

We had our Thanksgiving with our family. We've heard some very pleasant compliments by those that ate our birds with their families. Believe me, I appreciate the feedback! There are good and bad moments to farming. Selling turkeys is one of those good experiences. It's a long weekend for us (and for our volunteers) but the fruits of our labor is worth it. I am honored that I can help make other peoples' holidays a little more special.

Now is generally the time of year we finish up winterizing the farm. We put away hoses, we clean up the pasture, we get heated waterers out for the animals, and we think of taking a short rest before it's time to start ordering seeds and getting the greenhouse ready.

But this year, we have a few more tasks to finish. On December 9, we say goodbye to our beloved Marlow. Larry had expressed an interest in keeping him longer, until next spring or fall, to see how big he may get. But I won't last much longer. Marlow has it out for me, and charges me at any chance he gets. He had me pinned to the tailgate of a truck for a while, until something caught his attention, and I could grab a nearby stick to fend him off. He goes after the dogs, our child and me, I presume sometimes Larry. It's not safe. And with baby lambs on the way, we can't have a wayward steer who may stomp on them, or butt them in a fit. He could hurt them badly. So on December 9 he goes away.

A week after that, our next batch of 5 lambs also goes away. They are way past their due, being about 7 months old, and there is no sense in feeding them all winter. We know the ram lambs did their job - as most of our ewes are expecting - some seem very ready and may drop any day.

So that's our third winter item to contend with - poorly timed lambing. I didn't really want lambs in December - but it's not awful. With a barn, some heat lamps and a heat pad, our lambs will do just fine in the cold. We can quarantine the new moms and the lambs into a barn stall of their own, and lock them in for a few days to keep them all warm. We've had winter lambs before, so I am not concerned. It's just more fun in the spring, to sit out in the corral and watch the lambies gambol around. When it's cold, I don't spend as much time hanging out with them!

So one big Marlow is leaving us, 5 little lambies (Archie, Tigger, Eeyore, Red and Sally) but possibly all 15 ewes are pregnant, and in the next month or so, we may have 20 or so new lambs running around. Happy Holidays, indeed!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Turkey Weekend

So, I processed my first turkey of the season. He was injured, everyone was picking on him, and with 100 new baby chicks arriving this week, there would be no room for him in the brooder (aka "the hospital box"). So we took care of him this weekend.

I thought - easy - 30 minutes. Kill him, gut him, skin him, and put him through the meat grinder. (then cry about killing a bird)

Well, it hasn't been that kind of week for me. We had no sharp knives, I had to use a cleaver. He processed out at 28 pounds, so he was a big boy. And he wouldn't fit in a turkey cone. So we had to sit on him so he wouldn't break his wings in that last jerk, or break our faces! Needless to say, he didn't go down easy.

And then after he did, he was quite a bit of a bird to manage. I gutted him just fine, but that skin did not want to come off. And no, I didn't want to fire up the scalder for one dang bird, so I skinned him instead of trying to pluck him dry.

Then I decided to get moving on the meat grinder (because I cannot eat a 28 pound turkey by myself) and I forgot how awful our meat grinder is. So I go through one leg, and one breast and put the stinker back in the fridge. Tonight, I will cut off his other breast, and make some dinner for me and my nugget. Then, if I have the time and patience, the rest will go through the grinder, or heaven forgive me, I may just feed him to the dogs. It's been that kind of week.

And I have one more to go. Next weekend we process ALL the turkeys. I believe I am now at about 32 reservations for birds. I have 65+ in the barn (and at a minimum, I want to keep 13 of them) So that leaves me with 50+ to process in 3 days. That's doable.

I have extra large turkey cones on order so that we don't have to sit on anyone. I have a crew of volunteers coming to help me process. It's going to be a great weekend.

But I have to get through ONE more week of being a single mom on the farm. It's wearing me out.

So the good things that have happened in the past week?
I have a great kid and a great puppy, and 3 great dogs and 3 great cats. So that's awesome.
I finished weatherproofing the chicken house
I got a Sheep Transport System built
I got firewood delivered
I fixed the fireplace
I got the brooder set up in the barn for the new chicks
I finished 3 batches of yummy new ice cream flavors
I "fixed" a section of fence that was pretty sketchy
I spent time with my nugget
I planted 2 trees and two hazelnut bushes

The bad things that have happened?
2 baby chicks died :(
Marlow has charged me multiple times, pinning me against the truck this weekend (he has been put in detention, and I really want to eat him now)
The barn almost burned down - the sheep knocked down a heat lamp into the straw, and the turkeys flicked the light switch that turned it on!
The turkeys wandered up the street (I wonder if I lost any?)
Did I mention that Marlow keeps charging me?
Athena got in a fight with the neighbor's dog, and stopped eating (until I bought her some canned food)
We've had some rough days, and my nugget and I just need some sleep!

So I have 6 days to go. Tues-Wed working, Thursday getting the farm ready for processing, Friday, Saturday and Sunday processing - and then Sunday night, Mr. Referee finally comes home AFTER the hard work is all done. Boo Hiss!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some of my Favorite Chickens

My neighbor helped me hatch a few chicks over the last few weeks. Out of 30 eggs, we've had 7 successful hatches. There may be more, but it may have been a tough time of year to be hatching chickens.

ANYHOW, in light of my 7 new chickies, I thought I'd show a few pictures of some of my favorite chickens.

This guy here is our Barred Rock rooster, and a few of his Barred Rock hens. He's a fantastic rooster!!

This is one of our Silver Lakenvelder hens. Looks like she is done molting, and has grown her feathers back. She is a pain in the butt, but she's beautiful!
This is "Friend Bird" I can't remember her breed, Fayoumi, maybe? But I call her "Friend" because she always comes over to check me out and sort of follows me around. She always comes by to say hi. I think she's great!

This is Fang, he came from our friend's house. He's a black Polish rooster. He's already got a few "grey" hairs - 2 white feathers are growing on his hat.

This is "Little Girl Bird". She is the first hen I hatched this spring. Her brother has since met his demise, but Little Girl is out with the hens, and possibly even laying eggs by now. Yup, no idea what she is!

Chicken House

The chicken house is almost done. We finished the second set of egg boxes this weekend. They are almost done in this image. Of course, that was a few hours before the sheep knocked them all out and we had to put them back in again.

The egg boxes open from the outside, so we don't have to climb in the truck to collect eggs. We need to put latches on the outside of this to ensure clever foxes or coyotes can never figure out that can get in this way.

Here are the egg boxes on the inside.

Of course, the highlight of the new house is the clear roof. This allows light in, even when the chickens are locked in the house. And think of the views the chickens on the top perches will have! And yes, the chickens use all the perches. I see them in there at night, at all levels of the perches. Bonus!

We can close the tailgate at night, and the chickens are all locked in, safe from coyotes. We also close the door during the day, and latch it. We thought that would keep the sheep out and the chickens would go through the little side holes. OOPS! The sheep can jump on the tailgate, and the ram lambs can also fit through the slots. So we need to make those slots smaller to keep the sheep out!!