First Week of March

And we’re marching right along.
Heh.
See what I did there?
😂😂😂
I promise, I’m funnier in person.
Or, maybe I’m not.
🤷‍♀️

So I’ve booked 2 dozen turkey hatching eggs for the end of the month.
Why?
Uh….why not?
So I have 2 toms and 5 hens.
The hens should start laying soon…and if their shrieking songs are any indication, it will. be. soon.
But the lady I got the eggs from last year moved far, far away and chances to get eggs from her again this year dwindled…until we found out that she’s still finishing up the relocation of her family (to an amazing property in the bush, surrounded by wildlife, huge areas to forage and so much space for growing her own food…I’m teensy bit jealous. 😉 ) so is back in the area once a week for a few more months.
So I jumped at the chance for a couple dozen eggs, since she had added new genetics last year, meaning I could hatch and run the new hatches with my current turkeys.
Hopefully, by the time we get eggs from her, my hens will have popped a few eggs out so I can add those to the incubator too.
I know the boys are dancing up a storm and there has been some turkey lovin’ goin’ on.
😂😂😂

We’re half way through the incubation for the first 80 chicken eggs.
So. Exciting!
I get excited about them hatching until the work of taking care of the chicks comes along.
😂😂😂
I’m a bit like a little kid like that.
But this is what we have to do to make sure there’s food in the freezer for next winter.
I mean holy crap, it’s not even spring and I’m already planning for winter!

And like every other year, thoughts move towards “what else can I grow”.
We have enjoyed having pigs for the summer…well, until these last ones.
Those effers were scary. 😳
And I’m not one to be scared by animals.
But watching them hunt chickens, stalk the cats and a time or two stalk Hubby, well…as much as I want pigs again, they have to be manageable for The Kid and I.
So we’re thinking potbellies.
Smaller, easier to handle, and if we get a boar and 2 sows, a renewable resource.
😉
We’ll try them out and see how they work for us.

LemonChicken enjoys the droppings off the hay bales.

The weather is warming up and the chickens are wandering around the yard again.
No matter how hard I try, those dang birds just won’t stay in their yard!
But they have fun picking through the bits of hay that fall all winter when we feed the Merry Mares.
And they find any voles that might be coming out into the sunshine.
Plus they steal cat food.
Because chickens is jerks.

the mares mooning me under the full moon…

The northern lights have been crazy active!
I keep trying to go out a photograph them, but I really don’t think my heart is in it.
When trying to take pictures, I don’t get to enjoy them as much.
I’ve just been enjoying my glass of whiskey and watching the lights.
In a world gone mad, it’s been a pleasure to enjoy the magic of their dancing with a fine sipping whiskey in hand and cats in my lap…
Because I can’t sit anywhere without cats in my lap. I ain’t complaining about that though…I do love a feline lap warmer. 😉
Last night it was Max, Trouble, Xena and Coal all vying for who got to sit in my lap.
4 cats don’t fit so well, no matter how hard they try.
😂😂😂

My big chubby monkey…
Daphne…because she’s hard to photograph, and y’all don’t get to see enough of her. 🙂

It’s That Time Of Year

Oh boy oh boy…
I’m soooooo itchy to get things going!
The only thing keeping me from firing up the incubators is the darn cold.
*Still* under an extreme cold watch.
It’s been 10 days straight.
That’s just crazy.
Hopefully tonight it’ll end…tomorrow?
Soon. It’s gotta end soon.

But here I’m thinking about ordering my meat chicks.
In fact, this week I have to buy layer feed again.
With this cold, the birbs are blowing through feed like crazy.
Like.
Crazy.
3 25kg bags typically go 2 1/2-3 weeks.
Pfft.
I think we’re at a week and a half, and we’re gonna need for this weekend.
So, yeah…effing cold.
When I place my next feed order, I’ll order my meat chickens and 10 white turkeys.
Now that I have a better grasp on raising turkeys, I figure I should be able to raise the whites.
Hopefully.
Looking forward to putting a whole bunch of turkey into the freezer.
🤤🤤🤤

And once the order goes in, Hubby has his orders for building.
We need a whole separate brooder for turkeys.
The biggest thing we did wrong last year was not keep them in the brooder with high protein feed longer.
My Narragansett crew did ah-mazing staying in the brooder for almost 4 months before getting outdoor time.
And I tell you, they are hardy af!
This cold snap, they’ve been out doing turkey races over the snow drifts like maniacs!
So hopefully they breed and lay like nuts come spring time, because we need more of them. 😉
But whites are a raise for meat, short season bird only.
So they’ll spend a good long time in the brooder, then get some outdoor free ranging time away from chickens before going to Freezer Camp.
And we can’t have them tying up the brooder that cycles chicken chicks through it throughout the summer…which means building work for Hubby…well, all of us, really.

Then we needs a shelter in the old pig yard for ducks.
We’re changing that yard from pigs to the ducks full time.
We’ll rip out the pallet fence, replace it with stucco wire, and put up some windbreak boards as well.
We’re looking at making it the year round duck yard, so we have to account for the snow that blows in there.
To go with the new shelter (that we’ll be able to lock ducks in at ight to protect them from coyotes) we’re planning on a few broody boxes…that can also be closed up at night to protect broody ducks and their eggs from predators.
This is the design I’m thinking about:

Image shamelessly stolen from Google.

I want to make those fronts removable though, so that once ducklings hatch, Mama Ducks can take them out and teach them all the things bebes need to be taught.
But those fronts would be easy to close up to protect everyone too…

And it’s almost time to start pepper seeds.
I just need a bag (or two) of potting soil to get going.
Peppers take longer than tomatoes to start, so they’ll be going in the next week.
Than ground cherries.
If the damn things will ever germinate for me.
🙄
They are sooooo tasty, and supposed to be super prolific. But I can’t get even 1 seed to start.
Stupid things.
I’ll try again, because I have the seeds, but I might through them in the garden and see if they’ll volunteer if nothing happens indoors.

And that’s where we’re at.
I’m itching to get busy, but it’s not quite time, and we’re not quite ready.
Sooooooooon, though.
Very, very soon.
🙂

Ruby says this cold snap is equine excrement. I agree.

Down Sizing

This morning while I did the chores, I marveled at how fast things were being done lately. Then I realized it’s because were down to 3 coops for the birds, in just 2 yards.

The turkeys and adult ducks in one coop together, the young ducks who aren’t ready to be in the big duck coop in another, and the main chicken coop.
I must admit, it’s nice to have everyone together, making things go faster.
Especially since we’re haying the nags now.

At one point in the summer, we had 8 coops (temporary and permanent) going at once.
That, my friends, is a lot of birds.
😂😂😂

For next year, though, I need a couple more bachelor coops.
This year we had too many roosters boys in one place a few times, and that can lead to fighting.
That was usually in the days leading up to butcher day, because the last thing you want to be doing on butcher day is chasing roos…so we separate them a few days (up to a week) before.
I’d rather have a couple smaller coops/yards that they can have more space and freedom with a yard so that they’re happier.
Being raised for food doesn’t make them any less deserving of excellent care.

So that’s another task added on for winter/spring.
With hopes of building a bigger/second layer coop as well.

One thing we learned with this year is that people are more interested in local foods.
I’m telling you, I cannot keep up on egg orders.
I used to post 15-20 dozen for sale on a Monday and be sold out by Thursday, or sometimes have left overs…
Now?
Backlogged.
I don’t even have a chance to post eggs for sale.
People are messaging me to get on a wait list.
So…my plan?
More laying hens.
😂😂😂

I can have up to 300 laying hens to be able to still sell farmgate.
Once I have 301, I have to be a part of the local egg monopoly.
Thanks, but I’m not interested in that…so I’ll be hovering around the 280 mark for hens…eventually.
Once we have coops built for them.

So for now, we’ve downsized.
But soon enough, we’ll be upsizing.
🙂

Ducklings Round 2

Back in the spring I had bought a trio of muscovies…a replacment drake (because Donald was infertile) and a couple of hens…
I paid a fair bit for them, but spring is prime time for adding new blood to flocks, so people charge more.
That’s more than fair…if I wasn’t happy with the price, I wouldn’t have paid it…just in case anyone thinks I’m complaining about the seller. I absolutely am not. I know spring is premium price time and I needed a drake. 🙂

Well after a few slow starts and 2 eggs not hatching in the incubator, our muscovy ducks are delivering.
Last week we found Ripple’s 8 ducklings hatched.
Today we have another 9 or 10 more…

Don’t you be lookin’ too close at my babies, human!!

Oh, I’m lookin’!
And I’m wondering if those 2 chicken eggs are gonna hatch or if they’ve gone rotten.
🤢
🤮

All those fluff butts!
😍

I’ve got 2 more hens sitting on nests that should be hatching in the next week or so.
I hadn’t planned on over wintering quite so many ducks, but when the babies happen the babies happen.
Good thing we have a duck coop just about ready to move them all in to!

Sharing with Comedy Plus for Awww Mondays
🙂

Editing to add…
The final count for this hens hatch is…11!!
Eleven baby ducklings.
Pretty darn awesome.
🙂

Bacon Seeds

The bacon seeds have arrived!!

Just about 6 weeks later than last year.
But, life happens.
We were getting close to drought conditions right around when we normally would get piglets, and I was concerned about bringing more livestock onto the Farm without being 100% sure I could keep everyone watered and healthy on the well.

So, we waited.
Then we got amazing rainfalls (that took out my garden a time or two) and now we’ve had good, regular rains (which have been helping my garden…and the weeds in it!).
That eased my worries about water.
Then, we just had to wait for schedules to align to go pick these guys up…that was yesterday.

Behold, our cute little bacon makers!

Bums!

We brought home 6 little baconettes to grow for as long as possible before winter hits.
🙂

And Then There Were 2…

We’ve been working on sending the pigs to Freezer Camp.
So far, 4 have gone to Camp, with 2 left to take care of this weekend.
We’re down to AndyPiggie(picture) and CharlottePiggie.

First to go to Camp were:

1. LitaPiggie, who was the biter and meanest pig of the 6…she was also the one who kept climbing onto the pig shelter and trying to make the leap into the chicken yard.

I won’t miss that miserable b***h at all.

2. ImeldaPiggie, so named because she loved shoes. My crocs the most…she also enjoyed a good back scratch and a belly rub. Of all the pigs this year, she was the sweetest girl.

3. MaryPiggie. The runt of the 6, and the toughest. This girl fought for food every darn day, even with 3 feeding stations. She just wanted all the food, all the time. Healthy and happy otherwise, just hated sharing food with her piggie sibs.

4. GeorgePiggie. Our smallest boy, who turned out to be quite the chunk. Had he not been castrated before coming to us, he likely would have made quite the boar for a small farmer like us. George rivaled Imelda for friendliness.

We’re getting into weather that is not conducive to pink piggies doing well outside. Cold like we have now (a record of -21*C this morning!!) means pink piggies start to lose body condition, and can actually freeze to death.
Certainly not what we want for these guys.
Pinkies are not meant for outdoor 24/7/365, that’s for sure!
So, to make sure they’re still happy and healthy until their date with the Freezer Camp director, they get ample straw bedding in their shelter, to snuggle down into and stay warm.
They also get 5-6 hot meals a day.
Smaller than when there was 6 of them, and just enough that they can finish it each time.

I use a mixture of hot water, left over coffee (hey, it happens sometimes! 😉 ), and a pint of milk poured over their grains for each meal. And, the past week they’ve been getting a 1/2 cup of yogurt too, just to make sure tummies are working well and processing the food.

Seems like a lot of work for pigs we’re just going to kill, right?
It is.
But, the rule here is Happy Food Tastes Better and the best way to keep pigs happy is with a full belly and warmth.
Just because we’re going to butcher them, doesn’t mean that they deserve a lesser quality of life.

As far as we’re concerned, they get the same standard of care as any other animal here.

Hot mashes for horses?
Yup.
Hot mashes for chickens and ducks?
Yup.
Hot mashes for piggies?
Yup.
Really, what’s one more hot mash to make up, to keep the animals that will feed us for the winter happy and healthy?
That, to me, is time well spent.

Oh My Gosh

Let me tell you about my week, last week!

Since the weather is cooling, the Girls have been getting fuzzy, and I’m constantly adjusting their beet pulp/flax rations. Horses can have delicate digestive systems, so changes have to be made slow and steady…that’s the norm. We all know one or two horses, though, that have iron stomachs and can handle any change, any time.
My Cookie used to be like that.
Not so much anymore. Especially not since she had her colic incident a few months back…be warned, if you go read that, the language is salty. If cursing offends you, well, just trust me when I say Cookie colicking is something to worry about, ‘kay?

Now, I watch her and her tummy as close as I watch Sable.
Sable colics so easily! I am very lucky that, so far (knock on wood, and thanks to all deities I believe in), she hasn’t had an episode I couldn’t handle.

Last week, I noticed Cookie wasn’t quite herself. Not colicking, but she was off. Which sounds silly, but ask any horse owner. We know when our hoofed kids are off, and you watch them, because you never know what could happen.
So, as she layed down in the pasture, I figured it was a good time for a back rub. Well, she sure enjoyed that! After a while (I can’t tell time and rub pony backs at the same time! 😛 ) she decided she’d had enough, got up, walked away and dropped a pile of manure.
I left her alone after that.

Later on though, after she had her beet pulp (which had, for about 2 weeks, included 1 cup of oats. Just plain oats we get from the Farmer down the road from us) she was off again…so I said to Hubby, I was going pull her off the oats (slowly) and increase her flax. Last winter, when I increased her flax, her whole demeanor changed. With age, and the cold, her body clearly needed something more. Spring came, and she stopped finishing her bucket until I reduced the flax. She was telling me that there was too much for what her body needed. Horses are pretty darn amazing creatures, if we just listen to them!

So, I pulled her off the oats, and I saw improvement. But, not 100%. Again, it’s not that she was showing anything more than just being a little off. If I wasn’t here all the time, I probably wouldn’t have noticed anything different. I would have chalked things up to mare-ish mood swings.
Next step was adding probiotics to her diet.
Easiest, and most economical, way to do that is with yogurt. I make a gallon of yogurt a week, give her 1/2 a cup in her beet pulp-because shooting it into her mouth like dewormer was not a good time to be had by either one of us!-and there’s enough for me to enjoy too. 🙂
LOL! Yeah, I started out trying to give it to her like when we deworm them. Hahahaha!! Oh, that was stupid!
1200lbs of cranky assed mare, and then, once I got it in her mouth she changed, and decided that “Hey! That was good! I want more!” and got super pushy trying *get more*.
Into the beet pulp went the next day’s dosage.

Then, just as I was getting that figured out, our Girl Astrid came in for beet pulp with a large amount of burrs in her forelock. Thinking nothing of it while she ate, I worked on getting them out of her hair.
As it turns out, if it’s windy while pulling burrs out, one should always be aware/careful about the job.
Taking a piece of burr to the eye is a painful, unpleasant, nasty bit of business. It will, quite seriously, mess up your day…or, week, in my case.
At first, I thought, since it was dusty too, that a piece of dirt had got me. Nope, as I rubbed to get the dirt out (yes, stupid, stupid, stupid, I know), I realized that was no dirt!

That was Tuesday, and I finally was able to see properly (and without my eye itching) yesterday.
I had to rinse my eye (not fun ever), alternate between ice packs for the swelling and chamomile tea bags to promote healing, and so much Reactine and Excedrin!
It was not fun.
Add to that I felt awfully stupid for having it happen, because people pull burrs from their horses all the time right? No one ever talks about getting the stupid things in their eye…so there, *I’m* talking about it, because damn, it hurts! And, if it hurts a human, imagine what it would feel like to an equine who got a bit in their eye. 😦

Now I’m a week behind in work, and it’s taken this long to update y’all here, plus (and this is the worst of it 😛 ) I spent a whole week without being able to take pictures. Can’t do it, if you can’t see your subject! That’s why this post is so much words…so very many words. Instead of the pictures y’all are used to.
I do have a couple for you though, from pre-burr-to-the-eye times…

This is actually from the first day I noticed she wasn't quite herself...

This is actually from the first day I noticed she wasn’t quite herself…

The next morning, as the sun came up, I saw this…

Awwww!  She's just plain perfect. <3

Awwww!
She’s just plain perfect. ❤

Hopefully, this week I’ll have camera in hand again. In fact, I have to!
Our meat chickens, the Peepers, are going to Freezer Camp this week, and I want to photograph it. Not to be gruesome, but because I have always believed that knowing what goes into you food hitting your plate is important.
There will be a blog post.
I will put pictures under a “Read More” tag…just so the folks with queasy tummies won’t have it all out there in their faces.
I will, however, encourage you to look at the images. Especially if you eat meat.
I can guarantee the Peepers have had a good life. Lots of food, including wandering about for bugs and such, fresh water several times a day, shelter at night but wandering the chicken yard during the day, and tootling their chicken sounds at me every chance they get. Their life has been good, as it should be for every animal that is raised to become food.
I look forward to sharing this with you, our journey from chicks to chickens in the freezer.
🙂
Happy Food Tastes Better.

Happy Food Tastes Better

That is the new Farm motto:

Happy Food Tastes Better

We’re keeping “Where horses get a second chance & the humans never give up” as well. We’re just adding on, now that we’re growing meat animals and have laying hennys.

Ihop June to August 2016

Ihop, the day she came home, and last week…

As a quick aside…we had thought we’d lost Ihop when we lost the henny to being egg bound. Nope, turned out to be a different hen, and I found Ihop shuffle-hopping about the henny yard last week. She’s been really good at hiding that shuffle hop when she wants to!

Any ways…
Happy Food Tastes Better expresses in 4 words how we feel about raising food animals.

Peeper having a drink of water.

Peeper having a drink of water.

I am, have always been, and always will be, a firm believer in knowing where your food comes from, and how it is raised. The new motto says that without the long-winded discussions.
Though, I am always happy to talk about knowing your food, knowing your farmer, and creating your own sense of food security. These are things I can talk about for hours!
😀
But, that’s another post for another day.
Today the important thing is this:

Happy Food Tastes Better
We at Midnight Calico Farm are dedicated to growing Happy food.

Nigella Piggie seeing what the Food Lady has brought her.

Nigella Piggie seeing what the Food Lady has brought her. It was a thistle…Nigella Piggie loves thistles. 🙂