It Has Begun…

Last week we ran a Freezer Camp for the cornish meat chickens.
The ones we did could have used a bit more time to bulk up, but we’re going ahead with getting them done by the end of this week.
And it’s the last time I’m raising cornish chickens.
I’m so done with these guys.
The last few years, the quality of chick seems to be declining.
I don’t know why, and I’m not accusing the hatchery of anything.
We just haven’t had them grow as well as they should and this year we’ve had far, far too many broken bones.
Not just legs either.
And then with last week’s thunder storm, we lost more than 15 of them because they piled up on each other in the coop (even though the coop was wide open and they were free to come and go as they please) and smothered each other.
So, out of 75 chicks, once I finish butchering them this week, we’ll have 35 birds.
That is ridiculous.

Meanwhile, my home hatched roosters?
Not a single loss.
28 in the bachelor pen and when the thunder was rumbling, they were screaming right back at it.
😂😂😂
So next year we’re focusing on home hatched/raised birds.
No more cornish meats to die on a whim or because a fly farted too close to them.
Hardy dual purpose backyard crosses, bred for size, flavor and hardiness.
And maybe we can encourage people to come back to eating slow food through our breeding program.
The roosters are best cooked low and slow…they’re crockpot food, not fast frying.
But that long slow cook extracts all the nutritional goodness out of them, so it really is the best way.
For when we want bbq, I remove the breasts, brine or marinate them, and then roast the rest of the carcass.

So I hope we can encourage people to embrace slow food (which with the prevalence of instapots these days, doesn’t even need to be slow) and move away from the supermarket chicken.
Who knows…we’ll see.
We simply can’t bear the financial losses that go with cornish anymore.

But what goes with running a Freezer Camp is the inevitable roasting of backs/necks/carcasses, making bone broth and then the canning of the meat bits and broth.
That’s where I am today.
On the roasting part.
So the house, even though it’s hot af again, smells like delicious roasted chicken.
Needless to say, we’re having some sort of chicken dish for supper tonight.
😂😂😂

The garden is ramping up well.
Beans are producing.
I have the rows of royal burgundys to pick and can. Same with the yellows.
I have to get more mulch in around the pintos…they’re starting to blossom, and the weeds are fighting hard to take over.
So I’ll pull weeds, feed the geeses and mulch, mulch, mulch.
We had a small meal from the Painted Pony beans.
They were tasty, but I was disappointed with the strings. I hadn’t realized how tough the strings on them were.
So I’m on the fence about growing them again.
Love, love, love them for the name and provenance (named for the American Paint Horse…and we know how Wolfie feels about them APHA gals, right? 😉 ) but if they’re tough and stringy, I’ll find a better heirloom bean for us (royal burgundys).

I’m eating radish seed pods like crazy.
Nom. Nom. Nom.
I did not know before this year how damn tasty they are!
I’ve marked out a few plants that I’m going to let seed pods dry on so that we have radish seeds for next year, but aside from those few, I’m eating, eating, eating.
The black radishes are huge.
Size of my fist and bigger.
So I plan to ferment some.
Fermented radishes are yummy.
Really, really, yummy.
And easy to do.
But we’ve never had huge ones like this that I could ferment…and we’ve always just eaten them from the garden with salt, or in potato salad. Now I have enough to ferment.
That’s on the list to do this week.
Might even sneak a beet into a jar with some radishes.
*drools* I love the idea of fermented radishes and beets together.
Hopefully it tastes as good in real life as it does in my head.
😂😂😂

And now off to work for me, because I have 19 chicken carcasses in my oven waiting for me…but to finish the post with a picture of my APHA gal…because no matter what, I will always love her and will never have a day where I don’t think of her. ❤

❤ Cookie ❤

Saturday Morning Plans

Today we have a whole lot of work on the schedule.
I mean, it’s a Farm, so when don’t we?
But this weekend is the weekend where we get a lot more done in the garden.

We live on flat, bald arsed prairie.
I fell in love with the place because it was what we were needing when we were looking for a famr…but if I were to do this again?
I mighta kept looking.
We have very few trees (most we planted ourselves), we’re surrounded by grain fields (our big field is leased out to a local guy…same guy we get the bulk of our feed from), and we have the shittiest neighbour across the road (but those happen everywhere, so there’s no saying we wouldn’t have had one somewhere else).

But, we wanted out of the city, we needed somewhere close enough MCFHubby could get to work everyday, and we needed something set up for horses…so really, this was perfect.
And I do love this place.
Challenges and all.
😉

So, our work for today…

The biggest challenge with the garden has always been wind.
Bald. Arsed. Prairie.
😂😂😂

Last year, we tried something that seemed to work pretty darn good though!
We’ve had to fence the garden to keep those asshole birbs
out…because chickens, y’know what I mean?
So what we did was hang plastic aaaaaallllll around the fence, to make a makeshift hoop/greenhouse.
In essence, we created a less windy, teeny bit warmer micro climate with the plastic.
Then, what tomatoes that I didn’t forget about were planted around the edges, next to the plastic.
Well…
Said tomatoes went in super late, were almost half dead, but they rebounded and gave us enough for a few really tasty sandwiches.
And so, we decided that we needed to renew the plastic this year…since we had only jim-bob slapped it up last year and it came undone on 3 sides.

So that’s the main task today.
Get that plastic back up.
Then, lay down the landscape fabric/weed barrier that we plant the tomatoes through.
That way, when Mother Nature quits setting us those frost traps…I mean seriously, I’m looking at the weather, including overnights and thinking about putting tomatoes and peppers out…and then I remember that it’s only May 15th.
Nope, not falling for it!
😂😂😂
But I can get 90% of the seeds in.
Pretty much everything but the beans and the corn. Though I can probably get the feed corn planted…it typically goes in earlier, but I’m not 100% sure where I’m putting that yet, so no big deal if it waits. That’s my whiskey makin’ corn. 😉

But first, feed store run and a trip to the dump.
Hoping there might be some good stuff we can recycle from the dump.
I love “shopping” at the dump!
It really is a case of “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure”.
Last few times have been pretty slim pickings.
I think that has to do with our smaller, closer dump was closed by the RM (so yay, more bloody garbage dumped
on back roads by pigs 🤦‍♀️🙄) and more people have to go to the bigger dump by the nearest town.
Plus, building material prices are through the roof, so people are scrounging more and more.
But, if you don’t look when you’re there, you’ll never find anything.

Then we have to move chickens around.
This becomes a bi-weekly task in the summer.
The meaties are ready to come out of the smaller brooder in the Little Red Shed, and move to one of the brooders MCFHubby and The Kid built.
Man, them little birbs grow like mad and are little savages!
😂😂😂
They get so excited over food…even if you just fed them an hour previously.
But that’s how cornishX are.
Once we get them so that they have outside space/time, they settle down on eating every dang thing in sight.
And, once outside, they can eat bugs and slugs and weeds and be happy little hooting and eating machines.

And finally, if we have any energy left, there’s 3 mares who need some attention paid to their hooves.
They’re overdue for a trim, and today looks like a lovely day to work on some feet.
But, we do have to get the food production stuff done first.

And Ruby can have a nap while waiting for her turn…

Enjoy the weekend and the weather folks!

Meat Chickens Have Arrived

Back when Hubby, The Kid and I were thinking about how many meat chickens to order, we thought we’d settled on 50, like last year.
And then, something picked at me and told me that wasn’t enough.
I’ve been alive long enough to have learned to listen when my gut says something to me.
So I ordered 75 of the little nuggets.
And 10 white turkeys.

I figured with the success of our Narragansetts from last year, I oughta be able to get 10 whites to Freezer Camp size.
I sure the eff hope so, because things have not been going well with my Narragansetts I hatched this year.
My excitement over 16?
Dashed, because we’re down to 5…and may very well lose them as well.
Fuck.

Y’see, turkeys are very delicate.
Yep, even heritage breeds. Even though the heritage breeds are tougher than the whites, they’re still delicate little things.
As we were awaiting hatching, we evicted the ducks from the brooder, gave it a deep cleaning, sprayed it down with cleaner, thinking we were good to go with our poults.
Welp, as it turns out, there was mold starting in the floor.
I say again…fuck.

Turkeys are susceptible to mold.
Even when us humans don’t know it’s there, have no fucking clue it’s there…turkeys will be doing great, bopping around like crazy birbs, eating, drinking, pooping beautiful turkey poops…and then just drop dead.
Because their little lungs are that effing delicate.

So after the loss of 6 we thought “huh, this is more than just weak poults not making it”.
Hubby and The Kid whipped off another brooder like the last one I showed y’all…metal floor for ease of cleaning, fresh new walls, lid that’s easy to lift for air movement and a door for easy access that doesn’t let heat out…
Then, The Kid and I put fresh straw in, and I crawled into the old brooder to catch our remaining poults.
That’s when I found the mold…under the straw, the wood was wet. And there were small fuzzy spots.
Fuck.

Now we have the last 5 in the newly built brooder, nothing is in the old brooder until it gets torn apart and maybe refurbished…but it might just be scrap now.
Fuck.
I mean, we can’t really complain about it, if we have to scrap it.
The brooder was here when we bought the place, it’s successfully raised near onto 500 hundred birds…but I hate that I found out this way that there was a problem with it.
I hate that it’s costing little lives.
😥
That’s what kills me.

If you scroll through the pictures, you’ll see the size of the white turkeys, compared to my Narragansetts.
The whites are a day old in the picture, the heritage birds over a week!
They’re all getting along beautifully.
I’m actually hoping that the whites will give the heritages enough impetus to keep fighting to stay alive.
There’s really no treatment for mold exposure.
Fuck.
But I’ve got them on high protein feed, clean water with vitamins, a bit of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar twice a day, clean fresh bedding every other day, and today they got some mashed up hard boiled eggs with the vitamins mixed in.
I’m trying my best to make the best of a shitty situation.
While hoping that my turkey hens start laying soon…because goodness knows, the boys are doing their jobs.
The very second I see eggs from the hens, I’m whisking them off to be incubated!

I’m going to bet dollars to donuts, that the second my incubators are full and working on chickens again, that’s when those turkeys will start popping out eggs…and then I’ll end up having to buy a 3rd incubator just for turkey eggs.
😂😂😂
Because that’s my life…chaotic, crazy, and always learning.

Chonkey and Chubby

April 28th, 2020 we picked up 50 meat chickens from the local feed store.
Like other years, the plan was to grow them out, slow and steady, to butcher weight.
We do that by letting our meaties run with our layers.
Why?
Because the meaties learn how to be chickens, not just eating and pooping machines.
It also means we have very few losses due to heart attacks or leg issues.

This past summer though, we lost the bulk of our meaties to Wile E Coyote, who was convinced he needed to kill as many as he could, but eat only a few.
We never did catch him.
So ol’ Wile E may yet return…

But Chonkey and Chubby were 2 of our survivors.
And when you’re a meat chicken who survives a coyote ripping through your home, and then go on to grow big and strong, The Food Lady begins to wonder if you oughta stay on…

And then, the craziest thing happened!
Chonkey:

Laid. An. Egg.

How do I know it was her?
Well, chickens have this very distinct “song” they sing when they lay an egg.
I had just collected eggs 10 minutes earlier and then got distracted with the garden, only to hear the egg maker song again.
So I walked into the coop to find Ms Chonks in the basket, in the position…
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes.
There stood this giant CornishX meat chicken, screaming out the egg maker song (think Norwegian Death Metal sung by a chicken) and ploop! Out comes this smallish cream coloured egg.

Well!

So when butchering was happening later on that week, clearly Ms Chonks was *not* gonna go to Freezer Camp.

Then, we had this other CornishX…she was smaller, always getting picked on, and kinda sweet.
She was *always* at my feet when we were butchering, and I made sure to give her choice bits every chance I got.
She ended up in a crate for some healing time after the brown layers (known as Mrs. Cluckingtons) decided they should pick a giant hole in her butt.
Seriously, the Cluckingtons are first rate assholes.
There’s a good reason why I culled aaaaallllll of them out of my flock.
Fuck the Cluckingtons.
Mean bitches.

Anyways, this young Cornish hen stayed in that crate for nearly a month, on high protein feed, being babied and pampered…until her hind end was 100% healed and feathered in.
Then we let her free, so she could readjust to flock life and free range again.

She just recently was given the name Chubby…because she’s a big girl, and because she too is staying on, having begun to lay.
She still gets fed special treats when we’re butchering.
She hangs around my feet until I give them to her.

As we get closer to the time we fire up the incubators, I’ll take the Mdms and put them into a pen with a rooster.
One of those big Orpington/Wyandotte cross boys.
With a couple other hens.
5 hens to 1 roo is pretty good.
Then, all those eggs these girls lay will get hatched.
Just to see what we get.
Stay with us into 2021 to find out!

🙂

Turkey Observations

I’ve said it a few times, this is our first year with turkeys.
So far, there are a few things that I feel like I wish I had known about them.
I don’t know about other people experience with them, but our experience with them has been a steep (losing 8 out of 10) learning curve…

My observations on how to do this better next year include:

1. Definitely start them with chickens.
Turkeys (especially the white broad breasted we have) seem to be dumb. They need to have other poultry with them to teach them what the food and water are.

2. Definitely feed them 28% protein food…or higher.
We’re using Masterfeeds (one of the Big 3 feed companies in our area) game bird feed. Turkeys need that protein to grow, and they grow fast! They’ll be bigger than the chickens they’re with in no time.

3. Once they’re off the heat, put them in a pen separate from the chickens.
We didn’t do this. We should have done this. Next time, we will do this.
Once they don’t need the heat, the work of the chickens is done.
Let them grow out with their chicken pals and let the turkeys live together without the chickens.

4. Turkeys are to meat chickens what draft horses are to ponies.
This was my Kid’s observation.
Yesterday, we gave Turkey and Lurkey some hard boiled eggs.
Hard boiled eggs are like magick food for poultry.
Got a sick bird? Got a bird failing to thrive? Got a chilled bird?
Give ’em a mashed up hard boiled egg.
You can even mix in electrolytes if you like.
So yesterday, we give the turkeys hard boiled eggs to eat…that was the fastest we’d seen them move.
Ever!
So our theory yesterday that the cornish were eating all the food and leaving the turkeys hungry seemed to bear fruit.
Turkeys are slower moving, not quite as voracious eaters as cornish.
Cornish will strip the feeders bare in seconds and still tell you they’re starving.
Turkeys seem to think and ponder about their movements.
Cornish go like stink, safety be damned as long as they get the food.
Turkeys = Draft horse
Cornish = ponies

Which tells me that even though they seem dumb when they first arrive, they aren’t.
They just think slower. Move a little slower.
And don’t fight as hard for the food as the cornish do.
So it’s best for them to be in an area where the chickens aren’t gobbling down all the food, leaving the turkeys to starve.
I will *not* let that happen again. 😡

At the end of the day, I’m glad we’ve taken the time to learn about the differences, though I wholeheartedly wish we could have done the learning without the losses.
And we’ll definitely be growing turkey poults again next year.
We’ll take what we learned this year and utilize it to make for a much happier bunch of birds.
(My kinda luck, next year’s poults will be the exact opposite of this year’s…but a separate pen is no bad idea even if they are!)
And then I might consider adding a breeding pair…
We’ll see.
😉

Hello turkey!