Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Disappearing Chickens & Other Holiday News

Happy holidays everyone!  It's almost Christmas time on the farm.  We haven't updated for a while, but it's been a busy couple of months.

By the end of September, we had a great crop of onions, a few carrots, and LOTS of melons, zucchini and cucumbers.  The tomato crop was a bit of a miss though.  The early tomatoes were fine, but an early frost destroyed the late crop.  I had great results from my ground cherry experiment.  The plants absolutely thrived, but I've decided I'm not a huge fan of the fruit, so I don't think I'll be growing it again next year.  The sunflowers did great too, but we dried the flower heads wrong and ended up having to throw them out when they started to mold (seeds and all).  We didn't get any grapes either (well, that's actually a lie, we got about 5 grapes... mind you that's 5 grapes total, not bunches of grapes).  My dad thinks it's the deer.  I think it's because the roots weren't kept warm enough last winter.    

October: We got all our bulbs planted.  If all goes well, we're going to have crocuses, tulips, hyacinths, amaryllises, and irises flowering up everywhere next year.  Plus, a GIANT crop of garlic, elephant garlic, and shallots.  I'm actually trying an experiment with raising the elephant garlic and shallots as perennials.  So, I'll definitely be writing about that in the future.

November: Set Jacqueline and Bacon out to root up and clear the old vegetable bed.  Unfortunately, Bacon wouldn't stay in the vegetable patch, and started going after the grape vines instead, so we had to give up that idea.  Then, we tried to keep just Jacqueline in the patch to clear up some of the vegetation, but Jacqueline absolutely refused to stay anywhere Bacon wasn't.  Finally, I tried to add the cleared plants to my compost heap, only to find someone added a giant load of kimchi and fish/miso/and I-don't-even-know-what to it.  *sigh*  Thus, ended my compost heap.  On a more positive note, we finally started getting eggs!!!  

The middle egg, by the way, was not a double-yolker.  One of our pullets just lays huge eggs.  Another one of our pullets initially had a lot of problems figuring out how to get a proper shell on her eggs, but she's since figured it out.  

As far as the animals:  Bacon's almost doubled in size over the past few months, and so has Jacqueline.  Her case of angel wing has become quite pronounced though, and we think it's too late to fix it.  My parents and I aren't really sure what to do, but we feel quite bad for her.  She and Bacon are still doing fine otherwise, as are the dogs and the cat.

The chickens, on the other hand, keep mysteriously disappearing!  I heard that pigs will eat chickens, bones and all.  I'm really hoping that's not what's going on, but I'm starting to wonder, because they're disappearing without a trace or clue left behind (no feathers, no sudden screams, nothing!).

We're down to the rooster, two of the Rhode Island Reds, and one of the Buff Orpingtons.  One of the three pullets hasn't been laying regularly either, so something is definitely up in that hen house.  We still have another Buff Orpington as well, but she slipped out of the chicken run and got torn up by Steve and Elizabeth last week.

We ended up having to do some serious chicken first aid.  She seems to be recovering for the most part, but her right leg seems pretty damaged so she may still have to be put down.  See, if it was a damaged wing, then I'd say she'd be fine, because a chicken can have a decent quality of life without wings.  However, if she can't use a leg, then she's going to be at the mercy of predators and all the other chickens (the pecking order means they'll literally peck at her if they can).  Her quality of life is going to be pretty terrible.  It'd be the kinder thing to put her down at that point.  She's a super sweet and friendly bird though, very talkative, AND she's the one that lays the huge eggs, so I'm really hoping she pulls through and recovers. 

Well, with Christmas around the corner, maybe we'll get a mini-miracle.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where's the Eggs??

The chickens have started making laying noises in the morning, but every time we check the coop... there's nothing in there.  I think it's the start of another farmhouse mystery...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Animal Updates

My, my, how time flies!  It seems like it was only yesterday when I brought home a cute bunch of chicks, and now I have a flock of full grown birds!  Hopefully, the hens will start laying soon (and not wait until next spring!).

Our black australorp has turned into an especially handsome rooster too!

You can't really tell from the pictures, but he's got these big gorgeous eyes and a greenish sheen to his feathers.  He's also absolutely fearless, yet still very gentle.  Seriously, the best rooster ever (and, I normally HATE roosters, so that's a big complement coming from me!).  I'd heard australorps had one of the best temperaments as a breed, and I completely concur.  

Bacon has also gotten a lot bigger.  He's recently discovered the fun of rooting under the big fir tree in his yard, and it's a little tough to keep him clean, but all-in-all he's a pretty happy little piggie.  One thing I'm worried about, with fall and winter fast approaching, is how we're going to keep him warm.  I've learned not to use straw as his bedding because it gives him rashes on his legs and stomach (and then he as to get antibiotics!), so not sure what to use over winter to insulate him in there.

Jacqueline has had her share of problems too.  She's come down with a pretty bad case of angel wing (which is where the wing twists out instead of being held against the bird's body).  We've tried to correct it, but she (or sometimes Bacon) always manages to get the bandages/tape off!  Now, we're starting to worry the wing might be permanently twisted.  Well, we'll definitely keep trying to find a solution though.

So, that's it.  A little update on our spring babies.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

See the Summer Haul!

Well, it's been a while since I updated, and I thought I might as well start with something that I haven't really posted much about... plants!

Yes, we have those too!

We actually have a few raised beds as well, but those were seeded with lettuces and herbs like cilantro.  Since it's pretty late in the summer, they've mostly sprouted beyond the edible stage.

As for the rest of the family farm, the weather has been really strange this season, so we've had some plants that grew and others that failed completely.

Our three bumper crops this year have been zucchini, cucumbers, and yellow Asian melons (sometimes called honey yellow melons).  We've had so many, we've had to give them away in boxes, and the zucchini have been growing to giant proportions!

The melons, on the other hand, were fruiting well but not ripening because it just hasn't been hot enough.  In fact, we thought they might not ripen at all before fall hit.

But, the last week has turned sweltering and steamy, which means...

That's right!  Baskets of these delicious yellow goodies.  For those of you who have never tried these, they're sort of a cross between cucumbers and a really crisp honeydew.  

The sudden heat has been good for the chilies too, I think, since where there were none, there are suddenly bunches!

The one plant that hasn't been doing well are my blueberries.  I planted two types:  First, a highbush blueberry (who's name I don't recall).

This one has been doing okay, though I wish it would do better.  I'm a little afraid of what winter will do to it.

And, second, a Chippewa blueberry bush, which has been doing rather poorly.

I feel like this one won't survive the winter, though I'll do my best to keep it alive!  

Speaking of winter, can you believe it's right around the corner, which brings up another dilemma... where, oh where, will we get enough hay to keep all the plants and animals warm??

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Close up Chicken Pics

The Chickens: More Than You Needed to Know

We currently have three kinds of chickens: 1 Black Australorp, 3 Rhode Island Reds, and 3 Buff Orpingtons.  We've had chickens in the past, and (by far) our favorites were the Buff Orpingtons, but the feed store where we bought them only had three left.  So, we ended up getting 2 Australorps and 3 Rhode Island Reds to fill out our flock.

We've had the Reds before too, and even though they're amazing layers and very hardy, we didn't like them.  The rooster used to attack me and my mom ALL the time, and they're sleek rather than fluffy and cute.  The Reds in our current flock are a little younger than the rest, and it looks like they're all going to be female (too bad, since I was looking forward to some roast chicken, and my dad said we could eat the boys).  The Australorps are actually Australia's version of the Buff Orpingtons (Australian + Orpington = Austral-Orps), and are supposed to be good-natured as well, but I'll reserve judgment till ours gets a little older.

Like I said, the Buff Orpingtons are our favorites.  They get super fat and fluffy butts, like they're wearing huge feathery diapers (so it's pretty funny to watch them waddle around).  Plus, they're excellent egg layers, and they're really gentle and friendly.  The ones in our old flock used to follow my dad around.

My parents also claim they taste better, but I've never tried one.  The hawks in our area certainly seemed to agree though, since they picked off most of the Orpingtons in our last flock.

On a side note, Buff Orpingtons tend to get broody and are good mommies, so we were hoping that one of the three would turn out to be a rooster. Then, we'd get new adorable fluffy yellow babies in our flock eventually!!  Actually, at the very least, we figured at least one of the six chicks we bought would be a boy (it's really hard to sex chicks), but it looks like they might all be female.  So, I may have to go out and hunt up a rooster at some point.  Sucks (because I HATE ROOSTERS), but you do need one if you're raising chickens in a big and open area.  After all, roosters are the ones that keep watch, and attack anything that would be dangerous to the other chickens.

Aren't they getting big??  But, sadly, we did lose one of the Australorps about a week ago.  My dad heard mayhem outside and opened a window to see what was going on.  Elizabeth had the Australorp's body in her mouth, and dropped it when she heard him.  So, we know she had it last, but we're not sure who actually killed the poor baby.  

Personally, out of the three suspects, my bet is on:

Mocha doesn't usually attack chickens, but baby Australorps look exactly like sparrows, which she definitely DOES like to hunt.  She's also the only carnivore who could have scaled the fence to get in and out of the chicken run.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Story of Pig & Goose

Bacon is a 4 month-old potbelly pig and Jacqueline is a month-old baby Chinese crested goose.
Bacon lived indoors for his first couple weeks with us, and only went outside to go to the bathroom.  Believe it or not, it was actually easier to train Bacon to go outside than it was to train any of my dogs.  He also knows "sit," but will only do it if you've got an especially delicious offering for him in your hand.
Unfortunately, Bacon got kind of lonely.  So, we got him Jacqueline as a playmate.  Jacqueline and Bacon were scared of each other for about a day, and then decided to be friends.  In fact, she started to cry whenever she couldn't see him, and he would start to panic and look for her when he heard her cry.
As a result, Bacon and Jacqueline got moved outside, because you can housebreak a pig, but you can't housebreak a goose.
And, now Jacqueline follows Bacon around EVERYWHERE.  Once, Bacon got upset and ran back and forth across his pen, and Jacqueline followed so closely after him that she got trampled every time he turned around.
She'll also make these "calling" noises when he's not within eyesight, and the two of them curl up and sleep together at night.

Talk about an odd couple!!