Monday, July 28, 2014

More Stray Dogs

As we were going into town the other day, we passed a group of stray dogs. They appeared to have been dumped off by someone. It looked like a whole family of dogs - a litter of puppies with the parents. So sad.

Why do people think they can just dump their dogs in the country when they don't want them anymore?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Head Count

We've gotten into a habit of counting heads around here, especially in the mornings and evenings. It's been hard to count some of the smaller chickens because they move around so quickly. The most reliable time to count is when the chickens come out of the coop in the morning. We're still trying to get the little chicks to go inside the coop at night. They are heavily influenced by the guineas who would rather stay outside. So a few nights we haven't been able to catch all the guineas and get them inside the coop. So far they have been waiting outside the coop in the morning.

As predicted, we didn't get any chicks from the broody hens. At the end of the 21 days all but two eggs had gone missing, most likely pecked and eaten by the other chickens. Bad chickens. The two remaining were cold. Many lessons were learned. Egg production is still down to 2-3 per day. I'm not sure if it's because of the broody hens or the summer heat.

I thought I'd share our current numbers:

3 people (2 adults, 1 teenager)
3 female dogs (1 Australian Shepherd Mini, 2 Great Pyrenees puppies)
4 female goats (1 Kiko-Nubian, 3 Boer-Nubian)
30 chickens
    6 laying hens (Black Australorps)
    17 growing pullets (12 brown Amercaunas, 5  Black Australorps, possibly 2 cockerels)
    7 chicks (Black Australorps, possibly one male)
8 guinea keets

We did have a cat for awhile, but then Guv'nor found it dead in the field one day. No signs of attack, just dead. And Hopper the rabbit has gone missing.

Our sweet Australian Shepherd lives mostly in the house.

The goats and puppies wait patiently by the fence when they hear Guv'nor coming in the Mule.

Amber has learned she has to stand in the feed trough to get her fair share of feed.

The puppies have their own feed bowls.

The puppies are friendly and like to be petted.

The puppies' paws are as big as my hand.

The chickens are most active in the mornings and evenings.

Some of the pullets are almost as big as the hens.

The chickens have a mostly grassy long narrow run.

The pullets usually eat away from the hens.

The hens are less stressed without a rooster and their feathers are gradually growing back.

This hen is recovering the best.

These three guineas got locked out the night before, but were waiting around the coop.

The chicks and guineas happily share the feeder.

The guineas are sometimes slower to come out of the coop.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


The tomatoes in the raised beds have been producing nicely. The two varieties are called Brandywine and Celebrity. Brandywine is a heirloom variety which is knobbly and misshapen but tasty, while the Celebrity is a hybrid and more uniform and round.

I thought I'd try stewing them and then freezing. I wanted to peel the skins, so I washed and scored the bottoms. Then I blanched them for about a minute and then transferred them to ice cold water in the sink. The skins came off very easily.

Then I chopped them and cooked them until the liquid was reduced by half. I put the hot stewed tomatoes into canning jars and sealed with a lid. After cooling them, I put them in the freezer.

At some point, I want to learn more about proper canning and plan to take a class at Homestead Heritage. But until then I am using my freezer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stuck in the Mud

We were out for a drive the other day. It had been raining off and on during the day and we couldn't do much outside because it was wet.

Our friend Factor happened to be here for a visit, and we're always trying to find the perfect property to tempt him to move here. We knew of a nice property for sale and wanted to show it to him. We also decided to take a drive over to see one of the properties that had been on our short list when we first started looking at properties three years ago.

I navigated from the back, as Guv'nor drove and Factor rode shotgun. After finding the properties, someone in the front seat suggested there had to be a better way back, since the way we had come involved several miles of gravel roads. So rather than turning around and going back the way we came, we carried on down the road looking for another way back home. We were just out for a drive and were not in any particular hurry, so it all sounded reasonable.

It went well for about half a mile, until the gravel road curved to the right and turned into a dirt road.  It looked fine at first, but underneath a thin layer of dirt was a thick layer of mud.

After about 50 yards it was obvious (at least to me in the back seat) that we were getting stuck in the mud. After a few reverses, spinning wheels, straightening the wheels, slipping into the grass, and more attempts,  it was more obvious to the ones in the front seat. Guv'nor and Factor inspected, discussed, inspected, conferred, and then decided we were stuck.

Eventually, Factor phoned his AAA breakdown (I say eventually because there was no cell service where we were). Trying to describe exactly where we were to AAA was almost comical - if we hadn't been stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere. Soon after we began our wait for AAA to arrive, someone suggested having another go at getting out. After all, if we got more stuck, rescue was on its way. But thankfully, one more attempt paid off and Guv'nor was able to reverse back enough to catch the gravel. So Factor cancelled AAA.

I sat in the back seat and observed the entire time because I didn't want to get my shoes muddy. I tried to keep quiet. Eventually though my pride got the better of me and I just had to say, "So, is this the better way back?" 

We ended up turning around and going back the way we came.

We got to just beyond the tree.

The tires were completely covered in sticky gumbo mud.

This attempt ended on the edge of the road in the grass next to the fence.

The cows in the field next to the road were enjoying the show.

The final attempt ended back on the gravel.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Red Potatoes

I dug up all the potatoes a few weeks ago. Since we don't have any sort of root cellar, I decided to try freezing them. All my books say potatoes don't freeze well.

First I scrubbed them and cut them into cubes roughly the same size. I didn't peel them. Next, I boiled them for a couple of minutes then put them quickly in cold water. I bagged them up in zip bags and put them in the freezer.

We ate the first bag of frozen potatoes last night with supper. I roasted them in a little olive oil and they turned out fine. I couldn't tell they had been frozen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Neighbors gave us a rabbit the other day. They had bought it for their granddaughter who was staying with them for a few weeks from Montana. When she went home, they decided to give it to us. It is a very pretty black female they named Hopper.

We've been wanting to try raising rabbits, but we aren't really organized for them yet. So at first we tried letting it roam with the cheeky pullets, but she scared the pullets and jumped easily through the fencing. Then we tried putting her in a portable chicken area called a "peck and play". But she easily got under the netting. Several attempts at containing her were unsuccessful. So the last time she got out, we decided to let her free range. We have noticed a few cottontail rabbits around the house so we thought they might become friends.

When we do see her around the house, we catch her and put her in a cage overnight for protection and to make sure she has something to eat. We haven't seen her for a few days but we're hopeful she's still out there making friends.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stressful Day

It doesn't always go smoothly around here. The other day was stressful, at least for me.

Guv'nor had finally repaired his weed eater ("strimmer" as he calls it) and was out taking care of some overgrown areas around the chicken run. Little did we know at the time he had caused panic amongst the chickens.
When I went out to check on the chickens later, I found the rooster dead. He had gotten himself completely snarled up in the electronet fencing and had been electrocuted. It took us several minutes to untangle him. He wasn't my favorite chicken, but I didn't wish that for him.

One comfort is that the hens will now get a little rest from all his attentions and their feathers will have a chance to grow back. Also, I'm fairly confident I have a couple of cockerels in the next bunch.

Then later in the day around suppertime, I went to check on the little chicks and guineas in the garage and discovered a snake inside their pen. This was too much of a shock for me. Snakes really do unnerve me. After I quickly summoned the Guv'nor for help, I kept hearing that strange high pitched voice again saying things like, "no, no, no, no," and "get it, get it, get it, get it". After that all I could hear was Guv'nor saying things like, "calm down, think". Yes, all my logical and rational thinking had disappeared and sheer fright and panic had emerged as Guv'nor missed and the snake escaped into the garage.

The snake had killed one guinea and we think had started on a couple of chicks before we disturbed it. But because the snake was loose inside the garage - hiding somewhere - we couldn't risk leaving the chicks and guineas in there overnight. For a short time we put them all inside a small dog carrier for safety.

Then at dusk, we made the big move. First we moved the cheeky pullets to the big coop, taking a risk they would disturb the broody hens (which they did). They were fairly easy to catch since they were settled down for the night. We counted them as we moved them because they had scattered when Guv'nor was strimming. We counted 16, so one hadn't made it back to the coop. Thankfully it did the following day.

Then we transferred all the chicks and guineas from the dog carrier to the small coop. This went smoothly since they were already contained. We counted again - 8 guineas and 7 chicks.

I'm wondering if it was a coincidence that it was a full moon that night. 

Here's the rooster a few days before he died.

Here are the chicks and guineas in the garage before the snake arrived.

We gathered up the pullets around dusk.

Some were inside and some outside the coop.

We counted them as we moved them.

Then we moved the chicks and guineas to the small coop.

They are huddled together in the dog carrier.

Here they are a few days later inside the small coop.

They were a bit timid at first, not wanting to go outside the coop.

A few were brave enough to go outside.

Meanwhile, over in the big coop, the cheeky pullets have been put in their place.

There was a full moon that night.