October 16, 2017

Ceaberry's Monday Musings: Inheriting Chickens

This weekend our flock grew from 16 to 57 plus 5 ducks. We inherited a flock from friends that are moving. Now my coops are not set up to house 57 chickens and 5 ducks, nor are my runs. However, we are fixing that as soon as we can and actually the big coop seems to be handling the influx just fine. For some reason, 15 or so chickens from the new flock refuse to go into the coop at night (although they lay eggs in the nesting boxes inside the coop). The ducks just can't physically get into the coop. I will be remedying these things in a short while since winter is coming very soon.

So we got a message on Friday to say that our friends were willing to part with their flock. We didn't know then they were moving so I and Mr. Native Farmer decided on at least 3 chickens we were going to buy. My mother came up since my husband and father-in-law were moving the rest of our cattle home. We loaded up the van with two crates and two children excited to go see chickens. I had the map loaded up to get there, it wasn't hard but they live a bit back in the woods and I had never driven there by myself.

We get to their house and were talking with my friend, who told us she was moving. I asked her how many chickens she had, she said 30 chickens... well, after getting everyone it was 41 chickens. We have enough knowledge of chicken owners that a few may go to a different home but for now, they are all part of our flock.

We had just lost a silkie hen to a raccoon only a day before and one of our silkie hens turned into a rooster so we had 5 roos already on the farm and she guessed she had 4-5 roos. We told them to give us a price for all the chickens, and somehow ducks got added into this price and a new small coop. Now if you know me, I was adamant against ducks but here I was loading 5 into the back of my mom's van. C'est la vie.

Two trips and we got them all except 5 that were roaming around. Now, me and Mr. Native farmer went back the next day and got the coop and the 5 chickens we left, including a one-eyed rooster. The chickens were surprisingly clean, it was the ducks that made a mess of my mom's van.

So they all made it through the night, and we got 22 eggs the first day of having them here. 22 eggs... we normally get just 3 eggs!! Quiches and frozen eggs here I come! Just kidding, I will be doing some of that but we have some to sell, some to give to friends, and of course, it is how I pay my mother back for setting up our now chicken farm.

Now for the array of colors, we got today. The first picture has the 4 we ate for breakfast in it and the second picture is of the other eggs minus those four plus one more we got a bit later. As you can see we got some Marans (the chocolate egg), a mint egg layer (she is a white beautiful easter egger), and an olive egger (we don't know who she is just yet but I have my suspicions).


Here is the flock in our large coop run. Yes, I know it is A LOT of chickens in one space but they were used to each other so not really a lot of fighting and no pecking either. They get plenty of water sources and food, plus fresh treats like apples and squash which they demolished. As you can see from the pictures they love to congregate in the extension so it looks more jammed then it really is, there is the whole original run plus under the coop they seem to just not like going to, granted I was near them and they learned quickly I have the food.







Happy Homesteading.



October 13, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: My Square Foot Garden Plan 2018

I have been working hard on figuring out where everything is going in my newly installed raised beds for square foot gardening.  I should note that you may notice containers. I am in a competition with Mr. Native Farmer over potatoes (more on this in a later post) and a few of my other things are in containers because they already are in a container or need to be (like my mint and cotton). There is an Asparagus bed with tomatoes on the side, that is part of doing companion planting. This is NOT how the beds are laid out in my actual garden, I have a compost bin and in the very middle of my garden is a rhubarb patch that has been there for well over 40 years (not kidding, it is practically an heirloom in itself, just like our grape vines). 

So here is my plan for the lower garden for next year!




There are 75 seeds on my list, not all of them are going in the garden and by the chart of "containers", not all of them are going into the raised beds. So here are my seeds I will be planting at some point in 2018. The sprouts, however, are not being planted. You see the main groups of my garden. Some of the extra seeds will be planted in my two raised beds at my house and I have a whole hillside of roses, berry bushes, and wildflower mixes to attend to next year.

Asparagus, Mary Washington Blueberry, Highbush Lavender, English Potatoes Tomato, Beefsteak Pink
Basil, Mix Blueberry, Pink Limonade Lettuce, Gourmet/Mesclun Mix Pumpkin, Jack Be Little Tomato, Brandywine, Yellow
Bean, Bush, Borlotti Broccoli, Romanesco Italia Melon, Banana Pumpkin, Wee Be Little Tomato, Cherry Red (small)
Bean, Bush, Calypso Brussel Sprouts, Long Island Catskill Mint, Spearmint  Radish, Champion Tomato, Cherry White
Bean, Bush, Harvester Cabbage, Acre, Golden Onion, Walla Walla Spinach, Matador Viking Tomato, Gardener’s Delight
Bean, Bush, Landreth Cabbage, Copenhagen Onion, shallot, Holland red Sprouts, Alfalfa Tomato, Oxheart, Orange
Bean, Bush, Provider Carrot, Chantenay, 5” Long Pea, Austrian Field Pea Sprouts, Broccoli Tomato, Roma
Bean, Bush, Romano Cauliflower, All Year Round Pea, Little Marvel Sprouts, clover Tomato, Tiny Tim
Bean, Bush, Slenderette Celery Pepper, Banana Yellow Sprouts, Rainbow Chard Wheat, Sampler Pack
Bean, Bush, Tendergreen Corn, Sweet Pepper, Cayenne, Purple Sprouts, Sunflower Wildflower, Celosia
Bean, Bush, Tiger’s Eye Cover Crop, Clover, White Dutch Pepper, Chocolate Bell Squash, Crookneck, Yellow Early Summer Wildflower, Low grow scatter
Bean, Pole, Dry, Cherokee Trail of Tears Cover Crop, Fall & Winter Rye Pepper, Hot Holiday Marbles Sunflower, Autumn Beauty Wildflower, Marigold, Sparky Mix
Bean, Pole, Lima, Henderson Garlic, Early Purple Italian Pepper, Orange Horizon Sunflower, Mammoth Wildflower, Nasturtium, Black Velvet
Bean, Pole, Lima, King of the Garden Gourd, Luffa Pepper, Purple beauty Sunflower, Sungold Wildflower, Snapdragon, Mix
Bean, Pole, Lima, Thorogreen Gourd, mixed (small) Pepper, Sunbright Yellow Sunflower, Sungold, Dwarf Wildflower, tansy
Hopefully, this inspires you to make your own garden plan. Happy Homesteading!!

October 9, 2017

Ceaberry's Monday Musings: Until the cows come home

Many people who do not live on a cattle farm of various types may not understand the statement, "until the cows come home." I hear that statement, and say it, multiple times from May to October when our cows go to pasture on other grazing allotments and are not right behind the house. We bring them home for the winter and for calving. We calve in the winter (October to December depending on when the bull was brought in and then left).

Until the cows come home:

  1. We can leave all the gates open. This means we do not have to endlessly stop vehicles and go open a gate only to have the vehicle go past then reclose the gate and hop back in the vehicle to the next gate. 
    • Now thankfully we don't have many gates but sometimes... let's just say the cows get through said gates. Now it isn't so problematic at the main farmhouse, that is off the road and we can generally lure them back with hay. At our homestead, we have two gates (well three but they can't get to that one). One is right next to the road and the other (the one they like to break through) is at the lower end of our homestead (we are on a hill so imagine a gate at the top near the road and a gate at the bottom that is in our side/backyard). 
    • We leave gates open because we are bringing items in like trucks, tractors, equipment, and hay bales.
  2. We can store and bring in hay without risk of cows getting into the lots.
    • This may sound like a weird thing to say, but our cows are stupidly smart. They are smart enough to get into the hay lots but it costs us unnecessary hay loss when it happens. 
    • We do give the cows the benefit of the doubt that something was wrong with the paneling but last year they were getting in there EVERY night for 4 night in a row. The offending cow was taken to the stockyard. If you don't rid yourself of the cow that is breaking in she will teach them all then you have a HUGE problem on your hands.
    • We are not completely done with our haymaking and storing so having to maneuver around curiously hungry cows is not always pleasant.
  3. You don't have to make 3 trips to the farm every day to check for calves.
    • While exciting as it sounds to go check on cows about to give birth, it is not always idyllic nor "down home country" as people lead on. If you have ever watched The Incredible Dr. Pol, you get some sense of what I am talking about here.
    • I have, and probably will this year, been woken up at 4 am to a phone call saying one of the cows is baying or that my FIL is out in the middle of a blizzard to help pull a calf. Then it is: bundle everyone up to go help and seek out the cow in need.
    • You have to count cows, multiple times, each and EVERY trip. We have woods where our cows can go and hide their calves. Many times Mr. Native Farmer has had to carry a calf out of the woods. We do this because a cow and calf alone cannot hold off a pack of coyotes. 
  4. Cows like to escape... all the time.
    • Fixing fence and water gaps have to happen before they get here or else you are chasing them all over the fields of your unhappy neighbors or even worse, on the road. Cows in the road are the fear of EVERY farmer, especially ours that are BLACK cows. You hit a cow with a car and you can trust the cow may not be the only one harmed, you hit a cow with a logging truck (a lot of what we have coming down our road) and unfortunately, it is probably the same scenario. It is DANGEROUS and can end a farm in a heartbeat. 
    • We had some troubling cows again last year, they were breaking the water gap. Our neighbors, thankfully humorous people, came down to tell me. Now normally my FIL is around to go get my husband and fix the issue. This particular day I was alone with my kids on the farm, no MIL, FIL, or husband. So I called my MIL (the closest) and went to go find my husband. If you don't know he works on a larger farm during the day so I cannot always know where he is at a certain time. We got them in and had to fix the fence AND the water gap. They went to pasture first...
  5. You don't have the smell... or the risk of stepping in piles.
    • Granted when they thought of our homesteads they thought of wind direction. We don't get as much cow smell as some farms but there is the occasion. I have chickens so really... not that terrible.
    • What is more treacherous is the cow patties. I am the one that opens the gates so you can see my disdain. The cows LOVE to graze near fences, gates, and my house. So they are EVERYWHERE. Strangely, these behaviors mean the business end is generally away from the fence about 5ft. However, in the spring things get a bit trickier when we are walking the property for wild mushrooms and other projects like planting potatoes.
So when the cows come home is more of a warning than a good thing. Yes, having them close while calving is great but they come with their own issues. It marks a time of the year where things start to change. More use of tractors for feeding hay, the growing seasons are normally done, we are getting ready for winter, time for getting wood for the wood stove (our only source of heat in the winter), and for calf watch. It is awesome when that last calf is born, we are off birthing watch but still on baby watch for any problems or predators.





September 27, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Cooking Wild Mushrooms

Mr. Native Farmer likes to find mushrooms in the woods around our county. We normally find them right here on the farm but sometimes we need to go into the deep woods to get them. Please remember to be responsible when mushrooming and obey any local laws. Now back to the mushrooms. We collect morels, chicken and hen of the woods, bear's tooth or lion's mane, and black and orange chanterelles. Now a note on chanterelles and chicken of the woods, yes both of these mushrooms are BRIGHT orange but there are imposters. Jack-o-lanterns (which glow in the dark) look oddly like a chicken mushroom and a chanterelle. It is DEADLY, you need to know what you are looking for when mushrooming. Now there are false chanterelles and while they are not deadly they do cause tummy upset if eaten it larger quantities. The difference is subtle if you don't know what you are looking for in mushrooms. There are false morels as well, again they can cause death if eaten in large quantities. So that warning aside, we mushroom a lot and we know what we are looking for and if we are not sure we don't eat it. Well, I should say the husband doesn't eat it. I can't eat wild mushrooms or deer meat for that matter. Something just doesn't agree with me.

Now I do cook them. I tend to sauté them in butter with a little bit of salt (it pulls out the moisture). With wild mushrooms its critical to cook them thoroughly. With chicken of the woods I add chicken boullion cubes. They are delicious that way.

So the other day my husband brought home lion's mane (bear's tooth is a bit more tubular) and a few chicken of the woods. You want bright colors and very little insect problems. Larger chicken of the woods can be riddled with beetles. If you get a huge clod of it, put it in the refrigerator in a closed paper bag for a few hours, it doesn't kill the beetles but it slows their little butts down. 

This is how I was presented with the mushrooms. It is always a surprise when he comes home with mushrooms so I always have to think fast.

Here is the mushrooms out of the bag and prepared. The lion's mane is easy. It is attached midway up a tree so it rarely has dirt or debris. The chicken is also attached to a tree but a little lower so I just cut off the backs and it is mostly clean from there. 

I put all the mushrooms in a pan and put it on medium heat. You don't want it too high at first or the mushrooms will burn before they release their water. I put salt on them to help the issue go a bit faster.

When they start to release their water I put in the butter and turn the heat up to medium high.

I sauté them down until they no longer release water. This is really hard to get right. You just have to do it and each batch is different. Mushrooms go from stiff to rubbery to stiff when completely cooked. The water they give off is replaced by the butter (and chicken bouillon if making chicken of the woods) so the mushrooms absorb that loveliness.

It isn't that hard to cook wild mushrooms, generally the hardest part is harvesting the RIGHT mushrooms for the job. Again if you ever in doubt it isn't worth the trip to the emergency room.

Happy Homesteading!



September 26, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Second Coop

For our little chicken, bought for a mere $2, we built a whole new coop. Well, technically Mr. Native Farmer coerced me into building a new coop. While I still need to work out the wheels, we built a coop out of an old bunny hutch my husband brought home one day to be my actual coop (now he sees why I laughed when he said it would house my 6 chickens I originally planned on). We added supports and I stapled around the bottom. We added a ramp and made it a bit more stable. 


We added a metal roof so it wouldn't leak as bad and cut holes in it for windows, which I put more chicken wire in front of to keep critters out. I added latches to the doors and we were in business!


We placed them on a hill near the bushes I cut down earlier this year to help take the grass away for next year's project. 



 Here are the girls in the new coop. There is also a cochin bannie and a silkie rooster.



They make quick work of their run area, even when I extended it. This was after only 1 day! Good chickens!! They have done a good job, but I need to move them toward their final destination, down below the hill. Before I do that I am going to finish putting 4 wheels on it. This coop is easily 300lbs and we have found just two wheels won't work. Now that I actually have the right boring tool it should be easier to complete!



Now on to something a little less pleasant... Mr. Native Farmer had gotten a rooster from the farmer's market and he was gorgeous! We were excited to add him to the flock. Unfortunately less than a week after having him he had massive heart failure and died within a day. Big Joe will be forever missed even though he was only with us a short amount of time. A combination of pecking order and dogs attacking our coop was too much for him in that short week.


September 25, 2017

Ceaberry's Monday Musings: Egg Envy

When we got chickens it was for the eggs. Our initial set of pullets were born sometime in early April. That means our pullets wouldn't be ready to lay until at least September. Mr. Native Farmer isn't a patient person and he gets a bit of look-over-the-fence-itis. We have 17 chickens, 14 hens and 3 roosters (that many roosters isn't as bad as it seems). Now technically we should be getting 10ish eggs a day by now. My lovely husband is getting restless, he sees the eggs our cousins are getting or a neighbor are getting and he complains a bit about out 3-a-day average (our biggest amount was yesterday at 6 and today was 2 eggs). Let's note both the neighbors and our cousins' chickens were born in February and purchased in March. One set are Rhode Island Reds which lay 2 eggs a day, and the other set are a mixture of chickens who also tend to lay 6 times a week. Our chickens on the other hand are 2 months younger and the breeds range from 3-6 times a week. I do have to say the ones that are only suppose to lay 3 times a week definitely exceed that at the current moment, they lay more like 5 times a week.


In the last two weeks we have been getting more and more "first eggs" here on the farm. One day we had 2 first eggs. Now for those of you who haven't had chickens before (raises hand), first eggs are a bit of a shocker. Most blogs will tell you about the hilariously small eggs from new layers but they forget one fact. First eggs come out a bit bloodied. We have had from a small spot on the shell to down right covered. Yup it isn't pretty, which is probably why no-one mentions it or photographs it. Don't worry no photos of bloody eggs here either but I thought you should know if you are waiting for your first eggs.


As for size... I finally got a hilariously small egg AFTER getting 5 new layers first. Yeah, my hens laid pretty decent sized first eggs. Actually, I even thought maybe a bird from outside had gotten in and laid an egg it was so tiny compared to the other first eggs. My hens are also laying in the pine shavings and not in the nesting boxes (sigh) so finding that tiny one was quite a trip. I believe it was from a silkie based on the size of egg it will eventually become. My other first eggs have been on the border of pewee and small in weight so not so bad, but the smallest was only 19g instead of the 35-40g of the others. Today I had a first egg weigh 37g and a sebright egg (one of my few white egg layers) weigh 35g so it was bigger then my normal eggs!


Brown leghorn (bottom and left), First egg -- cleaned (middle), and Sebright -- it looks cream but it was white (top and right).

We have about 8 new layers, 4 old layers and 2 undecided. One of our Brown leghorns decided to go broody so no eggs from her for a while, it took my sebrights about 2 weeks to recover from when they went broody on me in the summer. Now, experience chicken owners may know, leghorns aren't typically good brooders, and they lay white eggs (they are what most of the eggs are in the supermarket). This leghorn went broody and its the one that lays cream eggs so go figure. The two chickens not laying are the little bannie, she is only 5 months old and I believe one of my australorps that may be a rooster... but she just looks like a rooster, she doesn't act like one.

Happy Homesteading!







September 22, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Sprouting for Chickens

Sprouts... people think it is so easy to just put some holes in something add seeds and soak and forget. It isn't that easy. Some climates are better suited for sprouting, both inside and outside. You need a dry environment but a moist substrate. You also need a place away from fruit flies (the bane of all sprouts) and a place to store the sprouts while they are growing. It is much more intricate then add some water each day and BLAM sprouts. Now I am going to show you how I do it. I have done the trays, water and soil and I am now doing canning jars. Let me say, my house is NOT for 1. outside sprouting, 2. tray sprouting, and 3. water tray sprouting. 

I started out with jam jars. I had some cheese cloth laying around from a previous cheese making kit that I had eons ago. So I cut out squares and added my sprouting seeds. Sprouting seeds are designed to sprout quickly and with high rate of success. Most are human-food safe but check your sources to make sure. I am using mine for chickens so I am not too terribly concerned with me eating them. I started out with red lentils, broccoli and clover. I put warm water in the jars to let them soak during the day.


After the soaking period, I rinsed out the water and turned the jars upside down on a warm spot. I had just turned out off my even so I put a burp cloth under them to catch the water.


After a few days I was supposed to have beautiful sprouts. You know those pictures on pinterest of overflowing sprout jars. 1. I never expected a full jar, I didn't put enough seeds in there for that and 2. did I mention my house isn't the best for sprouting?




So I gave it a couple more days....


I even did an alfalfa and broccoli mix since the lentils didn't make it past the first bit of sprouting.




Even more days later... FINALLY, sprouts.


So I took a break from that until I have a fire going in the winter to have nice warm environment for them to sprout and fresh greens for the chickens. Not everything works the first (or fourth) time you do it and you have to constantly try and adjust to the environment but hopefully we will get this sprouting thing down... I know my chickens are waiting with baited breaths.