December 3, 2010

Around The Homestead

My "Around the Homestead" posts are where I fill you in on project progress, updates, critter antics, and other odds and ends. This is what's been happening since last time.

Riley & Lord B
Chickens...  I had to clip some flight feathers. My Delaware and Ameraucanas are flyers. They loved foraging around the yard, but besides tearing it up, they started venturing farther and farther. When I found them in the garden, scratching up newly planted seed, I knew I had to do something. I confess I procrastinated, until one day  I heard a car horn, long and loud. I don't know if it was the chickens they were honking at, but I knew they'd made their way to the front yard. That wasn't good because the last thing I need is a complaint from a neighbor, or a chicken road pizza. Clipping flight feathers is easy, directions here. I waited until after they roosted and then helped myself to whatever chicken needed her wings clipped.

Goats relishing turnip greens
Petey... Our new buck is getting along okay. He has horns, so he pushes anyone out of the way, who stands in the way: the other goats, Charlie, the cats, and me. The number one rule about keeping a buck is to never turn one's back on him. Or any other animal with testosterone for that matter. Even though I try to be careful, he has run around behind me and tried to either jump up or otherwise rush me. I can't say I'll miss him when he's gone.

Baby helping herself
Goat breeding... The big question is, has Petey been doing his job? He's certainly willing enough. I've observed attempted matings with both Surprise and Baby, and marked these days on the calendar. If they don't come into heat again, after about three weeks, then I'll hope that means they are pregnant. Jasmine is just starting to get interested, but hasn't been receptive (yet).

Cats... Have been spayed and neutered. As to hunting, Riley has gotten off to a good start. So far he's gotten (that we're aware of), 2 chipmunks, 1 short tailed shrew, and a rat. He ate the rat. With relish. Katy hasn't caught anything that I'm aware of except bugs. She does know where the chipmunks hang out however. [UPDATE: I found a slightly mauled frozen mouse on the back steps when I came in from animal chores this morning. She was tearing around in the dark last night and wouldn't come in. Obviously she was hot on its trail! Way to go Katy!]

Squirrels... Neither Dan nor I are hunters, but the squirrels have been prolific around here, not to mention fat on pecans and acorns. Consequently we now have one dressed squirrel in the freezer.

Riley surveying his domain
Hawks... Remember Dan's hawk deterrent? Well, I'd been hoping to tell you that because of that, plus watchfulness on the chickens' part and my moving that silly fake owl around every other day, we no longer had a hawk problem. Actually, we didn't see any for quite a while. Then last week, we saw a red-tailed land in one of our big oak trees. That increased our watchfulness and over the weekend, Dan saw what we think was a peregrine falcon chase after one of our hens. It didn't catch her and fortunately we still have 8 chickens.

Welsummer hen,
wondering what I'm up to
Egg production... is down from 5 or 6 every day, to 1 or 2 every several days.   :( That's to be expected with shorter daylight hours and now that they've begun to moult. A light bulb in the coop could give them enough light to prolong egg laying, but DH is very much against disrupting natural cycles. I don't disagree with this, but have to make a decision about eggs. I managed to freeze 13 dozen, which won't be enough for the entire winter. I have to decide if I'm going to buy eggs, or just use up what we've got and then do without. Sourdough starter makes a good leavening agent, but we do love eggs. Still, if we're going to be food self-sufficient.....

Breeds & laying... For us, the Delaware started laying first but was one of the first to quit. The Welsummers were the others who quit laying early, and these were the last to start laying. The Ameraucanas and the Barred Holland are the ones still giving me occasional eggs. The Barred Holland was a slow starter, but she's laid admirably, though her eggs are smaller. My Ameraucanas have been steady layers, and had the largest eggs too.

My handsome Charlie
Charlie... I used to have a problem at feeding time, because the goats tend to rush around to eat everyone else's grain ration even before they finish their own. Invariably they would push Charlie out of the way to get his. I've tried a number of feeding arrangements, but now the goats are separated in the goat shed, two in each stall. I feed Charlie by himself outside. Well, the chickens help themselves to his, but he's no longer rushing to eat, which would sometimes make him choke. I know he likes this arrangement better because after he's finished, he comes over to me and let's me scratch his neck. If you don't know anything about llamas, being allowed to touch them is a privilege not to be taken for granted.

Food preservation & storage... My pantry's getting a tad fuller, because I'm still preserving things from the fall garden.

Updated pantry pic for Theresa

I'm still dehydrating Swiss chard and rapidly ripening green tomatoes, pickling beets, and making sauerruben from my turnips. It is very tasty by the way. In addition to those, we're also eating broccoli and carrots. Salad greens and radishes are getting big enough to pick. Hopefully cabbage will be ready soon. All this could be changed with a hard freeze. Until then, we're using very little of our preserved and stored veggies, so they may last longer than I originally thought.

Fall Red Pontiac potatoes
Garden... Speaking of the garden, I do have one small update since my November Garden Tour. We harvested our fall potatoes. Most were volunteers we failed to find in July, but a few were deliberately planted for a fall crop. That planting didn't do well, so I'll have to make some adjustments next year. We harvested enough to fill an 8 quart bowl, and I may just save these for our seed crop next summer.

New nursery plantings... Planted last month: a crabapple tree, a plum tree, and three new red raspberry bushes. I first thought of a crabapple when I recalled how much my brother loved crabapple jelly when we were kids. Then Dan said we could probably use crabapples for vinegar making, so the tree was a go. The plum tree is a Stanley, a free stone variety said to be excellent for dehydrating. The three raspberries replace one of the three I lost, which were planted last spring. Our annual dry spell wasn't kind to them. Still to plant, a couple of American cranberry bushes, which I've put in larger pots for the time being. Still to order, a few more elderberry bushes.

Well, I reckon that's about it. Unless you can think of something I forgot?

Around The Homestead © December 2010 


Theresa said...

Pity on the hawk/chickens thing as they are very good at keeping squirrel and other rodents down. Gene and I concur, any intact male of almost any species is a problem. If I found the appropriate sign,( that circle with a strike through and, well, you can fill in the correct anatomy), I'd put it up!
The pantry looks amazing. Good gosh that's a lot of fine looking jars and such of food.
Charlie is looking quite handsome. Glad you two have made friends.

Tami said...

Love your updates and the pantry pictures give me something to look forward to. I'm hoping to actually start canning next year(instead of freezing)...NEWBIE ALERT!

I'd also like to update our pantry with more shelves. In the drab days of winter, I bet it makes you happy to see all those pretty, colorful jars.

BTW Theresa... You made me laugh with the "intact male of almost any species is a problem" comment.

Yeah, I got me one of those too. (Hubby)

Nina said...

When the crows are hanging out here, the hawks move on. Last winter they would even land in our front yard and sit on the wires across the road. This year with more crows in the area, although not right on our property, the hawks have moved on up the road a good ways and we rarely see them.
The pantry looks fine and so do the beasties. Charlie is a very handsome beast and nice and fuzzy. I shall be quite envious of your shearing day. You'll have to report on how his fibre spins up as I've never come across a wooly llama before and am extremely curious!

Mama Pea said...

Great update! Gosh, you've still got a lot going on in the garden. Or at least it seems so to us up here near the tundra under ice and snow!

Our only stored food that shows much of a dent so far is our applesauce. Fortunately, I do have more apples so I'll be making another batch or two of sauce one of these days soon. Otherwise, in the veggie department we have more than enough for a long winter. Isn't it a great feeling?

Love hearing about the goats.

Mr. H. said...

I enjoyed hearing all about the happenings on your homestead and envy you your goats...I think.:) We have talked about getting goats before but have yet to get serious about it.

It sounds as though you still have an abundance in the garden and your pantry looks amazing. Like I said before I just love the way you have it set up.

Oh, and you will love that stanley plum tree. They truly are a wonderful plum for drying. My wife loves to use the dried plums in her baked goods and they make an excellent stewed plum sauce.

Alla said...

Love your update! Love Charlie, he is so handsome. Your pantry looks beautiful. I can't believe your garden is still going!

Renee Nefe said...

I was thinking that you had covered everything in your update, but then I remembered something...

what are the plans for increasing your chicken flock? I think at one time you were going to breed the chickens yourself - but I assume that changed when you decreased the roosters.

I'm so glad that Katy got a mousie!

Michelle said...

Oh my goodness, you just made me realize I never harvested my carrots! There were very few anyway, but STILL. Now it's cold and wet and muddy, and we did have several days of below freezing weather, so they may be a total loss....

Laura said...

I love your pantry - All I have is jars of canned chicken, chicken broth and turkey broth. The knees put a wet blanket on any plans for gardening this year! I'm planning to have raised beds next year, though.

You might have to consider a cover for your chicken yard. As Theresa pointed out, the hawks are very beneficial. Having lost a number of chickens to hawks, I now have them closer to the house, with access to a covered run. Changing breeds from light brahmas (white, "I'm here, come eat me") to dark brahmas (dark gray, "you can't see me") has also helped. The light brahmas are known for laying through the winter with no additional light - mine did, before I changed to the darks. The darks do not!! I actually had to buy eggs (and they are NOT as good...).

Interestingly, I have a resident "murder" of crows. I do have a couple of red tails that hang out, and possibly a red-shouldered hawk. However, I am overrun with squirrels - they get into the turkey feeder, the chicken feeder (even suspended), and generally wreak havoc. While I hate to do it, I'm looking at using poison to knock them back a bit. Maybe then Lyra can catch some!

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

I love Charlie's big fuzzy face. He sure looks warm.

Anonymous said...

Self-sufficiency is alot of work! Don't know if I could do without eggs though - anyone you can trade with?

Leigh said...

Theresa, we certainly have enough squirrels around here to feed quite a few hawks. Still, some seem to have a taste for chicken!

I'm really happy with the amount of food stored in our pantry. I admit in some ways it still looks kind of slim for a year's fruit and vegetable needs. On the other hand, there just the two of us and Dan is often on the road, so it's just me. I'm curious as to how long everything will last.

Tami, thanks! Yes, those jars of beautiful colors are a blessing indeed.

You will love canning! It's fun and it's rewarding. And I don't think there isn't much you can't can.

Nina, now that you mention it, when we didn't see hawks, we heard crows. So the crows have moved on and the hawks have moved back in. I need to learn how to attract crows.

I eye Charlie's fleece sometimes, but it's so full of leaves, and twigs, and goat poop, that I wonder how much will actually be spinnable. I will manage to salvage at least some of it!

Mama Pea, you're right, it is a great feeling. We just missed a huge snow storm. We got 3 and a half inches of rain and the next day the temp dropped below freezing. If the two had met up, we would have had a bunch of snow!

Mr. H, thanks for that on the Stanley plum! Mmm, stewed plum sauce and plum baked goods sound sooo good.

Goats are great. They are friendly, personable, great at clearing unwanted brush, and a good source of milk and meat. Just be sure to put up a very sturdy fence!

Alla thanks! Glad you're making the blog rounds again. :)

Renee, good question. Yes, we definitely want to increase our flock, particularly meat birds. We have yet to discuss details on this, but will probably do that this month. December is a good time for goal evaluation and goal setting. Hopefully will have a plan for chickens soon.

Michelle, oh my! Well, if you can dig them out of the ground, they should be okay!

Laura, thank you for that on the chickens! Assuming we do get more chickens next year, I'd love to get some winter layers besides meaties. Actually, Dan is even finally open to the possibility of raising a turkey or two, assuming I can find a breed that isn't "ugly." LOL Chicken safety discussions are ongoing, but we havn't yet decide if and how to keep them in a covered run. That's something for the future.

Yeah, your knee surgery really rearranged your priorities, didn't it? Still, I wish I had some canned chicken and broth!

Jane, he is so huggable looking. Unfortunately he doesn't have a "hug me" personality. :)

Evelyn, it is. But I love the lifestyle and would rather do that then go out and get a job to pay for anything. Hadn't thought about trading for eggs. None of my neighbors raises chickens, but still, it's something to think about.

BlackRose said...

Καλησπεραααα....Helloooo from Greece and ΣτάΛες στο ΓαΛάΖιο blog team...Very nice post...come with me in ΣτάΛες στο ΓαΛάΖιο

LoVe and LiGhT with you....

Benita said...

My goodness you have accomplished a lot this past year. Seriously, have you gone back and read where you were at this time last year?

That pantry is one of the prettiest things I have seen in a while. It makes me feel satisfied and safe and I don't even get to eat it. You have done very well!

The Apple Pie Gal said...

Wow! I am very impressed! Those pantry shelves are to die for!

What Pigs Don't Know said...

Leigh, you are my hero! Thanks for the updates! -Carrie

Leigh said...

Black Rose, hello and welcome! You know, I actually took Greek in college. I don't remember any of it though. :)

Benita, we've just been going over last year's goals. You're right, it's amazing how different things looked around here back then. Hopefully, we'll continue to have the health, strength, energy, and funds(!) to make as many changes next year.

Apple Pie Gal, thanks! And thanks for becoming a follower and taking the time to comment. I'm going to go right on over to your blog to return the visit. :)

Aw shucks, Carrie. Thanks!

Robin said...

Thats good that your cats are starting to hunt. Jack hasn't really been hunting since she hurt her back leg.

So what does a squirrel taste like and how did you catch it?

Our egg production is very low at the moment too. I'm actually looking into getting some new breeds next year.

Leigh said...

Robin, so sorry to hear that about Jack!

We actually haven't tried the squirrel yet. They're pretty small in the meat department, so we thought we'd wait until we have two. Dan just shot it right between the eyes.

I'm thinking about a few new chicken breeds next spring too! What breeds are you interesting in?