Farm Photo Friday

20150129-IMG_4872Our meat birds arrived on Tuesday, 26 Red Ranger broilers.  We lost five already, hopefully no more.  Shipping is pretty hard on them.

20150129-IMG_4884We had another 60 degree day this week and the daffodils are starting to push out of the ground.

20150129-IMG_4927The boys play follow the leader after breakfast every morning.

20150129-IMG_4899We have a tub placed under the eaves on the barn to catch rain water that we use to water the chickens, dog and cats.

20150130-IMG_4959The tomatoes are up and so are the leeks, but still no onions.  The seed was 2 years old, so I’m thinking it wasn’t viable maybe.  On another seedling note, half of my lovely cabbage seedlings were destroyed……

20140103-IMG_4013…… and here is the guilty party.  She’s not as innocent as she appears in this photo.

Have a great weekend!

Meat Birds

This week started with the arrival of 26 Red Ranger broiler chicks, our third year raising this particular breed.  20120316-IMG_4095We’re both kind of food snobs, and after years of buying the tasteless, water and who-knows-what else injected chickens from the grocery store that shrivel away to half of what you paid for when you cook them, we decided to raise our own.  Butchering chickens was something Jon and I had both done growing up, so taking on this task wasn’t exactly foreign to us.  Our first year we raised heritage breed dual-purpose chickens, but they ended up being a good 16 plus weeks old before being ready to process and were kind of tough and not that tasty.  We’d been reading good things about Red Rangers and gave them a try and have been very happy with them.  They have a great growth rate and feed conversion and 70% live to dress weight yield.  They’re excellent foragers, which helps keep feed costs down, and they don’t have the leg problems you find in the Cornish Cross.  In prior batches we did straight run, both males and females, but found the females lagged behind the males a couple weeks to achieve ideal processing weight.  Now we order all males and have a goal to process them at around 12 weeks.  They usually dress out at around 4-5 pounds and are the most delicious chickens we’ve ever had, moist, tender and flavorful.  20140915-_MG_8891We start them off in a brooder in the garage until they’re mostly feathered, then they move out to our chicken tractors.  We move them around the yard once or twice a day, allowing them to eat the grass and leave fertilizer behind. 20141030-IMG_3808-Edit Butchering day isn’t a day any of us particularly enjoys, but we have a good assembly line of four of us going and can do about 25 birds in 3 hours or so.  We skin some and pluck some.  Skinning may seem wasteful to some people, but we don’t really like the skin except on roasters and for making stock and end up pulling it off anyway, so skinning makes sense for us and is a huge time saver.  My mom and dad raised about 100 meat birds every year and skinned every one of them.  I’ve never met anyone else who skins their chickens, though.  We plan to eat chicken almost once a week, so we raise about 45-50 broilers for ourselves and a few more for our kids, splitting them into a spring batch and a fall batch.  We avoid having them ready to process between June and September because it’s just too hot to be doing that job then.

Farm Photo Friday

Here’s a recap of our past week…

20150123-IMG_4854The cabbages have sprouted.  We have Tendersweet, Ruby Perfection, Early Flat Dutch and Savoy.

20140724-IMG_8315We’re making soap twice a week to replenish our inventory after our awesome Christmas season.  We’ll be doing one, possibly two farmer’s markets this year in addition to a few craft fairs and our online sales, so we’re crankin’ out the soap to get ready.  This is our Activated Charcoal soap.

20150116-IMG_4821What more can I say, they eat… and eat… and eat.. and get bigger every day.  Cayenne is 30 days out now.

20140314-IMG_6857I made Gouda with our cow milk share this week and the chickens got the whey, which they promptly devoured.

20121201-IMG_7464It was sunny and 60 earlier in the week and we took that opportunity to work the horses.  Too much time off is never a good thing, but they actually were pretty good.  Hopefully we’ll be able to get on a more regular schedule as the days get longer and warmer.

20140102-IMG_4001Today we’re back to a cold rain… a good day to stay indoors and catch up on some reading and planning.

 

Have a great weekend!

Three Questions to Ask Before Getting Dairy Goats

 

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Goats are trendy right now, and with good reason.  These little powerhouses of nutrition pack a powerful punch and do it efficiently.  Goat meat is widely consumed around the world and gaining popularity here in the US.  Goat milk is enjoying a surge in popularity because of it’s health benefits and all of the amazing cheeses you can make with it.  Goats make sense for people interested in creating a more self-sufficient life; they don’t require a lot of inputs or space, and with millions of Youtube videos showcasing goat antics, you can see how just plain fun they are to have around.  From a dairy perspective, if you’re thinking of adding these useful animals to your farm, you need to ask yourself these three questions first:

  • What do you want to do with the milk?  We wanted to produce healthy, nutritious milk for our own consumption, free of antibiotics and hormones, and also to experiment with making goat cheeses and soap, along with helping to raise a couple pigs with excess milk and whey.  Milk with a high butterfat is best for cheese because the yield will be higher.  Saanens have about 2-3% butterfat, La Mancha 4%, Alpine 3.5%, Nubian 4-5%, Oberhasli 3.9%, and Nigerian Dwarf 6-10%.
  • How much milk do you want?  With all the things we wanted to do with the milk, we knew we’d need a good amount of it.  Dairy goat breeds vary widely in how much milk you can expect to get.  Saanens will average 1-1/2 gallons per day, Alpines, Nubians, La Manchas and Oberhaslis will average about 1 gallon a day, while Nigerian Dwarf goats average 1-2 quarts per day.
  • How much space do you have?  If your space is limited, Nigerian Dwarf goats might be a good choice for you.  If not, any of the other breeds will do fine.  We have several acres of pasture and woods for our goats to roam.

After answering these questions you can begin to narrow your search for the best breed for you.  If you mainly want cheese, a Nubian might be a good choice.  If you need large quantities, maybe a Saanen.  A lot of it will come down to personal preference because at the end of the day, they all make good cheese, they all produce well, and they all have endearing personalities.  An additional factor we considered was choosing a heritage breed of dairy goat as we feel it’s important to keep these genetically diverse livestock breeds around.  That worked out well because I was immediately drawn to the beautiful color of the Oberhasli breed, and they are a heritage breed.  So for us, the Oberhasli is the perfect choice–they’re good producers of milk with an average butterfat content that tastes great and makes wonderful cheese, and we’re helping to preserve a beautiful breed of dairy goat.

Farm Photo Friday

20150109-IMG_4722Wide load…. Annalee is about as wide as she is tall.  She isn’t due til March 7, I can’t even imagine how big she’s going to get yet.20150116-IMG_4782Chicken charge… this is how they greet me every morning when I go out to do chores. 20150116-IMG_4793Where’s our breakfast??  The boys are a bit impatient at feeding time.

20150116-IMG_4828 The current nesting spot is on the stack of straw.  Why can’t they just stick with one spot?

20150116-IMG_4836 Abbey, one of my awesome barn cats.

20150116-IMG_4841 Oh, the joys of having a gray horse who loves to roll in the mud daily.  She has no pride.

20150116-IMG_4846 A little frost on the parsley this morning, but temps will be warming up to the 50s for the next several days!

20150116-IMG_4851Yep, time to start seeds.  Tomatoes, cabbage, onions and leeks started this week.

As you can see, not much new going on this week, but it’ll be getting busier soon.  Have a great weekend!

A Cure For What Ails You

Can you guess what I’m making?

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Today I made elderberry tincture.  Yes, I should’ve done this weeks ago before cold and flu season, but better late than never.  This is great to have on hand when you feel like you’re coming down with something as elderberries are known for being effective against the influenza virus, H1N1, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis and boosting your immune system.  They have a long history of use in traditional European medicine.

To make elderberry tincture, you’ll need elderberries (Sambucus nigra) and 100 proof alcohol.  Most people use vodka, but we used moonshine because, well, this is Tennessee.

Fill a pint or quart jar half full of elderberries (you can use dried or fresh, I used dried).  Then fill the jar with the alcohol, leaving a 1 inch head space, cap it and shake it up.  Label with the date and contents, then let it sit in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks.  When finished, strain through a fine mesh strainer and discard the berries.  Pour the tincture into clean, sterile jars and store in a dark place.  It should last 1-2 years.

To use, take 1 teaspoon 3 times a day when you feel like you’re coming down with the cold or flu.

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*I am not a doctor or an herbalist.  I have done research on herbal medicine and have chosen to use it in certain instances.  You should do your own research and make your decisions based on that.

Farm Photo Friday

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This week was all about COLD.  On Wednesday temps dipped into the single digits with a strong North wind making it feel well below 0.

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The ice on the horse tank was 6 inches thick.

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The animals were given thick beds of straw to snuggle down in and extra hay to generate more heat in their bodies, but they were not about to venture out into that kind of cold.

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Grabbing a spot of sunshine to warm up in was the order of the day.

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Thankfully, we don’t get many days of bitter temperatures and we’re already back in the 30s today.  Have a great weekend!