Geese goings-on

The geese obviously can’t read a calendar.

They usually don’t think about breeding until around January, but — well, let’s just say things are getting very noisy and a lot of wing-flapping is going on around the pool these days. I don’t even have all the breeding pens set up, but at least goose pens go up quickly. I just hope I don’t end up needing more than 4 pens.

At least this gives me a good start on identifying the ones I had some doubt about. Last spring I knew who every goose was, and could easily tell the adults from the babies. I was planing to band them all (mostly to better identify the babies, since I hadn’t yet gotten to know their personalities well) then suddenly, everyone changed!

The goose with the gray feathers (Playgirl – named because she claimed the two biggest ganders as her own and refused to settle down and set on eggs for a LONG time) … Playgirl lost her gray feathers and turned all white. The babies lost their fluff and their moustaches, and one of them grew as large as his father and looked exactly like him. So I could still tell most of them apart, but not all. Add to that my lack of confidence in being right 100% of the time when I sex geese, and I was left without knowing for sure who my planned breeding pairs were. So, I had to raise most of the remaining babies in order to be sure I didn’t sell any of my breeders or send them to the table.

They are all banded now. I can’t find commercial bands big enough for them, so they have as assortment of brightly-colored zip ties fastened on one or the other leg or both. In watching how they interact now with breeding season coming up, I’m much more able to identify who’s who.  I think pretty soon I’ll have their names/behavior matched back up with the birds, and I will know who needs to be paired off, and who needs a private nest, and who is likely to need her eggs to be fostered to the ‘Scovies, and who I can sell to the lady down the road with the lonesome goose girls.

It will be good to get back to business as usual, and not have this stampeding herd of geese running around out of control and mostly unidentified. Next time, the bands go on early!

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Pumpkins and sprouts

Haven’t posted in a week — I’ve been crazy-busy trying to earn some money. I expect I’m not the only one in that boat. But I have to make time for other things too. 🙂

I’m hoping to start adding pages for some of the main “characters” around here, so when I say Ryker or Crystal or Fidget or Frodo, y’all know who I’m talking about. That should be fun. I enjoy writing about all my little (and in some cases big!) friends around here.

The pumpkins are steadily disappearing into the goats. The other animals eat them but the goats really love them. I have an easy time of it now … I just cut two pumpkins in half and toss them over the fence, and the goats enjoy rolling them to get at the parts they want, eating the seeds and thready parts first then munching away the flesh. They leave the rinds. At the rate we are going, I probably have another 3 months’ worth of pumpkins at least.

I’m also putting a real dent in my feed costs with the sprouts. So far I am sprouting wheat and oats. I’d like to add barley, and I’m considering beans. I run them on a 6-day cycle. It took a couple of days for most of the animals to get used to them and accept them as food (except the goats, who snarfed them up right off, and the chickens, who ate at least 90% the first day after picking through them a bit). Now the ducks and geese are cleaning their feeding trays as well, and my cost per volume is less than half that of the pellets and scratch, and I think they are getting better nutrition as well.

Apparently, llamas don’t like sprouts. Misty turns her nose up at them and gives me a disgusted look as if I’m trying to poison her. And her food is the most expensive mixture of all. Maybe she feels like royalty, being the one that costs the most and basically doesn’t have to work or produce (she’s going to start giving up that fiber though, she just doesn’t know it yet!).

Posted in Chickens, Ducks, Feeding, Goats, Livestock, Llama | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rain Rain (don’t go away!)

Well, something almost new here. It’s been raining. For about three days now. Even though everything is mucky and I can’t do much outside, I don’t want to complain, since we’ve been through what is possibly the worst drought on record. Rain means grass in the pasture, and clover in the backyard.

The ducks love the rain in the daytime too … waddling all around and flapping their wings, chattering their beaks toward the sky. I wonder if they are trying to catch raindrops on their tongues? Whatever the case, they adore rain, and mudpuddles, and the filling of the pools.

Their coop is a mucky mess though, since ducks need minimal protection from the weather (and they were actually supposed to be slaughtered before now) so it’s only a wire-sided coop with a tin roof. Tonight they are sleeping along the fence inside their run with the coop doors open. I hope it isn’t a mistake, but their pen is only a few feet from the house, and the coyotes don’t usually hunt in the rain. The three geese that grew up with them are in their pen too, so if anything should happen, I should hear about it. I might sacrifice some hay tomorrow to the floors of their coops … it’s supposed to rain for a few more days and freeze tomorrow night and the next. Or I might move them to the bigger coop in the back, which would take some effort since it’s hard to herd ducks into an unfamiliar coop, especially since I didn’t have the foresight to build it against a fence so I could funnel them in.

The chickens have been totally unfazed though. Mine have apparently never heard the saying “madder than a wet hen.”  They spent the entire day doing what they always do, searching the yards and pastures for bugs and other tasty treats, paying no mind to the rain at all.

My dog on the other hand really underscores what this drought has been. He’s under two years old, and has experienced very little rain in his life. He needed to go outside the other day and it was pouring … I opened the door to show him and he crouched down and looked outside, bewildered, then at me as if to say, “What is THAT? Is the sky falling?” Poor guy, it was really kind of funny.  He’s getting used to the idea though, and went outside to do his business just fine today.  I noticed he didn’t spend as much time making the regular rounds though. I think like me, he prefers to be inside and warm on cold wet days. I certainly can’t blame him!

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New chicks … again!

Well, my 2nd-best little silkie (Fidget) has successfully hatched another brood. She takes smaller nests than the others. I can usually put 8 eggs under another hen, but this girl pushes them away if there are too many, so I only give her 6, and she hatched 4.

I think I actually made a mistake with her the first time out. She was identical to my best silkie (Pearl) in looks, and Pearl had set a nest faithfully. I failed to block it off from the other chickens because everything seemed to be going fine, and about two days before the eggs were due to hatch, Fidget joined Pearl on the nest and stole some of the eggs. When the chicks hatched, the girls started fighting over them, so I had no choice but to remove one hen. Pearl was pulled out, and Fidget got all the babies.

I think it’s made Fidget lazy. She sometimes will set for a few days and give up, so I have to lock her in once I’m sure she’s broody. Don’t worry, the broody box is large for a silky, she can walk around, has her own food and water, can scratch and stretch her wings. But if I let her out to free-range for a bit, she seems to forget she has responsibilities and home and I usually end up chasing her all over the place to put her back in before it’s over. She has successfully hatched and raised several batches of chicks of her own, though.

This time she hatched 4 chicks. I’m really hoping to get hens from it, because for much of the fall I had ONE hen laying. I was glad Fidget went broody when she did, because I loaded her nest with eggs from that single layer. If I get another long slow molt, I want to have hens from THAT line out there, so I can at least have a few eggs a day. As usual, we shall see. At least with chickens, it doesn’t take as long to measure the productivity of what you are breeding as it does with milk goats.

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Chores, chores

Just trying to organize tasks this week.

I have several rabbit does due to kindle over the next week, and the ones that still have family members in with them are going to have the extras removed to their own cages. I’m short one cage, so I’ve been repairing older cages because I anticipate not having one of the does after next week – she’s failed to produce a litter from her last three breedings and I’m afraid she isn’t earning her keep, which makes me a little sad because she was one of the matriarchs and my best breeder initially. I have a couple of bucks that need to be sold soon so I can have their cages also.

I’m expecting another hatch of chicks, so the not-quite-ready youngsters from the oldest hatching are going to have to be removed to a regular nest and make way for new chicks in the protected lower row of boxes. Who knew chickens would go into broody-overdrive in the fall and I would be expecting more chicks than I have nursery nest boxes set up for? At least it’s pretty much too cold for snakes to be a problem.

Speaking of the colder weather, I just realized that by the time our overnight temps reach freezing next week, I will need to have all the pumpkins properly stored, and there are still a LOT of them … probably about 1800 pounds. Many are going to be cut up and frozen, and many others will be stored in the feed room.

And in the feed room, I’m cleaning bins in which to begin rotating seed sprouts for feed. I purchased 50 pounds each of whole wheat and whole oats for less than I normally pay for laying pellets, which when sprouted should increase both the available nutrients and the volume of feed for nothing more than a bit of water and a little work.  I’ll be posting more details about this as it develops.

All this week I’ve been trying to monitor my dog’s digestion very carefully. It seems I was likely right about his problem, since the enzymes are helping, but since I have not been able to source enough wild pig pancreas for him, I’m putting him on pancreatin from the health food store. He’s been on it for only two days but it seems to be even more effective than the enzymes.

I also need to try to determine exactly what the market for duck eggs might be, since I am getting around a dozen a day right now and they are potentially worth more than chicken eggs, but the ducks were not supposed to be here overwinter – not all of them anyway. But since the chickens are very slow to be coming out of their molt, the ducks are actually providing me with many more eggs for very little feed compared to the hens, which seem to want to produce only a few eggs and are more interested in producing chicks just now!

So if I seem a little scatter-brained this week … I am!

Posted in Cages Nests Coops Barns, Chickens, Dogs, Ducks, Feeding, Livestock, Pets, Rabbits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Caramel Apple Pie

Here’s the recipe I promised for the caramel apple pie:

 

I used 7 granny smith apples and ran them through my peeler/corer/slicer

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup sugar

3 additional Tablespoons of sugar

2 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca pearls

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¾ cup old-fashioned oats

1 Tablespoon all-purpose whole wheat flour

¼ cup cold salted butter

18 caramels

5 Tablespoons fresh whole milk

1/3 cup chopped pecans

 

Stir the apples and lemon juice in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together ½ cup sugar, the tapioca pearls, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Pour this slowly over the apples, stirring gently.

 

Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes, then pour into your pie crust (it fits best in a 9” deep dish pie crust, but it will mound up more than you might think).

 

You can use the dry ingredient bowl to combine the oats, flour, and the 3 Tablespoons of sugar. Cut in the butter until well mixed and crumbly (this is easier if you use a pastry knife, or else chop the butter into small squares before adding it). Sprinkle the oat mixture over the top of the apple mixture.

 

The recipe calls for baking at 400F for 45 minutes, but I had to stop mine after 35 minutes because the pie was browning.

 

Near the end of the baking time, place caramels in a saucepan with milk and melt them over low heat, stirring often. When they are melted and the mixture is smooth, add the pecans and stir again. Drizzle this topping over the pie, and bake a few more minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

 

Cool, slice, and enjoy!!! This one was fine made a day ahead.  It was a great hit, with the tartness of the Granny Smith apples making a nice contrast with the sweet caramel-nut topping.

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Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

 

Today I am blessed to be able to drive the 3 hours to visit my family. I SO enjoy spending time with them, but it’s been exactly a year since I’ve been back there. About a month ago I met a young man in the neighborhood (if I can call a 12 year old a young man) who had quite an interest in my farm and animals. He was willing to give the evening feeding and lock everyone up safely for the night (a chore that begins just after 4pm right now) so that I could spend time with my family. I paid him what I could afford, which wasn’t much, and gave him a rooster to go with his two hens, and a couple of cartons of duck eggs for his mother. In return, he came over almost every day for the past week and helped me with my animals in order to learn the routine, did a wonderful job while I was gone, and even brought me fallen wood from their property and helped with cutting and stacking it, since they don’t have a fireplace. I hope he likes cookies, because I’m going to have some baked for him the next time he comes over. He gave me Thanksgiving with my family – a wonderful gift.

 

And speaking of baking, I took a caramel apple pie (I’ll post the recipe next week!) and two pumpkin pies, as well as my version of fruit salad – which I am told is not really fruit salad, since I don’t add any “dressing”. My fruit salad is fresh apples, bananas, and grapes (this time … sometimes strawberries!); canned peaches and mandarin oranges; garnished with shredded coconut, chopped pecans, and a few cherries. They tell me this is “Ambrosia” and not fruit salad. I like the sound of that, so I’ll take it.  (smile)

 

I hope all my readers had a wonderful and warm Thanksgiving, filled with family and friends and good food. Enjoy!!!

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