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Archive for May, 2010

Here chick, chick…

Its been three weeks since the chicks arrived here in the burb.  They were so tiny and frail those first days, and I was quite frightened of them (I have a phobia of birds).  In the last three weeks we’ve all grown though.  Check out the most recent video of our babies.

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Chickens, Oh, Chickens!

I should learn to carry my camera all the time.  I mean, that’s why I bought it.  Pics add such a great dimension to blog updates, but alas, I must use a thousand words instead of the one picture….

It’s humid this morning.  We had some great rain last evening and expect more throughout the weekend, so today will be important in getting projects done, as we have the lowest expectation of precipitation of the next three.  Although the temps are pleasant (mid 60s), the humidity is way high and I worked up an impressive sweat just doing the rabbit and chicken chores this morning.

The chicks are still in the basement.  They technically have another week to go, but if we get the chicken tractor (movable coop) finished, they will go to the farm sooner.  We need our basement, and the oxygen level, back.

About a week ago, B made little roosts out of simple wood strapping.  She put one in each brooder box.  The chicks loved them from the beginning.  They are about a third of the way up the side of each box.  They sit diagonally and protrude an couple inches or so outside the boxes.

This morning I was greeted by a chicken roosting peacefully on the outside part of one of the roosts.  He was alone, happy and content to the point that I expected him to start snoring.  Unfortunately, we prefer the chicks INSIDE the box, so he needed to move.  The little fella (or gal) hopped neatly onto my hand and I placed him back in the box with his cousins, then proceeded outside to work on cleaning the rabbit cages.  I looked in the window and the next box along had a chicken out.  I went inside and transported him back to the general population.  By the time I got outside, a chick from the third box was up on top of HIS box.  OY VEY!  Back to the house I proceed to return Mo, as I had done for Curly and Larry.  As I scooped up Chick # three, I discovered a rather large deposit of, well, what chickens deposit, on the floor between the box and the wall.  The only way that could get there is either teleportation (still scientifically unlikely) or some of the chicks are going AWOL then returning to the box after some time harborside.  I have left the evidence for Brittan to see before I clean it up.  I need a witness.

For the last two days, I have been closely observing one very tiny chick.  This little bird is only about half the size of the others, maybe less.  She (I think) is constantly kicked and trampled by the other birds.  They don’t pick on her, but she really gets jostled in the crowd.  She manages to eat and drink, but not as much as the others.  I honestly think she has a self esteem issue, or perhaps she’s blind.  Her eyes are good and black like the others, but she seems a bit bewildered all the time.  I’m thinking of separating her for a few days to see what happens.  Nature is rough sometimes.

Apart from that, its all routine.  We didn’t get much accomplished yesterday, so today I’m going to start on overseeding the pasture while B starts on the chicken tractor.  Well, here comes the sun, that’s my signal.

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We frequent www.bestfarmbuys.com.  We love it.  We found some of our rabbits there and we’ve made some great contacts for sheep and dairy cattle, too.  If you don’t check there, you should.  But, as the ancients used to say, “Caveat Emptor” (buyer beware).

Our search for a Jersey cow, has led us down many a trail.  Some have possibilities.  Some are dead ends.  One could have scammed us big time.   The other day, I read the following ad on BFB,

MILKING JERSYS AND HOLSTIEN FOR ADPOTION

i have some milking cows to give out at affordable fees to any family interested in having one.They will give at least 25 litres of milk per day and are friendly to kids and adults and use to hand milking.
Contact me if serious.
Will arrange for transportation within the USA only.
Posted by: SHAWN FETCH
Phone: 2392475845

Send An Email Message to SHAWN FETCH

Posted in FLORIDA>> Category CATTLE – DAIRY>> Posted 5/2/2010

Since it looked promising, I pursued it.  I sent off an email and received a reply the next day.  It was a bit odd that the reply came in my spam folder, but that happens sometimes.  The email had some details and even included two photos of the cow being milked.  One was labeled “cow with daughter”, the other, ‘cow with wife’.

I asked a couple of questions and was eventually told that since all this financially struggling family was looking for was a good home for their beloved family cow, they would only charge for the shipping from their place in Florida to ours.  Three or four emails later, it was decided that uship was the best option and the price would be $320.  Not a bad deal to get a milk cow in production.

The ‘in production’ was my first yellow flag.  They were going to ship a beloved cow on a two day journey while in production?  That seemed odd.  Next, was the request to wire them the money.  No paypal account, no COD, no request for money order.  Now my spidey senses are going off the charts.

As I looked more closely, the name of the bank didn’t look right.  So I wandered over to ‘google’ and did a check.  The bank is in Frankfurt, Germany.  How many family farms in Florida do you suppose, do their banking from Germany?  So I dug a little deeper.  The email address always looked odd, so I did a search on it and found that the host company operates out of the Philippines.  The first word on the email address was the name of a village in the Cameroon, in Africa!

Armed with this information, I re read all the posts and discovered many problems with the English, indicating English as a second language.  The first few emails were signed with the name “Shawn”.  The last few had the name, “Green”.  I also noted all measurements of the cows production were metric.  I hadn’t paid attention to that because I lived in Scotland for many years and metric measurements are as natural to me as Imperial or U.S. ones, so it didn’t register first time around.

My next step, after informing B that we’d almost been scammed, was to send them an email saying that since we had a long weekend coming up, I’d just drive down and pick up the cow.  Funny, but there’s been no reply.  Oh, I almost forgot, the phone number is bogus.

I have written to Best Farm Buys and let them know.  I hope they will remove the ad.  I think most people would catch on before wiring hard earned money, but these scams couldn’t continue if they weren’t successful.  Well, this one is busted!  Mission accomplished.  Now back to my regularly scheduled farm chores.

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Mornin’ Y’all.  What a beautiful morning it is here in the burb.  The photo is pirated.  We have no trees here, and it’s overcast.  But I wanted to create a mood.  Today started about 66 degrees, some clouds, a bit of humidity and a gentle breeze.  It was a glorious start to the day for doing chores.

After such a difficult spring with the seeds and seedlings, the garden is coming along well.  A few of the tomato plants still look deformed, but most are healthy and some are already heavy with fruit.  After a brief battle with blossom end rot, everything is under control.  We have harvested some broccoli, squash and zucchini and enjoyed them for supper last night.  The strawberries are about finished.  Brittan will harvest the last batch today.  I’m thinking we’ll need to plant more next spring.

We have bush beans and wax beans appearing among the blossoms, as well as the occasional pepper.  The squash and melons are loaded with blossoms.  I am taking that as a good sign.  All in all, the garden is in good shape.

The rabbits are so much fun in the morning.  They get quite excited when I come down to clean the cages, because that means….breakfast.

After nearly a year of trial and error, we are finally creating compost in quantity.  I am very pleased with it.  We have traditional enclosed compost bins (HOA rules), rabbit manure compost piles and worm compost.  We are up to three small worm colonies.  They aren’t producing a great deal yet, but the quality is quite amazing.  I have learned that the worms don’t like fresh food.  But once the scraps begin to decay a bit, the little wigglers are all over them.  They are especially fond of rotting fruit like apples, pears and mangoes.

The chickens may go out to the farm early.  They are growing, eating and, well, crapping at herculean rates.  It’s about time to get them out of the basement and on to some pasture.

Speaking of chickens.  Two weeks ago, Brittan was so terrified of them, she wouldn’t even pick up one of the day old chicks.  This photo that I snapped on Sunday afternoon suggests the fear has waned. Click on it and see what I mean.

As for the sheep, I need to get in the shower, get ready for work and go check on them on my way.  They are a welcome addition.  They make me laugh every day.  6 weeks ago, I thought I hated stinky, stupid sheep.  Now I’m totally addicted.

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Warning: This post contains information which may be unsettling for some.  It could cause outright apoplexy for PETA types and many vegans.  Read on at your own risk.

Saturday was our first rabbit processing day.  We only had two to process, because we have decided to keep an extra female.  Our little herd consists of two bucks and three does.  This is just the right size for our small operation.

I have been a hunter pretty much all my life.  I have ‘dressed’ rabbits before, along with turkeys, squirrels, grouse, deer and even a possum once (long story from long ago), not to mention many hundreds of fish.  But I felt a certain uneasiness as the time approached.  This may sound odd, but while I have no qualms about killing animals for food, I am terribly concerned about hurting them.  I am inexperienced at taking life with my bare hands and I was afraid of botching the act and causing undue pain and stress on the animals.  In the end, my preparation (I had a detailed plan of action and had mentally rehearsed multiple times) and prayers paid off and the killing went off without incident.

I’m glad there were only two to process, because I was mentally drained before I ever got started.  If I’d had 6 or 8 to do, I don’t know how well I’d have held up.  Future processing days will be faced with much less apprehension, but never with giddiness.

As I was cleaning the rabbits, I took note of some things that pleased me.  First, the bunnies were of good weight.  One of them had a couple small bits of fat, but nothing to speak of, yet their bellies were full.  That means we fed them right.   Their stomachs contained some pellets, grass and hay, which spoke of a certain rabbit contentment.  They had been treated well.  I gave a quick thank you prayer to God and thanked the rabbits for their sacrifice as well.

If I have developed a philosophy in my rookie season of animal husbandry it is this:  a. Respect  your livestock.  They are living beings, designed by the Creator with valuable roles in creation and in the food chain.  b. Treat them well and feed them right. c. When it comes time to process them, make sure your grip is firm, your blow is true, your blade is sharp and your heart is pure.

B and I are omnivores.  Meat is a part of our diet.  An important and enjoyable part, I might add.  But over the last six months or so, it’s role has morphed.  We respect our food in a different way.  These days we actually consider how the animal was raised and how it lived out its short existence.  We were tasked by God to manage his creation and we want to do that well.

Also, because ‘pastured’ meat is so expensive and our own flocks and herds are not yet productive, meat is more of a side dish than the main course.  We eat less of it and appreciate it more.

For those who are interested, one of the rabbits processed yesterday will become slow smoked barbecue and the other one will become a nice spicy curry.  Yum.

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Chicken Update

Oh my gosh.  These little creatures are growing like mad.  They will be two weeks old on Monday.  They are feathering nicely.  They eat a ton and produce double that in waste.  Brittan made little roosts and put them in the brooder boxes.  It’s so cute to see them line up for a turn on the ‘high ground’.

It’s been a fun learning experience, but I’ll be glad to get my basement back.

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Progress and Routine

Most things are settling into some sort of norm at the moment.  It’s a kind of maintenance mode.  Wake up, read from the Bible, let dogs out, clean rabbit cages, feed rabbits, feed and water chickens, check email and news, shower, dress for work, check on sheep, water if necessary, go to work, come home, eat dinner, settle sheep, move fence every three days, water veggies,  feed the worms, wash hands, drink iced tea, shower, sleep, rinse, repeat.

Such is my routine.  It’s almost a rhythm now.  Brittan’s is different, with household chores, making cheese, bread, laundry soap, cleaning chicken brooder boxes, pasturing the rabbits, bringing greens to chicks, harvesting strawberries, etc. She is quite amazing.

On weekends we take care of the big projects.  Coming attractions include; preparing barn for actual animals, build chicken tractor, build portable shelter for sheep, mow fields, repair perimeter fence, cut low hanging limbs off of trees in small pasture, paint gates.

There is always plenty to do.  And we’re just hobby farmers.  I tip my cowboy hat to those of you who do this full time.  You are true heroes.

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