Archive for May, 2011

Apologies to Ms. Katy Perry.

B and I are just about to have the first taste of our goat’s milk.  While it finishes chilling, I’m going to post a few pics.

I took a turn milking this morning.  I was awkward and bumbling, like I am at most things, but I got the job done.  Fortunately, our goats are patient(ish) and it helps that they know what they’re doing even if I don’t.

Brittan did most of the work while I snapped photos and fed some of the other animals.  We got a half gallon and a pint this a.m.  I suspect we’ll get more as we get more thorough.

East of Eden Farms Dairy is now operational. 




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They’re here!  Our Alpines arrived today.  Brittan milked them for the first time tonight.  We have three does and a buckling.  Two of the does are in milk.  We’ll spend the next two or three weeks learning the ropes, then we’ll start making products available.  Keep in mind that raw milk is only available in the USA as pet quality.  Politics.  Bah! Humbug.

Please stay tuned for availability.  Quantities will be limited.  Cheese prices will be determined based on the type of cheese.  Milk, when available, will be $5 for a half a gallon, or $2.75 for a quart.

I grabbed some snapshots of Brittan with the goats, but I left my camera in the truck.  I’ll post them tomorrow or Tuesday.

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From the Headline, you can guess we made a positive id on our predator this evening.  He boldly stepped out of the woods about 7:45 p.m. and watched us putting away the chickens.  I had a handgun with me, but it was loaded with buckshot for snakes.  There was no way I was going to hit a dog at 60 yards with that.

B and I dashed home, where I grabbed a rifle and loaded my handgun with .45 bullets and she packed up her 9 mil and popped some mini mags into her .22 handgun as well.  Obviously, we didn’t need to be loaded for an invasion, but we wanted whatever we needed depending on the shot that would be presented to us.

Unfortunately, he did not return.  By a little past 9 it was just too dark to see, so we put the chickens in a guaranteed predator proof pen and came home.

We may spend the night in the field Thursday night, or we may just keep the remaining birds near the donkeys until the Livestock Guardian Dogs arrive.  This much I know for sure, the rascal made his first mistake tonight.  His next one will carry consequences.

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It’s over for this batch of birds.  The predator came back last night, tore open a hole in the chicken tractor and killed 20 birds.  I am in my office at work.  Brittan is left alone to clean up the carnage.  She is moving the few remaining birds to a safe house close to the big animals.  We’ll likely move the donkeys to the same field this evening.  We’re considering a stake out tonight, as well.  We’re still two weeks away from getting our Livestock Guardian Dogs.  It appears to be time for some vigilante justice.

If you are a customer, please understand that we will not be able to fulfill orders in June now.  We will move all orders to our Sept. date.  Pre paid orders can be refunded, if you don’t want to wait.  I’ll send an email to customers tonight explaining more.

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While much of America has spent the Spring of 2011 wrestling with tornadoes, here in the burb our natural disaster is predation.  The predator storm is still churning and touched down again over the weekend, with devastating results.

B and I went to Florida for for a few days to attend a memorial service for B’s recently deceased Grandma.  We were fortunate to have some volunteers to house and farm sit for us.  Our poor sitters are probably traumatized for life.

We should have known that tragedy loomed when just before we left, Brittan discovered another litter of dead baby bunnies and I stumbled on a pile of chicken feathers.  While the two incidents were unrelated, they  were certainly ominous.

We returned yesterday to find the broiler field, turned again into a killing field.  There were feathers and chicken parts everywhere and the remaining chickens were in uncontrolled shock.  We wanted to round them up and move them, but they would have none of it. The birds usually come running to us and follow the feed bucket wherever it leads.  Not this time.   B and I spent 3 hours catching chickens.  Finally, at about 9:30 last night, we got the last one.  Today, we will figure a way to get them into another, safer, pasture.

During the chase, I managed to trip over a stump and tumble headlong into a nice patch of blackberry brambles and chicken poo.  I sprained my left ankle, right knee and pinky finger in the process.  I got a nice scrape on my left elbow to compliment the bruising.  I’m pretty hobbled this morning. Getting old, sucks.  More on that another day.

One spooky incident stands out and has etched itself forever as a symbol of our Predator Spring.  At about 9 p.m. we were down to 4 renegade broilers still on the run.  Three were barred rocks, one was a Rhode Island Red.  They wanted to settle down in the falling darkness, but also didn’t want to be caught and have to join their comrades in the confines of the chicken tractor.  Three of them yielded to their sleepiness.  One ventured up the hill to the little stand of woods and brambles that separates our place from our neighbors.

As the little Rock disappeared into the underbrush, I begged him not to go.  I couldn’t chase him in there with darkness falling.  I’d never find him.  I assured him that only bad could come of his decision.

In less than three minutes, he screamed.  There was a moment of thrashing, then total silence.  Another dinner for our hidden menace.  The protagonist was probably an owl, though possibly a snake.  Whatever it was, it hunted in total silence.  The only sound at all came from the little, prodigal rooster.

As mentioned before, in March we began with 150 day old chicks.  Today we have 50.  We also lost 18 broilers along the way.  A handful of rabbits, too, found their way into the belly of the beast.  This spring has been like a bad horror movie.

B and I are radically changing some of our methods and we are putting a great deal of hope in the Livestock Guardian Dogs that will arrive in a couple weeks.  In the meantime, “Our Edible Suburb”, has taken on a whole new meaning.

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Duckweed Update

A few days back I described how we were experimenting with growing duckweed to use as Tilapia food in our upcoming Aquaponics system.  The summary version is, we got a teaspoon or so from our local Home Depot.  They were happy to give it to us just to get it out of their water garden.  I put it in a bucket of rainwater about 3 weeks ago.  Today I divided it into two containers.  I am using water from our rain barrels to keep the chlorine out of it.  So far the stuff is doing splendidly.  I will move it all to  a kiddie pool in June.  I’ve got it pretty well figured out, except for what to do in winter time.  I have time to get creative.  Since we have plenty of sunshine in our sunroom, my guess is, all I need to do is keep the water warm at night with an aquarium heater.  Time will tell.

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As regular readers and customers are well aware, we’ve had a tough spring with our chickens.  We had high mortality during the brooder period, we lost several to predators and we lost some in storms.  The result is, we have less than half the broilers than we planned.  To add insult to injury, they are growing slower than last year, too.

So, we are making some changes.  First, we are pushing our processing date back to June 25.  That will give the chickens a little extra time to get to market weight.  Secondly, we have ordered 60 more birds and will have  an autumn processing on September 24.  By doing so, we can make sure everyone who has pre ordered will get their orders filled even if part of the order is a little later than planned.  We’ll also have some birds in the fall for new customers and regulars who want a couple more before turkey season.

Prices are going up for the fall processing.  Feed costs pretty much demand it.  Fall chickens will be priced at $15.  They will, however, be larger the the June batch.  Pre orders for September are available now in our online store.

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