Friday, September 28, 2012

Fodder Ahoy!

Time to start sprouting grains again and feeding fodder to the ruminants! Hay is downright expensive this year, my pasture is bare, and the animals are eating a bale of hay a day! Eeek! Time to start giving them a second choice to hay, and see about cutting the ol' feed bill. 

I think I'll pick up some more trays at Wilco tomorrow and some whole barley or wheat too... With luck I'll get those sprouts a'sproutin by nightfall! 

And maybe I'll actually remember to take pictures this time?!?!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Made Pie With Them

Basic Broiler Challenge: Week 1

The Freedom Ranger chicks are 1 week old now! So far so good on things; I haven't lost any chicks and these little birds are really surprising me with their high activity level. Their feed is still just chick starter, but I've also been introducing them to some soft cheese and some chopped grass. Both foods were heartily eaten by all. :)

You'll notice in the pictures that the birds have their wing feathers in now, and they're juuuuuuuust starting to get those silly tail feathers in. 

New to the blog and wondering what I'm talking about? You can read about the BBC (Basic Broiler Challenge) by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Changes Complete

Okey dokey everyone! The changes around here appear to be complete! You may have noticed that I finally have a header up once again... It's been driving me crazy not having one. I also changed my profile picture, and updated all the pictures on my sidebar. Hows it look on your side of the screen?

Of Sheep and Shepherds

As always, the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (AKA, "OFFF") was *awesome*. I wasn't sure at first if I would get to go this year but some fellow spinners/knitters offered to let me catch a ride with them up to Canby, so I got my day among sheep and shepherds after all!

The pictures will mostly speak for themselves today, although I do have a bit of commentary for a few of them...

The main hub and happening. Vendors, buyers, and crafters in one single spot!

This Border Collie... Oh dear me. She was such a sweet heart that I plunked myself down right next to her and had a grand visit. It's been awhile since I've gotten any "dog-time" and I had forgotten just how much I missed having a canine around. She kinda' made something stir in me and made me wonder if a Border Collie would be better than an English Shepherd... Hmmm.

 Now, a few blog posts ago I put up a picture of my not-so-dainty stack of sheep books and in the comments one of you dear readers asked me what breed I was thinking about when I do someday get my own flock. I replied to the comment saying that Texels were my ideal ovine. I like those chunky sheep... Good meat and good wool in one efficient, baaing package. The problem though, was that I figured I was going to have to ship the stock in from Idaho and possibly even VA. I couldn't find any breeders here in Oregon! While meandering through the sheep barn at OFFF, what do I see? A big sign that loudly declared the farm name of 'Distracted Acres'. And what kind of sheep do they have? Take a look on the left hand side of that sign below!

TEXELS!?!? You mean to tell me that there's a farm not 30 minutes away from me that has Texel sheep??? After picking my jaw up off the floor and brushing bits of straw off of it, I scoured their little area. Alas, there weren't any Texels in the flesh right then and there, but they had brochures, business cards, and Texel wool. That was enough to satisfy me for the day. :) 

Border Leicester

Border Leicester wool

Another surprise in the barn was that someone had brought honest-to-goodness Merino sheep! It's rare to see these woolly mammoths here in the Pacific Northwest since it's so damp here (which wreaks havoc on the Merino's feet and wool). But there they were... Adorable, wrinkly faces and sublime wool standing right in front of me. Yes, I did have one moment of thinking, "Texels, or Merinos? Merinos, or Texels? Which should I choose?" But it was just one moment. ;) I've heard Merino sheep are terrible when it comes to meat. Maybe I could just get one Merino wether though... Seriously, those wrinkly faces get me every time and I just wanted to kiss that cute face on the ram! LOL. 

Merino ram

Merino sheep

The Jacob sheep were there as usual and I smiled and sighed over them. I've had a long-term crush on this breed on account of their spotted fleeces and their 4 horns. But it's just not a big enough carcass and not a heavy enough wool clip for what I need. Sigh. I could get a wether of this breed too, right? ;)

Jacob Sheep

It wouldn't be right of me to forget the goats now, would it? For some reason, angora goats just ain't my cup of tea, but I do enjoy looking at them. :) 

Okay, so below is a quick collage I slapped together and it's all the same Romney sheep. Isn't he just ADORABLE???? Look at that face! He looked like an oversized, overstuffed teddy bear that just begged to be hugged. The Merino might get the kiss, but this fella totally gets the hugs. Just looking at him makes me want a whole flock of huggable Romneys. I know, I'm so horrible when it comes to sticking to ONE breed of sheep. Can't I just have them all?

The weather was perfect that day (couldn't have been better if ye had ordered it from Eatons!), I saw old friends, talked with shepherds about their ovine trade that they ply, and almost bought a shepherd's staff to bring home. It wouldn't fit in the car though, so I had to leave it behind. Bummer. The goats sure ain't leaving, and the cows are definitely here to stay, but I think it's getting time to add sheep to this crazy mix. Sheep and a good dog... Yep, that would just about do it.

The winking wether

Well I'll Be...

The little icon above kinda' says it all; I got featured over at Gnowfglins "Down Home Farm Tour"!!!

You can read the little article by clicking HERE

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Just A Peek...

Sheep, Shepherds, and a Barn Dance!

I am so excited for today that I can hardly stand it! In thirty minutes I will be on my way to the annual Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival to spend my day among sheep and shepherds. The camera is coming with me, of course. ;) Once I get home this afternoon, I will scurry into some clean clothes and leave yet again for an evening barn dance at a friend's place! Eeek!!! A friend and farm patron is doing the evening milking for me tonight so I am as free as a bird on this fine, first day of autumn and I am going to relish every moment of today...

First stop, SHEEP!!! :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Freedom Ranger Chicks!

Yesterday afternoon the post office called to say that a cardboard box full of chirping critters had arrived at their building, and MY name was on the box! Whoop, whoop, the chicks are here!!!

Thirty minutes later, all 26 of my new fluff balls were safely installed in their brooder....

So far, I like these birds. :) They're not so sluggish as the Cornish X chicks usually are, but they're not wired and crazy like the laying pullets are. Maybe it's just my imagination though. 

And I even got a video of the little peepers for y'all! I know, I'm so good. ;)

Umm, Surprise!

Soooo, you've noticed the change, haven't you?

I was going to give you guys some forewarning about some blog changes. Honest I was! But while scrolling through possible templates I just loved this background aaaaaand then I had to try it out on the blog to see how I liked it... You can probably see where this is going.

 So yeah. I did some wallpaper changing around here, AND I even dusted the corners of this ol' place! ;)

Now, I would love to hear feedback from y'all! Do you like it? Yea, nay? I'd love to hear from you on what attracts you when you visit a blog; what appeals to your eye when blog surfing? Large pictures? A solid-colored background? A profile picture of the actual human instead of a goat? [hehe]

 I probably can't make everyone happy about the changes on here, but I'd sure love to make MOST of you happy. I'm going to start working on getting my banner up next week (Google is giving me a run for my money in getting some more storage space!) as well as cleaning out the sidebar a bit, and *wonder of wonders*, the goat picture on the profile is leaving and there will be a picture of ME on there! And yes, even my head will be showing! 

So critique away, my friends! Do my pictures load too slowly? Do I not blog enough about something you are dying to read about? This is also a good time if you have blog topic suggestions that you'd like to hear about. :) 

Changes, changes... The Baptist in me doesn't necessarily care for change, but I'm trying to get used to it. [wink]

Up For Grabs

After much thought, hemming, and hawing, I've decided to post this year's prize kid up for sale.

Goat Song's Chad Gadya is a purebred, 8 week old, CAE/CL negative, Nubian buckling who would be excellent for anyone who wanted to improve their dairy goat herd (or put more milk in their meat herd). Chad has a stellar pedigree that boats lineage of Saada, Prairie Fire, J&R, Kismet, Lotus Ladies, and My-Enchanted-Acres. If you're familiar with Nubians then you'll know that these are TOP bloodlines that are sought after by serious breeders and showmen. His dam is a 3rd freshening doe who is very stylish and correct, as well as a lovely milker who peaks at 10-12 lbs. (8 lbs. = 1 gallon) a day.

Chad Gadya is EXACTLY what I was hoping for in this cross between Ivy and Bob (who's real name is Cheveyo). This little guy got the style of both parents, the high, sharp withers and tight shoulder assembly from his dam, and that beautiful topline/rump from his sire!! His sire has 2,000 lbs. of milk behind him, and his dam has over 2,000 lbs. on her side. In short, this fella' will put MILK on his daughters!

Price is $200 unregistered. $300 if you want him registered with ADGA.

If you're interested in coming out and seeing him, you can email me by clicking HERE.


At last! My internet connection is back! Hallelujah! It dissapeared this morning around 7am, and I have hardly known what to do with myself without being able to blog or -- anything!

So, assuming the internet connection stays put, I will do some posts tomorrow, seeing as it's already late and I hear my bed calling me... LOL. Stay tuned for blog changes, random muses, pictures, and Freedom Ranger chicks! Yes, they came this afternoon!! :)

Toodle pip and cheerio, my dears; I'm hopping to bed now... ;)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Do You Mean, "You're Getting Suspicious"?

I don't know what you guys are talking about... I don't see any theme here. ;)

In the "book box" this week...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Beautiful Bird

So for all my "practical-ness" (and if that's not a word, then I have just made it one), I do have one streak that is decidedly unpractical. I firmly believe that sometimes you just have to have things are are otherwise useless, save for the fact that they are "pretty".

A good example of this fact is that I have been enamored with a breed of chicken for a couple of years now that most people would not want on their farm.

This bird does not lay very many eggs, it's a horrible meat bird, you couldn't use the term "dual purpose" around it without smirking, and you wouldn't dare keep a rooster of this breed around any other male of the chicken race.

To speak plainly, dear readers, I have fallen in love with a bird that has been bred for cockfighting.

Please meet the Pumpkin Hulsey.

Original source of photo unknown
In person, these birds are stunning. They are the color of fire and coal with smoldering browns in betwixt. They have been bred for one purpose and one purpose only: to fight and to win. They have speed, intelligence, and strength. And they are unbelievably rare.

Their color is what first got me... I loved the autumn hues that they have! Then their history intrigued me... And then finally their rarity got me hook, line, and sinker. I wanted a pair of these birds by the name of Hulsey.

So I began a long, long search... I followed uncountable rabbit trails, met dead ends, skulked poultry forums, sent emails, and then finally ducked into the murky depths of the underground world of cockfighting. If anyone would know where I could find a pair of Pumpkin Hulseys, it would be a cock fighter. Now, I didn't actually know that cock fighting was still something that happened today when I first set out on this adventure. I thought it was something of the past; you know some deep dark secret of our nations history that ended when some PETA member had a conniption about the shebang. Turns out it's still alive and kicking if you know where to look. ;) And wowee did I ever learn a lot! Apparently fighting birds have pedigrees of their own that can put a goat pedigree to shame. Purists of this underground world rigorously keep each bloodline pure, and will aggressively protect the lineage of their prized fowl. What I thought was a simple question of wondering where to get a Hulsey, turned into a long-winded discussion on which exact bloodline I was looking for in that breed. Ummm, yes? Can't someone just point me in the general direction of a good looking bird? Cockfighters shook their head 'no'. 

But before I go any further, I would like to state extremely clearly here that I have NO INTENTION OF COCKFIGHTING with birds of my own. Nope, it's not my thing. I love the Pumpkin Hulseys, but I flat out refuse to have any fights breaking out on the property with these birds. 

That being said, it really did intrigue me to see what level of care cockfighters will put into their birds. And I thought I spoiled my goats... Alas, all I found in that contraband ring were a couple of breeders who offered to sell me a pair of Hulseys for the price of $1,000. Ouch. Back to the old drawing board...

Then, wonder of wonders, Greenfire Farms (whom I have a very high respect for!) suddenly listed Pumpkin Hulseys on their website and even had juvenile birds for sale!! The price was still a bit steep, $100 for a pair, but that's a heck of a lot cheaper than One Grand. Weekly budgeting showed that spending $100 for a pair of "useless" birds was out of the question... Sigh. Couldn't this be like a late birthday present to myself? Or an early Christmas present? The checkbook didn't waver under these pleas. There are 2 cows and 10 goats to feed, no you do not have a spare one hundred greenbacks just laying around. Maybe I should ask the tooth fairy for a raise... Hmm. 

But still, the thought and hope of getting some Hulseys has been haunting the back of my mind. As I was writing this post, I hopped over to Greenfire Farms and what do you think I saw? They took the Hulseys off their website. Grrrr! So now I really am back to square one!

I could be doing so many things with my life right now, but for some reason I'm hunting for a bird that can only be called "pretty". Sounds about right.

Friday, September 14, 2012

So Close, Yet So Far

Oh the torture! I just learned that the 2012 National Sheepdog Finals are being held here in Oregon, but it's too far south for me to go! I've been watching the Finals for a couple years now via the internet and I've always wanted to see this live. That's just cruel knowing that it's finally in my neck of the nation but it's still too far for me to go. Grrr.

A Wee Bit Quiet

I'm sorry for the silence guys... I was just beginning to get back into my daily-blogging groove, wasn't I? Everything has been fine over here, life has been great. :) Half of my family is out of state until Sunday, so I've been busy taking care of the other half that's still here. So the blog posts have been thin as I balance farm life, inside chores, and keeping kids who are knee-high to a grasshopper entertained. It really wears you out, let me tell ya'... To all you ladies who are mothers who take care of kids while feeding chickens or tending a milk cow, you have my utmost respect. ;) I don't see how you manage to do it all, but my hat is off to you! 

I've also come to realize that I am quite a camera snob... One of my sisters took the Canon Rebel T2i with her (obvious reason there... We don't go out of state very often!), and I got left with *gasp* the old Canon 10D. Oh boy... I didn't realize how spoiled I had gotten with the T2i until I hauled out that 10D. I've been wanting to take pictures for the blog and get some videos of me playing the strumstick, but the 10D does not take videos, and I haven't had the heart to use it to take pictures yet... I know I should though. Just dust off the old fossil and use it for the week. Sigh. I'll have to see what I can do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Which Do You Listen To?

For as many people who feel that you are being reckless and foolish, there is an exact equal amount of people who feel you are being rational, logical, and following your dream. Which do you listen to?

I have flour on my hands, an apron over my clothes, and a half-made blackberry pie sitting on the kitchen counter right now, but this thought came to me while rolling out dough and I just had to write it down before I forgot it. There have been so many fears and falterings in my heart lately, I've been feeling torn between two sides of life. Some say I'm a fool, others say I'm a hero. I'm not necessarily sure that I'm either of those, but rather something in the middle. But is that a good thing?

Off I go now, to finish the pie and finish mulling over these thoughts. :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ain't I Pretty?

Ha. Okay so the title is written tongue-in-cheek, and with a heavy load of sarcasm wreathing it.

Today I look like I got in a fight with someone. My left hand is swollen, my palms are torn up, and I have a whopper of a bruise on my left eye, complete with broken skin here and there. No it hasn't completely swollen shut yet, but I'm waiting for it to. 

Believe it or not, I was actually NOT fighting with someone (but hey, don't mess with me when I'm mad, and don't say anything negative about raw milk in my presence. Just a warning. LOL.). The plan was simply to put my goats over on the neighbor's property this morning. Simple and quick. You would think I would have learned by now that goats go by contraries. If you want them to stay put, then you need to make them think that you want them to escape. But then, they would probably just escape anyway...

So you're probably getting pretty close by now in guessing that the goats did NOT stay in their brand new pasture where I put them. You'd be right too. I had all five girls on leashes (correction: Lily and Ivy, the two ring leaders, were on halters so I could handle them), we somehow managed to get across the road in one piece, and two of the goats were put in the new paddock when chaos erupted. Lily and Ivy suddenly decided that they would rather be in their old, barren pasture more than anything else in the world, so they ducked through the electric fencing and bolted. 

Jupiter, Trigun, and Metty followed suit and began scrambling back towards the road, leaving me with almost 1,000 lbs. of panicked goat in my hands. I honestly thought I was going to leave plow marks in the ground from my heels. After going 20 feet I managed to heave the girls into a halt (just call me SuperWoman) and then I had to figure out what to do next. Noticing that Ivy's leash had gotten caught beneath her front, left leg, I leaned across Lily to fix the problem and prevent possibly injuries. Lily was wound up, frantic, and fed up with everyone and everything. as I leaned over her, my face parallel with her's, she flung her head back and CRACK! The back of her hard skull hit the side of my face. I don't remember what happened next, or how I even got them back to the barn. I don't think I did any swearing but one can never tell. ;) I just remember wanting to put my hand to my face but couldn't since I had leashes and lead ropes wound all around them. The girls had pulled the ropes so tight that it was cutting my hands and it felt like my pinky finger was broken. 

Once we were back in the barn pen, I let the girls go, leashes and all, and sat down on the straw littered floor; holding my hand to my face. Who knew such a small animal could give such an impact? After a few minutes to calm everyone down (including myself) I unleashed everyone, fumbling horribly in the dark building and trying to only use one eye to see. 

I came inside and looked in the mirror... Wow. It's an impressive mark that Lily gave me. I groaned as I remembered that I have someone coming tomorrow for a farm tour. This is going to be loads of fun telling them that my sweet and gentle milk goat just about made me need plastic surgery. Hehe. Thank heavens it's only Monday; maybe my war wound will be gone before Sunday comes around. It's one thing to tell one person why you look like you've been in guerrilla warfare, it's a whole 'nother thing to tell it to an entire church.

So the goats are back in their old pasture now. Maybe I need a stronger fence charger? It's tempting to invest in a monster like THIS CHARGER, which has 10 joules. Now THAT just might keep a goat in. Over here on our property, I have a charger that is only 2.5 joules and you can hear it pop from across the property when a goat accidentally touches it (you can also hear them yell when they touch it!). I can't imagine what a 10 joule charger would do... 

But after today's adventure, I was just about ready to put $2,000 worth of goat meat in the freezer. I'm sure I'll laugh about this soon enough, but today it ain't funny. 

Goats... Gotta' love 'em.

Oh, and NO, you do NOT get to see a picture of my war wound. Nope, no pictures of this farm girl until my black eye heals up. ;)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In The Book Crate This Month...

I honestly don't know how I manage to find time to read all of these books... But somehow I do!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Change of Plans

Hehe, so the chick's arrival has just been moved to the 20th-21st. I just realized that most of the family will be in Texas next week when the chicks would have been coming, and seeing as I can't drive yet, nor can I run to the post office, I had better postpone their arrival until there is someone here who can fetch them for me. ;) 
Oh the inconveniences of not having a driver's license of one's own yet...

Next Week!

The Freedom Ranger chicks were ordered yesterday morning, and they are scheduled to arrive sometime between the 13th and 14th of next week! Whoohoo!

 Today I'm working on making cheese for the chickies... You would not believe how much milk I have in the fridge right now; I can't even get this morning's milk to fit in there (it's currently in a cooler filled with ice water). So I'm putting it to good use, and will put the cheese and whey in the freezer until the chicks are ready for it. :) 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Apple Blossom

After just idly fiddling around with my beloved Strumstick for entirely too long now, I have now dusted it off, tuned it up and am getting down to business with this instrument. I'm getting serious with this little box of music, and by golly I'm determined to learn some old fashioned mountain music on it this Fall! 

First song? Apple Blossom. :) I've always liked this song and the Strumstick and I decided that it would be our first. Who knows, maybe after mastering some songs on this little whizbang, I'll buy a fiddle this winter...

The New Chicken Tractor

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Basic Broiler Challenge

Ever since we butchered our 100+ Cornish Cross broilers back in July, I've had a hankering to try an experiment. Those birds were so horribly expensive to feed that I found myself throwing my hands in the air and wondering aloud, "Isn't there some other way to do this!?"
I paid over $700 just to buy feed for those chickens and we still ran out before their 8 weeks were up. Granted, it seemed that something wasn't quite right with this batch and they ate more than my broilers usually did, and I'm sure it didn't help that Heidi would break in to the chicken tractors and eat the feed when I forgot to lock the goats in a different pasture.

But still, $700 to feed 110 chickens? At first, we thought we were going to have to butcher our broilers at 10 weeks of age. By 6 weeks the heaviest bird was only 4 lbs. and the others were woefully behind that. I was panicking, almost out of feed, and was afraid I was indeed going to have to keep the chickens for 4 more weeks before butchering them. I had enough grain to last a week and a half; didn't know what to do after that. I promised my customers that the chickens would only receive organic, no-soy, no-corn, no-GMO feed and that was a special order from a mill that I lived two hours away from. If I was going to buy more, then it had to be in a 1/2 ton increment. Ouch. 

So I did what any frantic, crazy, desperate farm girl might do: I improvised. I had a lot of extra milk in my fridge, and I had organic wheat sprouts that the cow decided she did not want to eat (picky cow... Mutter, mutter, mutter). So the chickens dined on raw, organic cow milk straight from the cow, and fresh wheat sprouts!

Guess what happened? We had to butcher the birds early. Those chickens grew so fast on the milk-and-sprout diet that we butchered at 7.5 weeks!!! 

That experience left me wondering if I could do that again... So maybe the Cornish Crosses wouldn't do so well on a diet that was strictly "homegrown" but what would happen if I used a less hybridized breed and used simpler and more basic ingredients? If you look at the ingredient list of broiler feed, you'll read an amazing array of stuff like wheat, oats, barley, triticale, flax, camelina, alfalfa, corn, soy, fish meal, middlings, and who knows what else! If we were to try and hand mix our own feed this would cost a small fortune (trust me, I've tried it!). Why not just use a couple ingredients and really try to keep it simple? I know it's all about protein, as I have to deal with that when I mix feed for my dairy animals, but do I really need all 8 grains listed above, or could I use just one or two? 

This thought process has turned into what I am calling "The Basic Broiler Challenge". I want to simplify things a bit, try and get that cost down and just create a literal "basic broiler". Let's go back to the basics folks.

My thought here is to try using the Freedom Ranger meat broiler, which grows better than your heritage breed, but it's not so "Frankenstein-ed" like the Cornish X's. Sure there are other breeds like the Freedom Ranger, but I think I'll start with these guys for the first round of the Challenge.

 Feed wise, my secret weapons are the same as used earlier in the summer: raw milk and sprouts. But I'm taking this a bit further... I have a lot of extra milk right now and I'm tired of seeing it go to waste, so I'm going to use different dairy products for the chickens to make sure that they get the high protein that they need. Homemade cheese, whey, yogurt, and whole milk will be the crux of this. Grain wise, I'm sticking with barley. I'll sprout it which turns into 18% protein feed (and this chickens go berserk for this!) as well as rolled barley that's been soaked in whole milk. 

Why barley? I've chosen barley because #1 it has the most Total Digestible Nutrients of all the grains. And #2, it is a very easy grain to grow. If this Challenge works, I would love to try growing my own plot of barley so that this becomes a sustainable project. In the long run I want this to be more than Basic, I want it to be Sustainable. 

I think for this first round I will also feed fish meal and kelp meal. I know those go completely against the sustainable thing I just spouted about, but I'm not going for perfection on this first try. If I feel that the birds need more protein than my milk and barley can supply, then I'll supplement with fish meal. The kelp meal is to provide vitamins, minerals, and all those other goodies that the birds will need.

The plan is to start the chicks out on organic chick starter from Q-Bar Farm (a great local mill); once they hit 3 weeks of age, they'll be put in the chicken tractor and start gleaning bugs as part of their diet. Once they're around 4-5 weeks (not entirely positive on age yet) they'll be switched to their milk/barley diet. The Freedom Rangers grow slower than the Cornish X's and take 9 to 11 weeks before reaching slaughter weight. I'm okay with that though. 

It's already September now, so I've been thinking on putting my order for the chicks in soon; maybe this week, maybe next week. I'm only going to get 20-25 for this trial batch, but I think that's a decent number. I plan on tracking growth rates, weight gains, and health records on the birds to see how it all pans out in the end and the results and pictures will be shared here on the blog. 

Anyone else want to join in and try this with me? There's certainly room for experimentation here and if you don't have a blog of your own then you can email your pictures and updates to me and I can post them here. I have no idea if this will work, but I'm hoping it will and now it's time to see if will work or not.

So get ready folks. The Basic Broiler Challenge is fixin' to start!