Friday, January 7, 2011

And last ...

...but not least: I've started to make my own cheese!
At the moment I'm using cow's milk and have successfully made Quark for my Christmas Stollen.
Next I'll be trying to make a Camembert, but I need to set up our old bar fridge as my cheese cave first.
And it'll be all in preparation for making my own tasty, yummy Goat's cheese. Once the goats actually give milk, that is of course.
Nothing quite as satisfying as learning to make something and it tastes better than the shop-bought stuff!
And that's it for today,

Goats seem to be doing fine, ducklings enjoying their small paddling pool, chicken cackling away in the distance and the bunnies lounging & eating! Add to that sunshine, a slight breeze and bird song and you've got a spot in Paradise.


Meds round Draft Blog Entry

Posted Today at 09:35 AM by pisa
In moments like these, I do wonder if I've taken on too much: this morning I did the rounds with meds: wormer for the chickens in their water, and then off to drenching the goats.
Despite me having only a small syringe, and squirting it into the back of their mouths 3 - 4 times, to get to appropriate dosage into them, they cooperated very nicely. I suppose having nuts in between helped. Now they have pink lips. And I'm wondering when and what to worry about, as the drench can potentially kill them!

Even though it's screwing with my head at the moment, everything is gearing me up to dispatching some of the livestock.
Bunnies first, the first four should be ready in a weeks or so. Anyway, they're getting done!

And then reducing the chicken numbers, selling and butchering. The last batch of chicks is now 8weeks, so they are half way there. Whether they like it or not.

Just as well we got a chest freezer recently.

6th January 2011

And the worries go on

Posted 6th January 2011 at 08:57 PM by pisa
Whatever made me believe that after getting the junior bunnies settled in their bigger run life would quieten down a bit?

I had made a list of all the animal things left to do, and it was only four.

So I started with the hen house and gave it a good clean: the ducklings have been squatting in there, and they are a messy bunch alright.

Next up, in between looking after the two-legged members of the family, I moved a hutch to a spot in the orchard: the new duck home. Dug a bit of area level for their paddling pool and then set about catching and moving them.
Fortunately they're a greedy bunch, and offering toast proved a winner.

Right, I thought, time for a cuppa and getting stuck into household chores. Peacefully reading emails and paying bills, til the phone rang and the vet told me the result of a FEC for our goats.
Panic again! But thankfully lots of members on this forum jumped, offered help and advice.
As the night descends, and I'm close to collapsing into bed, I rest assured that even though they haven't been drenched yet, but by tomorrow afternoon they will. And as they are frolicking around as if nothing is the matter, and particularly enjoyed the weighing part, due to nuts offered for cooperation, I'm going to try very hard NOT to worry over night. Rather get a good rest and cross whatever bridge comes tomorrow with renewed energy and brain capacity.

30th December 2010

Another busy day

Posted 30th December 2010 at 06:10 PM by pisa
After the bad weather we've had, the last two good ones meant full steam ahead with building projects:
getting the junior run for the bunnies sorted, which meant putting posts in, chicken mesh up and piling bricks along the inside perimeter to prevent straightout escapes from underneath the railway sleepers.

And after two days of hard slog, lots of advisory comments from OH ( because he's building our bedroom) I'm done and the juniors together with dad have moved to their new accommodation. First they were absolutely terrified at so much open space available, but by now they're chilling and enjoying the evening breeze, bird song and food ad lib!
Next on the agenda was cleaning the cages and pen up at the house and give mum and her 10 babies more space to move around. Two wheelbarrow loads of bunny manure later, modified entry steps and they are all out stretching their legs. Mum did a top to bottom inspection and then retired to the bottom level, and has even snuggled up to some concrete blocks, which keep them cool and provide hours of entertainment.

I'm absolutely shattered, sun burnt and the household is in a moderate state of disarray, but looking at the animals in their new surroundings makes it all worthwhile. I really didn't want to bring up our meat bunnies in the classic small cages. I know putting the meat on them will take longer this way, but it's all about ethical husbandry, and we want to ensure a breed appropriate environment as close to nature as possible. Without harming the environment as well.

For the next weeks, it should take at least 2-4 to get them to a reasonable weight, they will be doing the test run and we will find out what kind of "holes" we've forgotten.

But for now I enjoy watching a relaxed mum enjoying space to herself, the babies stretching their legs and jumping with joie de vivre and the older ones being classic teenagers and eat, drink and lounge around.

Next project: milking stand and after that a proper duck area with a self cleaning paddle pool. Yeah, right!

and a huge update in this one: 27th December 2010

General Update

Posted 27th December 2010 at 08:10 AM by pisa
it certainly has been one BUSY year here on the land.

This was the start of the baby invasion from hell/heaven:

Our doe decided 5 mins before leaving for pet day to start pulling out her tummy fur, so decided to keep her home and take the orphaned chicks instead.
Left her at 10:30am and came back at 2 pm to find 7, I think, babies in the nursing box!!!
She's sitting on the bottom level eating, is it alright for me to give the little ones a quick look over, as I'm leaving in a couple of hours?
I'm sitting here and occasionally letting of squeaks of joy!

Which was followed soon with this:
For the last few weeks I had been wondering whether all hens were always present, but had never done a serious head count!
So tonight I investigated a HUGE racket down by the hen house with a hawk hovering over it!
And there was proud first time mum with her clutch of.......................13!!
After a bit of chick wrangling they are temporarily set up in a run, with one of the bunnies' house as a little hidey place. Fortunately I'm already catering for a hen with chicks and got some crumbles, and boy were they hungry. They must be only 1-2 days old, and are still very wobbly on their feet.
And the ruckus they make, upsetting the two broodies sitting on ducks eggs immensely.
Oh well, I suppose I don't have to worry about my egg and roast supply!

And then this:
finally, 1-2 days too early, I checked on the hen, could hear something from the corner, not under her, and it's the first duckling.
At the moment I've got it sitting on a warm wet towel and will place it under the lamp. Anything else? And what if it comes right? Feeding and drinking like a baby chick?
Nature got there first, it died by itself.
Now what: of the remaining three two have pipped ( correct term?) the shell, and I can hear "chirping" from the third one. Shall i take them inside, or leave it to nature to sort itself out?
So far I haven't got a good average for hand raising, in fact only one of the emergency chicks taken in has survived.
But then again, this hen's batting average isn't too good either.
And the more often I check if they are ok the more it's going to disturb the hen!
Executive decisions i suppose are never easy, and I feel as if I'm in a lose-lose situation.
I went down to get them, OH and I had been debating, and he jokingly said, that I just wanted his "permission" to get them inside!
Anyway, another live one, and this time all intact. They are now inside, on a blanket under a lamp and Ive misted the eggs a bit. Both have holes and if I don't see any progress in the next 3-5 hours I might assist.
I had checked on them at 3pm and the eggs had only small holes, so the duckling must have done all the rest of the hatching in the last 3 hours.
Mrs. hen is not impressed, I took her of the nest, and now she's just sitting in the grass looking indignantly around her.
They make quite a different sound to chicks, and it fluffs up while it's quiet and as soon as it hears anything the feathers go all flat again.
oh, i soo hope I made the right decision.

which was followed up by this:
Finally, after quite a broken night, this morning, with assistance, the second duckling came out of the shell.
Looking like the first one, which is doing great. The first one already goes for water etc! I'm spraying the third one now, on and off, and slowly helping it to chip away the shell, but mainly just making sure the membranes don't dry out too much.
That video was excellent, but I have to get OH to help, this duckling is already tooo fluffy to do it on my own!

And then, to top it off, our doe ( rabbit) kindled and gave birth to 10 kits!!!
That was from an unplanned 60sec encounter with the Mr!!!!
I am soo surprised how she could handle that. Now she's back to eating like a horse.
Just as well we bought a freezer chest this morning.
All in a days work, for Mother Nature I suppose.

and then this:
36 hours later and I'm getting worried: they are still extremely wobbly on their feet, and two of them have started to make funny movements: they bend the head down as if to preen their tummy but never get their and their legs go all straight and flap. And they arch their back, and then they arch the other way, almost throw their heads onto their backs, and do a kind of Stevie-Wonder movement with their heads.
They "walk" on the haunches, which according to some info from the net they shouldn't. They are now 5-6 days old. The youngest one, which took the longest in hatching is still seeming normal, not falling over etc.
I just don't know how long to give them if/before euthanise them.
I've changed my tub arrangement: taken the paint tray out, and put two miniature feeder and bell drinker in, given them a short, lukewarm bath to clean the muck off, and a dry towel with a bit of hay under the lamp. At least they are not filthy looking anymore.

But it all turned out well:
I think this saga might have settled: I just put the three bigger ones in with the hen and the other three, and they immediately huddled together! And then seemed to do a headcount, and assume it's alright. I haven't seen her pecking them, but will keep checking throughout the day.
And the catastrophic hen that had been sitting on the duck eggs has taken over the thirteen chicks from that hen, as she has started to lay eggs now!!!
Talk about musical chairs in the chooky childcare world!
Anyway, all seem to be happy, and so am I!
More bunny cages now!

And then the grand finale for the end of the year:
Here are some pics of our girls, picked up today from Hawke's Bay.
Any advice on their condition is more than welcome.
They were born this year, and supposedly have started to come into milk!
They had been with a buck, but the owner doesn't think anything happened, as it was too hot and not enough feed on the paddocks.
They have been drenched, had their hooves trimmed and the horns cut. If I had known what that meant I would've asked them not to, but I assumed they meant debudding, like calves.
Hopefully in a years' time they will have regrown and look nice.

Soo excited, exhausted and just shattered,
Looking forward to school holidays and not having to worry about buses and lunch boxes

Well, that's what I thought:
I hate to admit it, but we've had the third escape this morning, and that certainly sealed their fate in my mind.
We caught them ALL, fortunately, and I will NOT risk that again. They're still just 1.5 kg, so from now on they are in lock up in the cage.
As I am fully aware of the environmental impact if they get loose, I had thought I could contain them in our set up til they are butchering size. But they have proven to be too smart for their own good, well to a point, they all kept hanging around the house, but that's it now. As good as it is for a morning exercise for the kids and me, and the novelty has worn off for them, I can do without the potential threat of having released a pest!
Our permanent set-up still needs to be cleared of an underground wasp nest, but that'll get under way today, and then it's just a half a days work to finish it.
It's interesting how everyone was telling I won't be able to go through with it, but having to grab them at any opportune piece of anatomy and holding fast certainly changed my hands' reluctance!
I'll be using the broomstick method like I do with the chicken, which is basically what kiwi303 described. So it'll be fast and not messy.
Will they be having spasms like chickens?
Next thing now, googling recipes.
beat me up for having started this and not fully thought out the set up properly.
I have learned my lesson, and they are securely behind lock now.
No more fluffying around with being Mrs. Nice Gal.

So, Boxing Day came and we were going to go to join the masses in spending our Christmas cash.
I turned the bunny enclosure into Colditz and chained up the dog in the courtyard , which they share, to eliminate anyone having a chance at escape. Came back and everyone was where they were supposed to be.
So far so good,
but in the early evening looking out of the kitchen window I noticed one of them trying to do the business!!!!!
Out in a flash , upside-downed him and checked. Yup, a BOY!
Closed the cage and took them out one by one: supposedly 7 girls are now 5 boys and two girls!
Which meant changing accommodation again:
dad spending time with his boys and the girls having dad's cage, and mum's cage getting secured with a cable tie over night.

Never a dull day with the animals.

So, hopefully this will be me for this year, I certainly feel like I've had enough excitement to last me for a couple at least.

Hope everyone will have a good New Year, and keep enjoying the lifestyle!

15th June 2009

Back to one rooster

Posted 15th June 2009 at 10:56 AM by pisa

Unfortunately I had to get rid of two more boys, one still to small to be a serious roast, but already causing major headaches in the hen house, and his dad, Chester. Pretty boy. Unfortunately pretty boy only had one thing on his mind, and that meant he wasn't looking after the girls at all. Just chasing them!

Now we're back to Rusty, and I hope that Chester's girl, Wynnie will move on quietly. I've coaxed her into the other hen run, and Rusty has acknowledged her, now she just will have to find her place amongst the others. Five hens that have been following Rusty in the bush to get away from Chester, two pullets, who are both laying and Wynnie, a good brooding hen.

I think from now on, NO chick will be named, and only girls kept.

And YES, as I had read somewhere, the more one does, the easier it gets. The act itself, no, but improvement of techniques makes it faster to get it over and done with.

This will be enough of murderous me for this year, we've got plenty of chicken soup and who knows what next spring will bring.

5th June 2009

And the next two...

Posted 5th June 2009 at 11:54 AM by pisa
are gone.
Hopefully it'll be a bit more peaceful in the hen house!

I finally got around to it this morning and did both of them. Still have to find a good way of stopping the wings flapping.

Anyway, skinned the first one, not too badly fortunately, and I can't believe how much faster the second one got done. Talk about steep learning curve! One is now in the stock pot, simmering away, and the second in the fridge.
Btw, the difference in meat colour between the two is very remarkable, one looks almost as dark as I imagine a rabbit might look like!

The lighter was a mix of Black Hamburgh/Orpington/Bantam

The darker one as above PLUS Silver Wyandotte

I'll try roasting it in a bag tomorrow, I want to be able to taste the meat.
If it tastes as good as it looks I'll have to get more Wyandottes in.

Discovering what they look and taste like is certainly another adventure.

5th May 2009

Chicken Roast

Posted 5th May 2009 at 12:41 PM by pisa
Just a copy and paste of my post, for my further reference.
As in the title I had to do the deed again, our cockerels are a menace to the hens and have to go.

The last time I did it, I used a Chinese cleaver with a VERY sharp blade, but still had to use 3 strikes to sever the head from the neck. Very traumatic for me, and the rooster couldn't tell me how he felt about it either.

So this time I investigated again, and came again to the conclusion a quick chop would have to be done. I still don't trust my hands to go through pulling the neck.

But this time I did a few things different, and even though the experience is still unpleasant, it went a lot better.

First: I put a baby sock over the roosters head, which kept him very quiet and spared me the sight of his eyes.

Second: a sharpened axe, as I figured the point-loading works better with a smaller slightly curved blade.

Third: as I have to do it on my own, I tied the feet AND the head to the saw stools under the chopping block. Kept him in position with the neck nicely stretched.

Fourth: started plucking within 5 mins of the kill and finished it while the body is still warm. SOOO much easier, didn't even have to use hot soapy water!

The bird is now hanging while it takes me to re-acquaint myself with the butchering techniques ( and have a cuppa tea!

Just thought I'd post again, as I find it always stressful, and browsing through the internet one can come across some very strange and gruesome stuff, but also very helpful, as the above blog!

PS: AND I'm sober, didn't need scotch to calm my nerves this time!

16th January 2009

And a second post ;-)

Posted 16th January 2009 at 09:19 AM by pisa
At this rate it will be a very slow blog , but here's the next entry:

The two first chicks turned into roosters, one made very good dinner

The second one, now named Chester and his dad had been fighting a lot and so we got him a couple of girls for his own, and he was very happy for a while, but: one went broody and the second one wasn't laying eggs, so he wasn't too interested anymore.

Meanwhile in the other run, another had gone broody and sat in the bush on a nest of 21 eggs!! Trying to arrange for a second hutch, and really bad weather turned that lot into a bit of a train crash: in total I got 3 chicks and lost the hen. She must have caught a virus and died. Another hen took over for the last week of sitting . And that hen is just a bit too casual looking after the chicks, she lost one!

Back with Chester: three feisty gorgeous chicks and him being good providing dad. Two weeks ago disaster struck again: one died suddenly and the second one is broody again and been sitting on eggs for 2 days now. Which is great as far as I'm concerned, but HE seems to be feeling lonely and not interested in his off spring

So he's hanging around the other hen run a lot

This morning, all of them, 2 roosters, 2 lots of chicks ( aged 4 weeks apart) and hens all in one run ! The older lot of chicks being careful, but not getting pecked, and now they have settled in the big tree over the run. I'm tempted to leave them all together, all the chicks can fly and it's totally free range.

The roosters still seem to fight, but I've just given up and will let them sort it out. Unless it gets to bloody!

The Silver Wyandotte hen is now on her second lot of eggs, my fourth lot since we've got chickens, and I'm getting over it . Still excited to see new chicks, but with our set-up I struggle to look after everyone properly!

We will need a bigger hen house and run if I want to raise chicks for our meat supply, so doing it this way has certainly taught me a lot, with hopefully no one for the worse off

That's it for today,
try to keep it short and sweet.

27th February 2008

My first blog here ;-)

Posted 27th February 2008 at 09:18 AM by pisa
Well, it has been a very interesting road traveled getting lifestock: chickens for starters.

This forum  has been an incredible source of information and helpful people. I certainly wouldn't have ventured into the next chapter without it:
getting a rooster and finding out what nature has in store for us.

Well, today it seems that it is going to be at least one chick. Out of two eggs that's not bad going I reckon. I'm too excited for words, almost like when I found out that I was pregnant.

New life, opportunities, challenges, and downfalls.

Even though I struggle sometimes with the isolation of country life, I love it to bits and wouldn't go back to the city for all the money in the world. Unless of course my family's health required it for some reason!

And that's another lovely thing about this forum, it's full of people that feel the same, are positive about their choices and happy to talk about it and to you!!

So, I'll leave at that for today, there will be more updates on the animals!!

First post

Well, a new year, and a new blog. Kind of.
RL had taken over all my spare time and my music blog is not getting any attention.
And just to show that I have not just sitting on my behind and getting fat, here's what's been happening out on the land.
So, for now, a kind of "copy&paste" to give you all a chance to catch up, and then hopefully new stuff as it happens, when it happens.

PS: the content might upset or disturb some people: it's about living in the country, with livestock, which is intended for eating. I'm learning to bring up animals the best possible way, for them, and face the fact that as a carnivore I have to kill to eat. If you feel you cannot cope with this aspect, you might want to stop reading here!