Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Holding a baby chick at Decorah Hatchery

I visited Nordic Fest in Decorah, IA last weekend, revisiting a place I have not visited for over 30 years a very long time.

A place that I have been able to trace my obsession with chickens all the way back to.

Old Decorah Hatchery sign

I have only 2 memories of the Nordic Fest - one, that it was always bloody hot, which meant that me and my sister, with our North Shore of Lake Superior cool climate bodies (read: a hot summer day would be, oh, 75 degrees) wanted nothing to do with the outside events, opting instead to meander from store to store in seek of A/C; and two - one of the stores that had A/C and also had baby chickens was the Decorah Hatchery.

Decorah Hatchery

Therefore, most of my Nordic Fest memories revolve around spending hours in the hatchery ogling the racks and racks of baby birds and eventually winning the trust of the shop keepers enough to be allowed to take them out and handle play with them.

Which of course led the way to my current collection obsession.


Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl writes about her chicken obsession

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Broiler chicken tractor

It was a big day for the broiler chicks today - they moved out of the brooders in the garage and into their new chicken tractor.

With a bit of Papa Bear's engineering skills, two five-gallon buckets were transformed into feeders and waterers.

5-gallon bucket turned feeder

Some PVC pipe, tubing and these poultry nipples will provide lots of clean, fresh water to the chickens every day.

Clean water system

The peeps seemed pretty happy with their new digs.

Chick at the PVC bucket waterer

Cheers -

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day old peeps - of a variety of breeds

Worse than a kid in a candy shop, I recently went on-line shopping on Ideal Poultry's website.

Our laying flock has reduced in size from the original 15 down to 11 (one of which is a rooster) which means we're only getting 6 eggs/day, some of which are bantam sized.  Not enough even for our typical breakfast much less baking or giving away (or selling).

{No need to limit our egg intake with these pastured poultry eggs loaded with Omega-3's!  Did you know the healthy fats in pastured eggs actually helps you preserve your eyesight and brain function?}

Day old Plymouth Rock pullet

Which is as good as an excuse as I ever needed to go shopping for more chickens.

Although you pay a premium to purchase them in ones and twos, I just couldn't help ordering two of this and two of that until suddenly I'd met their 25 bird minimum.

So, yes, ahem, we have 25 new laying chickens in the garage in an old stock-tank-turned-brooder.

Guinea keet day 1

We chose some new breeds and some beloved varieties - Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Americanas - all of which we have in our original flock; plus some Black Astralorps, Partridge Rocks; then a few more bantams since we love Frickin and Dixie so much - bantam Americanas, more bantam Silkies (this time white, black and partridge colored); and a 5-pack of 3 different varietes of Guinea keets to round it all out.

Yes, Mama Bear is in heaven right now.

Our broilers, which are only a week older, suddenly look ginormous compared to these itty bits of fluff.  This is our biggest day-old pullet, a Buff Orpington, next to a 7-day old broiler.

Broiler chick day 7 next to Buff Orpington day 1

The keets are really small, really fast, and really loud.  The adult birds can be QUITE obnoxious regarding noise but make good watch dog/birds and eat tons of ticks! 

But I think my new heart-melting peeps are these bantam partridge silkies.  I picked one up today and could not even feel it in my hand, it's so light.

Bantam partridge silkie chick

Then again, they all make my heart melt and I don't really have any favorites at this point.

I'm just in peep heaven.

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl writes about new peeps

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Serendipity Cheesecakes - first batch in the commercial kitchen!
After two months of red tape, applications, business plans and licenses, Papa Bear spent his first evening in the commercial kitchen in La Crosse tonight pumping out nearly 200 bite-sized cheesecakes from Serendipity Bakery.

Not only are they made from locally sourced, organic cream cheese and other gourmet ingredients, not only are they scrumpdilliocious, they are also Gluten-free and low sugar!

Filling the cake pans

Really, how could you say "no" to this type of guilt-free decadence?

The 8-hour night in the commercial kitchen was a hot and painful memory I'd rather soon forget, with us dropping into bed at 4:00am, but I am so proud of the work that my sweetie (pun!) has put into this endeavor and so excited for his new business!

Almost done!

So, what goes into a Serendipity cheesecake, you ask?

The cast of characters, in no particular order:

This sexy biker-slash-cheesecake-chef (or maybe, Organic Valley cream cheese):

Serendipity Cheesecakes in the making!

{Note the 20-quart industrial Hobart mixer in the background!}

Free-range chicken eggs (no, not from our flock - we're not allowed per the inspectors)...

Free-range chicken eggs

Xylitol (glycemic index of 7 compared to sugar's 40)...

Xylitol - low glycemic!

Soooooo Delicious regular flavor creamer (we often use this in place of milk or creamer, since it's coconut NOM)...

So Delicious creamer

Pure vanilla extract...

Pure Vanilla extract

Ghirardelli chocolate, which needs no introduction...

Chirardelli nom chocolate

A little love, a little magic, and a Woodsie popsicle stick.

Woodsies popsicle sticks

We sure hope we get a good crowd at the Cameron Park farmer's market in La Crosse this Friday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Baby chicks make me furiously happy

There are so many simple things in my life that make me furiously happy.

3-day old broiler chicks exploring a clump of grassy sod in their kiddie-pool brooder.

Barbed wire fence at dusk makes me furiously happy

Spending an hour at dusk capturing light with my new 50mm lens.

A surprise sun shower and a rainbow that ends over our Aistream camper.  (No pot of gold though, I checked).

Farmer's market flowers make me furiously happy

Farmer's market flowers in the last light of the day.

Grapes on our grapevine make me furiously happy

Grapes on our grapevine.

Super large thermometers make me furiously happy

A thermometer large enough I can read it from the kitchen window and can stop obsessively checking weather.com to see just how hot it is every other minute.  (We had a 3-day reprieve from the excessive heat when I snapped this photo, but the heat is baaacccckkkk).

A new rain guage makes me furiously happy

A new rain gauge.  It's bone dry, which does NOT make me happy.  But having one makes me feel like I really belong in the country.

Sleeping cats make me furiously happy

Sleeping cats, especially their paws.

A frozen peach after moving electric netting in 90-degree heat.

Making silly shadows makes me furiously happy

Making silly shadows in the back pasture.

Wet bandannas and a fan.

Crazy looking chickens make me furiously happy

Crazy looking chickens.

Happy kids make me furiously happy

A gathering of friends.

Happy sheep make me furiously happy

Happy sheep.

What makes you furiously happy?

Cheers - 
Gypsy Farmgirl writes about being furiously happy

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bird's nest in the tall grass

I have discovered several birds' nests over the last week.  It always surprises me to find nests when I am not looking for them.

Two like the one above were found in the uncut tall grass attached to these "brown sugar weeds" (sorry, I don't know their real name - does anyone out there?).

Bird's nest found in the hay feeder, now in a cubby on the sheep shed

One was in the old hay feeder.  I rescued it before feeding the sheep out there today and moved it to a nook on the old chicken-coop-soon-to-be-sheep-shed.

Bird's Nest flowers make me happy

I apologize in advance if this shot makes you feel dizzy or like you need a new eyeglass prescription. I was playing around with the aperture settings on my new 50mm lens.

I happen to love crazy bokeh but I'm not sure everyone does.  Luckily you all know how to scroll.

The flower above is Queen Anne's Lace, or "bird's nest" flower. See how the flower clusters make a cup like a little nest?

If you visit the link above make sure you scroll down and read the poem. I will never look at my wild pastures the same way again, I will now be thinking of dainty white laundry strewn all over!

What are you discovering in your own back yard these days?

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl writes about bird's nests

Friday, July 13, 2012

One of our 4 Blue Slate Turkeys

At 7:45am this morning, the Kendall post office called to say our order of chickens was ready for picking up.  I could hear them peeping in the background.


When I picked them up, the post master said "This batch is alive.  The last batch was all dead."

Um, yikes.  OK, well I'm glad they all made it!

On the drive home I could hear the chickens of course, but what made me smile the most was above the chicken noise I could also hear one of our 4 turkeys peeping, a very different peeping noise that starts low and rises in pitch and volume with each peep, usually in a string of 4: 

peep, Peep, PEep, PEEP!

Our very first batch of 63 Jumbo Cornish Cross broilers (meat chickens) and four Blue Slate turkeys from Cackle Hatchery have now taken up residence in a kiddie-pool-turned-brooder.

Kiddie Pool Brooder

Papa Bear in all his awesomeness whipped up a PVC waterer that will allow us to water them via 5-gallon buckets, rather than constantly cleaning out those smaller chicken water fonts that they get filthy dirty in about 2 minutes.

I was worried they wouldn't catch on to the new watering system but I needn't have.  Those tiny drips of water hanging off the poultry nipple were awfully enticing, and soon a whole crowd of peeps were drinking eagerly.

Jumbo Cornish Cross using poultry nipple waterer

I could sit and watch day-old chicks all day long.

But alas, there were 300 bales of hay to pick up from the field, and a crew already hard at work.  So I left the peeps in the garage and headed to the hay field.

Blue Slate Turkey settling into the kiddie pool brooder

Hard to believe these tiny chickens will be ready for harvest in 8 short weeks.  I'm not sure I like that actually, in order to breed in all that fast-growing breast meat, this breed tends to have lots of physical problems ranging from leg issues to heart attacks.

We hope to mitigate these issues through extraordinary management techniques including getting these little chickens on pasture by 3 weeks of age, where they will be moved every day to new grass and have plenty of green grass, sunshine and bugs to help keep them healthy and happy until harvest.

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl writes about baby chicks and poults

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shave, mani & pedi - no charge!

I am so sore tonight I can barely type this post.

All day yesterday and today, we sheared lambs.  You'd think we had a flock of hundreds.  But no, we sheared exactly 4 yesterday and 4 today.  If you missed my last lamb shearing post, click here for a recap.

We're not professional shearers.  We don't even shear sheep the way you're supposed to - by parking them on their butts and standing over them to shear.

Papa Bear cleaning up post-shearing with scissors

We tie them out and lay them down on their sides like an alpaca. It takes us about 20-30mn per lamb.  We don't rush.  There is no need to rush, as we already know we are only doing 4 today.

Then we take a short break in between shearing, being just the two of us, we have to do all the different tasks so it takes a bit longer than if we had more people assembled for the task.  (Although we did have help from August, above, for awhile yesterday - and he did great!)

So after the shearing, we weigh the newly shorn lamb.  This involves a bathroom scale and a strong back.  I think I sprained something for this shot.

Next are treats for the lamb - some alfalfa pellets dusted with herbal wormer which he gobbles up while we gather up the fleece - good fleece on one bag, dirty/soiled fleece in another. And Papa Bear changes out the combs/cutters on the shears.  And we both take a few sips of water and some iced coffee.

Ewe look marvelous darling!

And then bring in the next lamb for its day at the spa.

After shearing all four, it is time (past time) for lunch.  So we take a lunch break.  We're not moving any too quick by now, and we're only halfway done with the day's tasks.

After lunch (and more iced coffee) it is time to trim hooves and check for hoof rot, something we've been struggling to get under control ever since we bought these lambs from an Amish farmer last spring.

Thankfully, many of the hooves we've been treating over the summer have healed; unfortunately, several of the hooves that used to be clean now have rot.

Yes sir, yes sir, 13 bags full.

So we park the lamb on its butt and trim all the extra hoof away and as much rotted stuff as the lamb can stand.  Then we dip all 4 hooves in iodine (using an empty salsa jar works great).

By the time we finish trimming hooves and lead the shorn lambs back to the pasture to rejoin their flock, it is dinner time.

As PB works on heating up dinner, I do last rounds for the day - checking on the laying hens, the two alpacas and topping off the lamb's water.

When we sit down to eat, outside on our cement patio in the shade, there is much gratitude - not only for the strength to finish the days' tasks with able bodies, but also for the good food and for the chance to sit down and rest after a hard days' work.

Tomorrow I will ache.  But I will rest easier tonight knowing all of my lambs are shorn and will be cooler for the rest of the summer, helping them to gain well and stay healthier.

And knowing that we are doing our best to be caretakers and shepherds of this tiny flock, entrusted to us even if only for such a short time.

Blessings - 

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