Friday, October 30, 2009

Feathers feathers everywhere.

Yes, I am still alive! I have been spending a lot of my time away from the farm at craft shows this fall. Finances have dictated that I redouble my efforts to boost income this year, so nearly every weekend from now into December is booked solid. I will be in Ottumwa, Iowa this Sunday. This is a new venue for me so it will be fun to see some new faces. The 14th of November, I will be in Dubuque, Iowa. The 22nd takes me to Iowa City. Thanksgiving weekend I will be in Rock Island, Il. Lastly, I will be back in Des Moines on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of December.
Last weekend I was In Cedar Falls, Iowa, along with 350 other vendors at the UNI dome. This is a huge show that I do every year and it is always a lot of fun. Exhausting, but fun.

Enough about me, lets talk chicken.
I wanted to show you how big the Easter-Egger chicks have gotten since I last posted about them. OK, this photo is not exactly painterly, but I just wanted to point out one of the things that I love about the Easter-Eggers...the wide array of colors and patterns in their plumage. Since they are bred for the blue-green egg color and not for conformity to any breed standard, it is always a surprise to see what color combinations you end up with.
As of yet unnamed chicken.
'Black Beard'........yeah, when you have 60 chickens we'll see how good you are at coming up with names!
'Robin'....'cause she looks like...ummm, a Robin...only blue.
And while we are at it, here are some other girls that you may remember. They arrived here earlier this summer and I sneakily used some broody hens as foster moms to raise them. Incidentally, there is a huge difference (in my flock anyway) between the chicks that were raised by foster moms, and the chicks that we 'hand-raise'.....or as we like to say, 'raise in the swimming pool'. Let me rephrase that-raised in a wading pool filled with wood shavings...that is a much better visual. I digress. The chicks that we raise in the pool every year are so much more friendly that my experimental foster babies. So friendly, in fact, that they fly onto my head every time I walk into the coop and want to ride on my shoulders as I do chores. It's not always a good thing, especially if I am not dressed in poop-proof clothing. I'm just sayin', it's what happens. Also it is not nearly as cute when they are full grown and want to go for shoulder rides.

Here is one of the Barred Rocks from the summer batch.

My Blue Cochin pullet.

As I mentioned earlier, I have about 60 hens right now, so one might think, 'hey that's a lot of eggs'. Unfortunately, that is not the case, my hens are moulting. When chickens moult ( lose their feathers and grow new ones), they stop laying eggs temporarily until the new feathers are all grown in. Moulting, in combination with the shortening daylight hours, has really taken a toll on egg production. I have been gathering about 8 eggs a day. Eight. 8. E.I.G.H.T. 60 hens. Eight eggs. Many egg producers put artificial lighting in the coops to keep the hens laying throughout the fall and winter, I don't bother with that, I just allow them to have a little rest and do what their bodies are telling them to do naturally...but, seriously girls, this is how you reward me? EIGHT?

I neglected to get any full-body pictures of the hens with their tattered, moulting feathers, but Charles Bronson is moulting as well, and although he looked much worse at one time, he will demonstrate the improved version of the look. Really there aren't many things uglier than a moulting chicken.....maybe a wet cat.

Here Charles models his Rastafarian beaded dreadlock look.

And a close-up of new pin feathers poking through.

Sorry....too much?

By the way, I have a friend who desperately "needs" a Mottled Houdan rooster (standard size). REALLY, it's not for me. If anyone has one........

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Four girls for every boyyy.

It's that time of year again, love is in the air and all the sheepies have turned to thoughts of romance....errr lust. Last weekend my two rent-a-rams arrived and there has been a lot of wanton gazing across the pastures....well, at least on the boys end of the pasture. So far the ewes don't seem too terribly far. Since I am a wimp and don't like lambing in the cold, I will not be putting the boys in with their respective harems until the middle of November-that will give me mid-April lambs.

Rent-a-ram #1. This is Gilroy, he will be getting 4 least this is the plan at the moment, I could change my mind, possibly several times, between now and the middle of November.
Gilroy has amazing single-coated fleece that is super-fine and soft. He also has really nice conformation, a wide rear and tiny little tail...things that some of my ewes can use improvement on. He also has an awesome, wide horn set...something else I have been working on in my flock. And, of course, he is spotted and we all know how I feel about spots.

Gilroys it stands now...subject to change, of course...
Halley (F3 Dillon) gulmoget..the one in the foreground of the picture..with the attitude. Halley has intermediate fleece, it is soft and crimpy, but I am hoping that using Gilroy on her will help shorten the fleece in her lambs. I am also hoping that he will pass on his nice rear and tail to his offspring. Lilly, right behind Halley..the one with iset, yes, I know, we don't like iset, but Lilly threw some nice ewe lambs for me last year, so I am going to put her in the mix again this year.
Lovey is going with Gilroy too. Lovey is a spot carrier. Overall she has pretty nice conformation, but I would like to see nicer rears and tails in her lambs as well.
Bachelorette #4 is Daisy. Daisy has great conformation and is modified and, obviously, she is spotted. Daisy's fleece is really nothing to write home about, it is definitely not single-coated, fine or even very soft, but it spins up wonderfully and her yarn is always one of the first to sell. I almost sold her this summer, but she did give me some really nice lambs this year so I am going to breed her once more and see what she can produce when she is bred to this very fine-fleeced ram.
This is Red Lion. He is an absolutely gorgeous mioget ram and I am so glad that I will be able to use him for breeding this fall as well. As you can see he is chomping at the bit to meet his new girlfriends. Lion's batchelorette #1 is Willow. Willow is one of my favorite ewes....I know, she is Ag and I have expressed countless times my lack of enthusiasm for the Ag pattern, BUT, She has outstanding conformation, great fleece, a tiny tail and nice wool on her cheeks and poll. I think this pairing should produce something really spectacular.
Batchelorette #2, Cassie. Cassie was not cooperative with the paparazzi for this photo, hence the distant diva pose.
#3 on the love list is Luna. Luna and Cassie both have very nice single-coated fleece...I am planning to send off some fleece samples of everyone next week for micron testing. Luna's fleece is exceptionally soft and fine and I am hoping for some nice low numbers on her report.
Lucky #4 is Edrea.
This is Edrea's fleece....that's all I am going to say about that!
One more item of business. I have a boy for sale. Some of you may remember Ferdinand, one of the lambs from this year. He was the one with the ginormous ears as a lamb, and I was waiting to see if he would grow into them...he didn't. Unfortunately he also has a slight overbite which really seals the deal...he needs to be wethered. He will probably be going in for his 'procedure' next week.
Ferdie is super sweet and friendly...AND.....
....THIS is his fleece.
Head to britch-soft, soft, crimpy, yummy fleece.
"Hey Rocky, mom took you to the vet for this 'wethering' thing....what does that mean? It can't be that bad, can it?"
"OMG, Lion, Rocky just told me that the crazy woman wants to remove my manparts! You distract her and I'll make a run for it."
"I don't even have top teeth, how can I have an overbite? Why can't I just get braces like other kids?"

Email me for more info on Ferdie, I haven't put him on my website yet.......I haven't even been to my website in months...ooops!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Changing leaves...of corn.

These pictures are mainly for our daughter, Nicole, who recently moved to California (sniff).
Apparently, "It never rains in southern California" aren't just song lyrics and Nicole has been missing the change of seasons and lack of clouds in her new locale. Although I am pretty sure that no one is going to hold a telethon for her because "it is sunny and warm every day and there is never a cloud in the sky", I still thought some pictures from around the neighborhood were in order. For some reason I felt it necessary to drag the rest of you along too.

Clouds and corn.
Clouds and soybeans.
More clouds, more beans.
More corn, more clouds.
Miss Effie's backyard....her neighbor harvested his beans.
I think you get the idea....
And they wouldn't be pictures of Iowa if I didn't include......more corn.
Sorry, no pics of changing leaves-it has just been too wet and cold all summer and there just doesn't seem to be much color as of yet. It is supposed to be in the upper 20's to low 30's tonight and a high of 45 tomorrow....that should make you feel a whole lot better about your warm, sunny skies, Nicole!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple pie anyone?

If you are wondering where I have been, among other things, I have been up to my eyeballs in apples and pears! This morning there were 5-5 gallon buckets of apples in the kitchen just staring at me, taunting me-I could no longer avoid them...something had to be done. I have made several batches of jam in the last few weeks, but today I wanted to make a bigger dent in my apple stash.
The animals that reside here have been more than helpful in reducing the surplus-Rooster Cogburn and Charles Bronson have been happily nibbling away.
The only problem with the roosters is that they choose the very best windfalls, take a few pecks out of each one and leave the rest....apparently they have never heard one of my mother's favorite expressions...or threats...depending on your viewpoint, "take what you want, but eat what you take." She was raising 6 of us crumb-grabbers so wastefulness was not tolerated.
The dogs, however, would have gotten along just fine in my mother's household-they don't believe in wasting anything either and have been feasting on anything that hits the ground-as well as some that did not have a chance to hit the ground but instead were plucked, by said dogs, from the lowest branches of the trees heavy with fruit.
At least Bailie looks a little remorseful for her gluttonous ways.....

.... I can't say the same for the other two canines...

I digress.....
So, the order of the day, as I mentioned earlier, was to use up some apples in a more constructive way. I opted for canning apple pie filling.
If you do any canning, and do not have one of these handy-dandy gadgets, you really need to have one. These apple peeler/corer/slicer thingies are invaluable when you are trying to cut up a boat-load of apples. I refused to use one for several years......'cause, as you know by now, I like to do things the hard way. I finally saw the light a couple of years ago after cutting and coring two trees full of apples by hand, and afterward, could barely move my very pruney hands for quite some time. My sister saw my plight, took pity upon me and gave me one of these marvelous inventions and now I can't live (at least not during apple season) without one.
I just attach it to the side of the sink. A few turns of the crank and you have these nice little apple spirals that are ready to cut up and can. I still check for bad spots and cut those out, because, unlike the commercial produce packagers that allow a certain amount of bug parts per batch, I have ZERO allowable parts of anything that is not clearly identifiable as apple. Zero. Gross.

Yay! All ready for canning.
As an added bonus, there is a sink-full of lovely apple entrails for the chickens, horses and sheep...the dogs have had enough, thank-you.
And the finished product.
I guess I should give you the recipe, shouldn't I? I may have posted it last year, but I am too lazy to look through my archives, so here it is (again?).

The recipe that I have calls for corn starch as a thickener, but I prefer to use "Clear Jel" it is more stable in canned pie filling and doesn't start to separate over time like corn starch can. I have to buy mine from the Amish grocery store.....soooo if you don't live near an Amish community, I dunno, you may have to use corn starch....which is what the recipe called for in the first place, so you are fine.

3 1/2 cups of white sugar 10 cups water
1 cup of brown sugar 3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup Clear Jel (corn starch) 6 pounds apples
2 teaspoons cinnamon ( I use lots more)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg ( again, I use more)
2 teaspoons salt

1) Sterilize quart size canning jars, lids and rings in a large pot of boiling water.
2) Peel, core and slice apples. Pack apples into hot canning jars leaving an inch of head space.
3)In a large pot mix; sugars, cornstarch (or clear gel), cinnamon and nutmeg. Add salt and water, mix well. Bring to a boil and cook until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.
4) Pour hot syrup over apples in jars, fill to one inch head space, gently remove air bubbles along the sides of jar with a spatula or knife. .
5) Fasten lids on and process jars in hot water bath canner for 20 minutes.
Happy canning!

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