Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chicken math, the final episode.

The last installment of the Great Chicken Miscalculation of 2010 has arrived. I got the call from Sand Hill yesterday that my "5" Welsummer chicks were ready. If you are looking at the photo and thinking, gee, that doesn't look like five, you are better at chicken math than I am, also you probably haven't been following the Chicken Math saga and need to catch up.
So this time 5=14....makes perfect sense, right?
Seven of the chicks are the 5 Welsummers that I two. Are you confused yet? There are 7 "filler chicks" that could be anything. Linda, from Sand Hill, told me that Glen has been working on some cross-breeding so I will have to wait and see what some of the little guys are.Fate was on my side because I happened to have two broody hens that I was able to slip chicks under. I will happily let them raise these chicks, 'cause, I'm not gonna lie, I am a little tired of taking care of chicks this spring.
One of my Barred Rock hens has adopted the Welsummer chicks.And Black Chicken has the remaining chicks. This is not a great picture because Black Chicken likes to try to kill people that get near her chicks.
The 5 (A.K.A 20) chicks that I got two weeks ago are really growing. They have hit that lovely in-between stage where they look so....ummmm.......interesting.
Above and below are two of the Blue Orpingtons.
Below is a Barred Holland looking especially's a good thing they grow out of this stage quickly!
The First batch of chicks ( 10=24 ) that I got in March are nearly as large as the adult birds.

This is a very dark Blue Laced Red Wyandotte pullet.

This is a BLR cockerel.
Buff Rock.
OK, so let's recap to see if you have been paying attention. I ordered 20 chicks altogether. The first batch of "10" came, that was 24, the second batch of 5 came=20, the last batch of 5 was 14, so....I ordered 20 chicks and ended up with 58. Now you know how to do chicken math.
I can't even remember now how many chickens I had before this chicken flood started, but let's just say that there will be a lot of chicks leaving once I am able to determine which are cockerels. Also, I think that perhaps I will not be ordering any chicks for quite a long time.
On a positive note, Miss Effie and Honey stopped over last night to let me know that our Kent Feed dealer has been running a promotion with $1 off coupons on the bags of chicken feed that we buy, on the down side we didn't know anything about the coupons until after the fact so I ended up having to dig through my barn garbage in search of the empty bags with the coupons. Don't judge me, there is no shame in dumpster diving, I have a lot of chickens to feed!
I am not sure what kind of barn slop is on this coupon, but this is how they are getting it!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What cha gonna do, what cha gonna do with all that rhu..barb?

It's a rhubarb jungle out there! At least it is in my yard. I have a lot of rhubarb plants. During rhubarb season I sometimes question my wisdom-or lack thereof for planting so many. In my defense, many of the plants were here when we moved in.......but then I stupidly decided that I needed to add a few more-like 20....nobody needs that much rhubarb.

We love rhubarb, don't get me wrong, but thinking of new and exciting uses for rhubarb has gotten to be a challenge over the years. I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to make Blueberry-rhubarb, or 'Blubarb' jam, which, by the way, turned out fabulously delicious. I have been trying for some time to find a recipe for plain old rhubarb jam..a real recipe...not a rhubarb mixed with Jello recipe. I am sorry if I have offended anyone that goes the Jello route, but to me that is, well, fruit and Jello, not jam. After scouring the Internet and only coming up with said Jello recipes, I finally turned to my little booklet from Stringtown grocery (my favorite, OK, the only Amish grocery store within an hours drive) and found a very simple recipe for plain old rhubarb jam....using pectin...not Jello. After saying that I am wondering if my dear friend, Miss Effie, is scoffing at me for using pectin just as I am picking on the Jello people. Miss Effie goes old-school and makes real jam by just cooking her jam to perfection-no cheating with pectin for her....Miss Eff is a hard-core canner and even teaches classes on the subject.......of course Miss Effie also does something called "nearly naked canning" so sometimes we wonder about Miss Eff....she doesn't teach classes in that though. I digress.

Here is the recipe:

So, first you are going to need some rhubarb. It should be easy to me.

You will also need pectin. If you are not lucky enough to have an Amish grocery store nearby then you can buy the box of pectin.
Simple, simple, simple. Rhubarb Jam

4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb

1 box pectin

6 1/2 cups sugar.

1 cup water...cause rhubarb just isn't very juicy.

Pre-measure sugar and set aside.

Mix rhubarb, water, and pectin in large kettle. Bring mixture to a full boil. Quickly add sugar and bring back to a boil and boil for one minute. Skim off foam; pour into sterile jars with tight fitting lids. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Done!

I was hoping for a prettier color than what it looks like in the jar.
But out of the jar it has a lovely pinkish color. My friends reading this are probably wondering how that white bread made it's way into my house.

OK, so...that used 4 cups of rhubarb......hmmmm. I needed to find something else to do with this stuff and as luck would have it, it looks like other people have faced this dilemma because I came across the holy grail website of rhubarb uses....someone had waaaay too much time, and rhubarb, on their hands!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Swallows have returned.

Our Barn Swallows have returned from their winter homes in the southern hemisphere and they have been feverishly repairing and remodeling old nests, or constructing new ones. Many of the older pairs reuse the same nest each year-after a few modifications, of course. It always amazes me to see the engineering marvel of these little nests, constructed with pellets of mud, carried by both parents-one beak-full at a time, and then affixed to a vertical surface where it stays-sometimes for many years.
Each layer of mud is allowed to dry for the appropriate amount of time-as determined by the nesting pair. Occasionally a young pair needs a bit of practice in order to get the proper timing down. One year we had a young pair that constructed nest after nest, only to have the fruits of their labor slide off of the beam, down to the floor. They finally were able to build a working nest, but I can't remember if they actually were able to raise a brood or not.
Most of these birds have been coming back for several years...I am not sure why they would want to fly several thousand miles to spend each summer with me, but they do, and have become quite accustomed to my activity in the sheep barn so they allow me to get very close to them.
Now that nest construction is complete, each pair of my feathery friends will lay 4-5 eggs which will hatch out in about 14-17 days, the babies will leave the nest about 20 days after hatching.
I am completely biased when it comes to Barn Swallows, I generally don't tolerate birds nesting in the barns, most are so messy and contaminate the animal feed with their droppings, but I make a big exception for the Swallows-any bird that has a diet comprised of 99% insects is okey dokey with me! Also, I am wildly impressed by the fact that they can find their way to the same little barn on the Eastern edge of Iowa every year, probably traveling from somewhere in Central or South America, and most of us can't find our way around the next town even with a GPS.....OK, maybe that's just me.
Of course I will try to post some pictures once the babies long as I can find some in one of the lower nests... me + high places on ladders=bad.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lamb updates-they won't stop growing!

It's hard to believe that some of the lambs are already a month old. They grow at such an incredible rate that subtle changes can be seen almost every day. I love to watch them as they mature and evolve from tiny newborns into beautiful young lambs.

I am posting newborn pictures of each lamb followed by recent photos so that you can see how they are changing and growing. Oh, and they even have names now! As I stated in a previous post I am going with a Cape Cod theme for names this year since that is where my family grew up and some of my fondest childhood memories are from that part of the country.

The first lamb up is Bayberry (Baybe). She was the last lamb born (just two weeks ago) and we lost her twin shortly after delivery. She is the Baby..or 'Baybe' of the group.

Newborn Crosswinds Bayberry.

Bayberry just turned two weeks old. Baybe is a sweet girl with very soft fleece.

Crosswinds Mountain Laurel .
Laurel growing into a beautiful ewe with gorgeous fleece and conformation, plus the spots that I love so much. She will be making her home here with us.
Crosswinds Ashumet (Ashley...or Shu...or Ash). Very nice Gulmoget ewe with awesome fleece and killer conformation. Ash will also be staying here.
Crosswinds Circe (formerly the 'skunk-sheep'). Circe is a pretty little ewe lamb that claimed a family in Decorah, Iowa early on, so I allowed them to choose a name for her, it fits her well.

Newborn Circe.
I am going to miss Circe's antics. She is quite the character and has the most endearing personality. Most of the photos I get of her look like the following picture, probably because her favorite thing to do is jump into your arms anytime you get anywhere close to the ground, consequently every time I bend over to take a photo she is trying to leap up, expecting me to catch her. Connor, you had better get a big shoulder bag to carry her in because I think she has designs on becoming an accessory like a Paris Hilton dog.
Crosswinds Katama.
Kat is a very feminine solid black ewe lamb with soft, crimpy fleece and wonderful conformation.

Crosswinds Menemsha as a newborn.

Menemsha is a gorgeous mioget ewe lamb.

Menemsha's fleece...yeah, I'm keeping her.

The last ewe lamb is Crosswinds Natale Holly. Holly as a newborn.

Holly at one month old.

Oh, yeah, she is staying too!

Now for the boys.
Crosswinds Brewster.
Brewster is a handsome little ram lamb with great markings, nice fleece and square conformation.....we are just waiting his naughty bits to fall into place. One has managed to find it's way to the proper destination, but the other is not wanting to come down from it's lofty perch and join it's friend. If it doesn't fall into place Brewster will end up a wether (castrated) and be offered for sale as a fiber pet. As a side-note, all hope has been lost that my neighbors on the "big farms" will ever stop wondering about my sanity. I think several of them have caught me, in recent times, out in the sheep pasture feeling Brewster up in search of said missing parts....yeah, they are talking about me at the feed store right about now.
Brewster today.

Crosswinds Nantucket (Tucker) as a newborn.

Tucker is growing to be a gorgous mioget ram lamb with perfect conformation, soft fleece and a tiny tail. If I didn't have so many ewes that are related to him I would be keeping him or his twin.

Below is Tucker's twin brother, Orleans.
Orleans is a nice solid boy with super-soft fleece, awesome horns (so far), and really square conformation. At this point he looks like he will be a bit bigger than his twin. I love those striped horns : ).

I took most of these pictures a few days ago, so the lambs have changed even since then. It is sad to think that in 2 months most of them will be leaving for their new usual, I have gotten waaaay too attached.....I need more land so that I can keep them ALL.

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