Animal, Mineral and Vegetable….
At the moment, there’s just Serenity the 19 and a half year old ragdoll cat. It is not fair to her to bring in another cat (although she has a history of getting along with them for those 19 years, but she’s not going to want to deal with anything high-energy any more). She sleeps 95% of the time, which even for a cat is a bit extreme. I want her to enjoy her well-earned twilight years. She lost her last buddy back September a year ago, and missed (perhaps even still misses) him something severe. I really wish she could TALK!
Meanwhile, she has signs of kidney disease (is now eating a special diet), and has osteoporosis in her hind limbs (walks with a gait, and is hardly frisky, but still can jump on the bed). She seems partially deaf now, too. She’s strictly indoor, and never has been a mouser (unlike her now deceased compatriot, Obi-Wan).
Other than in her kittenhood, before I got her, she’s never met any dogs. And any dogs would also be high energy. (I loathe basset hounds….) I could get an outdoor-only livestock guardian dog (LGD) but I don’t have anything but chickens, quail, and potentially guinea fowl for the dog to guardian, yet. I may not, until 2023. There are some infrastructure and transportation issues I have to resolve here, first.
(Having a dog prior to retirement would have been problematic, due to working hour vagaries and so forth. Yes, there are Doggie Day Cares, but that wouldn’t be a full solution for me.)
Planned livestock of the mammalian nature:
Infrastructure is easy enough to plan for, and I hope to install the spring/summer of 2022. My issue is my own transportation in winter. I need further to research how I can get to the animals while swamped with ice and/or snow. I had a scary, scary 20 plus minutes last winter when I fell returning from feeding chickens in what was a good 18 inches of fresh snow laden over a previous foot of the same stuff. I ended up having to “swim” via backstroke down to the nearest coop, and pull myself up, there. And darkness was fast falling. The livestock I want will need more attention than just about any chicken.
I am considering: Snowshoes. (But if you still fall…?). An ATV. A snow-worthy mini-tractor? Another thought is to install sturdy posts say about 20 or so feet apart down to the livestock barn. With grab bars on them. Maybe make a road down there that can be plowable every time we get snow. Working on ideas, and we shall see. I’d rather NOT put in a road for a few reasons, but again – we shall see.
I have researched the 4-legged livestock I want: (choose two.) All would need great fencing.
Sheep and more:
Shetland, Soay and Icelandic appeal the most, in that order. Smaller, than the lunky standards, and I like the idea of them being a bit wilder. This may make herding near-impossible with a herding dog – but you CAN herd them, the same way you herd cats and chickens. With food. I would raise them for fiber and for meat.
Otherwise, or plus – this IS Of Goats and Greens, remember – Goats. I am very interested in the Kiko breed. With goats, I am interested in meat, although if I get a good cashmere type, I would go the fiber route. No Dairy Please! I am SO not milking animals of any kind day in and day out. You don’t have a life that way, especially if you live alone. (We already underwent 2020 with truncated lives… No Thank You!) And finding someone to come in on, say, a weekend when you really want one away, requires much more expertise than having someone come in to check on feed and water and general visual health, should you want or need to disappear for a few days.
And again, otherwise or plus – alpaca. For fiber. And they are – well, just neat to have around.
Pigs, at any rate, feeder pigs, would be interesting, but I’ll be pushing 70 or so by the time I can even begin to consider them. I think with the above being first in my list, they’d be more than I want to take on. When I first moved here, I was informed about a man who comes around to do harvest work; if I ever did feeders, I’d need to verify and sign him up before getting the oinkers.
Pest control (mice):
I have what are called rat-zappers for in the house and garage. But they will always be able to re-enter the garage. I can keep the house proper safe – I am now only getting about one a month zapped, and that includes the end of last winter when they’d be most likely to squat here. But they love the chicken feed bin. Suggestions are more than welcome! Especially since along with mice come – ticks.
Chickens and future chickens:
In a day or two, my broody Orpington hen should be hatching her eggs – and today I should put my own house-incubating eggs into “lockdown” – stop the rotator, add extra water for humidity, and hopefully around Thursday they will hatch. My hen has seven eggs (possible mothers are also Orpingtons and/or a Rhode Island Red. Dad will be a hybrid himself – his parentage is Plymouth barred rock combined with either another buff Orpington (different line) or with what is herself a hybrid: Silver laced Wyandotte x buff Orpington F1 – said mother is of the same lineage as the other potential mother). Making these notes for the purpose of records for genetics and cross-breeding.
Of the eggs I am hatching in the incubator: I have nine here. Three are from the tractor coop within which the above hen is brooding. So, same actual father and potential mothers. LATE BREAKING NEWS: ONE OF THESE HAS JUST HATCHED AS I WAS DOING FINAL EDITS. SHE ? LOOKS LIKE A BUFF ORPINGTON! AND IS CHIRPING UP A STORM! No photos, she’s still drying off and I don’t want to chill her by removing the incubator lid.
The other six eggs are from the second formal coop. There, the paternal genes also come from Plymouth barred rock background, but pure. Not related to any other roosters on the property. Nor are the hens so related. Maternal is Plymouth barred rock (again) and one buff rock.
I have candled the eggs (the ones indoors, not the ones with the broody mom), all are fertile but one of the eggs from the group of six looks to have a very small embryo – possibly/probably a failure there.
Plans for the chicks:
Ideally, two new pullets from the second formal coop will eventually end up in the main coop (from which I’ve taken no eggs). Two pullets (don’t know which) will be given to a local who wants them. But gender will drive a lot of decision making. I don’t expect most of the broody hen’s chicks to make it – but she’s a much more attentive hen than any broody hen I’ve had in the past – if she has one or two that survive and thrive, I’ll be happy. Boys will be reserved for dinner – unless I need a replacement rooster between now and then. At any rate, this time I’m prepared to have them at “Cornish game hen” size, because if I have as many as I think I might have – they’ll have to be frozen sooner rather than later.
Tally to date (but don’t count your chickens before they hatch:
Main/Ovalicious Coop: 1 Plymouth barred rock (Roo), 1 black Australorpe hen (Yin), 1 (Silver laced Wyandotte x buff Orpington F1) hen (Chickpea). Total of 3 – needs more hens. May also house potential guinea fowl.
Tractor Coop: 1 (Plymouth barred rock, ie Roo x buff Orpington OR Chickpea) rooster (Romeo), 3 buff Orpington hens (no names – can’t tell them apart), 1 Rhode Island Red hen (Rhoadie). Total of 5. Sufficient birds here. I will let “Broody” raise whatever she has for a while. Eventually foster mamas have fading interest – but if there’s one and it is a pullet, it may well stay. TBD.
Second Coop: 2 Plymouth barred rock roosters (no names, they look alike), 3 Plymouth barred rock hens (again they look alike), and 1 buff rock (Henrietta). Total of 6. One rooster has to go. Problem is, they are nice to me and to each other. I just can’t. There’d been a third rooster (White Feather) but he had to go – he was the most skittish, but still a nice bird. But three roosters and four hens – the hens didn’t stand a chance! But deciding between the last two is like a first-world problem Sophie’s Choice. I am looking for someone who wants a rooster for their hens! (I gave five cockerels away last fall to a man who has presumably cooked and eaten them by now – I didn’t have the space to raise them up to dinner size myself, but I was said to see most of them go.)
Later this summer I will have a batch of Red Broilers arriving as day old chicks. How I will handle these will depend. But these are all intended for the freezer. They weren’t friendly (unlike my poor late black broiler hen that was too sweet to dispatch) when I got them my first year here. I plan to attempt to build my own tractor housing for them – small, hardcloth wire with ropes I can use to pull, and a lot less heavy than the Tractor Coop, which I am unable to pull. (Even the guy who brought it here had to strain to move it.)
I may be getting a few guinea fowl eggs from a neighbor soon. More on that if/when it happens. Their purpose in life, should they thrive, will be to EAT TICKS!!!!! And if they get to the stage of life where they would thrive on ticks – believe me, here they will.
Ah, yes, the Coturnix quail. Baby quail die if you look at them cross-eyed. Baby quail find unique ways to commit purposeful suicide. I’ve grown experienced enough that they don’t die from drowning in their waterer, but they find other unique methods of dying – or sometimes they just keel over. If they weren’t something that I could keep (when “mature”) just outside my back door, I’d give up on them. Besides, their eggs are tasty. But I think Coturnix have been home-bred so long back in their native Japan, they haven’t a clue how to survive anymore.
But if someone tells you that another person “eats like a bird” – they weren’t referring to quail. And, ounce for ounce, they excrete far more than any chicken could. Sloppy eaters, too – food flies everywhere. I have to figure out the best system to prevent that – I’m thinking some sort of small plastic tub where I cut holes in at head height. Large enough for them to fit their heads and necks into. Heavy weight enough they don’t knock it over. If I come up with something that works – there WILL be a blog post about it!
I have them in “quail condos”. This overall unit is 4 levels tall, with a unit on each side with a feeding zone that supposedly they can’t enter full-body – just heads. Nope, even with jumbo quail, that doesn’t work. What is supposedly 8 condo units is thus reduced to four, and the fact that the bottom one I consider to be too close to the ground (rodents, snakes…) effectively I have three condo units. In conjunction with the feeding thing, I am plotting out the best method to turn this into a six condo setup (ignoring that bottom level all together).
I also need a better method for keeping them from doing “fly outs”. Often one or two will try to get out when I open doors to feed/water/collect eggs. They drop to the ground, I snag, and put back. This always? works.
Except when it doesn’t. About ten days ago, I had one that did just that, dropped to the ground, looked around herself, noticed the weird appendages on either side of her torso… stretched them as the human hand reached down – and FLEW! Granted, only about fifteen feet, but when she saw the clumsy human attempting to pursue, she decided she liked the feel those appendages gave her, and dove off again – about 25 or so more feet over rocks I’d have to navigate around rather than through. When I got there, she was gone. For good.
Sadly, she seems to have been my best layer. I now get an egg from that unit (only four birds are left from that setup) every other day. I’d been getting one or two a day.
Currently, I have a total of 23 quail. Some are male, so I may try some breeding later this summer. I do have one quail from a very small batch I tried incubating on my own last year. I’d incubated those 3 eggs last summer with some I’d ordered elsewhere. But I have to admit, I now have enough quail that I plan to roast a couple (finally). Been seriously looking forward to this.
There are still a lot of rocks around here, and the fellow who will be helping me with my tractor mowing told me he can help me with those extra rocks later this summer. Oh, this is glacial New England. So, yes, ROCKS.
I also want to build the firepit with the collected rocks and stones friends and I have gathered over a bunch of years. That pile is here – it just has to be moved. Most I can wheelbarrow over, a few at a time.
Some are for pleasure; some are for eating.
The potatoes and all the alliums are thriving. The potatoes are a combo of red, Yukon gold and some random gold potato that was available when I wanted some additional seed potatoes at my local feed store. Perhaps about half or more of the potatoes I planted were from last year’s remainders that had gone to seed. Or to sprouting, which is a more accurate description. This is GOOD.
The alliums are doing fine. I planted both garlic and onion last fall – they are apparently doing well, but too soon to harvest. I put in leeks this spring – they are a bit behind the curve, but they are growing.
Rhubarb, strawberries, asparagus, saffron – still around. Although the leaves on the saffron have died back – maybe this is normal? Hope not, as I want a fall harvest for a tasty Indian rice dish. The rhubarb and asparagus are not for this year’s eating. My wormwood has come back.
Starts from tomatoes and pepper seeds failed. But I have some I bought as seedlings growing. They’ll be fine. I do have to up my edible nightshade sustainability here.
My first year trying these. I may add in a lightweight trellis should these tasty fellers request it.
I am doing snow peas this year. Looking forward to seeing and eating them! They went in as seeds but about ten days later than I had planned but they should still do well with sufficient water.
Swiss chard, collards and spinach. I also need to plant my cucumber seeds this week.
High hopes for parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, as the song says. The sage from last year has returned. The sorrel should do well, too. Oregano, unlike the stuff I had back in Connecticut, hasn’t seemed to want to do the perennial thing here, not yet. There’s also cilantro out there, which never lasts long much as I try to help it. Basil seeds have to go in soon.
Shrubs and trees:
An apple has returned, my dogwood is dead, and I am planning more apple and some plums as soon as I am tractor mowed. Ready and waiting! As are my elderberries, which will go in at the same time. Seriously these would be LOST in the undergrowth currently here!
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