Journal 2020

A periodic journal of homesteading occurrences here:  farm and land happenings, weather events.  Location, the Hilltowns of western Massachusetts.
Hardiness Zone 5B, rural.
Most recent dates and posts are to the top.

NOTE:  WordPress cannot be set up so that you’ll be notified of Journal Updates the way you can learn about new blog posts – please come by and check periodically!

October 21:  I processed this Cornish roaster a couple days back.  He’s the last of season, although I have some older stewing chickens that will be visiting Freezer Camp.  

cornish 2020 last of season

The infant quail have moved from the dining area down to the workshop.  Where they will reside a while longer, as they grow into adulthood.    The quail now could all jump out of the brooder where there no lid.  

October 19:  Currently using my porch as the spare fridge, for picked veggies and the items I received from my friend on Sunday.  

I’m having a friend over tomorrow – she’ll arrive around one.  I’m making Middle-Eastern Goat Shoulder, roasted for three hours (approximately), with pomegranate molasses, lemon, plums, onion, Baharat seasoning… I’ll add in Yukon potatoes for the last hour.  I’ll also be roasting some infant-sized Asian eggplants a friend gave me when it was obvious weather isn’t going to allow them to grow out to full size.  And I will steam beet greens because I had to pick mine that other night.  The goat came from a farmer’s market.  Bones will be reserved for stock.  At any rate the goat recipe should appear on the blog proper at some point in the near future.  (She will bring dessert.)

This is the first time I’ve had anyone over since COVID hit.  And the house looks like that.  I’m trying my best to tidy up.  

I’ll also be hosting my old housemate – the friend below who gave me the “really baby sized Asian eggplants” etc on the 17th.  He’s going to be up this coming weekend to gather leaf debris to mulch his garden.  We will definitely mask and social-distance, as he takes care of his elderly parents.  Food plans still up in the air.  

Baby quail still doing good.  I had one fly out when I was feeding them, so in a couple days they’ll all go downstairs – easier to find them in the workshop room than if they escape and hide out upstairs here.  

October 18:  Hard frost last night; it was already 34 degrees F at 9 PM when I was out picking beet greens, cabbage, and the last of the Thai cooking greens – in the dark, lit by my cell phone.  

Earlier in the day, I visited a friend, where I got really baby sized Asian eggplants, some elongated radishes and a couple habanero.  I need to clear out/ramp my fridge so all this fits in.  (They all spent the night in bags or boxes on my kitchen floor.).  At the get-together, we celebrated Deipnon (a harvest festival) together, six of us, all very socially distanced especially as my friend’s parents are elderly with severe “pre-existing conditions”.  Only polite, you know.  My friend and his husband (not present because he had to work) had started a very small 14-person CSA this past summer.  At any rate, when I got home, at 8 or so, I KNEW I had to harvest, dark or not.  Do it, or lose it!  

I ended up putting the last of the Cornish roasters in the fridge on Friday – today is the day to put him in the freezer, which will also free up some space.  

The baby quail are doing fine – they really do like to sleep when it gets dark, and awaken when it is light.  

The cat is doing fine, considering.  She’s moving unsteadily on her hind legs but can still jump into my (higher than normal) bed, but her back end wiggles as if those hind legs are uncertain – or, arthritic.  She slips even on rough tile.  She doesn’t complain, but needs a trip to the vets.  Besides she needs one anyway – a year since her last visit.  

heavy frost oct 18th

Heavy frost the morning of October 18, 2020. Glad I harvested in the dark last night.

October 15:  The nine quail chicklets are doing fine.  We are having a nice day here in the Hilltowns.  The day started at 39 F, and it will be sunny.  Today’s plans:  First coat of stain for the deck posts that will be harder to get to once the outdoor quail housing arrives.  The butchering and processing of the very last of the Cornish meat chickens.  A quick trip to a neighboring town for a couple of consumable desires.  Maybe I’ll check the Tractor-Supply-like Mom and Pop store.  A second coat of stain once the first is dried.  Serious kitchen clean-up.  Make a juniper and fennel poached mahi-mahi dish for the current Juniper Challenge on Cookingbites.com.  And write it up for them.  There’s a possibility I’ll discover a “reaction” to these berries, as it comes from juniper bushes, and I already have a “reaction” to pine nuts – all are products of coniferous plants.  SO I want to stick to home after I make this.  (The reaction isn’t life-threatening – but it does mean I’ll need swift access to the “throne”.  The things I do for food!!!)  I also want to stop by Panhistoria.com, a writing community, once or twice today as I have or make time.  Also planned is a taste test comparison between Impossible ground “beef”, Beyond “beef” and real ground beef – the latter from a beef share, beef raised fully pastured in Vermont.  A couple phone calls regarding health insurance stuff, also planned.   EDIT_  Apparently I am fine eating juniper berries.  

IF I am feeling really brazen, I will capture the mean speckled Sussex rooster and put him in the dog crate late tonight – he is mean enough I’ll have to go down fully garbed in protective gear, at dusk, with a fishing net, and grab/whomp him into a dog crate.  He should become Freezer Camp material the following morning.  This  will also partially depend on the weather Friday – not keen on processing in driving rain, and this is one activity that happens out doors.  

October 14:  I have nine quail chicklet survivors.  Had to bring them over yesterday morning to our Community Center since they have a generator, as the remnants of Hurricane Delta took out our local power supply for a little while.  Left them there for about seven or eight hours before bringing them back home.  They all sound vibrant and healthy, and not much worse for the wear.  They still get semi-ground food, and water circulated through gravel so they don’t drown or get terribly damp/wet.  The nine all look healthy.  

Yet nine plus the adults is NOT ENOUGH to plan dinner over.  Along with keeping eggs in production.  

quail, baby quail

Six of the nine. The other three are still under the Brinsea heating pad – which is seriously NOT ideal when they first hatch, but at this point seems to be fine.

Note:  baby chicklet quail WILL drown or soak in their water.  Gravel in there allows room for their beaks to reach in and drink without committing inadvertent and unplanned chick suicide.   

Food plans for this week (note that the actual recipes, if I do decide to post them, are not likely to appear immediately:  

  • Real ground burger beef and two brands of faux ground “beef” taste comparison test.
  • Juniper and gin Mahi-mahi with fennel and maybe so forth.
  • Menudo soup.  
  • And lastly, and it may be next week, a better version of Eggplant Pizzas than I made back within the first month I’d started this blog

My last Cornish roaster cockerel is headed for the freezer this afternoon.  I also plan to do some serious deck staining.  .  

October 7:  No new hatched quail.  I opened the unhatched and the following are the total results:  

Home chick hatch rate:  3 out of 3 = 100%.
Stromberg hatchery chick hatch rate:  10 out of 28 =  36%.  But see below.
Overall hatch rate:  13 out of 31 = 42%.
Unhatched but fully developed embryo:  2 out of 28 total; 2 out of 18  (1.1%) unhatched eggs (from Stromberg).  
An assumption if those two developed eggs had hatched (taking that power failure into account):  15 out of 31 for all the eggs = 48%, 12 out of 28 if Stromberg only = 39%,  

I have no idea if the ones without visible embryos were fertile or not.  I didn’t examine the stinky mess that closely.  I did notice that some, a little less than half of the 17 non-apparently-fertile eggs, had a “creamy” yolk texture like scrambled eggs gone bad.  The rest just looked like regular yolky material.  (My method for unhatched egg examination – chuck them outdoors against an outcropping of rock.  Coarsely observe what comes out.  This of course is a measure taken after any eggs might hatch!)  At any rate I don’t know for certain if the weird innards in some of those eggs actually indicate early embryonic stage gone early-bad…  

One of the chicklets jumped out of the incubator and went running across the floor…. High speed, too.  I nabbed him and put him back.  

I am learning that a lot of the hatcheries that depend on mail delivery have a low rate of hatching.  It’s not just any one hatchery.  

I dispatched the remaining Cornish pullet into the fridge, then went and did the larger of the two cockerels.  I de-gutted, but did not exactly finish defeathering him before a storm hit.  We got strong rain, hail and a power outage the latter of which lasted from 4:45 to about 6 pm – I was prepared to take the baby chicklet quail to a neighboring facility that has generator power if this lasted 20-30 minutes longer.  Fortunately, I did not end up needing to do so.  I covered the unit with clothing at hand so the temperature drop would, ahem, temperate.  They look a bit sluggish, but not any worse for the wear.  I did wish to get to the final cockerel to dispatch, but that should happen tomorrow.  

I need to get a poultry weighing scale.  The pullet is small but the cockerel is around supermarket size.  

October 6:  Total of 13, the last hatching yesterday afternoon.  There are 17 as of yet unhatched eggs, and I will give them until tomorrow morning to crack open.  There was one slightly pipped-out egg where it is obvious the inhabitant failed to survive.  So that is:  13 successes, potentially 18 failures.  The three eggs from my own quail did hatch and survive (so far).  I had marked the eggs.

quail,

Baby chicklet photo taken yesterday – when they were still twelve. The gravel is in the waterer so they don’t drown, and they don’t get damp enough to die of chill (despite the incubator temperature of 99.3 F). A good extra with the gravel – uncomfortable enough that they are not likely to remain there and pee and poop in their water supply!

13 + 17 + 1 = 31 total eggs – evidently I didn’t notice that Stromberg sent extra eggs or else the extra appeared out of nowhere….?  Thus Stromberg sent 28.   I had ordered two dozen, and I thank them for the extras.  

Home chick hatch rate:  3 out of 3 = 100%.
Stromberg hatchery chick hatch rate:  10 out of 28 =  36%.  But see below.
Overall hatch rate:  13 out of 31 = 42%.

On the face of it, this doesn’t look good for Stromberg, but keep in mind I lost power for 6 hours on Day 14.  Also they may have suffered some in shipping, although surprisingly the eggs did arrive on time.  There were also about two-three days before I could get them going in the incubator, and the home-grown eggs were only sitting here for a day or less. Stupidly, I also lost the water reservoir for humidity very early on for about a day or so during incubation.  My fault.   I also didn’t track where in the incubator the eggs were – I do know where the eggs laid and gathered from here were placed – perhaps the incubator was uneven?  (This does not seem likely but I am putting this out there as the researcher I am.)  

Tomorrow morning I will open up the unhatched eggs – giving them another day to hatch, any late quail -given one last chance here.  Then I’ll go further on the statistics (hatched, unhatched but an embryo, unhatched but no sign of evident fertilization).  

October 5:  Total of 12 hatchlings (out of 27 eggs).  I moved them at 8:30 am to the brooder in the basement.  (They were all dried off from the egg.)  I have left the rest of the eggs in the incubator in case any more hatch – although there is the sign that one tried to pip out earlier, but is in any case not ever going to come forth – definitely dead.  I’ll leave the rest in until late Tuesday to see what if anything happens. At that point, I’ll listen for movement in each remaining egg… and if not, crack them open to see if they were fertilized or not.  (You do this outside – if there’s unfertilized eggy stuff, it is likely to stink after 18 or so days in a hot incubator.)  

For the brooder:  Using a Brinsea heater element, with a board underneath to elevate the babies up to the heating pad better.   Which is recommended for quail.  I ground up some starter game feed (30% protein), not into dust, but into something better for their tiny gullets.  Gave them the quail waterer, and added some cleaned pebbles so they don’t drown or soak themselves.  Quail really don’t start life with a lot of brights.  I also made sure that the shelving material for under their litter (at the bottom of their cardboard box.  I’ll be checking them early and often, to make sure they still have water, and that the heater element is warm enough.  I really don’t want to use the hazardous heat lamps if I don’t have to. 

There are a couple of chicklets that don’t look like the rest of the batch.  I am going to assume those came from the eggs my pre-existing quail laid.   

October 4:  It dropped to 33 F overnight.  Bummer.  (57 F is the high today.)  

Three baby quail hatched by the time I went to bed last night (8:30).  11 by now, approximately 3 pm.  I am trying to not look in all that often, as the heat/humidity fluctuations aren’t good for them.  

Gave 5 pullets (I hope they are pullets as that was what was requested) to a woman in Huntington.  The three buff Plymouths females, the pretty offspring of Roo (barred rock at the first coop) and either Chickpea or one of the buff Orpingtons, and a reddish, somewhat mean, pullet sired by the speckled Sussex from either any one of his buff Orpingtons or the Rhode Island red.  So I have three left from the chicks I incubated from my own flocks, I plan to re-home two of those (but will keep the reddish one).  These three are all cockerels.

new chicks - two

The lovely lass at the top, with all her soft feathers, has been re-homed. She was the one I was most reluctant to part with but I am assured her new mom will treat her well. Her father was Roo, a pleasant barred rock. I suspect her mom was Chickpea but there is no way to tell for sure. The bottom is one of two cockerels with this coloration. I will be keeping one of them.

Thirteen chicks from the June hatchings left.  I need to get rid of some of the cockerels, but maybe that will happen through the dinner table….  So I have three left from the chicks I incubated from my own flocks, I plan to re-home two of those (but will keep the reddish one).  These three are all cockerels.  

If I have an extra barred rock hen, I will place her in the main coop to replace Fimbrethil, but I want her to be a bit older.  I won’t be giving away any of the other pullets.  

October 3:  Already October.   Yesterday I lost a hen, Fimbrethil, a buff Orpington, was found dead in her run.  No apparent cause of death, but she was in deep rigor.  She’d been hatched at My Pet Chicken about May 1, 2018.  

red shouldered hawk-

This hawk has been around for a few days.  (No, he is not responsible for Fimbrethil’s fate).  He is apparently a red-shouldered hawk.  He is likely interested in the pullets and cockerels, but I am not letting those smaller birds out unless I am.  

September 27:  I should learn NOT to say what I WILL do – just make an after the fact recital of what I have done.  I didn’t put the Cornish roasters in the fridge or freezer – I woke a little later than I wanted, and I also felt a bit queasy.  Not a good recipe for dispatching/processing.  I did clean out the fridge – some marginal things the chickens are certainly enjoying.  The Marquez lamb sausage I bought last Thursday is now in the freezer – It had been frozen but it thawed completely before I got it home from the dedicated butcher shop in Hatfield or Deerfield, so I simmered most of it and packaged 2 thin sausages per bag, and froze them.  I have one left over, un-cooked – I will have it for dinner tonight, or perhaps for lunch tomorrow with whatever I end up having it have.  

Unloaded the plywood from the car – this was actually easy.  Held the hatchback door up on my shoulder – that sweater wrapped up between my shoulder and the door – and I just reached down and slid the large boards out onto the grasses.  

As for staining the under portions of my deck – rain will be coming too soon for me to do that.  But we’re overdue for rain for just about everything else.  

Tree colors are growing more vibrant each day.  Perhaps even each hour?  (I mean, disregarding any cloud cover?)  

September 26:  That early winterish stuff i s now over for now.  Temps today ranged from 50 to 71 F, altogether pleasant.  Those four days of frost were ENOUGH.  Tree colors are rapidly changing – a function mostly of the lack of rain.  

The three remaining Cornish Roasters will meet their maker tomorrow.  I ordered 3/4 inch plywood flooring cut to order from Home Depot yesterday and picked it up today – the plan is to lay it down at the far back of the new chicken coop, nailing in shelf sheeting atop to make it somewhat easier to clean.  It was an interesting process picking it up – I’d ordered 4 sheets at 36 x 40 inches (from two master boards).  My Hyundai trunk will not stay open so I had to shoulder the door on my shoulder to have both my hands to shove these in.  Yes, I should have asked for assistance loading when I picked up – but didn’t think about it until I got to the car.  For the final three boards, I put a sweater on my shoulder to relieve the pinching from the metal of the heavy door.  But as I was loading, I considered – unloading at my place I’d be doing alone anyway.  (I can ask my neighbor across the street for help, but I’ll keep that in mind as a last resort – if I can do it myself, I’d rather wait to ask assistance from people on a more limited basis.  IE, when really needed.  He’s a nice guy, and would help, but if I really won’t need?)   I should get the struts replaced but Hyundai wants to charge what others have told me is an unreasonable price.  So… for now I muddle along, and I’m no longer often needing the size opening from the hatchback door, since I am actually MOVED here.

As the master boards are 4 x 8 feet, I did get small amounts of extra plywood.  Can always find a use.  

So:  tomorrow’s goals:  3 chickens to the fridge for overnight (before being tucked away into freezer camp), go to town dump with kitchen and household trash, chicken feathers and the unwanted portions of innards (crop, intestines, lungs), kitty litter, old quail box, an old Cornish Roaster pullet box, random crap.  Before I can load my car up with this stuff, I will have to take my 36×40 boards out, and also haul chicken feed to the back of the house in said car.  (The trash will fit in through the back doors, won’t need that hatch door – all objects narrow enough – I haven’t had the back seats functioning as back seats for at least three years… a function of how I moved much of myself up here until I rented U-Hauls for the furniture – everything behind the driver down for transit, and any passengers take the front passenger seat – one person at a time.)  

Okay…. I can start getting the flooring down in the new coop’s run.  But I’m thinking it is also important to get some staining going, especially where I plan to put the quail coop I’m buying, back under the deck.  That’s got to be done – so first coat (after the chicken dispatching/unloading/loading/trash dumping – the town dump is open at limited hours, and now with COVID we all got to wait patiently one at a time rather than like back in the jolly ole days where whomever could fit in the facility could drive in, dump stuff together, and shoot the bull connecting socially with neighbors). 

Then work on flooring until I run out of shelf liner.  Which I will.  Manhandle flooring into the run, and lay.  Second coat of stain in the currently critical area.  You need to stain (and later, seal) before the temperatures go frosty again.  

I’ll call it quits, then, for the day.  Make something GOOD to eat!  I do have options, and it won’t be chicken tomorrow.   

September 22: Fourth morning of frost in a row, but it clocked in at a balmy 34 F.   No new mice zapped.  The chickens have moved to the front yard (on their own).  

September 21 / Fall Equinox:  We nosedived to 31 degrees Fahrenheit overnight.  That’s below freezing ( degrees Celsius).   WAAAAAYY TOO EARLY,  even for here.   

September 20:  Yesterday’s low temp was 35 F.  This morning’s was 34.  Brrr.  Light frost both mornings.  There is supposed to be one more morning of said light frost.  I had picked much of my vegetables and covered the rest.  Picked:  all the cukes, all the cherry tomatoes.  One big head of cauliflower, and the lone remaining squash blossom (which I pan fried with gouda melting inside yesterday for breakfast).   

No mice zapped the past two nights, but the batteries burnt out on one of the traps.  

Serenity seems to be coping better.  No more cries for her buddy.  One of the Cornish roaster pullets had to be put down – she’d been terribly injured by her mates.   The surviving roasters are scheduled for the freezer Wednesday morning.  

I’m going to start staining outdoors on Monday as it promises to be both dry and warm enough for the rest of the week.  SO…. stain and preserve.  Especially where the potential new quail coop will go.  

September 17:  Low Temp 53 F.  2 mice zapped overnight.   Serenity spend some of last night in my bed.  I’d also been worried if she could jump up that high to access it – I need not have worried.  It’s a high mattress for tall folk, and she landed on my belly – fortunately with a layer of bedding between me and her landing gear.  

Today’s goals:  Finish setting up the feed bin, finish setting up the pullet and cockerel coop (the décor, the feed bucket, the sand and a plank or two of plywood)  Go into town to the bank, and to perhaps get more sand.  Paper towels.  Rum to finally finish my liqueur post.  

The last few days have the haze from the massive fires in California, the Pacific Northwest and Idaho.   Fortunately (for us) this smoke is passing overhead at a high altitude courtesy of the Jet Stream, and so we don’t inhale it.  I feel really badly for all my friends (and for anyone I don’t know) out west that way.   

September 16:  Temps 43-68 F.  Cleaned out the coop feed bin.  There was a nest of seven mice down there.  I knew there were two or three, but the number that really were there surprised me.  I managed to evict 5 of them (alive), and when I went down later to fill a trash bag, no one seemed to be left behind.  Well, right now there’s nothing for them to eat… (Tomorrow new feed goes down.)  There is still some pine bedding in there and that will be gone tomorrow when I cart down the food.  

I forgot to set up the indoor zap traps for the mice who might still be in my house, overnight.  Will do it tonight for sure!  

Setting up the quail eggs in the incubator.  I am including three from my own flock, marking them.  Getting the rotator to snap in correctly is a nuisance.  

Picked up bottled water for making the water kefir.  A friend, S.G., provided kefir grains last Saturday.  The grains aren’t supposed to contact metal or chlorine.  I am on a well, so no chlorine, but I do have a high-iron content water.  The house filter eliminates most but not all.  I won’t risk the babies until I have enough here to experiment with.  

Serenity still misses her buddy, Obi.  I’m not quite the same to make up for his loss.  

September 15:  Low temp 37 F this morning!!!   High was 62 F.

September 14:  Today’s temps:  60 – ? F.  One mouse trapped overnight.  Planted the newly-arrived saffron bulbs and the winter spelt grains.  The pullet and cockerel coop was swept out.

September 13:  Lowest temperature to date for this season:  Yesterday it dropped down to 44 F (with a later high of 67).  Today we start at 47 F.

Dishes I have on the hopeful docket to make, no specific order:  (I have made a few things that will be scattered between and not listed below.  And something else may also suddenly loom on my cooking horizon, too.)

  • Grandmother’s Grits Casserole (insofar as I can guess – she passed in 1983, so asking is no longer an option).
  • Banh Boc Loc Tran (Vietnamese tapioca dumplings, using either / and / or pork / shrimp.
  • Greek Moussaka, with ground beef and béchamel. (The vegetarian one is already up, sans béchamel.)
  • Greek Spanakopita.
  • Circa early 1800’s Beet Pancakes.
  • A couple of lamb heart recipes, that don’t duplicate past efforts at this blog.
  • Yiaourtopita, a Greek yogurt-based cake.
  • Lebanese Pumpkin Kibbe, vegan.
  • Lebanese Lamb Kibbe.
  • Scottish Fofar Bridie.
  • Fermented Rice.

September 9:  My lovely American curl, Obi-Wan Kenobi, had to be put to sleep yesterday.

Obi Wan early 2018

Obi-Wan

September 11, 2006 – September 8, 2020

Obi Wan Obiituary

He was an adventurous and loving personality, independent in the ways nearly all cats are, a food gourmand, and a terrific mouser.  He’d been lethargic when I went down to feed the cats and the quail – when I brought him to the food bowl, he simply sat down.  I called the vet, and brought him in.  He had enough gumption to walk out of the cat carrier and settle himself on my lap as I drove down, and even took four or five minutes to pull himself up to look out the window as I drove.  (He always wanted to explore new things.)  Then, he settled back on my lap.  (I live 35 minutes from the vet.)

I arrived at the vet’s at 8:30.  Due to COVID restrictions I had to drop him off at the door, but we were able to communicate via phone and via someone coming out the door.  X-rays were done while I went and got chicken and game feed at Tractor Supply and then took breakfast at Wendy’s drive-through.  I figured he’d be okay.

At 9:15 they called with X-ray results.  His lungs were very congested – he’d been in for this problem before but the antibiotics given then had only partially helped.  This issue had gotten worse recently and so I’d indeed gotten him ready to go in for a scheduled, not emergency appointment.  He’d also lost a LOT of weight.  This had been gradual, so while I knew he’d been down a little, I had no idea how severe.  His body temperature was 97 F.  Very cool for a cat, which normally clocks in at around 102 F.  The vet asked me if I wanted to do bloodwork on him, or to mercifully let him go.

Due to his relative perkiness and his wanting to know what was going on around him on my way down there, I said:  Do the bloodwork.  I mean, yes, Obi-Wan,  you have to survive?  (You’re my only hope…).

Ten a.m.  I’m still in town, hoping for good news.  They call the cell:  Some minor off-scale problems, but the kicker was the White Blood Cell count.  WBCs in a cat should be 11,000 or less.  His was 60,000. Could be a severe infection – or much more likely, cancer.  They noted that even though he was now on a heat pad, he was quite lethargic.

I pulled the trigger.  I said, yes, we have to euthanize.

They asked me if I wanted to be there with him.  I said, yes.  They set the appointment for 11:30, which gave me time to go home and feed / water the chickens, turn around and come back for little Obbs ( pronounced with a long-O).

From 8:30 to 11:30 – a massive drop in my little fellow’s responsiveness, and an increase in lethargy.  He didn’t even bother to try to stand up, but he did acknowledge me.  I am glad and grateful I was allowed to be there – I like to think it helped him, and it also did help me to acknowledge I made the right decision.

His ashes will be cremated with other pets and scattered on a farm just over the border in New York State.  I think he’d probably appreciate a new venue to explore.  I am sorry he didn’t quite make it to his 14th birthday.  I have a clipping of his hair.

He joins his cousin, Orion (another American curl) over the Rainbow Bridge,  and is survived by his older “sister” (no relation), Serenity, aka Miw.  The three had become an inseparable Triad.

Other than about ten days or so when Serenity was terribly ill (enough so she probably didn’t even notice), Serenity has never been without other feline companionship.  She started yowling last night about 11:30 pm.  She knows.

September 7:  Labor Day.  Should be another beautiful day.  Temps 54- 76F, dry and very breezy.  When it is mid-60’s, one of the Cornish Roasters will become a Cornish Game “Hen” and will reside in the fridge for two days before I cook him. (Did you know most of the Cornish game hens in your supermarket are as likely to be male as female?)  I am picking the smaller of the three putative boys.  The other four are even smaller and I’m guessing pullets.  But all of them are at least as large as the heritage birds in their coop.

The cockerel was definitely a cockerel.  A pair of rice-sized gonads.  I ended up breaking him up for storage, as it turned out to be quicker to clean him that way.  But, he is in the fridge.  Saved feet, heart, neck, gizzard and head, along with the “normal” parts.  Don’t know why the head, but we shall see.  (A friend of a friend wanted all of last year’s heads, and so – why not?   I’ll try one, and if I don’t want to bother again, she can get the rest of this year’s crop of heads.)

Oh, after four days of no new mice, I caught two more.   At least I haven’t seen fresh mouse doo.  Traps re-set.

The satellite internet is crapping out every evening, rain storms or not.  This is getting OLD fast.  I cannot wait until the promised Comcast arrives.

Weather station is predicting rain (but the thing is unreliable when it comes to predictions – but there are indeed cirrus clouds coming in out there.)

Current chicken population:

    • 2 red/buff birds, fathered by the speckled Sussex.  (The two smaller have been re-homed)
    • 1 red/buff bird, fathered by last year’s Plymouth barred rock.
    • 2 birds with some level of barred rock markings, fathered by the above Plymouth barred rock.
    • 1 “extra” hatchery purebred, unknown ancestry.
    • 1 bird with some level of barred rock markings, fathered by the speckled Sussex but unfortunately blue marker fades faster than red, so I don’t know which.  Yet. Since there were no barred rocks in that setup, this one should reveal itself soon.
    • 5 buff Plymouth rocks.  Three are probably female (small) and two are likely male (large).
    • 6 are thus Plymouth barred rocks.  Most seem to be female.  I probably have two males left after giving the third to the neighbor.
    • There is one bird unaccounted for.  (One failed to thrive – at one month’s age it still looked like it was three days old, it was one of the buff Plymouths.  It died, although it fought just as hard for feed until the end, as its siblings….)  The other chick???
    • 6 Cornish roasters, not to be confused with Cornish cross – a little slower growing but still a LOT faster than the birds that are older than them.  I guess 2 boys and 4 girls.

September 5:  Again, no new mice.  Temp range today:  47-70 F.  Went to the Otis MA farmers’ market.  Rotated the Cornish roasters outside.  Added more sand to the sedond coop’s run.  Nice and pleasantly dry (as in no unpleasant humidity) weather today, and a bit of sun.

Goals for tomorrow:  (I will let you know what I accomplish.  Well, it wasn’t much – So I’ll update with a DONE over the next day or two.)

  • Clean out fridge, saving things for chickens.
  • Make either the grits casserole or the beet pancakes for the blog (to post Tuesday).
  • Turn one of the Cornish roasters into a Cornish game “hen”, for the fridge. I will pick the largest.  I need to keep the two containers I have for them at a maximum of three chickens apiece as the chicken tractor is still occupied by older birds. (One batch lives outdoors and the others indoors, and I am rotating them.)  Allowing just six to reach full size this year will be sufficient.  DONE.
  • Cat litter cleanup.
  • Brooder room cleanup.
  • Quail and roaster homes cleaned out.
  • The rest of the sand into the second coop.  (I will still need more, which I will go get on Monday, as the place is closed on Sundays.   Note:  Monday is Labor Day, they’re closed.)  This currently-on-site load will be 300 pounds.  50 pound bags each (6 bags…)
  • Second coup cleanout.  Still working on logistics, but we will deal. There are 21 pullets and cockerels in there.  (18 now.)
  • Hang the 2nd coop feeder.
  • Put up the décor/signage at this coop.
  • .  (We are at a one-car-entry-at-a-time COVID policy here.)  Trash includes feed bags, sand bags, kitty manure, .  .  PARTIALLY DONE, DUMP OPENS AGAIN WEDS.
  • Bring a cockerel and two pullets (I hope they’re pullets) to a neighbor. DONE.

Sharkey, my robotic vacuum cleaner, apparently needs a new battery pack.  I’ll call on Monday.  I get three minutes of cleaning and then he wants to return to the docking station, which he’s still near when this happens, so he does get there.

September 4:  No new mice caught over the past two days.  Happy about that.  Rain last night.  Today’s temp range:  58 – 74 F. Dry and lovely out.  Yesterday I began putting the Cornish broilers outdoors.  Unfortunately I can’t put all 7 out at the same time (limited holding space and I don’t think cardboard is sturdy enough against any predator worth its salt).  So… rotating daily.  Moving their carrier to a new patch of grass daily.

September 2:  Temp range:  58-73 F.   A good soaking rain predicted for today, and indeed a light rain is underway.  3 dead mice.  I sent an e-mail to a rodent control company.  Hopefully they can be out here next week.  NO poisons to be permitted..

I know the morning of Sept 1 came up with 2 mice, and I had 3 quail eggs and 5 chicken eggs by day’s end. Sept 1 saw me and a friend get out of town (safely) to enjoy human companionship.   Didn’t record temps but they probably hit the mid 70s here.   Low humuckity.

August 30:  Temp Range 59-66 F.  Sunny, low humidity.  I loved the weather!  One overnight mouse house-guest in the traps.  I think they are coming in through my bedroom door?  2 chicken eggs, 3 quail eggs. There was a hollowed out and eaten chicken egg.  Turkey family seen in town, and one town over, a sad red fox that had been hit by a car.  Big dump haul day.

August 29:  Temp range 57 – 76 F.  Rain from the residues of Hurricane Laura.  It crossed over enough land on its way here that I don’t expect much wind.  No new mice zapped.  3 chicken eggs, 2 quail eggs.  We did get that wind late at night, rain had cleared out well before, and it was quite humid until the winds sprang up.

August 28:   Temp range 58-71 F.  At 5 am I heard “HOOOo” repeated several time in a row, in a nice tenor timber.  Still trying to verify the owl type.

No mice captured overnight, and I heard no rustlings.  1 chicken egg, 3 quail eggs.  Separated the roasters into two  different boxes since they’re larger now.  Should have done this a few days back.

August 27:  Temp range 48-67  F.   6 am: Red skies at dawn.  I had to look up the old maritime rhyme:

Red skies at night, sailor’s delight
Red skies at morning, sailors take warning.

Of course, sailors don’t want storms, but vegetation thrives on the right kind.  My weather station is predicting rain (but it’s not always correct).

Chicken eggs: 6.  Quail eggs: 3.  And we did get some rain.   And another two overnight zapped mice.  Last night’s salmon salad was posted today.   We did get a good amount of needed rain during the day.

August 26:  Temp Range 58-67 F.  One new mouse overnight.  I’m sick of them.   Absolutely beautiful weather in the afternoon (unless you are a plant, starving for rain).  No humidity, mid 60s, bright sun.  Some cirrus clouds overhead as late afternoon approached.

2 chicken eggs.  4 quail eggs.

August 25:  Temp Range 65-?F.   One mouse captured overnight.  He may have been a new (to the house) arrival?   3 hen eggs, 2 quail eggs.

August 24:  Temp Range: 66-85 F.  A bit unpleasantly humid.  No mice captured.  NO rustling sounds overnight.  They may be gone for now, but I recall that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  Or, something like that.  Pantry will be nuked on Tuesday, to clean up in one fowl (yes, i mean that word) swoop any mouse pellets.  (Although later in the day I heard a bedroom rustling….)   Five chicken eggs, three quail eggs collected today.

Watered the raised bed gardens by around 7 am.  Pulled the rest of the potatoes,  Set up the dehydrator to try dehydrating two racks of DICED potatoes.  I’ve tried potato chips in the past, and the unfortunate thing is that I’ve lived with decades of Lays and Ruffles – which means I really DO NOT like the taste of healthy potato chips.   While I’d like to be a better person than that… I ain’t.   Diced I figure can be rehydrated in soups and the like.   I am also dehydrating another onion on a third rack.  See here.   While my main thought was to have dehydrated onions I can grind into onion powder, it now occurs to me some of these could also go into a homemade old-fashioned (1950s) string bean and mushroom casserole such as Mother used to make for Thanksgiving.  I liked that dish as long as the onion topping remained crispy…

August 23:  Temp Range: 58-86 F.  5 hen eggs, 2 quail eggs.  No mice captured overnight.  No rustling sounds not attributed to the cats.  Switched the bait to oatmeal.

August 22:  Temp Range:  58 – 83 F.  1 mouse zapped overnight, and I emptied/reset the trap at 2 am.  Are they all gone?  We’ll check again tonight.  And then do a pantry clean-down.  Ordered  a third zap trap yesterday.  BTW, cheese is not good for trapping mice.  GRAINS are!  100 pounds of sand into the new run.

August 21:  Temp range:  51 – ? F.  2 mice zapped overnight.  There’s at least one more.  Probably more.  Where’d they get in???   Scored two quail eggs, two chicken eggs.  Bought 6 more 50 pound bags of sand.

August 20:  Todays Temperature Range:  48 – 72 F.  Three mice zapped overnight, and yes, they’re dead.   Have to figure out their port of entry into the house.   I’m set up for tonight’s mouse-riddance procedures.

Sometime yesterday WordPress moved us users over to their new editing software.  Which I am finding tremendously annoying at least for now.

Quail egg total:  3.  Chicken egg total:  4.

August 19:  Today’s temperature range:  51 – 75 F.  Brrr!  THREE quail eggs found this morning (before 7:30 am).  One more tonight.  2 chicken eggs.  It rained about 20 minutes this afternoon – not really sufficient.

Set up two mouse zap traps in the pantry.  Yes, there’s a mouse problem, and it’s beyond Obi-Wan’s mousing skills.  Unless I want him jumping on shelves and knocking stuff over.

August 18:  Today’s temperature range:  60 – 75 F.  Four eggs from Ovalicious Coop, two quail eggs.  250 pounds of sand spread inside the new (un-named) chicken run.

I have another 250 pounds here on site yet to spread, and I am hoping to buy ten more bags tomorrow.  (They’re 50 pounds each.)  I lost count of how many I’ve already off-loaded, but I think 10-15 more should do it.  Home Despot sells and delivers two yards minimum – probably I should have done that – could always use the excess somewhere.  I didn’t dream I’d need anywhere near 2 yards worth – and also I have no idea if HD would dump it where I’d want it dumped.

homesteading, pullets, cockerels

The dark red ones are all home grown hybrids. The light tan one to the right is a purebred buff Plymouth rock. To the left, two birds that I’d have to check their foot markings, but I suspect the closest is one of the purebred barred Plymouth rocks, in this case, a pullet.

Outside the coop door you see above:  that’s the run that I’m busily putting sand into.  Because they NEED to get out there sooner rather than later.

(WHY do I need sand?  Because the bottom of the run, with predator proof wire, is elevated atop the supporting wood beam structures, and is not really great for the chickens to walk directly on.  As there’s nothing underneath to support their feet.) 

Photos tomorrow.

August 17:   The rest of the chicks (but not the roaster chicks) went out to the coop.  They seem to like it there.  Re-marked the feet of the home-hatched babies (all but the one bird whose blue color wore off too soon).  Red = Ovalicious Coop, putative papa was Roo, the Plymouth barred rock I acquired in 2019.  (1 of these chicks was likely mothered by a buff Orpington, the other two unknown, as they more resemble daddy.)  Blue = Chicken Tractor, papa was likely the nasty speckled Sussex male (especially for the dark-feathered bird – that’s the one I can’t yet pick out of the lineup…. yet.)  The other four chicks look like it could have been him, or could have been the Rhode Island white.  In this case, mama hens were likely the buff Orpington, but the darkness of their featheration could point to the Rhode Island red.  Not sure about color dominance here.

homesteading, pullet, cockerel

A hybrid chicken from the chicken tractor. (Note that he/she has a blue mark on the leg.) 8 weeks old, more or less.

To note, all the parental potential chickens in the Chicken Tractor are pure heritage of some sort or another – not so true at Ovalicious Coop.  Chickpea is half silver laced Wyandotte, and half something else, and Lentil (a male who departed off to a fox’s dinner table this spring) was half silver-laced and half Australorpe – but I think he was grabbed before he could have inseminated hens for any of my current crop of chicks.  Unfortunately.).

I left the water bucket out to catch rainwater from last night’s rain, off of the Ovalicious Coup.  There was some but not much – but there was also a mouse who failed to mouse-paddle long enough to survive until I got there.

homesteading, Plymouth barred rock, pullet,

Plymouth barred rock pullet

55F low overnight, 56 when I got up, and is now a nice 72 as we approach noon.

The high today turned out to be 76 F, and rain is on the horizon (figuratively, anyway.)  EDIT:  Yes as of 7:10 pm, it has started raining.  It’s that light sort of drizzle that I doubt will amount to much but maybe I can be wrong, okay?

Veggie pics I took Sunday that I really like:

homesteading, squash blossoms, native bees

Native bees pollinating a winter squash.  Curcubita maxima – Hybrid Kabocha Winter Squash (Johnny’s).

homesteading, cauliflower

The Inner Cauliflower of this Plant’s Soul. At this point the cauli portion is nearly 4 inches wide.

August 15:  Well, two days ago I pulled most of the potatoes – there are some that may grow for another week or two, but most of their greens were dying back into yellows and even browns.  Time to go!  Most were Yukon golds but there were a couple of reds and a Russett that happened to have gotten planted at the same time as the Yukons.  I will try dicing some into approximately quarter inch cubes for dehydration.  The heat broke a bit that day, which was welcome.

Friday August the 14th I found my first adherent tick of 2020.  I pulled him off before he (or she?) got too attached.  No blood.

Yesterday a friend and I went shopping at some specialty food stores near her neck of the woods, and we ate a lunch together, socially distancing from other tables at a winery, where we did the wine sampling.  (I came home with some, too.)

homesteading, potato harvest

August 13th potato harvest.  Note I’d already harvested a few around a week prior (for scalloped potatoes).  Leaving the remaining plants in the bed for another 7-10 days to increase any growth.  In the background, you can see the emerging fall crop of kale.  No sign yet of the Swiss chard.

Today I’m working down a laundry list of To Do’s, and have already planted a dogwood.  The rest accomplished so far has been more prosaic.  (It is 10 AM, 69 F, low of 57 F when I got up this morning.)

homesteading, harvest, harvesting potatoes

One of three bowls of potatoes from the Aug. 13 harvest.

Addendum, 5:45 PM today (71 degrees F):  Very pleasant all day out, and I took some photos of native bees trying to pollinate my squash.  None are really good photos, so I will try again tomorrow. By 3 PM the flowers had shut themselves down, so we shall see what tomorrow brings.  High temp today was a pleasant 74 F.

I brought 11 chicks out to the new coop.  They seem happy there. The other 11 will go out tomorrow, but I also have to do some work in the coop – I need to hang a feeder, for one.  My waterer is fine.  Need also to get the rest of the sand into the run of this coop, and emptied out for the flock before I let them loose.  Oh, PS, this coop cannot hold 22 adult birds.  I have homes planned for some.  And a freezer planned for a few.

August 9: Broke out the Excalibur dehydrator for some drying-out events.   Tried to get Obi-Wan interested in a mouse in the house last night, but for some reason, he wasn’t buying in on it.  We shall, however, Deal.

Sun today, and loading more sand into the new chicken run.

Planning some posts:  Making Grandmother’s cheesy grits casserole; writing up recipes for a comprehensive “what to do with quail eggs” post; hoping I can make a really good Vietnamese recipe that uses tapioca flour (which I tried last autumn but while it tasted okay, really didn’t shape out the way it needed to).  More Greek recipes on the agenda, too.

August 6:  The residue of Tropical Storm Isaias whipped through early Tuesday afternoon until close to midnight. And I mean, it whipped.  We lost power before 4 pm.  Power was out here until around 11 pm or so on Wednesday night.  My property itself sustained no damage, but it is noted that the Weber grill cover blew off twice, and that the five gallon food-grade bucket I had placed under the metal chicken coop eave collected 3 gallons of water which I reserved for them, and for their young compatriots (and the quail) in my garden.  I had some potable water for me – which I shared with the indoor chicks the first night.  (Always keep some amount of potable water around in containers you re-fill from your own tap supply.  Keeps you hydrated without having to add this sort of addition to the disposable plastic waste stream.)

I was concerned about the 2 week old Cornish roasters.  But they simply huddled together for warmth, and I covered their box with a bath towel. In the morning, I sought arrangements at a place with a generator, but we decided instead that (unless this didn’t work) I should put them by a window with a southern exposure.  The temperature by my dining room door (glass) was 88 F.  The temperature on the deck proper, with sun beating down, was 101 F.  I figured it was too early in their life cycle to fry the chicks, so I went with the dining room.  They stayed there that Wednesday and overnight.  (Low 70s when I awoke Thursday morning.)

A lot of debris of tree-origin down in the neighborhood, but the town is good at organizing clean up.  Eversource concentrated on more populated areas first.

Back to normal life!  (I really got to get that whole-house generator doing!)

August 2:  Dumped the 8 fifty-pound bags of sand I bought last Friday down near the new coop – as close as I dared put the car (there are some rocks along the route).  Looking for the Thai salad green seed packet – I’d planted a lot earlier this summer and they worked, and I do want a fall crop as well.

So far, since there’s no sun to see, it’s a lot cooler than it has been by this time of day for a couple of weeks.

Mid-afternoon rainstorm.  My garden is overjoyed!!!  Oh, I emptied out two of those bags of sand in the chicken run.  As I am taller than most of the run area, for back health I am doing this two bags at a time.  Lookin’ good!

fermenting, pickling, homesteading

Let us *lettuce* hear it for fermented and/or pickled foods.

The above photo was from my socially-distancing food gathering yesterday.   I brought the pickled quail eggs.  See today’s blog post.

August 1:  Yay, the “new WordPress editor” has yet to show up as something I HAVE to use.

Quail are being good at dropping eggs for me.  I bought more sand for the chicken coop outdoors – the week after this one I am hoping my chicks will be moved outdoors and into the location.  I need to sleep out there once before they move in.  No desire on the hot sticky nights, however!

Lost one of the meat chicks a couple days ago.  No idea why.

Planting my autumnal crops of:

  • Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing.  (Baker Creek).  This one does grow but I am planning to order other strains of spinach for 2021.  It is not prolific with leaves, but really likes to go to seed rapidly.  Bed 2a.  
  • Swiss Chard.  Vulcan. (Baker Creek).  It’s a red chard, and should not be coming up with alien green-pointed ears!  Bed 4b.  Replacing the basil that didn’t show up.
  • Kale.  Russian Red / Ragged Jack.  (Baker Creek).  Bed 4b.  Replacing the basil that didn’t show up.

I harvested some potatoes Thursday to go into a scalloped potato dish I plan to make today.  I chose plants where the leaves were dying back.  Some are red potatoes, most are golds of whatever variety.  There’s one purple potato variety in there.

July 25:  It is before 7 am.  I’ve gotten up, checked the quail and the baby chicks in the Workshop – watered and fed as appropriate.  One new egg, a grand total of FIVE to date.  I think it was Blackie’s.  Started a load of laundry, and planted the two tomato plants a local friend had as extras.  Since the Chinese cabbage failed to put in an appearance, the tomatoes are now over the plot they were seeded into. Now I’m sipping on coffee before the start of the rest of the day.

Note from yesterday (copied from my Facebook account):

Going down to check for eggs mid-day: I noticed something strange, and at first I thought it a part of a tree – but it hadn’t been there before. Instead I suddenly realized what I was seeing – close enough I could have reached out with my hiking pole to tap it – was the backside of a large bird. And within a second or so – less time than it will take you to read this – the bird bounded out of the undergrowth it had tried to hide in, awkwardly flying away from me. It was a wild turkey.
 
Wow – That close!
 

RAISED BED PLANTING NOTES AND UPDATES

Back on June 14th, I’d planted purslane, calaloo, perilla, and several types of basil.  The purslane and calaloo are doing fine, but only the “spicy globe” of the basils is showing up.  The basil and the perilla are all leftover seeds from last year’s endeavors – and while I didn’t get started in enough time to plant perilla last year, all the basil types produced herbs in 2019.  Note to self:  Only plant for basil using THE CURRENT YEAR’s SEEDS!.

The seed potatoes I got from the local farm and pet store (Yukon) are doing wonderfully.  The others I planted (leftovers or such, mostly gold of some nature) are slower and some are dying back.  I’ll harvest those that are dying back, soon.

Milorganite does keep the deer away.  After they nibbled most of the beet greens, I scattered some around, and the greens ARE coming back.  Note:  Beets are a winner.  Grow again.  OFTEN.  Milorganite from the outset, however.   Turnips are probably doing fine but I’m not ready to pull any out of the ground.

Lettuce comes up, but I need to work on pest (insect) control.  Badly.   Thai salad mix is a success.  Cilantro is iffy, but I got some so will try again.  Spinach works – I’ve planted for two small crops so far, and will seed in a fall crop shortly.  I may make it larger; use up the rest of the seeds.

Rhubarb failed.  Plant from seedlings next spring.

Cucumber is slowly coming along – misplaced the seed packet so they went in late.  The foliage from the squashes are lush but no flowers yet – I was still debating trellising at that point when I should have planted.    I will get something, though!  I ordered from three separate species so I can seed-save and have next year’s breed true.

It is promising to get nastily humid and hot today.  The Cornish baby chicks are now alert and active.

Found the second tick of 2020.  Fortunately this one, like the last one, didn’t get a chance to attach.  But it was crawling around by the hairline at the side of my forehead.  I haven’t been under any trees or tall shrubs, so it had a bit of a climb.  Meanwhile, everything itches in sympathy or such.  (Are there any MORE of the buggers??)

(What I Eat in a Day – at least, today:  Breakfast:  1 avocado, sprinkled with rice vinegar.  1 yellow plum.  A small smattering of local pick-your-own raspberries.  Second Breakfast:  Takeout from a local restaurant – Smoked salmon and egg with tomato, onion and cream cheese in rye toast.  Snack:  1 ounce more or less of Monterey Jack cheese.  Lunch:  Salad, with one heirloom tomato, pea shoots,      .  Dinner:  New York Strip Steak with farmers’ market elk (free-ranged, but not wild).
15/9 “fast”/feast hours.)

Egg Tally:  3 from Main Coop (5 active hens).  1 quail egg.

July 24:  Last night the extra Cornish roaster chick was found near-dead, so I did the merciful deed.  It wouldn’t have lived until morning.  Everyone else seems fine, but I’ll note that Cornish roasters are a lot more lethargic than the other chicks I’ve ever had here.  They are indeed hybrids, but not quite the full-out Cornish Crosses that everyone knows about.  Supposedly these take two weeks longer to mature, and are thus not as prone to leg / heart issues as the other.

As a note for myself, for calculating out processing times from McMurray’s Hatchery:

The Cornish Roaster takes about 2 weeks longer to mature than the Jumbo Cornish X Rock, but still has all of the same qualities: large breast and thighs, yellow skin, and is easy to dress. Because of it’s slower growth, many of the potential leg problems are often avoided. This bird is more active than our Cornish X Rock and has a good feed conversion rate. 
 
Sold as Straight Run only, we recommend processing the pullets as fryers and the males as roasters. Fryers can reach a dressed weight of 3-4 lbs. in 8 to 9 weeks, and the roasters will reach a dressed weight of 8-9 lbs. at 12 weeks. 
 
Pullets:  Start week Sept 13 or week Sept 21, early that week.   Fryers.
Cockerels:   Start week Oct 11, roasters.   
Fine.  I plan on three harvests at a time.  No way ATM to know boys from girls, so it may be two or three harvests at a time.  (Four may well be above my desires to process at a time by myself, but who knows?)
 

The word on the little buff Plymouth rock – I’ve named it Peter Pan, as it won’t grow up.  I’ve gone to some chicken BBS forums to try to find answers – will order specialized food, and feed some chopped up mealworms.  Perhaps I should cull her/him since whatever is wrong is not a good idea for this chick to enter any Plymouth Rock breeding program I set up – I mean assuming she ever matures anyway.  But – he or she is game to live and enjoy this right now.  Certainly has more energy and willpower than those Cornish! (Although to be fair, the Cornish just arrived and may still have some travel-shock going on – even if I don’t remember this much from the red broilers from 2018 or from the June heritage bird shipment).

July 23: At 6:15 this morning I get a phone call from a neighboring town’s post office – my baby chicks have arrived!  I am there at just before 8 am to pick up the 9 ordered Cornish Broasters I’d ordered, plus one extra they’d thrown in.  They’re not quite Cornish Crosses (which should make them more hardy) but they will live for ten weeks at which point they will end up in Freezer Camp,   They were shipped out mid-day Tuesday.  This week I call them my Tiny Niblets.  They are scheduled circa September 29th to find their ways into Freezer Camp.

On Tuesday morning I’d come down to discover I had a bunch of quail and chick escapees.  Most were easy to round up and replace where they belonged, but there was one missing quail.  I kept looking for her, and never could find her.  I wondered if she escaped that room only to become a meal for my intrepid mouser, Obi-Wan.  I questioned him at length (no waterboarding!) and he just noted he maintained an interest in whatever was going on on the other side of the door into the Workshop cum Brooder Station.  But no, he maintained his innocence!  At any rate, I couldn’t find any signs of feathery struggles, uneaten meat, or hemoglobin sloppily left around, so I was at a total loss as to what happened to her.

Well, I had to sort things around so that the new chicks would have a home under a heat lamp upon arrival.  My moving stuff around aroused the instinctive escape mode (from wherever she was) of my escaped quail.  She flew up, and it was a matter of time before I found and captured her.  She was definitely dehydrated, even though there was some water available.  I am so happy to find her, as I think she’s the one who laid the larger two of the four eggs.  I don’t expect her to lay again for two or three days, but will look for it.

The quail: her name is Blackie.   There’s another in there named Russet – or Russ for short.  They are solid colors over all, at least no white.  The other five are mixed brown/russet brown and white in coloration.  Not named yet – can’t tell them apart.  The leg bands I’d purchased for them are too large, and they’ll never grow into them.

The online due-to-COVID Northeast Organic Farmers’ Association (NOFA) Summer Conference started on Monday, but I failed to remember that.  I mean, the real life one isn’t until August!  I tried watching Wednesday’s night schedule, but my satellite Internet connection combined with strong stormy weather put a end to that.  There should be videos to watch, but the interactiveness of the end portions are going to be lacking.  Next sessions will be Friday.

PS, the basils this year are an abject failure.  Note:  Plant the year they are scheduled for.  Seed Yukon Gold potatoes just purchased this past spring are doing wonderfully.  Other potatoes are growing well, just not as exuberantly.  Beets are doing very well, despite the deer coming by and eating their greens at one point – there’s now Milorganite to keep them uninterested, and the greens have returned.  Probably not as lush as they were working out to be, but I love beet greens, plus they keep the beets themselves growing healthily.

July 19: The very first quail egg was laid this morning, by 8 am if not earlier.  I found a second but smaller around noon today.  So I assume there are at least two female quail there.  There are indeed ways to distinguish male from female quail, but I may have to wait another week or something.  (Or hunker down for a few hours or two, and watch them critter hatch.)  I do wonder how the larger (3/4th inch long) egg fit in the mother quail???  She must have been seriously RELIEVED when it came out!

For my first home grown quail eggs?  Should I make a tiny one egg omelet?  Grate a little cheese?  Drop in a microgreen?

homesteading, quail,

First quail egg. 3/4th inch long. Seriously, how did that tiny quail hen pass this thing???

 
 

Yesterday, after getting a bit (perhaps) over-paranoid about the potential loss of the US Postal Service this coming September or thereabouts, I ordered 9 day-old Cornish broiler meat chicks, straight run.  (Straight run means they don’t check the genders of the birds in the batch you order.)  These chicks are perhaps better than the Cornish Cross (ready by 6-8 weeks for the freezer).  Those I ordered are supposedly ready at 10 weeks.   They’ll arrive shortly, and I have to suss out where and how they will live/thrive, once they get too large for their basement brooder boxes.

July 15:  The quail and the baby chicks just had their bedding changed.  Some of the chicks are now as large as the quail.  The chicks have been separated into two brooder boxes as they are now large enough I need to do so.  I do have the little Plymouth buff rock chick who still fails to thrive and grow.  But she or he is trying.  I put that little one in the warmer of the brooder boxes.  This little chick is at least half the size of all the others, and no, this bird is NOT impacted with Chick Butt – which is what I call the Number Two impaction that some young chicks may develop at their nether ends, that needs to be carefully removed so they can poo healthfully.

My little great nephew, Charle, turned 5 yesterday, on Bastille Day.  I talked to him and to his mother, and have promised to set up a Zoom meeting with them so he can see these chicks and the quail as soon as possible.  This means I really do want to complete the Quail Hutch by the weekend, as it will 1) be best for the quail and 2) be a great visual for Charle.  Seriously, I appreciate the kick in the behind to get the hutch DONE!  I checked to see if WiFi will reach their location in the basement – at least on my phone, it will.  (Need to test with laptop, as that will be how we communicate…)

I love the wilderness here.  The sky is mostly overcast (I do wish it would rain some more). In an hour I will plant the apple trees (or the plums?) to surround the raised beds.  The new Bearss lime tree is enjoying the back deck.

Been reading Walking Home: A Poet’s Journey, by Simon Armitage, but suddenly the Kindle decided, mid-paragraph, to update itself.  So far it seems interesting (the book, not the updating!) , but not stellar, but I love that part of the world (Scotland, and zones near it).

I don’t think the skies will be clear enough tonight for comet-viewing, and besides I need the thing to be higher in the sky here for me to see it.  Hopefully next week.

July 10:  Bands of Tropical Storm Fay have arrived, starting at 2:50 pm.  I lose satellite Internet and land phone during the waves.  So I will lose it again soon.  Did a last check of the chickens – one of the Orpingtons in the tractor has gone broody. Like the one in the main house, I’m not letting them hatch their eggs this year.

Tractor mowing commenced two evenings ago.  I will now be able to plant the stone-fruit trees, which I will do on Sunday.

The chicks are doing fine.  I do have a small one that isn’t thriving, but I keep pushing her at the food and water, which she apparently likes.

July 5:  I hope those who are American got to celebrate Independence Day yesterday.  Usually during the extended weekend I visit parties in both lower Litchfield County, Connecticut, and in Putnam County, NY.  No parties this year.  Well, I do have to count an evening at an online Zoom party where the conversations were separated into a couple different rooms – basically so everyone gets a chance to talk – I hit both of them, and convos were ranging and far flung and excellent.  (Towards the end I polished off the last of my vegetarian and gluten-free Greek moussaka, and I wasn’t the only Zooming individual eating.)

I’d earlier eaten a late lunch outdoors on my porch:

4th lunch-

Lunch around 2 pm. Brats with provolone, and mustard to use. Stuffed cheesy potato. First farmer’s market season tomato for me, topped with pea sprouts, Greek yogurt, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Happy 4th!

And, yes, the quail and the baby chicks are doing fine!  The chicks will be moving to a larger brooder box today, they’re getting larger and more ambitious in exiting their current homes.

It may have been in the past two years I’d not gotten back to Massachusetts in time, but for the first time since living here I heard fireworks last night.  Rural – they’d be far away and penalties are stiff for unauthorized use of fireworks in this state.  Since it ran for the 30-35 minutes, I figure this was a distant town’s own local display.  They only came through as a muffled set of sounds, and nothing I could see from my windows or doors.  No feline trauma!

fireflies

I have to note that on the night before (3rd), this was my perfectly silent and lovely fireworks display!  (Fireflies!!!)

High temp of 78 F with 65% humidity yesterday.  Borderline unpleasant.

July 2:  We’ve had a nice amount of rain lately, which is good for farming.  Also great, alas, for weed production!!!

New citrus and dogwood saplings arrived earlier this week/ COVID-related shipping hang-ups.  The citrus are scheduled for deck plantings this afternoon.   They are one of each:  Blood Orange; Persian Bearss Lime; along with a White Kousa Dogwood.  My Thai keffir lime, already owned, is hanging on.  

The year is half-over.  I hope the second half is better for the world than the first.

June 28:  Finally rained yesterday.  Not quite enough.  Today I planted the winter squash seeds, finally.  Bed 3.  The remainder of Bed 3a got:  Cururbita pepo:  Delicata Sweet Dumpling (Johnny’s).  Bed 3b: Curcubita moschata – Thai Rai Kaw Toc Pumpkin (Bakers Creek).  Bed 3cCurcubita maxima – Hybrid Kabocha Winter Squash (Johnny’s).   The three varieties are from three different Cucubita species – they won’t cross pollinate, and I can save the seeds.  Took me awhile because I had to plan the trellising system – which is now ordered.

Baby chickens are doing fine.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the baby quail. At least I have the original batch.

A thunderstorm is rolling in (nearly 2 pm); I hope we get rain with it.  We had some yesterday, we shall see, we need more.

June 25:  The ordered chicks arrived today, after being shipped out about 48 hours ago.  All appear healthy.  They sent Plymouth barred rocks and buff rocks – I thought for the latter I’d ordered Rhode Island whites.  But I am fine with this.  Maybe I’ll breed these instead?  They tossed in a random chick of unknown breed, but he’s handsome.  (Assuming it’s a he, which I am.)  This year, pullets are in high demand so I will assume most of these are infant cockerels – I do hope I get at least one or two females from the rock breeds, for my breeding thoughts.

June 24:  Chicken total, 8 chicks, three out of five eggs from the main coop, 5 out of 5 from the tractor.  Quail total:  7 chicks out of 18 eggs.  This has all been written up as a blog post published yesterday.  I opened up the unhatched quail eggs – none of the remaining had visible embryos.  Either they weren’t fertile or they died in-shell too young to be detected.  The two remaining unhatched chicken eggs will be opened later this morning.  One baby quail managed to drown itself overnight in the saucer – I’ve switched back to the saucer used with the original quail.  So anyhow, 6 baby quail are here and breathing.

The original batch of quail continue to do just ducky.  Well, ahem!  (Quail-y???)

Brief thunderstorm came through around 4 am.  More rain is predicted for later morning – YAY – we haven’t had any rain for well over a week.  Farmers love rain (in the right doses, of course.)

Got the notice yesterday that the chicken order – I want barred rocks (PBR’s) for breeding – has been shipped and should arrive within 72 hours.  (Ps, this normally would take up to 48 hours, but between COVID and the PO Office shortfall… this happens.)  I probably should have picked a more rare breed – but it is never too late to end up doing just that.  (Or maybe it is, if the Postal Service is allowed to go the way of the dodo bird.  It’s the only organization that ships live poultry, and it has done so since the mid-late 1800’s.  The ability rather got grandfathered in, and neither UPS nor Fed-Ex show any inclination to ever do so.  GRRRRR.  Not angry at UPS nor Fed-Ex either – just on our gov’t willing to let a very useful service go down the tubes for no real reason at all – even as they bail out other businesses.)  When I pick up my chicks, I’m going to buy two or three books of stamps…. IF we ALL do this???

Checked the two remaining chicken eggs, since by now they weren’t going to hatch anyway.  No discernable embryos.  (I do this outdoors because I really don’t appreciate the stench of eggs that may have gone rotten.  Some people actually cut them open, I simply smash them against a New England rock.  (AND not a barred rock, but a geological one…)

June 22 65 degrees F.  Going to use the morning as my “active time”, as it goes up from here.

chick, hatched, homesteading

Just Rolled Out. Yes, a second before I could snap more than one photo of emergence.

5:00 a.m.:  One new chicken hatched.  This has buff Orpington maternal background, and came from the tractor housing.  I am marking the chicks that came from the tractor (blue magic marker on the feet, which I will have to renew often, until they are big enough for leg tags).  One unhatched egg has a slight crack in it, but it seems to be the same size as last night’s crack.  One quail egg also seemed a bit broken last night – but again nothing more has emerged from the last of the quail eggs.

So, three hatches from each housing unit (so far – I had five eggs incubating from each).  The barred rock parentage appears not to be a dominant phenotype, when considering crossing with Australorpe or Orpington.

In the tractor, I am tending to assume Dad is the speckled Sussex, as he’s Alpha bird to the Rhode Island white’s very submissive behavior.  If so, genetically, the Orpington hens carry genetic dominance over speckled Sussex (or over Rhode Island white, if that was indeed a dad).  The third chick from that coop is brown, and it is too early to tell if it will grow to resemble Mom or Dad.  (The only other hen in that unit is a Rhode Island red.)

Last summer I tried researching chicken genetics, but didn’t learn much.  Perhaps there is more available to discover this year.  Note that my phenotype notes only refer to feather color – there is a lot more that goes into making specific breeds of chicken!

There’s one more confounding factor.  I understand that egg fertilization can take place some amount of time prior to egg laying.  I have to count back to when Lentil (the F1 Silver Laced Wyandotte x Australorpe cross) disappeared – both he and the Barred Rock shared manly duties in the main hen house (and got along very well).  I suspect he disappeared prior to when he might have fertilized any of these eggs – but it will be interesting to confirm.  [This is one reason why I am recording such copious notes in the Journal.  Future reference material.  Also, you can take the girl out of science, but you can’t take science out of the girl!]

6:00 a.m.:  Another egg is starting to hatch.  This time I’m determined to catch photos.  (And I did – see this photo, taken mere seconds before the date header photo!):

homesteading, hatching chick

Hatching…  Took maybe 15 minutes from when I noticed the original beak-sized crack, at 6 a.m.

9:00 a.m.:  Another egg has a crack in it.  Also from the chicken tractor.  If it does hatch, that will be 5/5 from the chicken tractor.  (OFF TO DO LAUNDRY!)


June 21:  Happy Solstice!

I awoke to two deer munching dangerously close to the veggie garden.  I chased them off.  Once I dress, I’ll check for any intrusions.  Definitely a reminder for me to spread around some Milorganite fertilizer, which deer hate the smell of.

6:00 a.m.:  Still only seven quail and no sign of other shells being breached from within.  BUT one of the chicken eggs is beginning to work its way open.  I set up the quail brooder yesterday evening, and just turned on the heat lamp now, and ground up some chick starter food for them.  I’ll bring the babies down to this set-up in about half an hour or so, once it warms up enough for them.   I’ll leave the other quail eggs in the incubator for another day, but I doubt I’ll have more activity.

6:45 a.m.: The chicken egg crack was a little bigger, but far from open.  I walked away to dress, and lo and behold, I missed the hatching of the chick!  It is a black chick from the main hen house (I labeled sources on the eggs.)  I am assuming Dad was the Barred Rock and Mom was one of the outright Australorpes (or was the broiler cross breed, Celeste).  It’s very damp, and confused.  Hoping it gets a buddy in the chicken species today!

7:30 a.m.: Quail are downstairs.   So far no new chickens hatched, or giving signs of wanting to do so.  The hatched chick now looks more brown than black – maybe my lost Buckeye added to the gene pool before becoming something’s dinner!  The deer btw had not attacked the veggies, and I took the opportunity to water everything.  Milorganite this afternoon!

homesteading, quail

Four of the seven new quail, hatched June 20th. They are now in their short-term brooder. (Walls are way too short for this to be more than a week.)  They are not as colorful as the quail I obtained back in April.  

Will get to Tractor Supply and Bed Bath and Beyond for some poultry-related needs.  Tractor Supply opens at 9 am on Sundays.  Unfortunately BB&B won’t open until ten!  Okay, it’s a Sunday, but that’s what they’re currently doing all week except Saturdays.  (What I need more of is that waterproof shelf liner for the bottom of the chicken brooder.  I have some left, but it is a discontinued color that I use for my kitchen cabinets/drawers and I am reluctant to give that to the chickens!  Um, I’m NOT going to want it back!)

10:00 a.m.:  I went to Tractor Supply, came back, figuring I do have a makeshift solution to the flooring in the early-stage chicken cardboard brooder box.  I didn’t feel like killing time for half an hour for BB&B to open.  Yeah, First World Problems.  BUT I now have a second chick from the main coop – looks exactly like a black Australorpe!  While adults become all black, the chicks are mostly black with white heads and rump regions.  I love those birds, too.  If nothing else hatches, at least they can keep each other company (I was looking at Cornish rock chicks at Tractor Supply… fast growing meat… But I need to see what numbers I WILL be hatching/raising before “hoarding” more chicks here.)  — Edit, I have now hatched out 5 chicks today so I doubt I’ll be getting supplemental chicks from TSC this season…

homesteading, baby chicks, home incubation

First two chicks hatched here on 6/21/2020. The one in the back has an Orpington phenotype, the one in the front exhibits a Australorpe phenotype. They are both hybrids: their father is almost certainly a Plymouth Barred Rock rooster.

1:00 p.m.:  Another chick hatched.  The third came from the adjunct housing (speckled Sussex as the likely rooster, though there is a Rhode Island White in there, but he’s being suppressed by the dominant male.  The original looks now mostly like buff-Orphington, and this one looks maybe like it is of  buckeye ancestry.  Dunno yet.  2/5 hatching from the main coop, 1/5 from the secondary housing.  Maybe Archie the Speckled Sussex is just firing blanks?  PS. in the interim, I sent trash to the Sunday dump session.  The older quail, for all their small size, certainly do excrete a LOT!  (When poultry goes outdoors, I compost what they “do”.   I should start doing this for smaller critters.)

2:00 p.m.: potential signs of two more chicken eggs that may erupt with a baby chick or two.

3:30 p.m.:  Another from the adjunct housing hatched.  I am marking their feet, so I can track parentage.  Four total.

4:50 p.m.:  Fifth chick hatched, from the main coop.  Signs of another egg ready for hatching soon.  I want to be available to photograph, so I’ll be checking often.

June 20:  This was the morning to stop rotating the incubating eggs, and place them on the incubation “pad”.   I went to do so, and found that four quail had already hatched, one of those had died, a few quail shells in addition to that are apparently in process.  In fact as I type this I went back to look — and two quail are actively emerging – this is only a few minutes later.  No sign of activity from any of the hen eggs.  Last night around 11 pm there’d been no sign of activity from the quail – but TBH I didn’t look closely – I was simply providing the incubator with more water for humidity.

I’d made the decision not to candle any of these eggs, whether quail or chicken, so I won’t know how many fertile I should have – but it is interesting to note that the chicken eggs should start hatching a day before the quail.  Apparently the quail did some growth prior to the chicken egg collection, even if not incubated – the quail eggs were here about a week before I could incubate, whereas the chicken eggs were all collected between 0 and 2 days pre-incubation.

Chickens should hatch on or about Day 21, quail on or about Day 22.  It is Day 18.5.

6:30 a.m.:  6 quail are moving around in the incubator. (Note:  total number of eggs is 18.)

7:00 a.m.:  Still 6.

9:00 a.m.:  A seventh has almost emerged.  They’re tiny, but one wonders how they FIT in there!

It is currently 74 F out, 70% humidity, intense sun.  With low humidity I’d have no problems with the temperature, but as it is, the weather out there is just beginning to get under my skin.   I watered the veggie garden around 7:30 today and while I’ll drop by the coops outdoors for chicken maintenance and egg collecting, that’s all I really would like to do out there.  Unfortunately we also have a town meeting at 1:30 — outdoors so we can be COVID-ly spaced.

11:30:  Still seven, hatched and alive.

3:30 p.m.:  Still seven.

Temperature is 84 F but 47% humidity.  We had our town meeting outdoors starting at 1:30, fortunately in a roofed area of the exhibition barn at the town fairgrounds.  Being as the humidity had dropped, and we were shaded, this was actually a more pleasant event than the usual annual town meetings in a stuffy gymnasium.

Today I will have to set up and heat their basement brooder, to which they will go by tomorrow morning.

By bedtime, which I failed to record, but no biggie, since there was no change:  Still seven.

June 17:  Planted some dwarf moringa seeds in a rectangular container bed on the deck. This plus what is in the raised bed out front (another five) should be fine.  I will have to work out how to raise any outdoor survivors indoors when the time comes – perennial but not hardy to zone 5, but that isn’t a worry atm.

Yesterday I picked up my order of 10 bags of 50 pounds of sand for the new chicken coop run from the Home Depot pre-ordered pickup zone.  Today I unloaded it as close to the run as I’d dare go (rocks – this is New England, folks!).  I’ll woman-handle them over these next two or three days, and set them into the run.  I think I will need a further ten bags.  From my calculations on sand, 20 bags of 50 pound of sand equals one yard, and HD will only deliver a minimum of 5 yards.  I know I don’t need that much, and I don’t want that much hanging around atm.  AND, transporting the sand from where they are likely to dump it, seems like a pita in itself.

AND, it’s another lovely day in Paradise!  Six eggs yesterday.  I LOVE dry useful working weather outside, which is what I should be (and am)  GRATEFUL for experiencing outdoors.

June 14:  4 eggs today.  Early morning hours low of 40 degrees F, yesterday’s was 46.  Today I didn’t actually move out of bed until it turned out to be 47, which was still before 7 AM.  (I watch YouTube homesteading videos, mostly, before I move out of bed.)  I like the cool, low humidity, sun is shining weather we are having.  Today’s maximum reached 68.  I like this.  I feel human in this.  I don’t care that I wear a sweater in the morning.

clover yard 1

Wild flowers: white clover and unknown species of orange flower.

The yard, which still needs to be tractor mowed, is ablaze down on the path to the chickens with red and white clover flowers, buttercups, and the occasional splash of wild daisy.  The dandelions are long gone – well, their greenery is still there at ground level, but both the yellows and the puffball whites have gone or blown away.  I may try for photography tomorrow.

clover yard 2

Wild flowers: Daisies and a purple clover. Lots of nitrogen fixing going on!

We are alas fast encroaching on the longest day of the year – which means afterwards all the days will start to diminish again.

One of the buff Orpingtons has definitely gone broody.  She started a few days ago.  Yesterday I removed the egg from under her, so she’s left with brooding a ceramic egg.  (Which may hatch out a ceramic chick????)  In case that (real) egg was under her longer than I thought, I’ll be cracking that egg open for my own breakfast, just to check.  At any rate, I don’t mind her going broody – she can rest from the attentions of Roo for a few weeks.  The hen is either Fimbrethil or Idril – both buff Orpingtons lost their leg bands – but since she seems to sit reliably in the same nesting box, I suspect this is the more reliable Fimbrethil.  My apologies, my lady, for removing your egg, as last summer you hatched out a wonderful chick / cockerel named Lentil.   Who seems to have died in the service of all of you this past May, defending you from a fox.  I like to remember him as a bold hero, although I wasn’t here when it happened.

More seeds planted in, today.  If I find the cucumber seed packet, I’ll put them in as well.  But for now:

Bed 4a (behind the already growing beets):

1 row of red lettuce – 4 seedlings already growing.

Dwarf moringa (Baker Creek).  Allegedly has health benefits.  From my research, can’t hurt.  One row  (May not mature in time, but I will bring the plants in, as container plants.)  The seeds need to soak in warm water prior to planting.

1 row of purslane – David’s Seeds.   (I already planted some in Bed 1c).  Yes, it is a “weed”, but remember a weed is something growing where you don’t want it to grow.  I want it to grow!  (It certainly won’t outcompete the weeds already prevalent in the yard to begin with!)

Bed 4b:  

1 row Amaranth/green Calaloo.  (Tastier than spinach!)  Baker Creek.

1 row Shisho / Perilla Purple Zi Su.  Baker Creek.

All the following basil is from Seed Needs, and obtained last year, when most of those I did plant grew reasonably well – hoping for viability for the remainder this year:

1 row holy basil/tulsi basil.

1 row dark purple opal basil.

1 row Thai basil (my absolute favorite).

1 row lime basil.

1 row Italian large leaf basil.

1 row spicy globe basil.

Bed 4 is now officially complete.

Will water early morning tomorrow before I run some necessary errands.

Before I plant the winter squash, I want to purchase either cattle panel or hog panel for them to grow up upon.  I should be able to do that by the end of this week.

I applied for a state fishing license a couple months ago.  I’ve never gotten documentation in the mail as promised.  I did run into a web-glitch when applying on line.  This note here is a reminder for me to call the game and fishery department this week to find out what happened.  Got sidetracked, but now I’m interested in going fishing.

June 9:  Six eggs today, but the Buckeye hen did not return home.  I really like that breed.  Third bird lost to predation since I started two years ago.  I’m keeping them indoors tomorrow.  Electronet can’t go up until I’m tractor-mowed.  (That won’t save them from hawks, but if I am around I learned I can scare them off.  Yell like a demented screech owl!)

My friend and I removed the major two trees in the morning, at least their portions that would affect tractor mowing.  (Which is not likely to happen until the end of the month.)  After she left, I let the above chickens out – one not returning that evening.  2021 – I will have my OWN tractor.

June 8:  Working with a friend tomorrow to remove some fallen trees felled by storms last winter.  None are really bad, but they’d be in the way of tractor mowing the property.  Today is another beautiful day.  I transported 100 pounds of organic soy-free chicken feed around back, with 25 pounds of it directly going to the chicken bin.  Also the quail run, which I’d hoped to set up outdoors in the back, but looking at the quality of the material, I think this is going to be in the basement.  It’s not really bad – it is fine if out of the way of the elements most of the time, but.  Outdoor-hardy, I think NOT.  Okay, I can set it up in the basement proper, with some sun access.   I will add extra hardware cloth to keep Obi-Wan (my mouser cat) from being too inquisitive – which if I’d set this up outdoors, I’d also have to do.  Foxes, snakes, etc. I already have the hardware cloth of interest.  (A swatch of it is keeping my late-aged juvenile quail from hopping or flying out of their current cardboard box.)

Before I saw this quail home on line, I’d already ordered lumber from Home Depot.  So I WILL be setting up an outdoor run as well.  I figure the indoor one will be good for juveniles, or for harsh portions of winter, or for any quail that needs to be quarantined for whatever reason.  This also gives me more time to make sure their outdoor home is built to good specs.  These are the days I wish I’d been able to take Shop as a teen.  In some ways, I’ll be driving/building blind.  But having the interior backup plan gives me the confidence to try to do what I want to make.

June 7:  Beautiful day.  Low of 50, high of 72 F.  Minimal humidity.  Hilled the potatoes.  The first batch of spinach has gone a bit to seed.  I’ll save some seeds, and harvest much of the plant.  Cleaned the quail box.  They are turning into beautiful birds.  Starting my second week of vacation from Facebook.  PS the bison tongue turned out wonderful – had half in a salad this morning.  I’m thinking about how to treat the rest of it for a meal tomorrow.

quail, homesteading

The one red-toned quail here. I should know genders within a month. Handsome dude. (yes, I am assuming.)

June 4:  Dispatched a rooster early morning.  Started cooking bison tongue in the sous vide – had to get a second circulator as the first one (Gourmia) after two years of use is not very dependable – last time I used it, it suddenly stopped (granted after a long cook session, and shortly before I would have stopped it anyway).  I’ll continue to use it, but only for short runs.  This tongue recipe says to go for 2-3 days. What I don’t care for the new (ANOVA) circulator is there’s less leeway for evaporation – the min and max marks are too close together.  And the max is right at the top of whatever pot you place the thing in.   So I will be getting up overnight to add more water.

Ordering supplies from Tractor Supply, which I’ll pick up tomorrow morning.

It promises to be a hot and humid day out there later on.  (Yes, I consider 80 F when coupled with humidity to be on the nasty side of life.)

Ate the 6 remaining quail eggs yesterday for breakfast.  I hard boiled them, and cut them open to verify no visible embryos.  At least if the 18 don’t hatch, I got some value out of the order.

June 2:  The eggs are incubating.  10 chicken and 18 quail eggs.  As noted, I don’t expect the quail eggs to do anything.  I have 6 more of them – which I am going to see if I can cook and eat for breakfast this week.  If they fail to hatch – the 18- , I will order more at the end of June.

10:30 am.  One of the quail had managed an escape.  He was running around the workshop, and after about ten minutes I managed to capture him.  He was not happy about that. Still trying to figure out how he did it but I do have an idea.  He was the red Coturnix.  (Guessing at gender – there are two small quail and five larger, and I’m wondering if size might be a gender determinant.)

June 1:  ATM no change in the WordPress editing – at least so far as existing pages.

I set up the incubator for egg hatching.  I will be doing ten hen eggs and a dozen quail eggs.  I don’t have much hope for the quail.  However the hen eggs are five from the main chicken coop/hen house, and the other five are from the chicken tractor.  I am allowing the incubator to run overnight (it is already evening here) so official egg incubation will start tomorrow morning.  Eggs were collected May 30, 31, and June 1.

There has been a lot of problems with the incubation units looked at from Tractor Supply.  The company they sourced, Little Giant, isn’t worth squat – parts are MISSING.  Just downright missing and the second one didn’t even have an electric cord – which in the first one was permanently attached to that unit.  Don’t do business with Little Giant.

I ordered a semi rush order from Premier1supplies.com – the company that makes theirs, Borotto, provides a more sturdy incubator which includes all the parts.   (Oh, did I mention the casing on the repulsive brand was Styrofoam???)  The Borotto costs a heck of a lot more, but sometimes you really do get what you pay for.   (Or so I am hoping.)

So, tomorrow morning I will add my eggs to the incubator.  The chicken eggs are due to hatch about the same time as the baby chicks I ordered to arrive about June 22nd.   I ordered those straight run – which considering the demand on baby chicks for egg laying, I won’t be surprised if most of those end up male.  While the goal is cockerels for the freezer, I also want barred rock females in order to set up a breeding program.  Yes, my incubation effort will be the chicken variant of mongrels, but around half should be females, for laying breakfasts.

I marked the eggs – the rooster in the hen house is a Plymouth barred rock.  There are currently two roosters in the chicken tractor, and I suspect the dominant one will be the father – the speckled Sussex (who is slated for the freezer, sorry). The other roo is a Rhode Island white, who was supposed to be a hen, but decided he’d been mis-diagnosed.  Marking the eggs will help me sort them at birth (er, hatch).

(PS, I can swear I bought an incubator last summer.  It still hasn’t turned up.  I feel bad about the little quail eggs, but I am willing to try anyway…  And if no success this time, I have the other hatchlings in my basement.)

May 31:  Didn’t accomplish the quail hutch goals.  I will be starting it Tuesday instead.  Today is centered around cleanup inside, although 250 lbs of more sand was picked up yesterday and will be trundled around (in the car) to the new coop, followed by the pieces of hutch.  And then a trip to the town dump.   Assembling the egg incubator today.  Assembling (and using) the gardening fork.  I am reserving eggs collected yesterday, today and tomorrow for the incubator, for a total of ten.  Which means no eggs for the community center this week, unless the chickens stop having at it with the egg-eating – or I get there each visit in time.  Got five eggs yesterday!  Three the day before!  All in shape for an incubator!   I am looking to incubate ten chicken eggs.

Hoping to make the chicken and rice recipe for the blog today.   This may not get posted until tomorrow.  Or, later.  WordPress editing will apparently change overnight.  WE Shall See.

We had a few uncomfortably warm with humidity days (at least for me – I’m reminding you this is one reason I didn’t move to family in Florida – the other is I doubt finding a place to homestead on near them would be easy.)  Today>  Temp range 46 – 58 F, and dry  – a good working range of temperature for yard activity and useful gardening work, in my opinion.

Egg total today:  4.  That gives me 9 eggs to incubate.

Loaded some sand into the new coop run.  Unfortunately due to some badly-located rocks (thank you, New England), I can’t drop the 50 lb pound bags right by the entryway.   I seem to have no problem lugging the first of any load by arm strength over to the run, but additional ones need to be rolled over n over to the run.  Hey, who needs Planet Fitness???!  I am estimating this job will need 25 bags of sand before it is done. 25 x 50 = 1250 pounds total.  A little over a  “yard”.  Home Depot would deliver 5 yards, minimum.  Don’t need or want that much, so I’ll just go back and get more bags until this is done.

May 28: The future quail hutch arrived.  I’ll be trundling it around to the back yard to assemble tomorrow.  It’s supposed to rain overnight (I hope so), and I don’t want to be halfway through working on it when rain starts.  I will be picking up more sand for the new chicken coop today.  (EDIT, they’d sold out but I paid for 5 bags to pick up in a day or three.  It did rain the next couple nights.)

May 25:  Just planted:

Seeds, Bed 1b – the final rows.   Two rows Chinese broccoli (Yod Fah).  Two rows Greens (Chinese cabbage, Chirimen Hakusai).  Bed 1 is DONE.

Seeds, Bed 1 c – 1.5 rows purslane.  (Along with a straggly rootbound tomato plant rescued at a roadside stand).  2.5 rows Salad Blend Siamese Dragon Stir Fry Mix.  2 wider rows of Celery (Chinese White).

All of the above are sourced from Baker Creek (Well, not the straggly tomato plant.)

Most of the earlier seeds are coming up.  Arugula was FAST.  Spinach looks lovely, although not ready for picking.

Still to plant:  a couple varieties of perilla, bok choy, more lettuce.  Cucumbers.   Three varieties (one from each species so they won’t cross-pollinate) of squash.  Saving squash seeds is easy and fun.  Nasturtiums.  Most of these will wait until early June.

And some fruit trees this afternoon.

Just discovered the rhubarb seeds.  They were supposed to go in earlier, but I think I’ll plant them anyway, tomorrow (the seeds need to soak).  No crop this year, but hey.  Wouldn’t have gotten one this year anyway.  EDIT: Soaked half of them this afternoon, and planted in Bed 3a, done wide.  Bed 3 will eventually ALL be perennial veggies.  This year 3b and 3c will likely be squash.  I may do it 3b and 4a as squash, however, this year.  Logistics.

Yesterday, the 24th, good fun walking the levees of Hatfield MA with a friend, playing with cameras.  We ordered a delivery of good Indian food, which we ate spaced out on her deck, prior to our walk.  Anyhow first time actually being with a friend in person since the COVID shutdown.  Yes, we know how to do safety.  Both of us come from medical fields.

May 21:  WordPress is moving to their new “block editor” system June 1st.  I tried it out a year ago, and the computer hung up over it.  I had to go on via my Kindle to reset to the earlier version, which I’ve been happily using ever since.  Said Kindle has since bit the dust.  So if I vanish from updates here – it may well be because I might never be able to get back on.  I do have recipes in the flow that will appear auto-magically because they’re already written and set for posting.  We Shall See.  I’m always a proponent for improvements, but if something ain’t broke… Yah.

Weather is great out.  New quail eggs that were ordered and intended for hatching arrived this afternoon.

May 15:   Found the spinach seeds, and the purslane seeds!  (Yes, purslane is commonly regarded as a “weed”, but it is a nutritious and health-promoting weed.)  Planting spinach today, but purslane is not frost-hardy, and so I won’t plant that until June 1st.  PS, of course, a weed is defined as anything growing where you don’t want it to grow!

Planted:

Raised Bed 2a – atop the places where the early beets never showed up:  just planted seeds two rows in the front over their non-existent bodies:  Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing, Baker Creek.

Observations re earlier plantings:

Refer to May 3:  Tiny bits of turnip showing up in Bed 2a, more active bits of arugula appearing in Bed 2b.

First day it got noticeably warmer outdoors than indoors.  My thermostat is set at 66 F.  It is 69 and a bit humid out there.  (Storms forecast for overnight.)

I have an egg I know was laid today by my lady, Celeste.  I could not bring myself to donate it to the community center.  MINE, my PRECIOUS!  I do plan to incubate some of my own hen’s eggs this summer, but I want to time them to hatch around when the ordered chicks arrive.  I’d love one of her babies, but this is way too soon.  They all need to age-match out of rearing-convenience.  21 days of incubation means if the baby chicks I ordered arrive about June 23rd, I can’t be setting eggs in the incubator until early June.  (PS, I do have to hope the post office remains solvent through June, too.  No other service will send out day-old chicks – NONE.  They’ve been doing this for around 150 or so years, and they know what they’re doing.)

May 14:  I seem to have missed posting here for awhile.  Some current updates are on my blog post dated May 9th.  I also lost Lentil, the rooster that hatched here last summer – I’m now thinking it was a fox as I saw a beautiful red fox tracking around my back yard that following Sunday (fortunately no one was out, or I wouldn’t have thought her/him so much a beauty…). I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo.  At any rate, I hope the 9th was the last real snow event of this season.

Yesterday the 13th, a light snow dusting.   It also marks the first day I left the Hilltowns for shopping since March 16th, when our state closed down for non-essential travel.  There’s a lot of pros and cons flying around, but I will try to support our local businesses as best I can, as appropriately as I can.  (My trip into Pittsfield was for certain groceries, and I will note everyone I saw there was being considerate of others.  You may or may not agree with policies, but – hey – be considerate.  After all, you never know.)

I’ve ordered baby chicks to ship June 22nd to here, and also a new coop to supplement the housing already here for chickens.  The coop was purchased through Shedman, which has a branch in Hinsdale, MA, but also operates in upper NY state.  I would like to raise up a breed, and right now I’m planning on barred rocks.  The barred rock rooster that I raised up last summer from a hatchery-supplied lot seems a mellow bird, so why not try this breed first?  Another option is the Rhode Island White, which is actually on the heritage livestock breed list as needing breeding help, ie, at some level of endangerment.  My Rhode Island White rooster is also a disciplined bird.  I ordered some of each types of these chicks.

These are arriving “straight run”, due to heavy demand.  So likely mostly male, but we do what we do.  Dinner is always an option.

homesteading, Shedman chicken coop

The background is my next door neighbor – the Nature Conservancy.

The new coop looks pretty cool!

Rain predicted the next two days – which means Sunday the soil should be loose enough I can plant in the electronet fencing with ease.  Which will keep foxes out – but won’t deter hawks of course.

new coop 1-

Coop comes with a roosting bar, a floor with easy sweep out, and a good sized run. Windows open and have screens. There’s a wire mesh floor in the run.

High of 66 F.   Lovely weather, my favorite.

Raised Bed Planting notes:

Bed 1a:  2 rows of “salad blend European Mesclun”  One row in the back with a seedling row of Lemongrass seeds.  Still have space in between.

Bed 1b:  1 row red cabbage seedlings.

Bed 1b:  1 row cauliflower seedlings.

Bed 4c:  4 rows Yukon gold potato starts.  My favorite potato.

Bed 4 c: 2 rows of random gone to sprouting random potatoes of uncertain parentage.

Trying to find the extra spinach seeds so I can plant those, as well.  NOW.

homesteading, chicken coop

While I’d have preferred a metal roof, the fact that this one fairly matches the house roof is pretty cool.  (There’s extra roofing material should I need a strip or two.)

May 5:  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Morning temps back down to 34 F today.

Lentil the Rooster is still AWOL, so I am concluding he’s hawk or fox feed.  Possibly the former as there are no signs of feathers, although I can’t track all the places my chickens roam.  If so, the reputation of hawks not wanting to prey on black-colored birds is a myth, or perhaps my local hawk population hasn’t had run-ins with crows to get leery of the coloration.  (Have yet to see crows here this year.)    So this means in two years I’ve lost TWO birds to predation.  Not bad.  And I really wasn’t looking forward to harvesting Lentil myself.  He was born here, and had a decent disposition…. (Roo, the other rooster in the coop, is still with us, as are all their hens.)

No one is being allowed out today as I am going to be putting another rooster in the fridge, when it warms up a bit.  (Really don’t like the idea of being sidled up to, and “watched”.)

Today’s tasks:  Dispatch the aforementioned rooster.  Plant seeds for lettuce, and plant Yukon Gold potatoes.  Go to small local grocery for cheese and maybe they have sanitizer, and a couple other things I want.  Put together some garden implements I ordered back either January or February, to work on my gardens.  Measure out where the new chicken coop will go – I should also pick up bright orange Rust-Oleum spray for that, while out.  (Yes, the local small Tractor-Supply-like shop.)  Make lamb rib chops in the sous vide for dinner.  (Use Mexican seasonings????  Yes!)  Breakfast is to be omelet with Fontina cheese and lots of veggies.

May 4:  At this point I think Lentil the home-raised and home-grown rooster is gone.  Probably into the gullet of  a hawk or something.

Mind you, because of the genetic probabilities and cross breedings he was up to (he was most likely breeding with his biological mother), I was planning to put him in my freezer within the month, since I want to hatch out baby chicks by mid/late June, but – he was a good rooster.  I am sorry that he appears to be gone.

Lentil is the half brother to Chickpea, the first surviving chick to adulthood I’ve raised here.  Chickpea is Silver laced Wyandotte x Buff Orpington.  Lentil appeared to be Silver laced Wyandotte x Australorpe.  I am certain of both parental genotypes (I only had one rooster then…) and am making educated guesses on the maternal end of things.)

I heard chicken noises out there a couple hours earlier, before I went down to put them back in the coop for the night.  These sounds did not sound a thing different than when the hens celebrate egg laying, or discuss their own rank and file issues amongst themselves.  So, yeah, I failed to look outside.

If Lentil is indeed gone, I am going to guess he went out in the service of protecting his hens.  Hens would be easier for a hawk or a fox to collect than a rooster.  Lentil — I am truly sorry.  You were a gentleman.

May 3:  Cut the wire mesh for covering the top of the quail brooder.  Set the brooder down lower from the heat lamp source (mostly so I could cover the top – but they are indeed ready for a bit less heat anyway).  And about time I did so – when I returned the li’l fellers to the box, one actually managed to jump out before I covered it.  He / she just stood there on the floor where landed – confused.  Easy enough to scoop back inside.

Beautiful weather. High of 71 F (Perfect for me, especially without humidity). Planted Turnip (Nagasaki Aka Kabu seeds, Baker Creek), Swiss Chard (Five Color Silver Beet, Baker Creek), Arugula (Baker Creek), Cilantro (Slow bolt, Seeds of Change).  All in Second Bed… turnips and Swiss chard after the previously planted beets (which didn’t show up – will re-plant here) and the arugula and cilantro after the previously planted spinach (which IS showing up).  ATM, two rows for everything.

I need to re-draw the garden graphics!

More plantings tomorrow.  I am going to look up to see if it is too early to put in the Yukon golds or not.

The perennial strawberries, Lady’s mantle, and wormwood are showing up, and greening.  MAY is afoot!

May 1:  Happy First of May, May Day!  I guess I’ll be hanging one lone ribbon on my maypole…

Yesterday and today are all rainy washouts weather-wise.

Well, last night I caught a mouse in the house.  Literally.  I just reached down, grabbed him without being bit, and tossed him outside towards the woods.  I guess there’s an added advantage to having a work career doing immunological research using rodent models.  Learning how to catch escapees!!!

Now there’s a second one – he’s not the same one returned, as he’s a bit smaller.  Unfortunately he ran under the range before I could get close.  I’ll get him, whether by the zap trap or by hand.  Went out yesterday afternoon to buy batteries for the zap traps, so I’ll be re-setting those.  (I had three lithium AA’s and 2 alkaline AA’s, and you shouldn’t mix types – the zappers require 4 batteries.)

As for the cats – my mouser, Obi-wan, is now pretty much blind.  Serenity never was much interested in mousing.  She’d probably want to make friends.

EDIT:  Obi-wan did catch that mouse.  And, ate it.  All of it.  Nose to tail eating, that’s Obi!   (Takes after his mom?)   I THINK that’s all the mice, but I’ll be alert.  I put Obi in the basement, since if there’s any regurgitation to happen, I ‘d rather it happen down there…

The quail are getting more vigorous.  Tomorrow I will be modifying their box so they can’t fly out.  I want them to have one more night of full-intensity heat lamp – since with the steel fabric cover they’ll get, the lamp will have to distance further.

I can tell from Obi-wan’s behavior with that mouse I certainly don’t want him near the quail!

April 29:  Low of 30 F overnight.

Food Diary:  Monday, April 27th:  Morning – 6 small buttermilk pancakes with pear, topped with butter and 2 teaspoons maple syrup.  Afternoon – 5 or 6 ounces pan fried bison tenderloin petit fillet, with stir fried oyster mushrooms and poblano peppers.

Tuesday, April 28th:  Morning – 6 even smaller buttermilk pancakes with pear, topped with butter only.  Afternoon – 5 ounces bison tenderloin petite fillet, done steak tartare style, mixed with soy sauce, green onion, ground black pepper, and a side of a pear.

Wednesday, April 29th:  Morning – 1/2 pink grapefruit, 3 egg omelet with provolone, bok choy, parsley.   Afternoon –

April 28:  Snow flurries in the morning, none stuck.

Upcoming recipe blog posts:  Next Friday for sure is a vegetarian black bean stuffed pepper, Mexican style, to add some ambiance for Cinco de Mayo.  I’m hoping to get my Greek Spanakopita up, as well as making a good onion bread recipe.  Some sous vide things are in the offing, as well as … bison.  And I fear some wonderful bison tongue recipes, done sous vide.  I won’t swear off of offal posts.  My homesteading blog post plans:  Chicken Eggs – prepping for donations or for sale.  And the raising of quail, both good and bad events.

I will also try my hand at making vegan cheese. TWO requirements:  NO tree nuts (most now rip my interiors up – painfully), and it must be melt-able.  Oh a THIRD, no faux ingredients within.

April 27:  More snow, a half inch or less.  Now turning into a cold drizzle.  36 F atm, at 10:30 am.  This time I won’t term it “last snow”… but maybe…

Been some more quail losses, and I’m unfortunately learning after the fact.  I still have most of them, though.  They are still under a heat lamp, and I have to check them every four or so hours (including overnight) to make sure they have water.  I still don’t have a specific baby quail waterer – it never arrived.  I give them water on a coffee cup saucer.  As I understand, a deeper water supply may mean some of your quail may drown.  That’s ONE thing that hasn’t happened to them!!  Fortunately (for them) I am a restless sleeper, so I can do this.  I do tend to take a few afternoon naps to make up for the restless nights, and with the Stay At Home bit, this actually works out.  But they are beginning to fly a bit – not effectively, but.  So mid-week I am going to be changing their brooder setup to accommodate this.  (They are still too small to go into permanent housing.)

My ordered apple and plum saplings arrived a few days ago.  For a friend who got all hot and bothered fired concerned about people going to garden supply centers during this, and who even posted a supportive “meme” about a woman willing to go around and tramp down gardens started during COVID… and then who got mad at me about those of us who want to raises our food sustainably… bite me.  I ordered the saplings in JANUARY.  I even ordered 80% of my seeds then as well.  I am only shopping at off-the-way places, and since I really do need my chickens and quail and cats to be fed and maintained during this – I am only going to the local Mom and Pop place, not even Tractor Supply, to pick up stuff.  And the chicken stuff is in the same lane as the cat food/litter.  I am protected and careful. Probably more so than if he’s off to his local big box supermarket for his “essentials”.  I haven’t been out of the “Hilltowns” since March 16th.  AND I am ready later this week to turn my pallets into housing for the quail, without going to Home Depot for the wood.  It will be a challenge, but I’m up for it.

PS, with this weather, I can’t plant the saplings yet… SOON!

April 25:  Last snow – about an inch – a couple days ago.  Melted by day’s end.

April 18:  6 inches of snow, overnight until late morning.  I’d say a good 3-4 melted by nightfall.  The rest should be gone, except for shaded patches, by Sunday night.

April 17:  Snow, about an inch, yesterday morning.  Melted by early afternoon.  Snow, somewhere just shy of half an inch, this morning.  Melted by 10 am.  They’re predicting 4 to five inches of the fluffy stuff overnight tonight.  There are ten quail left, and I really don’t want to talk about that.  The situation could have been a lot worse, and I’m not talking about the quail.

April 14:  Yes, I drove to the town to pick up my dozen baby quail chicks yesterday.

homesteading, quail

2-day old quail.

I set them up in their baby box, and I’ll soon do a blog post to describe what to (and NOT to) do.  I lost one overnight, but everyone else seems happy.  I am checking them frequently.

homesteading, quail

All 12, having just arrived.

Lots of rain and then wind yesterday and into the early hours of morning today.

April 11;I am informed my quail are hatching.  I will pick them up Monday morning.

April 10:  Snow.  About half an inch so far, I don’t expect mega accumulations (it is currently 9 am.)

April 9: Poured cats and dogs a few times this afternoon.  Blustery rain.  Not many eggs.  Rain is slowing down now (4 pm) but that wind is picking up.  Delivered some staples to the Senior Center as a donation, and another dozen eggs to the Community Center.  Had to drive to the small town to pick up a crowbar for working on dismembering some pallets.  Somewhere I do have mine… somewhere.

Since I live alone and my nearest family is in Maryland, just dropping in the note here that while I currently have 11 blog posts lined up to auto-post, two are in serious need of work and one is fine but needs me to re-make it for the photos.  Worry about me if those three get posted (and don’t get taken down or fixed near-immediately — I’ve had that happen twice to me…)  Or if I don’t get some of those “link party” connections up within a day or three.  Those are all edits after the fact of auto-posting.

Also, while I don’t update this journal daily, if I miss an entire week during these times… worry!

spinach seedlings

Spinach seedlings, photo taken yesterday morning.

April 5:  It’s already 51 degrees at 10:45 today.  One egg so far, freshly laid and warm.  There’s a dead mole in the tractor house.  I’m guessing the roosters killed it.  Chickens from the coop proper are exploring around outside.  The two batches of chickens are separate from each other – quarantined, as it were.  Don’t want rooster mayhem.

Last night our Cooking Group used Zoom to discuss cooking with tea, and we all made recipes we could not share.  Except visually.

obi-wp

Obi-Wan, 13 years old.

First wild birds of the season on my back deck railing.

April 4:  Quail planning proceeding.  Quail food will not arrive until the 20th so I will be using appropriate baby turkey / game feed from the local Mom and Pop Tractor-Supply-like shop nearby.   I have an extra coffee grinder if so needed.  (Yeah, silly me bought one I thought my other coffee grinder wasn’t working – but it had turned out to be ajar from the wall outlet….)  The quail will hatch around the 11th in a nearby town to the southwest of me, and I will be getting 12-15 of the little guys.  (And, hopefully, lasses.)

Been rainy most of the week.  I have not gotten much work done as my back went seriously out last Sunday, whilst picking up trash around the house to take to the town dump – which event was bad enough I didn’t get to go.  I’ve been resting it and using whatever medical supplies I have in my medicine cabinet, sparingly, but as needed.  (With Naproxen – aka Aleve – take food along side, please.  Ibuprofen and I don’t get along.)  Didn’t get motivated to post a recipe yesterday.

April 1:  The morning of the 31st, the last inch of snow for the year?  Dunno.   Still in quarantine but will be out tomorrow to get quail housing supplies.   I am hoping to shop locally for such things, and to rip apart some pallets.  Their initial home will be in a cardboard box.

March 27:  Yesterday’s temperature range, 26 – 52 F.  Most of the snow has melted.

homesteading, rooster, barred rockhomesteading, rooster

The above:  to the left is Roo,  a barred rock.  To the right is Lentil, the offspring of a silver-laced Wyandotte father (who ended up turning mean to hens and human alike, and so is no longer on this mortal plane), and one of the Australorpes (or possibly my broiler Australorpe mix, Celeste).

March 25:  I joined the Homesteady “Camel Train” earlier in the month, or was it the end of February?  Homesteady is a YouTube channel for homesteaders.  The homestead is a fairly new one in Pennsylvania, but like me, he moved from Connecticut to his present destination.  He did have a homestead back in CT, which I did not.  The name of the Camel Train came about because his family discovered that their newest son was allergic to regular dairy.  Camel milk seems to have health effects reversing many problems that cow (or even goat) milk might promote.  At any rate, in order to pay for the camels – which don’t come cheap – he sold a calf and also sold a promotional long term deal to the first 100 people who bought lifetime “in” on his already existing Pioneer Homesteady program.  Which has a large library of valuable info for homesteaders or for just plain backyard dabblers in this, suburban or out on a plot of land, back on their own website.   At any rate, yesterday was the day I had my “Shoutout” in one of their videos – I’m a 20th something subscriber to the Camel Train since the offer was extended.  The deal is limited to the first 100 subscribers, and as of yesterday there was something on the order of 15 left.  They’re posting videos every day for 100 days, including a moment to reference each sponsor.

Recent videos have referenced their new camels, other things going on around their homestead,  and of course issues pertaining to the current COVID-19 crisis.   They sound hopeful notes.  Take it seriously, and take action without flailing in panic.  And don’t give up if you are not as far along out on a farm as the Homesteady folk.

The Homesteady  YouTube home page is here.  The Homesteady web page is here.   Check this out, and if you are interested, join either their Camel Train lifetime program (if still available) or their monthly or yearly membership in the Pioneer program.  Or not, as you see fit.

March 24:  On the docket for posting – the write ups are not near ready but are being worked on:  Spanikopita (as a recipe).  For more out and out homesteading, DIY, and such:  Growing microgreens; Growing sprouts; Prepping your harvested eggs for donation (or sale).  Maple syruping;  General tips and avoidances.  And actually, I plan to try to make one or two varieties of nut-free vegan “cheese” – I am not holding my breath for appreciating them, but one never knows.  I will also get a post going about the best and most useful homesteading YouTube channels (that appeal to me) out there.

This Friday you will see a South Indian Egg Curry recipe.  Over the following weeks there are a number of previously cooked  (including back to Autumn 2019) recipes that I’d planned to post this spring anyway.  I will supplement with pantry-oriented recipes — although I’ll note my pantry includes spices from around the world to begin with.  One is always encouraged to adapt!

We had 7-8 inches of snow overnight, intermixed with sleet.  Sun is intense and much of it is melting.  Low temp of 28 F, high of 41 F.  Maple sap is still flowing.

March 23:  Yes, tomorrow at 3/24 noon, we are getting a more severe lockdown here.  It was a matter of time.  Thank the advance of technology  for the existence of the Internet and other communication means!

Here in Massachusetts: https://www.masslive.com/coronavirus/2020/03/coronavirus-response-what-is-an-essential-business-here-are-the-massachusetts-businesses-that-can-stay-open-during-covid-19-pandemic.html

Yes, Massachusetts is closing down but there are options for actual needs.  I am looking forward to raising up more chickens this year – I have roosters and hens, AND an incubator already here.  I wanted to start quail this year, but I’ll deal with that desire down the road.

Four inches of snow out there now, and more falling.  It is actually quite beautiful as it swirls around.  Some larger flakes falling within the predominant smaller ones.

March 19:  Sleet this morning, it is now raining.  Plans are to make a south Indian curry dish with (my home grown) eggs for the blog, and to make a dairy-free New-Englandish-style clam chowder using chopped clams that amazingly enough my local Mom and Pop grocery was carrying.  I love dairy, but this is for my lactose intolerant (but coconut tolerant) friends and readership.  The curry should appear tomorrow, the soup not for several weeks. I would guess canned clams would work as well.

Bringing over 18 eggs to the community center today as a donation.  They’re making food for folks, take-out only these days.  Until this is over, I won’t be selling them.  Donations and gifts.

Five eggs total today.   I do have to confirm that Urad Dal is a male.  (I’d bought her as a putative Rhode Island White pullet, but maybe she fooled the Tractor Supply chick source?).  If Urad Dal is male, I fear Archie may be headed for the freezer.  I’m fine with him being protective, but when he’s “protective” when none of the hens are around? No.  This would be sad, he’s a spectacular rooster.   In the hen house proper, both Roo and Lentil still seem to be getting along, with only minor dominance squabbles.

I want both populations to have a male, both for protection, but also so I can start raising my own chickens.  (Lentil was born here last summer, as was Chickpea.)

PS: Never back down in the face of an aggressive rooster.  YOU are Top Rooster, and don’t let them forget it.

March 18:  I let the chicken coop house out.  Both Celeste and Chickpea followed me back to the back door of my house.  I think it was Celeste following me, and Chickpea following Celeste.  Usually they stay down at the coop area.  One morning egg for me.  (Three eggs later…)

March 17:  Saint Pat’s Day.  Really wanted to make Irish Potato Pancakes for the occasion, but I will make them sometime soon.  An inch of snow total fell overnight and in the morning.  Total of 7 eggs collected today.  Two were very warm and just-laid.  Thank you, ladies!

We are in shutdown mode (more or less) around here, due to the beer-virus.  No gathering of more than 25 people at once (other than under unavoidable circumstances such as in airports, hospitals,  or in groceries).  Restaurants can only provide take out.  Bars are shut down.  Everyone is encouraged to stay home as much as possible. Don’t hug anyone, well, unless they’re locked in with you and share your cooties already.

I’m planning on donating chicken eggs to local folk.  I am also hoping I can help my community bring meals to those who can’t go out (for instance, elderly with conditions that preclude such adventures).  Technically, at 66, I’m “elderly” but I don’t like that name for myself – and the only pre-existing conditions I have/know about are my bad knees and an ankle – which aren’t in the same category.

I made Greek stuffed eggplant for dinner.   The second half of eggplant I’ll eat tomorrow or Thursday.  I’ll have to find uses for the rest of the milk (that I’d bought to go into the béchamel).  Officially that milk expired last week but it smells fresh so I used it.  Just been taking too long a while to making some of my planned recipes.  Indeed I had planned to make and post those Irish Potato Pancakes for today – but.  Also had wanted to make an Indian egg curry for the festival of Holi last week.  We’ll catch up!

Chickens are fine.  Celeste without fail ends up in the food bin when I coax them all back into the coop for the night.  But she lets me pick her up, and I get her in with her feathered buddies at the end.  Seven eggs by end of day.

March12:  Waiting for the sun to come up.  Yesterday, I spent the day (after feeding the chick-a-looks breakfast) down back in Connecticut, where I visited the Taxman Accountant (home sale and such to be calculated in, and I simply dread this sort of accounting work on my ownsome), got my hair cut by my favorite hairdresser, picked up half a lamb from a GMO-free, pastured sheep farm, and went to a book club meeting over dinner with friends.  Which meant the chickens didn’t free-range since I knew I’d be back well after dark.  Right now it isn’t light out yet.  The good thing about the lamb was that the temps here overnight when I returned were 32-33 F, which meant I didn’t have to offload the cooler before crashing out.  I have no idea why I’m awake so early after yesterday…

Today’s plans – chickens get to go out, cooler gets unpacked, maple sugaring process is checked/updated, bills get paid, I wrangle with Medicare, kitchen gets cleaned, I make stock (bones from beef, lamb, goat into crockpot), I make a recipe for tomorrow’s blog post, and decide whether today I either clean out the coop, or stain the posts and areas under the deck that will be in the way for said staining when the quail set ups are set’-up.  I suspect I’ll opt for the latter, and do coop cleanout tomorrow, when I’m also not playing with serious levels of cooking.   Right now – enjoying a toasty mug of black coffee.  It’s almost 6 AM.

March 9:  Ordered this when it was on end-of-winter sale a couple days ago.  Thanks, Sandy, for pointing this out to me!

rooster rug.

Ordered 6 by 4 feet, it will probably be in the living room, with the current rug going to my bedroom. Or I could potentially switch this, depends on how it fits width-wise, or meshes with the couch color. We’ll see.

Only one of the hens appears “hen pecked”,  er, let us be honest, “rooster pecked”  One of the two remaining buff Orpingtons -ether Fimbrethil or Idril.  (Some hens had removed their leg tags).  I caught whomever she is, and sprayed down her feather-denuded backside with Blu-Kote.  I am hoping it is Idril, as she was the less-better foster mother when the Orpingtons went broody last summer.  The hen in question wasn’t fond of this – I am certain the stuff stings – but you need to do this.

March 7:  Light snow overnight, just a dusting.  Looks pretty.  Tasks scheduled for today:  clean kitchen, check maple syrup taps, prepare a shepherd’s pie for a pot luck this evening.

March 5:   Decided to direct-sow a few crops, after watching the MIGardener video about his plantings of hardy seeds just recently.

celeste, layer, hen, homesteading

Celeste hops into the food bin any time this is open. She found the mealworm bonanza today.

homesteading, gardening, raised beds

Basic Plan (subject to some changes hither and yon)

homesteading, planting greens

Seeds going into the ground today. I would put the purslane in the herb garden but I still need to turn that soil.

There will be two lines of each of the above crops in Bed 2, and three lines in Bed 4.  The soil in these beds was harder than I expected.

For reference on planting now:  MIgardener – 7 crops you can seed in winter now.  He’s in Michigan, for reference’s sake.  I’m not planting every seed from these packets.  Purslane did well last fall here.  (After all, a lot of folks consider it a weed.)  I haven’t tried beets or lettuce, yet.

homesteading, gardening, beets

I hope for a good beet crop. Although these are seeds from 2019, some should still germinate.

The broadfork ordered from Johnnys’ was assembled today.  Looks sturdy enough.  Its first task will be to transform the herb bed at the side of the garage.

Egg production has picked up!

FINALLY, I got the maple trees tapped.  The issue was I couldn’t find my drill bits, and they’re not all one brand fits all.  SO yesterday I bought a new screw gun / drill, with a small packet of drill bits, one of which is the size I need.  (Brand:  Ryoki)  I probably should have tapped them five days ago, but we get what we’ll get…. This is the trial run year, after all.  I also don’t have a lot of refrigerator storage space for the sap.  So… fine!

homesteading, chickens

Mama is doing something in the front yard! Let’s go see!

homesteading, chickens

We can go let that Buckeye explore first, but here WE come! Let’s go see if she’s doing something we can EAT!

March 3:  Warmest day to date of 2020 – High of 56 F.  There’s still snow around but much of it has evaporated (or mushed out) today.  Chickens are ecstatic!

March 1:  First day in a long while where I didn’t wear the crampons to go down and feed/water/release the chickens.  Temps are below freezing, but enough snow has melted that I can navigate without.  5 eggs by 2 pm today, I’ll be back down in three more hours.  One of those eggs had to be composted.

February 27: Today’s high was 39 F, and things are rapidly plummeting.  It rained a LOT overnight, and as of about 9 am it changed over to snow – when it was still about 35 or 36. Started sticking then, too.  Really blustery, too.  Chickens will need more frequent watering once again as the temps continue their downward destination.   Snow currently looks like one of those childhood scene things enclosed in clear plastic containing some sort of liquid and fake snow that you shake vigorously.

Yesterday a friend and I went out to celebrate her birthday in Stockbridge MA.  We had a good time, but didn’t get time to do a true good job at the Norman Rockwell Museum there, so we will return later in March.  Temperatures were (for February) balmy, despite overcast skies.  We dined at Once Upon A Table, where I enjoyed a good New England clam chowder (hard to find a GOOD one, even in New England – most are tasteless and too starchy) –  a Portobello spinach brie sourdough sandwich, and a slice of flourless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis.  I’m not forgetting the glass of Syrah.   I am eating more gently today.  (I am making the two Greek recipes for tomorrow’s blog post today – but not eating them in entirety!)

Now noon, it is 33 F and sunny.  And the wind has calmed some.  ,,,And then, 12:30… sunny with snow flurries anyway! (31 F.)  Not as whirly, however.  And the earlier fluff has melted.

February 25:  The snow and ice are finally melting out there, it’s a balmy 52 degrees F.  But there still remains significant icing on that part of the driveway due north of my house – as the sun itself isn’t hitting that area.  I have to wear the crampons to access it safely.  The coop chickens are outside, even willingly.  They don’t like walking on snow, but there’s enough grasses poking up – and of course even where there remains ice and snow (most of the area), the bright sun keeps their feetsies warm.  I should have the maple taps out today, but I’m not feeling a good level of energy.  We’ll get ’em in!!!

February 18:  The morning of the 15th it was a brisk, or perhaps more than brisk, minus two degrees Fahrenheit.  I left for a Vermont Winter NOFA conference in Burlington after doing things I needed to do here.  Came back mid-day Monday, with more information under my belt, and after having joined a couple of seriously good friends up at the occasion – which entailed dinners out 1) at a farm to table place of excellence and 2) a Turkish place of close to the same level of awesomeness.  I will say – please, PLEASE, chefs of the world: STOP over-assaulting your food!  I do not CARE what Gordon Ramsey or other “name” chefs do.  If we really want MORE salt, we are capable of adding any more sodium chloride ourselves, AT THE TABLE.  (The first place over-salted their hangar steak, the only fault I found for that dining experience.  I know that beef needs a bit of salt for the primary cooking experience… but it is way too easy to overboard this stuff.  LET people CHOOSE!)

Restaurants eaten at, in Burlington:  Hen of the Woods.  All the small plates were awesome, and the three of us shared.  Just be salt-aware for at least an item or two.  Istanbul Kabob House.  Turkish.  Many good choices on the menu, and the zucchini fritters we shared were enjoyed by all.

A review of the conference will likely happen on the 25th. (It didn’t, while I enjoyed and gained from this gathering, I didn’t have the sort of material that meshed into a specific blog-post.)

Chicken and homestead news today:  4 eggs before noon.  Light snow to turn to mixed icy precip, and then to rain.

EDIT:  Misfits Market sent me a second package today.  I only want these every other week, which is how I signed up for them.  Something to FIX.

February 14:  Happy Valentine’s day, folks.  It’s a brisk 11 degrees F out there right now – we’d warmed up during the week to the mid-thirties, but temps will be around 0 by tomorrow morning.  My final things ordered for maple syrup-ing have arrived and next week I’ll get items in place.  Eagerly awaiting the sap to run!  It is always interesting to find something new on the homestead.

I signed up with MisfitMarket, and on Tuesday got my first shipment of veggies and fruit.  I’m doing the small box every other week food plan (it’s vegetables and fruits, often mis-shapen and unloved, but so far tasty).  I’ll let you know if it’s worth it after a few deliveries.  In any account, I’ll stop the service when the farmers’ markets open (mid-June here), and certainly by the time my own crops start coming in.  I figure most anything I don’t like or get an excess of, chickens will certainly appreciate!

misfits market first package

First shipment: Red onions, blue potatoes carrots, kale, Jonagold apples, tangerines, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, turnips, Anjou pears, radishes. In the green bagare mini-bell peppers!  Radish greens went to chickens, as did two small carrots.

I was exceedingly happy for the kale and for the red onions.  Pears are always welcome, and the potatoes will join the very last of my own crop, and go into some potato dish next week.  I love mini-bells – I may stuff them with cheese, but TBD.   I already have lettuce and cabbage, so much of the rest will end up in salads.  I fear I’m not crazy about carrots, especially raw or near-raw – so I will freeze for my next home-made bone broth venture.  I love pears, especially Anjou, either for snacks or for cooking with (they’re a gentle sweetener rather than over-the-top sugary).

February 7:  Somewhere between a quarter and half an inch of ice out there.  Drips melted mid day, but more intrinsic bits did not.  Around 2 or 2:30, winds picked up and the temps are plummeting.  Blustery snow at the moment.  It’s a study in whites and bluish-greys out there right now (almost 5 pm).  Only one chicken visit today – one egg from the tractor, three from the hen house coop.  It was snowing in big windswept fluffy hunks.  Which are now turning into whirling dervishes of snow.  Made Chikhirtsma, a Georgian chicken, egg and lemon soup today.  This will auto-post in April.  It’s good.

February 6:  One more egg in the tractor yesterday.  After the initial outlay, they’re slowing down.  Urad Dal, the Rhode Island White, is officially a boy.  I picked him up yesterday and examined his legs.  While spurs are not yet growing, you can see the beginnings of bumps where they WILL grow.

This started out with six baby chicks from Tractor Supply sold to me as future laying hens, one of which had to be put down at about a month and a half, a couple weeks after they’d gone outdoors.  Dunno what happened to her, but she was barely breathing – in fact, I’d though her dead until I picked her up.  She was always way smaller than the rest.

I gave the five putative pullets a cockerel (ordered back in April/May), and let them grow up used to each other.  Actually, I had a few of them in with the pullets, since I’d ordered them for meat.  Over time, most ended up in the freezer.  One ended up in hen house after their own rooster turned mean to feathered and human alike.  Now, I’m faced with a future of four hens and two roosters in the tractor – this is NOT viable by anyone’s book.  I will leave this alone a little while longer, as Urad Dal is not yet sexually mature.

February 4:  There was one more egg in the ex-pullet tractor last night.  Three of the girls are a week older than the other two.  These are all buff Orpingtons.  I am assuming without real data to back this up, that since they’re older, these are the ones whom have laid?  Today at 12:30 pm no new eggs have been discovered there, but I’ll be back down later.

Early morning, around 1:30 AM, there was a cacophony of coyote yipping out there.  I got up to look out but I suspect the sounds were more off to the right than what my vision could see.  Was not wanting to go out and explore right then.  I do need to set that field camera back up!

Currently  2:15 pm, and 45 degrees F.  No wind.  Dappled sun.  I don’t need a jacket out there.  No new eggs yet.  But I am wondering if Urad Dal, a supposed pullet/hen, is really a cockerel/rooster.  The bird is larger than her peers, three of which are a week older than her.  “She’s” a Rhode Island White.  There is a small percentage of inaccuracy in sexing baby chicks.  And “she” was making cockerel sort of noises when I was just down there.  We shall see.  I may keep her/him instead of Archie (the beautiful speckled Sussex male, who is friends with the tractor flock but whom doesn’t particularly like me all that much).  We shall see.  They now have their extra roosting setup in the tractor.

February 3:  Two of the pullets have announced their hen-hood by laying two small eggs for me.  (Well, I doubt that was their intention (the “for me” part), but they laid them and they’re ignoring them…)  I had hoped to get their laying beds ready before now, but we will do what we do.

February 2:  Weather will permit outdoor work above freezing for some hours here and there that will permit work best done at that time.  On the warmest day, that’s going to be that chicken coop cleanout day – things frozen to the floor will be lose enough to sweep out.  Then the girls (and the two boys) will get a fresh load of pine shaving bedding.  No rain predicted until Tuesday night – I’m hoping to drag down a pallet for the chicken tractor ladies once optimal snowfall melt is achieved, but prior to the slippery rains.  They already have their fresh bedding, but they need a raised area where they won’t be overloading their laying boxes by kicking in excess bedding.  They will also get their laying boxes at the same time, as I expect them to start providing eggs in about a month.  (These are still pullets.)   Before that, these chickens should be getting that extra perch.  Needs the preservative, and for the preservative to dry.

I also want to work on staining the deck strut area where the quail will eventually get housed.  This will be right outside the basement door, which will be handy both for working with the quail, and for weather (wind) control.

My ankle is kicking up a storm of pain and stiffness.  I was on my feet too much yesterday, cooking Chinese hot and sour soup from scratch (including making most of the bone broth/stock for it).  And on my feet a bit more than good for me considering the earlier part of the day, at the actual pot luck itself.  Soup was a success.  The entire Chinese-themed potluck itself – very much a success. Seven of us, I believe?  I didn’t measure for this, so I’m not posting the recipe.  (Some day I’d like to quantify, more or less.  Not this time.)

January 31: Month done.  A photo of Chickpea, who was born here this past summer.  She’s been laying as of about three weeks, and, no, she’s not dirty, that’s her feather coloration.  Father:  Silver-laced Wyandotte.  Mother: buff Orpington.

homesteading, hens, chicken

Chickpea. A fairly large hybrid hen, born last summer in the coop.

January 30: I seem to be averaging 2, occasionally three,  eggs a day.  In the hen house, both Roo and Lentil still get along.  Roo, who is older, crows a lot more than Lentil, but Lentil, I discovered tonight, is definitely able and happy to mount the hens.  He chose one of the Australorpes as I was watching.  Lentil will remain with the coop until such time as it is apparent the hens are feeling too much “pressure”, or until he and Roo decide things are not any longer working out between them.

homesteading, chickens

A new ladder.

Yesterday I assembled a chicken ladder for the gents and ladies in the hen house/coop, and an outright perch system for the pullets and their rooster in the tractor.  I need to put preservative on the perch set-up, but my thoughts on the ladder are that this thing is too thin and flimsy for me to care much about it having a future.  The ladder is going down tomorrow, and I believe the perch can go down to the tractor on Sunday (after a hit of preservative, and some drying time).

Chicken ladder, homesteading

A lot more cheaply built than I’d have thought. But it is together, and they’ll enjoy – at least for now.

I’d also bought a chicken swing recently, and yesterday I determined how and where I can install that in the chicken house run.  More chicky toys!  YAY!

I need to lug a small pallet down to the tractor, and install it so I can put the laying boxes for the pullets/future hens down.  Sunday is going to be warm enough that I can do this, and still not be rushed.  The pullets will be ready to lay by late February or maybe early March.

Celeste is still quite the friendly hen.  I am working on developing and keeping up good relations with Urad Dal, the Rhode Island White pullet in the tractor.  Her rooster isn’t all that happy about this.  You know, jealous spouses and all?  Hey, don’t peck the leg that carries the food to you!   (Otherwise Archie the speckled Sussex has been fine.)  I have to nip this budding thought in his mind now – while the pullets are not quite giving off the final maturity pheromones yet.  Over at the hen house, no one seems to mind that Celeste and I have a friendship going…

January 23:  Low 16 F, high of 44 F today.  Good, it means the chickens’ water supply is thawed and I don’t need to lug more.  It’s staying lighter in the evening, thank you Sun!

January 21:  Low of 0 F / minus 18 C this morning when I got up. We are now up to a nice and balmy 5 degrees F / minus 15 C (8 AM), and I am taking the opp to drag everything from the upright freezer to the outdoors, so I can defrost the thing.  Obtained one egg a half hour ago that was obviously laid yesterday, as it is frozen SOLID.  The yolk will be weird but edible, when I get around to eating it.

My final Welsummer cockerel/rooster is scheduled for the freezer on Friday afternoon.  He was so handsome (check the Kellogg’s cereal box, the one with the rooster) I wanted him for my rooster for the hens.  But.  He liked dragging them around by their necks.  Bad bird, sorry, no can do.  Friday the temps will be above freezing but below 40 F, so I am going to try the air-cooling method with him.  It is supposed to be better than water-cooled (which is normally the only practical way at a small-scale farm).  I do NOT have the space to keep him as he should be kept.  (Due to the extreme cold, and that he has no companions to share warmth with, he’s currently in my basement.  And since there is snow cover, and all that, he’s not even able to forage atm.  Since he’s reasonably human-friendly, I tried to re-home him, but hereabouts that’s not good enough – understandably!)

January 20:  Very breezy last night; cold level down to 8 F this morning.  Bright sun –  so as not to wear the snow goggles, I fed the chickens at 7:30 AM.  Two eggs yesterday.

January 19:  Snow, 5 inches.  Sun is now bright out, so I think at least a couple will melt.  The two boys in the coop are eating next to each other.  I shoveled the path to the coop and the tractor.  Temps high 20’s will drop overnight again, but to the low teens.

Noon: Well, cloud cover back, serious wind.  So snow won’t melt that fast, but some of it will blow away, and the other parts may well make drifts.  It is easy to walk over to the chickens.

January 18:  Temp low of 5 degrees F last night.   We are predicted to get 4-8 inches of snow tonight.  Spent the morning running errands – and found a stand-alone chicken perch thing to assemble, $26 at Tractor Supply.  I’ll provide it to the folks in the chicken tractor (they only have one beam to perch upon).  It might be fun to buy a second one when I see another, for the run of the main chicken house.  At any rate, they got 1) more bedding, 2) more oyster shell calcium, 3) more chicken treats for the hanging chicken treat feeder.   I think I’ll get around to hanging a ball of cabbage for the tractor birds today.

homesteading, poultry, chickens, free-ranging

The two chicken house roosters are still friendly to each other. They’re the ones with seriously-red combs. Roo is the barred rock to the top, Lentil is the black silver-laced Wyandotte x Australorpe F1 cross to the bottom. That white hen is Chickpea – she’s not really totally white, but has dark brown bits making her look like snow gone slightly dirty.

This will be a two-meal day – I had a heavy breakfast at Corm’s, a new breakfast/lunch eatery in Chester.  An unusual breakfast special of cheddar grits with shrimp – and flecks of tomato and bacon within the grits.  Three decently-sized shrimp topped the bowl.  And too much coffee.  This was good but I doubt I can order this often!  Next meal today will be wings with salad.  (I don’t ever bread my wings.)  While I have my own home-grown wings, I couldn’t resist the Aldi’s price.

Sunday I plan to make a dish for the annual (I hope) Lunar New Year’s blog post.  Actually, I’m planning on two dishes for next Friday, but I’m not making them both on the same day.  Thai this year!

Kellogg the Welsummer rooster spent the night in the basement, due to the COLD.  Being a lone bird, he can’t cuddle with any others to keep warm.  (He harassed the hens – seriously pulling them around by their necks, not even trying to mount them – and when I tried to return him to the then-cockerel in the tractor, it was evident that a FIGHT was about to ensue.   He’s still a beautiful rooster, but at some point he will have to end up in the freezer – unless someone wants him?  I can let him out of the dog crate to free-range outside, if I stagger the free-range moments of the two other collections.  (No one wants to seem to step out far in the snow!)  Bad thing though is that when he crows when in the basement around 4 am it CARRIES upstairs to my bedroom!

UPDATE at 1:25 pm.  I just came in from bringing another bag of feed (and liquid water) down to the chickens.  It wasn’t snowing when I came in two minutes ago.  It is, now.  (I will be making another run down around 4 pm, along with that pine chip bedding.)  Cold enough out there that it is already sticking.  19 F!  Car is going in the garage…

UPDATE at 4:34 pm.  1 inch snow accumulation.  Heading down for last chicken/egg check of the day.  14 degrees F.

January 12: Temps rose to 59 here yesterday.  They dropped slightly, to rise by 7:30 am to 59 again, and it has just nearly ceased a goodly rain this morning.  They will slowly drop through the day.  Hoping to do a coop cleanout this afternoon before we go back to freezing, but wanting the place to dry out a bit, first.  The snow/ice has finally melted.  It was still here yesterday when I left for the NOFA Mass winter conference.  I didn’t really look when I got home around 8:45 last night.  The girls (and the two roosters from the henhouse) are out foraging, something they’ve not really been able to do (or wanted to try to do) since the new year.  Conference write up to be done by Tuesday for the actual blog.  As of 8 am this morning, there were two eggs found in the hen house – I didn’t check last night, and I suspect they had to have been laid yesterday.  Thank You, Ladies!

homesteading

Just shored up a plywood wall for the tractor house that kept falling over in wind.  Not going anywhere now.  With all the melt-off, it is very muddy out there – I walked parallel to my usual path to the Feathered Ones so I wouldn’t get sucked down and slipped over a well-trodden path on the slope-y part.  No crampons today.

Interestingly, the only workshop I attended at the conference yesterday that I’d originally thought to attend was the apple revitalization one.  (For one, I realized that I’d seen the greenhouse one last summer….)

January 10:  After our very cold sub zero temps (low of 7 F), we are now ricocheting up to the low 40s today.   Kellogg the Welsummer goes back outdoors.  (YAY, he’s very noisy.  Especially around 4 am.)

January 8:  Very low temperatures predicted tonight.  The Welsummer rooster is going back into the basement for this coming duration.  Yes, he’s still breathing and friendly, and not yet doing the freezer camp thing.

Once again, I’m sadly missing the loss of my late friend Kat, mainly at the moment because I’m reminded that we’d be discussing upcoming homesteading workshops – she’d give suggestions that I’d take or not take, but it all depended.  I’d pass on info when pertinent, after.  So anyhow, I’ll post the upcoming one here:  The Northeast Organic Farming Association (Massachusetts  chapter) is having their Winter Conference in Worchester MA this coming Saturday (the 11th).  Only one day and only three time slots, with altogether too many choices at each.

Time slots with workshops I am considering:  (The apple one is pretty much a given, conisidering the old apples on my property, although it seems that ALL the best workshops are set for 2 pm….)

9:00 – 10:30:  (might be a couple more…)

Healthy Soil, Healthy Gardens: Cover Crops for the Small-Scale Grower (Introductory)

Maintaining living plant cover is one of the essential practices of building soil health. This workshop provides practical guidance on using cover crops in a small-scale, non-mechanized, no-till context to improve soil health both for growing more nutritious food and for sequestering atmospheric carbon into the soil.
Sharon Gensler: Homesteader/organic grower/educator 38 yrs. Using no-till & cover crops soil building practices on small scale.

Understanding Your Logan Lab Soil Test Report (Intermediate)

This workshop will help you understand how to read a soil test report from Logan Labs. We will discuss Total Exchange Capacity, Organic Matter, Mineral and Trace Element Requirements for growing vegetables based upon the Albrecht method of soil balancing. We will also discuss the saturated paste test and how to understand its results in context of your standard soil test.
Laura Davis: Laura operates Long Life Farm in Hopkinton, MA assists growers with their soil amendment needs.

Tap Into History to Understand & Tell Your Farm’s Story (Introductory)

What historical contexts have defined farming in New England? History gives insight into the past decisions that have shaped our landscapes. We will discuss how to see beyond the rosy bucolic stories of the farms we own, manage, or love, to craft an engaging story that also educates eaters, neighbors, legislators, and others about the realities of small-scale farming.
Cathy Stanton: Senior Lecturer, Anthropology Dept, Tufts University, public historian focusing on food and farm history in New England.

There’s a keynote speaker at 11, but I figure I’ll be visiting vendors then.

2:00 – 3:30:  There’s a bunch I want to see here, but the apple thing is of the most dire need for the day itself.

Revitalizing Old Apple Trees & Planning Orchards for the Future (Intermediate)

In this workshop, we will discuss the renovation of old or neglected apple trees and how to care for them once they’ve been restored. We will also spend some time on critical considerations for new orchard plantings that will survive in a world facing climate change. We will also discuss alternative approaches to understory management.
Matt Kaminsky: Orchardist, Arborist, and Cider Maker based in Hadley, MA doing business as Gnarly Pippins.

4:00 – 5:30.

The Climate Battery Greenhouse: Planning, Installation & Resourcing (Intermediate)

The Climate Battery is a low-input heat transfer system for greenhouse temperature control. This relatively simple technology reduces fuel inputs and increases plant health by providing a more moderate temperature than venting alone. In this workshop, we will discuss in detail the planning and building of a greenhouse that incorporates the climate battery system.
Jim Schultz: Co-owns Red Shirt Farm in Lanesboro, MA.

Best Perennial Plants for Edible Landscaping (All Levels)

Join Dave and Marina as they highlight their favorite edible perennial plants to incorporate into the Northeast landscape. This workshop will feature detailed plant profiles and lists outlining where the plants fit best in the landscape (i.e. sun-loving, vining, groundcover, shade tolerant, etc).
Dave Scandurra: Founded Edible Landscapes of Cape Cod in 2012. A passionate food grower and plant enthusiast.
Marina Matos: Co-operator of Edible Landscapes of Cape Cod. Passionate about medicinal and edible plants alike.

If this event is worth writing up, look for it next Tuesday.

Doctor visit… I’ll discuss that later on.  This date’s worth is long enough.  Let’s just say that nothing will happen for now.

January 6:  Yesterday’s snow patch was pretty solid ice – crampons required to visit the poultry.  Today is the same, but we’re getting a light snow fall as I type.  Tomorrow I go to New Haven (Yale Medical) to assess my knee for radiation therapy (benign tumor).  Weather should be fine for travel.  Deciding if I need anything from IKEA whilst there… Or if I want to hit an art museum.  Or where I might grab some food.  (IKEA has changed their smoked salmon salad in their cafeteria, and not for the better – it’s okay, but not something I need to snag any more.)

I’ve mentioned that Chickpea  (daughter of the late silver laced Wyandotte rooster and an unknown Orpington hen) has started laying.  Lentil (son of the same rooster and an unknown Australorpe – or even possibly Celeste) and the new rooster (a barred rock named Roo) still get along.  I am hoping this continues.  However, he’s a month younger than Chickpea, so things may change as he builds up more testosterone in his system.  Roo is excellent with his ladies – he doesn’t let them eat first, as Tiny Dancer initially did, but he also doesn’t pull feathers and bite at the rump ends of the harem.

I have no plans to order more chickens for the spring.  I’d like to travel a bit late spring, and it will be best not to have baby chicks for any poultry watchers to care for.   I’ll arrange for quail eggs to arrive shortly after.  In August, I’d probably pick up some fast-growing Cornish Cross chicks to grow for the freezer, and will take stock as to if I’d want more future layers then.

Upcoming already-made dishes (with completed posts, ready to auto-upload):

  1. Greek pan-fried bronzini (Whole 3).  January 10th.
  2. Sous vide beef bottom round steak with savory sauce (Whole 30).  January 17th.
  3. Nuoc cham  – Vietnamese dipping sauce.  March 3rd.
  4. Khmer pork head.   March 27th.

I have a few other posts “in process”, and am still deciding what to make for the Asian lunar-based New Year, to be posted January 24th.  As noted earlier, January is Whole30 month and February is Greek Month.  Probably no new themes for a few months after.  Now that I have a good recipe for Hollandaise, expect Eggs Benedict Florentine sometime in March!

January 1, 2020:  Updates.

homesteading, ice storm

December 31, Ice Storm

You didn’t hear from me on the last two days of the year due to severe icing around here, and the lost of power due to trees not taking it on the chin any longer, and dropping hither and yon over power lines.  Lost power for 6 hours in a row on the 30th, and three times equaling up to 6 more hours on the 31st.  Both dates – I’d just finished breakfast (eggy things) and was contemplating a nice toasty shower when the lights went out.  My last meal of 2019 was a can of cold golden lentil / Indian dal soup – at least it was Amy’s brand, reasonably tasty – eaten by candlelight while reading The Overstory by Richard Powers on my Kindle Paperwhite.

homesteading December 31 ice storm

Through the branches to the coop

I missed a good dinner out due to road conditions and promises of more overnight snow showers.  At any rate, I’d not planned to see in the New Year anyway – been there, done that, one year back in the 80s in Times Square with New York City friends.   Out here there’s so much quiet that even the “obligatory” fireworks aren’t shot off.  I was abed by 10 pm.  (The lights had come back on.)  Awake by 6 am, and out of bed by 6:30.

homesteading, ice storm

Latticework of ice

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This morning:  I’m starting up Intermittent Fasting, of the 18/6 or 17/7 variety, two meals a day.  It won’t be every day – when I have dinner plans out, where we won’t be eating until 7 – just not do-able for me.  (Usually at this dark time of the year, that’s when I’m considering bed, anyway…)  Four times a week, though?  Yeah, gonna try this.  (I’ve done it several times in December, intentionally already, just sayin’…)

Today:  8:30 – rooster thigh (previously sous vide-d), two tablespoons or so of probiotic Stoneyfield pro-biotic whole milk yogurt, with Australian finger limes.

dec 30 ice storm 2-

A study in grass.

ice storm, homesteading

Severe icing. No cake involved.

End of Year Homestead Summation / New Year Beginning Goals

January 1, 2020:  (this was actually pre-written about a week prior.  Note, these are NOT resolutions, but goals.  There’s a subtle but very useful difference.  And yes, some are pre-existing, and already being worked upon.)

Health:

  • Due to working with carrying boxes from the old home to the car and into new home, spring and summer, and due to manhandling large (up to 35 lb) bags of chicken feed to their bin, I’m stronger than before. (Things I thought terribly heavy are now, somehow, much lighter…   Did someone infuse them with helium??)
  • My blood pressure is normal. Towards the high end of normal, but considering the last time this was measured, I’d just driven for 2 hours and into New Haven, CT, and had undergone an MRI with that racket they have – I consider this promising.
  • I have tinnitus. Annoying but not that disruptive yet.
  • I need to up my endurance. Will join Planet Fitness in February. I want to let the New Year’s Rush subside.
  • I need to lose 25 pounds in the near future. Definitely more but we shall take these things in stages.
  • I am up to date on some physical matters (my next colonoscopy is in 2.5 years), but some others should be addressed or at least checked.
  • December 14, 2017, a benign tumor (or segments of several related tumors) were removed from my right knee. It took me a long time to get full mobility in that leg – and actually I still don’t have that. I had about 6 months PT. Currently, I am using homesteading/farmsteading activities for PT, but this is not entirely enough – which is why the return to the gym shortly. My last MRI shows that the main unremovable fragment of tumor is “stable”, but there are some new disturbing growths, but still small. I am scheduled for a consult with a radiologist Jan. 7th.
  • PS, the knee does not hurt any more. That ankle, that I broke in 2016, WILL hurt, if I stand on it too long. I don’t expect that to change all that much at this point. (There’s a plate and 3-4 pins in that ankle.)

Crops:

  • Five raised beds are in. Crops did not get planted until late, but considering that, I seem to have success with delicata squash (despite an early truncation of that crop due to weather), Yukon gold potatoes, cherry tomatoes, various peppers, basil, purslane.  I will repeat some of these 2020.
  • The east side garden will eventually be all herbs – right now I consider success in strawberries, scallions (but getting them to onion stage eludes me), parsley, kale, wormwood, angelica, horseradish, rosemary….
  • The surviving apple sapling from my first summer here yielded 4-5 apples (a couple were wormy but portions could be salvaged). There are ancient (rather sour) apple trees around the edges of this field, so that is how this sapling got pollinated. Plum and more apples will be planted late spring. The persimmon died. Will try again this spring, I love that fruit!!!
  • High bush blueberries were a wild feature when I arrived here. I pruned about a third of them last April – an experiment. Both sets, pruned and unpruned, both thrived. These berries are a lot smaller than the lowbush blueberries you find in supermarkets – but equally as flavorful.
  • The soil here is a hellaciously lot harder to work than the soil back at my old home. Another good reason for the raised beds filled with fresh soil.
  • Citrus: I am doing citrus saplings. They come indoors in the winter. Some are faring better than others. The blood orange is vibrant with leaves… but after two years, not a speck of fruit is to be seen. Bearass lime contributes fruit, but gets scraggly and unhappy in winter. I need that to change. Thai/kefir lime does very well, and although for this the main interest is its leaves, it is prolific in limes. My Australian finger lime basically hangs on and has produced no fruit at all this year.
  • Goals for 2020: Plant more apple saplings, plant plum and pear saplings, plant persimmon. Elderberry as well – I did plant one of those this year, but I won’t know until spring if it took. Oh, and of course – work up what I want to do in the herb bed and the raised beds this coming year! Get a greenhouse out back (south exposure).

Poultry:

homesteading, hen house, chicken coop, winter

Obviously photographed prior to the ice storm, you can see I’ve battened down the windier side of the chicken run. Basically to limit the amount of inblown snow. Far to the left is the chicken tractor, which I’ve done weatherproofing with plywood and more tarp.

  • Main Coop & Run:  Currently 1 rooster, 1 cockerel (nearly mature), 6 hens, one pullet (nearly mature).  I am keeping an eye on interpersonal (chickenal) relationships considering there are two males.  Both are still somewhat young.  I am anticipating that one of the roosters will end up in the freezer due to their competitive instincts.  Plans:  add chicken swing, connect electric to light and to roost area.
  • Chicken Tractor:  Currently 1 rooster, 5 pullets.  They will move come April or May to a new coop, yet to be established.
  • No plans for purchasing additional chickens at least until August 2020 – when I may wish to acquire straight run day-old chickens intended for meat.  This would have to be fast-growing Cornish so they can end up in freezer camp by sometime in October.
  • Broody Hens:  this past year, 2 Orpingtons went broody, once doing so twice.  1 Australorpe went broody.  Three chicks overall were produced.  Footy had to be put down due to illness.  Chickpea is the mature pullet.  Lentil is the mature cockerel, who is potentially a competitor to Roo, the intended rooster for the main coop and run.   Yin the Nausiating: Australorpe hen – a good broody mother.  Fimbrethil:  Orpington hen – a good broody mother.  Idril:  Orpington hen – erratic broody mother, though she did it twice, and when Lentil was hatched, mothered him as much as Fimbrethil did.  This next year, I plan to combine allowing some hens to remain broody, while incubating other eggs indoors.
  • Since Roo, a barred rock, is genetically unrelated to any of the hens, I’m most likely to keep him over Lentil, but Lentil would only be related to his biological mother and to half-sister Chickpea – so we have to see how the roosters behave when they both become fully mature.
  • Friendly Pet Hen:  Celeste.  Arrived here May 2018 as a hybrid straight run day old chick broiler with Australorpe heritage.  She remains the friendliest chicken to date.
  • New Chicken Coop:  Eventually I want a largish one and a smaller one.  The poultry in the tractor would move to the major coop, and the smaller one would be a quarantine place for sick or otherwise needy birds.  The tractor would move the summer flock around.
  • QUAIL:  Spring, plan to build a quail set of boxes shortly out my back door.  3-4 units, to hold about 7-8 mature Coturnix birds apiece.   Working on ultimate housing design.  The goal is to order in the fertile eggs, incubate indoors, and go from there.  Quail will be raised for both eggs and meat.   Housing needs to be ergonomically accessible.
homesteading, poultry, chickens, winter, pullets, Speckled Sussex, Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Iland red, Rhode Island White

In the tractor: Archie is the Speckled Sussex rooster. along with his 5 pullets. The white Rhode Island is Urad Dal and the red Rhode Islander is Masoor Dal. (To go along with Chickpea and Lentil over at the hen house). The Orpingtons are unnamed. Since I need to band them to tell them apart.  Urad Dal is friendly.

Yard Happenings and Goals:  Oh, goals are 2020 and beyond!

  • Pergola and patio completed.  Parental patio furnishings (wrought iron) have been refurbished and re-sprayed.  Roll-able stand is being assembled in the basement, away from the snow and cold.
  • Need further maintenance on driveway “island”.  Need further maintenance on front yard plantings.
  • Need to get the drone up and running, so I can best plot out the free areas of my land for various needs, now and in the future.  This also dovetails into a serious need to finish mapping out this plot for efficient useage.
  • Meanwhile, reactivate field camera – just to see what moves around here when I’m not around.  Potentially purchase a second/third for in the woods.
  • Need tractor.  I can borrow a friend’s, but eventually I want a simple one of my own.  Which will need general weather protection.  Strongly leaning towards Yamnar.
  • Investigate secondary and localized solar for my future livestock barn.   Personal favorite sheep to be raising:  Shetland, Islandic, Soay.  Drawn to smaller, older breeds, despite their potential reputation for independence.  Or, maybe just because.   Consider goats (to be raised for meat).
  • Follow through on greenhouse leads.  I’ve pinpointed location near the back door, for ease of electric and watering.  Greenhouse purpose:  for starting-beds, and for overwintering items at least of reasonably hardy nature.
  • Build a shed.  This would be gardening supplies, or also potentially tractor supplies.
  • Be open to the possibility of renting out some portion of land to people who want a spot to farm, who otherwise don’t have this opportunity.  My house and my own farming area is set back far enough from the road that there is plenty of opportunity for the appropriate proposal (or two) to be encouraged and accepted.

In / On House:

  • Finish deck staining.  (some of this will be hired out).  Pick decking paint, and likewise.
  • Address a couple log-settling issues with the local carpenter.
  • Organize basement – workbench, workshop, periphery.
  • Paint basement poles and a few other locales.
  • Unpack and place all remaining boxes/contents.

Personal Stimulation:  

  • Go back to learning either or both:  Welsh or Spanish.  Welsh is first.
  • Set up stained glass station in workshop.
  • Set up photography studio in workshop.
  • Set up woodworking station in workshop.
  • Learn as much as possible about the above.
  • Return to creative writing, and to to the writing of essays.
  • Get my photography game more intensified.
  • Consider video work for homesteading, recipes.
  • Obtain fishing license. And, fish.
  • Seek out more like-minded folks to interact with as directly as possible with all the above interests.