Thursday, July 31, 2008

Black Eggs

So what do you get when you own black (Cayuga) ducks? Black eggs!

We were surprise by our first two eggs from our young Cayugas this week. We haven't tried them yet to see if we can discern any taste difference between our chickens' eggs and the duck eggs.

All the ducks have grown leaps and bounds since we got them as chicks this spring. As you can see in this photo, the male Cayuga has the beautiful luminescent green on his neck. The three ducks (he and his two females) are inseparable.

The other six ducklings we have are nearly full grown already. It will be time to butcher the two males soon (Steven plans to only keep the females of this batch). I've never dressed out a duck before and am a little apprehensive of the whole thing, as I'm afraid it will be more difficult than doing a chicken; but we will see.
We haven't sold our billy goat (buck) yet, which we are hoping to do soon, because we want to keep his daughters and not have them breed back to their father.

The young goat girls are growing like weeds, and are quite cute while their small horns are growing. One of them is especially affectionate and fond of people, even though we are trying hard not to allow them to act like "pets". They are definiately livestock, but I'll be the first to admit goats have much more personality than the sheep I raised growing up. These goats often act just like dogs.

Daughters and Mama

I dislike trying to format within the parameters of this website; but I'm going to see if it will let me upload a video to share. This is Steven being "loved on" by his goat herd (they always seem to think poking you with their horns is a sign of affection) :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This and That

I guess yesterday the south meadow caught fire when it was getting cut for prairie hay.

This meadows borders us on the south; and used to be our property (up until 1994) so we will think of it as ours ;) but it is all native grass leading up to the big river.

The leasee was cutting the high prairie grass for hay and I guess his swather exhaust had become too hot (he had cut the alfalfa field across the road just before this). Even though the grass was quite green in color and didn't look "burnable", it caught on.

Steven ran down there on foot, and the guys were trying to put it out. The township fire department came as well, hauling water. Basically everyone (including Steven) just moved hay back and stomped fire until they got it all under control. (they were doing this in 100 degree heat). Could have been much worse if it had jumped the fence. As it was only a circle about 75 yards burned.

These two photos I took last night from the camera on my cell phone. We rode the bicycles down there after I got home. (the tree row in the FAR background - right side - is where our house is)


Steven's new peach tree, planted just last fall, has two peaches on it. That's amazing for a first-year transplant. (Well, it only has one on it now, because Steven ate one of them yesterday).


We roasted more squash and onions over the grill last night; along with a good piece of beef. It was a wonderful supper late after the day cooled off.


Steven and I agree to make a list of major things we hope to accomplish yet this year before winter, prioritize them, then start throwing all of our daily efforts into getting them done. I hope that will help us stay more focused, help with time management, and give us a sense of accomplishment. We realize that other things could interrupt of course (like those escape artist goats); but at least we will never have to say "what shall we work on today?"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mid-Summer Blues

Even though this is the best season of the year (warm weather, home-grown goodies, etc.) I get the feeling we are both somewhat discouraged. Maybe it is just because we have so many projects lined up, and it seems to be taking them so long to get done. It's like having a huge too-big bite of chocolate cake in your mouth - it's yummy but suddenly you're afraid you'll choke because you can't chew it and enjoy it.

The frequent (and unusual) rains we've had this year had been great for plants - but that means for unwanted plants as well. We can't keep up with the weeds. While we are getting nice garden produce, the garden itself actually looks bad because we just can't keep up, even working on it daily. In addition, I'm way behind in mowing, so we don't have the 'picture-perfect' place we are striving for. I know our goal is to eventually have enough pasture animals to not have to worry about mowing at all (just use sheep, goats, etc.) but we are a long way at this point, from having enough animals to keep up with our acreage.

Plus we have major projects bearing down; like rebuilding the outhouse (so it can be used temporarily while we do structural changes on the bathroom inside the house) and fixing the lean-to shed next to the washhouse; putting up tons more fencing for the rotational grazing; painting the house; doing some dirtwork, etc. I think we see summer slipping quickly away, with not as much accomplished toward our goals of self-sufficiency as we had hoped. We really wanted to be off propane and be able to heat the house with wood heat only this year, and that process is not going to be in place in time.

I have to remind myself that God does know our struggles (Luke 12:22-28) and He will always provide our daily needs. I need to strengthen my faith and trust in Him that all will get done in His time, and I must have patience.

So to brighten this post a bit - I will end with a photo of yummy new potatoes.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Grillin' Time!

We finally had a gorgeous day (as Kansas summer days go) yesterday - high in the 80s, overcast, calm.

So I finally got the chicken that we butchered last Friday on the grill. In addition, Steven had used the perfect day to burn off a couple of large brush piles, and I oiled up several large potatoes, wrapped them in foil and buried them in the hot coals from his fires

And hour later we have a wonderful meal. Then took a walk for a good end to a perfect evening.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Winnowing the wheat

Taking the wheat that we gleaned a few days ago, Steven has been threshing it down and winnowing it to make it ready to grind into flour.

In these photos, he is near the final stage. Now he just needs to separate the rest of the chaff from the wheat, so he has the grains out in the open on a windy day. He lets them trickle through his hands and fall to the tarp, as the wind blows away the lighter chaff. He does this many, many times until the wheat is pretty much thoroughly cleaned of the non-kernel parts.

We haven't yet decided how we want to go about grinding it into flour. There is still much wheat we gleaned to get to this stage.

Last Friday (yep, Independence Day morning) we butchered the one Cornish-X chicken that Amanda had gained from her work and given to us. It was a little more laborious project than I had planned, and that was one FAT chicken, but it is done and in the fridge. I hoped to put it out on the grill last night, but the weather did not cooperate. Today, it is raining, so I don't know that it will get cooked this evening, either!

This is a photo Steven took of me when I was gutting the chicken carcass. He said with my hand inside it like that, it looked like I had a "chicken puppet"! :)

And I'll end with a photo of a beautiful sunrise the other day that greeted me in the morning. The alfalfa field across the road from our house had just been cut...

(this is not our field or our cutter. It is just right in front of us, so I wanted to capture the image)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ducks & Botulism

Well, a couple of our newer ducks were quite ill yesterday with what we believe was a type of botulism that affects ducks.

However, after separating them into a cage and giving them fresh food and water for a day, they seem to have recovered fine. With all the rain we've had these past two months, there is a lot of rotting vegetation and places that would harbor that bacteria. We cleaned out their "pool" thoroughly and cleaned all water dishes. Hopefully that will be the last of that problem for this year.

Seems like I always have a lot I want to post here, but find no time to get around to posting it.

There was quite a windstorm at the farm over the weekend, while I was gone to Missouri. It took out a very large tree limb from one of the front yard elms, and several smaller limbs. We spent most of yesterday evening with the chain saw cleaning that up. The goats thought it was a bonus, because every branch that still had leaves on it went into their pen, which they loved. Cut the biggest portion into firewood chunks.

The wind also played havoc with the neighbors alfalfa field, which is directly across the road from us out the front door. They had just cut and windrowed the field when the storm came up. It blew all their newly cut alfalfa south across the other road and into a wheat stubble field. Steven and I hope to glean some of that, since I know they won't bother with picking it up from there. We will probably go pick it up by hand tonight, because it is supposed to rain again tomorrow. The rest of the alfalfa, that was left in the original field, they windrowwed again several times to try to get it back together, then baled it yesterday and hauled it off.