Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring, Snowstorm and Squab

What a busy last few days! I have much to share, and hope I don't lose your interest halfway through.

Last Thursday's poultry auction, while warmer than the previous month, and certainly a blessing that it fell on Thursday this month instead of the following day — there just wasn't much to choose from. About half as many items for sale, and half as many people. There weren't any Cayuga ducks (for me to make good on replacing my son's drake), and no geese or turkeys that Steven was interested in owning.

However, ran into another friend of ours there, and he purchased a huge lot of pigeons (to use to train his bird dogs). In that batch of pigeons were two which stood out from the rest, because they were not colored the same. One was reddish and one was white. Steven talked with Mickey about those two, because he liked them, and ended up bringing them home:

Now, some have asked me "what good is a pigeon?" I have to admit I'm not real sure of an answer on that! Some people eat them, I know, as squab -- quite a delicacy in other cultures. Cheap meat that many Europeans used to raise. Some varieties of pigeons can be kept for competitions in messaging, or in acrobatics, etc. Apparently they can even be used in warfare! (that's an interesting article Steven found while researching pigeons). Overall, though - Steven just likes birds. All types. And he just wanted to have them. Much in the same way I want every dog I see. :)

Steven this week is working toward building some kind of dovecote in the top of the pole barn for his new acquisitions. He is hoping one would be male and one female, so he could raise little ones; but now he's thinking they are probably both female.

Then Friday came the big spring snowstorm. I left work early to make sure I could get home, and it was basically raining ice (sleet) very heavily at that time. Overall, though, the farm got much more snow and less ice than Wichita did. We estimated 8 inches - although since it came down in blizzard conditions, with much drifting and blowing, it was really hard to tell.

The goats didn't like it at all! They stayed in the barn and kept bellowing at us to bring them more food. The ducks didn't seem to mind the snow at all. Most all the other animals stayed huddled in protection somewhere unseen.

Saturday afternoon the sun came out and the melting began. Now things are a muddy mess, but we needed the moisture, so it was good.

Sunday we went to McPherson to see my other two kids, and my young men had fun building a snow fort and having a snow ball fight.

(click on any of the photos to view them larger)

(p.s. -- I think those coveralls I purchased for Steven at Orscheln (back when his sister worked there)is one of the best investments I have ever made! Now I want a pair for me!)

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Okay, this photo didn't turn out at all like I was hoping -- I will need to find a way to take a photo from up high looking down or something. (you can click on the photo to make it full screen).

This is from the north end of our property, looking back across our orchard area. Steven just finished burning much of it off yesterday (hard to tell in this pic, I know). You can see our one big matriarch pear tree there, which kind of anchors the northeast corner of our land. You should be able to see, in line with it, all the young fruit trees we have planted for four rows. But they don't show up well in this shot.

Tonight we go to the poultry auction. I'm looking for a replacement Cayuga drake; and Steven is hoping there might be turkeys and/or geese (I'm not big on the idea of getting a goose).

But it has turned off cold again, and will get colder -- we are amazingly expected to get several inches of snow tomorrow. Right when our fruit trees are beginning to bloom due to all the wonderful warm weather we've had the past couple of weeks.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring is flying by. . .

... quite literally today! (with wind gusts in the 50+ mph range!).

Hard for me to believe it has been a week since I last posted here -- and even more discouraging to realize I haven't accomplished much in that time span!

This past weekend was too busy for me to get much done on the farm. Activities at church and other organizations I belong to took all of my time - - as well as my other kids coming home for spring break (which was very nice!).

However, during the last week we finally got the rototiller going again, with the help of my 93 year old uncle who is much better at carburetor work than I am. So we got some of the main garden tilled; but I still need to do the potato plot and get my potatoes in the ground!

Poultry auction will be this week - day after my birthday ;) Hopefully will have decent weather to enjoy that.

Severe storms expected tonight. We are praying for the rain, without any of the accompanying bad stuff.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ups and Downs

It was beautiful weather this weekend, and although on the one hand we got much accomplished, on the other hand, we had to deal with bad things, as well.

Because it is so rare that there is actually a windless day in Kansas, we use every chance like that to do any necessary burning. (There had been a burn ban on most of the winter because we had such a horribly dry winter and first part of 2009.) So this weekend we burned off the thatch grass (dead, heavy, clumpy stuff) in the western goat corral, so that next rain it can begin to green up nicely and become viable pasture for the goats.

Then we went to the north edge of the property to where Steven is restoring the orchard, and were going to burn it off in sections. This area has much taller, denser dried grass -- we burned it last year. We are burning this area because it has a major issue with dense poison ivy, and we're trying to get a handle on that organically.

In hindsight, of course, there are many things I would have done different to prepare for this task.

Anyway, we just started just a small section burn, but it burned very hot and fast and I wasn't able to keep it behind the fire line on the north side. While there is nothing that direction (like structures) for it to do any damage to, it did get away with burning one of Steven's hand-raised-from-seed apricot trees before we got it back under control. He was not happy. But we hope perhaps it will come back from root -- we watered it well, and re-mulched it with wet straw after the fire.

The rest of the orchard is in other sections of our burn area, and we decided to not continue that project that day :(

However, back when we were burning off the goat corral - we decided during that time to put the goats into the front chain-link yard, where the dogs usually are. The reasons were two-fold; first, allow the goats to graze off some of the good green grass in the yard; and two, have them secured well away from the fire area. But we can't put the goats in there while the dogs are in there, so we put the dogs into a small area off the goat pen that we use just as a holding corral (like when the one doe had her baby and we wanted to separate her). It is just woven wire, but would hold both the dogs safely.

What we didn't think about (until too late) is that the ducks sometimes go through that little holding pen (because they can go through woven wire) to get to water. We went all day with this arrangement and never thought about it. The dogs are not used to the chickens or ducks being within their own fence (since they are usually in chain link). And we never imagined the ducks would wander in there without realizing there were dogs inside.

By the time we realized our mistake this weekend, we had a dead duck. And no, it couldn't be just ANY duck. We have seven ducks -- six are hens -- four of which are crossbreeds that we have for no particular purpose, and three are Steven's purebred Cayuga's for his breeding stock. Those three are two hens and one drake (male), that he had high hopes of raising chicks from this spring. So no, the dog couldn't have picked one of the crossbreds, or even one of the Cayuga hens of which we had two -- the dog had to go and kill our one and only drake. Steven was not happy. :(

As Steven carried him off to bury — without trying to sound callus, I pointed out that since he was already dead before we could intervene, his life shouldn't be in vain - we should eat him. So then we took time out to butcher our fine duck; and put his breast and leg meat into a crock pot. He has made a fine duck soup - very tasty.

But now we need to obtain a new Cayuga drake.

I think, as a tribute, I will end by posting my recent video I took of the ducks playing in the stock tank. (I think in this video the drake is the one up on the side of the tank, preening, and watching over his hens) :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring cleaning - and other random

Spent a great deal of last weekend with a chain saw in my hands, cutting tree limbs and full trees from the area around the garden. Steven and I have a pretty good system, when all is going well - he does a lot of the heavy lifting, and when a tree is down and we go to cut it up for firewood, he "feeds" it across the cutting area, so I just chop, chop, chop. Works pretty well, but my upper body strength is lacking after the winter, so my arms were sore a lot from the weight of my Husqvarna.

And then there is all the hauling of the brush to either the brush pile, or the goat pen (certain kinds they like to chew on).

(Steven cutting out some sucker trees)

I decided to do a type of time-lapse of images of the garden over the next 12 months, so I climbed a tree to try to take a photo of the entire main garden as it is now -- as we begin to clean it up, rake, and get ready for tilling:

(This is the main garden only - the one we have tilled for years, and have worked the most compost/organic matter into, etc. We have broken out two other new areas in the past couple of years - one for the quantity of potatoes I want to plant; and another area in the front yard for special projects) (you can click on the image to see it larger -that is our bee hive on the back left)

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Many mornings walking out to my car to go to work, it is very dark. Especially like today, when there is heavy cloud cover, and it's before dawn. I have to walk about 50 yards to the shed where my car is, which has no electrical power or lights. I'm always afraid I'm going to walk right into a skunk or something. Could happen, you know. I've seen skunks in there in the past.

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Ducks have started laying eggs again - so I guess that is real sign of spring despite the fact we got a bit of sleet/snow overnight (that has already melted). It's still cold, but is supposed to warm up over the next few days. Time to get the nesting boxes ready for the ducks, and for whatever hen goes broody first in the chicken house.

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We got our Stark Bros. order by UPS today! Yay! A bit cold for receiving fruit trees and putting them out, for sure -- but it is supposed to warm up over the next few days enough we should be able to put them in the ground! :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Poultry Auction

Well, I'm overdue on posting this update on our trip to the poultry auction last Friday, which I mentioned in my Cage Contest blog post.

After a beautifully warm week, the weekend took a drastic change to a bitter cold north wind, and everyone attending the auction froze their behinds off. However, these are die-hard poultry people who show up each month without fail.

The evening before, we had to catch the two cockerels we planned to sell, (because it is easier to catch a chicken once it has become dark and they have roosted for the night), and put them in the cages to prepare for the next day's auction

As you can see in this pic, Steven ended up having to do some modifications to his cage at the last minute. We found that the birds need a "visible" ceiling to the cage, or else they continually try to fly up and out, hurting themselves and the cage both. So he sewed some canvas cloth over the top, to calm the bird keep him from trying to break out.

Here are the birds, in cage, covered with a blanket, loaded into the back of the truck ready for the drive over. The blanket keeps them calm and kept them warm on this very cold day.

We got there fairly early, and were able to be pretty close to the top of the lot list. There weren't as many lots overall as the previous month (obviously due to weather), but there were still quite a number, and many regulars showed up as normal.

An early shot of the parking lot/auction area before it began filling up. The first row of auction items you can see - this lot will be full before the auction begins. The tractor/horse trailer along the building is the "auction office". I took my photo from pretty far back, as to not offend the Amish who run the auction. They prefer to not have their faces in a photograph. Don't let that sunlight fool you -- everyone was numb with cold.

Here are our two boys waiting for their turn for the auctioneer visit. It is actually about dark before the auction starts at 6 PM, and it was quite dark (working by flashlight) by the time they got to our lot.

Steven was very pleased with how it went. We got more per bird that most any other birds selling there, and more than we had hoped (just under $10 per cockerel). But they are exceptionally nice looking roosters, and they really deserved that. The same guy bought both of them. I don't know if this proved my point (mentioned in the cage contest post), but the bird in my old dilapidated cage did bring 50 cents more than the bird in his cage -- but that is probably just because he sold first, and the guy bidding against the winner quit earlier. :)

And Steven sure did get a lot of offers and comments on his cage! People wanted to know how it was made, what kind of wood was in it, etc. I heard one old man say to another "he must have had nothing better to do that day." *laugh*

And just to end the post - another picture of our new little buck. Just because I think he is so adorable at this age.