Art of Proprietation

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Circle of life

I was out there, doing the rounds. Feed the goats. Get them water. Grain the chickens. Look for eggs. Check under the broody hen. Hey, where are those peeps coming from?

For a while now, the broody hen, a buff Orpington, has been sitting a nest in the laying box I set up in the vacant goat house we were using as a chicken roost. We have four goat sheds. Each month (or 4 weeks, really) we move the goats to a new paddock. That gives us three months of separation to knock down the parasites. The chickens follow the goats, roughly. While a goat house aren't being goat or chicken house, they double as a tool shed for garden tools, or some times a play house for our son.

And now, apparently, a place to hatch eggs. A few weeks ago, I found a clutch of eggs under the bushes by the corner of the fence. The eggs had been in the nest too long to eat them, so I removed the wooden eggs that were fooling the Orpington and swapped them with the clutch of eggs. And Viola, 23 days later (or so, I didn't count), peep peep. It does sort of ring with the recent demise of the guineas.

We had been planning to try hatching some chicks over the winter. I was figuring in December so they would be laying by June. We have been keeping a rooster for the express purpose. The rooster is the rare breed male that Murray McMurray hatchery throws in with orders of hens. I think part of it is the excess males inevitable in a breeding program and part of it is it supplies a little extra warmth in the box of chicks in the mail. As a chick, our little male looked like a Orpington with side stockings. But recently, someone told me he looks like he is a Brahma. They are an alternative meat bird, I guess. The rooster has grown up to be a heavy bird, all right. We'll see how he mixes with Orpington, Rock Bards, NH Reds and Americana.

I was out there trying to take pictures, but it turned out the card wasn't in the camera. Enough reason to run screaming back to old chemical cameras and film I guess.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Freecylce Fish

This is last years picture of the goldfish we took out of our little artificial pond for the winter. The fish are comets, a common feeder fish that sell for about a dime a piece. We put them in the pond so to eat the mosquito larvae. The pond isn't deep enough for them to winter over, so last year we brought them inside. The fish tank and all of it's peripherals were a score from Freecycle.

These are the same fish this year. I think we lost two or three over the summer, definitely the one brown one. And we might even have a second generation in there, but I am not sure on that. But they are definitely bigger. The picture doesn't do it justice, but the fish might be twice as big. It would make sense, this is their second summer. With our freecyle tank, we'll see how many seasons we can get out of them. Not bad for some fish that were supposed to be someone else's lunch.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chicken Killing Day

Lasted weekend was chicken killing day. I read a lot of helpful Fowl killing blogs a day later.

There weren't any chickens harmed in this process, just Guineas. But Guineas are a fair approximation of chickens, in a frantic sort of way. I didn't take any pictures, so the reader is relatively safe.

We use a tried and true process, but that doesn't mean we are good at it. Killing, plucking and processing 9 birds took my wife and I more than two hours. I hate plucking worse than I hate processing, and my wife hates processing. Lucky thing, that. If we were of the same mind it might come to blows before we got done.

The thing that amazed me this year was their crops. In the past, I don't remember remarking on the crops. They must have been there, but they were, well, unremarkable. This year, they had an amazing amount of gravel fulling their crops. My wife points out that we are feed less grain per bird, hence more foraging. More foraging, more gravel, I guess. And the guineas get up late. With our new chickens, if you get up late, you aren't getting any grain. The guineas probably didn't get grain since about July when we let the pullets out to free range.

We don't slaughter for meat, really. We'll eat these birds, for sure. But if it were just for the meat, we wouldn't do it. The meat is at least a little on the tough side and there isn't a whole lot of it. We can probably get an average of one meal from a bird between actual meat and stock and such. Not really worth the effort. But the birds aren't just about meat. Normally we would get eggs and they would be on bug patrol all summer. Part of the reason we are slaughtering is we didn't get eggs. We were only getting eggs from one bird, we think, and she was tricky, changing up her nest sites a lot. So, we weren't willing to carry a large group of males through the winter if there weren't going to be eggs in the bargain. Too much grain for too little benefit. Also, we are tight for coop space. So into the freezer they go.

I'll bet if more people had to slaughter for their own use we'd have a lot more vegetarians. I hate pluckin'.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Getting Cleaned up for work

I had to do some things this weekend that I really didn't want to. The weather has been been getting colder and it would nice to light a fire in the kitchen stove. But when I looked at the condition of the stove pipe, I knew I couldn't get away with running the stove before cleaning the chimney and stove.

In the stove I found about an inch deep of fly ash under the hob as well as under the oven. No creosote, though.

The meat of the job was cleaning the chimney, though. Not a job I relished.
The chimney comes out of the center of the Elle, the middle of the ridge line. Just guessing, but I think the ridge line is about 30 feet above ground. Thirty feet up in a 45 degree slate roof isn't really my favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon. I am not fond of heights without a safety. I've done some rock climbing, but always with a safety. I didn't much like standing on that peak with nothing to hold onto but the chimney. This kind of work it pays to do slowly and careful.

That's a pail full of creosote we shoveled out of the thimble. I bet things flow a little better without that inch of crust caking the inside of the stove pipe.