Saturday, December 6, 2014

Photo post

Snow & ice with frozen ground.  Then more snow and a mix of snow and rain.  Fog.  Cold temps and frozen ground.  Then some rain and several days of warm temperatures turning the snow and ice into slush.  Now we're getting rain (with more rain on the way) which equals mud....  I'd rather have snow and frozen ground.

But throughout it all things still need to be done around here, the kids have their school work and the animals still need to be tended to.  And I still have ONE final batch of tomatoes to finish up.  :-)  

I have a couple of posts in draft mode and will eventually get them finished up and posted but,  in the meantime, enjoy a few pictures taken over the past couple of weeks.


Can we go into your house, please?


Where did all these leaves come from?

oh, yeah.... winter came before autumn was finished
icicles... don't usually see them until January


Can't you make this thing any warmer?  My feet are cold.

Misty cows

Early morning


2 month old peeps

Peeps are nearly as big as the Fosters
Split-Fire wood splitter... excellent investment!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Molting chickens


"Molt - To shed periodically part or all of a coat or an outer covering, such as feathers, cuticle, or skin, which is then replaced by a new growth." - American Heritage Dictionary

Molting around here is when the chickens begin to shed their old ratty, broken, dingy feathers and turn into ugly, bald, spiky two-legged crazy creatures that don't really resemble those lovely birds anymore.  Their combs may shrink in size, sometimes turning pale in color and their temperaments often change.  Sometimes the transformation occurs overnight.  Your hen may have had all her feathers when you put her to bed the night before, then you let her out the next day and POOF!...  she has no tail feathers, no flight feathers and new feather spikes all around her neck and body.  Some poor gals (and roosters) molt to near nakedness.  Your hens may also cease to lay eggs during this time, although there are some that defy that logic and continue to lay all the while they are molting and regenerating new feathers.  They may even loose some of their body weight.

A tame, friendly chicken that is (generally) easily captured will often turn into a sprinter that causes you to run a full marathon in an attempt to catch it. Even just looking at them makes their skin crawl and in their little birdie brain they KNOW you are going to try to catch them and that you want to do something evil ... like touch them.  And if you do happen to catch hold of one of them they will squawk and scream as if you're skinning them alive.

DON'T TOUCH ME!!!
Okay... I'll pose, but only for a second....
See, I'm getting my beautiful spots back...
now, please go away..... or feed me :-)

And don't forget the massive amounts of feathers lying about your coop, pen and yard.  It will look like you had engaged in a massive pillow fight or some nefarious event has occurred there.  If you have neighbors who live close by they will swear you are running a poultry processing factory in your backyard because of all the feathers blowing into their yard.

 

Our chickens may start to molt in late summer and the process will last through winter and into early spring.  We had some start the process as early as late July.  The Silkie hen has done so every year.  The duck and goose started around late August and are finally done with their molt.

"Would you knit me a scarf.... please?
And maybe a shawl, too, while you're at it."
What causes molt?  Well, simply put, as daylight hours decrease and the days
get cooler, it triggers a hormonal shift in the birds causing them to start shedding their old feathers.  Kind of like an autumn season in chickens.  It can take 2 months, or more, for a hen to go from semi-bald to again being fully feathered.  On average, for our hens, it takes about 2-4 months for them to grow out all their new feathers completely.

Some chicken owners don't like not having eggs during this time of year and will attempt to delay molt by adding artificial lighting to their coops to create longer 'daylight' hours to keep them in production.  But our view is that since the hens have worked so hard during the year giving us eggs (even during the heat of summer) then the least we can do is to allow them a time of rest and regeneration.   I would much rather have a hen who is a good layer to be in production longer than to burn her out at an early age. We keep our good layers beyond the age in which some cull their flocks at 2 years of age.  We have some that are age 6 and still laying as if they were a young hen.

brrr.... I feel a draft.....
I lost my beard.... somewhere in the coop
Molting is an annual rite for birds.  All kinds of birds, but this post will refer to our chickens.  Molting generally occurs in birds that are one year of age or older, though we have had a few of the pullets (young, non-laying female chicken less than one year old)  undergo a full molt before they are one year old but that is unusual.


When your chickens begin to molt you will notice your hen has feather loss about her head and neck with new feathers exposed.  Then the loss of more feathers about their body, then their wings, finally ending at the tail.  As those feathers fall out it will reveal the new short, spiky sheath-covered feathers growing out.  And like I state above, some will loose their feathers all about the same time.

Please note that it is a good practice to periodically inspect your birds to be sure that you do have molting hens under normal molting conditions (shortened days, cooler temperatures) and not some kind of malady such as poultry mites, worms/parasites, feather picking or some kind of injury or wound.

(hiding head in embarrassment)

Molting takes a lot of energy out of your hens while they grow their feathers back so a higher protein feed ration should be fed or added to their feed rations.  By providing them with a higher protein feed, such as a meat or game bird ration purchased from the local feed store, it will increase their protein intake and help them along in their feather growth and in maintaining a healthy body weight.  Moistened or softened dry cat/dog food with a high protein ration (more than 16%) can also be given.  We give them extra 'treats' of cheese, cooked fish (with skin) or canned cat food to their diet.  Some of the girls are clever and hop through the fence to get into the wood shed, where the cats sleep at night, to eat their dry cat food. 

I read somewhere that feathers are made up of 85% protein, so they really need that extra protein to grow out those new feathers and keep their healthy body weight.  It is generally a cooler time of the year, so not only are they growing new feathers, they are also generating more body heat to stay warm.  The addition of grain, such as corn, is a 'warming' feed and will warm them from the inside-out.  Oh, and make sure they have plenty of fresh water available at all times.  We add vitamins/electrolytes to their water during times of stress, such as extreme temperatures, molt, injury or when we worm them.  The one product we liked best is called Avia Charge (McMurray Hatchery).  It looks kind of nasty when mixed in the water (looks like mud) but the chickens don't mind at all since they'll drink out of mud puddles, if the opportunity arises.
 Yes, I am a rooster with ONE tail feather 
Not all the hens are molting at this time. Some have already molted and grew their new feathers back, but most are at various stages of molt.  This process will continue on until spring.  We'll post update pictures in another post when the girls (and boy) get their lovely new feathers back in place, but until then we'll just have to wait.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cream of Tomato Soup

Keeping to the 'theme' of tomatoes and what can you make with them, how about what you can make using the tomato sauce/juice that you've put up.  I love books and I have a great fondness for cook books... especially old cook books with recipes like what great grandma used to make.  So with all the cold days we've had here in the mountain valley, I thought I'd share a good tomato soup recipe, taken from The Metropolitan Life Cook Book, using either fresh, frozen or canned tomatoes (or juice.

Cream of Tomato Soup:

1/2 can or 1 pint tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper (to taste)
1 quart milk
1 slice onion
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter

Stew tomato and sugar, strain, add soda and seasoning.  Scald milk in double boiler with 1 slice onion.  Add flour well blended with butter; cook thoroughly.  Remove onion from milk.  Combine mixtures, adding tomato to milk slowly, strain, serve at once in a hot dish.

*****

Now I must admit that when I make this soup I'm generally in a hurry.  The recipe above is good but in my haste I use homemade tomato sauce or juice.  I'll grab a zippered storage bag containing 4 pints homemade tomato juice or homemade sauce, thaw it out either in a bowl of hot water or remove the frozen contents from the bag and toss it into a pot, cover and thaw over low heat.  While it is doing that I'll grab a larger soup pot, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk them together.  Cook over medium-low heat until it is the consistency of a roux. (If you don't know what a 'roux' (sounds like roo) is, it is pretty much a mixture of butter and flour cooked to the consistency of a doughy paste.) Slowly add the milk to your butter/flour (roux) mixture and whisk to combine.  Add about 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.  Cook until bubbly and then slowly add the tomato juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook until it just comes to a boil.  Remove from heat & serve..... with cornbread or a grilled cheese sandwich. 

Just one recipe on what to make using your tomato harvest... either fresh, canned or the frozen juice/sauce.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tomato skins and what to do with them

scalded tomato ready to run through the strainer   
This will be a quick post regarding tomatoes since I have quite a bit more to do in getting them processed.  Lately, I've been making up tomato juice, catsup, pickled green tomato relish and about a week ago turned 45 pounds of tomatoes into 9.5 quarts of sauce. 

Most recipes call for scalding tomatoes to peel those chewy skins off since you won't use them for making sauce/juice.  Some recipes call for crushing the tomatoes and then running them through a food mill or strainer to remove the skins and seeds.  But what about you don't use a food mill or strainer and just peel them for your crushed or chopped tomatoes?  What to do with those skins besides feed them to the chickens?  I can tell you right now that when those chickens see me coming out with the blue bucket that they run the opposite direction.   I think they are tired of tomatoes.  But with all this scalding/straining of tomatoes it reminded me of a post by a dear blogger and friend to many, who passed away a couple months ago, about making tomato powder from tomato skins.


Tomatoes, again?  Seriously?!
SciFi Chick did a excellent blog post on taking those peeled skins from the scalded tomatoes and turning them into tomato powder.  I did it last year and it really works!  And most of all, it was easy just like she said it was.  I'm so grateful that her post(s) are still available for reading and if any of you have not read her blog, please hop on over to it and glean all the wonderful information she had taken the time to put up.



Here's her post on taking those peeled tomato skins and dehydrating them:

Tomato Skins to Tomato Powder (Easy Tomato Paste & Sauce from Tomato Skins)

Well, back to the stove - the catsup is ready to be canned. I hope you try SciFi Chick's instructions on dehydrating tomato skins to make power or, at the very least, print them out and try next year!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dancing with goats

The answer to the question 'How much snow did ya get?" is about 4 inches.  Temps are warming up very quickly.  Snow is falling out of the trees, sliding off the rooftops and mud patches are beginning to show here and there.  It is the light fluffy snow so it won't stay around very long even though the ground was frozen before it fell.  With it being around 40F, it will be mud before you know it.






All the critters came out fairly easy this morning.  Well, most of them.  There are a few of the older hens who absolutely hate the stuff and need to be carried to their run but overall things went smoothly.






Except for the goats.  Normally, the goats will rush out the barn in the morning without any threats or bribes, to go out and happily follow the horse around all day.  But this morning, the goats had to be literally dragged out of the barn.  They were sure that some sort of doom was awaiting them in that white stuff that covered the barn yard.  They ran out of their enclosure to the open door, looked out and stampeded back at me to get into their enclosure.  Two went through the gate opening and the other leaped over it. 

We sometimes have to lead the goats back into the barn in the evenings using a lead rope but only one goat has a collar on at the moment.  I had to fix the other two since they were sewn smaller for their little pencil necks when they were smaller but they have grown quite a bit, hence having to take off the collars to remove the stitching.  But even the lead rope doesn't always go that smoothly.  They act like Gollum (Lord of the Rings) and bleat out "It burns!  It burns us!...." (regarding the rope).


I made a grab for the collared one but she dodge to the right, then I cornered one of the white ones. They certainly can dig in all four hooves down into the straw but I had another plan.  Grab the front feet up off the ground and walk said goat out of the barn... she walked alright, until she realized I was getting closer to the open door.  The closer I got to the barn door the more she dug her back hooves into the loose straw.  Then she just dropped to the ground like she was dead, all the while calling for her partners in crime to help her.  As soon as she realized I was still taking her to the frozen wasteland, she leapt up and started to sway her head around like she was listening to a bizarre, unheard melody in her head.  I'm sure we looked like awkward dance partners as I was trying to get the booger out the door.

Once out the door, I walked her around the corner of the barn so I could get between her & the barn gate to shut her out. She continued whining for the other two for sympathy.  Being it was one of the lower ranking goats who got nabbed, the other two were safely in the barn.  The lead (instigator) goat kept bleating back in sympathy for the other's plight.  But with one goat out, the rest should go a little more smoothly, right?

Next was Little Miss Lead Goat.  She's got a collar anyways, so it should be a lot easier to get her motivated into going out.  heh.  We did a nice little goat do-si-do in the enclosure and then the red dog comes shooting out of her cage to stir up more confusion and chaos since apparently it wasn't exciting enough for her.  Dog got booted back into her cage but she had so much straw pulled out of her cage I couldn't get the door shut and the two goats are spinning off the walls, enticing red dog into more mischief.  Nevertheless, nabbed lead goat, got her to the gate (no white goat in sight), open gate, get black goat about half way out when the white one materializes out of nowhere and shoves past me.  Black goat bends herself in half around me in mid-shove, like some goat slinky, and then goes frolicking back into her pen.  I swear, all three of them stuck their tongues out at me and bleated "nah, nah, na-nah, naaaaa!"

Grrrrr.... grabbed the black goat's collar, dragged her to the open door, shoved her out the door and, thankfully, one of the white goats followed.  Mr. H could hear all the hollerin' and yellin', and having pity on me, came into the barn, grabbed goat number three and waltzed her out the barn, all the while the red dog is shooting in & out of her cage like a giant gopher.  All three goats are then united and go bouncing away in search of the horse.

Just another day at the ranch.   So, how was your morning? 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Frost, Freeze and Winter Weather Advisories

Weather report.... cold and snow.....

Winter Storm Warning

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE 

...FIRST SNOW OF THE SEASON AT LOW ELEVATIONS...

.WITH COLD AIR IN PLACE THE NEXT PACIFIC STORM WILL BRING SNOW TO
ALL AREAS THURSDAY AND THURSDAY NIGHT. FOR LOW ELEVATIONS IT WILL
BE THE FIRST SNOW OF THE SEASON. A WARM FRONT LATE THURSDAY AND
THURSDAY NIGHT WILL CHANGE THE SNOW TO RAIN...OR FREEZING RAIN
AND THEN RAIN...IN THE LOWER VALLEYS.

...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 8 AM TO 11 PM MST
THURSDAY... WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 AM MST
FRIDAY.
 
SNOW AND ICE AMOUNTS...STORM TOTAL OF 3 TO 6 INCHES. FREEZING
  RAIN MAY ALSO OCCUR...ADDING UP TO A TENTH OF AN INCH OF ICE TO
  THE PREVIOUSLY FALLEN SNOW.
 

So ....as of this afternoon it has been a gentle snowfall leaving about 2 inches of the white stuff and still another 12 hours or so to go. This snowfall will stick for a while because we've been on the cold side of things the past few days and the ground is a little on the frozen side.  8F this morning and high temp of around 27 today.  At least the wind died down yesterday.

We've got quite a bit of our winter preps done but there is still a few more things left on the list that got shoved on the back burner due to some other things that popped up the past couple of weeks.

But despite the cold 9F degree mornings we have had some lovely sunrises.

 Cleaned out the firebox of ashes, got the hoses blown out and coiled up for storage.....
Set up the pipe frame and plastic tarps over my sissy plants in the greenhouse, tidied it up and pulled in the Christmas tree from last year that did not get planted.  Don't want to loose it like what happened to my other ones we moved here that froze in their pots from the sub-zero temps we had the first year.

They will be kept warm with the heater but not heat
the entire greenhouse up




 Carrots were pulled, cleaned and will be either canned or stored, according to size.  The monster ones will be for the horse - he will be happy!  :-)
 What the marigolds looked like a few days ago... the freezing temps did them in.  I need to collect the seeds for spring.

 Opal on patrol....



I think this is gum weed.  Crazy thing was still in bloom yesterday even after the very cold temperatures.
 Frosty morning.....
 Dogs are ready for the cold weather in their little straw 'igloos'.... and below is what kind of weather we had a couple of days ago when we were scrambling around to get the critters in the barn set up for the cold and storm.

 Getting some straw for the chickies in the coop to keep them snug....
 ... and the supervisor, making sure we're not goofing off!

 Frosty mornings....


So you all keep safe if you have to drive or go out in this stuff.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Batten down the hatches...

I like how it states 'unseasonably warm' and quickly goes into possible single digit temps.


I know what we're going to be doing tomorrow and at least the next day.  The molting chicken post will have to wait a while.  Until then.....






Special Weather Statement

SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BOISE ID
112 PM MST SAT NOV 8 2014

IDZ028-033-ORZ062-090815-
CAMAS PRAIRIE-UPPER WEISER RIVER-BAKER COUNTY-
112 PM MST SAT NOV 8 2014

...MUCH COLDER MID WEEK...

UNSEASONABLY WARM TEMPERATURES ARE ON TRACK THIS WEEKEND DUE TO
MILD HIGH PRESSURE AT THE SURFACE AND ALOFT CENTERED OVER NEVADA.
A DUSTING OF SNOW IS NOT OUT OF THE QUESTIONS FOR
FAIRFIELD...CAMBRIDGE AND BAKER CITY AS COLD CANADIAN HIGH
PRESSURE EXPANDING SOUTH COMBINES WITH SOME MOISTURE SUNDAY
NIGHT THROUGH MONDAY. COLD AIR WILL CONTINUE THROUGH MID WEEK DUE
TO NORTH FLOW ALOFT FROM CANADA. IF THERE IS SNOW COVER AND
CLEARING WEDNESDAY AND OR THURSDAY SINGLE DIGIT LOW TEMPERATURES
ARE NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION FOR MCCALL OR IDAHO CITY. THERE IS
ANOTHER CHANCE OF SNOW OR A WINTRY MIX FOR THURSDAY AND FRIDAY AS
AN UPPER TROUGH DROPS SOUTH OVER THE INLAND NORTHWEST.







Wednesday
Night

Mostly Cloudy
Mostly
Cloudy
Lo 24 °F