Monday, January 26, 2015

Trimming Bird Wings

We came home from a wonderful week-long vacation in Florida to find (don, don, don, DON)... duck poop all over our front porch.  Yuck!  Like other birds, ducks aren't able to excrete urine and (ahem) poop separately, but rather leave moist nasty droppings that are a combination of the two.  Ducks seem both especially prolific excretors, and also prone to constant explosive diarrhea as well.  All these factors combined to make our porch exponentially disgusting.  It turns out that in our absence, they took advantage of the opportunity to gorge on dog food that was left out in bulk for our two dogs.  Prior to our departure, they dutifully stayed confined in their 1/2 acre fenced in area.  We should have known better, but as they say, hindsight is 20:20.  When I think back, I recall questioning my sanity on a few occasions when I thought I saw a streak of white fly by the window.  It didn't fully occur to me that (1) our ducks might be escaping their area, and (2) this means bird droppings in the yard.  On a farm full of many animals, poop-free zones are cherished and necessary for sanity.  And so, the very next morning, donning kitchen shears and a clear intent, we set out to trim duck wings.  Calvin, our resident chicken (and duck) whisperer, coaxed the birds into a small enclosure, and Johnny and I grabbed hold of duck shoulders and proceeded to give them a trim.
In all seriousness, trimming bird wings is both simple and painless - much like trimming your fingernails.  One needs to simply extend a wing, holding the meat (or muscle) so as not to cut it, and cut feathers off bunty clear across each wing.  We've read that a farmer can get away with trimming just one wing, or disrupting the pattern, and leaving some feathers long, but since it is truly painless and quick, we figure, why gamble and complicate things.  After the bird is caught (admittedly the hard part), we simply cut all long wing feathers. 

Before cutting the wings
Enjoying local food - a coconut washed up on the beach. 

A word of thanks to our neighbor and friend, Stan, who made our vacation possible.  It occurs to us that just a couple hundred years ago, when we were all subsistence farmers, taking a vacation - even just one in a lifetime - was a rarity experienced by only a fortunate few.  We are so lucky to have a friend on hand who is willing and capable to farm-sit for us.  THANK YOU, Stan!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Single Digit Nights

The New Year came in accompanied by an arctic blast and temperatures well below the freezing mark.  Thankfully our calves have been gaining weight, and no longer look like bags of bones.  They have soft full winter coats, and despite hanging out in their enclosure for an extra hour on exceptionally chilly mornings, they are the first to venture out to graze.  Not surprisingly, the goats would stay in their barn all day, and often do, grazing on hay to their heart's content.  But the pigs...  The pigs are a new addition, and while they have a healthy layer of fat for insulation, they are so sparsely hairy, we worried a bit about their comfort.  Of course, the population of wild pigs never seems to suffer for cold winters, but still - we want to be good pig guardians.  They stay huddled in their very well insulated enclosure until the sun is out, only braving the wind at the sound of Johnny's voice announcing breakfast.  And who wouldn't come running for stale cornbread, cabbage leaves, and warm milk - oh boy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 New Years Resolution

It's not uncommon for one of us to be overheard remarking, "this would be good for the blog".  However, it seems I posted only once in 2014, and not much more in 2013.  This makes for perhaps the world's worst blog.  In fact, just because I have a blog account doesn't make this a blog without regular postings.  And so, in 2015 I resolve (again) to post regularly.  Weekly, to be precise. 
Part of my hesitation has been time, but the other half of my hesitation has been feeling egocentric.  I fear appearing like a know-it-all or show off.  But one reason we got into farming was to preserve the quickly dying knowledge and skills of farming and to pass this on.  Our blog is one way to pass on our successes and failures to those with a range of knowledge and interest in increasing self-sufficiency.  It is in this vein of passing on our farming trials that I resume the blog.
I'll start with a year in review (or the past 6 months) in pictures:

Calvin grinding our field corn to make cornmeal
Cheese waxed before aging in our cheese cave (aka storm cellar)
A win-win: we got a breeding pair of pigs, a heritage breed known as American Guinea Hogs.  This small breed of pigs eats grass, including Bermuda grass and its roots, allowing us to clear a patch of ground for our garden expansion.   And soon they will be breeding age, giving us pork in the future!  Mmmm BACON!
Johnny & Stan build a water tower for the tank that holds water from our solar well.  This gravity-fed operation now has more water pressure. 

Johnny and friends Dave, Mike, and Russell make fire with the world's largest bow-drill!
We made FIRE!!!
We hired our neighbor to hay our pasture to feed our animals for winter.  They payment is he takes majority of the hay, but leaving us plenty for our goats and the pigs too.  Yes, these pigs eat hay. 
The orchard

Thanks to our friends Emily & Michael at Three Springs Farm, we added some blueberry bushes this year.

Strawberries and asparagus were also new in 2014.

We added a new goat paddock in the pasture with excellent grazing, but the goats feel a bit anxious without their shepherd, and look for her at the gate. 

To our farrier's delight, we traded Atticus to a neighbor for some round bales of hay.  Karen misses him, but he kept trying to kill her goats. 
Half bushel baskets of potatoes

Unlikely friends.