Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Organic Lawnmower

Have you ever been on the wrong end of a thundering tribe of goat? It's not pretty. They have pine needle breath.

Watch out here they come!

Hurry, run away!

Save yourself!

Awh...Too late, you've been had!

Okay, I really wanted to offer my endorsement of an organic lawn mower. My friend said there was no such thing as an organic mower and that I've gone offer my rocker talking about organic things lately. Just so happens that I have a complete line of organic mowers. They are even specialized. Some cut really low to the ground and others are diversified and will even trim trees. They are space efficient, fuel efficient, last for years with low maintainability, and are truly and completely organic. I can produce fuel for them right here on the ranch. You don't even need to worry about oil. Just maintain the treads once in awhile and you're set.

Give me a call and I can line you up with a new model!

Chicken update! Two weeks old today. They have graduated from the stock tanks to the floor of the stall. We are feeding a meat maker food now, twice a day. They devour it in seconds but I don't want to feed them too much too soon. I'm trying to make sure their body doesn't out grow their heart and lungs. The birds are healthy and we are trucking right along toward our July 10 plucking date!

Two weeks old.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

They grow up so fast!

I finally got chickens last week. It was my fault really, I put off buying them as I wanted to make sure I had all my ducks in a huddle before I thew chickens in the mix. Well, I finally got my ducks huddled. Friday the 14th the Post Office called bright and early to alert me to the peeping arrival. These chicks were hatched on Wednesday, May today they are a week old. Can you tell a difference? They sure are eating.

Taken the day they arrived.

Taken today, on their week birthday.

Stay tuned for updates!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Cow

I've been looking for a new cow for a bit of time now. My Jersey is doing great but the demand for raw milk shares in my area has escalated. Since I'm already milking one cow, a goat and the occasional sheep I figured I could handle another cow. I have two Jersey heifers but they are not yet old enough to breed. So...I put out an alert on Craigslist. About two days after I posted my ad, I got a call from a gentlemen who had a Holstein for sale. He said that he had read my ad and that he was located in Nordakota. (That's North Dakota for those that don't speak Scandahoovian.) He went on to say that I would have to drive up 'dare' to Nordakota and check her out. "Really?" I asked. He said, "Ya, dats right, I can't sell ya dis here cow if ya don't like her."

So I zipped on up to North Dakota.
Ivan, the farmer took me out to his barn full of beautiful milking cows. He pointed out the cow for sale and invited me to get a feel for her. I sat on the stool, and gave a teat a yank. The teat released a flow of white milk, but the cow farted too. I tried again, on another teat. Same thing, good milk flow and a fart. I tried the other two teats, with the same result. I dickered with Ivan on the price of the cow and in the end decided she's was good deal even if she's a gassy girl. I thanked Ivan and leave Nordakota. No big whoop right? I get the cow home and invite my neighbor from down the road to check out the new addition to the barn. Jacob is a fan of milkers too and has a couple of Brown Swiss. He's from Minnesota and I thought it would be enjoyable to chat about Scandahoovians, and milk cows. I love to hear Jacob talk, he talks just like the farmer Ivan I purchased the cow from. At any rate I invited Jacob over. His first order of business was to check out the cow. He sat down on the stool, gave a teat a squeeze. The cow gave out a fart and milk squirted from her teat. Jacob got up, then turned to me and asked, "You bought dis here cow in Nordakota, didn't yah?" . I was shocked! I said that I had and asked him how he knew as I hadn't told him. He replied,"My wife is from Nordakota."

Okay, I didn't really get a new cow, but I couldn't help but adapt this joke a little.
For my Uncle Dennis...May you always have a sassy, gassy girl about to tell jokes to. RIP
and to Aggie....I can't imagine what you feel. I'm so thankful that you were there to listen and to love. If you ever need to hear a bad joke, please look me up!

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Baby

We've moved most of the Dorper ewe's up to the barn in preparation for the upcoming onslaught of babies. Our target date is May 15th, tomorrow. Today I notice two little feet sticking out of the business end of one of the girls.

Since she is in a pen with 16 other girls, I try distracting the others with food. Instead, she was distracted too. She got up with her extra feet hanging out and ran over with the others to the piles of hay. I tried several times to get her to separate herself from the flock but no luck. It looked as if she was gonna try and go about her daily routine despite becoming a new mom. I watched her for several minutes and then went and called Shelly as I needed a few extra hands. Shelly didn't answer her cell phone, big surprise there! So I jetted back to the barn to see what was happening. Upon my arrival I found the big Tom truck parked outside the front door. The girls where home and looking at new chickens that had arrived in the mail today.

They didn't notice the ewe with slime and feet hanging out of her butt. I wonder about them sometimes. I made them aware of the situation. Shelly and Jolene herded the flock into the barn, we cornered the ewe in labor and Jolene shot the following short flick of a baby coming into the world.

Jolene said it was her first time seeing anything born on the ranch, which I can not believe but apparently it's true. She happens to show up in time to clean up, but never for the fireworks. Poor ranch Kid. The ewe and baby are doing great, a girl by the way. And so starts our rush into late lambing and kidding. One down and 27 ewes to go, along with 4 does. I love it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Making Cones!

I'm late this summer getting things going on the ranch. I don't know what the problem has been. I'm excited about the coming warm weather, I know it's coming. Just because it has snowed twice in the month of May is no reason to be worried. I was late ordering chickens and then the hatchery was a couple weeks behind. Now however, my itty, bitty, yellow, fuzzy creatures will be here in less than a week. I guess I need to get things ready. So instead of getting a chick nursery ready I decided it was high time I made 'Killing Cones.'When butchering chickens we've learned the calmer they are, the better the meat tastes, and I don't feel so bad. I'm sure most everyone has heard my soapbox lectures about knowing where your food comes from and humane rearing and killing of meat animals. I'm trying. I'm still sad that something has to die so that I may make green enchiladas for Sunday dinner. I buy birds that are bred to have a very short life. It pains me sometimes to see them near the end of their eight weeks. Sometimes they become so top heavy that they scoot around to get to food and water. They don't fully feather and my coop is filled with splotchy white birds, scooting toward the feeders. Last year we had a 'survivor' a pullet that evaded the knife by hiding back behind the nest boxes in the coop. We allowed her to live out her life. She didn't last long. I found her dead next to the coop door a couple of months after we butchered. Small hearts, and big heavy bodies do not make happy healthy birds.So anyway, killing cones! Killing Cones are a simple device used in processing our broilers. The bird is held by the feet, upside down and placed into a cone so that the head of the bird pokes out the bottom and the birds body is held, wrapped by the cone. The bird remains calm and still as its jugular vein is sliced and the bird is allowed to bleed out. It remains relatively still throughout the entire process, sometimes there are a few spasms but the cone keeps the bird from running around with it's head cut off or having the meat bruised by flapping wings. After the life blood has left the bird it is placed, upside down again in a pot of 150 degree water. Scalding the bird loosens the feathers in preparation for the plucker. The bird is given a few dunks and placed into our Whizbang Chicken Plucker. We built the plucker from plans in a book by Herrick Kimball. I think it is a FABULOUS device. The bird is plucked in about 30 seconds and then moved to the cleaning board, where it's internal organs are removed. After the bird is cleaned it is placed in ice water for about five minutes. After the ice bath they are packaged and placed into a refrigerator for several days to allow the meat to 'rest' and the rigor to leave. So in short...that's what we do a couple times a summer. I get a freezer full of fresh organic chicken, I spend time with friends and family and I hopefully pass a little bit of a skill and some knowledge on to my child.

Back to the cones. In the past we have used milk jugs for killing cones. They work just as well for the most part. Sometimes I make the holes too big and every once in awhile a bird will drop through and fall into the gut bucket. Some of the birds are 'taller' than the milk jug cone and it doesn't remain as calm as I would like. Each time we process birds I've been trying to make improvements to our system and our equipment. This I suppose is this year's improvement. The following is a 'How to' of making a Killing Cone.

Supplies needed are:
Sheet Metal around 36"X20", I purchased two sheets at Home Depot for just under $8 each.
Paper Pattern measuring 34" on the top, 18" at the tallest point and 17" long on the bottom edge.
Tin Snips
A Pop Rivet Setter and short rivets at 3/16.
A drill with a bit at 3/16.
A hammer.
A pair of pliers.
And a Sharpie type marker.
I would also recommend a good pair of gloves or a box of band-aids. (You choose)

If you have or purchase a FLAT piece of sheet metal you are one skip ahead of me. The metal I purchased was rolled and it became a hassle on more than one occasion. So, if you are like me, roll your metal out flat, enlist someone to help you keep the metal from rolling up and lay your pattern on it. Use your marker to trace the perimeter of the pattern.

You should end up with something like the above picture. Pardon the poor picture quality. I should have shut the flash off.

Next use your tin snips to cut along the line you made with your marker. Just like grade school with cut and paste homework, except the edges of the metal are VERY sharp and we won't be pasting, we'll use rivets instead. If you have gloves and are comfortable working in them I would advise using them on this step. I hate gloves, I feel like I have cartoon character hands. I didn't use gloves, instead used a couple of band-aids. My family chuckled at me the most during this step. The first cone I made already has blood on it. I tossed the scrap pieces of metal but I would love to figure out a way to use them if anyone has any ideas. Jolene already mentioned Ninja throwing stars.

Next I used the pliers and folded up about a 1/4" to 1/2" around the perimeter of the cut out piece of metal. My metal wanted to remain in it's natural state of ROLLED! I cut my knee trying to hold it down while folding up the edges. Safety first!

Use your hammer to flatten the edges. Now there won't be so many sharp edges.

Now roll the metal to make a cone shape. Of course if you purchased metal already rolled, it will try to roll up on you throughout every step except this one. Now it will attempt to remain FLAT. Measure the diameter of the opening at the smaller end of the cone. You want this to be around 3" to 4". This is the hole the chickens head will poke through. Mark a spot for a hole. Carefully drill through both layers of metal with your 3/16" bit. Shelly helped me as it was hard to hold the metal in the correct shape and drill at the same time. While making the first cone, I cautioned her to watch her thumb as it seemed close to the spinning bit to me. No sooner had I said that, and she drilled the edge of her thumb. Don't worry about her though, she'll live. I may have a seizure because she won't stop talking about it, but she's okay.

Next place a rivet in the hole and attach the two layers of metal. Repeat the process for 3 or 4 more holes and rivets, extending the length of the cone. I drilled the first one and attached it with the rivet and then adjusted my cone before the other three. The wide openings of my cone are approximately 9" -11". These cones will work great for my broilers but I'll have to make larger ones for the turkeys.

When you are all done you will end up with a cone shaped piece of metal. All ready for your chickens. If you edges don't match up you can trim up the cone with your tin snips or just fold over the extra. I folded over, I didn't want to try and pound down the rough edges.

I used BC (Blind Chicken) as example before I set the rivets on my first cone. She fit great. I gave her some leftover pasta as a thank you for helping me out.

So there it is! Simple and easy! I'm sure all my cuts will heal by the time the broilers are ready for processing. Shelly will eventually quit talking about how she drilled a hole in her thumb. For the record, there is no hole it was just the edge. Rest assured though, for those of you that come to our Pluckin' Party, you will get a greatly exaggerated story of the thumb drilling. I can hardly wait! I think Beer Can Chicken on the BBQ will be in order!