KW Homestead

Emma & Jason's pasture raised poultry, homesteading thoughts, and wild adventures.

Month: May 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Amelia the Pig and Bolt the Dog!

Bolt loves to chase and hump Amelia the pig!

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Jason and the animals spending some quality time together…

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And a video of Bolt and Amelia!

What’s Happening in the Garden…

We planted some more today, and checked on a lot of our little plants. Here’s what’s growing around here… 

beans

Provider greenbeans (first planting of three so far)

peppers

Baby pepper plants: bell peppers, cayennes, jalapenos, and aji.

 


harvesting

Jason harvesting some greens for the chicken soup!

plants

Baby paste tomato plants and their friend, basil!

herbs

Oregano and thyme that came back strong from last year’s planting.

spearmint

Spearmint… What a wonderful smelling intruder!

beans

Beans round 2.

tomatillos

The tomatillos are looking great!

 

zucchini

Zucchini!

pond

Our little garden pond, beloved by fish, frogs, and our flowering comfrey plant.

 

potatoes

This year we’re growing our Irish potatoes in straw instead of in the groind… Should be easier to harvest!

  

cilantro

Our cilantro went to seed very early this year!

  

thyme

Thyme in a tire… What a perfect planter!

  

bed

A bed of snow peas, green onions, and carrots.

  

snow peas

Snow peas!

  

A beautiful, volunteer chia plant. What symmetry!

 
.:.

We Have More Chickens!

You might be thinking… “You got more animals?!”

But let me explain…  We’ve actually had these new chickens for about a week now, without us realizing it. When our second round of turkeys were shipped to us, the hatchery sent us 12 chicks as a “thank you” for being patient since our order of 50 bourbon red turkeys was delayed by 3 weeks. Since opening the box of baby birds can be exciting and very feathery, it is always hard to count them!

We noticed that there were a few “weird” looking birds mixed in with the homogenous bourbon reds, but just thought that maybe there was a color variation within the breed.

As the days went by, we became more skeptical, and we are sure now that the extra birds are chicks!

As far as we can tell, they look like a mutt bunch of Ameraucanas, who should grow up to lay beautiful green eggs. How exciting!

You can see from the pictures below that the “weird,” chipmunk-striped chicks are certainly different than the rest!

chicks

Sleeping, you can really see how different the chick looks than the pair of turkeys!

Here’s to more exciting diversity in our flock!

.:.

Hickory Leaf Session Beer

 After a quick fermentation, my hickory leaf gruit, while still young, was ready for some tasting.

All in all, it’s not bad. Very drinkable, refreshing, and a definetly not overpowered by the hickory leaves that were used in place of hops. I’d say that the 5 ounces of fresh leaves were just enough to balance out the malt sweetness without imparting too much bitterness or off flavor. They let the yeast favors come through, some subtle fruitiness, a mix between Apple and apricot maybe.

 

hickor y leaves beer

hickory leaf session gruit brewed without hops

 
Now that I know that you can indeed produce beer from hickory leaves, I want to try pushing the envelope a bit further and see if I can brew a hickory leaf IPA with no hops. I may start off trying 1 pound of dried leaves, just to see if I can find the upper limit. 

The leaves on their own are not unpleasant, and have a grassy, meadowy, slightly tannic taste. I’m excited to see how this one ages, and equally excited to know that at least for simpler beer styles without a lot of hop character, hickory leaves are a fine bettering substitute for the homebrewer.

 

Farm to Your School!

Everyone’s heard of farm to fork, the local food movement that brought farmers and consumers closer together, but we want to go one step further.

Farm to Your School!

Kuska Winasun Homestead is now offering a way for students, teachers, and parents to interact with a young pair of farmers and their livestock.

What exactly does a farm to school visit entail?

The Pig Package

Students will get to pet and scratch a friendly pot-bellied pig. These cute pigs are much smaller than standard pigs, and are sometimes kept as pets.

piglets

Pot Belly Piglets

$60 per hour (2 hour minimum)

The Poultry Package

This add-on gives students a chance to feed some friendly ducks and enjoy seeing how distinct the different varieties can be. They also get to compare the difference between a rooster and a hen, and hear the cockle-doodle-doo firsthand.

feeding ducks

Some of our ducks, lining up to be fed

roosters

A flock of roosters!

+$25 per hour

What do you need to provide?

Nothing really, just an outside area somewhat out of the way where the event can take place. And of course, the children.

We recommend a minimum of 15-20 minutes per class, and in order to keep the animals calm, we like to limit the number of kids taking part to 20 at a time. You can schedule the visits however you like, but please keep these limits in mind.

What do we provide?

We will provide the animals and everything they need for comfort (cages, water, food etc.). We will also have some hand sanitizer available to keep all the animals healthy.

We will answer questions, tell stories, and direct the entire event.

Parents and teachers will also have the chance to purchase some of our farm products at a discounted price after the visit.

If you would like to schedule a visit, or have any questions, feel free to email us at  ourochreway@gmail.com.

Angry, Broody, Bantam Hens: Look Out!

‘Tis the season for hens to start getting broody, and since we have noticed that our bantam hens are naturally more interested in sitting on eggs, we weren’t surprised to find one of our favorites, Cleo, sitting on eggs. She is the most dedicated of the “sitters” and never gives up! The other hens often wait until you reach for them ,and then explode out of the nest box with murder on their mind! Not Cleo, who sits patiently and fusses at you, pecking at your hand.

The video below shows one such event… and is a great resource to help you tell if you have a broody hen. It is also important to keep in mind that being broody doesn’t necessarily mean they will be committed for the whole 21 days. To be sure, the hen should refuse to give up, even when you reach under her to snatch eggs. If you can also feel that she has no feathers on her chest, and it feels like bare skin down there, then she’s probably in it for the long haul. Hens pull out their own chest feathers to ensure that there is skin-to-egg contact during the incubation period.

Check out the video below to see an example of 2 broody hens… One feeling broody but not yet committed, and one ready for the real deal!

.:.

How To Remedy a Chicken’s Prolapsed Vent

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Bryn in solitary

One of our bantam hens, Bryn, was having some health issues a few weeks ago…

Her vent had prolapsed! For those of you don’t know, a chicken’s vent is where the eggs come from, as well as all the other things expelled from a chicken’s body! So having a prolapsed vent means that all of those things hang outside of the body and the chicken has trouble pooping and laying an egg becomes terrible.

prolapsed vent

A prolapsed vent… NOT pretty!

A couple reasons why this can happen…

  • Older hens lose muscle tone in this area
  • A particularly tough egg can do damage on its way out
  • Poor nutrition or lack of proper supplements or diet

A couple things that are important to do if this happens…

  • As soon as possible, separate the hen from the others so other hens don’t pick at the red, raw area.
  • Try to limit her light since the length of the day makes hens want to begin laying or continue laying.
  • Make sure she has access to proper food for healing.

Even if you do the above…

  • She might get an infection and die.
  • The vent might not retract on its own, which means you’ll need to help her out!

After doing some research, I learned that cleaning her vent area, applying witch hazel, and gently pushing her vent back inside is helpful and might work at getting her back in good health. I tried this 4 times and her vent stayed inside for a few minutes, but then popped back out. She wasn’t showing any signs of infection, was acting like herself, and hadn’t layed any eggs since being in solitary, so I didn’t want to give up her even though my tactics weren’t working!

chicken

Bryn getting her butt bathed…

 

chicken

Working on her vent…

I spoke with my dad and he reminded me about the medicinal magic of the plantago plant, which is great at fighting infection but also great at tightening and causing retraction. We thought it would work!

So this time I:

  • Washed her vent area really well with warm water
  • Chewed up a couple large plantain (plantago) leaves and spit the juice and the leaf peices around and onto her vent
  • Used my smallest finger to gently push her vent back inside her body and hold it there for a little while
chicken

Drying her off…

We kept her in the solitary cage for a few more days, and saw that in those days her vent continued to look better and had not popped back out again! She was reintroduced to the flock and has been fine ever since!

So if your chicken has a prolapsed vent, we recommend plantago!

.:.

 

What’s Fermenting at Kuska Wiñasun Homestead?

Beer!

But not your typical ale. This experimental concoction is relatively straightforward, save for one tiny detail. There are no hops in it.

hickory leaves beer

Amber ale with hickory leaves

Gasp! That’s beer blasphemy! Off with his head!

Hold on, lets talk this through. Now while I enjoy hops, IPAs, pale ales, and Double Dry Hopped Double IPAs  as much as the next craft beer enthusiast, they are not the only game in town. Hops are a relatively new innovation on the brewing scene, really coming into prominence in the last  500 years or so. Before that, brewers, brewsters, and alewives used different combinations of herbs and spices to bitter and balance their beer.

These “Gruits”, or herbal beers, relied on plants such as yarrow, bog myrtle, mugwort, wormwood, rue, rosemary, and heather to balance out the sweetness of fermented malt beverages. The history of gruit is a fascinating one that involves propaganda, the Protestant Reformation, and secret and sacred recipes that were passed down for generations.

While these herbs have a long history of being used in brewing, I chose a different avenue for my beer. Hickory leaves.

hickory leaves bittering homebrew

Fresh hickory leaves ready for the brewpot

I got the idea from Scratch Brewing, a small experimental brewery in IL that frequently uses foraged and locally farmed ingredients in their brew-house. They brewed up a few batches that used hickory leaves in place of hops for bittering. Seeing as how we have plenty of hickory trees here, and no hop vines yet, I thought it would be cool to experiment with them in a small batch of homebrew.

hickory leaf beer

Hops are just 1 of many plants that can be used in brewing

I ended up adding 5 oz. of whole, freshly picked hickory leaves to my 5 gallon batch. Green hickory leaves have a not unpleasant taste to them. They are slightly astringent, but clean tasting and “green.” We’ll see how this one turns out.

One note of importance: Hops are an excellent preservative in beer, so this beer won’t be able to be aged for any length time and will have to be drunk relatively quickly. I guess I can live with that.

8 Babies: A Pig Birth Story!

It has been a little over a week since our pot belly pig, Louise, had her litter of babies. Since then, her sister Thelma has also had her babies and both mothers are doing great and raising cute, healthy babies!

This is the account of the birth of Louise’s babies (the little bit that I experienced of it):

Early on the morning of May 1, I went out in the predawn to feed Louise and found that she had annihilated the patch of blackberries that was in her pen. She hadn’t eaten them, though, simply sniped them off at the ground and piled them high in the corner of the pen. She had also gathered any grasses that were growing in the pen and even thought a bit of the hanging tarp above her would be good for her nest.

Through my research, I learned that a pig that is about to give birth obsessively makes a nest for her and her babies about 12 hours before she goes into labor. I love the parallel with human mammals… How women often feel that nesting urge a few days before giving birth. I think it is fantastic that our mammal bodies know what is coming, even if our conscious brains do not.

So when I went out to feed her and saw that her nest was complete and she was laying on it, I knew her time was near! I was concerned that the blackberries vines would be too scratchy, so Jason added wooden wool to the pen and she quickly grabbed it with her mouth and started redesigning her nest.

I spent all day at work hoping that I wouldn’t miss the births, but when I got home I saw that I had missed them! There were 7 healthy babies, all dried off and nursing! I was able to go in the pen and sit right next to Louise since she was still in labor (having not yet delivered the placenta). Normally she would NOT allow this, but I sat down quietly and gently and didn’t try to touch her babies so she calmed down. I was able to pat her and talk to her and that was nice. I was hoping that she would deliver more babies but since the others were all so clean and dry, I thought that she was likely done delivering.

piglets

Piglets!

 

piglets

Cute!

I left to bring her some more hay for bedding and when I returned I saw that she had in fact delivered another baby, but when I got closer I could see that the bay was a stillborn. It was a little black piglet, unmoving and not breathing. I picked him up and rubbed his chest to see if he might breathe with some help and tried to blow some air into his lungs, but he didn’t move. I think he had probably died a little while before in the womb, and therefore it was harder for her to deliver him, so he was born last.

We buried him next to our blackberry bush in the garden. With 7 healthy and chubby babies, Louise and Jason and I have a lot of life to be thankful for!

About an hour later she delivered the placenta and I “kidnapped” it to have a closer look at this amazing organ! Much to my surprise, Louise delivered another placenta later, as if she was a human mother bearing twins! Her sister, Thelma, also delivered 8 babies but only one placenta.

placenta

The placenta!

 

placenta

What a magnificent organ!

Louise quickly recovered and luckily I was able to pick up a couple of her babies before she was up on her feet again (since she would not have allowed it if I had tried just 30 minutes later).

piglets

Out and about!

 

piglets

Hanging out with mom!

 

piglets

Like mother, like son!

 

piglets

Hey, wait for me!!!

She ate her second placenta (or so I assume since it disappeared), drank water, and did not eat other solid foods that day. Mother pigs don’t need food on the birth day, but do need extra food after that!

Now her babies are amazingly fatter and cuter and are started to look more piglet-like.  Five are pink and two are black, one with white “stockings.” 4 are male and 3 are female, and the stillborn was also a male. She has let me touch a few of them gently both from outside the cage and from within. She always keeps an eye on me, though.

Her piglets are innately very socially conscious… They are born knowing to leave the nest to pee or poop and they spend a lot of time snuggling with each other and walking around, exercising their legs!

Overall, an extraordinary experience! I’m so happy to see many more pot belly pig births in my life!

.:.

Waste Not: Respecting the Rooster By Using It All

roosters

Some of the roosters, enjoying their time in the yard.

Recently we made a delicious rooster soup, and used all of the bones for the broth. We came out with a fantastically fatty stew that we will certainly enjoy again!!!

We wanted to be sure to use the entirety of each rooster, since wasting any part of them would feel like a disrespect. I watched each of them come into this world, hovering over the incubator like a ridiculous, nervous mom. I spent time with them and they came to know me as a creature to trust. Witnessing life’s full circle is a meaningful event, one that makes me all the more aware of our responsibility to honor the roosters after they have been dispatched. Here is how we used all of our roosters…

After they were killed, they were scalded in hot water to make plucking their feathers easier. All of these feathers were saved and I will be using them for earrings, a headdress, or even for stuffing fun, homemade pillows.

feathers

Feathers!

 

feathers

So many feathers!

Their heads were removed and we later put them in the compost pile so they can contribute their nutrients to our garden beds.

Their internal organs were removed, and the majority were fed to the pigs, who loved this snack!

We saved the livers for our dog, Bolt, and he got a snack also.

Then we fried the 3 hearts with salt and ate them ourselves. Delicious! This is one of my favorite little snacks… It makes me think of my childhood!

The feet were removed, cleaned, and steamed so that the skin would be easy to peel. These peels were given to the pigs and I saved the toenails for making jewelry.

The peeled feet were added to the soup… There is such great gelatin in chicken feet and it is so good for your body!

Once the broth was complete, the meat was removed from the bones and put back with the broth for our soup base.

I saved some of the more beautiful bones (the wish bones, phalanges, and other foot bones) for jewelry.

The remaining bones were cooked down over the course of a few days to make bone broth, a highly nutritous supplement to any future soup.

The bones that didn’t beak down fully were then mashed into a pulp to give to Bolt as a supplement… One better than money can buy!

So, thank you dear roosters! For all you have given us! We certainly appreciate it.

.:.

 

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