Bolt loves to chase and hump Amelia the pig!
Jason and the animals spending some quality time together…
And a video of Bolt and Amelia!
We planted some more today, and checked on a lot of our little plants. Here’s what’s growing around here…
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!
Here’s to more exciting diversity in our flock!
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.
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.
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?
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.
$60 per hour (2 hour minimum)
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.
+$25 per hour
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘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!
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.
A couple reasons why this can happen…
A couple things that are important to do if this happens…
Even if you do the above…
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!
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:
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!
But not your typical ale. This experimental concoction is relatively straightforward, save for one tiny detail. There are no hops in it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.