Our two dogs, Bolt and Coona, make a really great mouse hunting team. Bolt, the quicker of the two, has lightning fast reflexes and can snatch a mouse straight out of the air. Coona, who is the hound, usually flushes mice out to Bolt by rushing in between feed bins and spooking them out in his direction. It’s fantastic to watch their cooperation!
While Coona is the second-in-command mouse hunter, she is the leader when it comes to duck and chicken herding. We recently noticed that her legacy as a hound/shepherd mix, makes her an excellent and very focused duck and chicken caretaker. Because our birds are pasture raised and free ranging, they are often ending up in places where they shouldn’t be! One of these places is the backyard. The backyard fencing is cattle paneling, which means that birds can easily slip in and out of the yard. Until recently, Jason or I would herd the ducks out of the yard ourselves before letting the dogs outside, but ultimately some would sneak right back in. It took us only a few days of watching Coona interact with these daring ducks to realize how gentle she could be when herding them back through the fence towards the woods. Bolt, on the other hand, has always needed a bit more coaxing in order to be gentle with the birds. He just gets so excited!
Coona impresses us every day with how much she loves her job. She will quietly and contentedly lay near the back fence waiting for a chick to pop through and then slowly, and with complete focus, usher the chick back through to his side of the fence. Bolt is often watching this… He usually keeps a check on himself so that he doesn’t chase the birds too intensely or grab one with his mouth. It’s amazing to watch Coona be so delicate with ducks and chickens. She interacts with them very lovingly, with great tenderness, and with great concern for the rules. We would love to be able to say that we taught her to be such a great herding dog, but it’s just not true. It’s in her blood!
Considering the great working team that Bolt and Coona are, it’s no wonder that they have a fantastic time outside together securing the homestead and caring for the animals!
This past week, Half-Nose delivered a litter of cute little babies (including a spotted babe). The day after, another pig delivered her first litter, but since it was her first time as a mom, she wasn’t up to the challenge. Luckily, Half-Nose happily adopted her babies and is nursing away! Great job, Half-Nose!
Last year we didn’t have great luck with our incubation… Our incubators malfunctioned in various ways and we were only able to hatch out a few babies. This year we’re hoping for a different result. We’ve calibrated the incubators to be sure that their temperature is reading true (this was our biggest issue), and the nicer incubator we have is now in a spot where the cords won’t get bumped or jostled (this was disconnected the incubator and totally ruining our hatch).
We segregated the adult Pekins from the rest of the layer flock, thus collecting only Pekin eggs… Which are usually a bit larger.
The ideal temperature for incubating ducks is 99.5 degrees F and the ideal relative humidity is 55%. Duck eggs incubate for 28 days, a whole week longer than chicken eggs. Amazing, right?! We are all set to place the eggs in the incubator in the next few days, and we’ve made sure to rotate the eggs every day so that the eggs don’t start to settle or stick to one side of the shell. Wish us luck this year!
We have 2 of the Little Giant incubators with trays that slowly swivel and rotate the eggs over time.
We have one incubator from Incubator Warehouse that worked wonders two years ago before it became electrically sensitive. The egg turner turns the eggs partially every 6 hours (or less or more if you change the settings).
February 17, 2017 / Emma / Comments Off on Farm Food Friday: Gluten, Flour, & Sugar Free Breakfast Pancakes
I usually skip the simpler carbohydrates if I can, like rice and flour, but that doesn’t make me any less hungry…
After some trial and error, Jason created a fantastic and simple pancake recipe, loaded with calories but low in sugar! What a great and filling breakfast! Plus, it’s fantastic with one of my very favorite foods: grass fed butter.
It’s so simple, you’ll be surprised! You can make these into classic pancakes, or you can take the easy route and bake the batter in the oven as a thicker cake. I enjoy the texture of the baked pancakes better.
February 3, 2017 / Emma / Comments Off on Farm Food Friday: Pulled Chicken Tacos with Tomatillos and Cilantro
We are a pretty hungry family, and making food in bulk is a great idea for us. Usually every Saturday we cook 2 of our Red Ranger Chickens, and this week was no different. This time we decided to make pulled chicken for eating tacos with the large pile of ripe and yummy avocados that we always seem to have in the house these days!
Here’s the details… Enjoy!
2 whole Red Ranger chickens
3 pints of pureed tomatillos
1 or 2 bunches of cilantro (this depends on how much you love cilantro)
salt, pepper, & garlic
cayenne pepper, paprika, & oregano
1 large pot
1 large bowl
knife for slicing onions and cilantro
This finished, pulled chicken was a version that we made with some pureed tomatoes added as well.
First part up your chickens, but leave the skin on, folks! So many of the great nutrients are in the skin, and you can always shred the skin into small pieces that will be undetectable once you start eating your tacos.
Place all the parts in your large pot with a little bit of water. We use a large cast iron pot and place the whole thing in the oven on 400, but you could always use your pot on the stove top and simmer the meat until it’s cooked and ready to fall off the bone.
Let your meat cool and then shred it off of the bone (into the large bowl), making sure to remove any cartilage if you don’t want that kind of thing in your tacos!
Add the shredded chicken back to your pot. If there’s a small amount of broth in the bottom of your pot from cooking the chicken, feel free to leave it in there to mix in with the shredded chicken. If there’s a lot of broth, remove some first (but save it and drink it… Yum!).
Slice the onions and cilantro.
Add the onions, cilantro, and tomatillos to the chicken.
Add a small amount of salt, garlic, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and oregano, to taste. Keep in mind that the cilantro and tomatillos really carry the dish, and so the spices are just for a little bit of added flavor… You don’t need to get heavy-handed with the spice. Mix everything together well with your spoon!
Place this back in the oven or on the stove top, checking periodically until the onions are soft. Then it’s ready!
I have always been a lover of bones. So much so, that I ended up studying archaeology (specifically zooarchaeology) for a time, which eventually led me to Jason. So I would say that bones have served me very well!
When my “niece” became a big sister, I made her a painted puzzle which included bones from various animals, feathers, and shells. I was tempted to keep it for myself. I love the feel of bones, the smell of bones, but most of all, the symbology of bones.
Our bones are with us our whole lives, they make us human, make us whole. They are also on earth longer than we are (in most cases), and I believe they hold something of us when we go. I feel the same about animal bones. That is why I adorn my house and often my body with them. I believe that they reconnect me with the world that we often forget and to our primal, animal selves.
As I grow a little human inside me now, this baby already has their bones. These bones with make them strong, but also because some are still unformed, they will allow this baby to pass out of me into the world we know… Into a world where this baby and I can one day work on a bone puzzle just like this one:
If you’re interested in a bone, feather, and/or shell puzzle for a loved one in your life, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about ordering your very own puzzle!
This video introduces you to one of our all-time favorite homestead animals!
Half-Nose the Pig (yes, it’s a super-weird name) is now a sow, which means that she’s given birth. Her first litter was born last year and she had 4 babies. She may be pregnant (like me!) again, but we won’t be able to tell for a while since she’s already our fattest pig!
This video explains the origin of her name and why she is the fattest and biggest of our pigs. Check it out and let us know what you think about our lovely Half-Nose!
It’s the middle of winter here, and even though it’s not very cold right now, we’re still dreaming of spring!
This video is a brief look at the enthusiasm our free range & pasture raised ducks show when they think it’s dinner time. When Jason says “duck, duck, duck,” they know good things are coming their way!