Above all, try something. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Get Your Top Down!!!!

Careful, this blog post may change your life......orrrrrrr, you may be like, what is this guy writing about!

First off, it's snowing like crazy! As I write this, the "lights" are currently being turned on outside and exposing a gorgeous snow covered morning. Looks like there is another 4 or so inches on the pine trees this morning on top of all the snow we've gotten in the last week or two. Yesterday, Katie Rose and I went up to Big Sky and I'd say there was close to 3 feet at the base of the ski area. It's a winter wonderland up there. I'm gonna go for a ski this weekend in between chores I've been putting off, and the exciting Cat/Griz showdown. For those of you not from the area (which is most of you), that's Montana State(Bozeman) vs. University of Montana (Missoula). Montana State is currently in first place in the Big Sky Conference. We haven't beaten the Griz since 2005, and a win today will ensure their first conference championship since 2005.

I've recently discovered a new (old timey) way to start a fire in the woodstove. It's the way to go. On the campfire, I will always be a fan of the tipi. But not in the woodstove anymore. It's called a Top Down Fire, and here's how it goes, to the tune of The Hokey Pokey (What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about???):
You put your big logs down
and then your kindling on.
Then you crumple up some paper and you get your matches out

The paper starts to burn and it sends the hot coals down

That's what it's all about.

It's genius! From now on, you won't put your fire out by putting a big ol log on top of your nice little kindling fire. Just light it and let it go.
I wish this blog post was exciting as the program we watched on electric eels last night. But I think the beavers may have eaten all the eels in Jack Creek. Which reminds me. Yesterday I came across some serious beaver activity in the creek below the house. This is pretty exciting and could mean a future blog post about the Castor canadensis.
Well, enjoy your Saturday. If you read this, let us know. We never know if anyone does and I'm starting to wonder if it's worth my time. Think Snow!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fart Eggs!

I advise everyone to just sit down and breathe. Three posts in three days. Shocking.

So, I mentioned yesterday that a few of our hens had recently graduated into the laying stage of life. Some of you may be asking yourselves, "How do you know which hens are laying which eggs?" And the answer is, unless you are paying very close attention to your flock through out the day, you won't.

Unless they have some sort of chicken Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, your chickens will lay in different places and at different times, with each passing day. Sometimes a hen might decide she prefers a certain nest or a certain time of day to lay her eggs, but unless you have enough nests for each hen to have her own at all times, she will SURELY change her mind eventually, or have it changed for her...

When a young hen starts to lay, her first few eggs are quite small as her body adjusts to the sudden changes. Sometimes they may be without a yolk or even a shell! No need to worry, she is just figuring it all out. These first, strange oddball eggs are called Fart Eggs!

*Yes, feel free to take a moment to laugh like a six-year-old, it's OK.

As you can see from the photo, the center egg is a Fart Egg, compared to the rest it is quite teeny. This has been the trend in our coop lately here at the Double F, so I can be assured that the girls are busy getting started with their laying stages. I am happy!

Something else you can notice from the picture is the color variety of eggs. Each differing breed of chicken, lays a different color of egg. We have all brown layers, but the woman that we care take for has several white layers, and even some "Easter Eggers" as some chicken farmers like to call them. Araucanas, or "Easter Eggers", a variety of hen originating from Chile, lay blue or green eggs! Next spring when I choose a few new types of chicks to order, Araucanas are first on my list. Not only do they lay fancy colored eggs, but they are gorgeous with their intricately colored feathers as well.

Although your chickens may lay eggs of varying shape, size, and color, they will all taste the same and look great on your plate when served! Enjoy your Monday.

Much Love, from Jack Creek

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Lonesome Buckling Blues

Must be winter.
As you can see, we're back on the horn. TOOT TOOT.
T'is true, the snow is a'fallin! And we are getting that old, giddy ski season feeling again.
Opening day at Big Sky Ski Resort is on Thanksgiving! Isn't that, like, next week?!
While we are spending our time adjusting snow plows, rifling through closets for matching mittens, and throwing logs on the fire, the goats are readying themselves for the upcoming season as well!
Just yesterday, Jennifer came to visit from the goat farm in Bozeman and picked up our three "Ladies in Waiting" while she was here. Goats go into heat every three weeks, and are most easily impregnated in the fall, sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. Their gestation period runs a solid five months, so not only is this the optimal time of year to get the process started, but it also leads to spring kidding (or, for us Eskimos, a very late winter kidding) which we all know is Mother Nature's favorite time of year for birth.
Back at Farm 51, where our small herd originated, our three does will spend their time showing off to the rented buck of choice. They will stay in captivity with the buck for a solid three weeks, to ensure him a chance at each girl's heat cycle. How romantic. Janet is surely in heaven with all the attention. I hope she will come home someday...
Because Jennifer knows much more than I do about registered/unregistered, purebred/mutts, gene pools, ancestry lines, vaccinations, size, health and the general quality of Nubians, I completely trust her on pairing my girls with the right 'guy'. And because she rents her bucks of choice from a breeder, there is a fee associated with each doe averaging $25-35, depending on the line, that I am more than happy to pay for quality service.
Poooooooor Cheap Trick.
"MAAAAAaaaaaa!!!" a goat's pathetic bleat, has never held more meaning.
Left behind at the Double F, while his three buddies, Mom included, go off for a few weeks of Bozeman fun.
Sooooooo sad.
Goats are not meant to be alone, they are pack animals and become very vocal when upset or lonely. Needless to say, I hear ya buddy.
To add insult to injury, we started a week of fore casted heavy snow today. Goats and precipitation do not mix, hence he watches the road for any sign of goat buddies from beneath the lone tree in the pasture.
Little guy is gonna need some therapy in a few days. Penny?

Quite uninhibited by the snow, on the other hand, are those crazy chickens! Once one goes outside (usually Delilah Jones, my veteran barred rock, who laughs in the face of cold weather) they ALL go out, regardless of weather. Happily scratching around in the snow for any lingering grass or bugs that the freezing temperatures haven't gotten hold of quite yet.
My latest struggle has been to keep the water troughs (see below) from freezing solid. I haven't gotten into Bozeman since our 'real' winter has set in, where I can visit the feed store to purchase a floating 1500v stock tank heater. So each morning and evening, I traipse out to the iceberg ridden water containers with my shovel and smash the ice to bits. Dehydration can play a large role in winter illness among livestock, so I must be sure to keep all water ice free as much as I can.
The chickens get off kind of easy as they have unfrozen water containers in their coop, constantly kept warm by a heat lamp. In the last three weeks, a few of my young hens have begun to lay eggs! Generally, a hen will begin to lay between 16-22 weeks of age, and wouldn't you know it, they are 20 weeks old on November 15. Good job girls. Keep it up! To keep them interested in the nesting boxes, I have been keeping the heat lamp turned on 24/7. This allows the coop to stay warm, perhaps allowing the hens to sit on the nest longer due to warmth. Another reason to leave the lamp on this time of year, is that chickens respond best (their laying cycle, that is) to 16 hours of daylight. Once the days become shorter, if you don't supply supplemental lighting in the coop, they could be sent into a winter laying lull.
Hmm....No thanks.
Cheap Trick enjoys a stiff water on the rocks while my three veteran layers ham it up for the camera.

Snow! Keep it coming, MN. Ed is out plowing as I type this blog, in fact.

Well. That's all for now. You can be expecting lots more tooting to come in the next five months.
Hugs and dog hair from the crew at 807 Jack Creek Road.