Saturday, August 19, 2017

Tested PVC Pipe Chicken Feeders

 Use Pinterest? Then you have probably seen these feeders in abundance. The appeal to me was the space saving concept. My coop was crowded. Too crowded with things not chicken related so I've decided that all those rabbit cages have got to go. The chicken coop will be just that, a chicken coop. The rabbits will have their own housing facilities this fall but for now they are residing in the barn. This has made room for some brooder boxes and a nesting box that is for now just hen scratches on a piece of paper. I can tell you so far, the coop sure smells better. As for those pearly white feeders all standing like shoulders at attention snug up against the chickens coop wall on Pinterest, well, that is what this blog is about? Not how to make them as Pinterest can do that but on whether or not you should make them. I grew suspicious perusing Pinterest as picture after picture showed the feeders brand spanking new. Where was the beloved and used? Nothing but pearly white showed up so a few months ago I set out to discover whether or not these PVC feeders were a fad, or a fantastic innovation?

We had some old PVC pipe lying around in the barn and with a joint and some aluminum strap purchased, I was in business. As far as assembly, they are easy peasy. We did not bother to glue the one feeder together but just pushed the pieces tight. Caution dictated that I start with one feeder first even though those smart rows of white were sure appealing. My first discovery was that the feeders don't really need to be very tall unless you want to fill them up with a whole 50 pound bag of feed. I made mine far too tall.

My feed store friend said she babysat chickens and had to put fifty pounds of scratch into a PVC pipe feeder. She does not recommend it. It isn't about muscles after all I get big waves from strange men at the town dump and it isn't because of my beauty. Some guys appreciate a working woman willing to unload 600 pounds of barbwire in her floppy hat and shorts. I'm sure I was quite the sight on my last visit but that is not the only time I've drawn attention. It is the fact that feed sacks are floppy and the weight has a tendency to shift as it pours. There are ways around lifting the whole sack but in my experience, a smorgasbord approach computes to waste. I've learned that chickens are drawn to an easy meal and forget home on the range hitting the pocket book hard.

My goal is to cut costs and for health reasons. I want the flock to be eating natural freebies, grass, bugs, annoying Magpies, oh wait, that's just one hen that hates them - well, her and I that is. Unfortunately, she's never caught one yet despite her determined efforts. All those calisthenics running around the yard dodging, diving and yes, even leaping into the air after bugs is so much better for their health. Healthy hen, healthy eggs. Besides it is great entertainment for us human beans.

Another plus, I don't ever remember having such a low bug population. Then I have more chickens than ever before, DUH! And I can't help thinking it has got to be great on the garden. You know the one buried in weeds? So smorgasbord it will not be. But the potential for a large capacity feeder isn't such a bad idea. If the need arose and we had to have someone take over for a week or more it could be handy. My babysitters ... the fam, aren't impressed with my current four hour a day chore lists. I'm not either and as soon as the 12 boxes of fruit I just picked up is canned, we are lowering the livestock numbers. 
My first go with the feeders, I put in a couple days ration and observed. My feed mixture at the moment is chicken scratch and pelleted lay mash. Some girls like corn, and some, like my pet chicken Vivian, likes millet best. Well actually she likes the ducks feed best but that's another story. Some of you know what's coming next. They do indeed flick the feed this way and that sorting through to get to their favorite grains. The bigger the pipe, the greater the head swing and the further the feed flies. Pretty soon the the floor has as much feed on it as in the feeder or maybe it is more. 

My solution - just put a short rubber feed pan underneath to catch the spills. It worked but the pan gets some poo in it so the feed is not as clean as I'd like. Then again these girls dig through goat and beef poop so what am I complaining about - the waste issue of course. Chicken poo isn't quite so appealing as goat, and beef so they don't clean it up as well.

How do I fix this problem? Would putting just one type of grain in a pipe work better and having multiple feeders like in the Pinterest pictures. Vivian loves millet. I'm wondering, maybe there are some local farmers who raise millet or wheat. Not many raise crops beyond hay here but there might be something I can find. If the girls have nothing to sort, we....ll. What do you think?

Problem number two - it appears that the girls can't reach the back of the feeders and so don't completely empty them. I'm not positive on this as I've not withheld feed to make sure but they don't slick it all up. So I wonder, is it the exact same feed in the back of the feeder and new feed rolling over the top? Hmmm... will it eventually rot? For now I just scoop it out with my hands once in a while into the rubber feed pan below.

Problem number three - You have to unscrew the band that hold the feeder to the wall to remove the feeders to clean them. You can only do that a few times and then the screw holes aren't going to hold. Still thinking on that one for a solution. Handy man I am not. I do like the way the slick PVC stays relatively clean though.

Still all in all I kind of like these feeders if for nothing else but the space saving and the fact that the girls can't tip them over when they get in one of their tit for tat huffs and go screaming after each other. Doesn't happen often, but girls will be girls.

You may think I stopped the experiment with feed rations. Oh no, I tried feeding in the morning and feeding at night before bedtime. Definitely at night was the better option. With it being warmer at night, the girls like to stay outside. The fox and coyotes really like that. The feed entices the girls in and I can then close up without having to round up whoever is missing. Catching chickens is not a favorite task though yes, I am quite good at it. I should be.

So despite the draw backs, I think I'll keep my PVC pipe feeder and add a few more. What have you discovered with yours? I'm guessing I'm not the only one of my readers that has one. I'd love to know your experiences. I'm always looking for better ways to do things. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Which Way Do You Milk?

I've milked a number of goats over 32 years. Some my own but also a number of goats that were not. In our previous location I was called fairly often to do chores for neighbors. I've also milked not  animals not familiar to me until I latched on to their udders. If it is a horse or cow it can become exciting and needs to be done with skill and caution because of the potentially powerful kick that may follow. With goats, not so big a deal. There is a basic formula and the details the goat will let you know about in a hurry. One friend's goats let me know that were milked from the back while straddling the milk stand. For me pulling the udder backwards in this manner is awkward but who am I to argue. It just makes things more difficult and after all I'm only a brief visitor in their milking cycle.  Besides who wants goats that jump about and spill the milk?
As for me, I preferred the traditional front facing backwards position. You can see I've been doing this for years and years as this was a long time ago in another location. Most of my goats have a preference for this method. In part because the person I occasionally buy goats from using the same traditional milking style. A word of warning, this works great for does fully trained to the milk stand BUT...

But not so good with many new milkers which have a tendency not to keep their feet still. Flies, impatience, and being uncomfortable, all play into the their feet striking forward. Yup, right into the milk pail often ending up spilling the milk or standing in it. I can see you goat owners nodding your heads. We  have all experienced this. I've learned a few training tricks and milking positions that help prevent mishaps, enough for a whole other blog so you'll just have to wait in suspense. 

You can see why the traditional method of milking is the number one of choice among most milkers. The teats are or should be positioned to drain straight down into the pail. 

Yet, I do milk my does in varying positions at different times of the year and at different ages of the doe. During a heavy fly time of the year I put the pail behind the doe and milk into it so that when she kicks it is not liable to spill the milk. No matter what you do in a small operation it seems when fall peeks its head inside the door, the flies come biting with a vengeance. I train my does at a year old when they first freshen to stand in the middle of an open area - untethered - with just a little grain in a pan while I squat on the ground and milk. Most will even stand without the grain. Especially handy when you just want to fill a few baby bottles to feed kid. Warm from the tap is so much easier. And since I feed four times a day when the kids are newborn or especially small it saves time.  It also helps bring in the does milk much faster and at a greater rate of production. 

That is if I don't leave the kids on their mother. Why I leave some kids on their mother and why I bottle feed others is another blog worthy post. 
The third method is a modified version of the backwards facing position. I wrap my left arm around the goats right back leg and my right arm in between the legs. The bucket in the rear. This one is especially for Belle. Though I've modified many of her poor behavioral habits that she had when she arrived, this one is just not going away. She is the most bullheaded goat I've ever worked with. Not a high winding kick, just a low spasmodic kick, just enough to spill the milk. When she is especially bad, I tie the leg upward off the ground so she has to hold still or fall over. 

Other times she gets a "Bell..e!" in a perfect rendition of the Disney step-sisters on Cinderella when they call her to come hither to prepare them for the ball. Hear it? To counteract this angering habit, the pail is in the rear but I'm facing backwards with my arms twined unusually through her legs. The only set back is you have to make sure and not bump her legs and cause a kick. I usually rest my left arm against her right leg, the one that kicks, which helps remind her not to kick and lowers the number of times that she does it. This girl will not stay for much longer.

So.... which way do you milk? And why would be even more enlightening.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Range Free Eggs

 Aye, me has plenty of blogs to write about and even the pictures too but life is throwing curve balls a mile a minute and I've not the time. So please bear with me. I'm doing me best. Today, a light hearted Irish spirited post. Me husband thought one thing and I another when I put up the sign at the end of our sun room.
I painted me chicken and wrote Range Free Eggs and he quite disagreed. I don't always do things right and maybe he would say quite often but this time I would disagree. I know that most folks write 'Free Range' but me doesn't quite understand. To me Free Range means the land does not cost. So that interpreted means land does not cost - eggs. Is one making a statement that one has free land and eggs too? As you can see I'ze a bit confundered about the whole issue. 

 So me house, me sign. Chicken, (see painted chicken) range free. In other words they roam about the place except at night of coarse or we simply would be feeding the wild beasties. Plus, they give eggs - yummy, tasty, healthy eggs. Once explained like that me husband had to quite agree. It made sense. Or is that just me way of thinking?

Of course you may add your opinion, we all have them and you may have another thought pattern instead.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A New Dish with Butternut Squash and Garlic Scapes

Look yummy? It was. Sorry, there's none left. 
but, don't worry, I can tell you just how to make it so you can have some too. This is my experimentation with Scapes, garlic scapes.

Scapes are the top seed set on garlic stalks. Garlic and I in the past have not been friends. Oh I love the stuff alright but for reasons I've not yet figured out, it either dies, or does not do so well in the garden. I'm think that I am planting it too deep. Who knows but this is the first year in which I've had garlic plants that are normal size. What is under neath has yet to be revealed but I'm hoping it is good. Outdoors may have been a bomb but I had big success indoors. The stalks came back time after time until they finally gave out. Those stalks chopped up and put in culinary dishes not only added a lovely vibrant color but flavor galore. No bulb left underneath when the tops finally gave out but a definitely worth doing again. So imagine how thrilled I was to not only to have tall garlic plants in the garden but scapes. I've read about those things and now I have my own. Now what oh what shall I do with them? I've read you use them when they curl and not before and mine are ready for something.

When I spied I butternut squash at the store, I knew this was what my first adventure with scapes should be. Raw butternut squash chopped and fried with diced onions and scapes. One of our favorites. The only hickup was when I tasted the chopped scapes. Not much flavor there.  Much more mild than my stalks from my winter garlic pot. Maybe I'd better add a little of the bottled garlic I thought or this isn't going to be what I want. Don't turn up your faces. It is the only thing I had. I've been trying to find some decent raw garlic at the store and not only is it scarce but it is all dried up too. We aren't exactly in the heart of culinary country. This only adds to my motivation to grow my own.

So get out your cast iron skillet and use whatever garlic you have. Cast iron so you can get that slightly blackened look that makes onions and garlic so yummy. When heated, add some olive oil. (I was out of ghee though that would have been better to add that buttery taste.) Then toss in the squash, two kinds of garlic or whatever you have, and onions. Cook till done and voila, the bestust thing ever. Just as a side note, I've used frozen chopped butternut squash also. Not quite as good but close. 

Since this dish is a newby for me. I'm trying to grow some butternut in the garden. That is a first too. As I stare at the shrimpy plants I'm not sure they are going to make fruit in time, or is it a vegetable? Anyway, it doesn't look promising. Nearby though is some very lovely Sugar Pie pumpkin plants in bloom.Hm.....

You know it. I'm looking up recipes for using pumpkin in the place of butternut. Did you know you can make fries with pumpkin. We love sweet potato fries. I've got to try it. And in this dish, pumpkin can be a nice substitute also I thinking. Pumpkins and squash are after all in the same family. Whatever you decide to use, give this dish a try and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Experiment With Egyptian Onions

When a Colorado friend said that I needed Egyptian Onions. I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. But since her goals are essentially the same as mine, she had my interest. Especially since I've failed miserably a number of times trying to start onions from seeds. Oh I can grow the seeds really well and collect them just fine but all the plants that come up are super spindly. I don't know what I'm doing wrong but I've done it four times now. I figure if you are going to make a mistake at least you could make a different one each time so you can learn but  yet make progress. I'm still stuck at ground zero.  That is what made this onion that keeps going on its own sound almost too good to be true. When a friend of my husband, who adores my peanut butter cookies, said he had some and offered a few plants. I figured a trade was in order. His parting words of, "Be careful or they will take over the garden." left me a bit nervous but not detoured. Was this like Spearmint?
Rest assured they are not and I've decided I want more, and more, and more of these. They really are yummy! A bit strange since they clone themselves forming multiple onion sets on the top instead of seeds but strange can be good. When the sets are too heavy to hold up, the stalk bends over allowing the new plants to touch the soil and form roots. Thus one plant becomes many more and from this propagation method comes the name walking onion. The top set of tiny onion plants gives this plant the name Top Onion and for others they may know it as Winter Onion because it is good from zone 3, which is us, to those in zone 6 where you can pick this hardy onion all year. I've read that there are differing types of these onions but then not all relatives look alike so I'm not surprised. They do all have the strange propagation method.

 With so few plants, I did not cook with any of the onions until this year mainly due to confusion on the subject. I saw lots of recipes for pickling of the little onion sets on top and learned that you pick them when they are at least a half inch in size. But seriously people, I'm not growing these things for a few tiny little onions on top so I kept researching. Meanwhile, I removed the sets off of the tops of a couple plants like you would the flower bulbs that begin to form on traditional onions. 

As I suspected, the energy in the plant went to the bulbs instead of onion top sets. In fact, they gave up growing top sets of onions all together and the bulb increased in size. Now were talking something I can really use.

How big they will get I'm not sure. Like a kid with a pocket full of candy, I had to sample. Everyone on the Internet I listened to said the onion is a bit zesty. I did not taste that. Maybe it is because we live in zone 3 and heat has a tendency to make things hotter in flavor but these onions just tasted like... onion. Maybe a hair, and only a baby hair stronger but to this onion aholic, it was yum dilly ishush. I cut up a couple bulbs and cooked part of them with potatoes. There is nothing like fried potatoes and onions. They are soul mates.

Now I'm thinking why oh why did I not clip the tops of more of the onions while the sets were just beginning to form? I think I'll pretend it is so I'll have lots and lots of Egyptians Onions to do it to next year and you can bet I will. 

As for the rest of you, you can pick the top sets if you like to pickle but it takes a whole heaping lot to amount to anything, so for me, I'm going for the bottoms. If you are harvesting enough bottoms, you can be sure these onions are not going to take over the garden and how could you not. They are too yummy to let walk away.

While I was eating the bottoms, I tasted the top sets too. One has to compare and after all it is what everyone is talking about. Very mild in flavor like I suspicioned - similar to traditional onion stalks. For me that is what this onion is missing. Good tender stalks. The mature stalks are rather tough and woody. They say you can use these onions in the early spring like bunching onions and the stalks at that stage are tender but alas, I did not. Seems to be alot of that this year.  Maybe next year I'll feel I have enough to use these as spring onions. They should be ready just about the time my stored onions run out or the last few are getting soft. How perfect is that? Thank you dear friend. These are indeed a must have for my garden. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Goat Teats

Udderly gorgeous - that's Comedy. She earned her Permanent Championship certificate in great part because of her udder. But there is more to a pretty udder when you are the one milking morning and night for 9 to 10 months. In this discussion I want to talk about teats. I've milked long ones, fat ones, skinny ones, and even ones that I had to milk with three fingers which makes it more challenging. 

Hannah, our yearling, had tiny teats when she first freshened. It was a three finger milk job so I left her doelings on her and they stretched them out. Of course my three fingers kept milking her out once a day to make sure she was emptied until the kids did their job. Then I have kept milking as the two doelings have a favorite side emptying one more than the other. Recently I've noticed that Now one teat has become longer than the other. Not quite what I had in mind. I'd say it was the kid's fault but I know better as it has never happened before and I've had dairy goats 33 years. It must be on the bucks side and something genetic. I'm not as familiar with his relatives. I'll blame on him anyway as that sounds as good a reason as any.
I always say, "Pretty is as pretty does." for I've had some goats with pretty udders that were not fun to milk and I'm not talking about their personalities. Leah was just such a goat. That girl had looks but it took all my strength to squeeze milk out of her. Not fun! It seemed like a competition between her keeping it in and my trying to get it out. Milking her took time and all my strength leaving my hands cramping and the end. The problem was orifices that were too small. An orifice is the hole in which milk comes out. You can not imagine how many times I wanted to take a hot needle and poke a bigger hole. Would it have worked? I wondered. But I'm sure Leah would never had let me come near her again.

Too big an orifice hole and the doe is susceptible to mastitis since it leaves a wide open space for bacteria to crawl inside.  Too large a teats in circumference and it is hard to grab a hold of and squeeze. It also makes it hard for kids to put the teat into their tiny mouths to suckle. Too small and the funnel has little area for the milk to pool before coming out and it takes more squeezes.
Another thing you can not tell from the show ring is the exact placement of the orifice hole. Orifices are not always placed at the bottom of the teat. If not, you have to turn your wrist so as to aim at the bucket and it takes a bit of practice. Sometimes I get a doe with just one side that goes askew, and sometimes it shoots off in odd directions on both sides. That takes a little finesse. A new doeling does not appreciate your squirting her in the leg or belly until you get the hang of it. Even when you do, you'll still mess up on occasion. I do anyway. 

You don't want a doe with teats too large because it is hard to get a good grip. Too long and they are likely to get caught on fences and rip. So like Goldilocks, "not too big and not too small" is best. It is also a bit of preference. I know people who like larger teats and as for myself I don't. My hands are small. And of course you do not want does with more than two teats. The extra or extras may not function but they might and anyway they are not a genetic trait you want to pass on. These are things one often does not pay attention to when buying a doe but since you have to deal with it so often, it pays to check it out before you hand over the money. For a little more visual reference on correct teat placement, I've added the ADGA sites page on udders. But I'm curious, what do you have in your barnyard?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dropped Cholesterol Twenty Points Eating Lots of Meat

 We had a pleasant surprise when we went for our annual wellness check ups. Kirk's cholesterol had dropped twenty points. Twenty points lower eating approximately the same amount of meat as in  past years. I'm sure this has many of you shaking your heads in confusion because what could we have done to make this dramatic of a reduction? Simple, we lowered the amount of store chicken that was served on our table. But wait, chicken is a leaner, healthier choice- right? Not necessarily.

Chicken is leaner than beef- true. Farmers have changed genetics to where there is more muscle to fat ratio in chickens. The problem is leaner means tougher, dryer, and less flavor. Now how do you sell that to consumers? You add up to 15 to 30 percent of body weight in saltwater, corn syrup, and flavor enhancers. Unbelievably, even organic chicken is treated this way. Yes, maybe organic has less of some things but really, do you think the buyers have saltwater, sugars, and flavor enhancers in mind when they choose the organic label? No wonder everyone is saying, that tastes like chicken but what does chicken actually taste like? 

Customers want more natural foods so the industry labels the same chicken as they were selling before as natural or heritage. Marketers make a living out of bamboozling peoples emotions to sell more products. I admit, I've grown to like those giant sized chicken breasts from the store because they have been a staple of our diet so my taste buds have adapted. But seriously, when did you ever see cleavage on a hen like that? These are D cup girls were talking about that were genetically created. It is not natural in a chicken. I will have to thank our tight wad budget as it taught me a good lesson. I need to use more rabbit.  

But it makes me mad that the food industry gets away with labeling these chickens natural because there is a creative list of natural ingredients allowed. Corn syrup is on the list and pumped into your chicken. Corn syrup is made from the starch of corn with the addition of maltose. Maltose is a hydrogenated sugar that is in the alcohol sugar family. It is cheap and filled with some really scary chemicals used in its processing. My dentist tried to get me to use xylitol, the latest dream child of the alcohol sugar family. A close relative of maltose. Poor dentist, he mentioned it to the wrong patient. I did my homework on how it is manufactured and if it really comes from birch trees like he told me. Of course it ca...n, BUT, it doesn't. That would be really expensive so they use cheap GMO corn husks and chemicals galore, scary ones right up your tingle factor alley of horror shows. Alcohol sugars are hydrogenated sugar. Remember how nice hydrogenated oils are for you? When they first came out they told us that they were so much better than butter and other truly natural products. Now they say how bad they are for us but that is only after the health of millions was demaged and after they've made their millions.  

The truth is in the details because fat is not all created equally and that includes beef fat. We need a certain percentage of fat in our diet because that is part of the foundation from which hormones are created. Fat tenderizes meat. (Why is a gastronomically interesting read. Okay, maybe just for me.) Fat also gives meat flavor and moisture. Fat is good and bad. It is one of those moderation kind of things and of course some types are better for us than others.

 As I create more and more of my own products, I've come to realize just how tasteless the stores are. The real deal on food is simply amazing. People are always surprised by the difference in our meat, our buttermilk, our anything. It has such robust flavor. We just smelled our vinegar that I started six months ago. I can't believe how different it smells from the stores. It actually smells appley and yummy. But lets talk about that later.

We may not have dropped our meat consumption but we did make a conscious decision to cut dramatically down on the amount of meat we buy at the store - all kinds. It isn't like we don't have plenty of meat of our own. We even have a nice variety yak, chicken, lamb, beef, deer and rabbit but like many or should I say most, we crave certain meals for supper or breakfast and our freezer or jar supplies don't equal our desires. This year too few roasts and too much hamburger but that changes from year to year. The store has filled in. I'm almost weaned from store meat but there are areas like ham, bacon, and sausage to go. This shift away from the store is not something we can make overnight. It has been a slow process that will continue into next winter because my attitude and habits have to change. 
I'm sure we will continue to eat some chicken but as we shift more into raising a greater number of rabbits, the plan is to adapt a large portion of our chicken recipes to rabbit meat. To us, domestic rabbit tastes a bit like turkey anyway. Of course we will continue to raise a few chickens. Right now we have thirteen roosters strutting around the yard thinking they are hot stuff. They are the only ones impressed because the hens aren't. Add to the roosters a few this year's hatch hens which will not be saved for the future laying flock, and  most of the two year old hens, and we will have a bit more bone broth and canned meat. Hardly enough chicken but like I said, we are shifting our diets. The less we can purchase from the store the better. 

Did you know that once we bought a beef steak and it actually grew in size on the barbecue grill? Now something is not right there.  What do you think is fishy in the meat industry?