Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Regarding that To-Do list

Do you remember that To-Do list I mentioned on Saturday ?

The list might have been a bit difficult to read, given the helpful, furry goat faces in the way and all, so here's how it ultimately read:

  • Trim goat hooves
  • Rehang hay feeder
  • Stain deck railing
  • Wash & store potatoes
  • Finish storing garlic
  • Measure sunflower
  • Carry jam down to pantry
  • Put up chicken roof panels
  • Take netting off blueberries
  • Cut off stupid-ass apple branch

Would you like to know the status of those items?

1) Trim goat hooves - CHECK

Pete went to sleep through part of it:

Way, way asleep, that boy was:

Reggie was more challenging and refused to sit still for it. He apparently was not desiring a foot treatment on this day. This picture was one of his brief quiet moments before he would suddenly fling himself off Jim's lap:

2) Rehang hay feeder - CHECK

This was a do-over project. Last week we had raised the hay feeder up from "baby goat" level to "teenage goat" level and the goat boys promptly brought it down:

Now it's on nice and strong:

A face-down feeder is no good to any of us, and the boys are much happier now:

3) Stain deck railing - CHECK

And by "stain" I mean "waterproof":

And by "check" I mean, well, half way check. The entire railing has been cleaned and prepped but I only got half the railing sealed with waterproofing. Sigh. This took way longer than I thought it would. But half of it looks really great:

4) Wash and store potatoes - Not done.
Quite simply ran out of time. Tomorrow's another day.

5) Finish storing garlic - CHECK
Ack. Semi-check. I still have two varieties that need to be bagged and hung. My pantry has cement walls and I couldn't screw anything into the walls to hang my garlic bags from. So I found an old closet rod and used it:

6) Measure humongous sunflower - CHECK

We've been watching this mammoth sunflower for a while and it just keeps getting taller. Finally, we took a measuring tape out - we guessed 13 feet, but it came in at 10 feet 6 inches:

7) Carry jam down to pantry - CHECK

Thirtyone 8 ounces jars of raspberry jam. We had a lot of raspberries this year:

8) Put up chicken roof panels - CHECK

Even the best designed chicken runs need a bit of maintenance now and again:

My sweet man spent part of his Saturday fixing the roofing panels on my chicken run. We know that heavy rains are in the forecast, so time is of the essence:

9) Take netting off blueberries - CHECK

I love blueberries. I had a great harvest this year. I'm quite sad the season is over:

10) Cut off stupid-ass apple tree branch - CHECK

Yes, I said "stupid-ass". For months now, almost every time I walk by this branch, it nabs me in the shoulder:

But it's a tricky devil and it never gets me on the way *up* to the garden - when I'm thinking about it - only on the way *down* when my hands are full and I'm preoccupied with other thoughts:

Ok, so maybe my shoulder doesn't look that bad in this picture, but it HURT:

And, after months of repeatedly having the skin scraped off my shoulder, it was time.. OFF with that branch!:

The goats enjoyed it a great deal:

September has been an unbelievably busy month. This Saturday recap is just a tiny example. I feel like I'm racing against the clock trying to get everything done...done before the berries rot, done before the vegetables go bad, done before the rains hit, etc. While we've been extremely productive, there comes a point where all work and no play makes Danni a dull girl. I've about reached that point.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

If you need any help this weekend...

If you need any work done around your home or yard this weekend, please let me know. I've got two energetic and enthusiastic young boys who are more than willing to help :

Why, just look how helpful they were to me this morning as I was writing my Saturday To-Do list:

They really love helping out. See? Here they are, putting their heads together to come up with additional items for my list:

I really do value their input:

Sometimes, though, minor disagreements over how to get things done can occur:

And, occasionally, a bit of headbutting is necessary for working out the small differences:

Uh oh:

Well, sure, Reggie, you can climb in my lap. I was finished with the list anyway:

So, please let me know if anyone needs any help this weekend. The boys are anxiously awaiting your call.

Friday, September 25, 2009

In love with a tomato

Last March, I blogged about what I planned to grow in this year's garden and how I sent away for free heirloom tomato seeds from I had never grown heirloom tomatoes before and was excited about giving it a try.

At the time, a few people warned me that growing heirloom tomatoes could be quite challenging, due to their temperamental nature and inclination toward disease, but as it turned out, I've been fortunate and have had an extremely successful heirloom tomato season this year. I have been able to grow varieties called Lancaster Pink, Roma Paste, Tumbling Tom, Egg Yolk Cherry, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Red Brandywine, San Marzano and Starpit Imperial ...but the winner of the most flavorful (and most interesting) heirloom tomato -and my new personal favorite- in my garden this year is...

The Riesentraube:

This is an East German heirloom variety whose name means "giant bunch of grapes" and this is pretty much what they look like when they're growing on the vine. They grow in bunches of 20 to 35 per cluster:

...and the small, semi heart-shaped, red fruit have the cutest little pointed ends:

Heritage Harvest Seed gives this historical snippet on the Riesentraube on their website that I think is fascinating:
"This heirloom from Germany was introduced in the United States in 1993. The seed was obtained from the seed bank at Gatersleben and then brought back to the States. Today, it is one of the most popular heirloom cherry varieties grown, a real success story. Historically, this tomato was used in winemaking, which made a wine similar to dry sherry. Today, it is most often used as a salad tomato. The vines are covered with clusters of 1" oval red fruit hanging like grapes in clusters. The small oval fruit have a distinctive pointed tip on the blossom. The name Reisentraube is German for "giant bunch of grapes." The vines are also some of the tallest that I have grown, growing over 8 ft tall by August. I actually had trouble harvesting the top bunches because of the height. Extremely productive and highly recommended. Vigorous indeterminate, regular-leaf foliage."

These beautiful tomatoes are firm, very sweet, and not too wet or pulpy inside (I hate wet and pulpy). See these?:

I've enjoyed these sweet-tasting little 'maters so much that these are going to be my seeds for next year. For the first time, I'm going to try saving my own seeds - mostly because I want to make sure I have access to this variety again next year.

I felt like a doctor performing surgery when I cut into one to extract the seeds:

I squeezed the seeds and a bit of the pulp into a wide-mouthed mason jar and added a bit of water:

Then I covered it with a bit of cheesecloth to keep dirt and such out but to let air and beneficial bacteria in:

In a week or so, when the membrane surrounding the seeds has rotted away, I'll drain the water, rinse the seeds, and spread them out on a paper towel to dry. When they're dry, I'll simply roll up the paper towel and store in a jar until next year. When it comes time to plant, I'll just rip off a seed attached to a bit of towel and plant the whole thing. I got this idea from El over at Fast Grow the Weeds.

If all goes well, I should have plenty of seeds for next year:

And let me know if you'd like any, I'd be happy to share. :-):

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chicken Tonic

A number of you (Jen, Julie, Cindy, Penny, Christy) commented on my last post that you would like the recipe for the special carrot tonic I have been feeding my under-the-weather chickens.

So, here it is - just for you!

Carrot Water Tonic:


6 carrots (leave the peel on)
1 clove garlic
Adult dose of Vitamin C
Adult dose of Echinacea
2 cups water

Blend this together with a couple cups of water, add to a gallon
waterer and add enough water to fill the waterer. Give it to the chickens and they will slurp it up. It boosts the immune system, helping them, in a natural way, over what ails them.

As my chicken mentor, Tonya, says:
"Carrot water can be given any time, as an immune booster or if you see something you want to try treating naturally, like watery eyes or sniffles. It is good for what ails chickens - and people too."

The above recipe has been floating around my online chicken-owners group for years. My modifications to it are:

--> I do not have a gallon waterer, only a 5-gallon galvanized waterer so I used this. Note: For a few days afterward, the waterer smelled like garlic. Be careful when putting it in plastic; the intense orange color of the fresh carrots will stain things.

--> I like garlic. The chickens like garlic. It's good for them. I add at least 3 cloves, but please note, this may affect egg flavor.

--> My echinacea also has goldenseal included in it. Searching online, I read a few people reference using it for improving their chickens digestion, so I felt ok about adding it.
--> "Adult dose" of Vitamin C, according to my online sources, equates to about 5 Vit C 1000 in a gallon of the mixture. I was nervous and only put in 3 tablets of the Vit C, as well as the Echinacea/ Goldenseal. It's up to you.
--> You should only keep this out for about 24 hours -- if you are going to use it for longer than 24 hours, mix up a new batch. (If it has been hot outside, I will not leave it out overnight and will make up a fresh batch for the next day.)

It is recommended that when feeding this, you should actually take away their other water sources so the only water they are drinking is this tonic. But don't forget to give them their water back when the tonic is gone!

Every time I make my chickens a new batch, they can't even wait for me to set it down before they are already slurping it up:

Yum. Even Roopert the rooster loves it:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sick chickens and kind souls

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been preoccupied with sick chickens lately.

One of my Barred Rock hens, Bippity, became unwell very quickly. The basic symptoms that I identified were: sudden listlessness and standing around, not running with the rest of the flock, a lack of appetite, and a soft and puffy crop that seemed to have mostly liquid inside it. Her crop - this will sound gross - would spurt or pour out of her mouth if I massaged it or tilted it down. I'd never seen anything like it and it scared the heck out of me. Poor little thing.

Because it was clear there was not much, if any, actual food in her crop, I brought her inside to see if I could tempt her with some peach yogurt:

It seemed very optimistic when she slurped it up and it made me breathe a bit easier. She really likes yogurt:

I made her all cozy in the dog crate (a.k.a. the chicken condo) for the night and the next morning tried to get her to eat some of her pellets or corn scratch, but she wasn't interested. Then I resorted to an old favorite, oatmeal sprinkled with cheese and raspberries:

Disappointingly, after an initial sniff, she wouldn't have any of it.

She was very thirsty but uninterested in any kind of food:

Yet even as poorly as she felt, she, slowly but surely, made her way across the yard and back to her coop:

She really just wanted to be with her flock:

Ever since I got my chickens, back in March of 2008, I have been a member of a Yahoo group called PDX Backyard Chickens (the PDX is an abbreviation for Portland). This is an online group for local chicken owners to ask questions, share experiences, and find support among other chicken lovers. Renowned in this chicken community are two people in particular, Tonya and Chris.

Tonya and Chris live on a bit of property with about fifty chickens of their own and are a wealth of knowledge concerning chicken health and care. They love their chickens and everyone else's, too. I would go so far as to call chickens their passion. They make a point of being available to any and all chicken owners that need help. I have been so impressed with the time, patience and care they take to help anyone - maybe it's someone new to chickens or maybe it's a more senior member who is having an unexpected chicken crisis. Which, I suddenly realize one evening is me: I am having a chicken crisis.

So, of course I called Tonya and Chris. Though I'd never met either of them in person, and had really only "talked" to them via email (they have lovingly followed my polish hen, Dottie's, exploits on my blog for a while), they didn't hesitate for a second before offering to come out to Critter Farm - and then driving over an hour to get here - so they could do a health check on my girl:

Tonya then requested to make a trip down to the coop so they could do a quick check on the rest of the flock (photo illuminated by flashlight):

Even Roopert the rooster got a bit of love (which he didn't appreciate nearly as much as I did):

Everyone checked out really well, even Bippity, who we decided needed isolation and further observation. We also decided not to free range any of the chickens for the next few days in an attempt to try to find anything dangerous around the property that the chickens might have gotten into.

Before Chris and Tonya left, I introduced them to Pete and Reggie, who loved Tonya because she gave them a cookie:

and Roxy, of course, made a total pest of herself:

But, while Bippity didn't get any worse, she also didn't improve and, the next day, Cowgirl, my Black Star hen, was also exhibiting the same sicky symptoms:

I tried to keep their strength up by giving them their favorite treats, in this case white rice. I also chopped up some home grown garlic to boost their immune system:

Tonya phoned to check in and we decided it was time to whip up a batch of her special carrot tonic:

It sure smelled potent and I was hoping the girls wouldn't all flee when I tried to give it to them:

It looks just like a fizzy orange smoothie, doesn't it? And who doesn't like fizzy orange smoothies?:

There was immediate interest and chatter when I walked into the run:

I could practically hear them sighing their content as they gulped the tonic down:

Dottie then sang a song of thanks to Tonya and Chris:

Since then, Bippity has pretty much returned to her normal behavior, although her crop remains small and fairly soft each night before bed. Cowgirl is eating and hanging with the girls, but still puts herself to bed early each night.

I really hate not knowing for certain why my hens aren't feeling well. I feel like we've run through the entire list of "potentials" without ever really identifying the cause.

I guess farm life is just like that sometimes. You gather as much information as you can, eliminate the obvious, make the best decisions you can, and hope for a good outcome.

And so far, so good. Everybody's still alive. Thank you so much for your help, Tonya and Chris!

9/24/09 POST UPDATE: You can find the recipe to the above mentioned Carrot Tonic by clicking --> HERE.