Everyone is very busy around here – the garden is giving us a lot of vegetables, and showing us a lot more to come. New pictures below:
New rooster, and more snow.
We got hit with a big snowstorm yesterday (as did most of the upper Midwest, and other parts of the country). We probably got somewhere over 10 inches of snow, but it was very windy so it settled in drifts – some spots had no snow but in other spots there were swaths of snow that were over 3.5 feet tall. Because of the way it settled I really am not sure exactly how much we got, but it was a lot. And in mid April it is definitely unwelcome. I was looking back at old notes and realized that at this time a couple years ago I was putting my ducks in the pool outside to swim – it was 70 degrees that day. Last year I was putting in the onions. THIS year, I haven’t even seen my yard yet – there was a small bit of driveway exposed for awhile but that is all so far. This coming weekend we’re supposed to be up in the upper 40s, so this snow is all going to melt and become a big mudpile. What fun!
We also added a new rooster the other day, since my old roosters both are gone. The hens need someone to watch out for them, so I decided to look for a new one. I found him on Craigslist. He’s a Russian Orloff, and I’ve named him Bertram. The name stuck in my head when I got him, so that’s his name. It fits pretty well, actually. Here are some pics of the new rooster, and our yucky new snow:
Oh, so an update on my last post about syrup. I was still cooking it down when I posted that day; right after posting, I decided to put the sap into a smaller pan to finish the cooking. I chose too small of a pan, and ended up making maple sugar instead! The temperature got too high with the small pan. I thought I had made hard candy, but over a day or so it ended up crumbling. It’s quite nice in tea, but it was not what I was going for. After that day, we had some cold temps, so we didn’t get any sap for about a week. This past week (before the storm) was really decent – we were getting 1/2 gallon per day from some trees, and one tree actually gave almost a gallon per day for a few days. Temperatures dipped Saturday when the storm was heading this way, so I just pulled the taps in for this year. I ended up with about 9.5-10 gallons of sap through the week, and cooked them down yesterday:
I made sure to check the temperature this time and didn’t cook it to candy / sugar stage.
Coming out of winter into spring
It’s officially spring, but here in the U.P. we are just starting to come out of winter. We still have a lot of snow, although this week we’ve had decent temperatures during the day (above freezing) so the snow is melting and turning driveways into mud. They freeze at night, luckily, so I was able to go to work this morning – my car wasn’t stuck in my muddy driveway. We are supposed to get a little bit of snow this week (3 inches, I heard) which is typical. Spring is usually like this.
This winter has been really hard – we lost both roosters. Big Red died in January, and The General died just a couple days ago. They both got really bad frostbite this winter – Red had it so bad his waddles got really swollen. General’s toes got it really bad. I’m not sure if they eventually both died because of frostbite complications, but it’s possible. They both seemed to recover (and be feeling better) before they died, so I’m not sure. With chickens it’s sometimes hard to tell. The frostbite came when we had a really bad cold spell in January. The ducks sometimes make it hard to keep the moisture out of the coop as well, which can contribute to frostbite in the chickens. Roosters with larger combs/waddles are really susceptible, and both of our boys had them. We are very sad about losing our roosters. Now we have 19 chickens (all hens), and three ducks.
Today we let the chickens out into the yard for the first time this year – there is actually a bit of grass/muddy driveway for them to hang out in, instead of just snow. The ducks found a big icy puddle to dabble in – they loved that. Here are a few pictures from today:
Spring is on its way, luckily. I’m glad to see this winter mostly behind us.
One of our roosters is Wonky Top – named because of his ridiculously huge floppy comb. He’s about 5 months old, so he has some growing to do – we are wondering if his comb will continue to get more hilarious as he matures. I will need to coat his comb and wattles in Vaseline all winter to protect them from frostbite. (I will need to do that with all three of my roosters, and maybe a couple of hens – larger combs don’t do well with our winters).
He’s a little skittish with us. If we need to pick him up for anything he is extremely hard to catch. But he seems to be a decent rooster. We still have all our boys separate from the hens for now, but we will be combining them before wintertime. He is mostly nice to the hens, besides trying to mount them all the time – I have seen him protect the hens from the other two roosters before, and I’ve seen him do a bit of a dance up to different hens – maybe he’s attempting to woo them a little.
We’re pretty sure he’s a Golden Cuckoo Maran rooster. Maran hens (at least a few different varieties) can lay dark brown, chocolate shelled eggs. I am hoping that in breeding him with my non-Maran hens, he may pass some of those genes down to a future hen. Otherwise I will eventually want to buy some Maran hens. I would love to get some multicolored eggs (chocolate, blue, olive) – The hens we currently have lay varying degrees of browns, whites, and cream colored eggs.
Farm updates Early August
I haven’t posted in over a week, because I went to California to meet my new niece. Before I left, this was my garden (taken on 7/23/15):
I came back less than 7 days later and my garden had exploded:
The chickens are doing well. We had planned on starting to cull some roosters when I got home. A couple on the shortlist have redeemed themselves for now. We culled two on Sunday – one was getting very aggressive and had pecked my son, and the other was picking on the rest of the big roosters. We will need to take out a couple more before winter, but the ones we still have are behaving better. One of our youngest roosters, Wonky Top:
Wonky’s comb has been straightening out. He has straightened out too – he was going to be one of the first we took out, because he didn’t get along with anyone – he was really skittish, and he fought with everyone. We had separated the roosters from the hens for awhile, and he would get picked on by the bigger guys, and then escape. Each time we caught him and put him back with the roosters, he would escape again, and then evade capture for most of the day. I finally put him in with the hens. He stayed there while I was on vacation. When I got back I thought my roosters were bored being over in their side (we had them in the grassless side because it was easier to get them in at night), so I put them with everyone again. Wonky then asserted himself, pretty much saying “you’re on MY side now!” and he wouldn’t take any flack from the big guys. Now he doesn’t seem so skittish, and he’s getting along with everyone better. So we have decided he can stay, for now. I suspect he’s a Cuckoo Maran – I really wanted some Marans (the hens can lay darker brown eggs ) so if possible we may keep him for breeding. We will see.
I was planning on keeping certain roosters based on looks, for breeding purposes, but we are starting to cull based mostly on their behavior, especially toward us. Our big Black Langshan rooster was one that we took out this weekend, since he flew up on my son and pecked him in the chest. That was the deciding factor for him. We were planning on keeping at least two – I read that if you have 3 or 4 they can get along better than having just two. We’ll just have to play it by ear with them.
The chickens are enjoying their outdoor shelter – we allow them in the coop anyway, but this shelter was already in the part of the run that I have them in right now, so we left it (it’s a little large so we’d have to disassemble it to remove it) – they have learned they can go on top of it. That puts their heads only about 6 inches from the top of the fence. They have not seemed to figure that part out yet though – I was worried they would jump out but nobody has so far.
Garlic, and silly roosters
I LOVE garlic. I had never grown it before, and last year I decided to give it a try. In the early fall, I bought some organic garlic heads at the grocery store, pulled the bulbs out and put them into the garden. This spring I saw them growing, and they’ve grown really well. I read that you dig the garlic heads up when the leaves start yellowing. I noticed the last few days that they were yellowing, so I pulled them up today.
They were a decent size, I believe most of them were the same size as the heads I grew them from. I cleaned off the dirt with a paper towel:
I read that you should leave them to cure for a few weeks with the roots and stems still attached. I put them all together in a bunch and they are sitting outside in a shady spot on my porch, where they’ll get good airflow but not get any sun at all. I have them hung up; I wasn’t sure if my friendly neighborhood squirrels and chipmunks would try to eat them. I’ll have to keep an eye out and make sure nobody tries to steal them. Once the leaves dry out completely you can cut the leaves and roots off. Then you can store them for later use, and save more of the bulbs to grow new garlic for next year. That’s my plan, at least right now. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see how they taste. If they are good, I’ll grow them again. The original heads I bought had a good flavor, so hopefully these will too.
One of my young roosters is very goofy – he’s kind of aggressive. More in-your-face every time we’re in the coop. He has been very friendly since he was small, but now he’s always underfoot. It’s like he always needs to follow me to see what I’m up to – as if he’s worried I’ll do something to hurt the hens or him. He likes to peck my pant legs. He bit me the other day, but that was because I was trying to pick him up, because he wouldn’t go in the coop at night. He seemed to be helping me round up everyone else to get them in, but then he wanted to stay outside. I went to grab him and he bit my hand. I got mad and just picked him up and put him inside. I’m not sure what we’ll do with him yet. I need to let him mature a bit and see how this personality of his develops. If he gets more aggressive, he’ll have to go.
For a while I was hoping he was just a very assertive hen, but he’s massive, and the other day he started mounting some of the hens, so it’s now confirmed. I believe he’s a Buckeye, and they are a rare breed from Ohio. We’ll see. I just have so many roosters! I have confirmed that three of my six “teenage” chickens are roosters. There are two more that I’m pretty sure are but they haven’t mounted anyone yet – they are just starting to get long tail feathers now though, so I’m 99% sure. I have one hen out of that batch, my little Speckled Sussex. Then in the smaller chicks I have at least one, possibly 3 or 4 roosters (out of 8 chicks). We are planning on keeping 2 or three roosters through the winter, and we’ll have to decide what to do with the rest. We haven’t picked the keepers yet; I want to see them in all their pretty rooster glory first, once all their feathers have come.