Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Slow hatch: don't turn off the incubator just yet

Towards the end of April, we set up two incubators. The trusty homemade incubator #1 that we've been using since 2010 and another incubator #2 that I recently built with Farm Man Extraordinaire's supervision.

We gathered eggs from our coop for two days and set them in the incubators. After candling at 7 days, we had 22 eggs in #1 and 18 eggs in #2.

 Incubator #1 was set to hatch on May 12th, incubator #2 on the 13th. So here's how that went down. On May 12th, we had absolutely nothing happen in incubator #1. Nothing. In years past I would have unplugged the incubator and called it a fail. This year I just let it run to see what might happen.

Incubator #2 had some pipping start on May 13th.

The evening of May 13th, one egg finally started pipping in #1. A day late. Throughout the day of May 13th, the eggs in #2 slowly hatched.

By the morning of May 14th, we had 15 hatched chicks in incubator #2. When they were dried and fluffy, we took them out and put them in their brooder.

The morning of May 15th, we had 7 hatched chicks from #1 (three days late!), and a few eggs that were still pipping. When the 7 chicks were dry and fluffy, we put them in the brooder with the chicks from #2.

All through May 16th, there was one egg almost completely zipped (four days late!). The chick just need to push out. The morning of May 17th, it was dead, along with two other chicks that had started in the middle of the night and failed to make it all the way out. (As a rule, I don't help chicks out. I did it once and it didn't end well. I've since come to the conclusion that the chick needs to be strong enough to make it out of the shell on its own in order to survive life outside the shell.)

Incubator #1 has always worked for us but this time (we found out) was running at 93-96 degrees instead of 99-100. There was also a crazy amount of humidity, so much that there was standing water on the bottom of the incubator (under the little grate the eggs sit on), and that's never happened before. I don't know if something got bumped or the thermostat needs to be replaced. Back to the workshop we go with Incubator #1.

We, of course, are thankful for what did hatch. 22 of the cutest little puffballs ever.

I'm not biased. Nope.

Friday, May 15, 2015

the great pig escape: where my children learn every word in the book

Yesterday, the plan was that I'd pick up three 40 pound Yorkshire Duroc cross pigs and bring them home at 9:30 am. My night shift working husband would be sleeping. But dude, y'all, me and the farm boys could handle this.

Porkers, our stand in plastic pig from last year, clearly mocking me.
The pigs had been loaded into an extra large dog crate which the farm boys and I muscled into the stall they were going to now call home. The gent we'd picked them up from said, "Don't let them out on pasture for a few days. Let them get used to the area inside before you let them out into the fenced outside area."

We closed the gate stall behind us and opened the kennel door. Two of the three pigs zipped right out of that kennel.

What happened next was a blur. The pigs got scared (where's my mom!? who are you?!) and pushed their 40 pound pig bodies through a slat in the stall that was our pig stall two years ago and never gave us issues. I realized about the same time that we'd forgotten to close the barn door.

Out those pigs went. Out the barn door. Into the yard. The dog followed, chasing. The pigs ran faster. I ran. Language not fit for sailors vomitted forth from my mouth, as well as, "Go get Dad!"

Oldest farmboy had thankfully closed the kennel door locking in the third pig who had not yet ventured into his new surroundings. The dog was also called off the pig chase and put in the house.

I called to the pigs trying to tempt them with food (which they flat out ignored) and I watched them run faster than I was running and you know what I saw? I saw dollar signs. Burning. To a crisp.

I will not cry. I will not cry. IwillnotcryIwillnotcryIwillnot...

Just then my knight in faded jammie pants who had slept all of two hours appeared behind me and said, "Which way did they go?" I pointed at their bobbing pink bodies on the horizon. My husband grabbed a four wheeler and took off to push them back to the house. (Oh. Sure. It seems obvious now.)

Talk about team work. Imagine a dad, a mom, and two awesome farmboys doing whatever they could to get these little buggers. There were a lot of times we almost had them. When they ran through the garden fence. When one got tangled up in a tomato cage. When another one was cornered in one of the pasture fences. I have no clue how long we messed around with this, and I'm sure it would have been really amusing if someone would have taken video. My husband (on the four wheeler) finally ran one of the pigs from the neighbors (thankfully) unworked field until the pig got tired and he grabbed it and put in back in the locked kennel with the sole obedient pig. In that chaos, the second loose pig had ran the opposite direction across the other farmer's (planted) field on his own little adventure. We pushed him back to the house from the road and had him cornered. I dove for him and missed. One of the farmboys caught him in a thick net.

Both pigs safely delivered back to the kennel, my husband added hog panels to the inside of our stall for added security. Then the pigs were let out into their stall. We left them alone for awhile (mostly because we all needed to catch our breath. And change clothes.) but when we went back out to check on them, they were standing in the middle of their bedding like this:

You can't see us. We're hiding.
I don't know if they were shameful and saying sorry. I don't know if they were hiding. I don't know if they were just trying to be extra cute. They just stood there. For several minutes.

Later that night I went out to have a talk with them. I explained we didn't get off to a very good start and for that I was sorry. Then I offered them some marshmallows. They said we could probably work on being friends.

So. In every bit of farm excitement, there is always a lesson. Here are four I learned:

1. When bringing in animals that are new, scared, or you're unsure of how they will react, ALWAYS REMEMBER TO CLOSE THE BARN DOOR.

2. We own four wheelers. Several of them. Instead of killing yourself running, use wheels.

3. Profanity is alive and well at Clucky Dickens Farm. You can't catch a pig without it.

3. Knights in faded jammie pants (and their smart, go-get-'em farmboys) are just about the best thing in the entire world.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

a good crusty round loaf

A few years back we were studying the middle ages. As part of a middle ages feast we put on, we used a recipe from our curriculum called Rose Petal Bread. This bread, with modifications, has become one of the staple breads in our house.

You can find the original recipe here, which requires you to make rose water and paint on your bread to make it pretty.

Us farmish folk aren't that fancy anymore. So here's the simpler version that we use to make a good crusty white loaf, perfect for sandwiches, soup, stew, bread bowls (cut out the center), etc.

It's also good for just inhaling with a stick of butter. Not that I've done that. Recently.

Rose Petal Bread Without Roses So Now We Just Call it Crusty Round Loaf 

1 pkg yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp bulk yeast)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3-4 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in water. Stir sugar, salt, and half of the flour into the yeast mixture. Knead, adding more flour until it won't take anymore. Place dough in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place 1 hour. Punch down, separate into two round loaves and place on greased jelly roll pan. Wash with egg wash (that's what makes it crusty!). Bake at 400 for 40 minutes.

Enjoy. You're welcome. :)

Monday, May 11, 2015

the games meat birds play: a comedy

"Hey, George?"

"Yeah, Fred?"

"Today is coop cleaning day."


"We should play that game where we all huddle together in the exact spot that the chicken lady is trying to clean."


"You know the game. She pushes the shovel under all the dirty bedding to try and scoop it up, but we all sit on top of it and make a bunch of noise like we don't know where to go..."

"Oh, yeah! That game! And then she yells at us about having a whole coop to run around in..."

"Yeah! And then we laugh because...like, run? We're meat birds"

 "That game is the best. Okay. But Fred?"

"Yeah, George?"

"What if she gets mad and throws the shovel at us?"

"She won't."

"Why not?"

"Because she needs to keep us alive until we're 5-6 pounds."


"Never mind, George. Never mind."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Meat Birds: Just feed me

Our Cornish Cross meat birds are so cute when they start out.

So. Very. Cute.

You can't help but pick them up and snuggle their soft fuzzies.

But then they start to grow. And two weeks and two days later, it's belly up to the trough.  Hey lady, feed me.

They're all  Hey. You over there. You with the scoop. Come dump some stuff over here so I can eat.

This growing meat bird chicks thing always reminds me of the tween boys I have living in my house.

Hey, lady. Lady. Feed me, lady. Please.

It seems like everyone just wants me to feed them. So if you need me, I'll be...you know, feeding things.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

French Apple Pie

Yesterday, before the raccoon fiasco, I was just finishing up making my french apple pie. I love this recipe. A super easy one crust pie that is finished off with a crumbly yummy top.

French Apple Pie

4 cups sliced apples
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
unbaked pie shell - 9"

Place apples in the unbaked pie shell. Combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over apples. Dot with butter.


1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour

Combine topping ingredients with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Sprinkle over apples. Bake pie at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 45 minutes longer.

Pie is always awesome, but this pie is one of the awesomest. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Raccoons and the stuff nightmares are made of

It was a lovely afternoon. I'd finished up all my outside chores. I had 20 minutes left until my french apple pie was done baking. My oldest son and I were sitting on the swing in the front yard enjoying the sunshine.

Ah, farm life.

A strange squawking noise came from somewhere on the farm. My oldest farmboy said, "sounds like it's coming from the meat bird coop. I'll go see."

He took off across the yard and I continued writing a few things in the notebook I was sitting with. Blog ideas, probably. I don't remember now. Because the next thing I heard from my 12 year old was, "Holy crap! There's a raccoon...wait...a baby raccoon...in the meat bird coop! I mean, in the barn! Get the gun!"

Crap was not what I said.

Image: David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalimages.net

Of course this happens when I have no shoes on. So I run in the house, jump into my trusty crocs (shut up, haters), and sprint to the little red barn. There, on the floor of the main aisle and completely outside of the meat bird brooder area, is a small raccoon wobbling around. And it is screaming.

Baby raccoon screams are the things nightmares are made of.

Now, baby raccoons are made from mama raccoons and mama raccoons can be hella mean. I quick scanned the barn to see if mama raccoon was anywhere around and somewhere in the chaos I realized that this baby raccoon had fallen from the rafters of the barn - the rafters which are a hayloft.

Realizing there are probably more baby raccoons screaming above your head is also what nightmares are made of.

Baby raccoons dropping down onto your head? You guys. YOU. GUYS.

Dude. How do you kill a baby raccoon? And why, pray tell, does farm life force us to deal with situations like this?

"I have to go get Dad," I said and took off for the house. The problem was, however, that Dad works nights and he shouldn't have been awake yet. But praise the baby Jesus, there he was standing in the kitchen like a knight in faded jammie pants. I told him I needed his help. He told me what to do and I simply said I couldn't do it. I am not sure if he rolled his eyes or smirked or grinned or did anything at all. But shortly after, he came walking out to the barn, gun in hand.

Y'all. Raccoons have no place on the farm. They kill chickens.

The baby raccoon on the ground was dispatched. His or her siblings were pulled out of the rafters using welding gloves and were also dispatched. We then looked around the hayloft to see if Mama was anywhere to be seen but couldn't find her. I have yet to decide if that is a good or bad thing.

The whole time the meat birds just watched and listened. I'm sure they were secretly doing voice overs of the whole fiasco - noting the tall guy with the welding gloves and the girl in the skirt who is usually pretty tough but this time just paced around making all sorts of noises.

You guys. Baby raccoons falling from the ceiling and screaming is worse than spiders.




Ah. Farm life.

The good news is: we still got the pie out of the oven in time. :)
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