Monday, August 10, 2015

Home Grown Garlic

Did you plant garlic this year?  Well if you did it's time to check and see if it's ready to harvest.  I've never planted garlic but I've never needed to.  When we moved to this farm 20 years ago, the elderly couple who lived here before us planted the garlic and I've been reaping the benefits since then. Evidently the type of garlic that they planted all those many years ago is self seeding and continues to spread.  From what I have read about different varieties of garlic, it looks like mine could be silverskins, it has a nice strong full bodied flavor.

 The reason I think my garlic is reseeding, do you see the sign on left side of the road?  Well from that sign, clear down to the curve, the garlic has spread along the ditch bank.  Nice bulbs of garlic.

Garlic everywhere

How do you know when it's time to dig the garlic?  When the stem of the garlic down close to the ground begins to die and turn brown, it's time to dig.

After a good summer rain about a week ago,  I pulled the garlic up by the hand fulls.  The ground was moist and it was easily pulled up.  It's best to plant garlic in an out of the way spot because it does spread like crazy.  I'm pretty sure that is why it's on this ditch bank.

Fresh garlic adds amazing flavor to meat and vegetables.   Larry even noticed when I used it for the first time and he never makes a comment about food.  He'll eat just about anything with no complaint.  When I added the fresh garlic to stir fired vegetables, he said "wow that's good what did you put in this that's different?" It really does make a difference.

Garlic will keep best in a the refrigerator but If your going to use it up quickly you can leave it hanging in a little garlic basket.  I made this basket pretty quick out of some scraps of chicken wire.
Add some flavor to your life, plant some garlic.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Young Pullets Available Now

It's that time of year when we're finally feeling a bit caught up on the chick orders and we've started growing up young pullets for the fall shipments.  In the last couple of years, fall has become just as busy as spring.  Fall is when a lot of folks begin to think about getting young pullets that are feathered out, have enough growth already to make it through the long winter months and will be laying eggs by spring.  Some of the pullets that we have ready to go now just might be in egg production by late fall.

The Chocolate Orpington is one of the breeds that we have available in 4 to 5 month old girls, they will be laying very soon.  Obviously not this little girl, she is about 9 weeks old.  We do have a few different age groups ready to go.  Our chocolates are suppose to be bantams but really by the size that we are getting they really can't be considered bantams.  We are growing out Chocolates that are measuring up quit well to our standard sized breeds and are producing medium sized eggs.

I will have Welsummer pullets later in the fall.  This little girls still has baby fluff on her chin.  The Welsummer hens sell very quickly, so it's a good idea to get your order in early on this breed, that's what happens with a bird that lays an egg this beautiful.

The powder puff of the farm...probably one of the most friendly birds that we have, the beautiful Light Sussex.  I have 4 girls just like this one, they are right at 3 months old and absolutely gorgeous!  I also have several younger pullets in the Light Sussex breed that will be ready to go very soon.

This little girl was hard to get a good picture of, she wanted to check the camera out.  This is a Lavender Orpington, they are very curious and super sweet.   The lavender Orpingtons lay a beautiful pastel pink egg, they are also one of the best egg producers on the farm.  Even though we had one of the coldest winters ever, our Lavenders kept right on laying.  We are having extreme heat and humidity now and the lavenders keep right on laying.  We have nine week old young hens and roosters ready to go.

The beautiful Black Orpington.  This young gal is at that crazy juvenile age when they are just funny looking, you know what I fluff face, big feet and crazy feather growth in all directions.  This is a fast growing bird.  They are absolutely huge, even larger than the lavenders.  The Black Orpington also lay the pastel pink eggs.   I have three young pullets that are 3 months old and hefty!  If you like big butts, this breed is for you.  I  also have younger ones that will be ready to go very soon if you happen to miss out on the big girls.  They sell fast! 

The Black Copper Marans that I have are right around 3 months old, I also have younger ones.  With younger birds I can fit four in a box.  It depends on how big the birds are as to how many I can fit in a box. 
We are getting great coppering on our pullets and excellent egg color from our breeders.  This breed is also one of our best egg producers on the farm.  They lay great during the cold winter and hot summer.  

We have several 9 week old Splash Marans.  They will all look just a bit different, that's what I like about this breed, no two will ever look alike.  This little girl has some very nice coloring.  They also have a super sweet disposition.  Not only is this bird beautiful but it's also going to give you an impressive egg.  If your looking for pretty eggs and a pretty bird don't over look the Splash Marans.

We also have young roosters available in all of these breeds.
If you see something you like and want to place an order, head over to the website /
I'll be glad to answer any questions that you have.  We will also be shipping the day old chicks until the end of September.
Have a great day.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Making Homemade Soap And Memories

Last week our family got together to have our annual soap making.  We like to get together at least once a year and make homemade soap.   We had everyone from Great Grandmas and Grandpas, nieces, nephews, Aunts, Sisters, Daughter In Laws, cousins and grand kids.  It's a good time of story telling, laughing and just catching up with what's going on in everyone's busy lives.
I have a soap recipe that works well for me and I'll share that and some photos.  I got this recipe from the internet at Homemade Soap At Marsha's, she gives step by step video instructions which makes it very easy to follow. 

Items Needed:
Distilled water
6Lbs of oil
lemon juice
stearic Acid

I begin by measuring out my oils and melting them in a large pot on the stove.  I always use 2lbs of Coconut oil and 4 lbs of Vegetable shortning.  Marsha said we can use olive oil with this recipe but we tried this once and the verdict is still out on weather it works or not.  It didn't seem to harden up correctly so I'm sticking with what works.  

Once the oils are melted, we take the oil outside for the remainder of the steps, this is where the use of lye comes in and you will need plenty of ventilation. 
Next measure out 17 ounces of lye.
You now have a pot of melted oil, you will also need a stainless steel pot with 3 cups of distilled water in it.
Slowly add the lye to the pot of water.  Never add water to lye!  The water will now begin to get very hot.  Do not breath the fumes coming out of the pot or as Marsha says in her video, "you will choke!"

You'll need to wear eye protection and rubber gloves, as you can see I wasn't wearing my eye protection very well.  Don't be looking in my messy garage either.

Once the lye is dissolved in the water add your melted oils to the lye water.

( Ingredients in this photo are, lemon juice, stearic acid, Almond fragrance, oatmeal and raw bees wax.) 
After you have the oil stirred into the lye water, this is when you can mix in your essential oils, bees wax, honey, oatmeal or whatever you like.  After you get those mixed in it's time to add 2 cups of lemon juice and 2 ounces of stearic acid.  As you add those in you will see a pretty fast change in your mixture,  Your soap will begin to make trace.  Making trace means, as you stir the soap your wooden spoon will leave a trail in the soap.  Once the soap makes trace it's ready to pour into molds or just a plain ole card board box lined with wax paper.  This is the first time I've used the stearic acid, I think it helps with making better lather.  I've made this recipe before without the stearic acid and the soap turned out good.  I decided to go ahead and order some on the internet and give it a try, I'll be interested to see if it makes any difference.
The soap we made today is honey, almond, oatmeal, yum.  Smells good enough to eat!

Mixing the oatmeal in.

Pouring soap into molds.
Once the soap is poured into the molds, cover with an old towel to hold in the heat.  When the soap is cool and firm, score with a knife into the size of soap bar you like.    Let your soap cure for about 4 weeks, then it's ready to use.

While the adults made soap, the kids played.   These little girls are my grand daughters and great nieces.  They started out just looking in the ditch.

Didn't take long and they were down in the ditch dipping out snails.
Seeing them playing in the dirty water brought back memories of when my sister and I were just kids.  We asked mom if we could walk down the street and look in the big ditch.  She gave us permission to go look but don't play in the dirty water, "you could get polio" she said.  We walked down the street and peered into that mysterious dirty water, it didn't take us long until we couldn't stand it any longer.   We gave in and played in the murky water.  I remember one of  us said as we walked back home, "Polio's going to suck but that was fun."  Well mom, we didn't get Polio and eating the raw cookie dough didn't give me worms either.  Love you mom, I know you were just trying to keep us safe and afraid all at the same time.
   We had a great day, making soap and memories.
Have a Blessed day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Splash Marans - One Of My Favorite Of The Marans

Splash Marans

The Splash Marans have been an over looked breed on our farm for far too long.  I've decided it's time we stop doing that.  The beautiful Splash Marans are the off spring of the Blue Copper Marans, which has also been an over looked breed for many years.  Chicken fanciers are beginning to discover the Blue Copper Marans this year but are still slow to recognize the Splash Marans .  There has always been so much hype over the French Black Copper Marans that no one ever gave much attention to The Blue copper and the Splash and in my opinion are such pretty birds.

The only way to get a Splash Marans is by breeding a Blue Copper Marans,  with Blue Copper Marans.  The Blue gene is not a dominate gene so when breeding blue poultry you will get 50% blues, 25% black and 25% splash chicks.  These beautiful chicks are a lovely sky blue with yellow bellies when they hatch.

No two Splash Marans will ever look alike with their spots and dots.  As they mature they continue to color and spot.  It takes a good year or longer for a bird to fully color out.

This is a young cockerel, as he grows and matures he will get a nice rust or copper colored head.

The great thing about the Splash Marans, they will also give you a lovely dark egg.  
So don't over look the Splash Marans when making your poultry wish list.  We now offer the Splash Marans chicks on our website, we also have beautiful started pullets.  The young hen pictured in this blog is available for purchase now.  Head over to the website / to place your order.
We look forward to sharing some beautiful poultry with you!
Have a great Day!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Catching Our Bees As They Swarm

This past month both of our bee hives decided to swarm and I just happened to notice both times and was able to catch them.  The first time I was prepared and had a box ready, we hadn't really expected our own bees to swarm but had hoped to catch a swarm from my mothers wild hive or my sisters wild hive.  The second time they swarmed I wasn't so prepared.  Once again Larry wasn't home to help me and I had to improvise

The swarm landed on my newly planted apple tree and I thought I was going to need to cut the little tree down to catch the swarm, crazy I know.  I just hate to miss a swarm of bees especially when they came from my hive.  Decided it would probably be best to just bend the tree over some and give it a good shake into a cardboard box.

I shook them into the box and they stayed, which means I got the queen.  At least I didn't cut the tree down.  It seems that the bees swarm about the first two weeks of May in our area, last year at this time we caught our first swarm of bees.
When Larry arrived home we very quickly put together a bee box that we had ordered a few months back.  It's really best to be prepared for your bees, have your boxes put together and painted but we fly by the seat of our pants around this farm.  You can order your bee boxes fully assembled or in pieces.  They're pretty easy to assemble and a little less expensive that way.

 Just put your dove tailed corners together.

Use a hammer to make them fit good and tight.

You'll need to put a couple of screws on each side to hold them together.

You can purchase the frames fully assembled or assemble yourself, we ordered them assembled this time.

 No time for a paint job but ready for the bees to go into the box.  Guess we'll paint it at a later time.  Bees won't wait on you.

In they go.

We put the frames in and now we have another hive.  We very quickly went from having two hives to having four.  I'm now in the process of studying up on how to prevent them from swarming next year.  Looks like it involves moving a few brood frames up and empty frames down into the brood chamber.  Sounds like this needs to be done very early in the spring before the maple trees begin to bloom.  I still have a lot of learning to do.  In spite of my lack of knowledge of bee keeping my bees seem to thrive on there own.  It's fun to learn as we go.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring On The Farm - Hatching Chicks And Catching Swarms

Spring is in the air and busy farm life begins once again as most of you are probably experiencing also.  Not that it ever really stops around here but it does slow a bit in the winter.  Now that we are seeing warmer weather, chick hatching is in full swing and shipping has begun.  Some of our larger breeds of birds are still slow on fertility but that should pick up soon.  So if your have an order placed for a beautiful Coronation Sussex, Jubilee or Black Orpington, just be patient, it takes them a while to get going in the spring.  They will be worth the wait!

 With the purchase of a new incubator we're now able to hatch a few more eggs, I guess that's a few.  Don't you wonder how they keep from rolling out of the trays.  Every Monday night eggs go into the incubator so that we have a hatch every Monday night and ship every Tuesday.  To all of you wonderful customers out there waiting on your little fluffy butts we're hatching them out just as fast as we can.

With warmer weather and egg production on the rise this slithering beauty is looking for a free meal.    I love this picture, no I did not kill the snake.  I picked it up and took it to Larry, who was not thrilled with the idea I was bringing him a snake.

One of our biggest projects on the farm from spring to late fall is growing up young pullets.  If your waiting on a pullet order, we've not forgotten about you, it just takes time for these pretty birds to get to the age that we can sex them.  Once they get to that age half of them are roosters, so the complicated process begins again.  

It's also that time when we need to put the honey supers on the bee hives.  A honey supper is the small box on top.  The brood chamber is the bottom box,  The box in the middle is honey for the bees to live on during the winter.   Once they fill the top supper more will be added.  This hive produced two gallons of honey last year and it was their first year.  I expect they will produce much more this year.

We've set up two boxes in strategic locations to catch swarms.  This box is in my parents yard, they
have a hive in a tree that we caught a swarm from last year.  Le Charm has been added to the box to attract the bees.  As you can see my father is a great help to Larry, just holler if you need help Larry! 

My Son in law does the mowing for me every week, two weeks ago while mowing he was stung by our bees, so when he showed up last week he was a bit nervous about mowing.  I told him, it's a cool morning I doubt they are very active yet.   He looked out the window and said they look pretty active to me. The air was thick with bees all around the hive.  I thought to myself, this is not normal, it never looks like this.  Finally It came to me what was happening, they're swarming.  It figures the bees would swarm on a day Larry wasn't here to help.  So I told my son is law, Adam you've got to help me.  Since he was stung in the face last week he wasn't to sure about this. There's always something happening here on the farm and if you show up you just might be made to participate. 

We grabbed our extra bee box and headed for the swarm, with Adam saying I can't believe I'm walking through a swarm of bees, I said, shut up man and come on.  Luckily Larry's bee suit fit him just fine.  We really didn't need the suits, it just makes you feel better with them on.

The swarm only moved a few feet from the hive which is normal, they sit and wait as scout bees search for a new home.
I held the branch while Adam cut it down. 

After the branch was cut from the tree, I took the mass of bees over to the box, gave the branch a good hard knock on the edge of the box and they fell in.  Now we just hope the queen fell into the box along with the mass.

There was a few bees remaining on the branch, I sat the branch down and the bee walked into the box.  This tells me the queen is in the hive.

I place the frames and a feeder full of sugar water in the hive and put on the inner cover.

The bees instantly gather at the inner cover hole and begin fanning rapidly.  Only the worker bees do this, they are sending out a pheromone scent to guide any lost bees into the hive.  
Adam mowed the yard that day for me suited up in bee attire, wish I would have snapped a picture of that.  Thanks for all your help Adam, your a good sport.

Late that evening after dark we closed off the hive entrance, the next morning we moved the hive to the hive stand, opened the hive entrance and it was business as usual for the bees.
I have a question for you experienced bee keepers.  How do we keep the bees from wanting to split and swarm each year?  We thought they had plenty of room when we inspected them early this spring.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Have a Great Day!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Farm Happenings - Raising a Baby Wood Duck

Last May my daughter came bringing me a baby duck in a shotgun shell box.  It was a very tiny newly hatched bundle of fluff,  my daughter and a friend were taking a walk and the baby came screaming out the woods with a cat hot on it's little tail.  I guess, just as the baby ducks made the big jump from the hole in the tree the cat was waiting at the bottom of the tree for the them.  The cat killed some of the babies and the mother duck was nowhere to be found, my daughter rescued this little duck and brought it to me to care for.
 When she came bringing me this sweet baby I was just a bit mad at her until I had heard the complete story.  I am a firm believer that wild animals need to stay in the wild at all cost.  Once I came to the realization that we had to raise the baby the rush was on to figure out what kind of duck it was and how to care for it.  I raised mallard ducks many years ago but could tell immediately this was no mallard.
We put the baby in a plastic tote with a heat lamp, food and water.  For the first whole day the baby called for it's mother over and over.  The baby duck had a built in instinct to jump for the light in the hole in a tree, which caused it to jump at the heat lamp for an entire day thinking it was jumping for the hole in the tree.  This little duck could jump, climb, and run like nothing I had ever seen.  After much investigating I came to the conclusion we had a baby wood duck.  While searching the internet for as much information as possible on how to care for the baby, we didn't have much luck and most information told us that the odds were not good on raising one.  So I decided I was going to need to figure this out on my own.
I could see that the little duck was not eating or drinking so I decided to put a couple of baby chickens of the same age in with the duckling.  I didn't have any ducklings to put in with it and the feed stores no longer had any to sell.  Putting the baby chicks in the box with the duckling was the best thing we could have done for it.  Without them I don't think it would have survived.  
After one day the duckling no longer called for it's mother and the instinct to jump for the hole in the tree was gone.
The little duck was extremely wild, it didn't want us to look at it, ever!  It would not eat or drink if we looked at it, so we were not sure if it was eating.  The internet was no help on giving information on how to teach the duck to eat, so I began to think, what would the mother be feeding this baby in the wild, what would they be doing right now.  I knew the mother would have them on a pond bank digging around in the mud.  I headed to our pond dipped up a small amount of water and mud and took it to the duck and chicks and stood back out of the view of the duck and watched.  The chicks checked out the mud pretty quick and finally the duck came over and dug threw the mud and slurped up the water.  The next time I dipped up the mud from the pond I checked it out and there was all kinds of crawly, wiggly things in the mud and the duck loved it. 
The chicks taught the duck to eat chick food and they developed a absolute love for cucumbers.  As the three of them grew they became very close little friends and very quickly out grew the plastic tote.

At the time that we acquired this little orphan, I did not know that it was against the law for me to even have the duckling in our possession, it didn't come with a stamp on it's butt that said don't help me no matter what!  It was not my intention to take a duckling from the wild and raise to be a pet.  That said, now you all know it is against the law to have a wild duck.
We did not handle the duckling, it absolutely hated to be touch, we kept it as wild as possible. The duck loved her chicken pals and really wanted nothing to do with us.  It grew very quickly and I figured out early on that I was pretty sure it was a female.  The picture above on the right was in my goldfish pond.  That was not a great idea, I tied a string to her leg to allow her  to swim for a bit, she was so wild and afraid of us though that she really did not enjoy that.

So I decided just to give her an old was basin with some water in it.  She would not get in the basin if I was watching.  So I would give her the bowl, then step away, when I hear splashing I could sneak back up and watch.  Her chicken friends thought it was a bit strange for her to jump in the water bowl and flop around like that.

She grew into a beautiful duck so fast.  At this time we had moved them  into the dog pen with an old dog house converted into a duck/chicken coop. We hadn't planned on a duck, so we did not have duck accommodations. Each night, her and her two chickens friends would get in the dog house to sleep.  During the day, she would fly over the pen, investigate the yard and in the evening she would want back in the pen with her friends.  I said, it won't be long and she will find our big pond.  Well I was right, she would head up to the pond during the day and back to the dog house at night.  This past winter she released herself into the wild for good.  She heard the call of the wild and it was more than she could stand and she left our loving farm never to return again.  I'm happy for her and I hope that she is now raising some young ducklings of her own.
She was so interesting and I enjoyed her so much.  She was nothing like the mallards that we had raised many years ago.  Since she has left our farm I began looking for farms that sale these wonderful birds and I finally found Mallard Lane Farms.  I have since ordered one male wood duck and two female wood ducks.  The females are silver splits, so if later on I happen to order a silver male then we could have silver babies.  How exciting is that!!  You probably don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about unless you check out Mallard Lane Farms.   They have the most beautiful water fowl I've ever seen.  They were very helpful and easy to deal with on my order and my birds showed up absolutely beautiful and healthy.   Head over to their Facebook page and give them a like, you'll love the photos and you just might fall in love the ducks!
Have a great day!
Photos below are of the ducks acquired from Mallard Lane Farms.

This is our beautiful male wood duck.  He makes a really neat high pitched squeak, they higher and louder his squeak gets, the bigger his green mo hawk on his head grows.  So funny!
Woody and his girl friends, they are very shy and hard to get good photos of.  Head over to Mallard farms for good fowl photos.