Explore the blog, Then Check out our website

Explore the blog, Then Check out our website
Chicken Scratch Poultry

Thursday, September 22, 2016

White Cushaw Spuash - Heirloom Seed

The White Cushaw, which is one of the more rare varieties of Cushaw, is a monstrous sized squash that has been grown in my family for as long as I can remember and even much longer than that.  It's a very versatile squash with a mild sweet nutty flavor that can be used instead of pumpkin for pies, breads, cakes, soups and much more.   It is considered a winter squash due to the fact that it can be stored for up to four or five months.  They are easy to grow, tolerate heat, pest resistant and a great source of vitamin C.

 My grandfather who was born in 1925 has told us of the Cushaws importance as a food source growing up in a large family in the late 20's.   His mother always kept a crock full of cooked squash on hand.  He tells how she would dip it from the crock and fry it in butter to serve with each evening meal.  The squash were kept in a cool dry place and would keep well all winter long.  Grandpa said that orange pumpkins were grown for animal feed and the Cushaw was for their family to eat, that gives you a little bit of an idea as to which is the tastier of the two.
My grandpa who is now 94 has kept this heirloom seed all of his life and has passed it down to his family with the stories of the importance of being self sufficient  and working hard.
The White Cushaw does require a good amount of space to grow because it puts on long runners but he taught me the best way to handle that also.  Plant your Cushaw in your sweet corn patch, the two grow well together.  My grandpa is the best gardener I've ever known.  I just wish I would have paid a little better attention when he was giving his gardening advice.
To your right is my 91 year old grandfather, my newest grand baby and me.

My sister grew this Cushaw with my grandfathers seed.  They can grow to enormous sizes!  This one probably weighed 30 lbs.

One of my favorite ways to fix the white Cushaw is to slice the neck in hunks, heap on some brown sugar, butter, sprikle with cinnamon and bake for about 45 min. at 350 degrees.  Yumm

 This is just half of the neck of the squash, one Cushaw makes enormous amounts of squash to use in pies just like you would use pumpkin.  It makes a lighter color of pie but delicious!  Just boil in water, drain, smash and freeze for later use.
Next year when your planning your garden, search out some heirloom seeds, you won't be disappointed.
Have a Great Day!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Farm Happenings / Young Pullets Available

Hard to believe it is already August, time really slips by when your busy.  We're caught up on our chick orders at this time but we are still accepting chick orders.  So if you are interested in getting just one more shipment of chicks before cold weather sets in this is a great time to be thinking about doing that.  We have a list of breeds that can be shipped quickly on the Website if your interested in that. We usually keep hatching and shipping the day old chicks right up to the end of September.  It's actually a good time to get chicks because they will start laying just in time for spring.  It's also a good idea to have two different age groups of hens so that when the older group of hens is taking a break from laying your younger hens will begin laying.

This is also  a good time to think about placing your orders for young pullets for fall shipment, we also have some pullets that are ready to ship now.  Head on over to the website at Chicken Scratch Poultry and see what all we have available for shipment now.  Your always welcome to give me a call and I can let you know exactly what we have ready to go 618-643-5602.  I'm always happy to explain our shipping polices and tell you all about the little peeps that are ready to be shipped to your loving home :)
It always amazes me how there is a fall rush for pullets just like the spring rush for chicks.
So don't miss out!  I talked to so many of you last fall that said "if I had only known you had pullets in the fall".  All right here's your warning, I will have pullets in fall.
Some of the breeds I will have in the young started pullets will be the Lavender Orpington.  This breed has been the top seller for the past two years, don't wait too long to place an order because they sell fast!  I'll also have the French Black Copper Marans, Blue Copper Marans, Splash Marans, Light Sussex, Chocolate Orpington, Black Orpington and probably a few Olive Eggers.
I know some of you that ordered the Ameraucanas are still patiently waiting on your pullet orders.  Never fear I will get them to you.  The Ameraucana hens took a break on laying during our busiest time of the year, silly girls what were they thinking??  They did finally pick up the pace on production and we do have brooders full of Ameraucanas but now we are waiting to guess who is going to be a hen.  What a guessing game that is...

We're also working on our very own line of  Mottled Orpington, they will be a black bird with white spots, we're just in the beginning stages with this breed but if you would like to be the first to have one of those I have a few young pullets now, give me a call, there will only be a very few of these available.  They will be a very large beautiful bird.  Keep in mind this is our project bird and does take time to perfect.  If you like a super friendly, extra large, fluffy butted hen, this bird is for you!  I like big butts on my girls!
Hope you all are having a wonderful summer!
Hope to hear from you soon.
Birds of a feather flock together!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ayam Cemani / Black Chicken

Come on over to the dark side...you'll be glad that you did.  We have a new breed on the farm, It's the Ayam Cemani.  We've actually had it for well over a year now.  Early this past spring we also traveled to Greenfire farms and picked up some started young birds of this breed to work with on our breeding project of the Ayam Cemani.

Absolutely mesmerizing sums up the description of this magnificent bird.  The Ayam Cemani is one of the rarest breeds of poultry in the US.  This ink black bird originates from the jungles of Indonesia where it's black meat is thought to have mystical and medicinal powers.  Yes I said black meat.  The comb is black, the skin is black, the bones are black and the meat is black.

 The Ayam Cemani are very hardy, easy to handle and low maintenance. The chicks are very strong, active, sturdy little guys.   This breed is very easily tamed to be a friendly back yard chicken.  The Ayam Cemani are  great free rangers and absolutely stunning to see roaming around your yard.  The roosters dance and strut from the moment you let them out of the coop until you shut them back up.

The hens are good layers, I was actually very surprised at what good layers they are.  They lay a cream colored egg, not a black egg, darn it. Our hens laid all winter long, which was also a nice surprise.  They also lay a rather large egg for the size of this bird.
The Ayam Cemani breed is for the true poultry enthusiasts, if you like eye candy in your yard this is the bird for you. 

The hens are just as stunning as the Roosters. If you love the challenge of breeding poultry, this breed is absolutely a bird you will love! Please do your homework before purchasing the Cemani, this is not a get rich quick breed. You need an understanding of the Fibro gene.
Our farm has proof of origin for our breeders, if a farm cannot provide that, buyer beware! 

 Yes they truly are black from the inside out.  Whether they have mystical or medicinal powers, I'll leave that for you to decide...

Have a great day.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Growing Elm Oyster Mushrooms - Monkey Mushrooms Garden Kit

Each spring Larry and I enjoy hunting wild mushrooms, we mostly look for Morels but have recently discovered that Oyster mushrooms are also very easy to identify.   We thought it might be fun this year to try growing our own Oyster mushrooms.  I began doing some research on growing mushrooms, inoculating logs with mushroom spores, and many other ways to begin growing mushrooms.  Then I came across this kit, they had a do it yourself YouTube video and several good reviews.   The name of the Company is 100th Monkey Mushroom Farm.  Larry is always looking for a new adventure, so when the mushroom farm showed up in the mail he could hardly wait to get his shrooms growing!

      Keep your box in the refrigerator until your ready to plant. 
The best time to plant is when your outdoor temps are consistently between 50 and 80 degrees.  There are many different options for planting your mushrooms.  You can inoculate logs, plant in a bucket, container or a garden bed.  We decided to plant in a garden bed.

As you can see he always gets ahead of me and my photos but the first step he laid down cardboard and wet it really well.  Then he added a layer of straw.  It says straw, dry grass or wood chips work well.

Remove your spawn from the box and bag.

Begin breaking up the spawn into small granules.

It has an interesting fermented smell, not a bad smell.  Now that it is all crumbled up it's time to spread.

Sprinkle the spawn on the first layer of straw.

Spray with water.  Isn't he doing a good job!

Apply another layer of straw, and sprinkle with mushroom spawn again and spray with water.  Top it off with another layer of straw and water again.

Once you have all your mushroom spawn layered into the straw and water well.  Cover with black plastic and water it once a week.  If it's raining uncover and let it get a good rain shower.  Leave the plastic on until you see growth.

When you begin to see this white webby looking stuff you know your close to getting mushrooms.  I'm sure there is a name for this growth...

About four weeks after we began this project we begin to see shroom growth, we were so excited because you know we checked it daily up until now.  Once you start seeing growth remove your plastic and water it 1 to 2 times a day until they are ready to pick.

I pick a handful of mushrooms everyday right now.  I pick them when they are small, our temps are getting pretty hot during the day and if I try and let them get very big they turn to mush fast, so I pick them small.  Cooler climates probably grow bigger mushrooms. 
 If your interested in growing your own mushrooms I recommend the 100th Monkey Mushroom farm.
Pretty tasty too!
Have a great day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pigs Grown Out And Ready For Processing

 You might remember back in January we traded three chickens for two little pigs?  It's been pretty amazing how quickly they have grown.  When they first arrived we offered them raw eggs on their feed and they looked at it as if we just ruined their food, they would push the eggs to the side and eat the dry feed.  After about a week they decided raw eggs were pretty good.  As you can imagine we have a lot of egg waste with eggs that are too dirty to incubate or eggs that just don't develop during incubation.  Well it didn't take long for these little pigs to know that eggs were like manna from heaven on the poultry farm and they began to grow very quickly.

Our plan from the beginning was to process the pigs on our own but plans can change.  The pigs would be ready to process in the spring during our busiest time of the year, so we decided to send them off to be processed by a professional, we'll save that adventure for another time.

The pigs could probably have still used a little more growth but the business that will be doing the  processing stops taking pigs at a certain time in the spring, so we're working with a deadline that we didn't want to miss.

Like I said before, when we began the growing out of the pigs we planned to butcher them ourselves so we really didn't think about where we set up their pen.  We put the pig pen way back behind our old barn where there is no access to it by truck or trailer, not very good planning.  When it was time to think about transporting them to the meat processor that's when we began to think, how are we going to get them there...
You can't really see the pig pen from this photo but it is back behind these chicken pens.  So we ran some wire up to the back of these chicken pens, opened up the chicken pens and ran them through the series of gates.

 Just a small amount of guiding them with a piece of ply wood and they went right into the stock trailer.

Into the stock trailer and away they go.  They'll be back and in the freezer in two weeks.  My bit of advise to you, if you plan on growing out your own pigs, it's not difficult at all and they grow very fast, just put your pen in an area with easy accesses for a truck and trailer.
Have a blessed day.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Catching Bee Swarms

This spring has been a busy time of catching swarms and working with our hives.  My parents have a wild hive in their front yard and every year just like clock work it swarms.  This year that wild hive did something we were not prepared for, it swarmed four times.  It's possible that it does this every year but we just don't always notice it each time.

The first swarm from the wild hive was pretty large and hung in two clumps, which a first we thought it was possibly two separate swarms but once we caught them and seen how they reacted we made the assumption it was one swarm.

 The swarm had landed rather high in the tree which makes it harder to reach as you can see.

We got them into the box which isn't difficult, just a couple of good knocks and they shake right into the box.  The question I get asked most often is, how do you know you have the queen.  You need to watch how the bees act once you get them into the box.  They won't stay in the box if the queen isn't in there.

Another way to tell if you caught the queen, watch the bees, if she is in the box, several of the bees will sit on the edge of the box and fan their wings sending out the scent to the other bees telling them hey the queen is in here.  Leave the box sit until every bee has went into the box. Then you can tape up the box and load it into the back end of your truck (I don't think I would transport them inside your vehicle) and take them home to their new hive.
Since this wild hive swarmed four times it was getting  expensive to set a new hive each time we caught another swarm.  It's about $140 - $200 every time you set up a new hive, if you don't already have the hive boxes to move them into.  So we started doing it a little different.
The second time this hive swarmed we tried something new that we had not tried before, we combined the swarms.

To do that we stapled news paper to the bottom of the brood box.

 Sit that box on top of the hive you are wanting to combine the new swarm with.  Once it is stacked, shake the new swarm into the brood box, add your frames and a hanging feeder to that box and put on the inner cover.

Watch the bees for a little bit once you put on the inner cover.  If the queen is in the box the bees will stand around the inner cover hole and fan like crazy telling everyone she's in the box.
Once all the bees go into the hive put on the outer cover.

Within just a couple of days the bees have removed the newspaper and now they have become one hive.  I think at some point one of the queens will be killed by the other queen.  Not completely sure about this since I am still very new to bees.  So far so good with this procedure.  A couple of days later we also took some brood frames and honey frames from one of our other hives and put them into this hive just to give them a boost and a good start.

Did you know that 42% of the bee colonies in the US collapsed in 2015?  70 out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees.  Have you noticed that the honey bee is no longer on the Honey Nut Cheerios box?  Does this concern you?  Did you know that once the honey bee is gone, within four years the human race will be gone?  What are we going to do about this?