Week in Review: Nov. 29/15

As November draws to a close and the nights fall below freezing water is becoming more of an issue. Due to the lack of power out in the coops and the colony it’s becoming necessary to replace the water jugs and bottles regularly. The animals drink their fill when the fresh water is put out and usually eat a belly full of feed while they’re at it. The fear of fire is the main reason we don’t run electricity out to the animal housing and the amount of dry straw and shavings that is used for bedding. The chicken coops are directly under some giant evergreens which provide shade and protection from airborne predators in the summer but present a substantial fire hazard. The animals have done fine under the current system with nursing does successfully raising litters in the winter and the chickens having no apparent issues.

The last turkey boarded the bus to Freezer Camp on Wednesday. The turkeys have been a very successful project this year with over 360 lbs net weight of turkey being processed. Next year should prove to be less work and stress due to the infrastructure now being in place and the processing procedure under our belt. There will be a few design improvements incorporated into the system over the winter and the processing area redone in the spring. At this point it’s likely that we will raise a larger number of turkeys next year and keep a better eye on their weights so as to provide a bird in a more acceptable weight range for the table.

Dawn is hatching her eggs now. She started off with ten and there were eight as of a couple days ago. One seemed to have been crushed, likely with another bonehead hen trying to lay eggs in Dawn’s nest. It was partially hatched but did not survive. At last check tonight there were seven eggs left with a couple of breaches and some tiny peeping sounds. Hopefully she will take care of these chicks with the gusto that she has raised the last two batches this year and we hope the weather holds out with the temperatures not dipping too lo for at least a couple of weeks so the chicks ill have a chance to grow some feathers and get stronger. They will likely spend most of their time under their mother so we hope it won’t be a problem.

We passed the 2000 egg mark this week since keeping official records of the egg count in July. Some smaller eggs have started making an appearance in the nests now so the chicks that were hatched in the spring are starting to lay. This is a good thing since some of the regular layers are molting now and they stop laying when they molt. We are down to an average of less than ten a day at the moment but are continuing to keep the solar lights on in the coop until at least nine o’clock to give the birds the illusion of longer days. Some renovations of the coop including relocation of a few of the nest boxes and the addition of new roosts should help sort some things out. The flock has basically doubled in size this summer from the chicks that were hatched in the coop and the incubator. There will be no need to buy new chickens next year, in fact there will likely be more hatched next year so the flock seems to be self-sustaining at this point which is one of the basic steps on the path to self-sufficiency. Now we just have to work on the expensive food issue…

Lucille Bunnyrabbit continues to renovate her fancy nest but still no kits yet. It is built pretty deep with straw and lots of fur so it seems she is expecting something but nothing yet. Fred Bunnyrabbit is still going strong at age seven, the poor guy is molting right now and looks like he has a serious case of bed head all over his body and enjoys a good hard back scratch as he is probably itchy as hell. Some renovations and redesign will be coming for the colony to update and reinforce things and make it easier to measure the food so as to keep an eye on expenses.

Poor Fred looking kind of ratty:

We here at The Welcome Homestead wish everyone a happy and productive week!


Week in Review: Nov. 22/15

Well, we missed last week’s Week in Review due to web site changeover and actually there wasn’t really anything exciting that happened that week anyway. We hope something exciting happens here every week but the reality is that it doesn’t. It could be a good thing, though, as it could indicate everything is going along without a hitch, however, we prefer some happy excitement!

We’ve now entered the season of frozen water and foggy glasses. Last night was the first night we have had to deal with frozen water bottles, more specifically the ball and tube assembly on the bottle freezes. The chicken water jugs aren’t as vulnerable to cold due to the larger volume of the jug and the greater number of tiny beaks that constantly drink out of them and keep the water stirred up. Of course, under a certain temperature they will freeze solid in a short amount of time so will have to be replaced three or four times a day.

Dawn is still setting on her eggs, down now from ten to eight, likely due to other dummy hens still trying to lay eggs in her nest and stirring things up. Hens have been removed from her nest after being found squeezed in with her while trying to lay their egg. There are eight other nest boxes available but the stubborn birds seem to really like a certain nest box. This completes the second week of setting for her so if we’re lucky we should start to see some chicks sometime next weekend. They will have to be closely monitored and if there is a problem they will have to be brought into the house and raised inside until they are fully feathered. Hopefully Dawn will take good care of them and they will be feathered by the time the dog days of winter set in.

On Monday two more turkeys were processed, 25 and 28 pounds respectively, bringing the total processed weight of the turkeys this year so far to 321 pounds with one big tom left. The turkeys have been very successful this year, more than expected actually, so we hope with better weight monitoring next year they can all be processed at an optimal weight of about 16-18 pounds. That first tom that went on the scales at 44 pounds sure was a real shocker. The meat grinder and vacuum packager worked overtime for a while there and we should be set up for meat until the next batch of birds is processed next year.

Here’s the last man standing. He’ll likely be on the bus to Freezer Camp this week.

Lucille Bunnyrabbit built a beautiful nest, deep in straw and liberally mixed with fur but no popples as of yet. It’s not certain what the problem is as she has had litters of 11 last winter and is still a young doe but we’ll keep going with her for now. It’s been very disheartening to see two nests built in the last couple of months and no kits but it is a part of nature so we just have to go with it. There have been many highs and lows as we continue along our Homesteading path and that contributes to the sense of satisfaction when things seem to work out in the end somehow.

With winter now on us there will be less work outside besides the normal cleaning and maintenance of the colony and coop. The last tom should be processed this week so that will be one less facility to clean out and one less water jug and feed pail. This winter will be one of planning for the spring and deciding what the new project will be for the coming year. We’re hoping for a mild winter this year on The Homestead but there is no real way to know until we wake up each morning and look out the window.

All of the critters at The Welcome Homestead wish everybody a productive and safe week.


Week in Review; Nov. 8/15

The weather was great this week at The Welcome Homestead, temperatures generally nice and warm which enabled some outside work to get done. Winter predictions have run the gamut from a short, warm winter with little snow to a long, cold, snowy winter due to El Nino. We try to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

One project that has been a long time in coming is the compost screener. This was completed on Tuesday and now allows for the screening of compost to ensure a consistent product and remove any bones and unfinished material. The beautiful black compost that is the end result is amazing and fluffy and is easy to spread out on the gardens. A couple of screws and small pieces of metal were also removed in the screening process so there is a bit of a safety aspect to it too. Oh, we’re also keeping an eye out for a paddle for the bread maker that a certain Grumpy Truck Driver left in a loaf of bread that ended up in the compost so we can use the bread maker again.

Another project that got underway was the pop can solar collector. It was finished and installed on Friday. Saturday was partly cloudy so a test wasn’t able to be completed but Sunday was mostly sunny so a test was done for part of the day but the results were inconclusive. It was constructed quickly and poorly so some more work needs to be done to seal it better. This will likely be covered in it’s own post at a later date.

A couple more worm bins were harvested and new bins started with the worms that resulted. Due to a couple of years of neglect by the above mentioned Grumpy Truck Driver the worms are mostly small and unhealthy but when introduced to a properly maintained bin with fresh food and bedding they should grow into large, mostly pink healthy worms.  Worm compost is a very healthy addition to any soil and can also be made into a tea to spray on the plants to add beneficial bacteria and nutrients.

Fred and Lucille Bunnyrabbit still haven’t had a litter yet but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. There is a black doe out there, Lucille’s sister who had the chewed up litters that we might give another chance to, since discovering the rats here this summer may have absolved her of the blame for the chewed up kits.

Dawn has gone broody again for the third time this year. After taking eggs out from under her for the last two weeks and having to put up with a cranky hen it was decided to give her some eggs and see what happens. She is now sitting on about eight eggs and appears to be a lot happier. It’s very late in the season for the hens to be hatching chicks out in the coop but if the temperatures continue to be mild it may help. It will be interesting to see if her behavior toward the chicks would be any different in the colder weather and if she pays more attention to keeping them warm. It’s quite possible that we could have chicks in the house over the winter however we’re curious to find out about hatching chicks in the winter and hoping it will work out.

Three turkeys are still left out there but we’re almost finished our last bag of feed so they will be gone soon. Freezer space was made this week so they will fit in there if necessary. We are currently at 268 pounds of turkey processed from the nine birds done so far with three to go.

There are two young roosters that will be invited for dinner soon along with a hen that has a leg injury. It looked like it was getting better and, from a quick examination, didn’t appear to be broken but she can’t seem to put any weight on it at the moment so it’s best if she gets the dinner invitation too. One very small egg was collected on Saturday so the hens that were hatched in the Spring appear to be starting to lay which is a good thing as a lot of them are molting now and hens usually stop laying when they molt.

We wish everyone a safe and productive week.


Week in Review: Nov 1/15

The autumn winds are blowing now and most of the leaves are gone, the naked trees pointing their bony fingers to the sky as if they’re flipping off the coming winter. The chipmunks are busy scurrying around gathering their winter stores and sternly scolding anyone or anything that gets in their way. The hedge along the back of the property is temporary home to a flock of birds gathering for the trip south and feasting greedily on the chicken feed whenever I turn my back. The sun seems tired, it’s daily travels lower in the sky as if it doesn’t have the energy to climb higher than that. The evenings are longer and the shadows reach and stretch across the countryside, ushering in the night with long ghostly arms. The weather is supposed to be good this coming week, possibly record warmth according to the weather guy on TV but we all know winter is just around the corner.

The Welcome Homestead is doing our best to prepare for winter. The gas cans were filled this week so the snow blower will have enough to drink until spring. The winter straw has been brought in and tucked away in the straw bunker so the rabbits will have snug warm bedding to get them through the winter blast.

Firewood is piled neatly and ready for the winter bonfires. The garden hoses will have to have the water drained out of them, be coiled up and stored away for the winter. The grass was cut for the final time and the lawn mower and the snow blower traded spots in the shed for the season, the mower having worked hard all summer and quite deserving of a rest.

The Welcome Homestead joined Twitter this past week and is working hard to catch up to the 21st century’s technology. It’s a big learning curve because the Grumpy Truck Driver is not a technological whiz and each new phase is a big learning step but we’re getting through it with some help from our friends and family.

Thirty pounds of turkey breast was processed on Wednesday, 23 pounds was ground and 7 pounds was cubed, all were vacuum packed in one pound lots and frozen. This is in addition to the turkey legs, wings and necks that were vacuumed packed and frozen. All of it was all from the two tom turkeys that were processed on Sunday. There are three birds left, one tom and two hens, who will all likely be boarding the bus to Freezer Camp this week. We are on our last bag of turkey feed and the weather will be getting pretty freezy soon so it’s perfect timing to wrap it all up. We have enjoyed the turkeys this year and are looking forward to doing it all again next year. The infrastructure is already in place and there is a year of knowledge behind us now so hopefully it will make next year easier and even more enjoyable.

Fred and Lucille Rabbit still haven’t produced a litter going on a couple of months now. The rabbits have not been getting the attention they should have this year due to the due to the goings on with the turkeys and having a busy year with the chickens. There are a few things to mull over this winter and the rabbit housing is one of them. There may have to be additional housing built to accommodate the grow out time of the litters so the does can have a new litter in peace. All in all it was a busy summer and we’re fairly satisfied with the progress that has been made here and looking forward to more growth next summer.

Everyone have a safe and productive week.