Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cheese and chicks




I am making another wheel of cheddar today, and taking some more detailed photos of the process, just in case you all want to try it some time! But at 4:45 pm, I am still not ready to press it, so I thought instead I would do a post in memory of the little leghorn chick we lost yesterday.

I found her on the floor in the enclosed space where we keep them during the day. At first I thought she was just resting, but when she did not join the others in eating, I realized something was wrong. Some critter had torn up her back end. I stopped at the vet's on the way into work just to get their opinion as to whether she might live. Stacy the vet tech said she had a good chance if it was just external injuries and gave me some antiseptic to clean her up.

So little chick became Office Chicken yesterday. MJ named her Nellie Blye. But Nellie Blye must have had some internal injuries as well. She hung on for most of the day, but struggled and then died in my hands about 6 pm.

I wish I knew what happened so that I could protect her 3 little friends, but there is just no way to know. These pics of them are from today. The 2 darker ones (and Nellie) are Brown Leghorns. The yellow chick is the one that our hens hatched, and then rejected. He or she is half Buff Orpington (from the roo) and half Easter Egger (because we know she hatched from a blue egg). She has fully recovered from her rough start, and the 3 little leghorns accepted her right away. Her brother (or sister) is still being raised by the 2 mamas.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cheese, cheese and more cheese!

Since we began milking the goats last year, I have been making chevre pretty regularly. I mastered that process pretty quickly, so I decided to get more creative and try some cheddar this year. Also, this year we have at least twice the milk. We are milking both Lucille and Rosie. Lucille is a great milker. Rosie is less cooperative but seems to have more milk.

Chevre is very easy to make. I warm it up in a cooler filled with hot tap water, add starter and rennet and let it sit overnight. Then ladle the curd into cheesecloth and hang to drain for another 6 or 7 hours.

Cheddar requires more time (most of a morning and afternoon) more work (heating, cutting, and salting the curd) and a cheese press. The Husband bought me a beautiful cherry wood press from Homesteader's Supply for my birthday in May.

Starting with the first cheddar on May 31, I have made 1 wheel of cheddar per week for a total of 8. It is supposed to be better if aged for at least 60 days—the taste is sharper, and we both like sharp cheddar. But that means I won't know until the end of July whether or not my cheddar is eddarble. (hehe)

If it were up to me alone, I would have sneaked a taste right away, but the man insists on patience, which is something he normally has in short supply. (hehehe)

Conveniently, Brian and Eve are scheduled to come up next Friday, so we can test our first cheddar on them! At least they all look edible.

First small photo is the curd after cutting it in the pot. Whey is the liquid you can see that has already drained from the curd. Second: fresh wheel of cheese from this morning. Third: cheese press (maple version).

Once I find out if my cheddar is any good, I will try some different cheese recipes. For now I will just keep my fingers crossed that I haven't been wasting my time AND all that goat's milk!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Return of the wanderer!



My little escapee returned this morning. Even though I had looked there earlier, The Husband found her inside the fence she had escaped from last night. Safe and sound, but she certainly has not learned her lesson. You can see in the photo they are making their way to the top of the log inside the fence, looking for another chance to be free.

Little yellow chickie has no trouble keeping up with her 3 cellmates. Her injured foot and wing seem to have healed. She is a few days younger (maybe a week) than the others, and has some catching up to do in size, but otherwise seems to be healthy.

The Cayuga ducks were getting to know their new friends inside the fence for a few hours this morning, and then we set them all free. Not sure if they have been enjoying their freedom yet, but their environment even inside the fence is a huge improvement to their previous home. The baby ducks are full size now. The darker one looks almost like her daddy, but with more interesting "penciling" on her feathers. The lighter one looks just like her momma.

If they are indeed 3 females and 1 male, we can expect some truly interesting looking babies from this bunch. Or maybe we will just eat their eggs and enjoy the 4 of them as they are...







Saturday, July 11, 2015

New ducks and new chicken saga, or should I say dilemma


We took a nice hour-long drive on a nice day today to pick up 2 new ducks. Again they were supposed to be Cayugas, a pretty iridescent black and beetle green variety native to NY state, and again they are some sort of mix, but at least these look like half Cayugas, unlike the first bunch we bought.

It was a nice drive on the way there, but on the way back not so much. The poor ducks were being housed in a barn with no access to the outside, and plenty of poo inside. We had to leave the windows open with the air on just to be able to breathe on the way home.

The 2 pretty ducks were thankful for the bath in the bucket, and are now cleaned up and good to go.

It will take a few days to mingle with the 2 babies we raised here, our last remaining ducks from the other purchases. The babies are probably both females, and these older Cayugas are definitely a male and female. These 2 will need a couple of days to learn where they live before being allowed to roam with the babies.

The teenage Black Australorp chickens so far are getting along very well with the adults out front. Tonight I wanted to introduce them to a night in the coop with the others, but was distracted by a runaway chick from the bunch that are still being raised in the garage.

There are 3 that we got as replacements for the too-many roosters last year, plus our one little yellow chickie that was hatched but then rejected by the 2 mamas. I have been putting the 4 of them in a little fence outside on sunny days and bringing them in the garage at night. But tonight, 1 of the Leghorns jumped ship when I tried to put them back in the garage. She is still out there roaming free at 10:30 pm. I left her companions chirping in their crate just inside the garage with the door open, but am going to give up soon if she doesn't come back inside.

Big Mommy can only sit outside with the mosquitoes for so long waiting for the wandering child to come home...

Please come home, little wanderer!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chicken saga and ducks on the loose




Big Daddy Roo and 3 young girls in the hay bales waiting for the rain to end.

We lost several chickens recently to unknown causes. Two of the older ones disappeared during the day, and we lost another 4 to an unidentified ailment. One has been in Chicken Hospital (our garage) for about 4 days, and she just died today.

(photo 1) At the end of May we decided to increase our flock by buying 6 more young chickens—Black Australorps about 2 months old. We kept them closed up in the duck house outside for awhile until I could set them up in the dog house out by the coop with a fenced area for roaming. I am almost ready to open the fence during the day, but I want them to get used to where they live so we don't have any trouble rounding them up at night. Soon enough I hope they will join the other free-ranging chickens in the coop.
(photo 2) Three of our hens have been sitting on eggs in the nest boxes—not where we would like them to be, because now the other hens are laying their eggs somewhere else and we don't know where! Last week 2 of them each hatched a chick, and the third one decided she was done sitting on eggs and rejoined her sisters. So at least the nest box is clear again, but there are a dozen eggs in the garage under the heat lamp trying to become more chickies. I don't expect that to work, but have to try.

(photo 3) So now we have 2 very protective momma hens with 2 new chicks. In the first day, the chicks jumped down off the table where the nest boxes are and I found all of them outside playing in the dirt under the big weedy bush next to the coop. I think they'll be OK with mommas watching during the day, but I lock the 4 of them up at night in a crate to keep them safe from critters and the other chickens.

(photo 4) Next day I check on them and the one yellow chick has been injured somehow. I put her over next to the mommas and they scratch in the dirt knocking her across the room where she gets buried in the hay and wood chips. Then Red Mom picks her out of the pile only to bury her again! What? I pulled her and put her in Chicken Hospital too. At first it looked like her one foot and wing were injured, now just the foot is curled under. It could have even been that way from birth, but I think not. The moms hurt her and I don't know why.

(photo 5) To add to the excitement, yesterday I picked up 3 Brown Leghorn chicks from the lady who sold us the roosters that were supposed to be hens. I thought I could add them in with the 2 mommas, but they attacked these little ones as well, so now they have joined poor yellow chick with the bad foot in the garage. That was probably a good move because it was very chilly here last night, but nice and warm in there under the heat lamp. The 4 of them get along just fine.

(photo 6) We let the ducks out of their pen for the first time today. One of them has a funky looking wing, possible birth defect. Hard to tell yet if they are boys or girls, but the lighter one looks just like her momma, and the darker one like dad.

Nice chilly rainy day and the only safe and warm ones are the 4 little chicks in the garage. Chilly here in the house too! It's the end of June. It just ain't right!



Friday, June 12, 2015

Conservation Easement closing with a butterfly and moth



This morning we closed on our Conservation Easement which will be appropriately named Lester's Flat. I am posting my favorite Lester's Flat photo of Lester enjoying a swim in the Herkimer Creek back in May 2007. Our portion of this creek will now be preserved in perpetuity.

The post before this one has a better description of the easement —the short story is that our meager 23+/- acres will be preserved forever.

To celebrate our closing with the Otsego Land Trust, we received a goodie basket and a freshly baked pie from them. In return, in addition to my little offering of some homemade goat cheese, I am posting 2 photos taken earlier this week. One of a black butterfly who was hanging out for quite a while on our front porch, the other of a huge moth that I saved from being swatted with a newspaper at The Freeman's Journal where I work.

From my minimal online research, the butterfly is a White Admiral. The moth is the same type I saw on our back porch in June 2012. Someone from the ID Please group on Flickr identified it as a Waved Sphinx. If anyone has a better ID for either one, please feel free to comment.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The big picture

We got the good news yesterday that the Baseline Report is finished for the Conservation Easement we are going to get on our property. We go to closing in June. We have been working on this with the Otsego Land Trust for over a year now. We think our land is worth saving, and they seem to agree.

Having a bald eagle nest right across the street from us probably helped to seal the deal!

The red outline on the map is the boundary of our land, which will be divided into Building Area, Open Space Area, and Natural Area. The green shaded part will be retained as natural space...in perpetuity. This is a combination of woods and creek, with a smattering of old apple trees, probably the remains of an orchard from when this was all The Herkimer Farm. We are still exploring back there, with a little help from the dogs, and have found a wide variety of plants, birds, and other critters including deer, coyote, fox, skunk, porcupine, beaver, frogs, toads, turtles, and the ever unpopular groundhog of which we have WAY too many.

Neighbors say there are also bobcats (think I saw one), a mountain lion, bear, mink, weasel, fisher cat, and a wide variety of predators who would love to eat our chickens and ducks—some are already gone—but the little Jack Russell across the road has done more damage thus far than any of the mystery predators.

We also got the bad news yesterday that our neighbor in New Jersey wants to trim back the really old cedar trees on the edge of our property. While I understand her good intentions, I know from back in my Tree Commission days that old cedars are not easily pruned. The only way to get these trees to stop dropping stuff on her car in the driveway is to shear the whole one side. That would kill the trees which we would then have to remove altogether. The easy solution is to take out the trees, but it would cost a fortune and I really hate to see them go.

So we will do the best we can to work with the tree trimmers and simply pray they do not kill those beautiful trees. I don't want to be whipping my property into shape anymore, I want to enjoy it as is. I won that battle up here, but will probably lose that battle in NJ.

Signing off today as the Big Tree Hugger. Wish me well.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ducks day out, hens have a heyday


Nice sunny warm day—the first time I was able to allow the little ducklings to play in the sun and grass. Their first time out from under the heat lamp in the garage. They were a little scared and probably confused at first, partly because the chickens had to come over to investigate. The chickens are the first other animals they have seen besides us, and the girls were very much interested in the little babies out there. Playmates? Enemy invaders?

We are actually searching for some more chickens. Two of our older ones have gone missing. Of the 7 original Wyandottes (black and white) and Rhode Island Reds, we have 2 remaining. They are the 2 in the photo behind the duck cage, also in the other photo. We purchased 3 full-grown grey/blue hens shortly after that, and all 3 of those are gone now.

And of the last 10 babies from last spring, just in the last 3 weeks we have lost 2 of those to mysterious circumstances.

So we are down to 1 handsome Buff Orpington rooster and 12 young(ish) ladies to keep him occupied and to give us eggs. We are having a hard time keeping our Greek friends satisfied with eggs. The 2 different families, who know each other, still call and tell me to "Save all the eggs for me". And we are still trying to supply enough to keep Anna, who sells them in her shop, happy too.

So we are asking around for anyone who is selling or giving up adult hens. I also contacted the woman who sold us the 4 roosters (that were supposed to be 3 hens and 1 roo). She is getting in some new chicks in June and is happy to give us 3 of them to make up for the extra roos.

And we have one of the Buff hens still sitting on eggs in the coop. She did get up one time and we saw only one egg under her, so there is not much hope that she will succeed in hatching any, but you never know. There is also a small chance that one or both of the hens that ran off a couple of weeks ago is outside somewhere sitting on eggs, but I doubt that is where they disappeared to...

So for now we are happy to be raising 2 little duckies. Can't wait to see if they are boys or girls. My gut says that the dark one is a boy, and the light one a girl, but I have no reason to trust my gut. Time will tell.



Monday, May 18, 2015

Happy Birthday Middle Sis! (OR Sis)


Today is actually your birthday, so here are some photos for you. No more nudies in the sink, but this time, some oldies but goodies from your shower and wedding, and one of your favorite? house. (I might be in there too!)

Were you truly surprised at your shower...or just faking it for the camera?

I know there are a lot of things going on for you, job-wise and otherwise, and we wish you all the best in making those tough decisions.


Whatever decisions you make will be the right ones. Trust me!

As for the sweet little ducklings who could not wait for your birthday, they are doing very well, and are about twice the size they were in the first picture. If they turn out to be a boy and a girl, we will name them Jo and Dan for you.

Warning though: critters don't necessarily have a long life up here, so if they disappear (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) we cannot be held responsible.

Have a great birthday, Sista!




Thursday, May 14, 2015

A pleasant surprise—Duck story chapter 2

I told you around Little Sister's birthday in April that the 2 remaining ducks who were living here at Lester's Flat had ditched us...or were about to. They had stopped letting us close them up safely at night, but were still coming back during the day to hang out with the chickens (and eat the chicken feed). The pictures I took then were probably the last day that they even came back during the day. The neighbor out front said he had seen them behind the barn a few times even a week or more later, but now they have disappeared completely.

I choose to believe that they found the creek and moved down there, or maybe down to the lake to make a happy life together. The alternatives are not pretty.

Early this morning we got a phone call that of the 10 eggs I stole from the nest back in April, 3 of them hatched! I gave them to Elmer, a neighbor with an incubator, just in case they might give us some more duckies. I didn't really expect them to hatch because they had been in the crate outside for several very cold days without a momma sitting on them.

Three hatched, but one of the ducklings was pretty obviously not healthy. He or she had trouble breaking out of the shell, and was all wobbly and weak while the others were moving about normally. The poor little thing died a few hours later.

The remaining 2 are so far, very happy little ducklings out in the garage, under the heat lamp. I will do my best to help them through these difficult first few days.

So adorable! And just in time for Middle Sister's birthday! Happy birthday (almost) Middle Sister!