Thursday, April 15, 2010

Surprise Duckling...what happens when you don't mark eggs...

One of the smallest ducklings I've had the pleasure to own are mallard ducklings. The mallards themselves as adults are smaller than rouens, muscovies (by a bunch!), blue swedish, and my Welsh Harlequins.

Now my mandarins were even smaller than my mallards, but since they never hatched any babies for me, i've no clue how small their babies would be at hatching.

Now the smallest ducks I own are my call ducks - they are about 1/2 the size of my mallards, or almost 1/2 their size. They have small round heads and cutie patootie little bills. For little ducks, the calls lay generous sized eggs.

I had set several (or so I thought) mallard duck eggs in my incubator. They started hatching day before yesterday. One of them hatched out waaaaaaaaaay smaller than the other, and I was trying to figure out "why is this mallard only 1/2 the size of the other, with only a 12 hour difference in age?"

Then it dawned on me.

I had not marked my eggs, thinking they were all mallard eggs. I managed to confuse 2 call duck eggs with some of my mallard eggs!

So, yesterday, I had a blue fawn pied call duck hatch! I'm so excited!

I started looking at the eggs left in the incubator, and comparing sizes, and while the call ducks do lay a nice sized egg, they are definitely still smaller than the mallard eggs, but not by much.

I have two more mallard eggs due to hatch anytime (they are pipping as I type) and one more call duck egg - which I'm hoping might be a pastel...but who knows???

Since my blue fawn pieds look nearly identical to mallards, save for their white markings, the only reason I know for sure it's a call is by it's size. Tiny bill, tiny feet, tiny round head!

So, here's the pics I took for comparing...mallard duckling on the left, blue fawn pied call duckling on the right:


Front view, and you can look and see the definite size difference in bills and their heads in this shot...again, mallard on left, blue fawn pied on right.


I think it would be quite interesting if I had a newly hatched Rouen to add to the photo - as Rouen ducklings look identical to mallards at hatch, but are nearly twice the size of a mallard newly hatched.

regardless, aren't they both just oh so cute?!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy week!

Whew it's been a doozy of a week so far!

Last week a local man in the small village up the road asked us to take in all of his poultry, due to his having to move. He said we could take it all FREE.

Well, you know me, can't pass up freebies.

Most of those chickens had never seen daylight. And since we're NPIP, I was strict about where they could go. Took most of them to the auction this past Monday, and on Wednesday got a decent check!

The remaining 17 birds that are still here are silkies. Nine of those are Roosters. Seven of those roosters are going to this next Monday's auction.

Today we spent a bit of time fixing up a Silkie Pen. We moved the Silkies from their quarantine quarters and put them in their own pen - it's the first time in their little lives they've ever been on grass!

Yesterday our DD had a birthday. She didn't have a party yesterday, because we've planned it for tomorrow. She just doesn't know that! We've been very secretive about the party plans. Nothing big, just a few close friends, the grandparents, and the pastor of our church coming. I ordered a small batch of helium balloons for her table centerpiece. The big balloon has butterflies all over it. DD loves butterflies.

Her first love, though, is horses. So, we ordered a 1/2 sheet cake with plastic horses on the top. She's going to flip!!

So of course we couldn't let yesterday pass and allow her to think we forgot her special day! So we took her shopping for new socks (not a great b-day gift, but she's getting Littlest Pet Shops tomorrow - she just doesn't know it yet!) and we took the kiddos to Subway for lunch and said to DD, "This is for your special B-Day lunch." She was so excited! We topped lunch off with chocolate chip cookies and a trip to the local dairy bar for chocolate milk shakes. She was thrilled and thought it was a great birthday!

Tomorrow's menu is finger sandwiches with deviled eggs and chips. And of course, birthday cake!

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Monday.

Ya'll realize that means I went to Auction, right?

Yep, we went.

I took 3 ducklings, the chicken gals that got served their pink slips last week, and some metal chicken waterers that were just hanging around here and not being used. I hate metal waterers.

Everyone brought prices I was happy with, and I'll be seeing a check on Wednesday.

I bought nothing.

Now pick yourselves up off your floors, ok?

I took two baby bunnies down to the local feedstore today, too, and sold them. YAY.

I have three rabbits left. That's it. I had somewhere around 11 rabbits right after Christmas, and we're down to - count 'em - THREE.

My mom wants one of them, the other two will be going to Friday Auction this week at Roger's.

I've also decided that I don't need two color varieties of call ducks. I'm planning to sell the breeding quad of Pastel Calls and keep the Blue Fawn pieds.

That's the plan anyway - we'll see if I actually make myself do it or not.

I think I'm sending all of my Speckled Sussex to my local friend. Maybe my flock of Welsummers, too, and I have this gorgeous pair of Heritage Dominiques that I hatched last spring myself that might be sold.

Thing is, I have been talking/planning to sell those Dominiques since they hatched. I've had no intentions of having Doms, but Dang! if these aren't the most beautiful Dom's I've seen! No wonder Hatchery Dom's never appealled to me! The pair I have are just gorgeous, and well, I don't want them to go to just anyone. I'm hoping to find a Dom enthusiast who'll recognize them for the beautiful birds they are. I think they'd make a great addition to someone's breeder flock.

Shoot. I think I have to keep 'em.

Yesterday I traded 3 ducks for 3 Bourbon Red Turkey hens and a pair of Roman Tufted geese.

We got two Turkey eggs today and the Roman Tufted's were so comfortable in their new surroundings that they engaged in full on PDA....DH came running in and said, "Omg, those new geese of yern are raunchy!"

As much as I had wanted Blue Swedish ducks, I'm beginning to think I wasn't supposed to have them. E V E R. My first pair were stolen from my back yard in '07, and now the pair I have is defective. My Blue Swede Duck either doesn't want, or has no abilities, to lay eggs. Not only that, but when she runs, it's almost like she's running in the special olympics - except it's the duck version of special olympics. She cannot keep her balance when she runs, and she almost seems asthmatic if stressed.

They have until Friday. I know they are playing the mating game, and she sets on a "nest" and pretends she's laid an egg, but dog gone it, if there's no egg by Friday - good bye and hello Auction.

I did put them in a new pen away from all other waterfowl today to see if that helps. My WH duck wasn't laying, either, until I separated her from all waterfowl. So...

I guess that's about it. Dinner is in the oven - BBQ chicken.

Tomorrow it's a day trip to Meyer Hatchery where I'm picking up some Black Copper Maran chicks...and then it's home to get some work done...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday Night Auction = Late Late Night and $2 Calves

Guess who went to a Friday Night Auction??

If you guessed me, you'd guess right! Becca and I hightailed it up to Roger's Auction. It's every Friday night at 6 pm. I took 2 rabbits to sell and Becca took 1 rooster, 3 ducks, and 1 rabbit.

We were very pleased with what our animals went for up there. I mean, the roosters all sell for at least $4 each - except for two LF OEG roos that sold for $50 each!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, they had a lot of baby goaties - bottle babies - E said I was absolutely NOT allowed to bid on goats! He said NO NO NO. He was very serious.

He didn't say anything about not bidding on calves or ducks.

And originally I wasn't going to bid on calves - except I watched two dairy cross bottle baby steers sell for $15 a head. Do you know how cheap that is?!

I looked at Becca and said for $15 I'm getting a calf! then I said "I should really call E first."

Except, Becca's phone was in her car. Shoot. I was trying to decide what to do - do I bid on a calf, and hope he's not mad, or do I continute to beg Becca to go get her phone - she said she wouldn't make it back to the auction area in time - and miss out on a calf all together?

The auctioneer meantime was trying to get bids on Jersey Bull Calves. High bidder would have choice.

No one was bidding. He was down to $1 per calf. PER CALF PEOPLE!

My card went up. I bid.

Someone else bid.

I bid again.

Other person bid again.

Another bid.

I bid again - at $6.

They bid $7 - and I stopped and didn't bid again because I was trying to decide if E would kill me.

I looked at Becca again and said I need to call him.

Auction ended at $7 and the high bidder took 1 calf. The auctioneer looked at me and said, "Would you like one for $7?" I hesitated for a split second, and then said yes. I mean, it's only $7!! and they were beautiful!

Then he asked "would you like two?"

I was dithering, I mean, yea for $7 I wanted two, but what would E say??

Instead of saying yes, I blurted - "I really need to call my husband first!"

The entire auction arena errupted into laughter. The lady infront of us whips out her phone and says, "Here, call him!"

I'm calling E and the auction is continuing. The next calf sold for $9 - still dirt cheap! E answers -

E: hello?
Me: I just bought a calf for $7!
E: We don't need a calf.
Me: But I bought one! for $7!
E: They're only going for $7? Ok.


E: You're in Becca's car! How are you going to haul a calf home?
Me: She has a tarp, we're going to tarp the back (Becca and I had sorta discussed this)
E: What about milk replacer? you don't have any milk replacer here - it's all gone.
Me: We'll stop at TSC for milk replacer

Becca says "TSC closes at 9 or 10"

The Lady who's phone I'm using says - "They sell Milk Replacer here." (and it's at this point that I realize half of the auction arena is very intently listening to my phone conversation to see just how this little drama plays out!)

Me to E: They sell milk replacer here! We'll buy some here on our way out.

Becca to me - Do you want a second calf? They are $2!!!

Me to E: It's only $2 for a second calf - do you want me to do it??

E - Hysterical laughter. Seriously. He's hysterically laughing into the phone - and I'm needing a decision.


E: Still hysterically laughing - I don't care, do whatever. *more laughing* Have fun.

I hang up the phone and shoot my hand up into the air for a $2 calf. The auctioneer says, "Do you want them all? There's only 4 left and they're $2 each."


I excitedly exclaimed, "We're hauling them in the back of a Blazer, I can't take them all!

This resulted in an almost rioteous uproar of laughter.

They added one $2 calf to my other calf.

So we go and pay and then we're loading up everything, and this older couple ask us if we'd like a third calf. They had bought 3 of the $2 calves, but really didn't have the space for the third.

So once again I called E - this was that conversation:

Me: OK, we have two calves in the back of Becca's Blazer -
*more laughing from his end*
Me: Do we want a third one? this lady bought 3 for $2 each and asked if we'd take one for $2. Becca said we could fit it in.
*more laughing*
E: Do what you want, but that means one more calf that we have to feed -
Me: I know! I'm Ok with that.
E: Ok.

So we stuffed a third - although smaller - calf into the back.

The one lady who works at the auction thanked me profusely for taking that third calf. I was sorta confused, and she said that the couple taking those calves don't really take good care of their animals.

I asked what she meant and her reply was, "Well, she says she feeds them.........."

I nearly cried - and it almost made me wish I had taken another calf from her, because she had offered to let me take 2 of her 3.

Anyway, I paid $11 for three Jersey Bull calves - it's not every day a person can say that lol

And, they are beautiful!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

BIG News, BIG Improvements Nine Years in the Waiting!

I'm actually scared to post the big announcement, because although I'm not normally one prone to believe in jinxing, I'm really afraid I might jinx this.

I know that I've been doing a lot of praying, and so have my friends, that this will work out, because, you know, 9 years is a looong time to not have water.....

Few weeks ago we had a well drilling guy out - and he gave us a quote of $29 a foot. So, just to have a well drilled, capped, and cased - no pump or holding tank and not piped into the house - at the very low side we were looking at $2900 and that's only if he stops at 100ft. If he has to go beyond 100ft, he wants $29 for each additional foot.

We just thought that was outrageously high per foot, but hey, when you need a well.....

Last March we were in a car wreck. We had been advised to get an attorney, so we did. About two weeks ago our attorney called and said the insurance made a very low offer, they felt it was too low, we were to the point of let's just settle. Our attorney told us to just wait - don't give authorization yet to accept offers, let me see what they come back with if I demand a high offer.

The next week she called back, and the offer was more. After fees and medical - we were looking at the exact amount needed to drill the well in pocket - exactly what the well guy said 100 ft well would be.

We told her to take it. We emailed authorization.

Then she called back. They settled for more than what she told us last week.

It's not a ton more, we won't be set for life or anything - but enough to get the well drilled and capped. Maybe.

So, we called another well guy. He told us $2800 for the first 100 feet, and then anything over 100ft is $10 a foot - OMG that's a way better price!

The last guy that was out witched for water and said he'd probably hit water at 55 ft, but would suggest going 110 ft to be safe - to make sure it doesn't bale dry.

Our neighbors have 160 foot well. The guy behind us only has a 35 ft well and my FIL 500 ft up the road has a 140 ft well. None of them have problems with their wells drying up, all have good water flow.

The spot they chose on our property - assuming this new guy thinks it's a good spot, too - supposedly has 5 underground springs running into and through the same spot.

I'm excited - but at the same time holding my breath. This will be our third attempt to get a well, and they say third times the charm...and I'm doing a lot of praying.

Scripture says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His Righteousness...and all of these things shall be added unto you.."

another scripture says "delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desire of your heart.."

Don't ask me where they are, I can never remember the references, but I know they're in there, and I'm telling you, we've been doing our best, but even trying to live a Christain walk has it's ups and downs, and we've found our human side taking over.

But I'm still praying, and I'm holding on to the promise of "the desires of my heart" I mean, if God found a way to give me the short time of owning my beautiful Alpaca - who wasn't a necessity, was just a pet and not a need - then surely God would see this need and desire of water atleast accessible in my own back yard!

I mean, I'm happy if I have to walk out my door and lift a pump handle! at least it would be in my own yard!

I'm hoping that wanting/praying for this well is not being greedy.

So, folks, if you're the praying kind, please pray with us, that this all works out, and that we'll have the money in the promised 4-6 weeks to get our well drilled (or rather, hammered in).

I think 2010 is a year of Promise, and God's promised to care for us. I think I've had to learn to be patient and wait for His timing, and I feel strongly that now is the time.

I will not lie, my biggest worry about living here has been if we have a total economic collapse, and we couldn't get anywhere, how would we get water?? we're set up for everything else, the water on our own property is the last necessity.

AND - this well is really happening!!!! the guys that will be doing the drilling came out Tuesday evening - of course it was right at the time I was supposed to be leaving with the kiddos for our 4-H meeting, but what the heck, won't kill them to be late for 4-H.

Anyhoo - he came out and marked where he wants to put our well.


So, they actually found 2 spots they really like for the drilling, but they said when they come back in 4-6 weeks to commence well making, they'll decide which of the two will be the best spot.

4-6 weeks!!!

Nine years of hauling water - nine years of waiting, trying to get one, not succeeding - it all ends in roughly 4-6 weeks!!!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bringing Home the Beef

Ok, so I browsed through my self-sufficient journal and found this older tale about us getting our first calves to raise up since moving back to Ohio. This was not the first calves we'd raised up, we'd raised some before we moved to TN. This is the tale of how Chase and Boss came to our farm, in the later winter/early spring of 2009.


We had decided yesterday that we were going to go to the auction barn today, and we did. Dh likes to go to look for fencing and at the beef and calves and just wish and dream. Normally.

Today they had a pen FULL of Jersey crossed with Holstein calves. Bottle babies. Oh my did we do some serious wishing right then! Our minds started whirling, can we do it? Can we budget in a calf?

I immediate started praying. Lord, I leave it to you. If we're meant to get a calf, you'll make it so. We left the auction after we picked out the calf we were hoping to bid on and ran up the street to Tractor Supply. We bought a bottle, scours tablets, and milk replacer. We had it in our minds that if we didn't get a calf today, well we would at least have these items on hand for later if we did get one. While we were there, we also agreed on an amount that we would be willing to spend on a calf. Never having bought or bid at a livestock auction, my excitement starts to get the better of me! (normally I only take something to sell, not buy.)

We get back to the auction and they were almost done with the outside stuff which meant soon they would be getting to the goats and calves inside. I realized I had forgot my auction card, and that's needed for bidding, so I had to go into the office and ask her for a bid card. Thankfully those are free, and they just write your number on a little green card.

We get into the auction arena and pick our seats...right up front! I was soooo nervous and excited I literally felt sick to my stomach. We sat there for thirty minutes waiting for it to start. While we are waiting, there in the auction ring is five baby goats. One white male that was 2 weeks old and 4 Nubian Doelings that were 1 week old...all had been bottle fed. Well, one little doeling just wouldn't shut up. The others were running and jumping and playing, this one was just walking around bawling. It was also the smallest of the four.

I told DH that thing is soooo annoying I feel sorry for whoever takes her home!

Yea, well, I guess I feel sorry for myself then, because we brought her home. The guys working the auction had handed the little one up to my kids to hold and pet, and well, they just fell in love. It worked out alright, I guess, because we were quietly discussing if we wanted one, since they were all girls, and how much would we be willing to spend? Well, we once again settled on x amount. The bidding was between me and a man off to the left. It was so on. I hit the agreed upon x amount and stopped...bidding stopped....I HAD WON! Not only had I won, but I had the choice to take them all or one or however many I wanted. So I told them to give me the little one they had let my kids hold. They've named her Bambi.

Then they brought in the calves. I was sooooo excited I could hardly contain myself. They started out high, I sat very still...they started out high and no one bid....they lowered it one went on that way until they got to x amount and someone beat me to the punch so I hit x amount and it went from there....I bid up to half the amount that DH and I had agreed upon to spend on one calf...and bidding stopped. I didn't even realize that I was the high bidder! I thought someone had outbid me...they waiting for me to choose my calf.

I said, "Who me?"

Auctioneer says, "Yea, you."

So I screamed out the calf's tag number, "145!"

Auctioner: You want 145, is that all? You want two?


I look at DH and said, you want two? He said for that price, yes.

So then I screamed, "135"

There was an audible grumbling among the rest of the bidders, because I had obviously taken the same calves others were wanting. Dh thinks, from the reactions, that other people just figured since I took the runtiest goat, I'd be just as gullible with the calves LOL

So it was great! We were super excited that we got TWO calves for the amount of $ we wanted to spend on ONE calf! We paid for them to get vaccinated, pinched, and scour guard. Then we loaded them up in our van and headed home.

Well, here is where we messed up. We get home, and duh, should have grabbed a rope! Dh's calf, number 145 for now, who's also the bigger of the two, freaked out and took off. We spent THREE hours looking for him. Finally gave up, was ready to cry, called all the neighbors and the sheriffs department and reported our new calf missing.

I was so sick to my stomach. I started praying again. This time I was asking God to help us. Apologised for having been greedy and buying two calves when we would have been happy with one, and asked Him to please help us find the big boy.

Meanwhile, a neighbor up the road stops in to ask us for some help fixing his dryer. I explain to him that my FIL and husband are walking the field and woods looking for our calf that got away. This neighbor was soooo awesome, and turns out, it is someone my husband had worked with over 11 years ago on the local dairy farm! He runs home and gets his wife, tells her what happened, and they come to help us look for him! They had a couple errands they had to go run and do, but promised they'd be back to help us.

It's getting dark by this time, and I tell DH we need to feed the other baby.

We fixed up a bottle for calf number two and went out to feed him. He started to bawl when he seen us coming. Dh wanted to help me get him in the barn so I could feed him, and then I hear an answering calf bawl. I froze. I looked down our logging road, and there standing as bold as brass is the other calf!! I told DH there he is!

DH hops in the van, drives up to FIL's (who had been helping us look for him) and tells him the calf is back. The neighbor was back and saw DH going up to his dad's and he came flying back up the street to our house. DH is already headed back in the field to head off the calf. FIL is standing by with rope and when the neighbor came up he told him what was up. They both take off to the back of the property and the neighbor cuts into a run.

Since I wasn't back there to see what happened, all I have is what DH told me. The calf tried to jump the fence or go through to the woods, DH spooked him and he headed the other way. Neighbor grabbed him around the neck, calf drug neighbor up the hill and neighbor let go...They gave chase again..Calf headed back to FIL and FIL blocked his way...Calf headed back to neighbor and our neighbor tackled him, pinned him, and screamed, "I got him!"

They worked the rope into a halter and lead and brought him home. He's now safely in our barn. Oh I was so relieved and I just thanked God over and over!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sebastopol Geese at Evening Star Farms

OMIgosh I'm so excited! We acquired Sebbies!

I'm totally thrilled with the new additions to our farm, and even my hubby, who wasn't that thrilled at first, commented on how beautiful they are.

Of course, I had to give him "selling points" to convince him that these Sebbies were a good idea. I showed him egg sales on eBay and showed him how much goslings sell for on average. So, with his "blessing" and strict orders to "sell the eggs" I went and with the help of my dear friend, brought home this beautiful breeding quad of Sebastopols!

Quad of Sebastopols

The one white goose was treated with blue kote because the lady's great pyr pup (who at 7 months old is the size of a pony!) was plucking the feathers out and "flossing" his teeth. That's why she chose to sell the Sebbies. She said she'd rather have sold the pup, but her husband refused to let the pup go, so she chose to let the Sebbies go when she saw that the pup had plucked that gal bald at the shoulders.

Which works out great for me! Here's the blue goose - she's my favorite, and was friend's favorite, too...almost had to pry her out of her arms!

Blue Sebastopol Goose

What was funny, when we got home, I asked my friend, "So, are you going to move out your Embdens to make room for Sebbies?"

She replied, "I dunno, because I have Pomeranians coming in April..."

To which I replied, "Yea, and I have Pilgrims coming in April..."

And you should have seen how fast my husband's head whipped around! He looked at me and exclaimed, "You have Pilgrims coming?! Then you didn't need these geese!"

I said, "Now just wait a minute, you knew I ordered Pilgrims! You were right there!"

He started laughing, so that tells me he was mostly just teasing, but after my friend left he did admit he had forgot I'd ordered Pilgrims.

So, we're discussing setting up hoop houses as geese shelters with pastured runs, so that I can have my geese separated and on grass and I'm planning on kiddie pools for their "ponds".

One of the Sebbies laid an egg yesterday before we picked them up, but so far, no egg yet today. I cannot wait to hatch some babies from these!

Oh and, just for fun, I took this shot of my pair of Blue Swedish. Just couldn't help it. They were standing so nicely, just asking me to.

Blue Swedish Pair

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Arts of Bartering and Sacrifice

Wait, what's that say? Bartering and Sacrifice as Arts?! Yes, that's right! They are both an art form.

Don't believe me? Well, allow me to give you a few examples, and then you tell me.

I'm become the Queen Barterer on the Farm around here, and I've learn to Sacrifice things/animals I love - with very few tears shed and no kicking and screaming - to obtain items that I can either flip for a profit or use to better our farm income.

It started in February of 2008, when I made the first personal sacrifice - because I once again really wanted chickens, but there was just no way we had the extra money for me to order 25 chicks. Our finances had taken a drastic turn down hill, and well, the money just wasn't there.

My most prized possession at that time was a semi-pro digital camera - that cost us a small mint. I made the decision to sell that camera. It was the first and hardest sacrifice - but the result was a small flock of Buff Orpingtons and Speckled Sussex! YAY!

Sacrifice gets easier, especially once you realize that giving something up to obtain something else doesn't mean the end of the world. Because it doesn't. All of these modern convienence dependent people would be quite surprised at what they could live without if they really had to.

One huge sacrifice we made as a family was moving onto our 7+ acres, knowing there wasn't a well and that we'd have to live indefinitely (didn't think it would be this long, though) without plumbed water or accessible water on the farm. Easy? Nope. Worth it? Yep - because that sacrifice resulted in a completely paid for home and land - NO house payment, no land payment- how many people can boast of that? This was our BIG sacrifice.

The greatest part is the look people give us when they realize we've been living here since 2004 - and surviving I might add - without plumbed water. It's a great conversation starter!

Sacrifice makes us stronger, and really teaches us what we can truly live without - and not suffer for it.

Bartering kind of goes hand in hand with Sacrifice, because you're giving up something you already own to hopefully gain something of equal or more value (never barter down if you can help it!). I've bartered for a lot of different things over the last few years, so I'm not exactly sure what my first barter would be.

I bartered three Silkie Bantams for my first trio of Rabbits. Those rabbits had babies, which I sold for a profit. I later sold those original 3 rabbits as well.

I bartered five hens and one rooster for 4 rabbits with a long 4 hole rabbit hutch. Those rabbits then had babies - which I sold - and I sold 3 of the 4 rabbits all for a profit. The same people who I obtained the rabbits from delivered me a wonderfully homemade dog box FREE. Course, I in turn then sent people their way to buy dog boxes - so it was a win win.

Later, I traded 3 Rhode Island Red chicks to someone else for another rabbit hutch that just needed refurbished - the lady was willing to give it to me for free, but I wanted to give her something in return - and her chicken coop was just sitting empty. She loved those chicks, too! I think it's always good to do something nice or give something - even if it's a small something - to someone you are bartering with, because it makes friends and they'll be more likely to barter with you later.

I traded 4 bantam hens for an Alpaca. That was THE BEST barter EVER! Sadly, my Alpaca passed away this year, but it was wonderful to have the opportunity to have him.

I traded 27 fertile chicken hatching eggs for a Royal Palm Turkey Hen and a Narrangassett Turkey Hen. Later, we had poults hatch from their eggs and we sold all of the poults - around 20 total - for roughly $6 -$8 each.

I traded that Narrangassett turkey hen + $175 for the following: 3 outdoor poultry pens that we disassembled and rebuilt into one big pen on my farm, a mini pony (who we sold for $100), a pair of Mandarins (that I sold for $75), two pairs of call ducks (that I sold for $50), and 5 Muscovey Ducks (I sold a pair to my mom for $20, kept a pair for myself, and the extra drake we found dead in our yard).

My most recent barter: I drove 2 hours North to pick up a pair of Embden Geese and a Bourbon Red Tom Turkey. I left with the geese and turkey, AND a beautiful muscovey duck to add to my pair. Making a beautiful trio! In return, I'm setting and hatching a few dozen Cuckoo Maran chicks for the guy I got my birds from.

We also, this year, traded 2 tires that we wanted OUT of our yard to a guy who needed them in exchange for 4 rex rabbits.

Then, there's always flipping things. Craigslist is a GREAT resource for finding things to flip/barter!

Last summer, we found 5 free pygmy goats on Craigslist. My husband and I picked them up. Turns out, it was one buck, 2 wethers, and 2 does. The does were most likely bred, but they didn't know about when they'd be due.

We hauled those stinky, nasty goats home. Ok, only the Billy Buck was stinky and nasty - and we made a quick deal with my friend who wanted a male pygmy for breeding - she got a goat, I got a Shih Tzu puppy. (That same puppy later became a Christmas present for someone else! so it all worked out!)

The other four goats we hauled off to the auction. The wethers brought $48 and the does brought $50. Cool, right?!

This year, we had a trailer that you pull behind a car - it was for my Jeep. Well, the Jeep is no longer with us (R.I.P.), so I had no use for the trailer. My friend who raises the Shih Tzus wanted it, so once again we traded for a puppy. I sold this puppy for $150 whoot!

That $150 is going to pay for my purchase of a 2 year old breeding Quad of Sebastobol Geese on Monday!

So, yes, there are things I end up out right buying, but you have to do the math - when you figure that day old Sebbie goslings sell for $50 or more, depending on breed quality and sometimes color - and eggs sell for $10+ each or more, and here's this Quad for $150 - which divides out to $37.50 per adult - it's a great deal! And, if we're smart and careful, that is money that can be made back out of selling eggs/offspring fairly quickly. It also helps that I've dealt with this breeder in the past, and that this breeder has worked closely with shows - especially call duck shows - so I have a good idea of what I am getting. I did get to see this Gaggle in person last fall when I purchased my SQ Pen of Call ducks and Black Langshan chickens.

hmmm...can ya tell I'm excited about these Sebbies?!

But, I digress....

The point is, there are easy and honest ways to obtain the things one needs for earning income on a farm. It's not hard, does take some leg work and people skills, because you have to talk to the people you plan to barter/trade/sell to.

I'm looking forward to getting this year underway. I'm super excited, and am quite confident that 2010 is the year that Evening Star Farms is going to take off and be great!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I think it was around 2006 when we tried the poultry route again.

My Father in Law tore down his old barn up at Ground Zero, and we salvaged as many pieces of it as we could. We re-used lumber from the old barn to build a wood shed with a chicken coop attached to the back. We even recycled the beams that held the barn roof and the tin that had covered the sides of the barn.

My first chicken - er, poultry - coop measured out to be 9' x 12'. I was quite pleased with the results. We ordered our chickens - and once again it was Rhode Island Red. Ugh. I guess you could say I was trying to be a good wife, and trying to peak my husband's interest into my chicken keeping - and he was stuck on "Rhode Island Reds are the best."

Thank goodness he's not so stuck on that now.

I decided if he got to have Rhode Island Reds, then I wanted ducks, too. I only wanted a pair of ducks - but isn't that how things always start?!

I ended up with some Pekins, Khaki Campbells, and Domestic Mallards. It was a lot of ducks. The mallards were the hardest to raise. Only two of those made it to adult hood, and sadly, we lost them to predation.

The Pekins became the most annoying birds I'd ever owned, and I hated looking at those Rhode Island Reds. Everyone went to auction, and my coop sat empty until 2007.

In spring of 2007 I had finally figured out just what I wanted, poultry wise anyway. I ordered Partridge Rocks, Rhode Island Reds (again, trying to please my husband), Speckled Sussex, and several bantams - Mille Fleur d'Uccles, Buff Brahma Bantams, Black Tailed Buff Japanese, and Quail Antwerps. It was a beautiful assortment! And expensive!

I was so pleased with my selection of chickens, that I started researching waterfowl breeds. I made my choices by what caught my eye first, and then read up on individual characteristics and narrowed my choices down to what I felt would fit our farm needs. That first special waterfowl order included a pairs of Blue Swedish ducks, Gold Star Hybrid Ducks, Mallards, Buff Ducks, and a pair of Toulouse Geese.

My Geese were my favorites.

This time around, everything was going quite well. So well, that we decided to branch out into turkeys! We contacted McMurray Hatchery and ordered a Barnyard Special. We only wanted the turkeys, my mother was wanting ducks and geese, so it worked out well for us to split the order. We recieved 5 Bourbon Red Turkeys with the order, and two Broad Breasted White.

My mom willing took the two Broad Breasted, as we were trying really hard to stick with heritage breeds.

Two BR turkeys expired early on, but the three remaining were thriving quite nicely. It seemed we had a hen and two Toms.

Again, I was tired of the Rhode Island Reds, so off to Auction they went. They were soon followed by the Partridge Rocks, which I'm not even sure why I made that decision.

I ended up with what I felt was a manageable flock of Sussex, a few bantams, and my pairs of waterfowl. I was super excited.

Then, tragedy.

Early one morning, around 4 am, we heard a terrible ruckus outside. By the time we got dressed and up, it was all over. We saw what looked like the outline of two men trekking off across the field to the back road, but it was too dark to make out who it was.

They took almost everything. The only duck that they took alive was a blue swedish, the rest of the waterfowl were strangled and left on the coop floor. They took our only female turkey. The two toms were still there, and so were a pair of Sussex, 1 Mille Fleur cockerel, and 1 Sultan Cockerel.

It was devestating.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Worst Great Idea I Ever Had - AKA I Hate Pigs

While I fully intended to use this blog to kind of document our journey into being full fledged farmers, I must talk about a most recent venture. I'll continue with the past chicken adventures and how's of how we got here later, but for now, I must tell you about My Great Idea to raise pigs.

It's officially The Worst Great Idea I've ever had.

Last fall I thought how great it would be to get pigs! Raise 'em up and have our own lard, bacon, smoked hams, sausages, etc. etc. etc. We thought we'd get piggies in November, but they weren't born until December and not ready to go to their little patch of Hog Heaven on our farm until February.

They haven't been here a month, and I already hate them.


They are smelly. They are so smart that it's stupid.
My set up sucks, too. Keeping them in a kennel was a super bad idea because I have to go in the kennel to feed them - meanwhile, they run out the door...but they instantly run back in because they recognize their feed bucket.

They are not cuddly. They don't want you to pet them. They are not like a dog or a cat or even a chicken.

They are a thousand times worse.

I hate pigs. Really hate them.

I hate washing dishes, too. I hate washing dishes so much that I washed three sinkfuls this morning - just to put off going out to those pigs.

If we should have a total economic collapse tomorrow, I'd be totally ok with having to eat grass fed steak from my own grass fed beef every night.

And we'd still have my poultry. So, we could mix things up with the occassional drumstick and eggs.

Seriously. The pigs are not worth the trouble.....I mean, really, I don't love bacon that much. And, for now, I'm ok with buying it. I guess.

I had two clear A-Ha moments in the last couple days.

1 - we really do not eat enough pork in a week to justify torturing ourselves by raising a pig.
2 - just because we have the knowledge and the space to raise some of everything doesn't mean we have to raise everything.

So those grubby, smelly, ungrateful awful pigs need to go.

Mom said I should sell all 4 pigs, but I kind of didn't like that idea, because if I am going to the trouble of feeding them, I should be allowed to enact revenge by eating at least ONE of them.

So, the tentative plan is to sell 2 piggies ASAP and we're going to roast Hambone Easter Weekend. My Uncle has a pig roaster, and we're going to see if we can borrow it.

Bacon's future demise is still undecided. E said if I want to keep one to roast, I have to keep 2 because one will try to escape all the time.

I have a guy maybe coming tomorrow for one pig, and he said he could bring his ring kit and put rings in noses...I am going to go for that!

But, hopefully, after the first week in more pigs.

I will not say I'll never have pigs again, I just don't want to do it again this year...or at least not until we have a fully pig proofed pen built with a solid trough so I don't have to go in the pen to feed them.

We'll see.

Pigs suck.

I hate them.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The First Chicken Part 2

Once we were back in Ohio, we weren't able to just move onto our 7+ acres. There was no house, no septic, nor a well. (Still no well, but some day!)

We were 6 weeks a way from having our second child, and temporarily were staying with my parents. That didn't stop me from picking up fifty - yes, you read that right - fifty brown egg laying chicks from Tractor Supply.

Ever heard the expression putting the cart before the horse?

Yea, I seem to do that a lot. I did it with the chicks, and more recently, with those stupid pigs. (Don't worry, those dumb pigs will get their own blog post later.)

I brought home these 50 chicks because, well, it was a great deal! They were roughly 59 cents each (this was 2001, I don't see any feed stores selling chicks that cheaply now!) and if you purchased 50 chicks, TSC would throw in a FREE bag of chick starter! I mean, c'mon! They're giving you the feed for free with your chick purchase, how could you (or in this case I?) not buy the chicks?

Yea, my reasoning was not rational. It was a totally and completely impulsive thing to do.

So this time, I had the feeders and waterers and the chick feed...but I still didn't get a heat lamp, and I lost most of those chicks before they feathered out.

It's really a great idea to read on the care of any animal before you get it, but in my mind I was thinking, "It's chickens. How hard could this be?" and I'd seen my mom successfully raise chicks with no brooder/heat lamps so I didn't give it a second thought.

Out of those 50 chicks, only one white rock made it to adulthood. The rest either expired as young chicks, or were lost to predation. During this no-so-thought-out chicken venture, we packed up and moved from my mom's to our trailer that we purchased. The trailer was temporarily set next to my father in law's place, 500 feet up the road from where we are now. I like to call that place Ground Zero because it's where we originally had our first home, before some ugly circumstances made us pack up and move.

We settled on Ground Zero for the second time, and I had one fully grown white rock free ranging around the place. I have no clue where she slept, but when she started laying, we definitely knew it. She would be out at first light singing and bragging about the cackle berry she had just gifted to us....or rather, hid from us. We couldn't find her eggs.

That hen became my Father in Law's pet. He'd step out his front door daily with whatever food scraps he had and throw them out to her. Soon, she stopped coming down to our trailer (which was roughly 50 feet from his front door) and just stayed around his place, waiting for the goodies that would come from that front door.

Sadly, we found her one morning in the yard. The only thing we could figure was she had become eggbound and died as a result of it. Roughly 6 months after her death, my Father in Law was working on the foundation of his house. He had crawled under into the crawl space, and there, in a perfectly round nest, was an entire collection of light brown eggs.

All of us missed having that chicken running around the yard, even if we hadn't received her egg rent. That fall, my Father in Law surprised me with two black hens. They both laid a beautiful green egg. We had no clue what kind of chickens they were (I now know that they were most likely Easter Eggers). They laid an egg for us almost daily. It was a thrill to go and collect green eggs in the morning. They were kept in the barn, and I cannot tell you what ever happened to them. I just don't remember.

In 2004, when our third child was roughly 10 months old, we were finally ready to move onto our 7+ acres. A local farmer offered to move our trailer the 500 feet down the road with his tractor, and he did! He pulled it down and situated it right where we asked him to.

Right before our Big Move, my sister in law gave us her flock of Rhode Island Reds and a pair of bantams.

I will tell you, I'm not a fan of Rhode Island Reds. But, they were free, and well, that's an awesome deal!

We hadn't put up a coop yet, but I set up temporary cages/pens for the Rhode Islands to sleep in at night and I let them out to free range during the day. It was quite a surprise to us when a neighbor down the road came down and said, "I sold your chickens for you."

What?! Are you kidding me?! But no, he wasn't. He had actually found someone who wanted to buy all of the Rhode Island Reds, and he told the guy we'd definitely want to sell them.

I was so flabbergasted that I didn't think to put my foot down, or get indignant, or to send him off on his ear. No, I didn't do anything to make waves. I silently accepted $2 a piece (I definitely was ripped off!) for the birds and said goodbye to them.

The next year I decided I wanted chickens again, but I was going to do it right, and have a coop first.

There was an old yellow semi trailer on this property. Long story to how it got here, but it was here, and we decided to turn it into a coop. It worked, too. And I have a great snake story from when we were cleaning it out.

That yellow semi trailer had been filled with junk for years. We started hauling the junk out to clean it up so I could have coop in the front part with run, and storage in the back part. There was this awful fat groundhog that lived in there, but we chased him out in short order.

The other problems with cleaning it out was that it was a real snake harbor. One pretty warm day, as we were cleaning out the trailer, I heard a scraping type sound over the roof. The following conversation followed:

Me: What was that?
Him: What was what?
Me: That noise.
Him: I didn't hear anything.
Me: I did, I heard............ aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

It was at this time a snake dropped down for some hang time - right at nose level with my husband's face.

Folks, I didn't look twice. I saw the snake, and I split. I was out of that trailer door and on our back porch before my poor husband could even react. I do not remember the sprint across the back yard, but it was a good 200 yards...No joke. I left my husband to survive by his wits, because this gal wasn't waiting around to see if anyone got bit.

Roughly 1 minute had passed, and my husband stepped out of Snake Haven and yelled, "Where are you?" He sees me on the back porch and says, "How'd you get there?"

My reply? I RAN!

We didn't resume the cleanup that day...In fact, I do believe we waited a good full week before we braved it.

We did eventually brave it, cleaned up the whole thing and chased the snakes out. We then put about a dozen red stars in that coop. Right around the time those hens started to lay, I decided I was tired of chickens and sold them all. I wasn't really tired of chickens, I just didn't like the red stars.

We turned the coop into a dog kennel for a short while. The whole kit and kaboodle has since been hauled out of here.

From Ohio to Tennessee and Back Again

We didn't start out in a small town in Western Tennessee. No, we actually had started out on a small 10 acre lot 500 feet from where we live now.

In 1998, for Valentine's Day, my husband (then my fiancee) gave me a beautiful little holstein calf. She was almost all black, with four white socks and a perfect heart shaped white spot on her head. I named her Valentine, of course! LOL

Valentine was my first experience with a calf.

I suppose now would be a good time to confess that I am deathly afraid of cattle. You must respect them. I mean, anything that can grow to 1000 pounds (or sometimes more!) in their first year of life deserves respect, right?!

Horses, no problem. Saddle 'em up and toss me on their back, I'm good to go.

Cattle? Forget it.

Calves are a completely different story...they are small, they drink from a bottle....they can't stampede you to deat - yet.

Unfortunately, we lost Valentine within the week. I don't know what happened. I only know that we spent 3 days trying to pull her out of what we suspect was scours. My first calf experienced ended very badly, and with a lot of tears.

A few weeks later we acquired Gabe, who was a Limosine/Holstein cross. Lemme tell you, I love this cross! Big, beautiful, and gentle...that was our Gabe! Within the week we had managed to get a heifer of the same cross....We named her Gabby.

Later that same year, we traded for an Angora Pygmy Goat named Petey. He was solid white, had blue eyes, and was my pet.

He also fit the comical goaty sterotype of butting anyone who bent over. Learned that the hardway, when I was picking up his left over corn husks from the yard. Ooops.

Then things spiralled out of control for us, and we made the choice to move, due to some ugly circumstances. Gabe, Gabby, and Petey were all sold.

We moved to Tennessee in August 1998, just a mere two weeks after our wedding. Over the next 2 years we got jobs, had our first child, and attended my dad's funeral. Having not seen my father in 12 years and attending his funeral, and grieving his death, were a little surreal.

The realization that we both only had one living parent left, and we decided to move back to Ohio so that we could be close enough to see them - if we wanted.

Needless to say, we ended up living much closer to them than we had originally aniticpated.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The First Chicken

Everyone has an addiction to something. Deny it, I dare you, but everyone has an addiction...they may not even realize it.

My addiction is to poultry.

Poultry addictions start out relatively harmless enough I least that's what I told myself when I was spending an insane amount of money in order to acquire a small flock of show quality Black Langshans. And when I spent a small mint to acquire my pen of show quality Call ducks. And, it's what I told my husband when I coerced him and my best friend into taking a trip to Portage County (a good two hour drive) just so I could get a pair of Embden Geese.

I acquired my first chicken in 2000 - our first child was just a year old, and it was Easter time. I actually ran across a guy giving away Rhode Island Red chicks infront of the local Walmart! I was on my way out with that weeks groceries, and well, who can pass up a cute little mahogany red chick?!

Not me.

My husband nearly exploded through the roof....after all, we were NOT in the country. No, we lived right smack in the middle of a busy neighborhood in Western Tennessee. You know the kind, you can stick your hand out your window right into their livingroom? We actually were blessed as the house we were buying was situated on 3 town lots, so we did have the largest yard (and the most space between houses) in our neighborhood.

But were chickens even allowed?

I later figured out they were, but not in time to convince my husband that Little Red could stay.

Little Red lived out his first few weeks in a cat carrier in our enclosed back porch. I knew nothing about chickens at the time. He didn't have a heat lamp, but he was handled and loved on a lot. I don't even remember what I fed him. I know we didn't buy any chick feed, so I imagine I must have fed him food scraps.

My husband was on me from day 1 - "You have to do something with that chicken! We're in town!"

But, I loved Little Red and didn't want to give him up.

My rescuer came in the form of my Grandmother.

Grandma stopped by the house to visit, and I immediately asked, "Grandma, would you like a pet chicken?"

After all, Grandma and Grandpa were out in the country and they could have chickens - if they wanted.

Grandma smiled her pleasant smile that she always wore and kind of chuckled as she said, "Sure!"

Little Red moved out of his cat carrier that day, and moved into Grandpa's Garage. He was the most spoiled chicken I had known (until more recent years) and his best friend and playmate was my Grandpa's dog, Chip.

Grandma would go out the back door with food scraps and call "chick chick" and Little Red would come flying out of the garage for his treats.

Little Red grew into a beautiful rooster. I know that he had a wonderful life, although I suspect he also made a nice dinner for my grandparents. ;)

In December of that year, we made the decision to move back to Ohio. My husband had 7+ acres waiting for us, with his name all over it. It would take 4 more years before we actually settled onto our 7+ acres, but I was already plotting and planning how I'd have chickens and maybe rabbits, cattle, and.......

Friday, February 19, 2010

This Isn't Charlotte's Web

Ever wondered why someone decides they want to farm? I did, once. Probably spent a whole minute pondering it....such a fleeting thought. And I'm pretty sure I had this romantic notion to what farming was all about - and my notions were not anywhere near close.

After all, this isn't Charlotte's Web.

There are no spiders squandering away their short little life to spare one annoying, fat, and super smelly pig.

No rat under the feed trough - oh no, not here. They much prefer living under the hen houses, in hopes of stealing an egg or worse, the unsuspecting, unguarded chick.

So why does someone choose to farm? I can tell you, it's not because they think it's glamorous, or because the odor clinging to them by the end of the day is super sexy - which it isn't. It's not because they like trucking out in three feet of snow to slop pigs, feed calves, grain cattle, or feed ungrateful, completely spoiled and impatient poultry.

Some would say "to raise their own food" but believe it or not, I've heard of people that "farm" and they wouldn't dream of eating one bite of what (or is that who?) they are raising.

We're farming out of necessity. I think if we didn't have to make a living from farming, I could enjoy it more than I do. Oh, sure, I love a newborn chick or duckling as much as the next person (in all honestly, I'm completely and hopelessly addicted to poultry of all types), and calves are cute and it's fun feeding them a bottle....well, the first time you feed a bottle, that is.

No one tells you how hard farming is. No one tells you that the critters you're busting butt to feed and care for don't give a crap if you fall face first in the snow while bringing them their breakfast. They only care that you're bringing breakfast. You're just the means of getting it to them.

Seriously. You're just their meal ticket. I think my cows would help themselves if they could.

And the pigs. O M G...don't get my started...I'm trying to remember who's idea it was anyway to get the pigs....I'll just blame The Man, because surely a woman wouldn't make such an idiotic decision on her own, right?! RIGHT?! RIGHT?!

There is nothing romantic about farming. There is nothing easy about farming.

We've learned through trial and error what works for us, what we like to work with, and what we wish we would have never tried our hand at (like goats...omg goats are insanely evil!)

It's not all bad, there are some wonderful things about farming. Like eating what you grew. Like collecting a fresh egg - and then putting it in the 'bator and having a chick in 21 days. Like watching your children see a newborn goat kid, or watching a chick hatch, or knowing exactly where your food is coming from.

Another plus to farming - it limits who comes to visit. LOL I think this is my absolute favorite aspect...because, you do know, those who are allergic to hard work stay as far away as possible. They're afraid they'll get roped into mucking a barn...or you might - heaven forbid - feed them something organic and unpasteurized....and hell will freeze over before they eat something that hasn't been adulterated in some way, shape, or form. You know the people I'm talking about - the ones who are so removed from their food sources that they don't realize that plastic wrapped chicken was once living and breathing.

No one ever tells you that when you take on farming, you will have many humiliating experiences. Things will happen that you never dreamed you'd see/experience/or hear told over and over again especially by your children! They are happy to tell your most embarrassing episodes to complete strangers in the grocery line. Believe me, your kids will tell!

No one tells you that animals - all of them - have minds of their own, and they will work against you, push your limits, and try to be the administrator of the farm. Periodic threats of turning them into dinner tends to help keep them in line. The hens know this threat all too well. Egg production miraculously picks up overnight.

Overall, though, I would say it's definitely worth it. Working your own land, raising your own food, and being fully responsible for your own survival. It does have it's rewards.