The stories, travails, mistakes, successes; the journey of a change in lifestyle for two would-be market farmers and permaculturists.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Here we are, almost January of 2014.  As you can see, I don't really blog anymore.  It seemed like a good idea, and darn, it is a good idea.  Just not a good idea for me.  I will have to admit that I use facebook for most anything approaching a blog,  So, with that being said, I will be closing down the blog and moving to a more static website. 

I will post here when that become active.

Have a good year in 2014, all.....

Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace and Prosperity for the New Year

Well, it has been a Longggggg time since I actually took the time to post on the blog. Last week, we got an actual Wisconsin winter storm.  We are pretty much in winter chore mode now, but it took a while for the muscles to get used to trudging through all the snow.  It is still pretty out, with not having had any snow melt.

 Now that we have made the decision to stay in Wisconsin, we are sorting out what the the year ahead might mean for us.  Roland is retired, and now has the time to work on some building projects.  Part of one job is done, extending the eaves on our smaller metal building. 
This will be used for the main breeding pens for the chickens, as well as a place to house extra roosters.  There will be runs extending out from the building, and there will be a fenced in exercise yard under the oak trees.  Looking forward to it, as it will make life simpler for me. 

The geese have been divided into two groups.  The birds that were obtained from Dr. Tom Walker in Texas are in one group, the birds from David James in Alabama in another.  Soon we will be dividing them into pairs, as the breeding season will be starting up soon.  We got our first egg in February last year, so expect the same this year. 

Over the summer I purchased a Sportsman Incubator.  This will really help as well, so now I don't have to impose on my good friend, Kim Clarke to hatch goose eggs for me.  I have a learning curve, but expect things will go well.  We only incubate the early laid goose eggs.  That gives a good test of fertility, plus, it is darn cold in February, and the eggs would most likely freeze if I left them in the nest.  Once it starts warming, I leave the eggs under the female geese to hatch.  Mother nature is the best incubator, and I feel that part of the criteria for choosing the breeding females is mothering ability. 

I have already had interest in Cotton Patch goslings, and had to think about my policy in regards to gosling sales.  I need to keep some stock for my own program, so mostly likely will be limiting the number of goslings I will sell.  I will have a more thorough update next time.

I also have a lot of interest in the White Chantecler, and am deciding on my policy there as well.  I will be making deliberate breeding choices, based on past experience, and the pool of diversity I have to choose from.  So, I will most likely have a limited number of hatching eggs and chicks this year.  Again, more updates later.

The main purpose of this post was to wish everyone a joyous Holiday Season, no matter what you celebrate.  May Peace and Prosperity bless you in the coming year.  And with that, here are Gus and Max with their annual holiday sing-fest.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

And Now, the Rest of the Story

We left off with the hatch of 9 cute little fluff balls of gosling fun, and the expectation of a whole bunch more.  Well, as they say, don't count your goslings before they hatch.

Last Thursday, I had been expecting the arrival of Twinkle's babies.  She was a prodigious layer, giving us 18 eggs before deciding to settle on her nest.  This is a large number of eggs, especially for this breed of goose.  5 had been taken for artificial incubation, giving us only one gosling from this breeding.  Bummer.  So, I was really anxious to see what I was sure was going to be a large hatch.

Friday came around, and this was what was still greeting me when I did a check.

The hissing made sense.  It was time for goslings to appear, but what wasn't making sense was the fact that she was still tight to the nest.  No movement upward to allow for hatching babies.  Hmm.  Well, she had been nervous all along, maybe these were going to take longer.  There were a lot of eggs.  Hmm.  

Saturday came around, and still nothing that I could see.  Her gander had become distracted with the little ones next door, and indeed Twinkle had been on and off her nest running the fence after them.  Something was feeling awfully wrong.  As the day progressed, I started having a sinking feeling that I better take a look.  When she left the nest to run the fence, I stole an egg and ran into the house to candle it.  My heart sank as I held the special candling light next to the shell and discovered that nothing had been developing.  It was obvious that I needed to check the rest of the eggs.  As luck would have it, she was on  her nest when I decided to go for it.  Armed with gloved hands and a coat, I started taking eggs out of the nest.  Dodging the thrusts of her bill and failing often, I took my bruised hand and arm along with a whole buncha eggs to be candled.  Bummer.  Nothing.  This poor bird has spent 4 weeks sitting on nothing.  No wonder she had been nervous.  Maybe she knew?

So, now what?  I like to foster harmony among the animals where I can.  It makes my job easier, and them happier.  As luck would have it, I have a lot of goslings around right now, and at least one of them does belong to her.  Geese are pretty good at adopting goslings, so I decided my best shot was to see if she wanted the extra babies that had hatched out in the incubator 2 weeks earlier.  There were still eggs in the nest, so before I took the next plunge, I loaded up the 3 into a fabric crate, and took them down with me.  

Are you our new mom?

I checked the nest again, and found more cold, untended eggs, and the stench of something long dead.  Twinkle fought me off again, defending to the end her infertile eggs.  I took them in to check for sure, and yes, they were all duds.  The one that reeked was black, and I knew that it had rotted inside.  

Upon returning, I found Twinkle going in and out of her hut, and I took the now 2 week old goslings out of their cage.  It took a minute, but very quickly, her tone went from one of distress to wonder.  Her sounds seemed to be little murmurs of joy, but maybe that was just my hope.  No one seemed to know what to do, and indeed this was a transition for everyone.  At least, there was no aggression, and that seemed positive.  It was evening now, and I stood watching, realized that her gander, Bluebell, was not as pleased to see the new babies, so all were locked in the hut, and as I left, Twinkle and her new charges where laying side by side.

Fast forward.  More changes had to be made.  Bluebell continued to be unhappy about the older adoptees.  Eyebrow, who was Jezebel's gander, had already lost interest in his babies, and wandered the fence next to the bachelor ganders.  So, I took a chance and tried a new arrangement.  Eyebrow was put in with the bachelors, and he wandered off to take a pool bath without batting an eye.  Bluebell was put in the pen with Jezebel, and he immediately started taking charge of what he must have considered his babies.  Jezebel seemed to welcome him.  Twinkle seemed content with her new charges and had obviously assumed her motherly duties.  It was taking awhile for them to make the switch.  They had imprinted on humans, and still came running to me when I entered their pen.

Come back, come back!

That is changing though.  Today, for the first time, these guys did not run up to me.  Mom has finally made her point about that evil human.  They have also been learning how to be a collective group, in a fashion.  the pens have been opened up for both groups, and the moms have been teaching their gaggles to stay with their own.  Bluebell sometimes chastises the older ones, but for the most part, seems to be a neutral provider, although he obviously favors the younger, smaller group.  Sometimes, the moms seem to share, but most times, they herd their groups separately.  It is fascinating and mystifying at the same time.  They grow and learn everyday how to be geese, and it is hard to justify doing "work" when I could be watching.

New Family
A Real Blended Family       

Getting there! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Got geese!

Well, we still don't know if we are moving or not.  We had a lot of activity right from the start of listing the property.  Lots of showings, and several offers.  We finally accepted an offer at the beginning of the year, but it  was contingent on the buyers selling their house.  That has not gone as we had hoped, and now we have to decide whether to push on or not.  We had been experimenting with where to go with our interests, and as things have evolved, the fascination with rare, endangered poultry breeds has risen to the top.

In order for us to continue with that we need to start considering more housing, and once that starts, we probably will give up on moving to a larger acreage.  This place is beautiful, and we have spent many years making improvements to the land, so if we stay, it will be ok.  So, we will have to see what the next couple of months bring.

In the meantime, the poultry breeding season has been in full swing for some time.  The birds don't read contracts, or know about people's plans.  They just do as they do.  Our whimsical geese, the very, very rare Cotton Patch, have started hatching their little ones.  Their breeding season actually started in February, and the first egg was laid on February 24.  It was getting down to 16deg. at night then, so those first eggs were brought in to the house and stored until I had 5 from each pair.  They were then taken to a friend to be incubated, and I kept storing eggs until it warmed up.  I then put those eggs in the nest, and the girls continued to lay.  Finally, they had decided it was time, and first one, and then another settled on to their nests to do their own incubation.

A couple of weeks ago, the eggs that went into the incubator hatched, and out of 10 eggs, we only got 3 goslings.  Goose eggs are often hard to hatch artificially, so we felt lucky to have those.  Then, Tuesday night, I noticed Jezebel, who had started setting first had changed demeanor, and I could hear the distinct sounds of a gosling trilling.  They make the most charming, distinct sound.  It is very soothing.  I could see underneath her wing an empty egg, and as she let me come close to her, could see a little chartreuse baby.

All through Wednesday (28 days after she started) little goslings started appearing.  By that evening, there were heads poking out from under Jezebel everywhere!  In all, she had 9 goslings and one unhatched egg, which had not been fertile.  This was a big surprise, since she only had 8 eggs in the nest when she settled.  She must have laid 2 more after that.  So, besides the 10 eggs that she had been setting on, there were also the first 5 that I took out, for a total of 15.

Tonight, Twinkle's demeanor changed.  She has always been a nervous mama, not letting me get close and chattering away.  But, while we were out stringing electric wire to make sure no predators have baby goose lunches, she started alternately hissing and being very still.  I will assume that she will have goslings tomorrow, be continued.

They still have little "egg" shapes

Dad finally takes a look!

Showing off and playing in the rain water already

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Links and Photos

After we decided we were trying to sell the house yet again, I was unsure just what I wanted to write about on here.  I find the whole purgatory of "are we coming or going" to be paralyzing.  So, as we sift and winnow our way through this, thought I would at least post a link to a great video about clicker training.

I've been pretty inactive in that area for a long time now, but it is still a passion and an interest.  So, here is a great video on a few things you can do with clicker training dogs.


And, since I am posting links as a way of getting around "real" writing, here is one to some pictures of the property.  Great place, guys.  We are beyond organic, situated in a great place midway between Madison and Milwaukee, and well.....  Take a look and then call your realtor!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's Wet out There and other Meanderings

Well, we took the week off to try and get caught up here on the weeding.  At least Roland took the week off from his day job.  For me it is still the same 'ol thing.  Only maybe worse, because we tried to focus our efforts on just one thing, and it really is hard for me to do that.

It's a good thing we didn't wait any longer to get that chore done.  I swear the weeds were growing a foot over night, literally.  The plants we wanted started to disappear in the jungle and were hard to find.  We weeded in the rain, in the heat, and had to take a day sort of off to recuperate.  But, we're gaining, and it is starting to look a little more respectable.  I know one thing.....  annual crops are a LOT of work.  I'm looking forward to the day when most of our "crops" are perennial in nature.  Plant once, take care of them, and they pay you back for many years.  My kind of crop.

Garlic looking good!
Speaking of perennial crops, the mulberries are coming along hot and heavy.  I can't believe more people don't take advantage of them.  They are yummy.  I like them better than strawberries, myself.  Of course, strawberries are one of the food that are on my can't eat list, so that has an influence.  They are pretty easy to harvest.  Spread out sheets or plastic, or whatever you have that is clean and big, and shake the tree.  Voila!


Speaking of great perennial crops, we are going to have blueberries for the first time this year.  Not many, but they're OURS!

Blueberries from Black horse Hill
The amount of poultry around here is increasing.  My fault.  I just wanted to experiment a little.  Creating more work for myself, of course.  For a few broody hens too.  Here are pics of a couple of them.

Peek a boo!!

Little Peep now has her own babes.       

I've posted in the past about Little Peep (AKA as Bucky Jr.)  She was the first chick hatched out here last year.  Well, she went broody, and I let her have a few eggs of her own to hatch.  None of the babies are hers, but she doesn't care.  She is a very fierce protector.  I can swear to that, because she came after me a few days ago when she thought I was a danger to one of  them.

Several hens and their chicks are scattered about the property right now, each with their own portable hut.  There are still  a couple that haven't hatched theirs yet, and that will be it for a while.  Most of these are cross breds, and I need to concentrate on Pure bred chickens next. 

Here is a picture of some purebreds that I did hatch out in an incubator.  The white ones are White Chanteclers, and the black one is a Penedesenca.

White Chanteclers and Black Penedesenca  
.Well, I'm taking time on Friday to go to the Farmer's Market in Cambridge.  That one seems to work out better for me.  At least the weather is usually good on Fridays for some reason.  I'm tired of taking care of all the seedlings, so they are on sale big time.  They are pretty darn good sized now.  Potted in Purple Cow Organic Compost, most are organic seeds, and most are in newspaper pots that I made myself.  I'll still have some lettuce but that will be it for a while.  Still lots of kale, green garlic, garlic scapes, fresh thyme, oregano and cilantro, finally some cut flowers, and MULBERRIES! 

On a final note...  Got out of at least one chore.  Roland had gotten nervous about his wine cap mushroom bed.  He bought more spawn, and picked up a load of oak wood chips on his way back from relocating yet another raccoon.  As he was going out to figure the best place to drive in the tractor, he started laughing.  I walked over to see what was up, and of course, wine cap mushrooms were popping up all over.  I forgot to take pictures, but I'm sure there will be more tomorrow.

Tonight's meal included krispy kale chips and wine cap mushrooms sauteed with fresh garlic scapes and basil.  We do eat well here.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Like to Garden? Like Poultry? We need some help

Since the decision was sort of made for us to dive further into the art and science of growing food on a larger scale, I have come to realize that one little old person plus one often tired husband makes for too much work.  When Roland can finally retire, hopefully next year, things will be a bit easier.  But right now, it is harder than we thought it would be to get things done in a decent thoughtful way, and still have time for things like, well, sleeping and eating.

I'm pretty detail oriented when it comes to taking care of the myriad of poultry around here.  As we add portable infrastructure, it is becoming easier, but it is all coming along very slowly.  The nasty spring hasn't helped any.  Most things are planted, but now the weeds are taking over, the baby chicks are growing, and there are still more infrastructure to build, planning to be done, land to be cleared, swales to be built, and the list goes on and on.  I had planned to be at the farmer's markets, but that is not working out too well, due to the above mentioned dilemmas.  One person to do it all is just becoming too much.

Is this a complaint?  No, not really.  It is just what it is.  So, we are wondering if there is anyone out there who would like to come and help.  A couple of ideas - We would love to have someone or multiple someones try out a worker share CSA.  We have a lot of interesting produce items, plus eggs and meat coming down the line.  Or, maybe there is someone who needs a place to stay this summer, and would like to learn about raising critically rare breeds of poultry, specifically,  - Cotton patch geese, Ancona ducks, White and Partridge Chanteclers, and Black Penedesencas.  I am working on developing a couple of crossbreed lines as well, using the winter-laying capabilities of the Chantecler, and the dark egg coloration of the Penedesencas. 

If you are interested, or know someone who might be, please send them our way.