9/2012 chores, ducklings, apples

chores

So weird now- at 5:30am when we (usually) get up and begin the day, now we’re in the dark. Arrgh! Here we go- I can just feel that winter darkness beginning already.

But life goes on until that very cold time truely begins. It’s still hot, serious hot out. I watered the fall garden big time this morning, the arugula, spinach, late radishes and peas are coming up and this new growth so late in the season is just awesome to see.

Typically when we get up, I get set up for milking, and start the coffee process while Andrew feeds & waters everyone. This morning, the entire scheme was cloaked with a heavy and very moist fog which lasted until after 8am! The goats come to be milked and have their snacks one by one, I juggle their time on the stand eating, with my own chugging of coffee and attempting to clear up the kitchen, sometimes I start breakfast as well, although Andrew makes really good breakfasts so I always wait to see if he wants to take the lead.

As I strut back and forth between milk shed and kitchen, dealing with goat mayhem as per usual, Andrew is busy letting the Bubsters out of the chicken tractors, giving their voracious tummies food and water. He feeds the flock of our oldest ducks, who are now in seclusion in a separate paddock. It’s hard to make the call to start culling the oldest ducks who are no longer laying, but we have begun this process. Meanwhile they live in comfort in the shade of the boxelder & maple trees. The flock of turkeys get fed and watered, as well as the rabbits in the “tractors.” The breeder flock in the rabbitry is cared for and looked after. Goat water buckets get filled, and a bale of hay goes in the manger every other day since it is so dry and their pasture doesn’t offer much food stuff anymore. The small group of breeder ducks is tended to- they are the best of the best of the duck hens from the old flock, who we’ve retained as the best genetics to carry onward into our farm’s future. We’re getting about 7 eggs a day now from the 10 hens we held back, so the best ladies were indeed kept- they’ve been through hell and high water with us- moving here, snow, predators, heat waves….these are our queen LTD Farm ducks! We can’t wait to have their offspring, our own LTD varietal ducklings hatch out in less than a week (if all goes well with our incubators.)

The group of ducks who are our main egg producing flock get fed, watered and bedded with fresh hay (from our land!!), and their eggs are collected. At about 8 we open the door to their barn so they can go out to their paddock. Ducks usually lay their eggs earlier than chickens, so by 8am all the eggs that will come are mostly in the nest boxes. As I strain milk and clean up after milking, Andrew does egg cleaning. Then we have a bit of catch up time online, and finally our farm meeting. Each and everytime we don’t have a farm meeting in the morning, things go absolutely haywire. It doesn’t matter if we both think we know our path for the day- we have to talk about it and document this as our plan in the farm journal.

Chores don’t stop. They are a major part of caring for and working with animals on a farm. When it is hot out, we have to be extra careful to keep everybody cool, hydrated and comfortable. We have a hard time ever leaving without worrying about these beings for a number of reasons. We are responsible for them and their lives, and they are a huge part of our livelihood.As they are cared for, they care for us.

There are mid-morning and then mid-day chores, and then most importantly, the evening chores. Milking is part of evening chores, and boy am I getting a bit tired of milking since January! So are the goats! Sometimes my first goat, the queen of the herd, May, just stands there, like “Ummm, I am tired of this, I’m not interested in going to milk AGAIN.” Yep, hear ya girl….but we’ll keep on through October. Then it’s time for some major rest for all of us.

ducklings!!!!

We’re elated to hear little peeps in the living room. Our first duckling just hatched out of her/his egg! There look to be 7 more that have pip-holes, and technically the eggs weren’t due to hatch until tomorrow, but ducklings do not follow calendars!

These are extra special babies, hatched from our own flock. The momma hens are some of our best, most hardy lady ducks. They have been through hell and high water with us- moving here in the horse trailer 2 years ago, going through major predator pressure, major heat waves and insanely cold winters. These momma ducks are in their third or longer season laying, and of the 10 we handpicked, we’re getting 7 eggs a day from them! Very good layers as well, which is exactly the type of genetic perfection we want to duplicate. Having their offspring here, hatching in our home incubator is sooooo exciting. When you hatch eggs, you are going to likely have a 50/50 mix of boys and girls, which means we’ll be offering limited numbers of Christmas heritage duck. The girls will, of course, be staying with us as our genetic superstar egg layers. Breeding your own animals from your own most hardy stock in your own region is how all the heritage breeds got started. We just made our own LTD heirlooms!

milking apples

This year the apple crop all across the region is going to be small, due to the early warmth at the end of March, which triggered blossoming WAY too early.The frosts came and those little applettes froze right off. Most of the trees we have are bare of fruit this year, which is really sad since we just finally got our grinder and press setup working again.

On our farm we have over 40 trees which are all primarily wild varieties. I read in the Botany of Desire that each and every apple seed in each and every apple creates it’s own new type. Isn’t that astounding? Like a snowflake, each and every one is unique. I love that we have so many “snowflake” trees here. Most apples in the stores are from grafts of a particularly excellent type of apple that was discovered. That tree’s branches are harvested, patented, and grafted and sold for big bucks.Think Honeycrsip, SweeTango, etc…

A few of our own excellent apple trees did not get fooled by the early warmth and bloomed later, when they are supposed to. Smart trees!The first one I love is grows HUGE, sweet and golden apples with just a tiny blush of pink. SUCH delicious apples! Our members all got some, and I was busy collecting all the windfalls to clean up and make applesauce from. I made 100 qrts of applesauce from that ONE tree!!!! That one is a major keeper of a variety, let me tell you!

100 quarts of applesauce later, I was ready to make quick work of the next load of apples and get making cider already, but we had a problem- no apple grinder. Last year we bought a brand new, yet discontinued model of a garbage disposal, which Andrew read was a great way to make apple pulp for pressing. After 5 buckets of apples, it stopped working, and wouldn’t start again. What a waste of money, I thought, angrily! He tinkered with it and got it going, removing the insulated casing to prevent overheating, which was killed it last year, apparently. Like a genius, Andrew fitted the grinder in an old sink we got from some friends, and we set up our washing and grinding station. Not glamorous, but it got the job done!

Since it has been a no-rain zone for the past month, most of the windfall apples have been in pretty good shape. No moisture to attract slugs and hasten the rotting of the fruit. I spent many hours on my hands and knees under the trees that did have fruit this year, picking through the assortment of apples. Bug hole ones go to the ducks, turkeys or goats. Slightly bruised or knicked and into the cider bucket. You’d be amazed to know that the goats barely were interested, the turkeys were initially terrified of them, but the ducks LOVED the rotten apples immediately! Waste not, the ducks got most of the bad apples. The rest, about 5 bushels or more, were washed and quartered, then tossed through the grinder. The 2 of us made pretty quick work on this job over a 24 hour period. I tried to count the number of apples, and it was ALOT and of course I lost track with all the distractions around here. We ended up with 2 carboys full of fresh pressed cider, which Andrew fed some champagne yeast to for winter-time hard cider, and then a gallon and half for drinking fresh, in the fridge. I wish we had more apples so we could share this with our CSA members, but due to such a small crop, I’d like to encourage everyone to get out to your local, professional orchard and get some freekin’ cider! All the apples are early this year, and most orchards are now in full swing, a month ahead of schedule. Is there anything better than fresh pressed local cider? I don’t think so.

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