Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CC Post: 5 Tips for Introducing Teenage Chicks

Check out my latest Community Chickens post for tips on how to introduce feathered out chicks to an existing flock. The phase between the brooder and the coop.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Care for Bees in Early Spring

Yay! So your bees made it through the winter, that's awesome! But don't think your hive is out of the danger zone now that the weather has warmed. Early spring is a time when bees especially need a helping hand. Chances are, their winter stores of honey are getting low, and even though it's warm, the flowers haven't really bloomed. So we help our bees with a simple syrup feed. Check out our latest video to learn how! 

Mix equal parts table sugar and water, heat on stove top until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Pour into mason jar, top with the metal lid and insert into bee feeder. Supplies found below.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Solway Nipple System Chicken Waterer and a GIVEAWAY!

I'm really excited to share with you a new way that we're providing water to our chicks this spring. We received these wonderful Side Mounted Nipples from Solway Feeders, now located in the US! They completely solve the problem of keeping our chick's water clean while in the brooder box!

This is what our old vacuum type waterer looked like only an hour after cleaning and refilling it with fresh water. It's clogged with bedding and not very healthy looking. We have chicks at different ages in our brooder so I can't raise it up too high or the little ones can't reach. With all the scratching and fluffing our chicks do with the wood chip bedding, the water is constantly needing to be cleaned out. I'm forever running my fingers around the rim to scoop out soggy wood chips. And if you don't get every last one, they clog the drain in the sink where I refill.

But this new nipple system has changed all that.

Each nipple has a metal release that allows water to flow when the chick moves it with it's beak. The small cup directly below captures any extra water and holds a small pocket of water where the chick can drink from. 

It took us minutes to assemble and here's how.

What you'll need:
Solway Side Mounted Nipples
A sturdy plastic pail
pail lid
3/8" drill bit
tape measure
pen or marker

I started by measuring around the outside of the pail. Our pail was approximately 26 1/2 inches and I wanted the nipples spaced at even intervals so I divided by 5 nipples and made a mark every 5 1/4 inches.

The nipples should be placed at eye level to the smallest chick. So for our babies, that was about 1 1/2 inches from the bottom. I made an X where these two measurements met. The bucket can be hung or set on blocks as the chicks grow.

Then we simply drilled our five holes, twisted in the nipples and filled it with water.

The nipples have a unique thread so there's no need for sealant, and there's no need to bottom out the nipples, simply tighten till it's good and snug. The nipples can be used in a PVC pipe system or in any container from 2 to 55 gallons. One nipple will service 6 to 8 birds.

I can't believe how nice this is working for our chicks. Chicks are naturally curious, and they decided to investigate this new contraption in their brooder home. Within 5 minutes they had figured out the system and were happily drinking from the nipples.

The really cool part is that thanks to Solway, one of you will also receive a set of Side Mounted Nipples to use in your own brooder! Just leave a comment below with your name, email and why you love raising chicks and I'll select a winner on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014!

Here's a short video I made of our chicks right after we placed the bucket in the brooder.

I was not paid to write this article. I only write reviews for products that I believe in and this is seriously a cool product!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Waterfowl Species (For Me Anyway)

I love nature! Being in the woods, or by a lakeside or pond makes me feel more alive than in any other experience. Something you might not know about me is that I love birding. I come by it naturally as it was something my mother and I did at a very young age. We always had several bird feeders by our door wall; mixed seed, suet, hummingbird, and thistle feeders. I would sit at the kitchen table and every time a new bird landed on the feeder my mom would quiz me. "Ok, how about that one?" she'd ask. If I didn't know its name we would take out her large Audubon Book of North American Birds and browse through the beautiful illustrations of all the colorful species. We'd find the bird and put a Post-It on that page with the date. As I got older, I expanded our love of birding by adding other types of feeders to our yard; Oriole feeders with citrus smelling nectar and grape jelly. I also discovered meal worms and made a peanut feeder for Wood Peckers.   

My love of birding doesn't really make its way into the farming blog that often, but it's definitely something I've always enjoyed. I used to do a feature here on the blog call Wild Wednesday where I would share different photographs of animals, birds, insects, interesting plants or mushrooms that I discovered while on a nature walk.

After we moved, I got away from Wild Wednesday because our lives were so saturated with interesting farming experiences that I had more than enough subject matter to stick with farming...But honestly, I miss it. Nature really is a large part of my personality and for a long time I've felt like something's been gone from my very soul. Not that I don't go out in nature anymore, it's just that I'm not quit as submerged as I used to be while living in the woods. Our little pocket of forest was so saturated with creatures that it felt like I was making new discoveries everyday. And it was even more interesting to note that as the surrounding area became more developed, (a subdivision went up close by; many trees were cut down, large homes were built, roads were paved, etc.) that the occurrence of new wildlife became more and more common. It was bittersweet really. While I enjoyed seeing these new animals on our property, like our first beaver, a pileated woodpecker, a grey fox etc. it was obvious that these animals were being squeezed together in some of the last pockets of woods left for them in the area. Or at least that's my theory?

In a way, a selfish way perhaps, I was glad that in the last few years I was able to experience a surge of wildlife before I left the woods and moved to the prairie.  

But rather than mourning my woodland experiences, I'm going to try to embrace the creatures of the meadow. We now see Sandhill Cranes and Red-winged Blackbirds, I photographed my first Black and Yellow Garden Spider, many varieties of snakes and my latest discovery is two new waterfowl species that I can add to my mothers well worn Book of North American Birds.

I apologize for the terrible photos but we were parked on the edge of a bride photographing what I thought were loons! We were on our way home from a friends house visiting their new baby lamb when I saw a large type of black and white waterfowl with a prominent pointed beak swimming in the thawed water of a frozen lake only about a mile from our house. "Zach!" I shouted. "I think I just saw a bunch of loons!"

I had never seen Loons this far south, but I thought perhaps they were making a stop on the way to their breeding grounds further north. We couldn't easily turn around in the car and the sun was setting so I knew I wouldn't get a good look.

We decided that we would let it be for the night and hopefully the "loons" would still be there the following day.

And they were. Only, after taking some rather distant photos and a good look through my binoculars, I realized these were not Loons at all. But I wasn't sure what they were?

So while I was disappointed that I didn't see a Loon, I was intrigued to identify this new species. Turns out, after browsing around the Michigan Audubon website and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that these are in fact Common Mergansers.You can see that the bodies are much whiter than a Loon, even in the loon's winter plumage. Also the females (If you look really close) have the slightest red-brown tint to their head and the hint of a crest in the back.

After looking through more of the photos I took at the bridge, I noticed this little pair of Lesser Scaups, which is also a new species for me.

Here is a Common Merganser with a male Hooded Merganser (Lower Right) which we used to have on our pond at the other house. 

Here's the same pair of Lesser Scaups with a Canada Goose above. This lake also had a good collection of Wood Ducks and Mallards. I'll keep visiting the lake and see if I can get some better photos to share.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Creeping

Spring is creeping in around our farm. We had a nice, productive weekend, but for once, didn't feel rushed to get things done. Saturday I made a grass fed beef roast, carrots and potatoes, homemade bread, roasted corn and German red cabbage.

I let dinner stew in the crock pots, wafting the delicious smells of garlic and onions, baking bread, and the tangy sweet-sour smell of the cabbage throughout the house.

Outside, we had a glowing fire going under our first boil of maple sap.

When we finally capped the last jar, we had a little under 3/4 gallon of sweet earthy syrup.

Oliver spent the day attacking a most ferocious stick.

You can never be too sure about sticks.

They'll come at you when your not looking, so it's better to keep the upper hand...

...we think the stick won. 

After dinner, we decided to experiment a little further in our maple syrup project, and we successfully made maple sugar candy. (I'll have a how-to post up soon.) Man! Is it SWEEET!!!

Sunday, we went to mass and then stopped by the feed store for a few supplies. When we got home we trimmed all the goat's hooves, dewormed everyone and trimmed the turkey's flight wings so they don't jump the fence and go in the road.

In other news, the chicks are getting big. I forget how fast they feather in. 

I thought it being Monday, that the farming experiences would lull back into the weekday routine, but I got an exciting e-mail from a new farming friend and neighbor that we met last week.

Like us, they have a growing farm and lots of fun new experiences to try. Last week I helped her shear (her and my first) sheep. I can't believe how complacent the sheep are. She sat the sheep up on its hind quarters and the docile sheep simply let me shear it. No fidgeting, fighting or whining like we get with the goats. The beautiful wool came off in one large sheet, and the skin on the sheep was nice and tight which made it far easier to glide the shears across.

Tonight I'm trying my hand at helping to milk her cow. We're both new to this, as this is their first cow as well, but it's fun to learn new skills together.

You never know what your day will hold. Especially if you live in a farming community.     

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Checking the Bees After the Winter: Video

It was 52 degrees on Monday and enough of the snow had melted to where we could walk out to the back property and check the bees! Here's a video about what we found.