It’s a McFarmFace birthday!

Of course, planning ahead as I do, I didn’t request my birthday off. Oops. Oh well, got a good weekend planned. But that’s not what I want to talk about today!

Self sufficiency. Lots of homesteaders talk about it. Preppers shout about it. But is it really attainable?

Are we self sufficient? Well, we have fruit, nut, and berries. We have a sizeable garden, and four types of livestock for eggs and meat. But we get electricity and water from municipal sources. So let’s say we get solar installed and our own well dug, and we can grow or raise all we need to eat. Does that make us self sufficient?

I don’t know how to make solar panels so I will rely on others to do that for me. I can raise my animals but I learned that from others. There is not a single aspect of my life that is independent from the rest of the world. Self sufficient is an illusion. Even if the only thing we get from others is knowledge, they earned it before us. 

That’s sort of the point of society. And it’s not just a human construct either. Many animals have discovered safety in numbers or cooperation increase their odds of survival. Primates teach skills to young and protect weaker members of the group, geese migrate at the pace of the slowest bird, and fish move as a single unit to discourage predators. 

I’m not saying that the skills and habits that we generally call “self sufficiency” are in any way bad or useless to have. On the contrary, I gain great satisfaction from growing my own food and raising livestock. In the event of an emergency, I know my family will be fed. In the meantime, we are healthier for the food we produce. But in recent years I’ve seen something approaching paranoia regarding the way society works. 

We are stronger together. When we divide ourselves into arbitrary groups based on skin color or religious beliefs, it weakens us all. Yeah, it got a little preachy there. But hey, it’s my birthday!

Naming livestock

Some advice I’ve gotten since well before even purchasing our land was don’t name your animals. I suppose that for most people, once you name an animal, it becomes a pet rather than food, and it’s harder to kill an animal you love. 

But here’s the thing. We love all our animals. The chickens, the turkeys, the bunnies, the geese, and whatever else we end up getting. They get petted and snuggled (sometimes whether they want it or not!) and treats every day. Maybe this does make slaughter harder, but we both believe that it’s important to love these animals. After all, they’re losing their lives so that ours can continue. If that doesn’t deserve some love, I don’t know what does!

We started this venture largely to control what we eat. Factory farming is not sustainable, no matter what the agricultural giants would have you believe. It poisons the land and makes the food worth less to your body. The healthiest food comes from healthy and happy animals. As such, we work to make sure our animals have the best lives they possibly can. And that includes snuggles from time to time. 

Sold out for the season!

The last of the turklets have been reserved for sale! We have three that we will keep for ourselves. One for more eggs next year, one for our thanksgiving, and one to sell for thanksgiving. 

I honestly wasn’t sure for a while there how many we would end up being left with, and I’d planned on keeping more of them. But for our first season selling birds, this isn’t bad at all. The animals have essentially covered 3/4 of their costs for this month and that’s a pretty big deal. 

I don’t expect Diane to lay any more eggs. She seems rather determined to sit on an empty nest for now. Though we are trying to break her broodiness. 

We’ve got more Bielefelder eggs set under Chipmunk, and the bunnies will do what bunnies will do, but I think beyond that we are done adding animals for this year. Time to focus on clearing and fencing the pasture and getting fruit trees in the ground and vegetable garden patches cleared. 

Small successes 

The incubator didn’t pan out (but I’ve got some ideas on that) but the Bielefelder eggs aren’t a total wash. After hatching the turkey eggs, chipmunk took some Bielefelder eggs. Some losses, not her fault. But we did get four cherps!

Had I thought the nest boxes out better, she would be raising the chicks. But it’s a tall wall and along way down so they went in the brooder with the turklets. 

Three cockerels of the four eggs. Not thrilled about that, but it’s three chicken dinners this winter! Note the overall light coloration and the yellow spot on his head?

One of the great things about this breed is the auto sexing. The females look quite different!

So, I’ve got a few little projects. Add nest boxes that are more conducive to hen reared chicks (front entry, ramp, not too high) and upgrade the incubator. It’s a still air, and that’s not ideal because the temperature isn’t consistent. But a small computer fan will help with that. 

We are going to try for another clutch of Bielefelder eggs, but that’s probably it for this year. Got a lot going on what with the human baby on the way and whatnot! In the meantime, check out this vogue chick!

Surprise!

She thought she was losing her mind. 

You may recall that several weeks ago, the rabbits were a bit on the escapey side. That’s important to remember. 

Last night while I was at work, the girlfriend was counting the bunnies from the window. All present and accounted for. Plus an extra. What.

Sure she was seeing things, she went down and investigated the blue shelter she had seen it hop into. She had noticed it was full of straw a week ago and assumed I’d done it. 

Try to remember that all our bunnies are white. The girls have brown ears and noses. That looks… grey… 

Yeah, that’s grey. Seems the girl who was out in the woods longest had a one night stand and brought back a souvenir!

Any worries we had about the rabbits raising babies on their own are gone. They raised these two for at least a week without us even knowing! Their eyes are open.

Now for the big question. Who’s the daddy? Or rather, what’s the daddy? If this was a wild rabbit, then these two kits are like mules. Strong, but sterile. If he was a feral domestic rabbit, then we now have a new color option and wider gene pool. 

The only thing I can think to do is contact our agricultural extension office and ask if they can determine species. Any other ideas? 

In the meantime, two extra bunnies! And we’ve sold five already. May or may not sell more. Might process the ones we have left. We shall see!

What a lovely skirt…

So, rats found out they could dig und r the coop. My bad. I had hardware cloth under it, but it seems that during the building process, it got into a position of poor contact and the little monsters can slip right past it. 

So, skirt it is. The first step is to dig a shallow trench that slopes away from the coop. Some will tell you to bury the wire one foot down. These people have no real experience with rodents. Rats are smart. They’ll just keep going down. But if the barrier goes down and out, it’s very confusing. To figure out that they need to move away from the barrier before digging requires abstract thinking that is ever so slightly past the average rat. 

So you dig your trench and set the hardware cloth in it. It should contact the wood of the coop enough for staples, but extend about a foot down and away. The more the better. 

Staple it into position and start to bury it. It’s ok if it’s not perfectly flush to the ground, but it should be flush to the coop. 

When you’re burying it, periodically give it a shake or step on it to ensure good soil contact, but also to make sure it doesn’t bend and create gaps where a rodent could slip through. Be sure to overlap at the corners!

When you’re all done, the wire should be barely visible, and just where it connects to the wood. 

I did this about a week and a half ago and there has been no indication that the rats have figured it out. In the meantime, we are setting traps to try to encourage them to vacate the premises. 

We tried a live trap and caught one, but since then they seem to have figured it out. Either that or most of them are too small to trip it. As such, I bought modern snap traps that are supposed to work well. Two sizes, one for rats and one for mice. I know where the little ones come out so I’ll set the small ones there and the big one near the coop. 

To avoid any bird or cat accidents, I got a few milk crates. Turned upside down, they’ll keep larger animals out but let the rodents in. I set the traps next to known burrow entrances with the crates covering the whole thing. 

Disclaimer. I like rodents. They’re smart and make wonderful pets. But when they’re under the house and in the coop, they gotta go. The Snap E Mouse Trap, under an upturned milk crate is incredibly effective. I set three traps about three hours ago. I’ve caught eight so far. 

I think the crate makes them feel more secure taking the bait. Anyway, it’s important to check the traps frequently, as they’ll learn to avoid them if they see their comrades dead in them. 

I don’t like killing, but these are fast, humane, and very effective. 

Another busy weekend

Whew! This weekend isn’t even over for me but I’ve gotten quite a bit done. 

First, I played with the goslings. It’s taxing work, but somebody’s got to do it. They need to not be afraid of us. 

Next, I got some more planting done. We had a packet of sunflower seeds for snacking as opposed to the black oil seeds I already planted, and a little packet of purely decorative ones. Got those in, along with some buckwheat. 

Then beans. And why yes, that is in the middle of the yard. I ran out of other places. But being by the deck means I’ve got a great place for a trellis!

Then there was a bunch of little projects and cleaning up. The rabbits have the nest boxes back, as we figure at least one is probably pregnant now. By the way, like my little rabbit barn? We figure it gives them more space out of rain, and that front board can help contain the very young babies. 

Speaking of babies, they’re getting big! We will probably only keep six of them for the freezer and sell the rest as pets or breeding stock. 

The rat bitten turklet is completely recovered and back outside, though we are triple checking it goes on the roost at night. In the meantime, I’ve installed an anti rodent skirt to the coop. I’ll do a post just on that soon. 

The geese are starting to get real feathers, and are spending every day outside. The pen keeps them confined until they’re big enough to not get through the fence. 

And finally, it’s been consistently warm and dry for long enough that I felt I should water everything. And with the soil darkened, I could see much more clearly that the salad garden is actually doing quite well! That spinach was nearly invisible before watering. 

Same with the lettuce! Several varieties of loose leaf and I’m even doing some butterhead lettuce this year. And the radishes. I wasn’t even planting more radishes, but I found old seeds and figured I’d give them a shot. 

Big milestone!

Less than one year after moving in, we’ve reached what I think is a pretty big milestone! We have more baby birds than we want to raise up to eating weight. And you know what that means right?

Craigslist! I’d prefer to use Facebook, but Facebook doesn’t allow any sort of animal sales at all, not even the legal sale of livestock. 

But we have nearly a dozen baby turkeys, and at least two more ready to hatch. We’ve also got fertile eggs and rabbits that seem to be weaned. So, a couple ads are up and more will be going up soon. This is a pretty big deal!

For the first time, instead of saving us money (on food) or costing us money (on feed and supplies) our animals can start earning us money! This is a huge step towards not needing my full time job anymore. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited!

We actually don’t need to “earn” a lot for this to be a big deal. By my figuring, if they pay for themselves and provide us with just a small amount of income plus food, it could allow me to change shifts. Night shift pays a little better, but I’d like to be on day shift long before my daughter starts school. I want to be present for her big moments. 

So yeah, I’m really excited right now. The animals are about to start paying for themselves, the veggie garden is the biggest I’ve ever done, and we’ve got five fruit trees that may produce this year but certainly will next year. Big things are happening!

Second clutch!

Way to go Diane! Despite angry broody chickens fighting you over prime nesting space and fowl (bahdumtss) weather, you successfully brooded your eggs! Four out already, two pipped, three unknown status. If you hatch all nine, I’ll be super happy. 

Amazingly, this time I actually caught the hatching itself in progress! That one hanging out of the shell in the lower right of the second photo, I actually watched it fling itself out of the shell the rest of the way!

This went down just before 20:00 (8:00pm) on Monday evening. Going to leave her be for a while, I’ll check the totals tomorrow before I leave for work. Hopefully she also hatches those three Bielefelder eggs. If not, I’ve got to split them up between the two broody hens. 

We’ve got enough turkeys already, so these ones will be for sale locally. Look at that face!

Watching my corn pop up in rows. 

The corn, wheat, and sunflowers are doing quite nicely. I’ll probably remove the bird netting this weekend. 

While the corn is partly for us (popcorn) and partly for chicken food, the wheat is mainly for the birds. 

The sunflowers, well this batch anyway, will be a bit of an experiment. We should be able to make our own sunflower oil, but it’ll also be good for the birds. 

We also have some other sunflowers, I just need to clear a place to plant them. Those are mainly for snacking and decoration. 

But in other news, Vasi definitely did her duty last night. The two older turkey poults are roughly seven weeks old (judging by the bird pattern baldness) and have been spending a few days and nights outside. Last night got chilly and they decided to sleep on the coop floor instead of a roost. Unfortunately, that meant that when a rat got in looking for chicken food, it found vulnerable birds. 

Vasi went ballistic and while she couldn’t get to them, she did alert Lady McFarmFace so fast that the rat wasn’t able to do too much damage. We think the turkey will pull through. In the meantime, I’ve got some work to do figuring out how to keep rodents out, and we have to make sure they don’t sleep on the ground again. They’re back inside until the bird heals up. 

Good dog!