Thursday, September 29, 2011

having fun with the goats

Zolena (aka Zoie)  loves to clown around, here she is asking for grain.  Goats are all about fun and good food, they keep us all smiling with their charm and humor. 
Jersey is a total sweetheart, she will always be the one hanging around the most for attention.  Jarin calls her glamour girl because she is such a beautiful, girly goat.
Stormy flying through the air, he loves to climb the rocks and does the most amazing leaps off of them,
the higher they are the better the ariel stunt.
Running and leaping and off to play in the meadow.

6am call

I got up this morning a little before 6am and started a fire.   As soon as I was done the phone rang, it was the Post Office saying my package of chicks had come in.  I said, "I'll be right there!"  I got the kids up, made a quick cup of tea to go, and jumped in the car.  It takes me a little less than 20 minutes to get down our hill, through the valley, and into town.  I made it back in time for us to have a peek inside the box, then I ran the older kids to the bus stop.

10 days ago, I ordered 25 jumbo Cornish cross chicks from McMurray hatchery.  We've never ordered chicks through the mail, so this was a fun new experience.  In my order they also included an extra freebie, "a special rare chicken".  We'll let it grow and feather out, then it will join the laying flock,  and wait to see what kind of surprise chicken we got.  They also included 3 extra chicks, possibly in case a few died in transport.  Well, I'm happy to say they're all alive and thriving.
Kaley is the next to wake up, I take her to the bus stop an hour later at 8am.  Here she is holding one of the babies as we all sit by the warm fire.  We know these are meat birds, I told her that they're really only bred to grow and get big for a certain amount of time, like 8-10 weeks.   This will be our first batch of chickens that we are specifically raising for meat, 28 chickens will be ready right around Thanksgiving time.   I will raise them with the best life I can give them, and as we sustain them now, they will sustain us.  I am going to love going into winter with a freezer full of the best homegrown chicken. 
You can see my surprise chicken is the only black one in the bunch.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A curious thing

Joon our black nigerian dwarf goat is getting white spots all over!  She's 2 and a half years old, and I think she's always been solid black, until now, you can see a few spots in this picture, but up close, she's getting them all over.  I'm not sure what's causing it, but we're kind of watching her new look unfold as more and more appear.  

She seems healthy and is eating alfalfa hay, some grass hay, and lots of salmon berry greens.  I give her dry cob at feedings, with a sprinkling of black sunflower seeds, along with a handful of alfalfa pellets.  All the goats have loose minerals to eat any time they want to. I'm milking her once a day and have been for the last couple months, she seems happy and frisky.  We're planning to have her bred the first part of October for kids to be due next March.  It will be interesting to see if her spots stay or disappear. 

meet the new rabbits

Meet our newest Champagne d' argent buck, his name is Filbert (in light of a Filbert tree I planted in front of the rabbit cages several years ago).  Can you tell how curious he is?  I had no idea that a rabbit could be so friendly and funny, he runs to the entrance when I open his cage, and says hi, he loves to be pet and talked to, he likes fresh sticks to chew, and loves alfalfa and dry cob (corn, oats and barley).  He is 13 weeks old,  pedigreed, and will be a fine breeding buck here at Applegarth.  In the picture below you can see he still hasn't gotten all his silvering that comes with maturity.  When Champagne d' argents are born, they're all black, they turn silver as they age.

Pictured below is our newest rabbit, an 11 week old American Chinchilla doe.  She's roomed next door to Filbert and they seem to like each other.
Here's a little history on the breed.
The American Chinchilla rabbit was created in the 1920s using Standard Chinchilla rabbits and breeding them for larger size. This was to create a rabbit with a larger pelt and bigger body for meat.  It was one of the more highly paid for pelts at the height of the fur industry.

Originally, it was known as the American Heavyweight Chinchilla, it is one of the few rabbits that is truly unique to the United States. Now it is one of the Rare Breed Rabbits, seriously threatened with extinction. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has listed this breeds' condition as Critical, and they are encouraging more people to raise this fine breed of  rabbit as a heritage animal.

This is my first American Chinchilla rabbit, she is unbelievably soft, her fur is exquisite, plus she's a real sweetheart, and loves attention.  These are the two breeds I'm going to focus on, the Chamgagne d' argents and the American Chinchilla's.

Fall bounty ~ Gathering Hazelnuts and Filberts

Hazelnut trees can be found all over our Northwest woodlands and the hedgerows of older farms, they are our native species of nut.  Through  the centuries these nuts have supplied so much more than just food for settlers and natives. They have long been associated with wisdom, even magic, and everything from witches' wands, to royal sceptres and water dowsing rods were made from their precious and pliable wood.
The common wild hazel grows in abundance all over the Northwest, and seeking out its nuts is one of the easiest foraging jobs, (alongside blackberrying, which you can often do at the same time). Fresh, green hazelnuts are crisp, and slightly sweet, an utter delight when compared to the dried store bought ones.

Right now is the time to harvest as the nuts are falling from the trees, you will have to be quick to beat the squirrels.  When you know what a hazelnut tree looks like, you will see them everywhere.  Last week I went hazelnut and filbert picking next to where I work, these are the pictures of the trees I picked from and the nuts once I shelled them.  
I don't know how old these trees are, but they're probably around 50 years old, they bear loads of nuts that were dropping everywhere as I picked them off the ground.  When you stand below an old hazelnut tree, you feel small as they tower overhead, cathedral-like in their magnificence.

Below is a picture of what the nuts look like growing on a branch.

Pictured are both filberts, the longer pecan looking ones,
and hazelnuts the traditional round cobby ones.

If you don't have time to gather your own hazelnuts at this time of year, you will find them in farmers' markets where they sell commercially cultivated nuts. They're bigger than wild hazelnuts, but just as delicious when very fresh, check the frilly casing that it's not too dried out.
Along with hazelnuts, there are also filberts, the difference between the two is that hazelnuts are round with short, frilly husks that expose the end of the nut, while filberts are longer, thinner and covered by their husks – their name comes from St Philbert's Day on August 22nd, the date when hazelnuts are supposed to start ripening. .
Once you've eaten your fill of fresh hazelnuts, dry any you have left over. Store in a dry, airy room or shed in shallow layers in slatted boxes, or hang them up in mesh bags. Turn them regularly, or give the bag a shake, to ensure they're drying evenly and, once dry, remove the husks and store in a cool, dry place. And then you'll have hazelnuts!
Dried hazelnuts and filberts are a great addition to all kinds of dishes – toasting brings out their yummy flavours. Whole or chopped, they add crunch to autumn salads and stuffing's; ground, they're very good in biscuits and cakes, particularly when paired with chocolate.  I definitely have squirrel-like tendencies this time of year as I harvest and stash in preparation for winter's cold. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

back into a good routine

Finally I feel like nesting and cooking and cleaning, it's not that I haven't been cooking or cleaning, it's just that now I have more time to devote to it.  This whole last month has been beautiful and sunny, and I've been outside both working at the nursery on weekends, and working on our growing farm.  Now that the kids are back in school as of last Thursday, and husband is leaving for work early, I have some much needed time to work on things.  I have missed looking at other blogs and writing in mine.  The tiny bit of computer time that I've had, has been spent checking my email in the evening and that's about it. 

If you've been following this blog, I just wanted to say hello, and let you know I didn't intend to be gone so long,  guess I just needed a break and didn't realize it.  I'm feeling inspired, and have even spent some time catching up on other blogs I follow.  I should know by now that Fall is always the time of year I begin to feel more creative.

Many things need my attention right now, especially my house. I have painting to do before the weather turns cold and wet, and cleaning and organizing that need to been done, kind of like Spring cleaning, only in the Fall.  I'm harvesting crops today as tonight is a harvest moon, picking the rest of my green cabbages for sauerkraut and kimchee. And this morning I picked a giant zucchini, that grew out of control over our hot weekend, I'll make a couple of zucchini breads.  There are black berries and filberts to harvest and greens to continue to sow.  The garden has taken off with all the gorgeous weather, we are still picking strawberries, aronia berries, carrots, beets, onions, broccoli, kale, lettuce, potatoes and turnips. The pickling cucumbers are almost ready to harvest, and the delicata squash is growing like crazy.  The vegetable garden is the best this time of year, in September it shines.

In the rabbitry I have a new 9 week old American Chinchilla coming tomorrow.  I decided to go with American Chinchilla's instead of Silver Fox's after seeing them at the fair this year.  About a week ago we sold Peppermint our Angora rabbit, a real nice lady came all the way from the San Juan Islands to buy her,  she is going to be bred and will use their fiber.  Several weeks ago I also rescued 2 rabbits from a house near my work, some people moved and left them.  The 2 rabbits looked awful and I've been watching them come back to health with good food and care.  Pictures will be coming soon.  I am planning to just stick with the 2 breeds for now, the Champagne d'Argents and the American Chinchilla's, both are meat and fur breeds in the 9-12lb range.

The goats are doing great, I'm still milking both Joon and Zolena, and get about a gallon a day, between the 2.  We've been drinking it, baking with it, and making yogurt.  I've also been in contact with our Nubian's breeder to discuss a good buck to breed Jersey to, as we're getting close to that time.  Our newest baby goat Snowdrop is still too young to leave her mother, but we're looking forward to her coming here around early October.   Fencing is my next big expense, as I want to increase their paddock size considerably.  About a week ago, we laid out the corner posts for the new goat barn... patience!

I'm still working weekends, but that will wind down around the end of October, and then won't start up again until the first of April, the nursery business is seasonal around here.  So all through the dark and cold winter you'll probably find me here writing more.  I'm planning to make soap in a couple weeks, and will use the goat's milk.  I'm also planning to make a variety of cheeses, and breads, and will write about both.  Jarin has  resumed building the cabin, so some new pictures will be coming of the progress there too.

Here at Applegarth farm, we have been working at getting more self sufficient than ever these last 10 years, starting with gardens, then bees, fruit trees, rabbits, chickens, and now goats.  I can finally tell you, our land and animals are sustaining us, as well as we are sustaining them.  It is one of the best feelings I've ever felt, to eat everyday the freshest food, that we've grown, planted, harvested, and milked.  To start a fire and heat and cook with wood we've cut, chopped and stacked. With small steps you can look back in time and see how far you come over the years.   Day by day the choices we make determine our future.