Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

Friday, December 19, 2014

Meet and Greet

Photo #1  Goldie.  An attractive and (more importantly) well behaved rooster selected from our flock of broilers last year.  Large and in charge, he is a real presence in the hen house.  I look forward to seeing what kind of offspring result from pairing him with our broiler hens. The rangers are a 4 cross hybrid so odds are the results will be unpredictable... but that's the fun part right?

Photo #2 Rocky.  The one and only Barred Rock Rooster himself.  From a order of 25 hens Rocky here was the only male overlooked.  Rocky and Goldie get along well and usually divvy up the roostering duties evenly even though there is a striking size difference between them.  Rocky doesn't seem to mind being overlooked, and he is always watching for danger from around the corner and under cover.

Photo #3 Just one of the "lucky ladies" the boys spend all that effort crowing about.  Her, the 15 other Barred Rock hens just like her will make up the majority of this year's laying flock. The other girls are varied a bit.  A few broiler hens from this year, a few more from the year before and only a handful of Rhode Island Red hens pushing their 3rd year rounds out the bunch.

We're looking forward to a productive hen house I think.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


A side benefit to all that applesauce and all those apples comes in the form of home made apple cider, apple mead, apple wine, hard cider and the like. "Apple ferments" for lack of a better term. I love me some homebrewed apple ferments.

Between a general lack of (empty) brewing equipment and the rush to put up all that apple sauce right away my apple related brewing was more of an afterthought than a project. Even so, I had 7 gallons worth of beverage ready to re-rack and get into a secondary fermenter this week.

While this is certainly not enough to eliminate my hard cider purchasing over a whole year it will put a nice comfortable dent in it I think.  Planning starts now to be geared up and ready to go for much more fermenting by next fall's harvest.  I am ABSOLUTELY sure I want an annual cider tradition around here (and I'm equally sure the folks getting gifts from us would enjoy that greatly also).

Getting started is easy.  Anyone familiar with my friend Carlo Rossi probably already spotted him in my photograph.  Recycling glass gallon jugs is awesome, but food grade plastic buckets or even larger glass vessels are great too.  If all you have is a glass gallon, an air lock, a recipe, and some brewer's yeast you are ready to begin.  Some folks get really into following a recipe and prefer certain products or techniques to follow each time.  I myself find taking a relaxed approach to it with more than a little playful experimentation still yields great results and often cool surprises.

Like so much else that is worth the wait the problem lies within the waiting. I should be able to keep my hands off it until Christmas.  I hope.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Five and One Half Months

From July 1st to December 15th is 167 days, or 5 months 14 days, or exactly how long it took those Barred Rock layers to produce their first wee little eggs.

We've been in a real dry patch for eggs lately between the seasonal decrease (caused by day length), the older girls molting, and the overall colder temperatures.  We've never used supplemental lighting in our coop before this year but after weeks without an egg the setup and experiment is worth it I think.  With an egg or three per day from the older girls since the light went on I'm glad we did set one up.

Today we should be turning the corner on the shortage though.  This pair of little "beginner" eggs should be the tip of the iceberg.  16 girls gearing up will mean a small pile of this little eggs now, and a dozen at least per day in the spring.

Ah...spring.  On second thought, don't talk to me about spring right now I still have snow between my toes I think.