Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blue Eggs, Crowing Hens, Piggyback Goats...and other farm news

Never a dull moment.  Yup, that about sums up our life right now.  I see people on Facebook posting things like "I'm so bored, blah, blah, blah..."  Bored?!?  What is this "bored" you speak of?  Life here on the farm is fun, a new adventure every day.  Even when I don't leave the house/property for days on end, there is always plenty to keep me occupied. 
This spring, we purchased 5 Barred Rocks and 5 Araucanas or "Easter Eggers".  Of the Araucanas, one turned out to be a Rhode Island Red instead and one had a scissor beak, meaning her beak was crooked and did not shut correctly.  Poor little Crooked Beak could not eat the chicken feed - it all fell out of her deformed beak.  She  survived the summer by eating bugs and worms, but we felt absolutely terrible when we found her dead in the yard a few days ago, apparently starved to death.  I had been pestering my husband to put her out of her misery, but understandably, he was none too eager to kill her.  That was bad animal husbandry on our part and we feel cruel for allowing her to live in such a condition.  Hard lessons to learn.  You had better believe we will never allow another animal to suffer like that.  Forgive us, Crooked Beak.
The Barred Rocks and Araucanas started laying about a month ago and we have been delighted to find a few "Easter eggs" in the coop, courtesy of the Araucanas.  The breed originated in South America and is known for laying blue, green and pink eggs.  Two of the three are laying blue/green eggs and the third is laying pink eggs, which don't look that different from the brown eggs laid by our other hens (we also have ISA Browns, Rhode Island Reds and a Buff Orpington).  Just in case you were wondering, the color of the egg shell makes no difference in taste or quality.  You pay more for blue eggs at the farmers market simply because they are pretty!  Brown eggs are no better/healthier than white eggs (I notice most "organic" or "cage free" eggs at the grocery store are brown - I think we've been conditioned to think "brown" = "better".  Not true).  Egg shell color only indicates the breed of the chicken. 


Eggs from our hens - the blue ones come from the Araucanas or "Easter Eggers"

In bizarre news, we acquired a new hen a few weeks ago, named Sally (she came with the name).  Sally was a "city chicken", raised by her owners in an urban neighborhood where chickens are not legally allowed (but every one looks the other way as long as your hens don't bother them).  Everything was great until Sally one day decided that she was indeed a rooster, not a hen.  Poor gender confused Sally - she stopped laying eggs and started crowing instead.  Of course, she had to go - neighbors in the city are not too fond of crowing roosters/hens/whatevertheyare.  So Sally found a new home at Third Day Farms.  She crowed for about 3-4 weeks, then changed her mind... and started laying eggs again.  I had never heard of such a thing!  Wonders never cease...

Sally the crowing hen
Toro, our Alpine goat has become incredibly attached to our hogs.  He plays with them all day and even snuggles up to sleep with them at night.  They even allow him to do this:

Toro hitching a ride on Rose

With the hog slaughter date quickly approaching, we decided Toro needed a new buddy to keep him company for the winter.  Just our luck, a friend's dad had a goat that recently lost her companion and was going to be spending the winter alone too.  So we played match-maker and now Toro has a new friend on the farm.  Her name is Lacey and she is a 12 year old Pygmy goat.  She and Toro were not too excited about each other at first (Lacey, the grandma goat was a bit annoyed with Toro's teenage antics), but we're sure they will be happy to have each other on the long cold winter days. 


My husband has been working himself into a tizzy trying to get a million projects done before winter comes.  He is almost finished building the greenhouse in the garden.  Here is a photo of the work in progress.  He found the windows on Craigslist - they have been sitting in a barn for the last 50 years, after they were removed from a school.  I can't wait to work in there come spring time!

Greenhouse in progress

 I've done a bit of reading about winter gardening in "The Winter Harvest Handbook" by Eliot Coleman , so I'm kicking around the idea of trying to grow some greens/lettuces in the greenhouse over the winter months... but to be honest, I'm just trying to muster up the energy to think about planting anything right about now! The garden is almost spent. We received a hard frost last night, so the tomatoes and pepper are officially done (but I have about 2-3 five gallon buckets full of bell peppers sitting in the breezeway - anyone want some!?!). A few straggler crops still need to be harvested, but I'm quickly running out of steam. I canned my last pints of jalapenos yesterday and I'm ready to retire the canner to the basement for a while. Whew.

See?  I told you.  Never a dull moment. 

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