Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Egg Tally

564 eggs, 2301 for the year, out of four Rhode Island Reds, one Silver Laced Wyandotte, and approximately 35 Black Australorp pullets.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don't Count Your Chickens...

...until they've grown up. I think the cats found where Buffy was keeping her chicks, since in one night eight of them disappeared. The next night another one was lost, leaving only one. She kept that one safe for a few days, but last night I noticed that Buffy was roosting on top of the chicken house with the other chickens while her chick was running around the yard peeping frantically. I guess she decided she'd had enough of motherhood. The chick is only about two weeks old and is a little bit too young to be out in the chilly (for a chick) night without any chickens to cuddle against, so I caught it and brought it home. It's in a bird cage, and it is not amused. At least it is alive. I'll take it back out to the farm once it has grown some more feathers.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Successful First Day

Today was the first Farmer's Market of the year in Steubenville. I spent much of yesterday baking cupcakes and frosting them. That part didn't exactly go smoothly. First, the power was out for several hours that morning, so I got a much later start than I had intended. I thought that my cake recipes made about two dozen cupcakes, but I must have done something differently this time because it was really closer to three dozen. This was a problem because I made a double batch of the yellow cake, intending to make four dozen cupcakes. However, the batter spilled over the top and made some very messy looking cupcakes, as well as wasting a lot on the edges of the pan. I only made a single batch of the chocolate, and that worked out much better.

Although I enjoy baking, I don't have much practice with frosting or decorating cakes. I used the star tip on the piping bag, but was a bit discouraged by the results, although by the last dozen it was looking okay. Perception is a funny thing, though, because the people at the farmer's market exclaimed over how pretty the cupcakes were.

The cupcake boxes I had ordered hadn't come in yet, so I had to improvise by lining jelly jar boxes with foil. It was fine for transporting them, but things got a little bit tricky when people wanted to buy more than one cupcake at a time. It worked out, though. My cupcake boxes arrived this afternoon, so next time my presentation and packaging will be much better. I think I'll also wrap some individually in plastic wrap.

I needed to sell 20 cupcakes to make back the vendor fee, and I met that goal fairly easily. At around 12:15, though, Paul started talking about packing things up, since it had been about an hour since the last sale and it was getting pretty hot out there (I need to find our shade thingy; I think we have one somewhere). However, I wanted to wait a little bit longer, since it was still lunchtime. In the next 15 minutes, there were a couple more individual sales and one guy who bought two dozen at once! We ended up with only 11 cupcakes left over (out of 6 dozen to start), so I think I gauged the market pretty well. Next week we will have wild black raspberries to sell as well as the cupcakes, since they are just starting to ripen.

The vendor right next to us was a woman selling rolls and cookies, and she was really nice. I enjoyed talking with her during the lulls in business. She has a four-year-old boy who was there for the latter part of the day, so Cerra had a great time playing with him. All in all, I feel like our first farmer's market went very well.

There's also a market in Barnesville on Saturdays that we will be going to starting next week. That one allows egg sales, although there are several regulatory hoops we would need to jump through first. I spoke with the Department of Agriculture and the county health department, and the requirements look doable. I'll write more about my research in another post, since a thunderstorm is blowing in right now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Farmer's Market Preparations

The Steubenville Farmer's Market starts this Thursday, and I plan to be a vendor this year. My main product will be cupcakes and other baked goods made with our pastured eggs, and we will bring other produce as it becomes available. The first thing will be black raspberries, since they are just ripening. If it's allowed, we'll also sell our eggs, but even if it isn't allowed we can at least advertise them. I will be calling the person in charge tomorrow to find out about that.

Speaking of eggs, today I bought an old dorm refrigerator for egg storage, since we are running out of room in the main refrigerator. I would have liked a bigger one, but at only $25 this one was worth getting. I can always buy a larger one later if I need it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poor Man's Hay Baler

When I cut hay last month, I stuffed the cured hay into empty feed bags for storage. It was kind of a pain to fill the bags, and it turned out that they only hold about ten pounds of hay each. Even ignoring the high labor cost, it would take about 400 bags to make a winter's worth of hay. I have a lot of empty feed bags, but not that many. So I decided to try something different with this batch.

I used a large Rubbermaid container as the form, and laid lengths of twine across the bottom. Then I filled the box with hay (compressing it down as much as I could), tied the twine across the top, tipped the box over, and voila! had a small bale of hay. I made four bales before it got dark, and I think I'll get about another four bales out of the rest of the hay. Tomorrow I'll weigh the bales; I'm guessing that they're about 15 or 20 pounds each, more or less. Since this idea worked so well, I intend to look for an even larger container for my form. I'd like to make 50 pound bales, but that may be a bit out of reach.

Work in the Pond Pasture

Saturday evening I mowed nearly a quarter of the pond pasture. I like working in that area because there are spearmint plants growing in the wet areas. Minty hay smells wonderful! Here the hay has been tedded once, this evening. The bare ground behind the mowed area is my garden.

I also planted paste tomatoes (San Marzano) and okra in my garden. It's a bit late to be planting tomato seeds, so there won't be a very long harvest. However, I've grown this variety of tomato before, and it stores very well at room temperature. We harvested all of the green tomatoes just before the first freeze in October that year, and had fresh tomatoes until the end of December.

At the bottom of this picture you can see the three rows of corn that have come up. I planted those seeds a few weeks ago. I had originally planned on six rows of corn, but that's all I managed to plant in the first session, so I decided to just move on with my planting.

I still have cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and bush beans to plant.


Today I finally got to see the chicks that our banty hatched. They were foraging in the tall grass at one end of Paul's garden.

This is Buffy, the banty. She's normally very wild and nervous around people, but today she actually let me approach and take pictures of her and the chicks. I counted 10, but I don't know if one died or if it was just hidden in the grass. At any rate, she's doing a very good job at taking care of them so far.

Dewdrop and Max

I should have posted these pictures on May 4th, since that's when I took them, but I never got around to it. Dewdrop and Max are Natalia's kids, the first goats we've bred ourselves.

This is Dewdrop the doeling. We intend to keep her as a breeding doe.

And here is Max the buckling (now a wether).

A good look at their markings.

There are three other kids, all doelings, that I need to get photos of.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Speaking of Hidden Nests...

Today one of our banty hens showed up with eleven chicks in tow: eight yellow, two black, and one buff-colored. The two black ones are most likely from Australorp eggs, but most of the others are probably banties. It will be interesting to see how they turn out when they grow up.

Monday, June 15, 2009

May Egg Tally

Late, but as of May 31:

892 eggs, 1737 for the year, out of four Rhode Island Reds, one Silver Laced Wyandotte, and approximately 35 Black Australorp pullets.

Things are slowing down a little bit, since several of the Australorps are broody and now that the pasture grass is high they don't all lay their eggs in the nest box. We know about many of the clutches, but they keep finding new spots to hide their eggs. However, I'm working on a new fence for their pen which should do a better job of containing them at night, so this should become less of an issue.

We also finally ran out of re-used egg cartons, and had to order new ones of our own. You have to order many thousands to get custom printing, so we bought 100 cartons with generic printing and a space for a label or custom stamp. Now I need to design a label to go on it.