Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poultry Palace

I have a tendency to over do things. What started out as a simple chicken coop ended up being a clucking castle.

Chicken 099

Greybeard had a huge window hanging around and he installed it for his fine feathered friends.

Chicken 103

Notice the fine air vents made out of the back of a refrigerator.

Chicken 100

Ringo helped put up the chicken run. If you can notice the wire he’s holding. I’m not too proud to say I found that roll at the dump. I kind of sneakily pulled the Yota up at the wire pile and loaded a perfectly useable roll of chicken wire then took off before the attendant could question my findings.

Chicken 088

These overhangs where a little unnecessary but I like them none the less. It kind of makes this coop look like it’s going to fly away.

Chicken 104

The ladies out in the yard. We acquired 9 older hens from a friend in a nearby town.

Chicken 106

Vent in the upper back of the mansion.

Chicken 102

Hard at work eating.

Chicken 101

Ringo with our first ever egg.

Chicken 049

Here’s where that went.

Chicken 050

We are now getting about 3 to 5 eggs a day from our chickens. I think another 100 or so chickens should get us enough for our family.

Then again, I do have a tendency to over do things. Maybe I’ll stick to 20 hens? Well, maybe 30? I don’t know. A hundred doesn’t sound like that many birds.

OK, maybe Milly was right this time

We have had a continuously heated argument these past couple of months here at The Simple Farm.

We need to build a house. As funds always seem to fly out fast then they come in we’ve tried to find ways to keep from spending money. One of the ways I’ve been tempted to save money in this house building process is in the excavation of the basement. I mean, come on, it’s a hole. How hard can it be to dig a hole? I’m sure I could do it in….a month? If I rented a small back hoe couldn’t I do it myself in a couple of days? Worse case is a pick and shovel and how long would that really take. I’m thinking a couple of weekends right?

Milly and the rest of the gang scoff and scorn every time I mention it. I’m flabbergasted to think that it costs $3,000 to dig a hole so I’m still not convinced that I shouldn’t spend some afternoons with the aforementioned tools along with treats and candy to entice unsuspecting visitors to come help me dig a little hole.

Well, after a few months of getting beat down to dust I succumbed and called the excavators. They came out to dig the hole yesterday and today with this tiny machine.

Cow 105 Cow 111

Look at this small pile of dirt. Couldn’t I have shoveled that by hand?

Cow 118

Well, I guess there were these piles as well.

Cow 115

And this one.

Cow 117 

You get the point.

So maybe it would have taken a month of pick and shovel work. Wouldn’t that be worth $3,000? Milly says NO. I guess I grudgingly have to admit maybe Milly was right again. At least I sure am glad I listened to my wife this time.

Another thought on this process

We had kind of a nervous feeling when we pointed to the spot and said “This is the place.” Milly started hyperventilating but that’s not all that surprising really as she has a tendency to pass out from high intake of O2 (or blood for that matter).

********************Side Story************

When we got married, just before we went in for the wedding ceremony Milly started bawling and snorting like she was just about to make the worst mistake of her life. I wasn’t sure if it was me or just the situation or both. I’ve come to find out that sometimes the situation can be overwhelming to her. Most of the time it’s when we are making a life altering decision. I guess I’m just not observant enough to realize the import of most decisions we make.

**********************************************

This is going to be our home site for the next 50 years. Kind of crazy to think we just walked around and did a few solar positioning activities then had a hole clawed from the beautiful prairie soil.

I hope we don’t argue for the next 50 years that we should have moved the house over just 10 feet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Making butter from cream

Since we got our jersey cow about two weeks ago we’ve had a fabulous time with many different dairy products. The first thing we did after seeing the fridge fill up with milk is try making butter. There are many blogs and video’s on the subject. They all make it look super easy so we decided to give it a go.

We started with a few of these bad boys. That’s a lot of cream from Rosebud. I hope you can see the amount of cream at the top.

Chicken 016

Another jar. I just love seeing milk in my fridge. Ringo commented that we usually try to stop them from drinking so much milk and now we let them have all they want. They were such deprived children. Glad he can never complain about having no milk when he’s older.Chicken 017

We ended up with a whole heap of cream and instead of doing a smaller amount at one time we through it all in the Bosch mixer. This is about a 1/2 a gallon I’m guessing.

Chicken 019

I wasn’t sure doing so much at one time would work but after about 20 minutes the butter started to turn and we got some nice golden yellow spring butter. We drained the butter from the butter milk then added cold water until the fluid was pretty clear.

Chicken 029

Here we are using a wooden spatula to work in salt and squeeze out any left over fluid.

Chicken 033

I usually don’t eat butter. It’s kind of gross. I found myself sneaking a taste of the butter and realizing it tasted like sweet cream. Very nice flavor and consistency.

Chicken 034

This was a cool part. This butter mold was Milly’s grandma’s on Greybeard’s side. She used this thing when she was 20 to 30 years old which just so happens to be like 80 years ago.

Chicken 035Chicken 036

Filling the mold with butter.

Chicken 037Chicken 038

Milly looks like a professional butter molder.

Chicken 039Chicken 040

Plop. Push the whole thing out and you got a block of butter.

Chicken 041Chicken 048

OK. She’s only semi professional. More like little league butter molder but it came out pretty good none the less.

Chicken 042

When we get to be better at this process this should equal out to 16 ounces which is 1 LBS.

Chicken 045

We got two of these blocks of butter from the cream above. I’d guess it was 1.5 lbs. to 1/2 a gallon of cream. Not too bad although the butter is gone already so I guess we’ll have to do another batch up tonight.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Building a simple fence

We decided to move our cow next to Greybeard and Dancing Queens place since we are still in the process of building our place and we don’t want to commute to the other side of the metropolis to milk the cow. Luckily Dancing Queens sister has an empty acre lot next to the place with lots of grass. (I better add them to the Who’s Who. How about Chattie and Tinker?)

I kind of feel bad for Greybeard and DQ. They have a regular farmhouse now and are the talk of the town. That’s what happens when you let your crazy daughter and son in law move in. Note to self: never let Ringo, Molly or Polly move in when they are older. Invest in a rental property a couple of miles away for future sanity sake.

Anyways, Here is what I did to build a fence. It took about 8 hours and is quite conveniently located a stones throw from the mayor of the town.

I count my lucky stars every time I use this wonderful truck. Thanks Elvis for the Yota. It’s the best farm truck ever.

cow 300

Scavenged some 100 year old fence posts out of Uncle Earl’s fence post graveyard.

cow 299

Child labor at it’s finest. Ringo did most of the fencing. I just sat around and took pictures.

cow 313cow 311cow 310cow 309

This is a pretty useful tool. Push it into the ground and turn. The ground was wet so the earth came up pretty easily. You can add water in the hole if the ground is hard.

cow 308

That is like a 25 LBS post maul. Ringo is slinging it around like it’s a toy.

cow 305cow 304cow 303cow 302

We got it kind of straight. You put in your corner posts then run a wire from one end to the other. Then dig holes next to the wire.

I found a bunch of old wire on our land and stretched that as well as I could. I used a fence stretcher but I didn’t get the braces in too well. You need to be perfectly horizontal on the braces or it pops the corner post out. I used some duct tape for now since this is only going to be a short term solution until we move.

cow 306

The fence is completed and the cow is snugly secured in the area. I’ll take pictures so you can see the completed area. We’ll have to tear the whole thing down in a couple of months but it was pretty easy. Especially since Ringo did all the work. Maybe I can get him to tear it down as well when the time is right.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rosebud the Family Milk Cow

If you haven’t noticed I’ve slowed down in my amazing post proliferations this past week. There is a reason to the drastic decline. I think this picture says it all. I left Milly’s smile on the picture as an indication to what we experienced last Thursday night. (I hope no one will be able to identify her based on those pearly whites.)

cow 318modified

Let me back up a bit and give you the whole story of how we acquired “Rosebud” the family milk cow.

Milly was convinced that we were going to be a goat loving farm. She did a bunch of research and thought goats were a great alternative to a family milk cow. This was based on a few realities.

  1. Goats are smaller
  2. They give less milk
  3. They are cheaper
  4. We couldn’t find a Jersey cow

I spent a whole week gagging down goat milk while Milly tried to convince me the goat milk tastes the same as cow milk. She even made it a game to see if she could trick me into eating things with goat milk without me knowing. I was 100% on that game. She even made something and said “how did it taste?” Surprisingly I said “It actually tastes good. I don’t taste the goat milk at all.” Her muffled response was “That’s because I didn’t put goat milk in this one.” ha. I’m not a liar. I don’t like goat milk all that much. Ringo all but rioted. Molly and Polly happily lapped it down so I was thinking me and Ringo could just lose bone density for the rest of our lives.

Just on a whim I looked on www.kijiji.com (craigslist type site for you yanks) and opened my search to all of Alberta. I found a few Jersey related posts but they were up near the North Pole so didn’t think there was a chance we’d be able to connect up.

Then I came across a post titled “The perfect family milk cow.” The sellers were about 7 hours away but at that point I was thinking if I didn’t do something drastic I could be left milking goats the rest of my life. I mean, if I’m going to milk a critter I might as well get a cow. Think of how girly it would be for the neighbors to be walking by watching me yank on an itty bitty goat’s underside.

I called up the seller and questioned him extensively. I was expecting to find out the animal was a beat up, worn out, disease infested, ill treated mess they were trying to get rid of. Amazingly enough all of our hoped for requirements were checked off.

Then the tables turned. The seller started grilling me about my situation. I gave him a list of my extensive farming credentials (ha) but that didn’t seem to sell him on the deal. I promised we’d give the cow an allowance and offered visiting rights and that seemed to sway him a bit. Over the course of the next two weeks we went back and forth with the seller and his wife and I started to realize this was the perfect cow for us. They loved their cow. They treated her with respect and wanted her to go to a good home. We wanted a cow that was treated with respect and which we could give a good home. Hokey city thinking, I know.

The sellers arranged to bring the cow down for us and showed up late Thursday night. We hit it off with them right away. They are really cool. We should give them a proper name for The Simple Farm they are so cool. How about Sunshine and Lightening (New addition to Who’s Who)

I need to update you on our milking endeavors but that is going to be a lengthy post if I’m going to do it justice.

But in the mean time everyone welcome Rosebud to The Simple Farm.

Cow 120

Rosebud is a 6 year old Jersey cow.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Building a chicken coop

After the stark realization that we are getting chicks in like 2 days we decided to put together a chicken coop.

Milly went into the big city and bought the materials. We spent about $250 and think we have enough to put together a royal palace (at least for a chicken). It will be 8’x8’ and the walls are 6 ft high.

Here’s the beginnings of the structure. Grey beard framed up the floor on some and put them on some old poles I peeled a couple of years back.

 Cow 004

We did up 3 walls like this and made another one with a door frame.

Cow 003

Grey beard at work.

Cow 015Cow 014

Me figuring out the rafters.

Cow 029  

More to follow tomorrow.