These are the last of our canned peaches from last season and they are the best we have ever done.
The secret was adding cinnamon to the syrup.
Before that, we would add different mints from the garden, but this year Gerri went with cinnamon and it was a total winner. She just threw some sticks in as she boiled it and voila! It was a wonderful treat all winter long.
Now we are looking forward to canning two cases this year.
Come on, who likes to ration yourself and still run out? Not us.
***First off, I wouldn’t have done much at all had I not joined the BYC community. Almost everything I have learned about chickens, so far, has been from reading articles and interacting on their forums.***
A few months ago I saw Henny P doing a weird dry heave thing, but not opening her mouth. I followed her around and watched her, but other than that, she was acting completely normal.
This is what it looked like.
Not knowing much about chickens, I just figured it was because they were all different and had their own little quirks. Then, a week or so after I noticed her odd neck movements, she quit laying and her chest was all puffed out like there was an orange stuffed in there. You can see it in the above video, as I took the video after a few weeks of this behaviour.
I went online and started Googling everything I could about what I had noticed. I narrowed it down to sour crop and possibly egg bound.
From what I read, the egg bound thing was most urgent, so I brought her into the grow/soap/worm room and drew her a warm epsom salt bath.
She spent a day and night in the house, while I massaged her crop, gave her mineral oil, and kept her from eating grass and other unknown substances. She was very calm, and after her bath, I inspected for a bound up egg, but there was none. I then went to the pharmacy and picked up a 150 mg capsule of Fluconazole (Canesten) and opened it up to divide the powder into three portions.
The Pharmasave store brand capsule was $3.90, but they only had one, so I got Gerri to pick some up while she was in town. She went to Walmart, and they charged more than $13 for a generic capsule there. That seems like a lot, when you can get the same thing from Canesten for $19 and it comes with other things as well.
Luckily, our pharmacy was able to get some more in within a couple of days, so we were alright.
I then mixed up the powder with probiotic yogourt and some powdered calcium, and gave it to Henny P under the tongue with a medicine syringe. She was not very fond of that, but in two days she was better, so I was okay with her discomfort.
After her water balloon crop had gone back to normal, I noticed that she had a ball of impacted hay, grass, or twine in her crop. It was also pendulous, which means it had stretched out and was hanging down too far for her food to get into her gizzard.
There is such a thing as a crop bra, that would have been easier to use, but It seemed like a long time to wait, so I went to the thrift store and bought a few old pairs of hockey socks and some compression socks to try a few ideas of my own.
The hockey socks turned out to be a bit big, but I think a kids pair would have been snug enough. The compression sock was perfect, but it only took her a week to pretty well shred it. It also took her a few days to get used to it, but she was okay after she did.
I spent a lot of time each day carrying her around and massaging her crop ball, which paid off when I went out one morning about a month ago and the impaction was gone! I made her a new bra, to keep her crop up above her gizzard, and everything was going great.
Until last week.
I went out in the morning to turn their light on and gather the eggs, and I noticed Henny’s chest was puffing up again. I came home from work and gave her another dose of the Fluconazole/yogourt mix, and started back with the massaging. After a few days, it wasn’t getting better, and she was back doing the crazy neck movements again. I thought that I was going to have to put her down, but she seemed to be enjoying her life still, so I didn’t have the heart to do it.
She was always the first one to the cup when I brought the mealworms and other treats out, but she was spending more and more time with the two new hens in the coop. She slept in the nest boxes, or under them, and was eating and drinking as she normally would, so I figured I would let her keep going.
And going, and going.
Probably two months ago I told Gerri that I didn’t think Henny was going to make it through the night. I had resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t smart to take her to the vet(if one would even see her) and spend $150+ to get crop surgery for a hatchery chick that might have a chronic condition. She had been like this for all of her adult life, as we only got a week or two worth of eggs from her before this all started.
Well, I’m happy to say that she made it about two months after my initial diagnosis, and sad to say that I found her dead on the coop floor this afternoon. I had been preparing myself for the day I would find her there, but I didn’t think it would affect me like this.
I guess it was because I had spent so much time with her while she was ill, that she seemed more like a pet than livestock, but in the end she was a sick chicken that didn’t lay eggs, and I guess that’s why I’m not really broken up over it. She was my favourite, and I hope that eventually I get another girl that loves to get picked up and carried around like she did, but hopefully it’s under healthier circumstances.
Anyhow, sorry for the long post, but it’s been a while. I guess I just needed to get some motivation to write.
We got a big box of fragrance oils in, and amongst them were some holiday scents that we hope to get out before next spring. There’s some pretty nice ones, so we have been smelling bottle caps for a week or so. Nobody has passed out from the fumes yet, so that’s good.
We also had the fall fair last weekend, where we entered Wildfire, the shampoo bar, and Gerri put in some red pepper jelly.
The soap and shampoo got first place and the jelly got third, so we were pretty proud and happy while we manned the Dirty Bird booth there.
Next year we hope that someone else will put in some soap and shampoo to go up against us.
Oh yeah, our friend Sarah made us a shelf and a bunch of soap holders. These are them.
So the last update told you that Red was laying, but now Henny P is laying too!
She also uses the nesting box, which pleases me to no end, but the really cool news is that I noticed a trend that I hope keeps happening.
Red started eating earthworms and ants, and a few days later she was pumping out eggs. Same thing for Henny P, so when I was digging out the slabs of stone in the walkway, I was pleased as punch to see one of the Barred Rocks steal a worm from Red’s beak and gobble it down. Then she started actually standing her ground with the Rhode Islands and digging up her own worms. Yahoooo!
I am guessing that it has to do with them knowing that their bodies need protein to keep up with the egg laying, just like the oyster shell that I see them peck at now and then. I will probably look that up, but not right now, as I want to see if I’m right about the trend on my own.
We are starting to get the amount of eggs that we use, so it shouldn’t be long before we are getting abundant in them. I hope that leads to more cakes and other treats being baked, but I would settle for just knowing we have enough food for us and maybe a friend.
It’s a pretty good feeling when things work out.
I told you about the apricot and plum trees, but I had no idea at the time about how amazing the plums were going to be. We didn’t think they would amount to much at all.
This is what we shook off today.
Altogether we have taken about three gallons of plums from what we thought was a waste of a tree. I don’t know what kind of plum they are, but they are very sweet and juicy. I am going to try rooting a few cuttings from it, and planting a few seeds, because if it is hardy for this area, then I want to keep it going.
It is also pretty diseased now, so in case this is a last hurrah, I want to have some sort of stock for the future. I would hate to think that it will last for years, only to lose it in the winter.
Since Blue got away in the spring, and decided to run rampant through the mountains, he has slowed down considerably. He did go for a little toot through the neighbourhood last weekend, but other than that he sticks pretty close to his folks.
We aren’t quite sure what he tangled with, but his slight limp hasn’t gone away, and he doesn’t like running for much more than a kilometre or two any more. We are okay with that.
One thing that I was worried about when we got the chickens, is that he would always try to chase them, but after a bit of gentle correcting, he is actually more timid with them than they are with him. Unless he’s running towards them, then they get out of the way.
I actually think that he would make a pretty good farm dog, and we hope that he makes it long enough to see that. He’s slowing down a lot, but I like to think that he’s just pacing himself for when he has acres to roam leisurely about.
Now, if there’s one thing that soap making has gotten us into, it’s researching better ways to do things. That leads us to several different forums and websites about soap and soaping.
A while back, we (I) ruined a batch of lard soap with too much lye or something. It became brittle almost overnight, and was breaking into pieces when I tried to cut it in 24 hours. We put it in a box and stuffed it away until our litmus strips came in, several months later.
It turned out that the pH was well within the safe range, so we went on some soap making forums looking for how to rebatch the soap into something useful.
While looking through other threads on the same topic, we noticed a lot of people giving their recipes for laundry soap, and recommending that the doomed loaves get turned into that.
Huh. We remembered that our friend Jane had said that she turned her lard soap into laundry bars and grated it into the wash with a cheese grater.
We hit the thrift store and bought a cheese grater, but it turned out to be way more bloody and labour intensive than either of us was comfortable with. I mean, knuckles aren’t vital to staying alive, but we have grown attached to ours, so we decided that maybe homemade, natural laundry soap wasn’t for us.
But, wait. We had already purchased the washing soda and Borax from Amazon, so we had to find a way to do this. We try to not be wasteful, and we really don’t have a use for two kilograms of both washing soda and Borax.
Earlier this year our blender calved and we found this baby at the thrift store, so we got it out to give it a try.
I threw a few of the brittle chunks in and it completely powdered it, so I threw a bunch more in with some soda and Borax.
Not so good with more than two cups in it. I’m glad we didn’t buy it at full price, because it just can’t handle the job. It does work amazingly well at small batches though, so we keep it for finishing off the powder and mixing.
This baby has a ton of soap busting power, plus Gerri loves it for actual cooking related work. We picked it up off of our local buy and sell group on Facebook, and we totally agree that it is worth the full price that we would have had to pay RIGHT HERE. If you look, there is/was a refurbished model that is less than we paid for a used one.
Anyhow, this machine is amazing for a lot of things, but busting soap into powder isn’t one of them. I think it’s because of the round blade/square hole situation, but it just doesn’t do the job very well. It does this though, which, if you have ever thrown a bunch of soap bars and chunks into a blender, should impress you.
It’s now time to start throwing it into the Bullet with the washing soda and the Borax, to create this fine example of our latest batch of natural laundry soap.
We found that a great mix is to use 1/3 soap, 1/3 washing soda, and 1/3 Borax blended together as evenly as you can. It cleans just as well, or better than any commercial detergent we have tried.
From what I have read, you can pretty much use any kind of bar soap for this, so we used a whole bunch of different soaps in this one. There were trimmings from probably every batch we’ve made, plus some whole bars of the plain lard soap and messed up batches. Next time we will probably use the bowl full of endsies that is in the washroom, and whatever other scraps we have by then.
All in all, we had five cups of bar soap which made 15 cups of laundry soap. We use between two and three tablespoons per load, so this batch should last us for 90 or so loads.
Not bad for a couple of hours work and maybe $5 in material.
For us, because it was all soap that would have been written off as bad batches.
If you have to buy the soap, then you need to factor in that cost as well, but even if you bought some bars of lard soap out of our cheap bin for $3, (or better yet, make your own) it would probably still work out cheaper than Tide and at least you know what you’re using.
Anyways, we have really enjoyed switching over, and thought we would share something that has really changed our lives for the better. I hadn’t really thought of writing this, but then our eldest was throwing her things in the wash the other day and asked if this was our own laundry soap.
Gerri replied “Yes it is.” then added “That’s all we will be using from now on.”
I was expecting to hear a groan, but she just said “Cool!”.
That’s when I knew we were on the right track, and that the track needed to be shared.
First off, let me say that I fried my PC laptop with a glass of mead about a week ago, so I am now using Gerri’s iMac to write posts.
It’s definitely a learning curve, but I will persevere. I’m just warning you because I can’t figure out how to resize photos, so things might get a little wonky.
So this is a photo of one shed with a lean-to built onto it from last year, before we moved in.
We scoop a lot of free wood from the dump, so when we decided to use the shed as a chicken coop, there was some cleaning to do. After pulling all of the stuff out of there, this is what we were left with. The only money we had to spend was on the wire, and it came to less than $25, so we were pretty happy about that.
I bought a couple of 8′ lengths of hardware cloth and cut them to size. There wasn’t many squareangles in this project when I started, and the hardware cloth is more square than Erkel, so I used a bunch of the dunnage wood that I collected last summer for the worm boxes, to make things look straight.
The ceiling was already there, because there was a lot of stuff already being stored up there on some sheets of plywood that had already been pulled out of that camper trailer.
After all was said and done, it looked like this.
I plan on doing more perches out here, because they seem to like them a lot. It seems that the higher, the better. I guess that it has to do with predators. For some reason, I think I have heard that somewhere.
From there I went inside the shed and did this.
The bench was initially built out of the worm box wood, to set the worm boxes on, but I think that holding the nesting boxes is a better alternative. I am going to have to move the feed sacks and put their water, oyster shell, and food under the top shelf, because they seem to congregate up top and that makes for a messy dining room.
This can be observed in the photo of their dust bath.
My friend is going to give me a bale of hay to use instead of shavings, because she tells me that they love to peck at the seeds and bugs that get into it. I’m sure it is also better nest building material for them, but don’t quote me on that.
Speaking of nests, we have started getting some of these.
They are small, but I’m told they will get bigger, and stronger. I hope so, because Red had a broken one with just a membrane under her this morning. She was acting pretty weird last night, and I was a little worried about her, but after giving her a few hugs this morning, she got right back into her routine.
I’ve been letting them run loose when I’m home, which is all the time while I’m laid off, and we really enjoying having them trotting around the yard, posturing for bossiest hen position. The dogs don’t even bother them anymore, and seem to really enjoy following the girls around.
It could be because of all the nutrient rich poop that seems to appear out of nowhere. For some reason, they will not stop eating it. Not only does it bother me because of the whole poopy breath factor, but we got the chickens to fertilize the lawn.
Ah well, one thing at a time.
P.S. We’re always open to new ideas in our endeavour for a simpler life. If you have anything you’d like to share, please feel free to comment on here, or in our Backyard Homesteading community on G+.
It’s been pretty busy here this summer with the chickens, worms, mealworms, soap, and both of us working full time, so it’s been hard to get in here to post anything.
I guess I can start with the surprise apricot trees.
We were told that the three fruit trees in the yard were supposed to be ornamental pear trees or something like that, but last summer one produced some measly plums, and this year the other two produced two different breeds of apricot.
Needless to say we were surprised and excited. We have been picking up grounders for jams, sauces, and liquor, because the trees are quite shaded and the only fruit ripening was twenty feet in the air and out of reach for our little stepladder. This fall they will be getting a pretty severe hack job to get them to a manageable level, but until then we will try to make the best use of their bounty.
We have also registered Dirty Bird Soap with the province, and will be applying for a business license with the district this week.
This means that we are really loving it, and plan to keep at it as long as we can be creative and viable. It’s not something that we are planning on getting rich with, but when we are retired and self sustaining, it will definitely help us out with not having to work as a Walmart greeter to make ends meet.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it would mean that we would have to be close to a Walmart, and who wants that in their life?
After a great couple of Saturdays at the Hudson’s Hope Farmer’s Market, we had to spend this weekend making seven batches to play catch up with. We have run out of a couple and almost ran out of a few more.
This isn’t a complaint, it’s excitement that you feel coming through these words. We get pretty stoked up about how our creations are received, so we were pretty much vibrating as we churned out the loaves this weekend.
Notice how light our canning shelves are looking? That’s getting remedied right shortly, because we hit up the Okanagan fruit lady for twenty pounds each of peaches, roma tomatoes, and black plums.
Here’s what most of the peaches look like now.
We’ll finish the tomato sauce tomorrow, and the plums should be ready in a few days, so that will give us a couple of nights for soaping, gardening, and maybe even eating a couple of meals this week.
That’s pretty decent, if you ask me.
All in all it was an exhausting weekend of soap, rendering beeswax, canning and trying to manage the rest of life, but as I sit here in this filthy kitchen, typing out this post and staring at what will garnish a lot of bowls of ice cream this winter, I can’t help but to smile and dream of when I can be this kind of rushed every day.
When you have the right partner in crime, every day is an adventure.
Note the lack of garden, chickens, and big composter. We were really starting off our homestead with bare bones. There were two black compost units there when we bought the place, but one was missing a lid and both were dried out ant condos. We started composting everything, and with some heat, weeds, and a garden hose, we got them to producing some nice, dark compost by the fall.
This is what the backyard looks like today.
Yeah, there’s some brown patches from where I left the trailer for too long, but I’m hoping that the chickens will help to get things green again.
Speaking of the chickens, here they are.
I’m going to add a couple of nesting boxes on one side and keep the main box as a roosting/dining area. I added wheels from an old lawn mower at The Share Shed and a handle, because I think dragging it was going to start wrecking things.
We also built some raised bed garden boxes, and there’s stuff in them now.
We have been hitting Walker Greenhouses for their half price vegetables, and we also got some plants from The Rustic and the Social Responsibility club at the school. Everything is growing well, except for the jalapenos, but I think I planted them in too much shade.
This is part of the front garden. We dug up and sifted out a whole bunch of lilies from it, and next year the rest are going.
We moved one of the composters from the back to the front, because it’s nice and sunny in the afternoons there. In the spot we moved it from, we put in our soap drying rack that we don’t need anymore and wrapped some chicken wire around the open spots.
I was getting tired of throwing the spruce needles and dog poop over the fence, and saw that the David Suzuki Foundation says we should compost it, so this will be used for yard rakings; dog, chicken, and hamster poop; and any dead animals or birds that we come across. We just can’t use the compost for any edibles, but that’s okay, we can spread it around the yard to replenish the soil and work it’s way back into nature.
We have also started a soap making company; started breeding Red Wigglers, European Night Crawlers, and mealworms; and adopted a second dog named Dover.
When we got Dover, we knew he was a sweet dog, but we didn’t know that it was his only redeeming quality. He is quite possibly the least intelligent dog that I have ever met, and we have to rub antiseptic on his gums once a week to prevent his teeth from falling out. I think he was pretty badly neglected, health-wise, and I’d say from his head shyness, he’s been booted around a bit.
I mean, when it takes a month to learn how to sit, there may have been a few hits to the brain. Nevertheless, we still love the poor wretch, and we will keep putting up with his incontinence until it ruins the floors.
Also, we both found gainful employment and there have been some academic accolades for the kids, so all in all, I think we have had a pretty productive year of semi granola-ism.
Next year we will maybe start scoping out some property.
Well, I brought our new girls home todayyesterdayrecently.
I guess they aren’t chicks still, but I already had the title in my head, so I misled you. Sue me.
I have to tell you that I am in love with the Barred Rock. She absolutely melted my heart when I closed them up for the night.
I didn’t realise that they roosted when they are this young, or at all when they are laying hens. I just assumed that they nested, so I put a bunch of shavings in the box and left them to their own devices. When I went out at dusk to lift the ramp and close them in, they were sitting on the edge of the water dish and teetering.
They looked so disoriented that I felt sad for them. I started stroking them and then the Barred Rock climbed onto my hand and up my wrist. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, so I just let her go. She then nuzzled her head into my armpit and seemingly fell asleep.
I felt so happy that I was contemplating taking her in and letting her sleep in the bed with me, but then I remembered my mom telling me about this. (It’s only thirty seconds long. Go ahead.)
Remember The Waltons? I wish they made shows like that still.
She remembered it as Jim Bob, and she used to laugh so hard about how gross it would be to have a chicken pooping in your bed all night. (It’s fine when she does it, but when it’s a chicken, that’s gross.) 😉
Anyhow, I didn’t take her to bed, but I did make them a roost the next morning.
You know, when I was a kid, I hated our chickens. I only remember the dirty, overweight, white meat birds, but I know we had Banties, pheasants, and quail for sure. I don’t remember any of them being as friendly as these two, but that could have been that they sensed my surliness at having to clean out the coop.
I don’t know why I hated doing it so much, but I know I did. It was probably an hour job, but I think I dragged it out over a few days. I guess it was because I was a spoiled rotten a–hole back then. I must have thought I was too good for that job, but I know now that I wasn’t. It’s funny how the realities of life and time change a person’s attitude.
Well, I know it’s very late, but I’m sorry Mom and Paul. I promise I will care for these better than I did for yours.
I’m also sorry that I didn’t see your vision in raising our own food. It was hard to see that growing things for ourselves and caring about what we nourished our family with didn’t mean that we were poor.
It meant that we were smart.
Now that I’m trying to eat as healthy as I cana bit healthier than I was, I see these things a lot clearer, especially when we’re trying so hard to make ends meet. I’ve really come to appreciate the lessons you guys taught me, so long ago.
I also wish that I had realised the happiness you could get from chickens, and the different personalities that they have. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to mind looking after these girls at all.
The little salt and pepper lady is very loving and sweet. She seems to step aside and let others go first, and I’ve really taken a shine to her. I can feel her nervous tension release a bit when I hold her tight, and it makes me feel like I can make her life easier than it could have been. I think that she will be the broody one, if there is one, and I predict that should a rooster sneak in there some day, she will make a great mama hen.
The redhead has a really spicy flare to her. She is adventurous and tries to get her head out every time I open the door. I see her eyeing up the great big world and wanting to be out in it. Also, she has so far lightly pecked my partially blackened fingernail, my nose and my arm when I was petting her sister. It wasn’t hard, like say a glass Coke bottle, but I noticed her doing it and wondered if it wasn’t a warning. She doesn’t do it when I pet her, so I don’t think it’s from fear.
Do you remember earlier, when I said that I wanted to name them Mary Ann and Ginger? I’ve changed my mind. I think I want to name them Pat and Brenda. It’s just as fitting, and it will mean a lot more to me.
Now if I could just find a golden feathered cockerel. 😉
P.S. I originally named this post, because of the way the dogs were acting since I brought the birds home, but it turned into me being the dumb boy.
They were definitely curious, but mostly they seemed insecure. I figured I was imagining things, but I woke up like this in the morning, and I knew that something was up.
I guess there’s only so much “How are my pretty girls?” that a dog can take.
P.S.S. Sorry for the vague, personal jokes, but Pat is my mom, Brenda is my aunt, and the cockerel is my uncle Keith.
I’m not sure why they call them that. Maybe I should figure out a wheel system for it.
So, I bought a roll of chicken wire and four hinges at the hardware store, but everything else in this contraption was free from either scrap piles in the bush or the Share Shed.
All together it cost about $35 with taxes and everything, so that’s definitely affordable enough. I just designed it in my head, thinking of what I had on hand.
I just realized that I forgot to put a door on the outside to change food and water.
Look at my fancy walkway opening system. I hope it works alright when chickens are in there. For all I know, they love to peck string.
These are where they will eventually lay eggs this fall. I hope. I have to figure out how to arrange nesting. Do they need their own boxes, or will they just kind of build a cluster of nest and share it.
I don’t know how they act in the wild, so these are things I need to Google.
So I have been pretty obsessed with my mealworm farm since I started it. I just love hanging out with the worms for what seems like hours. It is relaxing to watch them do their little mealworm thing.
So far I have $68 invested in them, and hours of time, including the plethora of YouTube videos out there on the subject, so I am paying a lot of attention to them to see if they are progressing at all, and so far in the last few days, there have been several morphs into pupae.
This is very exciting for me, but not as exciting as what happened tonight.
I got to watch one of the larvae morph, right in front of my eyes. One minute I was holding a mealworm on the broken piece of drink tray, and a few minutes later I was staring at a creepy, white pupa.
I had seen it several times in time lapsed video, but this was the first time I got a chance to witness it. It was so special to me, that I am going to name him/her Katniss. I can’t wait to watch them grow up and lay/fertilize 350-500 eggs and then die a husk of the beetle they once were.
Then, as a memorial gesture, I will sell their babies to someone with a lizard or bird to complete the circle of life.
I should be able to make $20- $30 back off of them, and I’ll keep a few for the impeccable bloodline to keep on going. I sure wouldn’t want to be the reason for the lineage to be stopped.
That’s my great post for this week. Sorry it’s so boring, but I have been busy with the Dirty Bird Soap Empire Facebook page and website. Not to mention making a lot of soap, getting it ready for market, and slamming the van door on my finger. Thanks codeine!
That was one of those things that you regret immediately and also days later. If you are ever thinking about slamming a door on your finger, I would advise against it.