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Archive for the ‘Self-sufficiency’ Category

There are quite of few tomatoes on the vine in the garden. The beans are loaded with blossoms and just look at those cabbages. We plan to eat the tomatoes and beans raw and cooked. We’re going to try drying some of the produce too. (More

green tomatoes

cabbages

beans

Obviously, we can’t wait until they ripen and we can go browsing for fresh food from the garden.

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Hey y’all, just thought we’d let you know that Little Number Five is still alive and, more importantly, still sitting on that batch of duck eggs 🙂

With heat indexes in the mid to upper 90s, this chicken has to have real dedication to sit in that dog house all day (and night too, of course). You can’t see in it the photos but we laid a tarp over the wire pen so the dog house is in the shade most of the day. I’m sure that helps quite a bit but it’s still HOT!

She only comes out to get a drink and a bite to eat every 2 or 3 days. We’ve read that a chicken may lose up to 25 percent of her weight while she’s brooding so we’ve been feeding her up with some cracked corn. Number Five also gets the occasional treat from the garden. This morning it was a couple of strawberries.

chicken drinking from bowl
Ahhhh… I was soooo thirsty!

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Oops, looks like the photo opportunity is over. See? She’s STILL in a “fowl” mood.
broody speckled sussex hen ruffled feathers
Broody Chicken In A Fowl Mood

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We’re still counting the days. We’re very hopeful that she’ll stay broody and hatch us out some ducklings. We’ll keep you updated on the progress.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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One of the reasons we chose to raise Speckled Sussex chickens here on the homestead is because they still have the instinct to “go broody”. Broody means that the chicken will sit on a clutch of eggs and raise the chicks. Of course this means that the chicken stops laying eggs!

Broodiness has been bred out of most of the modern breeds . Commercial egg producers don’t want a chicken to go broody because that means the hen won’t be laying eggs to sell. For example, a breed of chicken that most people are familiar with — the Rhode Island Red — is a great layer but almost never goes broody.

Some folks buy fertilized eggs and use an electric incubator to hatch them. A few people use a mother hen to incubate eggs. Because we live off the grid we don’t have access to the amount of electricity necessary to use the electric incubator method.

We want more ducks. We really REALLY enjoy eating the duck eggs. They’re larger than chicken eggs and have a richer flavor. Also, in our opinion, the ducks are easier to handle than chickens. We have Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners ducks and a Khaki Campbell drake. Both of these breeds are known as great layers. Our Khaki Campbell duck, Princess, consistently laid an egg every day last winter something that we didn’t get from the chickens. Only one big problem…. Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners seldom go broody.

So what does this have to do with a broody chicken? Well… a broody chicken will incubate just about any egg you place under them.

We’ve been hoping that one of the chickens would go broody. In fact we’ve been trying to coax them into it by replacing their freshly laid eggs with a golf ball so they would think, “Hey! Maybe I should sit on these nice round eggs!” After about a week and one of them finally did!

We realized that we hadn’t seen Little Number Five (the name came from the movie Broken Trail) all morning. When Bob went to check on her there she was sitting on that clutch of golf balls. Success! Broody Chicken!

Now for the master plan — replace the golf balls with fertile duck eggs! The tricky part was to get her moved to a location that would separate her from the other chicken without breaking her instinct to brood.

We gave Number 5 most of the day to settle into setting on her clutch of fake eggs. Then, after it got dark we moved her and substituted seven duck eggs for the golf balls.

Another tricky part of this situation is that chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch while duck eggs take 28 days to hatch and sometimes between 21 and 28 days the chicken’s instinct says, “These dern eggs ain’ta gonna hatch,” and stops sitting on them. If this is successful, we’ll have a chicken who will be the mother of baby ducklings. The due date is June 27th. Mark your calendars!

After discussing it a while, we decided to move the chicken to Blaze’s dog house and let her use it to incubate. Don’t worry… we have a good secure door we put on it at night to keep her safe. Don’t feel bad about Blaze because she doesn’t use the house at all… she’s a tipi dog!

As you can see, Number 5 has a good supply of feed and water but so far she’s taking her duck egg incubation responsibilities very seriously so we haven’t seen much of her lately.

Broody chicken house and pen

Speckled Sussex Hen

Speckled Sussex Hen

She’s certainly acting broody… as hubby says, “She’s in a FOWL mood!”

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We went to a small animal swap meet and purchased a new Khaki Campbell duck.  We were hoping to increase our egg production a little. So now we have four ducks and a drake and two hens.

Khaki Campbell ducks

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Four duck eggs this morning

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She is a pretty girl, isn’t she? We haven’t named her yet. Do you have any suggestions for her name?

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There are lots of advantages to growing a vegetable garden. One of the major advantages is that you get to control how your vegetables are grown. We grow exclusively without inorganic fertilizers or pesticides. Another is saving money! Have you seen the prices in the grocery stores lately? Growing your own vegetables allows you to harvest them at their peak of ripeness.

Our new motto is, “The garden dictates our diet.” For example, just the other night we noticed that we had quite a few spinach plants that were getting ready to bolt. So… we had to force ourselves to eat a big plate of spinach and other mixed greens salad drizzled with homemade blackberry vinaigrette dressing topped with homestead fresh boiled duck eggs for dinner. On the side we had some raw turnips and radishes. Don’t you feel sorry for us?

As we harvested the spinach plants and since the weather is still cool enough we went ahead and planted some more spinach seed for a succession crop.

So far this spring we have eaten several kinds of lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, radishes, turnips and turnip greens, mustard greens, and strawberries.

Mustard & turnips

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Turnips

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We also have planted pole beans, bush beans, soybeans, corn, beets, cabbages, bell peppers and jalapeno peppers, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sun chokes, onions, garlic, horseradish, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, sage, yarrow, borage, and several varieties of tomatoes (Amish Paste, Black Krum, Riesentraube, Hazelfield and Sugar Lump).

Beans, onions, lettuce and hot caps

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Corn w/ Blaze in background

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Garlic

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Potatoes

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The asparagus patch that we planted last Spring is doing well but, alas, we won’t be able to even think of harvesting any spears until next year and then only a very minimal harvest.

Marigolds, nasturtiums, dill, and mint have been interplanted for insect control. The mustard is also a trap crop for insects and for seed to use in pickling.

Everything is growing well at this time. We haven’t had very many insect problems up to now …knock on wood. We think the chicken and ducks patrolling outside of the garden are eating a lot of insects before they enter the garden. Also we’ve seen several fence post lizards and toads in the garden so they’re probably eating the insects that the poultry miss 🙂

We are really anxious to have more veggies ready to harvest. The zucchini is just a few days away from being ready to pick. Tomatoes are starting to bloom. The potatoes are hip high. The pole beans are starting to climb their trellis. So….Good Lord willing we will be getting lots more good stuff to eat before long.

What are you growing or harvesting now?

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It was a long cold winter but it’s finally over. The wood stove we built kept us nice and cozy. There’s nothing that can compare to the way the heat feels from a wood fire. This Spring is still a bit chilly. We’re still running the stove now and then on a cool evening.

Hand Made Wood Stove

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Remember No Cost – Low Cost? We made the wood stove from a 55 gallon metal barrel and some black stove pipe. All the materials (barrel, flue pipe, damper, high-temp black paint) used to build the stove cost about $50.

Many a day we cooked a pot of beans on top of the wood stove in one of our cast iron dutch ovens (like you see in the picture) and kept a pot of coffee warm.

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We knew that our ducks should begin laying eggs anywhere from 5 to 7 months old. Since we were told that they were born in April (not sure which day) we knew we should be getting some eggs any day now. Bop fixed up a nesting box in their new house , filled it with straw, and placed a round white rock and golf ball in it to — hopefully — give the gals the idea that it was time to start laying some eggs!

After days and days of checking the nesting box — an EMPTY nesting box — it finally happened! Today there was an egg! YEAH!

Khaki Campbell duck egg
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Bob read that duck eggs can become tough when you fry them so he’s been practicing how to steam fry eggs (a method that was recommended in the book) using the store bought eggs.  So… for breakfast this morning he cooked up some bacon and regular eggs and then he added a pat of butter to the cast iron dutch oven, cracked the duck egg into the pan, added a small amount of water, put the dutch oven lid on, and turned off the heat. 

See? A perfect sunny side up egg!

We shared the egg and it was delicious! So much more flavor than the store eggs. The only problem was that there was only ONE!

Duck egg in cast iron dutch oven.
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Bob said the shell was 10 times tougher than the store eggs which crack if you breathe hard on them 😉 The yolk was so much darker and the white didn’t run all over the bottom of the pan.

I know one egg doesn’t seem like a lot but when we get to the point where we don’t have to purchase them from the grocery store it will be one more step towards self-sufficiency on the homestead. AND, more importantly, we’ll know that the duck/chicken eggs are hormone free and that they are being raised humanely.

I can’t wait to see if there are any more eggs tomorrow. We have 3 female ducks and we’ve read that once they start laying they should lay an egg for every 14 hours (approximately) of daylight they get.  Fortunately, ducks usually lay their eggs early morning — just in time for breakfast 😉 — so it’s not difficult to collect them when you let them out for the day to free range. And in case you’re wondering, we anticipate that our chickens should start laying sometime in January.

If any of you readers knows anything different about how many eggs we could expect – post a comment and let us know!

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