Saturday, December 29, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.......

Well, it's a bit after Christmas, but I hope you and yours had a wonderful time.  We had a very nice Christmas here but as always it sure is nice to wind down after the hustle and bustle of the season. 

I got a new camera to replace the one that I dropped into a bucket of water LAST winter.  My husband is awesome as usual.  I also got my very first drop spindle.  I haven't had a ton of time yet, but have done a bit of playing with it and I find it MUCH easier than the Great Wheel.  Maybe once I get the hang of getting the right draft and other nuances down I'll be having even more fun!!   I can say with confidence that as soon as I start washing fiber in the sink, Greg is NOT going to be that amused.

Making Christmas baskets is over for one more year.  I thnk in 2013 I should really start much earlier!! I did sugar scrubs, soup mixes, hot cocoa mixes and infused honey.  I need to make some more of the sugar scrubs just for ME now. 

The ground is quite white out there and the snowmobilers have descended in droves.  I'm glad we don't live one road over since THAT is the actual snowmobile trail.  Our road however gets it share of snowmobilers.  I generally don't mind, but hate being woken up at 2am by the ones that rev their engine and drive through OUR fields!!

We finally butchered the two American Heirloom Hogs we saved from the last litter.  They were only about  7 months old and I think we should have waited another two or three months.  I know they did give us some of the best tasting pork I have ever had, but just not enough of it.  We ground most of it, got a nice bunch of ribs, 4 little hams and a few pounds of bacon.  On top of that I got lots of lard!! I'm pretty happy that I got to render my own lard.  I've only done a few pounds so far, but I have two nice jars of pure white shortening.  I can't wait to try it in a pie crust and perhaps to fry up some chicken.  The bacon AND the hams both turned out a bit too salty for us.  However after brining the hams I don't think we gave them a long enough soak in a clean water solution.  The flavor is awesome though (underneath the saltiness).  Greg got a new smoker and it worked out very well for smoking the ham and bacon.  I was able to take care of some of the bacon saltiness by blanching it for a minute before frying it up.  We did the bacon in a dry cure which included brown sugar, salt and some applewood seasoning. We did the hams in a wet brine that included salt, sugar, saltpeter and a few other spices.  As some by-products of the butchering process we got around 4 days of dog food and a few days of supplemental chicken feed.  Although Greg thinks that maybe going with just purchasing a feeder pig each year, I'm pretty much against that for a few reasons.
 1) I really do like having Abra and Avidor here.  They aren't the friendliest piggies but they add another dimension to the farm. 
2)They are the garbage disposals of the farm.  I don't mean to make it sound as if we feed them nothing but garbage, but if there are cuttings and such - they get it. If there are bruised or bug-gotten veggies in the garden - they get it.  They get lots of the "wasted" hay from the goats and they take care of the goat's barn cleanings each spring by mulching it up into some VERY fine soil.
3) As a rototiller, they are hard to beat.  In the fall and the spring they work wonders in the garden and save me lots of work.
4) Baby pigs are SO cute so I like to have baby pigs and there is NO way I want a breeding pair of pigs with a combined weight of around 1200# that I have to contend with and feed year round!!
I have done a bit of research into perhaps adding another sow into our breeding program.  I was wondering about adding an American Guinea Hog sow, but after researching I don't think I'd have much different than what I have now.  A somewhat slow growing lard-type pig.  I found a farm somewhat near us that used to raise Guinea Hogs but since they are selling pork, they moved "up" to some AGH crosses. Most of their crosses I believe include about 1/4 AGH, however they have a Tamworth/AGH cross that they may sell after she farrows and raises her piglets.  "Food" for thought I suppose, I have some time to think on it.

Our two batches of hatched chickens are growing bigger, but I have to say, I won't be hatching chickens in the winter again!! What a mess keeping three sets of chickens (the older layers, the first brood hatched and the second brood hatched) separate in our small coop through the winter.  I think spring, summer and early fall will work much better.  If we were just raising one batch of chickens it would be no problem, but we have a limited space to try and keep everybody separate.

After having some issues with stomach worms in one of our goats, I have decided I am going to find a Famacha class to take.  We do our own fecals here and I've gotten much better at it over the last few months after continually testing, testing and re-testing one goat's poo.  I was even able to get a picture of one of the worm eggs.  I did take a sample to the vets to get a professional opinion and his conclusion was "stomach worms" (same as what I was seeing).  I am, as of yet, still unaware of exactly what kind of worm it is. 

 We are heading into kidding season here.  (See the previous CONTEST post "Pregnant or Not Pregnant?")   I was originally thinking that most of our girls were bred by the bucks later during their exposure, but after an inspection on the milk stand of most of the girls this evening I now think our "little men" got busy sooner than I thought.  We have 9 girls (hopefully)  bred.  A 10th doe miscarried earlier in her pregnancy and we have one doeling that won't be bred until next season.   It's going to be a BUSY few months here.  On my next few days off in a row, I'll be juggling goats and getting everybody assigned their kidding pens.  I think we will move the dogs out for kidding - I think the buck pen is going to look pretty crowded for awhile. 

While I had the some of the girls on the stand doing their routine "maintenence" I was extremely impressed with the hooves on most of my girls.  It's been 6 months since most of them have been trimmed and they didn't get much more than a quick cleaning out with a hoof pick.  For two this is there first trim in over a year and there hooves look like a newborn kid's.  Also, (although I have NO Famacha training) they all have nice bright pink lower lids and have not needed to be wormed in a good amount of time.  These girls are most certainly keepers!!

Well this post has gotten long and drawn out and it's really late so......Until next time.....

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