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Archive for December, 2007

Happy New Year!


This time of year always means planning for me.  There is always plenty to do around here so it’s a matter of prioritizing.

 Some things I would like to accomplish:

*  Fence around the wood shed for the Dark Cornish Chickens.

*  Move the turkey carport to the back yard area and put in blueberries where it used to be.

* Fence off the field garden and plant most in cover crops this year. plus purple bush beans and squash.

* Build a straw bale garden in the back yard for greens.

* Rebuild the hoop house and plant it with tomatoes and basil again.

* Move herbs into a new bed that ‘s better mulched.

* Finish the perimeter fence, cattle fence around the acre of brush for Daisy and T-Bone to clear and a space for a couple of pigs.

*  Organize the garage and clean out and organize the barn! 

* Improve my skills at preservation, we should be getting grapes this year.

* Put in a bed of Doyles Blackberries and Tripple Crown Blackberries.

* Get Daisy bred by June some how!

* Late next year it will be time to say goodbye to T-Bone.  It won’t be easy but it’s a part of the cycle here.   Animals raised on small farms have far better lives than one the factory farms.

That’s a good start. 😉  This year we didn’t get to some things but then we did accomplish lots of others in their place to that’s OK.   The big thing was getting a work from home job so I can watch over things all day and take breaks to feed the cow that I could not do when commuting.  To top it off I like the work much better!  Of course in the middle of the growing season we ended up remodeling the spare room into and office and then tearing the carpet out of the main living areas and putting in laminate floor, new paint, trim and electrical fixtures.  However it made a tremendous difference here!

So that’s hopefully next year’s progress here on Deberosa. 

 I hope the coming year holds lots of promise for everyone!

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One of the greatest pleasures is to be able to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with a turkey that you raised yourself.  Somehow the celebration becomes just that much more special.

Turkeys are fairly easy to raise.  I’ve tried two kinds – the Broad Breasted kind – both white and bronze and while they do grow fast and produce huge birds they have the same issues as the cornish cross chickens.  They cannot breed on their own due to their pondersous builds and often have legs that cannot support them, or they simply sit without moving.  I didn’t have the heart attack issues that I had with the cornish cross, but they are not very bright – they can drown in a shallow water dish or simply get lost so you must take care of them more than the heritage breeds.

Here is my first experience with broad breasted turkeys:

 Broad Breasted Turkeys

As for white vs bronze in these birds – it’s a personal preference.   Predadotors pick out the white birds quicker but the bronze birds have a darker skin when it comes time to butcher.

After that experience I aquired three Red Bourbon heritage turkeys along with my peacocks.   I really like these birds.  They are close to a wild bird as far as raising them goes.  They refuse to go inside even in the worst weather – preferring to roost in small trees.  The original male got a bit mean so he was Thanksgiving dinner but the two sons are very friendly.  They get along well with the chickens out in the field but the males tend to get picked on by the peacocks, although they do stand their ground.

Here are the red bourbons:

 Red Bourbon Turkeys

The female turned out to be an excellent brooder, but once the babies are hatched she would lose them all!  I then started to take the babies away as soon as they were hatched.  She would product two broods a year that way.

 Mother Red Bourbon with new babies

Close up of baby

The year before last the mother quick nesting in the barn and went into the brush.  We tried to find her but the raccoon beat us to her.  They didn’t kill her, and she defended her eggs valiantly but it ripped off her tail and put a gash in her side.  We sprayed on SCARLEX and amazingly she recovered fully but no more chicks that year.

This past year no turkey babies.  I set up a Costco carport for them (at least the top half, the bottom half was destroyed by a wind storm!)   I put in lots of straw and many of those igloo dog houses that I collect when I find them cheap.  Perfect for nesting turkeys but there were chickens in their too and some ducks and they just kept disrupting the brooding turkeys.  Next year I will separate out the turkeys so they have their own private place to nest.  I hope that helps.  They may even be able to raise their own babies that way. 

Here is the “turkey carport”.  I am going to move it this year and the current location will become a nicely mulched blueberry patch!

My “turkey carport”

As for eating these turkeys, they do take a bit longer than the broad breasted to mature but you still can grow a good sized bird in one season.  I like to let them go till the following season to create a nice big turkey, it’s all a matter of preference!

 I am basically happy with my choice of Red Bourbon Heritage turkeys for the homestead.

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I started out thinking I could get by without a tractor around here but the more projects that got going and the older I got I finally gave in this year and got a tractor.   I wanted to get the right tractor instead of the cheapest deal and after research I decided on my Mahindra 28 HP Model.   One of the major considerations was not only the ISO9000 standards these tractors are built to, but the dealer took time to explain features to a totally uninitiated customer.  He let me drive it even and that was the end of it!  Some dealers wouldn’t even spend 5 minutes than they would find something else to do.  One went to run an errand back in the office and never came back out!!!  I bought my tractor the next day from someone else. 😉

So here is what I got:

 My new Tractor

I got the 4 ft tiller and it’s been great!  Except for throwing a pin in in the hitch the first time around that sent it bent sideways on the hitch (which was fixed with a little hammering and new pins) it has worked great – it has a slip differential so when it hits something it doesn’t break a shear pin.

I got a 4 ft mower and it works great too!  It has a feature that can ride up over rocks and stumps and that sure helps around here!

I got a 6 tooth ripper that I thought I would need before running the tiller but really didn’t need it.  It’s too close to the back of the tractor to be really useful.

BUt the bucket teeth are great!  I can root out saplings and rocks and all kinds of stuff with those teeth on the bucket.  I also had them weld two hooks on the bucket which I use all the time to tie down stuff I am carrying or to hook the chains to when I pull out small trees by the roots.  They are also great for lifting and moving chicken tractors.

I got the hydrostatic transmission because I didn’t want to deal with gears and it’s worked great.  I have about 50 hours on my tractor in the first year with no problems.  It’s amazing what I’ve been able to accomplish in 50 hours!

Mahindra tractors are also a bit heavier than the Kubota or John Deere equivalents so a smaller tractor is capable of larger tasks.   For my 4.5 acres this tractor is perfect.  And believe it or not the Kubota doesn’t have a step to get onto it – much appreciated in the Mahindra model! 

Can’t wait for the weather to clear a bit so I can start in on my tractor for more land clearing this year.

Here is a part of what I got done in an afternoon with my tractor:

Garden area cleared with new tractor

More tractor work

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The Farm Dog


When I moved to Deberosa, I brought with me two “city” dogs.  One was a Springer Lab mix who passed away last January at 13 and a half years old.  The other is Martha, a very huge Basset Hound.  Neither are very useful on the farm but they were my companions for a long time.  Martha wanders too much to be out of her large fenced yard without close supervision.  She is good at sounding off when someone drives up but she is death on chickens so I have to keep her separate from all of the birds.

We needed a good all around farm dog.   One to protect the poultry, patrol the property, keep the peacocks off the porch and out of the garden and other chores as needed.   At the time we felt the English Sheppard was a good match but had no resources for getting one.  Other options are the Austrailian Sheppard and Blue Heeler or Border Collie.  We decided the Border Collie’s were too “hyper” and high maintenance for two people working full time.  Then we saw an ad in the local paper for Australian Sheppard/Blue Heeler cross puppies and decided to take a look.  These puppies were raised on a farm by a family and both parents were pure bred dogs.  Well, cuteness overcame reason and Jake was soon riding home with us.

 Jake Arrives ad Deberosa

Jake is 18 months old now and is turning into an excellent farm dog.  He loves to do chores with us, and has a distinct sense of where everything belongs.  Chickens out of place are rounded up and with a paw on them he waits for one of us to get them in their correct place.   I’ve had a half dozen pullets “escape” to the garden and by pointing to each one Jake will chase it back to it’s own pasture and then with direction go get the next one until they were all rounded up.  In the pasture he “helps” with the feeding and if we need to catch a bird, we only need to point and he will soon have it pinned down waiting for us to come by.

Jake somehow knows that the flock of guineas are OK to travel around the property but when young guineas escaped their house he knew they needed to be “saved”.  He brings the cold soggy keets to the front yard and asks us to please take care of them!   Peacocks are not allowed on the deck or in the garden!

When not busy, Jake will stand guard on the deck or curl up at my feet while I work.   He does not need to be busy constantly which works well for our lifestyle.

One thing about this breed other than being very smart is that they hate change of any kind!  We crate trained him from a puppy and he soon outgrew his first crate.  So we got him a nice new roomy crate for his bed.  He hated it!  It took a week of struggle to get him to sleep in his crate before he felt it was OK.  Same with moving his crate, even a few feet.  Once he does something for  a few days and knows it’s OK with us then he settles into his new routine.

 There is nothing to compare with a great farm dog – I hope you find one as good as Jake!

Jake “relaxing”

Jake “posing”

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Gardening with Guineas


I have a flock of 7 guineas that roam my homestead.  Sweet silly looking birds with the sounds of squeeky door hinges or distinct “Buckwheeeet”.  Only the females make the “Buckwheeet” noise and that is about the only way you can tell them apart.

My house is built almost in the center of a 420 by 420 square.  The guineas spend the day circling the house in search of bugs and treats.  Guineas are great for bug control, especially ticks if you have a problem with them.  They roost in the trees and once they are 5 or 6 months old I seldom have any casualties unless they wander too close to the road.  Fortunately that is not a lure for them most of the time.

Guineas are supposedly good eating, although I haven’t tried any at this point.  They do have lots of babies but are horrible mothers.  I raised many batches this summer but increased the flock only by two because of predator issues once they are older or death before I can catch them from the mother.  When I release them to join the flock they are very very slow to “get” it and many fall prey or get lost even though the flock is right nearby when I release them!  Oh well, 7 is  a good number for a group traveling around a place as large as mine.

I work from home so all during the day I see them truck through the front yard, stopping to take a drink in the small artificial pond I have there and then moving on, causing a ruckus if disturbed.  That’s another reason that guineas are a great addition to the homestead – they are a great alarm system and they are the first ones to spot a hawk overhead.  If the guineas sound off  all of the other birds also take cover.

Try some guineas if you get the chance – you will like them!

Guineas at the back door

Guineas on patrol

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Well, the tub is installed and the first fire is started!  In a few hours hopefully we will be enjoying a nice soak in the hot tub!

We built a simple 8 by8 deck – first I put down weed cloth that Ihappened to have, then we put 4 by4 runners on that and put in the decking.  It leveled out very nicely.  We put some pavers next to the deck for the stove and did all of the assembly – not terribly bad.  We have some leaking around the seal to the hot tub that we will need to fix eventually but it’s just a drip.   

Eventually I will put pavers around the entire outside of  the deck for potted plants and we’ll insulate the tub itself and make a cover for it, but fornow we are just going to enjoy it as is.

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Dexter Cattle


I started out at Deberosa with poultry.  It was a natural progression because buried in the brambles behind the barn was a perfect hen house, with a bank of 15 galvanized steel nest boxes.

But this post is about cattle!  After several years of clearing gardens and enjoying meat and eggs from the poultry, we began thinking about next steps in developing a sustainable system.  As I was hauling in manure for the gardens, the next step became apparent!  However cattle are large, they tear up the soil if confined to a small space. Goats will die if they eat rhododendrons and I have lots of Rhododendrons and goats are escape artists.   We were looking at hair sheep as an alternative but  they won’t provide the milk that a cow or goat would. 

We had looked at Dexter Cattle, the smallest kind of cattle, but they were very very expensive!  However as we were pouring through the weekly want ads there was our answer.  A Dexter Cow and Heifer Calf for less than the cost of a single   cow at other places!  We called and found they were a 20 minute drive away so we were there within an hour!

Marita had a herd of 6 or 7 purbred Dexters with a very nice looking Bull.  Daisy was 2.5 years old and had her first calves that spring – twins the first time! She had plenty of milk for both calves. The bull calf was sold, leaving the heifer calf.  A heifer twinned with a bull is called  a  freemartin.  There is an 80% chance she is sterile, so she may end up in the freezer.

Daisy and T-Bone have settled in nicely on Deberosa.  They have a large area around the barn for the winter but in the spring we will have fencing up on the acre of brush that needs to be cleared.   Dexter cattle are an old Irish breed and are extremely hardy and sturdy.   They thrive on brush and grass alone.  

Daisy is quite tame, although she does like to swing her horns around a bit- takes some getting used to.  They do not challenge the fence, which has two strands of electric around it. 

So now we have taken one more step to sustainability.  We will share milk with new calves each year- milking probably only once or twice a week.  Daisy is turning brush and grass into wonderful compost and we’ll have natural grass fed beef for the freezer!  Their small size makes them easy to raise in smaller places and easier to fit into a freezer, so we are thrilled with the new addition!

Daisy and T-Bone

Daisy

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