Spring update

Hiya! I hope you are all doing wonderfully after a fabulous winter. I must say that I am very glad that spring is finally here! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE winter. Nothing beats the glorious sight of snow sparkling in the sun like diamonds, the brightness of the stars when the temps get to being around thirty-below freezing, or the laughter that rings through the air as snow forts are built, snowballs fly at moving targets, and the wheels on your car (with NO 4-wheel drive, and minimal clearance) lose traction and you slide into a relatively small snowbank and end up getting stuck. But, when March comes around and you have already been looking at seed catologs for weeks, and the chicken emails start coming in, at least for this girl, the longing for soil under the fingernails and the smell of the outdoors starts becoming a pressing need and you get restless and somewhat impatient for spring. Thankfully though we can start seeds indoors, it helps to satisfy that gardeners itch! So, after starting lots of seeds and watching the sprout and grow, we got one last gorgeous snow storm in April (the flakes were giant!) and a small flurry in the beginning of May, it is now time to prepare the gardens for planting.   This year, before being able to prepare the garden beds I had to make sure that the hens were all penned up and were not in a position to make a mess of all the mulch and baby plants. I was able to successfully overwinter the hens and geese in the mobile hen house that I built last year, but this spring we have been having trouble keeping them contained and out of the flower beds. I have yet to figure out a good fencing situation that would work well with the mobile house, especially since I don’t have enough space to have the girls completely free-range without causing chaos wherever they go. So, I decided this week to go to my plan “C” (plan B was the chicken tractor but that’s a different story) of using our stationary coop that I used as a brooder last year and fencing in a chicken run around that building so that they are still able to roam around, just not get into the gardens. Before I completed the fencing, I looked up clipping chicken wings and learned that if you get a sharp scissors and just snip the tip off of the main wing feathers this causes the chicken to lose balance for flying, and will thus inhibit them from flying over fences. Since this doesn’t harm the bird in any way I decided that I would give it a try. So, over the past few days I have been cleaning out the coop, putting up fence, and clipping wing feathers after dark. I moved the hens to the “new” coop last night and I plan on leaving them in there for a couple of days so they get accustomed to laying eggs in this coop and will consider it to be home. If this plan does work out then on to the gardens I will go! I will try and keep y’all updated on how this works out, but until then, I hope you all have a happy Friday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returned!

Happy September to you all! I must say that I have not been as faithful a blogger as I thought I would be this summer. I pretty much fell off the band wagon there for a few months, I certainly thought about different blog posts that I could write and took pictures for a lot of them but that’s where that ended. Needless to say, this girl is and has been very busy. I will update you on what has been going on over the summer and what’s cooking as fall is kicking in🤗. First off after the first batch of chickens were processed I ordered a second, larger batch that are just now getting ready to be processed. This batch of chickens have been the most frustrating and delightful batch of  meat birds I have yet encountered, at least in the Cornish Cross world. The day they came turned out to be a very cool summer morning so I again needed to make sure that those little peepers got and stayed warm. Through that whole process though I learned that chicks not only die because of cold but also because of heat. I had so many little ones die of both causes with this batch that I was just sick, it’s a balancing act folks and yes, even animal farming is hugely impacted by weather! Unfortunately with this last batch of chickens I did not do very good at all with keeping them in and predators out, I lost quite a few birds to an owl that was enjoying his stay on the farm. Tough lessons have been and are being learned continually on my side of things. You know, you go unto a year with high hopes and expectations and then by your own shortcomings learn that you don’t have all the answers and have a LOT to work on personally in order to succeed at anything. Chickens, pigs, gardens and family has really helped me to realize that this year. The hogs have all grown to lovely bacon happy sizes, and two of them have already been processed for that purpose.  I sold three hogs to my uncle last weekend, and tomorrow we are going to bring in the last two. I tell ya, there is nothing so good as tasting your own homeraised pork and chicken! I have more in-depth stories and information coming soon as I am getting back into blogging but for now that’s the livestock update and the Apple’s are ripe at the orchard! Farmer’s market season!!!

 

Processing chickens

Summer has now officially started! And to celebrate I spent three days processing chickens. 🙂 I only had forty-eight birds to process but it took longer than I thought it would due to the fact that it has been a few years since the last time I butchered chickens and I was a bit rusty in my method. The first day was delightfully miserable. My brother Caleb and I started around ten in the morning.  It had been raining earlier in the morning but had quit around that time so we (I) thought maybe it had run its course. Well, that was wishful thinking 🙂 we had started on our first few birds when it started to rain again, and it didn’t stop all day.  We had to keep going though because I had promised a customer that I would have chickens for her that evening. So, standing in the rain getting thoroughly soaked in rain and chicken water we learned what happens when the dipping water – heated water that you dunk the dead chicken in to loosen the feathers from the body for easy plucking – is too hot. I couldn’t find our thermometer that day so thought I would be able to just wing it (no pun intended) nope! Those turned out to be the ugliest chickens I have ever processed, even worse than the ones we had to skin out because the feathers refused to be plucked. The water was just hot enough to partially cook the skin causing it to turn yellow and soften to the point of tearing, thus producing birds that had torn, icky looking skin with pin feathers still sticking out because we couldn’t get them all out due to the tearing skin. Thinking the yellow skin to be a sign of good nutrition, (you know, like how egg yolks are a gorgeous orange when the hens have access to good grass and bugs ) we kept going until we had enough to fill the orders I had received. But as I was looking at the birds I could not stand the thought of selling those ugly looking things to anyone, so I called my customer and told her the situation, I asked her if she would be okay to change the time of pick-up for her chickens,( I would have nicer looking birds then) or I would give her a major discount. Thankfully that dear lady said she would opt for a change of date. 🙂 Hallelujah! I had a second chance!   the second and third days went much, much better. We got on a roll and mastered the water and plucking situations. I discovered that the water was just right around 150 degrees F. The skin didn’t cook or tear and those pin feathers came right out! You learn (or remember) new things everyday! I am so thankful that I was able to have a second chance. Now onto preparations for batch two!  Have a good one!

P.S. I cooked one of the uglies the other night and it still tasted much better than any grocery store chicken. 🙂

Introducing: The mobile hen house!

Happy day to you all! I pray that you all are doing well and enjoying the beautiful beginning of June! I started the month up in northern Minnesota with my Dad. We were  in Duluth for a republican state convention, endorsing candidates for the upcoming election.  I tell ya, that was fun!  After the convention we went for a drive along the shore of lake Superior. One of the most beautiful places in Minnesota! I took a couple of pictures of the shore and of the waves crashing up on the rocks. I thought that maybe you all would like to see them. IMG_4666IMG_4671

 

I promised last time that I would give you a tour of my hen house on wheels that next time I posted. So, here it is!

 

 

I made it out of our old trailer that was having a few structural problems. It was not safe for road use but it was perfect for chickens!  I tore out the flooring and in it’s place put in thin boards and pieces of scrap trim to make a slatted floor. Over this I spread chicken wire to add some extra stability and safety from predators, in addition to ease of walking for the chickens. 🙂 IMG_4637

The main reason I chose to make the floor like this is cleanliness.  The slats are big enough to allow chicken droppings, wasted feed etc. to drop through and not cause a lot of build up. In the usual hen house you’ve got either a poured concrete floor or a raised wooden floor, upon which you spread wood shavings or straw to provide for moisture wicking and insulation. As time goes on the chickens poop and make a mess of their feed and waterers, making the dry carbonaceous (love that word!) matter all wet and loaded with feces that contain a very high amount of nitrogen. In a compost pile or green house this would be marvelous, but in an inclosed structure this is not so good because bacteria and diseases can easily grow in the wet and polluted matter, creating an unhealthy environment for both you and your animals. Once a typical hen house becomes soiled a few things can happen. Either the coop can be cleaned out completely and a brand new layer of carbon be layed down thus starting the whole process over again. New shavings could be added on top of the old stuff, building layers of shavings that will eventually need to be cleaned out. Or, as in a the case of a LOT of meat producing chicken operations the birds are allowed to just sit in their own mess until they are ready to be processed and a new batch gets brought in. All are very work intensive, and if not stayed on top of can be hazardous to the health of your birds and yourself.  The slatted floor allows for all of that waste to be dropped out of the coop eliminating the need to clean out the coop all the time, it also allows  for good air circulation, promoting a dry house which is a must for chickens.  After the floor came the nesting boxes and the walls.

I built four nesting boxes to be approximately one foot square. I used the chicken wire for the bottoms of the nests with the same idea as the floor. For the walls I just used scrap wood that was lying around begging to be made into something. There were some gaps in the wood on the sides so I decided to side the whole structure (almost) to eliminate drafts with old siding that came off of a shed my Dad and brothers are working on. Looks pretty good eh? 😉  For the roof I made a wooden frame to which I attached pieces of steel siding/roofing that I got at Menards for a good price.  The door to the coop was my biggest problem, there was no good way to attach a door of any kind to the existing structure so after a bit of mental finagling I decided to use the pre-existing trailer closure and mount an upside down sort of apparatus to one of the roof supports. After several attempts at mounting it didn’t turn out too bad.

The great thing about it is that I can use the bottom closure as a ramp during the day when the hens are let out to pasture, and the top can open up and be supported by 1-1/2 x1-1/2 in. board that serves as an extra roost at night.  The completed inside looks like this!

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The board standing up in the middle is the door support by day and roost by night.

The roosts are made out of scrap wood that was left over from building this and the chicken tractor. So there you have it! A hen house on wheels that was fun (and cheap) to make, and practical for the girls! If you have any questions or would like more detailed information on how I made this let me know! Also, is there anything else you would like me to write about? God bless you all!!

Wet weather and mobile hens

April showers bring May flowers! Or… April snow storm turns into blistering hot summer days and huge thunderstorms during the evening, thus producing a lovely greenhouse effect causing plants to spring out of the ground (pun intended), flowers to bloom all at once, hay fields to make you feel like a midget and your arms and neck to turn nut brown before June even thinks about coming on the scene. Whew! Sorry for the long drawn out sentence! That has just been my life in a nutshell for the past month. 🙂 I must say that I truly love living in Minnesota, if only for the weather factor! A common saying in my home is “there is never a dull moment in the Voit family!” and it is proven true every day, especially in the spring, summer and fall months. Oh, and the winter ones too. 😉 This past week has proven to be no different, we have been endur (ahem!) enjoying really high temperatures, and their sidekicks the thunderstorm group.  On Memorial day it got up to 101 degrees! We are very blessed though to not be needing to water the gardens at all right now, especially with it being so hot.  Currently in the morning hours my mom has been working in her garden up by the house. We had a huge bunch of lilac bushes just out the kitchen window that had grown so large that they were impeding the space there, plus a few of us were just miserable when they bloomed so down they came and in came a garden! My fabulous mother is putting in something of a kitchen garden, she has herbs, popcorn, flowers, radishes some cherry tomatoes and a bunch more planted there.  During this fabulously extreme weather I have been working on finishing my hen house on wheels. IMG_4631As you can see I have the structure done along with the siding and roof. During this evening’s rain I discovered  some leaks in the roof that I will need to fix before rehoming the girls, besides that and some extra varmint proofing though she’s all done! Stay tuned and I will give you an exclusive tour in the next post!

 

Happy Happenings, and Chicken Tractors!

What a busy week this has been!  What with gardens being put in, chicken tractors being built and of course the daily chores that just come with being alive.  This past Tuesday I started building a mobile chicken coop that is referred to as a chicken tractor.  With some lumber that I got for a really good deal at a fabulous estate sale I got building.  I based the structure off of the model that Joel Salatin -a farmer from Virginia- uses.  The idea is that it be light-weight and easily portable while also containing the chickens, protecting them from the elements and keeping the pesty little predators out. Mr. Salatin makes his to be 10’x12′ but since I did not have boards long enough for that size and I wanted to stick with what I had so I made mine to be 8’x8′ square. Because I am a visual learner and I have never made one of these before now I started by laying out four 1-1/2″  x 8′ boards in a square. IMG_4593

I then attached three 2″x4″x2′ boards onto the far and near side boards, screwing another 1-1/2″ x8′ board to the top of those, for the other two sides I put only one 2x4x2 in the middle.  After I attached the support boards I screwed all four sides together, and added the top boards to the sides with only 2×4. The resulting frame looked like this. IMG_4599I did put the  support boards on the other two sides as the whole structure would shift if they weren’t in place. I had some chicken fencing wire on hand so I enclosed about two-thirds of the coop in that, just covering the sides. My Dad and brothers are working on residing one of our sheds and so from the old siding that they pulled off I was able to make a wind break for the chickens on two sides.  For part of the top I used some sheet metal that I got at Menards from the discount area and some of the siding. This provides a good roof and shelter from the wind, rain and sun. IMG_4600

For the other part of the top I used a panel from our old chicken-run that was made with thin boards and chicken wire.  I fastened that down with pieces of wire and voila a good working “roof” with a part the can easily be taken off for when I am doing chores and handling the birds. IMG_4604

The next morning (Wednesday) I put the broilers out to pasture in their “new” tractor! I think they look happy don’t you?IMG_4611IMG_4610

On a vegetable note… the radishes are poking their adorable heads out of the ground! We did some planting last week and these are the first to come up besides the peas and lettuce that was planted a couple of weeks ago. IMG_4614IMG_4613

I love spring and all the happy things that go on, don’t you?! Have a good week!!

 

 

Free from sin?!!

I bet some of you are wondering how on earth I could possibly make a claim to being free from sin. You are probably thinking that I am this ridiculous, little, self-righteous liar and that I cannot possibly be speaking the truth. “I mean, how can anyone be free from sin?!” Please keep reading. 🙂 I am here to clear the air on this one, and to explain how it is that I can make this claim.  About twelve years ago when I was seven I heard the gospel given at the church my family and I were attending. I don’t remember the exact words the preacher had said but I do know that he told us about Jesus, the Son of God and how he had lived a perfect life while he was on the earth and that he was falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death. He had a crown of thorns placed upon his head and  was beaten cruelly, then he was hung on a cross with his arms extended and nailed to the branches of the cross. There he suffocated to death, and paid the price for our sins with the blood that was shed. After being buried for three days, Jesus arose and came back to life, showing that he had conquered death and had power over it.  The preacher then went on and  told us that if any of us believed this, then would we follow him in a simple prayer known as the sinner’s prayer. I did believe and gave my life to Jesus, at that moment because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins God forgave me for the lies that I told, the horrible thoughts that had entered my head and for every wrong thing that I had done and would do. At that time my track record up in heaven was replaced with Jesus’ record, thus erasing my sin and making me a child of God. As a child of God, I was given the power to be free from sin, meaning I don’t need to sin any more and if I do choose to sin, then that sin is not on my record because Jesus paid the ultimate price for ALL of my sin, and by doing so, every time that I do something wrong, that sin is placed on Jesus and is covered with his blood thus erasing it.  So does this make me this perfect person who never sins? Yes! But only in the eyes of God. I am still tempted and deceived by Satan. I still falter, make mistakes and sin, but when God looks at me all he sees is the blood of Jesus his only begotten son covering me and making me perfect. That is how I am free from sin.  If you have ever sinned ( which we all have!) and you don’t know how to stop sinning than all you’ve got to do is believe in the name of Jesus, your sins will be erased, every wrong thing that you’ve done and will do will not be committed to your record up in heaven and you will live forever with Jesus Christ up in heaven after your journey on this earth is completed.