Friday, November 28, 2014

Turkey Processing Set-up

No graphic description of how to process the turkeys, just photos of what how we set up to get ready.

This is a 55 gallon drum that Myles cut in half with a sawsall. It's filled part of the way with water and then heated.
After it was heated we were able to skim off all the paint.

We should have started the water heating sooner than we did. It took a long time to heat that much water when it was 37˚ outside.

Myles screwed the restraining cone into an old shelf to give it some stability and portability. There were other families that wanted to borrow it when we were done.
We don't want to leave it outside in the weather, this way we can store it in the barn the rest of the year.

The garbage can is lined with an empty shavings bag to catch the blood. We have dogs so we wanted to be able to remove anything that would attract the dogs or other animals.

We bought our cone through Amazon (here). It arrived in less than a week. We were so busy with other things that we decided it was best to buy one instead of trying to build one. At a little under $53, it was worth it. Even better because I had some Swagbucks credits on Amazon so it was less than that!

A 4 x 4 post was placed between two ladders with a bucket located below an eye bolt. The garbage pail is for the feathers from plucking.

We knew our turkeys would be big. The 4 x 4 post and the big eye bolt were just what was needed.

Myles brought an old card table to do the final processing and picking out more feathers.
There were stools covered in garbage bags for everyone to sit on, they just didn't make it into the photo.
I rinsed off the turkeys and picked off the last few bits of feathers in the kitchen sink. We were planning on placing them in turkey roasting bags, but the turkeys were too big for the bags, so we used regular kitchen bags to store two overnight. The large turkey was double wrapped and placed in a freezer.

Are you wondering how big the turkeys were?

We had two that weighed in a little over 40 lbs, and one that weighed 47 lbs. They were just about 6 months old when we processed them.

The biggest one is in the freezer waiting for summer. We'll cook him in a pit.

We started cooking one of the 40 lb turkeys on Wednesday afternoon, he was ready to eat about 11:30 on Thanksgiving Day.

Home grown turkey is delicious!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Photos from the Farm #12

Welcome back!

Are you getting ready for Thanksgiving Dinner next Thursday?

We are!

Since you are thinking about all the yummy food you will be eating next week I thought it would be interesting for you to see what types of food the animals on our farm eat.

Before I show you what the animals eat, I thought you would like to know that we got another new animal on the farm this week! Her name is Echo and she is a mini-Jersey cow. She is 9 months old so she is too young to give milk. She is too young to have a calf!

We will breed her in February or March. Cows are pregnant for 9 1/2 to 10 months. If we breed her in February she will have her calf in November.
You will be in Second Grade when she has her calf!
That seems like a very long time.

Next, I thought you would like to see how our older chicks are doing. They are about 12 weeks old now and just starting to cluck. They still peep like younger chicks most of the time, but you can hear them starting to make an adult noise in the video.

I'm sorry the video is shaky today! Myles decided to sit right in front of me and push me a little bit! Silly dog!

One more update: Here is a photo of the hen who hatched her chicks during Fall Break. They were born on October 17th and 18th. They are about 5 weeks old.

They are just starting to get some little feathers now!
Something sad happened the day I took this photo. The mama hen died. We're not sure what happened. Sometimes we can tell if a dog (not ours) got into the yard and got a chicken. Sometimes a fox or a racoon or a mink will kill the hens. We know it happened during the day so we know it wasn't a fox, or a racoon, or a mink. They usually come at night.

The chicks are in a box until they are big enough to go out with the rest of the flock. They have a special light on them and they get special food.

When a mama hen takes care of the chicks she pecks the food until it is small enough for them to eat. Since they don't have a hen to take care of them we give them food that is already ground into small pieces.

I'll show you the box and the light when you come back from Thanksgiving.

*     *     *     *     *

Your teacher has small baggies with the different kinds of food we feed the animals. I thought you would like to see and smell the food along with seeing some photos.

There was one kind of animal food that I didn't send. Your teacher told me all the good guesses you made last week!

Most of your guesses were wrong! Some of your guesses were right! I didn't send bugs that the chickens eat. I didn't send grass from the pasture.

No one guessed that I wouldn't send milk! Remi, the calf, is still drinking about 1 gallon of milk a day. If I send milk with your teacher it might spill, or it might go sour. I only sent her dry food for you to look at.

Nutrition is a big word. It means the way animals, plants, and humans take nutrients from food and use them for energy and growth.

If animals, plants, and humans (that's you!) have food that is good for them they grow strong and are healthy. They are able to perform well. That means they are able to do what they were meant to do.

A milk goat that is given the right nutrition (food, vitamins, and minerals) is healthy and strong. She can give 1/2 - 1 gallon of milk each time I milk her.

A calf that is given the right nutrition is healthy and can grow into a big, strong steer.

Chicks that are given the right nutrition are healthy and can grow into hens that will produce eggs. 

Chickens that are given the right nutrition are healthy and can produce eggs for our family.

Dogs that are healthy can run and play and learn new tricks. They have energy and can help us with the animals on the farm. 

Animals that have the right amount of food and water can stay warm in the winter.

Children that eat the right foods are usually healthy and grow properly. They can learn and do well in school. They can run and play at recess. Now you know why your mother tells you that you need to eat fruits and vegetables every day. You know why she tells you not to eat too many sweets.

People eat different foods to get proper nutrition and stay healthy. Animals need to eat the same things every day to get the proper nutrition and stay healthy. They don't need to eat different foods every day. Most animals will get sick if you change their food every day.

You will have many different types of food for Thanksgiving Dinner. The animals on our farm will have the same food they eat every day.

That may sound mean to you, but it is what is best for the animals. We like to do what will keep our animals healthy and strong!

This is cat food.
You might know what cat food looks like if you have a cat.
Cats need to have the same food every day or they may get sick.

This is dog food.
Some dogs eat too much food and get too fat! They are not healthy if they are fat.
Our dogs get fed about 1 cup of food for breakfast and 1 cup of food for dinner.
That is all they need to stay strong and healthy, so that is all they get.

This is called a 'grain blend.'
If you look closely you can see different types of grain and some pellets in the food.
This is what we feed to the milk goats, Remi (the calf), and Echo.
We never feed this type of feed to the bucks (boy goats). It isn't good for them.
We can feed a little bit of this to the chickens, ducks, and turkeys.

This is wild bird food.
We have bird feeders on our farm. One day I will show you some pictures of the birds that visit our feeders.

These are alfalfa pellets.
They are made from alfalfa hay. We feed a little bit of this to the milk goats, Remi, and Echo. We don't feed them very much of this because we also feed them hay.
We don't feed this to the bucks (boy goats) because it will cause problems for them.

These are Timothy hay pellets.
This is what we feed to the bucks! They don't get very much of this because we also give them hay.

This is oat hay and alfalfa hay.
We feed this to the milk goats, the bucks, Remi, and Echo.
These animals also eat grass in the pasture. In the winter there isn't any good grass on the pasture so we make sure they have plenty of hay to eat.
Can you see the seeds in the hay? Those are oat seeds!

This is called "Calf Manna."
If you guessed that we give this to the calves, you are right! We give it to any animal that needs more protein. You probably eat meat and beans for protein. Protein helps you grow properly.
Our animals don't eat meat but they need protein just like you do.
We feed Calf Manna to the milk goats, Remi, and Echo. Milk goats need protein and fat to make milk. Remi and Echo need protein to grow.

These are called lay pellets.
We feed them to the chickens and the turkeys. Lay pellets have protein, too! Chickens need protein to stay warm and to make eggs. Some people like to feed chickens 'mash.' It is made up of the same things that pellets are made of, but it looks like corn meal. It looks like the chick starter in the next photo, too.
We like pellets because it doesn't get wasted like the mash does. Chickens can make a mess. If their food is small it can get lost in the dirt when they peck it out of their feeder. Then it's wasted!

This is chick starter.
It has the right nutrition for chicks to grow into chickens. It also is small enough for the chicks to eat. They can't eat pellets like adult chickens can because their beaks aren't big enough yet.

In an upcoming post I will show you what the animal feeders look like. Last week you saw the metal tub that we use for the turkey's food. We have a hanging feeder for the chickens. The chicks have a special feeder for their food. The goats eat their hay out of a special feeder, too.

When you eat Thanksgiving Dinner this week look at the different types of dishes and bowls that the food is served in. Each dish is made to hold a different type of food. Bowls hold soup and liquids. Different size plates hold different types of foods.

Animals have feeders that hold their food just like you have bowls and dishes to hold your food!

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Photos from the Farm #11

Welcome back!

It got cold this week, didn't it? Have you been wearing your coat out to recess?

I've been wearing my warm, winter coat every morning out to the barn when I do the chores. The animal's water has been freezing at night so it's time to put heaters in the water barrels. I'll show you some pictures of the heaters next week.

Someone had a good question last week! They asked, "How old is a rooster when he starts to crow?"

Charlie was about 5 months old when he started to crow. Sometimes roosters start to crow when they are about 6 weeks old, but we've never had a rooster crow that young.

Roosters start to grow bigger tail feathers than hens at about 6-7 weeks old. That's usually how we can tell if we have roosters before they start to crow.

I think all our older chicks are hens because they don't have big tails. I'll post some pictures of them again next week.

This week is a listening week!

Listen carefully and you will hear two different kinds of quacks from our ducks. The white duck is a drake. A drake is a boy duck. He has a quiet quack. It sounds as if he has a sore throat or that he might have lost his voice. That's how he sounds all the time, he isn't sick at all.

The other ducks sound like what you think a duck sounds like. Quack, quack! Those are the ducks. A duck is a female duck.

I know that is a little bit confusing, a girl duck is called a 'duck', a boy duck is called a 'drake', but all animals that look like ducks are called 'ducks.'

This is how adults say it:
  • The generic term for ducks of all species (male or female) is duck
  • All male ducks (no mater what the species) are called drakes
  • All female ducks (no mater what the species) are called ducks. 
  • All baby ducks (no mater what the species) are called ducklings.
Did you hear the dog barking in the video? You heard Miles, he doesn't like birds so if a magpie or another bird flies into the barnyard, he barks and chases them away. One day I'll get a video of him singing with the police sirens! He doesn't bark at anything else, which is very nice for us!

 *     *     *     *     * 

This is a video of the new chicks. Aren't they cute? Can you hear them peeping? What other animals do you hear in the video?

I hear the chicks peeping, the hen talking to her chicks, and both the female and the male ducks quacking. I also heard the turkeys at the very end!

 *     *     *     *     *

Do you want to see the new animals we got?

What did you guess last week?

This is Scout! He is four years old.

He likes Bryon, best.

This is JJ. She is five years old.

She likes me best, but she is timid.
Do you know what 'timid' means? It means JJ is shy, and that she likes to hide when there are new things going on. She is hiding in her crate because she has never seen a camera before. Scout is timid, too, but not as timid as JJ!

When people come over that they haven't met before, they both hide. JJ hides in her crate, Scout hides under the table.

Scout and JJ came from Texas to live on our farm. They are both Border Collies who have been trained to help herd sheep. Sometimes we call them, 'the twins' because they look alike.

Can you tell them apart? They are both black and white. What things are different that can help you tell them apart?

They like running in the barnyard and watching the animals. Border Collies don't hurt farm animals, that isn't their job. They are one of the breeds of dogs that farmers and ranchers use to help watch out for and protect the animals on the farm.

Do you have a dog? What kind of dog do you have? Does your dog do tricks? Is it trained to sit and stay?

The next time you write a story you could write a story about your dog and share it with me! What things does your dog do best? What does your dog look like?

If you don't have a dog, you could write about your cat, or you could pretend that you have a pet and write a story about your pretend pet.

Next week I'll show you how we keep the animals' water from freezing. I'll show you what kind of food each animal eats, too. I'll send some baggies to your teacher so you can see and smell and touch most of the kinds of foods that the animals eat.

Can you guess what kind of food I won't send in a baggie?

That's all for this week!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Photos from the Farm #10

Wow! You've been visiting for ten weeks! Welcome back!

What have you enjoyed the most?

Here is this week's photo of the new chicks.
They don't look very different from last week, do they?
Did you notice that there are three dark chicks and one yellow chick?

One of the funny things about mother hens is that they will sit on any eggs in the nest. It doesn't matter which hen laid the egg. Hens come sit on the nest, lay an egg, then leave. Usually only one hen sits on the nest and hatches the eggs.

It takes about 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch. Twenty-one days is three weeks. I'm sure your teacher will show you what that looks like on a calendar if you want to see what it looks like.

Thanksgiving is 20 days from Friday!

Here are the chicks you have been watching grow up since school started. 
They are about 10 weeks old. I've put a number by each chick so you can try the next activity.
Look at the chicks in the photo above and try to remember what they look like. Only one hen hatched them out, but that mother hen didn't lay all the eggs.

Try to decide which of the hens laid the egg that the chick hatched from. I'll post the answers after each picture.

This is Charlie, our Buff Cochin rooster. He's the dad of all the chicks. Charlie is a little bit fluffy. That is why all the chicks look a little bit fluffy, too. Charlie's parents and grandparents all looked like Charlie.

This hen is an Ameraucana. Both her parents and grandparents looked like she does.
Are there chicks that look like her?

Chick 4 came from an egg laid by an Ameraucana. She looks a little fluffy like Charlie, and she has a dark tail like her mother.

*     *     *     

This is an Arucana. Both her parents and grandparents looked like she does. Are there chicks that look like her?

No chicks look like our Arucana hen. She didn't lay any eggs in the mother hen's nest.

*     *     *     *     *     *     

This is a Barred Rock. Both her parents and her grandparents looked like she does.
Are there chicks that look like her?

Chicks 1 and 2 came from eggs laid by a Barred Rock hen. They are a little bit fluffy like Charlie, and they are black and white like their mother.

*     *     *     

This is a Buff Cochin. Both her parents and grandparents looked like she does.
Charlie, the rooster, is a Buff Cochin, too! Are there chicks that look like her?

Chicks 3 and 5 came from eggs laid by a Buff Cochin hen. They will look just like the hen that laid the egg and Charlie, the rooster. They will be a golden color and they will be fluffy. Do you see the hen's legs? They have feathers near her feet so she looks fluffy.

*     *     *      

This hen is a mixed breed hen. She doesn't look much like her parents. Her grandparents looked different from each other, too. Everyone in this chicken's family looked very different from each other so this hen doesn't look like any other chicken I have ever seen!
Do any chicks look like her?

None of the chicks look like our mixed breed hen. She isn't old enough to lay eggs yet so she didn't lay any eggs in the mother hen's nest.

*     *     *     

This is a Silkie. Most Silkies are a little fluffier.
Her parents and grandparents must have had smooth feathers instead of fluffy feathers.
Do you see any chicks that look like her? Are there any grey chicks?

None of the chicks look like our Silkie hen. That means she didn't lay any eggs in the nest.

Remember, the mother hen you see near the chicks is the one that hatched the eggs and raised the chicks, but she isn't the one that laid the eggs.

Did you make good guesses?

We have to wait a few more weeks to see which of the chicks are roosters (boys) and which are hens (girls).  We will find a new home for the roosters because we only want one rooster on our farm. The hens can live here and lay eggs for our family.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

Here's a very short video of our turkeys gobbling. Your teacher told me you never heard a real turkey before! What do you think of the sound they make?

This is what they look like when they eat their breakfast. They look hungry!

Next week I'll show you pictures of the new animals we have on the farm. We don't usually get new animals this close to winter. This year we have new chicks, a new steer, and ....

I won't spoil the surprise. You can come back and see the new animals next week. I'll give you three hints:
  • there are two 
  • they are black and white
  • they do not drink from a bottle.

That's all for this week.