Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I think I'm sick....

I've been fighting it for a couple of days.


Body aches (I thought the aches were from the workout we did yesterday: clean squats and handstand push -ups 21-18-15-12-9-6-3. But now I'm not so sure.)

No energy.

I think I'll just get dinner for the masses and go to bed.

More tomorrow......maybe.....bleck

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Scaredy cat....ummm.... chicken

This is what the inside of our coop looks like right now. The new little pullets are roaming around the bottom of the coop scratching and playing hide and seek with each other while the older hens (and husband roo) are outside in the chicken yard (complaining loudly that it's "so unfair" they are locked up!)

While up above our heads a lonely hen is hovering in the rafters. She talks and squawks and flutters and attempts to fly down and out where her sisters are but balks at the very last second and makes her way back up to the safety of the high beams instead.

I think the activity of the adolescent chicks on the floor of the coop is making her fearful. She's afraid of all that movement and fun and loud music and cigarette smoking that's coming from the teenage birds below her.

She's so afraid that she can't even bring herself to leave the safety of the rafters.

I don't blame her. These little girls are pretty scary. 

If she doesn't come down by tomorrow, I'll climb up there and return her to her sisters, the scaredy cat.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's early and the house is quiet. We have a big day of outside work planned: preparing the pig palace, cleaning up the yard around the house, cleaning out the chicken coop. Well, maybe not the chicken coop. We really have to get the pig palace ready for the piglets. They won't be arriving for another 2 weeks but I'll feel better knowing that we are ready. It's homemade biscuits and pork sausage gravy for breakfast. A perfect meal for fueling hungry boys.
The weather guys are calling for 40% chance rain. (Which translates to 60% no rain, I hope. We have a lot to do!) The sun will be up soon and will dry out the earth and beckon us out into the warmth.

But for now I'm letting the worker bees sleep. It's chilly and damp and dark outside; perfect for snuggling into pillows and burrowing under covers. They'll be up soon enough.
I'd better get on those biscuits.
As soon as I have another cup of coffee.....

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Avian Influenza

We recently received this notice from our local 4H group. 
It sounds pretty ominous.
Hopefully it will be short lived in our area. 
The interesting thing is that a quick internet search shows 
no other reports of this highly 
contagious (for birds not humans) bird flu. Weird.



Avian Influenza Reported in a Captive Gyrfalcon from Columbia Falls

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in a gyrfalcon from Columbia Falls. This is the first case of HPAI reported in the state.
No human health issues have been reported for this strain, to date, and no mortalities in domestic poultry in Montana have been detected.

Key facts about Avian Influenza:

  • Avian influenza (AI) is an infectious viral disease of birds that can cause high mortality rates in domestic flocks
  • Avian influenza viruses rarely cause clinical signs in wild waterfowl, although raptors and wild game birds (pheasants, quail, turkey, grouse) may be more susceptible to HPAI.
  • MFWP recommends that falconers avoid hunting avian species, particularly waterfowl during HPAI outbreaks.  Game bird farmers are advised to follow the same precautions as outlined for domestic poultry (
  • The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) recommends that poultry producers practice good biosecurity including limiting contact between domestic and wild birds, limiting visitor access to domestic poultry. 
  • Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans and the meat from these animals is safe for human consumption; however, it is recommended that people follow proper sanitary precautions when handling birds.  Wear latex or rubber gloves when cleaning birds, washing hands with soapy water after cleaning, clean and disinfect equipment and surfaces that came in contact with the bird, and cook wild birds thoroughly before eating the meat.  The US Department of Agriculture recommends following sanitary handling procedures and cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Domestic poultry owners should take precautions to keep wild birds out of flocks.

The back of the chicken coop has a small yard that we usually use for teenage chicks we are transitioning from the brooder tub to the coop. It has netting over the top to discourage hawks other airborne predators. Because of the recent outbreak of Avian Influenza we have to be on the alert for wild birds mixing with our domestic flock. So our chickens are a captive lot. They are used to free ranging.

It won't be forever. 
Just for a short time I hope. 

They are not happy.
But they are safe. 

It's snowing......

OK, so it's snowing. I'm pretty sure it's not going to stick. It's still early in the year. Actually, spring is only 13 days old. And she's just throwing a little temper-tantrum.

I'm not going to freak out. But I am disappointed. I was hoping for an early planting season.

So in honor of (one of) the last (small, short) bit of snow we'll see for the spring of 2015, (please God), I am going to start some melon and tomatoes seeds in milk jug flats. 

But as it often happens, my plans were hijacked by a few desperate hombres.
Hungry Hombres.....

And pizza was on the menu.

The world's best pizza dough (I'm looking for the post where I spelled out the recipe.....more on that 
when I find it!)

Pre- baked said pizza dough.

Homemade pesto from last summer's basil mixed with mayo.

(Ohmygoodness.....we have several zip-locked bags of this amazing pesto hidden in the freezer for times such as these. When the family needs a reminder that summer is indeed not a figment of our imaginations, I just pull out a frozen cube of mystic green pesto and we are transported back to warm summer breezes and long sunny days. Just the scent of basil alone is magic filling the kitchen with promises of summer.)

Shredded cheddar.

Baked at 400 for 10 mins again......(to melt the cheese)


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring storm in April

We had a big storm blow through just before sunset.

You can see the leading edge here. 

These pictures don't really do justice to the wind 
and the speed of the clouds as they jetted across the Southern sky.

The edge is a cold front blowing into warmer clouds. 

This would be the making of a tornado if we saw this in Texas. 

But here in Montana, these are just clouds bringing much needed rain. 

It ended almost faster than it started. 




Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chickens having seizures :)

The first time I saw our chickens dusting themselves I thought they were suffering from some avian illness that caused seizures. I was sure that we were to lose our entire flock and that the USDA (or some government group that oversees food) would be descending upon our small farm to quarantine us and confiscate our dogs.

Whew! What a relief it was to find out that the chickens were just kicking up the loose soil and wallowing in it to rid their bodies of any tiny mites or insects that might have hitched an unwanted ride in their feathers. It's comical and interesting to watch. And very "not contagious".

Monday, March 30, 2015

New Growth (part 1)

 Last year we had calves on some of our pastures.

Our wonderful home was a rental for years and therefore no one really took care of the pastures. The fields have been hayed year after year but no inputs in the form of fertilizers have been applied. Consequentially, our pastures have been neglected and it shows in the grass growth. Looking across the fields is deceiving because in the spring the grass appears lush. But a closer examination reveals thin course mono-culture of orchard grass and not much else. 

The idea was to improve our pastures with grass fed animals where the animal, in this case cows,  eat the tops of the forming grasses and spread the manure in concentrated areas through paddock rotation. We would also have meat to fill our freezers. Beef calves are very expensive right now. The price of a feeder calf is in the $700-1000 range! But we have a commercial dairy within 3 miles of us. The 3 day old bull calves are very reasonable. And though they don't grow out like a beef calf might, they still produce a respectable amount of meat for the starting price. Last year we had these guys eating and pooping on our pastures all year long!

So yesterday I took a walk-about the property to see if I could detect new growth. It's very early in the season. The snow is really just now melted. And besides, I'm sure any goodness that has come from the calves will be seen in measurements of years, not months. But I couldn't help myself. 

Here's some manure from last year. It's hard to see but there is a little green just starting to show around the edges.

Up close and blurry.

It appears to be mostly grass. No clover or other forbes, yet.
But it's coming.

We will possible put more calves out on the pastures again this year. If we continue to improve our pastures a little at a time with animals, there might come a day when we will have enough thick, lush growth to feed calves in the summer and fall and still have enough pasture left over to supply at least a little hay for the winter too. 

Tiny little tulip babies just poking their heads out in the flower beds.

I know that's asking a lot from just cows and pasture rotation. 
But a girl can dream, can't she?

Next, updates on the fruit trees!

(No, the grass isn't pink. It's the camera. But I'm not going to complain. At least I have a camera!)
I am updating the look of the blog. So be patient with any weird "things" going on while I work out the kinks.

Thank you......


Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's the end of March and as per usual, the wind is blowing. It seems that March sneaks into Montana quietly, sometimes with snow, then blows herself out in blustery westerly winds. 

There's not much snow left on the ground now. And the chickens are happy to march about picking at the left over grasses and scratch at the newly emerging green.

They don't seem at bit bothered by the wind though it blows their feathers every which way. 

They do look like the wind is blowing up their skirts! 

Here's our proud rooster. He's only a year old but he takes his job very seriously. You can see that he's always got his head up watching for danger. Watching over his charges. 

Several months ago the flock was attacked by a dog. The dog, who was really still a puppy, was only playing with the chickens but to this rooster, his girls were at risk. And that is just not allowed. He got in between the dog and the hens until they were all safe. The puppy only managed to pluck off his tail feathers. 

But not one hen was wounded or ruffled or licked.
This guy is a chicken hero.
I don't think the hens even notice his lack of tail feathers.
I know I don't.

PS: I found my camera! Yippee!

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's official. I've "misplaced" my camera. Waaaa! It wasn't the most expensive camera. It was old and starting to take pictures with off color. But it was the only one I had. So the blog will just go on with old pictures from the farm until I can get a new camera. Or until I find the old.
Maybe it's in the chicken coop.....(yuck).

In honor of spring, I'm seeding more flats. I usually wait until the first week of April because if I plant too soon, the little plantlings are spindly and falling over by the time the nights are above freezing and they can be put out in the garden.

Here are some small hot pepper plants seeded in February. Peppers can be finicky so I try to start them a bit early. This way if the first plantings didn't take I have plenty of time to start over.

The sweet little yellow Hungarians haven't even poked their heads out yet. I hope they hurry. Just the thought of spicy Hungarian yellow peppers in vinegar makes my mouth water. I can't wait for planting time!