October 8, 2009

My son and the goats

I just found these two photos... and it made me smile, so I decided to share!
Here is a photo of my son and our first two goats, at least 7 to 8 years ago: (Grant and Jelly and Jam)The goats had dog packs, and he had planned on taking them for an 'explore', with snacks and other things a boy thinks is necessary for an expedition. The goats were 'supposed' to carry the supplies, but they refused to move until all the extra weight was removed from the packs! Grant and I ended up packing everything back to the house!
Here is a photo of my son and our goats, taken just a few days ago... that is Jelly on the right. She is older, but still the same stubborn goat!
Hard to believe Grant is 18 now!

July 31, 2009

Blue Andalusian -- 7/09

(Chicken posts will be sorted by breed name and date in the subject.)
I ordered Blue Andalusian chicks, so that we might compare them to my 'handed-down' greys in an attempt to identify the original breed my mother and grandmother may have had.
Here are photos of the Blue Andalusian chicks at 7 weeks of age:

In the photo below, the splashed chicks are Blue Andalusian:

Notes: These are the smartest chicks! They are very very similar to my 'handed-down' greys in that they are always aware of what is going on and are not easily spooked. They never have to be watched and helped back into the coop at night. They are a little too couragous and brave to be entirely safe!!! They are very fast growing.
Postive rating so far!!!!

Austra White as chicks -- 7/09

I am going to post PAST photos of the Austra Whites:
Here are the 1st shipment at approx. 5 weeks of age:
Note that the pullet (left of the waterer) is already showing the black legs and the cockerel (on the right) has yellow legs. The chicks arrived as two-day old chicks and both sexes seemed to have yellow legs while that young. There is also black on the beak and comb areas.

Here are the 2nd shipment at approx. 2 1/2 weeks of age:
(I think they were about 1 1/2 weeks old when I received them.) At this age, they acted similar to the earlier shipment, and did have less black 'speckling'.

A pullet from the 2nd shipment at 7 weeks of age in the back:
Note the absence of black on the legs or head, or in the feathers. Five or six of the pullets have a very few black feathers.

Austra White -- 7/09

(Chicken posts are sorted by breed name and date in subject.)
I have spent the past 20 years with a 'closed flock' (not adding any new blood or new breeds) trying to regain the desired traits of what my mother had in the 60's. She began with Austra White chickens at that time, and combined with the greys from my grandmother, these were the chickens I inherited 25 years ago. In the years since, my sisterinlaw and I have been selecting and culling with the hope that maybe we would regain/retain flocks with some of the good traits of the Austra White breed/hybrid.
Overall, we each had a flock of chickens we were extremely pleased with... the hens layed very well, they set, and they were good mothers. They were hardy in our winters, and foraged well. We felt they were lighter in frame than they should be, and needed a little meat on their body. Other than that one trait, we were happy.
But they were not the Austra White my mother remembered!
But we thought they were no longer available as chicks.
WE FOUND THEM this spring!!!
I ordered two shipments of chicks. The first arrived the first of April and have exceeded all expectations!!! The young chickens show all the proper signs of health and breed traits: the pullets have some black feathers and have black legs, while the cockerels are all white with yellow legs. The second shipment are not so true to the breed/cross specifications in appearance: the pullets do not have many or any black feathers and have yellow legs.
Mom remembers that in the years after she first purchased her Austra White chicks, the resulting chickens from sucessive matings also lost the black feathers and black leg.
SO, we have to do some research into this 'breed' to see if/how soon offspring will revert to a parent... **We have lots of questions about this situation, as I will explain in a later post.**
Here is a photo of the Austra White chickens (from the first shipment) at approx. 14 weeks of age:
Here is a photo of an Austra White pullet from the first shipment:
NOTES: The chickens from the first shipment are great!!! The pullets are very smart, active, yet gentle and aware.. not easily spooked. They are growing very fast and while not a heavy weight, are very nicely 'rounded'! The only fault I have so far is that the cockerels are very active sexually. They began mounting the hens at an early age, and 'attacked' my mature hens at about 8 weeks of age. At that time, they weren't even of a size to physically mate, and were about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of my older hens. They do not seem to fight with each other or my older 'boss' rooster.
Postive rating so far!!!!

Brown Leghorn -- 7/09

(Chicken posts are sorted by breed name and date in subject.)

I purchsed 5 single comb Brown Leghorn pullets.
Here are the Brown Leghorn pullets at 7 weeks:

NOTES: I have not noticed any particular trait, good or bad. These chicks are active, smart and compare with the Blue Andalusian of the same age.

My plan for these pullets is a cross with my 'handed-down' greys. I have a wonderful hen, 6 to 8 years old, who is still laying on a regular basis, and has been a very dedicated mother in recent years. In every way, she was/is the perfect hen! She is getting old now, but the photo below shows she is 'carrying her age' well! I am not exactly sure of this hen's 'genetics'... but I think she is a Leghorn/my grey cross, so I will be putting these Brown Leghorn pullets with one of my grey roosters next spring.

Neutral rating so far!!!

'My Greys' -- 7/09

(Chicken posts are sorted by breed name and date in the subject.)

In the photo of the Black Australorp chicks, in the July post of the Black Australorp, were also two of 'my greys'... my 'handed-down' greys from my mom and grandmother. These two chicks hatched apprx. 5 days later than the Black Australorp chicks from the hatchery.
Here are the oldest 'handed-down' greys at 11 weeks:
My Grey pullet:
My Grey cockerel (oldest):
a different photo of the same cockerel:
NOTES: As in years' past... these 'handed-down' greys are very gentle, very clean, get along well with others, and seem to be growing at an even pace. They did not get quite as heavy as the Black Australop pullets of similar age.
These will be an ongoing comparison with the other breeds for the next six months to see how soon they begin laying, how they lay during the winter, etc.
Positive rating so far!!!

July 27, 2009

Black Australorp -- 7/09

(Chicken posts are sorted by breed name and date in the subject.)

I ordered 5 Golden Phoenix pullet chicks in May. Out of the five, I have two that appear to be Golden Phoenix, and two that may be Silver Phoenix.
Here are two of the Black Australorp pullets at 11 weeks:

Here they are as five day old chicks, with a hen and two of my 'handed-down' grey chicks (the two on the lower right).

NOTES: The Black Australorp chicks were weak and seemed dull and slow-minded for the first week. I had pre-ordered 10 straight run from the local feed store... then learned the store had cancelled the order... then a week later, another order came. I am not sure if these chicks were the best the hatchery had to offer, or if they sent poor quality chicks just to fill a last minute order???!!! At any rate, I ened up loosing one within 12 hours. Then at 7 weeks of age, I lost three due to gnats/no see 'ums... I have had insects irritate my chickens, but have never before actually lost any due to insects! The Black Australorps are all pullets I think, unless the cockerels are very, very slow to mature!!!

The funny thing about the Black Australorp pullets is they 'hang together'. Growing chicks will usually run in 'groups' or 'families'... where chicks that were raised in the same pen or under the same hen will spend most of their days together. But as they reach the 2 to 2 1/2 month age, they seem less inclined to go where everyone else goes... they do what they want. But these Black Australorp pullets go everywhere together!!! They usually crowd onto the same narrow roost bar at night... upon which they all fit, when they were younger! Now that they are nearly grown, they don't all fit so well!

Attitude is average... they are neither friendly or spooky. They seem to be early to bed and late to rise. The one negative I have noted is that they were spooky as chicks. I am not sure if that had something to do with their physical condition when I brought them home??!! The hen I put them under was partly to blame, as she would cluck and warn them to sit still everytime I went near to feed them. BUT, I put two chicks hatched from my 'handed-d0wn' greys under her with the Black Australorps, and they were not so cautious or flighty!!! My two chicks would come out to eat what I put in their pans, while the hen and the black chicks would huddle in the corner!
Neutral rating so far!!!

July 26, 2009

Golden Phoenix -- 7/09

(Chicken posts are sorted by breed name and date in the subject.)
I ordered 5 Golden Phoenix pullet chicks in May. Out of the five, I have two that appear to be Golden Phoenix, and two that may be Silver Phoenix.

Here is the Golden Phoenix pair at 8 weeks:

The Golden Phoenix pullet has a different body shape than the Silver Phoenix pullet???!!!???
The below pullet is very similar to the cockerel above, but I would say it was definitely a pullet, if I was a betting person.

NOTES: I have noticed the Golden Phoenix have some small areas with missing or slow growing feathers, especially the cockerel. We DO have a problem with gnats/no see 'ums for the past two weeks, and these pesky bugs seem to love the darker colored chicks best!!! So maybe the feather problem is due to the chicks trying to get rid of these bugs that seem to burrow down through the feathers to the skin! Again, these Golden Phoenix are like the Silver Phoenix: gentle, not easily spooked, and are very active and never have flown out of the pen, are always in the coop at night, and have grown at an even, and steady pace.
Postive rating so far!!!!

Silver Phoenix -- 7/09

(Chicken posts are sorted by breed name and date in the subject.)

I ordered 5 Golden Phoenix pullet chicks in May. Out of the five, I have two that appear to be Golden Phoenix, and two that may be Silver Phoenix.
Here is the Silver Phoenix pair at 8 weeks:

The little Silver Phoenix pullet is darling! What a calm, sweet disposition!

NOTES: I have noticed their feathering may not be as 'close' or as many as my 'handed-down' greys, or the Austra White chicks of similar age. The Phoenix may not be as 'personal'... where the chick comes to meet me and see if I have some treat, or looks up when I talk. (Not sure what term to use for this... guess personal will have to do!) The Phoenix are gentle, not easily spooked, and are very active and never have flown out of the pen, are always in the coop at night, and have grown at an even, and steady pace.
Postive rating so far!!!!

Update on the African violets

This blog was to include my African violets.... and, yes, I do still have them! :)
This is a photo of one of my TOP TEN varieties: (and if I could only have ONE AV plant, this would be it!!!)
Tiger Trail
(6897) 07/13/1988 (P. Harris)
Double bright fuchsia/pale pink back. Variegated, quilted, glossy. Standard trailer
The one below is new to me, but it is becoming more beloved, with every week she sends up even more buds!!

Ma's Second Thoughts
(9134) 05/31/2002 (O. Robinson)
Semidouble dark pink pansy/white edge. Variegated medium green and white, quilted, serrated. Standard

More photos later... I have approx. 90 leaves set, 75-85 babies transplanted, and new strep seedlings with buds!!!

Now, maybe you all will know why I haven't posted any 'new yard' photos yet this summer!!!! :(

June 3, 2009

"Chicks in Mail" Experience:

Long Story Short:
Mid April, I placed an order for baby chicks, to arrive the first week in June.
Mid May, I called to add on another 5 chicks of a different breed.
I was told they would arrive May 21-22.
They did not arrive. I was told they would ship the next week.
No chicks that week.
They arrived today.
I expected the worst, because I had been told they would not be 'day old' chicks, but week-, and two week-old. ???? Most hatcheries ship 'day old chicks' because the chick absorbs the yolk into it's abdomen in the hours just before hatching, and they do not need food or water for 48 hours or even longer.... so chicks mailed at that age survive the days spent in a box in the mail.
However, I have found that older chicks suffer if they are without water for a day, such as when they tip over their waterer and I don't notice it until the next day.
SO: I very apprehensively, slowly opened the box.... and the lid just BURST off! And chicks began flying all over!!! I had chicks everywhere! But not one dead one... and the few that were a bit wobbly, improved after a drink and lunch!!!

I couldn't resist taking a photo, and then making it into a puzzle!!!
The puzzle is here:
Austra White Chicks Puzzle

Frost on June 1st!!!

Just a quick note to record what I hope is 2009's last spring frost: June 1st -- 31 degrees F. No real damage done....

May 27, 2009

May Snowstorm!!!

We had a snow storm on May 12th!!!
The temps didn't get terribly low, and there was enough snow to create a layer of insulation.
Some of the plants did lose a few outer leaves but no serious damage.

THEN, a week later, we had a night with more severe frost temps!!!
Some of the roses lost the majority of their leaves, and look a bit bedraggled now.
We have had a cold spring, and it is time to begin summer!!!!

More Chick Photos!!

Yes, another photo of chickens!!!
Soon, I will be overwhelmed with yard work and will be adding photos of plants instead of chickens!
By August, you will wondering if I have been feeding my chicks at all!!! :)

I've been talking about the 'ordered chicks'... new breeds I am trialing
I did hatch chicks from my flock's eggs. The hen set on eggs and I also had a few eggs in my incubator. Here is a photo of her combined family:

May 24, 2009

I love a Mystery!!!

I love a mystery!
Well, not mystery novels... but a 'ranch mystery'!
Everyone realizes that 'genetics' and proper selection of heifers and bulls in our commerical beef cattle herd is important, and there has been many years of 'cross-breeding', sire selection, and breed change in the beef cattle industry.
On a much 'less important' scale, breeding and genetics has been a big part of my Jersey cattle, and the goats. Also, the chickens!
I explained below about my attempts to keep my mother's and grandmother's chickens.
My mom knew her original breed was Austra White... but we had no idea what the greyish hens originally began as!
However, I now think they were Blue Andalusians. I did not realize that a fair percentage of B.A. chicks would be black and/or white/splashed.
NOTE: my chickens are far from 'pure'... as I have had a closed flock for nearly 12 years, and before that my mom and grandmother may have had misc other breeds in their coops.
Here is a typical grey hen (about 1/3 to 1/4 of my chicks hatch like this):
(Interesting observation: I have a very low percentage of grey roosters... I will get 1 grey or grey/splashed rooster out of approximately 8-10 young roosters, from straight-run hatch.)
Here are a few of my chicks:

I will try to add a few Blue Andalusian chicks to my experiments so that I will have young hens and roosters next year. DEFINITELY GLAD I HAVE THREE COOPS I can use next spring!!!

May 5, 2009

Now on to larger 'babies'!!!

We have baby goslings too, but I don't have photos of them yet.... There are still 3 geese hens setting on nests, so if they hatch soon, I will take photos of all the goslings!!!
My camera has been 'misbehaving', so this is the only photo I have of the goat kids.
Yes, they like to get in the hay feeder... my hubby is very patient and forgiving!!!! :)
Here is what John enjoys:
Quite often, a cow's calf will inherit her 'markings', her appearance.
These are two of my husband's favorites:
You may notice the cattle have white faces. These are called 'Black Baldies' and are the result of crossing Black Angus cows with a Hereford bull. We don't have too many of these 'baldies' left and now use all Black Angus bulls. But they do have interesting and amusing markings!!!

The turkeys....

I have turkeys!!! Several years ago, my sisterinlaw raised turkeys for the family.... so I decided it was my turn to raise the turkeys.

I will say this: it has been an experience!!!

But they have been lots of fun, along with the work. They think I am 'Mama' and follow me around. One comes up and wants to be stroked like a kitten.

Babies everywhere!!!

*** Spring is fully underway, and we have babies everywhere!!! ***

First, the chickens... because this year I found chicks were available of the breed my Mom had in the 60's!!! :)
We thought the breed was lost, and for the past 20 years, I have been trying to 'maintain' and 'regain' traits typical of the breed. I would keep hens and roosters that displayed desirable traits, and I think we were doing as well as can be expected.... considering that both Mom and I had brought in other breeds of chickens in the years since the originals!!!
I think it would be most accurate to say my chickens LOOK close to the original Austra White breed, but probably the genetics is quite mixed!!!

The original breed is Austra White... and here are some photos of the 'purebred' chicks I ordered. They went under a setting hen, who was expecting to hatch eggs, and all are happy! The photo was taken yesterday, and the chicks are 6 weeks old. The hen is black and just above the waterer... hard to see. Notice the chick on the left of the waterer has greyish legs, and the chick on the right has yellow legs.
Here is a pair of my chickens... showing typical traits of the breed. Note the hen has grey legs and feet and the rooster has yellow legs and feet. I also have saved black hens. The original Austra White breed is a cross between a Black Austrolorp hen and a White Leghorn rooster. So I also saved black pullets that demonstrated traits of that breed, as well as a few solid white roosters with large combs that looked like White Leghorns.
This spring I have hatched some of my own eggs... and here is a photo of two chicks.. one is white with a few black specks, and the other will grow up black.
I also ordered chicks of the Black Austrolorp breed... and put them under another broody hen.
I left two of her chicks... which will be black chickens from my eggs. This will be a great opportunity to compare how 'my black chicks' compare to the purebred Black Austrolorp chicks!! In the photo below, my two chicks are slightly lighter in color, and are the two on the far right. The other 11 are Black Austrolorp chicks I purchased.
This hen has 11 chicks:
Currently, I have 58 chicks .... plus an incubator set with eggs, three more 'setting hens' to set on eggs, and I have ordered 25 more Austra White chicks!!!
Anyone want to come visit for homegrown fried chicken this fall???? :)

Home grown chicken tastes so different than 'town' chicken...
I suppose it could have something to do with the breeds used, as well as the diet the birds receives, but whatever it is... it is very much worth the work!!!

April 7, 2009

I can't wait for Spring to stay!

Spring is here today, then gone again tomorrow!
Oh, I wish it would stay!
Here is what my light stands looked like two weeks ago:

They have tripled in 'load' since... I now have 1,101 + plants... waiting to go into the greenhouse!
And I still have these two seed flats to pot up!
But I think our night temps will be stable enough now that I can begin moving flats in today!!!!
More photos soon... of baby animals!!!!

Summary of March 2009:

"Trooper" and Mrs. John
We both like 'driving the pickup' when it is cold!!!

Work on the ranch from December to February is mostly 'Feeding'.
We actually feed hay to our cattle from December until at least May, but from December to February, the 'feeding' takes up most of the day. There are other things besides feeding: in January, we feed and sell the 9 month old calves; in February, we vaccinate the replacement heifer calves, and in March the cows begin calving.
But the main part of our ranch work during the winter months is Feeding. We spend all summer irrigating, cutting and baling hay... and spend all winter rolling it out! Our life revolves around FEED! :)

Moving Cows.... it is easy when it is snowing... they follow the hay rack!

Here is how we 'FEED':
(We have a 250-head ranch. As is usual, you don't count the 15 bulls, or any cattle under 1 year of age, such as the 40 replacement heifers, when describing 'head' a ranch runs. So 250-head means we have approx. 250 mature cows. Actual animals on the ranch will vary from approx 300 in March before the new calves are born to approx. 500 in January before we sell the calves.)
So, for a few months, we feed 500 head of cattle. That takes alot of FEED!
We feed them together as one 'bunch'. Some ranchers, like my brothers will have more than one 'bunch'... sorting them by age during calving time, or sorting into different fields in the summer so that specific bulls are with specific cows during breeding season.
Anyway, we feed with large round bales, simply because it is easier to do it with 'tractor power' rather than handling the smaller, traditional rectangular bales by 'man power'! :)

We load the bales on a hay rack and pull it to the 'feeding grounds'.
The net wrap or twine that holds the hay together in a 'bale' must be removed.
Then the tractor unrolls the bale into strips of hay.

Summary of Jan and Feb 2009:

Yes, I am behind on 'blogging' entries! I have such good intentions.... but as the old saying says: the road to h--- is paved with good intentions. Good Intentions aren't worth much!
Here is a brief summary of January and February 2009:
January and February were snowy and cold... we actually got a winter that is more like the 'typical' Montana winter. I watched my yard from indoors... read landscaping books and doddled many, many diagrams .... filling several notebooks!!!

Here is a view from my dining room window.... looking out over the snow-covered patio. The petunia bloomed like this, or more, since I potted it up as a young self-sown plant last November. It has been so satisfying to have a bright burst of color in the window... and you can see it very well from outside as well!!! :)

I had neglected my African violets and other houseplants last summer, so they are looking nicer and more 'loved'. Here is a pink streptocarpus.... I purchased it at a greenhouse last spring... I think they were selling it as an outdoor bedding plant!

We also had our annual Cake Day.... my sister in laws, my mother and I have a day every winter when we decorate cakes together! We live about an hour and a half drive apart... and so we pick a time in the winter when 'things' are slower to have a full day of FUN!
My cake is the tiered cake on the right... using a plate and cup and saucer set from my great grandmother's dishes