Monday, November 30, 2015

A Boy and His Toys

It's been a rough week and it's only Monday.

I am trying to buy a new computer, the general consensus is that the hard drive is failing in mine.  I thought I'd get a good Black Friday deal. Instead, I am reminded why I NEVER shop on Black Friday, even online. What a scam. 

Then there is my job. I will tell you about it when I can. 

For now, I need to borrow a bit of this boundless enthusiasm.  


Friday, November 27, 2015

The Makings of a Feast

I'm letting FB tell the rest of the Thanksgiving tale....


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Okay, today I am going to share this great recipe that I made for your Dancing Donkey writer, along with friends.

Now, I think I mentioned how the whole raising the turkeys did not turn out so well last year, right? For one thing, those turkeys became too friendly and followed me around the farm. They would then hang out on the porch or in the mudroom while I was in the house, and they were not exactly housebroken. The worst thing about them was that, as they matured, they started harassing my older border collie, Scout, which I did not like one bit.

(I have to inject a comment here...that one damn turkey was so mean I wanted to sell raffle tickets to see just who got to eat him.  We could have made a fortune!  He attacked cars, people, dogs, shadows...He went after my Tanner when he was so sick and knocked him right over.  If I could've caught the bugger that day, he wouldn't have made it to the dinner table. Even the vegetarians among us were lining up to buy a ticket, he was really that awful.)

So anyway, we had no turkey this Thanksgiving. However, one thing I have a lot of is BEEF!!!

What makes for a special holiday meal?

Prime rib!!!

Amazingly, although I have eaten this in restaurants with great enthusiasm (especially when someone else was paying for it), I have never made this at home! Well guess what? It is EASY!!! I found this great recipe online called Chef John’s prime rib. Here is how it is done.
  1. First get a rib roast and weigh it. Mine had two ribs in it, and this was plenty for three people. Preferably get grass-fed, local beef, like mine!!
  2. Defrost it the day before the feast.
  3. First, pat dry with a paper towel and then rub some butter or unfiltered olive oil or plain olive oil all over that roast.
  4. Leave the roast out, so it can come to room temp, for four hours before cooking. For example, I wanted my roast ready to eat at five in the evening, so I took my roast out of the fridge at ten in the morning.
  5. Preheat the oven two-and-a-half hours before you want to eat. I turned the oven on at two o’clock in the afternoon to prepare for my five o’clock dinner.
  6. Multiply the weight of roast by five. For example, mine was just over three pounds, so three times five equals fifteen. This is the amount of time that the roast is to bake at 500 degrees. If the roast was five pounds, it would bake for twenty-five minutes. Are you with me on this?
  7. Okay, after the oven has preheated for one-half hour, put the roast into a cast iron pot or something like that and put it in the hot oven uncovered and bake for the allotted time period.
  8. When that time is over, DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. Just turn the oven off, walk away for two hours, and take your dogs for a hike, including the Maremma.
  9. Come back in two hours, and your roast is now ready to eat!! It will taste as good or better than at the best restaurant!! And your dogs are right there to get any scraps, so no doggy bags needed!
To go with this roast, I put a bunch of sweet potatoes in the oven when I first turned the oven on to preheat. Then I just left them in there with the beef for two hours, and they were delicious!

I also made some Delicata squash on top of the woodstove. Here is where things got a little exciting. I cut the squash in half, put them in a Pyrex casserole dish, and covered them with foil. When we came back from the hike with the dogs, I lifted the foil to check on the squash, and the dish exploded into a million pieces!

Glass all OVER the place!! Out came the broom, out came the vacuum, but soon the mess was cleaned up, and the brave ones of us still ate the squash! The lesson learned here is, don’t put the squash in a glass dish and put it directly on the woodstove. Use cast iron for this job.

Those are my pearls of wisdom for this Thanksgiving Day!

Now let’s hope that Kris adds some pictures of Bess, Kelsey, and Scout.

Or some donkey pictures instead, since we did puppy pictures yesterday.  Happy thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Good Day

It was a lovely day here, which we are all very grateful for. 

It has been a truly beautiful Fall so far and, even though I feel like I've missed most of it, the animals sure have been enjoying it.  

My herd gets a little bit of grass each day and they spend their time out in the sun, enjoying the cool, fly-less days.  

It was a quiet, easy holiday today, which I am very grateful for.  I really needed some easy time in the sun.

A friend came down from the Adirondacks and, after spending some time with the herd and walking in the woods, we headed over to FB's and took all the dogs down to the lake. 

We had it all to ourselves.

We were supposed to tackle a small farm chore that keeps getting put off, but it got postponed yet again.  I guess that bull calf who really needs to get castrated has a little something else to be thankful for today.

After a good romp at the lake, we headed back to the farm for a Prime Rib feast, which I am going to let FB tell you all about.  We always manage to pull off a good meal, full great food and fun, but never without the odd glitch - this time involving a whole lot of shattered glass.

To be continued....

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Farm Recycling

This is the other half of Farm Buddy's blog post, which I split in half.


Okay, so much for bone recycling, now let’s move on to livestock bedding.  Everything on my farm seems to be a cycle, so it is hard to know where to start, but let’s start with the Freedom Ranger chicks.  I set up a brooder for them in the sheep room, which is about fourteen foot by twelve foot. 

In the winter, my sheep and go in and out of this room as they please.  They always have access to go outside, but their hay is in this room.  I bed it with sawdust, but every morning, I rake out as much as comes out easy, which is probably a wheelbarrow full or two, and I use this in the area of the barn where the cattle sleep.  This might sound gross to you, but it isn’t!  Sheep manure is like small hard pellets, and there is a lot more sawdust in that ratio than manure pellets.  Cow manure, on the other hand, is downright messy!!

So, I go around with the wheelbarrow and shovel a scoop of the sheep manure/sawdust mixture and dump this on top of the soupy cow manure.  This keeps the cows dry, clean, and happy!  This mixture is less dusty than plain sawdust, which is better for the cows, and since it has some composting manure in it, it also gives off some heat for the cows.

Okay, back to the chicks.  So in July, the sheep and lambs have access to a much larger portion of the barn (and also the outdoors), so the chicks get their winter quarters.  I use a round-bale feeder as a brooder, which I wrap with chicken wire to keep them safe.  They also get sawdust for bedding.  This sawdust is from green lumber, not kiln dried, and is not dusty at all.  The chicks get LOTS of bedding because their manure has a lot of ammonia in it, and chicks are short, so they would be breathing that stuff, which is bad for their lungs.  The sawdust, along with adequate ventilation, keeps those chicks healthy and happy.
After about three weeks, I remove the brooder (made from the round bale feeder) and let the chicks run around the entire sheep room (I have 100 chicks).  After about another week, they are allowed to free range outside and then sleep in the sheep room.  All the while, I give them lots of bedding, so that their sleeping quarters never smell offensive.  If there is a bad smell, enough bedding is not being used.  After about twelve weeks, the chicks are processed, and although I look forward to chicken dinners, I greatly miss those chicks and very much appreciate their contribution to the farm.

Now, I am left with a sheep house full of chicken manure mixed with sawdust.  What is there to do?  Most would take this and put it on their garden or field, but I think I have a better plan.  I wait a couple of weeks to let things settle, and then I go in there with my rake (I use a plastic garden rake) and take out what is easy, which is usually about ten wheelbarrows or so, as remember I was very generous with the sawdust.  If I had just put this mixture on the land, I don’t think it would be that good, as the sawdust would probably just make my land more acidic than it already is.  However, I take this stuff and put it in the section of the barn where the cows will have access to in the winter.  This had previously been cleaned out down to the concrete floor in the early spring.  Now instead of having to buy ten pickup truck loads of new sawdust, I can use this recycled chicken bedding to form a foundation for the cattle. 

Remember, it will still be months before the cattle use this area, so there is plenty of time for this stuff to air out.  So every day, I take out a few wheelbarrows, whatever comes out easy, and put it in the cattle section.  Meanwhile, the laying hens get all excited about this activity and spend a couple of hours scratching around in that sheep pen, looking for any grain that the meat chicks might have left.  Their scratching action makes it easier for me to rake out additional recycled bedding the next day.  By the time I am done, I have probably taken thirty wheelbarrows of recycled bedding out of that pen, which makes a fine foundation for the cows when they return at the end of the grazing season. 

At this point, I put a few wheelbarrows of fresh new sawdust in the sheep room, and that area will be ready for the ewes when the lambs leave in the late fall.  I also use recycled sheep and chicken bedding for the pigs which get excited by everything!  Pigs, of course, are the ultimate recycling machines, and really everyone should have some, especially at Thanksgiving!! 

Hopefully all of this is not boring to you, but on a farm, especially a small farm, it is important to consider how to constantly work on improving the soil and land in a sustainable fashion while ensuring that the livestock are provided with the best life possible.

So there ends my blog posting for this pre-Thanksgiving time.  I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving.  You can be sure I am thankful, especially for Bess, Scout, and Kelsey, and all of the other great animals on my farm, for which I am most grateful to have.  


Since FB is unimpressed by my blogging abilities lately, she has decided to take over for a day or two..... 

Okay, in anticipation of Thanksgiving, I am offering a special guest-blog appearance with a blog posting on recycling!  Of course, in return for writing this, Kris has PROMISED to attach some great Bess pictures to this post! 

I have started doing something new for my dogs, which I think might interest some of you.  Here is how to prepare a great, nutritious addition for your dog’s dry food meal (or four meals a day, if you happen to be puppy Bess). 

Now you know what happens every Thanksgiving….You make a beautiful 38-pound turkey, everyone eats a bunch of it day after day, and then you are left with that huge carcass that no one knows what to do about.  This is what I do.  Of course, I am not eating turkey, because I raised turkeys last year, and that wasn’t the most successful project in the world, so I am using my home-raised, Freedom Ranger chickens, which are totally delicious. Hopefully you are using either a home-raised or local organic bird, whether it is a turkey or a chicken. 

First of all, I roast my bird in a Dutch oven that has a bunch of potatoes, carrots, or both on the bottom of the pot.  This prevents the bird from sticking to the bottom of the pan, and it makes good stuff for the dogs.  After the bird is done, and all the humans have eaten their fill, I remove the majority of the remaining meat and put it in a glass dish with some of the juice from the bird spooned on top.  This is for me to eat later.  However, I am not greedy, as I love my dogs, so I do not pick these bones clean! 

Next, I take the carcass in my bare hands (yes, I am a hands-on person) and crush it as best as I can.  I then put it back in the Dutch oven on top of the potatoes and carrots, which I had discouraged my guests from eating (don’t worry, I made them roasted potatoes and Delicata squash from my garden).  Now, I add some hot water and a generous dollop of apple-cider vinegar, preferably with the MOTHER in it!!

There should be enough hot water to cover up the carcass and vegetables.  Now I just put this on the woodstove and let it boil, or you could put it on a regular stove and simmer it for a long time.  All the while, I am using this stuff to feed my dogs (the border collies twice a day, and Miss Maremma four times a day).  As the level of liquid goes down or is given to the dogs, more water and vinegar can be added.  After a couple of days, (you don’t have to be simmering it that long – I put it on the stove for a couple of hours each day), let it cool and then stick your hand in there and crush those bones!  It is good exercise! 

Amazingly, the vinegar turns those bones to powder for the most part.  I squash as much as I can, and then pick out the remaining bones.  I put the remaining bones, which is usually just a very small handful, in the woodstove, where they really will turn to dust and become an asset for my hayfield.  When I feed the dogs the squashed bones, which is chuck full of all kinds of nutritious things, I mix their dry food with this stuff with my hands to make sure I have not left any solid small bones in their food that could possibly harm them. 

I do this with beef bones too, so if I make a chuck roast, I do the same thing.  It just makes a good foundation for nutritious stuff to add to your dog’s dry food.  Plus, no bones or carcasses end up in the landfill.  I do not like the idea of bones from animals I have raised ending up in a landfill.  I DO like the idea of these bones, one way or another, ending up on my land contributing nutrients to the soil.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Opening Day

Saturday was, once again, opening day of rifle season for the deer hunters in the area.  For anybody who may wonder why I dislike hunting season so much, I think this post sums it up quite well. 

This year has brought the added worry of two new neighbors with an excessive fondness for firearms and large parties combined with a deficient sense of judgement. 

I feel rather strongly that people who shoot at empty cardboard boxes, thinking they will adequately stop a high power rifle slug, should not be allowed to have guns.  This isn't a political statement or anything to do with the 2nd amendment or any of that blah, blah, blah.  It just seems like a really basic, easy place to start the talk about gun control:  
  • Thou shall not shoot at thy neighbor's property
  • Thou shall not use cardboard boxes as bullet-stops, ESPECIALLY when shooting at thy neighbor's property
  • Thou shall not shoot randomly at the woods (where one's neighbor hikes!) 
  • Thou shall not own a gun if these concepts are too difficult
Seems like a logical place to start from where I am sitting, thankfully having not yet been shot.  It gives a whole new meaning to Thanksgiving and a lot of empathy for anyone fleeing bullets.

Aside from my dislike of feeling like a target, I am not fundamentally opposed to deer hunting.  The deer are terribly overpopulated and they (as well as the environment) suffer greatly because of it.  The way we go about it though, just seems so wrong to me.  All these guys wait all year, getting themselves wound up for the thrill of the chase.  Then, on opening day, the normally quiet woods are suddenly teeming with armed men, most of whom don't know the area, many have been drinking and all of them are out to get the best deer.  None of them are out there trying to cull out the sick, weak deer who won't make it through a hard winter.  Instead, every one of them is looking for the biggest, healthiest, best deer they can find.

There has got to be a better way to do this. 

Anyway, I guess that is it for what is becoming my annual hunting season rant.  We are all staying close to home and keeping our heads down.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fallen Monarch

I looked for Monarch Butterflies all summer long without ever seeing a single one.  Finally, on a cold blustery Fall day a couple of weeks ago, I found one, or what was left of one.

A poor, small, cold creature who should have been one of the intrepid travelers headed off to Mexico.

How is it that some of these frail, delicate beauties manage to fly thousands of miles every year?  

Unfortunately, this one will never make that trip.

I think I will go out and collect some Milkweed fluff to plant in my back field. Maybe next year there will be some mighty monarchs who make it farther than this poor, beautiful, doomed creature.

Monday, November 16, 2015

In the Dentist Chair

I've noticed recently that Ramsey has been having trouble chewing and he has not been his normal cheerful self.  At first, I put it down to teething as he is right in the midst of getting his adult molars.  However, the last few weeks he has been getting progressively worse and more grumpy and, in my experience, a grumpy donkey is a painful donkey.  With that, and vivid memories of the choke episode Emma had at exactly the same age, it was time to call in the reinforcements to do some dental work.

It's a good thing I did, even though my checkbook is groaning under the strain.  What we found were some small, but viciously sharp points. One of them had cut into the side of Ramsey's cheek so deeply that it was nearly through to the outside and the nasty ulcer is nearly two inches long.  You can see the offending points and the awful gash right at the end of the instrument.

Out came the power tools to file down those awful points and, you can see in this next photo, that those sharp points along the outer edges of the teeth are now smooth. 

I've heard a lot of people say that young animals don't need dental work and I have even had a couple of vets tell me that dental problems are not common in donkeys.  However, Ramsey is a perfect example of the necessity for good dental care at an early age.  It is especially true for donkeys, as dental issues are their second most common health problem, just behind hoof issues.  Ramsey does have good teeth, those sharp points are common in adolescent equines. 

You do need to have a good dentist to work on youngsters.  At just under 3 1/2, Ramsey is right in the midst of some heavy duty teething and any changes should be minimal.  All we did was take down those awful points that were causing so much trouble and left everything else to sort itself out.

Ramsey's front teeth are looking good.  Those four big teeth in the front (two on top, two on bottom) are permanent, adult teeth. Those first four come in at about 2 1/2, the next set on either side come in at 3 1/2 and the last one's on the corners, at 4 1/2.  The brown streaks are just stains from eating grass.  It is totally harmless and no, they don't need to be brushed:)

Emma did not escape the dentist chair either.  Shea was not as bad as Ramsey, but needed some attention as well.

At just over five years old, she has all of her adult teeth now and you can see that they look more level than Ramsey's did.  Equine teeth continue to grow throughout the animal's entire life, which is why they need regular checkups. 

Two drunk donkeys sleeping it off.  I wish I had been able to film drunk Ramsey, wandering about, trying to get into all his normal mischief only slow, staggery and slurring his words.

Genetics are an amazing thing.  If you look at the above picture, not only do they both have their heads stuck in a corner, they are snoring in unison and, if you look close, you can see that their legs are in the exact same position, with the right front slightly cocked.

Eventually though, it was time to move out into the sun to finish waking up.

And finally, back to normal and chewing happily once again.