What Breed of Chicken Is Right For Your Homestead?

What Breed of Chicken Is Right For Your Homestead?

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Buckeye Rooster

 

There is a saying “Different strokes for different folks.” The type of chicken that works for us, may not be the type that you want.

Years ago, my family raised Kraienköppe chickens which are a game type chicken that is endangered of extinction. They are very flighty, excellent at self preservation, good egg layers, with smaller carcasses.

 

 

The downside to the Kraienköppe was that since it is a flighty bird, they are very hard to catch when you need to catch one. Being game birds, they are also a bit aggressive. They used to kick our tom turkey’s butt!

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Krainkoppe Rooster

 

After having Kraienköppe chickens, we decided to change breeds to something less flighty and therefore easier to handle. My mom wanted to get Rhode Island Reds. Dad wanted chickens from a different heritage breed.

 

 

The biggest differences between the buckeye and Rhode Island Red is that the buckeye is a better meat bird, and the Rhode Island Red is the better egg producer. That said, both are good birds. In my father’s experience, the Buckeye is a little calmer. The Buckeye was almost extinct at the beginning of the 19th century. However, Rhode Island Red was second most popular in the world. Unfortunately, over time the breed has been hybridized and now there may be more Buckeyes that pure Rhode Island Reds.

It’s an excellent idea to really research your breeds before selecting what type of chicken you get. If you ever have any questions about a breed, feel free to contact. George is a poultry specialist and can rattle off lots of positives and negatives about many breeds, including their history.

As a side note, I apologize for no Rhode Island Red pictures. I wasn’t able to find any free. The pictures posted here are genuinely our birds. Unfortunately, we haven’t had Rhode Islands in years so I don’t have any pictures of them.

Until Next Time,

Emily

 

 

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Dreaming Of Ducks 

Dreaming Of Ducks 
My love of poultry started when I was about three years old when a family in Tlautlauquitepec, Puebla, gave me a pet chicken that I named Miss Bopper. Most of my family’s chickens were used for food at that point in time. My parents allowed me to keep Miss Bopper on as a pet, and so began my interest in keeping chickens.


It wasn’t until I was 12 years old though that I developed an interest in ducks. I remember it almost like it was yesterday. My family had gone out to a smoked chicken restaurant after church. Since we were living in Mexico, livestock often roamed around behind the restaurant and sometimes directly in the restaurant itself since the restaurant was an open air place.

We had moved, from Tlautlauquitepec to Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo when I was about six or seven years old. The people in the area where I now lived were people who were of a different group than what I had been with before. I think that the people who gave me the chicken were probably Nauhuatl.

When Mom sent us kids off to go wash our hands, I met a little old Otomi lady who was attending a flock of ducks, chickens, geese, and turkeys. I complimented her on her flock, and asked her about her ducks.

Her whole face practically lit up. After we were done talking, she told me to wait a minute, and she went and got an duck egg out of a nest.


She gave me the egg and told me that if I incubated it, I could hatch a duckling. I was so excited! I was ready to start my own flock of ducks!


My parents on the other hand, were not nearly as exuberant about the idea. Unfortunately, since we didn’t have a place to keep ducks at the time, and no longer had a flock of chickens at that point, I was told that I needed to eat the duck egg rather than try to hatch it because we didn’t have anywhere to keep a duck.
I was pretty bummed about the idea. However I didn’t entirely give up on the idea of eventually having ducks. In 2001, my family had to come back to United States.
We bought a 4 acre piece of land in the state of New Jersey. I was 14 at that time, and still had ducks on the brain. I talked to my parents, and by the time I was 15 we began researching what type of ducks we would get.
We chose to get Muscovies. they are good eating, excellent layers and excellent mothers.


Plus, since we chose to get the white Muscovies, the feathers would not show up nearly as much if you missed a feather while you were plucking.
When I say that Muskovy’s are excellent layers, and excellent mothers, I mean think as in reproduces like multiple rabbits!


We started out with just a handful of Muskovies and have had 88 Muskovies hatch out over the course of a summer. We can easily become overrun by my ducks!

However, the positive is that Muskovies especially ones that happened to be specifically bred for eating, sell very well! We don’t seem to have any trouble finding buyers for our ducks. They are also absolutely scrumptious eating! I can’t think of many meats that I like better than eating a good plump duck!

Until next time,

Emily 

Why Do I Homestead?

img_2680The other day, I was thinking about why I chose to come back to the homestead after college, and work alongside my parents. I moved away for a while after college because I wanted to become independent of my parents and be able to be seen by others as an adult, not as the teenager that most of my parents’ acquaintances were remembering me as. I could have chosen to live in a town or go live in a city. For a time, I did live in a town. So, why didn’t I stay in a town or a city? Why move back to the homestead after some time on my own? Living on a homestead is a lot of work. A lot of work!

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However, it can also be extremely relaxing.

Outside, during the summer, I often hear the sound of songbirds, the wind in the trees, a stream, and the sound of cicadas if it’s heading to evening. Sometimes, on our homestead I will also be listening to the sound of spring peepers, or bullfrogs.

I dearly love having so many animals around and nothing beats the taste of food that you raised yourself. Each year is different and special. I always look forward to seeing the new goat kids, lambs, calves, chicks and other animals that are born on our place. There’s just something special about being able to raise a goat kid on a bottle, or see a calf that comes running and playing when it sees you coming out to the pasture.img_0603

 

 

There is also a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in a job well done. When you look around after putting in a lot of sweat and tears into something you’ve worked on, and see for example a thriving orchard or garden that you’ve grown. Rows of cans of food that you raised and canned. Being able to pull meat out of the freezer and be able to know everything about the animal that it came from.

That’s why I chose to homestead. Because I love the lifestyle and the benefits it brings. Even if it can be hard work. You learn to take pride in the work. To love it!

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Old Friends In The Garden

George wrote another article that brings back a lot of memories for me from Mexico. I  was the kid who appropriated some of his seed, mostly because I found some that had a map of Mexico on them and I thought that was so cool. My dad asked me to share his article with you all.

“I’ve gardened for over 54 years. Some varieties I’ve grown, I’ve grown for more than half that time. For instance, I’ve been growing one tomato for 44 years (though not every year). Why grow something for years and years, instead of changing varieties every little bit? Well, if it’s really good, you might not want to change! That tomato, for instance, has the strongest “tomatoey” flavor of any tomato I’ve ever tried. That’s one good reason to save seed and grow something over and over.

 

Some people say that if you save seed and grow the same variety over and over, that it will adapt to your soil and climate; thus producing better. There may be something to that idea, though, I have often thought, that for such a mechanism to work, one would need to grow a good many plants and intelligently select which ones from which to save seed. Yet, when I have saved grown just a handful of plants a year, from my own homegrown seed, I’ve often seen better and “prettier” yields in three years! In fact, thinking about it, I have to conclude that oftentimes everything is better even in the second year!

 

As I pondered this recently I asked myself, “Is this really adaptation, and if so, just who is adapting? Suddenly it hit me, maybe I’m the one who adapts! By this I mean, I plant the same variety, and I learn its quirks and requirements. I learn how to help it prosper in my given environment. Individual vegetable varieties are often quite unique, even if not too many people write about it.

 

Take beans, for instance. Most gardeners know that there are two main distinctions in the “bean world.” There are bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans don’t require support. Pole beans do. But did you know that there are numerous variations in the growth habits of both bush pole beans? Some bush beans reach for the sky, so to speak. They’re fairly tall. A few produce their pods above the foliage. Some carefully hide their pods and make you hunt for them. Some flower and produce for only a couple of weeks. I know of two bush beans which produce indefinitely until conditions force them to stop.

 

Some pole beans only get 3-4’ tall. Some would probably hit 20’ if planted on a wire going up a telephone pole! Some branch and some barely branch at all. Bean plants can vary in the color or tone of their foliage and stems.

 

There are differing affinities for high or low humidity, hot or cooler temperatures and insect resistance. This is not to mention the varying pod and seed colors, or how they behave at different latitudes due to day length sensitivity.

 

One interesting bean I’ve grown is called Tarahumara Pink Green Bean. It originated with the Tarahumara Indians in North Central Mexico, which is an arid region. A friend sent me seed when we were living in Hidalgo (South Central Mexico) and I grew it there, at the 20th parallel. It climbed its pole to about 6’ high and produced a respectable crop of green pods, ripening to yield striking pink seeds with black spots. My daughter, Emily, who was a little girl at the time, appropriated that variety as her bean, probably because of the color of the seed and its bright pink flowers,

 

In 2003 we grew it again, in NJ (at the 40th parallel). It got really tall and it didn’t flower until very late in the year. We grew it in Oklahoma in 2006 and 2009, noting its rampant growth and late, prodigious production of seed. We misplaced our seed and in 2009 I only managed to scrape up two or three to plant. That was on one pole, which, by mid summer, the vines broke with their excessive growth. I put up another pole, which they climbed. I looked the other way… and the vines jumped over to a neighboring tomato planting, smothering four tomato plants in their 5’ cages! That fall we harvested 2 ½ quarts of seed! I planted it in 2013 (the year of the grasshopper plague) and the vines were killed by grasshoppers. Then, something happened. All of my bottled seed stopped germinating. I don’t know just what I did to it. But it died. We were unable to get any seed to germinate after this.

 

So, early this spring I contacted Native Seeds/Search the organization which first brought this variety into reach of most gardeners. I inquired about Tarahumara Pink Green Bean and was told that they had some seed in frozen storage, but they were not offering any for sale. After chatting for a bit, the young woman in their store decided to take down my information and pass it on to their seed curator, who later contacted me. In the end we agreed that they would send 50 seeds and I would grow it out for seed, returning a healthy portion to them.

 

I planted this seed on May 22 and have been diligently caring for the plants. It’s been a delight to see my old friend again! I had forgotten that its tendrils are reddish in color, not simply green. The vines are fast growing. By June 26th some of the vines had grown off the top of 8’ poles. I’ve tried to visit this planting, even if only for a few moments, every day, just to watch over it and to make observations.

 

On July 1 I was pulling a few weeds by Tarahumara Pink Green Bean. As I delighted in its vigor and the beauty of its foliage I noticed… the vines had started to throw horizontal tendrils… searching for additional support! One tendril almost spanned a 3 1/2’ space between the beans and… a planting of tomatoes! I thought “You rascal! You’re after my tomatoes again!” Reflecting on this, I realized that I I can’t think of any other pole bean with such a strong tendency to seek support laterally. This is a unique feature of Tarahumara Pink Green Bean. How many years have I grown this bean? Yet it took until this year to notice this trait!”

The Good Snake

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The Good Snake

I am not a fan of snakes. But even I have to admit there are good snakes, and I am working on overcoming the fear of snakes. A few weeks ago we spotted one on the farm that was a very good snake. Then, last week my dad spotted it again. He wanted me to share what he wrote about the snake. Here is his article on the good snake.

Last weekend we were cutting up a downed tree in our yard. It was more than an all day job. After taking a lunch break, I went back outside and my heart sank as I observed this snake in the grass. No, I wasn’t at all upset at seeing a speckled king snake. They’re very beneficial and not at all dangerous. But at first glance, I thought someone had cut off its head! The body was moving, yet, try as I might, I couldn’t locate the head!

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I got right down close and poked it. The snake’s body moved as if sentient. Then, suddenly the head popped up and he/she glared at me in a “snakey sort of a way.”

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It turns out that this little beauty was busy hunting moles! Within a few moments it stuck its head back down in the mole hole and started looking again! I had never before observed this activity. I was, however, confirmed in my pleasure at finding a live king snake on my place!

Most people who like king snakes say that they eat venomous snakes. They might eat some of the babies. I believe they’d starve to death if that was all they ate. It’s even better news to know that they eat rodents!

Under certain light conditions, the speckled king snake looks almost blue, due to the yellow spots. It is, indeed, a beautiful animal; and, impossible to confuse with any other snake in the wild. Since it is both harmless and beneficial, we should always welcome it in our yards and gardens!

From the Homestead,

George”

Escargo Without A Shell

One of our homesteaders from Homesteading Edu wrote an article recently that he told me he would like me to share. So, here is Escargo Without A Shell, written by George McLaughlin.

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Escargo Without A Shell

Okay, I admit I came up with the title for this article, simply because it tickles my funny bone! I have never tried eating slugs, and have no plans to try. Though, I suspect… they wouldn’t be all that bad. If you have ever gardened where slugs are a problem, you know just how frustrating they can be. Where there are appropriate damp conditions, slugs can become a huge problem, devouring plants in the garden faster than one can replant!
Slugs are most often a problem in climates with prolonged periods of wet weather. Hence, we rarely have to deal with them in Oklahoma. However, in other areas slugs can be a really big problem.
Here are a couple of remedies for slugs:

1) For minor infestations one can go out at night and drop a pinch of salt on the offending slugs. This kills them.
2) Hand picking and dropping them into a soap or ammonia solution will kill slugs. No, slugs don’t bite. They can’t hurt you. So hand pick to your heart’s content.
3) Diatomaceous earth, which can be purchased in garden centers will sometimes help. One simply lays it down around affected plants. Supposedly, its microscopic serrations will lacerate a slug. I have not personally seen this to work.
4) There are a number of snail/slug baits available, commercially. Most contain iron sulfate. The slugs eat it and die. In my experience, these baits are indeed effective. The most commonly available slug bait is called Sluggo. Apparently these baits do not harm other critters in the garden.
5) Beer! Yes, slugs are natural born alcoholics. If you pour beer into little dishes, even bottle caps, and place them in your garden at night, the slugs will flock to them, drink and… die! Bahwahaha! I did this when we lived and gardened in Indiana. My impression was that beer and iron sulfate were tied for effectiveness.
6) If your garden is fenced, and your situation allows it, it doesn’t hurt to free range some ducks in the yard. They’ll clean up on slugs, cutting down on those who make it to your garden. DON’T believe glowing reports about allowing ducks to scavenge inside the garden. I tried that a couple of times, using runner ducks, which are small. In every case the ducks had a party in the garden, destroying valued crops! I’ll never forget, checking on the “duck patrol” and seeing a duck nonchalantly pull up a young onion plant and swallow the whole thing, moving on to the next…. “Slugs? Who wants to hunt slugs when I can visit the salad bar?!” However, if your garden is surrounded by a lot of slug habitat, and it’s fenced, some ducks might indeed help.
7) Encourage toads in your garden. Leave a hiding place for toads, such as a weedy corner with some shade. Set out a shallow tray, flush with the ground, with water in it as well as some rocks, so a toad can get in, soak and get out. Toads eat a lot of pests.
6) Finally, it helps to eliminate weeds which conserve moisture near your young plants. So, while it’s sunny out, weed in and around your plantings. ”

 

Photo from: https://pixabay.com/en/snail-black-dirt-environment-grass-1836103/

 

 

 

Out With The Ants!!!

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Every year around April or May, our homestead gets invaders. They are small invaders but can be very damaging to the house, and our wallets. 

After years of trying different things to get rid of our yearly ant invasion that seems to show up no matter how neat one is with the home, dad came up with a solution.

It only uses items we normally have in our home anyway, and ants seem to be incapable of resisting it. The downside is that until the ants are gone, it is an eyesore.

Here is the recipe that dad found that kills whole nests of ants:

Roughly:

1 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon borax

Bring water to a boil and add the sugar. 

Stir until the sugar is dissolved. 

Let cool until just warm. Add borax and stir.

We then set it out in cups or jars for the ants to find. They die in the cup or jar and the whole nest ends up dead in the containers. After a few weeks of this, we don’t find a single ant in the house.