Walk-in cooler

I’ve been away from blogging for some time.  I would have posted sooner but I’ve been trying to decide what to blog about to come back.  I know you all must have been wondering what’s going on?  In two words: A lot!  It makes sense for me to start where I left off.

In the spring, since I last blogged,  hubby and I worked on building a walk-in cooler so we can butcher and hang any time of year.  We butchered the steer we’ve been raising for 2 years and hung it in the cooler.

But the project wasn’t without problems.  The room itself is awesome!  It’s well insulated, and well designed.  The air conditioner we purchased to cool the room was insufficient, it needs to be larger.  Until we remedy the air conditioner, we will use the room at the times of year when cooling is natural.  Such as the fall or early spring when temperatures are cold but not freezing.

After a week of hanging, the beef needed to be cut up and frozen or fear losing it.  Live and learn, huh?  We cut it up into large portions and froze it.  We still need to cut roasts, steaks, ground some etc.  We were able to cut 4 roasts as we went and we’ve really enjoyed them!

Grass-fed beef roast + slow cooked = delicious!!!  Oh my!  I look forward to the rest!

Ducks, cont’d

Last time I talked about ducks and duck eggs, but mostly duck eggs.  This time I’m expanding on the keeping of ducks.

I first got ducks 2 years ago, in the summer of 2010.  I answered an online classified that was giving away ducklings for free.  I know what you’re thinking but I had carefully considered adding ducks to the farm, free or not, I didn’t jump at the chance for free animals.  First I considered if they would fit our farm and whether I wanted the added work.  I learned that much over the years ;) even with extra nudgings from other people.

What I have now are not the same ducks I started with, though they are the same breed.  They are Rouens and I have been very pleased with the breed.  They are a good size for butchering and they lay large blue/green or white eggs regularly.

I raised them separately but once they were the same size as my chickens, I mixed the two of them.  They had been able to see each other through the fence, if this was a factor or not, the mixing was uneventful.


Feeding and watering

The chickens and ducks are fed the same thing (a simple grain mix) and do eat side by side.  They all have access to the outdoors and can come and go as they please.  The waterer is an automatic set-up but because ducks are so messy with water, I need to dump the pan and refresh often.  Not a big deal, because I have running water in the barn.  The waterer needs to be large enough to allow the ducks to completely submerge their beaks to wash any feed from their nostrils.  The clabbered milk (seen in photo above) is eaten only by the chickens, the ducks won’t touch it, which is just as well as they would dirty it up very quickly.

Pond

As for a pond for the ducks, I bought a small kiddy pool for them.  Rouens don’t need water to breed (some do) but ducks do need water to get into and splash.  This one is a little small but it’s easy to dump it and refresh it.  As soon as I fill the pool with fresh water they are in there almost immediately!  You may be able to tell in the picture that it is sunken in the ground slightly.  This is to make it easier for the ducks to get in and out of.

Nesting box

Ducks can’t lay in chicken nesting boxes because they are too high for them.  They need a box on the floor that is dark and easy to access, otherwise you will find them laying their eggs outside and most likely in places you won’t know about.  A box 1’x 1′ is a good size.  I put a ‘roof’ on mine to make it dark and private.  The chickens happen to lay in the same box but the ducks don’t seem to have a problem with sharing.  The blanket hanging (also seen in the other picture above) is to shield the light from the chickens’ nesting boxes and to allow more privacy.

I have been keeping chickens for years.  Adding ducks has been very easy.  They’re needs are not far from a chickens yet they add some diversity and interest to the farm and table.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday Blog Hop hosted by GNOWFGLINS, Culinary Bliss, and A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

Ducks and duck eggs.

Pretty blue and white rouen duck eggs.

I have chickens that lay eggs. We’ve been eating and selling our eggs for many years now. But let me tell you about another egg that is overlooked, and underrated. The duck egg. Yes, you can eat duck eggs (I often get asked that) and they are not just for baking, though they do well in baked goods because they retain moisture better than chicken eggs. They are delicious and nutritious on their own. They have the same nutritional value as chicken eggs but because they are larger, they have more of the good things. Duck eggs are high in vitamin B12, and vitamin A, an excellent source of protein, riboflavin, iron and phosphorus, they provide us with thiamine, niacin, folate, zinc and calcium.

Scrambled duck eggs for breakfast

The flavour is richer and creamer than a chicken egg. Though you may not notice this, depending on how you cook them. To me they are richer tasting when scrambled as opposed to being cooked sunny side up. The yolks are larger and the shells thicker. Sometimes I have a problem with my chickens eating their eggs, but as far as I’m aware, I have not lost a single duck egg to them eating it because the shells are far too hard for them to crack.

I was on the fence a long time about raising ducks. Honestly I couldn’t see the purpose. I didn’t think they would offer anything I couldn’t get from a chicken. But when I finally went ahead and got some, I can say I’m glad I did because I really appreciate and value their presence on the farm. I have Rouen ducks which are considered a dual-purpose breed (egg and meat). They look similar to mallards and the males are non-aggressive. The Rouens don’t require water for mating (some breeds do) so if you have just a small pond or pool like we do, it is sufficient for them. As meat or as eggs, they provide interesting variety at the table. In the farm yard, they are a source of entertainment. If you’ve ever seen a duck in water, you know what I mean. I house them with my chickens and they do not require anything special apart from a nesting box on the floor, as they don’t roost and can’t jump up to the chickens’ nesting boxes.

If you are also on the fence about getting ducks, you have to make your decision based on what is right for your family and your farm. They have been a wonderful addition to ours!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop hosted by GNOWFGLINS, Culinary Bliss and A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

And Fight Back Friday at Foodrenegade.

Spring!

Spring has sprung! It’s arrived several weeks early. I’ve been hearing that it’s unusually warm in most areas. Has it been that way where you are? The Canadian geese are back! I haven’t seen a robin yet.

My apologies for not posting in a long time but there really hasn’t been much going on, nothing worth blogging about. I feel this is barely worth blogging about. Walking around the farm this morning, I’m seeing all the things that are going to need doing, now that it’s not hidden under the snow. Still lots of water laying around. I’m happy to put my snow boots away and pull out my duckies (I need new ones).

I let the chickens and ducks outside for the first time since last fall. I would have done it sooner but I couldn’t get the door open. I thought it was frozen. When I finally took the time to look closer, turns out hubby screwed it shut from the outside. Ha! The chickens and ducks are laying nicely. I may put some eggs in the incubator a little later on.

The work can wait. For now I will enjoy the warm sun.

Moving the manure pile.

What does it mean when I’m sharing an activity such as the moving of the manure pile? No need to contemplate, I’ll tell you. It means winter is too long!!! exclamation point, exclamation point…

But no fear, for March is here! It may get worse before it gets better (as March is known to do) but hoping it doesn’t. “Hope” the trait of every farmer. Fact is, we’re on the home stretch! Spring is just around the corner. (I need to remind myself.)

The manure pile was spreading. Spr-ead-ing. There’s only so much snow you can push a wheelbarrow through. Then the pile itself becomes a snow trap. You can tell how far the manure pile was reaching by the first picture. It’s near the front tire of the tractor. We don’t have a tractor with a bucket, so we called our neighbour and hired him to do the work for us.

My apologies on the quality.  It was dusk when the pictures were taken. Days are still short and you do things when you can.

Thanks, neighbour! It’s so much appreciated!

In case you’re wondering why he didn’t use the snowblower on the back of his tractor, it’s because there is too much frozen manure.  Snowblowers are only good for blowing snow and nothing else. Anything hard or frozen breaks it.

A small (small!) part of me wants some fresh snow so we can toboggan down the manure pile. It’s huge! We don’t have any hills around here on the prairie, only manmade ones.

Snow, snowy snow

I didn’t think saying it once was enough. :) We’ve been very fortunate this year with the amount of snow we’ve gotten, or lack of.  Yesterday, in fact went up to a pleasantly melting +7C (45F)!  It started snowing last evening and we woke up to quite the blanket.  School was cancelled in our area and my guys couldn’t get to work.  It’s been accumulating all day.  So it’s been a rather quiet, snowy day by the woodstove.  I’ve got homemade buns cooling and a pot of hot chili on the stove.  Time to do the milking, then supper around the table, and a relaxing evening.  Here’s a few pictures from today:

Stuck in a winter rut

 

Winters are very monotonous. Always have been here on the Canadian prairies where winters are long. Well, here I am again… stuck in a rut. I’m not looking for drama, not even adventure, just something… different. Really, I’m not asking for much. One day is looking a lot like the next. Oh, sure, sometimes the weather changes. That’s a topic for discussion! But it’s short lived (and not very interesting).

Every morning I rise to do the animal chores. Shovel the same manure, feed the same animals. Pour the same milk and clean the same jars. I really am thankful for my life, I wouldn’t change it for anything. But repetitive days can wear on a person until you are ready to do something outrageous! Oh, I’m not quite there yet. Sorry to disappoint you. (Unless staying up late to blog counts?) I’d like to take care of this feeling before I do something silly.

I’m really looking forward to spring, as I do every year. And, undoubtedly it will come, some time in April, hopefully. In the meantime, I need to find something different!!!

Do you ever get stuck in a rut?

Mash Browns

This is one of the ways I like to use up leftover mashed potatoes. I turn them into hash browns, hence the name. It’s not fancy, it’s real, simple home cookin’. You probably do this already, but if you don’t, here’s how I do it.

This makes 3 patties. Take about 3/4 to one cup of leftover mashed potatoes and put it in a small bowl. Add one egg, salt and pepper to taste or other seasonings you like (garlic is really good!) . Mix well with a fork. Add butter or duck fat to a skillet and let it get hot. Pour the potatoes in three piles and flatten with a fork to about 1/2 an inch thick.

Turn the heat to medium.  Allow to brown well before turning over.  If you flip them too early, they will fall apart.

Cook the other side until brown.  Serve hot with eggs.  I like homemade ketchup or salsa with my mash browns and eggs.  They are plain good  (or good plain), on their own too!

How do you use up leftover mashed potatoes?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop, hosted by A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa, Culinary Bliss and GNOWFGLINS.