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.


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.

Should goats eat corn?

I know using corn as animal feed isn’t good for cattle. That is why I don’t feed corn to Happy, our milk cow or the steer we are raising.  But what about goats? They are ruminants too, I know. By nature they are made to digest more than just grass. Goats are considered browsers, like deer and enjoy a variety of plants, leaves and bark included in their diet. But corn?

We offer our goats lots of hay and a supplement from the feed store that is a specific grain mix just for goats. One of the things in the mix is cracked corn. So yes, in small amounts, I offer corn to my goats. Back to my original question. Should goats eat corn?

I had that question answered by the goats themselves one morning as I was going out to feed them…

Daisy waiting to be fed.

Point taken.

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

First duck egg!!!

Pretty huh? First duck egg on our homestead!

One of these things just doesn’t belong here. One of these things are kind of the same… 😀

Thank you ducky! Whichever one you are.
I don’t know what to do with it, though. In the spring, when I have a few, I’ll incubate them.
What would you do with one duck egg?

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

Farm dog

Lucy got hurt. 😦  She was chasing something, a rabbit or a chipmunk or a squirrel, we’re really not sure what and we’re not really sure what she caught her leg on.  (She’s not saying)  But don’t worry, she’ll be okay.  A trip to the vet, cleaned well, wrapped in bandages and some antibiotics.  She’s such a good dog, a member of the family and a valuable helper on the farm.  Maybe she’ll even get an extra blanket tonight.  And a couple days off.

Winter watering challenges

Have you every thought about watering animals in sub zero temperatures? Most people don’t. Unless, of course you live where winter is 5 months out of the year. Here’s how we do it.

Floating water heater

We are below freezing everyday now so summer water troughs freeze solid. You can get floating and submersible water heaters and we do use one. I think that is the usual solution for most farm people here. We took it a step further and hubby built an insulated water trough out of a plastic storage bin. Last winter, with just one calf drinking from it, we kept it full by carrying 2 five gallon pails of water every few days. This winter, that one calf is a yearling and we have a milk cow. Milk cows drink a lot of water! The trough is emptied daily by these two. How to keep the trough full? (not hauling 2 five gallon pails 3 times a day!) Hubby built a sled for it so we can slide it to the barn, fill it up and slide it back. This we do everyday. A lot of work but a solution until we come up with something better.

Insulated water trough on a sled

We had a really cold night already this week. It dipped to -30C (-22F). Inside the barn kept quite warm but during the day while Happy was outside, it cooled down to the point that there was ice on the water bowls and the lines were frozen. Now, the decision is made, do we drain the waterlines and haul buckets of water to the cows? Or do we install a heater and keep the barn warm? Already filling the outside water trough daily, you can guess which option we chose.

Water bowl in the far corner

I already have a heater in the chicken part of the barn to keep the waterline from freezing. We opened the door between the two areas to help keep them both warm. Not too warm, just warm enough. We blocked the doorway so the chickens and ducks stay where they belong but air can flow.

How do you water your animals when it’s freezing out?

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

The story of Junior

Once upon a time… June, 2010 to be more precise.  There was a Holstein cow on a dairy farm somewhere in Manitoba Canada, that gave birth to a set of twins.  A boy and a girl.  Normally that would be good news… if you weren’t trying to run a dairy farm.  Their misfortune became our fortune and for a minor sum, we brought 2 cute, little 6-day old calves home.

I bottle fed them, nurtured and trained them.  One winter morning the heifer calf wouldn’t get up and despite all our efforts died later that day.  All we can say is, these things happen.  As much as we like to think we are in control of life and death, we really aren’t. We’re only stewards.

6 days old. Cute Wallace-and-Gromit face

1 1/2 yrs old. Scary don't-wave-anything-red face

Fast forward to today.  “Junior” is now a 1 1/2 year old steer.  His back is at the height of my shoulder, his legs are long and his head is big!  Pardon me for saying so, but how does he see anything through those googly eyes? We’re not in the habit of naming animals that we intend to raise for food, but for the sake of reference, we call him Junior.  More as a term of endearment, really.  But somehow that name doesn’t suit him anymore or maybe it keeps him in his place?  He knows he has horns and likes to use them.  I can still lead him by the halter but not very far.  I’d rather not let him know he could have his own way if he wanted it.

This is not The End, not for him just yet, anyway.

Halter set as small as it would go

New, bigger halter

Have you ever seen a turkey this big?

He’s handsome.  Hard to tell exactly how much he weighs under all those feathers, right?  Especially when he puffs up like toms always do.  There’s a good reason why we didn’t butcher earlier.  I didn’t have freezer space.  The irony of it is the longer I waited, the more freezer space I needed.  Anyway, I got another freezer, shifted things around and went to work butchering.  About 4 weeks beyond what’s recommended.

We used an metal garbage can for blanching.  No pot big enough around here!

Everyone helped with the work.  It looks big but at this point we haven’t weighed it yet.  And there’s nothing to gauge the size by.  Let me see if it fits in the roaster…

Nope!! It weighed 38 lbs.!  I had to use the bathroom scale.

The females weren’t as big, ranging from 21 to 27 lbs.  Still big!  Note to self: butcher early! 😀

I cut it up and froze it separately.  A challenge in itself, as you can imagine, but there was no way it would fit in my oven whole. That’s pretty obvious in the picture, huh?  One boneless breast weighed 7 lbs. 😯

So, tell me, have you ever seen a turkey this big?