Friday, October 29, 2010

Goose Eggs, Quiches, and Animals

3:04 PM
After all this time, I'm thinking I'm better raising animals than plants.  My mom was a master gardener and contrary to my sisters' beliefs, I'm really lousy at growing things.  My ability to grown plants stems from rushing down to the nursery and replacing stuff that doesn't grow.  Yeah, call me lazy or unproductive.  It happens.

Animals, though, I seem to be better suited for.  Ever since I could remember, I've had a natural affinity for them.  Cats have followed me home from the street and even camped out waiting for me to claim them (I lived in a no-animal apartment).  Dogs will try to leave their owners to come with me.  I have a strong sense of what an animal wants and needs.  The only animals I was really afraid of was birds while I was growing up, but as you can see, I'm not afraid of them at all now. 

I loved to fish as a kid.  My sisters hated fishing.  It makes sense that eventually I would join my husband on the hunt.

Yesterday, I decided to make a quiche and use some goose eggs in it.  I hadn't tried the goose eggs because they're so big and I didn't know what they tasted like.  Silly me.  They're really good.  Here's the recipe -- and yes, you can use chicken eggs in it too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Day Hunting

7:33 PM
I missed opening day for hunting largely because I was in Denver at MileHiCon.  Sunday, however, I got back home in time to go out with my husband and begin hunting.  We both failed to draw doe/cow elk tags for our region, so we had to make due with general tags and mule deer buck permits.  Basically, we could shoot at critters with antlers.  In truth, I'm not particularly fond of buck/bull elk mainly because the meat can be a bit tough, but if you can score a younger one, the meat is pretty good.

The problem with my area is that the whitetail deer have pretty much disappeared.  I don't know why, but I suspect it's due to various predators since we have so many wolves, coyotes, bears and mountain lions. They may have fallen victim to two legged predators (poachers) as well, but I have no proof of that.  All I know is that a herd of some 8 whitetail does and 3 bucks dropped to 3 does and 1 buck in the spring and then dwindled down to a doe and her fawn, and finally just the fawn.  However, I've been seeing more and more mule deer and have counted at least two herds in my area alone.

Anyway, we went back into an area we've been to in the past and started hunting.  If you've never done it, it's a lot of using binoculars, sitting and waiting, driving, hiking and looking for animals. More often than not, you're looking for tracks, game trails and signs the animals are around.  It's a lot of work and those who tell you it's easy either went on canned hunts, poached or don't know a thing about hunting.  The average take in Montana is somewhere between 6% and 8% of the hunters getting something.  That's pretty abysmal odds, if you're a betting kind of person.  We've always been lucky and gotten something the past three years.

We got some information from some other hunters about a mule deer herd going down the mountain.  They had passed them up because they had only whitetail buck tags and they were looking for some deer with big racks.  The deer they saw had forks (two tines on each antler) which meant they were young and didn't have much in terms of antlers.  We're not proud and we hunt anything legal because it's meat on the table.  What's more, deer that are a couple years old are more tasty than those with those huge sets of antlers.

It happened that I spotted that herd and the deer that I spotted was a forked mule deer buck.  I directed my husband to shoot and he took the shot, hitting the animal in the lungs.  It ran and we waited.  Then, we went in search of it.  I ended up finding the buck about 100 yards down the trail. It's amazing how far an animal can travel even with a lethal blow.  We dragged him back to the car and brought him back home to field dress and skin.  The skin will go to the tanners and the meat is already at the butcher's.  We took the antlers and put them in the freezer and will probably do something with them.  We try not to waste anything worthwhile on the animal if we can help it.

The next couple of days, we hunted in the same place and Tuesday, I saw deer but didn't see a buck -- they were either not with the herd or were out of sight. 

Mule deer -- not the one we got.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sick Buff Orpingtons

2:41 AM
At least I know what was wrong and how to fix it.  Even so, I ended up with three dead birds.

I had noticed that my young Buff Orpingtons were cold when the weather changed.  I thought that they were being weenies.  My mistake.  They were sick.  I had one die and thought that maybe it was an accident (she had gotten caught between the crate and the pen).  A week later, another one died.  That was followed by another dying the next day.

I didn't bother calling the USDA on the first death, but did on the second.  The veterinarian called back and did a diagnosis over the phone of either worms or bird coccidia.  Neither would cause problems to humans, but could be deadly to my birds.  Not highly contagious, but it made sense because the Buffs were so young.  I treated them with wormer and then started them on Corid. 

Coccidia is a protozoan that lives in bird intestines.  There are other kinds of coccidia, including those that affect humans, but the protozoans are actually species-specific. All birds have a colony of them inside their intestines, but they can take over and kill young birds without treating them.  Usually the chicks don't get it because they're on a low dosage of the medication in Corid

The good news is that the puffed up look combined with being cold has stopped.  The bad news is that I lost three birds who were on the verge of laying eggs.  Not only that, but I treated everyone in the pen to be on the safe side and have had to throw out all the eggs from that one pen.  Oh well, better safe than lose the rest of them.  Now, I have to find more Buff Orpingtons.  Sigh.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brainless Llamas, Feed and Chicks

1:01 AM
Today I took a look at a young (4 year old) llama for a friend for Sid and possible packing llama.  This llama was still intact.  Basically, he was flaky and freaked out by a new person there.  It took three people to get him into the stall and get him to accept the halter.  Once we did that, I took the halter and tried to walk him.

OMG.  The guy was squirrelly and kept trying to dance away or bolt.  At one point, I even got a rope burn from the snot.  I spent 2 hours working him and getting him calmed down enough to walk straight and even got him to accept a hand on his shoulder and neck and eat out of my hands.  Maybe I should've charged for the work?

By the end, I was sore, but I got him to walk nicely and even accept some petting.  He's in better shape than Sid -- even a bit on the heavy side -- but he's much more kept up.  His coat is more of a fiber llama coat -- I would need to cut it down for packing.

He would need to be gelded.  What's more, I got to look in his mouth and I saw that he grew back his fighting teeth, which means those would have to be cut.  Sharp buggers.  We're talking needle-sharp here.  If I had known he still had them, I might have been more retrospect about putting my face so close to his mouth. 

So, he's a real goofball and even a bit untrained, which means he'd be a project llama.   Sid is less of a project llama and more in need of feed and daily interaction.  This guy needs consistent training and commands (not to mention brain-surgery with some snips).  The price, however, is right.  I just need to think about what kind of training I need to do with him and whether I'm willing to put in that much work.  The good news is that he's not a total idiot and I got him to come around with two hours of consistent work.  I keep thinking he's very young and unneutered, but again, do I want to take on a project? 

I'm pretty sure I can train him.  Yesterday, I hit a huge milestone with Sid and got him to let me touch and rub his ears.  That's a huge measure of trust right there.  Sid has also been clamoring for llama pellets, so I picked him up some at the feed store in Alberton.

The feed store had grass hay, which is why I went there.  It appears that there are no bales of grass hay in Missoula and I've been told to take him off alfalfa as a feed.  Apparently, it's bad for male llamas.  The manager gave me a 50 lb bag of layer feed to try out and also gave me a small ranch discount (way cool).  I was pretty delighted by the treatment and Sid was thrilled to get his frickin llama pellets.

I came home to a hatched chick -- one of the marans eggs hatched.  I'm disappointed that others haven't hatched, but maybe they will tonight or tomorrow.  If not, then I figure there's something not going well with the incubator and the hatches.  I may have to get one of those fancy brinsea mini incubators and let it take care of the hatches.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Fat Goose Eggs, Turkey Eggs, Llamas and Leaping Lizards

10:19 PM
Today, I discovered that Louise the Toulouse had a clutch of eggs!  The sneaky goose dug a hole in the wood chips, laid the eggs and then covered them with wood chips, so I didn't catch the first egg.  But today I saw the clutch of two and whisked those eggs off to the refrigerator.  I am delighted I have a mated pair and excited because now I can raise goslings!  (Evil laugh here!)

I've been harvesting the turkey eggs and the other day I grew bold and actually scrambled one up.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  They are good.  Really good.  Like better than a chicken egg.  They taste a lot like chicken eggs only richer and yummier.  What a surprise!

Both my husband and I really like Sid the llama and we're thinking now about getting a llama buddy for him.  Tomorrow, I am looking at a possible llama buddy.  I hope this guy will work out.

We've been working on walking Sid and getting him used to both of the Malamutes as well as getting him used to being touched.  He's very skittish still, but today I got him to let me touch his ears.  Major milestone here!  He usually freaks out when people try to touch his ears, but I managed to get him to let me touch them and even rub them.  Wow, major trust there.  He and I went round and round about it and he threw a little llama tantrum, but he eventually let me do it.  And no, he didn't even spit.

On one of our walks, Haegl the Malamute discovered a lizard or salamander.  He tried to play with it (like he tries to make friends with darn near anything) and the lizard freaked out and left its tail.  It was pretty weird seeing a tail whipping back and forth, but we got Haegl away from the lizard and went on our walk.


12:39 AM
Today I went down to the barn to care for the chickens and pick up the eggs.  In the Buff Orpington/Easter Egger's pen, I saw some feathers.  Looking around, I saw that one of the Buff Orpingtons was missing. 

I found her dead; wedged between a crate I had in the pen and the pen's sides.  After examining her, I suspect she died from being smothered by the other Buffs.  When cold, birds tend to pile and the stuckee on the bottom may suffocate.  I suspect that the weenie Buffs crowded for some reason right there and despite their so-called cold-weather hardiness, they piled and crushed the bird beneath it all.  I felt really bad.  I had a couple of days ago turned the heating mat on in that pen so they would have some warmth, but I guess they didn't notice.  So, I took out the crate and put the heat mat where the crate had been.  I also picked up the birds and put them on the mat.

At this point, I wrapped up the dead bird and put her in the freezer in case I need a necropsy performed.  At this point, I probably don't have anything big happening except a case of 5 birds who are weenies about the cold.  Still, it's important to have it in case I need to make sure there isn't a disease running through the coop (not likely -- everyone else is fine). 

She was thin, but at that age, they're all skinny.  They are on a free-feeding schedule with food and water available all the time.  I fill up their feeders about every other day, so I know they're eating.  The entire flock goes through about 250 lbs of feed a month plus food scraps plus bread from the bakeries plus hay and weeds.  On another note, the six hatched-out chicks are doing fine (knock wood) and haven't shown problems with the cold.

So, I'm hoping this is just a freak accident.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Don't Ask for the Truth -- You Might Not Like It

12:58 AM
Today I was asked about winters in Montana.  The person who asked me was from a southern state and was asking me if the winters were really that bad.  You see, she was going to move up here next spring.

This person is one of those who have come to Montana during the summer and was charmed by its splendor.  There's a lot of wonderful things here, but the weather -- well, that's a major subject.  You see, I gave her the links to the temperature graphs on NOAA to the area she was planning on moving to.  Furthermore, I noticed that NOAA has a Montana Winter Awareness Week, which gave lots of good, if scary, information about the weather in Montana.

It's not that the weather is nasty all the time.  It's just that if you're unprepared for it, it will hit you in a major way.  In 2009, some folks from Oklahoma discovered this.  This wasn't really that far from me, but they were off the grid, and yes, unprepared. 

I guess this person thought I was intentionally being negative about Montana, but honestly, visiting during summer does not give you a good feeling as to how this place really is.  We get subzero weather for a few weeks at a time.  We get snow.  We commonly get 24 to 30 winter storms, of which at least 2 are blizzards.  We get nasty ice storms too. 

People who have never experienced this kind of cold or snow need to first come here in the winter to decide whether or not this is something they can deal with.  Not everyone can -- nor should they.  I have friends who are still suffering for serious injuries due to car crashes on icy roads.  I looked at my land in the wintertime.  That was a good thing because I got a good feel for how bad the road would be and whether or not the weather was an issue.  (It wasn't for me). 

If you do decide to "rough it" out here in Montana, be aware that being off the grid is very brutal as well.  I am not off the grid -- for good reason.  I like living with 21st century conveniences like plumbing, hot showers and internet.  Even living on the grid has its challenges, but it's something I prefer over the city.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birds in Love, Llamas and Malamutes

11:16 PM
We've been slowly introducing the Malamutes to Sid the Llama.  It's been going pretty well, and I thought I'd take a quick video of Sid walking with Mishka.

I think overall Sid is doing pretty good.  He's very skinny and in the short time we've had him, he's put on a bit of muscle mass, but he's going to need a fair amount of time to gain weight.  Herbavores don't pack on the weight as quick as carnivores do -- or so I've discovered.  It seems to be the lack of high quality protein that meat gives an animal.  Still, both husband and I think he's pretty neat and the dogs are enthralled with him.  That's way cool.

My turkey, who proved to be a hen is very much in love with me.  Sort of uncomfortable, when you realize she's a she and she's going to be Thanksgiving dinner.  Today, she laid a lovely egg for me and I saw the egg pop out, so I know it's not the ducks (I know a turkey egg from a duck egg, anyway). 

I also caught my geese in a poor attempt at goose sex today.  It suddenly became all too apparent that Ee'qua is a gander as he jumped on Louis(e), who is obviously a goose.  Ee'qua has been going ballistic over the roosters in the pen next to them and has been lifting his head in a display.  Ee'qua is an African gander (black bill) and Louise is a Toulouse goose (orange bill).  Their picture to the right.

These two, once old enough, will be able to mate and produce viable offspring.  I've heard that geese go broody, that is, will sit on eggs, so I may just let them do that once she's old enough to lay big enough, viable eggs.  Geese live a remarkably long time for fowl -- I should expect them to live to about 20 to 25 years if nothing bad happens to them.  Geese are pretty expensive birds to buy -- I spent about $20 for goslings that were less than a week old, so hatching out geese is a good investment.  If I don't sell the goslings, I can always put them into freezer camp when they're big enough.  I've heard goose eggs are tasty too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Talking Turkey

12:06 PM
Tonight I candled the remaining eggs.  I doubt seriously that any of the Blue Orpington eggs or the last Easter Egger egg will hatch.  But, I'm keeping the eggs in the incubator and turning them anyway.

Of the 4 Merriam Turkey eggs, only one is developing.  I can see the eye and earlier I could see the heart beating. 

Of the 12 Marans eggs, I think I have more than half developing.  There are a few I don't think got started.

It's kind of disappointing when you spend money on eggs and have only about 20% hatch out.  The Marans eggs I got from a friend down in the Bitterroot, so they didn't come via mail.  What's more, she gave them to me because she wasn't sure if the bantam Minorca that had slipped in had done any breeding. 

I was so hopeful for Merriam turkeys, but one turkey doesn't make a flock.  Still, maybe I can pick up some turkey poults and breed them once they get big enough.  That would give me an interesting mix of birds and if I find a bunch of Narragansett Turkeys, I may add them to the lone Merriam and breed them.  They're the closest I can find to wild Merriams and this Merriam isn't completely wild when it comes to the genes.  Still, at nearly $10 a poult, it's a lot of money. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Farmer's Market Day, Vaccinations and Thoughts on Farm Animals

11:08 PM
Today I had to get up super early for me as the Humane Society of Western Montana was having a free rabies vaccination day to celebrate World Rabies Awareness Day.  I needed to get two of my dogs revaccinated and since the vaccinations were free, I decided to have it done.

This required me to get up early to get to the Farmer's Market.  This did two things.  First, it got me to the Market early enough to get raspberries and blackberries, but not early enough to get the cheese ends or the bison mock tenders.  Second, it got most of my errands done by noon and we were able to get to the vaccination spot with Mishka and Kira (Haegl had already gotten his vaccinations earlier and Kodiak is really too old and decrepit to transport). 

Despite being on a budget, the blackberries and raspberries from this one farmer are awesome and worth the price.  I broke down and bought a mini-flat.  He had told me he had lost most of his plants due to a frost in October last year and was picking what was left.  What was left were very wonderful berries and worth it.  I got some butter ends, butter, cheese (at full price), celery, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, salad mix, ground bison, beef mock tenders, bison cross-rib roast, strawberries and apples.

I've been talking quite a bit about the turkey on Facebook, and I sometimes get the feeling that people think I shouldn't name the turkey or not eat her.  It's like people are willing to eat animals, some that are raised in the most horrid conditions, but because the animal is packaged up nice and neat in somewhat unrecognizable parts, it's somehow better.  (I'm not saying that all commercial meat is raised is bad conditions, but given that our food can come from damn near anywhere on the globe, you know there are farms out there with bad conditions.) 

My birds are raised in my barn.  They're touched and handled kindly.  They have plenty of space to be birds, with perches, nests and space.  They get lots of treats.  Today my birds got honey-o melon rind and seeds, apple cores, corn on the cob, rice, carrot tops, celery leaves, bread heels, shortcakes and strawberry hulls.  This is on top of the layer feed and oyster shell they get daily.  When they are slaughtered, we take them outside and out of view of the other birds so they aren't disturbed by it.  In other words, we're very conscientious about their quality of life. 

I think the difference is I'm willing to look at my food in the eye and do what needs to be done to eat.  I understand the cycle of life and the food chain.  Quite honestly, Thanksgiving Henrietta wouldn't be alive if someone wasn't willing to purchase her as a chick for the precise reason of eating her when she got big. 

The American Indians had (and may still have) a ritual of thanking the creature who gave its life so that they could eat.  I think it is important to acknowledge that life.  I will often thank the animal for its sacrifice. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Pages to Eating Wild Montana!

1:39 PM
I've decided to add some pertinent pages to the blog to include my recipe pages (so you don't have to search through my posts to find them again) and my poultry articles.  I'll be adding pet care articles and other articles I think are pertinent to this blog as I have them time.  Check them out.  They're the page tabs right below the header.  Let me know what you think!

Turkey Hens, Baby Chicks and Elderberries

12:46 AM
Well, it's official.  Thanksgiving Tom is actually Thanksgiving Henrietta.  She laid a whopping big egg yesterday and while the other birds pecked a hole in the shell, I took it anyway and showed it to my husband. The dogs enjoyed the egg.  Tonight, she laid another egg, but the schizoid rooster of the bunch ran over it and cracked it.  So, the dogs get another egg.  The schizoid roo is going to be put out of my misery tomorrow.  He has been running back and forth along the pen that separates them from the geese and the geese are trying to pluck him.  He then stuffs his head under the space of the pen's corner and thinks he's getting out.  Sigh.  Other than damaging the eggs and annoying the heck out of all the other birds, I think he's pretty worthless.  He's skinny too, which makes me wonder if he'll even make soup.


On another note, I have had two Easter Egger chicks hatch.  I took a video of them in the incubator.  Yes, they're mighty cute, and yes, I'm lousy at recording video, but there you go.  The Xs on the eggs are to let me know which side is up when I'm turning them.

On another note, it's elderberry time.  Out here in Montana, we have many elder trees and the berries are said to be very good for you.  There have been studies that suggest elderberries may help flu symptoms.  I've been picking elderberries to make syrup, but you need a lot of elderberries and evidently, elders around here don't live long. 

It's kind of interesting that there are some very old myths about the elder trees.  For one thing, in English and Scandinavian myths, it is very bad luck to chop down an Elder tree without some sort of incantation because a spirit called the Elder Mother lives within the tree.  The Elder trees are associated with the Elven folk and, while I believe none of this, I've still forbade my husband from chopping down any Elders.  (After all, even I won't tempt fate).  Besides, why chop down a useful tree?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tea, Anyone?

1:00 PM
Anyone who knows me knows that I love tea.  I'm really a tea snob too, preferring loose tea over bagged tea.  I'm one of those people who love black and flavored tea, with some oolong thrown in for good measure.  I've tried to like green tea, but I think it's often more suited to what Sid likes than what I actually drink.

I'm a fan of Adagio tea -- and I won't lie to you: I'm an affiliate, but only because I like their tea so much.  You may notice the signature blends I've made and also check out the teas they have on site. Now, before you faint over the cost, let's put it in perspective:

  1. Loose tea is real tea.  The tea that is sold in teabags is called "finings" and they're basically the swept up leftovers after the leaves are processed. 
  2. You use less leaves than teabags, thus making it cost efficient.
  3. You're paying for the leaves, not the packaging and processing to get the tea bags.
  4. Loose tea is reusable.  You can make several tasty pots of tea before you need to throw the leaves out.
  5. You can easily compost tea leaves.
While Adagio tea isn't organic (and don't get upset about this!), the reality is that organic tea isn't the same high quality as "regular" tea.  If you're concerned over pesticides and whatnot on tea, do what I do -- a flash rinse of the tea with boiling water before brewing.  

Tea is remarkably healthy and full of antioxidants.  Even black tea has some very healthy properties.  So, to your health!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Preserving Food, Farmer's Market Day, Chicks and Mishka

11:37 AM
Saturday was Farmer's Market Day.  As expected, I went down to the market and bought a whole bunch of goodies.  My friends at Dixon Melons were selling their last melons of the season -- this really wonderful melon called the Honey-O which is very much like a cross between a honeydew and a cantaloupe.  Very sweet.

Bought salad, tomatoes, carrots, cheeses, butter, kale, green beans, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, honeycrisp apples, strawberries, beef steaks, celery and melons.  Today I'm going to try to bake a honey-white bread to eat with meals.

It's a rainy day today which means not a lot of walking Sid the llama.  If you want to read about our latest exploits introducing Mishka to Sid, check out my other blog.  It went really well.

With all that food, it makes sense to save it.  The best way, in my opinion, is to freeze the vegetables.  I remember for years just throwing the vegetables in the freezer, which didn't preserve them as well as I thought.  Then, I remembered my mom did something called blanching.  So, I broke open cookbooks and searched for blanching on the internet.  Yesterday, I blanched the kale and green beans.  I'm also going to chop up most of the green peppers and freeze them too.  I use a lot of green peppers in cooking, it seems.

I was pretty sure I had screwed up something with the latest incubation when this morning I heard some soft peeping from the eggs.  Yay!  I have a few chicks!  I turned the eggs that are later hatchers and made sure the humidity was high enough.  I end up getting my eggs in batches and I have only one incubator, so I have to kind of violate the single hatch rules.  Even so, I've gotten chicks out of multiple hatches.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peach Muffin Explosion

11:16 AM
I decided to make some Spiced Peach Muffins from my King Arthur Cookbook.  My husband likes bringing homemade muffins on trips and they're really handy as snacks.  So, when I discovered the fresh cherries were kind of icky, I broke into the peaches I froze the other week. 

Much to my surprise, instead of the 18 muffins it claimed it yielded, I got a whopping 27 muffins.  I know my husband likes peaches, but really?

So, I'll be freezing some, I guess.  The results were very good,  Even tasty.  Although I ended up discovering I need more flour, oil, nutmeg and brown sugar, it's still a lot cheaper to make these than buy the equivalent or buy snacks.  And they taste better too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sid and Haegl

8:59 PM

Today we decided if Sid was going to pack with us, he'd have to get introduced to the Malamute gang.  We figured that the best dog to introduce to Sid would be Haegl, who loves darn near everyone and everything.  He's still a Malamute, which means he's very much a toned-down predator, but still has a lot of prey drive in him.  Sid, unfortunately, is prey in the minds of such animals, but Sid has a few things going for him.  1.  He is unafraid and doesn't act like a prey animal.  2.  He will spit if provoked.  3.  He will stomp and kick if really threatened.  (He's a big sweetie to humans, though).

The photo here is of Haegl packing.  He's really the sweetest dog around.  Unfortunately, I couldn't use the camera today as I need to buy more batteries for the camera.  I'll take pictures when I'm able.

Not surprisingly, Haegl did okay with Sid.  He barked a few times and even tried to nip a bit, but with a few easy corrections, Haegl went into work mode and began walking with us and Sid.  Sid, he reckons, is some very odd critter that is part of the pack.  Haegl at first investigated Sid's desire to eat grass with great intensity -- Haegl thought Sid was eating something he might want.  So Haegl went looking through the grass for food and finding none, felt like this was all some cruel joke.  In the end, they walked side-by-side with us, Haegl giving up the urge to nip or bark at Sid.