Laid in the USA ~ Salt cured egg yolks are the answer!

So…here we are three years later into starting our chicken flock.  My, how times have changed!  Let me tell you, if you’ve heard chickens are addicting?  True story!

We started with seven sweeties.  We made a huge mistake naming them as babies with no feathers because, these birds are hard to tell apart once their feathers come in! (We now use different colored leg bands to help us determine age and dates of introduction)

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I can’t believe it’s been 2 1/2 years since I purchased a single egg from the grocery store. This is my favorite investment so far.  We started with seven and are now up to almost 30!  Most of our hens are in a coop with two roosters.  New roosters get “booted” out of the coop and are left to free range.  Don’t worry, they aren’t without their own hens.  We decided to incubate some eggs twice and let them free range with the roosters after the attempt to integrate them into the flock didn’t go so well.

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Now, I’m going to tell you some things most chicken experts would probably cringe about.  After two rounds of incubating, my husband decided to “help” the baby chicks get out of the egg a little quicker.  I’m on the fence about this one but, he swears he’s helping them survive.  If he thinks they are taking too long to get out of the shell (after we see it start to peck its way out) he will gently tap the shell with my tweezers and pull some shell off.  He delivered this fine hen and she’s now starting to lay.

The trouble with helping chickens is some of those he saved aren’t exactly the strongest or very large.  I’m sure natural selection would have taken a few from the start but, with a little patience and perseverance, we’ve had more of a success rate with incubating than when we left the chicks on their own to break free and hatch.

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Isn’t she cute?  This is about an hour or two after the shell was off and she’s starting to dry out.  Did I say she?  I meant HE.  It’s funny, we struggled after we had our first seven hens begin to lay and we really wanted a rooster.  We bought a few more which all turned out female and we eventually broke down and purchased a year old rooster. We wanted more eggs and the capability of replenishing our layers when necessary without the need of chicken days at Tractor Supply.  We’ve produced about 5 roosters from incubating and only 3 hens.  The last round we went for, we ended up with three roosters and two hens.

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The breeds we chose were Rhode Island Reds and Americauna’s (The ducks aren’t with the chickens anymore).  We chose them for their egg production and to be honest, I see on average more green eggs than brown.  I still love the brown eggs so, we’ve introduced more Rhode Islands this past year. (We tried Cornish Rocks last year but, they got so big so fast, most of them died of heart attacks before we could get them in the pot!  They seemed so unnatural because of their size, we chose not to proceed with this breed.)   I also love the  Our daily average with 25+ hens is about 2 dozen a day during peak months and 1 dozen a day during the winter months.  I’m totally OK with this yield!  It makes getting creative with eggs a mission rather than an option.  Here’s where we are going to learn something together!  Salt curing egg yolks! YES!!!!

My gift to us?  Valerie’s salt cured egg yolks!  Believe me, you’ll burn out on scrambled, fried, omelettes, pickled eggs, hard boiled, deviled, quiche, etc… Let’s try this together.  Our challenge to you?  Try her recipe and comment below.  If you’re really smart, you’ll follow her blog too because, she’s just that awesome!

https://livingmydreamlifeonthefarm.com/2017/02/15/food-in-jars-challange-2017-salt-curing-egg-yolks/

Above photos are courtesy LivingMyDreamLifeOnTheFarm

I am making these Sunday and plan on another post about the results later.  I always give credit where it is due and Valerie deserves all the credit for this one.  I love egg on salad but, I’m thinking how much better this will taste than the standard hard boiled.  The entire point here is, buy your own chickens!  Even if you have two, you’ll be amazed at the egg quality difference between store bought and fresh.

 

Pig Slaughter – Bullet Choice & De-Hairing

Yesterday, we had a family day dedicated to pig slaughter.  I’m attaching photos so don’t look if you don’t like it and please PLEASE don’t give me grief!  We treat ALL our animals like our children and we do things as humanely as possible.

The photos aren’t too graphic but, I definitely wanted to open discussion for those who slaughter their own pigs and those who haven’t done this yet.  First, let’s talk caliber.  I’ve heard of MANY people using a .22 and that may work for most.  We had to put one of the babies down last month and used the .22 only to find out we weren’t convinced this was not our best option for a much larger pig.  If you disagree?  That’s totally ok.  I’m just going off what we have experienced here.  So, yesterday we chose to use our 5.56.  I’m thankful about our choice.  One shot and she dropped.  We hate anything to suffer.  So, a bucket of sweet feed and with the shot we stuck her to bleed her out.  This was very hard on us, since we literally delivered her.  I am glad she didn’t suffer though, not a peep out of her which made me feel a little better.

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Onto the de-hairing.  This was our first pig slaughter from raising our young babies to the age this has to start happening.  We have researched and talked to other pig experienced people and decided to de-hair the pig instead of just skinning it.  We cut the lid off one of our empty drums and filled it about 1/2 way with water.  Started a fire underneath it and brought the water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  We had some blankets left over from our move (thank you Uhaul).  I put two blankets in the water to heat up.  We laid the pig on a table, thoroughly cleaned all the mud/etc…off her.  We then used long BBQ style tongs to pull a blanket out of the water and lay it on the pig.  **Some people just dunk the pig into the water much like you would a chicken.  We have learned that if you don’t do this exactly correct, you risk the hair actually fusing to the skin and then you’re pretty much screwed!

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We laid the blanket on the pig until it started to get cool, then we pulled another blanket and pretty much swapped them out.  About four times total.  First, we tried our draw blades.  Nope.  Didn’t work at all.  Then, we just decided to use our skinning knife and another flip knife.  Success.  The hair was coming off and relatively easy.  You have to be careful not to cut the skin and pretty much just drag the blade, much like I imagine shaving only a little more pressure.  This takes TIME.  Move as quickly as you can but efficiently.  Once one side was done, we flipped her over and did the next.  Then the belly, etc… I’d say the de-hairing process (not counting the head) took us about 2 hours, slightly under.

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Next, we hung her up, let her finish bleeding out and finished field dressing her.  I haven’t attached photos of this but, if someone wants them in the future, I will be happy to.  I suppose at this point how others de-hair their pigs?  Did you have success dunking or try a different method?  For us, this worked beautifully and we maintained all the skin for future cracklins/etc…  ;)

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The biggest part of this was making sure our son was involved.  We let him not be present for the actual killing (since this was our first and wanted to make sure things went as planned).  After the hard part, he was every bit involved with the entire process.  It’s important our kids know where their meat comes from.  It wasn’t until yesterday he learned where sausage casings really come from!?  We thought he knew!  He did a great job and I am so proud to watch and help him become an extraordinary human being.  We prayed over the pig and thanked it for giving its life.  With death, comes the need to teach humanity.  This was a tough day for us but, we pulled together as a family and made it happen.  I’m very proud of my son and my husband!

Labor Day & More Bacon Seeds!

Well?  She did it!  Applesauce had a healthy litter of 10 pigs.  So far, it’s looking like 7 female and 3 male.  I’ll take those odds!  We spent so much time getting ready for this to happen.  We still had her three babies from March that we needed to separate, so time was super crucial here. Sorry for the cruddy photos, I had my cell phone and it was already pretty dark.

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Prior to getting her special birthing pen ready again, we had to move our big boy.  His name is Jimmy Dean and he’s actually growing tusks at this point!  Try to move a 500-600 pound boar who doesn’t feel like moving?  Yep, we almost lost a hand a few times.

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Needless to say, this is the daddy and we couldn’t be happier with the results.  He’s come a VERY long way in a short year with us.  The photo below is when he first came to our homestead.

Jimmy Dean meets his ladies

Now?  He passes the girls in height and weight!  Crazy pig.  Excuse the mud, this was minutes after his move to the woods.  I was pretty much over trying to direct boar movement at this point.  L O L

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We knew by Friday, she was getting close.  Her milk was starting to come in and by early Monday morning, she was grabbing hay as fast as we could give it to her to build her “nest”.   For those who follow us, last time you know she only had three young ones.  Oh, not today!  We are happy to report all 10 were born strong and ready to see the world!

 

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It’s amazing when something so genuine hits our homestead.  We have had so many struggles in the last month or two they are almost uncountable.  I will be posting a tribute to our Great Dane we lost the day after my birthday.  But, with death, comes life.  We needed these little breaths of fresh air (although, I don’t recommend inhaling near pig domains) 🙂  This post is short.  And I am super excited to have new life on our little homestead.  Just what the doctor ordered!

Bacon Seeds ♥

We set out on this new homestead adventure ALL-IN.  Our first procurement were chickens.  I suppose we decided this was too “easy” and we immediately moved onto pigs.  Yep.  You heard me, simple to something over 500 pounds.  We started with TWO.

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“Porkchop and Applesauce”

These sweet girls were about 2-3 months old when we brought them home.  Funny thing, we were still living in our HOA just outside the city on 2 acres.  It was about this time we decided our HOA was going to have a huge issue with our newly found “lifestyle”.  We put our home on the market and it literally sold for cash within 2 days!  Holy crap!  Where do we move?  What are we buying?  The race was on to find the perfect place where we could grow our newly started animal family and save the 1k yearly dues.  (It’s quite lovely to not pay HOA dues anymore and I would never buy property again where we are told how/what we can have or do)

We moved the girls into the backyard and quickly learned they are better tillers than you can purchase at the store.  Their entire yard was dug up within a matter of days. So?  We found our homestead, simply by our pig purchase.  We looked everywhere and finally found something we now call the MmmHomestead.  Our original plan was to source the girls for meat but hey, we are ambitious!  We decided to purchase a third (Did I mention we are crazy?) pig.  This lil’ fella we call “Jimmy Dean”.  He was about 12 weeks old in the photos below.

This guy has grown incredibly fast.  He’s already as large as the girls, even though they are over a year apart.  Well?  He definitely knew his job and went to it rather quickly.

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Jimmy Dean growing up!

 

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Applesauce falls in love

Well?  Applesauce fell in love.  Those two were inseparable, literally.  We kept Jimmy separated from the girls until we felt he was old enough/big enough to not get kicked out of the feed trough.  They integrated nicely and have lived as three for a good six months.  We’ve seen him “attempt” to be the man and mount the girls.  Applesauce seems to be most receptive.   Pork Chop, let’s just say if she doesn’t get with the program, she is going to have another destiny in the near future.  The one thing we have always said about the girls, was their disposition is so gentle and calm.  We wanted that with our breeder pigs.

Applesauce got pregnant!  3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days for pigs to give birth.  We had NO idea how pregnant she was, since we keep them all together.   Soon as we saw milk coming in and her teets dropping?  Time to build another fence and pig area.

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Getting ready for bacon seeds!

So here we are!  Two weeks prior to her giving birth, we made their new pen.  Now, if both sows ended up pregnant, we can separate each one and leave Jimmy Dean with his own bachelor pad.  The day my husband finally installed the new shelter and decided to close off the pen?  She gave birth in the middle of the night.

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Bacon seeds have germinated!

Here’s where things got interesting.  She had three “little” pigs.  Wait.  What?  We read sows should have anywhere from 12-30???  What’s going on?  Where are the others?  The last seed was born around 9AM.  We called our local vet.  After inducing her contractions and checking her, it was determined our beloved Jimmy Dean is still much smaller and probably couldn’t “hold on” long enough to produce an entire litter.  Not going to lie here, the idea of 20+ bacon seeds being added to the food bill wasn’t exactly exciting.  So realistically? I’m now thrilled to deal with these babies even three at a time.

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The REAL “Three little pigs”

Two males and a female.  Awesome.  Here in Texas this year, it’s been unusually cold for this time of year.  We added a heat lamp to the shelter and let mama bond.  Things are going splendid.  We now have a minimum of two pigs that will be sourced at the proper time.  I’m still debating on the female but truth be told?  We’ve offered her to our awesome neighbors.  (More on them later, but we couldn’t have picked more awesome folk to live close to for the rest of our lives)

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Wee wee wee…all the way home!

So for now?  We bid these bacon seeds hello and good health.  They will be spoiled to no end and live a happy, loving lifestyle until their time comes.  We always have to remind ourselves why we chose this new direction.  It’s so easy to get attached.  If I had to give advice a year after we chose to move our entire lives and get into the homestead life?  I would advise everyone to DO IT.  And do it NOW.  I love the fact we are taking care of our family and know where our meat comes from and what it was fed.   Here’s to the next year and starting our beef family.  ♥

Kidding!

Well?  We did it!  We had our first live births on our homestead!  Our sweet Boer/Kiko cross gave a beautiful performance and delivered twins!

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Mary “Mama”

The birth was “textbook”.  We were so nervous when we figured out labor had started.  Being new to this lifestyle, everything we’ve learned was through books or internet.  We had been reading on what to do “IF” happens…so we put together a kit for the “just in case” moments.  Our kit included:  Iodine, Colostrum, Powdered Goats Milk Supplement, a baby bulb (the kind you would use on infants to suck boogers out of their nose), clean towel, gloves, and antibiotics (in case we had to go in and get the kid).

Fortunately, we didn’t need any of it other than the clean towels.

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Daddy “Mojo” (Nigerian Dwarf)  Resting on our donkeys.

I noticed her rear end had a longer clear/thick mucus coming out of it and her breathing seemed to be almost like panting (except she wasn’t panting out of her mouth, just the belly seemed labored).  We set up our watch and kept a close eye on her all day.

Once the sun finally set, we lit a fire in the pit and sat out back.  I think we had resolved at this point that she was waiting and we were going to miss it.  Not the case!  We heard a loud bray and grabbed the flashlights.  It was time!

**LIVE BIRTH PHOTOS BELOW.  If you’re squeamish, don’t look!

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Twin #1

7:13 PM.  Twin #1 was on the way out by the time we reached the kidding pen.  I let myself into the pen and proceeded to sit next to mama and lay the towel down to help with the baby.  My goal wasn’t to clean it myself, just aid if necessary.  Once the kid was out, I ended up breaking the bag at the nose/mouth and wiped with the towel to clear all the mucus.  A couple swipes with my finger through his mouth and he started coughing while Mary (mama) started cleaning him up.

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Twin #1 !  It’s a boy!

Mary was instantly showing signs that she was going to be a great mother.  She was talking a bit and licking him all over.  (The licking helps stimulate the kid to cough and breathe)

My husband said at this point, “I don’t think she’s done!”  We could instantly see another bag coming.  It looked much like the first bag coming out and had no blood to it.  Yep!  Looked like we were having twins!

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Twin #2 being born!

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I was elated!  Both were born hooves/nose first with zero complications! Mary continued to lick #1 and finish birthing #2.

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#1 standing before his brother hit the ground!

Funny.  I didn’t realize they stood up so fast!  #1 was standing within 5-10 minutes of being born!  Another wave of relief flooded me.  Healthy!  That’s all we cared about.

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#2 just born

#2 is out!  This time, I was a little nervous.  He didn’t cough right away and we ended up having to work on his nose/mouth a little more.  We also had to hold him with his nose towards the ground to try and pat/gently shake the mucus out of his lungs.  It worked.  He took a little longer to stand than #1 but within 30 minutes?  He was standing up.

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Twin boys!  So happy!

By now, Mary was hard at work licking the boys and cleaning them up.  #1 was attempting to nurse which made Mary hesitate at first.  It only took a couple of tries til he was able to latch on with the assistance of us holding her back leg from kicking at him.  Once the latch was solid, I think nature took over and she relaxed.

We moved the boys into the pen where it would be warmer for the night.  Mary followed immediately and continued to let them nurse.  It took a little extra guidance to get #2 to find the teet but, when he did?  Success!

It wasn’t long (within an hour or so) that Mary expelled the afterbirth.  We were told to let her eat it if she wanted since it has plenty of nutrients/etc…and that’s just what she did.  This was her first pregnancy and I was so happy how well she took to new motherhood.

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Archer on the left (Cupid’s Occupation) and Eros on the right (Rome’s Cupid)

We decided to name them after something that related to Valentine’s Day since we were so close to the Holiday.  It will help remind us their age and date of birth.  (We do keep a record book of all our animals which includes their breed, date of birth, vaccinations, etc…)

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Archer, Eros and Mary ♥

The boys are now just under 48 hours old and going strong!  Can’t wait to see them really active and playing!

Turkeys & A New Habitat

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Turkeys Day One on the homestead

   Purchasing our turkeys was a highlight since our move to the country.  I couldn’t wait for these babies to grow up and get in our freezer!  The trouble started when I realized we had them trained to the sound of a meal-worm bag, which made it quite easy to get them home after they would wander off every morning.  Yes.  We decided we were going to let the birds free range which hindsight, wasn’t a great idea.

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6 months old

After their last venture miles from the homestead, we decided it was time to build them a “turkey habitat”.  We lost 2 hens and our tom to a neighbors dog or some type of wild animal and we felt completely responsible for allowing them to free range.  Their new house is complete including nice long branches for them to roost on!

 

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Settling into their new home

Whatever we did, it seems to have worked very well!  We woke up a few days ago to four turkey eggs in a nest!  Hens usually lay 10-15 eggs called a “clutch”.  She won’t start incubating them until the entire clutch is laid.  Needless to say, I’m ecstatic!  Our original plan was to source them for the freezer but with the loss of over half the flock, we decided to wait and try to purchase more.  If these eggs all hatch?  Score!

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♥ Turkey Eggs ♥

 

UPDATE:  Jan. 30th, 2016.  We now have seen 15 turkey eggs in the nest and as of yesterday, one of our hens is incubating!  Go turkeys!!

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Goats and Donkeys! Round One…

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Our Beautiful Goats and their protectors

Meet our goats.  We started with the boy in the middle, his name is “Mojo”.  He came with the name as he was born with a broken jaw and had to be bottle fed back to full health.  He’s a Nigerian Dwarf and we chose him for his beautiful color and ice blue eyes.  We also wanted a smaller male since I was wanting to raise Nubian crosses.  (I’ve heard they give the best goats milk and when crossed with Nigerian Dwarfs, are smaller and easier to handle)

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“Mojo” (Nigerian Dwarf)

 When we brought Mojo to the Homestead, the little lady we really wanted wasn’t ready to leave her mama just yet. Her name is Misty and she’s a Nubian crossed with Nigerian Dwarf.

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“Misty” (Nubian/Nigerian Dwarf)

Our neighbor raises Boer goats and offered us a female of theirs so Mojo would have a playmate until Misty’s arrival.  We decided to take in Mary and have also completely fallen in love with her as well!  (Goats are very social and can die of depression if they’re left alone)

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“Mary” (Boer)

Mary is Boer/Kiko cross and expecting her first kid late February!  We are beyond excited since this will be our first birth on the Homestead for 2016!!

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Mary and Mojo checking things out

One thing we can tell you, goats are VERY inquisitive!  There’s not much they won’t get into, smell, touch, try to eat, etc…I HAD a great 2500 square foot garden started with bird netting around the perimeter.  Once we brought the goats home?  No more garden!!  (Temporarily, because I can’t live without fresh produce!)

It wasn’t long after the goats figured out a garden has a bountiful supply of all the things they love to eat that I happened to look out our back window one rainy day, to see this beastie walking on our property:

(Apologies for the poor quality but the photo was taken with my phone and I had limited time to snap a shot to prove what I was seeing)

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Cougar! (Some call it a Panther)

A Cougar!  I’m the only cougar allowed around here! Ha!  Time to call in reinforcements so our goats stay safe!  Meet Mina and Sloane (Their names are Irish Gaelic and mean Protector), seemed fitting at that moment since the last thing we wanted were missing and/or dead goats!

These ladies are mom and daughter.  They came to us pretty “haggard” looking and definitely needed to be wormed and treated to a farrier visit!  Today, they are much healthier and happier! (See the photo at the top)

Sloane and Mina have worked out to be a pretty awesome addition to the MmmHomestead.  (Donkeys have long been associated as great protectors to goats)  As of today, they are best buds to the goats.  They even let our little furries play “king of the mountain” on their backs!

Misty and Sloane

In short, we’ve learned a lot about goats and donkeys in a short time.  We are constantly watching Mary’s bag drop so we are on high alert for “kidding” time!  I’m looking forward to milking Mary, believe it or not!  Can’t wait to make goat cheese for a salad!  Until the newest addition to our Homestead arrives…go get yourself a few goats!