Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Arrival of Snow

When I left for town this morning to meet a friend for coffee, rain was coming down fairly steadily.  Before I even got much farther than to the end of our driveway, it had turned to snow.  That was a little before 10 a.m. and although the temp was in the low 30s, it continued to snow most of the day.  Coming home the highway was covered in a thick layer of slush . . . slippery slush.  I was glad to be back home safe and sound (okay, safe anyway) by noon.

Late this afternoon when we went out to round up the ducks and geese, feed them their grain dinner and tuck them away safely in their respective pens for the night, they were all paddling around in the pond.

For the very first time (I'm sure just to play mind games with us), the ducks came in first.  The geese always are the first ones into the yard for some grain.

Despite our plans to do so, we did not get the new waterfowl house constructed this year.  But we did make some good changes to the various pens we had for the different groups of ducks and geese and arranged them in kind of a square with a center "courtyard" in the middle.

Even though all eight of the remaining geese could fit comfortably into either of two of the bigger structures, they all seem to prefer sorting themselves out and going into the houses they are used to.  Above some of them are starting to go to their own house.  (The ducks were already fed and closed up in their one big pen.)

Our three oldest geese, a gander and his two girlfriends, occupy this pen.

It's a good feeling knowing that even though we don't yet have the ultimate housing arrangement we want for them, everyone will be cozy and well protected all winter. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thinning The Flock

Although I can't say the butchering part of butchering day is ever pleasant, we did have a fantastic, hard-working, fun crew to do the job yesterday and things could hardly have gone better.

First was to gather the geese and ducks to be butchered.  The above cage contained three geese and a couple of the Muscovy ducks.  The remainder of the ducks were in another cage. 

We've never used killing cones before but after our chicken butchering a few weeks ago, we decided we'd like to give them a try.  We gave directions for their construction to our daughter and she made two samples of them . . . a larger one for geese and a smaller one for ducks and/or chickens.  Instead of hanging the cones on a tree, inserting the bird head down, stunning the bird on the back of the head and then making slits on each side of the neck to kill and bleed them out, we decided the quicker and more humane way would be to use an ax.  The way we did it required two people but worked out really well and we still used the cones.

The bird was put into the cone, the person at the front put the head of the bird between two large nails which had been pounded into the stump, the person at the back held the bird firmly in the cone.  Our ax was very sharp, nicely weighted and did the job every time with one quick blow.

Then the cone with bird in it was hung by a grommet (put in the larger end of the cone for this purpose) on a nail in a tree until the flapping stopped.  

The bird was next extracted from the cone and hung by the feet on a rod between two trees to finish bleeding out.  The cone was then reused for the next bird.

We had a wonderful, handy-dandy scalding barrel that our Good Neighbor D contributed to the operation.  A small barrel sat on top of a gas burner and held the water at the right scalding temperature.  The only addition we need to make is some kind of a weight to keep the bird totally submerged.  Here our daughter is using a birch log to keep the bird from popping up out of the water.  She did an excellent job as chief scalder which made plucking the birds so easy.

This was the craziest thing . . . Tucker did not like this bird (waiting for its turn in the scalder) lying on the ground.  It was dead so he thought it should be buried.  He worked very diligently using his nose to push gravel up onto the body to cover it.

Our daughter starting to work the bird on our old (but so efficient) plucker.

It doesn't take long to get the majority of the feathers off of each one.

Then the detail plucking took over.  Don't know why this poor bird was getting attacked by the three guys but they made short work of it.

Until it was time for our daughter's guy to start the gutting process, he and I worked at the detail table.

Good Neighbor D with the biggest Muscovy.

We weren't knee deep in feathers but it came close to ankle deep!

After each bird was plucked clean, it was submerged in cold well water while waiting to go to the gutting table manned by the three guys.  Above Papa Pea is working on one of the geese.  Note the huge amount of goose fat in the dish.  All the birds had quite a bit of fat on them, a lot of it right under the skin.  I guess they all had put on their winter insulation.

The tally for the day.  Three geese on left, then the six male Muscovy ducks in the middle, and the three Cayugas on the right.  The Muscovies look almost as big as the geese.  Our geese are the Pilgrim variety, though, chosen for their smaller size and calm disposition.

This morning, before the kill cones were stored away until our next butchering date, our daughter suggested she take a picture of her "cone head parents."  (Picture taken in the garage, hence the decor.)  Silly thing was when she was ready to snap the picture, she said, "Smile!"  And we both did.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Where Do The Days Go?

Whoopee-doo, I finally took the pumpkins and fall leaves out of the outside window boxes today and replaced them with evergreen boughs and poinsettias, the poinsettias being fake but still adding a burst of holiday color.

It's still raining.  Our pond is fuller than we've ever seen it.  We designed it with a spillway to handle any possible overflow and this afternoon there was a veritable stream coming out of the pond via the overflow.  The overflow is over flowing.  Parts of the bank that have never felt water before are starting to erode a bit.

The ducks and geese are elated.  They think it's spring time.  If they're not playing a vigorous game of water polo, they're all grazing on the green, green grass of their pasture.  Even the chickens can be seen out all day long.  Most likely supplementing their late November diet with worms that have come to the surface of the soil to keep from drowning.

Tomorrow (dum-da-dum-dum) is butchering day.  Three of the geese and eight of the ducks will be dispatched to freezer camp.  Or our neighbor's smoker.  I wish it was tomorrow night at this time.  Is there anyone who likes butchering day on the homestead?  Nah, I didn't think so.

This is what happens to my quilt room when I don't have time to spend in there, but have to run in and out doing emergency repairs or making a quick holiday fabric cover for a jar of blueberry jam to be delivered to a friend, or some such thing.  I get in and get out, grabbing or doing only what I need at the moment . . . 

. . . and this is the resulting mess.  Oh well, soon (am I living in Fantasy Land again?) I'll be able to spend some time in there cleaning up and finishing the quilting on that blue and white quilt I've had in my machine (with the needle in the very same spot) for a couple of weeks.  At least.  We just have to get through butchering day tomorrow, then get four new tires put on the Suburban first of next week, then a trip to the big city to unload our old, worn out solar power batteries by meeting a fella who pays $18 each for the batteries.  I think that's all that's on the immediate schedule, aside from every day things, (don't tell me if I've forgotten something important) so I should have a few days before Christmas to hibernate in my quilt room, unlax and become my usual (ha!) sweet, loving, even-tempered self again.

Oh nuts, I just remembered I was going to make up the dough for each of our Christmas cookies and have it ready in the freezer ahead of time this year.  Aw, balderdash, who needs Christmas cookies anyway?  (Did you hear that resounding, rather piercing cry from the troops that inhabit this place?)  WE DO, WE DO, WE DO!

Like I said, where do the days go?  Should any of you reading this be bored and need something to do for the next month, wanna come live here?  I can make you a list . . . 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Where's Winter?

It's supposed to be winter now up here in our neck o' the woods . . . but it's not.

We didn't get either of the "big" snows recently predicted.  Since the two inches we did get have been on the ground, our temps have stayed slightly above freezing both day and night which makes for slushy, slippery, messy walking out and about.  To say nothing of the current luge run state of our driveway.

The sun has apparently temporarily taken off for parts unknown, because we haven't seen it for a while.  The grayness makes the damp, mistiness of the air feel much colder than it is.  Do I sound totally humbug?  Not really as we've got it plenty warm and cozy inside.  No complaints there.  But I am eager for true winter time to arrive.

The ice on our pond resembles the "rotten ice" we see in the spring.  Our waterfowl have discovered they can poke holes in it here and there without falling through, so it's those openings they've been hanging around, submerging their heads for a good, refreshing drink.  Seems pond water tastes better than the pans of water we keep out for them. 

The weather people are now telling us we're to expect nothing but rain for the next several days.  So.  I ask again, where is winter?

* * * * * * * *

Time for me to take down the fall through Thanksgiving decorations and pull out all the boxes relating to Christmas.  That's on my schedule for tomorrow.  We frequently put up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, but this year it doesn't seem like that time can be here already.

I haven't had a bathroom rug for in front of the sink that coordinated with my holiday themed shower curtain so I picked out some Aunt Lydia's Rug Yarn I purchased on eBay (it's no longer manufactured) and just this morning finished putting the fringe on the ends of it.

It measures 23" x 33" excluding fringe, made to fit in the particular area where we'll use it.

I think I did a purdy darn good job of choosing rug yarn that matches the fabrics in the shower curtain.

* * * * * * * *

Now, if I could just find my magic wand, walk through the house twirling it over my head, and have the old decorations down and put away and all the holiday ones in place.  Whoopee!  Ha, if only.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Snow, Everyday Stuff and the Start of Another Holiday Season

We're getting up and going this morning to a temp of 32° and snow coming down heavily.  Forecast is for wet snow all day . . . which is not good news for travelers in the area.  We have friends who are leaving this morning for a long drive to Iowa to spend the holiday weekend with family.  It's the busiest traveling time of the year, it's said, so we're sending good wishes for safe travels for everyone traversing roads to be with family and friends.  We will be staying snug and cozy here at home.

For many years when we were still living in Illinois, we would leave Wednesday night after Papa Pea got done with his work day, and drive all night to get up here to northern Minnesota.  This was a time before we purchased property in the area, so would stay with a bachelor friend who had a resort on an inland lake.  I would spend two or three days at home before we left preparing a full turkey, sometimes goose, dinner with all the trimmings which we brought along for the Thanksgiving meal.  (Gak, what a whole lot of work that was!)

I leave my fall decorations in our window boxes until they are replaced with the Christmas/New Year ones after this coming weekend.  After our first blowsy snow last Friday, they were totally encrusted in ice and snow.  In this picture taken yesterday, you can still see a smidge bit of crusty snow on the sides of the pumpkins.  Now with this new snow today, I may have to chisel them out when I want to redecorate in a couple of days! 

Although the tall, tall asparagus ferns had lost their vibrant green color and turned yellow, they were still standing upright . . . until this wet snow this morning.  Actually, I had hoped the snows would bend the ferns over on the patch to act as a natural mulch/insulation for the roots in the soil.  Mission accomplished, I'd say.

Our driveway is currently a skating rink in certain parts which makes for some exciting turns driving out on the slight downhill.  Coming back in can be exciting, too, because one has to keep up a certain amount of speed to get up the incline . . . without ending up sideways in the woods.  All part of the fun and challenge of winter time in the north woods.

Yesterday afternoon Papa Pea and I unloaded thirty-five fifty pound bags of feed from our flatbed trailer to get them under cover.  (That would be 1,750 pounds if anyone's counting.)  We order our organic feed from a company about 200 miles from here and it's delivered by Fed Ex.  Usually they bring it on a truck that can get in and out of our place with no problem, but this time the driver had a semi and called to ask if we could meet him out on the highway.  Papa Pea did so where the driver loaded the whole pallet of feed onto our trailer which then was driven in.  Hubby and I formed our own little chain brigade and got all the bags safely stored inside in preparation of the wet weather today.  (Does moving 1,750 pounds of feed count as weight bearing exercise?)  Now they just need to be moved another 15 or so feet into the feed room.

Well, our oatmeal is ready for breakfast.  Would you like homegrown blueberries on yours?  Make mine with some sliced banana, too, please.  Then I'll be doing what make-ahead preparations I can for our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow.  And I may even get out the ol' vac and chase some dust bunnies around.  Couldn't hurt.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Moving Poultry Fencing

We remembered today that we needed to move the north line of poultry yard fencing which runs along part of our driveway.  The overnight low temperature was 14° so at first we wondered if we could 1) still get the fencing out of the ground, and 2) get it back into the ground in the new position.

The summer time placement of that particular stretch of fence in question is too close to the driveway so that when we plow snow in the winter, the snow thrown against the fence would eventually break it down.

Turns out we were in luck as the ground hadn't frozen hard enough so there was no problem even though we were a little slow on the uptake of getting the job done.

Here Papa Pea is taking out an old section while some of the new is already in place on the right farther away from the driveway, closer to the pond.

In this picture I was fairly close to the edge of the pond and commented I was going to be really mad if I slipped onto the ice.  Papa Pea said I was going to be wet, too, as the ice wasn't thick enough to hold me.

Making good progress.

A group of supervisors on the bank watching our progress.  There are six of them.  Can you spot them?

All done and ready for more snow.  The fence isn't electrified in the winter because the snow level on the ground shorts it out.  So technically it doesn't do a great deal to deter animals that might try to get in (bobcats, pine martens, foxes, coyotes, wolves, etc.), but it does contain the birds should they put on snow shoes or X-country skis and venture out that far.

Last but not least, two of our older Muscovy ducks just hangin' out in the weeds.  And maybe hoping the ice on the pond will melt again?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Took A While . . .

Yep, it took much longer than usual, but winter finally arrived yesterday.

We had a full day of rain/sleet/hail/snow/yucky stuff before the temp eventually dropped low enough for big, fat, white, heavy flakes to fall.  Total accumulation wasn't more than a couple of inches but we had lots of wind with this first storm of the season.  This morning we are hearing of a couple of roads closed because of trees down and one town resident was distressed (who wouldn't be?) to find a large pine tree across the roof of her car.

When we let the poultry out of their night time lock-down quarters each morning, the ducks and geese typically make a beeline for the pond . . . which had a decide different look to it this morning.

The bank down to the pond was more than a bit slippery for all those webbed feet.  In the center of the picture you can see the path in the snow where one of the Cayuga ducks literally slid all the way down on his belly.

"Hey, guys, somethin's not quite right here."

Two of the geese did an about face and marched back up the hill.

It didn't take too long for a couple of the fowl to break through the thin ice and be relieved to find their beloved water was still there.

However, according to the weather report, open water will soon be a thing of the past because, all of a sudden and about time, we are into cold winter time in a big way.  (Time to get my blog header photo changed, wouldn't you say?)