Monday, June 21, 2010

In Memory of Katie

Last night we put down our Golden Retriever, Katie. She would have been twelve years old this October. Just last week she stopped eating and became very lethargic. The vet did tests and xrays and informed us that she had a mass below one of her lungs. The blood tests were consistent with cancer. We brought her home with special food and instructions, but she quickly began getting worse. And now she is gone.

Katie was a wonderful pet and companion. She was technically my step-daughter's dog, but her first love was for my husband. He trained her and took her hunting, both waterfowl and upland birds. She was very smart, like most Goldens, and had those great expressive eyes they have. She was the easiest dog ever to house break. Since I'm the one who was home, I did a lot of the work in that regard, and man, was she easy.

When we got our French Brittany Spaniel, Maddie, three years ago, Katie let her jump all over her and cuddle with her. She was very, very patient with the annoying puppy. Our vet said at the time that she must have a very strong maternal instinct.

Katie was quite the traveller, by car or RV or truck, she was ready to go whenever we were.

She had that even temperament that Goldens are known for, and was stoic to the end. She never wimpered or cried out even as she became worse and worse the last couple of days.

Katie loved the beach and would jump in the waves to retrieve over and over again, or as long as someone would throw something out for her. She was at the beach many, many times and loved finding dead fish and interesting things to eat along the shoreline.

Life does go on, but it's lonely in the house today, knowing that Katie will never be here again. Our little pet cemetery is on the other side of the barnyard. Last night as we were walking back, after having buried dear Katie, Petals and Blossom came bouncing out of the barn "baaing" at us. We were reminded of the cycle of life. As Katie has moved on and finished her journey, so Petals and Blossom, only about three months old, have barely started theirs.

Katie was very, very much loved and will be very much missed; so long precious girl...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


This is our movable chicken cage. The chickens are five weeks old and several of them look to be about ready for butchering. We will probably weigh a few tomorrow to see. We're looking for about 4.5 pounds live weight to get a 3 pound dressed chicken.
For lunch today we grilled the one that was butchered on Saturday evening. He was 2 lbs 3.9 oz. dressed. We ate all but one breast.
We let him "age" in the refrigerator for several days to see if he would be a little more tender, but there was no difference between him and the one we ate the day after butchering. The flavor is really great, and they are not tough at all, just more firm fleshed than supermarket chickens. We are very pleased with them.
We have 25 Rhode Island Red layer chicks in the brooder. They are very cute little things and are developing colorful wing feathers. Whenever we lift one of the lids on the brooder they run to the other end in a pack. It's comical!
In about three weeks or so they'll be moved to the chicken cage or a new coop if it's ready. We need the brooder for 25 Freedom Ranger Broiler Chicks that are arriving on or about July 1.
We've read a lot online about the Freedom Rangers, that they are just as tender as the Cornish Cross, but don't have the health problems and will forage for more food. They are suppose to take a little longer to get to butchering weight. We shall see...

Garden 2010

The garden is producing very well this year so far. At left see a gorgeous display of carrots and golden beets picked several days ago. They looked so pretty in the basket I just had to take a picture!

See at the right savoy cabbage, kolhrabi, spring onions and sugar snap peas. Most of this has been harvested now.

Today's Menu:
Breakfast: Bacon, Eggs, Gogurt and Blueberries
Main Meal: Salad with Pecans, Spring Onions, and Shredded Ricotta Salata dressed with Sweet Oil and Vinegar Dressing, Grilled Chicken seasoned with homemade seasoned salt, Pickled Beets
Evening Snack: Assorted homemade cheeses and salami, goat milk ice cream

Ingredients from today's menu from Sweet Garden Farm: Eggs, gogurt, lettuce, Spring Onions, Ricotta Salata, chicken, beets, evening cheeses, eggs and milk in goat milk ice cream

Monday, June 14, 2010

Catching Up

I apologize blog readers for taking so long to get a new post written. It's been a busy time here at Sweet Garden Farm, but things have quieted just a bit this week, so there's time to catch up. With that said, here goes:

Senior Does - Tigger is milking very well, I'm pleased. She's giving better than three pounds a day in her third month of lactation. Una, on the other hand is giving just over a cup a day. I should be getting another doe for milk in a week or two. Once my new doe arrives I should have close to a gallon a day between her and Tigger and be ready for some serious hard cheese making. Once she arrives I plan to dry off Una. I also do not plan to breed Una again. She does not produce enough milk to make her worth milking, and she has delivery problems. Unless something changes, I plan to just let her live her life here in comfort as a pet.

Doelings - Petals and Blossom continue to grow and thrive. They get one bottle a day now, in the late afternoon. They are eating hay and alfalfa pellets very well, and picking at grain. They were recently moved into the main barnyard with Tigger and Una. They do have their own little area with their shelter, hay rack, food, and water. Tigger and Una can't get into the little pen because the doorway is too small. I have a gate for entry. Tig and Una have shown the little ones that they are very much in charge, but Petals and Blossom (especially Blossom) have learned to scuttle out of the way when necessary.

Laying Hens - The layers are not producing the number of eggs I was hoping for. They are about 22 months old and have never properly molted, so I wonder if that could be the problem. I did use artificial light this past winter to keep the egg production going, which worked, but it probably confused their natural rhythm for molting. Some of them appear to be "partially molting." They have missing feathers on the necks and some on their backs. I'm getting 3-4 eggs a day from my 8 hens. My "guard rooster" is doing a great job fending off predators. Or, at least, I assume so. I haven't lost any hens since he arrived. He's a very, very nice rooster. He lets me collect eggs and walk amongst the hens without being threatening to me at all.

New Layers - We have a batch of 25 Rhode Island Red chicks in the brooder right now. They were one week old yesterday. They will be our new layer flock. I should have enough eggs in the Spring for ourselves and a few dozen a week to sell.

Meat Chickens - Our meat chickens are growing well. They are five weeks old, so in about a week or so we will start butchering the largest ones. We did lose one chick the first week. He couldn't stand very well and was obviously not going to make it, so we helped him along. Then, while moving the rolling cage one got his leg broken, so we butchered and ate him last week. On Sunday we noticed that one had been injured, we think during the thunderstorm. His crop was split open, his thigh skin was broken, and a wing was damaged. So Eddie butchered him on Sunday. We are letting him age until tomorrow when we will put him whole on the grill.

The first one we ate had the right flavor, but did seem a little firmer fleshed than the chickens from the grocery store. We are not sure if that is because we didn't age it, or because they naturally get more exercise when raised in this manner.

There's more to say, but wouldn't want to bore everyone, and I can't seem to get pictures to upload, so let me work on that and post again. I still need to update on the garden and cheesemaking...