Monday, October 31, 2016

So You Want To Raise Chickens

Our Chicken Adventure 2016

As you may know we have had layer chickens since late June 2015. We decided this year that we wanted to try our hand at raising our own meat chickens. We did some research and thought we would go with the Frey's Dual Purpose breed (a slower growing breed) to avoid the problems people found with other quick growing meat breeds.

We had prepared a coop that would keep our layers separated from the new birds. We were very pleased that entire structure could be made from recycled materials. Our research had told us that the birds would not mix well and that the new birds needed to be about the same size before we could think about introducing any of the hens into our layer flock. This was another reason we chose the Dual Purpose breed. We thought we may like a few to be kept as layers.

In early July we picked up our order at the local pet store. In our area that is the easiest option for getting birds. We had ordered 15 3 week old unsexed chicks. We chose that age as we do not have the ability to have the heat lamp that is required for day olds and unsexed as it was a slightly cheaper option and to broaden our experience since to date we have only had hens.

Here is the first look at our new additions on our YouTube channel

Initially the chicks were confined to a small portion of the coop. This was done in part to help them keep warm as the nights can get rather chilly for a young bird. We also wanted to be sure there were no corners in the area as young chicks are notorious for piling up on each other and a corner is the best place for them to lose their young lives. You can see video on how we started them out in the coop here.

And here they are at 5 1/2 weeks using the full coop.

Just shy of 15 weeks later we thought it time to try our hand at butchering. Since this was being done outside we had to be sure the weather was right and not wait too long as it would be cold before you know it. We picked the first rooster and Ed, who had watched many how-to videos, was the one with the knife. We have a few videos of the process which you can see on our Northern Dirtbag YouTube channel. There is one of the butchering, one for the plucking, one for the final hanging step and lastly one of the finishing. The first one was dry plucked so that we could experience the process.

The first rooster was finished and Tricia had a try at peeling chicken feet. It's not difficult. You slip them into boiling water for about 20 seconds and then the skin just peels right off. We had people ask why we peeled them. Tricia had never used feet before but wanted to as an addition for stock making. It was what we saw on a video is the simple answer but after being asked we investigated further and found that chicken feet purchased at a store are nice and clean (not sure of the process and don't want to know) so that most don't peel those. Also we found that some people don't like the flavour the skin adds to the stock. While the feet do make the stock much more gelatinous we don't know if there is much change in the flavour but we skinned our chicken feet for this first go.

We were quite happy with our accomplishment and had the chicken for dinner that night. It was DELICIOUS!

We had 16 chickens left. 7 roosters and 9 hens. We thought 4 new additions to the layers would be sufficient. Thanks to Google we learned that one way to add birds to your flock is to add them after dark. We did one the first night and found in the light of day that she had been picked on by the other girls. The next night we added another and that seemed to help. The remaining two were added the next night  and they all seem to get along now. We were concerned that we saw no eggs in the other coop, even though they had nesting boxes. There have now been a few tiny eggs, some which are soft shelled and a couple outside the boxes, in the run, which we attribute to our new hens.

 That left us with 12 chickens to get ready for freezer camp. Oh and yes we are very pleased that our new solar set up allows us to run a freezer in the warmer weather. We decided to switch to dipping the birds into hot water to make the plucking easier and faster. Fortunately we have some very kind neighbours who loaned us a propane burner. That made getting and keeping warm water much easier. We planned to do 4/day for 3 days. Thankfully we started with the roosters as the hens were definitely easier and it would have been a shocker had we started the other way.

We now have a freezer full of chicken. We look forward to once again enjoying chicken dinners and the leftovers that inevitably come when you cook a whole chicken for only two people. Tricia is excited to again be making her own stock and the soup options that follow. This will be her first try at cooking stock on the woodstove. We only have the small woodstove in the trailer but winter's cold means it runs non-stop and she loves to keep her stock cooking for 24 hours.

We are still planning what we will do next year but this years experience means that we feel quite comfortable raising and butchering our own chickens.

Have your raised your own chickens? Or maybe you have cows, goats or rabbits? Share your animal raising adventures with us in the comments. We love to read the experiences of others.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Tea from Nature

Look to The Ground to Raise Your Spirits

We are tea lovers. Ed cannot start his day without his pot of tea. Sweet and light is how he likes it. Tricia steers away from caffeine so her preferences are Rooibos, Fruit and Herbal teas. Although she will have an occassional caffeinated tea if the flavour sounds yummy.

Living in the bush has offered us a new tea type - Nature's Tea.  While there are many options available, the more you look, a couple of  our favourites are Cedar tea and Pineapple Weed tea.

Cedar tea many people know about. You can gather the amount you need from a local bush. Watch that it isn't close to traffic or in an area that is sprayed. Natives will suggest you offer tobacco to the tree in thanks. We were happy to learn that Cedar is a good source of vitamin C and when you are trying to eat local in the dead of winter that is just as comforting as the warmth of the tea itself.

Be aware of the possible toxic effects of drinking too much Cedar tea. Cedar is not dangerous topically (Cedar bathes and using cedar as an insect repellant) but limit yourself to one cup per day of tea as there is a substance call Thujone in Cedar which in small doses is fine however in larger doses it causes damage to brain, kidney and liver cells, causes convulsions, and can be lethal. Do your own research.

Here is a simple Cedar tea recipe which you can reduce for smaller quantities.

Take 2-3 branches (approx. 150-250g) and boil in about 4 liters of water for ten to twenty minutes. Pour out the first boil, and fill with the same amount of water. Bring to a boil for five minutes, then simmer on low heat for another five minutes. Remove the Cedar.

Once boiled a first time the tea is safe because most of the oil and dirt have been removed. You can reuse the same cedar over again up to four times. After four times the tea is too weak for a medicinal effect but you may still enjoy the flavour.

Pineapple Weed tea was something we had never heard of prior to moving up North. The weed is abundant but you may have just over looked it. The flower heads really do look like little pineapples. And they smell yummy when you crush them between your fingers.

The first time Tricia tried making it she collected the weed not knowing that it was only the heads that were used for the tea. 

It doesn't take much to make yourself a cup or two. A small handful will easily brew a couple of cups or half a pot. 

Just let them steep in freshly boiled water until the flavour you desire is reached. Think of Chamomile tea, it is that mild if only steeped briefly. 

The colour is as light as the flavour but Tricia found that she enjoyed leaving it steep until it was cold and said the flavour, although definitely tasting 'green', was very nice. 

Have you tried other teas from Nature? Let us know in the comments and if you too are a tea lover send us an email message as Tricia has a special note for you. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

When The Dog Wakes You To Go Outside

A Morning Not Soon Forgotten

At anytime during the night our dog Tono can, quietly, with just a simple whimper, wake Ed from a dead sleep to let him know he wants outside. It can happen at anytime. It can happen multiple times throughout the night. But on this day Tono did something he has never done. 

On the morning of July 5th Tono barked to wake us. Not thinking much of it Ed got up and went to the first door, we have two, to let the dog out. As he did so Tono began to huff and puff making Ed think the dog was smelling something. Tono is a mix of Akita, Husky and Wolf and his sense of smell is incredible. He often barks out in the bush and we know he is scaring off whatever it is he smells out there.

On this morning, as Ed opened the outside door, he noticed the BBQ had been upturned. He was lucky to see anything as Tono flew past him and bolted around the corner of the entry. That solidified Ed's notion that Tono was on the hunt for something. I thought that I heard more than just Tono sounds outside. Ed looked out the window and saw what had Tono's attention, a BEAR. Right there just a few feet in front of him there was a full sized Black Bear. Ed made sure that I knew what was going on and I jumped out of bed to get a look. Knowing that Tono was no match for a full sized bear Ed yelled for him to stay away and grabbed the 22 and a magazine of ammo. I grabbed the camera. I was able to snap a couple of shots through the screen door before Ed fired off a few rounds in the general direction of the bear in the hopes that he would take his leave.

And he did. He scurry off into the bush. Thankfully Tono kept close by and didn't pursue the bear although he wasn't interested in heading back inside.

Certainly a morning where we could not return to sleep after all that excitement and one that will be remembered and recited for quite some time.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Video Viewing Statistics

How Long Do You Watch?

It is interesting when you get stats on the views of your videos.  Do you know that the owner of the video has access to not only the views but the length of time you watch and also whether you watch with sound on or off?

We put up a video update on Facebook and found that only 38% of the video was watched on average. That tells us that a 1:14 video posting is a waste of bandwidth when only 27 seconds is being watched.

There were 4 videos made on the same day and only one has been posted thus far on Facebook. The remaining 3 were uploaded to our YouTube Channel and are scheduled to be posted over the next 3 days. Interestingly YouTube average video viewing time is even less than Facebook at a meager 18 seconds. It will be particularly interesting to watch the stats of the different videos and see how they vary. Will they all have the same short attention span viewership? Will people be bored by a video each day? It really is interesting to have the stats available and to learn how to interact with people as they desire.

Things are busy around here so it may be the easiest way to reach people and let's face it, if they are only watching for 30 seconds tops it is quick and easy to meet them where they want.

This is a quite different post for our blog but we would like to hear from you. Do you have a blog or Facebook page that you manage? What have you found your followers enjoy or do you even look at your stats? Share your thoughts whether as a follower or a fellow blogger. How long do you watch video?

And to make it easy for our blog followers here are the videos we posted on YouTube. You'll have to click on the link for the Facebook video but you don't need a facebook account to watch it.

Our Garden View

Chicken Enclosure

Tono Debugging Roll


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Living In The Bush Changes Your Sense Of Time

Has It Really Been Ten Months?

Where to begin? The last ten months have flown by. We have been able to keep our Northern Dirtbags Facebook page active with bits and bites but this blog has sadly fallen by the wayside. Firstly there was the bandwidth issue. We found it very difficult to stay within the 15G limit that our cell data provided and the blog was the first thing to be abandoned. The second difficulty came from having only tablets for internet access. That meant writing of any length was tedious and uninviting. Well, things have changed. We found a cell package that increased our data AND we purchased a laptop. Now the blog can be updated as easily as we have found updating Facebook.*

*In case you aren't on Facebook our page can be viewed by the public at here. You can see all the posts. The limitation is that you cannot comment without an account. But please browse and update yourself at your leisure.

Tricia actually has blog pictures and thoughts from last year ready to go and plans to get started on updating immediately. You may see the things that happened out of order and they may not be in sync with the current season but we will update you on our goings on for the last ten months as well as what we are doing in real time. If you have been waiting for an update thanks for your patience. We really appreciate you sticking with us. 

In the meantime here is a little taste of what, over the winter, became Tricia's photographic joy - frost on the trailer windows.

And in case you love frost as much as she does, here is the full size image that you can zoom and see the gorgeous detail. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Over the winter we decided to get started on our chicken adventure in 2015

Over the winter we decided to get started on our chicken adventure in 2015. We decided to start small and see how it would go. Ordering ready to lay birds from our local supply store only gave us one date for delivery, June 30th

Come June we started the prep work to get this up and running. Ordered 164’ of electric poultry net fencing and a solar charger to power it. Plans were perused online for a coop, skimming the features that we wanted to use in ours. The coop was cobbled together with gifted and recycled wood as much as possible. Only a few sheets of 4x8 were purchased to complete the structure and hardware for latches and such.

 I’m not well versed in standard stick frame construction and do things a little backwards on small buildings like the coop and outhouse. My builder buddy would likely cringe with how I get them up but I know he was impressed by our ‘Cadillac’ of an outhouse! After toiling and swearing, and toiling some more, we finally had a structure. We put Ice and Water Shield on the roof and Tricia coated it with some paint we had around. The Coop De Jour was done!

 An area was prepped for the netting enclosure and one of the 27 4’x4’x4’ wire cubes we were gifted was mounted to the front of the coop as an outdoor safe run. Bought a waterer and made a feed tube out of 3” pipe. A lot of work and time but all in all the chickens and us are quite pleased with the results. I know the Girls are happy because you don’t expect eggs for the first 2-4 weeks they say. We got 2 eggs in the first couple hours of their arrival and a total of 9 by the end of the first week. In this first whole week since we have gotten 25 more small, delicious eggs from our Girls. Plans already in the works for more layers and meat birds next year.

 Now time to start getting some bags down and walls up on the house.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Gorgeous Sunny Morning

Why I bypassed dishes and making the bed

Let me preface this post by saying that I do my evening dishes the next morning. I know that is not for everyone and there are those who would tell me that waking up to dirty dishes just starts your day off poorly. But it works for me. I admit that there are nights I will make the effort to get them done but that is few and far between. There, I got that out in the open. My nasty little secret. I am extremely lazy after I eat dinner.
Waking up out here in the bush in the winter is quite different than in the city. There is no traffic to break the silence. Not even neighbours starting their cars to let you know it is “that” time. Yes we do have a clock but it is not visible from the bed. So, it’s wake up when you wake up* and the light from the window may give you an indication of the time. On moonless winter nights, if there is any light coming in the window, you can guess it’s anywhere from 4:30-7:00 based on the amount of light. On nights where the moon is full it can look like there is a streetlight beaming right outside. I’ve become very good at estimating the time when I wake now. It’s a skill I’m happy to have acquired. Although it doesn’t help me fall back to sleep when I know it’s only 3 am. But I live with that when it happens.
Today was one of the many, full on, sunshine coming in, blinding me, in case I felt like staying in bed, days of late. I am by no means complaining, since as you know, sunshine is pretty much our lifeblood. The winter looks stunning out here in the sunshine and I love starring out the window admiring the beauty of it as I go through my morning ritual of doing the dishes. Generally I stay in and get through all the morning chores while Ed heads out and does his outdoor stuff. Depending on exactly what chores are needing attention, it can be almost lunch time by the time I am finished. I felt I was missing something by not getting out earlier in the day. Today I decided to change my routine. I had my morning lemon water followed by my protein shake and then got on my outdoor gear and headed out. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do, but I was going to do it outside this morning.
Tono didn’t want to follow me as I headed down the road. But that didn’t concern me. Ed would be out soon enough and Tono was likely waiting for him. I headed down towards the river. The snow was crunching like styrofoam under my boots. If you know me, that is a sound/feeling I hated down south. This too has become something to which I am now just accustomed. I made sure I came out with my sunglasses as the reflection off the snow, as beautiful as it is, can be hard on the eyes. I also had my camera neatly tucked under my coat hanging on a lanyard. You don’t know how happy I am that I have found a way to keep the batteries in picture taking condition. I had no idea that cameras do not like the cold. So off I went to enjoy whatever nature had to share with me today.
There was so much drawing my attention. The glistening diamonds that come from the snow in the sunshine, the trees holding the last snowfall,l heavy on their branches. It was then that Ed caught up to me. He walks this every morning and began to tell me about the cat, moose and rabbit tracks that were there from the previous days. Then we saw fresh tracks. Definitely cat, likely lynx. I have seen a lynx out here once on an early morning drive. Not really nearby, even though we are seeing the tracks, very close, pretty much daily. Lynx are more nocturnal as are the rabbits they hunt. I still have not managed to see one of the snowshoe hares either.

We continued and were assaulted by the sound of, what turned out to be, a pine grosbeak. It was loud and just out of camera view. Then the chickadees started. I hear them regularly but once again getting a picture was not going to happen. As I watched the chickadee jump from branch to branch, feeding on whatever could be had from the snow covered trees, I noticed a flock of birds just up the road. I thought they seemed to be of a similar red colouring to the pine grosbeak but not as big. They would fly off as I approached but come back to feed on whatever had caught their interest on the road. I walked very slowly, taking pictures as I went. Take a step, take a picture. I got as close as I could before they took off for a final time. While I still had not been able to get a look that would allow me to say they were more than LBJs (little brown jobs), I felt lucky that my camera would come to the rescue, as it has so many times before, and show me what my eyes could not see.
My hands were quite cold by this time.  Ed headed back as he was getting cold,  but I did stop on the walk home and take a few more pictures of the scenery and the snow covered cabin that has not been used since the end of hunting season this .

Once inside and warming up with a coffee in hand we looked through the pictures. As I thought, the chickadee and pine grosbeak could not be captured. The greatest surprise was the flock of birds that turned out to be white-winged crossbills, both male and female. I was very happy to have captured a picture that allowed me to say they were not simply LBJs.

Dishes are still waiting and the bed will likely just have the covers pulled up for today but I had a morning to remember and the dishes didn’t even notice.


*For those who do not know, I am extremely grateful to work with a wonderful company.  I am a health and wellness, network marketing professional. I buy safe products from my own store in the cloud and teach others to read ingredient labels, get safe products and have their own store if they so desire. That means I am my own boss and can make an income even while we are living out here in the bush.