Spring Garden

I haven’t posted for a while for a few reasons, mostly because I got out of the habit because of a few disappointing events regarding posts. One of which I did a lot of work documenting putting up an electric fence and lost it all. Secondly the weather was crap, we had lots of late freezes and snows along with a lot of rain.

However since then, just before April, we got some new chickens.

I normally get straight runs, meaning it’s a mix of male and female but this time I just got females. All the roosters normally got canned but as far as resale it’s the eggs and the hens can get canned when they are done laying. I do think it’s good to have roosters but I still have four.

The garden is in.

Last year I mentioned wanting to not till but under my conditions and abilities it didn’t work so I bought a tiller just wanting to hedge my bets on having a good garden.

Philosophical ideas on gardening are good but if you don’t get usable product the philosophy is useless. It is better to grow your own vegetables with chemicals than to buy from big business. That being said I’m still planning on organic fertilizers and not spraying pesticides but tilling is getting done right now.

Bees in Winter

I haven’t posted for a few days because I haven’t done much, the weather has been cold and wet, neither of which I like to get the boy out in.

One of my concerns in this type of weather are my bees, on the few warmer days they fly and use a lot of energy. I do feed them with pollen substitutes like Bee-Pro. I like Bee-Pro because I can put it in my shed and they come get it keeping the hive cleaner.

However when the temperature drops bees can and do get stranded. As silly as it is I picked up several bees that got too cold to fly back home and put them in a jar.

I brought the jar, with a lid, in the house, and warmed them up. After they started flying I took them back to the hives, opened the jar and they flew out, hopefully home.

Miserable weather is a good time for putting honey in jars as well.

One advantage to doing this in the winter is that there are fewer ants to deal with if clean up isn’t perfect.

Feeding Bees in Winter

If everything is right you probably don’t have to feed your bees but it’s good to check on them and in my book it’s better to feed than not. It’s been so cold I haven’t opened up the hives for a while. I listen from time to time and thought I had lost one because I couldn’t hear any buzzing but when I opened them today (38 degrees) found both hives alive. However in one hive the bee cluster was at the top of the frames. Generally bees feed up so it scares me they were at the top.

I fed both hives in two ways, one was the sugar water. I’m not sure how that’s going to work since it’s supposed to get to 5 degrees tomorrow but I think that is towards Wednesday so they should have 24 hours on it anyway.

The other way I fed them was putting a protein patty in the hive.

I wish I had taken pictures when I had the top of the hive off but all I could think about was getting it closed as fast as possible.

As a hive normally is there isn’t room for a patty so a spacer has to be made, about one and a half inches high.

The top and inner cover of the hive comes off and the spacer goes on.

A patty then gets set on top of the frames. I actually put half of this in each one because hive beetles eat it and lay eggs in it, I’ll add more if needed.

Unfortunately taking the hive apart breaks the seal so after I had the hive back together I taped the joint.

The crack between my spacer and hive body could be pretty hard on them so duct tape was put around the top of both hives.

The black at the top is the tape. Hopefully they will make it through the winter.

Freezing Temperatures and Livestock

I am in what is the southern United States, freezing isn’t rare but it’s not continuous either. I’m sure that those that are farther north have better methods for taking care of livestock but here are a few ideas.

My chickens have electric water heaters mostly because the volume is small, small volume equals quick freezing.

Many people want portable chicken coups but if you do have a portable coup powering heaters may be a problem if you live where it freezes. I would also consider lighting in winter months, I run lights until 9:00 pm or so because it most definitely effects egg production. Two reasons to have electricity to your coup regardless of whether it is a portable chicken coup or not.

My horses are not where I can get electricity so dealing with their water is a challenge. Since it’s 140 gallons it freezes a bit slower and I can use a sledgehammer to break the ice.

This week however we have 4 days of the week with the lows in the single digits. When it is this cold if I can I give them water in a bucket from the house.

Obviously this won’t work if you have many animals or can’t keep rotating buckets due to time.

Keeping hoses drained is very important, if you can put water in the water trough it will melt some of the ice and give more mass to the container slowing freezing.

My property slopes slightly so draining isn’t hard but even then I had some ice in the hose that formed in a depression I neglected. When I got the ice cleared the horses appreciated the water.

Processing Deer

Their are a lot of ways to process an animal, in this case deer, but I will just mention a few things I have learned.

I did just get back from a hunt.

Yes it’s a doe, the area I was hunting allows 3 antlerless deer a day during rifle season. Many people turn their nose up at the idea of killing does but the fact of the matter is that there are way to many does to bucks, additionally if all you kill are the biggest and best we are hurting the deer population only leaving the small and weak, the opposite of what nature does. This doe wasn’t small or weak but the doe/buck ratio is way off, naturally it would be close to 50:50 but now it seems to be more like 1 buck to 20 does.

Anyway for those that haven’t developed their own processing techniques here are a few tips. First off people often say deer are gamey tasting, I guess that can be true but that comes down to two ideas: first it’s not getting cooked right and secondly it’s not what we are trained to like.

First, cooking. Cooking the deer well helps get out the gamey taste along with good seasoning but my purpose here is not to give recipes but simple technique for use.

Generally speaking we grind everything, sure we keep a few hams, tenderloin, and back strap but probably 75% is ground. Ground deer can be used in everything that ground beef can be used in; lasagna, chili, tacos, stew, and whatever else you want with nothing additional added with the exception of ham burger patties. We serve ground deer all the time to people and they have no idea it’s not beef. We aren’t trying to trick anyone it’s just what we use. In regards to burger patties deer is too lean so fat has to be added to get it to stick together. I like my burgers cooked medium done which means pink in the middle therefore I don’t like deer burger because of the gamey taste.

As far as being trained to not like deer it’s really the free range taste we aren’t generally used too. We as people like consistency and deer browse here and there and depending on what is available they will taste different. It’s the same with free range or grass fed beef, I could raise a cow on grass at my place and you could raise its twin sister at your place and depending on what’s available they will taste different. If the cows were triplets instead of twins and the third was sent to a stock yard it would taste like any other cow at the grocery store because it was forced to eat corn for several months before slaughter.

The stock yards feed corn so you can buy a steak in California or Florida and they will taste the same. We like consistency, that’s why McDonalds and all the other fast food places are successful, a cheeseburger is a cheeseburger regardless of the location of the restaurant.

Getting to the grinding tips. First have several bowls, in one bowl put the pieces to grind and in another bowl put pieces you want whole.

For grinding cut the deer into small pieces. All your equipment should be easy to access.

We do use a KitchenAid stand mixer with a meat grinder, it’s not the best but it works and is versatile.

Cut as much of the solidified far and connective tissue off as you can, it’s white, it seems like a pain but it’ll save time later.

If you don’t remove the fat and connective tissue it may clog up your blade.

The top is starting to clog up, when I first started I let it get much worse and that’s ineffective and hard on the motor, regular cleanings help a lot.

Another bowl is needed for the ground meat.

After the grinding a scale is handy so everything can be consistent, we normally do 1 lbs bags using a vacuum sealer.

After being sealed the bags are labeled with date, type of meat, and weight. Technically plastic bags or the containers from the grocery store are not the best way to keep meat but they are the easiest. Vacuum sealing is the easiest way if you want to thaw in water later.

In short if your starting out grind almost everything, it’s easier to cook all the way through and it has many uses. Cut it small, cut out the fat(clogs the blade) and connective tissues. Label your packaging. Then enjoy some good chili on a cold day!

Starting a Wood Burning Stove

Obviously there are many ways to start a wood burner but it’s not always easy. Stoves are different too, I burn one all winter at home that heats our 1800 square foot home but I use another stove at a hunting cabin that never works real well for me.

With my stove it took many years to figure out the best way to start it, when my in-laws saw me do it they thought I was crazy at first because the first wood I put in were big pieces and then twigs.

What ends up happening is with the big pieces on either side it creates a nest to build up heat in the middle.

After the twigs burn a bigger piece can be put on the twig pile but it’s supported by the pieces on the left and right so the coals aren’t crushed and air flow still happens. After the third big piece catches fire your good and more can be piled on.

Works every time.