My sister came down yesterday from NC, to help out with stuff at the ranch while I’m gone (and to ferry kids around, etc., while my other sister is at the hospital with me).
My instructions for tonight, per the pre-op package: shower, put on clean jammies, wait two hours, then wipe myself down with the chlorhexadine wipes. Go to bed on clean sheets. In the morning, by 0545, I have to pour the 50g carb-loading drink down the tube. There’s also another wipedown with the chlorhexadine wipes. Then into clean clothes and at the checkin by 0745, with the OR time at 0945. It’s like flying anywhere, except with a ton more rules about how clean you have to be.
I understand the need for it these days, but it still amuses me.
I have been recording myself saying various things, so I’ll have that in my own voice versus whatever comes out of my face after the Big Op.
People keep asking me if I’m ready for this. I don’t think anyone is really ready for this. But I am prepared.
Things have been getting done left and right here as we moved toward crunch time. Early this morning, I put the second coat of primer/sealant on the medium hive bodies I built yesterday, and got the first coat of exterior paint on them. I cleaned out the chicken coop, moved it and the poultry fence to another area, got the girls (and Sir) into the new area, mowed down the pieces they didn’t clear all the way where they were, then went over the area they were in with the cultivator, and spread some cover crop seed. Then one of my sisters, her son, and I set up the grow bags for the sweet potato slips. I’m pouring dinner down the tube, and when I finish this, I will pop into my bee suit and go tot he beeyard to refill whoever needs feed. Later, I’ll put the second coat of exterior paint on the hive bodies and build some more frames so I’ll have enough frames to fill those (40 frames total; I built 20 yesterday).
So, yet another productive day at the ranch. Tomorrow, I’ll get to rest, albeit under general anesthesia. I have my laptop packed, so as soon as possible, I’ll be leeching off the hospital internet connection so I can work and play.
It’s going to be quite the ride, peeps, so buckle up. And be well.
Had a bit of a chat with some of the fam about this upcoming next stage of my life, to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. It isn’t the greatest news, but we’ll all get through it.
I spent a little time today learning about “passive yawning”, which is a technique used to smell – if you’re no longer breathing through your nose, guess what? No smelling for you! Now, I can certainly see instances where this is handy: cleaning the chicken coop, or not being able to smell the fart bombs my dogs generate. But, my sense of smell is exceptional, and that will definitely be something I will miss. It looks like this technique will allow for some intentional olfactory response. Too bad there’s no real solution for subconscious continual response as there is for regular breathing. Bummer.
In other news, one of the chickens managed to get herself out of the fenced pasture. I got her back in, then started looking around for an egg, because I didn’t know how long she had been out. It wasn’t terribly difficult to find that it had been long enough for her to miss her date with the nesting boxes in the coop.
Prior to that eggscapade, I had worked the bees, as it was a gorgeous day: warm enough for the bees to be flying, but not so warm that you’d melt inside your bee suit. I wound up splitting #10 (to #15), and #6, in a double split, to #1 and #20. Very nice.
Then, as evening closed in, I grabbed the pizza dough I’d made and rolled into balls yesterday out of the fridge and started stretching them. After that, it was into the oven for them for a parbake. From there, they are heading for freezing until the fam and friend group has set a date to come over and have a pizza assembly party. For that party, we have a group of people handling various pieces of the construction: sauce, veggies, meats, cheese, etc. Once made, we will then vacuum pack those, et voila! Pizzas that can be pulled out of the freezer and go right into the oven to bake for an easy, fast dinner.
And then: work work work. I’d created a todo list of some major items to get out of the way so I could write without having my brain yammer at me. That list is now the list I need to get done (or as much done as possible in some cases) before whenever the surgery date is. Before I go under the scalpel again, I have to get bloodwork done, have a couple of CTs, meet with the plastic surgeon so he can decide where to harvest the flap of skin that will be used for the primary surgery site, and so on. It’s going to be another medical adventure for me!
That’s it for today, which has turned into tomorrow as I put this together. As always, until next time, peeps: be well.
For some of the things you do in life, it’s far easier to learn by doing than it is to learn by theory by reading blog posts or by watching videos. This is not to say these things are not helpful, because they are, but sometimes you don’t get the little nuances unless you’ve done the Thing, whatever the Thing may be.
I think this is true of processing meat bird chickens. Raising them is quite easy, and that part can be learned by watching videos or reading instructables (note: I’ve no idea if there are instructables for raising meat bird chickens, but there are for just about everything else).
But videos of the processing of chickens doesn’t always includes all the steps. Some people don’t put in the dispatching of the chickens, or the evisceration. I’m not sure why that is, really: people should know how their food gets to their table, and while people like me, who process far smaller numbers than the big ag providers, have a slightly different process, our methods are – or should be – as humane as we can make them.
I took video last year as I was processing the meat birds I had raised. I did two batches: one in October and one in December. The first batch I did just to prove to myself that I could do it to feed my family. The second batch I did to feed my family and also see if I could trim some time off the processing of each bird, as I was going through the entire process by myself: none of the family wanted to be involved in it, although my mom did take the chickens out of their ice water bath I had plopped them in as I finished each one, weighed them, and got it into the fridge, ready to be broken down.
It took me about 19 minutes to go through the entire sequence of steps , from catching the live bird, to the processed bird resting in cold water.
All of this is just a big ol’ roundabout way to say I documented the chicken butchering process on video, and you can watch it if you want to. I put it after the fold, as I don’t want people showing up and then possibly being grossed out.
Generally, the meaties are well-behaved as they run to the feeder each morning.
From time to time, there will be a little squawking at one another if they can’t quite figure out there’s an entire area available and choose to try to muscle in on an existing arc of the circle there.
Sometimes, their laziness is so pronounced, they may choose to sit and just eat what the others are knocking out of the trough, like the meatie at seven o’clock here:
In the end, though, they all get to eat, and boy, do they eat.
The layers seem to be settling into a routine of an afternoon nap. For three days straight when I’ve headed out in the afternoon to check them, they’re all under the front of the coop near the ramp.
I can’t fault them for that – i deem naps a Very Good Thing.
At some point this coming week, I will get some hay into the nesting boxes at the back of the coop so they can start getting used to being in them. I’d prefer not to have to chase eggs everywhere when they begin to lay.
For both sets of birds, starting tomorrow, they will diverge from their feed type. The meaties will get a feed specifically for meat birds, and the layers one specifically for them, although I expect, now that they are out and foraging that they will eat less feed.
Another no-rain day here at the ranch. I guess Mother Nature is giving it some time to try to shrink some of the puddles that are still around so she can refill them.
The meaties went out on pasture after their second week in the brooder, for a couple of reasons. First, they are eating machines, and often crowded out the layers for awhile at each refresh time. Second, by that time, they were already twice the size of the layers, who are not bred to pack on so much weight in a short period of time. Third (and these items are in no particular order), to be frank about it, their poop really, really stinks. I suppose this is a byproduct of an animal specifically bred to gorge itself. But they are gaining size nicely, and will be ready for processing the first week of October, if we stay on track.
In any case, I moved the layers out to the chickshaw last week, and kept them locked up in the coop for a few days so they would understand this was now their home. Monday, I set up the poultry fence – kind of misnamed, really, as it’s designed to keep predators out, not chickens in, given that they can fly and sometimes even remember this fact – closing in their chickshaw and an area around it, and let them out on the grass.
One of the black ones that has been my pal since they were in the brooder was, of course, the first one to take those first steps down the ramp and into the great outdoors. Once they all got out, they acted just like chickens do: they roamed around (not far from the chickshaw, though) ate some grass and whatever else was there, tried to do a little dirt bathing without a lot of success.
We’ve simply had too much rain for that, so I’m going to get them a tub for inside the chickshaw, with sand (and DE mixed in) so they’ll have somewhere for a dirt bath.
I popped out there about half a dozen times today, to make sure they were all still alive and inside the fenced off area. At one point today, I let the dogs come out, too. While Mickey, my big, goofy border collie didn’t really care all that much about them, Einstein, my other dog, did. He’s a terrier mix, and assumed the hunter pose, one leg raised, body taut, when he realized those things smaller than him were something he wanted. Although I warned him away, he stuck his nose on the energized fence and got a quick lesson that these birds were not for him.
In a few months, these girls should start laying. For now, they need to get used to being out in the day and in the coop at night, safe from the critters that roam in the darkness.
It’s official: I’m calling it a season in the gardens.
For the fourth year in a row.
This does not make me happy. On the other hand, in previous years I was going through yet another bout of pneumonia. This year, it was just a sinus infection – but recovering from it took a month and a half. That month and a half is arguably the most important time for the gardens, as it took over May-June. If you get behind right there at the beginning of the real season, it’s likely you will never catch up, and indeed I did not. The plants I’d managed to transplant suffered, the plants I had yet to set out remained in their flats far too long, and the weeds absolutely strangled everything.
So as I looked at the gardens as I mowed today, despite that little voice telling me that yes, I could in fact get that next round of tomatoes planted and have them bear fruit as the calendar season closed out, I realized it simply was not going to happen.
Instead, what I’m going to do is just put the rest of the plants out of their misery and pull them for the compost heap (which, I might add, has a very thick layer of pine shavings and chicken poop on it now). And then: pull the weeds. Go to battle once more with the wisteria, which is well on its way to taking over the entirety of the east to northeastern corner of the front gardens. Take the metal sides off the rows and just have them as regular raised beds. Scoop all the rubber mulch out of the walkways in the gardens (and figure out what the hell to do with it all afterward). Lay down the commercial weedbarrier in the walkways, the same weedbarrier that covers the frames as they are right now, which is effective, although inevitably there will be weeds wherever there are holes in it, like where holes have been cut to do plantings or where the landscape staples puncture it. Get the cover crop seed in place so it can establish before we go into “winter” (I have half a row already germinated and really thick; the buckwheat came up first and has delightful little flowers on its tops.) Check all the grow light fixtures and toss the dead ones, order new ones.
There is more, of course. There is always more. There are still chickens to take care of (and one set to butcher around the first week of October) and bees to maintain. But when the list looks a bit overwhelming, I just take a deep breath and think: one step, then another. It can be done.
That’s right: the layer chicks! They’re getting larger – not as large as the Cornish meat birds, to be sure, but that’s ok. They’re not bred for meat.
In addition to getting their true tail feathers, they are also molting, which makes them look quite a bit like their dinosaur predecessors. The black one in the very center is my best pal. When I’m working on changing their water and feeder, she will fly right up and perch herself on my hand or forearm. I wonder if that will last when I evict them from their brooder and into the chickshaw?
Speaking of that sort of thing, I ordered some electrified poultry netting yesterday, and it will be here on Thursday. After I get a practice round of setting up the fence, then moving it, I’ll be setting these girls in the great outdoors. They’ll be in the chickshaw coop for a couple of days, to get used to that being the place they’ll go each night, and then I’ll let them out onto pasture, with the fence around the area. The poultry netting is not really to keep the birds in, but rather to keep other critters out. Raccoons especially seem to like chicken heads, and we lost a chicken due to a ripped off head the last time we had chickens – because chickens are not smart enough to not stick their head through a fence to look at a raccoon hanging out on the other side of it.
In a couple of months, we should be getting our first eggs from these girls. It’s going to be great!
After a pretty heavy storm back in July, we got a nifty double rainbow at the ranch: sharp, full colors, courtesy of Mother Nature.
I had been doing really well both with the daily blog posts and with the writing toward the novel, but got derailed because (as usual) I shift a ton of energy to all the things that are on the todo list – which of course never ends – for the business. By the end of the day, between the chickens, bees, and work on the property/in the gardens, and the work work added on top of that, I’m usually falling asleep at my desk.
So, I have to rein in the “everything has to be checked off every day!” portion of the brain and divert that energy into writing. I’ve recruited one of my sisters to act as an accountability person for me, just to ask me if I got my writing done each day around her bedtime hour.
I keep having specific scenes for books other than the one I’m working on primarily, and ideas for other books come zipping into my brain all the time. I suppose this is a good problem to have, Focus. Focus. Focus. Get the first one done. Then you’ll know you can do it, and the next one should be easier in reducing that gut-wrenching worry about finishing something. Anything.
For two days this week, we had no rain. That’s both good and bad, as we were working on a couple of projects: my brother on the chickshaw that will hold the layer birds, and me on the chicken tractor for the meat birds. His was a much more complicated build than mine (and the finished product looks awesome, thanks, bro!).
I had an issue with a couple of the joints on the tractor, and I thought I was going to have to break those joints and redo them. Now, naturally when you create a PVC joint with cement, you want them to be there forever (or as close as forever you can get). And, if you do a search on how to break a cemented PVC joint, there are tons of people telling you it cannot be done – they say resign yourself to your fate and hacksaw the joint out and redo it completely because cement is forever.
These people have never heard of chemistry, I expect. Of course joints can be broken, just like (say) cemented bricks can be broken. For the latter, it’s just a matter of brute force with a hammer and chisel or (in larger settings) a jackhammer. For PVC, brute force is unlikely to work – but really, you just need to heat the joint in order to break the bond the chemical reaction creates when cement is applied to the PVC. If you have lots of toys, you can superheat a piece of metal that fits inside the joint, leave that in place for a minute or two, and then remove the metal and pull apart the joint. Or, you could just use a heatgun and aim it at the joint. As it happened, I did not have to redo any joints.
And then, it rained. A ton: just over an inch and a half in about half an hour. At the peak of the downpour, it was falling at a rate of over four inches an hour.
I had put a temporary tarp on the tractor, just to see how it would look It lost its tiedowns.
Einstein kept watch over things.
This morning, I went out to take a look at it, and found that Mother Nature yesterday called out all those people who claimed joints couldn’t be broken.
The design obviously needs a bit more support on the crossbars. The original design uses metal roofing panels on the back end, which lends a tad more structural support, but I can’t use that here, as then we’d have our own personal solar powered chicken roaster. But as to the joints: I found these two broken joints..
These are where the door to the front of the pen lies and the second crossbar, respectively.
Do you know how hard it is to get a section of PVC back in when the two ends are not easy to completely get to and when the entire section would need to be disassembled? I managed to get it back in place with (new) cement, then added a brace at the joint where the door sits on the first crossbar.
I hung up the waterer at the front of the pen, and the food at the rear, for two reasons: one, so the feed wouldn’t get wet – the feeder has an open top. Two, it’s to force them to get some exercise, versus just plopping down and spending the rest of their days parked in front of the food and water, were they together.
Then, it was time to separate the meats birds from the layers and toss them out into their new home. Mother Nature decided to join the party.
I had to hustle to beat the gigantic storm that was showing up on the radar, so I went to the brooder and captured the meaties, putting them into a bin for transport. For all their squawking when I was catching them, they calmed right down and settled nicely.
I put the birds, bin and all, into the tractor, then slowly tipped the bin to its side to give them access to the open ground. They were hesitant to leave the bin initially, but finally made their way out.
The storm was advancing, so I left the birds to figure things out (and hopefully, one of those things to figure out was to get out of the rain, since they are generally not terribly bright).
I went out after the first round of rain and only found a small pool of water on the tarp, so that’s promising. I also found them all piled into the bin, which I’d left in place on its side, and which I will leave there throughout their growth. I had to crawl into the back end of the tractor and toss some food into a trail to lead to the feeder. They hadn’t quite made it before the storm forced me back inside.
This is their first night out in the tractor on the grass. I’m restraining myself from popping out there with the flashlight to see how they are. Either the tractor is secure and they will be fine, or it is not, and something will get them (and I will learn a lesson from that). I’m hoping they’ll find the waterer. I’ve had the same type of waterer in the brooder (sitting on a brick versus hanging) since the end of their first week, and if they can’t keep that in their tiny brains, I’ll have to crawl in once more.