June 15, 2012
★ An Update in Backyard Farming (Summer 2012)

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Three months ago, I wrote a post about the snow melting and listing off a few aspirations for this year. Most of the time, my public statements change a bit by the time I actually carry out plans. The plan for this summer was multifaceted and it’s a long post so here are a few of the ideas I was interested in following through on as the summer continued.

  1. Get more laying chickens
  2. Get meat chickens
  3. Get some ducks for laying and for eating
  4. Get some pigs
  5. Re-Plant my garden
  6. Start brewing beer
  7. Roasting my own coffee beans

I’ve taken up all of these except for roasting my own coffee beans. I’ll do this at some point this year but it just hasn’t happened yet. Machines run about $150 but the beans are relatively cheap. The advantage to roasting your own beans is you get a far better extraction as the oils in the beans are still fresh and recently brought alive. If you want great coffee, you want to have fresh beans. So, it’s a goal of mine that I’ll work on at some point.

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April 7th: Picked up 8 layer chickens that were each 19 weeks old.

Picking up Chickens 2012

It took a full month for them to start laying and now they are in full production. I get 6-8 eggs each day from them and they are all now fully grown. I am their rooster. They squat and do a little dance every time I walk by them and i scratch their back. The sometimes are allowed to roam the back yard usually in the evenings but, for the most part, their entire diet is layer pellets and water. I change their pine shavings bedding once a week and change their water every few days. They are very low maintenance animals to keep and love giving eggs for me to eat. These birds I’ll keep for a while as they keep laying until year 3 and some time beyond that. I’ll have to insulate the coop but they’ll get by and I may add two more birds next year to the flock.

In July, I’ll be getting 10 more chickens. These will be meat birds. Those grow fast and are able to be slaughtered at the 2 month mark. So, I’ll get those and slaughter them around late-September and they’ll go right in the freezer. 

Chickens Grazing

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May 23rd: 3 Indian Runner Ducks arrived…then my neighbors got a 4th duck and then another neighbor gave me her two baby ducks. Now, I have 5 Indian Runners each about 4 weeks old as well as another breed that I can’t really tell yet around the same age. The birds are starting to get some feathers coming in. For now, we keep them inside at night and in a pen during the day. Once their feathers come in, they’ll be integrated with the chickens and reside in the same coop. They each can eat the same food and the ducks will roost with the hens. I will let the ducks out to play in my river on days that I get off work to decent weather.  In the fall, these ducks will most likely be eaten throughout the winter. I don’t imagine I’ll keep them around but we’ll see how well they do once the cold really sets in. I know people who keep them year-round but they are very dirty birds so, for now, the plan is slaughter.

Raising Ducks

Raising Ducks

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Pigs: On June 1st, pigs arrived at the cabin. I built their pen in the back yard near the river at the end of April. It’s hog panels at about 12×12 feet which is quite a bit of space. This picture is hard because there are no leaves yes on the tress but the area is very shaded and with lots of trees and roots to enjoy. We had a door up now, 4×4 shelter and rocks on the inside to discourage rooting under the fence. 

The Backyard Pig Pen under construction

Here they are. They’re from Pennsylvania because I couldn’t find any reasonable prices on local piglets so I got these. They were $100 and arrived 1 month old at 50 pounds with all of their shots and a vet on-site making sure they’re at peak health.

Raising Backyard Hogs

Raising Backyard Hogs

Raising Backyard Hogs

These pigs will last through until the fall when I slaughter them. I am still undecided on having a professional come out and process it with me or sending it to a local place. I want to do all of the work myself so we’ll see how the planning goes. I had hoped to kill one of these for July 4th but they won’t be large enough yet and not enough people are coming anyway. I’ll just keep both and have close to 500 pounds of live weight to slaughter and process sometime in October.

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April – ?: Brewing beer. I’ve brewed 4 batches of beer now all from pre-made kits. I just picked up the ingredients to do a partial grain kit using some ingredients from some popular  home brewing message boards. I’m going to “brew in a bag” the grains and make another 5 gallon batch. By next week I’ll have brewed 25 gallons of beer. It’s a lot of fun! 

1st HomeBrew - Adding Extract

1st HomeBrew - Adding Hops

1st HomeBrew - The Break

1st HomeBrew - Siphoning

1st HomeBrew - Wort in the Cellar

Kegging my Double IPA

Then, 2 weeks ago I picked up a fridge and setup a kegerator. There are two taps going now but I’m adding two more next week. I’ll have 4 beers on tap at the house. The line up as of next week will be a Maple Wheat beer, Imperial Stout, Double IPA and American Pale Ale. I have a big selection of swing-top growlers so most of my beer will be going to friends to drink. I don’t plan on drinking everything I brew. Just trying to get better and hopefully learn a few things about beer along the way! It’s a lot of fun.

Setting up my Kegerator

That’s the kegerator. The stickers were not my choosing but it runs well and is located on my enclosed porch so we can use it year round. This also gives me some more freezer space for the pig, chicken and duck meat I’ll have. 

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The Garden is an ongoing project. I don’t have photos of it from this year yet because the crops haven’t really taken off yet. Basically, the entire field is planted with all kinds of vegetables. Last month, we got two truck loads of cow manure and added another truckload of enriched grow-fast soil. Also, for all of April and May, I let the chickens graze on the garden and eat bugs. They left behind some manure that we then tilled all together to make a very rich soil for vegetables. 

Last year, the garden was a total failure. I’ve taken extra steps this year to ensure things are a success. Then, I’ll be canning veggies for the winter. Not sure what the yield will be but I planted a crap load of food. I’ll post an update when that is going full speed.

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So, that’s it! In two months, there have been a lot of changes at my little cabin in the woods. As always, people are welcome to rent my cabin for the day or week. Ping me if you’re interested in renting it. I’m always looking for guests to stay and help me with chores. Feeding the pigs is a lot of fun!

Thanks for reading.