Guineas

Our flock of guineas have grown from 15 or so to nearly 30. We have two age groups – they are about four months apart.  Our older group are the traditional color, our newer group are lavender.  Both groups are very talkative and I have a hard time competing with them.  The two groups do not tend to flock together, but will hang out with each other.  They have an internal GPS for where home is, and home is the chicken yard for all of them.  We want them to eat the bugs that may find their way into the garden.  They are just old enough to fly out but not all have figured out how to get back in.

guineas 1

guineas 2

guineas 3

Guineas are not the same as chickens. At all. They are noisy, flighty, stubborn, scared, and can always find their way home. (In theory the chickens should know where home is. We have yet to truly have that theory prove out.) They are also notoriously bad mothers. As we’d like to eventually (i.e. this coming summer season) have flocks of guineas in the olives to help manages the ants, catipillers, etc., we have to have a brood flock. Megan refuses to spend her days hunting for guinea nests in the olives. So we have a flock in the front garden to produce eggs for the incubators. If the whole plan works, next year we hope to get a flock “homed” to the olives.

Hola

campo la piccolina

It is hard to keep writing when the farm progress is not very noticeable and yet it keeps us busy.    This picture is us, from our neighborhood road.  The front portion with dirt is where we just finished digging out the cannel and spreading out the excess dirt.  We have now broken up the clay soil, fertilized, and seeded it.  This is where the geese and ducks spend their days.

We have sent many chickens, roosters, and rabbits to freezer camp.  And since we still had room in the freezer,  several sheep who did not respect the electric fence also went to freezer camp.  Then because we were interested in selling a group of our heifers, and have yet to eat any of our own beef, we sent a steer to camp.  The beef has nice flavor but not as tender as we had hoped.  Jon thinks it is because we did not let it “hang” for a few days.  The lamb was fantastic, since prior to this lot, we had only been eating older sheep.  When I went into the butcher’s to purchase some liver for the cats, he made comment that he hasn’t seen us in awhile.  This was our goal, to grow our own food.

I have been cleaning rabbit cages and worm bins, chicken waters and brooder pens.  Slowly things are getting back to normal before everything stopped for harvest.

We have had several garden beds ready to plant, but without any rain we have been waiting.  We took three beds and just broke up the soil, fertilized, and spread seed.  We are hoping for feed for the animals.  The green houses are HOT and are watered daily if not twice.  We are getting tomatoes and salad green and the kale is still very hardy.  We have peppers of all types flourishing.  Eggplant seedlings are growing.  We have yet to plant any seed boxes because of the heat, but we have the extra bales of alfalfa and the garden tools taking up space in the working green house.

When it gets too hot to be in the sun, the guys have been cleaning the bosque.  They have been trimming the eucalyptus branches and cutting off any sprouts at the bottom from the main trunk.  It is looking better, but I have a had time seeing progress when the branches and wood piles are scattered within the grove and not pulled out.

The rest of the huerta looks good.  Between the tractor to help trim the pasture and no rain to help things grow, we actually look “neat and tidy.” I know we are a working farm in progress, and someday everything will have it’s place.

 

Hides

Megan has done a nice job keeping up with tanning the sheep and rabbit hides.  She has read a lot about how to tan hides and there are many ideas out there.  Megan has tried several different ways.  Recently she read about how to preserve the rabbit feet and tail and it too went smoothly.  We have finally slaughtered one of our heifers for us. We are now eating our very own home grown beef!  But that also gave us a cow hide, and a decision  of what to do.  After talking with the guys we learned that there is no market for cow hides, there is no place that will process them, what everyone does is to just bury them in a hole with the entrails. O.K. so now what?  Megan was ready to bury ours, but then the guys all said what a big hide! what a thick hide! what a shame not to do something with it!  So Megan went on the internet and found a straight forward way to tan the hide, and we are off with another experiment.

hides

Underside with the cow hair.

hide cow

We’ve been told the only thing to do with a cow hide is to make a rug.  We’ll see.

Supplemental Feed

We have shared how the entire area is low on pasture due to the lack of rain.  So we, as others in our area, have decided to purchase supplemental feed to get the animals through the winter,  We purchased both bales of dried pasture (mixed ryegrass, alfalfa, lotus, fescue, st.augustine, etc.) and grain rations.  Predications are that both will become scarce and expensive as winter does her thing.  But, I do have to say that my eyes grew large as this truck appeared in our driveway wanting to know where to unload.

supplemental feed 1

The truck with the grain ration bags also pulled in behind the hay truck.

supplemental feed 2

So after unloading many heavy bags of rations into the galpon, the guys helped unload hay bales weighing about 400 pounds each.

supplemental feed 3

supplemental feed 4

Next came organizing the bales in the yard.

supplemental feed 7

supplemental feed 5

42 bales lined up in two rows, hopefully will last us long enough.  After all we are a small farm.

 

Surprise ! A Tomato Lover

Megan went to the garden to pick ripe produce.  We have one tomato plant that is not in a cage, we let it vine on the ground just to see how it would do.  Well, it did ok until:

iguana and tomatoes

This Iguana was laying in the middle of the plant with a tomato in his mouth.  Three more tomato skins surrounded him.  He was so full he did not even move when we approached a second time with the camera.  We did not think about Iguanas eating our garden. And as the neighbors were astounded that an iguana would eat tomatoes we weren’t being ignorant. Nobody would have thought to guard the tomatoes from the iguana!

Mare

Well, I lied,  we did add another animal to our farm.  We purchased a three year old mare for Oscar to ride.  It was sad and inefficient  to watch Alejandro ride his horse to round up and move sheep and cattle and Oscar walking along behind or running along beside. Easier for one to open and close gates but the rest of the work, not so much.  Now we have two horses for two riders and things should happen a little more efficiently.  Remember that Alejandro’s horse is named “Horse”, so Oscar’s horse is named “Mare” according to the guys, so we can differentiate between the two. I think we need a new name.

Mare 1

Mare 2

Mare 3

Mare 4

Mare 5

The new mare is the same breed as Alejandro’s horse, Criolla, which is the local breed. Same coloration as well. Except for size you could think you were seeing double. We let the two horses get to know one another for about a week, then Alejando loaned Oscar his tack and they took their first ride.  Both Oscar and Mare did fine.  Now we are looking to purchase used tack for Oscar, but despite having to ride bareback both boys have been out working the large animals with both horses.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Most days are long and exhausting  – both mentally and physically. We are building a business, which is demanding in and of itself; but it’s a business that we knew nothing about, in a different culture, and in a different language. When we finish before dark (not necessarily the norm in summer), and haven’t the energy to work on paperwork, email, or this blog, we really (REALLY) like to just sit and relax.  While Jason and Amy were here, we made time to do some of the more relaxing activities of summer: we played cards twice, had afternoon cookouts  with friends, and once or twice we just sat and visited.

Amy relaxing

Jason breakfast

Jon relaxing

father and son relaxing

As we keep trying to remind ourselves, we ARE self-employed. So we should be able to make time for the good things in life. Sometimes we even manage to do so.

 

Clean, park-like pasture

With our new tractor, and with Ruben, who knows what he is doing, the garden pasture (i.e. all that stuff waiting to be turned into garden beds) is being trimmed!  This is what Mama has been trying to do little by little with a weed-whacker, two hours at a time.  Ruben did a months worth of work in a few hours.  While it might not look like much, it is a big deal. It not only looks spiffy it helps control weeds, is easier to traverse when wet, lets us control ants better, avoid snakes, and mulch trees. Did we mention it looks gorgeous?

cut pasture 1

cut pasture 2

cut pasture 3

Ruben is able to get in-between the small staked trees with the tractor so all that is left is to walk around and trim at the base.  Who knows, maybe one day we will have a manicured lawn.

The last animal?

We have added the last of our menagerie!  We now have 15 guinea hens.  They came with quail.  They are in cages in the chicken house imprinting to their new land location.  A few tweaks need to be made to the chicken house to permanently accommodate  our new feathered friends, but we now have the guinea hens to eat the ants in the olive grove and the bugs in the garden.

guinea hens

We have two kinds of quail, that arrived in pairs.  We are getting eggs from the quail.  Since we have yet to figure out what to do with the quail eggs, we are gifting them.  The response is always, “But quail eggs are expensive!” and we say that for now, they are a gift.

quail 2

quail 1

These are the cages the birds came with, eventually we will learn more and fix this situation.  Hopefully the guinea hens with help with the ant population when we get enough of the hens.