Monday, 24 March 2014

Rabbit arrivals

We have had eleven new rabbit arrivals.

The first is a new Old English Spot doe, who is blue in colour not the traditional black. So her name is Blue, yeah I know not that original. She is a lovely rabbit, very inquisitive and soooo friendly. She is still a bit young to mate with our buck, give her another month or so.

Jes and her have hit it off and Jes loves to run along the side of her hutch and press her nose through the wire and Blue will sniff her and run up and down with her. If the hutch is open Blue will have a nosy outside and loves a bit of fuss and Jes and her like to investigate each other. Jes got a bit freaked when Blue grunted down her ear while having a good sniff. Poor Jes, she doesn't realise her killer instincts or is it poor Blue?

One of our other doe's, Lavender, gave birth last Thursday to ten, yes ten little kit's. We have been treating her ears for the past couple of weeks and we really didn't think she was pregnant because we were catching her up every other day. Once she had gone past her due date I didn't expect anything, but I went to work early one morning and got a text from Diz to say she had given birth. For the first couple of days the weather was too wet and cold to have a good look at them, but as soon as we could we were surprised to find ten little babies. Wow. As you can see from the photo there is eight black and two black and white.
They will slowly grow their fur over the next ten days and grow rapidly and by two weeks they will open their eyes and start to venture about. Mum seems quite content, but they will all need moving to a larger hutch.
These babies will be destined for meat so we will grow them on until the are four or five months old.
We have another doe, Sooty who is due at the end of March. Mum and Dad are both Old English Spot rabbits so we are hoping for some nice marked rabbits.
Keep you posted.

Stell and Diz

Friday, 14 March 2014

Our first Cloghermore rabbit meat

I know there are a lot of you who will be saying 'aahh how could we', but everything grown at Cloghermore has a purpose and we intended on raising rabbits for meat.
Last October we welcomed the arrival of our first rabbit kits. Five were born to our doe 'Spot' who sadly died last month, and fathered by our buck 'Jacko'. Jacko has gone to a new home to continue his life of love, to make way for our new Old English Spot rabbits.

Once the babies reached nearly five months old we decided it would be a good time to take the plunge and turn them into meat. A mix of emotions, I did try to sell them to a pet shop, but they were too old. So Diz dispatched them.

 He butchered them and saved the fur for curing later. Not sure what they will be turned into but the pelts were too lovely to just dispose of.
We were surprised to have 750g per rabbit, which is enough meat to easily feed the two of us and possibly for two days depending on how it's cooked.

The first dinner was rabbit in a creamy mushroom and leak sauce served with mash potato and steamed sprouting broccoli. The meat was tender and slightly sweet, and a definite success. It has roughly cost us €10 per rabbit to produce. This is production over the winter, we are hoping it will cost less over the summer as there will be so much other free stuff they can eat.
We are hoping to be able to sell the Old English Spot babies which will help with the cost of feeding all the rabbits. We currently have seven adults, but two will be sold and the rest will produce meat or kits for selling. That's the plan, but who knows what will happen.

We have two females that were mated last month and are just waiting to see if they will give birth, we won't know until it happens. Fingers crossed.

We'll keep you posted.
Stell and Diz

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

First hatchings of the year

We invested in a new incubator this year, there is nothing wrong with our old one other than it only holds 24 eggs and this new one holds 48 hen eggs. It is just as easy to look after 48 chicks as it is to look after 24.
We collected the eggs from all three hen houses, the Indian Game, the Light Sussex and the Barnevelders and set them in the incubator. After seven days I candled the eggs to check fertility and dispose of any infertile eggs. Sadly all the Indian Game eggs were infertile, but we expected this as they are usually a bit later in the season. So we were now down to 31 eggs. Another 14 days and we would see how successful we would be.

The night before day 21 the eggs started to crack and the excitement began to build. I was banned from touching the incubator for the next two days as I normally remove shells as they hatch, assist where I shouldn't and generally do things I shouldn't. So the incubator was not to be touched until 48 hours was up, by that time the ones that will hatch will do so and anything left are just not meant to make it. It's hard, but we do it and they are soon popping out throughout the next day and a few the following morning. 

After 48 hours we have 26 little fluffy chicks, 14 yellow (Light Sussex) and 12 brown speckled (Barnevelder). The remaining eggs had no movement in them so they were left to go cold.
The chicks were scooped up and put into the brooder house in the spare room and they will be moved to the shed in a few days where they will stay for the next 5 weeks. Once they are feathered and the weather is warmer they will occupy the old cockerel house to continue growing.

It was a bit of a test for young Jes, she was only a small puppy when we had the chicks last year, so she would have to relearn not to touch. She is use to catching mice and rats now and these are similar just different squeak and they flap. She did try to grab one but got scolded and hasn't tried again. You can't see in the photo but both dogs are licking their lips!

We are currently collecting another 48 eggs to re set the incubator, we are hoping to have more chicks this year and in a shorter period of time. So far so good.

And so another year begins.
All the best
Stell and Diz

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Goose Watch 2014

Monday 24th March
Mrs G has settled onto her eggs and has been sat tight for the past week. We have no idea how many eggs she is sat on, but there is at least 9 from the last count. Bruiser is already bored sat on his own, shut in the other part of the field. He would only torment everything if he was aloud to roam. If we are not quick enough with his food he will fly over the fence (with ease) to find out what the delay is. Then it is a hassle to get him back and dangerous, especially if Jes decides to torment him.
We have another 3 ish weeks to wait to see what hatches.

Wednesday 12th March
Diz checked out the nest this morning, while Bruiser wasn't watching, and found 9 eggs. It wasn't long before he was spotted and Bruiser thudded over to stop any interference, but he soon thought better of it when Diz challenged him back. Mrs G is spending more and more time on the nest during the day and night, so it won't be long before she sits. Would like her to have a few more before she settles down.

Wednesday 5th March
Here we go again! It's that time of year again where we work with the geese to ensure they have a successful year's breeding. Things had been fairly calm in the geese camp, but once Mrs G got it into her head 'it's time' then everyone has to watch out. Bruiser has stepped up his wickedness and is living up to his name. He prefers to pick on me the most as Diz will show him who's boss, but He has got a sneaky few attacks at Diz. Every time I feed them he chances his arm and even though I defend him off he does his best. One day while I was pushing him away with one bucket to then throw his bucket of food on the floor, he reached over and managed to grab my sleeve cuff! As his wings opened for the attack I knew I had to do something so I started to swing him round in a circle. If you can picture playing 'aeroplane' with a child, this is what I was doing but with a hefty gander instead of the child. He was lifted off his feet with his wings spread, but refused to let go! As I threw his food onto the floor he let go to get to the food. I was relieved to live another day without getting bruised. I hate that bird! After that they were banished to their side of the field, less painful.

At the beginning of February we moved the goose nest box, cleaned it out and put in fresh bedding. Mrs G had seen us go into the field and when I called her she noisily came to investigate.

Both had to give it an inspection, Mrs G stays for a while giving it the once over while Bruiser gets to look over her shoulder and then once they approve ...

Bruiser will begin to preen while Mrs G has a good look. They will then walk away and leave it and seriously get on with the business of making gosling's. We will now need to keep an eye on the nest and make sure there is enough nesting material and that the chickens don't kick the straw out looking for bugs.
For the first week, Mrs G shows no signs in the nest what so ever, but then one morning when they are let out of their house she makes a mad dash for the nest.

And the first egg is laid.
It is getting more and more challenging to shut Bruiser away at night as his aggression increases. When he attacked Diz, while he is trying to get the door closed it was decided that they are better off left to their own devices. Mrs G also laid an egg in the house that night instead of the nest so they know what's best. Good luck to any fox that fancies it's chances.

As of Wednesday 5th March there are 6 eggs.

We'll keep you posted.
Stell n Diz

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Birthday surprises

Another year, so another birthday comes and goes, but brings many surprises. I thought my 40th birthday last year was full of surprises but they succeeded in providing me with many more surprises this year. Diz did very well at showing his poker face and using the 'whatever' words when ever I mentioned plans for my birthday. It's very annoying not being in control of what is happening or knowing how I will be celebrating. My first surprise was let out of the bag when my Mother-in-law, Joyce, let slip she was flying over a couple of days before, not a problem I had a feeling she would be here anyway. When we picked her up I was totally surprised when my best friend, Julie, tapped me on the shoulder (after hiding behind a pillar) to say hello. My face must have been a picture, as I had only thought of her the other day and wished she had been able to come over. I had only spoken to her a couple of nights before and she told me how busy she was in work! I had no idea, but was delighted to see her.

A couple of hours before going to the airport we popped over to see some friends to drop off our now redundant buck, Jacko. Tracey is a bit of a 'smart-ass' florist creating displays from natural materials foraged from fields and gardens or flowers and plants that she had dried for future use. Her work is truly amazing and very personal. Some time ago I had asked her to make me a living dragon giving her free reign of how it would look. I wanted something as a centre piece for our new enclosed, chicken free garden (still work in progress). We had all forgotten about it, or so I thought.
Please let me introduce Cedric, my newest dragon. He is made from moss and dried flowers and will continue to grow as the moss gets established. He is currently residing in the polytunnel until he is a little more established and the birds have gone through their first flurry of nest building otherwise he will be bald. Although I have a feeling the polytunnel's resident Wren will make use of the available material. What fantastic surprise. I know some of you will be thinking what an odd thing, but if you knew my obsession with dragons and how many I own you would understand why. He is lovely and I can't wait for him to get into his new home as the centre piece of the garden.

So we now have Cedric, Joyce and Julie all arrived. I thought we had arranged for some friends to come over on my birthday for dinner, so thought that was it. The night before at 17:00 I was informed I had to be ready to go out by 19:30. I popped to a neighbour to drop off some eggs telling her I couldn't stop long as we were going out and how we never go out other than to friends. She though it was wonderful how my husband was good at organising surprises and how he should give her husband some tips. So home we went, showered and ready to go out, not knowing where and at 19:30 a taxi arrived, a big minibus. 'How many of us are going out?' I exclaimed. As I got to the mini bus there was my neighbour who we had only seen an hour before hand, giggling. 'I should have been an actress' she said with a big beaming grin. We picked up a few more people, neighbours and friends, and headed to Carrick on Shannon to an Indian restaurant. What another fantastic surprise, we haven't been out to a restaurant in Ireland for 4 years and never got a taxi!! And to be joined by our friends and neighbours was just brilliant. It was a brilliant evening, we laughed all night and had excellent food. We moved onto a pub playing traditional Irish music and when the time came to get the taxi back, no one wanted to leave so we stayed until the early hours of the morning before heading home.
The following morning, which was my birthday, I was spoilt further with lovely presents and cards. To top the day off Julie and Joyce presented me with a birthday cake, which they had made me while I was in work a couple of days before and kept it hidden. Believe me that was no easy feat. We had Brisket smoked and cooked in the Dutch Oven for dinner, Julie made a delicious flan and then we fell asleep in front of the fire. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Thank you to everyone who made my birthday very special.

Take care all
Stell and Diz

Monday, 27 January 2014

And so another year begins

Every time we start a new year we always promise that we will try and be more proactive this year, but within days we are already on the back foot. The list of essential jobs are endless but definitely hindered by the wet weather. A big job this year will be to try and repair the damage the pigs done to the field, which now the heavens have opened and no let up is in sight, has created a muddy mess that only the geese are enjoying. The chicken pens in the field need repairing and moving, the turkey's made sure they broke all the panels with their antics and Bruiser has eaten his house door. So it's going to be busy.
We welcomed four new furry arrivals. Old English Spot Rabbits from show stock, which don't make the grade. Two black coloured does.

And two Black and White spot bucks. This has meant that our rabbit population went from three to twelve and they haven't even started to breed like rabbits! So we need to get rid of some. The five babies have another 3 months to go before they are fat enough to eat. Jacko, our first buck has been re-homed to some friends and sadly Spot the mother of the babies had to be dispatched as she wasn't well. So now we are down to ten. In order for them not to breed like rabbits Diz has had to make and convert chicken houses into rabbit hutches. The orchard is now full of rabbit. I had a feeling this venture was going to get out of hand.
We have also been sorting out our flocks of chickens. We are running three pens this year, Light Sussex, Barnevelder and Indian Game. We have also re-homed some of the older hens and replaced with home grown youngsters.

The Barnevelders are our winter layers and the five hens have started to lay lovely dark brown eggs. If it wasn't for the Barney's we wouldn't get many eggs a day at all. We have gained two different hens which we hope to use as brooder hens. Golden Brahma, they are large docile birds and like nothing better than sitting on a large clutch of eggs at every opportunity. They are only 12 weeks old at the moment but should be 'working' in no time. Time will tell.

I was asked at short notice to produce a cake for a 16th birthday. So I finished work and got home at 20:00 and made two cakes for decorating and delivery the next afternoon. I had fun creating a 2 tier teddy bear cake, keeping it fairly simple otherwise I wouldn't have had time to finish it. I was feeling a little under pressure to have it finished on time, but I was very happy with the result. Thankfully the client was very happy as well.

That's all for now, another update in a bit.
Take care all.
Stell & Diz

Monday, 23 December 2013

Count down to Christmas

We have been growing our Turkey's and Geese throughout the year carefully feeding them so they don't get too big, but are a decent size for peoples Christmas dinners. Quite difficult when we have very different breeds. We have a rare breed Bourbon Red Turkeys, then Wirral Black double breasted Turkeys which can grow quite large. Finally the geese which are a Pomeranian cross Emden, which have turned out to be large birds.
The Turkeys have caused a lot of damage this year, which is probably our fault for not cutting their wings to stop them from flying. They have broken several of the panelled fencing around the chicken pens. Their weight has been enough to snap the wood, especially when they launch themselves from the fences.
When they decided to use the polytunnel as a roost I had a slight sense of humour failure, especially when one used the side to scramble up. Plastic and sharp claws do not mix and I now have holes up the side and on top. Not a good mix.
We can honestly say it will be a pleasure to not have the Turkeys around any more.

So as the festive season approaches we make a plan of action and the hard work begins on the 17th December. We keep things as quiet and calm as possible so the birds don't get stressed. The only difference is the routine, feeding is later and birds are left shut in their houses for a little longer until we are ready.
With 11 turkeys to process we start the first day and get 5 plucked and hanging. It's cold, windy and wet so isn't the nicest of days for anyone.
They are much cleaner to pluck out this year, no broken breast feathers like last year. The fingers start to hurt by the end of the day and the muscles are screaming by the morning. Only another six to go. So three the next day and a goose and then the final three and a goose the last day. I leave Diz to pluck the final goose on his own while I work on my Christmas cake.

The geese have been quite friendly this year and were easy to pick up and take away without any commotion.
We always dread plucking the geese because it can take so long, but they were very good this year taking only a few hours instead of the 6!

So once Diz stopped looking like he had a pillow fight and lost he got on with preparing the birds for the oven.
Very impressed (and relieved) with the weights. The geese weighed 4.05kg or 9lb, which is the biggest we have ever had. So overall we are very pleased with our new gander, Bruiser and Spotless our faithful goose.

As for the two breeds of Turkeys, well the largest was 9.7kg or 21lb 4oz. Wow! I had to check with the receiver that she had a big enough oven! That was one of the Black Males, the Black females and Bourbon Red males weighed about 5 - 6kg or 11 - 12lb.
In the photo the single breasted Red male is on the left and the double breasted Black female is on the right. They weigh the same but the female has breasts to be proud of.
Once all the birds are prepared the fun job of matching the weights to the requests of the recipients. A lot of head scratching is involved.
The final part of the Christmas preparations is the cake. I take time to design and decorate our cake each year, taking pleasure in 'playing' in the evening and creating something I am proud of.
So here is 2013's cake. Two tier fruit cake (made in July), with Santa making his stop because we have been good this year.

Here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Lots of love, hugs and kisses
Stell, Diz, Jes, Kip and the remaining critters at Cloghermore.