Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kansas in August

I'm likely to be a little longer between posts here for a while.  We're not in Kansas, and we don't grow corn- but we are moving into the critical harvest time for the crops we do grow.  Oldest son Beelar has temporarily dropped his PhD work to come home for the next 2 months and help out.  It's that urgent.  First stuff is picked already; and more is coming.  

You'll notice I'm not saying what we're growing/picking.  Old timers here at the Little Blog know that's the way it is; for the newer folks- if I told you what we're growing, it would be too big a hint as to my "real" identity; which I would rather keep separate from the blogosphere for the moment.

The guineas are fine- but we're not quite at Part 3 yet; that will be when we start releasing them into the free range world.  Another week, I think.  Meanwhile; Part 2.4:

Trying to get information about when to release off the web has been very frustrating.  I tried every variation of "when do you set them loose" I could think of; and basically got no numbers, anywhere.  My guess is because for most established poultry operations, it's kind of a non-issue; if you have juveniles, and adults, and multiple opportunities for experimentation, it just kind of happens when it happens, and things are fine.

But we have no other poultry on the place; no adults to show them the ropes.  I'm hesitant to dump silly teenage guineas out into the hawk/owl/cat/weasel world.  They're quite adept at flying already, but there's more to escape than just the ability to fly.  

The guineas, and the evil temporary pen are working out so well (of course it has shade, RC!  Always did; actually 4 different kinds- heavy apple shade after noon; and there's a nice leaky tarp you can't see in the video providing good morning shade-) that we went ahead and ordered some chickens.  10 each, straight run; Buff Orpington, Black Brahma, and Dominique.  The concept- we'll wind up with 15 or so good "setting" hens, who we will put to sitting on guinea eggs, mostly; and we'll let the hens take over the work of raising the keets next year.  We hope.

The chicks will be here Friday; more fun and cutesy pics.

We have to squeeze the photo sessions in with harvest, though, and it's not easy.  And the other bits of life off the grid do not stop either, just because of harvest and teenage guinea fowl.

Last night we got home from an urgent trip to town for harvest materials to find the electric system in the house was down- no AC power, only DC.  Computers and DSL modem need AC, at the moment- they could be done DC, but it's considerably more tricky than just plugging them into the 12V battery - since the computers need 18VDC.

Also the answering machine.  So all my plans for this morning (hyper urgent plant chores) got put on hold, while I ripped the battery bank and inverter connections apart, looking for the problem.  Answer, as I suspected, just time and corrosion in the connections; clean them up, reconnect tightly, and everything works again.  But it still took 2 hours and way more personal energy than it sounds like.  I find working on the house batteries exhausting- probably because of the constant potential for burning the house down if I drop a wrench in the wrong place, or finding the knife I'm using to scrape connections welded on between two hot battery posts, with big sparks and melting steel dripping all over...


No, I've never done that.  And yes, RC, all my tools have insulated handles, so theoretically, none of this is possible.  :-) But the images kind of stick in your head; the power to do it is there, right in those batteries- it's just one of those jobs with zero tolerance for any "oops" experiences.

Exhausting, for me.



WILDBLUESbysus said...

The image of a jagged knife with insulated handle in a room alive with sparks and melting steel will do for a while.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the keets are doing well. I'm not sure why you have so little faith in them as breeders, but we'll cross that road in the spring.
In forty years in the trades I almost burned down two places. The Fire Department had to come in one case.
But it wasn't electrical. It was trying to get black steampipe apart in radiator systems using a torch.
Risky activity.
All the same, as a plumber and an electrician, and a reader of the national electrician magazines, electricity kills a lot of people, plumbing, not many. Unless you add voltage of course.
There is a given in the trade: there are no stupid old electricians.

Anonymous said...

Safety glasses of course, and a nice bucket of water with lots of dissolved baking soda, for removing those unsightly spots of battery acid in a hurry just in case.

jewishfarmer said...

Sounds like a crazy time at your place - smaller scale here, but not too totally different, although not doing the CSA, although crops are slowed down by rain and cold temperatures, so they are actually coming in rather politely, taking their time and not overwhelming us ;-).

Please don't electrocute yourself, just as a favor to me ;-).


Nancy M. said...

I have heard guineas weren't great mamas also. So I was going to try and let my hens raise them next year. We'll see how it goes. My guineas have been out a couple of weeks now. They have been content to stay around, they even follow us. It's kinda cute.

Good luck with your harvest!

Anonymous said...

Hi Greenpa,

I understand not wanting to disclose your crop or location, but would you mind filling me in on how you got started with the business side of your farming? Did it start as a hobby? How did you make your contacts with restaurants/buyers/whatever?

Thanks so much for the great blog!

Susan Och said...

Around here (northern Michigan) I often hear something like "I thought the coyotes got that guinea hen, and then one day she showed up again with 18 little ones."

They will raise broods, and big ones. They will also sometimes get slaughtered en mass by varmints. Most of the time you don't decide when to let them out. They decide to get out.

This source says to keep them inside for six weeks, so that they won't wander. She seems unusually organized about guineas. I bet her book on the subject is pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my dad has guineas, and they roam around the farm. The problem I have seen with them is they like to lay their eggs where you can't find them! Dad also leaves them out to fend for themselves but he also has chickens that lay eggs. The guineas manly are pest control, and are experts, also you will have to fense off your lettuce patch. If you buy cattle that will offer some protection, the guinea will follow and stay with them.

Anonymous said...

15 years with guineas in 3 regions (midwest, south, deep south) and we never had issues with lack of offspring. The problem often is lack of appropriate (and predator-safe) brooding places, and that the chicks can be a bit dumb. Drowning was a problem at times as well (especially on farms where domestic ducks are present.) We kept brood boxes on the side of houses or other functioning buildings where the disturbance raised by a predator would alert a bigger predator (such as humans or dogs or donkeys.) Also, we never had issues with young flocks sticking to the area after 1 month of captivity; bigger challenge were tranferred adults. We did lose a few to gators on occasion. You might be suprised by your whites; in mixed flocks of decent size we didn't have any greater loss of whites than of darker colors (part of the research project for a local college, tracked over 4 years.) We also, due to land size, hosted 4 distinct flocks. Another problem that we did have was that in almost every flock one bird would be picked on or driven out routinely (very distressing to the critter.)

Still one of my favorite birds.

Greenpa said...

Susan- delighted to hear they can be successful parents in Michigan; so many sources say "can't". We'll see.

Wanderer- where have you been all my life!!!?? Real information! Fantastic! I'm also hoping/expecting to have multiple flocks in time- how big were your flocks? Did you have to have multiple houses? Did that 4 year college project result in a publication I could read?? More!