Monday, October 22, 2012

Dahlgren's Raid Re-enactment

One of the benefits of living on the east coast, and Virginia in particular, is that you are surrounded by history.  Everywhere you look, there are signs commemorating various events and landmarks that are important to our nation's history.

Our county got a special treat at the end of September when Dahlgren's Raid was re-enacted throughout our county.  For those of you who have never heard of Dahlgren's Raid, here is a primer.  It was run over the weekend in various locations in Goochland County, VA.  To start the weekend's events, they held a demonstration and educational session for the county elementary schools.  I took the afternoon off to join the Middle Son for the demonstration.

There were Union troops in their full attire, along with all the accessories, such as sabers, pistols and rifles.  Even their horses were outfitted in period saddles and halters.

They did a horsemanship demonstration showing how they would lineup and maneuver a line of horses in preparation for battle, with sabers drawn.  They also explained how the front row would have their sabers turned down and the back row would have their sabers pointed up, so that if the front row person fell off their horse with the saber, it wouldn't be sticking up on the ground and possibly hit a horse or another rider coming behind them.

Pistols were fired, both on command at "at will" from a line of horses.  Obviously these were blanks, but it was still impressive.

Several soldiers dismounted and fired their rifles.  It was also shown how there was a horse tender that would hold the horses still while the other men fired their rifles.  Interestingly, it was one of the better riders that would hold the horses, so they could control the horses during the battle.

They also rolled out a cannon onto the battlefield for a demonstration firing.  This was a highlight for the kids, so they fired the cannon several times.  It was very loud and commanding.

It was a great afternoon for the kids and adults that came to view the demonstration.  It was a warm day, and the soldiers were obviously very warm in their thick uniforms.  The interesting thing about this demonstration, is that it was done in a field less than a half mile from one of the schools.  The reason it couldn't be done on school grounds, is the zero tolerance policy for guns and knives.  That's political correctness gone wrong.  But at least they were able to work around that and make it happen for all the kids to see.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cornish Cross Meat Chicken Butchering

The time has come.  Seven weeks and three days from the day they were hatched.  It was time to move the chickens from the pasture to the freezer.  A small bit of work would be required to make that transition, and this time we were ready, having learned from our previous chicken butchering venture.

The process was reviewed, bottlenecks analyzed and new equipment prepared.  It was go time!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Funnel Cakes - and not at the State Fair

The Good Wife is so nice.  The boys had some friends sleep over a little while back, and she asked the boys what they wanted for breakfast.  One mentioned funnel cakes.  Laughing to myself about the ever so low probability of that happening, I was set back when the Good Wife said, "OK."  What?  Funnel cakes?  We won't eat until this afternoon.  They can't be easy.  Or can they?

A quick search online for a recipe and the Good Wife was off, making batter in our Vita-Mix blender.  Oil into a frying pan to get heated up to temperature, and she was on her way to funnel cakes.

Using a liquid measuring cup to pour the dough into the oil to give it the familiar tangled web look of the familiar funnel cakes at the state fair, the Good Wife was in business.  Soon the kids were going to eat a Saturday morning breakfast like nothing they had eaten before.  At least not for breakfast!

In no time she had funnel cakes for all, with the familiar powdered sugar on top.  What kid, or husband,  wouldn't think that she is the BEST MOM/WIFE EVER!?!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cornish Cross Meat Chickens - Week 5

So maybe I'm not as diligent as anticipated in getting photos and posting in a timely manner.  There won't be any more promises made at this point, since life seems to get in the way of everything that needs to be done.  Priorities?  Another post another time.  Back to the topic at hand, meat chickens at five weeks old.

OK, last time, the pictures were from four weeks, and the post was late.  This time, both the pictures and the post are late.  These pictures were taken Wednesday evening, which technically was a day short of six weeks of the hatch date on these chicks, although we didn't get them until later that week.

Everything that was read online about the Cornish Cross chickens is that they have a 10-15% mortality rate while raising the chickens.  We had been fortunate at receiving 132, having two DOA (Dead On Arrival), and then losing three in the first couple weeks.  Not counting the two that were DOA, that is only a 2.3% mortality rate, which is really good.  Unfortunately, things aren't holding so well.

Earlier this week we had a hot spell into the upper 80's, with humidity.  It wasn't pretty, and one of the coops ran out of water before I got home from work.  One chicken was not looking good, and died that night.  Shovel in hand, out to the woods, and bury the dead chicken.  A bit of lime over the chicken to help it decompose and to keep the dogs from digging it up.

Wednesday evening, after pulling one of the chicken tractors forward, the Middle Son declared that one was left behind.  After questioning, I found out that it wasn't so much left behind as it was dead and didn't move while the tractor did.  Shovel in hand, and back to the woods.

Thursday evening, our local beekeeping club had their monthly meeting that I had planned to attend, so Scott did the evening watering and feeding.  Calling on my way home, there were two more down.  One was found dead, and the other was culled.  Asking about what he did with the dead chickens, Scott said he walked towards the woods and chucked them in there.  So much for the shovel method.

The chicken that was culled had a problem with its leg and wasn't moving or able to get to the food and water.  We had been setting it next to the waterer and putting food in front of it, but the other chickens had been walking on it and it hadn't been growing.  No sense wasting food on a chicken that wasn't going to get to size.

With the seven total that have died, we are now up to 5.3% mortality.  Higher than we had with the Red Rangers this spring.  Apparently in all the reading online, people forgot to mention WHEN the chickens had died.  At this rate we may hit the average rate of 10-15% by the time butcher day comes around on October 13th.

However, the chickens that are alive are getting big.  They are growing day by day.

The picture above makes the chickens look like monsters with their glowing eyes from the flash.  Unfortunately I remembered to take the pictures of them too late in the day and it was starting to get dark.  Hopefully the rest will hold on for the remaining week and a half so we can do the job rather than nature doing the job for us.