Monthly Archives: May 2014

Processing Quail, Plus Bee and Garden Update

A few weeks ago, I processed the four extra male quail.  While I had previously helped clean (and then ate) two of my quail from a previous hatch, this was the first time I had done the entire process all by myself…including the kill.

It was a weird thing.  I’ve spent about 40 years raising animals, and nursing them back to health when injured.  I did kill a wild mouse once that was caught in a trap, but that was only time I’ve ever deliberately killed an animal.  The hardest part of the whole process was simply the before: picking the quail up, soothing it so it wouldn’t struggle at the wrong time, then deliberately thinking: Yes.  I’m doing this.  It just went so counter to all my instincts.

The actual physical moment of doing was shockingly easy and simple.  (I used the scissors method, because I felt it seemed the quickest and the most humane.)  Afterward, holding the lifeless body as it convulsed and bled out was not fun, but not nearly so traumatic as I thought.  I knew it was dead, so  it wasn’t like holding a ‘dying animal’.  I don’t think I could ever use the throat slitting method on a critter – I couldn’t stand the long several minutes waiting for it to die.

Afterward, I did feel bad, but not to the extent that I wouldn’t process more animals.  If I’m going to eat meat (and I am), it feels so much better to have control over how the animals lives, and how it dies.  It makes me sick to read and see how the animals in factories are raised and killed.  I don’t want to support that industry, that sort of torture and inhumanity.  I also don’t want to eat that sort of polluted food.  I don’t agree with or support PETA as an organization, but this video does a good job of showing what goes on in those factories.

Quail, however, are not going to be a meat animal for me – unless I have a few extra males that I have to dispose of in the future.  Four adult quail made enough meat for one meal.  I don’t like that ratio of death.  With a standard sized chicken or duck, I can get up  to four meals from one death.  Maybe more with a rabbit.

The other thing I don’t like with quail is how many tiny little bones they have.  They are seriously like fish bones!  I tried to be super careful with my de-boning, and I still missed a few.  And the taste of the meat is not my favorite, either.  I wouldn’t call the flavor ‘gamey’ precisely, but it’s quite different from chicken, and nowhere near as fantastic as duck.  Quail just aren’t worth it, as meat animals, in my opinion.

However, I do adore them as garden companion animals – and they will be even more helpful once I get the rotating garden bed/quail cage set up and operational.  And I like the eggs; I’m getting into the habit of throwing a few quail eggs into whatever dish I am making.  I can’t ever see myself not wanting quail as part of my little homestead.

And now on to happier things.  Here are some photos from last week in the garden.

The foxglove and roses are in full swing.

The two tomatoes in the grow bags seem to be winning the contest, as far as growth and health are concerned.  That could also be because they were the last I put out, when the weather had finally turned to a proper Spring.  In front there is a Black Japanese Trifele tomato.  This is my first time growing it, and so far, it’s brilliant.

Look at the flowers!  They are HUGE.

Below is a shot of one of the straw bales.  I poked several squash seeds down into them a few weeks back, and now they are coming up nicely!

Below is one of my potato patches.  Potatoes are in the innermost square, and beets are around the outside.  I keep piling on more straw as the potatoes grow.  Adding more is on my list of things to do this weekend….

Because I’m not using the cold frames for anything, I decided to try growing summer squash in them…with the lids left raised, so the vines can tumble out.  So far they appear to like it.  This morning, they were already a good four times larger than this.

When I was inspecting the front yard garden this afternoon, I surprised a wee wild bunny doing an inspection of her own.  I didn’t see that she’d damaged anything – other than trampling down one sunflower and snapping its stem. That was hardly her fault, though – it happened when I surprised her and she was frantically trying to get away from me.  I may have to put some bunny-proofing out there if she becomes a regular visitor, though!

And the bees…sadly the bees are going to be a failed experiment this year.  I think too many bad things happened to them (difficult long trip through the mail, dead queen, wet weather) and their numbers are dwindling rapidly.  Bees only live for a few weeks, so when starting a new hive, they really need to get off to a fast start – they need that next generation or the colony will die of old age.  Right now we’re down to fewer than 100 workers bees.  I suspect as well that something is up with the new queen.  Either she was not accepted, or she died, or something.  The brood that has been laid seems to be all drones (males).  This can happen if a hive goes too long without a queen.  One of the worker bees decides to become a queen, but unlike a true queen, a worker is only capable of laying drone eggs.

We’ll start over again next Spring.  I found a guy who naturally raises bees (no chemicals or pesticides used in his hives).  His bees come from Oregon (so they will be used to my climate) and he delivers to my area.  Unlike the bees I ordered this year, his bees will arrive within one day.  I wish I could have gotten them from him this year, but we started so late that he was sold out.

Well.  At least we know we love having a hive, and really enjoy the bees!

 

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Steampunk Photobook

Remember the steampunk photoshoot I did awhile back with photographer Tyson Vick?

Well, he’s releasing a book of those photos, including a few never seen before.  It’s pretty cool, and also inexpensive.  And my costumes are in it!  :)  Help fund the new Adventure by purchasing a copy.

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/761976

 

Garden Update in Pictures

I’m going to have lots of new fruit this year!  The kiwi and grapes have buds:

The currants have actual unripe berries:

The fig tree seems to be ripening two entire figs…which is pretty impressive, considering it’s barely more than a twig:

And the strawberries I planted on the quail coop roof garden are doing wonderfully.

My from-seed ground cherries are doing very well.  I’ve never tasted a ground cherry before; I’m really looking forward to harvesting fruit.

The pear and apple espaliers have a long ways to go, still, but they are leafing out and looking pretty.  I found a cheap blackboard, and put it out in the garden.  I still need to find a place to hang it, but I think it looks really cool out there!

I have lots of little lettuces coming up.  I love all the different colors and leaf shapes of lettuce.  It’s such a pity some people only are familiar with store-bought iceberg.

And the names!  This next is called: Frizzy Headed Drunken Woman.  Who wouldn’t want such a disorderly lettuce in their garden?  I hope she doesn’t corrupt the beets….

The chicken’s kale patch is growing up – and soon I’ll be putting out quinoa seedlings in behind them.  I’ve never tried quinoa before, but if it’s successful, the quail will adore the seed heads.

Speaking of the chickens, my favorite girl, Ellie, likes nothing more than to sleep/sunbathe in my lap.  She’s been too camera-shy to let me get a picture before, but today she was just too sleepy to care.

She’s a very smart chicken.  It took me awhile to catch on, but she communicates her desires to me by pecking me.  On the foot, if she wants me to go somewhere (like take her out to garden compost bin to dig for worms).  On the knee, if she wants me to sit down, so she can take a nap on my lap!  Since I figured this out, I’ve been testing it, and it’s definitely true!

Look at this sleepy face…

I also have healthy looking crops of potatoes…but we’ll have to wait to see how many potatoes actually grow.  I’m testing three different methods: in the ground, in grow bags, and in a trash can.  Here is a few in a grow bag.

And the bees?  They appear to be doing well, and I hope I’ll see some newly hatched bees soon.  They are definitely busy making comb.  They have four pieces in the new hive so far.

I really, really hope they survive – they are so incredibly awesome to watch.  I like just sitting beside the hive and watching them come and go.  They don’t seem to mind my presence at all.  Yesterday, one landed on my shoulder and sat with me for a little bit before buzzing off to work.

And I made a new quail video for you.  I ended up with three girls from that last batch I hatched.  One boy was lucky enough to find a new home with a friend – along with one of the girls.  They other two are staying with me, and Loki could not be more delighted to have a coop and girls all to himself.  The other four boys I processed for meat.  That was an experience I’ll save for a latter post.

Farm Update and the Museum of Flight

The Queen Bee is out of her cage; the bees accepted her and ate through the candy plug to free her.  Long Live the Queen!  I hope she’s started laying lots of eggs.

Here’s a picture of the empty queen cage:

Here’s a picture of the end, where the candy plug used to be:

Also, I finally got the worms for my outside bin.  Red Wigglers.

A couple of mornings ago, I saw a female merlin sitting on top of the big quail coop.  Fortunately, merlins are too small to take down a full grown chicken, and the quail aren’t free-range.  No dinner for you here, Ms. Hawk!  There are a ton of wild pigeons around the neighborhood, so I’m sure that’s what most of her diet is.  She’s a pretty bird; I tried to get a picture, but she flew off before I could.

Dandelion the rabbit has an eye infection.  There is a lot of pus in the fluid of his eye, and the vet says he hasn’t seen anything quite like this before.  He’s pretty positive it isn’t pasteurella, so that’s good, at least.  Dandelion is taking antibiotics mixed into jam and yogurt, and he likes the attention.  He’s such a sweet bunny.  I hope we can cure this, because he and Daisy are inseparable, and it would be so sad if he died and left her alone.

Yesterday, I went with Jon to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.  It’s HUGE.  The sections on modern airplanes and the space program were only of limited interest to me, but I really enjoyed the WWI and II sections.

There were dozens of actual airplanes on display, some you could climb into.

There were also uniforms; I was particularly taken by the WASP uniforms.

Loved this gorgeous leather flying coat.

And this one was worn by Erroll Flynn in The Dawn Patrol.  On display with it, was the Oscar the film won.

What To Do With All Those Quail Eggs!

Yesterday I made one of my favorite recipes – Puffy Pancakes!  Instead of using the standard four chicken eggs, I used all quail eggs…exactly twenty-four of them!

Mom says she noticed a different taste; I didn’t.  They still made the pancake puff nicely!

This recipe is so good, and so easy.  Just preheat the oven to 425 (with your cast iron skillet inside.)  While it’s heating, mix together 4 chicken eggs (or 24 quail eggs), 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

After the oven is heated, melt 2 tablespoons butter in your skillet, then pour in the batter.  Immediately put into the oven, and don’t open the door again for 15 minutes.  Serve immediately with your choice of topping (we like chopped strawberries and cream!)

Speaking of cream, Mom recently discovered this local dairy (Lynden WA) that sells 100% Jersey cream.  Wow.  It is SO GOOD.  So incredibly rich and tasty.  I could eat it by simply pouring it out of the bottle into a spoon!

We finally got some more work done on the roof of the new quail coop.

The two lower roof sections still need to have waterproofing put on, but the middle section finally has its roof garden.

We are planting it with chamomile.  After this photo, three more starts were planted, so hopefully it will fill in soon and become lush and green.

The strawberries on the other quail roof garden are coming along nicely.  They have flowers now.

There are a few pansies up there, too.

While at a local nursery, I found a fuzzy kiwi vine and fell in love.

LOVE the red tendrils!

So much fuzziness!

After I discovered that my hardy kiwi male can pollinate fuzzy kiwis, I was sold.  I now have hardy AND fuzzy kiwis!  Here’s to lots and lots of fruit (and darling fuzzy vines.)

I have planted out most of my beans.  I planted a TON of beans.  Green beans, gold beans, purple beans, striped beans, red beans, runner beans, footlong beans…I have them all.  I cannot resist a pretty bean!

I especially like the colored beans, because they are so much easier to see (and pick.)  No hiding among the green leaves until they are huge and overgrown.  There particular ones are Dragon’s Tongue.

I am just so happy that winter is over and I need fear no more frosts!

Quail and Bee Update

The replacement queen bee came today, and hurray!  She and her attendants were very much alive.

She has to have a few worker bees with her all the time, because she literally would starve to death without someone to feed her.  Even if the food were right beside her, she wouldn’t eat on her own.

Here’s another shot.  It’s hard to see her with all those workers getting in the way, but she’s the big bee on the left.

One the right side of the queen cage, there is a big plug of candy.  That is what keeps the queen from escaping the cage too early.  The worker bees in my hive don’t know her yet, and they might kill her, if I just dumped her into the hive.  But by the time they manage to eat through the candy, her pheromones will have spread through the hive, and she’ll be the undisputed queen of all.

Here’s a video I took of the install:

And a short follow-up:

The bees were very eager to get to her.  They were even crowding into the back side of the hive, where the rear of the queen cage was visible.  They couldn’t see her from that side, but they were trying to chew through the wood to release her!  I could actually hear them chewing!

I’m not sure how long it will take before she’s free, but I would guess not more than a day or so.  I’ll be checking on their progress tomorrow.

I tried to get a shot of the new comb they have made inside the hive, but it’s super hard with all the reflections off the glass.

This one was the best of the lot.  If you look right at the bottom of the swarm of bees, you can just see something white sticking out.  That’s the bottom bit of the comb!  I wish you could see it better – it’s so pretty.  Bees are true artists.

The “baby” quail are now fully adult, being a few days over six weeks.  Loki is free in the coop with them, and they are all getting along splendidly – even with six males.  The young boys (all FIVE of them) are too young to be worrying themselves over females just yet.  They just want to run and jump and roll in the dirt.  I’ll let them all hang out until I see signs of trouble brewing, and then it’ll be time for quail dinner.

I did end up with three girls, and actually, I like their coloring better than the boys, so that’s nice.  Let me show you.

Here’s a boy:

Notice the almost entire lack of spots.  This one actually has a few more spots than some; a few are almost entirely cream and gold.  Also notice how dark and thick the brown is around the back of the neck.  I can sex them just by their heads, with this variety.

Another shot, showing the chest:

Here’s a girl:

Notice how many more spots she has.  And this one is my “light female” – one of the others is much darker.  She almost looks like a leopard.  I don’t have any pictures of her, because she persisted in hiding in the nest box.   See her head;  she has very pretty and distinctive markings around her cheek.

Quail are funny creatures.  When they are little babies, they are super sweet and tame, then when they grow up, they suddenly become very wild.  They don’t want anything to do with me, and run from me like they never saw a human before!  Then, they become tame again, as they realize I’m the one who brings them treats.  Two of the little girls have figured this out.  They come right up to me, stretch themselves up as high as they can, and stare me down until I offer them millet in my hand.  Today, one of the girls actually climbed right up into my hand to eat!  It’s a good thing I get to keep the girls; it would be hard to process and eat such trusting little sweeties!