I’m a List Guy

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Yes, I am even one of those that will put something I have already done on the list just so I can check it off!  So last night I woke in the wee hours, and could not get my mind to shut off.  And today is tapping day of course, and I have procrastinated, of course, so now I am up against it, of course.  What’s new, that is the story of my life more or less!  To shut my mind off, I make a list of what is on my mind; this took about an hour fifteen, then I was able to get back to sleep.  See the image of my list below, or find the pdf, with clickable links,  HERE.  Now I need to power through the list, wish me luck! Read more

Improving White-tailed Deer Utilization – Part 1

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The first White-tailed Deer of the season, image from Instagram

I killed two white-tailed deer this year, field dressed and hung each to age a bit, and then took them to my processor to be made into cuts (steaks, chops, roasts, etc.), ground venison, and sausages.  I also helped my friend Jacob to get his deer processed, and it was during an exchange between us and the processor, that the processor mentioned that the amount of meat typically returned to his customers, as a fraction of hanging weight, is approximately 35%.  When recently picking up the meat from a 1/2 steer (grass fed) that Geri and I had purchased, that processor told me that the yield for beef is typically 70% of hanging weight; of course they have been bred to maximize meat production.  Still, I found the 35% yield from white-tails to be too low, unacceptably low in fact; if I am going to take the life of an animal I want to use as much of the animal as is possible.  With that in mind, I established the following goal in the 2016 Year in Review post:

Homestead BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) 2017 – Butcher, process and preserve at least one deer, on the homestead; improve utilization from 35% of hanging weight to >=60%

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2017 January – Deep Winter, So What?

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Central Boiler firebox after a 12 hour burn; overnight low 8°F

The wheel barrow full is about a 12 hr load-out at current temperatures

I suppose we all have those periods of time, when we are losing sleep because we have so much going on in our lives that it seems incredibly daunting to even consider what needs to be done to satisfy all of the needs.  So it has been for me in recent days.  It helped to put together the 2016 Year in Review post, and the goals for 2017 that it documents.

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2016 Year in Review

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What a year.  It seemed so long, and at the same time it was over just as it was getting started.  I suppose that is the nature of making big moves, physically, as we moved to Michigan full-time, and in business, as we started up the Primal Woods trio of businesses.  We also undertook some much needed home renovation and improvement projects.  And I’m only scratching the surface.  Some things went better than others; most failed to meet my decidedly optimistic hopes.  Still, we are standing going into 2017, and I would say better in every regard for the experiences of 2016.

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Chicken Killing Cone Fabrication

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Step 1: Design laid out with Sharpie on 24 inch wide roll of aluminum flashing

A brief “how-to” on how I fabricated the killing cone.  There are certainly more ways, and probably better ways, but I was able to put this together in about an hour utilizing materials I had on-hand.  So, it has that going for it.  Design courtesy of Anne Arthur; thanks again Anne!

In the first step (1) I laid out the design on some aluminum flashing material I had left over from a project for two tree-nesting duck nest boxes that I completed a couple of years ago.  I also used some as heat shielding last year around the maple syrup evaporator.  This material is inexpensive and useful.  It is light-weight, so this cone is not has heavy-duty as it might be, but I suspect that it will last years in my relatively light-duty application. Read more

The Chicken Experiment, and Meat Chicken Processing Planning

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The ruler of the roost – click to enlarge

Our roosters are now about 21 weeks old, we have had them for 10 weeks as of this past Saturday, September 3rd.  They are way beyond prime butchering age, but that has not been the only point of the experiment.  We will probably keep them a little bit longer, maybe a week or two, before butchering, for a couple of reasons: 1) we enjoy having them around, and 2) to further acclimate the dogs to their presence.  In recent weeks the dogs have been great with chickens.  A few weeks ago we did lose one of the original five birds to a predator, and we are not exactly sure whether the culprit was one or both of the dogs, or some other critter.  The dogs were caught with some evidence, basically the breast of the bird, in the yard, so they have that working against them.  Still, things have gone well since, and we have been free ranging the chickens all day every day for the past two or three weeks.  The chickens move around the yard and the nearby woods, no problems, and plenty of forage for small the omnivores that they are.

The chicken tractor that Anne Arthur designed and built for us has worked very well, we have had no issues.  The chickens return to the coop reliably at sundown.  For use in free ranging chickens, where they are only in the coop overnight, for the most part, it could accommodate 20 or more.  The chickens have not done any noticeable damage to flower beds, and we have fenced them out of the vegetable garden.  If we were keeping them, they would definitely be turned loose in the garden after we shut it down for the year.

All things taken into consideration, the experiment has been a grand success.  We are planning to raise somewhere between one and two dozen meat birds next year.

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Fruit & Nut Tree and Shrub Walk-Around July 2016

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I did a walk-around the yard to record in pictures and words how the fruit and nut trees and shrubs are doing. It should be noted that since planting these trees and shrubs, and watering them in,  almost nothing has been done.  The Peaches and Pears were planted June 5/6, and the Plums on June 27, 2016.

O'Henry Peach Tree - Primal Woods

O’Henry Peach

The O’Henry Peach is doing quite well, this is the eastern most peach in the front yard, immediately adjacent to where I cut down the Star Magnolia. I did find what appeared to be either a Mason or Potters Wasp on the O’Henry. Slight damage from leaf eaters of some sort, and lots of new leaf growth; the plant looks healthy. <That is a Mullein, aka Velvet Plant, at the corner of the house (upper left of image), identified by our friend Kerry.>

 

 

 

 

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Lessons from A Beginner in the Field

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Or the woods, as the case may be.  It was an interesting sit between two big beech trees yesterday.  First, well before light still, I heard a branch come crashing down, I think it landed less than 10 feet behind me and a bit to my left. (Later investigation showed it to be less than 6 feet, the branch 4 inches in diameter.)  I instinctively moved, quickly, to the right around the trunk of the tree my back was against.  Scary.  Widow-maker.  Lesson Learned:  In your scouting for a location from which to hunt, check for widow-makers, be that a ground or tree stand location.  The chances of being hit are small, the consequences large.
I was sitting with my back against the tree to the left
Then, after first light, I heard what sounded like baseballs dropping through the canopy, dropping through the leaves and branches, and hitting the ground with heavy, distinctive thuds.  “That would hurt,” I said to myself!  I actually thought seriously about getting one of those hard hat shells that goes under a baseball cap, and Geri mentioned the same when I told her the story later.  I thought this was interesting because I did not hear any of it before sunrise, then, I heard maybe 10 or 20 fall over the course of 30 minutes or so, then nothing.  It had rained an inch the day before and into early hours, and an inch and a half the day before that.  There was a lot of water in the canopy, and under the trees it seemed like it was still raining as I sat.  At the time I believed that they might be black walnuts, that was all I could think of that made any sense, and I saw a relatively dark trunk (compared to the dominant sugar maples and beeches) maybe 20-25 yards in front of me; they are called black walnut trees for a reason.  I also looked this over during my “later investigation,” and sho’ nuf, there was a big black walnut tree and walnuts littering the forest floor.  Lesson Learned: Do not set your dumb ass under mature black walnut trees in the fall!

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Starcraft 11 ‘ 6″ Boat Refurbishment – Part I, Seats

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After turning it right-side up, just before towing it
This is part one of a multi-part effort to return this boat to life.  It was last licensed in 1999, I found it upside down in about a foot of water.  No telling how long it had been there.  I was able to float it out; there is a lot to be said for aluminum.  One seat, and the wood on both sides of the transom, were almost completely rotted away, the wood on the two remaining seats was heavily damaged.  There is a lot of work to do, and, I will start with the seats.
I had already removed the seats from the boat, and we power washed the boat and seat boxes yesterday at the local car wash.

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A Calling

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This post is along the same lines as my first, from back in February of 2014, titled “Spring 2013: In the Beginning…”  Focused on introspection, what’s going on inside, as opposed to the “how” of this or that.  Like all of us, consciously or not, I have been on something of a personal development journey, and the past 6 years or so, with Geri’s huge impact on my life, the speed of development has increased dramatically, and we have been on the journey together.  <Now some might say, “what personal development?”  Ha!  Well, if that is you, I will just remind you that there is this blind spot we all have, called “what I don’t know that I don’t know.”  And in this case you should thank God for that!>  As we have eliminated a lot of the noise from our lives, attracted the positive and eliminated the negative, systematically, and with intention, we have been able to feel and hear ourselves with increased sensitivity, it seems to me.  The most recent example of this for me, was Facebook.  It just had to stop, so for those of you wondering about my silence, there you have it.  The homestead Facebook page is still being maintained, but I have not been on my personal page in several weeks.  It has made a huge difference; I have a lot more stillness in my life.  That is not saying anything bad about Facebook, and there are certainly great aspects of the experience, which I miss, but for me it became just another addiction, and I invested more time and energy in it than I should have.  The point is, after eliminating a lot of modern day distractions, TV being the first several years ago, the resulting quiet is gorgeous.  In the space left behind is the work, and a state of more heightened awareness of ourselves is a key benefit of “doing the work,” as Geri likes to say, on ourselves and our relationships. Read more