Posts Tagged ‘4-H’

Our Furry Friends Are Hopping Into Spring

Although early spring sometimes brings cold snowy weather, here in South Dakota, it usually doesn’t last long this time of year.  After a day or two, the snow melts in late March and early April.  Sometimes this type of weather creates chaos on the farm in early spring.  You just never know a month or more in advance what the weather will be when the barnyard animals give birth, and a sudden cold snap can cause problems for newborn animals.  Several years ago we had a doe kid (first born of twins born to our alpine doe, Claire) who was delivered during a freakishly cold weekend in March and ended up with a frostbitten back leg.

On the other-hand, livestock having babies and increasing their family-size is the backbone of 4-H livestock projects.  To enable our 4-H’ers to grow their rabbit herds, we recently purchased 2 nest-box heaters for keeping litters warm until the babies grow fur (like rodents, baby rabbits are born bald.)  The mothers do pull fur to line their nests from their belly and sides, but if it is chilly and/or windy, this is often not enough and early litters are easily lost to exposure.

This year, we started off our 4-H projects by breeding Henry’s doe, Lady to his new blue Mini Rex buck, Slurpie, and Charles’ new doe, an albino New Zealand named Crystal, to his red buck, Lakota, in late Feb.  Lady delivered a nice all blue litter of 5 kits on March 26th.  Crystal kindled the day after, but had her 8 babies on the cage floor and lost them all to the cold.  Pa made a mistake in leaving her dead litter for me to see.  A rodent of some sort (out in the barn) ate the dead kits, then managed to get into Lady’s hutch and got her babies too.

The weekend after, we bred Lady’s daughter, Beauty, Henry’s castor-colored doe, Anna-Beth and Charles’ red doe and rebred Crystal. Two weeks prior to that, we had bred Charlotte to Slurpie and Blur to Lakota.  Both Charlotte and Blur are due to kindle next Saturday.

If all goes well, it will really get hopping around here.  As a side benefit, we should have a fabulous increase in rabbit manure to fertilize our garden  in the coming months of spring and summer.

rabbitpics 003CountyFair 002

A Lifelong Study of Citizenship

The Modern Pioneer Farmer Boys are embarking on a new and exciting adventure into learning about Citizenship, Friendship, Leadership and Growing from Boyhood into Manhood.   Along the way they will learn many skills that are just plain fun… like camping, hiking, fishing and how to whittle (eventually).  Of course I am talking about Cub Scouts and later on, as they get older, Boy Scouts.

The Farmer Boys’ Cub Scout uniforms arrived this afternoon via the UPS’ brown delivery truck, about an hour before the younger one arrived home from school.  Henry couldn’t wait to try it on!  About an hour later, his big brother arrived home and was so excitedly jumping around I thought the family pictures were going to bounce right off the baker’s rack in the dining room.  We finally slowed him down enough to try his on as well.  (FYI… these Cub Scout shirts run a little small and are about 60 or 65% cotton, so if in doubt, order the next size up, they’ll eventually grow into it.  The come with the embroidered Boy Scouts logo and a patch of the US Flag (or I assume a Canadian or other flag for scouts outside the US.)

Henry went to his first Tiger Den meeting 2 weeks ago tomorrow.  Both boys attended the local Cub Scout Pack Meeting on Monday night and found out all about the Boy Scouts’ Popcorn Fundraiser, Grandpa attend with us, since Pa had to work very late and we have to Cub Scouts to keep an eye on.  Charles’ Bear’s Den meeting that was to be held this evening was rescheduled for next Thursday, due to several of the other boys being ill or having other activities (he was slightly disappointed, but agreed we probably should wait, so as not to trade germs as little boys usually do.)  The Popcorn Fundraiser began tonight and grandma drove us to town to pick up their popcorn starter packs. (My “modern covered wagon”  aka my little green Kia Sportage is at the mechanic for a tune-up, since Pa has been having to put in so many hours at his town job, training new employees who work the late night shift.)  Each boy needs to sell at least $300 worth of popcorn (with strong encouragement to set even higher goals).  Our Bear’s Den has 6 boys in it (group goal of $1800) and our Tiger’s Den is twice that size with 12 boys in it (goal of $3000… WOW!)

On a somewhat oddly-related note:

I was reading an article today regarding the decline in reading skills and literacy among males in the United States.  The statistics quoted in the article showed a steady, but alarming decline in both the interest and ability to read among American Boys as compared to their female classmates and sisters.  Our country has been in the cultural pattern of infantiling it’s young males for almost as long as I’ve been alive and developed an educational system that very strongly favors girls… sad, but true.  It got me thinking and wondering just how closely this educational decline in boys, overlaps not only with the advent and rise in popularity of video gaming, computer gaming, cell phones and other electronic gadgets and the “sports groupie parents'” quest to produce the next Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth… but also in the declining numbers of young boys joining in Boy Scout’s activities, 4-H and other activity groups that teach kids wisdom, resourcefulness, honor, obedience, effort, diligence and responsibility like Awanas, Girl Scouts, Campfire Kids etc… I am wondering if those declining scouts statistics would very closely match this  educational decline in our boys???

We Want to Hear From You

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Well, this is our 20th blog post at Modern Pioneer Family!  We’ve been blogging almost a month now, so we’d love to know just what you, the readers are thinking!  We want to improve your reading experience.  Please take a few seconds to vote in our poll, so that we can bring you more of the posts that you will love most!

We are thinking of posting blog posts on our various topic catagories on different days.  Make them “regular features” here to keep us sort-of-organized.  We already have our Mystery Recipe Monday features.  Are  you all liking that one?  We are definitely going to start doing a middle of the month-ish, after the 4-H meeting recap and update on the Farmer Boys’ 4-H projects.

What else would you like to read about regularly?  Service Dog Saturdays with the K-9 Pioneers?  Lots more recipes for Gluten Free cooking?  How-to’s on fixing or building things with Pa and the Farmer Boys? Crafting and household how-to’s with Ma?  the Littlest Pioneer Girl’s lessons in grammar and vocabulary?

After a month, it’s time to find out what is going to bring you the readers, back for more? We always welcome your insights, questions and comments to our posts, and are especially looking forward to them when do a post like this one.

Besides, it’s an important election year, so we think it’s a good thing to practice voting… that way maybe we will all remember to vote in the Big Election this coming November.

*In other voting news, my Senator, John Thune, has a Bill before the Senate to stop the Labor Board from making it illegal for youth from working on their own family farms.  Please write, call or email your Senators and Congressional Representatives and ask them to support Senator John Thune’s Bill and the future of our rural youth. (Young pioneers of today grow up to become the leaders of tomorrow. In the uncertain days ahead of us, we will need strong, opinionated voices, well-developed leadership skills and a tireless work ethic… there is no better place for the modern young pioneer to learn these skills than “on the family farm” no matter how small or large that farmstead may be.)

From Hare to Maternity

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Good evening all!  It may just be the 6th official day of spring, but we are certainly off to a hopping good start.

A package arrived in the mail Wednesday! It was sort of like Christmas in March when we opened the box and it turned out to be most of the 4-H materials we’d purchased. (The Gardening curriculum was back-ordered.)

In other news, we mated Daphne to Fluffy twice last Wednesday (before school and after school).  We are quite excited about the prospect of baby bunnies to be born in not quite a month (rabbits have a 30 day gestation period.)  This is our first litter of rabbits and is a totally new experience for most of us, as Pioneer Pa is the only one of us who has raised rabbits before… way back in the days before home computers.

I spent a good deal of the last week looking up more information about rabbit color genetics on the internet.  My research revealed that a mating between a Castor colored rabbit (Fluffy) and a Blue Broken colored rabbit (Daphne) should produce 50% Solid Opal (Castor dilutes) and 50% Broken Opal (spotted like mom with the diluted coat color of dad) babies.  So we are impatiently waiting on the resulting kits.

Daphne should be finishing up conception of her litter right about now!  “To maternity and beyond!” (A tweak on old Buzz Lightyear from one of the kids favorite films, Pixar’s Toy Story.)

Pickin’ Chicks

No, Modern Ma isn’t trying to marry off her sons in elementary school, we spent the Ides of March deciding how to update our small flock of laying hens.

Oh and we had our 1st REAL 4-H meeting (the 1st and only one our club in Beadle County had was a Christmas party… that didn’t give the kids a functional or realistic view of what 4-H club and meetings are about, so we changed clubs & counties to enroll Charles and eventually Henry (he attends and participates, but is techincally a Cloverbud until he’s 8 years old) in the Redstone Valley 4-H Club (Kingsbury County, SD) that meets at their school.  Lori Wehlander (our former school principal, who stepped down after having a baby about 4 years ago, but is still a teacher at the school) and Daphne Mohler (Charles and Henry’s preschool teacher from several years ago) are the 4-H leaders and familiar enough with Charles’ special needs that they know how to help him be functional in this new activity.  At yesterday’s meeting, we had the county 4-H director come and teach the boys and girls “how-to make a poster” for the County Achievement Days (aka County Fair) that will be coming up in early August before the 2012 SD State Fair (always held starting the Thurs prior to Labor Day Weekend though Labor Day).  Charles was antsy and slightly disruptive during the power-point presnetation (but then baby sister was also fussing about a wet diaper, so he’s wasn’t exactly causing a problem), but really did a great job when it came down to the worktime in which the kids were all given posterboard and art materials to practice poster making.  He made 3 posters.  1st one he drew a tractor and made a “tractor safety poster” (we are going to keep working on and refining this idea for his county fair entry). 2nd was more of a display actually, about construction equip. and the 3rd was about meat eating dinosaurs.  Henry also made a poster of Tractors and Dinosaurs (together… he probably missed the point, but he’s only 7 and still a Cloverbud and this was their 1st real meeting.)

After the meeting, we drove to the Farm & Feed store in Huron, SD and let the children pick out some new chicks to refresh our flock and be one of their 4-H projects.  Henry chose to get 6 White Rock pullets (female baby ckickens) and Charles chose 10 (straight-run, a mix of males and females) cornish cross broiler chicks.  I picked out 6 Buff Orpington pullets (but unfortunately these were lost overnight due to poor placement of the chick’s waterer… Pa placed it right under the heat lamp in the brooder last night and the chicks got wet and went into shock when they couldn’t get dried off under the heat bulb.)

Yesterday, we also ordered 25 chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa.  Pioneer Pa wants to develop a crossbred chicken that can be gender-sorted by feather color at hatch (thus he can brood the males and females separately on different rations, broiler chick feed for the males and laying chick feed for the females.)  He also wants the females to be excellent winter layers, as we want to increase our sustainability in this area and not have to buy eggs during the winter.  And for the males he wants a bird that matures at a medium-fast rate with strong legs that can be raised on a pastured poultry system.  He intends to try using a Light Brahma rooster on Buff Orpinton hens and hatching the eggs in an incubator.  This cross should produce feather-legged white pullets that have black feathers on their necks and tails and clean-legged cockerals that are buff/yellow with some black feathering in the neck and tail feathers. He also wanted to have a few of the Light Brahma hens for laying this coming winter, so we ordered 15 straight-run (mixed males & females, as hatched) Light Brahma chicks and for 4-H projects we also ordered 10 straight-run Blue-laced Red Wyandotte chicks, which are a relatively new rare breed chicken that was recently developed in England by crossing silver-laced and gold-laced Wyandotte chickens then mating the offspring to each other and occassionally back to parent-stock in order to set the new color type.

I, Modern Ma, am a bit of a genetics buff and like working with advanced color genetics, as you might find in some birds and in my lovely Australian Shepherds (Aussies can come in over 20 colors and patterns, not including colors that involve color dilute genes.)  So along with our mail-order chicks, we also bought the book, 21st Century Poultry Genetics (the book should arrive early next week, while the birds are not scheduled to arrive until April 23rd).  The above book is a good reccomendation to intermediate to experienced poultry owners with an interest in genetics and hatching their own birds rather than purchasing day-old chicks via mail-order or a local farm & feed store (both of which I reccomend as a good starting place to those who are new to chickens or other poultry.)

Excellent books on poultry for begining poultry farmers are:

*Chickens in your Backyard

*Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

*The Chicken Tractor (2nd edition)

*Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry

*Modern Free-Range

These books are available ay and may also be available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble as both regular books and possibly some of them as e-books for Nook and Kindle etc.

*The drawings in this post of chicken breeds were copied and pasted from the Murray McMurray online catalog and are for demonstration purposes only, as some of our followers may be unfamilar with what these animals look like.

*Pastured Poultry Profits

Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Pumpkin Bread

Wow! What a busy day today!  Stopped at the electric co-op to pay that bill (that was pretty scary… they hit us with both a rate and a tax increase… bill was almost double what it was a year ago at the same time.)  Then to the thrift store (while waiting for the bureaucrats at the Social Security Admin Office to get back from lunch… I dinked around until 1:30 at the thrift shop, I was the ONLY person in there and it still took them 25 minutes to wait on me… seriously these people only work 5 hours a day, 4 days a week and are taking money out of our pockets in the form of taxes to pay their salaries… so you’d think maybe they could work a little harder???  Annoying.)

Anyway, my oldest Farmer Boy Charles, has suddenly outgrown nearly every pair of pants he had (around the middle, as he’s a stockily build laddie, just like his grandpa (my dad)… very likely will be much taller and broader than his father, as our Pioneer Pa is rather short with an average frame.)  Some of Charles’ dietary issues cause him to tend to bloat in the afternoon and that makes fitting clothing tricky.  Right now he just went from a size 12 husky to a 14 husky around the middle (of course at 8 years old, they are a mile long and must either be hemmed, but not cut off so we can let them out when he gets taller, or roll them up so that he doesn’t walk the excess length off his jeans.  So, I was at the thrift shop looking for him some pants.  Only found 1 pair of jeans in his size, so I snagged them and several pair of sweats/athletic type pants and found a couple pair for his little brother too.  Anna picked out a couple toys ( a rattle, a stuffed frog and a bucket & shovel) and a pair of sneakers to wear outdoors in the garden.  I found a couple chapter books I thought the boys would enjoy reading aloud, a beginner’s knitting book that I got as a gift for a friend and several nice old cookbooks (have I mentioned my cookbook collection yet???  Well, that is a long story for another night.)  Then over in the housewares, I found a couple nice glass bottles for making my own flavoring extracts, 2 stainless steel travel mugs for Pa and a syrup pitcher.

Then the stop at the SS Admin to just get Anna’s SSN (I know I have the card someplace, I remember it coming in the mail, I remember putting it away somewhere where I was supposed to remember WHERE I had put it… unfortunately, I can’t remember WHERE THAT WAS…  Is 36 years old, old enough to start having senior moments?  I wonder???)  Well, I just needed my little pioneer girl’s number so that I could finish my Fed. tax returns and get that sent in to the IRS.  That took OVER AN HOUR  and I wasn’t even applying for a replacement, doing a name change or anything complicated like that.  Dealing with the government drives me crazy.  (So tomorrow, I am cleaning house and spending quality time with TurboTax, until it’s time to meet the boys as school for their 1st 4-H meeting in their new club afterschool… have to fill out some paperwork to change counties.  Our old 4-H club was too inconsistant, always cancelling meetings or planning them at the last minute.  It didn’t work for Charles, he needs consistant and predictable time and place to be able to participate funcionally.)

After my oh so fun afternoon with the government employees at the SS Admin, then had to do my grocery shopping.  Stock up on staples we were out of and get some friuts, veg and meat (I hate buying meat in stores, but we are low on beef w/ 6 mos. to go before, Little Hector, our steer is ready for the freezer, low on cabrito, since we’ve not had an extra buck kid in 3 years, out of lamb and chicken and the hog we are buying from a friend won’t be ready until after Easter.)  Then arrived home about 15 minutes before the school bus.

After going through the backpacks, found out that spring pictures were rescheduled for tomorrow (got cancelled by a snow day).  So two young laddies had to have hair cuts.  Oldest wanted to keep the back of his “long” (it’s almost down to his shoulders right now)… Pioneer Pa was horrified that the boy wanted a MULLET, it was such a late 80’s/ early 90’s thing and considered such a redneck-rocker thing.  I didn’t care, Charles was good and he was happy and there was no screaming or freaking out about having his hair cut. (Big area of sensory issues in the past!  I’m totally proud that he’s come so far and cares enough about his person now that he’s even interested in choosing a hairstyle… I might have drawn the line at a purple mohawk though.)  After a long busy day and getting two boys ship-shape and bathed, then myself too… after 2 haircuts I was so covered in hair, I’d never be able to sleep for the itching… it feels fabulous to sit here and write and wind down for sleep.

So here it is (after all of my rambling on and on)  the promised recipe for my Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Pumpkin Bread that I baked yesterday.  Yeah that loaf is already totally gone! (My 3 fellas polished off the last of it for breakfast)

Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Pumpkin Bread

1 (15 oz) can Solid Pack Pumpkin Puree

1 stick of Casein-Free Margarine (BestLife and Earth Balance both work well)

1 cup of sugar

3 large eggs (or equivalant of egg replacer)

1/2 cup canola or safflower oil

2 TBSP ground flax meal

2 -3 tsp. ground cinnamon (to taste, I like lots of spice)

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour

1  cup sweet sorghum or millet flour

1 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum

1/2 cup soy flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup your favorite chopped nuts (optional)

1/2 chopped dried cranberries  + 1 tsp. granulated orange peel (optional)

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs or egg replacer and mix well.  Add pumpkin, oil, flax and spices and mix well.  In another bowl, stir together flours, leavening, salt and xanthan gum.  Adding a 1/2 cup at a time, slowly stir in dry ingredients (do not worry about over mixing, as you would with wheat flour quick breads).  Stir in nuts and berries if using them.

Spray a standard sized loaf pan with Pam-type spray (or you could make these as muffins by lining muffin tins with cupcake papers and proceeding) and fill with your batter.  Bake in the oven at 350 F for approx 1 hour to  an 1hour and 15 minutes (your oven may very from mine which took an hour and 10 min).  Test for doneness with a toothpick or skewer as you normally would.  When done remove from oven.  Cool in pan for approx. 15 minutes before trying to remove the pan and coolng the bread on a cooling rack or cutting board.  Slice carefully and serve with butter (or jam, apple butter etc) toasted or untoasted as per your preference.

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