|Posted by jameshillgoats on January 28, 2015 at 1:20 AM||comments (198)|
When my mother offered to let me purchase my own chickens, I thought it would be fun to raise my own breed of chickens, and would make a great project for 4H. But as time passed, I let the responsibility for my small flock slide back to my parents. I mean, they were tending the main flock of chickens...what's a few more, right?
Then my mom came to me with an idea. Since I'm older and capable of taking on a bigger project, why not expand my flock and take this on as a REAL business venture? I admit I was sceptical. But after some budgeting and planning sessions with Mom, I really think I can do this.
The coops are (mostly) built, my second breed of chicks (Bantam Cochins) are almost ready to lay, and another chick order has been placed for standard-size egg layers. Since we have a liking for a colorful egg basket, we will continue to raise Black Copper Marans, Ameraucanas and Olive Eggers, and will be adding Welsummers, Barred Rocks and Delawares to our flock.
As soon as the coop building is complete, the entire "chicken operation" at James Hill will become mine to handle. It's going to be a big responsibility, but I think I'm up to the challenge!
|Posted by jameshillgoats on January 28, 2015 at 12:55 AM||comments (202)|
A new year has rang in, and it's time for a fresh new start at James Hill. We started this year with a fresh new look for our soap products that we sell at Serendipity, a local vintage shop in Jonesboro, Louisiana. While we still offer our traditional soap bars, we wanted something a bit more eye-catching and "fancy" for our customers who purchase our product with gift-giving or special occasions in mind.
These "soap muffins" are just the right size for sampling or gifting, and the matching bath salts offer a little something special to pamper yourself or someone else. And as always, James Hill uses no artificial colors or scents in the making of our product. Just pure goat milk soap with essential oils, natural colorants, herbs and botanicals.
You fellow soap crafters out there will be glad to know that no expensive molds were necessary to achieve this look. We use regular silicon baking cups with our usual cold-process goat milk soap recipe. The soap sets up quickly, and turns out of the silicon easily. We are very pleased with the result. Pretty, don't you think?
|Posted by jameshillgoats on September 10, 2014 at 2:40 AM||comments (64)|
It's been far too long since we've last posted, and I feel I've fallen out of touch with many of our friends. Seems the chaos of today's world crept sneaking onto James Hill and thoroughly disrupted our quiet life on the farm.
Funny, isn't it? The world starts spinning a little faster every day, and you don't notice it right off. An added obligation here, a new responsibility there. One morning you open your eyes to a life spun out of control.
Then it's time to shake off the craziness of our "modern" world. To take a moment to enjoy living. To have a cup of coffee and rock on the porch. So friends, come on in. Welcome back to James Hill.
|Posted by jameshillgoats on May 1, 2014 at 1:20 AM||comments (93)|
As you might well guess, we here at James Hill are fond of most things old-fashioned...vintage items as well as old-time skills and traditions. And what better way to combine those things than a high tea? Most any occasion (or no occasion at all !) is a great excuse to set the table with our favorite thrift store and flea market finds, and enjoy some good food and quality family time.
|Posted by jameshillgoats on April 3, 2014 at 11:55 PM||comments (0)|
Spring kidding season is over for us here at James Hill...it's been a busy and challenging time. All three of our bred does ignored their "due dates", and all three kidded while I was working my "real" job. Poor hubby...they will make a shepard out of him yet! Hubby has just about recovered his having to manage the birthings on his own, and we had a pretty good outcome from this adventure. Eight fresh baby faces added to the herd, with six of the eight being doelings! Let me introduce the latest herd members:
James Hill Crumpet (left) and James Hill Biscuit (right)
Two doelings from our set of quads.
James Hill Shortbread (left) and James Hill Scone (right)
The other half of our quads (all doelings!)
James Hill All Bran (buckling)
James Hill Fudge Nut (doeling, will be staying with us at James Hill)
James Hill Sage (buckling, left) and James Hill Juniper (doeling, right)
At least three of the doelings will be offered for sale early May. We plan to retain both bucks. (If you are in looking for a handsome young buck, we DO have two yearling bucks who are being offered for sale. Contact us for more information).
|Posted by jameshillgoats on March 13, 2014 at 11:30 PM||comments (93)|
Does anyone remember this poor little doe who broke her leg when she was just weeks old? Her name is James Hill Cinnamon Bun, or "Bunny" to her family (us!). We had several anxious weeks with her then, as the break was completely through the bone of her leg and the splint was minimally effective in keeping it immobilized. At one point it was suggested that the best option might be to put her down, as it seemed her leg was never going to heal. But persistance and time paid off, and the bone healed without any significant deformity and with full mobility of the leg.
Bunny is now 2 years old, and she was bred last fall. She was due for her first kidding on March 15th. I worked an extra shift this week at my "real job" on the night of the 12th. I checked on her immediately before I left for work. NO signs of labor, NO change in behaviour. I was confident she still had a couple days to go. Imagine my surprise when hubby called LESS THAN AN HOUR LATER to announce that Bunny had kidded.
Now I'm the first to admit that I am the goat person in the family, but hubby and son bravely met the challenge of caring for Bunny and her kids. Kids were dried and their umbilical cords dipped in Betadine. Fresh bedding in the kidding pen for dam and kids, a meal and a big fresh bowl of water for Bunny. They did a great job, but it was Bunny who was the star of the day. You see, she paid us back for all the time and worry spent in her early life...she kidded QUADRUPLETS!!! AND they are all DOES!!!
Sweet, adorable babies. All up and active, all nursing. Two of them are a bit small, but should do fine with good care and attention from their dam. Way to go Bunny!
|Posted by jameshillgoats on March 3, 2014 at 10:10 AM||comments (64)|
Just before I sat down to write this entry, I walked out on the porch to watch it snow. Yes, SNOW!!! For the forth time this winter...in Louisiana. I almost postponed this writing for a later date. But as hard as it is to believe, time is marching on and spring will be here before you know it!
This past Saturday, my son and I took advantage of the 70 degree weather to catch up on our spring chores. We did some major cutting back of our perenniel herbs, evergreen shrubbery, vining roses and blackberry bushes. Dug the majority of the weeds from the garden spot, and spread the site with compost to be tilled in later this week. Cleaned the chicken coops and scattered them with rosemary trimmings to discourage insect and rodent pests. All in all, a very busy day. But it was easy to keep in good spirits with reminders of spring popping up, like this double daffodil we transplanted from an old home site a few years ago:
With the exception of kidding and harvest time, early Spring is our busiest time here at James Hill. Late February/early March is the ideal time for many Louisiana gardening activities. Fruit and nut-bearing trees need to be planted now, and it's a good time to trim up and fertilize those orchard trees we already have. Potatoes, onions, and that spring crop of greens need to be planted now to take advantage of the season before summer temps get too hot.
The Louisiana State University Ag Center has a wealth of information on home gardening, as well as a calendar outlining garden and livestock related activities and offerings for our state. Visit their website at www.lsuagcenter.com
|Posted by jameshillgoats on February 18, 2014 at 9:00 PM||comments (237)|
After our latest post of our incubation, I received several questions regarding which specific "breed" of chicken is an olive egger. Actually, an olive egger is not a recognized chicken breed. It is a crossbred chicken developed with the intent to produce an egg shell color that is indeed an olive shade of green.
This can be attempted through various crosses of recognized chicken breeds. The key to success is to start with one parent from a very dark brown egg laying breed (Penedesenca, Marans, etc.) and one parent from a blue egg laying breed (Ameraucana, Auracana, etc.).
A little further explanation of egg shell coloring is required here. Simply speaking, blue egg shells are blue all the way through to the inside surface of the egg. However, very dark brown colored egg shells are actually lighter brown eggs that are "coated" with a darker brown pigment as they move through the hen. This surface coating can be scratched or (firmly) rubbed off, revealing a lighter brown shell underneath. The various olive green shades are produced by the coating of this dark pigment over a blue egg shell.
Scratches in outer coating of Marans egg showing lighter color underneath.
Here at James Hill, we cross BBS (blue,black and splash) and Black Copper Marans with Ameraucanas. I have NOT seen that it matters which breed is the hen and which is the rooster, as long as you cross one parent of each breed. (Please bear in mind that we are talking about TRUE Ameraucanas. These are not to be confused with cross bred "easter eggers" that are often passed off as Ameraucanas by some hatcheries.)
The majority of female offspring of this cross will lay an olive egg, though a few will produce a light brown egg. The majority of the males will carry the green egg gene and can pass it on to their offspring. Unfortunately, there is no way to ascertain whether these chickens are truly "olive eggers" until they lay their first egg, or sire their first offspring (though some breeders feel your chances are improved by keeping only those chicks with a pea-type comb). This breeding project is a bit of a gamble, but it's worth the effort for such unique color!
"Olive" eggs from Marans/Ameraucana cross hens.
|Posted by jameshillgoats on February 15, 2014 at 2:00 AM||comments (117)|
Some days I think that life is really a dark comedy played out for the entertainment of some superior being that we have yet to meet! Before you cast doubt on my emotional health, witness this account of the past 48 hours here on our farm:
These two days started out normal enough. Returning home from a night shift at my "real job", I followed our usual morning routine of animal care and household chores. On awakening from a short midday nap, I found our clutch of olive eggers starting to pip. Hubby and son were informed of this development, and cautioned to keep our house cats quarantined in the back room until the hatch was complete. The remainder of the day passed without event, goodnights were exchanged, and everyone settled into bed.
At a quarter till four in the morning, we were jarred awake by the shrill tone of fire alarms. Hubby and I flew out of bed. There was no smoke, but an acrid odor permeated the air. A thorough search of the house revealed a burned-out central heating coil--troublesome enough, but no danger of a housefire. Relieved, I returned to bed to catch a couple more hours of sleep, while hubby (the early riser in the family) adjourned to the back porch for coffee.
Two hours later, my frantic hubby burst into the bedroom with: "Get up! We got a mess with the incubator!". You guessed it...in the rush and panic of the early morning fire scare, no one thought to shut the cats back in their room. Our Siamese tomcat had toppled the entire incubator to the floor. The one just hatched chick survived the fall and had been rescued from the marauding feline.
I held out litle hope for the remaining chicks. The eggs were spider-webbed with cracks, bits of shell dropping away as they were gathered off the floor. Already concerned about the viability of this hatch due to unseasonably cold weather and questionable candling results, we debated attempting to continue the hatch. The usual incubation cycle for chicken eggs is 21 days, with the last three days being the most critical. Even small changes in temperature or humidity during that time can ruin a full setting of eggs. But a small chance of survival is better than none, so back into the incubator they went.
We hovered and fretted over the incubator the rest of the day. Was the amount of water we added sufficient to keep the chicks moist enough to hatch? Or had we added too much, effectively drowning them in their shells? Could a cracked egg even hatch?
By mid-morning, two chicks had zipped themselves out of their shells. Two more, their eggs among those most damaged, had peaked out tiny little beaks, but had given up the effort. The remaining two eggs showed no sign of life. Early that afternoon I decided to assist the two stuck chicks. This is a tricky proposition at best. Peeling away the shell can tear into the small blood vessels lining the inner membrane, essentially causing the chick to bleed to death. It was as we thought. The humidity in the incubator was too low, and the flexible inner membrane of the eggs was "shrink wrapped" to the chicks. After moistening them with distilled water I was able to remove the them, but felt it was too late. The two stuck chicks appeared weak, exhausted and inactive when returned to the clutch.
I left for work that evening tired and downcast, but thankful that ANY of the chicks had survived. The clutch was given one more night in the incubator, though I expected the demise of the weak and the unhatched chicks. I felt I would be better able to accept their deaths in the morning.
On my return home I was surprised to find hubby and son beaming and happy as they led me to the incubator. The weak chicks were still alive, and the two others had hatched themselves during the night. All seven chicks were alert and active, shoving and tumbling over each other as they cheeped their little hearts out! Can you believe they beat those odds???
I'M a SURVIVOR!!!
|Posted by jameshillgoats on February 13, 2014 at 1:45 AM||comments (46)|
I really can't say enough about how pleased I am with this incubator. I am currently using it for my 5th hatch, and have no complaints so far in its function.
It is small (7 egg capacity for chicken eggs), which is a perfect size for clutches of "specialty" eggs and backyard farmers like James Hill. Brinsea does offer very similar models that have larger capacity, but this one suits our needs very well. Made of thick yellow plastic base with a clear domed lid, it has all the features required for a successful hatch: fan, water reservoir, self-regulating heating element with temperature readout, and automatic turning rack.
Operation of the unit is simple. Place your eggs in, pour distilled water into the reservoir, and replace the lid. Click through the menu buttons located on the top of the unit to select length of hatch, temperature, turning interval and angle, high/low temperature alarms and optional cooling feature. Settings are displayed on a digital readout right next to the menu buttons. Click to save settings, and your incubation is underway! The base, turning unit and lid clean up easily after hatch.
My favorite feature is the visibilty provided by the clear lid. You can see each egg so you can watch for pips, then monitor your chicks while they hatch. If I had to improve anything about the design of this unit, it would be to include some mechanism through which to add water when neccessary. You do have to remove the lid to add water, and this particular model does not give a read-out of the humidity level.
We are very pleased with the function of this little incubator, and felt their pricing was fair for the product you are getting. Find out more about this or larger units at http://www.brinsea.com