Guineas are funny looking birds. They look like a cross between a vulture and a clown. They may be about the same size as a chicken, but they act completely differently. They aren't very tame. They go wherever they please with no regard to fences. (I asked my mom once what I was supposed to do if the neighbors complained about them and she just said, "don't claim them." Well then.) They are exceptionally loud and insist on making a raucous every time a car drives up that they don't recognize. This can have its advantages though, as they will call a sneaky predator right out and start yelling and screaming at him mercilessly. Guineas are famous for their appetite for bugs and especially ticks, which is a plus on a farm too. I offered my young guineas to sleep in the chicken coop with the chickens, but they would have none of it, preferring instead to roost in the branches of the big tall pine tree in the chicken yard. The chickens were completely fine with this arrangement.
A couple of weeks ago the hubs decided to stick some duck eggs he had collected into the incubator. It takes duck eggs 28 days to hatch, so they are about half-way through. About a week ago I candled them for the first time, at which point I threw away the ones that weren't developing. (You could call those duds.) If we left the duds in there the whole time, the danger is that bacteria might grow in that lovely warm environment and you could end up with a rotten egg in the incubator. Gross. Since nobody wants to have to call Templeton the Rat to carry that off (think Charlotte's Web), that's why we candle eggs. Oh, and just in case you were wondering why the ducks don't just hatch some babies out themselves... Well, I've been asking myself that very question for about a year now... One of them actually did try last year, but none of the eggs made it. Perhaps she was discouraged after that, and maybe that's why she hasn't tried since. The other ducks most of the time don't even lay their eggs in a consistent spot every day, so it's a little bit like an Easter egg hunt every morning. Many domestic duck breeds are just not that likely to reliably set. I got the less likely to set breeds I suppose, but they are still really pretty and very sweet so there you go.
When I said that katahdins shed kinda like a horse would in the springtime, I meant that some of them shed in the springtime, same as a horse. After that the similarities stop. Horses shed their fine hair rather evenly. Katahdins on the other hand might shed coarse hair with a certain amount of fine wooly undercoat in funny looking clumps or even sheets. Each sheep sheds a little differently, depending on its coat type. Phoebe here has rubbed up against the fence and effectively taken the shedding hair off her sides already, leaving the top part of her coat a little rough looking.
Duck eggs have a higher albumin content and a slightly lower water content than a chicken egg. They have a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids too. Also, duck eggs have a larger yolk in comparison to the overall size of their egg. Since duck eggs are bigger you do have to be careful substituting them for chicken eggs in exact baking recipes, although it can be done. Other than this little consideration, you can confidently use duck eggs almost exactly the same as chicken eggs. They taste delicious and make very wonderful egg dishes.
Not much can compare to new baby chicks. It feels like Christmas and Easter all rolled into one. The post office called me yesterday and told me that my babies had arrived! Although they will deliver them right to my door, sometimes it's faster to go pick them up myself as soon as the truck arrives. (It's also fun to hear them peeping and chirping in the box and enjoy the curious stares and surprised smiles from anyone else in the post office that didn't know you could order baby chicks in the mail.) Little chicks can last up to 72 hours without food or water right after they are hatched, but really the sooner you can get them eating and drinking after their trip (which usually lasts about two days) the better. So I went and got them right away. I took them out of the box one by one and made sure each chick had gotten a drink of water mixed with some "quick chick" electrolytes and a little sugar before placing them into a cozy bed of hay in a horse trough in the tack room under a heat lamp with chick food and water where they would be warm and safe from the nosy cats.
Apparently my nieces know me pretty well. For Christmas this year they got me coffee (You can't go wrong there), a pretty new green coffee mug (can you say comfort), and a book. James Herriot is one of my favorite authors, so this little find by Dr. John McCormack I couldn't wait to start reading. Dr. McCormack moved, along with his wife and two small children, to rural Alabama in 1963 to start up a veterinary practice. He was in fact the first licensed vet to set up in the area, so truly a special part of American history is chronicled in these pages, as well as some completely endearing and rather hilarious stories. I certainly had no idea what "the hollertail" was. I also would have paid money to have seen a video of the intoxicated sick cow that got into the illegal whiskey still throw up all over the young vet, who had just gotten through telling the cow owner that cattle don't throw up. (Ok, so she didn't technically throw up. She may have gotten a little help from the stomach tube he had just passed down her throat. But still.) Anyway, I've read some of the stories out loud to the hubs, who has both enjoyed the special and emotional stories and laughed uproariously with me over the funny ones. Thanks girls, for finding and giving me a few of my favorite things.