Yesterday we had 60 new little arrivals. That’s a lot of newbies here… Well, I guess it’s not, compared to the incubator years. It’s a lot for *this year*
First we have 25 white turkeys, 10 Lavender Orpingtons, and 10 Jersey Giants. The turkeys are, obviously, summer vacationers only. These are fast growing and fast into the freezer birds. Still, tons of fun to raise. 🙂
The chicken chicks are to help rebuild the flock and the breeding program with dual purpose birds. Both breeds lay well, and the roosters get to be a good size for the freezer. Orps average 10-12lbs, Giants 12-15lbs. Slower growing than meat chickens, better foragers, hardier birds over all. That’s what I want in our program. So this year we’ll see how many roosters we get of each and decide how many of them to keep for next year’s incubations.
5 white geese. Geese are so dramatic. 😂😂😂 Drama all the time with them…but they are funny as hell, and tasty too. I’m hoping for a breeding pair out of the 5 of them.
10 pekin ducks. They’re a meat breed, but do lay well too. Once they’re fully grown, we’ll see how the muscovies take to them…muscovies are elitists assholes. 😂😂😂 They tend to not like other birds (tho ours do have their “pet” turkey T.D.) and will shun them (at best) or try to kill them (at worst). So all the pekins may be Freezer Campers, or we may keep a trio of them for breeding. We’ll see how that goes. 🙂
Winter decided to give us one last kick this weekend. Cold af. Last night was -24*C. Brrrrrr!! So yesterday was a day of adding more straw for the ducks, chickens, and turkeys. Fat arsed mares got another bale too…they probably could have made Monday, but eating keeps horses warm so we just fed ’em. Mostly because if I blanket the one who needs it most:
Then the other 2 beat the crap out of her because she “doesn’t look right”. 🙄🤦♀️ So we feed them. It’s easier than trying to separate Sable from the other 2. The joys of a 3 horse herd. *sigh*
So my next round of peppers are up. Well, some of them. I planted some orange and yellow pepper seeds and some alma paprika seeds. Paprika seeds aren’t showing yet, but the o/y are up. Those were freebie seeds out of peppers we got in a Loop pickup. Birds enjoyed demolishing the peppers and I took a few seeds to try. You never really know what you’ll get with grocery store saved seeds, but I have the space in the garden so it’s worth the try to grow them.
Friday is tomato seeds starting day. And some medicinals/flowers. Since I’m not 100% sold on the whole winter sowing thing (I keep getting told to “trust the process” but my brain says it can’t work…) I want to start some of the more important things inside…like mullein, yarrow, calendula, and bee balm…they’re all for drying, tinctures, and teas for the home apothecary. And of course, we can never grow too many tomatoes. 😉
This past Friday Hubby brought home onion sets for me…
I had complained to him at lunch that I had used my last garden grown red onion for yet another jar of pickled onions 🤤 so clearly I was going to have to grow *more* onions this year. Next thing I knew, he brought me 2 1/2 lbs of onion sets. As soon as the garden soil is workable, they’ll get planted. As well as the other cool season crops.
Next week tho… I’m going to head out front of the house and dig out the raised boxes that have our asparagus and rhubarb in them. In a semi-normal year of snow, they would be poking their heads out right about now. Well, I have 2ish feet of snow sitting on top of them, so I’ll dig them out a bit and let the sun finish the job. If all grows well, I should have enough rhubarb this year to make a round of wine/shine. And to share with someone who really likes rhubarb for baking…myself, I’m not a huge fan, but I do like home made alcohol, so…. 😉
Slowly but surely, we’re getting there. Spring is slow af this year, but with the amount of snow, that’s probably for the best. Either way, spring is coming and we’re so ready for it! 🙂
That is a wrap on white turkey growing for the year. Yee. Haw. We learned some things, have plans to improve those things, and yup, will definitely grow them again next year.
First thing… Remember I said I wanted to keep the hen for the breeding program with the Narragansetts? HA!! Good thing we decided against it. The one I thought was a hen…wasn’t. In fact it was the only male in the group of 6. That’s right, the massive 30-40lb birds were actually the hens. So I would have been keeping the wrong bird! And clearly, the size of the hens would have made long term health for them all but impossible. But they’re not bred for health, they’re bred for fast and furious growth and off to the freezer. Still, mine went 24 weeks without issues, where most commercial turkeys are done at 16. I figure as long as they’re running and hooting looking for their morning hard boiled eggs, they’re good to stay.
Which brings me to the 2nd thing… Size. Oh my word. Those hens I thought were toms were huge! I don’t have a final dressed out weight yet, but they did not fit the restraining cone. And even though we tried to make it work, the cone completely split on the 2nd to last bird. So we need to invest in metal restraining cones. Whether Hubby makes them or we buy them, doesn’t matter. Also, thankfully we had the turkey fryer pot for the scald to pluck dip. Our regular pot we use with meaties and roosters is waaaaay too small. And! Our plucker, which says it can handle turkeys…can’t. Or, at least not the size these hens made. So we either grow them smaller next year (😂😂😂) or we hand pluck. They are easy enough to hand pluck.
Of course the other thing about size is the rest period after butcher. They have to stay in the fridge for 24-48 hours afterwards and before packaging. We have our regular food fridge up stairs and the basement beer/butchering fridge. Um, the basement fridge is really, really full with 6 turkeys. 😂😂😂 If we grew more than 6 (we had 10 but had a 40% loss over their growing season) we’d have to do processing for more than 1 day.
Finally, feed costs… Turkeys are expensive to raise. There’s no getting around that. For the first 8 weeks, they need a quality high protein feed. For us, that meant buying the gamebird feed from the local feed store…and supplementing with hard boiled eggs. Each poult eats an average of 3 ~ 55lb bags in their first 8 weeks. They grow fast and need ample protein and energy to do it, so feed is out for them 24/7. After the first 8 weeks, I transition them to the fermented barley/wheat chop that we feed everyone else. But they still get hard boiled eggs. Both for protein and to help the transition. Once fully on the chop, they get that with garden weeds, thistles, greens and kitchen scraps. And hard boiled eggs. 😂😂😂 What? They really, really, really love hard boiled eggs! Plus the next poults will learn what the goodies from Loop are sooner, rather than later. 😉
So, 6 whites go through roughly 55-110lbs of fermented feed a week. That fluctuates with the amount of green/weeds and food waste from Loop.
Cost wise? $6.70 for each poult. 3 x $27.50 for gamebird feed. 16 weeks at 2 x $8 for chop/6 **edited to adjust the chop costs since I forgot to divide the 16 week total by 6 for 6 poults.
Which gives us a total of $131.86 to raise a poult to butcher. It’s that upfront of almost $100 in feed, plus that we pushed them out to 24 weeks. But their size shows that 24 weeks was fine. And to get size like that in 16 weeks, you’re feeding more bagged feed than the chop. See? Turkeys are just plain spendy to raise.
So why do it? Well, it’s because happy food tastes better. This growing your own food thing isn’t always about saving money. Hell, I’d say growing food animals is almost always a money losing activity. BUT I say this so often…we are what we eat. And eating poorly raised, never ever see the light of day, no delight in weeds and greens tossed to them, no space for turkey races and fun, turkeys has an effect on us. Never mind that it’s cruel, in my opinion, to keep birds locked up away from the sunshine and the ability to act naturally. So we raise our birds on the ground, in the sunshine, giving them the foods they love and that help them grow. Anyone who’s been here can see, my birbs are happy af. Just watch ’em come running when they see me…because that means The Food Lady is bringing *something* good. 😉 That’s worth the cost.
To sum up: Turkeys are expensive. The end product is huge and worth it. Need metal kill cones. And a 3rd fridge (or a walk in) would be nice.
There is a strip of land between the pasture fence (white) and the trees that’s kinda dead space. There’s not really enough space there to do much of anything. Waaaaaay back when we bought this place, we used to have our bon fire barrel (affectionately know as the Hobo Barrel) in that space. Now it’s at the back of the house, where usually less snow accumulates in the winter, so we can still have raging bonfires in the depths of cold months. Sometimes, ya just hafta!
Anyways, so at the corner post (which is actually a tree) is there the front corner of the greenhouse is going to go…since things get beyond crazy effing windy out here, we’re going to tie the greenhouse into that tree/post for stability. The fence is going to be moved over to the other side of the lilacs (they’re currently inside the fence, as you can see) and that will give us(me) plenty of space for garden between the trees and the lilacs, as well as give some windbreak for the plants that grow there.
On the tree side, the first one is dead…so it’s coming out. Here’s the thing…when you buy a tree, rarely do the sellers tell you *how to plant* said tree. *sigh* So we have 2 trees in that line that, if I had known the proper way to plant them, would be bearing fruit for us now. An apple and a pear tree. But, since I did *not* know that you don’t plant ’em as deep as possible (like, how did I not know that??) and to *not* cover the graft knot, those 2 trees died. Now I know though, so they’ll be replaced with properly planted trees.
I’m hoping the Prairie Shelterbelt folks will be selling again this year. Their website is down right now, but I’m hoping that’s because they’re getting ready to open orders in the next month or so. Last year they had Siberian Crab apple trees that I really wanted. By the time I got an order in (with a friend and some others) I missed out on them. I hope they have them again this year. Plus, I want to add some saskatoons as well. Both will help replace the dead trees.
That aside, the greenhouse (which is a small 8’x8′ to start) will sit at the front, close to the drive way. Behind, where the grass is cut, will be covered with cardboard, straw and then topsoil for garden growing. Then, as we can, we’ll add on to the greenhouse, lengthening it down that strip. Only the first 8’x8′ space will have tables/seed starting space (at first). The rest will stay a dirt floor that we’ll plant straight into.
The first year we’ll use t-posts and stucco wire as a fence to keep the asshole chickens out. Because chickens is assholes and they love to rip out delicate seedling before they get settled in for growing. 🤦♀️🙄
All that to tell you that our focus tomorrow is on moving the fence line. Once that’s done, we can work on getting the 4 walls (now built!!) up and then the roof. We’re so close. So. Very. Close. ❤
Today is a milestone for the meat chickens and turkeys. It’s their first day outside!
You can use the arrows on the sides of the pictures ^^^ to scroll through… It’s scary and exciting and whooooo….they’ve been waiting so long (to them) and they really, really, really wanted out…until they could get out and then it was too terrifying…that’s where the food comes in. 😂😂😂
Once they knew the food was outside, they were much braver. So for now they get the small yards, but as time goes on, they’ll get more and more space, until the turkeys end up in the turkey yard and the meat chickens just run with everyone else. Until they go to Freezer Camp.
I tell ya, the real panic is going to be this afternoon, when I clean their coops out for them. 😂😂😂 **THAT’S** going to be terrifying. 😂😂😂
It’s been blazing hot here the past few days, with gale force winds. So I’m a little slow. We’re all a little slow. The heat weighs you down, and then the wind strips all moisture out of your body almost instantly. Lots and lots of liquids going in the past few days, I tell ya!
Working on getting seeds into the garden before the rains come. Always chasing the waterers for the animals, making sure they have enough to drink. And trying to stay on top of the “what’s for dinner?” moments. I’m tired. 😂😂😂
But, it’s a good tired and I’m not complaining. Much.
Last week I had chance to connect with a friend who’s working on her own family’s food security. This is something that comes up a lot around here (in case no one’s noticed) because I’m pretty darn passionate about good foods, well raised foods, and not being beholden to any govt for getting access to that food. So in this conversation, we talked about the space they have for growing food animals, compared to ours. We’re not doing pigs this year. Might be a year or 2 more before we consider it. She and her partner have access to low cost culls, and have space to grow them out. We have many, many, many birds. 😂😂😂 So. Many. Fucking. Birds. And so we thought that bartering pork for birds was something to consider. As always, I worry about making sure that all parties are happy. I never, ever want to be in a barter situation where someone feels shorted…especially not with a friend. But I think if we can come to a mutually beneficial agreement (and I do believe we will 🙂 )then I love the idea of bartering. It builds community (and Lady Bless us all, we so need that in society right now!) and it gets more well raised foods into more homes. Done well it’s an excellent thing!
And then she says to me…I have 12 heritage sweetgrass turkey hatching eggs…are you interested? Um… YES!
Last night another friend dropped them off here…and her and I discussed how her daughter’s new home had so many rhubarb plants that could become wine to share amongst us all. Yup, bartering for food/wine is a damn fine thing. 😉
Tonight the eggs will go into the incubator. And whatever comes out in after 28 days will be split between two Farms. I, uh, might be a little bit addicted to hatching turkeys. 😂😂😂
Oooooh, and just because it’s amazing, and finally happened:
That my friends, is our very first laid right here on Midnight Calico Farm Narragansett turkey egg!! And yup, it’s going into the incubator with the sweetgrass turkey eggs. 🙂 My excitement was (still is) over the moon last night.
We were putting birds to bed, and when I got to the turkey yard, my Kid says “I have a present for you” and puts this egg in my hand… Oh there is no mistaking turkey eggs. None whatsoever. They are unique (among my birds at least) and so very beautiful. I may have cooed over it like Gollum cooed over the One Ring. 😉 It should be fertile…I’ve been watching the boys do their jobs for the past few weeks…hell, when we were working on the plastic around the garden, I was cheering Oscar on as he made the rounds with every hen in the yard. 😂😂😂 Horny teenager turkey. If these birds start producing a lot of eggs, I’ll be looking at a 3rd incubator just for turkeys…and another brooder. But y’know, we’ll eat really well.
And in duck news… There are many, many duck eggs lying around. Many of ’em. And I’m willing to bet even more we cannot see. Muscovies are notorious for hiding eggs and coming out just about a month later with a whole bunch of littles behind them. Based on the chirruping and berating we’re getting from some hens, there’s quite a few of our 21 girls thinking about hatching eggs. So we’ll cross our fingers to start seeing bebes in the next couple of months. For the record, I’ve tried incubating duck eggs and have had no luck at all. Followed all the directions and still had quitters. So I’d rather let the hens to the job. Means 1 less incubator I have to buy, because muscovies are a 35(ish) day hatch, where chickens are 21 and turkeys are 28. 35 days is a long time to tie up an incubator for no return. 😦
But if we have an abundance of hens hatching, that will give us some ducks to barter as well. And steak birds is good eating. 😉
Almost all of Saturday’s plans happened. We didn’t get the landscape fabric down (that’s okay because it’s for the pepper/tomato area and we can’t plant those for a few weeks yet…and The Kid and I can get it done during the week if we have to…), and we didn’t get to the Merry Mares’ hooves. The mares were fine with that though, because they were busy eating pasture. Why? We got a little rain. In 3 rounds, just about 15 minutes of solid down pour each time. We literally watched the grass greening up in front of our eyes. It was beautiful. And we need so much more…
But! Check out this forecast:
*IF* that comes to pass, well have a lot of sky water coming down and that makes grass for equines grow. I only hope it will fall far enough north that our Hay Guy’s hay fields get a good drenching too. Fingers crossed for a bountiful hay season for us all! And can I just say, I’m so looking forward to our grass growing long enough to cut for hay? I have been having dreams of pulling the scythe out to cut the grasses again. Like, vivid, can smell the fresh morning dew on the newly cut grass capital “D” Dreams.
Today I’m starting getting the seeds I can get in, into the garden. Yeah, I know, I said that before. But here’s the thing…
Getting this plastic up took the 3 of us to get done. And, much of the things I wanted to plant would have been at risk of being stepped/trompled on. I love my Hubby, but dang! That Man does “bull moose” not looking where he’s going way to easy and my plants/seeds sometimes suffer for it. So far this year, he’s stepped on 2 currant bushes. 🤦♀️🙄 Years before, he destroyed half a row of pepper plants… He just doesn’t look, sometimes. So. I wanted that plastic up first. Now, I can start planting. And it’s okay, because yeah, we have heat for the next day or 3, but then we have rain, so that’ll be just fine for the seeds/onion sets. And I’m not as behind as I feel, because really, it’s only mid-May. This ain’t the city where by May long weekend I was yelling “All in!!”. We just can’t do that out here. And I’m of the opinion that what I get in, I get in. As much as I possibly can. I’m just not going to stress about it too much, because that triggers anxiety, anxiety leads to depression, depression leads to me not doing a fucking thing. So if I hold the “que sera sera” attitude, I get a fuckuvalot more done.
So today, peas. I already have them soaking, so that they can go in after my 173rd coffee. And perhaps the onions too… I have 3 kinds to plant this year, but I’ll have to cover them with something to keep the dang barn swallows from ripping them out. Barn swallows can be assholes. No surprise there. It’s a bird thing. Yeehaw. Tomorrow I’ll do beets, and carrots.
And now, I must go chase turkeys off my front step. Because apparently my hens think they should peck at the door. Maybe they should just go lay some damn eggs for me to put in the incubator. Stupid asses. 😂😂😂
Today we have a whole lot of work on the schedule. I mean, it’s a Farm, so when don’t we? But this weekend is the weekend where we get a lot more done in the garden.
We live on flat, bald arsed prairie. I fell in love with the place because it was what we were needing when we were looking for a famr…but if I were to do this again? I mighta kept looking. We have very few trees (most we planted ourselves), we’re surrounded by grain fields (our big field is leased out to a local guy…same guy we get the bulk of our feed from), and we have the shittiest neighbour across the road (but those happen everywhere, so there’s no saying we wouldn’t have had one somewhere else).
But, we wanted out of the city, we needed somewhere close enough MCFHubby could get to work everyday, and we needed something set up for horses…so really, this was perfect. And I do love this place. Challenges and all. 😉
So, our work for today…
The biggest challenge with the garden has always been wind. Bald. Arsed. Prairie. 😂😂😂
Last year, we tried something that seemed to work pretty darn good though! We’ve had to fence the garden to keep those asshole birbs out…because chickens, y’know what I mean? So what we did was hang plastic aaaaaallllll around the fence, to make a makeshift hoop/greenhouse. In essence, we created a less windy, teeny bit warmer micro climate with the plastic. Then, what tomatoes that I didn’t forget about were planted around the edges, next to the plastic. Well… Said tomatoes went in super late, were almost half dead, but they rebounded and gave us enough for a few really tasty sandwiches. And so, we decided that we needed to renew the plastic this year…since we had only jim-bob slapped it up last year and it came undone on 3 sides.
So that’s the main task today. Get that plastic back up. Then, lay down the landscape fabric/weed barrier that we plant the tomatoes through. That way, when Mother Nature quits setting us those frost traps…I mean seriously, I’m looking at the weather, including overnights and thinking about putting tomatoes and peppers out…and then I remember that it’s only May 15th. Nope, not falling for it! 😂😂😂 But I can get 90% of the seeds in. Pretty much everything but the beans and the corn. Though I can probably get the feed corn planted…it typically goes in earlier, but I’m not 100% sure where I’m putting that yet, so no big deal if it waits. That’s my whiskey makin’ corn. 😉
But first, feed store run and a trip to the dump. Hoping there might be some good stuff we can recycle from the dump. I love “shopping” at the dump! It really is a case of “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure”. Last few times have been pretty slim pickings. I think that has to do with our smaller, closer dump was closed by the RM (so yay, more bloody garbage dumped on back roads by pigs 🤦♀️🙄) and more people have to go to the bigger dump by the nearest town. Plus, building material prices are through the roof, so people are scrounging more and more. But, if you don’t look when you’re there, you’ll never find anything.
Then we have to move chickens around. This becomes a bi-weekly task in the summer. The meaties are ready to come out of the smaller brooder in the Little Red Shed, and move to one of the brooders MCFHubby and The Kid built. Man, them little birbs grow like mad and are little savages! 😂😂😂 They get so excited over food…even if you just fed them an hour previously. But that’s how cornishX are. Once we get them so that they have outside space/time, they settle down on eating every dang thing in sight. And, once outside, they can eat bugs and slugs and weeds and be happy little hooting and eating machines.
And finally, if we have any energy left, there’s 3 mares who need some attention paid to their hooves. They’re overdue for a trim, and today looks like a lovely day to work on some feet. But, we do have to get the food production stuff done first.
And Ruby can have a nap while waiting for her turn…
I am thankful for all the animals. Food ones, pets, working animals. All of them.
I am thankful that our animals have no idea of what’s going on out in the world. I am thankful that it will stay that way.
I am thankful that we can grow our own food. I am thankful that we can grow *a lot* of our own. And that we can preserve it for winter. And the the bulk of our veggies come from heirloom plants that I can save seeds from.
The world… It’s getting uglier out there. I read a FB post today where a local business, a computer repair guy, is literally demanding people show him proof of their c-19 shot in order for him to render services. Anyone who isn’t willing to prove they’re had the shot, or show proof from their doctor that they can’t have it, will not be able to use his services.
My head is reeling from this. People are congratulating him, saying it’s the “right and responsible” thing to do. Did I not say medical discrimination was coming? And who the eff does some computer tech guy think he is that he’s demanding access to personal medical records??
But this is what we’ve become. The govt fosters this attitude with their pushing of shot passports to travel and attend events. It won’t be long before it’s to work, to get health care, to buy groceries. And anyone who might be hesitant or flat out can’t get it is discriminated against. Think I’m wrong? Again, people are *praising* this guy for medical discrimination.
At no time in history when humans have set a random group of people apart as “other” and “undesirable” has it ever turned out well. Not. Once.
We are on the brink of it happening again. Whether people want to admit it, choose to see it, or not.
And I am grateful that, in the very least, I can take care of my family. For how long? I don’t know.
I’m sure I’ve said that before. But it’s true. I call their hatching eggs “grow your own skeksies” kits. Oh, and I juuuuuust happened to have made a deal for 3 dozen more Narragansett hatching eggs. Nope. Not addicted to turkeys. Not at all.
I may, however, have to create my own support group. I’ll call it Poultry Anonymous. And we’ll meet on a weekly basis, enjoy wine and pictures of our poultry, and throw middle fingers at the govt, because self-help groups are “allowed” to meet. Yup, sure sounds like something I would do. 😉
We had an impromptu shoot with this little dude yesterday. The Kid grabbed them out of the brooder and onto the big mirror they went. Of course it was scary (because everything is scary when you’re a wee little birb in a great big world!) and they called and called and called for their brooder mates…which made the big turkeys wonder what was going on. It was really cute watching a couple of the hens, everytime this little called. You could just see their brains go “Baby!! I want Baby!!” So I said “Hurry up and get to laying eggs, you sillies! Then you can has Babies!” I don’t think they understood me. 😂😂😂
And then they poop on the mirror… 😂😂😂
And then, poor little pumpkin just got tired and sat down:
Hopefully this weekend will be nice enough to grab a couple of the whites out of the brooder and we can get a few shots of them with a Narragansett for size comparison. All in all though, every one of ’em is cute little birbs.