Garden, garden, garden. Birds, birds, birds. Work, work, work. Yard clean up again. Forage, forage, forage. More garden, garden, garden…
And started the incubator with the last 6 eggs I’m having hatch out this year…
That’s from our lone surviving Sweetgrass turkey hen, crossed with our big Narragansett boy Dingus.
I’m hoping for super hardy poults…there were many times through the winter from hell that we thought T.D wouldn’t be alive the next day…and yet, that tough little turkey-who-thinks-she’s-a-duck pulled through every. single. time.
So we’re hoping that tenacity breeds true…while Dingus is an amazingly sweet boy, for a tom turkey, and is easy to handle…we hope his temperament breeds true as well.
And tho T.D is a smaller turkey, we’re okay with a smaller than a regular Narragansett bird, because we often get requests for smaller turkeys for people’s freezers.
*I* like a monster bird, but not everyone does.
So I’m hopeful this heritage crossing becomes the foundation for the Midnight Calico turkey.
The first of the turkeys have hatched. Out of 24 eggs set in the incubator, we have 10 poults. But, considering we lost power 3 times in the incubation cycle, I’m happy to have had *anything* hatch.
We did have a few that were well formed but quit in the later stages of incubation. Sad, but that happens sometimes. Again, power outages don’t help.
But the 10 that did pop out on their own are hopping and bopping around the brooder, having a grand time being happy little birds…
I set 14 more eggs a while back that are due to hatch after June 6th. Just because I’m hoping to add more hens to the flock so our boy Dingus can have his own harem. Then I’ll have 2 Narragansett breeding groups. That’s the plan, anyways. We’ll see how that goes. 😂😂😂
All the plants are out of my house. Not necessarily planted, but moved out to the garden and this afternoon, I’ll put in whatever I can. And then it’s down to the weeding, watering, mulching and whatever Mother Nature decides she’s going to do…oh, and fucking cats.
This morning as I’m moving the plants out for the final time, I notice my zucchini is gone. They were lovely seedlings passed onto me by friends…they were growing beautifully. Up to 6 leaves and happy, happy, happy. And then this morning? Gone. WTF???
Yeah so, I had started some pumpkins in the house. I set those outside in the garden first, then went back for the tomatoes. I guess I didn’t latch the gate…or she climbed the fence. Either way, I came into the garden to find this asshole:
…eating the pumpkins. Seriously. Eating the pumpkin leaves… WTF??
And then I look down to the end where the peppers are and see this one…
…lying on the pepper plants. I say again…WTF???
And then, just to add a bit more insult to injury, Coal walks over to Trouble, does the nosy kitty kiss thing with him, looks straight at me and starts munching on a pepper plant.
I may have lost it right about then. Screamed like a maniac at the cats. Chased them out of the garden. Threatened to make slippers from their lovely furry fucking hides.
And now the weather can’t decide if there’s going to be gale force winds, or if there will be no winds, or what it’s doing. All I know is, it’s June 18th and the tomatoes are not coming back into the house. They can live or die as they see fit. Grow, don’t grow, what the fuck ever.
But I’ve had my first harvest of Lamb’s Quarters. And I’ll be harvesting more this weekend with weeding. And today I’ll be emptying the one incubator. Some turkeys have hatched, some chicks have hatched. And on Sunday the other incubator goes into lockdown with 41 Narragansett turkey eggs in it. Then, one last round of eggs for the year. It’ll be a big set…97 eggs. And once those hatch, it’ll be mid-July. Which makes it the last one. I am so good with that.
But for today, all I have to do is get things in the ground. Rains are coming this Sunday, so I want everything done and in. I’m so very close.
We’re in the middle of a heat wave. It’s hot. I’m cranky because it’s hot. I’m watering the garden a lot. Birds get out at dawn and stay out until dusk. I’d *love* to leave them out overnight in this heat but…someone posted on a local FB group that a black bear had been seen (with picture!) just a few miles from us. Uh, I don’t need my birds being a bear buffet. 😂😂😂 And while I’m not adverse to shooting and eating a bear, I think it’s better to not have the birds out as a possible buffet temptation in the first place. So up early to let ’em out, up late to put them away.
Still planting the garden. These are the days of beans. So. Many. Beans. But, I didn’t get enough canned last year to make it ’til this years harvest (have 4 jars left) so the bean patch is getting a bit bigger. And I keep saying we need to expand the garden more. Not even kidding. But there’s a plan that replaces last year’s plan that didn’t work out and all it’ll take is a weekend to move a pasture fence and a couple big round straw bales…wheat straw please, because I can’t grow food to feed my Kid in oat straw…unless I want to kill her…which I don’t. Obvs. But that’s a Fall project. For now, Hubby is building another brooder…that’ll be 4 for this year. 2 for turkeys and 2 for chickens. Then he can work on a refurbish of the duck one (remember, it had mold and killed off over a 2/3rds of my first hatch of turkeys. 😥 )
Things went a bit sideways with my pre-purchased plants. Trees were shorted from the order…so no saskatoons and no siberian crabapples this year. Prolly for the best, I’m running out of place to jam things…for now. Once the expansion is done, a section will be specifically for the saskatoons. Then I heard from the local greenhouse that my order was being shorted the wild hops plants I wanted because the plants didn’t make it through the winter. *sad face* So I’ve substituted chives, a couple paprika pepper plants and mortgage lifter tomatoes. I’ll get hops next year. Really, it’s all kind of a blessing in disguise because I hadn’t figured out where to put all the trees, and not even kidding when I say I’m already exhausted. 😂😂😂 But…the end of planting is in sight, so once that’s done, it’s mulching, weeding and watering until harvest begins. And feeding the bazillion and 15 birds. Again tho…we’re gonna eat good this winter. 😉 Oh! And the lady we bought our pig from last year has been in touch. I have my pig booked for pickup in the Fall. So just as I’m dropping from exhaustion from butchering birds, we’ll have another 250lb pig to do. Not to mention the bartering trade of birds for a pig from a friend. Lots of pork, lots of poultry. Now, we’ll just need a deer or two and some beef and we’re set. 🙂
2 more weeks for the Sweetgrass turkey eggs. 3 more weeks for the Narragansett turkey eggs. Then there will be many, many more turkeys. And in case anyone thinks turkey might have a wee bit of a brain, trust me, there is a reason I call them my “stupid children” Case in point:
She stood there a bitched and bitched and bitched…for a good 20 minutes…because her feet were cold. Seriously. Turkeys is stoopid. But, they are also good eating and fun to watch. Which is why I love ’em. 😂😂😂
It’s Saturday morning. The roosters are screaming. Some mornings, I feel like I should be allowed to wake up screaming like they do… Eh, with my closest neighbour 1/2 mile away, I guess I could. But let me tell you about our week…
After all that work getting the pressure tank done, we’re still having problems with the well pump coming on too often. And it turns out it’s because…we have a broken water line from the well to the house. Joy. So we’re chasing the local well company to come out for a. and estimate on cost to repair and b. time frame to do it. But it’s planting season and fuck if anyone is calling us back. 😡 *sigh*
Tuesday I got a message on Instagram from my turkey hatching egg dealer…she was in the biggest city the next day, my big incubator just emptied of hatched chicks, and did I want her to bring me turkey eggs? Um, let me think… YES!!! So after some discussion, we figured out MCFHubby would meet up with her for the exchange. I was disappointed I didn’t get to visit with her (she really is a cool lady!) but at least we managed to get the egg exchange done, and I now had another 36 Narragansett turkey eggs to put into my incubator. Yay me!! 🙂
Wednesday morning, I pop the eggs into the incubator, with 5 that my turkey hens laid, for a total of 60 turkey eggs set between the 2 incubators. I still haven’t cracked one of ours open to make sure the tell tale bulls eye is there, but I *have* watched the boys do their jobs, so I’m going with “horny teenage turkeys” for the win. 😂😂😂
Oh and then Thursday… Fucking Thursday. So, I’m dozing at 4am, waiting for my turn in the bathroom, when I hear repeated beeps from the small incubator. I’m not terribly worried because Miss Daisy Mae loves to sit there and sometimes she knocks the cord and it beeps as she does it. But then, I realize, I have 3/3 cats in bed with me. Hmmmm… So I get up and I see the lights flashing on the incubator. And the fucking cord is hot, hot, hot…oh and it’s smoking! And there’s a bulge in the cord where there shouldn’t be one… Shit! Clearly, this cord is fucked. So we scramble (at 4am) to find a replacement in the house…because doesn’t *everybody* have a million and 2 extra ac power cords lying about? No deal. Nothing that will work. But we find that if the power pack (big rectangle in the middle of the cord) has a fan on it, it cools off enough to keep it running…okay, but this can’t be the answer for another 3 weeks, so Hubby heads off to work and I make a list of places to call to find a new incubator. Fuck.
After some run around, a lot of coffee, and a break down or two…seriously, want to see a grown woman sob uncontrollably? Let her see smoke coming off her incubator at 4am when she can’t do shit all about it…but, I found an incubator and a set of turners at the local Peavey Mart (for y’all in the US, think Canadian version of Tractor Supply). I texted Hubby, who then left work to go and get it. I’m telling you, incubators are in short supply this year! More and more people are turning to hatching out chicks than ever. A lot of them are not so sure about what to do with the roosters they hatch but that’s a whole different discussion. Y’all know we eat any extras here. Some folks can’t wrap their heads around that tho…
So the great thing about this new incubator is, with the turner, it holds 41 eggs. And it has windows!! No more fighting the urge to peek in and see what’s going on. Just look in the windows! 😍 I had 19 turkey eggs in the small incubator, that were at 1 week development. Turkey eggs take 28 days. Chicken eggs take 21 days. See where I’m going here? 😂😂😂
Once we got the new one set up, and the turkey eggs were in, I just had to fill it with chicken eggs. Because they will hatch around the same time. So I get an extra 22 chicks (potentially). And now I have the capacity to hatch 97 chicks at a time. So. Many. Birds! But, we’re gonna eat goooooood this winter. 😉 And I figure I can run 2 more hatches this year, before it gets too late for chicks.
Oh, and that small incubator? Totally fucked. The entire digital panel is malfunctioning. But the thing is, I only paid $115 for it, and this was our 3rd season using it. It has, over it’s life time, ran continually for just about 13 months…and I’ve hatched many, many chicks out of it. It has *more* than paid for itself! But this also tells me that I need to make sure I have money set aside for when the big one goes…it’s from the same place, and we’re on our 2nd season with it. It may last longer, it may not. But I need to be prepared for whatever happens.
As for the current turkeys… Whites are growing wonderfully. They’re only 4 weeks old but fully feathered and almost ready for an outdoor yard. My remaining 5 Narragansett kids are doing wonderfully too. I have at least 2 hens, one is another little auburn girl who is soooo pretty! And she loves to perch on my arm. I kinda hope she continues that habit. ❤
And then there’s my EmmaBird from last year’s hatch…
That box she’s in is my hay baling box. She’s decided that’s her get away from the boys. I think she’s considering going broody. She can’t have that box though, so Hubby is working on building a couple smaller ones that we can put into the turkey yard, because broody turkeys is just fine with me. And ain’t she just a lovely girl? While turkeys may not be the brightest of birds, they are endearing (and tasty), and Miss Emma is one of my favorites.
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. 😉
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.
I told y’all how we moved the turkey poults out of the one brooder, into a new one and how we were still losing them… Welp, so far, we’ve managed to stop the losses. From 16, we’re down to 5 Narragansett poults, plus our 10 white poults. So far, everyone is doing very well. I am…cautiously optimistic.
So, aside from the brooder change, what did we do? Hard boiled eggs. Yup, hard boiled eggs are a miracle food for poultry. They’re power packed nuggets of nutrition that give baby birbs an excellent boost. Thankfully, my chicken hens have been laying like mad, so having extras to feed my turkey kids is no problem at all.
I take 3 eggs, hard boil them, peel them, mush them up, add in a little poul-vite (it’s a vitamin mix for birds), a small pinch of brown sugar and water to make a slurry. Put the bowl down in front of those chicks and watch ’em gobble, gobble, gobble it down!
Plus they have fresh water and gamebird feed (with 28% protein) at all times. So I am very hopeful that the last 5 of the ones I hatched will survive. If they don’t now, it’s not because I haven’t tried damn near everything!
In the meantime…
Gardening has begun! The grape plant has been uncovered from her long winter nap. The garlic is getting uncovered tomorrow. And MCFHubby brought this home for me:
Onions, asparagus and rhubarb. All of which can (and hopefully will) be planted this weekend. Yes, it’s early before the frost date for us, but this is all stuff that can go in early. I’m also hoping to prep the area(s) for carrots, beets and peas. Again, cool weather crops that can get started soon here.
Every year I’m anxious for this time, and now that it’s here, I’m ready to get things going… So. Ready! 🙂
Back when Hubby, The Kid and I were thinking about how many meat chickens to order, we thought we’d settled on 50, like last year. And then, something picked at me and told me that wasn’t enough. I’ve been alive long enough to have learned to listen when my gut says something to me. So I ordered 75 of the little nuggets. And 10 white turkeys.
I figured with the success of our Narragansetts from last year, I oughta be able to get 10 whites to Freezer Camp size. I sure the eff hope so, because things have not been going well with my Narragansetts I hatched this year. My excitement over 16? Dashed, because we’re down to 5…and may very well lose them as well. Fuck.
Y’see, turkeys are very delicate. Yep, even heritage breeds. Even though the heritage breeds are tougher than the whites, they’re still delicate little things. As we were awaiting hatching, we evicted the ducks from the brooder, gave it a deep cleaning, sprayed it down with cleaner, thinking we were good to go with our poults. Welp, as it turns out, there was mold starting in the floor. I say again…fuck.
Turkeys are susceptible to mold. Even when us humans don’t know it’s there, have no fucking clue it’s there…turkeys will be doing great, bopping around like crazy birbs, eating, drinking, pooping beautiful turkey poops…and then just drop dead. Because their little lungs are that effing delicate.
So after the loss of 6 we thought “huh, this is more than just weak poults not making it”. Hubby and The Kid whipped off another brooder like the last one I showed y’all…metal floor for ease of cleaning, fresh new walls, lid that’s easy to lift for air movement and a door for easy access that doesn’t let heat out… Then, The Kid and I put fresh straw in, and I crawled into the old brooder to catch our remaining poults. That’s when I found the mold…under the straw, the wood was wet. And there were small fuzzy spots. Fuck.
Now we have the last 5 in the newly built brooder, nothing is in the old brooder until it gets torn apart and maybe refurbished…but it might just be scrap now. Fuck. I mean, we can’t really complain about it, if we have to scrap it. The brooder was here when we bought the place, it’s successfully raised near onto 500 hundred birds…but I hate that I found out this way that there was a problem with it. I hate that it’s costing little lives. 😥 That’s what kills me.
If you scroll through the pictures, you’ll see the size of the white turkeys, compared to my Narragansetts. The whites are a day old in the picture, the heritage birds over a week! They’re all getting along beautifully. I’m actually hoping that the whites will give the heritages enough impetus to keep fighting to stay alive. There’s really no treatment for mold exposure. Fuck. But I’ve got them on high protein feed, clean water with vitamins, a bit of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar twice a day, clean fresh bedding every other day, and today they got some mashed up hard boiled eggs with the vitamins mixed in. I’m trying my best to make the best of a shitty situation. While hoping that my turkey hens start laying soon…because goodness knows, the boys are doing their jobs. The very second I see eggs from the hens, I’m whisking them off to be incubated!
I’m going to bet dollars to donuts, that the second my incubators are full and working on chickens again, that’s when those turkeys will start popping out eggs…and then I’ll end up having to buy a 3rd incubator just for turkey eggs. 😂😂😂 Because that’s my life…chaotic, crazy, and always learning.
It’s just a quick shot with my phone, but so far 16 poults have emerged! I’m pretty darn happy with that. Considering we keep having help from Daisy Mae with the cord being knocked out, and the humidity was a bit wonky near the end…still…16 poults. Yeah, that’s good! Fingers crossed for a good amount of hens this round, so that we can add them to Oscar and Dingus’ harem…any boys, unless they’re perfect/awesome will be Freezer Campers.