Around the Farm

It’s that busy time of year where just about everything has to be done all at the same time…
Garden needs weeding and mulching.
Hay needs cutting, raking, baling.
Animals need yards, moving, shifting, getting outdoors.
And the regular day-to-day stuff still has to happen too…laundry, dishes, cleaning the house…
Give it a couple of months and we’ll be adding canning, and butchering to the list of things that need doing.
I, uh, mighta started this Farming thing a bit late in life…I’m tired.
But it’s a good tired, so not much complaining is happening.
😉

So how’s things going?

Duck and goose babies now have regular outdoor time.
That makes keeping their coop cleaner much easier.
All the food and water is out in their yard, and most of the pooping happens out there too.
😂😂😂
They’re growing like mad, eating weeds from the garden, produce from Loop, and fermented grains.
The ducks are starting to quack like normal ducks, which confuses the hell out of the muscovies.
Genetically, muscovies are similar to geese, so they don’t speak the same “duck” as mallard derived ducks.
Instead of quacking (noisily, I might add!!) muscovies trill (girls) and hiss (boys). They are much, much, much quieter than pekins!

Garden is all planted.
Except for the few stragglers I keep seeming to bring home from the local greenhouse.
Yesterday another 14 tomato plants arrived.
😂😂😂
1 is specifically for in the house, and at least 1 other will come in too…but most will be fit into spare small spots in the garden.
As has been explained to me, there is no such thing as “no more room to plant”, much like there is no such thing as “no more room for books”.
It is true.

Hubby and The Kid got the fencing up around my Ruth Stout garden yesterday.
While I pulled thistles out of the haying area.
I don’t mind feeding the mares weeds…in fact, many weeds are good for them (some aren’t of course, but those are removed), like thistles are (they’re excellent for liver health), but too many in a bale of hay won’t get eaten…and a certain Palomino Princess has been known to eat dried thistles and get stickers stuck inside her mouth/lips.
That’s not a good time to deal with, especially since her 1 fault is having humans doing anything near/in her mouth.
I no longer give her worming pastes…not after having been lifted 3 feet in the air by her halter as she reared to get away from the tube of funky goo.
It’s just not a good time and it ain’t worth fighting with her.
When she gets her teeth floated, she’s drugged before the vet sticks his hand in…
Trust me, it’s the best for everyone.
No one wins when fighting 1500lbs.
Anyways…
I pulled a massive load of thistles out and fed them to all the birds.
Ducks and geese just plain love any food we give them, so they got the bulk of them.

The Kid fashioned a yard for the first brooder of turkey babies and they got a chance to get outside for the first time ever yesterday.

It was a bit scary at first, but then they came out and discovered their pile of thistles.
Then the singing and cooing started.
And then the dust bathing…
They were doing great until Daphne ran by and well, apparently, dogs are terrifying to little turkeys who’ve never seen such a thing before!
😂😂😂

There’s also the foraging harvests to do…
Stinging nettles, pineapple weed, lamb’s quarters, yarrow (which I discovered we’ve had for a while, but didn’t realize, so I’ve planted it for next year…this year I can harvest the wild…), thistles for teas (because liver health 😉 ), some prairie sage, and soon, chokecherries and hawthorn berries, and saskatoons…
Some will be dried for teas, much will be made into tinctures, some will become salves/balms.

Then, I planted some poblano seeds for indoor peppers.
Some Inkspot micro dwarf tomatoes for indoor tomatoes.
And I took a small tendril off the grape vine so I can try propagating it.
And so on, and so forth…

Have a great week folks.
🙂

Anatomy of a Turkey Dinner

Since we last talked, things have shifted in the Narragansett breeding program here.
Let’s preface this entire discussion with this…

Tom turkeys are whores.
The best ratio for tom to hen starts at 5 hens to 1 tom.
10 hens is better, because toms are whores.
And if there’s not enough hens for the toms, the hens suffer.

So, here’s where we’re at…

I have 4 toms.
Oscar, my main breeding tom, who is a lovely auburn color.
He’s an asshole. He and I have had several “come to Jesus” meetings, wherein I made it known that *I* an the dominant tom in the yard and I will not put up with shitty behaviour towards the humans.
He has always been respectful of the hens.
Dingus, my second breeding tom, who is the traditional Narragansett colouring.
He’s a good boy with humans, was a good boy on his dates with T.D., and has been good with the hens overall.
Another auburn tom, who is for the dinner table once he fills out.
And Wayne…Wayne is a table bird, but he’s a nice bird with greying in the traditional Narragansett colouring. While he’s pretty, he’s not breeder quality. So Freezer Camp is his destiny.

I had 5 hens.
Yeah.
So ratio is off, but they’ve been in a much bigger space and free ranging for the past few months and all has been well.
Until yesterday.
And that’s where our next turkey dinner was discovered…

So we go off at sundown to put the birds to bed in their coops, and I find StupidShit (a nasty, mean assed hen who will fight anyone, everyone, and their sister/brother) dead in the door way of the main chicken coop.
And Dingus is fighting Wayne and the other auburn, forcing them out of the coop…
We separated the auburn, Wayne and Oscar for the night in another shelter, so we can discuss and figure out what to do with this development.
Toms fighting amongst themselves is understandable.
Killing hens?
That’s a Red Queen offense.
And because of that, we need to be 100% sure of our decision before acting on it.

Over a glass of wine, we rehashed our winter, where we were finding dead turkeys and ducks in the turkey yard…at first we had thought that the weather was getting to them…then we figured out there were issues between Oscar and Dingus (because Dingus went over to the chicken coop and the deaths stopped.)
We assumed it was Oscar killing the other birds due to jealousy, because Oscar is the dominant tom.
But then, Oscar and the rest of the flock ended up in the garage…and we had thought that he was the only tom.
But we discovered that there were 2 others in with him….Wayne and the other auburn.
*We* didn’t know they were toms, but *Oscar* would have.
Huh.
We didn’t think anything of it, we had no deaths of hens, and all did great until we moved them to their outdoor quarters…and they all had access to Dingus again.
And then, last night…
A dead hen, and Dingus aggressively fighting Wayne and the other auburn.
Hmmmm…
So separation ’til this morning.
Once the hutch where the 3 toms was opened, they hopped over back to their chicken yard, where Dingus immediately went at them.
So Dingus was moved to the other yard…and that lasted about a minute before he went back over and started shit…while hens cowered in a corner of the yard.
Uh. Huh.

And so, now Dingus is in bird jail in the garage, and there seems to be calm in the turkey/chicken yard.
Hens are pecking and scratching and eating, Oscar is strutting (he *always* struts), Wayne is in the other yard (by choice it seems, no one put him there and he knows how to get out) and the other auburn is wandering about singing.
It is clear that Dingus is the problem.
And Oscar never was.

Y’all know what that means…

I have to Red Queen Dingus.
He’ll get to stay in jail in the garage until the current heat wave breaks next week, and then off to the freezer he’ll go. I don’t really have room, but I’ll find a way to make him fit.
There’s no room in my yard(s) for a shitty male bird.
Roosters, drakes, toms.
Shitty boys go to the freezer.
It’s a shame I hadn’t figured out *he* was the shitty one sooner…

Catching Up

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.

We shall see…

New Arrivals

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.

Next up:

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.

And…

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.
🙂

Leetle Birbs

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.
😂😂😂

First Hatching

This morning I took the turner out of the incubator.
A day later, as usual.
Good thing I got it done first thing this morning, because 2 eggs had already pipped, and now?
This:

First little turkey has emerged!
Pretty excited fr this year’s hatchings.
I have 24 turkey eggs in here, with 13 guinea fowl eggs.
The other incubator has 14 turkeys that I started 2 weeks later.
And that’s the whole of our hatching for this year.
Tho, I still have a ton of birds coming from the hatchery on the 31st….so it’s not like there won’t be a bunch of bebes around.
Still waiting on the ducks to lay, but at least they’re back in their yard, not in my garden.
🙂

Not Much Goin’ On

Got through another blizzard.
Rain/snow comin’ this weekend.
Feelin’ like the winter that never wants to end.
Donkey horse did this to herself:

I’m sure she had one helluva headache after that.
She sure was grumpy with me when I poked and prodded it.
lol
Someone had to poke at it and see how bad it was.
😉
Good thing it’s not fly season or sunburn season, otherwise she’d be even unhappier with me.

This week I’m firing up the incubators.
No chickens this year.
Got no roos left.
Sadly, in the hellacious winter of 21/22, I lost all my roos to shitty weather and a respiratory infection that blew through my coops like crazy.
So only turkeys.
And a few cross bred ducks…and guinea fowl…both of those I’m picking up from a FB friend who asked if anyone was interested in some to hatch out.
Um, yeah!
Haven’t managed to have ducks hatch in the incubator (came close with a couple muscovies but they quit a week or so before they were due) and never had guinea fowl, so, for free eggs?
I’m willing to give it a try.
Now we let our duck hens do the work, because muscovies love, love, love to hatch bebes.
And aside from late season nests, I’m happy to let them.

I’m currently up to 15 turkey eggs to hatch.
Today we discovered, much to my chagrin, that one hen we thought was a hen turned out to be a tom.
So Oscar (my main tom) has only 6 girls instead of 7.
I’m just hoping that the newly discovered tom stays subservient long enough that we can get him to a better size for the freezer.
2 breeding toms is plenty and I don’t have enough hens to give Dingus any right now, so keeping a 3rd tom is just not gonna work.
Plus, toss in the whole avian influenza thing going on, selling a live bird right now is more of a pain in the ass than normal…plus, we like turkey, and we let these jerks breed so we can eat the extras, so…

Tomato seeds are popping up through the dirt.
I’m getting ready to sow a few more.
Only have 36 little cups (though each cup has more than 1 seed in it and I’ll pot up any extras that come up from those multiples…except for the San Marzano…I only had 10 of those seeds, so 1 per cup) and that ain’t going to be nearly enough tomatoes for us.
Tomatoes is like beans…I could plant an acre of ’em and that *might* be enough for us.
😂😂😂
All my other seeds that I ordered, have come in.
Hubby is just picking up bits and bobs here and there when he’s at the feed store or the hardware store.
Mostly adding to the carrots/beets supply of seeds.
We go through a lot of both.

And that’s us.
We’re just waiting on spring to really and for truly get here.
And for hands in the dirt/building season to begin.
YeeHaw.

Almost Done

So after too many whining about the weather posts, today is not that.
We’ve had a few lovely days, that even with a bit of wind blowing, have led to a lot of digging out.
We were able to get the ducks out of their coop for some fresh air yesterday, and today I have the oh so lovely task of scooping out their coop…it needs it.
Ducks, while cute and funny and really tasty, are gross little goofs who love to make every single thing wet with either water or shit.
😂😂😂
Their bedding makes excellent compost tho…if only I could get to the garden expansion spot.
Not that I’m worried about that, since the little brats just keep shitting.
There’s a never ending source of fertilizer for the gardens.

The warmer weather really has the green thumb itching.
Yesterday I grabbed up my pile of gallon milk jugs and set out some more winter sown seeds.
This time it was 2 types of peppers, mullein, and 4 types of tomatoes.

Now, this method doesn’t make things grow sooner.
What it does is give the seeds the chance to grow with Mother Nature, and in the end, makes for hardier plants, because they’ve adapted sooner to Ma Nature’s proclivities than if they were started inside and needing hardening off.
For our micro climate (which, in case you haven’t noticed, can be quite brutal) plants that adapt and produce well here are very desirable.
If I can select seeds from short growing season varieties that prove hardier than most, welp, then I can create my own seed bank for this space.
That’s a good thing.
(I am assuming that makes sense to more than just my short-on-coffee-brain this morning)

I’m poking at the husband to keep drinking the milks so that I have a few more jugs to set out before spring comes…I have some native perennials that are also medicinal to get going and I want to try both the outdoor and indoor method for starting them.
I’m sure those who drop in are confused by my mass of milk jugs sitting in the garden.
But if this works?
Then I can start a lot more seeds for a lot more things.
That’s a good thing.

Stupid turkeys are doing well.
Oscar is dancing and a couple hens are letting him do his job.
He and I had a “come to Jesus” meeting on Friday.
Since I’m not letting the hens sit yet, I’m collecting eggs.
Well, Oscar has decided that I am a threat to his hens that must be run off.
Oh Oscar.
So we had a…discussion…one that reminded him that *I* run his little flock, and he defers to me…so when *I* want the eggs, he will move his tail feathers out of the way and I will collect them.
Poor guy.
He’s just trying to be a good horny bird, protecting his ladies and making like a big man.
But, coming at me with them spurs while I’m picking up eggs?
Stops now, or he goes to Freezer Camp.
I do believe we have come to an agreement now.
Hopefully.
I really don’t want to butcher the guy for doing what his hormones tell him to do…he just has to remember his manners with the humans.

And then yesterday, the feathered assholes broke out of their cage in the garage.
Hubby was thrilled (not) to find them all over the place.
😂😂😂
They only shit on the tractor a few times, so it wasn’t *that* bad.
And I cleaned it up, so he can’t complain.
😉

So now we just have to get through March.
Hopefully it won’t be all lion-like and kick our butts with more snow.
I keep tellin’ my 2 that “we’re hardy prairie ponies, not pony princesses…we can do this”
And they look at me like I’m nuts.
Eh, maybe I am.

So off I go to dig some more, fling some poo…and then perhaps grab my favorite Paint and have a discussion with her about how she needs her hooves trimmed.
That’s gonna be fun.
Everyone is overdue because the weather has been an asshole.
Nicer weather means we have to get them Merry Mares back on track.
Yeehaw.

Still Digging…

We’re still working on digging out from that last storm.
Well folks, we have moisture.
😂😂😂
If we don’t see the return of Lake Midnight this year, I will be completely shocked.
I’m sure we will though…
Just look at what we have right now:

Behind the drift is our truck.
In front of the drift is 2 large round bales of straw.
That drift is rock hard…Hubby used the blower on the tractor to cut through it.
😂😂😂
It’s one of the smaller drifts in the yard.
The back yard has now 8 foot drifts.
This is the most snow we’ve had since we moved here.
Even our first year didn’t have this much snow.
So I am seriously hopeful for a good growing season without drought issues.
I suspect our sump pump in the basement will be working overtime this spring…we have a backup, just in case. In the country, it’s *always* a good thing to have back up pumps stashed everywhere.

But the exciting things are…
The last of my seeds I ordered are on their way.
Then I start more winter sowing containers.
Yarrow, plantain, echinacea, some peppers (that I have tons and tons of seeds from), mullein, parsley, nasturtiums, marigolds…oh I have plans for many seeds to be started this way!
Most of what I’m doing self seeds easily, and in my growing zone, so winter sowing should work very well.
And it gives me the chance to see what the seedlings look like when they come up, so when they do re-seed next year (and in years to come) I know what I’m looking for.

I also received my seed package from the Northern Seed Library:

I am incredibly excited to grow these seeds.
Save the seeds, save the world.
Normally I’m not a pretty flowers kinda gardener, but I did discover that all parts of hollyhocks are edible, and bees love ’em, so the idea of growing black ones just tickled my fancy.
I had winter sowed a jug of red ones, but I figure I’ll plant those out at my brother’s country property.
He can have pretty, edible, bee loving flowers too.
Seeing as how I have to leave 1/4 between varieties to ensure pure seed.

I’m also eyeing places where I can add a good sized raspberry patch.
I have a few canes that a friend gave me after thinning hers, but I want a *patch*.
That won’t happen this year, but I can prep the space in the Fall for them.
This year the focus is on growing as much garden foods and medicinal herbs as possible, and always with an eye on expansion.

I always have huge plans, and then get frustrated that I’ve bitten off more than I can possibly do…so this year I’m being more cautious about what the hard core must do plans are. There’s still a lot of work, but it’s at the level that I’m pretty sure we can get done. And grow on in the coming years.

My turkeys are starting to lay eggs…

We’ve gotten a few so far.
It’s too cold to incubate them yet.
And though Oscar and Dingus are dancing, I don’t think the hens are letting them actually work yet.
This year we’re going to let them do their thing…I’ll collect eggs to incubate, but I won’t be buying any hatching eggs this year.
Last year I got in over my head, and hatched out too many birds.
We didn’t have enough space for everyone once the bad weather hit, and some ended up in the soup pot way too young.
Add to that we had some horrible losses because the weather was bouncing all over, and the respiratory problems ripped through the chicken coop, taking out 3 of my 4 roosters and a lot of the youngsters.
Ugh.
Not over hatching again.
So this year, I’m getting 20 dual purpose birds from the local hatchery, and 15 white turkeys.
No meat chickens.
We’ll let the dual purpose ones grow up, see who’s a nice enough rooster to keep on for breeding, butcher the rest of the boys, and keep the hens in the program.
All white turkeys are Freezer Campers.
So my incubators won’t be working as hard this year.
And beside, we have to redesign the winter coops for the turkeys and the ducks (the duck btw, will be left to their own hatching devices…).
Turkeys need height.
They love to perch up high…even if they’re standing on ducks to do it. 😡
Ducks like ample straw bedding down low to snuggle in.
The current shared coop accommodate ducks decently (though it wasn’t designed with an eye towards cleaning, which is something that needs to change!), and would work for turkeys by themselves, but it does not work as a shared coop at all.
So that needs to change.
And we want to put the turkeys in their own winter yard next year.
3 yards/winter coops are needed right now.
Turkey.
Ducks.
Chickens.

That’s Hubby’s first building.
Yards and coops.
While I work on the gardens.

But for next week, while we have a stretch of nice weather, it’s digging.
More digging.
And more digging.
Yeehaw.
I am ready for Spring!

Still Here

Still working.
Still…sumthin’ or other…
Meh.

We’ve had 2 major storms in the past 2 weeks.
We now have more snow on the ground from those 2 storms than we did all last winter.

Little arrows on the sides of the images give you a chance to click through all images…don’t hit that arrow on this one if blood bothers you, ‘kay?


We picked up a load of pumpkins at the beginning of the month, so I’m smashing bunches open at a time for seeds for me, and feeding the pumpkin itself to the animals.
We got our hay.
We got our straw.
We finished butchering drakes just this past weekend.
Now, butchering is done for the year.
Unless Hubby gets a deer.
He’s going out Thursday/Friday for that.
Fingers crossed.

We have spring plans underway.
We need to build an entire yard just for turkeys, plus another coop for them.
The low coops that work for ducks don’t work for turkeys.
Turkeys like to be up high as much as possible. Even if that means standing on each other and squishing each other. Because turkeys is stoopid. 🤦‍♀️🙄
So we have to re-jig that yard for ducks and move turkeys to their own space with a bigger/taller coop.
But first!
The greenhouse.
Snow hit before we got more than the 4 walls done.
Yes, yes, the fall was a long and lovely one, but there was soooooo much else to do.
But, the second things are melted, up it goes!

I’ve saved seeds from a bazillion and 2 things.
I’ve jumped into a couple of seeds swaps and gotten seeds from plants I really, really wanted to grow!
I think the only thing I might have to buy seeds for in spring is carrots.
I’m not 100% certain until I go through my seeds.

I started the garden expansion to go with the greenhouse.
In cleaning out the coops when we brought straw home, I had some really nice, composted, chicken poo rich dirt…and a metric eff ton of boxes…hey, that Loop program provides more than feed for the animals!!
Boxes to layer to start new gardens too!

Oh look!
You can see my greenhouse walls in the background!
And the straw bales…and chickens picking at the straw bales.
😂😂😂

So in the spring, I’ll build some simple board sides to keep the dirt where I want it, and then using t-posts and stucco wire, protect the space from the asshole birds, and plant my plants.
Every year I can/will expand it.

Tarp did not get pulled over the garden.
As I said, too much to do, and not enough time or us to do it.
In the spring, I’ll take a bunch of that straw from the horses (because they’ll explode their bales effing every damn where and shit in it) and layer it over top the last plants that didn’t get pulled out.
Then, I’ll plant into that.
Voila!
Mulch and weed suppression, whilst feeding the soil with the urine/shit soaked straw.
Worked effing beautifully this year, and I suspect it will work effing beautifully next year too.
And there’s no tilling, just soil building.
I call that a win/win/win!
‘Bout time them horses did something other than eat money.
😉

So now we just have to get everyone through the winter, so we can start building and expanding again in the spring.
Because spring means??

SHEEPIES!!!

I am so damn excited!!
😀