Sunday, November 11, 2012

It's Been A While . . .

So . . . it's been a while since I've posted anything about our life here on the farm. Actually more than just a while; it's been a really long time. We weathered a hot, droughty May, June, and July; a slightly cooler and wetter August and September, and now have enjoyed fairly normal fall weather through October into November.

Today we are enjoying the last of a warm front, that's blowing through as I write, to be followed closely behind by cold weather, with the possibly of that four-letter s-word: snow! Though it is the second week of November, and a completely normal possibility for this time of year.

Out the window things are the same, but different:


















The trees are all still there, and  the grass is greener than it was in June. The weigela bush got cut back; the drought did a number on it, and a great deal of it had died. We cut it back to the stems that still had green leaves, in hopes that it will spring back next spring. Sorry to the birds that like to use it as a wind shelter during the winter.

The meat chickens went to the butcher in early October. They turned out pretty well, but weren't as big as some we've had. A little later start and lots of heat seems to have stunted their weight gain a little bit. I'm sure they'll still taste good.

The meat turkeys are a week out from their date with the butcher. Which is not a bit too soon. We managed to get a lucky draw with poults this year, and ended up with all toms for our meat turkeys. They have been growing quite well, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're some of the biggest we've raised. But with their size and maturity, the hormones have kicked in pretty well, and we've got lots of displaying and aggressive moves going on in the turkey pen. Luckily not towards me, but I'm sure if we gave them a few more weeks, things would head that way.


 
The garden has been put to bed for the winter; mowed down, dug up, and sporadically covered with compost, poultry poo, and leaves.
 
 
 
We kept back 9 hens out of the chickens we raised from incubated eggs this year. So far they are one of my favorite chicken flocks ever. Apparently not afraid of people they actually will come up to me if I stand still in the pasture, and curiously peck at my green garden clogs and any loose piece of clothing that may be on my person. They've learned that I bring the treats (kitchen scraps), and now come running to the fence when they see me. Their fearless leader is a recently acquired Ameraucana cross rooster, who is delightfully non-combative, and while keeping his ladies in order, does not think that I'm a predator that needs to be attacked. Here are some picture of the lovely ladies and their fearless leader:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Because of them not being afraid, I can get fun up close photos like this:


 















Moving into the colder months of the year, our focus moves inside. Especially this year. We have a lot to prepare our house for.

February will find us welcoming a Baby O'Hara to the farm. So now that most of our outdoor tasks are finished, and I'm through the tiredness of early pregnancy, most of our time is being spent making the attic a finished room, continuing our efforts to reduce clutter and organize, turning one of our bedrooms into a nursery, and just generally preparing for one of the biggest changes in our life.

I imagine future posts may be a little sparse for  awhile, but I will try to keep you updated on all the household projects, and general outdoor loveliness that we will see this winter.

Happy fall!










Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Drought . . .

An old post from sometime in July that never got posted for some reason. I plan to start getting back in a more regular posting schedule in a couple of weeks. We have a good explanation for the lack of posts this summer; I'll fill you in soon!

With all this heat and dryness, I'm trying to focus on the positives, because staring at the thermometer when it reads like this just makes me grumpy:





Due to Ryan's diligent watering schedule, we're preparing to harvest sweet corn in the next few days. We don't have the height on our plants, but they're doing a decent job producing . . . maybe not the bumper crop we were thinking of when we planted those crazy long rows, but still, enough.



I can not say the same for the sunflowers, from all those seeds we saved and then planted . . .



The germination and then survival rate was rather low. Not sure what the story was . . . the seeds, the weather, or hungry critters raiding our seed bed.

Our green bean plants look lovely, especially with all the mulching to hold back the weeds, but seem to be in a state of perpetual blooming. Flowers for over a week, but can't seem to find any baby green beans.



Plants that love hot weather are the super stars of the garden this year. Here are the sweet potatoes and cantaloupe. Can you tell where one row ends and the other begins? Me neither!


Marigolds and zinnias are doing pretty well too . . .





Saturday, June 2, 2012

R.I.P. Essie


Our 4 year old turkey hen, Esmerelda (Essie) died last Monday from wounds inflicted by a racoon in the middle of the night th e previous Friday.We buried her in one of our wildflower patches; Ryan found an old horseshoe while he was digging. We hung it on a stake as a marker. Here on the farm we are of course a bit saddened. Essie was one of the first turkeys we raised. Thomas and her were from the 4 we bought the spring before our wedding. So we have a significantly greater attachment to them then to the ones that we raise each year for meat.

Essie was desparate to become a mother. She laid countless eggs, and built countless nests. But never hatched any baby turkeys. She did hatch some baby chicks her 1st egg-laying year; after she broke all her own eggs, we gave her some chicken eggs because she was so determinedly broody. Those chicks were the only eggs we have hatched so far (hopefully this streak is broken by the chicken eggs in the incubator right now!).

I know it's hard to imagine that a turkeys have personalities, but they do. Essie was a determined little turkey. During her life she suffered numerous injuries, most of them from defending her nest against predators, or from Thomas being a little too agressive with his courting. She always perservered and bounced back; except these last injuries were too much.

Even though we had to separate her from the other birds at the end, so they wouldn't bother her, Thomas stayed right by her on the other side of the fence. Essie was his main hen, even with having Ginny around. Essie was the one that would help Thomas preen, and just generally more likely to hang out with him. It's hard to tell if he misses her or not, but I would imagine that he at least notices that his flock is one hen short.


All that's left of her struggle are piles of her downy underfeathers in the corner where the coon cornered her. I keep hoping it will get windy and blow them away.

We picked up some turkey poults last week, and one seems quite a bit smaller, which is probably a good indication that it is a hen. We're hoping so. She can be Essie's replacement, already christened "Jojo" by our 3 year old niece.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's All About the Eggs


Around here, it's all about the eggs. Chicken eggs, turkey eggs, chickens and turkeys making eggs, and incubating and hatching eggs.

The eggs in the photo to the left are just the ones we have collected in the last 3 or 4 days. With 7 young (a year old or less) chickens, egg production is in full swing. If everybody lays an egg, everyday for a week . . . that's 49 eggs!

Which explains why our refrigerator looks like this:

We can't seem to eat or sell them fast enough. We have eggs for breakfast on the weekends, hard boiled eggs for snacks, and omlets for supper, and there are egg whites, egg noodles, and part of angel food cake in the freezer. Besides deliveries to regular customers and family. We are most certainly blessed with eggs!

And then there are the eggs we don't eat. Turkey eggs. We tried them one time. They're strong tasting, and I about gagged, just trying to break the shell of one. . . they have a thick inner membrane that's just not appetizing. But really we want turkey eggs so that we can get more turkeys.

This year we have 2 strategies to accomplish trying to get turkeys from turkey eggs. The main one is:

Incubating turkey eggs in an incubator. We purchased this nifty, heavy-duty Styrofoam set-up this winter. It has a thermostat and automatic egg turner, so it takes a lot of the guess work out of it. Right now we are on day 25 of 28 incubation days. It's "lock-down" time, which means we don't open the incubator now until we see baby poults emerging from the eggs.



Our other strategy to get turkeys from turkey eggs is the regular good old fashion way . . . let the turkey hens make a nest, and try to incubate. Thus you'll find this out in our pasture:


A nest of turkey eggs hidden in a pocket of tall grass. If she's really good, you'll hardly be able to see the hen sitting on it when she sets. The only problem with this is that it leaves her and the eggs exposed to weather and predators when she sets for 28 days, but it works for wild turkeys, so you would think it would work for her too.

If we didn't see the turkey eggs around, we would still be reminded that it is the season for them by the constant turkey strutting and courtship displays occurring in the barnyard. Here is Thomas and one of his girls in full display:


Since egg laying in chickens is not really too seasonal . . . they lay pretty much year round except the dead of winter, a picture of chicken eggs in the hay feeder is not an unusual sight, but even in its common-ness, it's still a pretty picture.

One last egg picture, and then I promise I'm done. For the first time this year we made colored Easter eggs with our homegrown brown eggs, and were delighted to discover that instead of being blah, they turned out lovely, muted "country colors" as my sister termed it. So, the picture below is not from a chicken who lays green eggs, but is just one of our neat "country" colored Easter eggs. Happy Spring!



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Playing Camera

When I was right out of college working as a naturalist, one of the activities I learned to do with kids on a nature hike was called "Camera". I would have the group split into pairs, and then out of each pair, one kid would be the "photographer", and one kid would be the "camera". The job of the "photographer" was to carefully lead the "camera," who had their eyes closed, to a spot where there was something that the "photographer" thought was neat. The "photographer" then tapped the "camera" on the shoulder, and the "camera" opened their eyes until the "photographer" tapped them again to shut their eyes. The "photograper" got to take 3 or 4 "pictures" doing this, and then the kids would trade roles and take 3 or 4 more "pictures". Then everybody came back together as a group, and told about the pictures they took. It was a cool activity to get kids using their observation skills, and sometimes it ended up being funny if the camera didn't take the picture the photographer thought it was taking. Sometimes we discovered something really neat and unexpected on these "photography" expeditions.

Today, I went on a walk along our road looking for signs of spring. My pictures don't really tell a story, they're just what I saw today. I'm going to play camera with you, and show you what I saw that I thought was kinda neat. I'm not going to label or describe . . . just enjoy the views.









Friday, February 17, 2012

Drip ... drip ...drip

It's that time of year again:


















This past Sunday, we tapped trees; on a cold, overcast day when the sap was most definitely not dripping. But the past few days, it has warmed up, and lo and behold, buckets are filling. Over the last two days we've gathered about 15 gallons of sap. I emptied the buckets early this afternoon, in hopes of preventing bucket overflow. With the nice 40s temps and sunshine; it's sure to be a drip, drop, fill the bucket kind of day. Soon the sap kettle will be boiling, and the air will be filled with its warm, moist sweetness. Happy Sugar Season!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

It's not time for this yet . . .

My calendar and the current weather are not coinciding. My calendar says its February 5, which from looking at past farm journals for the first part of February tends to be a cold, snowy time of year. Not so much this year.

Today, during our afternoon walk we saw this:


















Skunk cabbage spikes coming up in the local wetland. If you look close you can see the dark purple flowers buds.


















This is one of our sugar maple trees, which had a road facing limb cut off by the highway dept. this past fall. Notice the sap drops in the middle of the picture. We tasted it; the sugar's there. Three weeks earlier that we usually tap trees.


We have no idea when we're going to tap trees. This winter has been a constant shuffle of sugaring weather. We had a nice frosty freeze last night, with a nice warm sunny day today. Days like that are perfect sugaring weather; but you never know that winter could show up any day now.