Hey, it’s hay!

Today I sorted out the hay situation for the sheep. Since I live smack dab in the middle of dairy country I figured getting hay wouldn’t be too hard, and sure enough it was as simple as introducing myself to another of my neighbors and asking them to call me with their prices. No more than an hour after our conversation he arrived with his hay tractor containing 10 large squares of hay and some small bales of straw. By large squares I truly mean massive squares – these guys are 7 feet long (4×4 feet wide/high I believe)! They were manipulated skillfully by the farmer with his small tractor and are most definitely staying right where they were put for the entire winter. We covered them with a tarp to keep out the rain after transferring a week or so worth into our barn lobby for easy distribution.

I imagine it was an interesting day for the sheep. They all gathered around the barn when the farmer was unloading the hay, watching curiously. They all flocked around us while we spread out the straw inside the barn, some tried to nibble the seedheads but most gave up quickly. They all went crazy for the new yummy hay, and I learned very quickly that the bales are very compact indeed and a little goes a long way with my tiny sheep!

Then we spoiled them and gave them a yummy grain snack with lots of snuggles. That’s just how I roll.

The bird pen got a fine layer of straw and now looks like a golden oasis amongst the dying/frozen grass. I’m sure all the birds are greatly enjoying finding the seedheads. It won’t be too much longer for the turkeys until they are ready for harvest, we are beefing them up and they are eager to eat so it’s a win win situation.

We have a bit more cleaning to do outside, some firewood is coming in tomorrow morning, I need to finally put away all the summer tools and get out the winter ones… but we are well on our way to preparing for the winter months which seem to approach quicker with each passing day 🙂

A Cold October

The Flock in October

It’s the middle of October and boy is it cold. Today was officially the first hard frost, I doubt it if much grass will live through it but I’ve been surprised before so I won’t discount it completely. I had to go out and break up the ice on the waterers, a task I will no doubt get very tired of very fast.

Turkeys

My turkeys are grown up. It’s hard to believe that they were once as small as could be, fitting easily in the palm of my hands! Now they are massive huge beasts who require constant feeding and monthly feather-trimming to prevent them from escaping their enclosure. Already the big white tom I bought from my friend Bill escaped, and if it wasn’t for Lee’s natural ability to capture prey like this I would have spent probably a half hour chasing him back into his house.

One of the 2010 duck girls

The ducklings too are grown up. Here’s one of the girls after a feeding (that’s some feed dust on her back). The girls fly around all day long while the boys waddle to catch up. In fact I think one was sleeping in a tree this morning!

Charlie is doing very well. Each day he runs a bit faster and has a bit more energy. Today in fact he surprised me by flying over to the feeding location, something I’ve rarely if ever seen him done. So he’s definitely energetic about living, which I love to see. We will continue to monitor his health, especially with the onset of cold weather, to see if he pulls through.

Wet Spirit

My next goal is to reinforce the fenceline so that I can bring home two Maremma puppies from my friend Heidi’s farm. I have lots of plans to expand, and with the coyotes here guardian animals are a must. Nothing beats a guardian animal who grows up on the farm they work on, so getting them here soon is quite desirable. The key now is to find 1500 feet of suitable fencing and install it, which is much easier said than done.

What’s Up?

It has been a busy week, surprisingly with harvesting and preserving. Even though we planted nothing to harvest during this time, there have been some latestayers in the garden, so we’ve been able to do some more things.

We harvested a few sunflower heads which were ripe if not a few days too early. I’ve never really observed how a sunflower grows so it was neat to see that the seed is formed at the base of the flower while the flower is still attached. I wasn’t expecting that form of growth! The seeds popped right off. We soaked them in salt water then roasted them slowly in a low heat oven. They were yummy and perfectly preserved, not like they lasted long at all. Sunflowers are high on our list for next years growing plan, both edible seed kind and oil kinds.

Yummy Corn

Our one-sister garden, piles of corn, were ready for harvest. They were probably ready two weeks ago and would’ve been ready weeks prior to that had we planted them at the right time! Regardless, we harvested four ears of corn which ranged in beauty from toothless hick to picture perfect cob (albeit with a mini corn cob tip with no kernels). All were equally delicious, more on the starchy side than sweet side, a mealy filling corn. More corn next year is obviously the plan, of many varieties.

As are squash and pumpkins. I would give anything to have a field of orange pumpkins growing steadily. Sadly this isn’t the case this year but we are working on it for next year. I will just have to make do with other farm-bought pumpkins and store bought squash.

Hot Pepper Jelly

One other plant which produced regularly was the hot peppers bought from a local greenhouse. We converted the most recent harvest of peppers with our fridgeful of sweet bell peppers and made some hot pepper jelly. It turned out to be more sweet pepper jelly than hot, I will add more hot peppers next time, and can in smaller containers to make nice gifts. It is very tasty with crackers and cheese.

Dad and Daughter

The ducklings have grown up into young adults. The girls have grown down and the boys are pudging up. Pebbles is one of the gang now which pleases me greatly, harmony is peace.

Big Turkey

The turkeys are no longer invited to stay for the year. It would have been quite a bit of effort to fit them in and keep them warm over the winter so we are electing to slaughter them for yummy meat. Oh and I’ve noticed the result of playing with your baby turkeys: they will flock around you all the time, pecking at your legs, getting in your face, etc. It was fun to raise them so close to us but I am totally ok with saying never again! Next year it is an outside protected brooder house for the baby turkeys. And by fall 2011 we should have a nice permanent turkey house in the new portion of pasture. I will be doing one of the males for our personal use and look forward to harvesting his large feathers and seeing if I can make up little quill pens 🙂

My sheep have grown up as well it seems and are little teenagers working on their pecking orders. Their days consist of eating, resting, eating some more, resting more, going to bed, sometimes having a midnight snack. What a cumbersome life! I am super excited to shear the boys in the spring and not excited to pick out the burrs out of their fleeces for processing. Another lesson learned this year: the importance of eliminating burr bushes from pastures as soon as you see them. Hand in hand, the value of gas equipment over electric equipment is now well known. Sure an electric lawn mower for around the house is ok, but for field and pasture cleanup you want the freedom of gas powered equipment.

Nothing but a Picture Post

My super friend Kristin visited a few days ago and I was able to use her laptop to upload a bunch of photos, so here they are. These were taken around early to mid August.

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My shipment of acid dyes came in awhile ago. Rainbow colors – would you expect any less from me?

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Ok Pandateers, I need your help in identifying what these berries are, as well as the ones below. I’ll go take better photos later on today as it’s a bit hard to judge their scale. The ones above started out being gold on the sun-deprived side but they are redding up, and are growing off a bushy tree.

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These are a second type of berry growing right beside the ones above. There are only a few of these plants compared to the dozen or so berry trees. These ones aren’t glossy at all.

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This is my corn – red tassles! Who’dve thought it.

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The sunflowers are blooming and look very pretty. I can’t wait till they start seeding up.

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This is an average harvest in the summertime! Tons and tons of tomatoes, all grown from seed. That makes me very proud.

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John and Don Juan posing together. How quaint.

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These are the baby ducklings… not babies anymore! We noticed the girls developed their flight feathers much faster than the boys. Seems the boys focus on putting on more weight whereas the girls focus on feathers. Maybe that explains why John doesn’t fly around too much.

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And finally, this is what happens when you try to take a close picture of a turkey. “What’s this new thing? Ima peck it!”

Super Harvest Time and Lessons Learned

I’ve returned from picking up the four new sheep. As always it was a trouble-free adventure, although I most certainly surprised Bill by arriving two hours prior. Turns out the cottage is much closer to his place than I thought it was!

While at Bill’s I got to see one heck of a crazy old cow. She’s 16 years old and he paid a grand total of 0$ for her. Folks, lemme tell you, you get what you pay for. Holy moses was this cow ever cantankerous! She busted out of her holding pen within 5 minutes. An angry cow is absolutely no fun, that’s one lesson I learned today.

Another lesson I learned is that no matter what you think, mixing animals and vegetables will lead to disappointment. In my case, the turkeys trampled my thriving squash plants and KOed a few tomatoes. Le sigh. I harvested what I could from the squash and have vowed to never ever mix animals and vegetables ever again. Well maybe when they’re babies, but certainly not as youths, they’re just too pecky and runny around!

Now for some positive news. My garden is rapidly approaching maximum harvest time. I left it unharvested since Friday and we easily filled one of my new larger baskets with all sorts of squash, tomatoes, and hot peppers. Looks like I’ll be doing some tomato canning tonight in anticipation of the next days’ harvests.

I harvested the largest tomato the garden has produced so far. It’s a Copia and it weighs 1lb4oz. Wowzers! I’ve been watching it grow and ripen and with the turkey invasion I just couldn’t risk leaving it on the vine to fully ripen, so it’s sitting on the windowsill right now finishing up. It’ll be making some very delicious tomato sandwiches in a few days. The Henderson Pink Ponderosa tomatoes are also ripening up rapidly, I’ve harvested a few so far but have yet to actually eat one of them. Perhaps I’ll go do that right now.

Turkey Tuesday: Dominance Battle

Today while tending the garden, Tom and I witnessed two new things.

First off, the turkey snoods in the boys are growing so much now that they flop over in half. It looks like they have kittle caterpillars on their faces! With this observation we now know that Thor is indeed a boy, he’s just a very gimpy one. Even if he hadn’t had his strange leg injury he would not be retained for breeding.

Second, we got to see a turkey dominance battle! Two of the Ridley Bronze toms started poofing up and gobbling at us humans. But then – and we don’t know who started it, the small one or the big one – they started dancing around each other with wings down. And then one pounced on the other, and the fight was on. They paraded around the garden at each others heels, pecking at each other. Finally the biggest tom managed to get his beak around the smaller one’s teeny snood and dragged him around for a few seconds, holding on tight as the little one wanted to flee. Finally he let go, and the small one backed off. That wasn’t the end for the big tom though, he stalked the small one afterwards just to keepp an eye on him I guess.

We have also been privy to duckling battles too, and although they don’t poof up like the turkeys, they make up for it with interesting maneouvers and speed.

Watching animals learn and grow up is one of the biggest reasons I love living on a farm. Of course the vine ripened tomatoes are also well worth it!