Friday, October 13, 2017

A long hard summer

I was horrified to realize I had not posted in so long.

Summer got away on us this year. The pantry is full of canned corn, Honey Select, Kandy Korn, Stowells Evergreen and Virginia Gourdseed. The yard is chewed down by the poultry. It was extremely dry until Harvey dropped a mere 8" of rain on us.

Ralph herniated a disc in his back. I learned how to run the Flail Mower on the Grillo. We had a dreadful experience with "Free" rabbits and relearned things are never what they seem. So no rabbits which I think was God looking after us.

The ducks took all summer but hatched 1 duckling that had 5 mothers. The hens went wildly broody and are such fun. Currently there are two with 25 chicks in a shared system of motherhood. One hen we call Terminator 4 has......4 very well protected chicks. One hen moved her babies to the Tobacco barn when they were tiny, they now live in a 'chalet' of bags of shavings in an empty until now boxstall.

No possum problems but snapping turtles seem to like the barn. We had to shoot one and saw tracks of others through the dirt ally way. A huge stray dog showed up one night. One of the biggest German Shepard I have ever seen. He barked at the front door. We let him in. He was friendly and polite. A old cut on his head that needed to be treated and a studded collar but no tag or name. We would have loved to keep him but called Animal control. He went to a no Kill shelter and the young man was sure he would find a good home.

Shoeless Joe, our best Rooster, a marvelous Australorpe got hit in the eye by a Turkey Tom's wing. He was very ill and I treated the eye. He lost his vision in that eye. I was so upset but he is a brilliant Rooster and after I lifted him onto his normal place on the roosts the first night, he learned if he ran to me, I would carry him past the roosters testing his dominance,  and safely put him on his perch.
He regained his machismo as he healed and maintains 10 hens as his own. However every night a call Joe Joe sees him running to be picked up and carried to his perch.

The saddest thing ever though was our wonderful tyrant house Chicken, LLFP.....or Peepers as we often called her, died quite unexpectedly and shockingly fast. She lay her egg in the morning, oversaw my cooking for breakfast, chased the cat, marched behind me all about the house, just her happy self all morning. After lunch I lay down for a short nap, she was beside me preening. She fluffed up and marched to the edge of the bed and jumped down, all as normal as can be. I got up to wash the floors [a continual job with an incontinent house pet]. She was laying by the side of the bed, near Ralph's slippers, one of her favorite places, she gave a funny shudder. I looked again and thought how odd, went to check her but she was gone. So fast and sudden I couldn't quite beleive it. She was hatched in May of 2016 and gave us so many wonderful moments. Her daughters are beautiful. I am so glad when she went broody last February I set her eggs under her. We have 3 lovely golden girls and a dark black and gold colored one that remind me of Peepers every day. Goldwing is a son and we are keeping him. I still miss the clicking of her claws as she followed me through the house.

Ralph's house chick, Rascal, was fast friends with LLFP. Rascal was quiet for several days and stuck to Ralph like glue. We have started to let her out with the main flock, she comes to the back door at night to come in. They are the worst house pets in some ways, but a real delight in others. I will never judge people with chicken pets again. God bless my ornery little chicken for all the joy she brought me.

Our new orchard looks wonderful, we did loose the cherry trees and two of the plum trees but over all the trees look awesome. We had 6 of our own fresh Cortland Apples. The Blue Berry bushes had losses but that was our own fault, we went cheap and bought younger bushes. The bigger bushes, Premier and Brightwell are doing very well. The Chicago Hardy Fig trees are looking good. The raspberry canes from our neighbor are phenomenal. Again the smaller cheaper varieties did not do as well.

We had septic problems.....never start canning season with a sink that won't drain. The plumber found the problem and we discovered a disposable shop towel in the line from the addition to the septic tank. This was one of those shop towels with the fine reinforcing mesh in them to make them last longer. It's funny because we don't have them and have never used them. It must have been here from the previous owners. Anyway it tool some serious roto rooting to get it our, then some ooohing and ahhing as we figured out what it was and how it had not broken down at all.

The Thai Red Roselle is my favorite of all crops. This year I have finally figured out how to use it as tea. It is marvelous sweetened with honey or, yes sugar, I am going to try sorghum to sweeten the next batch. The jam is wonderful in place of cranberries for turkey or chicken. However drying the calyxs led to the death of our dehydrator, TSM, the company we got it from was more than unhelpful.  No warranty on the thermostat which we suspected is the problem and no help at all to diagnose the problem. It was not that old and we had taken very good care of it. You expect a dehydrator to last a long time and be repairable. With two 60 foot rows of Roselle producing calyxs heavily, we are going to get a dehydrator at Cabela's. They have some very nice ones with a very good warranty.

Now I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of our crazy summer.....oh the Solar eclipse.....not terribly dark but quite interesting. The turkeys were extremely nervous and acting strangely, There were no birds singing at all, the cicadas stopped buzzing. It was still in the oddest way. Then as the sun returned to normal, so did the turkeys. They lay down around the picnic table where I was husking corn as if they had not been wacko minutes before.

Photos are in the works......God bless you all in these strange times. With the world going mad, take time with family and enjoy every single moment you can.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Zip.....June is gone...and July...

 It has been a crazy year so far, we have done much better in some areas and not as well in others. Turkeys have been a great joy and horrific sadness. I posted about Auntie Momma and her amazing hatching success and how everyone was doing very well. They were a joy to watch and she took great care of them. However success was not to be in the cards, Auntie Momma was killed by feral dogs. The poults were active and seemed to be fine, eating and drinking in all the places their wonderful mother had taken them too. They did sound sad though and would look around to see if their mother was near. They put themselves to bed and things were good for about 4 days. There were 10 poults and  they slept in the woodshed where they had been hatched in. Then suddenly there were  only three. There had been no ruckus from the poulty, they are awesome about warnings. It happened during the day. Just three sad poults left perched on the rake, two days later they were gone. We talked hard about fencing the birds in. This gets down to the basis of what we want for our birds. They are secure at night. They live free during the day. We have no sickness, no pecking just totally happy birds. Turkey's love to roam, they forage all over the farm. We call it turkey walkabout. They are in beautiful feather and fat. Do we build a turkey yard and pen them all the time, or do we let them live as turkeys live even if it means short lives? The fence crew is coming to evaluate our fence, we need to enclose the unfenced three acres at the back of the farm. The fence here is only 5 years old but 5 strand barb wire, fine for cattle is useless for small stock.We are going to get quotes about other types of fence. This is going to be expensive but will add value to the property so it is worth looking into. We want to let the turkey's walkabout. So wire mesh fence around larger areas of the land is the option we consider the most likely.

The other turkey disaster was both Sadness and Depression our lovely young chocolate hens from the Christmas hatch were killed. Depression got hit on the highway. Sadness was worse, she had gone broody, the chocolates biggest drawback is how completely stubborn they are. She simply would not use a nest box. She nested in the weed patch below the corral. Ralph was drum mowing the fence line and she flew out of her nest into the side of the mower. He brought her to me with a bad but  treatable cut. Then in looking for more injuries I found her leg had been broken. I have to admit I cried over that quite a bit. It was not a break I could splint. I am lucky Ralph is who he is, he can do the hard things. It was pretty gloomy here for a while. Then we watch the silly antics of the chickens or the adult turkeys who go everywhere with  us, are great watch birds and are so  much fun. It makes us realize they are worth the sadness.

We had our hay cut. Our neighbor who did it last year simply was too busy and had more than enough hay left from last year he did not want it. We found another couple who are cutting hay on shares as a business. They have invested in some very good new equipment. They did a great job of cutting it but then let it lay for a week, the quality of the hay just bleached out as it sat, it was ready to bale day two. It was frustrating to watch. We are now evaluating ways to use our extra grass.

The chicken flock is doing well, they always help Ralph if he has the Grillo out.

 The chickens continually make us laugh. The steps are a favorite  place. Ahh Fluffy butts...they are wide based chickens! Peaches, our one Red Comet is so narrow compared to Flopsy. The Dark hen is a Buff x Australorpe and they are quite wonderful crossbreds.

 Wherever we go there is someone strutting his stuff.

 Here is Mournful, he is the remaining Christmas poult. He was the tinest one of all when he was hatched but he has grown into a fine big Tom, he may be bigger than Spike his pappy. 

Donald always brings his girls to the best eating, we had mulched around the fruit trees with a mixture out of the breezeway in the tobacco barn, chicken manure and old hay. We put down old hay, Ralph throws a bit of scratch into it each morning, we let the poultry go through it for a few weeks then I rake it up and spread it around the trees that look a bit pale. It seems to work, the new fruit trees have good color and are thriving.

The corn is just staring to yield but I am going to be busy with canning it. I have been harvesting and dehydrating our onions, they are turning out very well. I ran a batch of dehydrated onion through the food processor and  it made not a powder but a very fine chopped onion mix. A table spoon in a batch of meatloaf is perfect.

Potato canning is going to be a new thing but its in the works and my fermenting crock has a batch of pickles in it.

The humming birds are going through a crazy amount of sugar, I counted 25 out there the other morning. The swallows are on their second hatching and there are NO mosquitoes!

Our experiment of managing the heat in the house without AC is going well. The temperatures outside are the same as last year but we find it doesn't seem nearly so bad. [Until we make a trip town and go into stores that have their AC cranked up]

So goes our adventure here, I would not trade it for anything in the world.

God Bless you all and keep safe.