Saturday, January 30, 2016

Turkey Evaluation Part 2......The Chocolate

No these are not the yummy chocolate candy turkey's you get as a treat, these are the real mcCoy. They are a breed the ALBC lists as Critical. This means fewer than 200 annual registrations.

Here is the ALBC description of these marvelous brown turkeys.

"The history behind the Chocolate turkey is somewhat vague, but they were common in the Southern U.S. and France before the Civil War which caused a great decline in turkey breeding. Large numbers of breeders were lost during the war and breeding popularity never recovered. The whole population was reduced to twelve birds before they started to make a comeback. Due to the lack of breeding birds then, most chocolate turkeys today are not pure and are carriers of Bronze and Narragansett genes; some may carry Bourbon Red as well.

The name Chocolate describes the color of its feathers, shanks and feet, which are a solid milk chocolate color in adult birds. The chocolate coloration is caused by a combination of the black and brown genes. The gene for black (BB) interacts with the sex-linked gene for brown (e). The genotype for a purebred chocolate is BBee for toms and BBe- for hens. Any bronze patterns and/or white barring, light colored spots in the wings or white tipping in the feathers is a fault in this variety, however is common. Chocolates are one of the largest heritage turkey varieties and are known to be very gentle. Chocolate turkeys are good mothers and chicks are born with coco bodies and white heads.

The meat is flavorful, but not all that different for your average turkey. Chocolates do produce more meat than some other heritage varieties due to their large size with mature weights of toms approximately 33 lbs. and hens 18 lbs.  Although larger in size, their health and mobility is not affected. Chocolates are still critically endangered."

We have come to love these brown turkeys, they are the most uniform of the three breeds we have and also we have more hens. They were big poults with heavy legs right from the start and have always been well behaved. No health issues to speak of and vigorous smart poults who went right to eating and drinking. They were a bit less curious than the other breeds but I am not sure if that was attitude or just they were not in such a rush to do things. They always came up but just not first.

 A new arrival, the Chocolate  Poults have cream colored markings on their heads.

They were vigorous and frisky right from the start. I think this must be a Heritage breed characteristic because all the poults amazed me with their speed, agility and vigor even after a long flight.
 Settling  in to their new home.

The Chocolates had the lowest mortality of the turkeys. They seemed to do well right from the start, they did not grow as quickly as the Slates but more steadily. New feathers started to come in on them first though. They traveled well and made the trip from Virginia to Kentucky in fine form. They were the first of the poults to find out you can roost on top of the waterer!

Learning to perch.

 Chocolate turkeys learn fast and are quite bold. Once they learned to fly/hop they were the ones on top of almost everything. The increased size of the toms has slowed this activity somewhat. When we fed or watered the Chocolate would come up toward us much faster than just for a visit.  They made use of the perch we put up right away but I am not sure if it was to perch or look longingly at freedom just outside the window.

Oh....look at that grass!

They took to going out really well and thrived on the introduction of grass and bugs to their diet. They also seemed to start to grow faster, we know the exercise was good for them. They are friendly and always come when they hear us, often staying to be around us after the other turkey's have wandered off. The hens are quite bossy of the chickens and demanding at feeding time, not aggressive or mean just right there! They also fly exceptionally well and often perch in the oak or Maple tree. The Tom's just wait for the girls to come down!

 A Chocolate hen happily perched in the Maple Tree.

The Chocolate Tom's have grown the fastest and are reaching breeding maturity faster as well. The hens are quite a bit smaller but a nice size and I think would be fine table birds for a smaller family. Their skin is not white though,  it is a bit darker and we will have to see how it looks when we butcher the smaller Tom.

  A good morning greeting from a Chocolate Tom is a fun thing!

The adult plumage is stunning in the sun, an incredibly rich glossy brown with brassy highlights. The under feathers are more of a milk chocolate and heavy with downy insulation. The cold does not phase these birds.

  In the snow, a Tom and two hens.

They are very nice birds, big, robust and with very good personalities. They range and hunt for bugs and are doing well under our management conditions. They get less commercial ration all the time as we want to see what they will do without costly inputs. From what we are seeing and learning they are a great breed for a homestead and it is scary, their numbers are so low. 

We have high hopes for these turkey's and a lot still rides on weather the hens will sit and go broody and we can hatch some of our own poults. We will also evaluate the table suitability as the lesser Tom's get closer to being meat birds. We want to have them able to reach a good weight on more natural feeds and pasture. As for now....we like these chocolaty colored turkeys even better than Milk chocolate!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Crystal Ball Time???

I can't tell future events. I don't know the future. And I don't know the meaning of things I am seeing. I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal 10 Point and the Morning Editorial Report. I watch interviews on the Keiser Report on Etc. I have seen numerous things over time. But in the last two or three weeks, I seem to be seeing a lot more interesting things.

On 12 January, RBS warns to sell everything. They are warning of a fairly cataclysmic year ahead. They were urging a return of capital, not a return on capital. They are expecting a world economy similar to 2008. They gave it a 75% probability. The world has way too much debt to grow well. Technology and automation may wipe out half of all jobs in developed countries. Equities may fall up to 20%. They see a lot of similarities between now and and the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. In the same article, three of America's largest banks have delayed a forecast for Bank of England rate rise. Morgan Stanley expects oil prices to drop up to 25% more if our dollar continues to strengthen.Standard and Poor's has more companies with a negative outlook than at any time since the 2008 crisis.

Thursday, January 14, 2016
Railroad traffic for the week ending 9 January was down 3.7% from last year. Carloads were down 13.5% and intermodal was up 7.5%. Over the past four years alone, CSX’s coal revenues have declined $1.4 billion.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

CSX is facing “continued industrial challenges,” according to Jason Seidl. He says intermodal will be forced to reckon with soft truckload rates. A strong U.S. dollar and global economic softness is likely to continue to weigh on demand for U.S. steel and export coal and grain. Low natural gas prices and elevated inventory stockpiles of coal could pressure domestic coal demand further, and low energy prices continue to hurt crude-by-rail economics. On the intermodal front, low diesel prices and abundant truckload capacity should slow conversion from the highway, and international intermodal remains challenged.

The Wall Street Journal Jan. 6, 2016.

Lack of demand for hauling freight curbs big-rig purchases. There is a near record number of trucks on dealer lots and truck manufacturers are laying off thousands each. And it goes down the supply chain. Heavy-duty truck orders plunged nearly 37% in December from the same month last year. Truck sales are expected to be down by up to 15%, with corresponding job losses.

The Wall Street Journal 01/15/2016
J.P. Morgan said some of the bank’s lending businesses are “obviously” going to get worse. They have built up a reservefor bad loans, a shift that spotlights Wall Street’s mounting concerns about the fate of oil and gas companies. Worries among investors and policy makers are also mounting over whether the U.S. economy and financial markets can remain upright while so much of the world teeters.

The Wall Street Journal
The IMF once again cut its global outlook for the world economy.

The Wall Street Journal 01/14/2016
Dow Jones Industrial Average down almost 10% from its highs of late last year. Traders said declines were fueled by fresh concerns that a U.S. economic expansion that is almost seven years old is vulnerable to softening growth overseas.

The Wall Street Journal 01/12/2016

Bankruptcy is looming closer for a significant chunk of the U.S. oil industry. Three major investment banks now expect the price of oil to dip into $20 territory in short order as a result of China’s slowdown, the U.S. dollar’s appreciation and the fact that drillers won’t quit pumping. Energy companies that took on huge debt loads to finance their slice of the U.S. drilling boom have no choice but to keep pumping in order to generate revenue to service their debt.

The Wall Street Journal 01/12/2016

The American economy has a jobs problem. Robert Doar writes that “one likely reason for the dismal labor-force participation is that many U.S. assistance programs act more like work replacements than work supports.” Mr. Doar, former commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration, cites research showing that “in response to the recession, several U.S. safety-net programs changed in ways that discouraged employment. Unemployment insurance, for example, was made more generous in multiple ways. Eligibility rules for food stamps were reduced, waivers from work requirements were granted, and the monthly benefit amount was increased.”

Wal-Mart: Retail Chain to Close 269 Stores, Eliminating 16,000 Jobs The decision to close the stores is "necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future," Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon said in an announcement Friday.

Gerard Baker, WSJ 01/20/2016

As global stocks resume their recent selloff, robust growth no longer seems around the corner for the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal Jan. 19, 2016

After 7 years of slow growth,the sees more of the same.We have waited a long time for the U.S. to shake off its post recession hangover. Robust growth often seemed right around the corner—maybe next quarter, maybe next year. Not anymore. Most Federal Reserve policy makers and private forecasters are giving up on the long-awaited breakout.

The Wall Street Journal Jan. 19, 2016

2015 delivered some of the worst annual losses since 2008. In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 have fallen roughly 8% so far in 2016 and are now in correction.

The Wall Street Journal Jan. 19, 2016

The biggest U.S. health insurer said it is expecting losses of more than $500 million on its 2016 ACA plans.

The Wall Street Journal Jan. 19, 2016
“If any country can withstand the tidal wave of default that’s coming from overseas, the U.S. is that country.” Whatever that is referring to!?

This is not an “official” source. This is from Harry Flashmans blog(http://). More correctly, from a guest writer on his blog: Captain Crunch. This came in during this splurge of articles I came across. It is dated Saturday, January 16, 2016. He brings up some great points. He talks of construction companies and oil companies leasing portable office buildings for job sites. He says in Texas, the portable office business has “dropped, or almost shutdown”. A large part of this is the oil industry slowdown. Contractors and subcontractors and their subcontractors, etc. not working. Fewer new wells. This all goes back to fewer people to lease them, to build them, to transport them, etc. This would carry over to other parts of the oil industry slowing down or shutting down. And, therefore, fewer jobs. I don't know how much truth is here, but this goes along with what I have been hearing and reading about the oil industry getting hit with low oil prices and having trouble making their loan payments. I haven't heard this on the “news”. This could as well be the Dakotas, Oklahoma, or whatever oil fields. With the coal industry slow down, I am sure it would apply there. Any place that home or office building is slowing down would display the same thing. Portable office buildings are widely used.
He cites an unconfirmed report of 30,000 mobile home repo's. Probably mainly related to the oil industry. Could any of these be portable office buildings? I don't know. I haven't seen this reported anywhere else. Maybe someone from this or a neighboring area could leave us a comment clarifying this info.

In the comments, Charlie Mitchell writes on January 17, 2016 at 8:53 AM “I'm in the oil business (exploration) and our company has laid off maybe 20% of our people and docked several ships. Who knows - I could be gone tomorrow. This is BY FAR the worst oil-related downturn of the 3 or 4 that I have ridden out in the past almost 30 years.”

In the comments, Tim writes on January 17, 2016 at 2:20 PM “Here in Hampton Roads Virginia things do not bode well. General Dynamics NASSCO-Norfolk shipyard has warned its employees of pending layoffs. BAE Systems Norfolk announces 650 layoffs and Newport News Shipyard to lay off more than 1,500. These are all good blue collar jobs and those families depend on those paychecks.” (Back to me.) I have read of many layoffs nationwide. Above mentions, many thousands in the truck manufacturing business and wal-mart being laid off.

I have heard Max Keiser on talking of the financial problems coming for the oil industry for some time. His predictions seem to be coming true. (Note: Max is not for everyone. He is weird!!!? But, when you get past “him”, he does have some good info and insight! But you do have to get past “him”! He is on three times a week for a half hour each.)

Last week or the week before, he had the editor or publisher or whatever from the Wall Street Examiner on. They were talking about the people in the know got out of the market a year ago. Us chumps are the ones still in the market. (Episode 861 has “In the second half, Max interviews Lee Adler of about distribution taking place in the stock market and why the IPO of Saudi Aramco could pull even more cash out of the economy.” I think Lee Adler was on for two episodes: this one and the one before or the one after this one.)

In conclusion: I see flashes of “the sky is falling”, “the little boy who cried wolf”, the y2k bug, and many other hysterias. My crystal ball just isn't working today. I can't even say there is a link between these articles or if I interpreted them correctly. Are we in a boom or bust cycle? I just don't know. As for me and my house (I heard that from a smart man), we will just do the best we can to be prepared. No matter what comes down the pike.

May God bless you and give you wisdom and insight.

Ralph and Fiona

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Turkey Evaluation Part 1: The Blue Slate

I think its about time to talk turkey.
We have three heritage breeds and are enjoying them very much and I would like to give you our observations to this point.

First off is our Blue Slate.
Here is the description of this breed from the ALBC website.

"While most early texts state that the Slate turkey originated from a cross of the Black turkey on a white turkey, there is little genetic evidence to support such a conclusion. The slate gene is a legitimate mutation that arose just as the gene for blue in the Andalusian chicken is the result of an unrecorded mutation. One added element of confusion in defining the variety is that there are actually two different genetic mutations (one dominant and one recessive) that produce the blue slate color, and these produce slightly different shades. White and rusty brown markings may be present but are considered a defect.

The Slate or Blue Slate variety is named for its color, which is solid to ashy blue over the entire body, with or without a few black flecks. It is also called the Blue or Lavender turkey. Hens are lighter in hue than the toms. The head, throat, and wattles are red to bluish white. The beak is horn in color; the eyes are brown; and the beard is black. The shanks and toes are pink. The Standard weight for a young tom is 23 pounds and 14 pounds for a young hen. Since, however, the Slate has not been selected for production attributes, including weight gain, for years, many birds may be smaller than the standard. Careful selection for good health, ability to mate naturally, and production attributes will return this variety to its former stature.

 The Slate was accepted by the American Poultry Association in 1874. It has been popular in exhibition circles and is gaining popularity in pastured poultry production. Renewed interest in the biological fitness, survivability, and superior flavor of the Slate has captured consumer interest and created a growing market niche. The Slate is less well documented and more variable in type and color than any other variety. This makes it more challenging to breed consistently than the others. Its production potential today is not known."
They are on the watch list: fewer than 2500 annual registrations in the USA.

We also enjoy this video from P Allen Smith about Breeding selection of Blue Slate or Slate Turkeys.

 A prime Mature Blue Slate Tom.

Ralph and I did a lot of research about this breed, we found that the modern Blue Slate is much smaller than they used to be and need careful selection to regain the status of old. The mature toms should weigh 33 or more pounds at maturity and modern birds are hovering around 25 pounds.
They are noted for their good disposition and pale feather for fewer pin feathers and a cleaner carcass.

Our Blue Slates arrived when we were in the middle of our move from Virginia and they were hatched in New Mexico, flown to Roanoke Virginia and delivered to us in New Castle. Then we hauled them here to Cub Run.
They were good sized poults and quite vigorous. Way more active than the commercial Broad Breasted White turkey's I am used to.

 The New Arrivals, Blue Slate Poults from Meyer Hatchery.

We had no trouble with them eating and drinking right away. Good vigorous poults with no bad feet or crooked legs. They were curious right from the start.
Not a bit afraid of us and just amazing little birds. Hard to imagine they are going to get so big.

 A Blue Slate in Ralph's hands.

We had trouble getting the higher protein turkey starter because it was so late in the year. [These were the  last poults we could get anywhere when we ordered them this fall, its why we had them shipped to Virginia.] We fed them game bird starter which is high enough protein for them. We did have some losses and we are not sure if the first ration we had was not high enough nutritionally or if it was the flight from New Mexico and then the drive to Kentucky all in their first two weeks.

But despite the losses and the move they grew well and by mid October were showing their color in the first feathers. 

 6 week old Blue Slate Poult

The feathers are lovely and show faint penciling along the edges and down the spine, the slate color has odd black flecking where the lilac or lavender phase which is more rare is purely light gray.

 They are friendly birds and would always come up to see what we were doing, this was right from the start and has remained constant as they have grown. The move caused us to research and modify a working ration to both be affordable and yet grow these bird well, into strong healthy adults. We lost 10 percent of the young turkeys and unfortunately more of these were Blue Slate. At about two months they really started to grow and thrived on being let out to graze and hunt bugs. The love tomato scraps and always rushed to see what i was throwing out.

Ralph would pick the young toms up to see how they were growing and despite their long gawky legs they were getting serious muscle to them. Of the three breeds we have they are the biggest and fastest growing. They are also the most steady and social. They will let you hold them without complaint and my favorite {Black Feather} would actually sit on my lap.

The Blue Slate started to  mature the first and were strutting and displaying at 6 to 7 weeks old. We found they were not as much into flying as the other breeds which is quite  good thing with birds that will be over 30 pounds.

 A Blue Slate letting an Uppity Royal Palm know whats what!

 A young Tom on our garbage bin. Note the heavy leg structure and good feet.


They forage extremely well and have been growing steadily. We did have a disaster with two of the three biggest slate toms getting hit on the road out front. This will sound mercenary but it did give us a chance to find out about the table quality of these birds. At a bit over four months old and we  have been letting them grow out naturally the dressed weight was 12 pounds for the biggest Slate. I processed the carcass into parts and roasted the breast meat after marinating it. It was very good, albeit a bit lean and I have to say I am sure salvage is not the  best test of meat quality but we still felt it was good.

We most definitely want to breed these birds and we hope to, we only have one hen and fortunately the Best Tom was not in the accident. We continue to watch these birds and so far there is a lot to like about them. We will have to see if the hen sits, she is a Prima Donna and really knows she is lovely! I don't hesitate to say if she does go broody she will rule the roost! 
Lilac giving me her HOW dare you take my picture stare!
We will let the remaining Tom's of lesser quality grow out so we can properly evaluate the carcass potential of these beautiful birds. From what we have observed these birds have great potential to be wonderful small farm turkeys. 


Monday, January 25, 2016

A Winter video Photo Post

I hope this works...Our Turkeys are such fun and always around!

Two of the Royal Palm hens coming to the house to visit. Ralph had used the Dodge 4X4 to break was terrible to shovel because of the ice.  The Royal Palm are great turkeys, small so suited for smaller families  or couples. They are the most active and fly the best.

The trail breaking with the truck was good for the poor cabin fevered turkey's, they love to ramble and as soon as Ralph had got the trail to the house done they they came for a visit. Anyone who enjoys social critters, turkey's are a great choice [except for the poop]. They don't really liked being petted but they sure like to be with us.

This morning we had a convention out in the front of the buildings, there was a lot of quacking and gobbling going on. The poultry was so  happy it is getting nice again. The ducks found water running off the barn and dabbled in it then did some snow sliding and for the lack of a better word snow diving. They run their heads under the snow like they were in water then shake and preen like crazy.

I hope these videos entertain you. I am working on a series of Breed evaluation posts about the ducks and turkeys. We are glad we researched the breeds we have as all seem to be very suited to small farmstead systems.

Take care everyone and count your blessings... they are all around us.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Days

We have had our first snowstorm on the farm, first storm of the year and I thought I would share some other firsts.

The ducks first foray into the teeth of the blizzard. They are crazy! They loved it and rolled and dived and waded and played in the snow, outside in the very worst part of the storm. There were ducks sleeping and ducks grooming and yes some duck romance as they are getting hormonal. They went in to eat and drink then rushed out for more quality snow time.

The turkey's were less enthusiastic as they took their first stroll out into the snow, they came out early before the snow was too deep. After stalking around the yard and finding no grass or corn treats they marched back to the tobacco barn with much disgruntled churking!

This little Chocolate hen's expression says it all!  She followed Ralph around and kept pecking his leg until he picked her up. Then she gave a half hearted try to  get down and sighed and just let him hold her, thankful to be off the cold cold ground.

Most of the chickens were in the Tobacco barn and they had fun scratching all over the ally ways and in the stalls. The turkeys practiced their strutting and other than looking wistfully out toward the pasture the poultry weathered the storm really well.

Its wonderful to have this roomy old barn, there is room for them to stay in a sheltered place and still get exercise and do chicken things.

The Buckeyes are always wanting to know what your doing.

Here is the best Chocolate Tom, he was doing a great strut and making the traditional Manly Turkey noises.  They always have to display when we are around and doing things.

Yesterday after the worst of the storm animals started to come out and about. They were glad to see the sun and it really was a nice day. They really miss the pasture though and the turkey's followed by the Buckeye and Buff's made a brief trip out to the Johnson grass but the ice has made it too hard for them to forage very much.

The turkeys came up to the house to see what I was doing and then rested by the maple tree before heading back through the snow.

This morning is dawned crisp and hazy, I took a series of photos from the deck and stitched this panoramic together. The sun is in the east and the building to the south. It was a beautiful winter sight and somehow just made the farm so much more wonderful.

We had no power for a couple of hours but really never noticed it, the propane lights made the house cozy and bright, the option to cook on the woodstove or the gas range was wonderful and we had lots of hot water. The pantry has anything we could really want in it and I got to do some cooking from scratch. Tapioca pudding for me and Cranberry Loaf for Ralph.

There is a lot of snow and some big drifts and the Snow Plow has filled the driveway with a wall of snow we have not attempted to go through but we have no need to go anywhere. We are working on the garden plans and enjoying the wonderful place we have come to live. 

So ends our first severe winter storm in Kentucky, a quiet and strangely fun time was had by most of the critters here. I hope it went well for all of you.

Now here is a short video of the Snow Ducks in the storm.....the quiet sound of snow falling with a clank or two from Ralph putting wood in the stove.

Take care and God Bless



Friday, January 22, 2016

Weather Warnings, Shopping and Cooking Oddities

Well Winter Storm Jonas is in the news. Stock up on water and food, don't drive unless you have to, have your generator ready, don't overdo the snow know the drill.

It is being pounded into people's awareness until they almost become numb.

 This is our first major winter storm in Kentucky. It is kind of odd as we didn't need to do anything extra or special. We are set even if there is a major power failure, the woodshed is in good shape, the propane is fine, the livestock feed is stored safely in the dry secure utility building and our food stocks are, if not bulging with treats, in very good shape.
We have books and games and crafts to pass time with it being miserable outside and we can always go to the tobacco barn to chicken watch.

However habits are hard to break and TSC was having a sale so we did go to town. The road crews have done their job and the roads are salted. The day was nice with sunny breaks but you could feel the storm in the air...that strange expectancy weather has when something is brewing. We got the bins and containers we wanted, picked up some meat at the IGA and marveled at the difference in preparedness shopping here compared to Virginia.

Here people were buying canned goods, things that didn't need a lot of cooking or an oven, things that didn't need refrigeration.  This was so different than what we saw in Virginia. One young couple was talking about their supply of wood or how their new gas range had a battery igniter. (The young wife was so proud her husband had bought the stove for her Christmas present, exactly the one she wanted) One lady said she only had electric but her Amish neighbors had offered her a place to stay if power failed. Unlike the highly urban supermarkets we had been in last winter this store had shelves of perishables  that were full. The canned and dry goods shelves were low though. It was an interesting difference in approach.

We finished our shopping and headed home. A quick stop at the Amish Hardware to see if the axe we ordered for me was in ( wasn't) . Of course the axe purchase got Ralph teasing me about wanting this axe and then he told the Amish men at the store he had a bad back so I chopped the wood....but I didn't like his man sized double bitted axe!

Whe we got back to the farm we unloaded the car and did the chores. Then we went in for supper, I had left a pot of beans simmering on the stove and the house smelled really good. I whipped up some cornbread for Ralph to have with his beans. It's one of his favorite combinations. 
Now it gets odd....these beans had been soaked overnight and then simmered with molasses,  onions, bacon and spices, I have cooked beans like this hundreds of times before, as I said they are one of Ralph's favorite foods. The beans were still hard, more than AL dente....actually almost crunchy. failure! I have never had beans not soften up like these ones.

Well we had soup for supper and Ralph did enjoy his cornbread...I am not sure what I will do with the darned beans, they do taste good but they sure are hard.  An unusual end to a rather nice winter day. 

We are now cozy and snug in our little house in Kentucky,  just waiting to see what happens in the next few days.

Take care everyone and be safe and stay warm!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Decisions and Consequence

We are standing by a decision we made.

We bought this farm with its one big flaw, it is on a fairly busy highway. We decided it had far more to offer than we could walk away from because of the traffic.  That was decision one and we have not regretted it for a second. This farm is perfect for us and we find more and more to love about it every day. Even these past few frosty days when we deal with ice and frozen water. It was the right decision.

We decided to get the poultry in the fall to get a head start on raising the birds we want and getting them to laying age and the table. We  knew this would entail  more feed than getting them in the spring. It was the right decision and we love how the poultry is doing. We have the time to observe them grow and decide which ones we want to keep.

We also decided we wanted pastured free- range poultry. We want the poultry to live as close to natural as possible. They will be healthier, we will have better quality meat and eggs and the added joy of having them with us gives us mental well being far more than penned chickens would. This was a conscious decision we took and we have had to face the consequence of that decision for the first time.

The day before yesterday the three biggest Tom turkeys were hit by a truck on the road in front of the house. We went out to get firewood and there were feathers everywhere and we could see one of the Slate carcasses on the center line. It was horrible. Ralph got the three birds off the road and we decided to salvage what we could, they were still warm and the accident must have just occurred. A Chocolate Tom was out by the garden and he had obviously been hurt but was walking toward the yard. We had heard the Guinea hens screeching like crazy but they do that quite a bit so we had not paid much attention. I cannot say I was stoic and did not cry because I did. I love my animals a lot and enjoy their antics. My very favorite Tom "Black Feather" was killed and he was going to be our breeding tom. He would sit on my lap and always seemed to show up to gobble at us. He was an excellent specimen, with good heavy bone and clear true Blue Slate Color, he was going to be a  big bird and that is what we were looking for.

The man who hit them came back to apologize, he had been pulling a trailer and was simply unable to stop. He was white faced and you could tell he felt terrible but there was nothing he could have done.

Ralph and I saved the meat we could and now I can say that it will be nice to butcher one of these birds properly because even as salvage there was a lot of beautiful home raised turkey meat from these birds. It is beautiful quality meat, rich in color and so much nicer than anything we have gotten from a store. We know it has no chemicals, hormones or injected is as turkey should be, natural.

The rest of the turkey's were simply lost yesterday and wandered around most mournfully. Then late in the afternoon the remaining Tom's started to work on the dominance thing. Today they are more normal and seem to be out in a group as before. The injured bird after we washed his wounds is feeling better to day and is eating and drinking on his own. 

We talked about the accident a lot and we knew it was a risk we would take when we did not fence the front yard. The poultry is going out front less and less as we transition them from the Utility building to the Tobacco barn, the tobacco barn housing lets them go out to the back of the farm and the large pasture there. Once they are fully installed in the barn they will have little need for the front yard at all and we notice this already as fewer and fewer birds come out toward the house. 

Are we going to fence the front of the farm? Are we going to change our plan for truly pasture raised poultry, no we are not. We love to see them go where they want. They ramble as they please and eat what they want. They get exercise and and have unlimited access to grass and old bales of hay. Lots of shelter and patches of Johnson grass to hide in. They are healthy and vigorous, just what we expect of poultry that is not confined during the day and can forage much as wild birds do.

We want our birds to have a full and happy life...for so  many reasons. They are happier, way healthier and they will be better eating. Healthier for us. The anguish we felt at this accident was not totally unexpected, it was a risk we were willing to take. The birds that were killed had a marvelous life. Maybe short but it was full of bug hunting, treats like squash, cabbage, cracked corn, canning leftovers and the odd cookie that they snatched! They loved the chives and dill and ate all the peppermint plants that nothing will kill.

We have made our decision and are sticking to it. It is the right way for us to have our poultry. As the flock ages and the chickens start having chicks and the turkeys have their first poults their lives will be more out toward the back of the farm and yes its own set of hazzards. We can deal with the consequence.

God bless you all and be well and safe.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I Love Our Oak Tree

  When we first toured this place we now call home I fell in love with the enormous oak tree that sits on the east side of the back yard. It spread a huge patch of shade over the lawn and helped cool the heat of the summer as it seemed to draw breezes.

I talked to the Realtor while Ralph walked the property with the young Amish gentleman who was selling it. On later visits we would sit under the tree with the children playing in the sandbox and the buggy horse grazing in his pen nearby. Visiting with the family and admiring the hayfields. Then when we took possession we hung our wind chimes on a massive branch and listened to them play wistful tunes on the breezes, and strident chorus's when it stormed.

There is a fox squirrel who visits the oak tree and the ducks adore grouping around it and trying to eat acorns. The turkeys fly into the branches and it sends a long morning shadow across the yard.

The wonderful tree is a can see it from all sides of the farm. I love looking back and seeing tree!

It has changed with the seasons and we look forward to seeing it this spring, a sign of the new growing season and the return of its shady leaves. Ours to enjoy!

A peaceful evening

A rainy day 

Fall Glory

Winter majesty

So there you have it a tree blog. I hope to spend hours under this tree over the next few years, shelling peas, shucking corn, reading good books and maybe even talking to the turkeys. There are acorns to rake to feed the future pigs and the wind chimes to listen to. We are just so lucky.....I love our oak tree!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Surprise Purchase

Ralph and I do not always agree on what we should buy, or the configuration of said purchase. However we do come to agreements with some give and take. This time he gave in a bit and I caved on some major points. What were we buying you ask?

A Utility Trailer. Sounds simple but it wasn't. I wanted to save money and look for a late model used and Ralph wanted new. Ralph wanted bigger, I was concerned with overloading the little pickup with too big a trailer and wanted smaller. We had had the offer accepted on the property at Cub Run and the possession date was set. We were moving.

After a lot of discussion we decided to get a trailer the small pickup could pull, it is a 1998 Sonoma and has some serious miles on it but runs like a top and is so nice to get around with, easy to park, easy to load and good fuel economy.

But the new used, bigger, smaller disagreement went on a while.

There were several trailer dealers in the Roanoke area. Only one had trailers of the design we liked. Ralph wanted a 14 to 16 foot trailer and I wanted an 8 we ended up with a 6'4" by 12 foot high sided mesh enclosed trailer with a full drop ramp. You can see we compromised...I got the smaller and he got the new and we both got the ramp and mesh sides we liked a great deal when we saw it.

The first trip saw us haul buckets, it was a good test of truck and trailer. Not too heavy and easy to make a balanced load so the trailer would not sway.

Yes we do have a lot of buckets. All free from the Bakery where Ralph worked. These are invaluable to us for so many reasons. We won't be able to get more and we use them for so many things!  The truck did well and the trailer pulled beautifully. We were very pleased and I had to admit Ralph had a good idea to get new. We knew what was what and the dealer handled the few problems we had quickly and well.

One of the concerns I had was would we use the trailer enough to justify it after we got moved to Cub Run?

Okay here is a set of photos of what the trailer has hauled since we took possession and started our farm.

The farm equipment fit nicely into the trailer and the ramp of expanded metal gave good traction for the Grillo to drive up. It was a tidy room for more equipment but it got all of our purchases from Earthtool back to the farm in one load. The trailer has also made two trips back to Earthtool for warranty work on the Grillo.

The trailer has hauled plants to the lower garden and the Grillo and Rotary plow down there as well. This was just before full possession so we had to store the equipment in town.

The trailer hauled the wonderful vegetables we bought at the produce action. We were very thankful for its convenience then. It is nice to load and unload and easy to maneuver at the auction building.

And most recently it allowed us to haul  our new table, benches and chairs from Lancaster, Ky., which is two hours away. This saved the delivery charges and allowed us to get the furniture ready to use. If you get it shipped it comes disassembled due to the cost of shipping it assembled. [It is heavy as well and put together takes up a lot of freight space.]

The trailer has hauled hay, plants, feed, planks, potting soil, firewood, the metal roofing odds and ends we used to repair the barn. It has hauled used oil barrels left here to be disposed of and it has hauled all of our "things" from Virginia. Dare I say it has hauled scads of buckets! I know it will continue to be a useful piece of equipment around our  farm. Yes I wish it had been cheaper and Ralph still wishes it was bigger but over all this trailer was a very successful compromise between us. This trailer allows us to haul things for fencing when we get them, feed when we need it and odds and ends that will come along to make our home better and more comfortable. The turkeys love it for perching and the ducks think it is a spa to lay under and nap! I will admit it was a very pleasing surprise for me to see how much we still use the trailer.

Yes Ralph it was a good idea!

Take care everyone and happy hauling.