Animal, Vegetable, Miracle deemed harmful

I started reading it, and I got about 20 pages into it before the depression hit.

Everyone told me that I should read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  In this book, Kingsolver and her family move away from Arizona and head to Virginia to live on a farm and try to have a more sustainable existence.  So, obviously, it would make sense that I might enjoy reading this book, since that’s exactly what we have done. I resisted reading it up till now, because I was afraid I’d read it and get really sad.  I was right.  See, the big difference between me and Barbara, is that I’m not a best selling author, and I can’t take a year off work and be a full time farmer.  Or even a half time farmer.  Last year I spent nearly every weekend during the growing season in the garden, and was just able to keep up with it.  This year if I get 2 days a month I’ll be lucky.  So I figured if I read the book, it would just exacerbate my feeling of job-burnt-outed-ness which has been growing steadily the past year or so.  See – if it were up to me, I’d raise vegetables, chickens, start a goat dairy, make cheese, bread and generally focus on the slow life for a while.  It’s hard to describe how much more in balance I feel when I am weeding the garden verses, say, sitting in front of a computer in a poorly lit windowless cube with no natural light.  Working at home improves things marginally, but still you are glued to a glowing monitor all day producing nothing but “software”.  Don’t get me wrong – I like programming, and I like working on the computer.  I’d just like my hobby (farming) and my job (programming) to switch places.

Turkey production cancelled for this year

Our last hen bit the dust yesterday morning. Something got her – it was either a coyote that for some reason decided to chow down on her right next to the pond, or it was an owl. There was signs of a massive struggle – I couldn’t tell if there were any owl feathers since our hen had black feathers too. Patches of feathers all over the yard. Dead body floating on the bank of the pond. Poor Tom spent the day calling for her. His days are probably numbered as well. I could buy more at the hatchery, but it seems silly. While there’s not much we can do against the owl, I could at least wait till I’ve got a better fence around the property before sacrificing more turkeys.

In brighter news, we are done painting the ceiling and walls in the upstairs of the shop, and get to move on to installing the laminate flooring. Then it’s just trim and final electric and we are ready to move our stuff up there. We are going to move the offices first, then use the rest of the room as storage for our furniture during our impending remodel

Peas and onions

I planted my Peas on presidents day. I also got a flat of leeks and onions started in the laundry room. I planted 3 kinds of peas – well 2 kinds and some beans: Fava beans, petite pois, and sugar snap. I planted all of these things in my upper garden, even though I was planning on keeping my gardening efforts contained to the lower garden this year due to an impending remodel project. I justify it because the upper garden is really nutrient poor and needs some major help. All these peas fix nitrogen and break up the soil, so it’s good for it.

So here’s a pea description for those of you who don’t know any thing about peas other than they come in the freezer section in a bag labelled “green”.

Fava beans are big starchy things – almost like a lima bean or a butter bean. They grow in 6-8 inch pods, and like cooler temps. Most people plant them in the fall – or very early spring. I tried planting them in the fall last year and they all died over the winter, so I’ve decided early spring it is. You can eat them fresh, or if you let them dry you can grind them up and make falafal or yummy bean dip or what have you.

Petite Pois are itty bitty french peas. I’ve never grown them before, but the seeds were adorable. You have to shell them. I think the French really know their veggies, so I can’t wait to try them.

Sugar snap peas are great for lazy people who don’t want to shell peas. You can eat the pod as well as the peas. They are super sweet. Unfortunately, they didn’t freeze well for me – maybe I’m just incompetent.

I always imagine that there’s this animal communication network out there, where word of new sources of food would travel fast. Or that they are some how all communicating, Borg-like, so that when one animal discovers something tasty, or scary, or whatever it is that occupies animal thoughts, they all get the message. For example, I’m pretty sure that CoyoteNET has gotten the message about the all you can eat turkey buffet at our house. Similarly DeerNET knows about the yummy apples that are always on the ground around various trees in the fall, and of the wonders of the upper garden after I let the fence fall down. They still are knawing on the stumps of the kale and collards that they ate up over the winter. My guess is that the message went out on the NET this weekend that I planted something, and I think they are probably checking every day to see if any sprouts have emerged. So, I guess this weekend I better get that fence picked up before the shoppers arrive.

the most disgusting thing ever

Is the poo that comes out of a broody bird. And not only is it particularly smelly, it’s also particularly copious. They hold it all day long, then come off their nest for about 15 minutes and let’r rip. I’ve discovered that ducks are even more disgusting than chickens. Normally ducks have much more watery poo than a chicken. A broody duck squirts a fountain of poo.

Just thought you needed to know.

No more lonely nights

We got a new adult male turkey on Sunday to replace the one that got eaten by coyotes earlier this winter. The hen seems happier. He was apparently getting picked on by his brothers, so he also is no doubt grateful. He’s incredibly skinny compared to the males that we raised, which is strange because he’s about the same age that they would have been. He came from a flock of over 100 birds, so maybe he just couldn’t get any time at the feeder. We’ll see if he starts bulking up any now that he’s got no competition. I got him for free from a lady in Dallas, Oregon who breeds the Black Spanish turkeys — I found her on the internet of course. I don’t see how people managed to farm without the internet. Not only can you buy your chicks online, replace your adult birds if needed, there is all this information and community support out there that someone like me who was not raised on a farm couldn’t do without. I suppose pre-internet, you just had to grow up on a farm in order to know how to do things correctly. That’s not to say that it still doesn’t feel like a little bit of trial and error with things. Like, hey, maybe you should teach your turkeys to sleep inside in the winter, cause the predators will be more bold then. Soon I suppose I will learn the wisdom of letting a duck start sitting on eggs in the middle of winter. The white muscovy duck, after about a week of waffling about whether she was going to get serious about sitting on the eggs, has resumed her post for good now. We moved some food and water closer to her nest under the woodshed so that she wouldn’t have to go far for it. It’s been super cold – Is about 19F as I write this. I think if she spends too much time away from the nest the eggs will freeze solid.

Jumping the gun on Spring

Even though it’s less than a month into Winter, I’m already getting antsy for spring. This year I decided that due to our impending massive house remodel, I would not have a vegetable garden, and restrict our poultry raising endeavors to whatever the chickens/ducks/turkeys decided to do on their own. Then I spent the entire month of December designing a garden that looks like a mini-versaille, complete with cutting garden, baby orchard, tiny vineyard and a living fence made of filberts and various types of edible hedges. And I found an old greenhouse catalog I’d been saving and plunked one of those down in the middle of my new garden plan. Along with a new tool shed. I told myself it was “just for fun”, that I was just passing time while the power was out due to the winter storm. But then January came, along with the seed catalogs. I decided to pick out a few seeds from my favorite catalog, figuring I’d pick out everything I really wanted to get, and then edit the list down to a select few things that I’d plant in our smaller garden. Today I decided to just order everything, deluding myself into thinking I was getting the seeds “just in case” and probably wouldn’t plant them all. I should get them in a few days. Which is a good thing, because according to the garden calendar at Portland Nursery, I could be planting things already. Don’t want to get behind. And I’m going to have to hide the McMurray catalog – am already fantasizing about which chickens would be the tastiest to try this year in my quest to find a meat bird that isn’t as frighteningly blobby as the meat-on-legs cornish cross.
It seems I’m not the only one feeling springtime a’coming. Our female muscovy duck disappeared this morning. We thought maybe she’d been dragged off by a coyote, as we’ve been having a rough winter with predators (lost 1 chicken, 1 duck to a hawk, 2 turkeys to a coyote). But, I found her underneath the woodshed porch way in the back, sitting on some eggs. I can’t reach her to move her. I suppose we should just see what happens, although it seems a bit early to me to be hatching any ducklings. Muscovies take about 5 weeks to hatch out their eggs. So, I suppose it will be almost march when the little fuzzys would come out. I’ve got my doubts any of those eggs will hatch.

Happy New Year

I love New Years — it always feels good to start a fresh year. Every year I must resist the urge to make resolutions. This year I caved in and made one despite my best intentions. Time elapsed before New Years resolution broken? Less than 24 hours past New Years day.  So, I’m not going to say that I have resolved to keep a blog this year — I’m just going to do it and see how long it lasts.