Friday, May 9, 2014

In which we welcome some new feathered (and some new barely feathered) friends

We've decided to raise poults this year.

Baby turkey selfie

For those who want to know (I always want to know stuff like this): baby turkeys are called poults.

Welcome, TGnX!


Unless you call them Babydumbirds, which is also kind of accurate.


These poults are probably 2-3 days old, and are still figuring out some basic stuff.
Like eating.  And walking.

To keep the mission of poult-raising clear to everyone (including ourselves)

Cute, but not clever

Jim and I have officially christened all four turkey poults "TGivingNXmas."  Because we do, really, actually, intend to eat these little critters.

Not right away, obviously.

 Come the winter holidays, we figure we'll be tired enough of the noise of turkeys that it won't be a huge sacrifice to, errr, sacrifice them.

Since turkey mortality is supposedly higher than chicken mortality (we still have three hens remaining from the original 2009 batch of twelve chickens--even our "wild" hen is still alive!), we are hedging our bets with four poults so that hopefully we will get two festive meals.


"A squeaky toy that throws itself!"

Jim and I have toyed with this notion for a few years now, but there was a defining incident last month involving a 4-year-old frozen turkey donated to us as chickenfeed:

We left the bird to thaw on the pumphouse floor in 50 degree weather and forgot it was there for more than 2 weeks.  Ewww, right?

Then I bashed open the white plastic wrapping  with a trail-building tool so we could feed it to the chickens.  Ewww?

It didn't smell bad.  It didn't smell at all.

Eeeewwwww.

The chickens themselves wouldn't even go near it for a few days, until the local crow population started tearing into it.  The crows didn't die.  After that, the elderly turk was completely devoured without incident in a matter of hours.

(Don't think too much about the diet of chickens.  You don't actually want to know the details.  Seriously, it's like having a pen full of feathered piranhas.)

So, anyhow, that event decided us on a great turkey-raising experiment.  We turned the old apple crate (the one the goats came in) into a brooder.


Samantha Vanderbarn is fascinated...and NOT allowed to come close to the babies!
 There's a heat lamp, a feeder, and a water bottle in there, plus room to run around and learn to work the little legs.

Unlike chicken peeps, which start out cute

Minerva Louise peep, c.2009


and then get ugly as "teenage" birds

Minerva Louise, age 3 months


and then turn pretty, turkey poults are pretty cute at first,



 but it's mostly ugly from there until Thanksgiving.



We got Bronze Turkey poults, a "straight run" which means we won't know if they are males or females for at least of couple of weeks.  The adult birds will look kind of like this:

We won't take pictures of our birds against a white quilted background.
Because, duh.  White?
 The poults aren't the only new kids on the farm.  

For my birthday, Duana gave me this:


Apparently, she somehow heard about my fascination with lavender orpington chickens (possibly because I wouldn't shut up about purple chickens??!!!???)  and decided that some chicks were an appropriate 50th birthday present.

We shopped around for chicks, but at $15 per chick, straight run, and a fair number of unscrupulous "puppymill" chick breeders in the area, I wasn't confident that I wouldn't end up with a bunch of mongrel roosters instead of pretty purple hens.

So, I found a nice lady downsizing her flock who agreed to sell two nice, adult lavender orpington hens.
Iris (smaller chicken on top) and Violet (fluffier chicken on bottom)
They aren't bright purple, obviously.  More of a silvery, mother-of-pearl color, with lavender highlights (especially when Violet hasn't been dirt-bathing!).

I brought them home yesterday and they spent the rainy afternoon in Fiddle's stall.


Violet dug through the shavings so she could roll in the dirt below.
Sigh.

Iris has a bit of attitude
 Last night, when all the hens were snoring, I picked up the two Ladies Aubergine, and stuffed them into the henhouse with the rest of the flock.

And this morning...
"Our flock has always been multicoloured!"

One of the new hens even laid an egg today!

Top row:  Rhode Island Red eggs
Center row:  Plymouth Barred Rock eggs
Bottom row:  long skinny Orpington egg!


Now, if the rain would stop, and the thunder would quit, maybe I can go riding?  Please?

(peering hopefully at the sky....)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

In which Swampish weather isn't easy on us (or on our leather)

We went riding on Sunday, in the rain.

The bottoms of my feet were dry, and I stayed warm.
But not dry where the jacket gutters down onto my saddle,
Fiddle doesn't approve of this much rain.
It is said (erroneously) that the Inuit have 40 words for "sn*w."
(In fact, the Sami language of Lapland has about 180 words for sn*w and ice--why doesn't anybody ever talk about that? But I digress...)   

Here in the Swamp, we have a huge rain-related vocabulary.  Maybe not 40 distinct words, unless you count the cussing.  But a lot of words.

We need them.  We have an intimate relationship with water here.

The rain we normally get is called just plain "rain," or "showers."

Very light rain is "sprinkles" "spit" or "mist."

If it's heavy, we get "buckets."

Sunday we got "monsoonic."

We would've been dryer if we'd stood neck deep in the lake with all our clothes on.  For three hours.

The effect of all that water is predictable: we Swamplanders also have an intimate relationship with moss, mildew, and that stuff that grows a greenish rind over anything that gets wet and stands still for more than an hour.

Halfway clean: notice the accumulation of a winter's "green" on the skin of the trailer!

It wasn't just our clothing that got drenched, on Sunday.  My saddle was sodden as well.

Heavy sigh.

When I mostly rode in an arena, my saddle got cleaned every Sunday afternoon.  We'd ride for an hour or two, then drag all the tack up to the house, put a horse movie on the TV, and drink cocoa (in winter) or iced tea (in summer) and talk nothing but horses for an hour or two while we meticulously soaped and oiled every inch of the leather.

Now that I'm out riding in bad weather for hours at a time, two or three days each week, all year round, I don't have the luxury of all that time on a Sunday afternoon anymore.  But when the stuff gets that wet, I know from experience that it's time to dig out the leather kit and get busy.

Swamplander leather kit:
soap, water, oil, leather balm, and a few cleaning tools

 I start with the soap and water.

Any glycerine soap will do, but I like Dr Bronner's lavender soap.  It smells nice.


Wash, and then rinse with minimal water.
The leather is wet enough, it doesn't need more water at this point!

Next: leather oil.

I use Obenauf's Leather Oil for everything except the seat.

It looks like I'm putting on a lot of oil....

...the "working" parts of the saddle absorb oil really fast...

...by the time I've worked all the way around the saddle,
 most of the oil has soaked in.

You can really tell what parts of the saddle are exposed to the elements.  The parts that are normally covered by my packs aren't nearly as "thirsty" for the oil, but it all soaks in overnight.

For the seat, I use a preserving leather balm.


The main ingredients (vegetable oil, beeswax, and propolis) are used in food, so I apply this stuff with my hands.  It smells like beeswax, and helps the leather to shed water under normal "shower" conditions.

I use a pretty heavy coat of the leather balm on the seat

By the following morning, the balm has soaked in,
and leaves a soft, slightly tacky feel to the seat with a little extra "grip"!
As long as I'm cleaning the leather, I might as well run everything else through the wash as well.


The dining room chairs serve as racks and hooks for all the clean purple stuff

shiny, clean, and PURPLE!
Reassembled, and ready to take back out into the weather again:

No, I can't think of another piece of purple tack that will fit on my horse.
Let it rain!

Or...you know.  Maybe we could have some sun?  Just for variety?

Either way, you know.

It's good.