Growing up fast

I tell you, for having bought this place sans livestock just a few short months ago, it’s getting very busy here!

The turklets are transitioning outside this week. Basically as soon as the adult birds stop trying to peck through the bars, they will go in the coop at sundown. 

Vasi Custard Dawg has been spending more time outside, just on the deck for now. Once I’ve got more fencing up, she will have her own yard and just come inside when we want her inside. She will probably sleep indoors for several more months, but other than that will be a largely outdoor dog living next to the birds. 

The fuzzballs of cherp have been upgraded to cherps. They’ll start the transition outdoors as soon as the turklets are finished with the rabbit hutch. 

And then that’s it for new animals until spring! But we’ve got fences and shelters to build, pasture to clear, and some indoor projects too. And let’s not forget the garden gets started soon! Busy busy like bees. Oh right. Gotta get hives set up too. 

Training and sleep 

Lots of one, not so much of the other. We decided on the name Vasi Custard Dawg. Vasi is Turkish for guardian, Custard holds special meaning for the girlfriend, and well, Vasi is a Dawg. 

She seems to have the concept of housebreaking down, it’s just a matter of bladder control being such a young dog. She is still rather intimidated by the cats but has begun wanting to play with them. I’ll let the cats tell her what is and is not ok!

She’s got the concept of the leash down and walks loose leash at my side most of the time with very little correction. Not bad for just a few days!

But she’s got a job to learn. The turkeys are definitely the bravest of the birds, and the most curious. For her part, she doesn’t seem all that interested in them right now. I figure that’s a good thing. She’s not viewing them as toys. For the next ten to twelve months she will only be around them with supervision, preferably with a leash or fence controlling her. 

Now if I could just get her to stop trying to eat chicken poop…

Behold the fearsome beast!

Slayer of raccoons, bane of the raptor, feared by the coyote!

Puppy!!!!!

We just got home from a trip to Oregon for this beautiful Anatolian shepherd dog. She’s about ten weeks old and still a bit upset from the first time away from mommy involving six hours in a car, but she’s adapting already. 

Didn’t take long to decide she was thirsty, though she doesn’t seem too hungry yet. The cats are unimpressed. 

It takes about a year to train an Anatolian shepherd so in the meantime, we are hoping just the smell of a dog will keep raccoons away. Because this face couldn’t hurt a fly yet!

The time approaches…

It’s almost here…

While most people are thinking hot cocoa and soup, there are those who’s minds are already turning towards perhaps the most important winter activity for homesteading life. 

It’s time to start planning next year’s garden. 

And so, with my trusty territorial seed catalog in hand, we sat down and picked out the majority of our crops for next year. The list is extensive. 

Asparagus, beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, kale, leeks, radicchio, onions, peas, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, turnips, and tomatoes made up the vegetable garden section. That’s not including seeds I already have or can find cheaper locally. Most of these are heirloom or specialty varieties. But we are also getting some trees and other random stuff. 

Buckwheat, sunflower, pawpaw, olive, persimmon, and almond. Territorial has PNW hardy varieties of olive and almond so we are giving those a shot. The total bill just to this company is just over $300. We will also be getting some apple, hazelnut, and nectarines from local nurseries. 

But McFarmFace, its October! Why yes, yes it is. But most vegetables need to be started indoors in January and February, so we need to get started on the planning and purchasing now. Most trees need to be planted while dormant, so that means between now and the last frost. 

Actually, we ought to start the local tree shopping now…

I’m no stranger to the rain

Well, autumn in Washington is here. As such, I have to work in quick bursts. But I did get nearly all of the roofing done before running out of shingles. And made some progress on the white trim. Still a lot to do, but I’m happy with this. 

Also moved the feeder inside since it’s now raining hard enough that it doesn’t stay dry under the tree anymore. 

I’ve got a friend coming over soon to cut up some logs for mushrooms so I’ll do a post on that soon. 

Gobble it down

Yeah. That would be nice. So, anyone actually paying attention to this blog may recall a brief discussion about antibiotics and a certain beleaguered turkey. We had hoped that we could simply hide the pill in some sort of food and she would hobble it on down. 

Don’t ever let anyone tell you turkeys are dumb. She saw through that instantly. She actually gave me a look before eating everything around the pill without touching it. 

Le sigh. That of course means force feeding her. Now, these birds may trust us and know we are the purveyors of yum, but they don’t like being touched an will very gracefully avoid it. So we knew this would be fun. So let’s consider this a tutorial. 

Step one. Catch a turkey. I highly recommend teamwork and the use of corners. Hold the turkey between your knees while in a crouched position. This keeps her from going pretty much any direction including up and down, and keeps her wings at her side where she can’t smack you or hurt them. 

Step two. Get the turkey’s mouth open. I do not recommend trying to hold the bottom jaw, as the bird squirming could result in hurting her. Their jaws seem pretty loose and bird bones are delicate. What works best for me is holding the upper beak between thumb and forefinger and slipping the index into her mouth as she tries to stop you. You will get bitten. It doesn’t hurt that bad. Suck it up, buttercup. You wanted birds. Oh, turkey toms can be a bit protective. Watch for them running interference on you. 

Step three. Put the pill in her mouth, as far back as you can reach, preferably slightly off to the side. A turkey’s throat is like 90% esophagus. They’re eating machines. The trachea, for breathing, is very cleverly disguised as a tiny fleshy ring ON the back of the tongue. Not behind the tongue, on it. It’s so crazy. If you ever get the opportunity to stare into a turkey’s mouth, I highly recommend it. 

Step four. Let go of her head but watch to make sure she swallows before releasing her and giving her treats. Amusingly enough, this actually gets easier as they get used to be handled. You’d think they’d come to dread it. 

If this hasn’t made you dream of growing up to be an avian veterinarian, I don’t know what will!

No turkeys were harmed in the making of this tutorial. A human did get dirt in his sandals. Also, the turkey shows significant improvement of symptoms after only a few days. 

Don’t put all your eggs in one hen!

The close call with Diane made us realize that if something were to happen to her, it would be at least another full year before we had any turkey eggs. And since we are planning on a small flock of them, that’s quite the delay. Craigslist to the rescue!

Not too terribly far from here is a small off grid homestead with Narragansett turkeys. They don’t eat them (vegetarian homesteaders…) but do sell them to those who do. Well, they had a surprise clutch last month. So surprise that they didn’t even know there were eggs until there were poults! 

But with no brooder and cold weather approaching, they wanted to get them out to good homes so they came at a ridiculously low price. So we got four. Being mostly feathered out already, they’ll start spending time in the yard this week, isolated from but visible to the chickens. Once we are confident there won’t be any acts of violence, they’ll get a spot in the coop for themselves. Meanwhile, the fuzzballs of cherp will probably be in the brooder a bit longer. 

But until then, besties!

The best behaved turkey evah!

About a week ago, Diane started favoring her left foot. We thought maybe bumblefoot, which we can handle on our own. But then yesterday her face swelled up on one side indicating either a sinus infection or trying to eat a wasp. Since, in a purely monetary sense, she is the most valuable animal we own, we decided to go ahead and take her to the vet. 

Well, then the raccoon incident happened. So a vet visit was a good idea anyway. All the staff, from the receptionist to the doctor, remarked on how she was not only a beautiful bird, but also incredibly well behaved. Although she was a bit nosy about what the vet tech wrote in her chart. 

Sinus infection it is. So despite our desire to be 100% organic, she will be getting antibiotics for the next couple of weeks. Not a big deal, as she won’t be laying for several months. Ultimately we decided that the cost of the vet visit and the medicine was well worth it for the health of our bird, especially considering that we expect she will pay for herself and then some by this time next year. We want her to be healthy and happy in the meantime. 

Why did the turkey cross the road?

Last night while I was at work, my girlfriend heard a noise. There was a fluttering and clatter, and Tom began squawking in a way you wouldn’t expect a turkey to be able to. She was outside in probably under five seconds. Diane was gone. 

Tom was by the gate pacing furiously, bright red. Then a noise off in the bushes. Turn the light and catch a huge raccoon sneaking off into a tree about two hundred feet away. 

Looking for Diane, she found what no poultry farmer wants to see. Under the tree where they roost was a small bunch of wing feathers that looked like they’d been yanked. And no other sign of Diane. 

In the hour and a half that it took for me to finish work and get home, she searched the woods nearby for any signs. And Tom stood vigil on top of the gate, scanning the bushes and trees. We spent another hour looking after I got home. And unfortunately found another small bunch of feathers under the tree. But no Diane. 

But this was not a magic raccoon. It did not haul off a bird as big as itself in seconds leaving no blood or trail. Assuming the worst, we went to bed finally, fully expecting to find whatever was left of her when the sun came up. It was a very emotional night. And Tom stayed on that gate all night long. 

At about eight in the morning, the girlfriend woke me up. Tom was making noises. A lot. Maybe he was just upset at losing his girl, but she thought she heard his calls being answered from beyond the yard. 

Tom was gobbling and chirping up a storm. So much that the chickens were scared back into the coop. And I heard it. Mer mer mer mer mer! There, across the street by the closest neighbor’s fence, was our Diane, calling for her Tom. 

We picked her up (she really didn’t like that) and brought her back to the yard. You’ve never seen a turkey look so happy as when we came around the corner carrying her. Tom was strutting and changing colors, and the chickens almost instantly knew it was safe. 

Near as we can tell, that raccoon got up there and that woke up the birds. Diane spread her wings to escape and the varmint grabbed a few feathers. She flew one way and Tom chased that bastard out of the yard and watched to make sure it stayed gone. I have never seen such dedication in a bird. 

There has been a lot of discussion between us, and between our families and friends, about our birds. These are heritage or specialty breeds, and more expensive. That’s been a point of discussion. We let the turkeys roost in a tree like wild birds. That’s been criticized. We don’t clip their wings and lock them up at night. We don’t have an eagle net over the yard. But this isn’t all a result of accident or naïveté. These breeds are chosen for specific traits. These turkeys are half wild. Had these been a domestic breed or worse, broad breasted meat birds, they’d be dead. That raccoon would have killed them both. Instead, Diane was able to fly away and Tom had the aggression to scare it off. 

We feel more confident than ever that we’ve got some very special birds. And that Tom is really something else!

Also, a guardian dog has moved up the priority list to “right freaking now” so we don’t have to go through this again.