Turkey Trouble

Some of this stuff you just can’t make up…

Another one of Mom’s crazy adventures over Christmas:

 

Christmas Crazyness

Christmas Crazyness

 

“The clock was ticking and I was in a big hurry to get back to the farm. Loaded into coolers in the back of the vehicle were 25 fresh turkeys, destined to grace Shuswap Christmas dinner tables everywhere. Loaded into my stomach were at least 25 ounces of chocolate, destined to provide me with the “turkey-in-my-tank” extra energy to get through a crazy day.

The speedometer needle was the least of my concerns as I perfected the low flying aircraft impression down the hill past Carlin Hall. I was late and worried about my turkey customers stomping their feet in the cold with nary a gobble gobble in sight.

Our turkey. Photo by Jerre Paquette

Our turkey.
Photo by Jerre Paquette

I barely registered the RCMP cruiser coming the opposite direction until he decided to join in the fun by doing an about face and turning on his pretty Christmas lights. Oops!

Well, saying “Oops” to an irate member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police doesn’t cut the mustard.So with all paperwork beautifully displayed in clear view on the dash, I arranged my hands on the steering wheel in an artful pose designed to reassure no farmer’s knives tucked between my fingers.

Please sir, don't give me a ticket

Please sir, don’t give me a ticket

His glare removed any doubt that the Spirit of Christmas was being embraced by highway police. “Lady, I am going to impound your car right here and now!” he yelled “You were going 141 in a 100 zone. That’s 1 klm over the 40 over, which gives me the right to immediately impound your car!” His loud and withering anger came in waves, completely dousing the “Hey, I have Happy Turkeys!” feeling. I decided the best action plan was to sit perfectly still, perfectly silent with preternaturally wide eyes in tacit agreement that, yes indeed, he had just apprehended the worst reprobate on the roads.

“Now, I am going back to my vehicle to check out your driving history and order the tow truck!” he vehemently bit off each word in a way that transported me back 40 years to my headmaster’s admonitions interspersed with the smacking of the leather strap on the back of my hand.

But now I had a bigger concern than this RCMP fellow who appeared to be impersonating my old headmaster, as I seriously considered my options. Would he give me AND the turkeys a lift home after impounding my car? No, I could see it now, he would throw me to the side of the road and I, with my 25 dead friends lined up beside me, would be stranded on the highway, with a “Find your own way home, lady, that’s your just punishment…” ringing in my ears.

Suddenly, his angry form loomed at my window again. “So, what’s your reason for speeding?” he demanded. I qualified what I was about to say, “Umm, well, I don’t think you’ll think it’s important, but I’m loaded with turkeys for customers waiting at the farm….. and I ate a lot of chocolate….. and I understand about impounding my vehicle, but would you be able to deliver the turkeys to the farm in your squad car?” I was willing to swallow my punishment, agreeing that he could leave ME, the reprobate, on the side of the highway, but not The Turkeys!

Photo by Jerre Paquette

Photo by Jerre Paquette

A change came over his face. Begone! strap-wielding Headmaster. A new apparition was before me, the very likeness of my wonderful Uncle Ben! “Well, then, that’s an important job! I’m going to let you off with a warning and a speeding ticket. Now get those turkeys delivered – safely mind! And stay off the chocolate, it’s not good for your driving!”

Yes, folks, true reverence for the Christmas Turkey Dinner remains alive and well in the Shuswap and I’m not speeding any more. The chocolate imbibing continues unabated though! “

Missing the farm life…

Chatting with my mom is bittersweet sometimes, I am missing the farm today…

Every couple days I get an update about the property. My parents have done so much since I was there over Christmas! It is insane!

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Egg production is booming!

Egg production is booming!

Last fall, I seeded a couple acres of land that needed some help; we used winter rye to add some nutritional density back into soil. That plot of land is now over-flowing with produce! Carrots, kale, spinach, basil, zucchini etc., etc., etc.! These are pictures of my dad goofing around with Asparagus in front of the bare land, pre-growth spurt…

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Asparagus tentacles

Asparagus tentacles

 

And look at it now!!

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As much as it is incredible that all these things are popping out of the ground, it has proven stressful for my poor mother who has been pulling double duty for the last couple weeks because my dad had an awful flu. I would get emails saying “Eva I can’t do it all. There are too many things to be picked and your father is in bed. IN BED!”

Thankfully, the community of Sorrento came to the rescue and sent troops. Thank goodness for good neighbors.

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Look at all the veggies and pretty things!We can now cook meals comprised entirely of ingredients from our farm!


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My Mother’s Tales

This is an example of an email from my mother, recounting the day to day events on the farm: immaculately composed for my viewing pleasure. Enjoy this delightfully distracted and colorful depiction of farm life via Una!

Una!

Una!

~

Sudden banging on the door aroused us from a mid-morning tea break. I knew immediately there was trouble, the fencing kind of trouble where all the neighbors know your name, but don’t sing your praises. Indeed, the husky, bewhiskered dairy man from next door was standing in full blown agitation at the front door – his truck still running for speedy getaway – and he bellowed “Your bulls are in with my heifers!” Did I mention we had been conned into buying 4 DAIRY BULLS masquerading as beef steers? Again, we need a good vet in the family…. He took off back to his precious heifers, and we (Ernest, me and the irreplaceable Red Kerchief aka Peter) all piled into a vehicle and raced after him, amazed that our little lovely calvey walveys had made it 3 kms down the hill, through multiple barbed wire fences and had found “the gals”. We glowed as we remarked on how smart those calves were! Three hours later, we were indeed all glowing, the sweat running down our faces as we faced the challenge of our lives – 4 excited bully teens trying to get back to their girlfriends while we tried to get them back up the hill to their meager rations. You may remember I wrote, down the hill, just a few short sentences ago, and a very smart person would know that what goes down must go up again to get back to the place of departure. Indeed, this is so, and never more so as I zig zagged back and forth, side to side, up a VERY STEEP 3km hill, constantly yelling to Ernest to “GET OUT OF THE CAR AND HELP!”Neighbors went by joking that this was the new “Jenny Craig workout for Sorrento”, some neighbors even stopping to help until one very fat fellow clutched his heart and keeled over to be jumbled unceremoniously back in his truck with a ‘thanks so much for trying to help, now you just take care of yourself’ advice before it was back to running ragged behind recalcitrant bully boys who had found out they could make CHOICES as to where the best grass and gals were to be had. (yes, I know this sentence is also too long, but so was the running).

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One might think that those bully boys would never have escaped again, and to be true, we did put them the very next day into our VERY BEST FENCED FIELD! Ha!, we crowed, you can’t get out of THERE!!!! But they did, the very next evening…As Ernest and I were all dressed in our magnificent finery going out for dinner with friends, leaving the long and winding road to our property, I glanced across the field looking for the regular evening appearance of a lovely herd of deer. But what is this? A rusty colored deer was gracing our fields! An aberration? A trick of the light? NO, begaaaaaaaaads, it is the bully boys out again!! High heels flew in the hay field as visions of not sugar-coated fairies danced in my head, but very angry be-whiskered dairy men squeezed my heart with fat, dirty hands! The bully boys HAD TO BE STOPPED! And indeed they were.

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(dog needs to go out for a piddle, so I have to pause here, and truth be told, I may never pick it up in similar style. If you continue to read past this point, and wonder if two people wrote this letter, no, they didn’t, it’s just me getting thrown off yet again by another animal’s whinging and whining, making their needs known before and/or instead of mine, not taking “NO” for an answer, disturbing my very thoughts (yes, this sentence is too long also, but that’s the way everything goes around the farm – too long, too much, too heavy, too busy, too much of people constantly asking the same thing twenty one times…….)

 

In truth, this letter to you is the beginning of a series of prolonged rants that I wish to commit to paper, so I am trying my hand just a little bit at the memoir writing business. The title for my book, which will then be a boxed set and next a multi-billion dollar TV show no doubt, is “Don’t Fill The Water Buckets When You Need to Pee!” – The philosophy of farming according to MOI! I think this will be the true gem of my farming life – turning it into amusingly entertaining stories for all those farmer wannabees who never actually go and do it. Which I am not.

~

Pictures Galore!

Hello everyone!Apologies for my absence AGAIN. I am not even going to go into what is happening in my other life, the singing/dancing one… I should start another blog…

Since I last posted as Off-Grid Chick, there have been an immense amount of changes on the farm. We have 2 Geeps, a whole bunch of lambs, a few calves that my dad decided to purchase, and the construction of the greenhouses and swails has begun!

Hopefully I will have time in the next couple weeks to go into further detail, but for now, here are a few pictures to make you smile!

 

Happy Rex

Happy Rex

Sleepy Geep

Sleepy Geep

Lambies!

Lambies!

New Goats

New Goats

The Geeps have been living in the house because the mom rejected them...

The Geeps have been living in the house because the mom rejected them…

Greenhouse construction

Greenhouse construction

New fences!

New fences!

New toy for dad...

New toy for dad…

Taking bets! Geep or Lamb?

I never thought I would be writing a post about this particular topic but, here I am. Let me start at the beginning.

 

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We have been separating the female goats from the male goats until it gets a little warmer so that we make sure that the nanny goats have their kids when it is warm and the chance of catching hypothermia is low. To make matters easier, we put the male goats with the sheep so that the female goats and their kids can be let out together. At the moment we have one ram lamb who is almost a year old and he is currently half the size of the ewes.

MYSTERIOUSLY, 2 of our ewes are pregnant and they should be giving birth in the next couple weeks. How did this happen? There are 3 possible options:

1) We have holy sheep who have somehow been chosen to have mimic the Virgin Mary’s  immaculate conception.

Photo: athousandwindsthatblow.wordpress.com

Photo: athousandwindsthatblow.wordpress.com

2) The ram lamb found a way to mount the ewes that are twice the size of him, perhaps with the aid of a fence or overturned bucket (This would have had to have been accomplished at night since we have seen no such attempts).

3) The Billy goats decided they would take an interest in the sheep and we are going to have two Geep/Shoat ( goat/sheep) babies.

This is what a Geep looks like. Photo courtesy of CNN.com

This is what a Geep looks like.
Photo courtesy of CNN.com

 

Although the first two options are intriguing, my money is on the third option. There have been many cases of Geeps or Shoats around the world, but the majority have been stillborn. However, there have also been cases of healthy Geeps. Who can say what is going to happen! The suspense is immense!

 

Another Geep! Photo: dailymail.co.uk

Another Geep!
Photo: dailymail.co.uk

What do you think? Take a guess in the comment section below!

 

 

WANTED: Acousticians!

Have I ever told you that my family thinks big? Or did you just guess…

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Over the past week, my family has been participating in what is called the Holistic Farm Management Course. This program was created by a man by the name of Allan Savory but was brought to us by a fabulous, local man by the name of Javan Bernakevitch. Basically, the program helps us farm and manage our resources in a sustainable way by using our resources to their fullest potential. When I say resources, I don’t just mean money and equipment, but also the people that are participating on the farm and what they bring to the process. Needless to say it is extremely in depth. The first day of the program was spent creating a name and mission statement using input from every family member. Here is what we came up with:

The OFFICIAL name of the property is ….. (drum roll) HighCroft Farm! ( Croft means small farm in Scotland, and our farm is on a hill!)

 

Mission statement:

“We exist as a healthy, caring and joyful team of committed and passionate individuals who grow sustainable agriculture, facilitate education, and provide space for artistic expression to build stable, regenerative and abundant livelihood. These actions enable us to share our harvest bounty, knowledge and artistic celebration, inspiring a growing community to achieve their own freedoms.”

 

You can see that there are many goals encompassed by this statement. One of the most important parts of this enormous project is community and outreach. I have spoken about sharing the knowledge that comes with living off-grid and living sustainably but we also want to incorporate the arts into that sharing. Not only do we want to ameliorate our lives with the projects we take on within our own property, but we want to help others experience these improvements as well. The first thing we need to start this sharing is a space; a multi-purpose space that can be used for seminars,gatherings, performances, lessons etc. We don’t expect this initial space to be very large as it is a starting point for bigger things, but we hope to get the ball rolling with this beginning platform and expand around it as our mission becomes known.  But, as the space needs to be suitable for performing as well as presentations, we are in need of an acoustician!IMG_3841

Does anyone know of an acoustician who would be interested in offering their skills  for this project? We have been inspired by spaces such as the Westben barn in Ontario and Wolf Trap in Virginia. Any leads would be helpful!

As I write this post, I am reminded once again of the magnitude of what has to happen this spring and summer:

– Build greenhouses

– Plant trees in greenhouses

– Fence and dig space for Permaculture Food Forest

– Plant vegetation in Food Forest

– Build a multi-purpose space

 

I am exhausted already…

 

 

Who is ruling the roost?

WARNING: This post contains imagery and references that may not be suitable for children. Reader discretion is advised.

External_anatomy_roosterRoosters! Too many roosters!

 

Throughout our years of keeping chickens, we have come up against this issue a few times: what do you do when you have 7 roosters? We always have one rooster with the hens, and therefore we get a few fertilized eggs with a 50% chance that those fertilized eggs will turn in to cocka-doodle-doo roosters. Let me outline the pros and cons of cocks:

Pros:

-Most of the time they are more attractive than the females as they have colorful feathers and bad ass spurs .

– They provide the key ingredient for a renewable resource: more chicks.

Cons:

– They are loud. Very loud.

– They exhaust the hens physically, especially when there are 7 of them.

– They cock fight. It is a real and dangerous thing.

Cock fighting seems to be the biggest concern at this point. 6 of the 7 roosters have been sequestered into a stall separate from the rest of the hens, as they have been attacking the females, as well as each other, which in turn affects egg production. Stressed hens = no eggs and no feathers. Some of the hens lost so many feathers that our family friend started knitting them sweaters! Niche market? I think it’s a winner!

Chicken sweater!

Chicken sweater!

Our oldest rooster, who is 8 years old and extremely mild mannered, has been badly wounded by these 6 hooligans. His comb was pecked apart and he was essentially bald on his saddle and back. To preserve his safety, my mother put him and the hen she considered to be his “wife” with the goats and sheep. They seem to be adjusting to their horned cohabitants and they are safe from the wrath of the other roosters, although it is clear that the rooster is still recovering. In an attempt to assert his dominance despite his injured state, the rooster will try to jump on his “wife,” who assumes the appropriate position. I cannot describe to you how sad it is to see a rooster topple off a hen who patiently waits for him to try again, and again…and potentially a third time, before giving up, defeated. So very depressing.

Bottom line, 7 aggressive roosters are a problem. There is the option of selling them, but you would be surprised how few people want roosters. I wonder why…When you are selling livestock you also run the risk of selling your animals to someone who does not treat them correctly, which is unfortunately quite a common occurrence . I may have mentioned that we do not keep our animals for meat production and rarely have to kill them, but this is one of the few situations where we make an exception (I apologize to all of my readers who are vegetarians). Any animals that have to be put down due to illness, old age, or, in this case, the safety of other animals, are treated carefully, respectfully and suffer very little if at all. This is not something that any of us enjoy doing but we would rather know that they are being treated the right way than having someone else cause them pain. Tis’ the way of the farm.

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In general, I would consider myself a pretty sensitive person. These kind of choices are ones that are almost impossible for me to make. But when I think about farmers from days gone by, who would not eat if their hens stopped laying, I realize how essential these decisions are to farming. It’s not easy. But isn’t it a far superior way of doing things? Isn’t it better than blindly buying a thing of packaged chicken breasts at a grocery store, knowing that those chickens probably lived their life in a cage, without the luxury of going outside or being close to other chickens? Unless you are researching where your chicken is coming from, and, in detail, how that particular company treats their birds, you cannot know what their lives looked like. Unfortunately, a free-range label means very little nowadays and has become a malleable and subjective term. Sad but true.

When one is eating out, it is hard to determine how the meat you are eating was treated, especially in today’s world. I am not pretending to be perfect by any means. But when given the choice, I would rather support a humane and empathetic way of farming than apathetically supporting a corrupt industry, no matter how uncomfortable it is for me.