Gosh, the turkeys are, um, large.

Lots of exciting news here on the farm! It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, mostly because I took a vacation. Actually, it was a staycation, since I stayed home. Bess Bess came to visit us from Omaha! She was properly impressed by everything, and all my predictions came true – she loved the chickens, thought the goats were cute, and got cornered by a puffed up and hissing turkey. I would have rescued her sooner, but I was laughing too hard.  Bess Bess wasn’t a fan of the turkeys.

Speaking of the turkeys, HUGE news! Christmas laid her first egg! Turkey eggs are quite large, maybe four times the size of chicken eggs. This one looked like a “practice” egg, since the shell was fairly translucent. Very pretty though, covered in brown speckles. Oddly enough, she chose to lay her egg in the wading pool, which I guess makes sense, given how fond she is of dropping bombs in there. She laid the egg two days ago, and it’s still in the refrigerator. I wanted to wait until Gene wasn’t working so he could be the one to crack it open… Since she and Thanksgiving are so fond of getting them some wild turkey lovin’ on, I’m afraid it might be fertilized. (And as you may have noticed, today’s Fashion Farmer is wearing sparkle neon green).

Since it’s been so hot here during the day (and cold at night, whatever, Washington weather gods, you suck) most of the animals have been hanging out poolside. The wading pool is supposed to be for drinking only, but no one pays attention to the rules (particularly the exit the pool to go to the bathroom rule — good thing they don’t have a hot tub!). I have to refill it once or twice a day. Who knew turkeys like to wade?

The Bedonkaducks new favorite game is to play in the mud puddle created by my emptying the pool, then wash themselves off in the freshly refilled pool. If they weren’t cute it would be annoying. Their second favorite game is to blow bubbles in the puddles with their beaks… they sound like five-year-olds playing with straws in their milk glasses.

Ceri isn’t a huge fan of the heat, but she does love playing in water. Her plastic wading pool is not long for this world, since she likes to try to pick it up and empty it. I think it’s because she knows I will come fill it with the hose, and then she can play. She’s very similar to the other animals in that she loves to drop random objects into the pool. I discovered the hard way that instead of actually eating slugs, the ducks are opting to drop them into their pond, where they then die, sink to the bottom, and bloat to fifteen times their normal size. Nasty.

In other bird news, the fancy chicks are doing well, although they’re at that stage where their new feathers are growing in, so they look totally scraggly and grumpy all the time. The ones with the head feathers are hysterical, they remind me of that 80s band Flock of Seagulls. I can’t wait until they’re full grown! We are still deciding on names, but I’m thinking along the lines of Reggae singers…too bad I don’t know any off the top of my head. “King Julian” is an option if we have a rooster; he’s that lemur character from Madagascar.

In actual farm news, I’m proud to say that we canned 42 jars of pickles in the last few weeks! Gene cheated a little, because we had to buy our cucumbers from a local farm, but it’s a farm I love to support. Big shout out for Duris  Cucumber Farm in Puyallup, for everybody local. While we were prepping the veggies for pickling, every time I looked up one of the puppies was eating a cucumber. I would take it away, and within five minutes, they had another one. We were storing the ones we were slicing in a huge water filled cooler in the kitchen, and I knew they weren’t getting them out of there (I’m a detective, I get paid to be observant!) It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out they were getting them from the box we had stored in the back room. We had a lot of fun, though, the pickles taste amazing. I also totally reorganized my canning supplies; we bought a new storage shelf and I’ve already filled it up. Although Bess Bess was impressed with our supply of canned and dehydrated supplies, the mere subject of our “Apocalypse Closet” fussed her greatly. She was similarly un-impressed with our experiment to dehydrate eggs. Since we’re getting 8 fresh eggs a day now (and one can only eat so many in day), we decided to try dehydrating them for storage. It actually worked pretty well, at least the dehydrating portion of it. We haven’t tried reconstituting them yet, but judging from their appearance, I expect the taste and consistency will remind Gene of his Army days, and probably not in a good way.

Ducks on the Range

Judging by the weather lately, apparently summer is over. It even smells like fall outside, and the leaves are starting to change. It feels like September already! Hrmph. I’m going to have to speed up my winter planting I guess. Most of my crops aren’t anywhere near done yet, especially the Tomatonater. It still has blossoms on it! I’ve given up completely on the kohlrabi; it has started to bolt, and the roots look nothing like what they’re supposed to. Obviously something was wrong with that batch of seeds. On the plus side, though, Fiona and Buttercup love to eat the greens. I uproot the plant, shove it through the fence, and let them go to town. It’s quickly becoming their favorite treat.

Gene and Storm went garaging sale prowling this weekend, and they brought me back the coolest vintage picnic basket ever! We lined it with egg crates, and it’s a perfect egg collection device. You may have noticed from the picture that today’s fashion farmer is wearing purple sparkle nail polish (I’m a trend setter!) I learned two important lessons today: 1) turkeys love purple sparkles and 2) don’t wear open-toed sandals near the fence, no matter how good your sparkle toes look.  
I am going to make a vinyl liner for the basket, then I can also use it as a harvesting basket, because certain puppies who shall remain nameless ate my pink plastic harvesting pail. Apparently I shouldn’t leave it outside when Ceri decides she’s bored. Her plastic pool is suffering a similar fate. She just loves to chew.

Now that the Bedonkaducks have full access to the pasture area, thanks to a small whole Gene cut in the fence, I’ve realized that they love to play as well. And they’re almost as destructive as puppies, at least when it comes to water. They have discovered the water bucket that the turkeys and the goats drink from, and have decided it’s great sport to dump huge mouthfuls of dirt into it. I changed out everybody’s water yesterday, and when I was doing the farm chores today, I noticed it was so muddy that bugs were walking across the top of it. I watched it for awhile, and sure enough, the ducks started playing in it. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, except maybe put more buckets out.

Flies Flies Flies

All my long term readers no doubt remember the epic battle that took place on the farm earlier this year when I was dealing with the rampant aphid infestation in the greenhouse. Well, the aphids have moved on to greener pastures, so to speak, but I’m now dealing with a teeming hoard of flies in the chicken coop. Don’t get me wrong – they aren’t large flies by any means. They don’t buzz particularly loudly, nor do they swarm around my head the minute I walk in. They’re polite flies. But still. They’re there. In large numbers. They fly in their busy little figure 8 patterns just high enough up that the chickens can’t reach them, and unfortunately there are more of them every day. Gene installed some of those sticky fly strips, and that helps a little. He mentioned in passing one day that he had put them in there, which of course I promptly forgot. Thanks to my legendary ability to notice my surroundings, I walked right into one of them. Trying to untangle your hair from the glue strip while avoiding having to actually touch any stuck flies is difficult, especially when you can’t see what you’re doing. I would prefer combing out bubble gum, because it doesn’t buzz angrily at you. So after I finally freed myself, I went to harvest the eggs. And no, I didn’t look up. Walked right into another one. Sigh. And by the way, I’m illustrating this paragraph with a pretty flower picture, because the way the stuck flies look on the paper creeps me out, and it’s like the only thing in the history of this farm I haven’t photographed. 
In other pest related news, something weird is happening to my azalea seedlings. They looked… munched. I would blame the chickens, because they tend to maraud and pillage like that, leaving a wake of garden destruction, but I don’t think they can reach that high. I don’t think it’s slugs, because then the stems would be bent over. And the really weird thing is only the azaleas on the left of the bed are getting eaten. For now I’ve filed the mystery under “WTF”, because I’m too busy fighting the flies. Not to keep harping on my battle plan, but if the fly paper doesn’t work fast enough, and their numbers continue to multiply, I’m going to drag the vacuum outside and suck them out of the air. (And I’ll make Gene empty the canister when I’m done, because that’s just gross). Either that, or I need to figure out where they sleep and bring the noise, as it were. They magically disappear at dusk.

But enough talk of carnage. In happier news, Storm and I made a batch of dill pickles from the latest cucumber harvest. I love the way fresh dill smells, and I even love the smell of vinegar simmering on the stove. Whenever I get a whiff of it, I start thinking about fall and harvesting. And then Gene ruins the mood by walking in and declaring, “It stinks in here, open a window.” I still think there’s something magical about the smell of fresh dill though. I had a large bunch of it soaking in a water glass by the window earlier in the week, and we didn’t use it all for the pickles. I decided to let it sit there for awhile, basically just treating it like it was a bouquet. Chunk didn’t even knock it over, although he was intrigued by it. After a few days of enjoying the aroma, I accidentally bumped it with a pan while I was washing dishes, and a huge swarm of fruit flies detached from it. I was all, really? Enough with the F’n flies already (and to the kids reading this, the “F” stands for fruit. Really.)

Apart from the swarms of flies, the Tomatonator and the strawberry patch are the other two things that are rapidly growing larger. Perhaps I’m supposed to be pruning the tomatoes? One end of the Tomatonator has assimilated an eggplant almost completely (Borg reference, anyone?) It’s almost to the point where if you stand on the far side of the garden, you can’t see the house. And granted, there’s a bit of a slope, but still. It’s a little disconcerting. It’s like a scene from that show on the Discovery channel that shows what cities look like after all the people die off. It’s that big now. I’m going to have to rent a Rototiller when it comes to turning the garden under for the winter. By the way, the large leafy plant in the front of the Tomatonator is an eggplant, otherwise known as the next victim. Resistance is futile.

And speaking of total domination, I’m going to market my turkey herding stick. Right now it’s just a piece of PVC pipe, but once I bedazzle it, or glue tassles onto it, I’m sure it will sell quickly to today’s fashion farmer. So far, they are still respecting the stick. I’ve included a picture of it – the turkey is blurry because he’s moving that fast. If you want the real experience of turkey herding, stare at the picture while saying repeatedly, in a high pitched voice, “please don’t bite me please don’t bite me please don’t bite me.” Welcome to my world.

Love is in the Air

I’ve decided that since this blog is no doubt read by millions and millions, I can do better than just a boring old date title when I’m writing it. It’s kind of a work in progress, so I welcome any feedback. I’m also going to try posting more often, because I have a lot of fun writing these. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I like writing them!

So the turkeys have decided they no longer need to respect my authority, much like every other critter in this household. I now have to employ my “turkey mover” stick, because they won’t go to bed when they’re supposed to any more. The female just sits on the ground and refuses to move, and the male puffs up and shifts his weight from side to side, just glaring at me. It’s like he knows I’m too scared to pick him up. I can always tell when he’s getting ornery, because he starts breathing really really loud. It’s the creepiest thing ever – you can hear him from three feet away. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he suddenly said, “Luke, I am your father.” It’s that loud. I’m really worried about what I’ll do when they no longer respect the stick. It’s a four foot length of PVC pipe, and I use it to herd them where I want them to go, while conveniently staying out of harm’s way. They have definitely become teenagers, and they’ve even fell in love with each other. It’s all Wild Kingdom now, if you get my drift. It’s like a trainwreck — you can’t not watch, because it’s so indescribably weird. I’m so excited for turkey eggs, though! I want to raise a turkey chick – we can name it Easter!

Along the subject of eggs, I think the next addition to the farm needs to be quail. I’ve given up on the miniature horse idea (because really, that’s no different than Buttercup), and I’ve reluctantly given up on the potbelly pig idea. Reluctantly. But quail are so small and cute, Gene can’t possibly object! And, they’re always raving about quail eggs on Top Chef, and they cost like $10 in the store, so I’m totally not seeing a down side to my plan. They also have three times the nutritional value of chicken eggs, despite being so small (I learned that from a cooking show last night, lest you think I’m wasting my time watching TV).

I want to try eating the duck eggs, too, although it will be a few months before we have any. And I’m a little worried that the special Bedonaduck is male, so we’ll have fertilized eggs to deal with, but I’ll worry about that when it happens. (Gene is totally going to crack the first one open, though, unless he wants to see some drama). I’m going to have to start changing the water in the pond more than once a week, because they dirty it up with a quickness. I also desperately need either a pump or an assistant, because damn. I’m tempted to wear my gas mask from work when I bail it out; it’s a little ripe. It’s also hard to throw the water out of the bucket, because if you throw it in the wrong spot, it drains back into the pond. (That was ten minutes worth of “why the heck is the water level staying the same??? before I figured it out). The other thing you have to watch out for is the metal post that’s right in front of where I bail, because if you hit it with the water, half of it comes back in your face. I learned two important lessons today: 1) wear sunglasses and 2) bail with my mouth shut. I’m totally going to buy a pump tomorrow.

Aside from dealing with murky pond water, the only other true challenge on the farm is the Tomatonator.  It’s over five feet tall now, and has started to consume one of my eggplants. I can no longer see my beets or carrots, so I fear the worst. I think it’s turning predatory – eggplants, beets, and carrots today, deer tomorrow. Condi won’t even go near it any more. She’s the chicken that has figured out how to defeat the fence surrounding the garden. I finally figured out how she does when I was weeding today. She finds a spot where there’s an inch gap between the ground and the bottom of the fence, then she flattens herself out and crawls underneath, like a reverse limbo. I had no idea chickens could flatten themselves out like that. It was weird to see, because she literally looked like a feathered pancake while she was squirming underneath. I think next year I’m going back to putting the tomatoes in containers. Either that or I’ll grow a privacy hedge of them across the front yard.


Big news on the farm this week! Gene surprised me with four new baby chickens! And these aren’t just any old run of the mill chicks, these are fancy chicks. Two of them are Silkies, and two are Polish. When they’re adults, the Silkies will be covered in huge poofy clouds of feathers. They kind of look like that creature that Luke rode in Star Wars on that Ice Planet thing. (I’m sure Bess Bess could tell you both the name of the planet and the name of the critter. I smell nerd.) We have a black one and a white one. I can’t wait – they will be so covered in fluff they won’t even look like chickens. 

The Polish breed look like Fraggles, from back in the day. They’ll have fancy sprays of feathers coming off their heads, kind of like Farah Fawcett if she had dreadlocks.  The only downside to these particular chickens is that the store doesn’t screen them for gender, so for all I know we could have four roosters. The chicks are quite active, and they seem friendlier than the other ones did at this age. They should be ready to mingle with the rest of the flock by October. I’m not worried about them fitting in, they’ll have great hair so obviously they’ll be popular.

In other fowl news, the Bedonkaducks are getting along well. Gene and the kids built them their own fenced off area to keep the goats and turkeys from eating all their food. We needed a new fence along the front of the pasture anyway because the goats keep rubbing against it. The turkeys are pretty annoyed about being shut out, I think they liked hanging out by the pool. The special Bedonkaduck is looking progressively more ridiculous the bigger he gets. I’ve decided he must be a male duck, because he has blue feathers starting to come in, while the other gray duck doesn’t. I’m not sure if that’s why his wings are messed up, or if he just lacks the strength to hold them properly. He’s great fun to watch, because the other two are tall and thin, and he’s about as wide as he is tall and waddles every where. 

I need to start giving them treats, now that they’re older, so they won’t be jealous when I give them out to every one else. The turkeys and chickens love watermelon the best, and the goats love when I give them the radish tops. I went to the pet store today because I ran out of cat treats (they were threatening to riot), and I noticed they had crickets on sale 12 for a dollar. Naturally I came home with two dozen for the chickens, because watching them chase the crickets is epic entertainment. They come in a plastic bag filled with air and tied with a rubber band, just like fish, minus the water. I put the plastic bag in a paper bag and sat it on the counter in the kitchen until I was ready to hand them out, and immediately Chunk decided he needed some crickets too. Then he got his head stuck in the bag, which was the funniest thing ever until I realized it would cease to be amusing the moment he freed the crickets.

It’s an exciting time in the garden too – I harvested my second batch of lentils, and I’m getting faster at husking them. I also figured out the perfect time to pick them, which is when the pod turns a beautiful shade of dark purple. I’m a little worried, because the variety I bought is called “French Blue” lentils (and I bought them from a French company!), and in the photo the lentils are blue, but what came out of my pods is distinctly green. Green in a good way, though, not green in a bad, OMG look what my pickle brine turned into kind of way. Sadly, my second batch of salt brine pickles were no better than the first batch, so I’m done with salt brining. 

Last weekend we went back to making pickles the normal way, and Gene and I turned 8 pounds of zucchini (which was in the form of two large ones) into zucchini pickles. Gene set up the canning station outside, which is way faster than boiling water inside because we use the propane camp stove. And by we, I mean Gene. I’m not allowed to touch it for many reasons, most of which involve preventing an explosion. I can’t wait until there are enough tomatoes and peppers to make salsa again!

Today, for the first time ever, I made popcorn using corn I had grown from seeds! Two ears of my raspberry popcorn looked dried out enough to try popping. It took me about 30 minutes to get the seeds off the cob, and I only got approximately 1 tablespoon of kernels, but it tasted sooooo good. And you can eat the kernels even if they don’t pop! I don’t know if it’s a freshness thing, but they aren’t rock hard like the kind you buy in the store. They’re crunchy, almost the same consistency as croutons. They tasted really good, and they’re a beautiful purple color. I would love to have a farm large enough to grow everything we need to be totally self-sufficient….I love the feeling of knowing I grew what I’m eating, especially stuff like popcorn and peanuts. If I could only figure out how to grow sugarcane in my greenhouse, I could make my own caramel corn! I have made quite a few dinners this season out of my garden veggies; my favorite to date is “eggplant two ways”. It’s breaded eggplant medallions baked in the oven, with sauteed eggplant and bok choy on the side. I use some pretty aggressive seasonings so it has a nice flavor story. And I figured out how to make a nummy sauce for the bok choy out of olive oil and butter. (It’s really easy – you put olive oil and butter in the pan. Mmmmm.).

Cooking is challenging considering I have to babysit the puppies while I’m doing it. Ceri especially loves to chew on the couch, and anything else she can levitate to and get in her mouth. She knocked a full can of fish food off the top of the fish tank yesterday, then she and Chupi chowed down. Again. This is the second time she’s done that, and I still can’t figure out how she’s getting up there. Then today she knocked a carton of 12 fresh eggs off the counter (the far back of the counter, mind you), then she and Chupi started eating them. I was able to save one, and cleaned up five. Ceri had one intact one in her mouth, and I chased her around the couch several times yelling, “Don’t break the egg!!!!”. I managed to rescue that one intact. Either they ate five raw eggs, or there’s going to be an nasty nasty smell in a few days coming from the ones I can’t find. Chupi knows I’m vexed because he wanted to sit in my lap while I’m writing this, which he usually only does if he knows he did something wrong. I swear, it’s a good thing they’re cute.