Hot, so very very hot

grumpy chickenWith the weather hitting the high 80s here at the farm, there’s no shortage of critters hogging all the shady spots. The chickens sit around with their beaks gaping open and their wings curved out to the side, generally looking vexed and occasionally emitting an indignant squawk at nothing in particular. Most of them hang out in the shade under the deck, braving the heat only when I come outside to dispense watermelon and other tasty treats. I dislike hot weather for several reasons, the first being it’s not particularly wise to wear shorts around animals. Dimsworth and Hawthorne like to investigate anything that’s a bright color with their beaks, and are particularly drawn to anything blindingly white, such as my legs. So even though jeans don’t play well with hot weather, I’m stuck with them.

I spend the hottest part of every afternoon scampering around outside, making sure everyone has clean, fresh water to drink. Goats are notorious for refusing to drink dirty IMG_9094water; they would prefer to fall over from dehydration rather than lower their standards. Since we have ducks, I have to change the water buckets a couple times a day since no matter how high I hang the bucket, a duck will find a way to dump dirt in it. The ducks love nothing better than playing in a freshly refilled pool, and usually don’t even wait until I’ve taken the hose out of it to pile in. I can’t stay irked at them for long when they’re splashing and cavorting in the clean water, having the time of their lives. A few times I’ve been tempted to climb in there with them, but they have a bad habit of dropping bombs in the pool, and that’s just not okay.

cuddle bunsHarvey and Cinnabun don’t mind the heat overly much, mostly because they choose to spend the sweltering afternoons happily munching their way through my garden. My shady and tasty garden. So far they’ve eaten my entire bok choy crop, and are quickly working their way through the chards and celery. They even have the gall to chitter at me when I “accidentally” spray them with the hose as I water the garden. When they’re not being Bunnies of Destruction, they also spend their time in the shade underneath the deck. One of the things I love most about them is that no matter how hot it is outside, they still want to cuddle up together.

Thoughts on turkeys….

DimsworthSeeing Dimsworth and Hawthorne lurking about in the pasture makes me realize how much I’ve missed not having turkeys. Anyone who says they lack personality has clearly never owned one — Dimsworth and Hawthorne couldn’t be more different from Thanksgiving and Christmas. Dimsworth, particularly, is shaping up to be a bit of a butt. He puffs up his tail feathers, which at his young age resemble a heavily-used, rarely-cleaned Swiffer duster, then flares out his wings and circles the ducks likes he’s got something to prove. He particularly enjoys chasing the poor things, a habit he’d best grow out of quickly unless he wants to meet the business end of a garden hose.

Hawthorne, on the other hand, is much more quiet and contemplative. He sits quietly pigsand watches the world go by. He also learned how to get into the duck enclosure, then taught Dimsworth that delicious kibble can be found there. I have to go out there several times a day and chase them out before they wolf down the ducks’ lunch. Although at this point the ducks are still bigger, they are scared of the turkeys. Not that I blame them, what with their glittering reptilian eyes and all. Pretty soon they won’t be able to fit through the duck door, and they’ll be too fat to chase the ducks, so problem solved.

Time goes by way too fast!

He knew he was loved; RIP, buddy

He knew he was loved; RIP, buddy

As I was washing and packaging the eggs we sell at Valley Feed in Belfair, I couldn’t believe the sell by date I marked on the cartons was already in September! That means in about a month and a half, it will be fall already. Not that I don’t love fall, but it seems like summer just got here. I’ve spent the majority of my time outside, since this is our busy season here on the farm. That’s why I haven’t sat down to write an update in far too long! Quite a few changes have happened in the last few weeks, some of them good, some of them sad. My buddy King Julian, the rooster who would chivalrously knock Sean Paul out of the air in order to protect me, has moved on to the Big Farm in the Sky. I have no doubt he is now protecting the angels from Sean Paul’s signature sneak attacks. KJ passed from old age, I think, since he was probably about 7 years old. The leg he injured during his fight with the eagle a few years back had been bothering him a great deal, and for about the last month or so I’ve had to lift him up onto the roost at night, then escort him down in the morning. We had a strong bond, he and I, so I knew right away when he was about to pass. I had the chance to give him a last cuddle and say goodbye. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a pretty good way to go.

In happier news, Dimsworth and Hawthorne are ecstatic to finally be outside in the pasture with the rest of the critters. Every time I passed them in their brooding box, theyIMG_8920 would huff and puff, then jump on their climbing logs and launch themselves at the wire mesh cover. I took that to mean they wanted to be outside, although after I set them loose for the first time I had a brief worry that the wire mesh cover was the only thing preventing them from attacking my head. Luckily for me, they were far more interested in exploring their new environment, and now they follow me around chirping happily whenever I go out there. Although fully feathered, they are in that awkward teenage phase where they disturbingly resemble Skeksis from the Dark Crystal, minus the ceremonial robes.

The five ducklings have also been unleashed upon the greater pasture, and they spend ducksthe bulk of their time hosting pool parties. In fact, they rarely ever venture more than five feet from the big pond, and that’s to take a sun nap. Ducks grow up much more quickly than chickens and turkeys; the cute fuzzy duckling stage lasted approximately five minutes. They only spent a month or so in the brooding box, and as soon as they were fully feathered out I relocated them to the duck mansion. It wasn’t because they complained like the turkeys, they were actually quite calm and happy inside the box. They just spent their entire time in the litter box wading pool, excitedly splashing about, which forced me to clean the box two or three times a day. I don’t mind the extra work, but white shavings don’t grow on trees and they were blowing through two packages a week.

Speaking of blowing through two packages a week, that’s about how many boxes of bunniesWheat Thins all the bunnies munch through these days. Since there’s nothing cuter than an itty bitty bunny eating a Wheat Thin, I started giving them one pretty much every time I went into the Bunny Ranch. Now I have seven snack cracker addicts who, in addition to their larger parents, clamor for handouts as soon as I set a foot in the door. I do balance out their diets by adding a never-ending supply of fresh garden greens to the mix, though. I’m not sure if it was the freakishly hot weather so early this year or what, but my carrots and my romanescu failed to produce actual vegetables. The carrots went to seed, and the romanescu is just a big pile of leaves. Bad for my culinary adventures, but good for the bunnies. The plants are about three feet tall, and they can demolish one down to the roots in a few hours.

Not all of my crops are doomed, though — the corn is over seven feet tall with lots of plump ears on it, and the tomato harvest is going to be amazing. All four boxes of potatoes are filled to capacity, which is going to be a LOT of potatoes, considering eachshallots box is four feet tall with two foot sides. I’m sure there’s a super easy mathematical formula that would tell me how many square feet of potatoes we have, but I am not friends with math (not even acquainted, really), so I’ll just say we have a lot. I harvested close to 300 shallots, which I hung up to dry in our woodshed. We have already processed two batches of cucumbers into pickles, and I had enough strawberries in the garden to make 19 pints of strawberry jam. This weekend, it’s all about raspberries. My friend Rachel took me to the Graymarsh Berry Farm in Sequim, and I picked around 35 pounds of them. I was the envy of all the other berry pickers with my tactical berry retaining device, which Gene had fashioned by attaching a padded neck strap to a plastic ice cream bucket. Rachel had the foresight to bring a red wagon along, and with the help of her daughter we filled up about ten buckets. I probably had at least a bucket’s worth of my own raspberries in the raised bed Gene built, but I always raid the bushes while I’m watering, and for some reason there’s none left.