I’d spent a good bit of time, earlier this year, researching turkeys. I ultimately decided not to buy them this year — we were adding American Bresse chickens to our flock, and we are getting a few beehives. But we kept thinking about it — specially now that the Bresse are pretty much grown up. It was, however, too late to be ordering turkeys. They were all sold out! I managed to find one hatchery — Cackle — that had a “surplus” box of random heritage turkeys available. And hatching the very next day. We decided to order five, and the turkeys hatched basically the day we ordered them.
They shipped the little guys out the next day — and then we encountered the problem with sending live animals. The delivery was Friday or Saturday. Then Saturday. Then Monday — that’s a long time for little guys to be trapped in a box! We rang up the USPS 800 number and our local post office this morning. The local post office offered to call us as soon as the truck got in — 4:30 AM — if we wanted. Better than waiting another four hours until they open. Luckily, the USPS folks in Akron were proactive about animal welfare and called me this afternoon. He asked if we were expecting a shipment of live chicks. I said, “oh yeah; you’ve got our turkeys, turkey?” (because we all say turkey, turkey to each other all the time). He paused for a second to parse that out then said ‘yup’. He was concerned that the animals wouldn’t make it if they were sitting at his office for the rest of the day and all day tomorrow. Did we want to come out there and pick them up? Yes! They’re even open 24/7. We wrapped up the work we were doing outside and drove right over. After I went into the distribution center and was directed to the chap who called, he called out “you here for your turkeys, turkey?” — always nice to come across goofy people.
Now, our first chickens we ordered were from a large hatchery about an hour from our house. It was a bit of a trip, but we drove down and drove our birds back. We even had a blanket to keep them extra toasty on the ride home. It was a nice, thick cardboard box with a cute little nest in it. There wasn’t any heat source (it was also August!), water, or food … but I figured that was because we were picking the chicks up at the hatchery. The second chickens were ordered from a small hatchery that has on a couple of rare breeds. They shipped the chicks express priority, had a heat pack glued down to the bottom of the box, added plenty of straw, and had containers of gel nutrient (combo food and water) stuck in two corners of the box. They also included three extra chicks — one of my rare breed and two Rhode Island Reds — to ensure there was enough body heat. The chicks were all healthy and perky when we picked them up. This hatchery from which I ordered the turkeys? They had a heat pack stuck to the bottom of the box. And that’s it. No food. No water. One was dead, and a second was barely breathing. The heat pack was a little warm, but certainly not keeping them in the upper 90’s. I held the little guy, and we got a little bit of water into it. But his breathing slowed down, and he died. They shipped us seven turkeys, so I don’t really have room to complain because we have five live birds. But it’s awful that the hatchery wouldn’t put some nutrient gel in the box like Bresse Farms did. I wouldn’t order from them again based just on this fact, and I now know to chat with the hatchery first and get more details on their shipping techniques before ordering.
The deer decoy garden is still growing well. The sections seeded second are coming in well, and the first section is a couple inches tall and really dense. The third section is just starting to sprout, but we’ve got a week of rainy weather which is perfect for sprouting seeds.
Some of the Metroparks have a free wood chip pile. I’m sure they bring in a big, industrial tree chipper machine and a dump truck to clear out downed trees throughout the park. The chips are then dumped into a large pile and free for anyone who wants to haul them. We discovered this last year and started making a wonderful path through our woods — a path that did an awesome job of replacing the usual muck road we travel during maple season. We’ve been watching the location for a new pile of wood chips this year, and Anya spotted the pile a few days ago. It’s a bit of rush to collect them — local landscaping companies show up with large trailers and clear the place out.
We got a lot of wood chips the last few days. The first day, I shoveled and Scott ferried. There was a lot of time lost to driving, so he put together a rear hitch mount for one of our carts. We can now tow both carts simultaneously. The second day, I shoveled while he used a pitch fork — a far superior tool for moving wood chips — and then hung out with Anya while he ferried the carts. Today, he pitch-forked and ferried while I consolidated the pile and did a few other tasks (turned compost, disassembled the temporary hop greenhouse). We’re up to 38 cartloads of wood chips! We’ll probably move some more tomorrow, but it’ll all be soggy from the rain tonight.
We’ve had a lot of trouble with deer eating our veggies — corn, beans, lettuce. All very good deer munchies. We had a little luck playing talk radio all night long, but I think they get used to it pretty quickly. Then eat all your not-quite-ready-to-pick sweet corn. This year, we put in a decoy garden full of deer’s fav foods. There are brassicas, beets, radishes, oats, and rye grains. Scott tilled up a big area where our garden used to be, I raked it out to level the soil, and then I spread a bunch of seeds. We did it in three sections — the north-east quarter was finished first. The south-east quarter and west strip were done second, and the strip in the middle was done last. The first section is coming in quite vigorously. The second section is just starting to come in, and the final strip is pretty much dirt. We’ve been lucky to have a few heavier rains since the seeds were spread, so everything is watered well. This should be really cool. My next adventure is to replace some of the lawn with a wildflower seed mix so we’ve got plenty of bee chow available.
So we’re supposed to get five or six inches of snow tonight, and tomorrow night will get down to 28 degrees or so … which means the hop greenhouse is back! It’s sturdier this time so it’ll handle the snow load. There are two logs on each side, both with a long 2×6 board run across. Shorter 2×4’s were laid across the long boards to provide support for the roof. There are additional boards diagonal from the “roof” to the ground. The whole thing is covered with greenhouse plastic, and 4×4’s (and a few large logs) weigh down the edges.
I’ve also got plastic bags over the blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, baby pawpaws, garlic, and baby black walnuts. There’s a tarp over the part of the deer garden that’s actually sprouted. Hopefully everything fairs well. The hazelnuts aren’t protected — they’ve gotten quite large, but they should have plenty of energy in the root system. The kale isn’t protected either, but it survived the winter already … so that should be fine.
We’ve occasionally talked about going down to the SPCA and picking up one of their “barn cats“. I assume this is something that’s available at a lot of rural animal shelters — less socialized animals that you aren’t required to keep indoors. Thought a young cat that grew up around chickens would probably leave them alone (they’re fairly large and happy to defend themselves), and Anya has been really into cats since she discovered the Warrior Cat series. We see a few neighbor’s cat wandering around — a big white one, a chocolate point one — and the highlight of her day is just seeing a cat. For the last few weeks, we’ve also seen a black cat. I mentioned to Anya how some people consider them bad luck, and how the shelter I used to volunteer at had more trouble adopting them out.
Today, we were working out in the yard. The chickens were roaming around (well, the big ones anyway — the little guys tend to stay really close to the tractor when they are allowed out). Scott, Anya, and I were getting the hop arbor set up. The black cat came up out of the valley, walked toward us, and meowed. The big chickens, who had been digging around the compost, froze. The baby guys obliviously chirped and ran around the tractor. Tilly, our Columbian Wyandotte, flew/ran over toward the tractor and put herself right between the cat and the chicks. That was really cool to see — the bigger guys will actually protect the chicks. The rest of the chickens made their way toward their coop. I moved toward the chicken tractor too, and Anya went toward the cat to get him moving in a different direction. And it wanted a snuggle.
So she got to spend an hour or so petting a cat (and dragging a rope around for a cat to play with). After a big chicken got close enough to the cat for it to really appreciate the size of a chicken (and that chicken was Sunshine, our very large Buff Orpington), the cat didn’t bother the chicks. It’s an in tact male — strange combo since “in tact” usually means feral, but it’s super friendly. More friendly than any cat I’ve ever owned — my cats loved their family, but they’d hide from strangers. I left my number with the police and SPCA in case someone’s missing this guy, but the police said they get a lot of calls about cats dumped in the park (which is odd — we’ve lived here six years now, and I’ve never encountered a dumped pet … but it’s a big park). I’ve posted a pic to the usual social media places — community FB group, etc; but Anya’s hoping we’ve scored our barn cat 🙂
I made maple sugar for cinnamon rolls — pour a bunch of maple syrup (a pint, in this case) into a pot. Preferably a pot with high walls so the whole thing doesn’t bubble over in a hot, sticky mess. Over medium heat, boil for 15-20 minutes. It’ll foam up a lot, and all of a sudden it will crystalize on top. Pull it off the heat and stir to break up the hardened maple.
We’re in for a drastic temperature drop this week — 70 degrees one day, 27 the next night. We’ve covered our hops before; but, as the plants spread out, they get harder to cover.
This year, we built a quick (temporary) greenhouse over the entire hop bed. Rebar and longer metal poles are pounded into the ground at an angle, and the 1″ PVC that I had for the low tunnel greenhouse is mounted to the poles. A large sheet of greenhouse plastic covers the entire bed, and a lot of bricks are (hopefully) holding it all in place. This should keep our new hops from freezing.
We got fifteen full pints and a partial pint (plus a cup that Scott took out to enjoy early) of late-season maple syrup in our third batch. That gives us five and a half gallons of syrup this year — and we’ve got about eight more trees that we can tap next year.