Just Another Day on the Farm January 26, 2012

I'll start by admitting that I'm definitely lazier in winter than spring or summer.  Ever since we've had our livestock, we've fed and watered twice a day.  In the winter, that is no small task, so now I only do it once--usually in mid-afternoon unless I check the weather and then do it earlier or later to try to beat bad precipitation.

Let me explain about watering in the winter when you have a small farm.  We have hydrants that don't freeze located near the barn and the chicken house.  In order to water the sheep and donkey near the chicken house, we attach a hose, turn on the water and carry it to the various water containers in the pens.  Doesn't sound too bad?  If that was the whole story, it wouldn't be worth complaining about (and I'm not about to miss an opportunity to do that).  As you are watering with the hose, you're also feeding.  The sheep trough was full of water so I obligingly tilted it over to dump out the water and I dumped it alright--right into my boot and up to my knee.  I swear I heard a sheep giggle which was a little irritating since I was working hard to get them fed.

Fed the sheep, moved the hose from the donkey tub to the sheep tub, went into the sheep pen in 2 inches of mud to feed them even more grain and then into the chicken house to gather eggs and feed the chickens.  As I walked out of the chicken house, here came the guineas running frantically to get in, except that now the sheep tub was running over so I shut off the water and tried to persuade the guinea to go in on my schedule.  Herding guineas is a lot like herding cats--just when you get them moving in the right direction, they move frantically in just the opposite way.  I lost patience, said some bad words, and gave the guineas 10 seconds to get in or to stay out all night.  They went in. Now all I had to do was drag the 60 foot hose over a hook 5 foot high in order to drain it so it wouldn't be frozen tomorrow when I went to water.

Keep in mind, I'm still cold and wet, but I set off for the barn where it really becomes challenging. First off, feed the horses in their individual stalls and hope that they don't pick today to be prissy.  Prissy is defined as going in the wrong stall and refusing to leave which means neither horse will eat.  No problem..horses were fine.  Next, drag the hose out of the feed room and attach it to the hydrant and drag it across the barn lot  (along with a coffee can of cattle feed) to the cattle's refreshment center. This time the mud and manure are probably 4 inches deep and slick so I'm taking baby steps while the cows are bawling for me to hurry.  I stick the hose in the tub and dump the cattle feed and retreat to the barn to turn on the water and wait for the tub to fill.  This takes around 15 minutes so I pull out a stool and sit down.  I have to actually watch the hose since the calves find it infinitely entertaining to drag the hose out of the tub and put even more unwanted water on the ground.  As I sat, two cats decided to crawl into my lap--you might think this was a sign of affection--I suspect they just wanted a way to get the mud and manure off their feet and, if so, they succeeded admirably.  While the cat sat in my lap, Amira decided to investigate and began licking the cat--while I didn't see any sign of hostility from the horse, the cat was definitely displeased.  With the cat gone, the horse contented herself with chewing and dropping occasional bits of feed in my hair.  I didn't complain, at least her front half was hanging over me rather than her back half!

Tub was full, dragged the hose over the requisite hook and  back into the feed room.  Filled the feed containers for tomorrow, brought the 4 eggs I gathered into the house, and prepared to take off my wet muddy clothes as soon as the dogs finished smelling me to their heart's content.

Oops, too hasty..the turkey was at the kitchen door looking pitiful so I went out, informed her she'd have to follow me around back so I could at least sit down.  Fine with the turkey--we went to the nearest chair and she scooted up to be picked up and we communed for awhile before I returned to the house.  I'm tired on most days, but never, ever,  bored.

Looks Like I Have a Lap Turkey

(As I usually do, I urge you to scroll down past the blogs to see other photos from the farm.)

If you look through our new photos--mostly all the cats--plus a few of the newer members of our farm family, you'll see me sitting on the porch with a turkey in my lap.  I have to confess, I have absolutely no prior experience with turkeys until we raised 6 babies in our basement, but somehow, I never anticipated a turkey in my lap.

As far as I could tell, as young birds, they were pretty nuts. None of them ever seemed to remember that this large being who hovered over them brought food and water.  Each time I appeared, the entire group went into a flurry of running, trying to fly, and generally creating havoc in their brooder.

When I finally moved all 6 (3 "toms"--males and 3 hens--female), they joined our flock of chickens and proceeded to do "turkey" things--all as far removed from humans as possible.  That seemed to change after disaster struck.  One night a huge raccoon climbed the 6 foot fence into the chicken yard and slaughtered several chickens and 2 of the half grown turkeys.  Another of the young hens appeared dead also, but when we picked her up, she was terribly injured--her breast area was split open. (That particularly injury is typical of coon attacks.).  We felt like we had to do something productive even though we had little hope she would survive.  I immediately vetoed Steve's idea that we sew her back together!  We compromised by pulling the skin  together and putting a huge band-aid on it and then spraying the entire area with an aluminum spray bandage.

The turkey survived our treatment and very slowly began to recover.  At the same time, the turkeys decided we were part of their family and began following us any time we were in the yard.  More than one visitor has been alarmed to find a huge tom turkey striding up behind them--no attacks are ever forthcoming--they just seem to enjoy human company.

As the year progressed, the turkeys began to roost on the deck outside our bedroom window.  While I could appreciate their loyalty, cleaning up turkey poop was not my favorite activity.  This apparent need for "their" humans culminated in the hen turkeys coming to the front porch and pecking on the window where they could see me sitting inside.  It was for all the world as if they wanted me to come out and play.  Actually, I did respond and when I went outside to sit in a chair on the porch, that's when one of the turkeys jumped up on the arm of the chair and then settled into my lap--cooing (or at least the turkey approximation of cooing).  It was a bizarre experience but one that has been repeated several times.

On one occasion, just before Christmas, on a day where the weather was balmy, I was summoned outside by the turkey and when I sat down, we went through the lap ritual (which also consists of my stroking the turkey, particularly under her wings). Suddenly, one of the cats decided to join us.  There I sat, turkey in my lap, cat across my chest, and I had visions of peace of earth..lion/lamb kind of thing.  The peace in my lap lasted about as long as the peace on earth. My loving turkey attacked the cat, pecking him repeatedly before settling down for more stroking. I not only have a "lap" turkey but a very territorial one.

Another new experience at Cardinal Point Farm.