Wednesday, March 28, 2012

spring on the farm

(Misa, and her daughter Yarrow)

It's spring, for all that it has decided to act like winter, with the recent cold weather and heavy rains, here in Northern California. A time of new growth, new beginnings, new life. On the farm, this time of year is really busy, and also a vulnerable, fragile time for us. All of our dreams for the upcoming year are being sown now, literally... the greenhouse is full of seedlings pushing toward the light, representing our dreams, financial investment, charting the course of our work in the field for the upcoming year, and finally, the reward of harvest. We struggle with enough heat, but not so much that it dries out the plants, or fries their tender little shoots-enough water, not to excess, too much can cause damp off- a fungus that kills the seed, or makes the little sprout soft and weak, blackened and withered at the soil line. We dance with the weather, planting too early in a warm spell can either get you ahead, if the weather holds, or we can lose the seed in a cold spell, or a hard rain.

Three of my five Nigerian Dwarf goats are pregnant. Originally, I had calculated they would be due Mid to late April or later, based on the arrival of our buck, Mr. Goodbar in mid-November, time for him to get of each of them, and a gestation period of 145-153 days. Even so, I have been checking obsessively, seeing mucus plugs in Borage and Bella, and Bella's milk came in last week as well, all signs of somewhat imminent kidding.

I separated Borage out into a kidding stall, and she yelled for a day for her Yarrow, so I put Yarrow in with her, even though Yarrow didn't seem close to kidding, and they spent the day hopping over the fence into the next pen over, as the grass was definitely greener over there. A few days later, I decided I hadn't seen any further signs of kidding, so I let them back out. Then I put Bella in the kidding stall. I mean, her milk was in, she was bound to kid soon, right? I put the alpine nubian cross, Fancy Pants, in with Bella. She is the bottom of the pecking order for all the goats, even though she is taller than most of them, and she so bonded to Bella, she seemed lost without her. She does not, for the record, seem pregnant at all, and she needs to eat more, she is one skinny goat- which is what happens, if you walk away from food the moment someone else walks toward you. Being separated also gives Fancy Pants the chance to eat her fill.
The last few days I have found Bella and Fancy Pants crammed into the same crate together, melting my heart each time.

my sweet Bella
Bella, and my Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey Tom, sneaking in for a little sexy dance.
Bella with her back to us, and Fancy Pants peeking out of the crate on a gloomy day.

I am about to go on vacation, to Oregon to see some dear lady friends, and let our children meet and play for a week. First vacation I have had since before Marisol was born. Of course, I will now be spending my vacation in virtual farm mama mode, checking in on my babies via text and fb to see if they have kidded yet.

The Roosters are all running the barn yard like gangsters- cock fights where ever you turn, round a corner and you'll find four big roosters holding down a smaller roo, taking turns beating the crap out of him, in the opposite corner, you can hear the hens scream, as the roosters form a circle around her, hold her down, and take turns raping her. I'm going to be harvesting as many roosters as I have energy for this Saturday. I hate what they are doing to each other, but mostly, I hate what they are doing to my ladies. They are missing feathers on their backs and heads from having the roosters hang onto their head feathers while mounting them, and scraping their spurs across their backs. Roosters are rapacious bastards. I hope to never have as many as I did this year, or to kill them earlier next time, before it becomes such a criminal scene out there.

Meanwhile, the ducks are thrilled that the slough and pond are full of water. They are out there swimming, fishing, and resting on the island in the middle. They, of all the animals, love the rain, and I find them out there quacking happily, walking their waddle walk, searching for insects in the grass, and moving on to the next big puddle. I know when they have been let out in the morning, because I have a duck couple who have decided the tub of water outside my house, and the puddle right next to it, are their preferred hang out. Their happy quacking winds its way into my sleep, making me smile.
And my turkeys. How I love these fellas. They are wandering the barn yard with their feathers all poofed out in full display. They have a giant air sac in their chest, which helps with the puffed out chest look, and also with the noises they make in their display. They spread out their tail feathers in a fan like shape, snap their wing tips down on the ground, and shake their wings, and the rest of their feathers... all the while making a drumming noise in their chest. When they inhale to fill the air sac, they then exhale sharply making a spitting noise which is also part of their little gig. So they trek around shaking their tail feathers at each other, and anyone else that will pay attention, and they Drum and Spit. Occasionally they stand face to face and gobble at each other, necks crossing, for hours, (hilarity, I assure you). The other day, I had a friend come by with her mom, and one of the toms decided she was so lovely she warranted a special sexy seduction dance. He rested his head on her shoe, and then proceeded to stomp one foot while making the drumming spitting noise, shaking and shimmying all of his feathers, and rubbing on her in this lopsided drunken old man kind of dance, around and around her legs. It was hella sexy. I mean, I'm pretty sure she didn't find it as sexy, or as hilarious as I did, and her mom certainly didn't- she was trying to shield her from the amorous turkey advances. But I sat there laughing my ass off and trying to capture the event on video. (fail) The turkeys are, so far, my favorite poultry. They are easy to steer around the barn yard, their calls are easy to mimic, they are loving and friendly, and follow me around the farm as I do chores, and they are hours and hours of entertainment. I have liked them at every stage. Well, there was the teenage phase where one of the males launched himself at the back of my head trying to mate me. I could do without that, but still, it was pretty amusing. Plus, they look really cool, and they are delicious. I will be having more turkeys in the future, for sure. I think I want a breeding pair of lavender turkeys. (Yes, yes, I know, everything in my world has to be purple, it's a gorgeous color- I admit to being obsessed.) Ok my loves, I am beyond tired. Let me know what kind of farm stories are you interested in hearing about, hmmm? xoxox
Turkeys, strutting