Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Baby Turkeys!

Molly is a great comfort to Sean's plague-ridden carcass.
Mary calling her young back. ♥
Our family has been sick with a virus that we're affectionately calling, "The Plague" for just under a week. Sean's fever broke yesterday; mine the day before. Now, Meg seems to have the first signs: sore throat and fever. Thus far, only Kristen seems to be unaffected. She has quarantined herself in her room with her notebook, some music, and her books resolved not to emerge until this passes. Smart girl.

Life on the homestead pauses for nothing. Sean's fever broke just in time to discover newly hatched turkey babies. Both nests hatched overnight. Mary is the proud Momma to five new babies. Priscilla hatched a single baby from her clutch of two eggs. Of course, we knew and tentatively planned that we would move the Mothers and their chicks to safer quarters once hatched, but what with being stricken for the past week, thinking about it was all we had done. We had not actually built any of the new fencing we knew we would need. And, as tired out as we both are, constructing fencing was not in the cards today. The easiest remedy we could conceive was to remove some of the garden fencing panels and add them to the already existing turkey fencing to create a safe and separate pen for the new chicks and their Moms. So, that is what happened.
Priscilla and her solo chick. ♥
Priscilla's chick is already walking all over mom. :) 
In the next few days, we'll have to do something more than pray that the dastardly trio of Abigail, Haddie, and Anna refrain from wandering into the garden and eating all our seeds for next year. Since the weather forecast is calling for three days of rain, it is a chance we decided to take. And, by "decided", I clearly mean, it is what it is. The fencing is down and moved. If we can muster the energy, we'll collect what we can for seeds today.

I am choosing not to focus on that. It is much more pleasant to think about new babies. I am so happy to introduce these new littles to you. :)

Thanks for stopping in to visit today. We're glad you're here.

~Sean & Sonja ♥

Friday, September 25, 2015

Unexpected Turkey Babies are a Cookin'.... Maybe...

Priscilla's turkey chicks July 2015
Look how they've grown! Sept. 2015
When people tour the homestead, one of the most common questions upon visiting with our heritage turkeys is, "Don't they fly out?" and "Aren't you worried that a Tom will come and lure them off?" These are reasonable questions and in truth I have worried about these possibilities. Just not enough to take the time to cover their pen or clip their wings. I love our turkeys and I want them to be safe. I, also, want them to be turkeys. It gives me great joy seeing them strut across the back yard and come investigate what we are doing. And, though I know it is safer to live in captivity, it just makes me sad to think of them entirely penned up. My honest and usual response to these well-meaning questions is, "They do fly out. But, they stay around the yard. The day may come when they wander, but so far, they are content to live with us." And they have been.

We had a bit of a scare a couple weeks ago. Mary, our blue slate hen did not put herself to bed with the other turkeys one night. A pattern that continued. We saw her wandering the yard early each morning and in the late afternoons, but when evening came, she was gone. This went on for several days. I worried a little about predators. As more than a week passed and her routine became habit; Mary always returning during the day and roosting in some unknown place at night, I found myself watching for her return each day with a sigh of relief. Yes, I know it would have been easy enough to cover the yard with bird netting. We talked about it. But, neither Sean nor I wanted to pen her in permanently. Besides that, based on her pattern of missing feathers on her breast and along her back, I had a strong suspicion that she was laying eggs in a nest. If that was the case, I wanted to give her every opportunity to hatch out chicks. Our intention was to follow her to wherever she was roosting to see if our hunch was right. I will tell you this, turkeys are as dumb as the day is long, but this old girl had NO intention of leading us to her nest. She just disappeared before we could follow her. Seriously. Fast like a freak.

About a week into Mary's new routine, Priscilla starting behaving in the same way. She'd disappear during the day for a bit and then not come back to roost with the toms at night. The difference with Priscilla was that she almost immediately stopped coming home every day. It was every other day and then, every third day- long enough to hop into the pen to eat and grab some water and she would disappear before we could throw on shoes to follow her to her roosting place. Frustrating for us. We were also relieved each time we spotted her, happy to know she was safe.

Last Monday, after I returned home with Angus from Ridge Runner Veterinarians, I caught sight of Mary in with the toms. I grabbed my cell phone and already had on my shoes and cannily followed her back to her nesting spot... the tall grass behind Ebony's shed. Standing 2 feet in front of her, I would have walked directly passed it, had I not seen exactly where she disappeared. Relieved to find her spot, I had no intention of disturbing her. I was happy just knowing that she was close by and that there was a possibility of more turkey babies this year. It took another 10 days before I had the opportunity to check the empty nest while Mary grabbed a bite to eat and drink. There
were 7 eggs in the nest and 1 that looked like it had no shell, only a soft sac encasing a partially developed chick. It smelled terrible and was covered with hundreds of nasty, wiggling bugs. It quite turned my stomach! But, I only had a small window and with the chance that the other eggs were growing normally and viable, I grabbed a large, green leaf nearby, scooped up the sac and removed it from the nest- just in time for Mary to return and me to beat feet in a hasty retreat. I am always sorry to lose any animal, but the excitement over the potential of Mary hatching out seven chicks soothed its loss.

Last Wednesday night, Sean and I caught sight of Priscilla. We quickly ran outside and was in time to watch her disappear into the alders near this year's fledgling guinea keet pen. Even with both Sean and I watching and following from two different sides, I lost sight of her in the brush. Sean had a better vantage point and directed me to where she had her nest. Can you see her?

No? How about now?

She blends almost perfectly into the scrub. Priscilla's nest is still in our yard, but on the edge of the woods- closer than I am comfortable with. But, with a nest of eggs underneath her, I dare not try to move her. Instead, Sean marked the area behind her and Molly spread her scent around the perimeter, too. We rely on the scent of larger predators to dissuade smaller ones from coming too close to our animals. It works decently. In six years, we have only had one loss due to a fox. Priscilla's nest should be close to full-term. As soon as it is, we'll move her and her chicks to a safer place. We'll do the same for Mary and her young. :) Tonight in a pleasant turn of events, I caught Priscilla off her nest and Sean was able to count her eggs. It seems she only has two in the nest. Whether that means she only laid a small second clutch or whether something bothered her nest already, we do not know. Time will tell and we'll keep you posted.

But as of now, we have the potential for 9 more turkey poults to hatch this year. If they all do, we'll double the size of our flock to 18 birds. We'll keep many of the hens since we are trying to increase our ability to provide turkey poults to local folks who would like to raise their own turkeys. Most of the toms will be for sale in the spring.

We miss Angus and I think of him often. The thought of new life growing brings some measure of comfort, though, something to look forward to in the days ahead. I owe you posts about entering an apple pie contest, one about making elderberry syrup- just in time to need some as Sean and I both came down with colds, and how foraged mullein seems to be helping with Meaghan's asthma and sleeping. And, I have a tale to share of Asher, the teleporting goat, messing with my breeding schedule. All these will come in the next few weeks. So, stay with us.

Thanks for the visit tonight, friends. It is nice to share your company.
~Sonja ♥

Monday, September 14, 2015

Angus Og's Passing

I am supposed to be making soaps... and cheese... and sorting my studio to attempt to get back into anything that remotely resembles a creation schedule. I have dishes to wash. I have recipes to share about dilly beans and salsa. None of these are getting done. It is 12:13 pm and I am alternately sitting here staring at this blank screen, writing and rewriting what I hope are the right words and popping up to wander the house haphazardly to this task or that, accomplishing absolutely nothing. All of this punctuated by randomly tearing eyes hastily wiped dry in favor of some other task for my hands. Except, as I have already confessed, nothing is actually getting done. So, here I sit once more. Perhaps this time I can get it all down.

I struggle with how much to share with you. How much of a window do you want to see into our lives? How much access do I want to allow you? For those of you interested in mainly the cuteness and bounty that we share or only the gloss-over of our lives, the statement that our faithful companion of 11 years, Angus, was laid to rest this morning will suffice. Do not read on, but please return another day to share in that which you choose. For those of you who need the bones and marrow of this life, Angus's story follows...

Meaghan and Angus Summer 2005
In another life and at another time, I (Sonja) owned a child daycare in Searsport, Maine. Always having had a family dog growing up, I thought it an important love to pass onto my own children. Finding the perfect dog for us was difficult, since there were few breeds available to own while operating a child care- all the large breeds that I loved were prohibited. After much research, we decided to try to find a cairn terrier. We contacted our local animal shelter asking to be contacted if a male, 6 month- 2 year old Cairn came in. It took nearly 2 years, but the call came and we met Angus. That was 11 years ago. Since then, the daycare closed, we moved to a new home twice, I became an HR/Marketing Manager, Sean married us, and together we built this homestead and started Lally Broch Farm. Angus was there all the time. His faithful companionship got me through a difficult divorce, a change in homes and employment and together we found a love in Sean that we never knew we could have.

At the top of Maiden's Cliff with the Daycare Kiddos. Summer 2005

It was a two-way street. Angus needed us, too. We cared for him through a broken pelvis (dog vs car; car won) where he spent 6 weeks wrapped and immobile. We used a towel to sling his back end so he could relieve himself and cleaned the messes when he couldn't make it. Angus developed food allergies and needed to be fed a special diet to help with dermatitis and hair loss. There were days that boy was a hot mess! About 4 years ago, Angus could no longer control his bladder, but he was spry and not in pain, so we made some accommodation for him. We tiled the laundry room floor and converted it to a dog room with access to a large fenced in yard. We adopted Buster to be a constant companion for him. In the last year, Angus became completely blind. But, even that did not stop him. Two weeks ago, we watched him chasing the Black Swedish ducks around the yard by sound. If they were quiet, he ran right past them unless we called him back to us or he bumped into another obstruction. If they quacked, he turned towards the sound and the chase was on! (Lest we get some outraged readers on this one: there was no way on earth that he was going to be able to catch a duck to harm it. At a slow stroll they out-paced him by a mile. But, it gave him a little sport to think he was on the trail of something.) On one especially good day, he wandered into the wooded land behind the house, refused to come back to our calls and forced Sean to go in to find him and carry him home. He was so pleased with himself, he decided to give Molly some male attention. The fact that he had been neutered for 11 years and that Molly stands a good foot and a half taller than he made no difference to him!
Molly, Buster, and Angus in front of the wood stove 2014

Our old man, Angus Og Sept. 14, 2015
For the past 2 years, Sean and I discussed what to do when it was time to make the difficult decision to lay Angus to rest. Every person has their own opinion about it. For us, the time would come when Angus was in pain or when he could no longer function. Often I prayed that Angus would pass in his sleep so that it did not become up to me to make that call.

Two nights ago, Angus could not navigate the stairs to come inside on his own and Meaghan had to carry him inside. Last night, he could no longer stand under his own power. The time had come. This morning, Sean called our vet and made an appointment to have him seen. Dr.Emerson agreed. There was no medicine that was going to prolong Angus's 14 year-old life or help him regain his ability to walk. There was really no choice. I held him and pet him, saying, "It's okay. You're a good doggie, Angus" while she administered the two injections that laid Angus to rest. His passing was quick and painless, but the feeling in my heart is neither.

I brought a box and blanket with me in preparation for this outcome. Since the office was packed with people and busy, I did not want to alarm them by carrying Angus out in my arms. With tears running down my face, I barely registered a stranger's query to me, "What do you have in the box?" as I walked quickly past. She repeated to the receptionist, "What does she have in the box?" I didn't pause, but in my head, I said, "One of my best friends." I know she didn't mean anything rude by it. She probably thought I had kittens or some other creature, but I was in no mood to be civil. I'm still not, to be honest. Until that passes I will stay off of facebook and refrain from answering the telephone.

When Sean returns home from work, Angus will be interred in a special place in our yard and a garden of flowers planted there to mark his resting place, though the memories of him will live in our hearts and minds. He really was a good doggie.

~Sonja ♥

Hello, this is Meaghan writing now. I've decided to say a few things in remembrance of my dear friend.

I don't have a very clear picture of being there that day when Angus and I first met, but one thing I do remember: Angus peeing right in front of us from excitement. And whenever we had apples, we had to be careful of how we disposed of them. He loved eating apples, and it didn't matter to him that the poor puppy's stomach couldn't handle them. And carrots. Don't get me started on the carrot fetish. If there is a dog who loved carrots more, I have yet to meet him (her?)

But one of my most fondest memories will always be Angus's desire to be a hairdresser. You don't believe me? No really. If you were laying supine, all of a sudden he'd come up behind you and just start biting your hair. And it didn't even matter if you weren't laying down (Well, it did to me: I had short hair,) he'd bite your hair if it was long enough for him to reach.

I regret having to say my farewell to such a companion.