Friday, July 20, 2012

Life's Lessons through Turkeys...

Sorry it's been so long since my last post.  Things have been busy lately, and I admit, I let the habit slide...but I'll try to post something at least every couple of days from now on, even if its just the day to day stuff.

As most of you know, last year we added some turkeys to our self-reliant experiment on the homestead.  Our first generation turkeys are 2 males and 3 females.  Of the females, we have 1 White Midget, 1 Blue Slate, and 1 Black Spanish.  All are heritage breeds.  Early on in this experiment, Mountain Man and I decided that if we were going to breed and keep chicks to sustain our supply, we wanted them to be naturally hatched by their mothers.  Two reasons:  1- we did not want to contribute to the "breeding out" of their natural instincts, and 2- in the name of self-reliance, why would you ever add more to your own chore plate by mothering chicks that could be mothered by their own MOTHERS?  Duh. :)

So, when it came for setting time, you can just imagine our excitement! The White Midget hen started setting first, followed soon after by Black hen, then Blue.  We counted down the days.  Then, one day we woke up, and Black Hen was wandering around.  As we got closer, we saw tons of cute little baby chicks!  Then, Blue Hen's chicks arrived.  So cute!  But, wait...shouldn't White Hen's chicks have hatched by now?  We went over to look at hers - 4 chicks were hatched, but 2 of them were dead.  And she was still setting on 4 eggs.  Her chicks started to cry and wander about.  When Blue Hen came too close to White, she did nothing to defend her chicks, and before we knew it, Blue Hen had 2 extra chicks, and White was back to none.  Why did she let her chicks go?  Was she trying to make sure they were cared for while she continued to set?  While trying to decide what to do, we looked up some information on the internet.  While many websites listed them as good mothers, there were quite a few blogs that stated that their hens had issues with hatchability.  So, with this new info in mind, we decided that we'd give her a few more days with the eggs, then we'd take them away.  Which we did (with much difficulty - she did NOT want to give them up).  We shooed her out of the nest - hens lose a lot of weight during the period of setting because they don't get up except to drink, eat a little and dust bathe once or twice, so we wanted to get her out and eating again.  But, she just crawled back into her nest.  We thought, she'll snap out of it on her own.  So, we left her there. Every morning I'd pass by her on my way to water the garden.  Every day, she'd hiss at me.  About a week later, when I passed by, I decided I needed to get her out to stay out because I needed the garden space.  What I saw, I will never forget.  She was laying in her spot, head down, pale, eyes sunken in, and listless.  She looked dead.  It was then I realized - she was depressed.  She'd given up.  I tried to pick her up, but she hissed and stood defensive over her non-existent eggs.  I grabbed a stick and gently nudged her out of her spot, to which she reacted by charging me, with claws bared and wings flapping wildly against me.  She was angry!  Angry at me, angry at the WORLD!  I closed the gate to the garden where her nest was so she couldn't return to her spot.  But, she tried, over and over again, for several more days.  She paced the fence; she tried to fly over, but was too weak to make it.  I thought she was going to die.

Eventually, though, she gave up.  The other two mothers had joined together into a mini-flock to protect the chicks.  When disaster struck, one mother would face the danger while the other stood over the chicks with wings outstretched to protect them.  The black hen was by far the best mother, but the blue hen became a very good mother shortly after joining up with the black, which we thought was INCREDIBLE.  They LEARN from each other.  Much like having older siblings or parents, wild turkeys have older members in their flock to teach them lessons to pass on to each other in order to survive.  Domestic turkeys don't normally have these members.  Anyways, the white hen, after snapping out of her funk, joined the others as a "flock" mother.  From them, she learned to be protective of the chicks, and cared for them as if they were her own (hers had died soon after they left her from one of those "disasters" I referred to earlier).

So, imagine our excitement AGAIN when about a month later, White Hen started laying again.  Should we let her set?  Maybe it was a fluke, maybe she's learned more...maybe they get more instinctive with, she laid 9 eggs and started to set again.  And we waited.  Today was the due date.  Two eggs had dead chicks in them.  One chick had hatched yesterday, but seemed to have some neurological issues, and was blind.  6 other eggs never hatched.  White Hen pushed the blind chick out of her nest this morning and started to peck at her.  The chick began flipping around on her back and gasping for air, so I took it inside - my INTENTION was to have the chick die in warmth and comfort.  But that little bugger just kept walking in circles and PEEPING.  LOUDLY.  After 3 hours, I couldn't take it anymore, and took her BACK to her mother with the resolution that if she died, then nature would have been kinder than I was - if she was left untended to outside, she would die of the cold long before she would die of starvation.  So, I took her back to the white hen, who perked up as soon as she heard the peep.  I placed the chick beside her from the other side of the fence.  She managed to walk through the fence hole, albeit in a very drunken fashion.  The white hen scooted the chick under her feathers and softly crooned to her as if she was in LOVE.  It was touching to see - I was elated and heartbroken at the same time.  Elated at seeing her joy, finally, in being a mother, but heartbroken, knowing that her chick would not make it long term.

I checked on her later that day.  She was out of her nest and standing guard while her little blind, mentally incapacitated chick lay basking in the sun next to her mama - she had left her eggs and committed to her one live chick.  Lesson number 1 learned.

Tonight I checked on her once more at dusk.  Blind chick was walking in circles, peeping loudly for guidance.  White hen was laying in front of her, cooing patiently for her to snuggle in.  It was getting cold.  The chick was visibly tired and started to give up - she lay down, then stood up, circled, then lay down again.  White hen kept cooing.  All of a sudden, the blind chick stopped crying out and listened.  She craned her head to one side, then the other.  She got up, and started to walk slowly and deliberately.  She started to veer to the side and stopped.  She listened again to her mother's coo.  She took another straight step, then faltered again to the left.  She cried out loudly, and once again, her mother cooed.  Blind chick took a run for it and veered into a circle, but JUST grazed her mother's downy feathers as she turned.  She stopped, peeped softly, turned her body into the feathers, and disappeared into the fold.  White Hen cooed a couple more times, lowered her head, and closed her eyes.

I'm writing this down more as a record for myself than anything else.  I wanted to remember this moment, this connection that I feel to this Turkey Mother.  I've learned so much from her.  And I feel for her.  Turkey Mother has had the divine gift of motherhood nearly bred out of her.  Though her love and desire for motherhood is as strong as any other mother, her instincts are very much lacking.  And I relate.  I've felt the depression, the hopelessness, the sting of losing a baby.  And I've felt the anger.  I've felt the joy of receiving a child.  And the worry of them being okay...or the peace of knowing that they are safe within my arms.

Yes, sometimes I feel EXACTLY like this bird.  Like my instincts, too, have been stripped away, with Culture playing down the divinity of motherhood.  We are connected, she and I.  Like White Hen, my pregnancies were not instinctive, nor were my deliveries.  Natural childbirth is against the norm.  Breastfeeding is as natural and instinctive as one could get, you would think.  Except it's not.  Shouldn't we just KNOW how to feed our children?  And enjoy it?  But, we don't.  These were our divine gifts - where did they go?

Who are we, that we could ever think that it is okay, no, that it is OUR RIGHT to take this gift away from our Turkey Mothers!  The way that we've manipulated animals is cruel and it IS heartbreaking.  And what we are doing to ourselves is worse...when will we stop listening to the murmurs of Culture in our ears and start listening to our instincts once again?  Our survival just might depend on it...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Babies are the quintessential sign of Spring.  Horses, goats, dogs, cats, you name it.  So, when our turkeys started to set on their eggs, we were pretty excited.  But, NOW, we are ecstatic!  Why, you ask?  Because SPRING is here aka the babies!!  Yesterday, we noticed one of the mother hens walking around.  We thought this was just her occasional stroll out of the nest to get some water and food and stretch her legs in the sun a bit,

 but then we noticed these... :)

There are 10 chicks from the black hen, and at least 5 under the blue hen(the chicks under the blue hen just hatched and have stayed put in the nest so far).  They are the cutest, aren't they?  Soon enough, they will be as ugly as their parents, but for right now,  ahhhh...we are basking in their cuddlies... from afar.  We decided that we would leave them with their mother right now as we wanted to see how their mothers are.  Are they protective?  Are they concerned for their welfare?  Do they feed them?  We wanted to witness whether or not the instinct has been bred out of turkeys as it has for many chicken breeds.  Turns out the instincts are still there!  This black hen is ultra protective - not from us - but she has no fear when it comes to a dog straying too close, or a hawk, or another chicken.

We were also surprised to learn that the male turkeys are very protective as well (in fact, the above picture was hard to take as the toms collectively decided they didn't want us taking pictures anymore and kept positioning themselves in the way gobbling at us - "Darn paparazzi! Can't we get some privacy here??").  We didn't know what to expect as they got closer to the chicks, but when one ran right under the tom's legs for protection, we knew it was a good sign.  Our two males strut back and forth in short circles all day long on guard as the hen and her babies eat the pasture grass between them.  They let out warning calls to alert the hen who immediately gathers her chicks under her.  It's all very amazing to witness.

Soon, we will all start holding them to get them used to us.  Then, we'll have to decide what we want to do with them...anyone need a turkey for Thanksgiving? (I'll refrain from posting a pic here for your sakes!)  :)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reusable Canning Lids Order

As you can probably recall, I asked if there was any interest in ordering some reusable canning lids in my last email. I got a pretty solid response, so we're going to go ahead with an order. I'd like to get orders in and placed within the next couple of weeks so that I can deliver them to you with your strawberry orders coming up in April.

So without further ado:

Tattler lids are reusable canning lids. They've been used since the 70's, and are BPA-free and phthalate-free plastic lids that come with rubber gaskets(no latex involved) to seal your jars. They are NOT approved by the FDA for home canning. That said, neither are many other practices we can't seem to let go of in the home canning industry. :)

In addition, Tattler's website explains the plastic that IS used and backs up the safety of it through research. I'm sure that most of you know that I am not a fan of ANY plastic in general, but I do feel that until BPA is taken out of our metal lids, I'd rather go with this option. If you are interested, here is the link to that discussion:

Depending on use, the rubber gaskets last sometimes upwards of 10 years. Tattler performed a study on how many uses they would last through, and got to 14 over a period of several weeks before they ended the study because they ran out of time (remember, this is a small company). So, as of the 14 use, they were still looking good. That was using them for water bath canning and pressure canning combined. I have heard one person express concerns about the rubber rings drying out in the desert valley of Las Vegas and thus shortening the life span of the rubber ring. To this, I would say that if you are worried about them drying out, then you can always keep them in a jar until they are used again. This keeps the air from extracting the moisture out continually. But honestly, I've met quite a few people in the valley that have already taken the Tattler plunge, and I haven't heard of that issue.

According to the website, you can tell that they have properly sealed after processing by gently lifting on the lid after they've cooled down. If it failed to seal, the lid will come off "without much difficulty".

Now, the most important thing - to use them:

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids - Instructions for Use

1. Inspect top of jar for cracks and nicks.
2. Wash, rinse and sterilize jars. Scald lids and rubber rings. Leave in water until ready to use.
3. Fill jars as indicated per canning instruction for that food type.
4. Wipe top of jar after filling. Place lid and rubber ring combination on jar.
5. Screw band on jar loosely. Center lid on jar and hold in place with finger while tightening the metal screw band finger-tip tight. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN. Product must be allowed to vent during processing.
6. Process as per instructions for various foods.
8. When jars have cooled, remove metal band and lift gently on the lid to determine if any failure has occurred. Sealed jars may be stored without metal bands if desired.
9. When removing lid, gently insert dull side of table knife (or similar object) between rubber and lid or jar to release the seal - DO NOT USE SHARP KNIFE.
10. Wash plastic lids and rubber rings, rinse, dry and store for future use. Do not save any rubber ring which is cut or deformed.

The link for these instructions in here:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

No pics!!

This post will not have any pics as they would be TOO offensive for some, but I had to tell the story as it portrays my son to a tee. Our neighbors had a friend that raises bison for meat, and for a trade, he gave them one to slaughter. Yesterday morning, they had him butchered, and they picked up his hide for tanning, and his head for displaying the skull.

Constable saw the neighbor skinning the head and immediately responded by running over to observe(this from the boy that pulled out my Anatomy and Physiology Lab Book when he was 3, looked at the pictures, and then started drawing people with intestines, lungs, brain, heart, and occasionally kidneys...). Trying to make this educational, Mountain Man and I walked over and started asking him questions about it. "Why did the blood stop coming out?", "What do you think this hole is for?", "Where is this part on you?", and "Why are those teeth different from these?". He had a whole anatomy lesson right there. Mountain Man and I continued on with our chores, while Constable stayed and helped our neighbor.

As he pulled into our drive on his bike, he called out, "I'm back!" I said, "Great! Did you learn a lot?", to which he replied, "Yeah! Buck took out the eye and gave it to me!" I said, "Really?! Where is it?" "In my pocket..." as he drives right by me to run into the house. "Wait! Gross, Constable, it's in your pocket?" He disappears around the corner and yells back at me, "Nope, I was just kidding..."

Hmm...better double check that pocket... :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rock A Bye Baby

I love how our children can sleep at the most random spots. Beans fell asleep reading here...

Constable snuck out of his bed and set up a little bed in a box by the woodstove...

Beans snuck out after bedtime and fell asleep eating...typical... :)

Tots engorged herself on blackberries, and exhausted, fell asleep in her chair...

Aren't they precious when they're sleeping? :)

Spotlight on Constable...

Everyone deserves a little attention, and I've got so many random pics of the children that I thought I'd do a spotlight on each - this is Constable starting a fire in the pit...

Goofy moments...

Constable draped in our cranberry string before decorating the tree...

Constable and Big Mama...

Turk, Turk, Turk!

Frequently, I wake up at the sound of the rooster's crow, which I actually don't mind; even when he figured out that he could walk right up under my window, crow, and get fed quicker as a result. Whoever said chickens aren't smart??

But the other morning, I awoke to the gobble of my turkeys instead. There I am, laying in bed, just starting to stir, and I hear the gobble, gobble of my turkeys in the orchard. Hmmm.....I think, do I want to get out just yet? As I contemplate this, I hear my turkeys familiar call again....and AN ORCHESTRA of gobbles replied! What the?! I look out my window and see this...

Around 40 turkey toms had gathered to challenged my boys. Hah!

They were strutting back and forth along the fence...

putting on a show for the ladies, calling out turks and gobbles as if they were all participating in a chorus line. Quite the display! They seemed perturbed when they noticed me watching and strutted away...maybe I should've applauded?

Now, let me say that I LOVE my sleep. It takes so much effort to get me out of my bed. Alarm clock? I hit the snooze. Appointments? I'll wait until the last minute and walk in with my hair looking like Einstein (I know, I have no shame). Kids crying? That sends me under the pillows. This is why this farm life works so well for me. Because the one thing I think I cherish more than my sleep is the unexpected. I love the constant movement of my life - the dynamic ups and downs of farm life, of the new world just outside my door. Routine is boring. I relish in the
challenges of the unknown!

And I love my birds. Such fanciful productions are sure to get anyone up out of bed! :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

For the Master Preservers Out There...

Awhile ago, many of you expressed interest in organizing a group order for canning jars. After doing a bit of research, I found that the price on jars actually doesn't fluctuate that much between distributors. I spoke to a representative of the manufacturing company, and she stated that I would need an order of 1000 cases or more to place an order. If our self-reliance movement grows, we may be able to do it one day - but I don't think we're that close just yet. So for now, here's what I've found:

I used to get great deals in Las Vegas by frequenting the garage sales - wait for the community garage sales, and look for the older communities; one of my favorites was the Sun City Aliante garage sale. Many older couples would get rid of jars, dehydrators, and that sort of thing. I wouldn't spend over $.25 a jar because the pickins were so good! Just make sure you look at each jar for cracks or chips anywhere in the glass, paying special attention to the rim. Also, I would only buy the ball and kerr jars, no old mayonnaise/jam jars.

I never had huge luck in Las Vegas for this, but in Utah, I've been able to get jars of all sizes at the Deseret Industries for about $.50 a jar. So, for those of you in Utah, keep this in mind if you are looking. Make sure you remember to look for cracks or chips!

If you are too disgusted in the used idea or having super bad luck finding what you need, one of my readers just informed me that 8 oz (half-pint) jars are on sale at for $7.64 a case, and if you use the password KMFRIENDS, shipping is free. I don't know how long it lasts, so get it while it's there! She also gets coupons periodically for her classes that she teaches - so let me know if you'd like to get some canning coupons!

I was also informed that the Costco in St. George, Utah carries canning jars periodically. And lastly, also offers great prices throughout the year.

Hope this helps some of you looking for jars!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Power of Community...

I know you've heard me speak about the power of community before. When we had the fiasco with the pear and honey order, we couldn't believe how much our friends and family came together to help us out.

And yet again, I have reason to rave about the power of living by good neighbors. Mountain Man has been frustrated with how little time he has to build his coop - one weekend, we were scheduled to have two days of straight snowfall. Since Mountain Man only had this time before his next 9 day shift, he decided to just work through it.

At first, it was just Constable and himself.

But, then, about mid-morning, one of our neighbors (the one that trades us milk for eggs) came over to offer his assistance.

After working for about an hour, our OTHER neighbor to the other side of us came over with some extra tools and manpower. Together, the 3 men worked to get the roofing over the coop to keep the snow out.

They worked out there for most of the afternoon. We brought out hot chocolate, chatted a bit, and called it a day.

I am constantly amazed at how much people can pull together in a time of need. Mountain Man was called the other day to help chop up more wood for someone down the street who had run out of wood for their woodstove. His father was elderly, and he had just gone through another surgery, and was incapacitated. After they finished, the elderly patriarch came over, hugged him, and thanked him with tears in his eyes. Mountain Man said seeing the humility and sincerity in that man's eyes was more than worth it. It humbles you. We are so grateful to be given these opportunities to serve and be served.

I know it seems counter-intuitive, but when it comes to self-reliance, it is VERY important to first, know your neighbors, and second, foster a sense of community to be able to serve and depend on each other. If you can't find that where you are at, I'd suggest you move to a better location... I think I have a great area in mind... :)

Mountain Man's Ongoing Project...

We've been a little over zealous in our first year at the farm - when we first moved here, one of Mountain Man's friends at work gave us our first chickens (they'd outgrown the cute lovable chick stage from Easter), and we quickly fell in love with the idea and wanted a few more. But, when we went to look at more chicks, we couldn't decide which ones we wanted, so we took them all! I know, we're a little impulsive at times.

Once home, we came to the conclusion that the existing coop was too small for all the chicks, but they adapted quickly, sleeping in the trees above them. We didn't mind it so much as it was summer. But, NOW it's winter! The chickens (and the turkeys) still sleep in the trees unless it's SUPER cold, and then they all pile into this teeny tiny coop to stay warm.

So, we decided to build a super roomy coop for all of them! Poor Mountain Man has been trying to do this in his off-time, but he doesn't really have any...but this is what he started out with.

Each day, when he got some time and a clear day, he worked some more...

(a trap door in the back of the coop to sweep poo and straw into a compost pile)

...and sometimes he worked at night,

he is often accompanied by Constable,

We'll keep you updated on the progress. :)