We’ve had so much going on at the farm that the end of summer and fall just flew by this year! A big project that has been ongoing for much of the year is the building of a hobby workshop behind our house which my husband is building himself except for the pouring of the concrete foundation which we hired a contractor to do. The photo below is one from several months ago while the building was being framed. The building is now entirely walled in, with doors, windows and a roof. The siding will be going up next, and I’ll be sharing more photos of the progress soon. It will be really exciting to have this new building since I always have multiple projects competing for space in the house during the spring and summer between cleaning and storing garden harvests, canning, sorting and packing eggs, and making products for my soap and lotion business. I’m already looking forward to spreading out in luxury next year in our new 600 square foot space. My husband will also use it for practicing drums, and since it will have a full bathroom, almost fully functional kitchen (minus a stove), and a wood stove I’m sure we’ll use it for other things too.
As is usual with the farm life, we had times of both happiness and sorrow with the chicken and turkey flock. All three of the new silkie chickens that I added to the flock this spring turned out to be roosters, and so I had to move them from the back deck bantam chicken coop down to the turkey yard in order to give the bantam ladies a break from too many roosters. Unfortunately it was only a few days of the silkie roosters being down in the turkey yard before a weasel discovered them and killed one of the white silkies. I should have had a more secure nighttime setup for the silkies, but we had not had any issues with the weasel since the summer before, and I had thought that those days were behind us. After the attack, I began bringing the two remaining silkie roos into the more secure spare chicken coop in the backyard at night, and in the day I would bring them back down to the turkey yard where they had their own separate fenced area to keep them safe from the turkeys while they got used to each other. After a few weeks of this routine, they turkeys accepted that these strange looking little fluff balls were their new roommates and were not to be chased for entertainment, well for the most part that is, which is about as much as you can hope for with turkeys!
As dusk began to fall earlier around Halloween, the weasel struck again, and this time it was my beloved Baby Stardust who we lost. Baby Stardust was one of three baby chicks that I gave to Spaceship Turkey momma to raise last summer. One of Stardust’s siblings died at a few days old, and the other sibling was killed by the weasel as a young chicken last summer. So Stardust lived her life with the turkeys, never learning that she was a chicken and that she should do things like go into the chicken coop at night for her safety. I put Stardust to bed in the coop every night, and on the few nights I was away on vacation we always had a chicken sitter put her in. It must have been close to 500 times that I put her in the coop. Every night before dusk I would go down to the turkey yard, and she would run up to me grumbling in her cute little way, as if to tell me she’d been waiting for me, and I’d pick her up and carry her into the coop, telling her she really should get the hang of this any day now. On the fateful night, we had gone out to dinner and darkness fell before we got home. As soon as we came up the driveway I knew something was wrong because all of the turkeys were huddled on the ground instead of being up on their roost. I’ve only seen them on the ground after dark like this on nights when there’s been a predator attack or on the night right after an attack. Baby was lying dead in the yard, and upon reviewing the video footage from the security camera in the turkey yard, we could tell that it was a weasel that attacked her within the half hour before we got home. It was heartbreaking to lose this one of a kind lady, who had a spunky personality that was larger than life and who lived her life to the fullest among the turkeys.
Back to the happier times at the farm, my favorite turkey lady Pumpkin Pie is doing great after a scare during the summer when she suffered from a serious case of internal egg laying. She spent almost a week at the vet’s office recovering and getting a hormone implant to prevent her from laying eggs. I am thankful for every day that I get to spend with Miss PP after coming so close to losing her. It was a great year in the garden, and with a mild start to fall I was harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, and eggplant later than ever before. I planted a few veggies late in the summer for a fall garden which I have long wanted to do but never seem to get around to. I planted a fall crop of potatoes and turnips which both did very well, and it will be nice to have some additional vegetables in storage for roasting through the winter. The fall plantings of broccoli and cauliflower did not mature quick enough to yield anything before the cold weather arrived, so that was a bust. I’ve still got carrots and radishes in the ground which I don’t think matured quite enough either, although I haven’t actually pulled them up to check, so I guess I should go check on them soon and see how they did. But all in all, I’m really happy to know that I can grow two crops of potatoes a year since that’s one of my favorite things to store through the winter.
As we head into winter it’s already time to start dreaming of spring and making plans for adding new chicks to the farm. Many of our chickens will be coming up on seven years old next year! We still have several of the two dozen chickens that we got in 2012 when we got the first batch of chicks for the farm including Twitchy, Squeeky 2, Reina, Buttercup, Jumpy, Other One, and two unnamed speckled Sussex. Most of these older ladies are still doing well, but a few are showing signs of their age and I fear that Twitchy is in her last days or weeks with us. But for the most part it is amazing how well these ladies have aged and I hope that most of them will stay with us a while longer. Our flock matriarch Raquel will be nine years old next March, she is still doing well and keeping everyone in line with her swift beak and keen sense of justice. But these ladies are definitely slowing down in the egg laying department, and most of the rest of our chickens are a few years old too, so we need to add some new chickens to our flock to keep up a steady flow of eggs. I would like to add more chickens in with the turkeys to give the two silkie roosters a few more ladies to keep them occupied, although before doing that I probably need to downsize the turkey flock a bit. We’ve gone from the initial plan of just keeping a tom and two females when we started a few years ago to having 13 turkeys now. They are so charismatic in a bigger flock, and the turkey eggs are so beautiful and fun to collect that I have enjoyed having a big flock of turkey hens too much to sell any of them. But I think I do need to make a few changes next year, and luckily I still have all winter to figure it out.