NABLOPOMO – Sorting – More of These, Less of Those

The next few days look like they are going to have a similar theme: sorting and reorganizing.

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[Image D. Craig, Min of Agriculture] – Some of last year’s Toms in the breeding group.

The Christmas birds are going to be processed on the 21st which means I’ll need to pick the very best birds to hold back for breeding. I’l be looking for decent size and reasonable growth speed (there are two groups – a younger and an older and there are birds from the younger group that are actually much bigger than birds from the older lot), decent temperament, and, finally, more or less correct colouring. I’ll keep 2-4 Toms in the breeding group and 10-12 hens. That way, if someone comes along who would like a breeding trio, we can accommodate them. The birds will be useful through the breeding season, producing a good variety of poults for sale as well as my next year’s Christmas birds. Some of those breeding birds will have reached a good size by summer and when the laying and hatching season is over, some of those can be processed for a few Thanksgiving customers. I will likely also hold back some of the scrawny stragglers for the same purpose.

We are also slowly building a customer list of people who are interested in turkey eggs for eating. We love them, but it is very uncommon to find eating eggs in stores (can you think of a time you saw a carton of turkey eggs at a shop?) and it just doesn’t occur to people that turkey eggs are an option for the frying pan or baking.

Without the competition from the larger flock and some extra time, the smaller birds will have a chance to grow out in time for Easter or Thanksgiving of next year. Carrying more than 15-20 birds year round gets very expensive – commercial organic feed is exorbitant and during the winter months there isn’t much decent pasture for the birds to devour. And devour they do! Hungry turkeys eat an incredible amount each day and though I supplement with hay and veggies and softened alfalfa cubes (plus whatever they manage to find themselves), the feed bill gets out of hand very fast when I’m feeding too many birds.

Of course, the keepers and those destined for fine dining are to be found scattered between my two main groups of turkeys, which are raised in two different locations. This will mean penning, sorting, and transporting birds from A to B and B to A and then, the night before they leave the farm, loading the dining birds into the stock trailer for the short ride to the processor. We will also need to make sure we have more or less the correct number of birds of approximately the right size to fill the turkey orders.

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[Image D. Craig, Min of Agriculture] Freckles, one of the ewes soon to be introduced to the ram, Babar.

Meanwhile, our new  Cotswold ram will move from the farm where he has been spending the past number of weeks to the sheep fields. But, before he can get here, we need to move the ram lambs to their own field and separate the small ewe lamb who is too young to breed (she will spend the next couple of months hanging out with the goats). Only then can we introduce the new ram to the ewes to be bred for late spring lambs in 2014.

The ducklings from this summer are now also ready to process, though whether or not I can get coordinated to run them up island before the holidays are full upon us is another question. The ducks will stay with the layers (each year we increase the numbers a bit to try to keep up with demand) and all but two of the drakes will go for processing.

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[Image: D. Craig, Ministry of Agriculture] Pompadour, our Large Black Hog boar, ready to do his duty and sire more piglets.

And, finally, the piglets still are not fully sorted and reorganized. Olivia’s piglets are in a separate paddock but after a spectacular bolt down the hill and through an electric mesh fence, Cora is back in with her little ones. We will give that another go, perhaps tomorrow, to see if we can’t get all the weaners in one place and all the sows back together in another. Pompadour will then be called upon to woo the two mothers and we will continue to watch Pearl closely for telltale signs that she is pregnant (she has been in with him for a month or so now, so it won’t be long before she starts to bulge a bit).

The chicken sorting can wait until the new year, but not too long as the heritage birds do take their own sweet time starting to lay, so an early start is definitely an advantage. Wimpy will get to move into his own area with the four gorgeous Black Orpington girls who are now mature and ready to get to work in the spring.

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[Image: D. Craig, Ministry of Agriculture] Bill, the light Brahma rooster yelling about something… probably protesting my plan to take away his stunning Black Orpington girls and give them to Wimpy.

So, for the next few days it’s going to be all about counting and patience, because even though it may seem like a simple thing to move some piglets from pen A to pen B and sort out a few dozen turkeys, the critters seem to have a knack for being particularly uncooperative when their routines change. Wish me luck!

13 responses to “NABLOPOMO – Sorting – More of These, Less of Those

  1. I can’t get over how you built your farm into a business, Nikki! Best with it all in 2014. Fun to read your blogs about life on your farm. Not easy, for sure! Frieda

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    • Thanks! Now the next step is to turn this into a profitable business!

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      • Is your whole family involved? Hope business soars in 2014, Nikki! And you’re still writing too. I don’t know how you fit it all in. Frieda

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      • In one way or another, I do have lots of family support. Dani and fiance are very involved with the farm stand (Alderley Grange), running the box program, going to farmers’ markets, and making value-added projects like jam, soap, bread, etc. They also pitch in with building projects, fencing, and attempts at weaning piglets. Dad takes on all sorts of building projects and is great moral support on difficult days. Various other family members have stepped in with project financing assistance at various points… all of which makes it possible for me to keep going. As for the writing, I think the day I stop breathing is the day when I don’t have some sort of writing project on the go… How about you? What’s your newest?

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  2. Most certainly! Good luck!

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  3. The names you pick – Babar! Is he as sweet natured as his namesake? Pompadour the boar…I see him with a powdered wig and mincing along in his high heels (can you tell I’m reading about Georgette Heyer?). But Bill? For that beautiful conquering hero of a rooster – surely he’s really William? I’d be crowing too if my harem was going over to a guy called Wimpy.

    Seriously, I hadn’t realized till this post that you were developing a breeding flock of the turkeys – that is awesome. With regard to the ducks, I wonder if they could fit you in at the North Saanich processor? I’m sure he’s busy with turkeys, but he might be able to squeeze your ducks in…

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    • Babar is extremely cute, yes – photos will come soon! Tomorrow, all being equal…

      Perhaps the all-time sweetest creature around here has to be Pompadour (an uncle in the Babar books) – who is seriously the softest-hearted hog ever! Which is a good thing, given his considerable size! Bill was named by a friend (who named him after a someone she knows)… Many of our animal names come from children’s books – Pippi (one of the dogs, for her long legs) and our sow Olivia (after Olivia in the Falconer books) are another couple thusly named. Wimpy is so-named because he is just that – a complete wimp. The bantams picked on him so ruthlessly I had to separate him and put him in with the gentle ducks for his own protection. This does make him the perfect rooster to take to schools, etc. as he is quite unflappable, very calm, and so, so gentle.

      As for those ducks… I did check to see if they could fit in a few but the answer was a resounding ‘nope.’ Turns out nobody likes to process ducks – they are quite the pain in the pin feathers to deal with, I guess.

      Breeding turkeys? Oh yes – all these Christmas birds are hatched and raised right here – and the flock is self-sustaining. Do let me know if you are looking for poults in the spring… we have already started a list…. They are lots of fun, I must say… though, they will keep you on your toes!

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      • Oh, that Pomadour – It’s been a while since I’ve read any Babar, I’d forgotten him.
        Poults in the spring – as a matter of fact I’m thinking about trying a few to raise for Thanksgiving; so I will think seriously about this. What kind of notice do I need to give you if I definitely decide? I think I’d be looking at something like 10-12. The thing that might hold me back is my usual nemesis – I don’t have the right fencing or housing in place for turkeys, so I’d have to pull that together fairly quickly, which is something I’m slow at, especially as I’ll be away from the farm for a bit in early Spring.

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      • Truth be told, I had forgotten him, too – it was my daughter who dredged him up.

        As for poults, we can talk in the new year – you could maybe swing by and have a look at various turkey-raising huts and shelters, fencing, etc. We have tried a few different things around here – some definitely work better than others.

        Drop me a line by email and we can set something up after the madness of the season is over!

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  4. We weaned one litter of piglets 3 times because they kept finding their way under fences and back to mama. I feel your pain!

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    • Three times! Gads. It was hard enough to maneuver everyone around the first time and Cora is totally on to us now… I did get Olivia’s litter into their own properly secured pen with an actual hog shelter (rather than the interim area we had them in and the dog kennel they all cuddled up in under a pile of hay for a couple of nights…They won’t fit in there for too long!). Olivia is now in with Pearl and Pompadour, which means the final step is to see if we can’t get Pearl’s litter in with Olivia’s before moving all the weaners to their new field in the new year…

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