Category Archives: Turkeys

E is For Eggs (AtoZChallenge2018)

 

Beuckelaer_Girl_with_a_basket_of_eggs

Girl with a Basket of Eggs, by Joachim Beuckelaer, early 17th Century

The egg is the perfect physical embodiment of the concept of transformation in one, neat package of potential. Back in my farm days I never tired of tending an incubator full of eggs, monitoring temperature and humidity, tracking every time I turned the eggs (2-4 times per day) on a spreadsheet, counting down the days until the hatch began. The eggs didn’t change in appearance, but inside, miracles were occurring.

x marks the eggs

By marking one side of each egg (these are turkey eggs) with an X I knew which side was up.

After 3-4 weeks (exactly how long depends on what kind of poultry I was hatching), the eggs began to twitch and vibrate as the inhabitants started plotting their escapes. Soon, muffled peeping began to emanate from the incubator. Using a knobby bit on the tops of their beaks (called an egg tooth), the hatchlings hammered upward, piercing the shells and not stopping until tiny cracks and holes formed a ring around the fatter end of the shell. The following two videos show the final step in this process when the little one would crack off the lid of the egg and splurt out (these are turkey poults).

During the days of rapid growth and change during incubation, the yolk provided all the energy needed to transform the fertilized egg into a fully formed creature capable of escaping from a claustrophobic prison. After a short rest during which they dried off and fluffed up, they were ready to eat, drink, and run about with surprising enthusiasm.

 

Farm Fresh Eggs

We kept a mixed flock of hens, in part because we enjoyed the range of colours and textures they produced in their egg shells. Depending on what the hens were eating, the yolks ranged in colour from canary yellow to deep, dark orange. 

 

 

DCC Love My Chicken!

One of the hatchlings, all grown up. And, yes, the fact my beak was beginning to match the chicken’s is not lost on me. It’s a good thing I left farming when I did or I might have started sprouting feathers. 

It’s hardly surprising that eggs, being of a particularly satisfying shape and containing, as they do, the cosmically mysterious beginnings of life have made many appearances in art.

 

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Still Life: Jug and Eggs by Roger Fry

They are also a familiar sight in most kitchens. Every morning I make gluten free muffin-esque bun thingies, each of which contains an egg. They are substantial enough that having one with cheese or nut butter sustains me through a morning of writing. Here’s the recipe:

Nikki’s Gluten Free Breakfast Bun Thingies

1 egg

1 T olive oil

1/2 mashed banana

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 T ground flax seed

1 T almond flour

1/2 T coconut flour

1 T shredded coconut (optional)

1 T finely chopped walnuts (optional)

 

Mix together the egg, oil and banana. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Spray a 2 c-size ramekin with olive oil-based cooking spray (I’ve also used olive oil to grease the ramekin, but don’t find that works quite as well). 

Pour the mix into the ramekin and microwave for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. 

You can either eat these hot and soft or cut in half (or thirds, if yours rises a lot – this varies a bit) and toast before serving with your choice of butter, cheese, nut butter, honey, or jam. 

 

Bosch,_Hieronymus_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights,_central_panel_-_Detail_Egg

There is so much going on in The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch it’s hardly surprising I didn’t remember this detail until I went looking for examples of eggs in art… 

What’s your favourite way to prepare eggs? I like them pretty much any way they can be served except, weirdly enough, Eggs Benedict. Keep that in mind should you ever have me over for brunch…

 

Hendrick_Bloemaert_001

Did you know it takes a hen 24 – 26 hours to make a single egg? Old Woman Selling Eggs, by Hendrick Bloemaert (1632)

 

 

 

Eggs

A bowl full of hard-boiled turkey eggs destined for the very lucky pigs… (With a strange photo filter that makes them look like they are under water and very blotchy).

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X is for This Way Up

Piglets are not the only thing that’s been incubating around here. We are also hatching out various types of poultry in a couple of very basic incubators. These do not automatically adjust if temperature or humidity is off a bit, so I check the temperature manually several times a day and adjust as necessary.

x marks the eggs

Ridley Bronze turkey eggs in the incubator.

I also need to adjust the position of the eggs, turning them from one side to the other several times a day. To keep track of which side is up, I mark the eggs with X’s and O’s. Each time I turn the eggs I also record the temperature and note the direction in which I turned them (left or right). Each incubator (one for turkeys, one for chickens) has its own chart.

Every time I open the lid of an incubator, adjust the temperature, turn the eggs, add a bit of water to the tray in the bottom (to raise the humidity) I think about the broody birds who do such a good job of hatching out eggs and give them a silent nod of thanks for helping to reduce my workload just a little (we also let some of the birds sit on their own nests – the ducks and bantam hens make the most amazing mothers).

How I Know My Neighbours Rock!

When your turkey gets nailed by a passing eagle, you discover who your friends are...

When your turkey gets nailed by a passing eagle, you discover who your friends are…

With the good weather, the grass is starting to grow again, so I’ve been letting the turkeys out of their smaller pen to roam and graze in the strip of grass between me and my neighbor’s place immediately to the north. Things have been going well over the past few weeks as the turkeys have settled into their new routine quite happily. The boys are in full display mode and the girls flirty and happy to accept the Toms’ advances.

I was up at the house just finishing up some computer work when someone banged on my office window and nearly gave me a heart attack! Carol, spattered with blood and holding a turkey hen in her arms stood outside looking like someone who has just had a run-in with a bald eagle. Turns out, she had just had a run-in with a bald eagle!!

She had a front row seat from her place as an eagle swooped down and pinned one of my good-sized hens to the ground. Carol raced outside to come to the hen’s rescue and despite yelling and waving her arms the eagle was very reluctant to relinquish its tasty lunch! When he finally did move, he didn’t go far and it sounds like it was seriously considering taking Carol on as she scooped up the injured bird and sprinted over to my place.

Fortunately, I was at home and with the assistance of my wonderful German volunteer farm helpers, was able to assess the damage. The skin had been torn off on the hen’s back, but that wound seemed fairly superficial. On her right side, though – a couple of puncture wounds from the eagle’s talons and a big piece of flesh ripped off and hanging on…

All things considered, there was very little blood – and the hen was alert and a bit indignant as I checked her over. She was panting and a bit shocky, but remarkably feisty considering her close brush with death. 

I called my other neighbor to the east, the Surgeon’s Wife who caught The Surgeon on his way home from work. He called me right back and stopped in at the local vet’s office to pick up a curved needle and a bit of suture thread on his way home. A few minutes later we had all convened in the Surgeon’s barnyard and made a makeshift operating table on the lid of our feed bin, pulled out into the late afternoon sun so as to take advantage of the light.

Flushing the puncture wounds left by the eagle's talons...

Flushing the puncture wounds left by the eagle’s talons…

The Surgeon donned gloves and flushed out the puncture wounds with hydrogen peroxide. SP (our most recent arrival from Germany) covered the bird’s head with a facecloth, and I held her firmly so we could see what we were doing. Before you could say, “Jeez, I have the best neighbours in the world!” the hen was all stitched up and slathered with antiseptic ointment. SP had already prepared a large dog crate with fresh bedding and a clean towel, the recovery ward for our lucky bird.

The Surgeon deftly tying fancy knots using a pair of pliers! We have a pact to stock up on suture supplies... we've been talking about it for ages and today was a great example why basic stitching materials are essential to have on hand.

The Surgeon deftly tying fancy knots using a pair of pliers! We have a pact to stock up on suture supplies… we’ve been talking about it for ages and today was a great example why basic stitching materials are essential to have on hand.

Stitching up the patient...

Stitching up the patient…

At least, I hope she will continue to recover. I checked on her an hour ago and she was actually up and walking around, looking steady on her feet, bright and perky in her demeanor. We shall see how she does overnight. If we get lucky and a terrible infection doesn’t set in, she might just survive the ordeal.

Whew! We were both glad when the field surgery was over and done with!

Whew! We were both glad when the field surgery was over and done with!

I can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who jumped in to help save the turkey hen. Keep your fingers crossed she will make a full recovery!

 

Well, That Was Exciting! [And why was my phone in the truck???????]

Bald eagle making dastardly plans...

Bald eagle making dastardly plans…

I was at the back of the truck using the tailgate as a handy table on which to hack up soft pumpkins and squash to feed to the hogs, turkeys, ducks, and chickens when the roosters started up their ‘We’re all gonna’ die!!!!’ chorus. The turkeys took up the alarm cry and I turned around to see a bald eagle skimming along knee high in hot pursuit of one of my drakes! They were headed straight up the driveway toward me, the drake intent on escape, the eagle intent on lunch when the drake shot under the truck and the eagle, a bit surprised to see me, swooped up and over me and did a couple of slow, lazy loops just overhead. All of this happened in a few seconds and whether I could have whipped my phone out fast enough to capture the drama is unlikely, but I found myself slapping my empty butt pockets as I realized I had left the phone in the truck cab! The eagle circled overhead a couple more times as I scrambled into the cab, retrieved the phone and watched as the bird landed on a nearby tree branch.

We had a conversation, then – me explaining to the eagle that he was welcome to hunt rabbits and rats but if he wouldn’t mind leaving my birds alone I’d be most grateful. The eagle shrugged himself off the branch, circled once more, and then sailed off with nary a backward glance. It’s odd, actually, that he was going after a drake. The adult muscovy males are nearly the same size as an eagle and would put up a formidable fight. They have huge talons and are generally not bothered too much by predators (the smaller female ducks are another story…).

Time will tell whether the eagle was paying any attention to my pleas for mercy on behalf of the flock.

Enter an Airport, Enter an Altered State of Reality

There is something distinctly unnatural about air travel. One minute you are doing your usual thing seeing how many boxes of brussels sprouts stalks and slightly soft apples and pumpkins you can squeeze into the back of the pickup truck for the hogs and the next minute you are in some other time and place with other people, other routines, other everything…

Dad and I popped up to Kelowna to visit family for a few days and arrived back late last night only to experience another round of slight discombobulation.

Of course, it didn’t help that I slept in a room (my lovely nephew’s) that really does look like some other kind of reality…

Welcome to the strange world of Minecraft...

Welcome to the strange world of Minecraft…... not that I know the first thing about the world of Minecraft... But it does look kind of cool. … not that I know the first thing about the world of Minecraft… But it does look kind of cool when you are sleeping in a bunk bed inside it. This is what happens, btw, when my dad doesn’t leave his paintbrushes at home when he goes on an extended visit to young relatives. Last time he did this I believe some Disney princess castles appeared on a niece’s wall…

Perhaps the oddest moment of this trip occurred when I was debating whether or not to put the turkey in my packed bag or carry on suitcase. I had a vision of the interrogation as I tried to get the bird through security screening:

Them: M’am – what’s that in your bag?

Me: Turkey.

Them: Who are you calling a turkey?

Me: You’re arresting me for the use of the word turkey?

Things could have gone terribly wrong in a hurry. And, what if they insisted on a cavity search?

Dad, of course, found this scenario highly amusing... out came the sketchbook as we were waiting for our flight.

Dad, of course, found this scenario highly amusing… out came the sketchbook as we were waiting for our flight. I can just hear the latex gloves snapping…

In the end, the bird travelled in steerage and arrived at the other end unscathed. We enjoyed a lovely dinner a day later and soup and sandwiches until it was time to come home.

It was all rather delightful, sleeping in and not worrying about toting bales or mucking paddocks for a few days. Many thanks to K., my delightful and efficient farm-sitter. You are worth your weight in golden eggs!

Welcome, Babar! Go Away, Snow! (NABLOPOMO)

Welcome, good sir...

Welcome, good sir…

Babar the Cotswold ram arrived today and is now in with the ewes to be bred. Given it was a perpetual motion kind of day, it’s actually a minor miracle I managed to get this quick (terrible) shot when our new boy arrived in the sheep shelter. It didn’t help that he had no interest in posing, but immediately dove into the grain bucket…

After polishing off the few morsels of grain left in the tub, he shot out the door and chased the girls around. I'm sure he's thinking he's arrived in a pretty cool place!

After polishing off the few morsels of grain left in the tub, he shot out the door and chased the girls around. I’m sure he’s thinking he’s arrived in a pretty cool place! This did not, however, make for a relaxed photo session.

Rushing around for the humans continued after the ram delivery – had to do a bit of Christmas shopping (it’s never too late to get started…) and then convince all the Christmas turkeys that, yes, they really were going to bunk up together even though they hardly know the rejects from the breeding group. How, exactly, they can tell each other apart, I don’t know – but they certainly keep track of who’s who and today there was an awful lot of restructuring going on in the turkey hierarchy.

Then, the rest of the evening chores by headlamp as the turkey rodeo went on for far too long and darkness overtook me before I was done… A very long sigh when I spotted Olivia’s piglets ambling around nonchalantly with the adult hogs (what!?). Nothing to be done at that point except open up all the gates between the pens to make sure everyone could find room in a proper shelter during the night.

Good thing I did so because when I went down to the barn to do the late hay rounds for the horses and goats, it looked like the farm had been transplanted into the inside of a snow globe.Okay. Thank you. That's enough snow now... Okay. Thank you. That’s enough snow now…

No relief in sight (except, perhaps, for the snow… the temperatures are supposed to stay mild, so I doubt this will stick around for long). Busy, busy for the next few days and right into the holidays. Despite myself, I am feeling most definitely festive!