Tag Archives: small farm

If Only Fritzy Could Talk!

IMG_7991[1]Yesterday, after the eagle incident, I was a bit leery about leaving everyone unattended for fear the mighty hunter would return… Turns out, my instincts were right. I’m not exactly sure what happened at dusk, but here’s my best attempt at piecing together the crime based on the slim evidence I have available…

In the photo above (I was trying to sneak close enough to photograph the dogs making friends with the piglet… ) the dogs on the left are dying to play with the piglet, the piglet has discovered a spot where she can squeeze under the electric fence and has decided to help herself to a bit of mash I’ve put on the ground for the ducks to distract them while I prepare the hog meals. The duck is first on the scene for snacks and over there on the right is Fritz Frizzle. I have no idea where he is heading but he didn’t even slow down at the snack bar.

Several more photos in the series show him moseying on down the hill and disappearing somewhere down near the manure pile. Of course, I was paying no attention to where Fritzy was going because I was busy feeding everyone else and trying to get a good shot of the dog-swine conversation and it was only later that I studied the photos to see if I could spot him anywhere and thereby figure out when he was last known to be in one piece.

There are a whole slew of things that get done between the afternoon feed and the dusk bird round-up during which I mosey up and down the hill a few times myself, tucking various flocks into various secure houses so nobody gets eaten by owls or raccoons overnight. Usually, Fritzy hops up on the fence beside the gate and waits for me to pick him up and carry him into his secure pen. His girlfriend, Lucy, has a private dog-kennel apartment in the hay shed (how she wound up there is described in this post).

Usually, Fritzy is in position by the time I’m heading for the upper duck pen and I scoop him up on my way and herd any straggler ducks into bed with Fritzy tucked under my arm. Yesterday, he wasn’t in his usual spot. Nor was he in his second favourite spot, inside the tomato hoop house. I checked the hay shed in case he was mooning around trying to get Lucy’s attention. Searched high and low and could find him nowhere. I had the awful feeling that the eagle had returned and made off with my lovely little Fritzy…

I tried to console myself that the eagle was obviously hungry to be so brazen to snatch Fritzy and make off with him while I was around, but having witnessed the drake hunt I couldn’t rule out that possibility. Still needing to sprint up the road to close up the chicken pen in the leased field, I left his pen door open and tried not to feel too miserable.

I checked around again when I was feeding night hay, shining my flashlight under the bushes where he and Lucy had been during the eagle attack, thinking he might have hidden there, hoping I wouldn’t find a pile of feathers. Nothing.

This morning I did all the rounds, keeping an eye out for Fritz, just in case, though I had resigned myself to his sad demise. My breath caught at some point when I spotted a reddish brown pile of what I thought was feathers and turned out to be ancient maple leaves in the hog pen. I kept trying to shut off the endless loop of ‘Why him? Why one of my favourites? I should have let the eagle eat the drake – I have too many drakes and after a meal like that the eagle wouldn’t have needed to eat again for days…’

At the very end of the morning rounds I was kneeling down in the goat pen talking to King (one of the kashmir goats) when I heard a distinctive cough behind me. I turned around and there he was! Fritz Frizzle had returned! He looked terrible, like a middle aged man with a bad hairpiece who had been out on a wild bender. One eye was weepy and more closed than open and, strangest of all, his comb was missing! All that’s left is a fleshy stump!

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I can only imagine what happened… did the eagle think that all those wild and crazy feathers actually indicate the size of the bird? Maybe he had hold of feathers in one talon and poor Fritzy’s comb in the other? How far had they got before the eagle dropped my poor little rooster? Fritzy never hangs out in the goat pen – he was approaching from completely the wrong direction – coming downhill from the opposite end of the property from where he usually hangs out… Had he holed up under somebody’s car or deck or a handy log overnight and then started walking at dawn? Had it taken him five hours to get back home again?

Despite his nocturnal misadventures, he was not impressed when I scooped him up and put him into his pen with food and water. He perked up a bit when I delivered Lucy to him and by the end of the day, despite his rather oddly shaped head, he appeared to be completely fine. His eye was open and clear and he was sitting beside Lucy, chatting in that funny little voice of his.

What wouldn’t I give to know what on earth happened to Fritz Frizzle… Very, very glad he is back at home and safe and sound. I’ll keep him in for a couple of days to make sure he really, truly is ok and then… yeah. I’ll have to decide whether or not to let the two love birds back out again.

Meanwhile, WHEW!

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.

What’s the Farmer Reading? Wise Acres

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Wise Acres, by Michael Kluckner

You would think that given a few minutes for purely recreational reading I might pick up a satisfying work of historical fiction or a glorious coffee table book full of photos of horses in exotic locales, or something… But no, I reached straight for Wise Acres, by Michael Kluckner, a memoir about a middle aged couple who sell their place in the city and buy a tiny farm not that far from Vancouver.

Like any good memoirist, Kluckner (who is also an artist) can write about the most mundane of subjects and make them interesting and, even better, often funny. The creatures on his farm (sheep, geese, hens, ducks, cats, etc.) are wonderful characters, each with a personality, a history, and a particular relationship with the author. These are not numbers and quotas and pounds of meat on the hoof but sources of companionship and entertainment as much as sustenance.

Of course, this means Kluckner is constantly struggling to find a way to balance his sentimental side with the practical and it is perhaps this aspect of the book and Kluckner’s story that I found most compelling. Certainly, I struggle with having too soft a heart for someone who raises animals for meat and at various points as I read I found myself nodding and sighing, thinking how much easier my life would be if I lived in the city and was a vegetarian.

Kluckner spends the most time talking about his sheep operation, which was simultaneously instructive, reassuring, and a tad horrifying to someone like me who is quite new to shepherding.

Woodblock prints by Kluckner illustrate each chapter (for those interested in Kluckner’s art, visit his website for more images). A thoroughly enjoyable read, Wise Acres will appeal to city folk thinking of moving out to the country and country folk wondering whether it might be time to cash in the sheep and return (or move on) to a more urban existence.

Oh, the Food!

Oh, how I love the way this season is all about the food!

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We kicked things off with a bang with our Holiday Cookie Exchange party on December 1st and it has been plain good eating ever since.

A couple of weeks ago I tested out a new super fast, super hot oven turkey recipe (with butter and maple syrup slathered between the breast skin and the breast) – it was so super fast it was ready before I had the veggies done, but was delish nonetheless.

For our family Christmas dinner I cooked up one of little turkey hens (about 8 lbs) the way my neighbour C. suggested – 350 degrees for a couple of hours with a bottle of beer added to the pan. I stuffed garlic butter under the skin, tented with oiled parchment and then foil, and uncovered for the last half hour. Oh. So. Juicy. Very, very good – Thanks, C.!

It will come as no surprise that two fave presents this year involved food… A frozen fruit dessert/sorbet maker that requires nothing but the addition of frozen fruit (though, you can add a bit of yogurt, if desired). What a great way to dessertify the bags of berries and apricots and plums we still have in the freezer! Also an excellent way to use up very ripe bananas, just pop the bananas (pre-peeled) into the freezer and then, when frozen, run them through along with whatever other fruity deliciousness you have on hand. Yum!

The other most excellent handy gadget (and, yes, I know I shouldn’t be quite so addicted to handy gadgets) was a gift I received – a Magic Bullet. Though the various blades can be used for all kinds of chopping and blending, my plan is to use it mostly for smoothies [though, the ‘grown-up’ beverages they describe in the accompanying booklet along with instructions for how to host a refreshingly fun party are intriguing…]. I have experimented with various other blender type devices but this seems to be particularly well thought out in terms of being able to make small quantities in the same container you are going to drink out of. So far I’ve only indulged in fruity versions, but I have plans for adding kale, carrots, and various protein options so my smoothies stick with me for a little longer than they tend to given my high energy outputs on an average day.

Right at the moment, I’m jotting these notes while making turkey stock for soup tomorrow.

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Too soon this season where food is front and center and nobody feels bad about food being front and center will move on into the New Year where so many people feel they need to to return to a relationship with food that centers on self-deprivation.

My food-related resolution will be this: more smoothies. And, to steal the theme word that will be getting a lot of airplay over in Catbird Quilt-land, EXPERIMENT. [Catbird Quilt Blog] Coconut oil. Sunflower seeds. Carrots. Parsnips. Maple syrup. Chocolate. Yes, chocoloate! I wonder what cool combinations I might be able to come up with in the smoothie department? I might have to re-listen to the An Organic Conversation podcast segment that was all about smoothies…

Which reminds me how much I enjoy their podcast. Are any of you podcast listeners? What are your favourites? I’ve loved the book and cookie recipe suggestions – how about some ideas for great podcasts I should be listening to while I muck out the horse paddocks and wash the hen eggs?

The Shortest Day

There is a strange beauty in the dark, particularly when it's snowing.

There is a strange beauty in the dark, particularly when it’s snowing.

Racing around like a mad woman today trying to get the turkeys to the processor, hay loaded and unloaded, everyone fed and watered, paperwork more or less in order for tomorrow’s turkey pick-up and sale, it was hard to remember that the Winter Solstice is a day of joy and cause for celebration. Mostly, I was wishing I had just a few more minutes of daylight so I could get a few more things done outside.

The farm at night...

The farm at night…

 

Though it’s tempting to just keep on rushing to try to squeeze just a bit more into each short day, poems like The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper are a good reminder that this is a time for celebration of a very elemental sort.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

Scenes like this make me want to make wildly atmospheric movies where melancholy reigns supreme and a desperately lonely old man gazes off a cliff edge and is held back only by the presence of the loyal sheepdog at his side.

Scenes like this make me want to make wildly atmospheric movies where melancholy reigns supreme and a desperately lonely old man gazes off a cliff edge and is held back only by the presence of the loyal sheepdog at his side.

So there you go, my mood is perfectly balanced between frenetic and celebratory and plain old gloomy, kind of like the Winter Solstice itself.