(written by Sam)
This is the time of year when those long summer days finally pay off into ridiculous amounts of food. The tomatoes are exploding! We probably harvested close to 100 lbs of tomatoes on Tuesday. SO MANY TOMATOES!
And they’re amazingly delicious, too (Brandywines! I love you!) Hopefully the blight holds off until a bit later this year, so we get to fully enjoy them (and don’t get stuck with 100 lbs of green tomatoes to try to use up quickly like last year).
We’ve been drying and freezing them every time we harvest, and Adam has also made a couple of batches of tomato sauce and salsa
Geese of delicate sensibilities
The geese (and their 3-duck army) have had free run of the orchard for a month or so now. We set up a flimsy fence which they seem to respect to keep them away from the rest of the farm. Their favourite spot to lounge happens to be just outside our bathroom window. And because we’re out in the country and don’t have a close neighbour on that side, we never bothered putting up a curtain. So now every time one of us goes to use the toilet, we get offended honking, and the geese often just get up and leave. So sorry, geese!
Chickens have a new friend
Adam got really tired of watching dozens of tiny little birds flying into the coop every day to feast on our expensive chicken food, so he put together a scarecrow (or scarebird, as Sylvia calls it). Perhaps he is indeed a scarecrow, since we have not seen any crows out there. However, the little birds are undeterred. Oh well.
Many of the chickens have started molting earlier than usual, probably due to stress from the very hot and dry August. So it’s the time of year where we have to cull out the older hens who aren’t laying very well anymore (some of them may not start laying again until spring, since it takes them a while to recover from molting, which makes it very difficult to manage to break even on feed costs). Definitely not my favourite part of farming.
Turkeys eat a lot
The turkeys are growing like crazy, but they’re also eating lots and lots of food. I need to sit down soon and see how much we would need to charge for them to even cover their food costs. (Farming really sucks sometimes).
They’re still quite curious, and love drinking out of the hose while I’m filling up their water. They’re also quite good at hopping their fence, which makes sense because they’re almost as tall as the fence! There’s still about 6 weeks until Thanksgiving, so it’ll be interesting to see how big they get (and how much they eat…)
Yes, you read that correctly. I read about a duck who did this in “Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks” (also a very good book), but I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing that someone who raises hundreds of ducks will see. But no! Apparently ducks can actually release the proper hormones to give themselves a sex change, and it’s not terribly uncommon!
The day after we culled the male Welsh Harlequin (the only mature male duck we had), we noticed one of the females mounting another female. I figured it was just a dominance thing, since they would have to re-establish their pecking order with no male. But that same female went through a very early molt, and her feathers have been getting darker and darker, and now her quacks even sound more like a male duck’s quacks than a female’s
On the left is one of the Dimmer Wits, and on the right is the transgendered duck, who is getting dark breast feathers and dark head feathers. He (what is the proper pronoun to refer to the duck in this situation, I wonder?) doesn’t seem to be getting the bright orange legs the other male had, but maybe that takes more time? It’s really amazing to see this transformation taking place, but the whole reason we culled the male duck was because he was eating lots of food and not producing eggs! And now this guy’s going to do that too. Kind of annoying.
On the plus side, the young runner ducks started laying eggs last week, so we’re getting a couple of blue duck eggs per day now, too. The Khaki Campbells don’t seem to be laying very much yet, which is annoying since they are older than the runner ducks. And NONE of the ducks will lay their eggs anywhere reasonable, they’re just scattered all over the pen every morning. Oh well. I shouldn’t complain too much, we got five delicious duck eggs this morning!
The different breeds definitely have different personality traits. The Welsh Harlequins are all about the food. They are not at all intimidated by the very large turkeys and will squirm their way in between the turkeys in the midst of a feeding frenzy. The Khaki Campbells enjoy the little bucket pond more than any of the other ducks. As soon as I clean it out and refill it every night, at least 2 of the Khakis jump in and take a bath. And the runner ducks seem to be afraid of everything. I’ve never seen them go in the pond, they won’t eat food until all of the turkeys are well away from it, and they avoid me like the plague. I wish they were a bit friendlier. I also have to figure out what to do with the SIX male runner ducks I have (figures, all 4 of the Khakis end up being female, but only 3 of the 9 runners are). Anybody want an incredibly skittish, weird looking pet duck?
Fall is coming
This time of year is always a bit disorienting, with sunset happening almost 2 minutes earlier every day, it’s tricky to plan ahead and make sure we’re ready to do the evening poultry chores at the right time every day (currently they’re colliding with Sylvia bedtime, and soon they’ll be colliding with dinner). The garlic and fava beds have been tilled, along with some of the early brassicas and beans. Apples and pears are around the corner, and the few squash plants that survived the wireworm onslaught have beautiful orange pumpkins forming.