Monday, October 29, 2012

Dead Turkeys, Hatching Eggs, and Cycling Cows

The day is only half over and already I am tuckered out, and desire to simply curl up with a warm blanket and a River Cottage episode. Maybe I'll do that later... Hmm, and perhaps even with a cup of homemade hot chocolate? Okay, the deal is sealed. Once I'm done with this here post, you'll find me in the living room oblivious to the rest of the world with the laptop sitting in front of me and a cuppa' beside me. I'm easy to please. :)

I got up earlier than usual this morning to milk the cow and goats before the day's adventure began. Normally I milk the cow first, and then do the goats last, but whenever I milk early, I have to reverse the order and do goats first. Mattie (cow) refuses to get up before the sun has risen, and unfortunately that doesn't happen until 7:30 these days! You can push, prod, plead, threaten, beg, and curse all you want with that cow; if the sun isn't up, then she ain't movin'. On the days when I have no choice but to milk her in the dark (not that it's dark in the barn, seeing as I have lights galore!), I have to wake her up 30 minutes prior to her turn (this gives her time to ponder getting up), wait for her to slowly get up, stretch herself like a cat, go potty (this one is imperative; the rubber floors in my milk parlor don't drain very well), drink 10 gallons of water, go potty a second time (seriously Mattie??? Can't you do it all in one round??), give a few grunts of either happiness or displeasure (depends on the time), and THEN she's ready. What do you mean she's got me wrapped around her finger hoof? 

Milking chores were done hurriedly today (as much as one can hurry with a cow like mine!), since I had to be in Willamina at 8:45am, and I was hauling four turkeys with me. Today was the day: The turkeys were going on their last voyage and their destination was the slaughter house. [enter Beethoven's 5th symphony]

As many times as I've raised poultry for meat, I'm always anxious on slaughtering day, wondering if my birds would weigh enough. I told my customers this year that I was hoping for 15 lb. turkeys, but part of me was nervous... What if they don't weigh enough? What if they weigh *too* much? What if something's wrong with one of them? I don't have any extras! 

It's hard to entertain worrisome thoughts though when you're busy trying to catch your victims. Still in their 10'x12' chicken tractor, I wondered just what I would do if they scurried to the farthest corner of the heavy, covered pen. I really didn't want to be crawling on my hands and knees inside a 2' tall structure that was covered from a day's worth of turkey manure. I may be a farm girl, but even I have my limits. Thankfully, since the turkeys had been on a 24 hour fast (necessary for all animals about to be slaughtered), they were more than happy to come right up to me. And they still kept approaching after I whisked them away one by one. Can't decide if that's lack of brains there, or a case of well-socialized birds... Although the term "bird brain" had to come from somewhere I suppose... Hmm, well that's something to ponder with the hot chocolate later. 

When the turkeys were all loaded up into the back of our little pickup truck, I was an utter wreck. My birds were muddy from the heavy rains we've had, and they shared their war paint quite generously with me. Oh well; I was just going to a processing facility, not church. I was delighted however, to find that turkeys travel amazingly well. Accustomed to the cackling of chickens, and dramatic wails of the goats, the turkeys surprised me by simply plunking their chubby selves down and staying stock still for the 15 minute drive. 

After the turkeys were dropped off, we came back home since it would be an hour before my birds were done. When we finally went back, I was dismayed to see that all of my birds were neatly wrapped except one. Since I used to work at this facility, I knew that an unwrapped bird meant something was wrong and the business manager needed to discuss the problem with the owner. I could see large purple blotches all over the breast of the hunk of meat, but other than that it looked normal. The business manager came up and motioned me to come over to the problem bird. It turns out that it wasn't anything hugely terrible. One bird had a broken wing and some bruising on the skin. The meat was in perfect condition, but on the outside my bird didn't look so great. The wing was thoroughly checked for any signs of gangrene or other infections from the break, but there was nothing, save a few blood clots. Personally, I can't help but wonder if this break didn't occur today. One of the workers pulled my turkeys roughly out of the truck and put them in a waiting pen, and it just so happens that he grabbed the birds right where the break was on the condemned turkey.. The broken bone looked too fresh to be something that happened while it was on my property anyway. Oh well; what's done is done. All the turkeys dressed out great, weight wise. They're all within a few ounces range of 15 lbs. some slightly over that, and some slightly under. I'm taking the last two to be butchered on the 13th; these two needed to gain a bit more weight (they're hens, and thus smaller) so they stayed behind. 

By the time I got home, it was 10am and I wasn't even finished with barn chores. The layers and meat birds had to be fed, Mattie had knocked over the water buckets again, the hay manger was empty, and I had to feed the remaining turkeys. Halfway through barn chores, I saw our mail lady drive up with a package. Surprise, surprise, it was for me! My Pumpkin Hulsey hatching eggs had arrived! :) The eggs all look great from the outside; I'll candle them in a few days to see what I can see. All total I got 11 Pumpkin Hulsey eggs, and then 1 surprise Swedish Flower egg. My incubator is being fired up as we speak (er, as I write this and then as you read it, I guess), and the eggs will be put in there tomorrow morning. And then we have the long, slow, boring wait of something like 27 days before the eggs hatch. [faints dramatically]

After the eggs were dealt with, I went BACK outside yet again to finish up barn chores! It was getting quite close to 11am now and the laying pullets hadn't been fed!! Slogging out in my filthy clothes, I momentarily grinned at my dirty state. You eventually hit the point where you're so dirty that you really don't care if you get any dirtier since it won't even show. You gotta' love that, right? Finally, all the poultry were fed, the ruminants had their hay and water, and everyone was tended to.

And then there was Peaches...

Oh goodness me.

My dear little heifer is experiencing her first heat cycle today. In other words, she wants a bull, and she wants one BAD. She's eleven months old now, which is a little early for a heifer to be cycling (or for a Guernsey cross anyway) but Peachy seems to be doing it despite what the books say. Her main victim is Mattie, as the determined heifer repeatedly tries to mount her. Mattie is not impressed and  turns to face the impudent youth. Peaches ignores the hint that her forwardness isn't wanted and simply trots to the south end of her elder again and tries once more to mount Mattie. Actually, Peaches is mounting just about anything she can, from the hay manger, to trying to get the goats and sheep. If you stand outside the barn, you'll hear a lot of bumping and banging against the metal walls. No, there's no construction work going on inside, it's just my antsy heifer. Oh Peach cow... Darling, I wasn't planning on having you bred until July of 2013! But aside from her rambunctious behavior today, Peaches has been as good as gold. She just recently went through a growth spurt (last week I think it was...) and she now stands just slightly taller than Mattie. Okay, so Mattie is a seriously short cow to begin with, but something tells me that Peaches is going to be a downright giraffe in stature. Mattie is my elephant, and Peaches will be the giraffe; Hm, methinks I have a nice little zoo starting here! LOL. 

So now I'm tuckered and craving bitter hot chocolate. My day has been full of dead turkeys, hatching eggs, cycling cows, elephants, and giraffes. Sheesh, no wonder I'm tired...

Off I go now to watch some River Cottage! 


Anonymous said...

Lol! Great post, you made my day. =)

nancy said...

Ah the variety of life! Never heard of River Cottage, on PBS or?

Goat Song said...

Nancy, just Google it and it'll come up on Youtube! It's a British TV show, so we can't watch it here in the USA other than via youtube.