Thursday, October 30, 2014
Posted by Aimee at 1:26 PM
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Last year, we had good luck with turkeys. We never intended to raise turkeys, but a trade came our way (Turkey Trade) and we acquired four half-grown turkeys in exchange for one goat. We ate one, sold two, and donated one to the food bank. I decided pastured turkeys were a great return on investment - and also extremely delicious - so this past spring we upped our investment by 50% and bought six Standard Bronze poults.
All went well until just a few weeks ago - the turkeys all grew quickly and turned into handsome animals of about fifteen or eighteen pounds. I think they were all hens, although I wouldn't swear to that on a stack of bibles. Through Craigslist and Facebook, I had already sold four of them. But then one of them disappeared. There was no sign of "fowl play" (ha ha) - no feathers or blood. There was simply one less turkey.
My Facebook Farmer's group informed me that turkeys are known to wander. In fact, our turkeys had wandered over to the neighbor's a couple of times and had to be retrieved. But they had wandered as a group. Turkeys, at least mine, tend to stay in a pretty tight formation, and I thought it was unlikely that a single turkey had decided to strike out on his/her own.
Then, two weeks later, boom - another disappearance. Same modus operendi - simple vanishing, without a trace of violence. Once again, I went back to my Facebook Farmers. I suggested a coyote, as being the only local predator I knew of capable of carrying off a twenty-pound animal. Plenty of people responded, but with varying opinions - some people agreed that coyotes were a likely culprit, but others said that they would leave a big mess of feathers and blood. Somebody suggested bald eagles, which I discounted not because I think an eagle incapable, but because the turkeys disappeared at night. Again I heard that turkeys wander and I ought to check with the neighbors. And, as always, several people voiced the opinion that humans were stealing my turkeys.
Every time that someone in the group posts that anything has gone missing - apples off a tree, baby chicks, tame rabbits, pumpkins off a porch - the assertion surfaces that it was stolen by people. Personally, I find the idea that hordes of my neighbors are prowling through the dark looking for vulnerable apple trees or sneaking into unsecured barns to steal chickens patently absurd. It's been my experience that my neighbors are far more likely to bring me produce or game meat than they are to take it away. As a matter of fact, in my entire lifetime, I think I have been the victim of burglary twice or maybe three times, whereas I have been the recipient of totally unsolicited generosity hundreds of times.
So, I've learned a couple of things about my Facebook Farmer's group. Although a valuable resource for those who are willing to sift and verify, there is a lot of suspicion and ignorance. I could learn a lot more about the telltale signs of various predators from five minutes on the internet ( http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/18670/poultry-predator-identification, http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/What_killed_my_chicken__63__/) than by asking for advice form a random collection of farmers. Some of them are probably well-informed and right, but how could I tell which ones?
As it turns out, my initial suspicion about coyotes was almost certainly correct. Not only does my google search confirm that coyotes and foxes often carry off birds and leave little trace behind, returning again and again to the same place as long as birds remain vulnerable, but my neighbor (he of the hotel-sized-house, or the HSH) called me night before last to tell me that he had seen two big coyotes in my field, and has shot at them, but missed. Furthermore, when I decided, yesterday, to walk the pasture in a grid pattern looking for evidence, I found one fresh, well shredded leg bone and a small neat pile of guts.
Clearly, my flock is not well protected. I never know exactly how many chickens I have at any given time, but today I made a point of counting, and there are fewer than there ought to be. And the ones that remain are looking thin and harassed. I think I have a pack of coyotes who have decided that my farm is their snack bar.
Normally, the poultry is locked in a coop at night, but lately I have been leaving them to roost in the open main barn instead. This is because the weather has been unrelentingly awful, raining like mad for a couple of weeks on end. The chicken coop, which is just the space between my two barns fenced off and roofed, has terrible drainage and right now it is just a sea of liquid mud. The chickens would be utterly miserable in there. There is not even any land dry enough to feed them on. They have roosts, of course, but they can't stay on them all day. In this weather it would be inhumane to keep them in the coop. Ducks, maybe.
But something needs to be done, clearly. If I do nothing, the coyotes will likely eat my entire flock this winter. As far as the turkeys go, I think I will probably just butcher them immediately - they are full sized - and keep them in the freezer instead of the barnyard. But I need to finger out how to secure the coop and make it habitable before I lose the rest of my chickens.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Last weekend we went to the annual wild mushroom show, hosted by the Northwest Mushroomers Association (click the link https://www.facebook.com/pages/Northwest-Mushroomers-Association/189323751142082 for their Facebook page). The last time I went to this show was back in 2008 ( Mud and Mushrooms). It's really a wonderful event. In addition to beautiful displays set up on long tables around the room, they also have areas for more in depth investigation. There is a "touch and smell" table:
|Paloma at the touch and smell table|
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The weather changed about two weeks ago from warm and sunny to warm and wet. Well, of course it has cooled off - enough so that I have broken out the winter blankets - but it is still pretty warm. T-shirt weather for me when I go let the goats out to graze. I'm still drinking my coffee iced; I haven't switched to Americanos yet. There has of yet been no sign of a frost.
Two weeks of rain has turned the barnyard into poo-soup, and when I go out to do the chores in the morning I definitely have to put on galoshes. The dog comes with me, and is banished from the house until her paws dry off. The sky has been low, grey, and glowering, which has an effect on my mood. It hasn't been very pleasant, weather-wise, but neither has it been cold. Today, a friend posted a link to a weather blogon her Facebook page, and it was very enlightening. So far, Pacific Northwest Weather this year HAS been unseasonably warm - record-breakingly warm, in fact. But the record - highest average low temperatures - is not one that people generally pay much attention to. The following is chart heavy, but I found it very interesting.
A note: as much I am unsettled by weird weather, tending to real out and imagine catastrophic climate change on a human time scale, I am nonetheless grateful for this year's odd warmth. We will not be able to use our furnace until all the work is done in the crawlspace. and that isn't projected to be completed until mid-November. So as far as I'm concerned, let the frost stay wherever it is now!
Reposting from Cliff Mass Weather Blog (link below)
****UPDATE****** I don't know why the cut-and-paste job below is cut off on the right margin. I can't seem to adjust it in my editing platform. However, if you click on any of the graphics, they will show up whole and legible in a new window.
Here are the temperatures at Seattle-Tacoma Airport during the past 4 weeks, with the average high (red) and lows (blue) shown. Only ONE day in that entire period has seen the temperature dropping to the average low. For most days, our minimum temperatures have been 5-10 degrees above normal. Our minimum temperatures last night were close to the average maximum for the date!
And this is not Seattle alone, here is the same trace for Bellingham. Same thing. Bellingham cooled to 59F last night!
Now why is this happening? This is an important question because one can expect some folks in the media and advocacy groups to start saying this is a "sign" or "consistent with" global warming due to mankind's emissions of greenhouse gases. There is no reason to think that is true.
There are two main reasons for the warmth and they are both associated with the anomalous atmospheric circulations we are having.
Reason #1: a persistent area of low pressure over the eastern Pacific. The figure below shows the sea level pressure anomaly (difference from normal) for the past month. There is an area west of us with pressures well below normal. Such anomalous low pressure is associated with stronger than normal southerly and southwesterly winds over us that blow in warmer than normal air.
This is probably the major cause. Then there is something else, something I have talked about in previous blog: the warm water BLOB off the coast.
Below is the sea surface temperature anomaly map for the past week. You see the orange and red colors off the coast that indicate temperatures 2-4F above normal? The BLOB still lives. So air passing over the eastern Pacific is exposed to warmer than normal water. Me like BLOB, BLOB is good.
As I noted earlier, the BLOB has little to do with global warming but was produced by anomalous high pressure over the Pacific last winter and year.
So our ridiculously warm temperatures this fall are being produced by an unusual combination of high pressure a year ago that produced the blob and low pressure this fall that is bringing up warm air from the south.
There is no reason to think that these circulation anomalies are caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. And remember that the eastern U.S. has been colder than normal.
Well, time for me to go out to my garden to harvest some more red tomatoes.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
THE FOOD SYSTEM
PLAYING YOUR PART1. Is it organic?
2. Does this product come from an animal?
3. Has it been processed?
4. How far has it traveled to get here?
5. What sort of package does it come in?
Thursday, October 9, 2014
To make matters worse, the pears that hadn't yet been attacked were - although full sized - just as hard and green as they were a month ago. At that time, I picked a few pears and set them on the table to ripen, but they never did. They just sat there, stubbornly green. Homero, bizarrely, eats them like this, and so I didn't know if they would have eventually ripened or what, but I figured it couldn't hurt to just leave them until they started to fall on their own.
Above you see all the pears I could find which are solid - there are twenty-six of them. A few of them have bird strikes, but none have been invaded by insects yet. But how to ripen them? I thought I remembered treading that some varieties of pears need to be chilled before they will ripen - and so a quick google search seems to confirm. Supposedly, I should gold the pears at 32-35 degrees Farenehit for at least a week and up four months, and then bring them to room temperature for 7 - 10 days. How exactly I am supposed to do that I haven't the foggiest clue. I could refrigerate them, but I don't have room in my fridge for 26 pears. And my fridge isn't that cold, anyway. Nights this time of year average 55 degrees, so leaving them outside isn't likely to help.
That's probably the best I can do, though. As I said, we have already enjoyed a large and delicious crop of pears this year, so it isn't a tragedy if we don't make full use of this last harvest. Alternatively, my husband can eat them all green, the way he likes them.
Link: an extremely comprehensive guide to European Pear varieties, with photos and information about siting, disease tolerance, and uses. Great site. http://www.usapears.com/~/media/Files/Research%20Website%20Docs/Pear%20Encyclopedia/Pear%20Encyclopedia%2003-2011.ashx