Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Turkey Stampede

Okay, so Bill and I get up before dawn on Monday morning, crawl out of bed, and reach for the coffee. Bill looks out the window and says, "Hey, the brooder light is off." It was a cool morning, so we agreed that the youngest ones needed a light. He heads out to turn it on. As Bill is walking to the brooders, he turns his head to the right and sees a flock of large white birds coming his way. There is something familiar about these large white birds. Wait a minute, aren't these the group of juvenile turkeys we just moved into the nets the night before? They aren't supposed to be up here by the house. Yep, you guessed it, the little varmints were out having a great time, probably partying all night long wandering the farm.  

 It's Monday, it's butchering day, and everyone needs water and feed before we get started. I could see the frustration as Bill threw his hands in the air. The turkeys on the other hand were happily picking their way through all the new grass by the house and working their way to the bigger, older flock of turkeys who by this time began to notice what was going on.  (You can see them in the background of one of the pictures. )

 The young group of turkeys obviously didn't want to be in the housing we put them in last night. They had explored that area and now were bored. We had used a single net around a portable laying house, but one electric net wasn't enough. The only other one we had available was shorter in height and had bigger holes. It was currently around the garden to keep the sheep out.

"We have to buy more nets," Bill said.

"Let's try the short one," I said.

"They'll go right through it," he replied.

"Let's put them around the RV. Maybe that will give them enough to explore."

What else was there? We could take a chicken net, but then we'd have chickens everywhere. Bill reluctantly agreed.  He and I gathered up the bigger net and the smaller net and walked them over to the RV. There were plenty of weeds and grass and things to look over and under around the RV. This would make a good turkey place.

The turkeys followed us as we set up the nets, added their food and water, brought up the wiring and hooked it all up the the electric hot wire. We herded the stragglers in and shut the gate. Whew. Done. Then as soon as we walked away, so did they. Electric shmelectric. They didn't feel a thing. Over and under and through the net they came.
(This is a picture of where they're supposed to be. Someone got left behind.)

Okay, now we were ready to butcher THEM today. There was nothing else we could do to contain them. The day had to get started with or without them where they were supposed to be. At least they wouldn't leave the farm. (We'd hoped.)

Evidently, they just wanted to be close to the action. They watched us process 70 chickens and we used the carrying cages as a barricade so they wouldn't come into the actual butchering area. When they started to bed down under the shade tree, Bill decided to try to get them into the netted area again. This time he took off running. They all stood up and started running too. They ran after him and followed right into the enclosure and he shut the gate. Suddenly the food and water we had put there looked enticing. They decided to stay and have lunch. Bill hopped over and carefully walked away.

What goes on in a turkey brain? I couldn't say. Steve, a friend who helps on processing day, said they had imprinted on us. I guess that must be it. I know turkeys are not as dumb as people say they are. So far, they've decided they like the new home. Let's get those new nets ordered fast.

Friday, August 2, 2013


The sun is up, drying up the puddles on the tops of the chicken tractors. I know the longer I wait to go outside, the hotter it will become. Bill has gone to the post office to pick up chicks. So I'm stealing a few moments, still in my pajamas, sipping a cup of green tea and wishing for just a little longer morning.

It's a very satisfying feeling to walk past a small canvas with wet paint on it from the day before. Evidence that I really did pick up the brush for a little while. Second week in a row, by the way. I'm feeling pretty proud of myself.

All day long yesterday Bill worked on framing in the windows in the shed. They are going to be HUGE. I'm feeling a nervous tickle in my stomach about them now. Too late to change things, but what if there is just too much window and not enough wall space? What if I'm making a green house instead of a studio? I know my husband well enough by now that I better not say to much about my worries. He's on a roll and I'll only frustrate him and the work will stop. He so wants to please me and sometimes I change my mind too much. I just have to remember that he's the construction expert here. If he says it will work, we'll go with that.

So while he's outside with hammer and nails, I'm inside with the music cranked up.
Here's the painting I did last week:
 I'm thinking about using it in my next collage piece. I didn't get a picture of yesterday's beginning, but The pallet is still full of paint and I'm planning on getting back to the easel when all the day's work is over. It's going to be a busy day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Watermelon Season

Who knew sheep liked watermelon so much? Since we do live in watermelon country, we brought home a few just as the season started. I had them in the shade under a tree. The same tree that the sheep love to lounge under in the heat of the day. Well, you know what happened. They walked around with pink noses the rest of the day!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Last week at the market, standing there freezing, smiling, selling to the wonderful customers that are so faithful even on rainy, unusually cold April days, I had an unexpected moment. A new customer came to the table and purchased eggs. They walked away, then came back. I love the time I get to spend chatting with everyone at the market, so I always welcome people who just want to stand and visit for a while. Part of the fun of the market is just getting to know people. I get all kinds of questions about our products, why they are labeled "Not for human consumption" or how we treat our birds, or what they eat. Then I get the great stories of little chickens that the kids hatched in school that turned out to be roosters they had to find homes for, or the chickens that climb up in your lap and like to eat out of your hand, or the tragedy of losing a favorite hen to the neighbor's dog. But this conversation went in a different direction.

I had previously introduced them to the fact that we do not wash our eggs, nor do we refrigerate them. I explained that egg shells are porous and naturally come with a coating that protects them and keeps them fresh. After all, the purpose of the egg is to grow a chick inside. Another customer came up to the table ready to buy eggs as well. I thought all was well and they were happy with my explanation, but they leaned in close, pointed at the eggs I had on display and said," Your eggs have poop on them. You need to wash them with bleach."

Usually I have a great idea of what to say, but for some reason this time I was embarrassed. Suddenly my products were "dirty". I had another customer waiting patiently, so I quickly replied, "Yes, you can take them home and do that." then turned to the next person in line and asked what I could get for them. I wanted to pull away, cover my embarrassment, and move on. Actually, for one split second,  I wanted to hide all my dirty eggs, take them home and scrub them down in bleach. Then clarity came. Why is it we can always think of the right thing to say after the person is gone? The rest of the afternoon I muttered intelligent replies and creative comebacks. What it all boiled down to, I finally decided, (and it took me until today to vocalize it) was that our eggs, all our products in fact, give people choices.

Yes, you can buy a room full of eggs that have been washed pretty with bleach, but where can you find the egg that has not been bleached, or sprayed with a chemical, or been sitting in a warehouse for weeks? Well, at the Laughing Chicken farm stand, of course. What we do every day at this small plot of ground in Gilchist county gives people choices. What they do with those choices is not up to me. I can only put it out there. But thank God I am still allowed to put it out there.

So I guess I need a slightly thicker skin, and I need to stop trying to please everyone. My choice is tho offer what I believe in. Maybe next time I'll stand a little taller and smile a little wider doing it.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine Chocolates

Rainy, drippy day. Thank You so much, Lord. The wetness seeps into the grass and the new shoots look like little green elbows pushing through the dirt. Bent and straining against the tight crust until they grow one more millimeter enough to straighten. The sheep are ready for them. Hungry, nibbling lips swinging through the short new stems. I watch them eat and almost want to join them just to taste a hint of spring.

It's eight o'clock in the morning. Late enough to see the sun and hear the hungry calls outside. Bill is off to get a new batch of chicks at the post office. I need to start making bottles for all the new babies. Calf, sheep and now two goats.

My sweet, wonderful husband shows his love toward me every time he agrees to another animal baby. Even goats. Especially goats. One of his mantras: "I hate goats." But here we are with a cardboard box in the office containing two chocolate bucklings nestled in cloth and old towels muttering softly awaiting a warm suckle of colostrum. That's love.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years! Oh my!

What a busy season! I am always so humbled by the people who seek us out and purchase from us during the holidays. Each year we try to do better, and each year we learn what not to do next year.
We did get to take some time for our family. Our annual family picture on Santa's lap was on Christmas day. Our sweet friends Bill and Kathy Bare are professional Santa and Mrs. Clause. In between appearances around the state, they create a winter wonderland on their property in High Springs from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Lights, reindeer games, and hot coco, plus a visit with the big guy. We make it a tradition every year and this year we were blessed to have my mom and dad with us from Clearwater, and our daughter Cat and her husband Brandon from Alabama. Micah and his girlfriend, Stephanie, rounded out the group. Alas, Ben and Danielle are in Japan this year and not here with us. Thank God for Skype.

There have been two new additions to the farm to start the year out. A new ram lamb and a new calf. Bill has named them Harry and Mr. Meaty. I'm sure you can guess which one is Harry. 

The calf is Holstein/Angus, the lamb is a ram and will bring (hopefully) some soft fleeces into our flock of sheep for the fun of spinning. (like I don't have enough to do). Both are bottle babies. Thankfully, we have friends who have milk goats and milk cows and like our chicken!

I'm looking forward to this coming year. It always feels like a fresh start in January. You look at what you have learned and marvel at the possibilities before you. God always has surprises around the corner.