Thursday, September 6, 2012

Heritage Turkeys and Sheep, Oh My!

We bought horses early on in our farming adventure.  This was a bad move, not because they didn't do their duty making good compost and keeping the back pasture down, but because they were quite useless in the food department.  We were all too nervous and inexperienced to ride them, and they just weren't what this farm needed.

If you are going to have a farm, make sure that every animal and plant is multipurpose, and most of all, that you can EAT them!  So, we sold our two beautiful quarter horses for a song to some kids who knew how to ride and knew the value of these animals, and we waited as the pasture caught back up to its formal glory.  We kept one of our minis, Cheyenne, as she was quite a fixture on the farm.  She was lonely, however, so we bought sheep.  We looked a long time before we even found the kind we wanted.  Katahdin sheep are a hair variety that do not need shearing.  That's good as we are quite lazy (urban converts generally are), and we have no desire to learn yet another new skill.  These animals are bred specifically for their mild meat, and I've been told that they are also good milkers if ever I get into a mood for sheep cheese.  The butter fat content is quite high and makes for amazing artisan cheese, which I've tried at farmers market and quite like i.

We bought three ewes.  One, Maggie, is three years old and with her comes her baby (whom is yet to be named).  The third is also a young ewe lamb named Georgia.  She looks an awful lot like the Georgia clay that turns the rivers red.  I think she is quite striking and look forward to seeing her as a full grown lady.  The intent here is to breed them in the spring and butcher any males born and sell any females live for breeders.  Three sheep are plenty for our 3 acres of pasture.  My hubby has made it his mission in life to tame them, so he spends time coaxing them into the stall with grain.  They came from a much larger herd, so they are still skiddish of people.  They are warming up, and I have a feeling they will make a wonderful addition to the farm.  Cheyenne seems to really be pleased with her new companions.  She stuck her head through the bars when they were sectioned off in the stall.  Now she barely leaves their side in the pasture.  Such a fun little pony!

Also new on the farm are our Narragansett turkeys.  This breed of turkey was the last commercial variety before they started breeding for such heavy weights.  The new commercial variety must be butchered by about 6 months because they get so large that they are prone to heart attacks.  Narragansett turkeys are known to be good mothers and will hatch out and nurture their young.  We intend to breed and sell them to local folks who just can't get them in our area  We also want a few to put in our freezer as turkey is highly nutritious and delicious. We are starting with 14.

The interesting thing about turkeys that I didn't know is that they are highly social and caring for one another.  One of the chicks had crushed legs when he arrived in the box.  We hoped he would recover, but he still hobbles around on his knuckles.  He is half the size of the others, but he is still alive.  The other turkeys don't pick on him like the chickens would have.  They, in fact, protect him.  When all the others roost for the evening, two or three stay down on the ground with Baby.  They corral him into the pen at night and keep an eye on him during the day.  They take shifts Babysitting.  It's amazing to watch, and I am instantly in love with these animals.  I don't expect Baby to survive for a long life, but he is certainly loved and cared for by his brothers and sisters.  I can't wait to see the mothers in action next spring.

Farming is such a learning experience for life.