City Girl Images of a Real Farm

At Christmas, a friend gifted Mike with twenty Broad Breasted Bronze turkey chicks, eventhough he knows we have never raised fowl of any kind.

Broad Breasted Bronze turkey tom, photo courtesy Wikipedia

Mike did a quick study online to learn everything he could and discovered, for example, that a round brooder works best for retaining body heat in young birds.  Hurray! We can use Eddie’s swimming pool! Yep, plastic, easy to clean, high walls (but not too high), sturdy…that’ll work! By the time summer comes around and Eddie needs it, the birds should be out of it.

Eddie’s wading pool, he loves to fish for ‘taters’ in it during the summer, flop down to cool off in it, and run and leap into it before shaking off on anyone close by.

So Mike ran out, got a heat lamp, feeder and water source, put the pool in the heated garage and strung the heat lamp up over it. A temperature check and woohoo…we’re in business!

The turkey chicks arrived by mail yesterday.

Unfortunately, I fell off the deck the day before they arrived. Yes, I am a major klutz. My proof? I sprained/broke my ankle three times last year– the last time walking barefoot and on flat ground! Also, we just built the deck, I believe in December and this is my third fall off of it since. The last time, I wrenched my knee and it is still giving me trouble, but that was without trying to really catch myself on the way down. This time, I tried to catch myself in the midst of the fall and grabbed for nearby fencing. Not so wise. I ended up wrenching my back, spraining that self-same ankle, and hurting my wrist and my pride. It left me sore from head to foot, literally.

So when a strange car drove up yesterday and honked like they were in a hurry, I grumbled quite loudly as I hobbled through the house, out the door, and down those same darn steps to see who was there. An apologetic and sheepish mailman handed me a little box that contained nearly two dozen peeping, squawking, hungry and thirsty birds.  He need not have been sorry, I thought, for I felt less perturbed and more embarrassed for my loud grumblings than for his incessant honking. Besides, he did not have to deliver the chicks to our door.  In fact, I don’t think they are supposed to. I just thought it was terribly nice of him (though I do suspect it was also his way of getting the irritatingly noisy chicks out of the post office.) But he apologized again. Apparently, they were supposed to call us when the birds arrived, but failed to do so. “No problem,” I told him,” I couldn’t have driven to pick them up in my condition anyway.” On the way back to the house, I made a mental note: Grumble to self QUIETLY.

Gingerly making my way back into the house, I placed the prize on the table in the vicinity of five of the laziest cats God ever created. I mean, these cats won’t even earn their keeps by playingwith  a mouse to death!  I swear, if a mouse got in the house, they would invite it to eat their dinner. I figured if they tried to get the box…well…they would get it from me, but there probably was no reason for worry. The cats did not even look up from their naps, except Vizzy, who suddenly became terrified of the peeping box and lit out the door like her tail was on fire! Feeling comfortable that the birds were safe, I paid a visit to the restroom, and was gone perhaps two minutes.

When I returned, the room was mysteriously quiet– no cricket chirps, no cat snores, and not even a peep out of the turkey box. Uh-oh.

I shot a glance to the table where I set the container. There, on top of the box, crouched Minnie, our all black she-devil of a cat, peering through the holes in the box. At that moment, with that precise look on her face, she reminded me of Sylvester stalking Tweetie Bird and I immediately turned into Granny. “Bad kitty!”

“Hey! The weather’s nice. All of you go out and play!” As I opened the door, the Turkey Tracker Minnie took off, while three sleepy lazy bones looked at me incredulously.  “Git! Out! Scram! Skidaddle! GOOOOOO!”

The box lay still. No sound. No movement. “Dang!” We haven’t had the turkeys five minutes and I’ve killed them through my negligence!

About the time,  a tiny “Peep!” came out of the box, and soon a chorus followed. I could discern four distinct calls. Whew! At least four of them were not suffocated by a fat, black cat sitting on them!

Mike arrived after I sufficiently calmed down enough to warn him we might have dead birds in the box. The company guarantees safe arrival of the birds, but I don’t think they cover suffocation by cat. We would just be out however many birds that darn cat killed. I wanted to kill her…figuratively speaking, of course. Maybe. Surprisingly, all the birds were alive when Mike let them into the swiming pool and as of this morning’s cattle feeding, are still alive today. We must have done something right. And Minnie, well, maybe she was just sitting on their nest for them. Yeah, right.

Broad Breasted Bronze turkey chicks in their swimming pool brooder.

So now everything is beginning to feel like what I always imagined a “real farm” feels like. We have crops, of course, but we now have cows and turkeys (and cats and dogs). The goats were put on hold, since we will need that shed for the turkeys as they grow older, but hopefully soon, we will add chickens and goats and maybe a pig or two…for me, the city girl, THAT is a farm! Well, that, and hand milking on a stool with my hair pulled back in a bandana– but that might stretch the image a little too far.

As far as our cattle go, Mike sold some recently and will soon buy more. None of “mine” have sold…seems this area isn’t fond of dairy cattle much. Everthing is black beef cattle…with an occasional Charolais thrown in. That might work well for us with the cattle that are left. Rhino, the big black Angus bull kept company with the females of the herd all winter and it may be that Big Mama (the Angus) and two other Angus heifers are expecting. We moved Brahma Mama (the Beefmaster) over for him to “service” in hopes of a good stout black calf next fall. But Spot, 69 and 70, the Jersey bulls and steer are for sale and need to move soon to make room for summer pasturing of Pip and the Painted Ladies. Pip is a Jersey and the Ladies are Holsteins, all dairy cattle even if their names do sound like a singing group.

We want to build a fence for Belle (the blind Holstein heifer) and the fast-growing largest baby calfs that we just weaned. Cocoa (Jersey heifer), Runner (Guernsey bull), Boo (Brangus), Ricky (Angus bull), Charlie (my Christmas present from Mike, a Charolais bull), and Stormy (angus bull) need larger quarters and access to pasture, but for the moment are not electric-fence broke. A more permanent structure, lined with electric ribbon to train them to the electric fence, will solve the problem. Financially, it will be quite an outlay, but more worrisome is the length of Mike’s chorelist.

Fence building is just one more item on the chore list to be completed within the next few weeks. He must also plow, disc, drag and plant the new pastures here and at the other farm, about ten acres (on top of the 15 acres from last year). Then he needs to plant soy beans (125 acres), corn (12 acres), and the production vegetable garden (2 acres), as well as starting our home garden. A pen still has to be constructed for the turkeys, the dog kennel has to be moved, equipment has to be repaired, plastic put on the greenhouse and float beds made ready. There are also tiles on the roof to replace after the recent weather, logs to cut for mushrooms, firewood to chop and stack for next year, and so much more. It is a lot of work for one man and his klutzy laid-up woman. In my city girl imagination of what a farm is, somehow the bucolic setting rarely showed the hard work that goes into it. This is not Tara and I do not own a hoop skirt.

But Fiddle dee dee, we have turkeys and more on the way! I just ordered 15 Royal Palm Turkeys to go with the flock. I think they are pretty and they “fit” my idea of a farm just right. Hey, a city girl’s gotta do what a city girl does.  Besides, I’m still pushing for the arrival of Arnold.

Arnold the Pig from the television show "Green Acres," photo courtesy

About cattlebaroness

I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History, nearing completion of a Master of Arts in American history. Born and raised first on military bases around the world, then in Orange County, CA, I moved to Kentucky when my children were small. I now live on a small family farm and am learning about farm life, planting and our newest addition to the landscape--cattle. Until a month or two ago, all I knew about 'cows' were that they came in brown, black and white and that some are raised for milk and others for meat. I am a quick study out of necessity.
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