January 12, 2006

If you actually read this site often and are wondering how you missed the December entry– you didn’t. We have been so busy that I never completed the draft until now. During the end of the year, we perform in vocal concerts. I sing soprano and Ken sings bass; we participate in a chorus/orchestra that plays Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on New Year’s Eve and Day. This year the program also included Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, in which I had a small solo part. That is utterly non-farmer activity, but everyone needs some culture now and then.

Right after all that was over, we drove to Oregon for a visit with a dear friend. Aaaaaand, to pick up our new turkeys in the very small town of Gold Hill. We bought two breedng pairs of Beltsville Miniature White turkeys. For non-turkey folks, the magnitude of this acquisition is hard to explain. These turkeys were the product of the carefully selected breeding of many existing varieties, in the 1930’s. They were, in effect, "manufactured" the good old fashioned way (no biotechnology!) for the purpose of providing a turkey that could be marketed for people wanting a meaty, small turkey meal. Then the broad breasted white (BBW) was developed (you know, Butterballs at Safeway) and mass-produced, rendering these birds pointless, except that they had become a distinct breed with their own entry into the books that discuss such things. Now, they are rarer than an honest politician. As in, there are fewer than 500 breeding pairs of these birds in the ENTIRE COUNTRY; some references put the number closer to 250 pairs. Our birds are the bona-fide laboratory strain from the research facility at Ames, Iowa. It will be an honor to conserve and care for them, and hopefully place many of them into the hands of other breeders.

Our Delaware chickens have grown big, and will become larger yet. One particularly large hen with a bright red comb began crowing yesterday morning, which explained all sorts of things. Our unexpected rooster will be joined by a second rooster from another ranch. These birds at full size will make a good dinner, they are big-bodied and weigh quite a bit. We will allow them to breed to some quantity in the spring, and as they grow up we will manage them for meat and eggs.

We have almost finished placing the annual orders. It was almost the least expensive year ever, until we decided to infill our orchard. We are buying 3 more nectarines, 2 more peaches (it would have been 4 but we lost out on two varieities we wanted) 3 apples, 3 chestnuts, a pear, and 2 pawpaws. We have had rather a bad time in the apple and pear department, and we may have discovered why. We’ve been planting into holes occupied a long time ago by almonds. Most, but not all, of the old roots are out of the holes. Apparently this rootstock can be toxic to other plants…..isn’t that special. So this time around, we dig in other places. This weekend we will be unspeakably busy trying to get ready for bareroot trees. It’s about 4 weeks until the almonds bloom, and the whole wonderful cycle begins anew.

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