Fall at Baldwin Acres (and what we’ve learned)

Anyone who follows this blog might think from the title that I meant I physically fell again…but nope…talking about the season this time!

Didn’t the end of summer came too quickly? While I was able to put up a few pints of tomato sauce (which look like tomato soup, but taste like tomato sauce) I didn’t get half of the canning done that I did last year. Most of the pear and plum harvests went to just eating and then to live stock. As did most of the apples. I did manage to bake a couple pastries and cookies but no jam, or apple pie fillings or pear slices like last year.

Harvest pasteries

Harvest pastries

One of the biggest stories of our summer was the return of Pork 1 (now named Ollie) who had gone missing the day after we got her. Her story is elsewhere on this blog, but suffice to say, she’s back and happy with her siblings.

the swine of Baldwin Acres

the swine of Baldwin Acres

the majority of our raised beds are  harvested. The fall garden is sparse. We were able to gather enough Scotch Bonnet, Habanera, and Jalapeño peppers to take to two local fire departments for their kitchens. We used our spaghetti squash on a family getaway, and we have a few big pumpkins and small squash  for October. The volunteer tomatillos came back but I’ve yet to figure out what to do with them. This year we’re also trying our hand at saving seeds. Did you know that you cannot save just any seeds? Well, you can, but unless they are open pollinating and non-hybrid seeds they won’t grow. (Lesson learned!)

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Lessons…. we are continually learning something…animal husbandry, pasture management, and growing our own grains are just some of them. If we are not learning something, then we’re planning. For example, the garden has done much better this year so next year we will expand it. I’d like to utilize better the fruits from the orchard and the eggs from the chickens. It’s good that we didn’t waste any but I still would like to have some in the pantry.

Lance was able to get another tractor at an auction. This one has a back hoe and a shovel. It will be great help and alleviate some of the physical work he tackles on his own. I do help, but honestly, I’m not much help. He fenced our property, built the barn, and the livestock shelters pretty much on his own. Not to mention the gorgeous gazebo over the hot tub. (Life on the homestead is good).

Our venture with turkey’s showed us to do better research. We initially wanted an heirloom breed like we’ve done with our Kune-Kune/AGH pigs, our Jacob sheep and our goats. But, the local store had only BBW’s (Broad Breasted Whites). So we bought them. BBW’s have been so overly genetically mutated for their breast meat they cannot naturally breed. (In more ways than one we have managed to ruin God’s once perfect creatures). They are beautiful, but because they will suffer when their hearts rupture or their lungs collapse, their life span is short.

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The first photo shows the Breasted white turkeys. The second shows the heirloom breed Royal Palms, drinking from the livestock water. All the animals seem to think the other animals have better water. Maybe they have fizzy water, or an energy shot? The livestock constantly tried to get in the turkey pen to drink their water, and when the turkeys come down to the lower pasture, they drink heavily from the livestock tank. None of them can get into the pig pen but when we fill the pool or their water dish, there is a gathering at the pig fence. You can almost see the drool.

We have tasted one turkey. Turns out turkeys aren’t very smart. We had just loaded a ton of hay up in the barn and I was driving the truck through the pastures while Lance walked ahead and opened and closed gates and kept animals where they belonged. When I momentarily parked, one of the turkeys sat under the trailer and when I pulled forward, I ran over her.

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We had read that when you eat homegrown anything, it will taste like a foreign food, but our turkey tasted like turkey. Maybe if we had a regular antibiotic hormone riddled turkey right by our homegrown girl we would taste the difference, but she tasted like turkey.

On the list for fall farm chores: trimming livestock hooves, vaccinating the barn cats, deworming livestock, and filling in the pasture that gets flooded in the winter. I will plant garlic and oats for our winter crops and start planning for spring.

I like the seasonal changes in the homestead. Each one has both a beginning and an end, life and death. I am so happy the Lord set us up here. Life is challenging, but always good

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New critters at Baldwin Acres. First, meet our Mountain Beavers.

As our weather turns a bit warmer and a little more dry, we delight in spending more time outside. In addition to the farm chores – which, by the way are much more enjoyable doing dry than to tackle them while rain soaked, we also opened the pool, turned up the heater and had our first swim. The pool area bumps up against a piece of our property that is forested. On this particular day, the Man said he saw something furry scurry from the under brush. We had noticed the rabbits have returned, so we initially agreed that he probably did see something furry and it was, no doubt, a rabbit. Then, the little critter scampered out again. He was no bunny.

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At first, we couldn’t figure out what the critter was. Not a bunny? No. A wild guinea pig? Is there such a thing? He certainly wasn’t a mole, or a groundhog. I grabbed my camera and took a few steps to the field where he gathered the weeds and waited for him to come.

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He or she, would race out and never stopping tug mouthfuls of weeds before running back into the brush. They don’t have pocket cheeks like chipmunks do, so they simply carry as much as they can and head back to the burrow. The burrows are incredible. They are so profuse they fell young trees because of root system disturbance. They can fell people too.When our little pig Pork escaped into the brush, we went searching for her. She was in the thick of the wild blackberries. As we walked on a patchy path, trying to see her little all black body in the shadows, my right leg sunk up to my knee into a hole. Startled, I ‘umphed’ and my son, who had been in front of me, turned and helped me out. The only thing that stopped me from going further was not that my foot touched the bottom, but that my leg got thicker than
the hole! Those tunnels go deep.

Although research tells me that the Mountain Beaver is as elusive as Jack-a-lopes, Bigfoot and Snipes, ours were not afraid of us at all. They took turns gathering weeds and taking them back to their tunnels. I moved positions several times and each time, they took no mind.

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The Mountain Beaver is thought to be one of the most primitive rodents. So primitive they are the only ones from their species – Aplodontia rufa. They only have two to four young when they breed. And, of course, they aren’t beavers, and we don’t live in the mountains, but they do gnaw tree roots, bark etc. thus they’re named after Canada’s national animal. They are only found around the coast of Southern British Columbia, through Washington, Oregon into California.

We won’t be doing much with these guys. They won’t need their hooves trimmed, or their fur combed for fleas – although, interesting fact, the largest flea in the world, Hystrichopsylla schefferi, at 1/4 of inch resides only on the little guys. Our pasture is in sad repair some (because we had no idea what we were doing and now, a year into the venture, we know a bit more), so we’re happy to let them feast away on the banquet of weeds

“And, God said, ” Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds-livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And, it was so. And, God mad the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1 ESV

We do have a few new ‘real’ farm critters to introduce. Bob, our beautiful Nubian buckling, Pork (2) and Beans our Kune Kune/American Guinea Hog pigs, 6 white Broad Breasted turkeys, 5 Royal Palm Heritage Turkeys, and Mic and Mac two adorable kittens who will be our mousers. Oh, we also have Roo. He’s a beautiful colorful rooster, but seems, perhaps, he doesn’t know what to do. Until next time….enjoy life, don’t let the turkeys get you down.