Farm Catch Up

The hens and turkeys have been moved out to the coop!  Hooray!  We were only able to leave for 48 hour increments for a few months while they were in the brooder so this feels like freedom to me.  Our flock is tremendously beautiful and diverse.  Our turkeys, too, are beautiful birds.  I never thought I would say this, but I really love those turks.  I’m a turkey girl!  They’re kinda chill but also sort of zealous.  It’s the strangest thing and difficult to describe.  If you’ve raised turkeys you know just what I mean.  We bought three meat birds from our local ranch supply because we didn’t want to order 15 birds from afar, 15 seemed like too many but what we were really after was a mixed bag of heritage turkeys.  Did you know that white and bronze turkeys (your run of the mill meat birds) have been so selectively bred that they cannot reproduce without the aid of artificial insemination and at about a year old, their legs actually give out?  They are not physically equipped to hold themselves aloft!  It’s just the saddest thing.  They have been so tampered with they’re ill equipped for life.  Anyway, Robbie found a local heritage turkey breeder in the Boise area and we managed to score 7 more turkeys for our flock and they are all hybrid heritage breeds.  YES!  I can’t wait to see their adult plumage.  We’ll hold our heritage turks over so they can lay, hatch and rear their own broods in the spring.  All of this is to say, I think it’s great to buy (if you can) a locally raised, organic, heritage, free range turkey for your holiday  meals, additionally, those birds are most likely raised by your local ranchers and famers and since we’re on our way to being a small, niche market farm, I will say thank you in advance for knowing your farmers and supporting your farmers.

Check with your local butcher shop and order up a beautiful turkey when the holiday seasons roll around.  I think they taste better, too.  Whether it’s my soul telling me so or my tastebuds…I’ll never know.

Our place continues to be an amazing oasis for every living critter you can imagine.  But the bird variety, well it takes the cake!  I suspended a pair of hummingbird feeders in front of the studio windows and I feel my friends keep me company all day long while I work or tinker.  You can’t even imagine what I see on a daily basis.  I love to work and create at my benches but more often than not, I feel mildly tortured by the view of the outside world.  I want to be out there all the time, walking, running, hiking, rafting, fishing, exploring.  I want to be nestled by the river edge with the wind in my hair and the scent of wild rose all around me.  But while I work, if I look up and catch a glimpse of a oriole or hummingbird or hear the doves sighing from the pine trees or the yellow-winged blackbirds in the weeping willow at the trout pond…I know I can make one more solder, one more hammer strike.  These small sensory things sustain me as I work and what a gift it is to be able to explore and find treasures in my own yard, or out in the hayfields.  I love it here.  This land of ours gives me so much, every single day.

On a side note, last night while I was running, Tater Tot was sprayed a few times by a skunk.  I could smell him downwind by a quarter mile.  I recalled him to my side and we kept moving together across the landscape.  I suddenly saw the skunk that sprayed him in the distance.  As we gained on her, I noticed her gait looked a little strange.  She was loping down the path ahead of us and suddenly she turned to the side and I could see that she was carrying her skunk-pup in her mouth as she ran.  She was ferocious.  When she saw us at her six, she wheeled around and galloped at us with hellfire in her eyes!  I screamed and hollered at Tater Tot to heel and we booked it out of there.  She chased us for twenty feet before she dove with her baby into a thick clump of sagebrush.  It was magical and darnit that baby stinker was cute!  From now on, when ladies talk about how they are a mama bear regarding the safety of their children, I am going to correct them and let them know they are more like mama skunks.

The kittens continue to be my everliving joy.  I love them so.  I am currently transitioning them into the outdoors.  They are nine weeks old and they lived those first nine weeks of their lives in my studio which is where they were born!  They’re my sweeties.  But the time has come for them to sow their oats and learn to hunt and be in the bigger world.  I’ve shifted them out of the studio and into the garage.  From there, a few days hence, they’ll be moved outdoors full time.  One kitten (the one with the tail) is headed to a fire family in the McCall area and I will keep the two manx kittens — Sausage Patti and Pilgrim.  They’re something else!

Sugar Baby has started bringing home vole kills and mouse kills for the kittens to check out.  She plays with her kills so they can see how to bat, snatch, catch and dispatch a critter and she also teaches them some etiquette…she growls if they come to close to her while she is handling a kill though it’s all for show.  The lesson she is trying to teach is that they can’t approach and take another cat’s kill.  Her teachings are obvious to me and I continue to be fascinated with her mothering skills.  She’s been entirely remarkable.  I’m thankful these kittens have been living so close to us, it’s been tremendous to watch our critters do their thing.

Robbie was home for the weekend and he took an extra two days off because he is headed for the smokejumper satellite base in Silver City, New Mexico!  YEE HAW!  We’ve wanted this detail for years and I’m thrilled he is headed there this year.  He’ll be in that great state we love so well until the monsoons come (probably the end of July) and I hope to travel down and stay with him for a while.  This is all to say we had to do some serious mega work at the farm this week — I’m talking sun up to sun down sweaty, grubby hard work.  We took our first cut of hay on Sunday and the swaths look gorgeous.  In some parts of the fields the hay was as tall as my chin.  It’s glorious to see it all down, smelling sweetly and drying in the sunshine.  We also hired a local boy to be our farm boy — this is answer to prayer for me.  He’ll help us with all the irrigation and cutting schedule this summer as well as checking on livestock when I am away.  I cannot even begin to tell you what a relief it is for me to have his help in Robbie’s absence.  Every time I think about it I feel a tsunami of peace.  We also finally planted the garden over the weekend and we put in a beautiful, classy irrigation system, like we always do…well, like Robert always does.  He’s an irrigation genius.

We were talking last night about how we’ve been married for 13 years and no matter where we have lived — Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Washington — we have never missed a single summer season of gardening.  We’re passionate about it and we’re good at it.  When we lived in the low desert of Arizona, we had two gardens a year, a winter garden and a summer garden.  It’s one of the things that makes a place feel like home to us.  At any rate, the garden space we are using is a total reclamation project.  It hasn’t been tended to for years.  It had a mature elm tree growing in the middle of it (Robbie cut it down).  It also had a gorgeous lasagna of straw, sheep poop, chicken crap, grass clippings and compost so it’s pretty beautiful, rich soil.  Black gold, as some say.  That said, getting that space planted was a full on war with rogue root systems, crab grasses, wavering pitchforks and generally low electrolytes for the human consortium but we got the darn thing planted.  Alleluia.

I always feel lucky that I grew up under the wing of a mom who is a gardener.  She always planted and tended a garden wherever we lived and I know that part of why I grow things is because she led me in this direction by example, as her mom (my grandmother) led her.  Growing things connects me to all my mothers who came before me.  When my mom puts a plant in the ground, she pats the dirt around it and says, “God bless it.”  I think there’s some kind of honest, beautiful magic in that so I do it too.

God bless it all.  And may every root travel deep.


  1. There just isn’t anything cuter than kitten pictures is there? Your farm sounds like a beautiful dream. Can’t wait to hear about it more.

    • I know! Sorry it took me so long to get some posted on the blog for you guys. 🙂 They’re really difficult to photograph. They’re in full-throttle scamper mode these days.

  2. So, so happy for you and Rob to be living your dream! And what a beautiful dream it is! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Oh, Jillian, and thanks for that information about turkeys – how disheartening. I’ve always preferred to buy farm raised, organic turkeys, for ethical and taste reasons, but I never knew this horrible part of a mass produced turkey’s life. XX

    • Sadly, it’s not just turkeys, it’s the poultry industry in general. Chickens and turkeys are now bred to get as big as possible as fast as possible. My neighbor told me she picked up a dozen meat chicken chicks from the ranch supply a few summers ago and their legs gave out after a few months. They couldn’t even really free range because they could barely walk!

  3. Thank you for all the farm details! I’m dreaming out the details of my someday farm… I remember reading that about turkeys in Animal Vegetable Miracle (that book was a real inspiration to me) and found it simultaneously fascinating and heartbreaking.

    Love love the photos – maybe I’m just particular to kittens and gardens!

  4. Love this, hey. There’s something so organic about your posts, living with the land and the critters. Love it x

  5. Chris Moore says:

    This is the best post in a long time. Love this, esp the cat pics. So great!

  6. God bless it all. Alleluia. [i’m certain that’s what you are screaming out in that last photo. xx]

  7. J, the last image of this magnificent feast is my favorite… and the Joyful Noise that you make, I just totally love ya** ~B

  8. Is there anything cuter than kitten photos?! nope. Blessings on your land and soil- summer is here!

  9. Wonderful post. I’ve been following you for a while now, and want to tell you that although I don’t eat meat, the respect, love and honor that you show the living creatures that nourish you and your husband, is so beautiful. The way it should be. You have actually shown me that humans can hunt (in these times) and do so with love for the animals and respect for what they are giving to us. And farming in an honest way, with traditions held from the past, and pure joy in the process. Thank you for sharing your journey through life. It is indeed, inspiring.

    ~ann marie

  10. Amber LaTocha says:

    Where about in Alaska were you when you lived there?
    I’m happy to see the farm is thriving, growing and learning. There’s nothing better than providing for yourself and family. And all those kittens…….the best

    • We lived at Milepost 105 on the New Richardson but we were working for a rafting company that ran trips out of McCarthy — the Copper River to the ocean! We loved it. Our little one room cabin had a spectacular view of the Wrangells. We spent the first year of our married life there and sometimes I think we should have never left.

  11. God bless you. You are my spirit animal.

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