Tag Archives: farming

A Slice of Farm Life

Tom Turkey

A little slice of farm life: we have two royal palm male turkeys that are at least five years old. They are semi-feral, venturing far afield and foraging for themselves but always returning to their roost on our back yard fence each night. They are brothers and they act like it: some days, they spend the whole day fighting. Other days, they just hang out: resting, eating, gobbling at sirens together.

One recent morning, however, we only found one turkey wandering around and a whole lot of turkey feathers strewn across the driveway. Something, it seemed, had taken our turkey. His buddy gobbled for him all that day but we never heard an answer. Night came and the lone boy roosted in the usual spot. I felt sorry for him: they do like companionship so I contacted a local friend to see if someone might be interested in adopting. He would be happy just hanging out with a  flock of chickens.

The afternoon of the next day my husband got a call from our neighbor Charlie. Think country neighbor here: they live across the cotton field from us, probably a quarter of a mile or more by road. Right now, we can’t see their house at all because the cotton is so high.

Low and behold, our turkey was hanging out in his back yard. My husband took a drive over but wasn’t able to catch him. “He didn’t want to be caught,” he reported. He did confirm that the bird seemed fine, missing some feathers, but walking and gobbling and eating. Charlie said he thought he had heard the brother calling, but it would have been a long way for this guy to get back through the cotton. I think they both had just given up and were resigned to their lives as lone birds.

We went back at dusk to see where he was roosting. He had chosen a trailer in the back yard but jumped down the minute we approached and wandered towards the woods. We really didn’t want him to roost in a tree so we backed off, returning after dark. He was back on the trailer, and we were able to grab him and get him into the back of the pickup truck. Once home, it took some coaxing to get him out of the truck but once out, he quickly found his way to the roost. They have been back to their usual behavior for the past two days.

We have a bit of a mystery as to what might have attacked him and scared him enough to run that far. (They really don’t fly for any distance but maybe in a panic, he was able to lift himself in the air.) Sussex County does have coyotes, but we have seen no evidence like scat.  Our security cameras did not seem to pick up any unusual activity. It is a reminder about how close we live to the natural world here on the farm, with patches of actual wilderness, or at least what passes for it here in the suburban southeast Virginia corridor.

Farming for the Future

The public broadcasting show, Growing a Greener World, had an episode related to farming education this morning. They profiled a Farm School in New England where learners go for a year to learn all aspects of farming. It sounds tempting.

We have been very much learning on the job with help from books, the Internet and our local extension agent. We have informally partnered with a local man who worked with the former owner of our house. He helps out with our crops and uses some of the garden to plant his own. He has lots of knowledge about what to plant when and takes the vegetables up to road to the more urban areas to sell.

The idea of opening our farm to students is very appealing. It would be nice to work with local students who might want to use farming as a way to stay in an area where jobs are scarce. One of the powerful messages from the director of the Farm School was that it is now possible to make a living as a small local farmer. But there is a lot to learn about from running a business to growing crops to fixing the plumbing. Lots of opportunities to make practical applications of classroom learning including science and math along with business and marketing skills. Technology would be used in appropriate ways from bookkeeping to crop tracking to website development.

Is it possible that growing and selling food could really be coming back as an area of job development?  I was reminded of a segment I had seen about Braddock, Pennsylvania, a former manufacturing town trying to survive into the 21st century. They have a small scale urban organic farm as part of their revitalization plans. This video is worth a look to see how people are solving problems in creative, roll-up-your sleeves kinds of ways that don’t rely on government:

Watch A Town Revitalized? on PBS. See more from NOW on PBS.