Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Manor is full of life this time of the year. Everything is greening up and blooming. And one of the most spectacular sights here is the beautiful Spanish Black Heritage Breed Turkey.
This big boy is the King of the hill around here. His name is Jr.
And I don't turn my back on him, as he likes to catch you without an eye on him, and he will put all his weight into a rear assault. 25 pounds of turkey plowing into your back with both feet is a wake up call for sure! Strangely enough, he is not aggressive in any way to my wife or my daughter...hmmmm. Must be a macho male thing he is trying to prove.
Otherwise, he is as gentle as a dove; as long as he knows you are looking directly at him.
Aside from his overtly protective attitude, he is an excellent breeder; something that heritage breeds still have as a distinct advantage. Most turkey's raised for meat today are of the broad-breasted type and are so huge, they cannot reproduce naturally. They have to be artificially inseminated in order to reproduce.
(Does this seem like a problem? Am I the only one who thinks so? Something is not natural with that picture!)
The American Poultry Association doesn't even recognize the Broad Breasted Franken-Turkey as a breed, but defines them as a "non-standardized commercial strain that do not qualify as a variety."
Hmmm, It can't breed on its own, it is not a variety, yet it is the only one you can buy at the grocery store at Thanksgiving??? Sounds scary, but hey, you can eat what you want. I will stick with something natural.
So what is a Heritage breed? Simply put, Heritage breeds are the breeds of farm animals that existed before large farm operations started raising animals for bulk and quantity production. These Heritage types were created by farmers who crossed various breeds and got a hardy, healthy animal that could reproduce after its own kind. Most Heritage breeds are considered on the "critical list" or the "watch" list for endangered farm species. According to an article published by Sustainable Table, "Within the past 15 years, 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide, and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct." This is one of the reasons why it was important to us to raise a heritage breed.
Large industrial farming that focuses on volume realized that by manipulating the animal further than natural breeding practices would produce an animal that would produce an amazing amount of eggs, milk or meat. The trade off was that often that animal would be subject to various inherent problems such as an inability to breed naturally, or would become subject to disease. Many would have to undergo heavy hormone treatments to jump start their growth. Genetically Modified anything is still open to many questions, so I just avoid it completely.
So why the Spanish Black? The Black Spanish is one of the oldest turkey breeds recorded. They were recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874. The breed was popularized in Spain, where it was so named. They have a calm temperament (HA! They have not met Jr.) and great reproducing abilities. They are a stunning bird with black shiny feathers that turn an iridescent green in the sun. They are also noted as one of the tastiest breeds, with juicy, self-basting meat and great flavor.
Honestly, my other Spanish Blacks are quiet gentle. In fact, Tig, our smaller Spanish Black insists on being rubbed, petted, and loved on every time someone is outside! We are taking him to a petting zoo for the weekend in May because of his docile spirit.
If you are ever in the area, give us a call and stop by and meet our Spanish Blacks, buy some turkey eggs and try your hand at "turkey herding!" You will find the Spanish Black to be a rewarding, enjoyable breed.
Check out the Turkey Slide show.
Close Pruning encourages new growth
As Spring arrives, so do the blooms and buds. It is beautiful at Parson's manor this time of year. The contrast of the still brown turf with the vibrant variety of blooms and buds on trees and bushes alike is in stark contrast to the dull gray of winter, that hopefully, has gone to rest for several months!
The pruning for the year being done a couple of months ago is now giving way to new growth. The thought of hurting the plant and injuring it to the point of death always haunts me when I take up the shears. But experience and lots of advice from superior gardeners has shown we are doing the plants a favor. It seems that a close, careful pruning rewards one with an exciting burst of new growth. The Gala Apple tree in the upper left is showing promising signs of growth that encourages me to believe I pruned it correctly this year. Time will tell, as we labor to shape the trees into forms that will allow the most sunlight to the middle and air flow around the branches. This aids in a reduction of disease and insects that might take advantage of dense foliage, and limbs that would cross or rub one another.
Each type of tree needs a different approach in pruning, as some will be cup shaped, others will spread with the tops truncated and still others will thrive with a round, umbrella shape. Martha Stewart has a stand of apple trees that have 4 main limbs on each tree, that have been forced to grow along wire leaders situated between posts, looking a lot like a vineyard. While it is ascetically pleasing to gaze upon, it does nothing for increased fruit production, but if one has the room, it seems pruning approaches are limited only by ones imagination.
The clump of blooms on the pear tree below will have to be pinched back, or have the small early fruit picked off due to the density of the flowering. This is common at a fresh cut early in the season, prompting quick, thick growth that the tree can't easily sustain.
What ever the tree or bush you are working with, remember that pruning is helping, not hurting. Remember the words of Jesus, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)"
Kiwi Arbor with Mrs. White, our resident lady Turkey roosting on the bench seat.
One of the exciting signs of Spring are the first leaves on the Kiwi plants. Even when there is still a bit of nip in the morning air, the Arctic Kiwi plant (also known as the Hardy Kiwi or Kiwi berry) heralds the start of warmer weather. This relative to the Fuzzy Kiwi produces upwards of 60 lbs of fruit per vine, making it a great addition to any home. (A nursery in Colbert County Alabama boasted of 100 lbs of fruit per vine) It works well in zone 7 where we are located. Withstanding heavy pruning each season, these vines can grow upwards of 20 ft. in a season. While the fruit is only the size of a large grape, it can be eaten whole, without the trouble of peeling like the fuzzy variety.
It is also much sweeter than its fuzzy cousin, making it great for jams or jellies. If you have tried any recipes with the Hardy Kiwi, we would love to share them with others. Just post them in the comments section and they will go onto our Kitchen page. Thanks! Happy Harvesting!
A self-styled agrarian wanna-be, enjoying the goodness of the Lord.