Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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If you've ever been to the farm, you've seen the (really) free range critters here. The front yard is usually graced by a combination of chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, kitties and a pair of peafowl. We like letting them run loose, as long as they stay on the farm. The poultry do a great job of eliminating insects from the yard and garden if given a chance! We pen things up when they get too comfortable playing in the road, or when we have issues with predators.
Most of our peafowl are in a pen with a net roof, as they are good fliers. This shocked me at first, with those long tails, but it's true! However, when we hatch peachicks, we keep them with other baby poultry, like turkeys, because they are similar in size and eat the same things, and the less pens that need checked, fed, and cleaned, the lighter our workload will be. So, we have two males that have lived all their lives with our turkeys, and generally wander the farm and sleep high in the pine trees at night. But, they do have an adventurous side! The have been spotted all over our neighborhood, and although the neighbors seem to get a kick out of their antics, Dan and I have thought that we should pen them up for some time. This became more urgent this spring, when "the boys" took off and would be seen hanging out with wild turkeys, but somehow, we just never got around to it. Then, they stopped coming home. This worried us, because there are plenty of coyotes, dogs and cars around, not to mention the possibility that someone would shoot them just for sport.
We heard occasional reports of them being sighted on Muzette road, miles from the farm. Mostly, we always seemed to be away when the phone call would come, but last weekend I wasn't. So, after getting an approximate location (nothing says country living like directions "they're out by the new gas well on Muzette"...and knowing where that is!) I headed out, armed with my peacock hunting equipment. This consisted of a bucket of chicken food (aka bait), a fishing net on a long pole, and some feed sacks to transport them home in the car. I realized that, as I was driving slowly looking in the woods, if an officer was behind me I'd probably be taken in to the mental hospital when I replied that I wasn't looking at the road because I was peacock hunting! But the only critter I spotted was a porcupine, so I came home empty-handed. Amazingly enough, the very next night, as some friends were heading out to their car after a visit, they called up to the house that I had peacocks loose & walking down the road. Sure enough, the lost boys had returned! I imagine they took to the woods looking for ladies, and when they didn't find any of their own species, they came home. They stayed in the yard for the next few days, and then, at chore time, I saw they had entered the chicken coop. I excitedly shut the door the chickens use to access the run, and captured the wanderers.
While I love looking out my window and seeing a peacock, in all its brilliantly colored glory, strutting in the front yard or perching on the porch railing, I can't in good conscience set them back loose. I can't put them in the main pen. There are already 4 males, and I'm sure putting two more in without enlarging the enclosure would just lead to fights. Plus, we hatched these two here, so putting them back in to breed with the mothers isn't the greatest idea either. So reluctantly, we've decided to sell them. I can't imagine splitting them up, so I'm only offering them as a pair. They don't have the full, impressive tail yet, as peacocks take a full 3 years to mature, and the boys are only 2, but they are still beautiful. they would also need to go to a home with an enclosed pen, but they do play well with chickens and turkeys. We are asking $150 for both, and if you're interested, please leave a comment or send us an email!
The boys left for their new home today. As sad as I was to see them go, they are going to live with a lovely family, who up until this point, has 2 peahens (female peacocks) but no boys. It's wonderful the way things work out sometimes!!
Posted by Emily
@ 03:46 PM EDT
About a week ago, I got a tough phone call. My college roommate's father called to pass along the sad news that my friend Gabi had passed away. Though deeply saddened, it didn't come as a surprise. It also has led me to some soul-searching thoughts as I think about my friend, dead at just 34. Her father asked me if I ever thought I'd go back to social work, as Gabi and I went through the Master's of Social Work program together at Pitt. Although I spent quite a bit of time & energy attaining that degree, my reply was no. I really feel that what I do here on the farm is what I was put here on Earth to do, and that I am blessed to have found something that I love and that makes me happy, but is meaningful. I think that's why I went into social work, because I wanted to do something meaningful for others, but I found it was not what made me happy. Farming is bigger than yourself; it is life and death. Beauty and heartache. Though my heart was heavy, I still had chores to do, animals who depend on me to feed and care for them. I had baby chicks to pull out of the incubator, their tiny lives just starting. There is a special kind of peace you get inside when you find what you're meant to do, the place in life you were meant to be...it's the answering of a calling. And it makes me sad that my friend never found the place that she was always supposed to be, because I think if she had, she might still be with us today.
My siblings called to offer condolences, and we talked about happier times, shared memories. My sister Laurel made my day by buying flowers and putting them by the house Gabi & I shared in college. As I looked at the photos Laurel sent, I cried a little, laughed a little. There, in the background, was the weedy patch of gravelly dirt you'd expect on a city street known more for keg parties than local food. But, oddly enough, it was the site of my first garden. While we had flowers planted around my family home, my parents gave up gardening when I was very small, so I don't remember tending anything but flowers. Gabi always had a garden, and missed it, so the two of us got a couple of tomato and cucumber plants and plopped them right in our little yard. I added some marigolds and mint I dug up from my Dad's property. Our plants grew, the soil was so bad the weeding was minimal, and when the tomatoes needed staking, we found some old white metal curtain rods in the basement. We put them in the dirt and tied up the tomatoes with baler twine I brought from home. We laughed at our little "ghetto garden", but we had fresh veggies for our salads that summer!
So to honor Gabi's memory, and that first little garden...I'd like to "pay it forward", to you. Send me an email (send to pleasantvalleyfarmpa at yahoo dot com) and I will send you a packet of seeds, for free. I'll need your address, and I'd like you to share something with me. Let me know if you're an expert gardener, or if this spring is your first try. Or why you garden, or where you find your peace. Share a homesteading dream. Anything at all, really...let's just make it a little more personal than a blank email with your address, OK? I'll send out seeds until I run out of packets I can part with.
It's my hope that these seeds will arrive like a special present in the mail, and you will plant them, watch them grow, and reap the benefits. Gabi shared the magic of gardening with me, and I would like to pass it to some new friends as a way to honor her memory and her kind heart. I think she'd like this idea.
I hope you smile like this when you get them.
Posted by Emily
@ 01:09 PM EDT
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It's spring! So much is going on! Babies are here...we've got calves, lambs, and chicks, with lots more chicks to come, as well as turkey poults. The garden is plowed, but there is much work to be done to get it ready for planting, and we're also looking to plow more and put in some field corn for next winter's animal feed. I'm tending tiny tomato seedlings, with plenty more sprouts to start, and we've planted salad greens and spring onions in the greenhouse, and the garlic, oregano, chives and other perennial herbs are green and growing. The pasture & hay fields are finally turning green, especially with the thunderstorms we've had recently.
But here in Northwest Pennsylvania, spring swings from glorious to snowy and back again more than once, so it's good to have plenty of indoor projects when it's too wet or cold to get much done outside. While I never lack things to do, I'm really excited to have gotten a major project done in the past week, before the weather turns nice for good and my inside time dwindles.
A few weeks ago, we were finally able to upgrade to a high speed internet connection. Before that, I had been doing all my blogging, website maintenance, everything, via a dial-up connection. High speed capability finally came down our road, and so I've been using the last indoor days to do quite a bit of work online. It's so much easier now! While we have had a small online store for a year or so now, I haven't been happy with it. I used Etsy as a host, and truthfully, I think people go there more to look for ideas than to shop, but at the time seemed like a good choice. I decided it was time, however, to move on, and have been working really hard the past week or so to open shop on our own website!
I am so very excited to announce our all-new, virtual farm stand is now open for business! We now offer some of our wonderful canned goods, as well as my handmade jewelry (some featuring feathers from our own peacocks) and the stained glass items I've been making recently, like suncatchers and candle holders. But I'm most excited about listing some of Dan's hand-forged metal work he does in the blacksmith shop. I've been trying to convince him that his things are wonderful for a couple years now, but up to this point he always thought that he wasn't good enough to be selling his work. I'm excited that he has sold a few things, and we now have listed things like gate latches & door handles, a cowboy-style dinner bell, and a beautiful wall-mounted pot rack, with more items to come as he makes them, and we'll also be featuring his work at the farm stand when we reopen.
We hope you'll take a look around our all-new store, at http://pleasantvalleyfarm.weebly.com/shop-online.html. Payment is safe & secure through PayPal. And please feel free to give us your feedback on the look & setup of the site, or things you'd like to see there!
Posted by Emily
@ 11:30 AM EDT