Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Aurora's Daughter, Second Generation of Mother Hens

With patience I have waited,  one of our young girls is going to go broody.  I was hoping it would be one of Aurora's girls, as they have an attitude like their mom.  I was so smart to hatch 2 of her eggs in the incubator last spring.  There was never a broody hen on the farm last year, until very late in the summer and I refuse to have fall baby chicks, late summer is too hot for the hen to be stuck on the nest and when it is fall I may need to bring the chicks inside to keep them warm.

Wednesday morning, I found her, setting on 4 eggs, butt stuck in the corner and I told Mr. Bootsie, "We have a broody."  I went on doing my morning chores, and I saw him moving quickly to finish his chores.  By the time I came back to the coop, the brooder box had fresh hay on the floor, the waterer was filled with fresh water.  I was shocked to find things coming together without my having to do anything.  Are you going to move her now?  No, I will wait until tonight.  She should settle in better.

Now I must confess the four chicks we have from last year have not been named.  There were 2 of Aurora's girls and 2 of Blanches' girls which are cross breed to lay green eggs.  For some reason I just could never come up with a name that fit better than little black hens and red hens.  Maybe that will change this spring/summer.

When it was time to bed down the girls, I chose the eggs I wanted to put under my girl.  Every egg I have is crossbred at this time.  I like cross breeds, I think for layers they make a kinder, more gentle bird.  I choose 2 of my Eva's and 2 of the little red hen's eggs.  I would let her keep 2 of the 4 she had under her and maybe the adjustment will not be as much of shock for her.  With Mr. Bootsie close on my coat tail I made my way to the coop.  Put in the feeder and placed the 4 eggs in the nest.  Next it was time to go and get my girl.  Well, I was pleased she put up no fight, I was able to pick her up without any squawk or fuss.  She settle into my body as I carried her to her new home for 21 days.  I had picked up 2 eggs from her nest, they were placed in the nest for a total of 6 eggs, I set her on top of the eggs.  In the background I could hear someone saying, "Too easy."

Time for me to feed and get everyone to bed.  Things were going well, the goats had been out free ranging and they were ready to bed down after having their grain.  The girls were ready to come inside and decide where they would be roosting tonight.  The ducks were way down on the creek so I went to get them and direct them home.  After bringing in the ducks, it was time to count my girls and be sure all had come in.  Eleven and one in the brooder, well, at this time she was walking around the brooder having a discussion with the wire covering the brooder.  The brooder is covered with 1/2 inch hardware  cloth so black snakes can't get to her.  This is everything I can do to protect my girls while they are setting on eggs.

Thursday morning she had settled down some but later in the day, I found her setting in a nest she had made looking as happy and proud as her mom was when she was setting on eggs.  Thursday night when I went to feed she became chatty with me.  Now I do not talk chicken but I know she is pleased with herself.  Mr. Bootsie came in the coop and she chatted with him, as her food bowl was filled, she came over to see what we had bought her for supper.

My mind is telling me, we shall have a hatching of chickens. 3 weeks  from May 20 or there about.  My next obligation to this new family is a bag of chick-starter.  I will add this to my feed store list, so exciting to think about baby chicks and watch the Momma Hen raise her babies.      

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Blackberry Winter, Warm Weather to Follow

Blackberry winter is here, that means the blackberries are blooming and I am cold.  There is just a chill in the air, no need for fire in the wood stove but a jacket is a welcome wrap for me.

Garden is growing, onions are developing seed heads, garlic scapes are showing up on all of the plants.  Time for me to go out to the garden and pick these.  I would enjoy harvesting large heads of garlic and onions so all of the seed heads need to be removed, the plant just can't make seeds and provide a harvest of large fruits.  I save the larger cloves of garlic to plant and planting the scapes takes about 3 years to make a sizable head of garlic.  I buy onion sets in the fall and spring, this year I also purchased plants in the spring.

There are butter beans, snaps, black-eyes peas, sugar snap peas, yard long beans and Austrian winter peas growing at this time.  The Austrian winter peas were planted in the fall, they made it through the cold winter, some in the tunnel and others in the garden bed. During the winter we used the pea shoots in our salads, delightful taste of spring in the the salads.  Now I am waiting for them to fruit, I have been enjoying the blooms in the garden. Later in the day I found a few pea pods and with the number of blooms there will be more coming.

The tunnel cover came off this week, and I am ready for the squash plants to cover the tunnel again this summer.  This will give protection from the sun for the crops in the tunnel.  I will be planting things under the tunnel which appreciate a little protection from the sun.

There was a time when my garden was not started until May 15th and this year there is already so much  progress.  Now some of the squash plants are 6 inches tall or more with tiny zukes just waiting for the bloom to come.

I tried the aluminum pie tin with cucumber slices in it.  My results so far, are no cabbage worms, I would like not having to spray my cabbage with bt, I have been looking for a way to get around this for years.  I put 2 slices of cukes in the pie tin and place under the cabbage plants.  I have some aluminum coasters from the 60's which we were going to recycle but now they are going to be recycled in the garden for holding cuke slices.  So far this has worked for me.  I really have only been doing this for about 3 weeks, I will let you know how things progress through out the summer.

We are trying to take the goats out to munch the woods daily, I was hoping we could let them free range but they seem to know where everything is that I would prefer they stay out of.  So the end result is I must walk with them when they are free ranging.  They seem not to care to go to the same area on a daily basis, this means I get to explore more of our woods.  This is a win, win for me but during this time of the year I feel I have loss a precious hour of time to work in the garden.  I will adjust as I so enjoy my time with the ladies.

Another large tree went into the wood rack this week, we also found some good wood felled by the winter storms and this was add to the rack.  There is still a lot of wood needed but we have a good supply to start the winter with, finding the dead trees and wood on the forest floor makes it easier for us, as the drying time is less.

The girls have been busy turning the compost and I am bringing it to the garden to start another new bed.  This week, I gave them one of the last of our squash from last year's garden and they ate all of the seeds.  I am finding in the compost lots of  seed coming up.  I do trash most of these as I am not sure what they are.  I thought they ate the bulk of the seeds but now I think they eat a few, everything seems to be cleaned up after they have a pumpkin, squash or cantaloupe but maybe they plant a few seeds in the compost.

Flowers are blooming, birds are setting on their nest, butterflies are dancing on the flowers and spring seems to be everywhere.  The sage is blooming and I will be picking some to dry.  I must start working the herb garden again, I miss not having the wonderful herbs  I can grow. This spring I did start a number of plants from seed and I am hoping to add more with cuttings.

The lettuce is a favorite of the ducks and I have planted some extra for them, however, the goats did manage to get into the lettuce bed this week.  The ducks spend their evenings out working in the woods and I had them come in last night with the blackest peaks, you would have thought they had black peaks.  Mother Duck is molting, her new feathers are so pretty and white, I am hoping after the molt maybe, just maybe she will begin to lay to a regular basis.  If not. no problem, she is my girl.

Things are moving forward, now that maybe all of the different little winters are over we can begin to look forward to the rainy seasons.  A rainy day may give us a chance to sit down, relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  We do enjoy something from our garden on a regular basis !!!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dogwood Winter Update

Things were moving along, baby plants were in the tunnel being hardening  off.  I had 11 tomato plants already in the hills.  I dig my tomato hills in the fall, add a bucket or manure cover with soil, mulch and install the tomato cages.  When spring arrives, I take off the cage, pull back the mulch, add a scant handful of epsom salt working into the soil, plant the tomato, return the mulch and tomato cage. I do spray with a kelp mixture as I feel it is needed.  Lettuce was planted in the garden and then it happened.  For over 2 weeks the nighttime temperature had been safe.  The heat had not turned on during the night, we had no issues with redbud winter, and then I heard frost warnings.

The tunnel had been opened, about half of it and we had several gentle farmer's rains.  I was thinking I may go on and take the cover off the tunnel but I am so pleased I stopped at the half way mark.  I was over run with seedlings. I had started my snow peas in pots as this is the only way I can grow them.  The mole/vole will cut them off at ground level, I began last spring putting the seeds in pots and had none of the pea plants cut off in pots, the ones I had planted just in the soil were taken care of by the mole.  When taking the pots out to remove and replace the soil I could see they really did work.  The 1 to 2 mole tunnels came to the bottom of the pots and stopped there.  I am using 6 inch pots which I plant in the garden.  I also have pole beans coming up in pots and will be planting these pots as well.

After hearing the frost warning it was time for me to think through what I should do to protect by garden.  The tunnel cover was replaced, floating row covers were placed over the tomatoes and lettuce. The peas were safe as i pulled mulch around them and they can take some cold.  We are into our second week of cold nighttime temperatures, The heat is coming on in the house, we are building small fires in the wood stove.  Some evenings we just hunker down under a warm blanket and enjoy the brisk air.

This time has been used in the garden, most of the beds have all of the chickweed pulled as it is going to seed, walk ways between the beds have been mulched.  Some of the raised bed borders have been replaced with new trees, cedar which was cut last year so it is ready to hold the soil in the raised beds.  I garden about a third of an acre using only hand tools so this break in the temperature has been welcomed.  Squash plants were getting to the point they needed to be planted, as I had started a few in pots to get a jump on the early planting of them.  They were planted and covered with row covers.  My inspection after having the row covers on for a few days, as we had to secure the covers because of the wind, found the lettuce taking a different shape and a need to pull the covers in allowing the plants room to grow.

The brambles are all getting there leaves, and showing how much they appreciate the time which we spent pruning them this winter and early spring.  The herbs which were thinned are coming forth and I only have memories of thinning them as they are growing abundantly. There were over 100 buckets (5 gallon size) of mulch moved into the garden.

I am so excited about the condition of the garden this spring.  I see it coming to a place I have wanted for so long.  The lettuce we are picking in the tunnel is loaded with flavor, it has wonderful spring flavors, the ducks await any lettuce trimmings I have for them.  Just watching how excited they become when I bring a basket of lettuce to their run makes me aware of how delicious the lettuce is.  Using our mulch, manure and homemade compost allows me to have control of my garden space.

Tree felling became slowed as one very large tree decided to become entangled in another tree.  With the rain we have been experiencing it was much too wet to move some of the larger equipment into the wooded area.  Mr Bootsie had to wait for several days for the wood's floor to dry some.  The tree became free with the help of the wrench on the truck and is now on the forest floor,  The wood racks are beginning to fill for the coming winter.

I am hoping there will be at least one broody hen as I need some chicks to help us make through the winter.  I would enjoy seeing this happen soon, but they have a mind of their mind.  Maybe blackberry winter will bring a broody hen.  The end of dogwood winter is coming later this week.  I will be planting more tomato plants and pepper plants.  The seeds for the snaps, butter beans and black-eyed peas need to go into the ground, the corn is in the greenhouse in starter trays, the first planting.  Oh, yes, I can't forget the okra.  You know it is spring when the strawberries begin to bloom and they have, we are finding little berries on the plants.

I am heading out to the garden, I shall harvest some lettuce and spring onions.  Time for my favorite sandwich of the spring.  Homemade bread, Duke's mayo, spring onions loaded with flavor and lots of pepper.  How lucky I am to have a garden which rewards me daily.