Monday, November 16, 2009

Plans for the Future

This year has been a very frustrating year in the garden - or rather, OUT of the garden. Between my surgery, my job and my husband being deployed with the Army right smack dab in the middle of planting season, there wasn't much gardening done this year. I could have really used a garden this year to counter the stress of it all. But, as most gardeners, I am eternally optimistic - because next year's garden is certainly to be the best garden yet!

They say that winter is the end of the gardening season, but in reality, it is the beginning - for it is during the cold and dreary days of winter that the new garden is dreamed into existence

Sunflowers can stand quite a bit of cold and can be planted the same time as peas. I will have to be careful the peas do not smother the young sunflowers, but if I do, then they will have a head start at the northern boarder of the bed.

Certainly the peas will not survive the hot summer sun, and probably won't even survive our wild and crazy late spring. Luckily, chickens love pea vines! And, as the peas are pulled, the sunflower plants should start coming into their own. As I pull pea vines, I will plant a few zucchini's. Probably more than we need, but pollination is difficult to come by for zukes - probably because even our summer mornings are often too cold to lure bees out and the mid-day sun has all but the hardiest insects scrambling for cover. Last time I grew squash I hand pollinated. I also plan to plant some spinach and mesclun mix in the shade of the zukes and sunflowers. We'll see if lots of water and shade will help the salad greens survive.

And when the crisp autumn afternoons foretell of fireplaces and honking geese, I'll feed the last of the zucchini leaves and stems to the chicken, protect my sunflower seed heads from marauding wild birds, and plant out garlic.

I have three 4 x 8 ft raised beds. This is just an idea for bed number one. ... Actually, it is bed number two. Bed number one houses my perennial herbs and bearded irises. I haven't dreamed up what to do with the third bed yet. I am hoping to add at least 3 more beds for the 2010 season. And a better watering system than depending on myself and my erratic schedule. ... and a way to let chickens in the garden but protecting the plants from their sharp beaks.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Apples this season? Almost

Fading September Fuji apple blossoms turning into tiny apples in mid-May. They are about the size of my thumb nail at this point.

Alas, summer thunderstorms in July that produced wild winds (but no rain that actually reached the ground) knocked all the apples off of the trees. The chickens did eat them up, but instead of ripe, fist sized apples, they got hard, green, golf-ball sized apples. At least they were not totally wasted, but still, I was hoping for some apples that maybe people could partake of. Still, at least I know that I have the right pollinators. My rescue tree of unknown parentage along with both my September Fujis and one other apple tree (I want to say it's the Gala) bloomed and fruited this year. Another apple tree didn't bloom, but it's young, yet, so I wasn't really expecting it to bloom.

Babies at about 3 weeks. They lived in my shower for about a month and then moved into the bottom half of a dog crate in the laundry room.

Baby chickies born in mid May should be laying eggs after Thanks Giving. Of the original 6 that hatched, 4 survived. 1 died of injuries sustained by overly helpful German Shepard (Dog was very gentle trying to put chickie back in the chickie cage, but not gentle enough. Our son put the chickie out of it's misery with my pistol.). The other died of unknown causes. Here you see a Silver Laced Wyandotte x Maran and a White Easter Egger x Maran.

The Roosters are pretty hard on the hens and have now been separated from them. The hens should be much happier and egg production might even go up. Only really need to have the Roosters running with the Hens when I want fertile eggs.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Babies! Babies!

This one was born on Saturday.
He/She is up and about, eating, drinking and causing a ruckus. And apparently, will need to move to a box with higher sides soon.

So, I think this one might actually be a Maran (R) x Easter Egger (H). Difficult to tell what color the EE was - white or brown, but this one certainly doesn't look black like SLW or Maran parentage.

The chickie here was born on Sunday, but was not yet robust enough to hang out with the older chicks. By the time the other three had hatched, this one was running around and was put in with the older ones.

Memorial Day arrivals with two more eggs left to hatch. Babies aren't even dry yet. It's a miracle. I AM reminded that there is a Higher Power somewhere.

Wow, what a weekend. I feel like the Chicken Maternity Ward. We thought Old Biddy was sitting on 7 eggs, but she was sitting on 9. 6 live births gives us a 60% success rate - pretty good for going "all natural". 1 didn't make it through its hatch. Two more? Well, they are still within a normal time frame - normal being between 18 days and 25 days. We are on day 23 right now. Going to keep them hydrated and see what happens. Some were put under old Biddy on the Sunday, so the ones that hatched today could have been "22 day" chicks. Still, even if the other two eggs don't hatch, I am deliriously happy with the small, noisy peepers in my bathroom.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

The first chickie hatched today - exactly 21 days. Done the old fashioned way - a randy rooster, some hens, a broody biddy and time. The day temps are in the mid 80s to low 90s right now - perfect for baby chickens. And a warm mommy to tuck under when the temps drop at night. No brooder light bulbs for me this season.

I've been on hiatus as the Army has taken over my life, but, in spite of my mostly ignoring the garden and chickens, things are moving along.

I took some photos this morning, and hopefully more chickies will be born soon. Old Biddy started out with more than a dozen eggs, but over the course of the first week, she rejected about half of them and ended up keeping 7. Don't know why she rejected some, but they were "obviously" rejects as she took the time to push them to the furthest corner of her broody cage and did not attack me when I removed them. I tried to play that game with one that she wanted, and she hollered and hissed at me and rolled it back across the floor and back into her clutch. I'm sure she had her henny penney reasons.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mid West Travel Digressions

Over the summer I had the good fortune to have a day off in the mid-west. I drove out to Lake Michigan. I've seen the Great Lakes on maps, so I knew they were huge - but you really have to see it to realize just how big it really is. From the south shore, you cannot even tell it is a lake - it looks like an ocean that opens up to the north and extends to the end of the earth. A sea gull over Lake Michigan. I love my camera. True, I'm not very practiced, so a shot like this for me is still "just lucky" - but it helps to have good equipment.
And, more sea gulls as they fly out over the lake. You can click on any of the photos on this blog to see the full sized picture.
View of the beach. I understand that at one time, the factories along the bank spewed smoke so vile and plentiful that the skies above the lake were smuged black. I'm glad that is no longer the case.
Pebbles along the shore. Sometimes I just like to take pictures of patterns. Some day I hope to return with more than a few hours to spare - still, I am so blessed that I get to see so much of our country.

Almost Home Again

I love being on the road, and it's always interesting and fun to visit our remote offices - but sometimes I think the best part of being on the road is coming home. Looking forward to hearing "Hungry Jack" crow in the mornings and seeing the girls stampede for treats. You can see our neighbor's house in the background while Hungry Jack does his thing. Good thing the neighbors are a ways away - Hungry Jack can get pretty loud when he chooses. And if he and No. 2 get into a crowing duel, it can really echo through your brain.
Here's a photo of The Princess rooster, Fancy Pants and The Mean Hen as they get ready to take a trek to friends who planned to eat them. Fancy pants did end up as roast rooster, but I hear The Princess and The Mean Hen have become pets. The Mean Hen is laying an egg every few days and The Princess has the run of the yard. Glad to see they have a good home, but I am even happier that my own flock is now so much more mellow. Literally within hours of the mean roosters and hen being removed from the flow, there was a happier, calmer air about them.

Funny side note about chickens - apparently there is a significant minority of people where I work who are somehow involved with chickens! Either they have some (as in the case of someone in our So Cal office), or used to have them (Georgia and Nor Cal Offices), or are thinking of getting them (Nor Cal Office). In a few cases, my coworkers' grown children are somehow involved with chickens on a professional level. I would never have guessed!

Airplane ride most of the day tomorrow and then home!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Garlic ... culling ckickens ... eggs ...

Garlic ShootsProcrastination means that I have a few "not doing so well" garlic cloves. None of them are actually rotting or moldy, but they certainly are not in their prime. But, can't let anything go to waste, so, like in 2007 (the photo above), I will plant the cloves in a pot. I'll water them well, let them stay outside for a few weeks (so they think Winter has come), and then bring them inside and put in a sunny window sill (so they think Spring has arrived). Keep moist but not soggy and within a few weeks, garlic shoots should rise up. When they get to be 4 or 5 or 6 inches tall, cut a few inches off the top and use like garlic chives. They'll continue to grow for a few months until their storage of food in the clove is used up. Then it is into the compost pile with them. I don't like green onions, so I use these whenever I need green onions.
Jake 2006This is a picture of Jake from October 2006. He's running over what would eventually become the western fence line of my garden. He's buried out in the back, now, within site of the garden.
Speaking of burials, this flower grows in the shady areas of Laurelwood Cemetery in Savannah, Ga. Don't know what it is, but it was blooming in July last year when I visited.
Farm Fresh Egg Yolk
Here you can see the "chalaza" from one of my eggs. Usually when you break an egg, the chalaza will break near the yolk and recoil and stick to the membrane still in the shell. You can see a good drawing of the parts of an egg at 4-H Virtual Farm ( I have been trying to take a clear photo of the germinal disc of an egg - it is the very tiny spot that can tell you if an egg is fertile or not. My yolks all seem to land "spot side down", so I haven't captured one of my own, yet. The website mentioned above has a link to a photo of a germinal disc.

Three things I have noticed about my "cage free" chickens are that 1) the yolks are much deeper yellow than store bought eggs - sometimes they are nearly orange, 2) the yolks are strong - you really need to pre-beat them in a cup if you want to break them up - or really stab them with the spatula in the pan (wow, even I can make easy-over eggs with these eggs!), and 3) the shells are much, much harder. This is pretty interesting to me, since they chickies are not "free range" or "organic". They get scientifically, commercially formulated (drug-free) chicken feed, corn-based (drug-free) chicken scratch, oatmeal, scrap veggies, and oyster shell (if they want it). Threw some scratch out in my fallow garden beds this afternoon, so the chickens plowed it up rather nicely while hunting down their goodies. Life is good.
... except, probably, for the 3 chickens that are being culled today. The two Easter Egger roosters (Fancy Pants and The Princess) and EE no. 38 are being relocated to a family in CA who will be, most likely, eating them. They are in a dog crate awaiting transportation (yes, they have access to water). The whole rest of the flock is already much happier with just the two Maran roos.
The two EE roosters were getting meaner and meaner, both to me and the hens. They would corner a hen and be pretty rough on her. The hens would stress out and scatter whenever the two EEs came near... but the two Maran roosters are gentle and the hens will actually go up to them and "present" themselves. I guess we'll be having Maran and Maran crossbreed babies in the early summer! (The Marans, as a species, seem to be more interested in eating than fighting or being mean... gentleness is a good trait to breed into a flock.)
Brown EE no. 38 started pulling feathers and picking on all the hens a few weeks ago. We tried to cure her of her bad habbits, but when she started picking so badly that she was drawing blood and nearly killed one of her flock-mates, we knew she had to go. Don't want her teaching the others how to do such things... the SLW that got all beat up is in "hospital confinement" in a dog crate in the hen house. That way she can rest up without the roosters or others bothering her, but talk to the other chickens and still be part of the flock. Don't know if she will make it or not. She is bare chicken skin on several spots on her back and looks pretty pecked at and bruised.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Years!

Ok, there's my obligatory picture of my favorite (New Year and Every Day) beverage and a few eggs from the Biddies. They are laying between 9 and 15 eggs a day now. Sort of like zucchini in the summer, I am giving eggs away to anyone who will sit still for 20 seconds!

Some digressions

Postcards Exchange
Some of you who have known me for a long time (or a long, long time, as the case may be), know that I am an avid collector of postcards. I have been collecting them for well over 3 decades. Some years I am more active with sending and recieving them - and some years I am too busy with other aspects of my life. I am hoping that 2009 is one of my more active postcard years. To that end, I have joined

Piggies for 2009?!

I'm thinking of raising two feeder pigs during the fall of 2009 - gilts (girls) probably - one to put in the freezer by Thanks Giving, and one to sell, so that maybe I'll break even on the costs of housing and fencing. The big question is, will I be able to eat them? I am guessing I will cry on butchering day, but will I be able to eat my hog? I am thinking yes!

Maybe the hogs can eat some of the extra eggs when the hens are in full production? I am thinking fall hogs, as, if I have a really productive year in the garden, they can eat some goodies from there, too. And then all the poo gets put back into the compost bin and becomes food for next year's garden. It's a thought, anyway.

Such for the grandiose dreams for the 2009 season!

Well, 5 days of vacation are coming to a close. Have enjoyed hanging out with the chickies and watering trees (once the hoses have thawed out) and other such home-body things - but I will enjoy getting back to work and plunging into all the new projects for the New Year. Many blessings to everyone.