This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A lesson learned


We thought we would spend all Memorial Day weekend in the garden.

It was time for the Annies/Anconas to go in with the Deloreses/Khaki Campbells, the chickens, and the geese. The Rosies (Rhode Island Reds) were introduced last week without incident.

But the Annies were a problem. When they were very young, Susannah, a White China goose in extended broody season, had assumed they were the babies we had stolen (in egg form) from her nest, and talked to them every day, unable to understand why they would not follow her -- fences are a part of the world of "free range" poultry, but are poorly seen and understood by them. I have no idea what the Annies thought of this gigantic "mom," honking solicitously to them for a part of every day, but they tended to huddle away from her. Eventually she gave it up as a bad job --ungrateful children!

As soon as they were herded from their pen into the wide world of the pasture, the Annies came under attack by Sylvester, Susannah's mate, and she joined in! They pursued the little flock up and down, shouting, hissing and making their "snake-neck" gesture. The Deloreses just stood and watched the fun -- secure in their position as members of Sylvester's flock, they had little stake in the outcome.

The Annies were being run ragged; something would have to be done. We went to the white board and drew fence plans, made assumptions, argued their merits, and settled upon the following: Geese to the south. Divide the outside pen into two parts, cut in a door through the chicken wire for the geese, cover the area with a tarp for inclement weather and shade, and bring in drinking water and a swimming pool. Deloreses, chickens and Annies to the north. Two swimming pools, in case the duck flocks could not tolerate one another in one; an extra fence and gate in case anyone needed further separation or time-outs.

In three hours all the changes were made and everyone sorted out. Even the chickens seemed more relaxed than they had been before. Ducks not being as long-lived as geese, the fact that the Deloreses, getting older and older, had to run to keep up when the geese were out perambulating, had not really occurred to us. But with the geese away in their own pasture, the Deloreses could slow down, which was easier on their legs, and spend more time in a happy, shady heap during the hotter parts of the day. When they traveled about for bugs and food, it was at about half the pace to which they had been accustomed -- and they seemed grateful for the change.

The Annies climbed into their chosen pool, told the Deloreses to stay away from it, and bathed contentedly all afternoon. The geese toured the south pasture, decided it was still big enough for them, inspected their new sleeping/anti-predator arrangements, and concluded all was well. Peace reigned at Stony Run Farm.

A lesson learned.

:::

Granddaughter spent the weekend, and divided much of her time between collecting eggs, watching the two deer that have moved onto the premises, and helping in the garden. She and I worked on the corn patch together. I made the hills and she arranged the seeds in them.

"Five Silver Queens here; five Bodacious here, then three Butternuts here." (Shift planting kneeler.) "Now we repeat that pattern all along here in this bed, and the same for the next bed, so the pollen will find corn whichever way the wind blows."

"So, five Silver Queens here?"

"Mm-hmm."

"And then five Bodacious?"

"Ye'm."

"Now five ... uh ... "

"Butternuts."

"Oh; right. Why not beans?"

"Good question. Beans are good for this, they say, but I tend to find them scraggly and unproductive in the corn. Maybe it's something to do with our heavy clay; dunno."

"There aren't a lot of Butternuts left."

"Right; so we'll switch to pumpkins to finish out."

"I like pumpkins!"

"To eat?"

"Not really; but they're fun to put a candle in."

"I don't like them to eat as much as the squash, but they can be handy for the poultry."

"How do they eat them??"

"We smash one open and boil it on the woodstove every week or so, then throw it on the pasture; they love it like that, 'specially the chickens."

"Oh! I don't think I've been here for that."

"Probably not. We really don't see enough of you. Now, what goes here?"

"Ummm, uh. Packet's empty. Oh, pumpkins now! Got seeds?"

"Got 'em right here!"

"Yay!"

Ten-year-olds are a treasure.

:::

Independence Days Challengehttp://epud.net/%7Ebears/IDC2009.jpg

1. Plant something - more tomatoes, eggplants, winter squash, lettuce, cukes, corn, pumpkins, stevia, runner beans, bush beans.

2. Harvest something - Elephant garlic, onions, kale, chard, broccoli, leeks, dandelions, strawberries, comfrey, chicken eggs, duck eggs, radishes, broadbeans.

3. Preserve something - dried comfrey.

4. Reduce waste - Moved all the compost one heap on. Started new "heap" in the compost drum. Still bringing home cardboard, newspapers, bottles, and bubble pack every day, for use in projects. Made black water bottles for heat sinks in the garden. Carrying duck-pond water to the orchard trees. WEEDING LIKE CRAZY.

5. Preparation and Storage - Cooked up and froze leftover picnic chicken. Began drying peppermint and spearmint.

6. Build Community Food Systems - Master Gardening at Extension Service.

7. Eat the Food - From dried: basil. From storage: rolled wheat, oats, spelt flour, rye, buckwheat, brewer's yeast, sunflowers, flaxseed. Pear sauce, duck eggs, chicken eggs. From garden: elephant garlic, onions, kale, chard, leeks, dandelions, broadbeans, radishes. Strawberries!
.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weeding, weeding, weeding ...

If that was not our busiest weekend of the year, we're doomed. Mowing, mulching, repairing, planting, watering, weeding, weeding, weeding ...

Plants are doing well, direct seeding less so. It's either too hot and dry for the seeds, or drowning and cold. The yo-yoing seems to do them in. Most years, too, it's either aphids-to-the-max or slugs-to-the-max, this year they are beating us up alternate weeks, seems like. Meanwhile, we doggedly throw starts at the failed spots in our seeded beds and keep up our other tasks -- introducing new chickens to flock, putting the summer awnings on the south side of the house -- alternately shivering in rain boots and staggering around, sweat pooling through the gaps in our sunblock.

Coffee in the morning, at about 6 a.m., is our down time and discussion roundtable.

"What was that with the Rosies last night?" (These are the Rhode Island Reds.)

"They've never been outside before. And I think they're not used to so much daylight. So when everybody went in to roost, they stood around outside in the dark because it looked more like home to them. What did you do? I saw you out there but I thought you were in with the Annies." (Ancona ducklings have their own temporary run.)

"I found the Rosies huddled near the door so I shone the light in their eyes; they got up liiiiike thiiiis (demonstrates) and mooched in like kids caught staying out at recess. If chickens had lips they would have all pouted."

"Funny! But we have to do that, or they'd take to the trees and never use the barn." (We both pause to think of reports of a new cougar in the neighborhood.)

"Marley is having to learn new stuff, too." (This is the young cat Daughter brought us in exchange for Donut, who is retired at fourteen.) This morning I let her out, and she flew right across the yard at a little sparrow who was putzing about, just on the other side of the fence."

"And hit the fence."

"Full force. She came back and asked to be let back in, walking a bit sideways-fashion. The look on her face said 'Don't ask', plain as day."

"Aww ... but she's spending more time out, especially at night."

"Mnh ... but hasn't left any mice on the doorstep yet."

"Well, there was that one shrew."

"It's a start. Kinda. More coffee?"

And so the day begins. But outside, as the shadows shorten, it's already getting a bit hot to be up on the ladder ...
.

Spring duty

Bedding straw, with poultry manure, leaving the barn. This three-tine fork, our best one for the purpose, was found in the blackberry patch seventeen years ago, where it had languished for who knows how many years. We shortened and oiled the broken handle and it has worked steadily in the barn ever since.

Stage one: into the barrel. We could never afford such a gizmo; this one is a gift from my father-in-law. It works as advertised in warmer weather. Mix straw with fresh, damp grass clippings, add kitchen compost and fish waste, tumble every day for two weeks. Longer (much longer) in winter.

Stage two: dump the barrel underneath itself and refill. throw some straw on the pile to reduce odor.

Stage three: after three dumps, shift pile to compost bin. This gives you exercise, aerates the pile, and holds off putting poultry manure on the garden while the pathogens and "burn factor" fade to a kinder, gentler minimum. I'm not sure we always wait ninety days, but we try. The bin is low at this point because the winter compost has been hauled to all points of the garden for spring duty.
.

Kudos in the form of starts

Independence Days Challenge 2009: week 3

1. Plant something - tomatoes, eggplants, broccoli, runner beans bush beans, lettuce. Moved comfrey.

2. Harvest something - Comfrey, rosemary, marjoram, parsley, radishes, peppermint, spearmint, lavendar, elephant garlic, onions, kale, chard, broccoli, leeks, dandelions. Harvested two more egg-eating hens; made yet more stewed chicken and saved all the broth.

3. Preserve something - Froze kale/chard dandelion mix. Froze chicken soup. Drying comfrey.

4. Reduce waste - mulching like mad; mostly grass clippings and bedding straw. Changing out the compost barrel every two weeks (warmer weather).

5. Preparation and Storage - built horizontal awning s of burlap and lath for all the south and west window; put up the summer tarp for the dining room picture window. Bought a pile of slacks on sale; should last the rest of my anticipated years! BARN CLEANED OUT.

6. Build Community Food Systems - Beloved and Son continue volunteering as veggie garden experts at Extension Service. Kudos in the form of starts which they bring home and stuff into the already maxed out garden!

7. Eat the Food -
From garden: elephant garlic, onions, kale, maple, chard, broccoli, leeks, dandelions. From frozen: trout, blueberries, blackberries, apples, plum sauce, pear sauce, bok choi, sugar snap peas. From storage: rolled wheat, oats, spelt flour, rye, buckwheat, brewer's yeast, sunflowers, flaxseed. From dried: basil. From poultry: duck eggs, chicken eggs, chicken liver, chicken soup.

Win/loss column: Friendship bread a failure; friend gave it back; gave it to the chickens; they weren't sure what to make of it. Will download recipe and get the hang of this.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Listening to Beloved

Independence Days Challenge 2009: week 2

1. Plant something - tomatoes, FINALLY! And eggplants, squash, cabbages, cukes, basil.

2. Harvest something - Elephant garlic, onions, kale, chard, broccoli, leeks, dandelions. Harvested two egg-eating hens; made stewed chicken and saved all the broth. Caught and froze three trout.

3. Preserve something - Froze kale/broccoli mix. Froze chicken soup.

4. Reduce waste - Still bringing home cardboard, newspapers, bottles, and bubble pack every day, for use in projects. Carrying duck-pond water to the orchard trees for a boost. WEEDING.

5. Preparation and Storage - Taught Daughter revolver basics. checked and updated 9/11 bags and moved the one that had been in the dead station wagon to the living pickup truck. New fire extinguishers. New compost bin walls (recycled futon frame).

6. Build Community Food Systems - Beloved and Son continue volunteering as veggie garden experts at Extension Service.

7. Eat the Food - From storage: rolled wheat, oats, spelt flour, rye, buckwheat, brewer's yeast, sunflowers, flaxseed. From dried: Runner beans; basil. From frozen: trout, blueberries, blackberries, apples, plum sauce, pear sauce, bok choi, sugar snap peas. From poultry: duck eggs, chicken eggs, chicken liver, chicken soup. From garden: elephant garlic, onions, kale, maple, chard, broccoli, leeks, dandelions. We're baking a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread brought by Daughter for Mother's Day, which was also my 60th birthday.

Win/loss column: some chickens discovered the joys of pecking open eggs, taking a sip, and then rolling the eggs over to drain them into the straw. Taking defensive measures. Suffered identity theft. Someone took an $1100 dollar ride on Quantas on our dime; we have to swear out a case number at the Sheriff's office. We have been careful and this is the first time this has happened in all our sixty years. Big win: listening to Beloved practicing her guitar/storytelling program.

Monday, May 04, 2009

IDC 5/4/09


Independence Days Challenge 2009: week 1 (I jumped the start last week!)

1. Plant something - Willows. Golden peas; moved sunchokes. "Bushed" the Sugar Snap peas with willow cuttings.

2. Harvest something - Elephant garlic (shown upper right), onions, kale, maple blossoms, chard, broccoli, leeks, dandelions. Blew 26 goose eggs (with basketball pump); froze eggs. Harvested one egg-bound hen; made stewed chicken and saved all the broth.

3. Preserve something - Baked and froze bread. Froze kale.

4. Reduce waste - Bringing home cardboard, newspapers, bottles, and bubble pack every day, for use in projects around the place. Using, with permission, neighbors' grass clippings in garden. Weeding like mad.

5. Preparation and Storage - Taught 25-yr-old son shotgun
basics. Designing barn extension and new cold room. Have collected about sixty wine bottles for winemaking.

6. Build Community Food Systems - Beloved and son volunteering at Extension Service as Master Gardeners. Continued blogging "A Self-Supporting Home", first published in 1904, as it contains densely packed garden, animal husbandry, orchard, and apiary information. Sold free range eggs, gave away garlic bulbs, runner beans for seed, bread.

7. Eat the Food - From storage: wheat, oats, spelt, rye, buckwheat, brewer's yeast, sunflowers, flaxseed. From dried: Runner beans; basil. From frozen: trout, blueberries, blackberries, apples, plum sauce, pear sauce, bok choi, sugar snap peas. From poultry: duck eggs, chicken eggs. From garden: elephant garlic, onions, kale, maple, chard, broccoli, leeks, dandelions. Also: Maple blossoms. Traded some plum sauce for "pot stickers" (dumplings). Baked four loaves of spelt bread with kale.

:::

Win/loss column: our beloved Saturn wagon, with 198,000 miles, died; will donate to St. Vinnies. Some tomatoes and peppers in the "greenhouse," along with most of the parsnips and kohlrabi, have succumbed to damping off, need better seedling setup. Potatoes knocked back by unexpected hard freeze; everything else pulled through. The fig trees made it through the winter, which was unexpected. And the nectarines
are in leaf, though far behind the new pears, cherries, and quinces. Some willows in the new coppice have died, but I have replacements for them in the ground in the garden, along with some cuttings from the Santa Rosa plum. Also, many, many of the new filbert trees and willows in the boundary hedges are doing splendidly. Ancona ducklings and Rhode Island Reds are now half grown and we expect to introduce them into the flock in 2 weeks or so. Ducks have reached through the fence and eaten some of the sunchokes that I moved, so had to chicken-wire along the bottom of the fence in that area.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Goose-egg time

It's goose-egg time again ... as it has been awhile since Susannah has been on the nest, or at least like she really has her heart in it. It's her opinion that we ran off with all her eggs and hatched them, and that the Annies are the result. She calls to them plaintively to join her in the pasture, but they aren't sure what to make of her, and continue feeding, drinking, waddling about, and preening as if having a mother was the last thing likely to cross their minds.

Twenty-seven of this year's eggs made it to the refrigerator -- there were some accidents involving eggs inadvertently laid in the open, and attacked by the chickens -- and one of these I broke while getting the egg-blowing routine down right. Every year I have to learn all over again -- the margin of error, with the high-speed grinder and the basketball pump, is relatively small. I'm sure there are better ways to go about this, but this is what we do:

We gather up containers for the freezer, and a Sharpie for writing on the container, spread out some newspaper, find a round toothpick, an old-fashioned milk bottle or a glass carafe, the basketball pump, the high-speed Dremel-style tool, and a bowl of soapy, salty water.

With the little cone shaped grindstone, we zip off a bit of shell at each end, about as big as the head on a six-penny box nail, and punch through the membrane with the toothpick, stirring up the yolk, then place the egg on top of a suitably wide-mouthed bottle and gently pressurize the contents with the basketball needle. You can see a small rubber gasket here, cut from a flat rubber band, to seal the contact between egg and needle.

Every second egg we pour off the eggs into a freezer container, so that if we get into a bad egg (never has happened) we won't waste a lot. Mark the container Goose '09. Wash the eggshell inside and out (draw some soapy salt water into the shell and shake vigorously, then blow out). Repeat. Freeze containers, sun-dry shells.

In a few days they are ready to decorate or sell to Psanky painters ... whatever suits ya. I like to just sit by the table and look at them.


LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails