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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!
.

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