Sunday, September 28, 2014

This & that


Racing around getting the outdoor stuff done before the predicted cold air is going follow the storm front that is passing through.  Winds prevent much getting done yesterday but have slowed considerably today, so best get on with it. So I will leave you with a tale of pictures while we are out & about. 











Thursday, September 25, 2014

Peeps

It's a little late in the year for peeps but we had one of the little cochin bantam hens go broody.  She was from the batch of spring chicks we purchased this year and after about a dozen eggs she became broody.  I think that is the record for broodiness in a pullet!  Earlier this year, we set nine eggs under the Silkie hen, only 5 out of the 9 eggs hatched out.  The four that were the Heritage Rhode Island Red eggs did not hatched.  So now wondering if the rooster and his hen were 'compatible', well, what a good opportunity to try again.  Here's the result below:


Out of 5 eggs, three hatched.  I know.... there is a white chick in the group that does not look at all like the other two and certainly is not a red chick.  First surprised thought was that old white rooster molested Penelope (the Heritage Red) at some point.  A little difficult to believe since they were never together but not entirely impossible because there were brief times when taking the Reds out of the garden and back up to the coop that they may have come in contact with each other.  But someone was always marching them up to the coop so not very likely.  And she is very skittish and won't wander off on her own.  She is very tied to Sriracha (the Red Roo).  After some careful thought I remembered that there was one day when I did not collect her egg and had to get it from the house.  Here's the scenario that most likely transpired to end up with this little white peep:

Me:  "Hey, what happened to Penelope's egg?"
Chicken Girl:  "It's in the basket."
Me:  "Where's the basket?"
Chicken Girl:  "On the freezer."
Me:  "Um.... okay, but the basket is full of eggs."
Chicken Girl:  "It's the one on the top.  The top egg."
Me:   (eenie, meenie, minie, mo... since there were a couple of eggs on top.  It appears that Goat Boy had collected a few more eggs while helping his sister)

Obviously, I did not pick out the Red egg.  So we now have another white pullet.  I'm not really fond of white chickens but the other two gals have a round body shape and have nice personalities so they were spared when we butchered the cockerels.  We fondly call them 'Ji-Ji's brats'.

I must admit that these 3 chicks are the quietest batch of peeps we've ever had.  Well, except for the day we removed the red peeps from the broody hen.  I had taken the white one out the night before because Little Miss Broody started to attack the poor thing, ripped out some fluff off its back and pecked at it viciously.  It had hatched not quite 12 hours before and she was going to kill it without intervention.  I'm not sure if it was because it was obviously a or it being an obvious different color from the other two of if she thought it was just put in there because I had taken the egg shells out of the nest along with the last unhatched egg.  There were 2 days between the second red chick and the white one.  Possible, but if it was the case of her not liking the chick due to it being a different color, well, she won't be used for raising chicks.  And rather than take the chance that she would do the same to the red peeps, we removed the other two and put them in the house.  Other reasons were that I had to heat a box for one peep, may as well be all of them.  And the peeps would eventually go in the coop and need to be housed together so the older birds don't hurt them. 

One little red peeped and cheeped like crazy until it realized that it was staying in the box and not going back.  Since then they've been really quiet.

As far as broody bantams go, the Silkie is a far better mama that the Cochin.  As of right now, Ji-Ji is setting on 2 more red eggs.  She will be allowed to raise the chicks since she is a really good mama hen and has raised multi-colored batches with no problems.  For an excellent bantam breed that does go broody and are good mama hens, get Silkie hens.  In my opinion, granted we have not had Cochins in the past, is that Silkies have a better temperament and are better mothers. 

If you are new to raising poultry, or are considering raising poultry, please do your research because not all breeds are the same, nor do well in certain climates.  And don't fall into the trap that once you have poultry there is minimal maintenance required.... what goes in the chicken, will come out and I don't mean eggs..... 

Hopefully, in 21 days I'll have another peep alert.  But in the meantime, we'll be watching the older peeps grow and tame them up so they are easier to handle later on.  I think one is a roo, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

End of Season clearance sales

 Name: Free Colourful Sale Tags Vector Illustration

If you are on a tight budget or have only a little saved up for seed purchases, you may want to consider taking advantage of the online seed catalogs' end of season clearance sales.  Meaning that they are clearing out their seeds they sold this year for next years' stock.

I have taken advantage of these sales and have good success by using 'last seasons' seeds.  Just don't store them where moisture can take its toll on them.  A good sealed container, kept in a cool dry place will work fine.  Just don't put them in a 'safe' place that is so 'safe' that you don't remember where you put them! 

Below are a few of the companies that are currently having season end sales.  I have purchased from in the past and have had very good results with their products.  (***Please note that I did not plant any seeds this year from these companies.  I tried the seeds that were sold at the local store since my climate conditions are different from the west coast .... I will be going back to my old favorites for next season!***)

Johnny's Select Seed
Burpee
Seed Savers Exchange
Park Seed

You may have a favorite online seed catalog or local nursery, so find out if they are having a sale.  Doesn't hurt to ask.  May save you a few dollars.  Just figure out if you want open-pollinated or not.  And just because it is heirloom does not mean it is open-pollinated (seed saving).  Hybrids are fine, but remember that you can't save the seed expecting to get the same results.

Winter is around the corner but gardening never ends.



End of season update

Final bean harvest 2014
End of the year gardening activities continue, along with a assessment of what went right, what went wrong or needs to happen for next year.  One is the section of the garden where potatoes were planted.  It appears that the previous owners did not use that back half of the garden for many years since they were elderly and only the two of them so a large garden was not needed.  Despite being tilled these past two years (last year nothing was planted there and became a weed patch), it compacted pretty bad.  I think just from watering since it did not have the foot traffic like the front half of the garden.  So as a result, the potatoes did not do very well due to the hardness of the soil.  There was also a bit of a hard pan which held moisture causing some of the potatoes to rot.  The overall 'success' was poor, except for those plants where the soil remained loose and the potatoes were able to spread out and grow.  Last year's spuds were planted in the front half and did very well.  We had potatoes until early April.  And they were from different seed stock, too.

Another thought is that it could have just been poor quality seed potatoes (very possible since they were from the same place where we purchased the chicks this past spring and they sure were not of good quality!).

potato patch
The soil will be prepped for next year by tilling in shavings from the coop and the addition of some cow pies from the field.  I may even plant some buckwheat or a clover cover crop to till in at a later date.  I'll have to check my rotation sheet but next year beans may be sowed in that area to help improve that little corner of the garden.

Sweet corn did well.  In order to deter the wind, I densely planted the first wind-side row.  I wasn't concerned if I had a good crop out it (it did very well) as much as I was about keeping the wind from bending them all over when they were tender stalks.  It appeared to work very well and I will do the same next year.

Squash, cucumbers, pumpkin, tomatoes, tomatillos, and the peppers did not produce as much as we had hoped for due to the heatwave lasting as long as it did.  The high temperatures greatly affected the pollination.  It wasn't that there weren't any bees.... the girls were all over them.... it was that pollen is greatly affected at temperatures above 95F degrees.  Maybe next year we'll cover with shade screen, which would have to be secured tightly so as not to blow away into the next county!  And, not to mention, maybe research for heat tolerant plants.

frost damaged squash plant
Gardening sometimes can throw you a curve ball and then you're left standing there scratching your head.  A couple weeks ago we had a couple of nights of frost which burned exposed the tops of the plants but now you'd swear it was summer again.  80+ degree temps and cool evenings.  I won't let it fool me into being lax and think I'll get another week or more to get things done!  Later this week is forecasted to bring rain

But not all was lost.  The pole beans, once the weather cooled, produced quite well as did the crook neck squash.   The only plant that seem not affected by the heat was the crook neck squash.  It was quite prolific.  The chickens have been happily feasting on the over abundance of monster squash.  I swear, there were days you'd go out and see that one little squash that was just a tad too small to harvest only to wake up the next morning to find that it had grow beyond belief.  Or discover the green zucchini hiding under the leaves only to discover it days later because it finally got to the size where you could add wheels and enter it into the local soapbox derby.

I really don't want to freeze them all (the chickens are going to get the monster ones) so I did a little experiment of drying them on a string out in the greenhouse.  Worked quite well and I will have some bagged up for the chickies during the winter.  All I did was slice them about 1/4" thick, get the kids to run a needle and string near one edge, move them about so they weren't stacked directly on top of each and then hang from a hook in the greenhouse.  After about a week, they had dried quite nicely.

Tomatillos are coming along nicely even with the two nights that we had frost and I'll have some quarts canned up here soon. 

Tomatoes are taking their dear sweet time and they will probably be setting in trays all over the place indoors to ripen.  Cucumbers are done for the year and I'm still debating on whether to save seeds from them or not. Most of the crook necks and all the zucchini are done, too.  Carrots are still going, as are the pumpkins and butternuts.  The gourds are about finished up for the season and I'll let the vines dry out before I harvest them.  The strawberries are a little confused and keep blooming and producing fruit.


Rain predicted for the weekend so need to get mulch put down in the spots that are bare, tilled and seeded with a cover crop.  Winter will be here before you know it, so get that garden prepped for spring!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Canning 101



Just a quick post for anyone who is interested in canning and preserving but you just don't have the budget to buy a book or know a little bit but don't know where to start, the internet can be your friend (besides a time waster!).

Here is an excellent link that is definitely worth bookmarking:


I needed canning instructions for tomatillos.  I looked in my favorite canning/preserving books and all I could find was for making salsa.  I don't want salsa, I want to can them whole or crushed so I can make chile verde during the winter.  I certainly don't want salsa in my chile verde!  So my search brought me to the NCHFP.  I forgot about them as a good resource.  Duh!

Anyway, hop on over to their site and glean as much information needed for whatever you are wanting to can or preserve - print it out & save for future reference (is always a good idea) - and don't forget to bookmark their site for future reference.

Happy & SAFE canning!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Gravenstein


DSC04060

Apple, that is.  I think I have found a new favorite.  It has a tart, almost lemony flavor, and it is sweet at the same time.  Very crisp and has a beautiful color when polished up.  A quick swipe on the shirt sleeve reveals some lovely colors on the reddish ones and the green ones have a slight blush of red.  Not a good storage apple since they lose their texture and quality quickly after harvest so It is suggested that if you are not going to use them up right away to wash, cut them up and freeze them or slice them to dry.

Our neighbor who brought over a bucket full of them said they make a mighty tasty applesauce, too.  I don’t think they’ll last that long since I’ve been nibbling away at the lot of them but I am to be sure to save some for jam and pie!