Thursday, September 29, 2011

First in the Flock: Our Tiny Would-be Rooster Lays an Egg

Wednesday morning, Sept 28th, Scarlett, our tiny but 'tude-ful leghorn finally put to rest any bets that she was really Scarface the Rooster. She successfully laid her first egg. The first for our entire flock!

We, and her other five sister hens, were very relieved, since she had been acting like a maniac for nearly a week. Hyper, eating furiously (is she going to pop? OMG!), digging huge craters everywhere (her idea of a nest?), pacing up and down the ladder to the roost box, pecking her sisters (hard!) for no apparent reason (out of the blue--what did I do to you?!), and periodically erupting in long squawk-fits we took to be the chicken equivalent of swearing like a sailor. At some point in the last few days, we noticed all five of her sisters huddled over in a corner--apparently trying to steer clear of her while searching for a way out. They were cutting 5 sets of imploring eyes at us: 'She's gone nuts! let us out of here!'

I think I speak for all of us when I say Congratulations Scarlett! (And--phew--not a moment too soon).

Below are some snapshots of the proud young mom on her Eventful Day of Official Henhood. G chased her around with the camera for nearly an hour. As you can see, she had a hard time getting the our jaunty, young celebrity to STAND STILL for a photo! We are both particularly fond of the one where she is a blur. :)

When she did slow down, it was for a relaxing dirt bath. But honestly, that wasn't very photogenic. I'm not posting the most embarrassing of those photos to help her keep her self-esteem intact. Between you and me, she looked like a dead seagull. (Bedraggled. Motherhood is hell.)

Given her rough beginnings, (ratty bath pix be damned) we are so proud we're bursting. And extremely relieved that she was healthy enough to make the hop to henhood. Yay Scarlett!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weather forecast - pleasant

Chicken Portraits ~4months

I have been so busy with work and school and helping at least a little in the garden, that I haven't had time to make any new chicken videos. :( But here are a couple of stills. Lucy the red one--striking a pose. Herbella the silver and white one is very handsome. And Scarlett the leghorn--she's looking a little bit silly. They are all in the middle of losing their juvenile clothes. So now, instead of her signature (enormous) 747 tail, Scarlett is down to ONE lone feather. (In this photo there were 2--see them sticking out?!) She is still very small, but continues to sport a HUGE 'tude.


I think we have 9 plants: 1 Mexican mini, 1 Sungold mini, 1 Juliette, Stupice (3?), Brandywines (2?) and 1 Mortgage Lifter. G has made 2 kinds of salsa. We've eaten them sliced, just as is. Or straight off the vine. We've made several batches of sauce. And have dried a few (very tasty!) Today we juiced a bunch of the little ones. We're reducing it to eat for soup this evening, since we got a little rain and the temperature turned cool and made something warm sound inviting.

AND, as you can see from the bottom photo... they are still coming on strong.

Today we caught THREE grasshoppers, which we gave to the chickens. Scarlett is the queen of the bug eaters! There is another big one that got away. :( That said, apparently there are enough tomatoes to go around. The chickens have had so many, that after awhile they get bored. They want us to try harder at catching that grasshopper.

Eggplant, Peppers, Chard & Beets

The double-dug bed looks kind of ratty to me, taken as a whole. But upon closer examination, there are some fascinating things in it. Owing to Teresa J., we have several varieties of peppers that came to us as mystery seedlings. We're a little afraid, actually. We think the lovely red cherry-looking things are 'the peppers of death.' And we're not sure how hot or what color the small finger-shaped guys are. We have at least one "Italian" pepper plant that G remembers buying (a little fuzzy about its qualities/ what to expect from it though...) On a safer note, there are 2 lovely bell peppers we could probably harvest at any point. The eggplants are not as lovely or wildly productive as two years ago (in the back corner of the garden proper), but they have been giving us small but tasty fruit. *I know, critics everywhere.* Same with the chard. Small but pretty plants. It's a sin to confess this, but most of their lovely leaves have been snarfed by the chickens. Oh, and there are STILL a few beets left. We just ate sliced ones in vinaigrette with dinner last night. Very tasty.

Note to self: next year--more corn!

We've eaten half a dozen ears of corn. It was tender and succulent. Think we would have happily eaten three times that amount!

The Basil Report

Kind of fascinating to see how the same kind of plant fares in different places around the yard. The plant in a big lovely pot right outside the front door seemed to drain too fast. It stayed stringy and tough. (That surprised me. ) G put one out with the tomatoes. That one wasn't especially handsome either. Again, too well-drained? Ditto the three plants in front of the garden proper. The one that is gorgeous and begging to be savored as pesto, was down at the low end of the herb bed. (pictured here).

Sweet Potato Vines, Potatoes, Asparagus, Grapes

Two years ago, we had a huge harvest of sweet potatoes. Last year, we put the vines in a different spot on a slight slope (we think it was too dry?) and didn't get much. This year, G put them in at the back of the garden proper. They struggled for the first (2months?), but recently have absolutely taken off. In one of the photos, you'll see them in the bottom left--they have crept completely out of the side of the garden and are headed for the yard. (there is some coriopsis trying to hold its own next to them.)

The asparagus G put in in the spring seem to be happy; they are finally lacy and huge! She also put in regular potatoes, but I'm not sure we've worked out our relationship to those yet.

The grape vines were dealt a severe blow by our harsh winter last winter. They came back, though we aren't getting more than 4 or 5 bunches. And even in their anemic state, we still really need to build them a trellis.

So in the garden proper: a wall of green! Sweet potatoes, potatoes, asparagus and beans, bordered by grapes, sunflowers and masses of morning glories.

Shocking: volunteer winter squash & lovely cucumber

In other years, the squash bugs have completely decimated any and all squash & cucumber vines. So I'm delighted (dumbfounded?!) to report that for whatever reason, we have not only a very handsome lemon cucumber vine. And a very entertaining SOMETHING that popped up back in the compost pile. Need to look to see when it froze last year. We were thinking it was heart-wrenchingly early. (September something?! That it snuck up on us & cut the season very short. Got our fingers crossed that this season will be more "normal"--that both vines will have a chance to deliver handsomely. (Oh, the joy and agony, right?!)

Green Beans--yum.

This year we had a mix of bush beans that G planted (~6 plants?), and volunteers (roughly in the spot where last year's bush beans were-- ~4 bush and ~4 vines, which seem to be a mix of yellow snaps, Italian beans, and Kentucky wonders). Harvested a big pile over the weekend! Also in the picture, a very tasty little lemon cucumber. And of course, yet another mound of tomatoes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fall Foreshadowed

Just to remind myself next year or the year after, when I've completely forgotten... we have had a week of cooler temperatures. No rain to speak of -- darn it! But cooler. Lovely sleeping weather.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Week of September

Chickens: all seem to be losing their tail feathers? (Poor Scarlett looks particularly silly.) They are 17 weeks & 2 or 3 days old. We put a second gate in the dog fence over the long weekend. Next (soon) need to put in the nest box & some kind of egg door.

Yard and garden: picked a few green beans. :) G has a little melon of some sort coming along. The tomatoes have officially overwhelmed us! Wish we could produce better onions... Only a handful of grapes this year--really nothing. And of course the vines are a mess, trailing out along the ground, or worse reaching around taking up space in the garden. *They really need a trellis of some sort.* There are a couple of ears of corn coming. Wish we had 3x times the number of stalks we have. (They are quite lovely.)

Didn't have much luck with our nasturtiums. We were probably too late getting started. I think the pale pink balloon flower is going to survive. But the purple one we stuck in near the Redbud got fried. >The rain keeps circling around us without letting loose. :( Yesterday was a perfect example: it actually rained for 20 mins at UNM. At our house? 10 drops. Literally. Think we've had one decent rain in the last week.... out of 4 days when it seemed possible, even likely. Poor Gloria. She has had to work SOOO hard trying to keep things alive.

Wild sunflowers!! Massive walls of morning glories. A sea of sweet potato vines. (Have high hopes there. )

Weed season: along the road, the pigweeds are thigh-high, with huge fat, gracefully drooping seedheads. The silverlace nightshades (?! is that their name) form a dense understory. Can't see where they are in seed production while buzzing past at 20mph.

Space and time: Hah--I haven't actually missed the equinox. (Yet. grin) >September 23rd. 2 weeks from Friday.