We are now renting our guest apartment for vacationers, business travelers, or just anyone who wants to get away for a couple of days and pet donkeys. It is a 1BR with bathroom, sitting area and efficiency kitchen.
Having worked in agriculture for the past 11 years (in some capacity) I am AMAZED at how difficult farming is. Our soils don’t help. Highly compressed white, acidic, Triassic soils, impermeable when dry, the exceptionally fine grained soils expand, making the soils very slippery, earning it the name and characteristic “slickenslack soil”.
So, enter my six raised beds. They are the best thing I could have done. The fall/ winter garden is in and thriving. I have planted: 3 kinds of onions, 3 kinds of garlic (although I don’t seem to have luck with either one – but I keep trying), lettuce mixes, cabbage, collards, 3 kales, 2 mustards, 3 turnips (mmmm… for the greens), 3 carrots, beets, 2 radishes, cilantro, 4 spinach, peas, and my first try at cover crops. It looks amazing! All that, plus I have a greenhouse full of citrus, ginger, herbs and ornamentals.
The chickens LOVED my garden far more than I, so I had to erect a fence. So far it has kept out the the chickens, donkeys and deer. So far, so good. All for the update on Acorn Garden. Happy growing and remember, EAT LOCAL! Nothing more local than your backyard! No matter how small, a pot in your window sill or more, it is highly worth it!
So, so much has happened lately.
The Saga of the Chickens:
As Eric mentioned the Rhode Island Reds (a.k.a. “the Gingers”) have been laying up a storm! The Barred Rocks (a.k.a. “the Rockettes”) are getting close. Since my dad has moved in, one of his daily jobs is to go out and collect eggs. He loves it!
That is good news. The bad news is that the hawks are really taking their toll on the flock. In addition to Sweet Cheeks – which we now have decided was a hawk – we lost Ms. Dominique and Oprah. Life on the farm is tough, I am learning that and am reminded daily. We lost Ms. D a few weeks back, but Oprah was just last weekend. Eric rounded the corner just to see the hawk take her head and took off.
What to do??? Here I am standing in the driveway holding a dead chicken by the feet. Well, I decided since she had only been dead minutes and the hard part (“dispatching her head”) was already done, I’d try my hand at dressing my first chicken. I went to it the old fashioned way, (no scalder, no plucker) just lots of hard work and plucking with feathers stuck to every possible surface. Well, I got about 90% of the way through and called it done. (I have a whole new respect for chicken wings and the work that must go into getting those little buggers cleaned)! Next was to clean the inside, no problems there. At long last I held up my nearly dressed bird and thought, there is no way that this bird is going to waste. I showed Eric and we agreed that chicken was on Sunday’s supper menu. She dressed beautifully, with a think layer of fat, not like those weak things in the grocery stores. We roasted it up and after a heartfelt blessing, giving thanks for her service and sacrifice, dug in. I’m not gonna lie, it was a bit tough but the flavor was out of this world. This girl was 100% free range and over a year old (versus the commercial confinement birds that are processed at 6 weeks) so I can’t really fault her for that. We can celebrate the fact that she gave us dozens of delicious eggs and in turn, we gave her the best possible life we could. Most birds never get to roam wherever they want, scratch around all day, take dirt baths and do as they please. But dang, life on the farm IS tough.
The babies we hatched in late November are growing up so fast! We ended up with four pullets (girls) and four cockerels (boys). The winter has been so mild, we moved them outside mid-January and they have been out ever since. Tonight was a big night for the girls. They got moved into the big house. They are a bit on the small size but the chicken pen and run we have now is just too small. We shall see what tomorrow brings.
All this drama and we are crazy enough to do peeps all over again! I have ordered four of each: Speckled Sussex (girls), Light Brahama, Silver-Laced Wyandottes and Dorkings (straight run-meaning they are not sexed, you get what you get). I also added one of each: Columbian Wyandotte, a Black-faced Spanish, a Silver Spangled Hamburg and a Gold Laced Wyandotte (all girls). I know it seems like a lot and we already have a lot, but this is going to be our first attempt at meat birds. The hens will go into the egg production side, the roosters will end up in the freezer. Or at least that is the plan. They arrive this week so get ready for Chick Cam!
So its not all chicken candy and donkey hugs on the farm. Sometimes it gets a little scary. Recently a deer was hit on the road in front and crawled over to the lot next to us and died (an unfortunately common occurrence). A few photos here to show not only has it not deterred other deer but has drawn some unwelcome visitors. At least it might keep him from wanting chicken.
Wow, I cannot believe how long it has been since we have posted. With the dog-days of summer behind us, it is time to catch everyone up on farm gossip.
Well… let’s just say that the blog was not the only thing that was neglected this summer. I started out with some potatoes, onions, squash, tomatoes and peppers. The potatoes and onions rotted in our crappy, clay soils before they even really came up. We managed to get quite a few squash – some would say more than enough, but the chickens enjoyed the leftovers. The tomatoes were “meh” this year. I love a novel variety called ‘Reisetomate‘ from Baker Seeds. The description reads: “Bright red tomatoes taste–well, rather sour, strong and acid. The perfect tomato for those who love raw lemons…”. I am not sure if it was weather or the soil but even our usually candy-like sungolds were kind of bitter and just not good. I do know that I can grow peppers. With little (meaning absolutely no care) we harvested 5 different varieties. Not a ton, but with our CSA subscription, it was plenty. The plan… raised beds installed this fall.
What’s to say other than they get cuter by the minute. Each definitely has their own personality.
Rucio is the alpha male and likes his status as such. This summer we had him gelded. We watched the procedure, which was interesting. My favorite part was when they brought (get ready for the best named tool ever) the “double crush emasculator (DCE)”! And that thing meant business. Everything went as expected, but we were not prepared for the, well, ///crunching\\\ sound the DCE made as it crimped his plumbing. We thought it would calm him down and maybe it has a bit, just not as much as we thought.
Mary Louise is such a beautiful little girl and is definitely Rucio’s favorite. They are pretty much inseparable. When we rotate them to different pastures, we have to make sure to move them together or all hell breaks loose! If we decide to take one to the fair, it’s gonna be her.
Stormy has the very best qualities you could look for in a lap donkey. She is so sweet and gentle and lovey-dovey… until Rucio cops an attitude, then she will not hesitate to (repeatedly) kick the snot out of him.
And then there is Estelle. She is the baby and truly enjoys her status as such. She is very lovey (if not a little bitey) and so sweet. Her new favorite game is when someone (okay – me) is in the donkey chair, she loves to come up behind you and rest her head on your shoulder. Ahhhh… And then slowly, so slowly you don’t realize it’s happening, she ever so gently begins to back up and pull until fall ass-backwards and are on the ground with your feet straight up in the air – left with no alternative but to call to someone (Eric) that you cannot get up! But I wouldn’t change anything!
Well, that is not entirely true. All summer long they have been getting into poison ivy and in the spirit of giving have been sharing ample amounts with us.
Much news with the chickens. Currently we have:
(L) Lord Harold PRE-attack and (R) Lord Harold POST-attack
Lord Harold Liam Chaucer of Richmond and Derbyand Lady Beatrice (our Olde English Game birds). We lost Lady Millicent (RIP) a few months ago to what we think was a raccoon and Lord Harold got his ass handed to him the next night. Well, the learned not to sleep outside after that. But our hopes and dreams of taking Harold back to the fair for another blue ribbon showing were dashed. He got the snot beaten out of him, all his tail feathers and sickle pulled out, hunks of hackles and primaries lost. He used to be such a pretty boy… Beatrice actually hatched a clutch of 3 eggs – but more about that later.
The Peeps: Let’s see…
Our mystery chick turned out to be a Dominique hen (aptly named Ms. Dominique). She is one of our favorites. She issort of like a lap hen – she loves to be picked up, held, stroked and scratched. Next we have our two Araucanas – Coco Chanel and Sweet Cheeks. They are totally cool and lay blue/green eggs – which are awesome. Then there are our Barred Rocks, which conveniently both turned out to be roosters. Colonel Woodford and (Rosy or Petey or Bruce, what ever we feel like calling him at the time) are big beautiful roosters, but useless non the less.
The Rest of the Gang:
We adopted a rooster from a friend that cannot have roosters in her town – a Golden-Crested Polish – Fabricio. Now, the Polish are named for their big fluffy hairdos and as humans tend to do, we breed animals purely for show and which cannot actually function in nature. That pretty much sums up Fabricio. He is very skittish and dumb as a bag of hammers, which to his credit is probably because he has no vision because his feathers completely cover his eyes. (I would never order or take one again). And as I mentioned earlier, Beatrice hatched a clutch of three. We raised them inside the house and moved them outside in the spring. Based on very early estimations on feather length and other factors, they we deemed to all be hens. We thought – WHAT ARE THE ODDS??? Apparently, too good to be true. In fact two of the three are roosters. The original names we chose (as the offspring of Lord Harold and Lady Beatrice) were Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth. Well… Mary stuck and having sort of run out of names and not really being pleased with 6 roosters (yes SIX) I have just been calling them Supper and Dinner.
And while we are on the subject of SIX roosters, a few weeks ago I decided it was time to ‘dispatch’ and ‘process’ oh, say 5 roosters. I did my research, watched videos, read article after article and had my system down. And then the Thursday before the planned weekend, Eric got wise to my little plan. With great horror, he proclaimed, “NOOOO!!! We are taking them to the fair”. So we continue to feed, care for them and get nothing in return. By the time the fair rolls around, and to be honest, I am not too optimistic about them selling, they will barely be good for pastry or coq au van. I’ll keep you posted.
We are down to three ducks: Laura, Ryan and Stephen. Through this experience we have learned we are not big fans of ducks. I am sure it is animal cruelty, but every time I see them I think of Fat Bastard in Austin Powers and yell, “GET IN MY BELLY” at them. We should have harvested them a long time ago, but dang, they are hard to catch. And I’ve really tried.
With such a miserably hot summer, even the fish were bent out of shape. They pretty much got stuck up by early May and today was my first day back on the water. Don’t mind telling y’all, I KILLED IT! Fishing is back on! Woo hoo!
Well that is about everything I have to report for now. I promise it will not be so long before posts. The fair is right around the corner and who knows what we might end up with!
Oh… that’s just me on “Operation Opossum Relocation (OOR)”.