Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Summer 2020 review

On the Farm

Autumn begins this week so this seems to be a good time for a summer review.  First, an update on the Langstroth hive: it did not make it ($200 down the drain).  I tried putting a new queen in there but she did not take.  So, I just put it away and will get it out next spring and try again.  I have a bee "art" project that I am going to be working on with a friend so more on that next year.  Since most of the honey we harvest comes from the Langstroth hive, we will not have any honey for sale for a maybe a couple years.  The top bar hive continues to do well!
It's a little hard to see but the bees love the water feature.

We continue to be busy in the garden.  The garlic, carrot and beet harvests was decent and the onion harvest was fantastic.  The eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini are just starting to come on AND we are actually getting a nice harvest of cantaloupe and watermelon!  I canned 11 pints of Rotel yesterday but I probably will not get any salsa canned unless I get some peppers.  
Garlic curing before going into storage

I was able to ferment some salsa!  I had to use some tomatoes that a friend gave me to make this batch.  Fermented foods have increased digestibility and vitamins.  Also, fermented foods promote growth of healthy bacterial flora (probiotics) in your intestines.  I also made a good amount of sauerkraut (which is basically fermented cabbage) and some pickles.
We grew our first batch of meat chickens.  Here is a pic of the electric scalder and plucker that we used.  It went pretty good.  The electric scalder takes a LONG time to heat up (5 hours).  So, we ended up just using a large pot of water set over a propane tank flame for the scalding.  Next time, I will get it plugged in sooner (the paperwork that came with it says it will heat up in 20 minutes).  
Scalder and plucker for processing meat chickens
I was able to make several new jams/jellies this summer.  This is a pic of some elderberry jelly.  This is one of Henry's new favorites.  I have enough berries saved in the freezer to make one more batch.  Other new jams/jellies were white currant, black currant, mint, and roasted rhubarb.  
Trying to get better about seed saving.  I always start with good intentions but then get overwhelmed with all the processing in the fall and never get around to saving seeds.  So, trying to start with simple things.  This is lettuce that has gone to seed (see the white fluffy stuff at the top of the plant) and is ready to harvest the seeds.
This is spinach that I let go to seed.  I did not realize that spinach has male and female plants.  Also, I did not know that the seeds actually grow on the stems of the plant (not at the top like the lettuce).  Learning new things all the time...
The girls are loving the cooler weather and I am still praying for a late, hard freeze.  It got down to 39 degrees the day after Labor Day and zapped the basil and hurt some of the squash and pepper plants but most of the other plants are still chugging along.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

It's a lot quieter around here...

 On the Farm

Last weekend we processed the first half of the meat chickens and since we were chopping heads off, the roosters also saw their end.  We only had 2 roosters but the bigger rooster would attack us (Mark and me) and the smaller rooster kept attacking the ducks.  I could tell that Mark was getting nervous around the roosters and would watch them and not walk past them.  It was just poor working conditions.  If the roosters had been nicer, they could have stayed.  There are lots of great reasons to keep a rooster...


Rooster look out for the flock.  They keep their eye to the sky and watch for predators.  I have seen all the girls run into the barn after the rooster made some type of noise to alert the girls of danger in the sky.  Also, a rooster will also crow if there is danger approaching.  He crowed a lot when Henry went out to the chicken area!  Henry didn't really like the roosters either.
The bigger rooster was almost always the last one in the barn at night, making sure that all the girls got in safely.

Fertilized Eggs

You don't have to have a rooster for a hen to lay eggs.  Chickens have been selected over the centuries to lay eggs most all year.  Now, if you want to hatch eggs, you definitely need a rooster to have fertilization so that baby chicks will develop.  We do not want to hatch baby chicks from our current hens.  They are hybrids so they would not breed true.  Therefore, we didn't really need a rooster.  It just happened that when we ordered the hens, 2 of them turned out to be roosters.

It is really cute to see the rooster do his little shuffle dance to try and impress the ladies.  Also, he will point out little pieces of food for the girls.  He will pick up the food and then drop it again to show the girls.  This is called tidbitting.  

Roosters look handsome but they can be kind of rough on the girls too.  They jump on the hens back to mate with them...(I am really keeping an eye on this girl, she did not leave the barn for several days.  I think she got jumped on too much.  The good news is that I saw her out in the run a couple days ago and she seems much more alert!)
and pull out the feathers in their heads...
I understand this is part of their mating routine but sometimes it gets to be a bit much.  I thought since we only had 2 roosters that maybe it would not be so bad or they would spread their love around but I was mistaken.


Roosters keep the girls in line.  In the absence of a rooster, the hens may start fighting to work out the pecking order.  I have seen some hen fighting and I am keeping an eye on it.  I have even read that the "head" hen may start crowing!  I am curious to see if this happens!

So, it's a lot quieter around here in some ways.  The roosters were crowing loudly at like 3:00 in the morning.  I didn't really mind the crowing but it is nice that it's quieter.  However, on a side note, the dogs have been super noisy lately.  It seems we have a raccoon (the neighbor saw one on September 1st) and a skunk hanging around the farm (we can smell it some mornings).  I think the dogs are barking a lot to keep them away.  Both skunks and raccoon will prey on chickens.

One last note about getting rid of the roosters... 
Eventually, we want to go and visit Joshua and extended family in Kansas and Pennsylvania (after this pandemic lets up).  At that time, we will need someone to come and take care of the girls.  I think it would be difficult to find someone that would come to feed/water the girls and know how to fend off the roosters too.  Now, we don't have to worry about that.

Have an eggcellent day!