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I suck at updating the blog this summer. I’ve chronicled the garden growing, the chicks hatching, and all the little nuances of our homestead life on facebook, but my blog… nope. I’ve thought so many times, “I should sit down and write,” but then I see something else that needs done and my ideas get shelved.
I’m here now. And I want to tell you a few things I’ve learned this summer.
We had 6 babies hatch from 3 of the mamas. Only one egg had a chick in it that didn’t survive the hatch. The fourth was diligent about sitting, but her eggs were empty. A family friend took 42 eggs and was able to successfully hatch 16. The rest of the eggs were empty, except for one that couldn’t make it out of the egg in time. I was extremely pleased with the results. 22 chicks when I honestly didn’t expect even one.
So we picked up the incubator hatched chicks and that night gave each of the mamas four babies. They all immediately took to the chicks, cooing at them and teaching them patiently how to eat and drink. Wow! That was easy! Their naturally hatched siblings welcomed them into their snuggle circles, and all seemed well. Four days later I noticed the mama hen that couldn’t hatch any of her own eggs was going around with a chip on her shoulder. No… wait. That’s too mild. She was in full-on bitch mode. She was indiscriminately walking around and attacking any chick she got close to. It was like a switch was flipped. Gentle mama was gone. I caught her and threw her in with the rest of the flock in the run.
The next day, three chicks were dead. There were no marks on their bodies. They just… died. I removed their little corpses from the coop and went about my day, pondering over what could have caused it. That night, I found another dead. In my mind, I can only come up with two reasons for their deaths. 1 – Disease. These chicks, unfortunately, aren’t vaccinated. Even though I gave them medicated feed for the first week and a half of their lives, they still could have caught just about anything from the litter they run around on. 2 – The bitch mama could have pecked them too hard or too much. She might have damaged something and caused them each a slow death.
Today, two days later, I noticed another mama’s switch had flipped. She was sweet as can be with her four babies, but the other fourteen were fair game. I saw her stalk and pounce on one of the smallest chicks, grabbing it by the head and shaking it like a dog shakes a rope. I threw open the door and was so quick to grab her I don’t think she even saw me coming. She got the walk of shame hanging upside down by her feet out to the run to join the rest of the flock.
Now there are two mothers left. I sat there in the door for twenty minutes watching them interact with the newly motherless chicks. These two last mamas seem okay. They haven’t once gone after the chicks – any of them. They are constantly making reassuring clucks and nudging any chick close to them toward the food or water. They seem alright. But now I’m worried. Is this a common thing for hens? Do they just go crazy once the chicks hit a certain age? Should I separate all of the hens from the chicks and just let the chicks do their own thing until they can join the flock?
If you have any idea, please leave a comment. This is our first year with hens rearing the chicks instead of us, and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m clueless.
On the gardening front, things are going much better this year than last. I’m actually going to get some root crops besides potatoes! Yesterday I harvested some carrots and beets to thin them out and give the rest ample room to expand. Last year our biggest carrot was the diameter of a pencil and only 2″ long. This year, the thinnings alone are bigger than my fingers. Yay! As you can see in one of the pictures below, the pumpkins are plowing right over and through the carrot patch. Oh well. We should still get way more than we need.
The pumpkins, melons, and squash are a couple more victories. Last year – none. This year, there are already a few pumpkins and melons bigger than my head. There are dozens of smaller ones. I’m crossing my fingers for a long hind-end of summer so they all have time to ripen. I got six or seven zucchini from three plants, then the plants decided they were done and started shriveling. I’m guessing lack of nutrients. Our soil still sucks, but at least it sucks a little bit less than last year.
Tomatoes and peppers, as always, are my best performers. Even in our poor soil, 90% of the plants are able to squeeze out a few healthy fruits. This year I tried something new and put a handful of crushed egg shells in the soil as I transplanted. It seemed to do a lot to prevent blossom end rot, though I still have a few plants that I’ve had to give additional doses to.
I planted a lot more herbs and flowers this year, not only to take up space to make less weeding for me, but to give pollinators an array of visual draws. And… they smell nice. I’ve discovered that petunias do AWESOME in the ground, but are needy assholes in hanging baskets. I found that mugwort and soup celery go gangbusters and overgrow anything you plant near them. I also learned that marigolds bloom a lot more when they are kept neatly deadheaded. Some flowers, like shasta daisies, made a whole lot of green growth, but didn’t flower once. Maybe I’ll luck out and they’ll be perennial and next year I’ll get flowers. I do love me some shasta daisies.
I still haven’t figured out the secrets to growing good greens, cauliflower, and broccoli. But I’m getting closer! This year I at least got cauliflower heads, even though they turned black with some sort of mold. The broccoli made larger than normal heads, but is getting sunscalded before I can pick it. Someday I’ll get these things right, but I’m content with progress for now.
Wait… you don’t want to hear about this? You want to see it? Ok. Enjoy pictures of my successes and failures!
So that’s it for our summer so far. No news on the greenhouse, other than we’re currently paying down bills and saving up for the down payment. We should easily have the down payment within a year – we just hope the greenhouse stays on the market that long! If they do sell it before we can get the money, well… at least we’ll have some spare change to build our own greenhouses here and build a garage/workshop, porch, and maybe even a barn. Stay tuned to see what happens.
Today, my husband and I celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary! Ten years since this picture was taken. Wow.
Hope you all had a fantastic fourth of July weekend. We had a blast down in Green Bay. We stayed for two nights, went swimming, bounced on bouncy houses, ate at some great restaurants, walked around downtown, visited the HUGE farmer’s market, and had great seats for the fireworks. Now we’re back home, working on the house and garden.
Those are our nesting boxes. They are usually home to a few eggs and a random hen trying to work an egg out. For the past several days, they have been home to four broody hens who are sitting on way too many eggs each. We have a surplus of eggs in our fridge, so I figured I’d give these girls a chance to try hatching some out. Yes, as the time gets closer I’ll erect a small wall in front so we don’t lose any chicks. If we luck out and get chicks, I’m not sure what we’ll do with them. I’d probably keep any females and slaughter males around 12 weeks. We certainly don’t need any more roosters. But I’d also be willing to sell a few of either sex. If you live locally and are interested, keep an eye on the blog.
Speaking of roosters. Ours are tasty. They’re a big tough since we slaughtered at a year, but they cook down nicely in the crockpot. Look at the size of those thighs! They’re so large, I was surprised I was able to get the lid on the pot.
The chicken coop is looking better than ever with some fresh paint and a bit of landscaping. It’s not finished yet, but we’ll get there someday. I love smelling the flowers when I go to collect eggs. Someday I’d like to get three little bird houses up on the three posts holding up the porch roof. I think it’d be neat to hear baby birds peeping and watch our local songbird population grow.
The garlic in the forefront is nearly read to harvest. I’m excited to see how big the heads are. Some of the stalks are enormous. Most of what I harvest will be planted this fall, but we’ll dry and use some of it. Next to the garlic on the right is one of my herb patches. This one has a few basils, thyme, valerian, mugwort, and hyssop. It smells so good! If you look beyond the rows, you’ll see our work in progress. Raised beds are going up around the corner where the failed kiddie pool rice paddy was. I’ll be taking out the kiddie pool soon and digging a much deeper small pond. My husband ran water and electric out, so now we can have a proper pond with fish. I have lots of plants in pots waiting to go into the raised beds, including a couple hardy kiwis, dahlias, gladioli, and lillies. I’m hoping perennials will take over the bed and offer a great view to go along with the burbling of the pond. We’ll leave enough room for a patio set so we can have meals in the garden next to the pond.
Everything else in the garden is slowly growing upward and outward. Here are some more pictures for your enjoyment.
On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States of America voted in a 5-4 decision to declare state bans on homosexual marriage unconstitutional. States cannot keep same-sex partners from marrying, and must now recognize their unions. Saturday, social media was filled with love, acceptance, celebration, and hope.
Then Sunday came.
Guess what happens on Sunday? People go to their churches and sit through sermons. I’m guessing many of those sermons were about this Supreme Court decision, and that those individuals giving the sermons weren’t in favor. Suddenly emboldened with their weekly injection of hate, believers took to social media and other outlets to show their united contempt for… well… love. How very Christian of them.
Since I deleted most bible-thumpers and bigots from my friends list, I didn’t have to deal with a lot of the anti-gay vitriol, but some of my friends shared things from their misguided friends. It’s sad. Even more sad was when I drove our boys to their summer school this morning and saw this sign in front of the only church along the main drag of our small town. It sits proudly on the road just before the school, so this message of hate and intolerance is on display for all to see.
As disgusting as those signs are, I recognize that free speech belongs to everyone. If this church wants to breed hatred, fine. But I’m going to counter it in any way I can. Friday, love won. And it’s going to continue to win. Equality and love are so much bigger than bigotry and oppression.
I support equal rights for all, no matter what your gender or sexual orientation. I just want to let everyone know that just because a sign in our little town of 600 declares a message of hate… not all of us are like that. Many of us here in this little community are good, loving people who believe in equality and don’t care who you love so long as that love is shared by consenting adults.
That is all. 🙂
So things are moving right along on our little homestead. I had Type B Influenza for a week, then the next week I fell off of a ladder and sprained my ankle really bad. More than two weeks later, I’m still getting all swelled up and painful by the end of the day. Guess I’m a slow healer. I missed a lot of work, and I haven’t done a whole lot around the house since I’ve been laid up so much. Hopefully that will change soon.
This past Monday I put my two week notice in at work. I don’t have affordable daycare for our boys, and it’s just too difficult to schedule my hours around my husband’s, especially when he does sea trials on the ships and is gone for days on end. I have been a bit broody lately because of all that. I’ll miss the folks I work with, and interacting with so many people each day.
One of the other vendors at the farmer’s market told me about this friend of his who is trying to sell a greenhouse. At first I thought, “I’ll listen just to humor him. We can’t afford anything huge yet.” I’m an asshole like that sometimes. So I listened. We ran into him at the store and he mentioned it again. My husband expressed an interest, so we swapped phone numbers and I started thinking maybe we could just buy some of the parts and bring the greenhouse up here to our little homestead.
A few days went by and we got a phone call from this friend of the guy at the market. He invited us to his retirement home, where we sat around his dining room table looking at photo albums and discussing the greenhouse. I was floored. This wasn’t just a greenhouse. It was an entire operation – nine full size greenhouses, an apartment, a rental house, an office, two outbuildings for storage, equipment to last us for years, and all in a prime location.
This was big.
I wasn’t prepared for that. We went home and all I could think was, “This is impossible. It’s never going to happen.” Went from an asshole to a negative Nelly. After talking with the hubby about it, we decided it was worth looking into. So today we schedule a trip down to see the place. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s like a dream. It’s pretty run down after being vacant for 5 years, but the potential is definitely still there. Nothing some Round-Up and a lot of hard work can’t clean up. After touring the entire grounds, looking at property lines, and asking a ton of questions, we found ourselves speaking with the realtor in a local pub about financing.
Y’all, we might actually buy this greenhouse.
That’s the big news. It’s still all on the table being worked out, but I’m crossing my fingers. Will you cross yours for us, too? We could use a whole lot of luck right now to get this ball rolling. Oh, the things we could do with this place! We would start slowly, probably only doing the main three greenhouses at first. Then we’d build up from there. Eventually, maybe my husband could even quit his job to work in the greenhouse. I’d love to run this with him!
There’s so much to think about. I’m probably not going to sleep a wink tonight. We should know more in the weeks to come as we talk with our accountant, bank, and a few local zoning and supply folks. It’s going to take a lot to get this operation back in running condition, but we want it so badly we can taste it! Ahh! I’m so excited! It’s pretty much what we were starting to plan on doing here… but it’s all already done and ready.
Wishing and hoping. Wishing and hoping.
I’ll let y’all know more as we get news. Until then, we’ve got some taters and onions that need planting, newly butchered chickens that need eating, and hundreds of plants that need to get out of our loft and into the dirt. I hope this beautiful spring weather keeps coming! No more of that nasty “s” word associated with cold weather. You hear me, mother nature? No more!