Monthly Archives: August 2014

Quail Fairy Eggs!

Sometimes chickens lay what’s called a “fairy egg”…a teeny tiny little egg.  A few days ago, I discovered that quail lay fairy eggs too.

One the right, is a normal sized egg.  On the left, is a fairy egg.  It’s less than half the regular size!  I found three of them in one of my pens, and since it’s normally just a small hiccup with the egg laying process, I’m not concerned yet.

When you crack these fairy eggs open, there is no yolk, only white.

The quail are still laying up a storm, but several of the chickens are now molting, and thus not laying.  My favorite girl, Ellie, is at the really cute stage of her molt: The Fluffy Butt.

She hates it when I photograph her during her molt.  Shhhh….don’t tell her I put her fluffy butt photo on the internet!  She would be so mortified!

In the garden, the Blacktail Mountain watermelons are doing really great.  I might actually get three this year.  This is the biggest, and I think it’s getting close to full size.

The millet is doing SO well.  I continue to be deeply impressed.

I’ve started harvesting a few of my dry beans.  These red ones are so pretty, and I can’t remember what they are.  I’ll have to check the tags, once the bean forest dies down a bit.

I’m getting a ton of ground cherries as well.  I was hoping I’d like them for fresh eating, but although they are sweet enough, it just isn’t a flavor that I’d care to eat fresh by the bowl.  So I’m collecting them, and I think I’ll try a batch of jam later this week.

They are pretty cool looking in their husks.

And when you peel back the husks?  A pretty yellow!

I still LOVE making jam.  My favorite so far is Stonefruit jam (peaches, apricots, and black plums) with vanilla.  I made a few test jars awhile ago, and last weekend, I made a bunch more.

The pantry is starting to get stocked up!

The pollinators are enjoying my sunflowers.

And Dandelion and Daisy are prepping for Easter.  They found this basket on their own, and it’s become one of their favorite places to sit.

Mom uncovered a nest of baby rats in the far garden.  They were so young their eyes weren’t open yet.

Let me tell you…I was tempted to save their lives by adopting them.  They were just so cute.  Too bad the last thing we need is more rats in the area.  We don’t even put food out for the birds anymore, and are super careful to keep our animals’ feed where the rats can’t get into it.  It seems to be an ongoing problem for the whole city though – even the public library I work for has had an issue with rats invading.  At least it’s gotten much better since the city finally tore down the abandoned house that was Rat Central.

This week, I worked on cleaning out some of the vegetables that were going to seed (saving a few to collect next year’s seeds from) and planting some more kale, lettuce, cauliflower, and beets for a late fall/early winter crop.  I still have some planting to do, but everything is mostly in.  This weekend, I’m planning on building some raised beds, including the raised beds that will become the rotating vegetable and quail system.  Also, I am taking the strawberries off the big quail coop roof.  It’s turning out to not a good place for them.  I might put cantaloupe up there next year.

Advertisements

Canning

Canning is proving to be addicting.  After my first test run of making strawberry/black currant jam, I went running back to the store and bought a bunch more jars and Mom chipped in for a fancy new pot.

The first batch of jam was made using a regular recipe with LOTS of sugar.  It tastes good, but I prefer my jams less sweet.  So for my next two batches, I started experimenting with alternate recipes I found online.

One really interesting one was for Blueberry Vanilla jam, using honey as the sweetener, and chia seeds to thicken it.  It worked like a charm, and Mom really likes it.  I’m not entirely sold on how the honey overwhelms the vanilla flavor.  I’ll try it again, I think, using “less sugar” pectin.  NOT the kind that calls for a Splenda substitution, however.  That stuff is so bad for you, it could literally be called poisonous.

Since we have a ton of blackberries ripe right now in the back yard, I made Blackberry Jelly next, using the less sugar pectin.  Worked really well, and I was able to add just enough sugar to sweeten it just enough, while leaving a little tartness.  Loved this one, and I’ll be making more of it, I think.

I also canned about fifteen half-pint jars of sweet cherries.  I used only a very small amount of sugar in the syrup, and YUM.  So good!

I’m really excited about canning peaches, and making apricot jam.  Two of my favorite things!

 

Harvesting the Garden, plus Newborn Puppies!

I’m really liking these Gelber Englischer Custard summer squash.  The plant is producing prolifically, and one of these little guys is just right to cook for either a snack, or as a side dish for one person.

They have a better flavor, I think, than the standard pattypans I grew last year.

The winter squash are also coming along well.  I have a few good-sized hubbards, which I’m very happy about.  Last year, my blue hubbards won my winter squash taste test.

And the Sweet Dumpling is turning into a jungle.  It is one of the varieties I planted in the cold frames, and most of what you see below is it.

There are a TON of little squash on it, and at least one (that I’ve found) is quite large.

I’ve never tasted a sweet dumpling before, so I hope I like it.  I’m not even sure how I ended up planting one.  I know I didn’t buy seeds; it must have been one my friend gave me.

The fig tree is up to nine little figs now.  The two largest ones are actually ripe.  We picked one earlier and ate it.

I have to say I’m still not really a fan.  Mom loves them, though, so pretty much this tree is for her.

The millet is looking so wonderful.  It won’t be long now, until it’s time to harvest.  I’m definitely planting a bunch of this next year.  It’s super easy to grow, and looks quite attractive in the garden.  Plus, the leaves make a wonderful rustling sound in the wind.

One thing I’ve discovered is that orange flowers look really pretty in the vegetable garden.  I have several bunches of marigolds in mine, and they make me happy every time I walk by.  Plus, they draw beneficial insects!

What else?

The cabbages have formed lovely heads.

Oh, and my teeny little by-the-back-door patch of glass corn is taller than me now.

Not only are they tasseling, but they have tiny little corn ears.

Last year, the dastardly squirrels got to them, and ripped apart all the ears JUST when they were almost ready to pick.  I didn’t get a single one.  This year, they are by the back door in the hopes that I’ll be able to protect them better.

Today I bought some canning jars.  I have never canned anything in my life before, but I thought I’d give it a go.  Since I don’t want to invest in a pressure cooker until I know this is a method of preservation is one I care to do, I’ll stick to high acid fruits this year…things I can safely can using the water bath method.  I remember my grandmother used to can peaches this way, and they were SO INCREDIBLY GOOD.  Seriously, store-bought ones cannot even be mentioned in the same breath.

So I thought I’ll do some peaches, and maybe a few cherries.  And also, some jam.

I picked the black currants from the little bush I planted this Spring, and found I had a pound of fruit.  I found a recipe online for black currant/strawberry jam, so I think I’ll try that.

And the most exciting news?  My new puppy Dexter the Corgi has been born!

dexter

The breeder says there are 2 girls and 3 boys in the litter, and we will get first pick among the boys!  When they are a week old, she will take individual pictures of them.  By then, their coloring might have started to change as well.  What you see now is definitely not what what the adult coloring will be.  Corgis are interesting that way; it’s really hard to know what you’re going to get by the time they are a year old.  I just want one with great white markings, because that at least tends to remain pretty much the same throughout its life.