Monthly Archives: September 2014

Garden Disasters and Missing Chickens

I have a terrible time with corn.  Last year, the squirrels ate the little mini-ears I was growing…right before I was going to harvest them.

This year it was wind.

Yup, my gorgeous corn stalks looked like this in the morning.

At least a few of the ears were far enough along to harvest, although it would have been better if they’d been able to stay on there a couple more weeks.

This is Glass Corn, the prettiest corn in the world.  Every ear is a different color.

It’s a not a fresh eating corn; it’s meant for flour, or popcorn.  I’m going to go with popcorn.

And look!  Here’s a random cabbage!

I love colorful vegetables.  They are so gorgeous in the garden.

Yesterday, one of my chickens got lost.  I went out to shut them in the coop for the night, and Josie, my Barnvelder was just…gone.  I looked in the coop, and in all the various yards they currently have access to.  I called her.  I asked the other chickens where she was.  No one knew.

And then I found her.  And made a video, because if you can’t use the internet to shame your chickens into proper behavior, what else can you do????

And then, after I filmed her, I took her out of the bucket and discovered what she’d been up to.

These are all her eggs.  And here I thought she was not laying because she was heading into a molt!  I still can’t figure out how she was getting in and out of that bucket.

Crazy chicken.  It’s not as if she doesn’t have perfectly wonderful nest boxes…complete with pink curtains!

Advertisements

Building Quail Coops, Fences, and Garden Beds

First off – I have exciting news!  You may remember we have been searching for a Corgi puppy…well, we found one!

Meet Dexter.

Dexter5weeks

He’s just about 5 1/2 weeks in this photo, so we have about 3 weeks to wait until he’ll be old enough to come home with us, but he’s officially ours!  The breeder said he’s her favorite from the litter, the sweetest and most affectionate, and not so bossy as his brother.  He also likes cats; in one video we saw, he made a beeline to go play (very nicely) with the cat!  It’s good that he’s already getting used to animals other than dogs.  When he gets here, we’ll have to introduce him to the two-legged cats…i.e. the chickens.  (Hey, the chickens sit on my lap, purr, chase squirrels, and would eat mice if we had any…)

Also exciting is my crop of millet.  I harvested it the other day, and it’s gorgeous.

It definitely won the contest between millet and quinoa as a seed crop.  I would have gotten a small amount of quinoa, but we’ll never know if the quail would have loved it or not.  The chickens managed to bust into the quinoa bed, knock it down, and eat it before it was ripe.  They seemed to enjoy it, at least.  😦  See – they are also as sneaky as cats!

Because the chickens clearly cannot be trusted, I spent the last two weekends fencing off a part of the east yard and adding garden beds.  I swear the chickens know what it means when I haul out t-posts and wire.  They start whining and complaining right away.  Not more fences!  Nooooo…..

In the beds to the right, are strawberry starts.  To the left, in the front, is one gooseberry.  I plan to add one more, plus an espalier of some sort against the fence.  Still undecided as to what that will be.  I’ll put more strawberries around their feet.

To the left, in the back against the chicken coop wall, is one of the vegetable beds that I will rotate the quail through.  I still have to build the coop/tractor that sits on top.  Right now, there is a moveable cold frame that I also built.

To the side of the new fenced in area, we put up a wire hog panel arch.  I’m training a thornless blackberry up it.  In behind the arch, you can see the two columnar apple trees I planted this Spring.  They are doing very well, despite the best efforts by the chickens to get into their pots and dig all the dirt out.

The Sweet Dumpling squash leaves are looking terrible this time of year, but the squashes themselves are wonderful.  I can’t wait to taste them as mature winter squash.  I ate a couple immature, as summer squash, and they were very tasty!  This variety will be grown again next summer for sure.

I’m still canning like crazy and loving it.  We bought a couple boxes of peaches, and I canned some straight-up in a light syrup.  For others, I saved the leftover syrup I used to can Black Plums in, and used that.  It has a gorgeous red color that makes the peaches look really pretty!

I met a new friend through my local Freecycle, who was also interested in keeping quail.  When Anna came over to my place to pick up her freebie, I gave her the tour and she was especially intrigued by one of my quail coops.  This one.  After Anna found some quail up on Freecycle, she came back to visit my coop again, and ended up making a similar one for herself in one day!  I asked if I could share pictures, because I really like some of the modifications she made.

She added a door to the center front, which must be handy for cleaning and catching stubborn quail, as well as cute handles on the two lift-up doors.  She also has a green roof on the middle section with sedum planted.  She says her seven little quail hens are very happy in their new coop, and I believe it!

I cannot even tell you how happy my garden has made me this year.  The wild critters seem to love it as well.  The chickens, rabbits, and quail have had so much fresh food to eat, and since I use no chemicals, the wildlife is really flourishing as well.  I know they are helping to keep all the unpleasant bugs at bay, because other than my brief issue with root maggots this year (solved by the application of beneficial nematodes) I have had almost no damage to anything.  Several birds have nested in my garden this year, and look at this little sweetie I found in my bean plants!  He didn’t budge the whole time I was harvesting beans around him.

And finally, a brief travel update: another friend was kind enough to give me a bunch of Egyptian money leftover from her trip!  So much fun – being able to hold actual money in my hands in making my trip seem so much more real.  Thanks, Arte!  This time next year I’ll be across the Atlantic Ocean!

Egg Popsicles and Runner Beans

The Runner beans are starting to dry, which means I need to keep the pods picked before they burst open on their own and scatter the beans all over.  The white ones are the white-flowered variety, and the purple ones are the standard red ones.  It makes for a pretty mix!  I’m very excited about tasting these.

Besides picking beans, today I froze a bunch of excess quail eggs.  When those little girls lay, they certainly lay in profusion!  From what I’ve heard, frozen eggs are practically indistinguishable from fresh eggs (as scrambled eggs, or in recipes) but you can’t just pop them in the freezer.

First, since they ARE teeny tiny quail eggs, I cracked five of them into little plastic cups.  Five quail eggs are equivalent to one chicken egg.

Then, I beat them gently with a fork, to mix the yolks and whites together.  Next, I put the little cups in the freezer.  When they had frozen, I ran the bottom of the cups under hot water for a few seconds to loosen them, then popped the frozen eggs into freezer bags.

They look like little tasty orange popsicles!  During the winter, when the quail aren’t laying anymore, and the chicken eggs are sporadic at best, I’ll be able to grab out however many little egg blocks I need for my recipes.

I’ve been doing a lot of work out in the yard these last couple of days.  I finally finished the raised beds in the vegetable garden, and added more beds in the East Yard.  I forgot to take pictures, though, so I’ll have to do a separate blog post on those improvements later.  This fall, I’m really hoping to get the greenhouse and duck coop built.  No matter how much I accomplish, there’s always an unending to-do list!

Pressure Canning, Doctor Who, etc

A friend lent me her pressure canner, so I was able to give canning green beans a go!  Once I realized I was not actually going to blow the kitchen up, it was just as easy (or easier) than the water bath method.  Definitely slower, though – the annoying bit is waiting for the pressure canner to cool down before you can open it up and start another batch.

This jar *just* came out of the canner – so it’s still boiling and bubbling inside.  I liked doing it well enough, that I went onto Amazon, and bought my own pressure canner.  It was cheap enough, since I can’t get one of the really nice ones because of my glass top stove.  The Presto one I bought is really the only one that will work with my kind of stove.  I hate that stove, btw.  It’s been nothing but an annoyance since the day it came.  Glass top stoves definitely suck.

I think I’ll can some greens, corn, and beets when my new canner comes…plus more beans.  I planted some bush beans a few weeks ago, planning for a fall crop.

Speaking of corn, my teeny little corn patch is doing wonderfully.  I have actual ears now!

And the plants themselves are so cool and ornamental, growing just beside the back door as they are.  I love looking at them through the kitchen window!

The biggest Blacktail Watermelon is full-size, I think, and nearly ready to pick.  The underside is starting to yellow.  I’m so excited about this.

I’m harvesting several kinds of dry beans.  This is a test year, to see what grows well, and which ones we prefer the taste of.  Next year, I’ll put in a whole bunch of whichever variety turns out to be our favorite.  These are called “Bumblebee”.  They are so pretty!

And the last bit of gardening news is that the Tromboncino squash is ready to harvest.  Look at this crazy shape! My vegetable garden is in the front yard, so yes, it was slightly embarrassing to carry this past the neighbors….  😉

It’s supposed to be one of the best tasting summer squash around, but I still prefer my Englischer Custard Squash.  I thought the tromboncino tasted a little bit like a spaghetti squash…only without the spaghetti.  It was good, though, and the vine appears to be very resistant to mildew, and well as being a great climber.  It has earned a place in my garden next year.

When I was a work, one of my patron/friends heard I was planning a trip to Egypt next year, so he brought me in some Egyptian money left over from his trip!

I love foreign money.  And it’s cool to think that Steve brought this money from Egypt years ago, and now I’ll be taking it back.

Lastly, what do you all think of the new Doctor?

I was not a fan of Matt Smith (although he got a lot more bearable once The Terrible Amy left) so pretty much anyone would have been an improvement in my mind.

capaldi-space-bg

But as it turns out, I’m pretty thrilled with Capaldi.  He’s interesting, and so far, he’s shaping up to be my second-favorite Doctor.  Capaldi is just a terrific actor, and this role is so perfect for him.

Plus, you know, Scottish accent.