Chicks and Penguins

After the USPS started allowing live animals shipments again we checked in regularly with the farm stores, and when Coastal finally said they’d gotten 25 Freedom Ranger chicks in, we rushed right down. They don’t start selling the chicks until 11am, so we made sure we were the first ones there at 10:30am. When the chick lady told us we were too early, I said, “I know. I’m here to wait, to make sure I get my chicks – I want 15 of the Freedom Rangers!”

And then, guys, when 11am rolled around, the chick lady told me she was only going to sell me five chicks. FIVE. After she KNEW I’d been standing there half an hour to buy fifteen! She said “there are other people here who want chicks, so I can only sell you five.” I said I was here first, and I’ve been waiting here half an hour. And anyway, the only other person here just wants six.” The Coastal lady was clearly trying to do the math in her head: 25-15-6=? It took her a few seconds of visible effort, but she finally came to the correct conclusion that even if she sold me 15, she’d still have more than enough for the other lady to have hers, too! But even as she reached for boxes and packaged my chicks, she was obviously disgruntled at allowing me to buy them. It was so very strange. A store employee can’t just randomly decide that the person who has been waiting to buy their product, cannot buy their product! Even if I had wanted all 25, that wouldn’t matter. Unless there is clearly a limit posted, anyone can walk in at any time and purchase the store’s entire stock of an item! I thought I was going to have to dig deep for my inner Karen and ask for the manager.

But the chicks themselves are lovely.

These are, of course, my yearly meat birds. I’ve tried other breeds, but Freedom Rangers are my favorite. They aren’t franken-chickens like the cornish cross, unnatural creatures that will literally just sit in front of a feeder and eat themselves to death if you don’t restrict their food. They also are capable of surviving longer than 8 weeks without breaking a leg just by trying to stand, or having heart attacks from the stress of growing so large, so fast. Freedom Rangers are just like normal chickens, except they grow considerably faster than your typical layer. They are also super docile and sweet as chicks, and very easy to manage right up to adulthood. The roosters at that point do become a little ornery, but that’s all to the good. It’s easier to butcher ornery birds!

But right now…they’re so cute it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever reach that point.

It’s good to have them here on the farm. With all the USPS nonsense, I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to get them this year!

Last week I had three yards of compost delivered, and I spent about a day and a half shoveling compost into my new strawberry beds and also the container vegetable beds.

And yes, I did put straight compost into them. It’s a myth that you shouldn’t plant directly into compost. As long as the compost is…composted…it’s a perfect planting medium. Charles Dowding, the British no-dig garden guru says you’re making a mistake if you fill your beds with anything else. Of course, he prefers homemade compost, but I simply do not have 3 yards of spare compost laying around, lol. I wish!

The picture above is of my front yard vegetable garden, grown in containers because of the horrific bindweed infestation I have that makes in-ground gardening virtually impossible. That is about to change, however. By the time these containers wear out – or even before they do – I expect to have bindweed eradicated from my garden. How, you ask? Harnessing the power of pigs!

Guinea pigs.

The ONLY way that works to get rid of bindweed is to nip off every last bit of leaf that dares attempt to grow. I know it works, because last year my mom got rid of the bindweed in one tiny part of the backyard by daily pinching off every sprout. Our yard is far too large for that to be feasible, but here’s where the pigs come in. Guinea pigs love to eat bindweed! They will happily scamper around, eating every bit they can find. So this front vegetable patch is now the territory of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, our two male pigs.

Notice the ramp on the front of their coop? In the mornings, I open the door, and they come out, and eat everything in reach (Hence the raised containers for the veggies! Guinea pigs, unlike rabbits, don’t dig or jump). In the evening, they go back up the ramp and put themselves to bed in exchange for a scoop of timothy pellets.

In the back yard, I have a second vegetable container garden, this one patrolled by the original two pigs: Fiona and Freddie.

And in the far back corner, I have the last two pigs: Fancy and Phoebe, who are responsible for the medicinal herb garden. In the below picture, the cage straight ahead is Cocoa the angora rabbit’s home. You can see the ramp leading to the pig’s coop on the left.

I’m thinking after a couple of years of piggo patrol, the bindweed will be gone. Then I will have to reconsider my options. I still want the pigs to patrol for stray dandelions and bitterweed, because there is something so pleasant about gardening in the company of animals. I nearly always have the pigs or chickens or ducks working beside me! But I might want to dispose of the containers, and start building simple raised beds. Just tall enough to keep out the pigs! We’ll see if I’m even still here in two years…this world is rapidly coming to an end, and Jesus Christ is just about to remove his church off the earth and bring down his judgement! But until then, my job is to be a good steward of the specific piece of earth he has given into my care.

I’d like to end this with a couple of awesome things I recently purchased. The first is this DIY Garden Hoops kit.

It’s cheap, and I don’t expect it will last forever, but it will last long enough to be worth it. You get a number of plastic hoop sections and connectors that you can put together in any way you want, then cover with either plastic for a mini cold frame or with netting to keep cabbage moths off your cabbages.

I’ve bought three packages (so far) and I’ve set up one raised bed on the back patio for future winter growing of lettuce and greens.

And I used the rest to make mini ones for the some of the container veggie beds.

I love that they are so easily customizable, and changeable, too. I want to be able to protect certain vulnerable crops from caterpillars and aphids without actually killing those bugs. I WANT them in my garden, just not devouring my cauliflower and cabbage!

And my FAVORITE new thing is the Egguin. Oh my goodness, you guys, I LOVE this thing! Someone posted it in my local poultry facebook group, and I immediately went to Amazon and bought it. And it was delivered the next day. It is a thing of cuteness and extreme usefulness!

One of the problems I have with hard boiled eggs is that they are always getting mixed up in the fridge. Once I actually sold a dozen eggs to a co-worker…only to have him come laughing to me later saying he tried to crack one of the eggs, only to discover it was hard-boiled! The way the Egguin works is…you put your eggs inside, then put the whole thing in a pot of boiling water, cook them to your satisfaction (and the eggs don’t crack while boiling because they are cradled safely by the penguins!) and then when cooked, you simply put the whole thing in your fridge. It’s seriously genius. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve bought…in my whole life. It amuses me, and makes my life easier. It even fits all sizes of eggs – even X-large Muscovy duck eggs.

I’ll leave you with one last picture of Spring. I have lettuce growing outside!

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