In which I blather on and on a lot about poultry

The return of warmer weather – all last week was in the 50’s, and raining! – has gotten me back out into the farm again. It’s big-seed-planting time, when the earth is warm and wet enough for things like beans and corn to swell, burst, push their way out and take off skywards. (Not yet quite warm enough for peppers and tomatoes, thank goodness – I’m not ready to have to plant all of those yet. Cucumbers, dill, watermelons, cantaloupes, pumpkins, zucchini, patty pan, butternuts, sweet corn, flour corn, green beans, pole beans, black beans, kidney beans, white beans, chioggia squash, and basil are plenty for me right now, thanks!)

I’ve been weeding a little bit every night as I take the chickies their evening snack (all our food scraps from that day, Ultimate Composting!) The non-edible weeds get chucked right back where they came from – they can decompose their miserable selves and provide compost for next year’s plants, at least – and the edible ones go to the chickies along with their people food, in an attempt to train them to eat the right plants once I get that deer fence built (er, well, guess I better apply for that permit, huh) and let them out to free-range.

(I’ve heard that you can do that with geese – they are superb weeders, and you can teach them to learn which plants are food and which aren’t. Did you know they are even used as weeders commercially? Mostly just on small farms, because it’s a slow process… but hey, they even fertilize as they weed, so I’ll put up with a bit of sloth. Oh, did I mention they’ll also help guard other livestock from predators?)

Speaking of chickens. Have I told you there are two roosters in the bunch? My dad pointed it out to me when he was here. I poo-poohed the idea until he pointed out the difference in their tails. The chicks were all old enough by that point to have developed “hen” tails… except for these two. Because they are both Black Australorps, I thought it was probably just a difference in the breed until I saw that the third, also an Australorp, has a normal “hen” tail of her own. So…. soon we’ll be deciding who stays and who… um… goes. I think I’ll do like Barbara Kingsolver and wait to see who has the nicer crow.

While in a way I’m a little steamed about it (the feed store had special-ordered 5 australorps for me, but I told them I only wanted 3, so before I could even get to the chicks another lady had swooped down and picked two up. OK, fair’s fair and she was quicker, but it was my special order and I bet she got two hens! Grr!) on the other hand, it’s kind of neat because I had been wanting a rooster but didn’t want to go ahead and make that decision quite yet. So… Mother Nature for the win! (Still, if I had known I would have a rooster or two, I would have ordered one of the showier breeds, like Buttercups. Not a plain old black rooster – how boring!!! Well, we’ll let Josh and the neighbors adjust to the crowing for a while, and then once this rooster kicks the bucket I can replace him with a more dapper gent.)

Anywho… tangent upon stream-of-consciousness-tangent. Typing at midnight will do that to you.

Today I planted about 30 peanuts. I’ve never grown peanuts before, so I’m excited to see how they do. I also planted about 50-70 corn, half Mandan Bride (for flour and pretty Indian fall corn) and Golden Bantam (for sweet eating), both heritage varieties from Seed Savers. The beans got interplanted with the existing Brassicas (I’m all about keeping that soil covered up) and under the corn, which is only meh because for some reason I don’t seem to have bought any pole beans, just bush beans (you’re supposed to plant pole beans with corn so that the beans can use the corn stalks as climbing support, while their leaves shade the corn stalk and their roots provide the corn with nitrogen). So while they’ll still do great together – nitrogen is nitrogen – a good portion of the mutual beneficience is lost there. For the beans, anyway.

The garden’s looking pretty good – I uncovered two rows of Brassicas today. For the most part they’re looking strong and vigorous with only two or three noticeable runts. The row cover didn’t keep out the bugs, though – they still have a bit of caterpillar damage – but they’re certainly much bigger than any I’ve tried to grow in the past, so the jury’s still out on whether the extended-season-row-cover is worth the trouble it takes. I’ll judge it by my zucchini – the theory is that you keep the seedlings covered until squash vine borer season (or whatever, cabbage moth season for cabbages, etc.) is over and the mother beetles are dead, so your plants all survive. (Plus your precious crops aren’t hijacked as a method of propagating the next devil-beetle generation, so it’s a double win.) I haven’t had any homegrown zucchini for about two years because of those nasties, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Pictures tomorrow if I can remember.

One Response to “In which I blather on and on a lot about poultry”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Boy! You are really on the move, aren’t you? Weeding and planting and weeding and planting and …not to mention parenting and housewifery,don’t you EVER rest?
    I am sooo proud of you.
    But don’t forget to stop and smell the roses now and then…

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