I've been meaning to update the blog about various events that have occurred in the last month or so, but just ran out of time. So here is a whirlwind update, by subject matter.
Garden: I don't mean to brag, but the garden is awesome!!!! I'm absolutely thrilled with it. Somehow, it turned out better than I could have ever dreamed. Oh, of course, it's not perfect. I have some insect pest issues ( I discovered a bunch of tomato hornworms on my tomatoes, potatoes and tomatillos. ICK!!) and some tomato plants are dying of a bacterial wilt. But overall, it just fills me with pure joy to walk around and work in the garden. We've been harvesting a steady stream of tomatoes for the last 2-3 weeks (including some Brandywines- delish!), but I can see that in about 2 weeks, there will be an explosion of red in the garden. Several of the tomato plants are taller than I am! I'm excited... and nervous about how I'm going to handle all those tomatoes. Canning sounds so simple, but I'm not sure how to manage it and care for my small children at the same time.
My daughter "helping" in the garden. She likes to pick all the flowers. Sigh.
My son on "Cabbage Moth Patrol". We buy him butterfly nets and turn him loose in the garden to catch (and squash) those pesky white moths.
My daughter with a head of "Belstar" organic broccoli, from the Seeds of Change catalog
Chickens: We successfully transferred the 12 chicks (no longer chicks!) to the new and improved chicken tractor. After leaving them locked in the tractor for a week or two to adjust to living outdoors, we finally opened the door and set them free to mingle with our existing flock of 9 hens. We were not sure how this transition would go. According to all the books, introducing new chickens to an existing flock can be a bloody, violent mess. To put it mildly, chickens are not kind to each other. Thankfully, there were few problems, mostly because the chicks were able to free-range and escape from the older chickens. If they were in a small enclosed area, I think it would have been a different story. There were a few chicken fights, as seen below, but they slowly seem to be working out their differences. In a few weeks, we plan moving all of the chickens into the new chicken tractor and retiring the old one for the season.
There have been a few disappointing surprises with the 12 chicks we brought home this spring. First of all, one of the Aracaunas (a rather exotic chicken that lays blue, green and pink eggs) turned out to be a plain old Rhode Island Red chicken. Boo. Not sure how that mix up happened. Then, two of the twelve chicks turned out to be roosters!!! We specifically bought "pullets", which are supposed to be all females, not "straight run", where you get a mix of hens and roosters. I guess it's not a huge deal, but still annoying after feeding them for months and counting on having a certain amount of laying hens. Apparently whoever was on chicken-sexing duty that day (the person who examines each chick to tell if they are male or female) was a bit distracted. Turns out the chicken we had aptly named "Gigantor" was a rooster (no wonder he was so big!) and also one of the Buff Orpingtons - my niece named him "Bruce". We gave Gigantor to our step-dad, but Bruce is still hanging around... for now. He may end up in the stew pot sooner than later. I don't mind his crowing, but he chases my ladies around the yard all day, playing "leapfrog" (that's what my 5 year old son thinks they are doing) and the ladies are clearly annoyed with him... and so am I. Your days are numbered, Bruce.
Bruce, the rooster, strutting his stuff
Crooked Beak, the Aracauna with the, well, crooked beak (real original name, huh?), is still alive, but half the size she should be. We just can't bring ourselves to kill her. Her crooked beak makes it nearly impossible to eat. It's sad to watch her peck at the food and see it all fall out of her deformed beak. She's done better since being allowed to free-range, where she can eat grass and bugs, but I worry that she will starve this winter. She is the most skittish chicken we have, but lately, for some odd reason, she has taken to flying up onto me and sitting on my head while I'm doing chores in the yard. Yes, it freaked me out at first, but now I'm getting used to walking around with a chicken on my head or shoulder. Silly chicken.
Pigs: The hogs are getting fat! We have no idea how much they weigh these days, but I think they may have tripled their size since we brought them home in June. It's been fun to watch them grow and develop personalities. We make it a point to go in their pen several times a day to talk to them and give them affection. They LOVE to being scratched and will grunt and groan in delight. But boy, oh boy, are they messy! I have to make sure I wear my "hog pants" when I go in there because they seem to enjoy smearing mud on my legs. Sometimes I go in with shorts and mud boots instead, and inevitably end up with mud covered legs. It's yucky. My husband laughs at me and says "You've been hogged!"
Pigs are fun, but also a lot of work. Since we don't have waterer or feeder, we end up having to visit them several times a day to fill their food trough and make sure they have enough water. These 100 degree days we've been having recently make us nervous. Pigs don't handle heat well, as they can't sweat and don't pant. We've heard more and more stories about people's pigs that simply keeled over and died in the heat. So we make sure the pigs have a big mud wallow/puddle to roll in or sometimes we just run the sprinkler for them. Demanding little buggers.
Pearl. She may look sweet, but she's a mischievous one!
Goats: Our little goat, Toro, has been giving us a run for our money lately... not that we are shocked. When we were exploring fencing options and looking at electric fence at the farm store, we laughed at the chart that listed animals from easiest to contain to hardest. It went something like this:
Big Cats/ Exotic Animals
We're not laughing anymore. They were not kidding. Toro runs through our electric fence like it's fishing line. We know the fence is working. All the other animals are deathly afraid of the fence and won't go near it. I accidentally touched it the other day, and let's just say it was EXTREMELY unpleasant. I cannot wrap my head around how he can continue to go through it several times a day. We just don't know what to do. He doesn't wander far and comes running back when we call him, but it's still not a good situation. I'll let you know when we figure out how to contain our escapee.