Friday, August 26, 2011


In the "lookeewhatIfound" category today we have this:

A big, fat, strawberry!  I have some ever-bearers in the garden, most of which have done nothing but look very healthy and happy and green, but didn't put out a single berry.  (Which is not surprising, since I only planted them in the spring.)  However, last week I saw some green ones and today!  Viola! 

It was delicious.

And more pink things.  Get a look at this baby!

This is a Pink Brandywine.  If you've never grown a Brandywine tomato (they're the ones with the potato leaves), do it!  They are huge and all meat with a very small seed cavity. 

This is the second big girl I've pulled from this plant.  Its beautiful tomatoes have made me want to save tomato seeds for the first time, so I will.  How could you not want more of this luciousness growing?  Oh baby!

Other random things: today I got all the animals fed in the morning as usual, and in the goose house was an egg.  .....yeah....I don't know.  No one is fessing up to it.  I have no idea whose it could be.  My best guess is that it's one of Arthur's girls, the Africans.  Unfortunately, it was SO dirty that lengthy scrubbing and soaking in the organic enzyme cleaner I use couldn't make a dent in it, so we won't be eating it.  When the eggs are that dirty, I'm pretty sure some of the stuff has gone into the pores and eew.  No good.  That's sad, but I guess I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for this weirdness from now on.  Maybe I can rescue a few. 

On the goose front, last week saw the departure of these two:

Caroline and Oliver were sold to a local homesteader who has a nice piece of land and a large pond.  Yep, it's re-evaluation time.  I think once the bustle of the first year is done (which it is for us), you look around and say "What's working and what's not?"  Well, the chickens are working, the ducks are working, the rabbits don't do enough to be noticed, and the geese are not only noticed, they are loud and there are too many.  We had 9.  Now we have 7.  I think 7 is still too many.  They are great at predator protection, and good at weed control, and great at watchdogging, but they poo everywhere and yell alot.  So, time to rethink the numbers. 

Believe it or not, this is tough for me.  I like the geese.  They are intelligent in a way that I can't explain, and it makes their stubborness sort of endearing, instead of annoying--most of the time.  Sometimes, they are just annoying.   But surprisingly, the hardest thing about shrinking the goose population is my son.  I was unprepared for his reaction to the departure of the two above.  He cried and cried and cried.   So any further reductions will be done slowly.  I don't want to break the boy's heart. 

But still, I guess he has to learn, just like we all do.  Sigh.  This is a toughie.

Off that topic, we're going to the fair tomorrow!!  Yeay!  Chickens!  Pigs!  Sheep! Goats!  Cows!  I LOVE the fair.  Happy days!

Oh, and we are expecting blowback from hurricane Irene on Sunday.  Whoopie!  (that's sarcasm, if you can't tell)  I have to get things nailed down outside today.  In some places, literally.

I've got a busy day ahead, so off I go.  Enjoy your weekends!!
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Friday, August 19, 2011

So It CAN Produce Food!

Who knew?  After the potato failure, and the lack of zucchini and beans (which are two things that never fail to produce) this year, I figured the garden was a total failure and I'd lost my touch.  But today I went into the garden and look!

Food!  Actual food!  Who knew?

This entire time, I've been pulling out one or two green beans, maybe a small tomato here and there, I think I got four zucchinis in total, and today it was like payday.

Then I looked around and saw that the tomato plants are loaded, the eggplants are huge (which I NEVER get), the beans are flowering like it's going out of style and finally starting to take over their teepee, and there are pumpkins all over the place.  Oh, and the raspberry plants are laden with berries.

Maybe I haven't quite lost my touch.  This year is in no way turning out the way I'd hoped, but maybe it'll still be salvagable (watch; we all get a killing frost next week.  Wouldn't that teach me a lesson!).
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

So You Think You Can Crow?

Here at Chicken Scratch we have (currently) 4 roosters-- a Welsummer named Copernicus, a  Black Copper Maran named Peter, and two Silkies named Albert and Henry.  Some are gifted singers, some are not.  Want to take a listen?
(Keep in mind, in these clips, you can't see any of them.  Every time I get close enough to film them, they stop crowing, so I try to be discreet)

Let's start with the prettiest crow, shall we?  This one is from Peter, who sounds like what I think a rooster "should" sound like, if there is such a thing as what a rooster should sound like.  He's got a beautiful voice.

Next up is Copernicus.  He's got a nice voice as well, though lower than Peter's.  His crow is short and to the point.  He was the first to crow here and sang all the time.  Now everyone's gotten into his act, and he's a little more subdued.

And that brings us to the ugly crowers--the Silkies.  We have two, both of whom we thought were girls because it took them SO LONG to crow, and seriously, how can you tell with Silkies anyway?  They look like little mops to me.  Then one day Henry (formerly Henrietta) stood in his coop and made an interesting sound.  I knew it wasn't Peter, and I knew it wasn't Perni, so I looked, and it was Henry.  What a strange noise he made--halfway though a crow and strangulation.  Unfortunately, he hasn't gotten much better, but he has gotten more generous.  He sings whenever the other boys sing.  No one likes to be left out, after all.

Sadly, Albert, who only started crowing last week (and was formerly called Susan), has a worse crow.  He didn't oblige me today, though. 

How about a quick side by side comparison?  Best to worst?  Here goes:

He tries, poor boy.  He really does.

(Oh, and it was just a fluke I got all these voices today, and totally unplanned.  It's about to rain here, and when the weather changes like that, all the boys have a lot to say to their girls by way of warning.  It was just lucky they all wanted to talk at the same time.)
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bright Blue, Baby!

There's something new here getting all the attention lately.
It's big, it's VERY blue, and it seems to be very interesting.

Everyone's been around to check it out.

Can you see who's inside?

Hello!?? Trying to sleep here! 
It's a cat house!  Completely made from scraps and leftovers, right down to the paint!  I am super happy with it, mostly because the roof came out the right way, instead of half-assed and crooked, which is my normal building style.  Yeay!

The kittens need a place to get out of the rain and a place to sleep out of the sun.  Mostly they hide under the bar-b-que, but that's just not cool and they could get hurt.  So I built them a place of their own.

I just hope they use it. 
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Epic Fail

I'm borrowing an expression from my brother here, to describe the potato "harvest" this year.
It was laughable.  Wanna see?

I can't stop laughing--and crying. 
Just pathetic.

I've learned some things though, and here they are:

1.  The tire thing doesn't work, because it produced lots of very skinny, long, leafless stems and no potatoes.
2.  Stuffing straw into the tires instead of dirt does not make the potato plants make more potatoes.  Whoever said that it works was lying.
3.  Mice like to live in the tires and (probably) eat potatoes.

UGH.  This is disappointing. 

I have a plan for next year, though.  I have accumulated a lot of tires in this project, so I'm going to use them for things like raised beds for other plants, like carrots, which in my dirt, always need raised beds.  Also, I will not use straw to hill up the plants.  I will just make sure I have plenty of dirt around.

We live and learn, ay?

As to my dinky little "harvest" above, I will try to save them for seed.  It would be nice if some good came from this after all.


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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Chicken Wing of the Hospital

Oh, a bad pun!  What would the day be without it?

We've had an injury here at Chicken Scratch.  NOT our first, by any stretch, but the first caused by a child.  Since it was about to rain, I asked my daughter to go out and get the little chicks from the outside brooder and bring them back into the inside brooder so they wouldn't get rained on.  The outside brooder is a heavy 2x4 box covered in chicken wire-- top, sides, the whole nine yards.  That means that the top is heavy, too.  And it's tempting to lift it on it's hinges and then let it drop to the ground, which is what my kids usually do.  Of course, they usually do this when there's no one around.  But there were many someones around the outside brooder today, getting a look at the "new" chicks.  Unfortunately, my daughter didn't really look when she opened the top and let it fall onto the grass, and BANG!

We now have a hospital resident.

This is one of our two little Welsummer pullets.  We call her Yellowlegs.  Actually we call them both Yellowlegs because they look exactly alike.  This Yellowlegs got her leg caught in the path of the heavy falling lid and *snap* it's now broken. 


I'm not much accustomed to having a chicken in my living room as a guest, but I will say, this one is pretty personable.  She was calm and relaxed as I splinted her leg, and was sweet and sat to be petted.  (Not that she could run away!--poor little monkey)  She talks when I walk past her from her cage in the living room.  I hear little bock-bocks directed towards my ankles.  It's pretty funny, really.

She's not staying in the living room forever.  She's got a 24 hour pass to be here, so I can make sure there are no stupid complications from this, and then out she goes to be in the garage-barn in her hospital cage.  She won't get back into gen-pop until she's all healed.

See my craptacular splinting prowess?  Four popsicle sticks, a bunch of Vetwrap, and a whole LOT of athletic tape.  That sucker's not moving!

Isn't it funny how, when you run a farm, you wind up with the most unexpected animals in your home?  I've had geese in my bathroom for first aid, goslings and ducklings in my bathtub for warm swims, chickens in the kitchen accidentally, and now a chicken in the living room.  C'est la vie!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Weedfest 2011

(probably will get some interesting hits from that title, no?)

Nope, I don't mean that kind of weeds.  I mean this kind of weeds.

The weedy kind of weeds.  In other words....crabgrass.

I have spent a SERIOUS amount of time the last week or so pulling crabgrass out of the vegetable patch.  So much so, that when I close my eyes, I see.....crabgrass.  Since this is its first year, and since the area was grass for many years before this, it wants to go back to being grass again.  I have logged many hours this year pulling the damn stuff, and boy, have I moved loads and loads of it.  I believe I'm up to my 7th full wheelbarrow, not counting the one in the picture above, because it wasn't full when I took the picture.

I blame my weed issues on three things:   1)  It's a first year garden, turned out of grass.  Every first year garden made out of a grassy area always does this to me, especially if I till the soil.  2)  I didn't mulch heavily enough.  3)  I didn't plant things closely enough, nor did I plant enough things in the patches.  Empty dirt=weeds.  'Nuff said.

The nice thing about weeding, if there is one, is not only that it is really pretty relaxing, but it's that you get a really close look at your plants and can see what's growing (or not growing).  So I share with you some of the cool things I saw while I was weeding today.

MAGENTA corn silk.  I've never seen that before.  This is the silk of the plant "Country Gentleman", an heirloom shoe-peg corn.

A little orangey pumpkin hiding in the weeds and vines.  Did anyone else ever notice that pumpkins seem to hide, or is it just me?  You go out one day, and you see four pumpkins on a million vines, and you think "That stinks.  8 million leaves and 4 pumpkins."  Then you go out 15 minutes later and find that there are really 27 pumpkins, not 4, you just didn't see them.  They hide, I swear.  Oh, and did you also notice that you can never find the pumpkin you just found a minute ago when you look for it the second time?  Or is it just me again?  I don't know what that's all about. 

Lumina Pumpkins. 

Out of all the pumpkins I started from seed this year, these did the best.  They took off running and had the most beautiful leaves when they were ready to be planted up.  They also seem to be the most prolific.  I recommend them!

Bat Wings. 

This pumpkin was the most difficult to grow.  The seedlings were slow to germinate, and pathetic when they were ready to be put out.  I didn't have much hope, but 3 of them made it.  This is the first one to make the pumpkin it's supposed to make--green on the bottom, orange on the top.  Pretty cool.

Out of all the melons I planted, both muskmelon and watermelon alike, they pretty much thumbed their noses at me until now.  And see what I found?

Little bitty melon babies!!  This is Cream of Saskatchewan, an heirloom watermelon.  Yes, I like the heirloom varieties.  I actually found 3 of these today.  Hurray!

The muskmelons, however, are still thumbing their noses at me.  Stupid muskmelons.

So, weeding isn't all bad.  You get good and dirty, lots of exercise, and lots of sunshine.  And lots of compost materials.  Just make sure your pile gets plenty hot to kill all those seeds, or we'll all being doing this again next year.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Place Your Bets!

I've read a lot over time about how to sex a chick.  Other than flipping them over and telling that way (which you need to be trained for, apparently), I've heard that you can tell by how they act when you pick them up, how they act when you flip them over, and how they act when they are frightened.  None of it is accurate, in the least.  I've discovered that a really punky hen-to-be acts a lot like a rooster-to-be, and in fact, roosters act like little wimps for quite a while.  Case in point: we have 3 roosters.  Two are big guys, now, crowing and the whole nine yards.  They STILL run like little girls when the older hens chase them.  So really, what does that say?
Attitude, in my experience, doesn't count for much.  So I was intrigued when I came across a little blurb in Backyard Poultry about a man who SWEARS that you can sex chicks by the size of their tails at 2 weeks.  He insists that the hens will have 3/4" tails and the males will have 1/4" tails.  He says it's accurate 100% of the time.  That's quite a claim, so hey, let's go with it.  By looking at the little ones' tails, my prediction is that 3 of them are hens, and 1 of them is a rooster.  Everyone but Walnut has a little tail sticking straight out.  His (if he's a him) is little and short.

Let's do this; if you know of a way to sex chicks other than flipping them over, tell me and I'll do it (unless it will hurt the chicks, obviously).  Let's see what the different "tests" come up with as results, and then let's see who actually turns out to be a girl or a boy.  I would love to see the accuracy of these things.  If nothing else, it'll be fun.

If you've got a method, let me know!  I'm ready to begin.
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