Thursday, April 14, 2011

Garden days

Yesterday we had a day with sun! So I took the opportunity to work in the garden getting one of the 4 sections ready for planting this weekend, we hope. I had two rain showers while working but they were light and I didn't melt. All my birds helped. Including the mom and chicks. The chickens got busy scratching up
bugs and loosening the soil. The geese were just plain cute and wanted to eat every weed I pulled up so they were in my face much of the time. The ducks ate slugs.
 What can I say but thanks. It was fun and it was looking good when we quit but I still have a little work to do before I can plant that section. Today it rained so much and was so cold I had to leave the geese and baby ducks inside. Some places north of here even had snow and the night time temp is suppose to be in the upper 30's.

It's suppose to be warmer and sunnier this weekend so I am still planning to put in lettuce and peas. So much for growing your own food. The only thing growing here is the grass and weeds. Peas are normally planted by March 15 and supposed to be planted when soil temps reach 50 degrees. That's not happening this year so I am doing something else. Emma kitty has her own idea. Maybe I should take the hint. But instead I am determined to prove my brother wrong and get a crop out of that cold garden. I have saved paper towel and toilet paper rolls and I am now cutting them into 2 inch section to plant the peas in. When they sprout and it is warm enough I can plant them in the garden and still get peas before it gets too warm for them. It's a lot of pea plants to have in the house though. I am just doing one package

(about 120 peas) that way. I will start the rest in the garden later and maybe get peas over a longer period. I checked the potatoes that I put in a couple weeks ago and they are sprouting and getting leaves. I'll be mounding soil up around them and building the straw walls in their raised beds before ya know it.(see "Fifteen days and Counting)
The geese are still growing by leaps and bounds. They are starting to get their pretty white feathers but they are still very soft and cuddly. The man named one of them Mimi because she startles easily and screams like a girl. It's cute but I wish she wasn't such a scaredy goose. Sebastian (if he is a boy) is a snuggler. He likes to be picked up and snuggles into the crook of my neck and falls asleep. People that saw them a week ago and then saw them this weekend can't believe how big they are. They are very gentle birds so you can't help but like them.

Guess I better get back to work. Can't sit around all day blogging when I have gardening to do.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Little Mother, Big Babies, Cold Spring and Rhubarb

My broody hen is proving to be a terrific mother. She is a Buff Orpington and I love that breed. They are good egg layers, lay well in the dead of winter, and are gentle friendly birds. They do seem to go broody too often for my taste but I just keep taking them off the nest and separating them from any thing that even resembles a nest for a couple of days and they get over it. I find there is a lot of information about brooding chicks artificially and very little about hens that brood chicks naturally. So far I recommend letting a hen raise chicks. You save a bundle in electric bills cuz mom keeps them warm. That 250 watt light has always put a spike in our bill. The mother also takes care of introducing the babies to the rest of the flock. A definite advantage. You do need a separate area that is dry and shielded from the elements where the family wont get bothered by the rest of the flock. I am using a dog crate located in the other half of my coup. I guess the down side of it is the chicks will be less people friendly but I am making a point of handling them to see if that makes a difference. And she lets me because she has been handled by me since she was a chick. Sure she still puffs up like a balloon and even gives me a peck once in awhile but then sometimes she doesn't seem to mind at all. There are a few things you have to do with a hen that is setting tight on a nest. Make sure you get her off the nest once a day to eat, drink, and do a poo and watch to make sure they do because they will try to get right back on.They will set until there is nothing left of them and even if you get them to take a daily break you will
Mom showing babies how to take a
a dust bath. 

find that they lose an alarming amount of weight. Even after the chicks have hatched (or you have slipped chicks under a hen in the dead of night) you have to get her off the nest once a day. She wont leave the nest until she thinks her brood can or will follow. That takes a few days.

So in a previous blog I mentioned that I was going to try sweet potatoes in the garden this year. However, everything I have read about growing them says you have to go to a lot of effort to warm up the soil in northern gardens before hand. This wouldn't be a problem normally except we are having the coldest, wettest spring since 1954. I am having a problem just trying to get the garden ready for peas and lettuce. We even had two days of snow (it didn't stick around long) last week. So maybe next year. I have started tomatoes even though my pessimistic brother says I won't get any of those either. I will prove him wrong unless our "Climate Change" (AKA-global warming) dumps a blizzard on us in July.

My goslings and ducklings are growing inches every day. I now have behemoth birds with downy fur that still can't be turned outside in the cold wet weather. Even though they are big they have no protecting oil coated feathers yet and get easily chilled when wet. It's a good thing they don't jump or perch on the side of their box or they would be out of it a long time ago. This box is at least 2 ft. high and they are still peeking at me over the top. I let them out for a romp and some grass mowing in between showers but it hasn't lasted very long.

One of the things I look forward to in the spring is rhubarb pie. I have a type that is pink all the way through and sweeter than the green kind. I make jam and freeze some of it raw for winter and there is never enough. If you aren't a fan try this recipe. It will change your mind about rhubarb. The secret is the egg. You may need a little more sugar if you are using the green type of Rhubarb.

Rhubarb Pie
4 cups rhubarb, in bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
dash of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Make a double crust pie pastry from your favorite recipe. Mix sugar, eggs, flour, salt, and cinnamon and toss with rhubarb. Put filling in pie crust and top with second crust or lattice crust. Place pie on a cookie sheet to catch drips. Bake 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake 30-40 minutes or until fruit is tender when tested with a fork. If crust browns too quickly cover lightly with a piece of foil.  This makes a great cobbler too. Just omit crust and use a crumble type topping before baking.

Monday, April 4, 2011

No Room at the Coup

First day after delivery by the post office

At the time of my last blog I had just received my order of Sebastapol geese and ducks and since then they have kept me running. I made the comment to The Man that I didn't remember this much time and work when I got my last order of 12 geese years ago. Then I remembered that my gander, Zeus, had taken the whole bunch and raised them himself. I had taken the little guys outside on the second day I had them and Zeus just marched in and took over and I never had to worry about them after that. (See my profile picture with Zeus) He raised all twelve and didn't lose a one of them. Zeus had a thing for me anyway so probably thought I had hatched out the babes myself. At any rate the 4 geese and 4 ducks that I have are running me ragged. They play in the water (no matter how I have it set up to avoid this problem) and soak all the bedding (which I have to change at least once a day). Maybe I was wrong about that diaper thing. Because I have been playing with them to get them to imprint on me  they scream their stupid heads off when they can't see me.  I can hear this all the way to the house. They also are growing amazingly fast.    
one week old
   I swear the geese are an inch taller every time I go out to the coup and that is several times a day. I take them outside for an hour at a time, weather permitting, and they follow me all over the yard. I have to be very careful not to step on one. The ducks are not as friendly but the geese want to be held and snuggled and are very curious about everything. The ducks just want to mess in a mud puddle. Being the momma duck I can't let them do that quite yet but I have taken them into a warm bath tub of water for a little swim. 5 minutes seems to be the limit then I spend 55 minutes drying them off  with paper towels and a heat lamp so I can take them out to the coup again. Ya! I guess I'm busy. I love them though. They are so much fun.

You may be wondering why there isn't any room in the coup. A week after I got the geese/ducks the feed store called to let me know my order for 6 chicks were in. I set up another box under the heat lamp and went to get them. My original plan was to let my broody hen have a chick or two. She had been setting on an unfertile egg for at least 20 days at this point so I put a chick under her and took the egg. She seemed baffled at this but willing to keep the baby under her wing. She also kept sitting in the nest so because I was concerned the baby wasn't getting any food or water I started changing it out with another chick every 12 hours and letting the chick that had been on duty eat and drink. She was showing no sign of getting off the nest. I finally decided she was stupid and put all the chicks back in the brooder and took her out to the chicken tractor to try and break the broody habit.  She fussed and clucked all day and that night I had to put her back in the coup so she would be safe from predators. At this point I had two large boxes on the eight foot table with various babies, a broody hen under the table on the floor with food and water, a flock of chickens in the other half of the coup doing their roosting thing with two out of the three silkies that were trying to go broody perched on separate perches. Any extra space was taken up with supplies like chick grit, chick food, extra water, a carry box for taking the water birds out for a stroll, fifty pound bags of layer pellets, 2 bales of bedding chips, scratch, light bulbs, poultry dust, assorted animal pharmacy items, an egg gathering basket, two portable dog carriers, etc. All of this in an 8 X 12 ft. building.

Last night I went down to check on every one just before going to bed. That stupid hen had found her way to the top of the table and climbed into the box of chicks. She sat on all six of them all night and is very proud of herself. This morning I moved her and the chicks to the dog carrier under the table along with food and water. She and the chicks seem happy so I guess I will just keep an eye on them.