Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Duck, Duck, Goose.... and One Trick Chicken

The big day has arrived and all eight birds (4 geese and 4 ducks) made it in one piece which in itself always amazes me. All it would take is one postal or fed ex employee to drop the box or be a little careless. Much to their credit I have never had a dead bird show up in the mail. These little guys came from Metzer Farms in California and shipped from San Francisco or Oakland which can sometimes be kinda cold but the babies were packed with a heating pad and a container of Gro gel which was empty when they got here. Since it was loose in the box its hard to say if they ate it or dumped it over. As usual I got the call from the Post office at 6am which was fine since I hadn't slept much for two days. I was so sure something awful was going to happen to this batch of birds. It's been 5 years since I had Sebastapol geese and I was a little anxious to get them. The man stayed in bed this time while I went to get them and when I got back I woke up each of the girls by putting the peeping box next to their sleeping heads. Needless to say there was a stampede coming down the stairs to the kitchen where I was trying to give them their first drink of water. I had lots of help and the man decided there wasn't any sense in trying to sleep through that. They are beautiful birds and already I think I have picked out one of the male Sebastapols.

Many hands, light and happy work.

Remember the chicken with the broken, bleeding toenail that ended up in the house watching TV with The Man? Her name is Sadie Hawk-ins (She has a predatory look a lot like an eagle). She is at it again. This time with a little trick she learned all on her own. It's really kinda cute and she seems to love doing it. If I raise my arm up and pat it with my other hand she jumps up and sits there like some overgrown parrot. After checking out my clothes for any little crumbs that may be lingering there she actually settles down and perches. She likes to ride around the place like that and if I am not walking she will fall asleep. She is quite comfortable and it's her only far. She is way too smart for a chicken so I have to wonder what's up with that.

My last blog I wrote about trying to grow sweet potatoes this year. I made the assumption that sweet potatoes have very long vines that need to grow up something. However I can't find a thing on the web saying that is so. So if some of you southern sweet potato growers have that information drop me a line. Maybe the vines aren't as long as I thought. I will be trying Georgia Jets because of the shorter season. In the mean time I am in the midst of setting up my regular potato "pots" and growing three kinds. A purple potato called "purple majesty" a red "Chieftain" and my favorite "Yukon Gold". I will be growing a lot more of them this year not just because they taste better but also because I know there are no chemicals on them. Potatoes are on the list of one of the 10 dirtiest foods you can buy (unless its organic). No pun intended. You can also cook them so many ways that they never get boring.

Here is a question for you readers out there. Lately in view of recent events and with the specter of a food shortage, higher prices etc., (which I have already been noticing)  I have been wondering, what do other people store up in their pantries for that rainy day? Living on an island you have to sort of think about what you would do in the event of a catastrophe. You could be cut off from supplies for a while. And that includes animal food. Click on the comments button at the bottom of this page and shoot me a list of your favorites. Flour, rice, and beans seem to always be on that list. The Man suggested stocking up on lids for my canning jars. I thought that was a good idea. They are sometimes harder to get during canning season. So what good suggestions do you have?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fifteen Days and Counting

Photo from Metzer Farms

I'm talking about my order of Sebastapol geese and Khaki Campbell ducks. This time of year is always exciting especially when I have an order of birds coming via mail. It's kind of like waiting for Christmas or a new baby to be born. (Alright, so I am being Anthropomorphic)  Not at all like strolling into the farm co-op and buying new chicks. There is the preparation of arranging the nursery (brooding area) getting in the supplies, and looking ahead at what you need to do for when the little things grow up. Then you wait. Fortunately raising them is only a 3 or 4 month process as opposed to 18+ years, doesn't include labor pain or changing poopy diapers and satisfies my need to have babies around. I also don't have to worry about college funds:-). Right now I am in need of what I call the play pen.
This will be a fenced area off of the two current runs and coop area and will include doors from each run that I can open independently to allow birds from one or both runs access to a large grassy yard. It wont be as predator proof as the runs themselves because the birds wont be spending the night in it. Because I have predatory birds on my property it will be netted on top.(see Feb.12th post-Harbinger of Spring) Right now I have to be outside in the yard watching and listening  for hawks and eagles while my chickens are out in the yard. A play pen will allow all my birds access to grass and give me the opportunity to be doing other things without worry. If I am in the garden or otherwise working outside I can let them out to roam the property giving the play pen forage some needed rest. I will post photos of the new digs as we build it. Undoubtedly The Man will have some new fangled gadget that he will want to put on this. Can't wait to see what that will be. It's always a surprise. But then again,  maybe not.

I have decided to try and grow sweet potatoes this year and no I am not in Texas. I know we are not suppose to be able to grow them here but I have a plan. I am going to order slips from a seed company here in the North West that claims they have a variety that matures in 80-90 days. Using paper pots made by yours truly, (see last weeks blog) I am going to start them indoors. Then using the same technique I used for growing potatoes last year I will plant the started vines in the garden, pot and all when it warms up some. (I may rip off the bottom of the paper pot before planting). What I did last year for regular potatoes was create raised beds with chicken wire and straw. (See photo) To do this you take a length of chicken wire that will make a circle about two feet wide and wire it together to form a bottomless basket. Place the basket on the ground where you intend to grow the potatoes and pile good well draining composty soil mixed with bone meal in a hill in the center. Start lining the inside of the walls with straw pulling the soil up against the straw as you go and refilling the center as you need more soil until what you have is a wire pot with a straw liner and soil inside.This worked really great last year with my regular potatoes and when I was done with the pots the soil and decomposing straw made lovely friable soil for the garden bed. The only thing I did different was I dug a hole in the native soil the same size as the wire "pot" so there was more depth, put down a layer of good yummy soil and then planted the seed potatoes covering them with another layer of good soil. As they grew I kept adding straw and soil until the pot was fully line and filled in with soil. Each one of these "pots" yielded 15 to 20 lbs. of the best tasting taters I have ever had! But back to the sweet potatoes. They will need a trellis to climb and although I would like to grow them on the wire fencing the deer would just eat them. So I would rather tease and tantalize the little #$%&@  and keep them just out of reach. Using a wooden spacer fastened to the fence post I will put up another piece of wire fencing just out of reach of their cute little noses and grow the vines on that. Now that's the plan. We will see if it works. With the use of a dark mulch to warm up the soil I am hoping for the best.

Last but not least I want to introduce the latest member to our flock. Her name is Sophie and she is a white Silkie hen. She is integrating nicely and has learned quickly that when I call the flock to go in for the night she and the other two silkies can just wait outside the gate (instead of going in) and they will get special treats. Now all three beg like dogs for their share of the nightly scratch served separately. Perhaps they would like it on a silver platter with their tea?