Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This week in the garden: Feb 29, 2012

I feel like the garden is finally starting to come back to life.  The tray of 'greens' that I started at the end of January had really taken off indoors (below), so all of those plants were transplanted outside over the weekend. From left to right: brocolli, cabbage, collards, kale.
The lettuce which was planted out into the garden the first week of February is looking healthy and really starting to grow.
These lettuces (below) are from my fall planting... I cut the plant above the roots, and now they have come back for a second crop. I love a second round of lettuce with no work on my part!
Spinach finally started growing well from a fall sowing:
 Speaking of things that overwintered, I had NO idea that cilantro will grow in this zone (7b) in the winter!  I kept expecting the fall cilantro to die, but it looked completely healthy all winter--here it is today.
 The chives are coming back to life after the winter, sending up new shoots.
 And here are some crocus bulbs blooming.  Spring is almost here!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chicken Chatter: June is broody--for golf balls?

June has been broody for the past week.  In case you've never heard of broodiness, it's basically a phase that a hen goes through periodically, during which she wants to hatch her eggs.
June, broody.
Every day when I go to check on the chickens, I find June in the nesting box.  The most interesting aspect of all this is that June is not sitting on a nest of eggs (that would make too much sense). Instead, she is attempting to hatch a golf ball:
June is trying to hatch this golf ball.
The golf ball was placed in the nesting boxes before the chickens began laying to 'inspire' them to know where the correct spot was.  It is certainly getting more love now than I ever imagined.

I tried tossing the golf ball into a different nesting box, thinking perhaps June was just sitting in one particular box--no. When I later went to check on her, I found that she'd moved to the new box with the golf ball.

To make June look like an even bigger failure, the nesting box next to June's had FOUR eggs in it.  And June was still trying to hatch the golf ball.

Oh June, I think the golf ball may have to disappear...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicken Chatter: Angel started laying!

Imagine my surprise when I went to check on the chickens and only saw 2 out of 5!  I stuck my head in the coop, and there were 3 chickens each in one of our 3 nesting boxes.  Most surprising of all was that one of the chickens was Angel!
Angel, a salmon faverolle.
Angel started molting in December, and did not lay eggs during the molt.  I have been anxiously awaiting her return to production ever since.
Salmon faverolle egg, next to a Jersey Black Giant egg.
I was beyond thrilled when I later discovered this perfect little salmon egg in the nesting box.

Way to go, Angel! We're so proud of you!

Monday, February 20, 2012

This week in the garden: Feb 20, 2012

The first (and probably only) snow of the year happened last night! My garden enjoyed a nice little dusting: here it is in the morning. I think the chickens were a little confused: what is this cold white stuff?? But since most of the snow didn't stick, they weren't too concerned by it.
We also got a ton of rain over the last day.  Hopefully the moisture will encourage my peas and carrots to germinate!

In the garden, the lettuce, cabbages, collards, and tatsoi are growing comfortably under their row cover.  The kale is also doing well (uncovered).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chicken Chatter: Angel is almost back to normal

A month or so ago, I posted about how Angel, my salmon faverolle hen, was molting.  And the most frustrating part of the molt was the behavior of the rest of the flock--they all picked on her.
Angel--don't you just love the muff?
A few weeks ago, everyone except Sunshine quit being mean to Angel.  For some reason, Sunshine decided to pick/peck on Angel every chance that she got! Sunshine would even go out of her way to chase Angel down and peck her really hard.  Angel is now terrified of Sunshine. Given that Angel is our favorite chicken, my husband started telling Sunshine that we were going to eat her (and I'm not sure he was joking!).
Sunshine was frequently mean to Angel.
Angel avoiding Sunshine in the coop.
Poor Angel spent most of her time up in the coop to avoid the rest of the chickens.  But for the past few days, when I've come home, Angel has been on the ground with the other chickens, and seems to have much more energy.
Angel has been spending time with the other chickens.
I thought that the flock was returning to normal.  I decided to test them, and placed them all in their portable run together (I had been keeping Angel separate recently).  Initially, everything seemed fine.  Then I went out to check on them, and Angel was perched on the waterer to hide from Sunshine.  And later, when Angel jumped down, Sunshine kept pecking her or chasing her around.
Angel, hiding from Sunshine.
I think Angel feels better, but Sunshine is still being a bully.  I'm not sure what to do about her...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This week in the garden: Feb 11, 2012

I love how beautiful vegetable plants can be.  My favorite in the garden right now are the red cabbages.  They are under a row cover though, so I only get to see them when I uncover them.
The lettuces are doing really well.  They were transplanted 7 days ago, and they already look bigger.  I can tell that salad is in my future!
I've been harvesting quite a bit of collards and kale from the garden.  It's so nice to have fresh vegetables from the garden in the middle of winter.
The chickens have been enjoying time in their portable run on weekends, and free ranging in the yard in the evenings.
 It's fun to watch how the garden evolves over time.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chicken Chatter: The one wattle wonder?

When I introduced my chickens, I described that Johnny Cash had a black comb and wattles.  In contrast, Pebbles (our other Jersey Black Giant hen) had a brilliant red comb and wattles.
Johnny Cash -- 9 months.
Recently, I've noticed that Johnny Cash's wattles and comb have started to turn red in color.  And, more interestingly, one (and only one) of her wattles has become larger.  Now, my husband jokingly refers to her as 'the one wattle wonder'.
Pebbles, for contrast.
This is my first flock of chickens, so I do not know much about their development.  But to me, it looks like Johnny Cash is just really slow to develop the larger wattles and comb.  Pebbles had a large red comb months ago.  Maybe Johnny cash is just a late bloomer?
Johnny Cash -- 6 months.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This week in the garden: February 5, 2012

Things are finally starting to pick up in the garden!  The lettuce really started to take off inside, so I decided it was time to move them outdoors.  Yesterday, the large bed covered with hairy vetch (cover crop) was tilled in, and the lettuces were transplanted into it.
Lettuce flat, ready to move outside.
Hairy vetch being tilled in.
After transplanting the lettuces, I covered them with a floating row cover.  I also direct sowed some more lettuce seeds.  I should not have a shortage of lettuce starting next month!
Buttercrunch lettuce.
 I broadcasted some carrot and beet seeds.  And I planted some snow and snap peas along the trellis.

I harvested 1.3 lbs of purple carrots that I planted in the fall. I love how pretty they are, but I'm not crazy about the taste.  This spring I'm trying danvers.

Purple carrots harvested in February.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Harvest Totals: January 2012

Last year, I was pretty good about weighing my produce and writing down how much I harvested.  I just did it for the season as a whole though, and this year I want a better idea of how much I harvest and when I harvest it.
The chickens were the stars of January's harvest.
For that reason, I am tallying up my harvest totals each month, and tracking how my harvest changes from month to month.  I created an elaborate, yet simple, spreadsheet that allows me to input the pounds harvested of each crop, and the number of eggs.  Based on the value per pound, the spreadsheet calculates the estimated value of the produce, and gives me a total for the month and for the year.  I've selected the value per pound based on average market and grocer prices for each organic produce item.  I've assumed organic, small farm raised eggs can go for $4.00/dozen.

Only greens were harvested in January.
I've even included costs (such as seeds, potato seeds, supplies and chicken feed) so that I can get an estimate of my Return on Investment (ROI).  For January, our ROI is negative because I've included the cost of all the seeds and other supplies that I bought for the spring and summer growing season.  Before long, we should have a positive ROI!
Here is the chart generated by my spreadsheet; every month I will update it.
January isn't exactly known for being a big harvest month, but I managed to harvest over 5 pounds of greens and 94 eggs, with an estimated value of $43.00! 

I can't wait to see my spring and summer totals!
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