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Counting our chickens

We have done some thinking about our poor yard birds. With Bonnie’s unexpected death, I am beginning to think that we need to contain our birds completely.

As it is now, I jump up at any guinea squawk, dog at my side, weapon in hand, to rush forth and defend the Chicken Homeland. If you know anything about guineas, they put Chicken Little to shame as far as their anxiety level. They are alarmists in the extreme. That said, when they do get to hollering, there usually is a cause. The dog who killed Bonnie has come back at least twice so we are right to worry.

For a household of three egg eaters, three to four chickens is more than enough to keep us happily in eggs all year. Chickens are highly social animals who psychologically need at least one but preferably two feathered friends living with them. Three chickens, also, won’t completely trash a garden. Three then would be our magic number for contained, non free-range hens. We have six chickens, and four guineas. I won’t be thinning out the chicken ranks, as these girls are our pets. The guineas, though, are not pets, and, if I will be locking the chickens up, the reason for having them (i.e., free-ranging chicken watchdogs) is gone. Sigh. Poor guineas. They’ve just begun to lay again their odd pointy thick-shelled eggs.

I am really sad to have to lock our girls up permanently. Poor chookies. (I keep thinking about prison jokes and parole humor here: dang, I’m sorry: I am always whistling past the graveyard. You should see me at a funeral.) The chickens will get let out often enough, I suppose, when I am outside, but…there really are too many threats out there.

In the immortal words of H.I. McDunnough, “Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things.”

The kindest cut


Oh mercy

One heartbreaking thing about seed-starting is those cute little green babies are just crying out for your love and care.

I say, get out the scissors.

Seriously: if you sow more than one seed per pot, you’ll need to thin them out to ensure that someone has the best opportunity for growth. You might be tempted to pull out the weaklings, but stop yourself. Their roots are most likely intertwined, and you’ll damage the survivor. So just give the to-be-thinned ones a snip!

And then, of course, you can eat them. (Maybe not the tomatoes, though.)

I tend to oversow old seed, like these Early Purple Sprouting broccoli pictured above.  I will let the spared few get another inch taller before I transplant them into bigger pots…or into the greenhouse itself.  (These guys can take the cold nights in the greenhouse.)

Another seedling tip:  I use water from my edible sprouts to water them.  No sense in letting those nutrients go down the drain.  What, you’re not woo-woo enough to grow your own sprouts?  Then use the water you used to steam your veggies or soak your beans!  Dilute it 2:1 first, though.

Birds at the feeders

I don’t think Pauline counts as a wild bird.

Mud Season has begun


Snow is still more picturesque than mud

So Saturday I stepped outside into the sunshine and said, Wow, it smells like spring! It was still chilly, and still so much snow on the ground that the chickens were despondently digging up their coop floor to meet their need to scratch.

Sunday, I stepped outside into the sunshine and said, Darn, it smells like spring! and I spent the day watching things readily melt. Bye-bye igloo. Hello 90* weather in the greenhouse.

Monday morning, it’s 50* and pouring. I had to turn on the air conditioning in the car to defog it enough to see. I needed my wellies just to get to the garage.

Not that I am complaining about spring’s rushed arrival; I really am not. I’d prefer, though, a less jarring transition. (Now watch: we’ll get a blizzard next week.)

When life hands you lemons

Okay, maybe not lemons, but how about a lot of snow? We’ve endured a minimum of one snow day from school a week for the last 5 weeks. We’ve had a LOT of snow this year. It makes one a little stircrazy. So, this is my husband’s answer:




So then I asked my daughter to model the greens I had just pulled out of the greenhouse, as a point of incongruity:


but I did not ask her to eat them (yet). And we’re, what, 22 days from spring?

On memes


The first salad of February

Friday was our third snow day in eight days. Crazy.

It was also Tag El for a Meme Day, it would appear. Pattie hit me for the 7 Random Things meme; seeing as I have done this one twice before and really don’t think you all are interested in Things 15-21 That You Don’t Know About Me, so I will simply rehash my other two. (Yes, it’s cheating. Oh well.) Danielle, though, hit me with one I hadn’t even seen before, much less fallen victim to. This one is an Archive meme wherein you cite some of your own favorite posts in five categories. This one has legs, I thought; maybe I will try this…if only because I am sure many of you haven’t the patience to backread 500-odd posts. I’ve put the rules of this one at the bottom.

Confession. When I think “meme,” I don’t think “Meem,” I think “memememeMEEE” because, frankly, that’s what they’re mostly about. Snore-boring, in other words. But I take my hat off to Pattie and Danielle. These are two selfless individuals who regularly blog and work for greater change, greater awareness of food and the making of food. Pattie works to make everyone consider themselves part of a foodshed: we’re all connected, she says. She is also gung-ho to get people gardening and has begun a Victory Garden quest for us. Danielle’s love of food and family have led her to do what we did: uproot and move to the country for a better life. She’s a lot more selfless about it in that she runs her own CSA. (Me? I won’t part with my veggies unless I really LIKE you.)

So here’s my take on these memes (remember, ME figures highly, sigh).

Family: One’s family should be the raison d’être of anything they do. I don’t blather on about my family much here. I’m a fairly private person. But moving to the farm was done to put magic into our daily existence, and this post exemplifies it.

Friends: I don’t mention real, actual, flesh-and-blood friends much here, but my friend Tim has consistently tried to keep me honest. He really thinks this nation’s issues with food are positively psychotic, and I readily agree.

About Me: There is one post that defines me and my beliefs absolutely, and it is this one. I garden for the food. It might be the only socially acceptable form of gluttony. But I still scratch my head often about how little our society values what it eats, and I was really on a tear about it a year ago(1, 2, 3, 4, 5). I still wonder, but I think I have moved more into the Let Them Eat Twinkies camp; maybe I have simply lost hope that America’s redemption will be found in a Brandywine tomato or a hybrid car or a compact fluorescent lightbulb.

Something I Love: No surprise, folks: it’s compost. It’s more about the compost, though: it’s about the circle of life here, about befriending things you don’t see. It’s as close to faith as I get.

Wildcard: It’s here I will answer Pattie’s call to the 7 Random Things. I answered Monica’s call to a 6 Weird Things, and then Tracy tagged me for a gardening-related meme in the 7 Random Things.

(Archive Meme Instructions: Go back through your archives and post the links to your five favorite blog posts that you’ve written. … but there is a catch: Link 1 must be about family. Link 2 must be about friends. Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are… what you’re all about. Link 4 must be about something you love. Link 5 can be anything you choose.) I am thinking heavily if I want to force people to do this meme. It is useful, though; I might just tag Pattie back with it!



Red chard

I went out into the main gardens today just to see what’s going on. It had been snowcovered until our huge thaw last weekend, and I hadn’t been out there for a while. You know, you just gotta take your hat off to certain plants’ will to live: despite snow and sleet, despite a low temperature of 11*F, despite winds and lack of cover, this is what I saw today. Kinda neat, huh?


Bibb lettuce