Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Putting the Chickens to Work!

It is that time of year again when we find ourselves in a wash of beautiful produce ranging from succulent tomatoes, so delicious we eat them like apples, to more beans than you can shake a stick at. As we begin canning, drying and just eating all the produce, I find myself contemplate the amazing team effort this garden takes from all the members of the "farm".

The chickens clear bugs out of the garden and help break up the ground before planting.

The bees help pollinate everything, improving the garden returns dramatically.

The worms, who live off the kitchen scrapes, produce incredible compost which helps the garden grow even more.

Even the poor fish, who didn't make it, were burried into the ground and are now acting as fertilizer.

And the cycle continues.

As we add each element to the farm, we have had to return more and more to traditional ways of gardening. For example, when we added the bees, we had to complete get rid of pesticides (which we barely used any of anyways). As we return to more traditional gardening, we find our lives getting simpler and easier (contrary to what garden supply companies would like you to think) and the rewards bigger. I love how the chickens eat the bugs out of the garden, eliminating the need for chemicals, saving me money, making the girls happy, and creating better produce. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer cuke madness and more broodiness

As August passes by, we have more and more amazing produce from the garden. We've been cooking, canning, drying, freezing, and just plain eating raw, bell peppers, hot peppers, jalapeno peppers, raspberries, green beans, black beans, okra, tomatoes of all sizes and shapes, sweet and tangy tomatillos, zucchinis and cucumbers. Lots and lots of cucumbers. Its amazing how fast and how much these things grow. Now that we've canned at least a decade's worth of every kind of pickle, we still have a surplus. As we cant stand to see any of the product of so much sweat and dirt over the past few months go to waste, we decided we would toss some excess cukes in the chickens pen and see if they liked it. Let me tell you, .. they did. It was really unbeliveable how quickly they could devour a fat 8 inch long whole cucumber, leaving nothing behind but a nearly perfectly intact rind, picked absolutely clean. We started giving them bigger and bigger cukes each day, and each day the same result when we got home from work: a perfectly cleaned green rind. Its become a sort of entertainment by this point. I threw them an apple the other day, and when I got home from work the whole thing had vanished. Not even a core or a stem was to be found. I think this fall, Im going to leave them with a big pumpkin and see what they do with that!

In less happy news, Cluck is broody......AGAIN. I dont know what the hell is wrong with this bird. One week she refuses to leave the nesting box. The next week she is happily clucking and scratching for treats with the rest of the flock, and now she's back to camping out in the nesting box again. One day I actually found scabby in the nesting box with her. How the two of them managed to both get iin the box simultaneously, I have no idea. It actually looked quite ridiculous, and I sort of laughed. But its starting to get annoying. Its hard to get in to get the eggs when Cluck puffs up and does her high pitched angry chicken "growl", and we have both been pecked by her enough to know she doesn play around when she wants to be left alone. This weekend, while I was sweeping out and scrubbing the pen down, I had Big Crown and Scabby in their pet carrier waiting patiently as "room service", ie: me, was sweeping and scrubbing. I was fed up with Cluck, so I just picked up the whole nesting box, with her still in it, and set it down outside the pen while I worked. Of course, NOW Cluck wants to come out and squawk, and flap, and poop in the human side of the basement. Great. Just great. I was finally able to cram her into the pet carrier, but by now the whole job had taken twice as long as it should have.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Return to "normal"?

Tonight all three chickens are back to sleeping nestled tightly, 3 in a row, on their roost. Apparently, what ever was disturbing the "zen of the pen" has been dispelled, and things are back to normal (note - we use the word "normal" in the relative sense, since there really is not very much that is normal about 3 chickens living down in the basement). Egg production is still down, though. We had been getting 3 eggs per day consistently until the girls started acting batty. Then we went a day or two with no eggs, and for the past two or three days we have been getting one, still perfectly respectable, egg each day when we get home from work and go down to check on the micro flock.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summertime update

As this summer stretches into August already, we have been way behind in keeping up the blog. Our garden is at the point where its nearly bursting with produce, which unfortunately means lots of time devoted to picking, harvesting, chopping, drying, canning, pickling, making jams and jellies. All of which is great for enjoying home grown food well into winter, and not so great for keeping current with the blog.

The flock has been enjoying the cool comfort of their home in the basement, totally unaware of the scorching heat outside this summer. I like to think they appreciate how good they have it in their basement abode, cool in the summer and warm in the winter, but this is as delusional as our hope that they see us as anything more important in their lives than mere treat dispensers....

Despite having it made in the shade, the girls' behavior is back to being bizarre. It all started when 2 of the 3 of them stopped sleeping in their usual places on the roost, where they would perch all right next to each other in a little row each and every night. For no apparent reason, one began roosting on the top of the chicken wire enclosure, while another began sleeping in a little nest she made for herself down in the shavings. This we attributed to her going broody and wanting to sit on her eggs all night long. Things continued to get weirder as the peace that has prevailed in the basement coop all summer has given way to recent bouts of loud squawking and flapping coming from down in the basement. One of these bouts even happened while the home appraiser was here (how embarrassing!) He took it in stride, remembering the last time he was here. "Oh, right.... The chickens" was his response. So by this point of course, the chickens are starting to show the signs of all this ruckus when we go down to feed them in the mornings, sporting fresh new scabs on their combs. Poor Cluck, never known for her sunny personality, seems to be getting the worst of it by the amount of cuts and scabs on her comb. Ironically, Scabby --so named because she used to have a rather large scab on her comb-- is the only one of the flock without any scabs or cuts on her comb. So we have no idea what the hell is going on with the flock. Maybe a re-alignment of the pecking order?