Harvest season is upon us and that means a lot of garden and kitchen going on. This week we had to spend some time at the pediatric hospital with Mr. Smiles, but when we were home the focus was garden, kitchen, and school.
We are harvesting a lot of different veggies at this point…squash, onions, peas, beans, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbages, celery, cucumbers, carrots, and kitchen herbs. Here is what we brought in on one of our harvest days:
Everything heads into the kitchen for processing. Squash and onions down to the root cellar, carrots and celery processed and frozen. Kitchen herbs hung to dry. Beans canned.
Cucumbers pickled. And the peas and tomatoes are pretty much eaten fresh as we are working and never make it to storage of any type. The green tomatoes get put in the root cellar to ripen. It isn’t really time for tomatoes yet, we just had a couple ripe ones this week, and the others came from a broken branch. It will be a few more weeks until the real tomato harvest kicks into gear.
Considering all the pests we are fighting in the garden, I feel like the harvest has been pretty good. We continue to battle the mouse plague and chipmunks. Now we have an added foe that has moved into both the upper veggie garden and the lower one – pocket gophers. They are destroying the beans and squash in the lower garden, and the beans and potatoes in the upper garden. They definitely seem to like beans best.
Dahlia hatched her eggs. It was a pretty low hatch rate, we are not sure why. We had 14 fertile eggs and only 5 hatched. She didn’t seem to have any troubles covering them all. None of them were out from under her that we ever saw and they were in a single layer. But maybe there were too many? Or maybe it was inexperience…this is her first hatch? Not sure, but happy to have the 4 chicks that are alive and doing well (one of the five died within the first 24 hours).
Now that the LGD isn’t squeezing through the tiny chicken doors and stealing eggs, and the egg eating chicken is gone…we are getting quite a lot each day!
After Dahlia had just finished her hatching, Eve decided she wanted to set again. We are going to try something new with her – it is a bit risky, but if any hen can do it, Eve can. She is our best broody hen and has set 1-3 clutches for us every year for 7 years now. We have adopted chicks to her from other hens and from incubators and from stores, but it has always been done after she set a full 21 days and had some chicks hatch under her. This time we are going to try to just have her set on fake eggs for 14 days, and then we will put chicks from a hatchery under her and see if she will go with it. If not, we will obviously be doing some brooding. But we are hopeful and I think the chances are high she will take them. We will know pretty soon!
Last year we had a golden eagle and her two fledglings move onto our property for several weeks in hopes of eating from our barnyard chickens. It made it so we had to keep our chickens closed into their exterior covered pen and couldn’t let them free-range for several weeks. She also injured one and killed another before we realized she was around and a danger.
Well…she is back. Or really, a golden eagle is here – whether it is her or one of her offspring from last year, or a completely different one – we obviously can’t know. But there is a golden eagle hanging out, and there is also a large red-tailed hawk. They seem to be arguing with each other over something – territory? Either way, it has meant trouble for the chickens again.
We first heard the golden eagle on Thursday while we were eating dinner, and then we looked out the window and saw the hawk flying from tree to tree agitated (golden eagle chasing it). Then Friday around dinner the LGD was going crazy barking and it was at the golden eagle near the barnyard. At that point it seemed like they were keeping their distance because of the LGD, and since we don’t like keeping our birds confined if we don’t have to, we continued to let them out and let the LGD guard them.
Then yesterday, we were sitting in the back yard (not even 50 yds from the barnyard) and the LGD seemed agitated, but we thought it was because of the neighbor’s kids hanging out nearby. Then we heard a large thump, the LGD went berserk, and the huge male red-tailed hawk came flying up out of the barnyard, with the LGD in close pursuit. He had struck the ground in the barnyard, and then fled because of the LGD. We ran to the barnyard, looking for his victim, but couldn’t find any dead chickens, nor any that were acting weird or injured. They were all hiding in the exterior pen and were very riled up, but none looked to be injured. So we left them to calm down for a bit – closed in the safety of the covered pen.
Later, we examined each chicken carefully, because last year a hawk hit one and we didn’t even know it until several days later when we were picking them all up for a different reason and we found the wound under her wing. All the chickens are fine, none got hit. So it must have missed its mark. But if it was willing to drop into the barnyard with the LGD AND us right there, it is too risky to leave the birds out until these two aerial predators decide that we are not good hunting grounds and move on. So the chickens are staying closed in to their covered pen for the time being.
The ducks don’t have a covered pen yet, though we planned to do that in the future. But their outdoor enclosure is small and is under a thick pine tree, which offers some amount of protection from above. It would be tricky to get in and out of there quickly and easily from above and we are hopeful that is enough of a deterrent to keep the ducks safe until we can build a cover for them.
Our bantam pullets started laying this week. The bantam Easter Egger lays teeny tiny green eggs. Fun!