Mid Summer Heat and Weeds

This time of summer always makes me feel the garden is all weeds and finding the vegetables impossible. And I get frustrated with the whole vegetable garden idea, especially since we have such a stellar Farmer’s Market twice a week.

This past week, the hay team finally got the hay down and baled. A few scattered thunderstorms have the underlying grass greening up again and there are two small bales set aside for my use in the chicken run and garden.

There was still part of a large bale from two years ago that I couldn’t handle alone. Last time the local 16 year old grandson was here to mow, he helped me relocate what was left of it into the garden. This afternoon, after having spent a couple of hours over the past few days weeding what I could, the gas mower was pushed over and the wider paths were mowed, another couple of hours of weeding and a lot of wrestling, managed to stand the bale on end so it could be unwrapped and thick layers of the old, spoiled hay were applied over the mowed area and an idle bed. There is a small core about 14″ in diameter left and a little more path area that needs to be mulched with it, but the heat, sweat, and prickly skin ended the project for the day.

The beans are nearly done, cucumbers are beginning to come in enough to ferment a couple jars of sour pickles, pumpkin vines escaping the huge bed they are in, the tomatoes too close together are a tangle of branches and vines with fruit, but probably not as much as I would have gotten if they had been properly spaced and staked. The zucchini are producing baseball bat sized squash overnight, though it was supposed to be a compact small garden variety that produced smaller squash. Tomatillos are showing lots of blossoms and fruit, and some peppers are developing, though those plants will wait for it to cool off some to really shoot up and produce. Each trip out to the garden results in more notes for next year. I should remember from year to year, but still make the same errors. There is really more garden than I am comfortable with at this stage of life. Perhaps one of the beds will become the thornless blackberries and raspberries heavily mulched and get them out of the plastic half barrels. They would produce more fruit if they had more room. The asparagus when they aren’t 6 foot high ferns are going to be boxed to make weeding around them easier.

I would love to have taller raised beds with thick wood chip paths, but that will never be.

My photo memories show a lot of produce had already been canned by this time of the summer. This garden seems to be slower to provide.

Trouble In The Nursery

After Mama Hen initially took to the chicks we bought her to round out her family, she decided the two little Midnight Marans were hers, but the Americaunas and Easter Eggers were not. For a couple of nights after the divider netting was installed, I could get them back under her, but after a couple of days, it was obvious she wanted no part of them and didn’t want them near “her” chicks. The 4 light colored chicks managed somehow to get on the other side of the net from her and the other hens were okay with that, but not motherly to them either. The divider net was pulled down so they had the run of the coop and for two nights, Mama Hen put her 4 in a nesting box with her and the other 4 huddled together in an adjacent nesting box. Fortunately, I guess, it has been very hot and they have done okay.

Today, she urged her 4 little dark chicks out of the coup into the run and ultimately farther away from the coop over toward the relative shelter of the grape arbor and wood pile.

She does her best to keep herself between the chicks and me, but I did catch this photo. I tried putting one of the Americana’s that is more darkly marked down near them and she ran her off and tried to peck her. And one of the very light Easter Eggers must have followed her out of the coop or fallen out of the coop and was hiding in the Comfrey plant nearby, loudly protesting.

It looks like she will raise 4 and I will raise 4. The light colored ones are now safely in a large dog crate with wood chips, food and water in the garage.

Next week the temperature is supposed to drop back to something more comfortable for humans and I may have to add one of the heat tables in there with them for a week or so. The 6 we bought seem to be of different ages. The Americana’s look like they may be a week older than the Easter Eggers and Midnight Marans, and they are almost a week older than the two she managed to hatch. The Americana’s are almost feathered out and have long feathered wings. When the Easter Eggers are about 6 weeks old, I will try to reintroduce these to the coop or put the dog crate out in the run or yard so the hens can readapt to them.

Three of the chicks we purchased are going to the friend that gave me the eggs when they are old enough. And with any luck, the remaining 5 will add to our flock to be egg producers late fall or next spring.

Midwifery and Adoption on the Farm

As previously mentioned, almost half of my flock of hens were killed off by predators this winter and early spring. A Coopers Hawk got a couple, a raccoon another couple and one just disappeared, all I could find was a pile of feathers. Then one of the Easter Eggers quit laying at molt last fall and never started back up over the winter or this spring. I didn’t know which one of the two, until about 26 days ago when one of them decided she was broody and there is no rooster here. Usually when they get broody, they are put in time out for several days with no nesting box and it breaks the brood. Since the flock was light, I asked a friend with a rooster if I could buy a dozen possibly fertile eggs from her. She offered them for free and they were tucked under Mama 24 days ago. On day 21, one cute little almost black chick emerged, then another dark, but gray one overnight. One other tried to hatch but died in the process and she still sat. It appeared today on day 24 that was all we were going to get.

On our way home from an appointment in the city, we stopped at Rural King and purchased 6 nearly week old chicks to give to her in place of the eggs that obviously weren’t going to hatch. Two Midnight Marans, two Americanas, and two Easter Eggers and of course, I failed to take a picture of them.

After preparing and eating dinner, while the hay team worked at teddering the hay that was finally mowed today, the coop was cleaned and a “nursery” built at the door end to allow Mama to get them old enough to go up and down the ramp into the coop that is a couple feet off the ground and then the fun began, trying to round them up and get them into the nursery with water and chick starter/grower and isolated from the other 6 hens and their laying feed. They have a space two nesting boxes deep and the width of the coop with one of the two perch bars exposed. That leaves 4 nesting boxes and the rest of the two perches for the 6 hens at night.

Once I thought I had all the chicks moved, I shifted a very agitated Mama, who willingly adopted the 6 new babies to add to the two she hatched and one was missing. As you can see, I can not get in the end of the coop where they had been and was trying to find the missing chick through the egg door which further agitated Mama Hen as it opens all 6 nest boxes at once. The very quiet Easter Egger was finally located and moved in with her siblings and adoptive Mom. I left them to calm down, release the hens who had been penned up while the mowers were here.

Here is Mama Hen with two of her adoptees, a Midnight Marans on the left and an Americana on the right. One of the little barn yard mutts that she hatched in the middle. The rest are hiding under her, wondering what on earth happened this evening.

Now off to shower off the chicken coop cleaning dust and doctor the scratches from trying to move the hen and from the edges of the plastic chicken wire I was using to separate them off. Nothing like a little excitement on a sticky, hot evening.