Well, it’s officially summer and that is the season of the neglected blog. But I like to keep my homestead records here, so you know I’ll be popping up every once in a while. No pictures today, sorry, but I anticipate more in the coming weeks.
- More Baby Chickens – Our broody hen hatched out seven baby chicks on Sunday 6/19/11. We were surprised, as the babies weren’t due for two more days, and even though mama-hatched chicks are often earlier than incubator-hatched, I expected maybe 6/20, not 6/19. (And 6/19 was just when we first saw them; they don’t come out until they’re dry and ready to walk around.) We moved her into the play house in the front yard, as that is the only structure left on the property that could easily be made predator-proof. Just lined the bottom with cardboard and shavings, and stapled 1/2″ hardware cloth over the windows. It works great. Today we finally set up a little yard for them to peck around it, and they seem thrilled to get out and about outside. The run is covered with bird netting to protect them from hawks.
- No Hawk Attacks – We have learned the secret of keeping the hawks away: don’t free range them until they’re adult-sized. Plain and simple. Last year, we let the babies range with their mamas and some juveniles range alone and had a ton of hawk losses. (But I have to note that none of the losses came from the chicks being taken care of by their mama; it was mostly mama-less juveniles. Even so, there were attacks on the mamas and their babies, which is stressful for the chickens.) This year, we have made sure all small poultry are locked up until adult-sized, and though we’ve had low-flying hawks, they have yet to even try to attack. Our new puppy, Jupiter, could have something to do with this, but we didn’t have any trouble prior to his coming, either.
- Jupiter – Speaking of the dog, he’s doing very well. He had tick problems, bad, within the first week of being here. I spent one afternoon with the dog and tweezers, picking over 20 ticks off of him, and not even putting a dent in the tick population on his body. It was really sad. So we went to Sam’s Club and bought the Frontline Plus generic that they sell, Jason administered it, and no tick problems since. I hate to use a pesticide, but with an outside working dog in tick country, we don’t have a lot of options. The most recent pest problem he has is flies during a string of hot days, but these cooler days seemed to have gotten rid of that problem. I’m watching him and seeing if the flies return. He is doing well, healthy and active, and tolerates children and being brushed and combed once a week. We have to keep on him about not jumping on kids, which is he is prone to do in his puppy-ness, and are teaching him to sit, stay, and come. Hopefully he’ll learn quickly.
- Garden – Gosh, there’s a lot to say, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Basically everything’s that’s planted needs to be weeded and mulched, and everything that’s not needs to go in this weekend or else not at all. We’ve had horrible weather this year, with a cool, wet spring, and every weekend day that we have been free to garden has rained. We took one beach day recently, which is rare, but other than that, all nice days have been “wasted” during the week (when we are so busy we can’t garden much, at least not until Cal is bigger and Jason is done with school). This weekend, we hope to do that weeding and mulching, trellis the beans, till up a new patch for winter squash, and plant a lot of stuff. The weather is finally cooperating, but we are operating at a young family’s pace, and you know how that goes.
- Fruit – The strawberries are just about done and have been wonderful. We have three 4 x 8 beds, and for a family of six big strawberry eaters, I’m finding that this is enough to keep us in fresh strawberries for about 3-4 weeks. In order to preserve (freeze, can, dry), we’d need double the beds. So that’s good to know. We so enjoyed just eating buckets of strawberries for dinner and not worrying about saving some for jam this year. Just eat, eat, eat. As for other fruit – the mulberries are just now ready to pick, so we can move from one berry to the other. After mulberries, it will be raspberries, maybe a handful of blueberries (they’re still small), and a few (less than 10) Asian pears that I let grow this year.
- Other Poultry – The turkeys are doing great. They are growing fast and eating and pooping a ton. Can’t let them free range yet due to those hawks, but it won’t be long before they’re bigger than our chickens and we can let them out. Big turkeys tend to be hawk deterrents, too, so I look forward to seeing that. We’ve had a wild turkey hen hanging around the property, really close to the turkeys and the house, the past week. I wonder if she hears the turkey poults and wants to see what’s up? I also wonder if the wild turkeys will be a problem for our turkeys, stealing them vice versa. I guess we’ll see. The Buckeye chickens are doing great, and I let them out to free range in the evenings every few days, but not more often due to hawks. They are a little less skittish than before, but they still won’t roost.
That’s it for now. Lots to do, and we’re trying hard to enjoy it (instead of causing stress by thinking about all we have to do). We do love to garden and take care of the animals, so that helps. It is difficult to homestead/small scale farm when one of two adults in the family works two jobs + takes graduate classes, and the other takes care of four children, a household, and homeschools. Our time is limited. I’ve been reading a lot of farm tales lately, books about urbanites buying their first farm and chronicling their first years, and it’s always interesting. I’ve noticed that they really resonate with me, and I can identify with the hard work that they describe. But I find myself wishing we could throw ourselves into the farm and have no other responsibilities, at least paid work outside the home. We could get so much work done if farming was our primary occupation, even with the children being young. But it’s not to be, so I will keep trying to do the best I can with what I’ve got. The good thing is, the garden often grows and yields in spite of my neglect, such that even the worst weeding years give us bushels of organic, home grown produce to eat and preserve. I’m banking on that, and thankful to God for all of this bounty.
Imagine what success we could have if we actually kept up with the planting and weeding! One of these years…