Sunday, September 30, 2012

Diving Hawk

I have been under the misunderstanding that my chickens were too big for the seemingly small Red Tail Hawks we have flying all around us. I've been letting my girls run around the yard for the past three years. I've only been letting them out in the center of the day where I've felt safer from the foxes. I have seen a fox in the middle of the day, but most often in the morning or evening. I'm always on the watch for coyotes but it's actually been a while since I've seen one of those mangy things running through the yard. They are my least favorite animal of all! Of all the things I feared for my hens I was just blind to the threat flying above us.

Perhaps it's because my cat has cleared out what ever field mice and moles there were in the open field next to us. Perhaps this hawk just woke up and felt like a change in diet and felt extremely bold. I do have to say that a Red Tail Hawk is a beautiful majestic looking creature. I admire them from my front window as I see them circle above. They always seem so small. It's hard for me to believe it could really pick up one of my hens. That didn't stop her from trying.

I was standing on the deck talking on the phone and admiring the zen-fullness of the clutch pecking around happily under the willow tree when from out of the tree dives the bold hawk. I screamed and got off my call to run down to protect my girls. As I was standing there the hawk took another dive right next to me! I always walked over and stood in the middle of my hens whenever I saw the flying predator before. I just assumed that my presence would deter any interest. I was wrong. This bird either didn't notice me standing there shooshing it or it was simply amused by my waving arms.

To make a long story short, I rounded up all my girls with my super duper pool noodle and got them back into the run in a flash before the attacker had a chance to take another dive. All is well, however, my girls complain to me when I refuse to open the run door. I'm going to leave them en the run or the tractor now. It's such a shame. They were loving those bugs in the ditch area. At least they are safe.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tiny Tomatoes Everywhere

I couldn't believe how many tomatoes I got this year! My girls just loved going out to the garden and grazing at snack time. They picked about a hundred of these tiny tasty tomatoes. I grew too many and that really made harvest hard. I read that they grew well with strawberries. THEY DO! I had these started from seed and actually thought I got them in late when I lost a few weeks at the start of summer with back pain. I had replanted my strawberry bed and I had a slow year with them, but we did get enough for our daily grazing trip. It's our favorite time. I actually let some of my broccoli flower because my girls will stand there and pick and eat all the pretty yellow flowers...that's our favorite color around here so eating "yellow" is really cool:) I don't mind having a few plants mature like that when I have two little ones really enjoying eating raw broccoli! (and you can juice the entire broccoli plant) It makes a Mom's heart happy to see a 2 and 4 year old really caring if something is healthy or not. My boys....not so much:( Although my younger son is a vegetarian and aside from wanting the junk does care about what's good for you. He gets expensive with all the Boca burgers I buy.

So, these tiny kind of sad looking tomato seedlings went in late and I planted them way too close I think. I put them around the border of my strawberry bed thinking I was being smart. Wow! In a hot dry summer they still grew to such an extent that I thought they would take over my yard. I had to pull some to save my strawberries. Obviously I should have put them on a trellis, but I had never grown these before. I could have covered a wall with them. I've harvested at least 8 buckets of tomatoes from maybe 20 seeds and some biodome sponges. (I love/hate my biodome...more later on that) I was pretty good at watering twice a day and they had the moisture control from the strawberry plants at their base. The strawberries kept them from ever drying out. I planted a few bean plants in some bare spots within the bed thinking they would pull in some nitrogen. I don't know if I did it right, but I did cut up the bean plant and put it back into the soil. I'm learning as I go with this.

I was lucky enough to get a bunch of wonderful heirloom seeds from my friend and I'm so bad with names that now I don't know exactly what I planted. (Help Jen) I can't tell you right now what these were. I have to tell you that I'm not the most organized person. I know the one plant she gave me was a Crimson Black...?? ok, something like that. They are pictured in the corner of the tray. These are good, but I won't grow them again. This one in the picture is pretty, but the others grew like lobes and it made a good place for bugs to get in. I lost most to bugs or some I couldn't get off the vine without breaking because they grew around it. I grow totally organic so I don't know what I could do to protect tomatoes that grow like that from bugs.

I just canned about 10 qts of salsa / sauce. I added toooooo much vinegar. I followed the directions, so I don't know if it was meant to taste like that or what I did wrong. Anyway, we aren't putting that batch on chips. I wanted to cry (maybe even did a bit) since it's the start of football season and nothing goes better with a Bronco's or Bills game then chips and salsa. To make lemonade out of lemons I used a good bit of it for some chili last night and my husband and son (the meat eating one) raved about it and told me to write down what I did. The joke around here is that they never get the same meal twice. Hey, at least I feed them:)

I need to go out and pull the rest of my tomatoes today. Something is getting them. They are getting brown spots..even the really green ones. I brought some in to see if they would rippen off the vine and be safe from the spots...but nope. I have a tray of tough green tomatoes. Sadly my chickens won't eat tomatoes and I hate to compost anything that could ruin my soil. I hate waste. It was 38 degrees when we got up I'm thinking I need to pull in what I have. My Kale is very happy and I'm very glad I got about 20 plants going early enough to be established. Lots of juicing through the winter.

Fall is coming fast in upstate NY.....that means time for crafts and I'll be getting my knitting needles out soon.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Baby Eggs

"Hello....are you talking about me again?"
Momma, Pappa and Baby omelets
 This is Betty. She's a Dominique and is the softest, friendliest, sweetest, bravest, and all around fun young lady in the coop. I got her when she was a couple weeks old, so I'm not sure of her exact age. I keep forgetting to ask. Her cohorts are Yorkie the Barred Rock and Lemonade and Fifi the Salmon Favorollies.
She's the biggest of the group and she also has started hanging out with my older layers. It's like she's in the "in" crowd now. I wouldn't be shocked if it did turn out to be Yorkie, but we'll see.

My wonderful husband.
 My husband is pretty sure the newest egg belongs to Betty. Ever since he built them the new nest box he has taken to collecting the eggs. I leave them in there until he gets home so I don't take his fun away. I love that he's getting involved with the chickens. He sees now why I love them so much. He's always been so good about it..even letting me let them live in the garage a couple of cold winters...<3

I know my coop isn't fancy, but it's 4x8 with these old windows that I can slide to open or close in front of the hard wire that's over every opening in the coop. It's safe and I have two doors in back I can get right in there if I want to. I do need to pretty it up a bit. I have screen door windows over the fenced run right now to keep the rain off the back of the run. They hang out under it a lot when they aren't running around the yard. It's hardwired all the way around the back. I've had my share of I have enough fear in me to double check everything every day. Knock on wood..I've never lost a feathered friend..sure have come close though.

Reba - The best layer and dog-chicken
 Reba is now 2 years old and lays about every single day. My 3 1/2 year old Astrolorp also lays like 4-5 a week when she isn't broody....which drives me and all my hens nuts! My 3 1/2 year old Easter Egger is really not a great layer at all. She was hiding them at one time, so I can't say for sure. I do leave her in the run some days to see if she is laying. I think she holds them in until she can find a hiding spot though. She has such great personality that even if she doesn't lay I can't see letting go to someone else. She's the alarm bell and has saved the clutch in the past.

I wish they all layed like Reba! We run low on eggs with 6 of us and my husband likes to show off my deviled eggs. I haven't had enough to send to work with him. Now that Betty and her cohorts are going to start laying I'll have 7 layers. That will be good for us. It will be a while for Lilly to start and well....I'm thinking Dovie never will:( I'm not letting her/him go until there is absolutely no doubt and Lilly is big enough to cuddle with the bigger girls. They still haven't really accepted the little ones. They do let them hang out with them, but they won't let them on the big roost. They'll be big enough soon. Ahh..they grow up so fast.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Crows from the Coop

But "She's" just a baby.....We could be wrong, but Dovie was stretching her wings at the exact time we heard the crowing. She is so young so I was really surprised. The jury is still out because I've only heard this once. I'm holding out hope because I love this little bird and I'm not allowed to keep a rooster...I'm kind of not supposed to have any chickens but I told the town I'd fight them and never stop. I guess having chickens is a "hobby farm" and you have to have 5 acres. We have 2 1/2 and live in the middle of no where...really??? It's been a few years, so they aren't saying anything but I won't push it and get a rooster. That's just inviting trouble.

I'm holding out hope that the crowing was a fluke. Keep your fingers crossed for me. She's my only Buff Brahma and just look how beautiful she/he is. son "thinks" she did it again today. I still don't want to believe it...since I didn't hear her..I'm not going to count it. She has gotten a tiny bit bitty with me though... (tears)