Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All grown up

Well, it's finally happened. Nugget laid her first egg yesterday.

I knew she was getting ready, mostly because of two signs:

1. She was squatting when I went to touch her, which is a sign of submission and sexual maturity and
2. Her comb and wattles were bright red, also a sign of sexual maturity.

I had a feeling that the heat was delaying laying, but I was patient. About two weeks ago, I put a marble egg in the nest boxes. This has two purposes.

  1. To let them know where they're supposed to be laying and
  2. To discourage them from eating their eggs. 
EATING THEIR EGGS!!!???  Well, they get curious. "What was that thing that just came out of me?" so they might peck at it a little. If it is thin shelled and breaks, and is tasty and full of protein, well, why wouldn't they eat it. They've already learned the marble egg is definitely NOT edible and they're less likely to peck at their own eggs. Yay.

Nugget in all her glory!
Potpie is coming up right behind Nugget on the maturity ladder. She has small waddles and her comb is definitely coming in and she just barely squats as of this weekend. I'm expecting her to start laying in a couple of weeks. Now, Noodle and Kabob - no idea. They are both Easter Eggers (their "breed") and they don't get big combs or waddles and they won't let me go near them, so they're definitely not squatting. I put breed in quotes because all four of the girls are mutts and don't have a real breed, but the type of chicken they are mixed with makes them Easter Eggers and the chicken that Nugget and Potpie are mixed with are considered Golden Comets or Red Stars. 
Noodle (blond) and Kabob (black)
I have to say, the Golden Comets are much, much friendlier than the Easter Eggers. I'm not sure if this would change if I raised them from baby chicks instead of 11 weekers.  Next time, I think I'll seek out a super-friendly breed. I hate to admit it, but I'm much fonder of the friendly ones. 

Kabob, my shy, quiet girl, giving me side eye.
As far as noises go, I can hear Nugget whining a bit through my window. I also know when a neighborhood feral cat is stalking them because they all go bat shit crazy. Other than that, they are pretty darn quiet. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard Kabob make a sound! And as far as stinkiness, I'm doing deep litter and despite  the extreme heat, I haven't had any problem with smell at all. I thought at least there would be some, especially when I mist the coop, but really, I can't smell any stink.

I am so bummed about the heat continuing this week. It's supposed to be 100 degrees by Saturday and the girls get really stressed out in that kind of heat. I've been using a mister, which they love, but seriously, I'd be pissed off if I was covered in feathers outside during 100 degree heat!  I keep threatening to bring them in and keep them in my shower during the day, but so far they're surviving and this heat should break soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

66 days to Hallowe'en

Wow, it's been a long summer!

I'd update you on everything but ultimately, it is 6 days until September and only 66 days until Hallowe'en and I thought this would be an excellent time to start up again.

The biggest news is that the chickens are here!

Potpie, Nugget, Kebab and Noodle are growing up big and strong. They haven't started laying yet, but I expect eggs in the next couple of weeks.

We've also nearly completed the redo of the "back 40" and it should be completed today! Wow.

Meanwhile, I have a broken ankle and I severely pulled a muscle in my back doing farm work so I'm relegated to the couch with an ice pack for another week or so.

Hallowe'en is already in the planning stages here at Bluestocking Farm and it's going to be one for the ages. I am going off the beaten path this year for a new less "haunting" look and I think it is going to really appeal to my neighborhood.  No frights or scares this year - but 2013 we'll be back in business with an all new and improved haunt.

Anyway, 2012 is going to be a craft-o-licious Hallowe'en and I will be joined by my niece, AKA, the Kid for all of the craft mania. Wooo!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Home grown book review - part one

As you all know if you've read here at all, I'm growing my own veggies and I have been for quite a few years now. Last year I had my first bumper crop of tomatoes.  Not enough to can, but enough to make plenty of sandwiches, two quiches, a few salads, eat with melted Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam cheese and fresh baked bread for a week, eat right off the vine and make two batches of marinara that was eaten immediately. I've grown lettuce, peas, weird mutant carrots, zucchini, strawberries, cucumbers (poorly), pumpkins, and peppers.

I am a researcher in real life, so, what I do when I want to know more about something is read EVERY FREAKING BOOK I can get my hands on. Fortunately, this includes some gems. Unfortunately, it also features some books that are not as helpful, or you can find the information better elsewhere. I have owned or borrowed each and every one of these books. Some I bought at the now-extinct Borders, some were found on Amazon and some are from libraries, yard sales and second-hand stores. I have DEFINITELY not been compensated in any way to review any of them.

If this is the year you're going to build your raised bed and join me in enjoying fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes and peas this year, here's what you should look at (or pass over) - but remember, it's only my humble opinion.

My best and most valuable advice in gardening is, START SMALL!!!! The best way to ruin a career of harvesting fresh food from your garden is to try to do too much at once. If you think you're suddenly going from zero to be raising enough veggies to get you through the entire summer without going to the farmer's market, you might have a little gardening fever. Scale back. Plant two types of tomatoes and some carrots, or peas and lettuce. If you enjoy it this year, you'll be back for more next spring and then the spring after that. It took me 6 years to get to chickens, and I've actually lived on a farm before!

All New Square Foot Gardening  I will go on and on about Mel's book, given half a chance. Mel's a little crazy, bless his heart.  He is super-passionate about his system and I'm a follower, but he's a little rigid for my tastes. I can't plant in squares. Everything just grows out of them and gets messy and then it's out of the lines.  I'd rather have no lines at all.  I'd love to be neat and orderly about my planting, but that's just not how I roll. More than anything, Mel taught me about soil. Good, healthy, living soil.  I would have been quite content using bags and bags of planting mix if I hadn't read this, but I make my own soil per Mel's technique and since I started, I have fertilized so rarely, it's crazy. I add compost every year and it's fluffy, soft, good loamy soil.  Yay! Some people get very angsty about Mel's use of peat moss which is not a sustainable resource. You can use coconut coir in place of peat and it's cheaper.

Western Garden Book of Edibles: The Complete A-Z Guide to Growing Your Own Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruits
If you're going to plant anything in Southern California, Northern California or the Pacific Northwest, BUY THIS BOOK. It tells you basically everything about everything (except loquats -- why doesn't any book ever have loquats!?). Pests, soil, diseases, how to plant, when to plant, harvesting, etc.  Love this book.  Must have.

The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition): Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City
For a while, I was carrying Erik Knutsen and Kelly Coyne's book around with me like a bible. It had everything I wanted to know about permaculture, composting, backyard farming and they're in L.A. so I felt like I could trust that what they were growing would be appropriate for my area as well. I don't carry it around anymore, but I do refer to it quite often.

The Garden Primer: Second Edition
This book is comparable to the Sunset book above, but it's so damn hefty and has so much good information, I just can't seem to part with it. It's also very good if you don't have the pleasure of living on the West Coast.

The Complete Compost Gardening Guide: Banner batches, grow heaps, comforter compost, and other amazing techniques for saving time and money, and ... most flavorful, nutritous vegetables ever.
After reading the Square Foot Gardening book, it occurred to me that I would be going out to buy quantities of compost. Instead, I could use our food scraps, our trimmings and our dryer lint to make it ourselves. So I bought this book. It's honestly a bit overwhelming in terms of the amount of information but it's all in there and if you want to compost, I highly recommend this one. It's got a bunch of different techniques, so you can try one until you find one that you like. I've still had to buy compost since I can't seem to manage to turn it often enough.  Eventually, I'm going to have a literal shit-ton of gorgeous compost, especially with the chooks coming, but until then, I'm adding as much veggie scraps and straw as I can.

Monday, I'll post the rest of the reviews since I just kept writing and the post got too long!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Heirloom skills go high-end

Remember when Banana Republic sold clothes that seemed appropriate for going on safari instead of going to the Standard? It was a long time ago.

So, while I was meeting with my 2nd coop designer, it seems that Williams-Sonoma has decided that they are entering the Back to Our Roots/heirloom skills movement.  Check out their new site, Agrarian, where they are selling chicken coops, hives and supers for beekeeping, raised beds, some absolutely gorgeous but completely unreasonably priced jars for canning unless you are making some very special gifts and the most beautiful garden tools I have ever seen.