Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Frosty Days...

Well it's been an intense year for us, so much so that we hardly found any time at all to blog about the farming for the past 3 months. We've had some really fantastic crops, some good crops, and a few that never even germinated...and overall it was a really good year for growing herbs despite the cold, wet spring we had. We couldn't even harvest all the wonderful basil before it flowered on us.

Unfortunately, it all has to come to an end for the year sometime, and it seems like now is getting pretty much there. And now come the frosts. We've had two in the past three nights I think, which means that our tender annuals like baby dill and our wonderful gourds have been damaged or killed, and our perennials are telling us to stop harvesting them so they can store the rest of their energy until they emerge again next year. So except for a few very cold tolerant species, we'll be calling it the end of the season for our culinary herbs.

It's actually a bit of a blessing, because we still have a lot of other work to get done before the snow flies, and we could use the breathing room to be sure. We still have 4 more weeks of deliveries to make for John's summer CSA before the end, so we still have that but we also need to start preparing the perennial herbs for the long winter ahead, which means applying wood mulch around all the plants so that the temperature in the ground stays a bit warmer and more stable. We'll also be adding extra straw mulch to some of our more tender perennials like sage to help them get through to the spring. A couple more really tender perennials like rosemary and lemon verbena will have to be dug from the ground and stored in a cold frame or stoarge shed in order to make it through.

We also still have our seed and grain crops to harvest and bring in from the fields. Our wheat and oats are still a little bit greener than we like, and some of our herb seeds like dill and fennel aren't quite ready yet. With the slow start we had for the year, it's going to be a tough one to get all the grain and seed we were hoping for, but there is still some time yet.

I'll be sure to put some pictures of our finished crops up later to show how everyuthing's looking...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

New Mother!

A couple of months ago, one of our hens decided to go broody. When we say that a hen 'goes broody', we mean that she decides that it's time to sit on some eggs and try to hatch them. The only problem was that she wasn't actually sitting on any eggs, but sometimes it can be pretty hard to get a hen to quit when she's decided it's time to have some babies. Luckily, we had some extra fertilized eggs that didn't fit in the incubator, so we tucked a few eggs under her to see if she would hatch them out.

It can't be easy to have the patience to wait out a chick before it hatches. We have these fancy incubators with controlled heat and humitidy and machines inside that turn the eggs side to side six times a day, and I still had trouble finding the patience to let the rest of nature take it's course. A hen, on the other hand, does nothing but sit on those eggs and turn them around once in a while for three whole weeks. That's a lot of time staring at the same coop wall day after day.

And like clockwork, three weeks after recieving her surrogate eggs, she had become the proud new mother of six beautiful baby chicks.

It turns out that natural brooding is also way more successful than incubating eggs. The only eggs under our hen that didn't hatch turned out to be infertile to begin with, basically giving her a 100% success rate for hatching this year. Even the best, most practiced chicken breeders with the most advanced incubators only get somewhere around 80%, and our own incubating experiment this year wasn't anywhere near that successful.

I think maybe we'll just let the hens do what they do best in the future, and let them do all our incubating from now on...