Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mid-Summer Review: Chickens and Garden

I haven't showed y'all any photos of the chickens lately, and for this I apologize. The thing is, they are out of the adorable chick stage and have entered the Mature Lady stage - no less adorable, at least to me, but since they don't look drastically different day to day, I find myself taking less photos.

Alice and Lou.

Basically, the chickens are doing fine, and still appear to be happy, healthy, and thriving in their very chic coop. They are eating a TON of food these days - I have to fill up their food container every other day, as opposed to the beginning rate of once per week. They're very friendly - sometimes too friendly. Whenever I go into the coop and sit on the stump for quality time, they tend to rush me, jumping up on their ramp, hopping onto my bent legs or arms, and cooing nonstop while I pet them. It's very sweet, but a little overwhelming at times - mostly because they peck anything that even resembles food, including my freckles.

Awkward photo with Polly.

Funny story: a few weeks ago, I was cleaning out the coop. Step one is to pick up the chickens, put them upstairs, and shut the door while I work down below. I got each of the hens in, no problem, but Lou the Roo refused to come to me. He kept going to the back corner of the coop, just out of my reach. I was clucking and cooing at him, trying to cajole him into my arms, and all of a sudden he ran right toward me. Great! I thought. I've won him over! Only to realize as he ran past my arms that the door behind me was open and suddenly, Lou was free. 

This was not a good thing, as Calvin was in our backyard and the neighbors dogs were watching us through their fence, barking and salivating in a way that did not look good for Lou's odds. I tried to corner him, but I was afraid he'd hop one of the fences and land among the dogs. While that would solve our rooster problem (we still haven't decided what we're going to do with him), it wasn't exactly an ideal fix. So after about ten minutes of trying to catch him and failing, I finally ran into the house. "Nathan!" I screetched. "I need your help outside!" 

"What is it?" he asked. 

"Lou is out of the coop!" 

Between the two of us, and with the help of a long rake, we managed to catch him and return him to the coop. Lou, I hope you appreciate what we do for you.

Thanks, guys!

In other homesteading news, the garden is doing... okay. We lost our yellow crookneck squash to some kind of fungus, which caused it to rot at the root, and the cucumbers are struggling as well. The heat wave didn't do our tomatoes any favors, and all the tomatoes that were green when the heat hit have since ripened unevenly. Still edible, but not ideal. We still don't have any peppers with the exception of jalapenos, but from what I've read, as long as your plants are healthy (which ours definitely are) they will eventually produce peppers. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The garden.

Side view.

Spaghetti squash.

The photo above is our spaghetti squash. It grew like crazy and we weren't prepared with a trellis or anything it could climb on, so it spread all through the bed and choked a few volunteer tomato plants. Oops. We've since built a support for it from scrap wood and chicken wire, and it's looking much better. I'll post a photo in my next update.

Eggplant!

Our two eggplants are finally starting to make actual eggplants, which is exciting. I had no idea that this is what eggplant looks like when it starts out. Nature is crazy!

Cherry tomatoes.
And finally, our cherry tomato plant continues to produce regularly. I pick tomatoes almost every day, and sometimes I eat them right off the plant. Summer's candy. 

Overall, our first garden is doing fairly well. We've made some mistakes and lost some plants, but for  a first try, I think we're succeeding. And even though it's only mid-July, it's time to start thinking about our fall garden - I want to plant things from seed this time around, which means I should start them in seed trays in the next few weeks.

How is your garden growing? Can you recommend any awesome fall plants that are hard to kill and make a ton of vegetables? What is your favorite thing to grow in your garden? I like the cherry tomatoes best, mostly because I've eaten the most of them, but fresh basil is pretty amazing, too.

6 comments:

  1. How exciting! The rooster chase and also the beautiful garden. :)

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  2. I have no idea how you do it all! Your garden is amazing and your rooster story is just too funny. I'm just picture you running around chasing after Loose Lou (which is by no means a nickname indicative of his after-school proclivities!)

    That said, I think your Rooster is bigger than all of my dogs except Maximus. ;)

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    1. Ha! I can't even wrap my head around dogs smaller than chickens. Too funny!

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  3. I too am looking for ideas for fall garden veggies. Very impressed with your success for a first year garden! I am in my fourth year, and getting discouraged a bit. My first year was the best too, though :) What do you fertilize with, and how often? I think my problem is not enough nutrients for the plants, possibly. My squash got the same thing as yours this year, my pole beans got burnt to a crisp, and my cukes. The tomatoes and watermelons and eggplants are all doing ok, though.

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    1. Thanks Jenny! We don't really fertilize at all - we adjusted the pH of the garden when we started out, which has helped our tomatoes quite a bit. We made the soil ourselves, using a lot of kitchen compost, yard compost, horse manure, mushroom compost, and Black Kow, so that seems to have been a good idea as well.

      The hardest thing is knowing how much to water! I can never tell if I'm underwatering or drowning the poor plants. :(

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  4. The chickens are gorgeous! I wish more people knew how sweet and loving chickens are! Roo sounds like a character.

    We don't fertilize, either. Whenever we feel like our plants aren't going to fruit, we take a Q-tip to the blooms. It seems to work.

    You might want to research squash pests as well. Last year our pumpkins did horribly where we had previously planted zucchini. There are certain squash pests that stick around the soil for 3 or 4 years, even if you don't have any squash planted in the area anymore. Turns out our zucchini had had these pests (which is apparently why it never fruited) and the pests kept the pumpkins in that area from flourishing. Sigh. I need to get back to gardening.

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