Monday, April 25, 2016

Chickens, gardening,chicken business and berries

The warmest April I can remember...ever... inspired Jimmy and I to  get our garden in early.   I wasn't sure what would happen because a few years ago we were also inspired to  put in our garden early and then it snowed on us.  Not this year.  Over the last week  pretty little greens popped up in every bed and  all the beans  broke through the soil. We should have snow peas by the end of May. 
I spent one of our sunny April days  with a pitchfork doubling the size of the  squash bed and moving all the sod to a different location. (it hasn't died yet so I have a hopeful heart) We will be putting the squash and tomatoes in in about two weeks. 
The biggest challenge as always is keeping the chickens and wild rabbits out of the newly planted beds so everything is netted and safe. Just in time too as a whole warren of bunnies has been running through the yard. We have also had deer sightings this  year and  we have been adopted by a mated pair of mallards. Those two are something else. I first met them when they came to the kitchen door a couple of weeks ago quacking  and demanding to be fed. They were almost in the kitchen proper  before I figured out what they were doing.
We are crawling with critters around here. The new chicks are doing well...all except one.  Little tiny Charlotte  was not developing as well or growing as fast as the others and then she started limping so  we brought her back inside and put her back in the brooder with special feed and a lamp. She is alert and she looks like she is growing a bit but her limp isn't any better.  I don't want to lose her, she is the sweetest and tamest of the run.  Her run mates are beginning to look and sound like  grown chickens  so I hope she catches up. Her run mates are also enjoying the feeder. When I first put it in I had my doubts but this week it seems to be coming together.  All the chickens have learned  that that is where food comes from. Instead of disappearing when someone walks by they now run up to the fence and  give strangers  their best hungry orphan  look. I'm not sure yet but I think they have a  guard rotation going on. One of them is always  in the area of the feeder and  when someone comes along the  one watching gives a squawk and they all come running.  The best thing about the feeder is that it keeps the chickens off the front porch and out of the garden.      So far we have two toddlers as  regular customers. They come by with their dads and  gleefully shout bock bock  and clap their hands as dads pour quarters into the machine. Best customers EVER!    There is a real difference in the way Moms and Dads  treat the kids at the feeder. Dads shovel in quarters until they are all gone, filling up cupped hands  to overflowing each time.  Moms put in one quarter and  meet out tiny handfuls of feed to the single child. If mom has more than one kid they each get a quarter (or maybe two)  and then mom says "That's enough for today. We will come back again".  Dad's (and granddads) appear to be one-time big spenders but Mom's make for  good repeat customers.   So, the Mystic Cedars chicken business is off to a good start.
With the garden in and the feeder taking care of itself, I feel like I can get some artwork done.  I needed the break anyway because I had a  studio full of wet oil paintings that I kept bumping into .
Maybe next blog I will report on the massive amount of berries  we are seeing bloom this year.  The storms took down low hanging branches and Jimmy cleared a ton of brush when he cleaned up the debris. It opened up hawthorn, elderberry and currants that hadn't seen sun in years. Cant wait to see what wine and jelly making season  bring this year!