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Hoop Coop

We completed the hoop coop and moved in the chicks. They are 7 weeks old now. I started to work on a new bigger, more permanent hoop coop that will increase the indoor floor space for the flock and serve as a winter solarium.

Mobile Hoop Coop This hoop coop is moveable and is currently positioned over one of my gardens to give it a good fertilizing boost.  This fall I’ll move the birds, take the tarps off and use this to extend my growing season.

Spring is Here!

Just a few of the plants I noticed blooming today while clearing trails of multiflora rose. Spring is here to stay this time (I hope).

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot

BloodrootBloodroot

Spring BeautySpring Beauty

Marsh MarigoldMarsh Marigolds

ForsythiaForsythia

Blue CohoshBlue Cohosh

Small Flowered BittercressSmall Flowered Bittercress

HenbitHenbit

and some Daffodil’s & Bluets! Still waiting for the dandelions as the sign the soil is warm enough to plant potatoes.

Final Harvest

Our first year of serious food production was awesome! We are still enjoying our preserved foods every day but our finest treat came from the vegetables we were able to  store in the ground.  We had a thaw and on February 20th Bala and I went out to see what had survived.  We dug over 5 pounds of carrots that had survived without any mulch for protection.

And I had left about 15 feet of Fingerling potatoes under a few inches of leaf mulch. Bala & I dug about 20 pounds.

The quality was absolutely perfect. We stored most of our potato crop in the garage in a warm corner that did not freeze and by February they are starting to lose some crispness and sprout. Not the freshly dug potatoes! Next year I plan to store more in the ground but keeping in mind that there was only 1 day in February and 1 in January where the snow was melted and it was warm enough to dig.  I’m also learning to build hoop houses and hope to use them to provide more access to early winter carrots and cool season vegetable.

Spring Cleanup

We use the deep litter method in the chicken coop and removed what had accumulated on the floor for the first time today so I could have the fertilizer for my gardens. We have had chickens for 2 years come May and the litter was about 6-8 inches deep.  It was still very dry and mostly consisted of grain that had spilled out of their feeder.   I have shelves under their roosts that catch most of the poo which I shovel off regularly and compost. Other than that, not much is deposited on the floor except during the really cold snowy days when they won’t go outside.  All in all, the method seems to work very well. It adds insulation to the floor during the winter and the chickens “turn the compost” for us on a daily basis.  A spring cleaning allows me most of the year to build up a nice layer to insulate the floor for next winter. In the past we used commercially available wood chips but I’m headed to the local Amish mill on Monday to buy a load of fresh. If it looks ok I’m going to use it on the coop floor. Most of it will go in their run to provide them some digging material and help balance the soil.

In other news, I’m happy the hens started laying again and put a sign out for the first time trying to sell some of their eggs.  I’ve be sprouting wheatgrass, barley, alfalfa and red clover for them so their yolks have already darkened to a deep orange despite that fact that there are no greens to forage yet.  It was sunny and 50 degrees today so there is hope things will start growing soon!

~ 2nd Year Flock ~

I picked up 25 new peeps on their hatching day, May 3, 2010. Last year I purchased Golden Buffs only because they were offered on Craig’s list in a small quantity that  felt comfortable starting out with.  (I had been researching and planning to buy heritage breeds.)  This year I selected an assortment of breeds so we can get to know more about their characteristics. We have Dominques, Cukoo Maran, Blue Silkies, White Crested Black Polish, Ameraucana Standard, Black Australorp, Welsummer & Silver Laced Wyandottes.

Ideally, I prefer to free range our chickens but growing our own vegetables is also important so I have had to make some compromises. I purchased poultry fencing that is very easy to move from one place to another so the girls can be on rotated pasture through the spring and summer. Now, most of our veggies are harvested and the chickens can help me clean up and fertilize the gardens for next year so I let them out in the evenings.   I’m not sure I want to let them free range for longer periods as they are more likely to be hurt by predators or on the road. Since the girls are loose, the only way I’m going to harvest more tomatoes this year will be if I cover them with cloth.  It’s is interesting to note that the young chicks frequently flew out of the pasture during the day, all summer long, but they would not stray far from the heart of the flock so my gardens survived their self restricted free ranging.

We ended up with 1 Rooster. He’s a Blue Silkie.

In front is a Dominique and behind her a Black Australorp.

and an Ameraucana

After waiting 18 weeks and 5 days and feeding about 125 pounds of organic feed, we got our first egg!  I had to stand in the coop for 2 hours one morning to figure out who was laying.  It turned out to be the young lady Dominique shown in the photo above.

Her egg is sitting beside a black cheery tomato.  The next breed to lay, at 20 weeks was the Ameraucana. We have 7 of them and they will lay bluish green eggs. I’ve been buying eggs all summer as our 5 older hens can not meet our needs so I’m sure looking forward to these girls coming of age!

First Tomato Harvest

This is where a few of the tomato’s are growing but mainly it is the new herb garden with plentiful oregano, thyme, marjoram, savory, sacred basil, lavender & zinnias.  I started out here picking herbs for the sauce.

The tomatoes are Black Krim. When ripe ripe they will still show some green on top. . . . → Read More: First Tomato Harvest

Chocolate Krumkake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Chocolate Krumkake

2/3 cup water

6 Tbls.  Butter

1 cup Turbinado Sugar

1/2 cup  Dutch Process Cocoa

1 cup unbleached flour

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the water enough to dissolve the butter and sugar then cool.  When your water mix is cool enough that it won’t cook your egg,  plug . . . → Read More: Chocolate Krumkake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Crème Fraiche Succotash

2 cups  fresh corn cut off the cob

2 cups freshly shelled Lima beans

1 tsp course Sel Gris (Grey Sea Salt)

1/8 cup Crème fraiche

1 Tbl. Butter

Simmer the freshly cut corn and Lima beans with the salt added for about 10 minutes. Watch closely and add a dab . . . → Read More: Crème Fraiche Succotash

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

This is adapted from Mark Bittman’s suggested recipe in Kitchen Express

1 cup Organic pumpkin puree (from our garden so thinner than canned)

1 cup Mascarpone

1/4 cup Organic Turbinado Sugar

1 tsp Organic Sweet Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Organic Ground Ginger

Fresh grated Organic Whole Nutmeg

Pinch Organic allspice & Clove . . . → Read More: Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Three Sisters

For as long as I have read gardening books, I have read about inter-planting beans and squash with corn as the Native Americans did.  So, this year I decided to try it. I realize now that it does not work well with crops you plan to harvest before the seeds are set and dry.  . . . → Read More: Three Sisters